Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Don't go there, Ted Cruz (he didn't)

UPDATE at 9:59 p.m:

Well, Ted Cruz did NOT endorse Donald Trump. To the contrary, his comments can be and were in fact intended to be interpreted as a condemnation of Trump. It was a pretty amazing performance.

“We deserve leaders who stand for principle, unite us all behind shared values, cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody,” Cruz told his fellow Republicans, and for some strange reason they immediately recognized that language as a slam on Trump and began to react.

Cruz then urged them not to stay home in November. “Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.” Again, the crowd knew immediately that Trump, the man whom they had nominated as their party's champion, did not meet those standards, at least not in Cruz's mind, that the call to "vote your conscience" was a call not to support Trump. Many responded with harsh booing.

Cruz stood at the podium and seemed to smile and bask in the the booing as if it were applause.

I write below that I didn't think it would matter much in November whether Cruz endorsed Trump or not, that it was largely a question of whether Cruz would stand up for himself and his family against Trump's outrageous personal attacks. But having watched how Cruz deftly and quite publicly validated the doubts that some Republicans still harbor about Trump, I'm thinking that might not be true.


ORIGINALLY POSTED AT 7:30 p.m. Wednesday:

I am not, and never will be, a fan of Ted Cruz. Neither his politics nor his personality appeals to me, and I cannot conceive of circumstances in which I could vote for him for president.

OK, maybe if the choice somehow came down to Cruz and Donald Trump. But other than that ....

With all that said, I hope for very human reasons that Cruz does not endorse or embrace Trump in tonight's speech. I know politics is a tough business; I know that a lot of ugly things are said in the heat of political battle that tend to be forgotten afterward, especially in primary contests when a party has to reunite against a common opponent.

But if someone had publicly called my wife ugly and claimed that my own father had helped to assassinate President John F. Kennedy,  if someone had called me a sniveling coward, a "pussy", and had attacked the sincerity of my faith, then no: You will not get an endorsement from me, and I'd bet that the same is true of 99.9 percent of Americans. (The other 0.1 percent includes both Chris Christie and Ben Carson.)

Think about your own lives: Could you throw your support to someone who had done that to your family publicly, in hopes that you would later get a promotion out of your obsequious behavior? Could you be that craven?

Politicians aren't very popular these days, for a lot of reasons. But one of those reasons is that ambition drives them to say and do things that they know are wrong, and that the rest of us know are wrong. Maybe endorsing Trump tonight will help Cruz in a later presidential run; he's getting a lot of pressure based on that argument. And really, I don't think the outcome of the November election rides at all on what Cruz says tonight. It's the kind of thing that political types obsess about but that probably don't have much long-term impact.

But if we ever hope to bring our political rhetoric back within sight of basic decency, then somebody has to publicly draw the line between the harsh and brutal and the totally unacceptable. Again, I will never support Ted Cruz for president or any other office. But I do hope that he stands up for himself, his family and some smidgen of civility.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.