Political Hay

Ted Cruz: Man of the Year

He's both principled and effective

By 12.19.13

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Ted Cruz stood on the floor of the Senate and answered his critics: “….do you expect me to remain here silent, or to shrink from the discharge of my duty?… I will speak in spite of all the intimidations, or threats, or discountenances that may be thrown upon me.”

Actually, Ted Cruz did not say that. But the fact that it is so easily believable that he did say it says exactly why Ted Cruz, Time magazine’s selection of the Pope notwithstanding, is the real “Man of the Year.” In fact, while Cruz did make Time’s shortlist, he also popped up in a Rasmussen poll just behind the Pope and President Obama as 2013’s “most influential person.”

The man who said the words above was another celebrated Senator from Texas.

That would be Sam Houston, one of the fathers of Texas independence and the first United States Senator from Texas, as he rose on the Senate floor in 1854 to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska bill. Kansas-Nebraska, an overwhelming favorite with Houston’s fellow Democrats, repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and reopened the issue of extending slavery that had presumably been settled by the Compromise of 1850. Houston, correctly as it later turned out, saw the bill as fueling the fires of civil war.

His fellow Senate Democrats were infuriated with Houston. Already viewed with suspicion for what was termed his “eccentric dress and his habit of whittling pine sticks on the Senate floor while muttering at the length of senatorial speeches,” Houston was now assailed as a “traitor.”

Today, the term of art is not “traitor” — it’s “wackobird.”

And the target is another United States Senator from Texas — Ted Cruz.

As was true of Sam Houston, these kinds of attacks do not come the way of the unaccomplished or the politically fearful. If Houston is today seen as both a Texas legend and American hero, it is less remembered that he was once the subject of fierce controversy, not only in the Senate but back home in Texas as well. Yet Houston stood tall as a torrent of abuse rained down on him. In the 20th century, Senator John F. Kennedy would cite Sam Houston’s political courage and his accomplishments, selecting Houston as one of eight senators celebrated for their impact both on the Senate and America in JFK’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage. Houston and his senatorial colleagues from different eras in American history were held up as examples of senators who persisted in spite of “the risks to their careers, the unpopularity of their courses, the defamation of their characters” and ferocious attacks on “their reputations and principles.”

Nothing describes Ted Cruz better than that description of Sam Houston by John F. Kennedy.

Not for Cruz the idea that he was elected to represent Washington insiders, consultants and the Republican Establishment to his fellow Texans. Cruz is of the belief that his presence in the Senate gives him the responsibility to represent Texans in Washington, not Washington to Texas.

In the doing of actually representing his constituents — the citizens of Texas who have had it up to here with Washington shenanigans that are now costing them jobs, damaging their businesses and losing them their health care — Ted Cruz has established himself Houston-style as one of the nation’s most important — make that effective — Senators.

Here’s a short list of accomplishment that is extraordinary for a freshman senator:

Obamacare: Cruz and fellow freshman Mike Lee of Utah were pilloried for rallying the grassroots in a call for the defunding of Obamacare. Contrary to the line from the White House, Democrats and their allies in the liberal media, it was the Obama administration that insisted on shutting down the government unless Obamacare was funded. In spite of the vitriol directed at Cruz, he and Lee have been repeatedly vindicated as Obamacare kicked in and began wreaking havoc on both the American health care system and the larger economy. Just as Ronald Reagan did repeatedly during his time in the White House, Cruz and Lee drew a philosophical line in the sand to contrast the differences between the parties.

• Gun Control: Along with Rand Paul and Mike Lee, Cruz led the fight to stop the Obama gun control initiative in its tracks. The key here was insisting on a 60-vote threshold on the Motion to Proceed, a parliamentary maneuver that effectively activated the conservative base and fingered wavering “red-state” Republicans and Democrats. The Obama gun control bill crashed and burned, infuriating the President who quickly walked into the Rose Garden and made his fury well known, blistering senators who had followed the lead of Cruz, Paul and Lee.

Syria: Cruz again stepped into the breech, this time on a critical foreign policy issue. Standing resolutely against the idea of a US air attack on Syria unless there were identifiable American interests at stake, Cruz’s view won the day.

Immigration: The son of a Cuban immigrant, Cruz was out front in the fight against the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” (four Republicans and four Democrats) who had fashioned a deeply flawed immigration bill that essentially promoted amnesty first while relegating border security to a lagging second place. Cruz stepped up with a tough border security plan and other measures that kept the bill from reaching more than 70 votes, reducing the immigration bill’s chances in the House. It is noteworthy that House Speaker John Boehner, fresh from castigating conservatives over the budget deal, is reported ready to begin a push for immigration next year. Setting up another clash between conservatives and the GOP Establishment — and providing Cruz yet another opportunity for leadership.

Drones: Last but not least, Cruz stood with Rand Paul in Paul’s historic filibuster against U.S. drone policy. It was Cruz who forced Attorney General Eric Holder to acknowledge that yes, in fact, the Constitution really did keep the Obama administration — or any administration — from using drones to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil if said citizens did not represent an imminent threat.

What has been the result of all this Cruz activity?

Contrary to the notions floated by Washington’s Establishment minions, polls taken after the government shutdown that was supposedly such a horrific experience show something very curious indeed.

Take this CNN/ORC poll which was published on CNN’s site with this headline:

CNN/ORC poll: Democrats lose 2014 edge following Obamacare uproar

Reports CNN:

Washington (CNN) — What a difference a month makes.

A new CNN/ORC International poll indicates a dramatic turnaround in the battle for control of Congress in next year's midterm elections.

Democrats a month ago held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates.

That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.

But the Democratic lead has disappeared. A new CNN/ORC poll indicates the GOP now holds a 49%-47% edge. 

Then there’s this poll from the Washington Post headlined:

Obama’s ratings tumble after health-care flaws

Reports the Post:

The flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act has pushed President Obama to the lowest point of his presidency, with dwindling faith in his competence….Disapproval of Obama’s handling of the health-care law’s rollout stands at 63%, with a majority saying they strongly disapprove.

Then there was this Fox poll, also taken after the Cruz-led drive to defund Obamacare.

The headline: 

Support for Obama, health law plummets in new polls

And the Quinnipiac poll

Dems Lose 9-Point Edge To Tie GOP In 2014 House Races

These polls are nothing if not vindication for Cruz.

In fact, they are more than that. We have written before in this space of President Reagan’s veto of the 1987 Clean Water bill that was pushed by Democrats as an environmental bill. Reagan saw the bill correctly as loaded with pork and having little to do with the environment. Reagan was assailed by Democrats on the floor of the House and elsewhere as being in favor of dirty water and pollution. The President summoned the House Republican leadership of the day to the White House and asked for their support of his veto. Since the Democrats controlled the House, there was no chance that House Republicans could stop the move to override Reagan’s veto. But Reagan wanted the GOP congressmen to stand up and oppose the override anyway. Why? Reagan believed as a general rule, and specifically in this case, that even when a loss was looming it was important, as he wrote in his diary, “to point out to the people how different the Dems & Reps are.” Then as now the GOP Establishment wimped — Reagan got the support of a mere 26 Republicans. And come the next election? The House GOP remained in the minority. Not until 1994, when Newt Gingrich has replaced the Establishment’s Bob Michel and began drawing Reagan-style sharp lines between House Republicans and Democrats did the GOP win the House — for the first time in 40 years.

Which is another way of saying that Ted Cruz has learned the lesson of Ronald Reagan. Unless the GOP regains its Reaganite status as a party of “bold colors” it is doomed to minority status.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.