For months, Senator Ted Cruz has played the maid of honor at Donald Trump’s wedding, content to carry the train of Mr. Trump’s dress as he walks down the aisle, presenting himself to the country’s assorted conservative grassroots activists and white nationalists. Once upon a time, people thought this would be Cruz’s day. He was to be the great hope of the tea party. But Trump stole his bouquet, and now Cruz must stand just behind him until Trump stumbles, and Cruz can claim the dress and ring, and win the day for himself.
It’s shrewd politics as far as the primary goes. Trump has clearly identified a need among angry and resentful Republican base voters, and when he eventually flunks out they’ll want somebody else. And attacking Trump hasn’t gone well for anybody else. It didn’t help Rick Perry or Rand Paul, and the polling bump the media predicted for Carly Fiorina after her critique of the Donald has been modest. In a way, Cruz is simply acknowledging the reality that the whole field is being held hostage by Trump, the big bully. He’s ensuring that he gets preferential treatment on the playground.
But it also looks really craven. Trump is a fool, and he’s hurting the whole party. Everyone not caught in his menacing undertow understands this. So Cruz has sent some soft noises through the conservative media: The senator from Texas isn’t an idiot. He’s not like Trump. He’s just using him — and by extension, using Trump’s fans. Here’s the key quote in a recent article along those lines in National Review:
“Cruz knows full well that Trump is a buffoon and is bad for conservatism,” says a top Republican strategist familiar with the senator’s thinking. “But he applauds him because it theoretically is good for Ted.”
This is a pretty bold tack for a presidential contender to take, isn’t it? Cruz isn’t a dummy, those making apologies for his campaign are saying. He’s just pretending to be one. OK! Refreshingly honest, I guess.
But if Cruz has enough brainpower to know that Trump is bad for both conservatism and the Republican Party — and there’s ample reason to believe that he does — it’s one thing to say Trump has some good points, insinuate yourself with the Gadsden Flag crowd, and stand back, and another to fan the flames. Which one is Cruz doing?
The Texas GOP senator’s campaign announced Thursday that he’s invited Trump to join a rally planned at the Capitol soon to pressure lawmakers on opposing the nuclear agreement [with Iran.] The rally is sponsored by Tea Party Patriots, Center for Security Policy, and the Zionist Organization of America.
That’s right — Cruz is going hard against Obama’s Iran agreement, and he’s roping Trump into his big show. He’s helping push Trump even more into the spotlight, helping to build him an even greater platform. He perceives some benefit to himself, and maybe also to the anti-deal effort, by including Trump. But he’s also feeding Trump more airtime and more attention.
If Trump is hurting conservatism, and Cruz is helping Trump, Cruz is then hurting conservatism, according to the transitive property. Trump is setting the Republican Party on fire, and Cruz is handing him gasoline. What a statesman! What noble intentions! To put it in the language of the primary: How would Cruz “stand up” to Putin when he can’t stand up the Donald?