I never thought I would have occasion to place the term “Ethics Hero” anywhere near Ted Cruz’s name. Ted understands ethics (unlike Donald Trump), he just discards them at will, when an end he lusts for requires an unethical means. Last night, however, Cruz brushed up against ethics heroism. He took the podium at the Republican National Convention in prime time, and directed principled conservatives and Republicans not to vote for Donald Trump, though not in so many words. It took character, it took courage, and his message was the right one.
The Texas Senator and last Trump challenger standing congratulated Trump for winning the Republican nomination, but never endorsed him. Then he closed by telling convention-goers and TV viewers to “vote your conscience” in November. The convention throng of Trump supporters erupted in jeers, as Cruz had to know they would, and Trump felt he had to appear on the floor to pull focus from his intransigent foe. Today on Fox News, the Fox Blondes and their harassers were slamming Cruz as a traitor and a fool.
Yeah, that was how the collaborators talked about De Gaulle in France during the occupation, too.
“My country, right or wrong” has never been an ethical principle. “My religion, right or wrong” allowed Catholics to enable child rape. “My President right or wrong” created Watergate. “My race, right or wrong,” is tearing the nation in two. There is nothing honorable about “My party, right or wrong.” The Republican Party is betraying its duty to the democracy and the nation by knowingly nominating a Presidential candidate its knows is unqualified and unfit to lead, and a likely danger to the nation and the world. No matter how bad they may think Hillary Clinton is, and she is mighty bad, it cannot excuse this surrender of principle. Indeed, if they believe Hillary will be a disaster, then the Republican Party has an obligation to present a candidate who can defeat her on his or her merits, and not one that 60% of the public—that is, the segment with functioning ethics alarms and reading comprehension beyond a fifth grade level—has concluded is unqualified. Nominating Trump is a classic “March of Folly” move, blindly going forward with a disastrous course of action long after its insanity became undeniable.
The GOP leaders who know better, like Speaker Paul Ryan, and yet allow this cataclysm to proceed are the individuals deserving scorn, not Ted Cruz. Cruz is the scout telling Custer not to go into that valley. He is my late father, three times telling superior officers in World War II that their orders were illegal and deadly, and that he would not carry them out. Ethics Alarms has discussed the dilemma facing the engineers who believed that the Challenger would blow up, and whose warning were ignored. I have come to believe that stating their objections and then allowing the launch to proceed was not enough. Would they have been traitors to their employers if they went forced a postponement by blowing a whistle to the news media and announcing that the Space Shuttle was doomed if it launched in low temperatures? Would they have been traitors if they personally obstructed the launch?
Cruz made it clear last night that he would not be complicit or supportive of the candidacy of Donald Trump as a matter of principle. Exactly. Trump is not Hitler, but the way his candidacy has commanded support and loyalty from citizens who know or should know how bad he will be–indeed has already been– for the United States is reminiscent of how Hitler captured the government, culture and soul of Germany. A Cruz-like resister to Hitler’s rise would have been arrested and shot had he tried what Ted did last night. That’s some consolation, I suppose. Cruz was drowned out at the end, but at least he was alive.
Still, it took great courage to do what Cruz did last night. I’ve had a similar experience, but didn’t have the guts to make my stand.
When I worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I was once assigned the task of giving a speech before an Amway convention at the Atlanta Omni, to promote the Chamber’s grass roots right-wing lobbying non-profit, Citizen’s Choice. The audience consisted of over 15,000 extreme conservatives, and right before I was scheduled, they wildly cheered a speech by the local “Diamond,” who gave a full-bore John Bircher-style rant, condemning feminism, integration, the teaching of evolution, and President Jimmy Carter, whom, he said, was an agent of the Soviet Union (and he had documents to prove it!).
I sat there, at the age of 28, and wondered what I should do. I considered walking out. I considered taking the mic and announcing that the previous speaker was a fascist, and that someone had to say so. Doing either, I decided, would cost me my job and have no positive impact whatsoever, so I went ahead and delivered my short pitch, and got off the stage. (I also told my boss, current President of the U.S. Chamber Tom Donohue, that I would never do anything like that again, and he apologized for the assignment. He also said that he would not have blamed me if I had refused to follow that speaker. I still wonder about that…)
Cruz can’t be given full Ethics Hero status. Everything he does is calculated to help Ted Cruz, and he might have in part been motivated by vengeance. After all, Trump branded him “Lying Ted,” smeared Cruz’s wife and accused his father of helping to assassinate Kennedy. Most analysts assume that Cruz was setting himself up for a Presidential run in 2020, after Trump’s defeat leaves the Republican Party in smoldering ashes. I don’t doubt it. Cruz, as he has before, may have been doing the right thing for unethical reasons.
The Trump staff is also saying Cruz lied to them about the contents of his speech. I can believe that. I can also believe that Trump’s people are so inept and gullible that they believed him. Lying isn’t ethical, though I could argue that Cruz lying in this case was a utilitarian act: it was more important for someone of stature to take the podium during this mass rejection of valuesand point out the importance of conscience and principle than to tell Trump’s brownshirts the truth.
I’m not certain of that. I am certain that Ted Cruz showed courage last night and delivered a message that needed to be delivered.
[ From the archives: If the GOP paid any attention to Ethics Alarms, we wouldn’t be here..]