Editor’s note: A bit more than two months ago, Sen. Ted Cruz shocked the political world by refusing to endorse the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, at the GOP convention.
He abruptly reversed course on Friday, saying he would vote for Trump.
What follows is a story from July 21, the day after Cruz’s RNC speech, when he defended his decision at the time to tell his supporters to “vote your conscience” in November.
CLEVELAND – Ted Cruz on Thursday delivered an impassioned defense of his Wednesday-night speech that prompted loud boos and jeers from the Republican National Convention audience.
During a breakfast with the Texas delegation, Cruz took questions – many of which were heated – from his home-state delegates looking for answers on why he not only refused to endorse nominee Donald Trump but actively encouraged people not to vote for the billionaire if doing so would violate their conscience.
In a particularly emotionally charged exchange, a woman in the Texas delegation asked Cruz about the pledge he agreed to earlier in the year stipulating that he would support the party’s nominee at the end of the primary season. She said Cruz lied to her by abdicating the pledge.
“I will tell you when I stood on that debate stage and they asked every candidate will you support the nominee, I raised my hand and I raised it enthusiastically,” Cruz said. “With the full intention of doing exactly that.”
“And I’ll tell you the day that pledge was abdicated,” he continued. “The day that pledge was abdicated was the day this became personal.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July21, 2016
Insisting that he was not trying to attack Trump, Cruz said he was “not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” referring to an attack Trump made on the appearance of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and to a conspiracy theory promoted by Trump that Cruz’s father, Rafael, was somehow involved in the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.
“And that pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi, that I’m going to nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say thank-you very much for maligning my wife and my father,” he said.
The Texas senator then addressed a man in the back of the room rubbing his hands under his eyes to mimic crying.
“You might have a similar view if someone was attacking your wife,” Cruz said. “In fact, I hope you would. I hope you would.”
The man told Cruz to “get over it” because “this is politics.”
“No, no, this is not politics,” Cruz fired back. “I will tell the truth. I will not malign. I will not insult. I will not attack. I will tell the truth. This is not a game. This is not politics. Right and wrong matter. We have not abandoned who we are in this country.”
The cowboy-hat-clad crowd erupted in a roaring cheer.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July21, 2016
“And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November,” Cruz said. “Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
Cruz added Thursday that he wasn’t “eager” to speak at the convention.
“What does this say when you stand up and say ‘vote your conscience’ and rabid supporters of our nominee begin screaming, ‘What a horrible thing to say!'” Cruz said.
He said that if Republicans can’t make a case to America that voting for Trump is consistent with voting their conscience, they don’t deserve to win.
“It is not simply blindly chanting a name and yelling down dissenters,” he said, alluding to Trump’s popular “Trump! Trump! Trump!” chant.
“Can anyone imagine our nominee standing in front of voters answering questions like this?” Cruz said. “I owe this to you – I owe this to you every day.”
He said the Republican Party “isn’t a social club.”
“We either stand for shared principles or we’re not worth anything,” he said before making a reference to butting heads with former House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Let me ask folks here a related question: How many of y’all here would like to see more leaders stand up to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell?” he said. “I want to point out to folks here, you’re sitting and you saw last night why so few elected leaders do. Because when you do stand up, leadership screams, ‘Support the team. You’re a Republican. We’re the leadership. Sit down. Shut up. Support the team.'”
“If that’s the price, I ain’t gonna do it,” Cruz said. “I’m going to honor the commitments I made to the voters in the state.”
Cruz said he went to Twitter after his speech to read through various articles. He said one had a word cloud from each night of the convention.
“You look at my word cloud, and the word that’s about 50 times bigger than any other word is freedom,” Cruz said. “The prior night’s word cloud, the dominant word, anybody guess what it was?
Multiple people shouted out “Hillary!”
“Trump,” Cruz said. “You know what, if we go to November and the dominant word voters hear is ‘Trump,’ or for that matter, if the dominant word is ‘Hillary’ or ’email server,’ we’re gonna lose.”
“I wasn’t elected to do the convenient thing,” he said before exiting the event. “I was elected to stand up and do what was right.”