Cruz tries to sing the praises of the president who bullied him

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with Donald Trump during a Tea Party Patriots rally against the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sept. 9, 2015. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg/Getty)
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with Donald Trump during a Tea Party Patriots rally against the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sept. 9, 2015.

Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) relationship with Donald Trump has been difficult at times. After all, Trump has gone after Cruz's wife and suggested Cruz's father played a role in the JFK assassination.

For his part, the Republican senator has told Americans that Trump is a “pathological liar,” a “bully,” a “narcissist,” “utterly amoral,” and my personal favorite, a “sniveling coward.”

It was therefore of interest when Time magazine named the president one of the most influential people of the year, and the editors turned to Cruz to sing Trump's praises. This is what the Texan came up with:

President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump's popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump's achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump's strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.

Not surprisingly, Cruz has received quite a bit of mockery for having written this. He could've told Time that he isn't interested in praising a president who went after his family, but instead, Cruz played the role of loyal partisan soldier and celebrated Trump's efforts.

But what struck me as especially interesting was how, exactly, Cruz hailed Trump.

Note, for example, that the senator made only fleeting references to substance and governing. What Cruz finds impressive about Trump is the degree to which Trump upsets the Americans whom Cruz doesn't like anyway.

What's great about Trump? In Cruz's eyes, it's the fact that "members of the media and political establishment" are unimpressed. Over the course of three paragraphs that were supposed to be about the president's impressive influence, Cruz took aim at "cultural safe spaces," "coastal elites," "pundits, "wealthy celebrities," "talking heads," and "those who have controlled Washington for decades."

Trump's success as president, in other words, has little to do with governing and more to do with his ability to infuriate those Ted Cruz wants to be furious.

How does Trump maintain his high approval rating with the Republican Party's die-hard base, even as the American mainstream is repelled by the president's scandals and antics? Cruz's praise offers a peek behind the curtain of what it is the right finds so impressive.