Erm, has that ever happened before? A major speaker at a national party convention pointedly refusing to endorse its nominee? That’s what Ted Cruz did tonight. I do not like Ted Cruz one bit, but I think this is going to serve him well in the long run. Let me tell you why.
Here’s a small but telling point, via ABC News:
Cruz’s wife, Heidi, was seen leaving the arena when the booing started getting very loud. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told ABC News that he escorted Heidi Cruz out of the convention hall because “it was volatile and the Trump folks were physically approaching and confrontationally yelling,” he said via text.
“People behind her were getting very ugly, and physically approaching her and Raphael, and it was not a pretty situation,” Cuccinelli told ABC. “The decision was instantly made to not talk to media and get immediately out of the arena.”
“People from my own delegation were physically approaching her while yelling at her. So, I physically moved media out of her way, and got in the way of my own delegation so she could clear by and get out of the arena,” he said.
That’s so Trump. And so is that lunatic prosperity preacher with his Hail-Caesar benediction, and then the crackpot Ben Carson, telling the convention audience (and the folks watching from home) that Hillary Clinton is in league with Lucifer. A Christian friend in DC wrote me to say:
I was listening to both that opening prayer last night and the remarks by Carson, and the first thing I thought was, Oh (*%$%, this is going to make the radical Left redouble their efforts to go full steam ahead on a lack of reasonable compromises for religious organizations. This isn’t even an appeal to be “winsome” — it’s just not strategic or even true. It makes reasonable arguments– of which there are many — impossible!
At least in my world…
It’s like the Trumpified GOP allowed Salon’s caricature of what Christians are to take the stage and broadcast their insanity to a national television audience.
You know what else is really Trumpy? This, via the Washington Post:
Over the convention’s first two nights, a growing number of Republicans called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. One of Trump’s advisers called for her death. The unprecedented tenor for a national political convention has prompted dismay in some corners of the GOP and even launched a Secret Service investigation into a New Hampshire state representative who said Clinton should be shot by a firing squad.
At least three speakers called for the presumptive Democratic nominee’s imprisonment. “Lock her up!” the convention crowd shouted repeatedly on both nights, a chant not heard before at nominee Donald Trump’s rallies.
On Wednesday evening, the chants continued — echoed onstage.
“Lock her up!” Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi, her state’s top law enforcement official, said. “I love that.”
Think about that. At a national political convention, the mob routinely demands the imprisonment of the opposition candidate. And worse:
She should be “swinging from the rafters” — a reference to hanging, said Susan Reneau, an alternate delegate from Montana, in an interview in Cleveland. Reneau said she blamed Clinton and her handling of government emails for Islamic State attacks in Paris, Belgium and Istanbul.
“Hillary has jeopardized everyone,” Reneau said. “It’s not even fair to call this her Watergate — Watergate was peanuts by comparison.” She was wearing a black button that said “Hillary for Prison” on her jacket. Outside, vendors said those buttons were selling mainly to women.
Al Baldasaro, a Republican state representative in New Hampshire and an adviser to Trump on veterans issues, said that “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason” on “The Kuhner Report,” a conservative radio show hosted by Jeff Kuhner. Trump chose Baldasaro to stand behind him at one of the most combative moments of his campaign, a news conference at which he defended his handling of money raised for veterans groups.
On Wednesday, Baldasaro stood by those comments in an interview with radio station WMUR. He said the death penalty was appropriate for Clinton’s handling of government emails. “As far as I’m concerned, it is treason, and the penalty for treason is the firing squad — or maybe it’s the electric chair now,” Baldasaro said.
What disgusting people. That Trump advisor is calling for the execution of a presidential candidate, and is unapologetic about it. Is this really the kind of country we want? Is this the kind of people we want to be?
Look, I think Hillary is a crook now, and would be a crook if she got into the White House. But still. Good Lord. How, exactly, do we protest against repulsive remarks like those made in USA Today by black commenter Tavis Smiley, in which he called on the nation to respect and understand the oppression that drove black men to assassinate police officers (“How many more disaffected black men have to self-radicalize before we take their claims seriously?”) if Trump advisers are calling for the murder of Hillary Clinton?!
Who would have thought that Ted Cruz, of all people, would uphold moral conscience and basic human dignity at the Republican National Convention?
Let me give you some incredibly sobering reading. It’s a piece from the New Yorker about Tony Schwartz, the man who ghostwrote Trump’s breakthrough 1980s book The Art Of The Deal. Every word in it rings true to the man we have seen on the campaign trail this past year. Here are some excerpts:
“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.
In a recent phone interview, Trump told me that, to the contrary, he has the skill that matters most in a crisis: the ability to forge compromises. The reason he touted “The Art of the Deal” in his announcement, he explained, was that he believes that recent Presidents have lacked his toughness and finesse: “Look at the trade deficit with China. Look at the Iran deal. I’ve made a fortune by making deals. I do that. I do that well. That’s what I do.”
But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.
This year, Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. “There isn’t,” Schwartz insists. “There is no private Trump.” This is not a matter of hindsight. While working on “The Art of the Deal,” Schwartz kept a journal in which he expressed his amazement at Trump’s personality, writing that Trump seemed driven entirely by a need for public attention. “All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular,” he observed, on October 21, 1986. But, as he noted in the journal a few days later, “the book will be far more successful if Trump is a sympathetic character—even weirdly sympathetic—than if he is just hateful or, worse yet, a one-dimensional blowhard.”
Eavesdropping solved the interview problem, but it presented a new one. After hearing Trump’s discussions about business on the phone, Schwartz asked him brief follow-up questions. He then tried to amplify the material he got from Trump by calling others involved in the deals. But their accounts often directly conflicted with Trump’s. “Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”
In his journal, Schwartz wrote, “Trump stands for many of the things I abhor: his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” Looking back at the text now, Schwartz says, “I created a character far more winning than Trump actually is.” The first line of the book is an example. “I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” Schwartz now laughs at this depiction of Trump as a devoted artisan. “Of course he’s in it for the money,” he said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ ” As for the idea that making deals is a form of poetry, Schwartz says, “He was incapable of saying something like that—it wouldn’t even be in his vocabulary.” He saw Trump as driven not by a pure love of dealmaking but by an insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.” Often, after spending the day with Trump, and watching him pile one hugely expensive project atop the next, like a circus performer spinning plates, Schwartz would go home and tell his wife, “He’s a living black hole!”
Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican nominee. Your Republican Party. Your America, 2016.
UPDATE: My colleague Daniel Larison disagrees that Cruz behaved honorably. In the light of day, I think he’s right about that: I don’t believe Ted Cruz does anything from an honorable point of view. It’s all naked self-serving calculation. Nevertheless, I still believe it’s going to be to his advantage in the long run to have refused to board the Trump train — even if Trump wins in November. Then again, that may be a worthless judgment, because I think that next to Donald Trump, Ted Cruz is the least principled major Republican politician.