I don’t know yet if Ted Cruz should be the next President of the United States, and neither does anyone else—the tumult of past Republican primaries should have taught us all the danger of prematurely anointing conservative saviors—but tentatively, the new Texas senator seems like the complete package.
Intelligent and eloquent, he’s a fearless full-spectrum conservative who seems not to suffer from foot-in-mouth syndrome. Debates with Democrat luminaries like Dianne Feinstein have proven him unflappable and quick on his feet, not to mention well versed in the Constitution. As an American of Cuban descent who rejects the amnesty path Marco Rubio has tragically adopted, Cruz has the unique potential to make our case to Hispanic voters on a deeper level than pandering. And he’s unwilling to rubber-stamp bad decisions in the name of bipartisanship—he voted against confirming Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary (unlike Rand Paul), against John Brennan as CIA Director (unlike Rubio), and was one of only three Republican senators to vote against John Kerry for Secretary of State.
It’s that last one—Cruz’s failure to “play nice”—that is currently drawing critics’ fire. An April 29 piece by the Washington Post’s resident righty, Jennifer Rubin, helpfully (albeit unintentionally) demonstrates why it could be among his most important assets.
Rubin deems Cruz a “jerk” because he dared to tell a FreedomWorks audience the following:
“We’ve had probably five or six lunches with a bunch of Republican senators standing up and looking at Rand and Mike and me and yelling at the top of their lungs — I mean really . . . And they said: ‘Why did you do this? As a result of what you did, when I go home, my constituents are yelling at me that I’ve got to stand on principle.’ I’m not making that up. I don’t even bother to argue with them. I just sort of let them yell. . . . They said: ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The Democrats were the bad guys. The Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’ Well there is an alternative. You could just not be a bunch of squishes.”
In Rubin’s eyes, relaying this demonstrates that Cruz lacks “humility and grace,” and served no higher purpose than “to boost your own street cred with the base.” His words “suggest an immaturity and lack of sophistication about conservative governance.” He should “apologize to his colleagues for betraying their confidence.”
I’m sorry, I was under the impression that we elect senators to serve the people, not each other. If there are Republicans who take umbrage at being expected to “stand on principle,” isn’t that important information we deserve to know? If these seasoned, mature statesmen were satisfying their constituents, why would they be getting complaints about squishiness in the first place? It seems Cruz’s real sin is not creating a problem, but revealing it.
Rubin goes on to insinuate that Cruz isn’t “trying to accomplish something” in office: “What exactly is Cruz doing affirmatively to aid the country, the conservative movement and the GOP? Yelling at people and voting no don’t qualify.”
Answer: a heck of a lot more than Jennifer Rubin has.
First, obstructing bad laws and unfit officials certainly are valid national services, and while I’m not aware of anyone Cruz has “yelled at,” it seems to me Capitol Hill is teeming with incompetents, cowards, demagogues, and opportunists in both parties that could use a great deal more “yelling at” than they currently receive.
Second, she severely overestimates the potential good the minority party can do via “affirmative” works (which presumably means passing and amending legislation). Odds are, anything agreeable enough to win not only Democrat votes but also Barack Obama’s signature would either harm the country on balance or be watered down to the point of uselessness. Counter-intuitive though the elites may find it, the GOP’s job is to be the Party of No until they regain enough control to make government say yes to the right things.
Third, a quick search would have told Rubin that, so far, Cruz has actually sponsored four bills and eighteen amendments, including Second Amendment-friendly gun crime legislation, efforts to defund ObamaCare, increasing missile defense funding, and decreasing foreign aid to Egypt. Not bad for a guy who’s only been in office for five months, and certainly not nothing. And while it might not be “respectful” enough for Rubin’s tastes, Cruz has spearheaded the effort to find answers in the Benghazi and Fast & Furious debacles.
Jennifer Rubin may be just a lone blogger at a liberal publication, but what her attack embodies—the fetishization of bipartisanship—infects much of the Republican Party, up to and including Speaker of the House John Boehner’s gushing that he “absolutely” trusts Obama, with whom he has “a very good relationship.” Rubin sees in Cruz “nothing to suggest he’s a man of stature and future leader in the party,” but the truth is he may be the only leader of the stature the GOP and the country truly need. Serious pushback against the desire to be liked at all costs could be the most revolutionary political development in decades.
The way for conservatives to support that development is not to declare Ted Cruz our new Ronald Reagan, become apologists for his inevitable missteps, or tear down other solid conservative candidates as less pure, as we’ve sometimes done for other candidates in years past. Rather, through a balance of substantive praise and constructive critiquing, we should help cultivate Cruz’s potential and highlight which virtues his potential competitors should emulate. With savvier analysis focused more on principles than personalities, maybe we can finally have a presidential primary about finding the best of the best, rather than settling for the safest of the mediocre.