After Ted Cruz’s stunning refusal to back Donald Trump in his address to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday evening, Trump emerged from the wings, smiling and applauding as he waved to the crowd. Later, he tweeted that he had seen the speech beforehand, and let Cruz deliver it anyway.
Whether that is true or not, Trump clearly gave Cruz the rope to hang himself. Rather than rising above politics, and rising to the occasion, Cruz proved Trump right about his character.
As I noted yesterday, there were three possibilities for Cruz’s address.
1. He could give a full-throated endorsement to Trump, which would be regarded as expedient and insincere, and which his own supporters would reject.
2. He could use the national stage to trash Trump, which would satisfy the #NeverTrump faction but end his own career in the GOP.
3. He could make a limited, pragmatic case for Trump, noting that for all his flaws, Trump is the only means to conservative victory, for now.
I expected that Cruz would choose #3. Trump may have known Cruz would choose #2. But whether he really knew or not, he likely thought through all three possibilities, and decided what he would do in each case. Better to be proved wrong about Cruz, than to be proved right and lose — but Trump left the final decision up to Cruz himself.
Cruz could have shown an example of Christian forgiveness, and set a stark moral example against which Trump would be measured going forward.
He could have said something like: “I may not always agree with Donald Trump, and often I don’t even like Donald Trump, but the cause of freedom is never served by defeat, and so I stand with Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in November.”
Historians would have debated whether that was an “endorsement,” but Cruz would have left no doubt he supported the ticket.
Instead, he lived down to an ugly nickname: “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump was damaged, but smiling. He had finally been proved right.