"I like Donald Trump. He's bold, he's brash. And I get it that it seems the favorite sport of the Washington media is to encourage some Republicans to attack other Republicans. I'm not going to do it. I'm not interested in Republican-on-Republican violence. [...] "He has a colorful way of speaking. It is not the way I speak. But I'm not going to engage in the media game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans. I'm just not going to do it."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been one of Donald Trump's most vocal defenders in recent weeks, at least among the Republican presidential candidates, but of particular interest is how the Texas senator has made his argument. Consider, for example, what Cruz told NBC's Chuck Todd the other day on "Meet the Press."
During a Fox News interview yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) made clear how unimpressed he was with Cruz's rhetoric. "I find it ironic that Ted Cruz is giving lectures on Republican-on-Republican violence," the governor said. "The guy who put together a group that was sponsoring primary ads against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is giving us -- the rest of us lectures on Republican on Republican violence. With all due respect, I don't need to be lectured by Ted Cruz."
He added, "Let's just not be hypocritical. Don't lecture as to Donald Trump but then attack Lamar Alexander. All I want is a little consistency."
Christie raises a fair point. The Senate Conservatives Fund, which Cruz has supported, is committed to electing the most far-right candidates possible to the Senate, and in some cases, that's meant backing primary challenges to incumbent GOP senators.
In fact, Christie's comments cast an important light on Cruz's posture. If the Texas Republican simply had a blanket, no-exceptions policy against criticizing all Republicans in all instances -- deferring to Reagan's "11th Commandment" -- his reluctance to criticize Trump's anti-Mexican rhetoric would at least hold true to some kind of principle.
But Cruz's aversion to "Republican-on-Republican violence" is surprisingly selective.
Cruz, for example, has been willing to criticize Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on more than one occasion. What's more, literally just last week, we learned that Cruz has written a new book in which he blasts Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the rest of his own party's leadership on Capitol Hill in a direct and unapologetic way.
What we have, in other words, is a GOP presidential candidate who's more than happy to make use of "Republican-on-Republican violence," so long as it suits his purposes.
And criticizing Donald Trump's racially charged rhetoric does not, evidently, suit Cruz's purposes.
If there's a pattern to Cruz's decision making, it seems to be in the ideological direction -- he will criticize Republicans for not being conservative enough, but he won't criticize Republicans for being too conservative. Those he finds to his left deserve his scorn, but he'll refuse to "throw rocks" at those he finds to his right.
* Update: I heard this afternoon from the Senate Conservatives Fund, which took issue with some of Christie's specific claims. The governor said Cruz "put together" the SCF, which isn't true -- the group existed before Cruz was elected -- though Cruz has offered support to the group.
The Senate Conservatives Fund also disputes Christie's assertion that the group "attacked" Lamar Alexander during his primary. Rather, the SCF claims, it ran ads about Alexander and the Affordable Care Act that the senator probably didn't like, and which happened to coincide with the senator's primary. Good to know.