Washington (CNN)In the course of the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called Ted Cruz a liar, not-so-subtly suggested Cruz's wife was unattractive and floated the possibility that Cruz's father might have had a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Ted Cruz's embarrassing ode to Donald Trump is why people hate politicians
So it makes perfect sense that Cruz penned a glowing piece on Trump for Time magazine's new feature on the 100 most influential people of 2018. (Sidenote: I was snubbed -- yet again.)
"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."
That's a very different tone toward Trump than Cruz took during the 2016 primary race -- when he called Trump a "sniveling coward" and a "big loud New York bully." Or when he referred to Trump as a "pathological liar," "utterly amoral," "a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen" and "a serial philanderer." Or when he tweeted that nominating Trump would be "a train wreck." Or when he described Trump as "consistently disgraceful."
You get the idea. While Trump's relationships with virtually every one of his Republican rivals was something short of cordial, the mutual animosity he and Cruz held for one another seemed to be on another level.
Aside from Jeb(!) Bush, there was no one that Trump loved to skewer more -- and more frequently. One of Trump's most consistent -- and judging by the crowd reaction, successful -- barbs during the campaign was when he described Cruz as holding up the Bible, then putting it down and lying. "Lyin' Ted," Trump would say with relish.
That bellicosity didn't end once Trump beat Cruz for the GOP nomination. Cruz refused to endorse Trump during a speech at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, a move that set Trump off.
"Honestly, he may have ruined his political career," said Trump the day after Cruz's convention speech. "I feel so badly." Added Trump: "I like Ted, he's fine. Again, don't want his endorsement. If he gives it, I will not accept it, just so you understand."
Trump did, in fact, accept Cruz's endorsement when it finally came in late September 2016. But, even then, Cruz seemed hugely divided about whether to support Trump.
"After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, " Cruz said in a Facebook post.
That tepid endorsement of Trump made sense. Cruz was never going to be a big Trump fan. But, he a) was a party guy and b) wanted to not piss off Trump's base too badly, so he sucked it up and supported Trump. It's politics. I give him a bit of a pass for that.
But agreeing to write a Trump encomium for Time is a whole other thing. And, make no mistake: Cruz could have easily said "no." Time likely came to him thinking how newsy it would be if Cruz wrote the blurb for Trump. (They were right!) But, Cruz could have simply passed. No one -- outside of the Time editors and Cruz's staff -- would have even known. Time would have found someone else to write the blurb. No harm, no foul.
Except that Cruz said "yes." And he did so for totally political and transparent reasons: Cruz wants to run for president at some time in the future, whether 2020 if Trump doesn't run again or 2024 if he does.
This ode to Trump is part of a broader attempt by Cruz to get right with the Trump base. While he may never win them totally over, what he wants to do is take some of the heat out of that relationship. He doesn't need all of their votes when he runs for president but he can't have them actively and passionately working against him.
So, he agrees to write this Time blurb. And he lays it on very thick; "President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America," writes Cruz. Um, OK.
You can be sure Cruz sent -- or will send -- the Trump article to every conservative activist type and conservative talking head he can think of. See, it's me and Donald against the snowflake liberals! We're on the same side! We're fighting political correctness and the status quo! The two of us! Me and Donald!
People already believe that politicians will say and do anything to get (or stay) elected. That they have no backbones. That all they care about is winning.
This Cruz love letter to Trump will -- and should -- only reinforce that view.