On Thursday morning—after he was booed at the Republican convention the night before—a defiant Sen. Ted Cruz declared that he would not grovel "like a servile puppy" to endorse Donald Trump, the man who attacked his wife and father. In a heated breakfast meeting with members of the Texas GOP delegation in Cleveland, Cruz, who was soundly denounced by Trump and his allies after refusing to endorse Trump during a convention speech, reiterated a call for Republicans to vote their "conscience."
Before Cruz spoke, the mood among the Texas delegates who had gathered in the downtown Marriott was conciliatory. Trump "wasn't even my 8th or 10th choice," Rep. Jeb Hensarling told the room. "But you know what? He is my nominee, and I'm gonna give him 110 percent." The powerful House Financial Services chairman added, "It's time for all of us to put the primary in our past." (Outside, he characterized Cruz's speech more bluntly, telling reporters that Cruz had missed a "two-foot putt.")
When he addressed his home-state delegates, Cruz moved to deflect the criticism surrounding his prime-time address, which was received so poorly by the crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena that his wife had to be escorted out by security. He reminded delegates that the mob of television cameras and scribbling reporters in the back of the room were not their friends and were eager to sow discord within he conservative movement. And he promised not to say anything bad about Trump, noting that the two men had spoken three days earlier and that Trump knew well in advance that the speech would not amount to an endorsement. "They knew exactly what I was gonna say," Cruz said, adding, "I was perfectly happy to get on a plane and go home."
But when Cruz took questions from the audience, he left little doubt about his stance on Trump. Delegate after delegate stood up and posed a variation of the same question: Would Cruz get on board? Each time, Cruz pivoted to a different line of critique. He slammed Republicans who would "attack as a traitor anyone who would question our candidate." He talked up his stand as a principled conservative with the guts to speak his mind, poking at Trump critics who "turned tail and ran and didn't come to the convention."
When a questioner asked Cruz how Trump could bring "constitutionalists on board," Cruz pointed right back to his speech, calling it an "outline" designed to show Trump "how you win." In Cruz's view, bashing Hillary Clinton and talking endlessly about email servers—Cruz's convention speech was not to be interrupted by "lock her up!" chants—would not lead to victory in November. Trump, he insisted, has to talk about "freedom."
Throughout his session, Cruz was heckled by members of his own delegation. One man held up a homemade "Clinton-Cruz 2020" sign. When Cruz said he believed Republicans would indeed win in November, another shouted, "With or without you!" But Cruz used the hostile room to his advantage. Despite his earlier promise not to criticize Trump, he decried Trump supporters who at the convention have been "blindly chanting a name and yelling down dissenters." And he asked, "What does it say when you stand up and say 'vote your conscience' and rabid supporters of our nominee began screaming, 'What a horrible thing to say'?" He compared his own courageous decision to speak to a less-than-friendly room to Trump's attitude toward critics: "Can anyone imagine our nominee standing in front of voters answering questions like this?"
Cruz, who had previously signed the GOP pledge to support the eventual nominee, told the Texas delegates that he could point to the exact moment when Trump crossed a line: when the called Cruz's wife ugly in a tweet and then accused Cruz's father of possibly being involved in the Kennedy assassination. "That pledge," he said, "was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I'm gonna nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say, 'Thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.'"
When he finished making this point, he addressed a man in the back of the room who was mocking Cruz. "I will note, sir, that you might have a similar view if someone was attacking your wife—in fact I hope you would," Cruz said.
"This is politics," the man responded. "Your wife has got to get over it. This is politics."
"No," Cruz said, "this is not politics. I will tell the truth, I will not malign, I will not attack, I will not insult, I will tell the truth. This is not a game. It is not politics. Right and wrong matters."
In a primetime address to the Republican National Convention Wednesday, Ted Cruz comparedGOP efforts to restrict immigration to the civil rights movement's fight against Jim Crow laws. But the Texas senator was loudly booed by Donald Trump supporters in the convention hall when it became clear that he was not going to endorse the man who beat him for the Republican presidential nomination. Instead, Cruz encouraged his audience to "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."
"We deserve leaders who stand for principle, unite us all behind shared values, cast aside anger for love," Cruz said, in what many considered the first campaign speech of his likely 2020 presidential campaign. "That is the standard we should expect, from everybody."
Rather than directly back Trump—who mocked his wife Heidi's looks during the primary campaign and once suggested Cruz's dad was complicit in the Kennedy assassination—Cruz used his prime-time slot to outline his vision of freedom.
"Freedom means free speech, not politically correct safe spaces," he said, taking a shot at progressive college campus activists. He rattled off a series of other bullet points—religious freedom, the right to bear arms, school vouchers, and repealing Obamacare. Each of those freedoms are typical conservative talking points that the party's nominee rarely mentions. Although Cruz's speech focused less on social conservative issues than it might have in years past, he included a call for Washington to stay out of defining issues like marriage.
But Cruz made sure to endorse parts of Trump's platform as well. He cited the success of the United Kingdom's recent Brexit vote as indicative of a growing populist wave. "We deserve an immigration system that puts America first and, yes, builds a wall to keep us safe, that stops admitting ISIS terrorists as refugees," Cruz said. "We deserve trade policies that put the interests of American farmers and manufacturing jobs over the global interests funding the lobbyists." Cruz had never previously campaigned as an economic protectionist.
Even as he adopted aspects of the current nominee's most controversial proposals, Cruz was careful to couch his political fight in the context of historical struggles. "Together we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together we fought to eliminate Jim Crow laws," he said. "Those were fights for freedom, and so is this."
One of the most important conservative politicians in Cleveland this week isn't even a Republican. It's Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party who led the successful push for Britain's exit from the European Union. Farage was invited to Cleveland by the Republican National Committee and was in the arena on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, he held court for a Brexit, er, breakfast gathering of reporters and delegates and offered his take on Trump.
The comparisons between Trump's nativist populism and the Brexit campaign's anti-immigration nationalism have been inescapable since last month's referendum, but Farage said he had "reservations" about the Republican nominee. "What Trump gets right, it seems to me, is he talks about some of the issues that perhaps others find a bit awkward or uncomfortable, they'd rather brush them under the carpet," he said. "And Trump's talked about those things, and that's generated a huge level of interest. My reservations were—I've been told I'm a bit over the top once or twice, but I think some of Trump's comments are a bit out there."
For instance, he said, the Muslim ban wouldn't cut it. "You know, to say that we would ban all Muslims from coming to America—apart from being false, given that there are quite a few citizens working overseas or they're serving in the US Army overseas and they're Muslim—I can see what he's trying to do," Farage said. "He's trying to get some big messages out there, some big wedge issues. He's trying to reach voters who feel frustrated and perhaps a little scared. I get what he's doing, but just the style of it makes me wince a little bit."
Farage was, like a lot of conservatives in Cleveland this week, favorably inclined but not entirely sold on Trump. But he was adamantly opposed to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, lamenting what he called "this sense of entitlement, as if this country now has its own hereditary principle." He added, "Might as well introduce the House of Lords to Washington." He stopped short, however, of endorsing Trump outright and swore off campaigning for any conservative politicians in the United States. He appeared to be taken aback by the size and fervor of the crowd inside Quicken Loans Arena.
"The American style of politics, the way they express themselves at this convention—and I'm sure it'll be some of the same next week—is completely different," he said. "There are no direct parallels to how we do things in the United Kingdom. Yeah, 'lock her up!'—quite strong stuff, isn't it?"
Farage is not speaking at the convention, but he is making the rounds at satellite events around town. He isn't the only notorious European politician who's come to bask in the orange glow of Trump. Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric in some ways presaged Trump's Muslim ban, headlined a "Gays for Trump" event at a club on Tuesday night.
The Republicans who learned to stop worrying and love the bomb-thrower (and those who didn't).
Tim MurphyJul. 20, 2016 6:00 AM
It really happened. On Tuesday night in Cleveland, Donald Trump officially became the Republican presidential nominee, ending a 12-month odyssey that exceeded the worst nightmares of virtually all his party's leading lights. Trump is unique in modern American politics, not just because almost no one expected him to win when he entered the race, but because of the bridge-burning way other Republican candidates, elected officials, pundits, and operatives discussed his candidacy.
But since he won the Indiana primary in May and became the presumptive nominee, many of Trump's most unflinching adversaries have, in fact, flinched, abandoning the Never Trump movement in the name of party unity or Hillary Clinton antipathy. Here's a quick guide to where the nominee's loudest critics stand now:
THE FULL 180
Marco Rubio: The senator from Florida called his Republican rival a "con artist" after a debate in February. Days before the Florida primary, he compared Trump to a Latin American strongman and warned that the movement Trump had sparked could be "dangerous and disastrous." After dropping out, he said he would be "honored" to speak on Trump's behalf at the convention.
Rick Perry: The former Texas governor denounced Trump as a "barking carnival act" and a "cancer" on conservatism during his brief presidential run, leading to rumors he might be recruited to run as an independent. In May, he told CNN he was available to serve as Trump's vice president.
Alex Castellanos: A GOP ad maker and CNN contributor, he tried to start an anti-Trump super-PAC last fall to convince conservatives Trump posed a "danger" to the country. In June, he signed on to work for a pro-Trump super-PAC.
Nikki Haley: South Carolina's governor invoked Charleston's 2015 mass shooting to warn that Trump was fomenting hate in a way that could lead to violence, telling a retirement community, "We can't have Donald Trump as president." She endorsed Trump two months later.
Lindsey Graham: The senator from South Carolina denounced his Republican rival as a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot." (He also called Trump a "jackass" and a "nut job" who should "go to hell.") Graham hasn't publicly backed Trump but reportedly urged donors to get on board.
John McCain: The 2008 GOP nominee bashed Trump as "uninformed and dangerous" on national security and asked Republican voters to choose someone else. When they didn't, he endorsed the candidate who referred to him and his fellow prisoners of war as fake war heroes.
Paul Ryan: The speaker of the House gave a special address to condemn Trump's Muslim ban, and another to denounce the tone of electoral politics. After Trump clinched the nomination, Ryan said he wasn't ready to endorse. Just weeks later, he did. When Trump attacked the Latino judge overseeing the Trump University case, Ryan called his argument "racist"—but held fast in his support.
Bobby Jindal: The failed 2016 primary candidate and former Louisiana governor called Trump an "egomaniac" and a "madman who must be stopped." He later published an op-ed endorsing the candidate, "warts and all."
Paul LePage: Six days after telling a meeting of Republican governors that they must denounce Trump, the Maine governor endorsed Trump. He has said he would like to join a Trump administration.
Hugh Hewitt: He's out, he's in, he's out, he's in. The thinking man's conservative talk radio host slammed Trump during the primary but urged listeners to "close ranks" when it was over. After the Orlando shooting, he proposed changing the rules of the convention to deny Trump the nomination, but then he backed off.
ON THE FENCE
Ted Cruz: Trump's leading rival during the primary, the Texas senator has stayed unusually quiet about whether he'll vote for the man who insulted his wife's looks and accused his dad of helping kill JFK.
Jeff Flake: The Arizona senator said he's not sure he can get behind Trump, even as Clinton makes a play for his state. In June, he urged his Senate colleagues not to rush to get behind their nominee: "Some of the things he's done I think are beyond the pale."
NEVER MEANS NEVER
Mark Kirk: The endangered Illinois senator endorsed Trump but rescinded his support after the nominee said a Chicago-born "Mexican" judge would be inherently biased against him in the Trump University fraud case. His campaign ads prominently note that Trump is "not fit" to be commander-in-chief.
Mitt Romney: Though he flew to Las Vegas to accept Trump's endorsement during the 2012 campaign, Romney denounced Trump inMarch. He has since said he's looking for an independent or third-party candidate.
Jeb Bush: In a July interview, Bush said "the bar's not that high" for a GOP nominee to win his support—but that Trump couldn't clear it. The two ex-presidents in his immediate family have both said they won't endorse the nominee. Jeb's mother, Barbara, told CBS News in June that she doesn't "know how women could vote for someone" like Trump, given his attacks on Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
Rick Wilson: The longtime Republican ad maker and former Rubio backer helped start the #NeverTrump movement when his nomination looked unlikely, calling him a "scenery-chewing, oxygen-sucking political black hole." In June, he dubbed Trump "Cheeto Jesus."
Bill Kristol: Romney, Sasse, General James Mattis, and even little-known National Review columnist John French turned down the Weekly Standard founder's entreaties to challenge Trump as an independent. He's said he will vote for neither Trump nor Clinton.
Glenn Beck: The talk radio host compared Trump to Hitler, although in fairness, he compares lots of people to Hitler. He was suspended from his show in May after a guest mused about assassinating the GOP nominee. Beck has supported the idea of a third-party candidate but has not picked one himself.
The woman selling this t-shirt in downtown Cleveland, just a few hundred feet from the entrance to the Republican National Convention, told me, "I usually don't keep it out because I don't like children seeing it, but my boss said put one of each out."
And you can see why—the neon green color scheme is just hideous.