A little more than a year ago, as Donald Trump was solidifying his frontrunner status for the Republican nomination in the face of a mounting toll of gaffes and outrageous pronouncements, Yahoo News set out to answer the question that had many establishment Republicans scratching their heads: Who are his supporters, anyway? In a series of profiles, we explored the backgrounds and beliefs of voters who had fallen early and hard for Trump. Now, with the president’s approval ratings near historic lows, we have gone back to these voters for their views about his presidency as it nears the 100-day mark. Are they disappointed that Obamacare hasn’t been repealed? Excited by the administration’s stepped-up deportation efforts? Dismayed by reports of chaos in the White House? Or energized by the president’s continued outspokenness? Here is one of those reports. Links to the others and a summary of what we found are here.
The first few months of Donald Trump’s presidency have gone exactly as Rick Cruz expected.
A longtime fan and student of Trump the businessman and a satisfied customer of Trump University, 63-year-old Cruz has watched Trump pit aspiring employees against each other to determine who will best carry out his vision, and who should be fired, on his reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
Now, Cruz has complete faith in Trump the president to do the same thing in Washington. He just wishes the rest of the country would give him a chance.
“Some people are expecting major changes,” Cruz said ahead of Trump’s 100th day in office. “Let’s see if he does make some improvement, let him make the mistakes or do what he needs to do, then let’s evaluate it.”
As the first U.S. president with no political or military experience, it’s clear that Trump is learning on the job, and Cruz is insistent that he deserves the public’s patience. He has far less sympathy, however, for Republicans in Congress, the news media, and even the American people — who, he said, “need a civics lesson.”
In somewhat Trumpian fashion, Cruz sees every failure, stumble, or controversy of Trump’s presidency thus far as someone else’s fault.
For example, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans are to blame for the quick crash and burn of the American Health Care Act, the proposed legislation intended to replace Obamacare.
“Why didn’t they have a plan?” Cruz asked of Republicans in Congress. “They knew they were going to have the president; they knew they were going to have the majority. They’ve had three months to prepare this, and they had eight years before that to come up with some solutions.”
Though Trump not only backed the AHCA but promised throughout his campaign to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act immediately upon entering office, Cruz faults pretty much everyone but Trump for actually expecting him to make it happen so quickly.
“I don’t think that people understand the immense task” involved in overhauling the country’s health care system, he says — echoing his hero’s comment that “nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
When it comes to the issue of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government that could have influenced the outcome of the presidential election, Cruz blames whistleblowers in the intelligence community for leaking information that would harm the president, and he blames the media for giving them attention.
“It’s getting ridiculous,” he said, repeating White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comment, “If the president put Russian dressing on his salad, it would break the news.”
Though Cruz says he “can’t see how in the world” Russians could have influenced the outcome of the election, he also doesn’t seem to care whether it’s true or not.
“You know what would bother me more? If we continue to waste time,” he said, dismissing the election as “some past event” and suggesting that, even if there was proof of collusion, it’s too late to do anything about it now.
“We have bigger issues that we need to solve,” Cruz insisted. “I turn the TV off when I start hearing it. I’m done listening.”
Before becoming president, Trump made a career of plastering his name in big, gold letters on buildings around the world. Yet Cruz points to the backlash and eventual rewriting of Trump’s original executive order banning travel to the U.S. by residents of seven majority-Muslim countries as an example of the president discovering the negative attention that comes “if his name is on something.”
After all, he argues, the reason Trump’s executive order listed those specific countries was because of “the previous administration’s issues with the countries.” (Under a law signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, anyone who had lived in or visited Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Sudan or Yemen since March 2011 was required to obtain a visa in to visit the U.S. because the Department of Homeland Security had deemed those places “countries of concern.”)
“The way I see it, the president has access to secret information that the American public doesn’t know,” Cruz said. He is frustrated by federal judges who’ve interfered with the implementation of Trump’s orders. “My hope is that nobody gets hurt as a result of the court action,” he added.
Cruz is even able to deflect the president’s responsibility for his own tweets, and insists that Trump has actually “toned down quite a bit” since becoming president.
“I really respect some of his reserve,” Cruz said, suggesting — contrary to evidence and the assessment of most White House reporters — that Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, “has pushed him more into Twitter.”
Cruz and I have not had a chance to talk since Trump unexpectedly ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles onto the Syrian airbase from which Syrian President Bashar Assad is believed to have carried out a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians. But before the Syria strikes, Cruz was in favor of demonstrating U.S. military force. He said that the one thing he wanted to see Trump accomplish during his first year in office is “beef up the military,” and “improve border security as a result.”
“For the longest period of time, we have not shown our strength — we do not appear strong,” Cruz said, echoing aspects of Trump’s stump speech on the dangers of illegal immigration.
“When we don’t enforce the law and we passively sit back, we allow ourselves … to become victims,” he said. “We have to be a force to be reckoned with.”
“Trump is 100 percent right; you don’t tell people what you’re going to do,” added Cruz, referring to Trump’s repeated refusals during the campaign to reveal his strategy for defeating ISIS.
Cruz’s views on the presidency are influenced by his six years of service in the U.S. Navy. “When I swore allegiance to the country and to defend the Constitution, I also pledged allegiance to the president of the United States,” he said. “The president is the president; he is the commander in chief … and I respect the office.”
While Cruz is willing to cut Trump plenty of slack for not understanding the ins and outs of government bureaucracy, he is certain that, by virtue of holding the office, the president knows more about what’s going on in the world than anyone else. He trusts that any decision Trump makes is “for the good of the country.”
Average Americans, he said, need to realize that “we don’t know what’s going on, and probably if we did our lives would collapse.”
For now, Cruz is watching the first few months of the administration play out like a White House edition of Trump’s former reality TV show “The Apprentice,” in which he judges members of his Cabinet based on their ability to accomplish certain tasks.
“Right now, I think what he’s doing is he’s finding out who the power players are [and who] needs to be replaced,” he said. Eventually, Cruz predicts, “he’s going to fire people.”
Read more from ‘The Ever-Trumpers’:
Read more from Yahoo News’ coverage of Trump’s first 100 days: