I think we might have messed up again in Texas. We thought Ted Cruz would be an educated, articulate senator with a positive vision of constitutional conservatism. But it turns out he might also be crazy, and not the Charlie Wilson “Let’s see how many Playboy bunnies fit into this hot tub!” kind of crazy. Ted Cruz’s crazy is the unfunny, dangerous kind, and we just gave him a six-year term. Sorry.
It struck me that Texas might have let a charming sociopath loose in Washington when I read this morning about his efforts to bring assault weapons into a Senate hearing on gun safety. His aim, as it were, was to wave unloaded guns around to demonstrate how safe they are in the hands of “millions of law-abiding Americans for self-defense, hunting, and sporting purposes,” he explained. Maybe using them as political props falls under “sporting.” Unfortunately for him, DC has banned assault weapons, which cancels out the “law-abiding” bit.
Trying to bring a gun to a knife fight is one thing. Picking a fight with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel might be burning a bridge too far. Emanuel pushed the Chicago Municipal Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund to divest $1 million in investments in three gun manufacturers and asked two locally headquartered banks to stop loaning money to firearms makers who oppose gun safety laws. This drove Cruz to invite the banks and gun manufacturers to do business in Texas.
“Both of your companies do considerable business in the City of Chicago, and you may be understandably concerned that there are risks to refusing to comply with the demands of a politician who has earned the nickname, ‘the Godfather,’” wrote Cruz.
And then there was his explanation for being one of three votes against confirming John Kerry as Secretary of State:
“I was compelled to vote no on Senator Kerry’s nomination because of his longstanding less-than-vigorous defense of U.S. national security issues, and, in particular, his long record supporting treaties and international tribunals that have undermined U.S. sovereignty,” said Cruz in a statement.
It’s hard not to focus on Cruz’s cheerful venality in sliming Kerry’s commitment to national security. Cruz wasn’t even born when Kerry left the U.S. Navy as a full Lieutenant after having earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. And when Cruz was still in diapers, Kerry raised the stakes on patriotism by becoming the first Vietnam veteran to testify before Congress about the war, famously asking the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
Voters don’t require military service anymore in their politicians, but if Cruz’s statement is any indication, voters don’t require basic decency either. Cruz had a chance to serve when we were kicking Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, but he was busy excelling at debate at Princeton.
That bit about Kerry “supporting treaties and international tribunals that have undermined U.S. sovereignty” raises a different alarm. Cruz’s campaign website had a page devoted to stopping Agenda 21, a black-helicopter conspiracy theory about the United Nations abolishing “‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.” We should have known better.
So why didn’t the media raise the alarm when a possible demagogue was sailing toward a U.S. Senate seat? If there’s a media bias in Texas, it’s to ignore the ridiculous as unserious and unworthy of attention. Not spotlighting the absurdity deprives Texans of the unintentional high comedy of their elected officials who remain bathed in the flattering light of undeserved dignity. (Case in point, Rick Perry. In Texas, the media portrayed him as a serious, ideologically conservative leader, but once he crossed the state line… Oops.)
Cruz road a tea party wave from 4% in the polls into the U.S. Senate. It’s possible that this was not a marriage of convenience but of common interests. We’re not all crazy in Texas—a poll out today shows that a plurality of Texans supports banning assault weapons—but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Cruz could be.
On Jan. 30, 2013, MSNBC posted this column on its website.