Conventional-wisdom dispensers told us that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) committed political suicide at the Republican National Convention when he refused to endorse Donald Trump. Well, now one might conclude that they correctly spotted political malpractice — but identified the wrong practitioner.
When Trump repeatedly and inevitably says something idiotic or malicious (or both), his endorsers are forced again and again to step forward to condemn or explain his remarks. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was compelled to issue a written statement on Sunday after Trump had gone after two Gold Star parents, “As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it,” he said. “Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain [Humayun] Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice—and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan—should always be honored. Period.”
Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued this response: “Captain Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans, I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror. All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services.”
Sorry, but they sound ridiculous in refusing even to mention Trump’s egregious behavior. They are left trying to reconcile how someone so heinous nevertheless gets their support for president.
Meanwhile, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence put out his own mealy-mouthed statement, which included this: “Donald Trump and I believe that Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American.” Actually Trump doesn’t believe that; he thinks he is as sympathetic a figure as Khan’s parents. You do wonder how Pence, as the father of a second lieutenant in the Marines, can justify running on a ticket with Trump.
For Ryan and McConnell, it becomes increasingly hard to argue that Trump would be a responsible, fit commander in chief.
Cruz, meanwhile, has been keeping out of sight of late, letting the election play out. He certainly is entitled to say something like, “I told you he was a pathological liar and dangerous narcissist.” In fact, Cruz’s indictment of Trump in May sounds remarkably accurate: “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. … Every one of us knew bullies in elementary school. Bullies don’t come from strength, bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There is a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.”
And all of this is made worse by Pence’s presence on the ticket and the Republican pols repeatedly explaining why he can be all these things — a liar, a bigot, a know-nothing — and yet still deserving of their support. By refusing, no matter what, to abandon Trump, they reassure him that no matter how cruel, how lacking in empathy and how ignorant he may be, Republicans will discredit themselves to defend him. Cruz meanwhile, keeps his dignity, his intellectual integrity and 2020 aspirations alive.
Who, remind us again, made the career-ending mistake in Cleveland?
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