In a blurb published Thursday morning, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gave a fawning mini-profile of President Donald Trump, ignoring years of animosity between the two Republican rivals and reducing Cruz, once again, to the role of cheerleader.
The piece was part of Time's annual top-100 list, which featured Trump in the "leaders" category, along with allies — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Sean Hannity, Shinzo Abe, Scott Pruitt and Jeff Sessions; and political rivals — Emmanuel Macron, Nancy Pelosi, Sadiq Khan and Robert Mueller.
But missing from that list was Ted Cruz.
In the space of 165 words, Cruz went to war with straw men, favorably comparing the president to "a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America."
The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.
President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.
Cruz's take is rather lukewarm. Instead of saying that Trump is doing great things, Cruz punched "coastal elites," "pundits" and "talking heads" and, of course, "wealthy celebrities."
It's hard to talk about substantive policy issues in the small space that was afforded to Cruz, but also note that Cruz didn't actually talk about Trump at all. Cruz's entire approach is that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and oh boy those liberals are mad at what the Trump train is doing!
Cruz has tried to have it both ways since Jan. 20, 2017. In February, he praised Trump for president's "record of delivering." (That CPAC event was the same one where Cruz compared the Democrats to Lisa Simpson.) But at the same time, Cruz has tried to stay out of the spotlight. After all, he's in a no-win position, because he can't fully tie himself to the Trump train, considering the absolutely horrible things that Trump has said about Cruz and his family on the campaign trail.
Ted Cruz is a nervous wreck. He is making reckless charges not caring for the truth! His poll #'s are way down!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2016
How can Ted Cruz be an Evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest? — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2016
Ted Cruz is a cheater! He holds the Bible high and then lies and misrepresents the facts!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2016
The reason that Ted Cruz lost the Evangelicals in S.C. is because he is a world class LIAR, and Evangelicals do not like liars! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016
Ted Cruz has been playing an ad about me that is so ridiculously false - no basis in fact. Take ad down Ted. Biggest liar in politics!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016
In addition to the tweets, Trump allies were behind a slew of insults about Cruz's wife Heidi on Twitter during the campaign season, many of which focused on calling the senator's spouse ugly. One Trump ally, who "promoted allegations that Cruz was unfaithful to his wife and that Heidi Cruz was a leading member in an effort to combine the governments of U.S., Canada and Mexico," according to CNN, was nominated this year to be ambassador to Barbados.
Once upon a time, Cruz actually spoke out against Trump. That came after Trump's attacks on Cruz's father, whom Trump allies said was involved in the President John F. Kennedy assassination. And Cruz didn't hold back, calling Trump unhinged in May 2016:
I'm going to do something I haven't done for the entire campaign. For those of you all who have traveled with me all across the country, I'm going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.
This man is a pathological liar. He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.
He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it's simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen.
Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, dude, what's your problem? Everything in Donald's world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar — and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he would pass the lie detector test each time.
Whatever lie he's telling, at that minute, he believes it. But the man is utterly amoral.
But then, Cruz lost the nomination and publicly forgot all the mean things that were said about him. Since then, the closest thing to openly rebuking the president that Cruz has ever gotten was delivering a speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention that sounded maybe, sorta, like he wasn't truly for Trump. In that speech, Cruz urged Republican delegates to "Vote your conscience."
But once that speech started to appear anti-Trump — as Cruz urged Republicans to vote for candidates who "you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution" — a cascade of boos quickly rained down upon him.
As stunned delegates looked on, their message to Cruz was simple: If he speaks out against Trump, he will get burned.
It's been a one-way relationship since then.
Trump hasn't publicly apologized for his heated rhetoric and hurtful and baseless accusations during the primary season. Nor has Cruz. And Cruz hasn't seemed to come to an absolution about it all.
It's an election year for Cruz, so he can't do what colleague Ben Sasse of Nebraska is doing — that is, coming out and calling out Trump when the president is doing something he doesn't like. Cruz can't take the Corker/Flake route and retire, because Cruz wants to be president someday and he hasn't even finished his first term yet. So Cruz seems to be taking the gamble that Trump is going to help him in an increasingly competitive re-election race — because Trump sure has the ability to hurt him just enough.
Why would Texans vote for "liar" Ted Cruz when he was born in Canada, lived there for 4 years-and remained a Canadian citizen until recently — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2016
Cruz's margin for error seems to be shrinking each day. His Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, is surging in the polls and is now running in a statistical tie with Cruz, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. What Cruz needs is turnout in November, and unless he has the full support of Trump and his loyal supporters before the election, he's likely not going to get it.
But here's Ted Cruz painting himself into a corner. He's no longer anti-Trump, and can't be after such a laudatory profile. He just has to hold on for dear life and hope it won't be as bad as it can be.