Monday, July 25, 2016

Pledges and When They're Broken

There were 16 better options as our candidate for president. And there was one option who actually believes in the Constitution—which the president takes an oath to uphold and defend. So it might be relevant if we look at oath upholding.

The original 17 candidates
Image from here

The question of the week is whether Ted Cruz broke an oath to endorse Donald Trump as the nominee.

Let’s go back to when that “oath,” or pledge, was made. It was a question put to the candidates by liberal moderators of a debate. The question was whether or not Donald Trump would at some point up and leave the party he was newly and only tangentially connected to. (Was it a coin toss that made him decide to run as a Republican instead of something else as in previous half-hearted runs?)

In August 2015 Trump said he wouldn’t promise, and then in September he said he would if everyone else did, depending on whether he was “treated fairly” by the party—which he would judge for himself. There was also a signed statement by each of the candidates saying they would remain Republican supporters, and it included the phrase “endorse the nominee” without defining what that meant. Again, the purpose was to prevent Trump from manipulating everyone and then going third party.

And this past spring, when Cruz had momentum and was additionally acquiring delegates at state conventions, Trump declared that this was unfair and all promises were off.

Right now everyone is declaring that endorse means going out and making an explicit statement of endorsement—or pledging a vote and encouraging others to vote with you. But it does not necessarily mean “I will come out and express my endorsement at the convention, so help me God.” It was a promise of fealty to the party, and to not undermine the nominee. This could mean simply not fighting against, not leading his followers to rebel, not spending his money to continue the fight against. And especially it means to continue to support the Republican Party, including other GOP candidates in various other races.

So far, the only one who threw out his pledge was Donald Trump. Along with that he has thrown out the principles of the party and made everything about him. And so far he has done next to nothing to support other Republicans down the ballot. Cruz has been keeping that pledge.

In addition, Trump followed up what was seen as a successful convention—not with revitalized energy to go against the Democrat opponent, but with a vendetta to take out his final two rivals: Ted Cruz and John Kasich—governor of the state where the GOP Convention was safely and successfully held.

Trump intends to put $10-20 million each in Super PACs to defeat Cruz in his 2018 reelection bid for US Senate and John Kasich for his next run as Governor of Ohio. Not because either of them has betrayed the party and its principles, but because Trump is personally offended that they both believed they would make a better president than he would, and refused, after defeat, to bow down to him and tell the American people to vote for him.

This isn’t about broken promises—because Trump is the only one breaking promises here. This is about a vendetta against anyone who refuses to be submissive to him.

People have been accusing Cruz this past week of holding a grudge and breaking promises. So I’d like to go back over the events to see whether that’s true.

Trump spent months calling Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” saying it so often that his followers took it up as true, when Ted Cruz is one of the most honest people in politics today. Where did it come from?

On February 1st, in the evening, just before the Iowa caucus began, Chris Moody of CNN tweeted the news that Ben Carson was possibly suspending his campaign; the Carson campaign had actually said the candidate was going home to Florida and then would show up in DC a few days hence for the prayer breakfast It was at a time when the various campaigns were moving to New Hampshire; and to go home at that point appeared to the politically savvy (i.e., anyone outside the Carson campaign) to be a pre-announcement for dropping out. CNN announced the news on TV, including words on the screen, at 6:45 PM. Someone on the Cruz campaign—as well as someone on the Rubio campaign and probably others—passed along the news report to caucus goers—including the CNN screen shot.

CNN, about twenty minutes later, sent out a follow-up saying the report that Carson was dropping out was an error. By then the caucus was underway. Things were loud and chaotic. There wasn’t any verbal awareness of the tweets either way. There is no evidence, based on polling before and after, that the tweets had any effect on the outcome (Carson did better than polling predicted but still came in fourth). Not a single caucus-goer was found who had changed a vote away from Carson based on the mistaken report.

But Cruz was blamed for passing along the erroneous CNN report. He apologized later that no one had followed up with the retraction in the heat of the moment—an apology that I think was beyond reasonable expectation and was never required of anyone else, including CNN.

Carson said he lost the state because of dirty tricks and blamed Cruz (apparently forgetting the drubbing he got from Trump a couple of months earlier, which effected his slide in the polls). Trump seized on Carson’s accusation and started calling Cruz “Lyin’ Ted.” Cruz hadn’t lied. He hadn’t been involved in any falsehood at all. Nor did the CNN error affect the outcome in the state. And Cruz was more gracious than he needed to be.

But Trump continued the “Lyin’ Ted” theme, because he likes nicknames for anyone he dislikes.

In late March, Trump people put out the accusation that Ted Cruz was guilty of multiple marital infidelities—something Trump is known for, and something no one believed about Cruz. It was painful, but it passed, because Cruz has lived his life in such a way that no such accusation could gain traction.

But there’s more Trump-to-Cruz mudslinging.

In 2000, before they were married, and before he thought he might make her first lady, Trump oversaw a photography session of Melania posing nude, which were published in Britain’s GQ Magazine. So when an anti-Trump (not pro-Cruz) Super PAC found and published the photo, Trump claimed that it was a Cruz Super PAC doing Cruz’s bidding (which would be illegal and Trump had to know it hadn’t happened). Trump immediately sent out an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, a snapshot caught mid-blink or other expression, side-by-side with a professional glamor shot of Melania, and commented on how much better looking his wife was than Cruz’s. And not content to stop there, he threatened to reveal bombshell accusations about Heidi’s mental health and/or infidelity.

Trump supporters say Cruz started it, and so of course Trump simply responded. But Cruz didn’t start it. Nor did Cruz threaten or sue or otherwise respond with histrionics and cruelty; he showed his righteous anger at the attack on his wife, called Trump a coward, and then went about his campaign with greater resolve.

Then, at a time when Trump knew the internal polling showed him winning in Indiana, which was something of a final stand for Cruz, he gratuitously attacked Ted Cruz’s father, claiming a grainy photo of JFK’s killer with a Hispanic-looking person next to him was Ted Cruz’s father, a story dug up by the National Inquirer (run by a Trump friend, and claimed by Trump to be a reliable news source).

Remember, there was no strategic reason for the hit piece; Trump already knew he was winning. And of course there was no validity. Trump is simply a beast.

Between Cruz’s suspending his campaign and the convention, there continued to be talk from the disheartened about a coup at the convention. But that did not come from Cruz. He was silent on all of that and went back to the Senate—where he has worked on keeping the internet free and fighting various other Obama extralegal power grabs.

Should Cruz have changed his mind about Trump’s unworthiness to be president after all the sleazy attacks? Trump didn’t apologize, didn’t reach out to Cruz, didn’t broaden his attraction to win over Cruz supporters. Trump even went so far as to say he didn’t want anyone in the party who didn’t fully support him.

So then we had the convention. Trump has party officials doing his bidding, and they silence the floor, claiming it’s to keep people from changing the rules to stage a coup (which was not going to happen). He had asked Ted Cruz to speak, knowing there would be no endorsement.  Note that not all the other speakers endorsed. Some just spoke on their topics and went on their way.

Cruz didn’t have to speak at all. Governor Kasich didn’t attend—in his own state. But Cruz took the opportunity to speak on the superiority of conservative Constitutional principles over the failures of the socialist Democrats. Seems like a reasonable, even essential, message for a Republican convention.

But the failure to explicitly endorse in the speech is being used by Trump as a reason for more venom. He orchestrated the boos. He stirred up the controversy—when people who had heard the speech cheered and approved the message. Frank Luntz’s focus group gave it very high ratings.

Trump could have reacted by thanking Cruz for his support—meaning support of the party—and it would have been enough, and maybe won him some Cruz supporters.

Instead he has reiterated the story about Cruz’s father being involved in the JFK assassination—rallying the GOP chair to join in on that bullying. And Trump vows to take out Cruz and Kasich—because they don’t even belong in the party, or in public life.

Who lies? Who holds a grudge? Who fails to keep his word? Trump.

And who bullies others into submission? Trump.

Anyone out there who is claiming Cruz is petty and unforgiving doesn’t know Cruz. And anyone who thinks Trump’s hateful bullying has been justified because of the slights he has suffered needs to realign their entire moral compass, because it’s off kilter.

As of today, Trump is leading in the polls. I’m not writing this to change that. A rat with bubonic plague ought to be leading Hillary Clinton in the polls. She is the worst Democrat party candidate in the history of the United States.

But that does not mean that the worst candidate in the history of the Republican Party would be good for the country. He may win. But it will have to be without Cruz's submission. Or mine.

But that does not mean the worst candidate in the history of the Republican Party would be good for the country. He may win. But it will have to be without Cruz’s submission. Or mine.

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