Demonizing Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz has made quite an impression in just three months in the Senate. Like Marco Rubio, he is the son of a Cuban exile. He is a extraordinarily talented guy. Unlike Barack Obama, he had a stellar record both in academia and in the practice of law: he was national debating champion, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was named by American Lawyer magazine as one of the 50 Best Litigators under 45 in America, served as Solicitor General of the State of Texas and authored more than 80 briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court. As a law student, Cruz was described by Professor Alan Dershowitz as “off the charts brilliant.” He was elected to the Senate last year in what the Washington Post called “the biggest upset of 2012 . . . a true grassroots victory against very long odds.” So it is not surprising that, just as Cruz has quickly become a hero on the right, the Democratic Party is out to destroy him.

The Post’s Dana Milbank contributed to that effort yesterday. Milbank is a bit like Jon Stewart: he often comes across as a clown, but his underlying purpose is deadly serious. This is how Milbank began his hatchet job on Cruz:

Is there nobody who can tell Ted Cruz to shut up?

The young senator from Texas has been on the job for about 100 days, but he has already turned the Senate’s ancient seniority system upside down and is dominating his senior Republican colleagues. He’s speaking for them on immigration, guns and any other topic that tickles his fancy; Republican leaders are seething at being outshone yet are terrified of challenging him.

If Milbank had any evidence to support this assertion, it would make for an interesting story of the Washington gossip variety. But Milbank, a notoriously partisan Democrat, is no intimate of Republican leaders of the Senate, and he cites no evidence to back up his claim that “Republican leaders are seething,” but “terrified” of Cruz. Milbank did, however, go to the trouble of counting up words at a recent press conference:

Consider his news conference this week to promote the Republican alternative to gun control. …

Cruz took over the lectern and refused to relinquish it. He spoke 2,924 words for the cameras, more than Grassley (904), Graham (1,376) and Coats (360) — combined. Factoring in his dramatic pauses to convey sincerity and deep thought, Cruz’s dominance was even more lopsided. The others shifted uncomfortably and looked awkwardly around the room. At one point, Graham requested a chance to speak. “Can I?” he asked Cruz.

Now, it’s possible that Cruz talked too long. In D.C., it has been known to happen. But I suspect it is more likely that Cruz was delegated to carry the ball at the press conference, and Milbank tells us nothing to the contrary.

But now Milbank gets to the real point:

Cruz is 42, the same age Joe McCarthy was when he amassed power in the Senate with his allegations of communist infiltration. Tail-gunner Ted debuted in the Senate this year….

This is one of the most ludicrous smears in the history of journalism. It would make as much sense to say “Cruz is 42, the same age as Thomas Jefferson when he was named Ambassador to France.” Or “Cruz, like Abraham Lincoln, is tall.” But Milbank wanted to echo the Democratic Party’s chosen route of attack by linking Cruz, however randomly, with McCarthy.

Why? Because “Tail-gunner Ted debuted in the Senate this year with the insinuation that Chuck Hagel, now the defense secretary, may have been on the payroll of the North Koreans.” In fact, Cruz, along with a number of other Republicans, criticized Hagel for refusing to explain his sources of income during the years after he left the Senate. It is reasonable to suspect, given Hagel’s out of the mainstream foreign policy views, that he may have received honoraria from Middle Eastern countries or groups, in particular. What Cruz said–“We do not know, for example, if he received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups. It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea”–made perfect sense, given that Hagel was nominated to be Secretary of Defense.

Milbank goes on to accuse Cruz of lying on various occasions, but in each case, Cruz was right and Milbank is wrong:

On guns, Cruz’s high profile required Grassley to give the upstart a premium chunk of floor time for his trademark falsehoods. Cruz claimed that his bill was the “result of multiple hearings in the Judiciary Committee.” (It was never brought before the panel.)

But Cruz didn’t say his bill “was brought before the panel,” he said it grew out of the Judiciary Committee’s hearings, like this one. There is no inconsistency at all.

He claimed the opposing legislation would extend “background checks to private transactions between private individuals.” (The bill applied to only advertised sales. [sic])

This one is mystifying. Under current law, only federally licensed dealers have to run background checks. The whole point of the Democrats’ proposed legislation and the Manchin/Toomey compromise bill was to extend background checks to private transactions between private individuals, specifically over the internet and at gun shows. Cruz obviously was correct.

Off the floor, he made the patently false claim that the “so-called ‘gun show loophole’” doesn’t exist.

Again, Milbank is simply wrong. There is no “gun show loophole.” Gun shows are treated exactly like everything else: if a licensed dealer sells a firearm at a gun show, he has to run a background check. If a private citizen sells a firearm at a gun show, he doesn’t. Milbank and his fellow liberals may not like the existing law, but Cruz stated it accurately.

If this is the best Milbank and the Democrats can do to illustrate Ted Cruz’s “trademark falsehoods,” they are going to have to come up with a new line of attack.

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