Bruni and Collins

In “Lose With Cruz: A Love Story” Mr. Bruni says the G.O.P.’s faux swoon for a far-right loon is something to behold.  Ms. Collins considers “Trump, Cruz, Kasich and the Ladies” and says one thing these guys have in common is a desire to put themselves in charge of the reproductive rights of the women of America.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

It was clear to me weeks ago, even before Marco Rubio threw in the towel, that the G.O.P. was getting ready to cuddle with Ted Cruz.

But I never expected a love quite like this to bloom.

It’s a singularly tortured love, one that grits its teeth, girds its loins and pines for a contested convention.

It’s hate worn down into resignation, disgust repurposed as calculation. Stopping a ludicrous billionaire means submitting to a loathsome senator. And so they submit, one chastened and aghast Republican leader after another, murmuring sweet nothings about Cruz that are really sour somethings about Donald Trump.

Will they still respect themselves in the morning?

I’m not sure we’ve ever witnessed a capitulation this grudging, a cynicism this grotesque, a reversal of regard this fraudulent and flat-out hilarious. While politics is an impure arena in which yesterday’s enemies routinely become tomorrow’s allies, the transmogrification of Cruz goes beyond that, proving that in the right circumstances, with the right motivation, you can see just about anyone in a newly flattering light.

Attila the Hun? True, he was truculent, but what a can-do spirit! Torquemada? A tad rigid, yes, but that’s what righteousness sometimes looks like.

Cruz has gone from the insufferable nemesis of Republican traditionalists to their last, best hope, and the likes of Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush have now given him endorsements — or approximations thereof — that will go down in political history as some of the most constipated hosannas ever rendered.

They hardly mention Cruz’s name. They barely manage to assign him a single virtue.

“Consistent,” Jeb Bush called him — in a Facebook post. He apparently couldn’t rouse or debase himself to a proper news conference.

He was following the lead of his younger brother Neil, who had signed up with Cruz a few weeks earlier and explained, “I commit this from my head, not my heart.” There’s a sentence you won’t find on a Valentine’s Day card.

Graham professed his devotion during an interview on “The Daily Show.”

“I’m on the Ted train, absolutely,” he told Trevor Noah, but when Noah pressed him about the charms of that particular mode of transportation, he confessed that he would have preferred another — possibly an Edsel, maybe even a tricycle with a wobbly front wheel. “He was my 15th choice. What can I say?”

Not much that’s laudatory, apparently. Cruz is the love that chokes on its own words.

It’s a surprise-every-second love. On Friday, Cruz made public reference to — and furiously denied — a National Enquirer story that accused him of affairs.

It’s also a love that makes no promises of its endurance. In fact, many of the Republicans in a faux swoon for the far-right loon don’t really want to see him fly all the way to the White House — or, for that matter, to the nomination.

There’s a tangle of mind-sets at work and strategies in play. They all involve thwarting Trump, but with different outcomes in the end. Bear with me. This requires a bit of explanation.

Few of the Cruz converts actually think he can amass a majority of delegates and win the nomination before the convention. For that to happen, their endorsements of Cruz would have to scare off John Kasich and turn the contest into a two-man race, and Kasich doesn’t seem to be scaring.

The real goal is to buck up Cruz to a point where he prevents Trump from getting that majority and either passes him in the delegate count or draws close. Abracadabra: a contested convention.

Some of the new Cruz devotees indeed hope that he would be the beneficiary of that and the ultimate victor. They expect Cruz to lose the presidency. But then they also expect Trump to lose it — and to lose it in an uglier, more divisive fashion that drags down Republicans running for the House and Senate too. This lose-with-Cruz faction figures that a reset of the party after a Cruz defeat would be possible, whereas Trump might not leave them with much of party to reset.

Others who have crawled into bed with Cruz are also after a contested convention, but would use it to crawl out of that bed and into the arms of some Republican Romeo waiting in the wings. Maybe Paul Ryan, though he’s playing Hamlet: to be drafted or not to be drafted? Maybe Mitt Romney, who seems readier to commit.

Both Ryan and Romney have stepped forward with high-minded soliloquies about the G.O.P.’s values and future, and while that may well be a reflection of conscience, mightn’t it also be a fig leaf over ambition?

And at least a few of those canoodling with Cruz see him as a bridge to Kasich. In this convoluted scenario, endorsing Kasich now serves no purpose: He has too few delegates to compete with, and foil, Trump. But if the convention turns into a free-for-all, then Republicans will be free to realize what polling has repeatedly told them, and what is almost indisputably true: Kasich would be their best bet against Hillary Clinton, if only they could see his sex appeal.

Poor Kasich. He governs the crucial battleground of Ohio, has high approval ratings there, has made a stand for decency in an indecent age, and is out there on the campaign trail wrapping his arms around every last American who will stand still long enough to let him. Even so he’s spurned.

“Does Kasich have a following?” wrote the conservative columnist John Podhoretz just days ago. “Yes, he does, of people who still cry when they listen to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and its invocation of ‘all the lonely people’ and who want a hug because their Aunt Minnie has the shingles.”

So the answer, at least for now, is Cruz? In this bitter season, yes. Sixty percent of Republicans are embarrassed by their party’s presidential race, according to a recent survey by The Times and CBS News, and a Gallup poll released on Friday revealed that only 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leading independents think that the election process is working properly. Cruz is the pinup for pessimistic times.

Even John McCain, who once dismissed him and Rand Paul as “wacko birds,” said last week that Cruz has what it takes to manage the mess of the Middle East. He hastened to add that he would feel obliged to work with, and support, any Republican who is elected president, and “to put aside my anger.”

That’s the way Republican leaders fall for Cruz — with apologies, asterisks, angst. The terms of endearment are teary ones, because this isn’t the relationship they wanted. It’s the only relationship that’s left. He gets their love because someone must. Isn’t it romantic?

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Let’s talk about the Republican presidential candidates … and women.

Not the fight about who has the prettiest wife, which truly tops this week’s list of Things We Never Thought We’d See in a Presidential Election. That was the dust-up in which Donald Trump tweeted an image of his wife, Melania, a former model, next to a rather unflattering picture of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi. Cruz called Trump “a sniveling coward” and delivered a stirring tribute to his spouse that would have been even more moving if it had not been lifted from the 1995 film “The American President.”

He also said, “Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.” There was no indication what the hell that meant, but it definitely did not come from an old Michael Douglas movie.

This was also the week in which Cruz accused Trump of having his “henchmen” plant a National Enquirer story alleging that Cruz might have had five secret mistresses. Stories suggesting that conservative politicians have had affairs do not come under the heading of Things We Thought We’d Never See, so we will let that one go and move on.

To the issues: One thing that all these guys have in common is a desire to put themselves in charge of the reproductive rights of the entire female half of the country. Trump used to be pro-choice, but he “evolved” at some undisclosed point in the 21st century. Ted Cruz opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. John Kasich is willing to allow a troubled teenager to get an abortion if she’s seduced by her father, but not if the seducer is the next-door neighbor. This is why Kasich’s the moderate.

Everybody knows you can’t believe in abortion rights and win the Republican nomination. But then the candidates ought to be eager to make family planning services accessible, right? The best way to reduce abortion is to limit unwanted pregnancies.

Ted Cruz made his position on contraception clear while campaigning in Iowa. It’s so charming that I am going to quote it in full: “Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom; you put 50 cents in and voilà. So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utterly made-up nonsense issue.”

Women whose family planning needs go beyond a vending machine will have to fend for themselves. Cruz is opposed to requiring employers to include contraception in their health care plans. He hates Planned Parenthood so much that he wanted to shut down the federal government to end its funding. Said government funding pays for contraceptives as well as myriad other health services, none involving abortion except for the part where the contraceptives help avoid unwanted pregnancies.

John Kasich isn’t much different. His state has been in a war against Planned Parenthood that has closed down health clinics, cutting off everything from family planning to programs for at-risk expectant mothers. Kasich has said that there are “many different entities” that can take care of the women who were cut adrift. Last year, legislators who supported the defunding put together a list of those entities. They turned out, on second glance, to include senior centers, dentist offices and a food bank.

This is a crisis situation. States around the country have been stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funds, leaving low-income women to fend for themselves. In Texas, women who used to have access to efficient methods of birth control like injectable contraceptives are showing huge jumps in pregnancy rates. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill effectively defunding the clinics in Florida.

The only Republican presidential candidate who has acknowledged the invaluable role Planned Parenthood plays is Donald Trump. (“Millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.”) Of course, he’s also said that it should be defunded. (“I mean if you look at what’s going on with that, it’s terrible.”) And when asked if he would be willing to shut down the government in pursuit of the cause, Trump declined to answer “because I want to show unpredictability.”

This is exactly where we wind up on so many issues, people. Two Republican candidates take clear, consistent, terrible positions. Neither Cruz nor Kasich has made any effort to come to grips with the health care services poor women would need if Planned Parenthood closed up shop. And they’re doing everything they can to make sure that the unwanted pregnancies that follow can’t be terminated.

Trump seems more open, sort of. Except it’s the openness of a large, vacant pit with an issues-pendulum careening wildly, smashing from one side to the other. On the subject of women, all we know for sure is that he thinks his wife is a real looker.

And the campaign is a man’s world.

He also thinks his daughter is a real looker, and has said that if he weren’t her father…  Whata buncha pervs.


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