In∙teg∙ri∙ty n. 1. The quality or state of being complete; unbroken condition; wholeness; entirety 2. The quality or state of being unimpaired; perfect condition; soundness 3. The quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity—SYN. See HONESTY
Integrity is a good thing. A virtue. Something we value if we want thriving civilization.
So it’s something we want—need—in our leaders.
That’s why I was concerned a couple of evenings ago when I first saw the story that the Ted Cruz campaign had sent out a false story that Carson was dropping out of the race in order to persuade Carson caucus goers Monday night to change to Cruz. At the first moment I felt a sort of kick in the gut. But since I’ve done quite a lot of vetting of Senator Cruz—for years, since I vetted him when he ran for the Senate from Texas—I thought there must be something more to the story. And there was.
Much more detail came out yesterday. I didn’t do the original research on this; you probably heard it from several sources already. (Jennifer Burke at Politistick, Mark Levin on his radio show, Dana Loesch on The Blaze,[i] for example). I’m not a news outlet. So after we summarize the story, we’ll get to the commentary.
Here’s the order of events.
|Tweet, image from Politistick|
CNN reporter Chris Moody heard from as-yet unidentified person in the Carson campaign that, instead of heading to New Hampshire and South Carolina, Carson was heading home to Florida for some R&R before Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast. He took this news and tweeted it. CNN then reported this on TV at 6:45 PM (Iowa time, so shortly before the Iowa caucuses began)—Dana Bash and Jake Tapper, during their Iowa Caucus coverage. The banner over their report said, “Campaign: Carson to take break after Iowa.” They noted that this was unprecedented for a presidential campaign—unless they were planning to drop out, they implied. So that was the natural speculation.
|The Cruz campaign tweet, image from here|
Five minutes later the Carson campaign began trying to clarify: they were heading to Florida to avoid a storm and to pick up some fresh clothes. Getting that clarification to spread took some time.
By 7:00 the Cruz campaign put out the news to precinct captions in Iowa, saying, specifically:
Breaking news. The press is reporting that Dr. Ben Carson is taking time off from the campaign trail after Iowa and making a big announcement next week. Please inform and Carson caucus goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted Cruz.
It was signed by Spence Rogers. Shortly afterward Iowa’s Steve King tweeted the same message, as did the Ted Cruz campaign, including a screen shot of the CNN story in the tweet.
The Rubio campaign also pushed the story. The evidence is a tweet by Rubio proponent Conrad Close.
|Tweet, image from Politistick|
This was posted at 7:29 Iowa time, Monday, as the caucuses started. Almost twenty-four hours later Rubio was on Fox News with Megyn Kelly, decrying the unfair dirty tricks of the Cruz campaign, righteously indignant, saying his campaign was above such things. The above tweet still existed at 7:29 PM Tuesday, during that interview, but disappeared at 7:30, which wouldn’t have been known if the Politistick writer hadn’t taken a screen shot.
Backing up to the Iowa caucuses. Going in, Carson was polling fourth; he came in fourth—with a higher percentage than predicted. There are no stories of visible scrambling and discussing the story among Iowa caucusgoers of Carson leaving. There was no visible exodus of Carson voters. Nor are there, to date, any anecdotal stories of individuals who changed because of the news story (or Cruz's campaign's passing it on, or Rubio's either) about Carson’s plans.
Following the outcome Monday, Trump even sounded somewhat subdued and humbled—honored to have come in second, which was more than originally expected. When asked about that low-key attitude change, he said he was trying to be a bit dialed back, and presidential sounding, because some people like that, he was told. The point is, Monday night he congratulated Cruz and was unaware of anything amiss in the caucuses.
The Cruz campaign didn’t lie. They didn’t stretch the truth. They repeated what was being told on the news, which is fair game. That is what we think the Rubio campaign was doing as well.
On Tuesday, after the Cruz campaign note came to the attention of Carson, he called it dirty tricks, and what you expect from politicians, and why we need a non-politician, etc. In other words, he took political advantage of the situation to advance his own campaign narrative.
Ted Cruz did what you would expect of someone with integrity. He apologized for the misunderstanding. Some people took this to be an admission of guilt. Later he clarified that there had been a misunderstanding based on the CNN news report (it wasn’t, by the way, the Cruz campaign’s misinterpretation, but the CNN reporter’s wording and subsequent speculation, which the Cruz campaign merely passed along as newsworthy), and his apology specifically was that, once they became aware of Carson’s clarification (which came to them during the heat of the ongoing caucuses), they didn’t send out a follow-up correction. They hadn’t said Carson was ending his campaign, but they were apologizing for not following up to say directly that Carson wasn’t dropping out.
Carson invokes his Christianity, and Cruz’s, and refuses to accept the apology.
Rubio, as noted above, decides Cruz’s note was purposefully deceptive, and fails to mention the use of the same information by his own campaign.
Trump opportunistically decides that a huge injustice has been done to his dear friend and fellow candidate, Ben Carson. So this is, in his opinion, a monumental bad deed done by Cruz personally, because he’s an evil person. And then it becomes about him. He decides to claim that a huge portion of Cruz voters resulted from this dirty fraud, and if it hadn’t been for this huge shift of voters from Carson to Cruz, Cruz wouldn’t have had a high enough percentage to beat Trump. So he calls for a redo of the entire caucus, or at least a negation of Cruz’s win—depriving him of his delegates, leaving Trump the winner. How convenient.
Back up to November, when Carson was leading in national polls. Trump trashed him daily in his ubiquitous media, going so far as saying he’s pathologically violent—incurable, like a pathological sex offender. Mark Levin catalogued those attacks on his radio show (particularly at 12 minutes in). That was what Trump calls fair. But what Cruz did was so costly to Carson that he should be disqualified entirely?
So, what we see is pretty much what we expect from all the characters, if we’ve been paying attention:
Cruz is gracious and meticulously scrupled. He has integrity, which we had supposed all along.
Carson is overly sensitive and politically inexperienced. A bad thing happened to him—apparently because of his own behavior, which had meaning that he did not anticipate. He’s angry at Ted Cruz in the moment and unwilling to forgive—for now. But I think, as things play out, and Cruz becomes the nominee, Carson will get over the immediate anger and disappointment and see things more clearly. He won’t remain unforgiving. I’m guessing that. Maybe he is just using this as an opportunity to get sympathy and invoke his “non-politicians are better” message. That is happening. But I think he really is a decent person who hasn’t yet grasped his own role in this kerfuffle. He doesn't appear to be fully in integrity at the moment, but I expect he will get there again.
Rubio may or may not be aware that his own campaign was doing precisely what he calls underhanded from the Cruz campaign. If he knows, he’s simply a slick liar when it comes to politics. If he didn’t know, he’s using this opportunity to attack an opponent in the race—because that is what politicians do. Lying about it is completely out of integrity. Taking advantage of it in a campaign is what politicians do, but I don’t like it. But it doesn’t make him worse than whoever our Democrat opponent will be. I’m giving the benefit of the doubt and guessing it's a political opportunity rather than outright lie, based on what we’ve seen of him in the past. So I don’t completely write him off, even though he’s not my choice. I’m hoping that years of experience will lead him to greater integrity.
Donald Trump is what we have come to expect: self-centered, opportunistic, lying, manipulative, a bully and a sore loser. He clearly doesn’t care about Ben Carson; we know that from his own voluminous words. He doesn’t know what fraud is in legal terms. But he’s willing to use his money to try to buy, through lawsuits or other means, the outcome he wants for his own advantage. Integrity is not a word we apply to Donald Trump. “The quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity” is a definition that rarely intersects with him even tangentially.
One more mention about integrity: Rand Paul. He bowed out Tuesday (Santorum and Huckabee also bowed out). This presidential race wasn’t the right time for Rand Paul, as it was never the right time for his father. But he served a purpose in the conversation. The debate connects with the Constitution much more than it would have without Ron and Rand Paul input. Rand Paul and I don’t agree on everything. He’s libertarian, and I am not quite. But I believe the conversation needs to be between conservatives and libertarians talking about the Constitution. I think Paul has been honorable. He hasn’t been altering his message in a misguided attempt to get more mainstream voters. I appreciate his integrity in this campaign. It would have been a better political season if his message had been magnified in place of Trump’s. It is my hope that his followers will recognize Cruz as the closest to their cause.
Integrity is something we want and need in a leader, but it’s a rarity in politicians. Ted Cruz is a rarity. I’m glad the truth came out quickly this week, when his integrity was impugned. If it had been true—or unrefuted—it would have done more damage to Ted Cruz than anything said about Carson's going home after Iowa.