All Quiet Except Cruz. And Did You Read About Al Gore?

03/19/2015 12:57 pm ET Updated May 19, 2015

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WITH JUST 600 DAYS until the 2016 general elections, it was reasonable to have a break in the recent political weather and wind.  And we got it for two reasons:  Democrats were getting past emailgate and Republicans were getting past Bibi and Iran.

It was so quiet that a New York Times piece on a reborn, optimistic and redeemed environmental crusader Al Gore seemed almost like a well-timed Trial Balloon as defined in our Standard Table of Influence.  But lofted by whom?

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On the email matter, Team Hillary seemed to throw levers from behind the Clinton curtain.  Outside a short blast of women's rights tweets, Hillary ran the Pause play, perhaps to measure the damage and muzzle dark horse challengers, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and the veteran statesman and military man James Webb.  Pushed by media and so much alternative talk, each played surrogate more than upstart, actively sidestepping rather than exploiting Hillary's misstep.

Pressed repeatedly on the email muff, Webb deflected, "I think that the best thing is to listen to (Hillary Clinton's) views...people will make conclusions in a better way than I can."  No blithe Pings to his record of frank and candid accountability?  No elusion to his aversion for evasions?  It seemed a waste.

Running his own Deflect on MSNBC's Morning Joe (above), O'Malley said finally about emailgate: "If we had a uniform email policy across all 50 states...none of that would make a hill of difference to people that are trying to send their kids to college..."  The Marylander was far smoother than Webb but, he too, avoided the direct attack, issuing bland Fiats of his 15 successful years of executive service.

One wonders if Webb's and O'Malley's candidacies are serious.  After all, exploratory committees are formed to market as much as measure, and neither exploited the barn-door-size opportunity to dent their one and only competitor.

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Likewise, GOP candidates were operating at a dull roar.  There were activist-style quips by Rand Paul, a folksy critique by Jeb Bush of Obama, and some flimsy defense by Scott Walker of his immigration flip-flop.  But with the now-infamous letter to Iran and pending Israel elections, it was a good time to keep the playmaker powder dry.

The clear exception was, perhaps predictably, Texas senator Ted Cruz, who made the best of his big mouth.  Speaking to a conservative klatch (above), Cruz was running his signature Peacock-Label combinations when he said of Obamacare and Obama-Clinton foreign policy, "The whole world's on fire!"  To which a little girl, sitting in her mother's lap, audibly whimpered, "The world's on fire?"

Quick on his feet, Cruz explained that mommy would make the world safe, a deft Recast.  Still, with his vitriol going viral, the junior senator was briefly on the defense.  To preempt a crisis, he countered, Crazy Ivan-style with live appearances On Late Night with Seth Meyers and MSNBC's Morning Joe.  There, he spun his rhetoric as the work of a fireman, not an arsonist of sorts.  That Cruz's comments were virtually identical is evidence of his discipline, preparation and instinct for strategy.

It was a calm week in the plays for the presidency.  A good time for repairs and preparation on both sides.  But March winds will blow.

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