(12:10 CST, so things can change, but the point remains)
The political world is abuzz with the speculation that Ted Cruz, fresh off devastating losses last night, and looking to change the conversation away from Trump’s supposed inevitability, is just a few hours away from announcing his Vice President.
There is some precedence to this. In 1976, locked in a tight race with the incumbent Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan surprised everyone by announcing a VP pick, a hapless liberal Republican named Richard Schweiker, who died just last year. This was a disaster of a move, and many of the far-right movement which helped push him so close to the nomination felt betrayed.
(That this is largely unknown is because history has scrubbed how a greedy Reagan attacked Ford throughout a contentious primary, helping to elect Jimmy Carter. His “11th Commandment” apparently didn’t cover the incumbent President.)
Reagan had what seemed like a good reason for it. Ford had dropped Nelson Rockefeller, the VP he chosen after he was appointed President following Watergate, who was despised by the right. He had yet to say who Rocky’s replacement would be, and so Reagan hoped to either back him into a corner or make him look like he had something to hide. Conservatives, the thinking went, shouldn’t back him if he just might appoint another liberal. That Reagan picked a liberal was spun as just an opportunity for the Great Communicator to convert young Schweiker to conservativism, because, as always, Reagan was an incredible liar and self-mythologizer.
I think Cruz will do the same thing, self-righteously spin this to say that he is the principled one, and who knows who the liberal Donald Trump will pick, probably a tranny, you know? He’s standing up for people, and giving voters the right information, because he’s the only one with real values.
Ted Cruz’s gift is being able to convince himself that whatever craven move he’s making is one of unassailable principle, a trait he shares with Reagan. Reagan could convince them with charm. Cruz doesn’t have that, so his abilities speak more of his audience than it does of his innate gifts. But this move, like the Kasich alignment, is nothing more than a desperate move to change the headlines.
And the thing is, it will sort of work: it will change the headlines to talk about what a desperate clown he is, just like with Kasich. Because Cruz, for all his campaign’s organizational prowess, is a debater, not a strategist. He thinks in quips and believes that a clever move can carry the day. His soundbites sound good, and he is generally good with a zinger, if you are already in the tribe, but he trips over himself too much (to say nothing of when he calls a hoop a “basketball ring” in goddamn Indiana). His line about transgendered bathrooms was a perfect example of this.
“Let me make this real real simple for folks in the media who find this conversation very confusing,” he said. “If Donald Trump dresses up as Hillary Clinton, he still can’t go to the girls’ bathroom!”
It works on the surface because it sounds simple, and makes the whole enterprise sound threatening, and mocks the media, and most importantly makes people think of Donald Trump in a dress like a girl or a queer, and somehow mocks Hillary Clinton, but it elides the point, ignores the real issue, and makes him seem like an idiot. It’s clever without being smart.
That’s what will happen here. He’ll sneer about how he’s standing up for people, but it won’t work. It will make him look desperate, and there is no real pick, outside of maybe a David Petreaus (who wouldn’t do it) who won’t make things even worse. It’s the flopsweat move of a man who thinks he’s twice as smart as he really is.
Especially if it is Carly Fiorina. Man, I’d laugh my ass off. That’d be great.