Up until last night, [mc_name name='Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)' chamber='senate' mcid='C001098' ]'s refusal to attack Donald Trump was defensible. Without question, it was smart politics, as his rise in the polls would attest. But it was also defensible on the merits as a guy who is a solid conservative in good standing, who was just refusing to criticize any of the other Republicans in the race, preferring rather to point out, like a good white knight should, how much better all the Republicans were than Hillary Clinton.
Last night, though, what the country watched was a [mc_name name='Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)' chamber='senate' mcid='C001098' ] who called [mc_name name='Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)' chamber='senate' mcid='R000595' ] a liar several times to his face, and also on more than one occasion treated him like someone who was ignorant of the issues. After the way Cruz has treated Trump throughout this contest, that's a major prolbem.
Prior to last night, Cruz had engaged in substantive disagreements with some of the other candidates (including Rubio), but he had always kept it on an above the fray level. Even when Trump came after him personally, he responded with a tweet that was positively fawning towards the Donald in response.
— [mc_name name='Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)' chamber='senate' mcid='C001098' ] (@tedcruz) December 11, 2015
When Donald Trump flat out called him a maniac, here is how Cruz responded:
In honor of my friend @realDonaldTrump and good-hearted #Maniacs everywhere: https://t.co/KOPIi4XTVt — [mc_name name='Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)' chamber='senate' mcid='C001098' ] (@tedcruz) December 13, 2015
Listen, this is all fine and good, and as I acknowledged, it's smart politics. It earned Donald Trump a rebuke from Limbaugh and Levin, which probably contributed to the fact that last night, Trump was back praising how great Cruz was on stage. For people who are sympathetic to Trump, they no doubt like to see the way that Cruz refuses to tangle with Trump no matter what.
For the rest of us - including the ones who grudgingly accepted that it was necessary for Cruz to do this for political reasons - last night's sparring with Rubio was borderline infuriating.
It's not just that Cruz disagreed with Rubio. It's that his disagreement was laced with biting sarcasm and personal attacks. For many (if not most) of us who are not already in Camp Trump, Rubio is considered to be an acceptable choice for the nomination (if not our first), and only a fool would not concede that he presents the best chance in the general to defeat Hillary. Watching a guy who's turned turtle repeatedly to a fake conservative insult comic, only to turn around and show some fighting spirit against a guy who is actually conservative was a little hard to stomach.
I know that many of Cruz's own supporters consider him to be a slightly better choice between the two good choices of Cruz and Rubio. I think that's probably where a good portion of the editorial staff here at RedState stands. Watching the two in nuclear war last night was more than a little vaguely unsettling.
It would be different if Cruz had been been in attack mode against all the other candidates equally. Cruz has a legitimate claim to the mantle that all the other candidates - especially Trump - have been trying to wear since day one and he would have been forgiven (if not expected) to vigorously defend his claim to being the guy who has actually fought against the "establishment," as opposed to Trump, who has given some speeches in which he insulted people.
But instead, people who realize that Trump represents an existential threat to the credibility and future existence of the conservative movement as a political force have been forced to grind our teeth as Cruz - who really has been a champion for our causes - held fire on this charlatan for months. Now we are treated to the spectacle of Cruz treating Rubio in the same way many of us wish he had treated Trump from day one? It's frankly galling.
No one is under the illusion that Rubio is perfect, or that he is the same kind of fighter that Cruz is. There's a definite argument that Rubio has gone along to get along much more than Cruz since both of them took office. But there's no argument that Rubio hasn't been, throughout his entire career stretching back to the Florida House of Representatives, a solid conservative who would be well to the right of any Republican Presidential nominee since at least Reagan (and probably even to the right of Reagan).
Heritage Action is not the fraudulent ACU. You do not get a 94% score from HAFA by being an actual squish, like many Republicans were able to do from ACU for years. There are reasons people prefer Cruz (who has a 100% score), but let's not pretend that Rubio isn't well to the right of almost the entire Republican Senate, with Cruz and Lee being rare exceptions.
Whatever you think of his work with the Gang of 8 and his claim that he learned from the experience and won't repeat it, it does not merit him being treated worse than Trump. Not to someone who is dedicated to the advancement of actual conservative ideals, like I know [mc_name name='Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)' chamber='senate' mcid='C001098' ] is.
[mc_name name='Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)' chamber='senate' mcid='C001098' ] can take this post and the warning it contains for whatever it is worth - I'm just a guy on the Internet, after all. But I'm one of the guys on the Internet who has steadfastly backed Cruz from day one in public fight after public fight. I'm not one of the countless DC writers who has repeatedly published unsourced rumors about him, or snidely mocked the fights he has picked in the Senate, or called him a person who has never accomplished anything. Rather, I've been cheering him every step of the way, loving the consternation he causes in all the right quarters.
And all I will say is this - it's [mc_name name='Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)' chamber='senate' mcid='C001098' ]'s prerogative to attack whoever he wants, wherever he wants, for whatever reason he wants. After all, he is trying to win a race. But if he continues to go after the actually conservative [mc_name name='Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)' chamber='senate' mcid='R000595' ], while at the same time playing public footsie with the fraudulent Donald Trump, I'm less and less going to consider him one of two equally acceptable choices for the nomination.
Having called Marco Rubio a liar, unprincipled, and someone who doesn't understand the issues, he better discover soon that Donald Trump is without question a much bigger unprincipled liar who has no understanding of the issues, and muster the testicular fortitude to say so in public. If you're going to be a happy warrior who doesn't attack other Republicans no matter what they say about you, then be that happy warrior. If you're going to be an attack dog when attacked, then turn the same vitriol on Trump that you turned on Rubio last night. You can't have it both ways.
And I know I can't be the only one who feels this way.