Trump intensifies proxy war between Cruz and Perry


Donald Trump in Laredo, Texas wearing a hat that very well may have been made in Mexico, our state’s largest trading partner.

Following Donald Trump’s visit to the Texas-Mexico border and after his comments that Sen. John McCain was not a real war hero because he was captured in Vietnam, it is worth taking the time to think through what his campaign might mean for the presidential contenders from the Great State.

What Trump said about Sen. McCain does not merit analysis because of its sheer absurdity. For the sake of context, though, here it is: “He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said sarcastically during an event then quickly added “I like people that weren’t captured.”

Other GOP contenders for the nomination rushed to condemn the comments, with one notable exception: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Ted Cruz.

Cruz declined to denounce the comments when asked about it. This was similar to the way he refused to engage in “Republican on Republican violence” when asked about Trump’s false accusations that Mexico is exporting its murderers and rapists to the United States. Cruz has been among the loudest defenders of Trump’s remarks on undocumented immigrants, many of whom work on Trump’s construction job sites. “I salute Donald Trump,” Cruz said.

Through his hateful rhetoric, Trump has managed to capture the imagination of the far right-wing of the GOP – many of the same people Cruz is banking on to secure the nomination. So, it should shock no one that Cruz would simply let these comments fly by, wait for Trump to drop out, then promote that he’s the only one in the field who stood by Trump’s side as the “liberal media” and other Republicans went on the attack.

Of course, Cruz has engaged in “Republican on Republican violence” throughout his entire career in elected office.

Sen. Cruz’s open disdain for GOP leadership and his funding of challengers to sitting Republican senators has relegated him – and the interests of more than 26 million Texans he represents – to near irrelevance in the United States Senate. If not for the quick rise of Sen. John Cornyn to the ranks of leadership, Texas would have no voice in a chamber where Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson once ruled with an iron fist.

In the week since this column was originally published on The Quorum Report, Cruz’s avoidance of “Republican on Republican violence” has included waging war on Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell over the Export-Import Bank and calling him a liar.

The magic trick required of an establishment Republican running for any nomination in recent years has been to figure out a way to differentiate themselves from Sen. Cruz without alienating his supporters who demand ideological purity. That’s exactly why former Gov. Rick Perry has been desperately trying to feud with Trump. Perry lashed out at Trump on immigration and border security and The Don fired back, arguing that Perry should have done more as governor to secure the border.

Unlike Cruz, Perry said the billionaire’s critique of McCain disqualifies Trump for the White House and he should leave the race. “As a veteran and an American, I respect Sen. McCain because he volunteered to serve his country. I cannot say the same of Mr. Trump,” Perry said. “His comments have reached a new low in American politics.”


Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Rick Perry, both Republicans of Texas.

As Joe Deshotel over at Burnt Orange Report, noted: This sets up an interesting proxy war between Cruz and Perry with Trump as the high-priced pawn. Perry has for months been working diligently to appear as the elder statesman from Texas as opposed to the junior senator whose brash style resonates so well with self-identified Tea Partiers. So far, Perry hasn’t found success with that strategy as reflected by fundraising and poll numbers. His fundraising may start to improve now that an appeals court tossed one of the counts in the indictment against Perry.

If Perry is to have any shot at even participating in the first GOP presidential debate – he’s now battling for 10th place in the polls – he has to appear to be the adult from Texas and pray that Trump does actually withdraw from the race.

The first debate aside, it is unlikely that either Cruz or Perry believe Trump will be in the contest for the long-haul. And while Perry makes a play for the Republican Party’s better angels in a bid to remain relevant, Sen. Cruz is now faced with the same conundrum he’s created for other candidates in his own party: Figure out a way to differentiate himself from Trump without alienating the New Yorker’s hardline supporters.

Note: The original version of this column appeared on The Quorum Report. Join us there daily for coverage of Texas politics and government.

Copyright July 20, 2015, Harvey Kronberg,, All rights are reserved

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