In “Trump and the Lord’s Work” The Moustache of Wisdom says that in order to get the nation’s politics unstuck, the intransigent version of the Republican Party had to be destroyed. Mr. Bruni considers “Ted Cruz’s Bitter End” and says sour, smug and nakedly ambitious, the Texas senator was never built to go the distance. To which I say “Thank God!” Here’s TMOW:
Like many others, I watched the video that President Obama showed at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday of him inviting former House Speaker John Boehner over to solicit his advice on what Obama should do post-presidency. It was remarkable to see the real Boehner and the real Obama acting like best buddies in the White House movie theater. Boehner even tells Obama that he finally got a “grand bargain” — only it was on a Chevy Tahoe, not the one they tried to negotiate on the economy.
I watched that video with Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press,” and he had the exact same reaction I had: “Where was that brotherly love when America needed it” for a real grand bargain?
That scene plucked the deepest emotional chord in the country today: The nonstop fighting between our two political parties has left many Americans feeling like the children of two permanently divorcing parents. The country is starved to see its two major parties do big hard things together again. And getting a glimpse — even just a pretend one — of Obama and Boehner teaming up reminds you what’s been lost.
I think what’s propelling Donald Trump’s success more than anything is the feeling of many Americans that our politics are totally stuck. There is an overwhelming sense of “stuckness” — and the fantasy that Trump plays to, and plays up, is that he can pull the sword from the stone and do deals. No one was more responsible for this “stuckness,” though, than today’s Republican Party. When Mitch McConnell, the G.O.P. leader in the Senate, said in October 2010 that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” he described the Republicans’ dominant strategy since 2008. The party stopped thinking seriously about market-based alternatives. Into that emptiness entered Trump, like an invasive species.
This was a really bad time for us to be stuck. I’m just finishing writing a new book, which is partly about the inflection point we hit around 2007. In 2007, Apple came out with the iPhone, beginning the smartphone/apps revolution; in late 2006 Facebook opened its doors to anyone, not just college and high school students, and took off like a rocket; Google came out with the Android operating system in 2007; Hadoop launched in 2007, helping create the storage/processing power for the big data revolution; Github, launched in 2007, scaling open-source software; Twitter was spun off as its own separate platform in 2007. Amazon came out with the Kindle in 2007. Airbnb started in 2007.
In short, on the eve of Obama’s presidency, something big happened:Everything started getting digitized and made mobile — work, commerce, billing, finance, education — reshaping the economy. A lot of things started to get very fast all at once. It was precisely when we needed to double down on our formula for success and update it for a new era — more lifelong learning opportunities for every worker, better infrastructure (roads, airports, rails and bandwidth) to promote the flow of commerce, better rules to incentivize risk-taking and prevent recklessness, better immigration policies to attract the world’s smartest minds, and more government-funded research to push out the boundaries of science and sow the seeds for the next generation of start-ups.
That was the real grand bargain we needed. Instead, we had the 2008 economic meltdown, which set off more polarization, and way too much gridlock, given how much rethinking, reimagining and retooling we needed to do. In this vortex a lot of the public got unmoored and disoriented, opening the way for populists with simple answers. Get rid of immigrants, end trade with China or eliminate big banks and all will be fine. It’s nonsense.
We got strong as a country through democracy and capitalism. We got rich as a country through trade. We got smart and powerful as a country through immigration. We got fair as a country through Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare. They all lead to vastly more winners than losers. This is no time to lose confidence in what got us here. If you’re running for president and are not for all these things, you’re wrong — and I hope you lose.
But if you’re for these things only as they now exist, you’re also wrong. Each one needs retooling. It’s clear: Free trade with China has hurt more people than originally thought. It’s clear: Low-skilled illegal immigration has hurt more American workers than we’ve fully understood. (And more high-skilled immigration in a knowledge age would enhance our economy more than most people understand.) It’s clear: Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare all need fixes to remain sustainable. It’s clear: Capitalism driven more by machines and robots poses new challenges for both white-collar and blue-collar workers.
Every one of these challenges can be met if we put our heads and hands together. For that to happen, though, this version of the Republican Party had to be destroyed, so a thinking center-right party can emerge. If that is what Trump has done, he’s done the Lord’s work. We also need Democrats to be a center-left party, though, and not let Bernie Sanders pull them to the far left. If both happen, maybe something good can actually emerge from this crazy election.
Oh, FFS… Bernie Sanders is about as “far left” as FDR. And Eisenhower. And I wonder how many Friedman Units it will take before what’s left of the Republican party comes to its senses. I doubt that I’ll be alive to see it… Now here’s Mr. Bruni:
If you listened much to Ted Cruz over these last furious months, you heard him talk frequently about “the abyss,” as in what this country was teetering on the edge of. If you listened to him over these last furious hours, you heard him mention the “yawning cavern of insecurity” that motivates Donald Trump and other bullies.
Cruz should take up spelunking. He’s obviously fascinated by unfathomable depths, and with his loss in Indiana on Tuesday, his candidacy for the presidency is finished, giving him a whole lot of extra time. A new hobby is definitely in order.
As we bid Cruz adieu, we should give him his due: He took a mien and manner spectacularly ill suited to the art of seducing voters about as far as they could go. He outlasted the likes of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. He outperformed Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008.
Like him, Santorum and Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses and built from there, courting the religious right with particular fervor. But they lacked the intensity of Cruz’s professed disdain for Washington, which was his other big sales pitch, made at its moment of maximum potency. He peddled extravagant piety and extreme contempt in equal measure.
If that sounds paradoxical, it is, and the tension between contradictory Cruzes is what ultimately did him in.
He spoke out of both sides of his scowl, itching to be the voice of the common man but equally eager to demonstrate what a highfalutin, Harvard-trained intellect he possessed. He wed a populist message to a plummy vocabulary. And while the line separating smart and smart aleck isn’t all that thin or blurry, he never could stay on the winning side of it.
He wore cowboy boots, but his favorites are made of ostrich.
Two peacocks in a pod, he and Trump, and what ghastly plumage they showed on Tuesday.
Trump somehow saw fit to bring up a National Enquirer story linking Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cruz exploded, branding Trump a “pathological liar” and “serial philanderer.” He also brought up an interview from many years ago in which Trump told Howard Stern that his effort to steer clear of sexually transmitted diseases was his “personal Vietnam.”
Where was this rant six months ago, when the Republican field was crowded and Cruz played footsie with Trump? Back then he was wagering that Trump would fade, and he wanted to be in a friendly position to inherit the billionaire’s supporters.
But by Tuesday, Trump was the main obstacle between Cruz and the Republican presidential nomination, and Cruz has just one true compass: his own advancement.
The nakedness of his vanity and transparency of his ambition were always his biggest problem. He routinely excoriated other politicians for self-centeredness while repeatedly hogging center stage, his remarks interminable — after his Iowa victory, for example, or when he presumptuously introduced Carly Fiorina as his running mate — and his pauses so theatrically drawn out that you could watch the entirety of “The Revenant” during some of them.
He trashed “the establishment” and wore its rejection of him as a badge of honor only until it stopped rejecting him and its help was his best hope to wrest the nomination away from Trump. At that point he did dizzy cartwheels over every prominent endorsement that came his way.
He took great pride in an adversarial relationship with the media, decreeing us irrelevant, until he went in hunt of a fresh excuse for losing to Trump and decided over the last few days that it was all our fault. We didn’t matter and then we did, depending on which estimation flattered him.
He purported to be more high-minded than his peers but pettily mocked Michelle Obama for urging schoolchildren to eat leafy greens. When Heidi Cruz is first lady, he pledged, “French fries are coming back to the cafeteria.” Heidi Cruz is not going to be first lady, so she’ll need some other platform for the promotion of calorie bombs and second chins.
And where in her husband was the humility that a Christian faith as frequently proclaimed as his should encompass? It wasn’t evident when he stormed into the Senate in early 2013, an upstart intent on upstaging the veterans.
There were flickers of it on Tuesday night, as he conceded defeat not just in Indiana but in the presidential contest, announcing that he was suspending his campaign “with a heavy heart.” He articulated gratitude to those Americans — no small number of them — who had buoyed him.
He went overboard in his praise of Fiorina, merely reminding us all of what an odd and oddly timed alliance theirs was. “An incredible, phenomenal running mate,” he called her, as if they’d been on some epic journey. It was less than a week long. How many phenomena could she accomplish in that time?
He left Trump out of his remarks. There were no congratulations. There was no indication of whether he’d publicly back Trump in the months to come. There was nothing to purge the memory of what he’d said earlier Tuesday, when he described Trump as “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.” Yes, we have, and so has he, every day, in the mirror.
That’s why he’ll undoubtedly be back to try for the presidency again. But this bid is moribund. It’s time for Cruz to rest in peevishness.
As far as I’m concerned it’s past time for the Lord to call him home…