Like a Texas-sized skunk at Donald Trump’s garden party, Senator Ted Cruz spewed his feral stench on the New York narcissist’s convention — by withholding his endorsement of the Republican nominee during 23 minutes of juicy prime time given him by the Trump campaign.
It was the third straight night of the Trump National Convention in which the Donald’s improvised campaign skillfully stepped on its own story, following a bitter floor fight on Monday and the endlessly dragged on soap opera involving Meliania Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama.
“The convention is a mess!” as an animated Chuck Todd put it on MSNBC moments after the Cruz debacle.
The Lebron James convention hall erupted in boos and jeers, with the New York delegation chanting “Endorse Trump,” as Cruz was wrapping up his remarks without endorsing the party’s chosen candidate.
As Donald Trump Jr. sat glaring in the family’s suite above the convention hall, the tangerine colored hairball himself suddenly appeared from high up in the arena and strolled down to the VIP box.
Having at least partly stolen back the spotlight, The Donald sat with his family, flashing a sarcastic thumbs up at the man he had labeled “Lying Ted.” Instead of sounding an endorsement, Cruz urged delegates – and the millions viewing at home – to “vote your conscience.”
“We deserve leaders who stand for principle. Unite us all behind shared values. Cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect, from everybody. And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
The episode overshadowed a strong maiden speech by vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, and strong addresses by Trump spawn Eric and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Cruz despises Trump for insulting his wife’s looks, implicating his father in JFK’s assassination, questioning his citizenship and hanging the fatal sobriquet “Lyin’ Ted” around his neck during the primaries; for all that and more, Cruz a few months ago ripped Trump as a “pathological liar” who is “utterly amoral” and “terrified by strong women,” and so there surely was a tiny element of personal hatred that motivated his action.
But Cruz being Cruz, his political agenda was much more important.
Clearly betting on a disastrous Trump defeat in November – fervently praying for it might be more accurate – Cruz is calculating that by standing up for “conservative principles” – unlike the quisling former Trump rivals Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker – he will emerge as the most righteous Republican front-runner in 2020, strongly positioned to help the party put itself back together.
If that long game scenario plays out, Cruz’s move will be credited as one of the great political chess moves in memory that involves sacrificing the approval of party activists inside a convention hall in favor of playing to a far larger audience outside. Hello Difi.
Spy vs Spy: The strangest aspect of the affair, however, was that the Team Trump apparently signed off on the advance copy of Cruz’s speech – which did not include endorsement language – and let him go on anyhow, stepping all over the news of Pence’s speech, which would be just the latest example of political malfeasance by Trump’s butt boys and flunkies strategists at the convention.
In other words, Mr. I’ll Get Great Deals From The Chinese failed at the easiest Art of the Deal in politics – negotiating so that you don’t let anyone on your platform who doesn’t agree in advance to endorse you.
Former Republican National Chair Michael Steele, however, was among those in Cleveland who proposed that it was actually Trump who played Cruz.
Under this theory, because the Trumplings knew that Cruz wasn’t endorsing, they whipped the New York delegation, sitting right before the podium, to start booing at the end of the speech, which set off the cacophony throughout the hall.
At that point, Trump waltzes off, Cruz gets booed off the stage and his wife has to be escorted off the floor by security with delegates screaming “Goldman Sachs!” (her erstwhile employer) and other less polite things at her.
Trump’s tweet on the matter lent some weight to the argument:
“Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!,”
It doesn’t make great sense that Trump would intentionally undermine his running mate’s acceptance speech, not to mention his own son’s address, given that he picked Pence for the one and only reason of making nice with party establishment types.
“It was an awful, selfish speech by someone who tonight, through the words he said on that stage, showed everybody why he has richly earned the reputation that he has on Capitol Hill,” Gov. Chris Christie told reporters. “He’s a total fraud,” Rep. Peter King of New York said of Cruz.
The Dems didn’t have trouble in knowing how to spin things. Moments after the episode, Clinton tweeted: “Vote your conscience. hillaryclinton.com/vote.”
In other news:
Eric Trump, son of Donald and Ivana, thanked his father lavishly (who wouldn’t when he was born with a golden spoon in his mouth) and gave a pretty strong, compelling speech laying out the case that the Donald would restore “common sense” to Washington on trade, taxes, education, national security and jobs. “Vote for the one candidate who does not need this job,” he said – a powerful and effective argument against career politician Hillary Clinton.
Newt Gingrich gave a tight, muscular anti-Islamic terrorism speech, arguing that America is at war, that Trump understands this and that Clinton does not. He preceded his remarks by trying gamely to clean up the Cruz mess, endorsing Trump on Lyin’ Ted’s behalf. “To paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution of the United States, the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump-Pence Republican ticket.”
Mike Pence did everything a vice presidential nominee had to do: he introduced himself, praised Trump and attacked Clinton. Nobody cared much.
P.S. Earlier in the evening Calbuzz learned exclusively that in the original text of his speech, before the Trump team changed it, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s refrain was “America Deserves Butter!”