Friday, January 8, 2016

Donald Trump is ignorant. What’s Ted Cruz’s excuse?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) speaks during a campaign stop at Charlie’s Steakhouse in Carroll, Iowa, on Monday.

Donald Trump says lots of ridiculous and offensive things. One suspects, however, he is sincere but has not bothered to educate himself on matters of public policy and is not much of a deep thinker. (Being an aggressive businessman who inherited enormous wealth does not take much brains.) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), however, has no such excuse, and he’s starting to sound even more ridiculous than the man whom is he chasing for the nomination.

Sometimes Cruz spews catchwords that have virtually no meaning. “The Washington cartel is panicking because conservatives are uniting, he proclaims. Huh? The debate champ with two Ivy League degrees should know that this is nonsensical. Cartel? The most feasible definition in the political context is “a combination of political groups for common action.” Who exactly is in such a cartel? House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who wants to repeal Obamacare and enact conservative tax reform? He has been uniting conservatives for months. Unifying conservatives is his goal. Who else could be on Cruz’s list? There are the other 53 Republican senators. Not many (do any?) like Cruz, but they are also united on conservative goals, such as approving the Keystone XL pipeline, repealing Obamacare, blocking the Iran nuclear deal, etc.

In fact, Cruz likes to posit himself as the only real conservative, with everyone else in the GOP on the same side as the Democrats. This is more than self-serving; it’s false. In fact, conservatives are united on many things — beefing up the National Security Agency surveillance program, voting for the National Defense Authorization Act in wartime, etc. It is Cruz who is the odd man out, largely due to pandering to stray libertarian elements in the party.

Instead of making coherent arguments for his positions and explaining how he’d accomplish them, Cruz often resorts to meaningless phrases as he paints himself as the solitary victim. It might be more correct to say, “Some conservatives are worried he might get the nomination — and lose overwhelmingly to Hillary Clinton.”

Well, you say, every candidate is allowed some hyperbole. Perhaps, although one also expects serious policy ideas from someone who posits himself as the smartest man in every room. Instead, we get gibberish (make the sand “glow”).

His latest bit of political thinking concerns immigration:

The Texas senator, who is leading the field of Republican presidential candidates in Iowa according to the latest polls, was asked by a man in the state if, like Trump, he believed that all undocumented immigrants should be deported.

Cruz replied, “Absolutely yes.”

“And in fact, look, there’s a difference,” said Cruz. “He’s advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that.”

Actually Trump has not advocated letting them back into become citizens, but Cruz is now adopting the view that mass deportation of millions of people — no matter how long they’ve been here, no matter if they are productive members of society, no matter what their educational level and no matter what public service they are engaged in — will be tracked down, removed by force and never allowed back in.

Congratulations, Mr. Trump, you are no longer the most outlandish and offensive candidate on immigration. Cruz certainly knows better — as he does on NSA, fighting the Islamic State and shutting down the government — but he says these things because he imagines his audiences are simpletons, easily led around by the nose. So much for civil liberties. (How’s he going to find these people, and what’s he going to do with American-born children?) So much for fiscal conservatism. (How many billions will this cost, and what would the economic damage be from rounding up 11 to 12 million consumers, workers and payers of sales and payroll taxes?).

It is because of this sort of posturing on everything from the shutdown to immigration to national security that serious, mainstream conservatives who care about advancing conservative goals and getting elected think so poorly of Cruz. More so than Trump, he’s a demagogue ready to say things he knows to be nonsense — and to be contrary to conservative principles — for the sake of self-advancement. And it’s why his support rests on a narrow slice of the electorate unrepresentative of the party as a whole, let alone the country.

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