“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” – John Wooden, UCLA's 10-time national champion basketball coach
The inverse axiom of this statement—when everyone is watching—is equally valid. Given the global importance of First World America, national political leadership is supposed to be led by adults willing to make the tough, country-preserving calls. Why then, do today's leaders (on both sides of the aisle) act as petulant, ego-driven children?
In this case, I refer to coy Ted Cruz's Trump non-endorsement convention speech. What columnist Charles Krauthammer succinctly likened to “the longest [political] suicide note in U.S. History.” If Mr. Cruz could not wholeheartedly support the people's choice, he had no business being on that RNC stage. Specifically, even sore losers like Ohio governor John Kasich and the dynastic Bush Family (read: JEB), had the good sense to stay away. Yet, not this mighty orator of conservative values, this Texas senator who exposed himself to all the world as a two-faced Judas. As his personal 2020 presidential ambitions now favor a Hillary Clinton victory, Mr. Cruz used the petty excuse of a personal grievance with Trump to put self-interest before the fate of a nation.
Ted Cruz nebulously advised the electorate to “vote your conscience” in November. His feeble attempt to hamstring Mr. Trump has, in actuality, slit his own throat. In the likelihood Mr. Trump wins, Mr. Cruz will be correctly marginalized as untrustworthy. On the other hand, if the Republican nominee loses, Mr. Cruz will rightfully be blamed. Either way, the record-setting number of Trump voters will look elsewhere in the future.
Given his established non-team player reputation in the Senate, Mr. Cruz is already viewed askance by fellow Republicans. After this latest self-serving stunt, he will never be embraced by them. Further, he will never be trusted by the Democrats either. Politically, he is a man alone; an island unto himself. Although Ted Cruz stated publicly that he did not want the post, he could have been a Supreme Court justice. He might even have eventually become commander-in-chief by following Ronald Reagan's path (ultimately supporting incumbent Gerald Ford despite losing a contentious primary contest to him in 1976.) Due to his fatal flaw—hubris—none of that can happen now. He has consigned himself as a footnote to history. Undone over a couple of terrible and untrue insults regarding his father and his wife. Welcome to politics 101, Teddy: put your big boy pants on and deal with it. Despite the outlier of corrupt Hillary Clinton's meteoric rise, those with authentic character put country first, period.
To contrast, Abraham Lincoln's fortitude makes him first in the pantheon of many great U.S. presidents. Recall Spielberg's “Lincoln” (2012) played sublimely by the 3-time Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Against the heart wrenching backdrop of immense personal tragedy—the death of Lincoln's beloved 11-year old son Willie (in 1962) and his grief-stricken, inconsolable wife, Mary—the President successfully won the Civil War (the bloodiest American conflict threatening to tear the country in half). To add to his Herculean labors, the 16th U.S. president finagled passage of the 13th Amendment over strong Democrat Party resistance which ended the scourge of slavery in America for all time.
Monuments honoring such men of character like Lincoln and Reagan—those willing to sacrifice and/or make hard choices to the greater benefit of the country—will never be built to the likes of Ted Cruz. His misbehavior at the convention conclusively demonstrates that his lofty rhetoric is meaningless because it is not backed up by corresponding action.
In the final analysis, for graciously permitting Ted Cruz a prime time speaking slot, Donald Trump is the magnanimous one. That bigger person is likely White House bound. By not being similarly conciliatory, the truth about the Texas senator is laid bare. He is a small person who threw away the possibility of lasting greatness (ironically for himself and the country) because it required honoring his public pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee. A cautionary tale about not keeping one's word, and the exorbitant cost of being thin-skinned (unlike Lincoln). For him, all is lost over a grievance stuck in Cruz's craw during a now forgotten primary season.