Although his name has never been included in any of President Trump’s lists of potential Supreme Court Justices, Texas Senator and former Trump rival Ted Cruz (R-TX) may possibly be the best choice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Senator Cruz has certainly, in his time in the Senate and before that as Solicitor General of Texas, been a rock solid constitutional conservative. His run as Solicitor General of Texas from 2003 to 2008, under then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, saw Cruz argue before the Supreme Court nine times, while winning a majority of his cases. The position had been recently established in 1999 and Abbott selected Cruz behind the logic that Cruz would take a "leadership role in the United States in articulating a vision of strict constructionism.”
In addition to Ted Cruz’s nine arguments before the Supreme Court, which happens to be more than any other current member of Congress, he has also authored 70 U.S. Supreme Court briefs. The cases he has been involved with have been among the most notable in recent legal history including the landmark case District of Columbia v. Heller. Cruz authored the amicus brief presented by Abbott that was signed by the attorneys general of 31 states. It was a major victory for 2nd Amendment proponents and a career highlight for the future presidential candidate.
Back in spring of 2016, when then Candidate Trump released his original list of 11 potential replacements for the recently deceased Antonin Scalia, he stated he planned to use the list "as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices" and said the names are "representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value."
All 11 names, which included Judges Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado, Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas, were notable and certainly would do an incredible job in the Supreme Court. But was excluding Tec Cruz, the man Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz called, “one of the best students I ever had, because a teachers loves to be challenged," a mistake by the then presumptive Republican nominee?
The fact that he had just completed a grueling and at times, dirty primary against Senator Cruz may have been the driving force behind this notable omission. Just about 2 weeks before the release of the list, on May 3rd, 2016, the day of the fateful Indiana Primary which led to the suspension of the Cruz campaign, Americans woke up to Trump leveling accusations against Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, of conspiring with Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate President Kennedy on Fox and Friends.
This was at the tail end of a tense primary that began as an intriguing bromance between the young Senator and the legendary business empresario. Back in the summer of 2015, the 2 powerhouses came together to speak at a rally denouncing the controversial Iran Nuclear Deal. The Senator’s campaign had invited Trump to join the rally, which was sponsored by Tea Party Patriots, Center for Security Policy, as well as the Zionist Organization of America and held at the Capitol.
The warm and fuzzy vibe between the two men would be short lived but many observers at the time even saw the potential of a Trump/Cruz ticket, as possible during that period of time. Cruz was lagging far behind Trump in polling and his meteoric rise to 2nd place was still many months away.
Despite all the debate night personal shots and half-hearted endorsements that have defined their relationship, both men seem to have moved past the bitterness of 2016. This unique opportunity that has been presented to President Trump can help advance his agenda in a multitude of ways should he nominate Cruz.
First, by accepting the nomination, his top 2016 rival would no longer look to ever run for President again. Secondly, the young, healthy and energetic Cruz, at age 47 would meet Trump’s criteria for a new Justice that will sit on the bench for the next 40 years, providing another conservative stalwart in the Court. Thirdly, it may finally be the act that kills off the last of the never Trumpers on the far right, who never forgave the president for tactics employed during the primary. With another celebrity presidential campaign by the powerful and influential Oprah Winfrey potentially looming for 2020, President Trump may need to consolidate the entire Republican base for reelection. Sometimes the best decisions are also the easiest.