Ted Cruz: Yep, Trump asked me to speak at the convention, and yep, I accepted

No endorsement was promised, he notes, but that just makes it worse. If he’s going to go to Cleveland and shill for Trump, he should do it full-throatedly and accept the consequences. He’ll alienate some of his hardcore conservative supporters but he’ll endear himself to nationalists, and he’ll earn some respect from both sides for being forthright about it. Cruz being Cruz, though, he’s inevitably going to get cute with it and try to have it both ways. He’ll get up onstage and say in a thousand different ways that we can’t elect Hillary, we must unite the party, yadda yadda yadda — but he’ll never actually utter the words “I endorse Donald Trump.” Then, in 2020, he’ll turn to nationalists and say, “I went to bat for Trump at the convention, didn’t I?” And he’ll turn to conservatives and say, “I never endorsed Trump, did I?” It’ll be the same nonsense as his 2013 amendment to the Gang of Eight bill, which proposed increasing work permits for illegals in exchange for removing a path to citizenship from the bill. “That was a poison pill,” he assured border hawks, designed to kill the bill entirely. Meanwhile, if he had won the nomination, he’d be telling swing voters right now, “I tried to increase work permits, didn’t I?” It’s tedious.

If, as I’ve long suspected, he’s eyeing the convention as his chance to give the equivalent of Reagan’s ’76 speech, he should do it plainly. Instead, increasingly I wonder if Ross Douthat’s right:

Cruz is expecting a resurgence of movement conservatism if/when Trump gets wiped out this year. What if movement conservatism is actually in the same position as Great Society liberalism was a decade before Clinton? Given how much of the “conservative” base opted for the least conservative candidate in the field, is there any reason to think it isn’t?

The best spin you can put on this for Cruz is that Trump really didn’t have a choice on whether he might speak or not:

Delegates from Colorado and Maine have begun collecting signatures to place Cruz’s name into nomination at the convention alongside presumptive nominee Donald Trump. If enough other states follow suit, it would guarantee Cruz a high-profile opportunity to address convention delegates. And that could create an uncomfortable split screen as Trump and the party try to present a unified front heading into the general election…

The process is complicated but achievable for Cruz’s allies. Under the party’s current rules, the name of any candidate for president can be placed in nomination with the support of delegates from eight states or territories. Cruz won 10, and he also installed loyal convention delegates in a slew of states he lost as well, from Virginia to North Carolina to Arizona. Those delegates must sign forms indicating their support, and if majorities in eight or more states and territories agree to place Cruz’s name into nomination, he’ll get his chance. Even delegates who back Trump — or accept party rules requiring them to back the mogul — can sign nomination papers for other candidates. And delegates can sign forms for multiple candidates if they choose.

Cruz allies might have gone to Trump and warned him that he can either formally offer Cruz a convention slot and look magnanimous in doing so or they’ll humiliate him by forcing a slot for Cruz by placing his name in nomination. But that assumes that Cruz would have agreed to speak if they’d gone the latter route. Would he have? Unless he had good reason to think a coup was in the offing on the convention floor and he was lined up to be the nominee, disrupting the convention to say his piece and then being voted down overwhelmingly would have made him look like a loser, and a sore one at that. So both of them took the easy route — Trump decided to make the offer and Cruz decided to accept. Whether you choose to believe Cruz’s claim that no endorsement was discussed is up to you, but remember: Trump has said publicly that no convention slot would be offered to anyone who hasn’t endorsed him. It may be that Cruz assured him privately that he’ll be a “team player” in Cleveland but that he’d prefer not to acknowledge that publicly right now as his fans adjust to the reality of him reconciling with Trump.

A month ago it looked like Rubio would be onstage in Cleveland shilling for Trump, however obliquely, while Cruz would stay away from the podium. Now Cruz is set to speak while Rubio will be nowhere to be found. Duly noted for 2020 purposes. Here’s the clip, which cuts off before Cruz gives his answer on what he’ll be talking about onstage. Apparently he said he’ll “urge Americans to get back to the Constitution,” which sounds nice; I’d recommend they start with “Article 12.” Also below, as a gentle reminder, you’ll also find a clip of Cruz’s last major public statement about Trump in May. Exit quotation via Josh Barro, imaging Trump’s pitch to Cruz today: “Ted, you can speak, but only if you explain how your dad got away with killing JFK.”