The safe play for Ted Cruz would have been to simply give Donald Trump a less-than-tepid endorsement as the Republican standard bearer for president. Party bosses and worker bees alike would have praised him for uniting Republicans in their holy war against Hillary Clinton.
Even more, Cruz would have been ideally positioned to be the GOP’s choice in 2020 if, as looks more likely every day after this chaotic Republican convention, Trump gets thumped in November.
But Cruz wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t say it.
Are you surprised? I’m not.
If we know anything about the U.S. Senator from Texas, it’s that he doesn’t care if you don’t like him. He uses your loathing as reinforcement that you are part of the problem and must be fixed.
His unwillingness to work with even his own party has made him a pariah to many. Former House Speaker John Boehner called him “Lucifer in the flesh.” He has made a career out of grandstand plays and attacking members fellow Republicans (I use that term loosely) for not being ideologically pure.
You think he cares? I think he loves annoying the crap out of people.
And you could just see his diabolical mind working when, for reasons passing understanding, GOP bosses gave Cruz prime-time real estate to speak his mind Wednesday night.
He was warmly welcomed at first – the last holdout coming into the fold and all that — and returned that love by giving a tremendous speech. He laid out his conservative chops so decisively that about halfway through I almost expected those in the arena to demand a recount so they could pick him instead of Trump.
It built to a crescendo as he told everyone watching not to stay at home in November. Yeah. Here it comes. The moment we’ve all been waiting for.
“Vote for ….”
He got booed out of the arena. Afterward, billionaire Sheldon Adelson wouldn’t let Cruz into the GOP donor suite. Security had to escort Cruz’s wife, Heidi, out of sight, lest she become a target for baffled and agitated delegates.
Well, let us not forget that along with being devious and devilish, Cruz is vengeful. Trump tried to smear Heidi Cruz on her appearance during the campaign. He even suggested Cruz’s father might have had a clandestine role in John Kennedy’s assassination.
So, you betcha! There was some prime-time payback due and Cruz delivered a sucker punch that only added to the image of a convention that has not just gone off the rails, but is now careening down the canyon toward the rocks below.
Cruz is telegraphing to the deep conservative base, which he owns but Trump needs, that even four years of Hillary is worth it if it means he can rescue them in 2020. And just to add one more euphemistically upraised middle finger to the party, Cruz’s speech far overshadowed the coming out party of vice presidential nominee … oh, what’s his name?
Well, Cruz has done it now. The implosion of the Republican Party as we know it is nearing completion. Going forward, if the GOP excommunicates him, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Cruz didn’t try to shepherd his ultra conservatives into a third party of constitutional purists. The man loves chaos.
It’s all because he couldn’t, wouldn’t, and convinced himself he shouldn’t say three words: “Vote for Trump.”
The words Cruz wouldn’t say spoke loudest of all.
Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.