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Carly Fiorina falls from stage, Ted Cruz falls from grace

Carly Fiorina and Sen. Ted Cruz waved during a rally last week in Indianapolis, a few days before her fall from a stage. And it was after that fall that Cruz’s true self came out.
Carly Fiorina and Sen. Ted Cruz waved during a rally last week in Indianapolis, a few days before her fall from a stage. And it was after that fall that Cruz’s true self came out. The Associated Press

When Shakespeare wrote the “truth will out,” he must have had Ted Cruz in mind.

Cruz’s truth — or his true self — has been leaking by steady drips ever since he began his candidacy, which was at approximately 12:10 p.m. Jan. 3, 2013, when he was sworn in as a freshman senator from Texas.

No one in Washington failed to notice the speed and trajectory of Cruz’s single-minded crusade, from his quasi-filibuster reading of “Green Eggs and Ham,” to his orchestration of the government shutdown nine months after taking office, to his presidential campaign announcement. Fleas have taken longer to sup. But Cruz had just two years to grab the media’s and, therefore, the public’s attention, and he hit the ground at a sprint, which, come to think of it, is something one would rather like to see.

Stories began to pile up about Cruz’s ambition, his self-promotion, his utter lack of regard for good order and his willingness to trample anyone in his path. When you hear that everyone in Washington dislikes Cruz, which though mean-sounding is largely true, it isn’t only because of his scorched-earth tactics but mainly owing to the looming tower of his massive ego.

In this, he and Donald Trump were well-matched.

But Cruz’s truest self was revealed in an unscripted moment captured Sunday by TV cameras, unfortuitously just two days before the Indiana primary. It occurred suddenly and for no apparent reason.

There stood Cruz behind his wife, Heidi, in the midst of a crowd and within feet of Carly Fiorina, Cruz’s short-suffering, vice presidential choice. When, oops! Where’d she go? Fiorina simply disappeared. Or, rather, she seemed to drop through some invisible trapdoor. It was both breathtaking and weird. What happened next was even weirder.

Heidi Cruz can be seen reaching out toward Fiorina, a look of concern flashing across her face. Cruz appeared to glance in that direction, too, and then turned and began shaking hands with supporters as though nothing had happened. It is so shocking, so lame, so lacking in awareness or care, that you can’t believe what you’ve witnessed. You think, surely, you must have missed something.

What you missed is the man Ted Cruz isn’t.

Not to go overboard with pronouncements, but Cruz lost the election in that moment. (And he dropped out of the race Tuesday night after losing in Indiana.) Even if Cruz missed the fall initially, and this isn’t clear, the video plainly shows his lack of action. Indeed, his decision not to act. This minuscule moment, though fleeting, is nevertheless novelesque in scope, a story about the greed of ambition and the ambivalence of narcissism.

The truth will out. It may not be fair to summarize a person’s content based on a few isolated frames, but sometimes that’s all it takes to end a political career.

One second, you’re a candidate. The next, you’re a cad.

Whatever Cruz wanted voters to think about him — the qualities and character that can’t be gleaned from a resume — he lost control of the narrative. His reflex in a crisis moment wasn’t to help but to continue his march along the road to selfdom.

But she was fine, some will object. She may have signaled to Cruz that she was OK and that he should continue. It doesn’t matter. When a lady falls, a gentleman helps her up. Period. It was actually a rare opportunity for Cruz to shed his image as a reptilian barfly and trade his mom-jeans for Lycra tights and a cape. But no. In a Titanic fail, he paddled away as his female crewmate foundered.

Some may argue that chivalry is dead. Sadly so. Good men have been slapped too many times for paying a compliment or holding a door. Still, we want our presidents and their spouses to be ladies and gentlemen. And, for most women, equality was never meant to justify leaving them to fend for themselves — or for men to be treated as universally suspect.

It wouldn’t be surprising for Fiorina to wave Cruz away. She’s no one’s damsel in distress, but that’s not really the point. It was for Cruz to act. What we can infer from this microscopic event is that Cruz’s overarching instinct isn’t to serve but to prevail. Something tells me that if the 3 a.m. call had come in, he’d have let Heidi get it. Which might have been the best option yet.