Tom Jackson: Cruz, Trump and redefining gracelessness
Americans generally and certain Republicans specifically have hatched a new definition of gracelessness. Excuse me while I reach for the Excedrin.
As this is written, on the afternoon after he left the stage at the Republican National Convention under a hail of hoots and personal threats, Ted Cruz is the poster boy for ungracious behavior.
That’s the same Ted Cruz whose 2016 presidential aspirations were shattered by undiscerning primary voters buying into Donald Trump’s outlandish descriptions of him as a philandering liar in bed with five mistresses, not to mention corrupt investment bankers.
Yes, and it’s the same Ted Cruz whose wife’s perfectly acceptable appearance and legal employment with a large U.S.-based employer were subjected to ridicule by the candidate who mocked a physically handicapped New York Times reporter last November, and whose father was linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in May.
But because Cruz spoke from the big stage on the eve of Trump accepting the GOP nomination and failed to bestow his blessing, but instead inserted scandalous vitriol — “Vote your conscience,” he said (gasp!) — he’s the Creep of Cleveland, the pol without honor, No-Class Cruz, Ted the Dead.
OK, maybe it isn’t cool to speak at the other guy’s coronation without choking back your bitterness to say, “Hey, look, given the alternative, you probably want to vote for our party’s guy.”
But it also isn’t cool to say an old POW who turned down the chance to go free isn’t a war hero because he got captured. It isn’t cool to go 9/11-truther on the party’s previous commander-in-chief, President Miss-Me-Yet? (Yes. Desperately.)
And it sure isn’t cool to claim the president can order U.S. troops to commit war crimes, or to say you’d make certain members’ rent was paid up before you committed America to holding up its end of NATO. I mean, if you’re wondering what GOP icons of the past would have done, Ike would have strangled this guy, and Reagan would have been there to finish him off with a piece of split mesquite.
And I’m pretty sure there’s no number of votes high enough to wash all that reprobate uncoolness that away.
On the other hand, so what, right? To the extent any of that mattered during the primaries, it was litigated in real time by (mostly) Republican voters. And the attempt at an appeal, such as it was, was — to use the term favored by Trump and campaign manager Paul Manafort — crushed last week.
And yet, a mystery lingers, backlit and shrouded in manufactured fog, and it is, simply, this:
How come Trump people get prickly whenever issues of conscience-voting come up? Whether during last week’s release-the-delegates kerfuffle, or in the wake of Ted Cruz’s appeal, the surest way to get your ears boxed is by encouraging voters toward deep introspection.
Listen, I don’t know what Cruz’s ultimate gambit was. Whether he was nursing some personal grudge — which would be a hoot, considering how he sucked up to Trump in the early going — or was genuinely standing on principle, or was seeding the ground for 2020 or some combination of the three, what he did — and what Newt Gingrich deftly spun — was open the door for the unconvinced to give Trump a chance, if Trump will only do the same.
Tuesday night, speaking on behalf of his dad, Donald Trump Jr. lit up the Q with a spot-on speech that was a conservative tour-de-force. Delivered with style, substance and a natural charisma that approached Marco Rubio at his best, Junior didn’t merely ignite his own star, he illuminated a path that, if taken by Trump Sr., would attract virtually every persuadable fence-sitter who, just now, thinks “vote your conscience” means “#NeverTrump.”
Instead, Trumpeteers howl when you suggest you’re still evaluating their guy. It seems to be Cruz left the door open to being wooed, if only he’d come their way — as his namesake son already has.
Only one thing could spawn such outrage among the Donald’s loyalists. They don’t imagine he’s up to the task.
Here’s hoping (against all available evidence and experience) they’re wrong.