Thu 21 Feb, 2013 02:33 pm
Tough-talking freshman Sen. Ted Cruz is attacking critics with a bold tactic: whining. The man who told the world, without evidence, that defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel might have taken money from Hamas or North Korea now complains his critics are trying to “silence” him – but it won’t work.
“Washington has a long tradition of trying to hurl insults to silence those who they don’t like what they’re saying,” said Cruz.
Cruz made his comments at a visit to a Texas gun maker that manufactures assault weapons for the civilian market. “He’s our type of guy,” kvelled the firm’s marketing manager. Indeed.
It’s true that critics from Chris Matthews to Sen. Barbara Boxer have heard more than an echo of Joe McCarthy in Cruz’s evidence-free attacks on Hagel. In the New York Times Saturday, Boxer compared Cruz’s dark insinuations against Hagel to the Wisconsin senator’s unsourced tirades against alleged Communists in the 1950s.
“It was really reminiscent of a different time and place, when you said, ‘I have here in my pocket a speech you made on such and such a date,’ and of course, nothing was in the pocket,” Boxer said. “It was reminiscent of some bad times.”
Of course, Tea Party darling Allen West copied McCarthy far more directly in 2011, when he charged that “78 to 81″ Democrats in Congress were members of the Communist Party. (McCarthy used to make up numbers, too, most famously having a list of 205 Communists in the State Department.) But West was roundly denounced, and he lost his Florida seat in 2012. Cruz is somewhat more dangerous.
Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald makes a great comparison between Cruz and the Senate’s other Tea Party extremist with big national ambitions, Kentucky’s Rand Paul. (There are questions about Cruz’s eligibility to run for president, because he was born in Canada to American citizens, but his office insists he’s “a U.S. citizen by birth” while disavowing presidential ambitions. Have at it, birthers!) Where the unpolished Paul, a sketchily credentialed ophthalmologist, always seems a little unready for the national spotlight, the Ivy League Cruz is impeccably credentialed and varnished. A Harvard Law graduate, he clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and specialized in Supreme Court litigation before becoming Texas solicitor general in 2003. His wife works for Goldman Sachs. That’s not the biography of a working-class hero. It shouldn’t even be the biography of a Tea Party hero, except the supposedly populist revolt was always a front for the corporate elite.
Cruz’s grandstanding may be hurting him even with conservative GOP colleagues. Sen. John McCain famously upbraided him for impugning Hagel’s character and patriotism last week. An anonymous Republican called him “Jim DeMint without the charm” in a conversation with columnist Ruth Marcus. He may also be Joe McCarthy without the charm. McCarthy won a national following because he seemed to speak for regular working-class Joes in his campaign against the State Department, which was also, to an extent, a campaign against the Ivy League elites Cruz himself represents.
McCarthy followed the path of Al Smith, who moved from New Deal innovator to anti-FDR red-baiter after Roosevelt beat the first Irish Catholic presidential candidate for the 1932 Democratic nomination. There was a common-folks appeal to McCarthy’s crusade – sadly, my Irish Catholic immigrant grandparents loved him — with groups like the Catholic War Veterans backing both his anti-Communist vendetta as well as New Deal programs like Social Security.
Cruz doesn’t seem to carry such weight with Latinos. He won only 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2012, less than his colleague Sen. John Cornyn, who won 36 percent in 2010 (but he did outperform Mitt Romney, who only won 29 percent of Texas Latinos). Republicans are going to have to understand that Latinos have become a solidly Democratic constituency not because there are so many Latino Democratic politicians (there are more than in the GOP, but still not enough) but because they support Democratic policies on economic and social issues.
Cruz likely has far more appeal with the type of older white working-class voter that backed McCarthy than with the emerging Latino electorate. His efforts to tank even Marco Rubio’s cautious immigration reform proposals will likely make white Nativists more Cruz-friendly than Latinos in the months to come.
Of course, bullies like Cruz have a long tradition of playing the victim. When Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party’s last incarnation of Joe McCarthy, accused Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, she and her allies likewise claimed persecution at the hands of her detractors (which also included McCain). “It’s really an effort to demonize and take down, if they can, a formidable political adversary in Michele Bachmann,” anti-Muslim hysteric Frank Gaffney claimed at the time.
Cruz now wears Bachmann’s mantle, and he wears it nicely. Playing the persecuted, he challenged reporters to at least investigate Hagel a little bit while they’re attacking him.
“A lot of media attention has been focused on the attacks leveled on me and I would encourage all of you if you want to write stories on that great, knock yourself out, but I would ask for every 10 stories you write, attacking me, perhaps write one story on the substance of Chuck Hagel’s record,” suggested Cruz.
That’s good advice. Because if they do, they’ll find no substance to Cruz’s charges in Hagel’s “record,” but a lot of substance to charges that he’s a 21stcentury Joe McCarthy in Cruz’s.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large
Edgar...were you quoting Joan Walsh in this piece? You really do not say...until that attribution (?) at the end.
Okay...now you can quote me:
Ted Cruz is an asshole...who probably only appeals to other assholes.
But like regular assholes...assholes like Ted Cruz serve a purpose.
I say: If this is the face of the Tea Party...give 'em all the rope they want.
Edgar, thanks for giving us that good Walsh piece on Cruz. It appears we are going to hear a lot more from and about that awful person. I don't underestimate him.
He was considered odd man out when the race to fill Hutchens' senate seat began, but he ran away with it.
What do you expect from Texans? Honestly, the longer I'm back here, the more I want to leave. The state that gave us Rick Perry.
To my two favorite Texans...Lola and Edgar...
...my sympathies. With Perry off the national stage, I thought you guys would get a rest. But this new entry seems to want to outdo Bush and Perry as an embarrassment to the state.
Texans deserve better.
As I mentioned elsewhere on a2k, a poll shows that Texans prefer that Rick Perry retires. But it looks to me as though he will run again. If he does, I expect him to win without working too hard.
Sen. Ted Cruz is one of the good guys.
Cruz’s grandstanding may be hurting him even with conservative GOP colleagues.
Ted Cruz is indeed quite the weird character. Last night on TV I happened upon a Youtube video with the title question to Senator Cruz, "How does it feel to be the most hated man in America?" My eyes widened and my ears pricked up as I listened to Megyn Kelly of Fox News opening her new show. (Let me explain up front I am not a viewer of Fox news whom I suspect to be the right-wing political arm of the Republican Party...in fact, I don't think of FOX News as a respectable news agency, but a lying media for the GOP) However, the subject question was glaring out at me; it seems Ted Cruz was one of Kelly's main guests at her opening and she wanted to make a big splash by asking him publicly "how he felt to be the most hated man in the world?" He said the "Dems were throwing rocks at him" but that was supposed to be expected, and he skirted her question. The reality is Cruz probably has more enemies within his own party where the political war is brewing among themselves. The Dems are the winners in the long run and the public realize this. Cruz face is the most visible and he is despised.....no doubt about it!!!!
With Perry off the national stage, I thought you guys would get a rest
I, too, was delighted to see Perry exit the national scene....one must be careful what one wish for as Ted Cruz make Rick Perry seem like a choir boy!
But it looks to me as though he will run again
I, too, read this somewhere but I thought it was for US senator.....surely he could not be serious about running for president again?!? Perry did exhibit more compassion for the Latino community than any of the other GOP presidential candidates.
Well, Perry may be leaving, but his stench will linger on. He has royally screwed up Texas government and louts like Cruz are here to keep his heritage alive. We got an alternate reality going for us and the end is not in sight.
Cruz recently declared that his favorite Senator was Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who was a leading racist/segregationist. That fact alone says a lot about Cruz and is enough to keep me from ever voting for him.