On Tuesday Sen. Ted Cruz officially ended his long-held stance as the "official outsider" of Washington D.C. politics, and all because he took a ride on the president's plane.
That's right, the junior senator from Texas who once read Dr. Seuss from the floor of the U.S. Senate in a fake filibuster to oppose the Affordable Care Act, was invited to fly down to Dallas aboard Air Force One on Tuesday and the Tea Party standard bearer accepted the invitation, according to the Dallas Morning News.
From one angle, this was a decent gesture in the wake of the Dallas police officer shootings that left five officers dead, a move toward solidarity from Cruz, a longtime nemesis of the president who has clashed with Obama on several issues, particularly gun control.
But on the other hand, the fact that Cruz accepted a ride from Obama to Love Field in Dallas gives us the tiniest glimpse of what it must currently be like to be Cruz, the guy who made his political bones by refusing to ever go along with anyone from the "establishment" whether it was the Democrats or the Republicans from his own party.
Not too long ago Cruz was busy making a name for himself — and gearing up for an ill-fated run at securing the GOP presidential nod — by opposing anything and anyone that even hinted at being part of the Washington D.C. establishment. The only people who ranked worse in Cruz's book were President Obama and the rest of the Democrats.
But that was before he more or less lost the Republican presidential nomination to Donald Trump. (On Tuesday a federal court told the Virginia GOP that it couldn't order its delegates to only vote for Trump next week's Republican national convention in Cleveland so who knows what could happen at the convention, according to the Washington Post.)
Cruz was still the confident Dark Horse, anti-establishment candidate at that point. He even befriended Trump. Many think he was hoping that he'd show some love to the Donald and then would gain Trump's supporters when he left the race. It was such a good plan. So of course it didn't work out like that.
Instead, the Donald failed to fade into the political nether the way so many had predicted and is now only days away from potentially securing the official Republican nomination. At the same time, Cruz has been remarkably quiet ever since he finally made himself officially leave the race a few months ago.
Since quitting the race, the question is, where does all of his previous saber-rattling and strident opposition leave Cruz? He didn't exactly cultivate a lot of friends in Congress. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner called Cruz "Lucifer in the flesh." Boehner didn't stop there, according to the Hill. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone,” he said. “But I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”
The bitterness makes sense. Cruz made it his mission to oppose anything that even smelled like cooperation with President Obama and the Democrats, undermining Boehner during several standoffs with the White House and even costing the speaker votes from his own party when Cruz felt Boehner was being too soft on Democrats.
Cruz didn't fare much better with his Senate colleagues. Since being elected in 2012, Cruz has spent a lot of time grandstanding, but he hasn't apparently invested enough time in forming the friendships and partnerships in Congress that would help him actually create coalitions or do something besides mouthing off in front of cameras. In fact, he's the least liked member of Congress, Salon reported back in March.
At that point, Cruz was still slugging it out with Trump to win the Republican nod — despite the fact that Cruz himself was barely winning popularity contests even here in Texas. But then, Cruz actually lost.
In one fell swoop, he went from being the junior senator who was going to run for president to being the guy who really wanted to run for president but didn't get to because people actually preferred a small, noisy orange-skinned man to Cruz's more measured version of far-right Tea Party politics.
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And, as if to underline that Cruz simply isn't the outsider who was promised, he who will bust up the "Washington Cartel," comes this ride on Air Force One. Cruz obviously accepted the invitation — along with Democrat House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi; Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, whose district includes downtown; and Democrat Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, whose district includes parts of Dallas— and thus may have had some time with the president during their flight to Dallas. The First Couple exited the plane first, followed by Johnson and then Cruz.
Now we have to wonder how Cruz is handling being in such a lonely place. Sure, there may be an open convention next week, and that could very well result in Cruz getting the nomination he's been after for so long. His ride with Obama, even if he sat in the back of the plane while the president rode up front, could be spun as a sign that Cruz, unlike Trump, is willing to suck it up in the face of tragedy and be at least a little bipartisan around the edges. Maybe.
But if the convention doesn't play out that way, Cruz may be viewed as the guy who finally gave in, who waved the olive branch and, in the wake of the tragedy in Dallas, was actually willing to talk to the head of the opposite party — these things may not sound bad, but they can be spun as negatives in a heartbeat — and ride on the president's plane with the actual president. The crazy part is that after all of his antics, now Cruz's displays of relative open-mindedness may cost him the last of his supporters, the Tea Partiers who elected him in the first place.
Anyway, a ride on Air Force One is nothing to sneeze at. Let's hope Cruz enjoyed it, because it could make him even less popular than he already is.