By Chuck Conconi
There is an unavoidable level of cynicism that comes from watching politicians who have traded insults with Donald Trump during a campaign rush to the White House seeking the president’s blessing and, just maybe, an impressive appointment.
How else could anyone explain Sen. Ted Cruz with his wife and children dining at the White House with President Trump? During the Republican primary campaign, Trump’s attacked Cruz by sending out an unflattering photograph of the Texas senator’s wife Heidi, next to a glamour photograph of Trump’s former model wife, Melania. He also at one point threatened, “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. (magazine) shoot in his ad. Be careful Lyin’ Ted or I will spill the beans on your wife.”
An angry Cruz responded that the photo didn’t come from his campaign and countered: “Donald, real men don’t attack women. Your wife is lovely and Heidi is the love of my life.” He later called Trump “a sniveling coward,” and told him to “leave Heidi the hell alone.” He also called Trump a “small and petty man who is intimidated by strong women.”
After such a virulent exchange that went beyond the usual, “it’s just politics,” it is legitimate to ask how could Cruz and the president have a cozy family dinner at the White House? And, why would Heidi attend after being so publically insulted? Although Trump is now the most powerful man in the world, why would a man like Cruz go to the White House with his family to dine after all the venom between the two men?
Some speculation is that Cruz, who has had presidential ambitions, is aware that that office is probably not in his future—but there is always the possibility of a Supreme Court nomination.
Cruz does have useful credentials—he was a law clerk to J. Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and in 1996 became the first Hispanic to clerk for then Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He has the requisite right wing conservatism and he could help Trump with Hispanic voters in 2020.
Cruz, however, is not alone in seeking presidential appointments, even after intense public clashes with Trump. Look at what Trump has said about former governors Rick Perry, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., and Mitt Romney—who was also the Republican candidate for president in 2012.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said of Trump: “He offers a barking carnival act that can best be described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean spirited nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” Perry is now part of the Trump cabinet. He is Energy Secretary.
Romney traveled to Trump Tower in New York amid speculation that he would be rewarded by being named Secretary of State. It was a futile trip. Trump termed the former Massachusetts governor “a lightweight,” and said that Romney had begged Trump for his endorsement when he ran for president in 2012. “I could have said, ‘Mitt drop to your knees,’ “and he would have dropped to his knees.”
This was Trump’s revenge for Romney saying, “He’s a phony and a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”
Why did Romney want a cabinet position so badly that he embarrassed himself by going before Trump as a supplicant?
But what also seemed mystifying is that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a practicing Mormon who was offended by the news of Trump boasting about groping women, decided he would want to be part of the Trump Administration.
Huntsman said at the time: “In a campaign cycle that has been nothing but a race to the bottom—at such a critical moment for our nation—and with so many who have tried to be respectful of a record primary vote, the time has come for Governor Pence to lead the ticket.”
It seems, however, that Republican Huntsman, who also once tried to run for president and served the previous administration as its ambassador to China, still covets another title. He met with Trump and apparently, all has been forgiven—Huntsman is to be nominated as ambassador to Russia.
If a couple of fourth graders talked to each other in that manner on the playground, someone would probably get a bloody nose. 10-year-olds understand that words have meaning and can be hurtful. Politicians no longer seem to understand that. But maybe I’m just being cynical.