Judging from my Twitter feed, most people equated Ted Cruz’s speech at the Republican National Convention to setting off his political suicide vest on stage. Leading up to the speech, pundits everywhere reminded people that at the end of the bitter 1976 campaign, Reagan gave a brilliant speech, one of his best of all time — but in the end, he endorsed Ford.
But it wasn’t just his words. It was Reagan’s selflessness; his greatness, his devotion, his call to duty and putting country first that rang so true in the hearts and minds of the delegates — and made him the favorite for 1980.
It is the same trap Trump used throughout the campaign; the trap that Ted fell for each and every time. Trump paints a picture of someone — and then hands them the brush.
And then there was Cruz.
No less than President Reagan’s son, Michael, said on Twitter, “Was Cruz thinking about 2020 not 2016. Is that why he didn’t endorse? How does that unite the Republican Party. Sad and Selfish.” When one user replied, “NO not selfish! Your dad would be so proud!” Michael replied, “My father would not be proud of Cruz speech. He would think Cruz was selfish and small and he was and is.”
The criticism continued. Chris Christie said, “It was an awful, selfish speech by someone … who showed everybody why he has richly earned the reputation that he has on Capitol Hill. The fact is, we all, all 17 of us, signed a pledge, saying that we would support whoever the nominee was, without qualification … I just think it was an awful performance by someone who showed himself tonight to not be a man of his word.” Staffers from the RNC even piled on, calling it “classless.”
Many people were also baffled that Trump, who apparently knew of Cruz’s intentions, allowed him on the stage at all. Before the night was out, for those who dreaded that disunity would give Hillary Clinton ammunition, sure enough and right on cue, the Clinton campaign began telling people to “vote their conscience.” And on and on it went.
While I was also shocked and deeply disappointed in Cruz — mainly for an opportunity missed — after I got past my shock, I once again had to admire the brilliance of Donald Trump. For someone who has never done politics before, he has proven to be an absolute master at it.
On that opportunity missed, as Cruz’s speech built up, I thought it sounded like he was going to endorse. My thoughts began to fill with visions of Trump, who arrived at the convention mid-speech, walking across the stage after a thunderous, “And I endorse Donald … J. … Trump for the next President of the United States!” and the two men not only shaking hands but embracing while the crowd went absolutely wild.
And they would have. To me, that was the saddest, most disappointing part: such huge, huge potential that was utterly lost. Two men, putting aside their differences to stand against a common foe, to stand together, united, against the disaster that is Hillary Clinton. Just picture that moment. Instead, what will be remembered is one man choosing himself over country. That was the true shock of it all.