Inevitable: Ted Cruz finally endorses Donald Trump

I predicted in July that a Cruz cave was inevitable and that he’d do it in a press release in October. In reality he did it in a Facebook post on September 23rd. My bad.

Literally nothing in this statement with the small exception of Trump’s new position on ICANN couldn’t have been said onstage at the convention in Cleveland. But Cruz made two calculations at the time: One was that the backlash to him if he withheld his endorsement wouldn’t be severe, the other was that Trump would be clobbered by Clinton this fall. If both of those bets came through, he’d be rewarded as the man who saw a debacle coming and stood on principle. But he was wrong on both counts, just like he was grossly wrong in betting earlier this year that there enough true conservatives in the Republican base to hand him a victory over Trump in the primaries. Everyone, from his donors to the party establishment to the tea party he champions, chose Trump over him when they were made to choose. He could either risk his career by continuing to hold out or he could go along with them now, knowing that if he went on resisting and Trump lost a close election in November, his refusal to endorse would be cited by angry Republicans as a key factor in the defeat. (Which would be stupid and untrue, but oh well.) He’d be one of the biggest scapegoats for Trumpers in the aftermath. So Ted Cruz, “man of principle,” caved.

If he wanted to be the lesser-of-two-evils guy, he could have been that in May. If he wanted to be the man of principle, he could have been that too. And he was, for a few months. Trying to be both now makes him an opportunistic joke.

In Cleveland, I urged voters, “please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket whom you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word.

Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable — that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.

Six key policy differences inform my decision.

Read the statement for his reasoning. He has one very good argument (the Supreme Court) and one good one (energy) — both of which, again, were available to him as justifications in July. For some reason, they weren’t compelling enough at the time. Cruz doesn’t explain what changed. The best he can do to justify his evolution is to mention (as expected) Mike Lee’s inclusion on the list of SCOTUS candidates Trump released this morning, even though no one believes Trump will reward a fierce critic of his like Lee with an appointment. In fact, Trump’s original list of SCOTUS candidates was released in May, months before the convention, and was widely praised even by Trump’s conservative critics for the caliber of judges it featured. If Cruz was really worried about Trump appointing Scalia types, that list, not this morning, could have been cited in Cleveland.

His policy reasoning elsewhere is weak. Trump will be better than Clinton on health care, he says. Maybe, maybe not: Trump has talked up single-payer before and was slobbering over Medicaid just days ago, and unlike Hillary, Trump might get a Republican Congress to go along with all of that. Trump will be better on national security, Cruz insists. In some ways, absolutely; in other ways, like having a Putinist in command of the U.S. armed forces, not so much. Trump will be better on immigration, though, at least, Cruz continues. That’s true enough — it’d be hard to be worse than Hillary — but Trump has been pushing some variation of touchback amnesty for months and even now won’t rule out legalization for illegals. A few weeks ago, during his “softening” period, he was making sympathetic noises about illegals with families who’ve been here for years. Who knows what he’ll do once he’s in office? It’ll be better than Clinton, sure, but Ted Cruz has been selling himself for years now as the guy who will not accept “what we’re doing is slightly better than what the Democrats are doing” excuses from the Republican establishment. Bold colors, not pale pastels — that’s the Cruz motto. Or was, until now, when he ends up exactly where Rush Limbaugh was in defending Trump’s maternity-leave proposal: So long as Trump’s proposals can be defended as somewhat more right-wing than what Clinton would give us, that’s conservative enough. If that’s the guy Cruz is now, he’d better never open his mouth to criticize Mitch McConnell again.

But in a way, all of the policy arguments against Trump are beside the point. The core argument against Trump from the right isn’t that he’s not conservative enough; if that were disqualifying, you need to believe there’d be a #NeverKasich contingent if Kasich were the nominee. There wouldn’t be. Everyone would be all-in against Clinton. The core argument against Trump is that he’s unfit for office in terms of qualifications, temperament, and basic morals. He’s a con artist, like fellow Trump endorser Marco Rubio said. And the key point here is that Cruz himself has made that argument. Remember his big blow-up at Trump on the morning of the Indiana primary? Remember when he called him a “sniveling coward” for insulting his wife? Remember the day after his convention speech when he told the Texas delegation that he wouldn’t be a “servile puppy dog” towards someone who’d attacked his family as viciously as Trump did? Cruz doesn’t grapple with any of that in his endorsement. Evidently, if you’re running against Hillary Clinton — or really any Democrat, since few of Cruz’s objections are specific to Clinton — you can be as personally wretched as you like and Ted Cruz, man of principle, who became a big deal on the right for refusing to go along with his party, will … go along with his party. Steve Deace:

The conservative graveyard is littered with the remains of would-be champions, who buried themselves after misspending their political capital, and choosing the wrong hills to die on. Men and women who didn’t know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Who didn’t know when to walk away, and when to run.

As someone that knows, respects, and loves Ted Cruz, my fear is his endorsing Trump risks adding his name to that tragic list. And given the fact Cruz is one of the last remaining constitutional champions we have, if he falls he won’t fall alone.

Trump is out with a statement thanking him for his endorsement but that’s less interesting than this is. Never mind my prediction — Trump himself knew back in July that Cruz would come crawling eventually, and he made his disdain clear by saying he wouldn’t even want the endorsement when it arrived. That’s how little he cared about it. And Cruz, hearing that, endorsed him anyway. Total humiliation:

Somebody got booed the hell out of a place by thousands and thousands of people. There wasn’t one person in the room — not one. And then they said there may not be unity. Unity? There wasn’t one person in the room, including the Texas delegation, right? Honestly, he may have ruined his political career.

I feel so badly. I feel so badly. And you know, he’ll come and endorse over the next little while. He’ll — because he has no choice. But I don’t want his endorsement. What difference does it make? I don’t want his endorsement. I have such great — I don’t want his endorsement. Ted, stay home, relax, enjoy yourself.

Cruz was given a choice, essentially, between a primary fight and dishonor. He chose dishonor. Maybe he’ll get that primary fight anyway.