Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Quote of the Day (Ted Cruz, on ‘The Essential Battle’ in Law and Politics)

“In both law and politics, I think the essential battle is the meta-battle of framing the narrative.  As Sun Tzu said, Every battle is won before it’s fought. It’s won by choosing the terrain on which it will be fought.”—U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), quoted in Jeffrey Toobin, “The Political Scene: The Absolutist,” The New Yorker, June 30, 2014

When it comes to the Presidential race he launched today, Ted Cruz might have a different military philosopher in mind than Sun Tzu: Mao Zedong. Just as Chairman Mao began his epic “Long March” of 1934-35 with a long game in mind—i.e., positioning himself as undisputed leader of China’s Communists—Cruz hopes to solidify himself as the authentic voice of the Republican right wing—if not in this Presidential campaign, then a few quadrennial elections down the road.

Cruz might prefer another comparison, a bit closer to home, geographically and ideologically: Ronald Reagan. A dozen years elapsed between the Gipper’s first, half-hearted attempt at the Presidency in 1968 till his victory in 1980. It took that long for the party center to shift toward Reagan, as well.

Running for the Presidency at age 44, after only two years as a Senator, suggests a politician of startling impatience. But project yourself into Cruz’s mind: In 12 years, he’ll still be 13 years younger than Reagan when the latter was finally inaugurated—and still younger than the presumptive Democratic nominee this year, Hillary Clinton.

What I’m suggesting is simple: get used to the idea of seeing Ted Cruz around for a long while. He won’t be going away anytime soon.

Moreover, he’s not a gaffe machine like prior conservative favorites such as Rick Perry, George W. Bush, Dan Quayle—or, for that matter, Reagan--so progressives won't be able simply to laugh him out of this or any future races. At his announcement speech, more than a few commentators noted, Cruz spoke for 40 minutes without notes or a teleprompter. 

In fact, Cruz has argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only has he won five, but he also managed to peel away in those decisions a couple of normally liberal votes such as retired Justice John Paul Stevens.

Too bad he hasn’t figured out the art of persuasion in the Senate. There, of course, he has aligned himself with the forces of obstruction. Toobin’s article for The New Yorker points out that, though Cruz ranks 94th out of the 100 members of the Senate, he still helped push the federal government into a 15-day shutdown in 2013 over extracting concessions from the Democratic administration over what he called "the disaster that is Obamacare"--a program whose benefits he would deny unlucky ordinary, but will gratefully accept now that his family will no longer be able to depend on his wife's private-sector job.

(There must be something in the water with these GOP newbies: No sooner had Tom Cotton of Arkansas managed to get himself elected to the Senate than he got 47 of his Republican colleagues to dash off that letter to the government of Iran about that treaty being negotiated with the Obama administration.)

All of this is not to say that I find Cruz’ politics appealing. No, sir. Appalling might be the better word for it. There’s no other way to put this: Anybody who thinks it’s a good idea to shut down the federal government, especially in an age of heightened national-security concerns, no matter his Ivy League credentials, is not a bright man.

And then there’s the matter of his record on science. From his Senate perch, Cruz has oversight of NASA. I don’t think this Tea Party devotee is the kind of politician that Dwight Eisenhower had in mind when he signed the original legislation for the agency in the 1950s.

And then there’s the matter of climate change. Cruz was even funnier than Seth Meyers when he told the talk-show host, “I just came back from New Hampshire where there's snow and ice everywhere. And my view actually is simple. Debates on this should follow science and should follow data. And many of the alarmists on global warming, they've got a problem because the science doesn't back them up. And in particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years there's been zero warming, none whatsoever.”

Had it been Reagan, Quayle or Bush, I might simply say: Hey, the guy mustn’t have gotten the memo about scientific consensus on global warming (or couldn't get past the second sentence). But this guy shows signs of actually having cracked a few books in his time. So, he must have overlooked satellite-data studies such as this one that conclude that “Over the past 35 years, the troposphere has warmed significantly…. The spatial pattern of warming is consistent with human-induced warming.”

No, I think a different book is uppermost in the mind of Cruz right now: the consultant's campaign manual that says a bunch of Iowa farmers don’t believe diddlysquat about global warming and will be damned if they’ll see any of their tax dollars going to a bunch of East Coasters coping with its consequences.

I wonder how much GOP voters are going to embrace him. I mean, get this: he’s a Senator with only a couple of years experience in that body before he decided to run for the biggest job of all in Washington, an Ivy League grad, a lawyer (educated at Harvard Law School, the gold standard), a polished speaker, a son with a foreign-born father, the product of a broken home, and someone who spent time out of the U.S. in his childhood.

On that last point, there is no doubt: Cruz was born in Canada—the northern neighbor that gave birth on this continent to socialized medicine, same-sex marriage, and who knows what else—and remained a dual citizen of that country and the U.S. until nine months ago.

All of that sounds a lot like our current Democratic incumbent—a fellow, you might recall, who has elicited the outrage of a group that became known as “birthers” because of their unusual, fact-free fixation. So far, no equivalent outrage from this group, except for one person—most famous for saying, “You’re fired”—who now seems to want to say the same thing to Cruz. Welcome to the circus, Senator. 

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