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Although it seems longer ago, on this date in 2016 Sen. Ted Cruz delivered a controversial speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. One of the last Republican rivals left standing in the gale wind that was Donald Trump's candidacy, Cruz was reluctant to endorse the nominee. He certainly had his reasons: Trump had insulted Cruz's wife, and had claimed -- bizarrely even for The Donald -- that Cruz's father was somehow implicated in John F. Kennedy's assassination.

So what do to? Cruz decided to speak to the delegates without implicitly endorsing the party's standard-bearer. "Vote your conscience," he told the GOP faithful. "Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution."

I thought it was an artful dodge. Not everyone agreed. The normally temperate Indiana Sen. Dan Coates angrily called Cruz "the most self-centered, narcissistic, pathological liar I've ever seen." Rep. Marsha Blackburn advised Cruz to "get over yourself." Chris Christie proclaimed the speech "awful" and "selfish."

For Christie, at least, there was a glass house issue. In the annals of "awful" convention speeches, one only had to look 24 hours earlier, when Christie led the convention in a cringe-inducing call-and-response attack on Hillary Clinton in which the audience was led to chant "Lock her up!" And if one is collecting "selfish" nominating speeches, only four years earlier the keynote speaker at the GOP convention in Tampa never mentioned the incumbent Democratic president -- and waited 16 minutes to mention party nominee Mitt Romney's name. Instead, the speaker talked about himself. That speaker's name, of course, was Chris Christie.

One commentator who put Ted Cruz's 2016 gambit in historical perspective was Rush Limbaugh, who pointed out that the sainted Ronald Reagan did the same thing to Gerald R. Ford at the 1976 GOP convention -- even though Ford was the incumbent president. Although Reagan's speech was moving and memorable -- and has stood the test of time -- he never mentioned Ford at all, let alone asked Americans to vote for him.

"[Cruz] wanted to deliver a speech that was Reaganesque in that the delegates would walk out of there thinking that they should have nominated him," Limbaugh said. "He didn't get there."

That's no disgrace, if you think about it. Reagan was a tough act to follow, as Jerry Ford told me himself in an interview many years ago. But that is a story for another day.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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