People are spending a lot of time trying to figure out what’s wrong with Ted Cruz. It’s not that he “mansplained” the Bill of Rights to Diane Feinstein and earned her “I’m not a 6th grader” rebuke, or that he is, in Sen. John McCain’s words, one of the “wacko birds on right.” Extremism in the defense of filibusters is a virtue these days.
Republican pundits aver that “he didn’t go to Washington to make friends,” as if a lack of socialization explains what is wrong with him. Most coverage cast the Cruz-Feinstein conflict as a manners comedy. Liberals cheered Feinstein’s scolding, and conservatives saluted Cruz’s impudence.
All of this misses the point that Cruz—a former constitutional law professor who has argued many cases before the Supreme Court—knowingly misrepresented constitutional law. Time and time again, Cruz has prostituted his intellectual credentials, Harvard Law education, and career as an appellate lawyer to score political points by telling big, obvious lies. That, and not his inability to play well with others in the Senate, is what’s wrong with Ted. He knows better, but he doesn’t seem to care.
Cruz revealed himself when he asked Feinstein which books congress could ban if it could outlaw certain guns. Her “6th grader” crack got all the headlines, but her answer included that “the Heller decision clearly points out three exceptions, two of which are pertinent here,” said Feinstein. “It’s obvious that there are different tests for different amendments.”
In District of Columbia vs. Heller, Antonin Scalia wrote the 5-4 decision that overturned DC’s handgun ban but described how congress and states could regulate firearms.
“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” wrote Scalia, who listed concealed handgun laws, prohibitions against criminals and the mentally ill from owning guns, banning guns from schools and churches, and banning “unusual” guns not “in common use at the time,” e.g., military-style assault weapons, as acceptable restrictions.
Ted Cruz knows this, but he advanced a false argument anyway.
We can’t say there weren’t clues. As a candidate, Cruz said Obama “began his presidency going on a worldwide apology tour” and wildly exaggerated the cost of Obamacare, both of which drew censure from Politifact. But his false attacks against his Republican runoff opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, foreshadowed Cruz’s senatorial spuriousness. Cruz said Dewhurst had ‘never cut one penny from the state budget” (“False,” said Politifact) and accused him of supporting a state income tax (“Pants on Fire”) which in Texas is like saying your opponent wants gay illegal immigrants to confiscate your guns.
Americans met Cruz when he claimed that Chuck Hagel “has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government,” suggested that he could be on the take from Arab shieks or Korean Communists, and said the Vietnam veteran “has repeatedly been soft on our enemies.”
At CPAC last week, Cruz was back at it, talking about “our uncontrollable spending and debt” in the face of recent reports that our deficit has shrunk faster since 2009 than it has since World War II ended. Uncontrollable? Hardly. Improving, in fact, if austerity’s your bag.
Cruz accused the Democratic Party of “fighting a war on religious liberty” to shut down Catholic “charities and hospitals.” He intimated that Obama believed “a drone from the sky hitting you in a café” was constitutional despite the Attorney General saying otherwise. And he warned conventioneers about “an ongoing effort to undermine United States sovereignty.”
“You know,” he said, “in West Texas the EPA is tryin’ to use a lizard to shut down oil and gas production. You know my view of lizards? They make darn fine boots.” Last year, the Obama administration announced that the dunes sagebrush lizard won’t be listed as an endangered species, but why should the facts get in the way of a corny joke?
Cruz went on like this for a half hour. Had Cruz edited the counterfactual balderdash from his remarks, his CPAC speech wouldn’t have gone five minutes.
There’s no reason for Cruz to lie if he just wants to hold onto his senate seat. Being a wacko conservative never lost anyone an election in Texas. But if Cruz has his sights set on 2016, then we have to worry about a brilliant politician willing to say anything to advance his career.
© Copyright 2013 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and MSNBC. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @JasStanford.