Ted Cruz is “beautiful.”
Don’t take it from me — that’s the president’s own description of a man he once said “has accomplished absolutely nothing for (Texas). He is another all talk, no action pol!”
That Cruz finds himself in a closer-than-comfortable Senate race against Beto O’Rourke and needing the man who once called his wife ugly, suggested his father had something to do with the Kennedy assassination, and referred to as “Lyin’ Ted” ad nauseam in 2016, is in some ways the final humiliation for one of Trump’s many enemy-turned-devotees.
In exchange for two years of near-unconditional support for Trump and his agenda, Trump indulged in one of his favorite and least presidential pastimes — awarding Cruz a new nickname, “Beautiful Ted.” It’s neither clever nor particularly catchy. But it’s just emasculating enough to remind Cruz and anyone else, “you need me, not the other way around.”
For the political equivalent of giving Trump his lunch money, Cruz bought his momentary protection. It’s a calculation many have made, none more unsuccessfully and embarrassingly than Chris Christie, who tried to lapdog his way to the vice presidency, after ruthlessly dismissing Trump as unfit to be president.
“We do not need reality TV in the Oval Office right now. President of the United States is not the place for an entertainer,” Christie said while campaigning.
Cut to becoming the first mainstream politician to endorse Trump, who rewarded Christie by parading him around behind him, mocking his weight, reportedly having him fetch his McDonald’s and, ultimately, naming Mike Pence to the ticket instead.
Another former Trump critic-turned-defender, Sen. Rand Paul, has turned being an errand boy into an art form, time and again ditching his famous “principles” to support a guy he once believed would make a worse President than “a speck of dirt.”
Now? No one in the Senate has been more dogged in their support for Trump’s coziness with Vladimir Putin.
The so-called libertarian was also a yes vote on Trump’s debt-ballooning tax bill, a yes on mass-surveillance fan Mike Pompeo’s confirmation to secretary of state and anti-privacy Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, despite insisting he had “serious” concerns about all three.
The latter earned him a pat on the head from Trump on Twitter:
“Thank you to @RandPaul for your YES on a future great Justice of the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. Your vote means a lot to me, and to everyone who loves our Country!”
But the emasculation of these one-time enemies — demeaning them into submission and then flaunting their devotion — is symbolic of something much bigger: Trump’s emasculation of the Republican Party itself.
For months, Trump the candidate refused to even commit to running as the party nominee, until Reince Priebus chased him down with a sworn promise statement.
Since, he’s figuratively spat on long-held Republican Party orthodoxy — lowering the debt, cutting spending, free trade, disavowing authoritarianism and defending democracy, for example — only to have Republicans in Congress line up to congratulate him for it.
It’s a disturbing thing, watching grown men grovel for another man’s approval, especially one so categorically undeserving of it.
And yet, here we are, with Beautiful Ted lapping up the praise and attention of someone who has treated him — and his party — like his chew toy.
S.E. Cupp is a columnist with Tribune Content Agency.