When Ted Cruz took a stand on Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention, in front of the entire Republican party, and refused to endorse Donald Trump — or even congratulate him, technically (and as a Princeton man, we all know Cruz loves a technicality) — he became, for one evening, the bravest man in Cleveland.
Not Mike Pence, who told the crowd that President Obama was "weakening America's place in the world" and had been "abandoning our friends," apparently unaware that Donald Trump was, at that exact moment, weakening America's place in the world and abandoning our friends. Not Paul Ryan, whose speech sounded like a rousing endorsement for someone who most certainly was not Donald Trump. Not Marco Rubio, not Chris Christie, not Newt Gingrich. Ted Cruz.
In an interview with the New York Times, Trump made it crystal clear: He is dangerous — to America, and to its allies. The same allies who responded within 24 hours of the 9/11 attacks by invoking Article 5 of NATO's Washington Treaty and saying that an armed attack against one NATO country is an armed attack against all NATO countries. For all of the GOP's rambling about how President Obama doesn't respect American exceptionalism, the party has nominated someone who truly believes that America isn't really all that great anymore. Someone who believes that "meetings" will bring the Kurds and the Turkish government together (they won't), someone who thinks that Putin is being "very complimentary" (he isn't, and that wouldn't be a good thing), someone who appears occasionally incapable of speaking in complete sentences. Two days after speaking at the Republican National Convention, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to come out and say that he disagreed with Trump about NATO and reassure our allies that no, we wouldn't abandon one of America's longest-lasting alliances. He still professes to believe that Trump will make an adequate head of state.
Ted Cruz doesn't. And, really, why should he? Why should he stand beside a man who accused his father of collaborating with JFK's killer? Why should he stand with a presidential nominee he believes is a "pathological liar"? Refusing to endorse Trump doesn't make Cruz a "coward" or, in the words of alleged human Ann Coulter, "a little bitch"; it makes Cruz the last man in the state of Ohio who has any idea what the hell is going on.
Maybe Cruz is making a run for 2020 (maybe definitely). Maybe he just recognizes that when you pledge to support the Republican nominee but then that nominee turns out to hate everything you stand for, be a danger to national security, and repeatedly imply that your father helped murder a former president, you don't have to fulfill your pledge anymore. Even when you're Ted Cruz, and kind of an enormous asshole yourself.
Cruz wasn't the only one not to bow to Trump on Wednesday night. Eileen Collins, a former astronaut and the first female commander of a space shuttle flight, was supposed to end her speech with, "We need leadership that will make America first again. That leader is Donald Trump." She didn't do it. She later told Mashable that she wanted to focus her speech on how we need visionary leadership in spaceflight to inspire America again.
Who knows. Maybe Ted Cruz did, too.