You might not have noticed this, but on Monday morning Monmouth University released a poll on the GOP primary race in Iowa that showed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) vaulting into first place with 24 percent of the vote, five points ahead of the supposed GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
You might not have noticed it, because by Monday afternoon Trump had put out a bombshell of a statement calling for a ban on entry into the United States of any and all Muslims until the government “figures out what the hell is going on.” No more were there headlines about Cruz’s quiet building of a juggernaut political organization and his efforts coming into flower as the potential new frontrunner in the race. Instead, we were treated not just to Trump’s plan to rid America of the Islamic menace but the breathless and hysterical reaction to it by the Washington elite of both parties.
“Unhinged,” said Jeb Bush.
“This is not conservatism,” said Paul Ryan.
“Disqualifying,” said President Obama’s media shill Josh Earnest.
“Goes against everything we stand for and believe in,” said Dick Cheney.
“A race-baiting, xenophobic bigot,” spat Lindsey Graham.
But what of Cruz? After all, it was the Senator’s party that Trump spoiled by dropping that media bombshell.
“I disagree with that proposal,” he said when asked about Trump’s controversial Muslim policy.
Cruz went on to say that while lots of people want him to castigate and condemn Trump for his “bigoted” and “un-American” statements, he’s not going to do that. Asked about the constitutionality of Trump’s ban on Muslims, he dodged the question. “I am focused on my policies and the solutions that I am proposing to the real problems of this country,” Cruz replied.
Cruz’s refusal to get into verbal fisticuffs is driving the moderate wing of the GOP, and many of their mouthpieces in the media, insane. One Republican consultant and frequent cable news talking head of my acquaintance actually came up with the idea that Cruz’s refusal to condemn Trump would cost him dearly with evangelicals and the devout in the GOP base because it’s un-Christian to sanction such hatred.
Everyone else has attacked Trump personally, so the Christian thing for Cruz to do is to follow suit. Naturally!
It’s not enough for him to simply reject Trump’s policies — Cruz has to join the lynch mob to prove his acceptability. This was something Earnest alluded to during his pre-scripted rant about Trump’s proposal. The whole quote: “What he said is disqualifying. And any Republican who’s too fearful of the Republican base to admit it has no business serving as president either.”
This, as Earnest defended his boss’s idea to violate not just the Second Amendment rights, but the Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights of some 100,000 Americans on the “no-fly” list by attempting to deny them the ability to purchase firearms via executive order. That brilliant idea, which Kevin Williamson at National Review rightly recognized as the confluence of laziness, stupidity, and corruption of the public sector, would essentially put Barack Obama as the arbiter of who among his subjects are suitable to purchase firearms.
Nothing — nothing — has been put forth in the aftermath of San Bernardino so patently obnoxious to American liberty as Obama’s plan. And yet we’re in the midst of a national paroxysm over a poorly formulated statement by Trump about Muslim immigration.
Cruz, who has written legislation that would do essentially the same thing Trump suggested but is actually not just constitutional but practicable as a matter of policy and politics — he would stop immigration from countries with high concentrations of terror ties and specifically al Qaeda and ISIS — is simply more intelligent than the herd of Republican contenders rushing to make their bones on Trump’s mistake.
He’s more intelligent because unlike them Cruz understands that a majority of Americans, and a large majority of Republicans, are queasy about the presence of a large Muslim community in the United States in the aftermath of Paris and San Bernardino. More than 60 percent see America as at war with radical Islam, and 62 percent want a complete halt to the importation of Syrian refugees. Those numbers were before San Bernardino; they can only be higher now. And regardless of how the question is framed, well more than 60 percent of Americans express little or no trust in our current president to adequately address the jihadist threat either here or abroad.
And let’s face it, in the aftermath of San Bernardino few Americans, and a scant few Republicans, are surprised by the Center for Security Policy’s study showing that 51 percent of American Muslims believe sharia law should supersede American law and 25 percent believe violence against non-Muslims is justified. Cruz has his own plan that would more responsibly address the problem Trump raised. Why should he spend time talking about Trump’s ideas when he believes his are better?
And why should he join the lynch mob trashing Trump for bringing attention to an issue in which his proposals both meet the concerns of a majority of Americans and lack the baggage and infirmities of Trump’s amateurish phrasing?
Cruz is triangulating here, as he should. To the Trump supporters, he’s offering to bring much of the same chutzpah and sharp departure from the Obama status quo that Trump does. And to the two-thirds of the GOP who don’t support Trump, he’s offering to save the party from the loudmouthed real estate magnate. That triangulation also has the benefit of inoculating the GOP against a potential independent Trump run; Trump voters who might consider following him into a third-party run would quite likely see in Cruz an acceptable alternative who can win while an independent Trump cannot.
But most importantly, Cruz sees that the public has lost faith in government and more specifically in our governing elite. That’s not just true of the lapsed Republicans, independents, lost Reagan Democrats, and other disgusted voters who make up Trump’s camp followers, it’s true of most of the GOP base and even a lot of the Democrat party who have fallen to the Occupy movement and other unproductive political exercises on the Left. He understands that Trump in his party, and Bernie Sanders on the other side, are feeding on that lost faith. And to join with the governing elite in their politically correct assault on Trump’s character for having offered a statement that speaks to the public’s desire for action on the problem of radical Islam in our midst would make him irrelevant. Just like it makes John Kasich, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina irrelevant (see their abysmal poll numbers if you don’t agree).
In short, Cruz is a lot smarter than his critics. And he’s smarter than the Brand X moderate munchkins in the Republican race. He’s smarter than Trump as well. And when this reality show of a pre-primary contest starts to become a real election early next year, it won’t just be the Monmouth poll in Iowa that has him as the frontrunner.
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