CLEVELAND, Ohio — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave a stirring address to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, but failed to endorse Donald Trump, telling Americans to “vote your conscience.”
Cruz congratulated Donald Trump on winning the party’s nomination, but stopped short of endorsing Trump outright, saying merely that he wanted to see the party’s principles prevailing in November.
He urged voters: “Please: don’t stay home in November.” But then he added: “If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know that you do, vote your conscience.”
“I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation,” he said, as he was booed.
Prior to that, Cruz had focused on the conservative principles at the core of the party.
He began with a lighthearted metaphor as he spoke in the Quicken Loans Arena, reflecting on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ recent historic victory in the NBA Finals. “LeBron James just led an incredible comeback victory, and I am convinced America is going to come back, too.”
Cruz went on to describe one of the fallen Dallas police officers, Michael Smith, who was killed by a sniper at a Black Lives Matter protest less than two weeks ago. “I have no idea who he voted for in the last election, or what he thought about this one, but his life was a testament to devotion.”
“He protected the very protesters who mocked him because he loved his country and his fellow man.”
Cruz went to to describe the stakes in the upcoming election — namely, that each person could tell their children “that we did our best for our country.”
And the country’s bedrock principle, Cruz said, was simple: “Freedom matters.”
He then drew a clear distinction between the parties: “Of course, Obama and Clinton will also tell you that they care about our country’s future. And I want to believe them. But there is a profound difference in our two visions of our country’s future.”
On terror and trade, on education and employment, on immigration and the Internet, Cruz spelled out stark disagreements between Democrats and Republicans — focusing, interestingly, on Obama and not his would-be successor.
“Freedom means free speech, and not politically correct safe spaces,” Cruz added, nothing that the Bill of Rights applied equally to all, including “gay or straight.”
On abortion, Cruz said: “Freedom means that human life is precious and must be protected.” And he reminded the gathering: “Our party was founded to defeat slavery … Together, we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together we fought to eliminate Jim Crow laws. That’s our collective legacy — although the media will never share it with you.”
And then, Cruz delivered those fateful words: “Vote your conscience.”
The boos and interruptions never ceased after that, with chants of “We want Trump!”
He concluded with a call to unity: “The case we have to make to the American people … is to commit to each of them that we will defend freedom and be faithful to the Constitution.”
But Cruz left the stage having divided the party.
Update: A Cruz supporter told Breitbart News: “I think it was entirely selfish. I think he’s ruined his future. Everybody was right about him. It’s a character thing.”
Another attendee described Cruz’s address as a “slap in the face” and “toying with the convention.”
Reactions were even harsher behind the scenes. Dana Bash of CNN reports that Cruz entered a donor suite at the arena after the speech, and was told, to his face, that he was a “disgrace.” One man was so angry at Cruz that he had to be “physically restrained,” and Heidi Cruz had to be escorted from the convention floor because of heckling by Trump delegates.
Eric Trump tried valiantly to mollify the crowd with a stirring address, albeit one beset by technical difficulties, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich did his best as well, but almost nothing could overshadow what Cruz had done.
The crucial phrases from Cruz’s address in the prepared version of the text, highlighted in yellow for reporters, were:
We deserve leaders who stand for principle. Unite us all behind shared values. Cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect, from everybody.
And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.
The final address of the evening, by Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, was solid, but spoke of a “united party” and uniting the nation.
Update #2: Jonathan Swan at The Hill reports that aides to Ted Cruz pleaded with him to endorse his former rival, but the Texas senator refused:
Just hours before Ted Cruz took the stage for his convention speech Wednesday night, senior members of Cruz’s team were still pushing him to endorse Donald Trump.
Cruz never wanted to endorse Trump and is still furious about the personal attacks the GOP presidential nominee made on his family during the primary campaign, sources familiar with the speech preparations told The Hill.
But top aides had concluded he needed to formally endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention.
For Cruz, it was always personal.
Still, some aides to Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, were pushing him to endorse Trump for the sake of his own political future.
Cruz has indicated intentions to run for president again in 2020, and he has a team forming behind him to execute that plan. 2020 was the unspoken undertone beneath the drafting Wednesday night’s speech.
Update #3 (Michelle Moons):
Shortly following Cruz’s speech, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich asked the crowd to consider carefully the implication of Cruz’s words.
“Ted Cruz said you can vote your conscience for anyone that will uphold the Constitution. In this election, there is only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution.”
He continued, “If you want to protect the constitution of the United States, the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump-Pence Republican ticket.”
Update #4: Throughout the broadcast of Pence’s speech, CNN highlighted every area of policy disagreement between the two candidates on the Republican ticket:
CNN 2016 Chyron is working overtime right now. pic.twitter.com/ZMWXhSDOfQ
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) July 21, 2016
For all that, CNN’s political analyst, Gloria Berger, called Pence’s speech “pitch-perfect.”
Update #5: CNN’s Ana Navarro, a former Jeb Bush surrogate who is no fan of Trump, panned Cruz’s speech.
While you should always “vote your conscience,” she said, if you’re invited to dinner, “You don’t eat the food, drink the wine, and then piss on the carpet. It was tacky.”
Update #6: Hillary Clinton has weighed in, tweeting Ted Cruz’s tagline.
Vote your conscience. https://t.co/xahMq2sU1q
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 21, 2016
Update #7: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey seems visibly shaken as he speaks to CNN’s Dana Bash, telling her that Cruz’s speech was “selfish” and that he had broken his pledge — not to Trump, but to all the candidates.
He adds that America can now see why Cruz has “richly deserved” his bad reputation among colleagues on Capitol Hill.
Update #8: CNN’s Jake Tapper makes the best case for Cruz — without agreeing with it, saying that Cruz does not believe Trump is a conservative, and that he is planning to run again for president as the “conscience” of the party.
Update #9: One of the other highlighted lines in the prepared version of Cruz’s speech was: “And citizens are furious — rightly furious — at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises and ignores the will of the people.”
Now that Cruz is being accused of having broken his promise to support the party’s nominee, it is a rather ironic line.
Update #10: Trump aide Michael Cohen tells CNN that Cruz’s speech was “political suicide.”
Update #11: Trump tweets that he had seen Cruz’s speech in advance, and allowed him to deliver it anyway:
Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2016
If true, then Trump — who was seen applauding Cruz in the wings during his address — may have enjoyed watching Cruz self-destruct.
Update #12: Cruz’s speech, as delivered, and checked against delivery by Michelle Moons:
Thank you. And God bless each and every one of you.
Heidi and I are so honored to join you here in Cleveland, where Lebron James just led an incredible comeback victory. And I am convinced America is going to come back, too.
I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night. And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes, prevail in November.
Conventions are times of excitement. But given the events of the last few weeks, I hope you’ll allow me a moment to talk to you about what’s really at stake.
Just two weeks ago, a nine-year-old girl named Caroline was having a carefree Texas summer – swimming in the pool, playing with friends, doing all the things a happy child might do. Like most children, she relied upon the love that she received from her mom, Heidi, and her dad, a police sergeant named Michael Smith.
That is, until he became one of the five police officers gunned down in Dallas.
The day her father was murdered, Caroline gave him a hug and a kiss as he left for work. But as they parted, her dad asked her something he hadn’t asked before: “What if this is the last time you ever kiss or hug me?’”
Later, as she thought of her fallen father, and that last heartbreaking hug, Caroline broke down in tears. How could anything ever be OK again?
Michael Smith was a former Army ranger who spent three decades with the Dallas Police Department. I have no idea who he voted for in the last election, or what he thought about this one. But his life was a testament to devotion. He protected the very protestors who mocked him, because he loved his country and his fellow man. His work gave new meaning to that line from literature, “To die of love is to live by it.”
As I thought about what I wanted to say tonight, Michael Smith’s story weighed on my heart. Maybe that’s because his daughter, Caroline, is about the same age as my eldest daughter, and happens to share the same name. Maybe it’s because I saw a video of that dear, sweet child choking back sobs as she remembered her daddy’s last question to her. Maybe it’s because we live in a world where so many others have had their lives destroyed by evil, in places like Orlando and Paris and Nice and Baton Rouge.
Maybe it’s because of the simple question itself: What if this, right now, is our last time? Our last moment to do something for our families and our country? Did we live up to the values we say we believe? Did we do all we could?
That’s really what elections should be about. That’s why you and millions like you devoted so much time and sacrifice to this campaign. We’re fighting, not for one particular candidate or one campaign, but because each of us wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids — our own Carolines — that we did our best for their future, and our country.
America is more than just a land mass between two oceans. America is an ideal, a simple yet powerful idea: “Freedom matters.” For much of human history, government power has been the unavoidable constant in life – government decrees, and the people obey.
But not here. We have no king or queen. We have no dictator. We, the People constrain government. Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language: “I want to be free.”
Never has that message been more needed than today. We stand here tonight a nation divided. Partisan rancor, anger, even hatred are tearing America apart. And citizens are furious — rightly furious — at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises and that ignores the will of the people.
We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that.
Now, of course, Obama and Clinton will also tell you that they care about our children’s future. And I want to believe them. But there is a profound difference in our two parties’ visions for the future.
Theirs is the party that thinks ISIS is a “JV team”; that responds to the death of Americans at Benghazi by asking, “What difference does it make?”; and that thinks it’s possible to make a deal with Iran, which celebrates as holidays “Death to America Day,” and “Death to Israel Day.”
My friends, this is madness.
President Obama is a man who does everything backwards – he wants to close Guantanamo Bay and open up our borders, he exports jobs and imports terrorists.
Enough is enough.
And I am here to tell you there is a better vision for our future: A return to freedom.
On education, your freedom to choose your child’s education, even if you aren’t as rich as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. On healthcare, your freedom to choose your own doctor, without Obamacare. On taxes, your freedom to provide for your family without the IRS beating down your door. The Internet? Keep it free from taxes, free from regulation. And don’t give it away to Russia and China.
Freedom means free speech, not politically correct safe spaces. Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian or Jew, Muslim or atheist. Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience. Freedom means the right to keep and bear arms, and to protect your family. Freedom means that every human life is precious and must be protected. Freedom means Supreme Court justices who don’t dictate policy, but instead follow the Constitution. And freedom means recognizing that our Constitution allows states to choose policies that reflect local values. Colorado might decide something different than Texas. New York different than Iowa. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Diversity. If not, what’s the point of having states to begin with?
Now, Hillary Clinton believes that government should make virtually every choice in your life. Education, healthcare, marriage, speech – all dictated out of Washington.
But something powerful is happening. We’ve seen it in both parties. We’ve seen it in the United Kingdom’s unprecedented Brexit vote to leave the European Union. Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the political establishment and overwhelmingly rejecting big government. That’s a profound victory and it is one earned by each and every one of them.
People are fed up with politicians who don’t listen to them, fed up with a corrupt system that benefits the elites, instead of working men and women. We deserve an immigration system that puts America first. And yes, builds a wall to keep America safe. A government that stops admitting ISIS terrorists as refugees.
We deserve trade policies that put the interests of American farmers and manufacturing jobs over the global interests that are funding the lobbyists. And if we stand together and choose freedom, our future will be brighter.
Freedom will bring back jobs and raise wages. Freedom will lift people out of dependency, to the dignity of work. We can do this. 47 years ago to this day, America put the very first man on the moon. That was the power of freedom.
Our party, the Republican Party was founded to defeat slavery. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Together we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together we fought to eliminate Jim Crow laws. That’s our collective legacy, although the media will never share it with you. Those were fights for freedom, and so is this.
Sergeant Michael Smith stood up to protect our freedom. So do the soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines every day fighting radical Islamic terrorism. And so did the family of Alton Sterling, who bravely called to end the violence. So did the families of those murdered at the Charleston Emanuel AME church, who forgave that hateful, bigoted murderer.
And so can we.
We deserve leaders who stand for principle. Who unite us all behind shared values. Who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect, from everybody.
And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.
[Boos, Cheers, Chants: “Trump! Trump! Vote for Trump! We want Trump!”]
I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.
And I will tell you it is love of freedom that has allowed millions to achieve their dreams. Like my Mom, the first in her family to go to college, and my Dad, who’s here tonight, who fled prison and torture in Cuba, coming to Texas with just $100 sewn into his underwear.
And it is love that I hope will bring comfort to a grieving nine-year-old girl in Dallas – and, God willing, propel her to move forward, and dream, and soar . . . and make her daddy proud.
We must make the most of our moment – to fight for freedom, to protect our God-given rights, even of those with whom we don’t agree, so that when we are old and gray, and when our work is done, and we give those we love one final kiss goodbye, we will be able to say, “Freedom matters, and I was part of something beautiful.”
The case we have to make to the American people, the case each person in this room has to make to the American people, is to commit to each of them is that we will defend freedom and be faithful to the Constitution. We will unite the party, we will unite the country by standing together for shared values, by standing for liberty.
God bless each and every one of you. And God bless the United States of America.
Update #13: Neil Munro has collected different reactions from delegates on the floor of the convention:
“It was the perfect speech and it was completely ruined by the booing.” said Texan Richard Morgan.
Cruz implicitly endorsed Trump, and repeatedly urged voters to vote against Clinton, he said. Some Cruz supporters still aren’t quite ready to accept Trump — partly because of the butter campaign fight — but will be ready to back him as the election draws nearer, he said.
“I think it is right for today — people still don’t want him to well out” to Trump, he said.
The speech, he added, was “very unifying until the delegations started booing.”
But Mark, a delegate from outside Texas, said the speech crystalized widespread suspicion of Cruz’ s motivations and character.
“Cruz does what he does for the real activists, [the non-endorsement] was a betrayal and that’s how it is going to be taken.”
“You just probably saw a political career vaporize before your eyes. “
“He did, in a way,” endorse Trump, said one Oklahoma delegate, who supported Cruz. “I don’t think it will be as big a deal as everybody thinks,” he added.
“I’m disappointed [he did not endorse] — I would have liked to see him do it, but I also understand why he didn’t” because of the hard feelings left after a tough campaign, he said.
“If Trump loses, Cruz is done,” said Ken Henry, from Alaska. “He didn’t say it … he never said ‘I endorse Donald J. Trump.”
“There was consternation on the floor,” said Cynthia Henry, a delegate and committee member from Alaska.
“You’ve just seen a man commit suicide,” said Don, a delegate from Arizona. “This reminds me of George H. Bush saying ‘Read my lips, no new taxes,” and then he goes out [and makes a tax increase deal] with Tip O’Neill.”
Erin Swanson, a Texas delegate, said that the Trump campaign knew the contents of the speech, “they knew it was not a formal endorsement.”
Cruz is an elected U.S. Senator,who represents Texas conservatives, she said. “I never expected Ted to fully endorse … Cruz would lose a lot of credibility [in Texas] if he endorseed Trump,” she said.
“Teump needs to work to unify the party, and he should not have alienated people by interrupting the speech.”
Chris Ford, another Texas delegate, said: “It definitely was not an endorsement … it is not his style,” adding that Trump should not try to bully an elected Texas Senator.
“It doesn’t bother me, “ said Boyd Smith, a California delegate.”We’re allowed out own agency to say what we say.”
“I don’t think there’s a split… people are entitled to express their views.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, will be published by Regnery on July 25 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
Michelle Moons and Neil Munro contributed to this article.