Sing, o muse, of the tragedy of Ted Cruz. Sing of Ted of Princeton, the grey knight who so badly wanted to be white. Sing of how his peers thought him a knave, he who only wanted to be "TrusTed." Sing of how he wrote a book, titled A Time for Truth, to remind us all of how truthful he was, seemingly oblivious to the fact that genuinely truthful people do not usually need to assert their own truthfulness.
It's possible to tell the story of Ted Cruz's now defunct political career as a tragedy, but really it would be more accurate to tell it as a farce. John Boehner once famously described Ted Cruz as "Lucifer in the flesh." But Ted Cruz is not the Devil, nor is he a witch. He's just a joke.
Ted Cruz arrived in Washington as one of the senators from the great Tea Party waves of 2010 and 2012. He quickly made his mark. Not, as so many thought, as one of the most conservative members of a caucus that already contains a fair amount of very conservative members, but as an agitator. He didn't just oppose Republican and veteran Chuck Hagel's nomination for Obama's secretary of defense, but slyly and without grounds accused him of taking money from Saudi Arabia and being an anti-Semite.
That was a politically clever move. In the Senate — where advancement is by seniority and one will wait many years before putting his mark on legislation, and where increasing polarization makes it hard to pass legislation anyway even in the best of circumstances — the way to make your mark is through PR. Meanwhile, many in the GOP were eager and even desperate for a conservative White Knight making everyone angry in Washington. It was smart, even though it was unethical, which came to summarize Cruz's career in Washington. Everything he did seemed cold and calculated and done exclusively out of political interest, without any regard for ethics or principle.
All of which brings us to that fateful moment in Cleveland, when, even as the entire GOP was prostrating itself against its orange invader, Donald Trump, Cruz was one of the few who refused to bow down. He called Trump a "sniveling coward" and "utterly amoral." After all, Trump had gone after his wife, and accused his father of complicity in Kennedy's assassination. At that moment, Ted Cruz was the most honorable Republican in America. A positive Braveheart. The leader in waiting of the Resistance against Trump. The leader in waiting, maybe, of a post-Trump GOP.
But then, Ted Cruz ended up endorsing Trump anyway. According to Ben Domenech, Cruz did this out of sheer political cowardice: His donors were angry with him and threatening to support a primary challenger against him. Cruz even went phone-banking for Trump, looking like the saddest man in the world. As always, the only way Trump can take your dignity is if you give it to him.
The fact that Cruz caved in so quickly and so easily and for such motives might have been a tragedy. The fact that he did it just two weeks — two weeks! — before Trump's campaign collapsed in on itself and was deserted by one prominent Republican after the next, that's not tragic. That's hilarious.
And the funniest part of all? There wasn't a single aspect of this that wasn't utterly predictable, utterly obvious — apparently to everyone except someone of Cruz's universally recognized intelligence. I mean, who could have thought that Donald Trump would self-destruct? Who could have thought that some horrible new thing would come out that would finally break the camel's back? Who could have foreseen this, except anyone who had paid attention at any of the last six months?
If Cruz could have held his nerve for just two more weeks, he'd be looking smart, courageous, and principled. A prescient man, one who could be TrusTed. Two weeks!
There are many, many causes for sadness these days in American politics. Ted Cruz, however, has become a source of mirth. And these days, I'll take all the comfort I can get.