Ted Cruz is the most honorable Republican in America
It's a testament to what a topsy-turvy year this is that Ted Cruz — Ted Cruz! — did the most honorable thing I can recall any Republican having done in months.
As a conservative who hasn't drunk the Cruz Kool-Aid, it nearly pains me to say this. But Ted Cruz is now the most honorable Republican in America.
Everything that comes out of Cruz's mouth seems calibrated only to maximize political advantage. When he showed up to the Senate, he gratuitously smeared Defense Secretary nominee (and veteran and fellow Republican) Chuck Hagel as having received money from Saudi Arabia and North Korea, setting the tone for the rest of Hagel's tenure.
And who could forget the government shutdowns Cruz engineered over ObamaCare, at the expense of the Republican Party? Or his unprincipled and politically short-sighted brinkmanship over the national debt?
This is the man who smeared Middle Eastern Christians, some of the most helpless people in the world, as anti-Semites rather than be disliked by neocon blogs.
To put it mildly, Cruz is not well-liked in Washington. When John Boehner called Cruz "Lucifer in the flesh," he wasn't just speaking for establishment and moderate Republicans. When Lindsey Graham (half) joked that, "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was held in the Senate, no one could convict you," he was also speaking for some of the most conservative Senate members.
And yet, a few years from now, every Republican who booed Ted Cruz for his refusal to endorse Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention will claim they were among the ones who cheered him. While everyone else has rolled over and surrendered to Trump, Cruz stayed true to his principles and abstained.
Reince Priebus, as chairman of the Republican National Committee, is supposed to be the party's steward. Yet he is protecting Trump — a man who is destroying the party — for fear of losing his job (which he'll lose anyway).
Marco Rubio — who I cheered on during the primaries as he called Trump a con artist — sent in a meek hostage video endorsing said con artist.
But Ted Cruz did the right thing. Ted Cruz!
Was there political calculation in his refusal to endorse? Of course. Politicians never do anything without calculation. As my colleague Damon Linker argues, this sets Cruz up for 2020. Once Trump loses in November, Cruz will be the frontrunner as the "next in line," and he will be untainted by the spectacle of Trump.
On the other hand, Bloomberg View's Megan McArdle argues this hurts Cruz because he'll be tarred among conservative activists for helping Hillary Clinton get elected. "I continue to think that the #NeverTrump Republicans are a sizeable group; I don't think that they are, by themselves, sizeable enough to constitute anyone's political base," she writes.
I have no idea whether this will be good or bad for Cruz's political prospects. So much could happen between now and 2020. If there was calculation, I think it was more about there being limited downside and unlimited upside. As Charles de Gaulle wryly observed: "Anything can happen someday, even that an act conforming to honor and honesty can end up, at the end of the line, as a good political gamble."
But I must render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Ted Cruz made some new enemies at the convention, but he also made some new friends. And whatever else may happen, he'll always be the man who made one of the most honorable gestures in one of the most dishonorable years in political history.