Ted Cruz Kisses the Ring

Time Magazine’s 2018 list of the one hundred most influential people has been revealed — I know, finally! I thought I’d lose my mind with anticipation! — and not surprisingly, Donald Trump made the list. What may be surprising, however, is that the accompanying celebrity write-up about Trump was penned by none other than Lyin’ Ted, aka Senator Cruz. Many of his supporters must be asking, “Why, Ted, why?”

Here, for the record, is what Cruz wrote for Time:

President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.

President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.

During the GOP primaries, Cruz made a terrible strategic blunder by cleaving to Donald Trump early on, playing nice with him, as though they were two rebel peas in a pod. This was obviously a calculated attempt to curry favor with Trump’s supporters, on the assumption that Trump himself would fade, leaving Cruz as the only comparable “outsider” candidate.

The plan backfired, as the Trump campaign, the moment they sensed that Cruz had become their main threat, unleashed the endless barrage of smears and character assassination attempts that became legendary in the annals of intramural dirty politics, leaving the once-promising grassroots conservative movement in tatters in the process.

What Cruz had not accounted for was the Trump base’s cultish loyalty to their man and their man alone, and this blind loyalty’s corollary: a blind, amoral hatred of anyone who would dare to challenge their god in any way. Furthermore, he had probably failed to recognize to what degree the cult’s amoral hatred would be matched by Trump’s own amoral willingness to stoke and manipulate that lynch mob mentality for his personal gain. This was a presidential campaign being directed, openly and/or covertly, by the likes of Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and Steve Bannon. How could anyone have imagined such people could be trusted as allies, or be expected to “play fair”?

The result of this combination of Cruz’s poor calculation and a million Trump diehards without a functioning conscience among them was a Cruz campaign that, after much early Tea Party enthusiasm, fizzled amid the permanent cycle of distractions related to his citizenship status, his supposed marital difficulties, his “deep state” associations, his alleged affairs with every female staffer who ever met him, and even his father’s personal role in the Kennedy assassination. Every one of these “memes” was fostered by Trump campaign operatives, friends, and sympathizers, and most of them were directly given credence and drawn into a brighter and broader spotlight by Donald Trump himself.

Trump retweeted a follower’s mean-spirited side-by-side photographic comparison of Heidi Cruz in an unflattering moment and Melania Trump at her sex-vixen, come-hither, high-class-tart “best.” The message: It’s fair game to mock a rival’s wife as being less, um, “attractive” than your own.

Trump openly drew attention to the stuff about Cruz’s father, thus inviting his cult to condemn Cruz as the son of a man involved in the assassination of an American president.

Meanwhile, Trump himself got the ball rolling on the more pedestrian attacks, by denouncing Cruz as a man “everyone hates,” due to his criticisms of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. (And on the basis of this smear of Cruz’s character in defense of Trump’s long-time ally McConnell, whose 2014 reelection bid Trump heavily supported against Tea Party opposition, and whose wife he appointed to his cabinet, the cult happily adopted the “Everyone hates Ted” mantra, rather than wondering why their rebel outsider was sidling up to McConnell’s GOP establishment.)

During the latter stages of the campaign, Cruz finally seemed to develop a bit of a spine regarding Trump, particularly in response to the personal attacks against his wife, and secondarily in response to the National Enquirer affair stories. He described Trump as a “pathological liar” who would promise anything to anyone, but could not be trusted to follow through on any of those promises.

Then, having finally conceded the nomination to Trump, Cruz nevertheless went to the GOP convention and told the delegates — mostly Trump cultists — to “Vote your conscience,” instead of directly endorsing Trump’s candidacy. Asked to explain this immediately afterwards, he said, bluntly, “I’m not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.”

Fine words, and spoken like a proper man, rather than a sniveling politician.

Well, a year and a half later, he has apparently developed the “habit” of supporting people who attack his wife and father, as he seems not to be able to resist the least opportunity to snivel for Trump. There was no reason in the world why he had to contribute that puff piece for Time Magazine. He obviously could have said no. But he chose to do it, and to use it as a chance to return to the two peas in a pod shtick from the fall of 2015. Why?

For that matter, why has he become a mealy-mouthed supporter of Trump, offering half-baked or unbaked excuses for contradicting or obscuring his own stated principles on spending, health care, Syria, trade, and so on?

Here are a few possible explanations for Cruz’s quick turnaround since the fall of 2016, from a man defending his own honor and his family’s name against a conscienceless self-promoter, to a go-along-to-get-along yes-man for Trump’s GOP establishment, i.e., the same old GOP establishment but with bad manners.

  1. He is nervous about his reelection this year, and fears that any dampening of support caused by refusing to stand with Trump might be enough to bury him against a well-funded opponent.
  2. He recognizes, as every other GOP insider does, that Trump is a hopeless idiot and therefore effectively a puppet prepared, on most issues, to follow any advice from anyone if it will help to mask his incompetence. Cruz is therefore prepared, as is the rest of the establishment, to flatter and stroke Trump’s childish ego at the expense of his own pride, in order to push his personal priorities.
  3. His gentlemanly defense of his wife and father against Trump’s unmanly (in fact girlish) assaults during the primaries was merely the tone he thought might help him to gain traction in the late Midwestern states, but was in fact just as cynical and calculated as his earlier attempts to ingratiate himself with Trump’s supporters; therefore, when it became clear that working with Trump was the path of least resistance, he quietly skulked away from his gentlemanly position, and back to embracing Trump as his friend.
  4. Some or all of the rumors spread about him during the primaries had at least a grain of truth in them, so he is now living his political life under the permanent threat of shameful exposure, which I strongly suspect is one of the Washington establishment’s chief methods of control (along with wealth) exerted against all members, particularly those inclined to being a little too independent-minded.

I have no idea which, if any, of these possibilities represents any part of the real reason for Cruz’s changed tone and attitude toward Trump, and for that matter toward the entire Washington machine. Perhaps the rigors of the presidential campaign simply broke his will to some extent. Or perhaps he succumbed to the ego-gratifying thought that his presence in Washington is so essential to the survival of America that anything he has to do to stay alive politically is justified “for the good of the country.”

In any case, when I read the words “forgotten men and women of America” in Cruz’s praise of Trump, not to mention the always-grating “ordinary Americans” (implying, presumptuously, that Cruz, Trump, et al are extraordinary Americans, and that the little people need such great men as their champions), I cannot help feeling that Cruz has evolved somewhat from being a man who thought he was speaking on behalf of the millions of Americans who believe in the U.S. Constitution, to being a man who thinks he is a gift to the unwashed masses, God’s chosen Protector of the Meek.

Senator Cruz, you are dispensable. Donald Trump is dispensable. There is no one in Washington today without whom America could not continue on its current trajectory just fine — which is to say that neither you nor your new best friend (the one who publicly implied that your wife was a homely harpy and that your father planned the JFK assassination) are doing anything substantial to change that trajectory; nor are you seemingly willing to try to do anything substantial about it.

After Cruz endorsed Trump in the lead-up to the election, Glenn Beck, who had campaigned vigorously for Cruz, sacrificing much of his audience and subjecting himself to a ruthless smear campaign for his troubles, expressed his disgust by essentially declaring that he would never put his trust in another politician again. Many other supporters faced similar disillusionment, after having spent a year defending Cruz and resisting Trump’s ugly mob at the expense of personal friendships, family connections, and long-term alliances, only to see Cruz turn meek and mild toward Trump’s hordes in exactly the way they had refused to do.

What these people learned from this experience, or should have learned, is that they are not the second-level conservatives, with Cruz their champion, but rather that they were the principled ones all along, and Cruz (like most if not all other current politicians) the true “ordinary American,” i.e., a person who talks a good game about liberty and the Constitution but will, in the end, compromise any principle to preserve his own seat at the table with the fine china.

That’s a very valuable lesson in the end, and perhaps justifies the entire ugly episode. America was not founded as a government of the “ordinary,” by the “ordinary,” and for the “ordinary.” The people who believe in what the Founders proposed and initiated are not “ordinary Americans.” They are the true spiritual heirs to a rich philosophical legacy.

The people, on the other hand, who use that legacy as a mere talking point or career-projecting tool, will inherit only what they have wrought — America governed by Donald Trump and a political establishment that would happily burn the Constitution, if they thought they could no longer get away with just ignoring it.

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