“Huck’s vindictive streak was first a little secret, then sorta funny, now it is almost the whole package,” wrote Michael Brendan Dougherty. True, and never more true than where Cruz is concerned. Ever since evangelical leaders upset his best-laid plans for 2016 by uniting behind Cruz instead of him, Huckabee’s seized every opportunity to swipe at him — and them. The lowlight came in January when he mused in an interview that Christian conservative bigwigs might fear him getting elected because he’d succeed in banning abortion and then their fundraising pitch would be gone. In the span of a month, he went from begging them for their support to accusing them publicly of being grifters who care more about their checkbooks than unborn life. The man’s butthurt is eternal. It’ll never heal.
This attack on Cruz over his speaking gig is just the latest example. In fact, the most noteworthy thing about this is how it manages to combine butthurt towards Cruz, towards Trump, and towards Republican voters into a single efficient tantrum:
I wasn’t all that happy to walk away from a good income and a good life and give a year of my life spending 25 days or more a month living in hotels and running to catch flights between Iowa, South Carolina and states where I was trying to raise funds. It has been frustrating to know that the message I championed about trade, the decline of the middle class, the need to manufacture in the United States, support for veterans and a more innovative approach to health care that focused on prevention rather than expensive intervention was mirrored by Donald Trump. The only difference was that the networks covered his every speech, his every tweet, and focused on him in the debates, while guys like me and others who had very accomplished tenures in office were relegated to the sidelines because of our unwillingness to engage in the blood sport of trashing the other Republicans on the stage, including Trump. I was saving my artillery for the opponent I know best—Clinton, and not my fellow Republicans…
Should Cruz, Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham or any of the others not own up to their nationally televised promise to support the GOP nominee whoever it was, they most certainly should not get near the stage at the RNC. And we all should remember that they would have expected us to support them had they been the nominee, but in a crucial moment for America, they decided to help Obama have a third term by helping Clinton.
Donald Trump met with Senator Cruz in Washington on Thursday and reportedly offered him a speaking slot at the convention. That was a gracious and generous offer from Trump. According to Senator Cruz, there was not a requirement to endorse. Let’s hope that the senator will reciprocate the kind gesture and use a speech as the occasion to honor his nationally televised pledge to do so. If he can’t do that, he should quietly decline the speaking slot.
“[F]or reasons that I don’t and will never fully understand,” says Huckabee elsewhere, Trump got more votes than I did. That’s butthurt Huck to the core, but I can sympathize with him a bit in this case. He’s not blowing smoke when he says that he was ahead of the curve on Trump’s agenda in certain key ways. Even in his first run for president in 2008, he pitched himself economically to the sort of centrist blue-collar Republicans that became Trump’s base. That’s how Romney ended up as his foil; I look like the sort of guy you work with, Huckabee once famously said, whereas Mitt looks like the sort of guy who laid you off. It’s a fair question as to why Trump had so much more success with a big-government protectionist message this year than Huck did in either of his two campaigns. One possibility is that Huckabee never quite escaped his niche as a “Christian candidate” such that many of Trump’s less religious “moderate” supporters never looked seriously at him. Same goes for Rick Santorum, another working-class Republican pigeonholed by his social conservatism. It took a less religious protectionist like Trump to build a working-class movement. Another possibility is that Trumpmania is less about working-class economics than it is about cultural resentments, which Trump taps into through his strongman appeal and his willingness to be “politically incorrect.” Huckabee will be politically incorrect too but in more familiar ways, like criticizing pro-choicers. Trump will get up there and ramble about “Mexican rapists” and banning Muslims from the country. If you’re looking for a national savior who’s going to impose his will on your cultural enemies, the billionaire who seems to enjoy scandalizing the political class is more captivating than the preacher turned professional politician who works hard to cultivate his media image as a nice guy (even though he really isn’t).
What about his knock on Cruz, though? Should Cruz need to endorse Trump as a condition of speaking? I don’t think so — because I think his willingness to appear at the convention is an endorsement, inescapably, even if the words “I endorse” are never uttered. Cruz told Glenn Beck this morning that he finds that position “curious” but I don’t see why. Huckabee’s correct when he says that the convention is just a scripted pageant designed to boost the nominee. It’s a big birthday party for Trump. If I come to your birthday party but never specifically say the words “Happy birthday,” am I still celebrating your birthday? When I mentioned that analogy earlier on Twitter, Cruz fans fired back that him speaking at the convention is more like showing up to a shindig at work organized to honor a fellow employee in order to grab some free food and drink. That’s cute, but that’s not how the audience will see it within the context of the overall Trump-apalooza. Unless Cruz says something fairly explicit in his speech to repudiate Trump or Trumpism, which would be shocking, his appearance will be taken by most viewers — correctly — as proof that whatever Cruz’s objections to Trump may be, they’re not so profound that they’d cause him to miss Trump’s big bash. In fact, according to a source on Team Trump who spoke to the Times, Cruz promised Trump yesterday that he wouldn’t say anything that would disrupt the proceedings and agreed to let Trump’s campaign approve his remarks in advance. The best you can hope for from Cruz if you’re an anti-Trumper is some anodyne remarks about how great conservatism is so that he can point back to them when he runs again in 2020, even as Team Trump points to them now as proof that movement conservatives have effectively united behind Trump as nominee.
Here’s Huck showing off that mile-wide vindictive streak on Fox last night, smilingly suggesting that Jeff Flake won’t be getting any goodies for Arizona once Trump is president because he impudently refused to kneel before Zod in yesterday’s meeting. Punishing an entire state of people for a politician’s disloyalty is something one would expect more from the corrupt “system,” I would think, than from the national savior who’s supposedly going to reform it. The fact that Huckabee’s willing to threaten Flake publicly on Trump’s behalf tells you how seriously you should take those reform efforts. Exit question: Is there anything Trump could say or do to make Huck withhold his vote? Read his piece in full, linked up top, and ask yourself that. A devout Christian should have all sorts of moral lines, one would think, that would qualify as dealbreakers if a political candidate crossed them. This guy seems to have none whatsoever, up to and including palpably Trump’s dubious commitment to the pro-life cause.