Dear journalists: May I have a public word with you, especially if you edit the Raleigh News and Observer? You probably take a dim view of unsolicited advice from a junior member of the guild, but I think I can save you some grief in the run-up to next year’s presidential election, with an assist from the first official candidate for the Republican nomination. That candidate would, of course, be Senator Ted Cruz. Many of the stories about him are written with the same “Get a load of this guy!” tone regardless of where they come from, but I thought a letter like mine ought first to be addressed to the media people in my own backyard.
You know better than I do that Senator Cruz does not have many friends in newsrooms. Nevertheless, it is a mistake to think of him as a buffoon the way you seem to do. In a petulant editorial published March 25, you led with the fact that he once quoted from “Green Eggs and Ham” during a Senate filibuster. Perhaps you thought that was disrespectful. Some of us remember Cruz scoring points with his winking tribute to Dr. Suess, and let’s face it: any legislative body where Joe “Malaprop” Biden has the tie-breaking vote cannot afford to put on airs, anyway. Do you not see the irony in citing a speech that you want the rest of us to think was sub-par? Disdain is not the same as argument. Moreover, the only other filibuster to make news in recent memory was done by another Texan, Wendy Davis, and nothing she said was quotable. People remember her pink sneakers more vividly than her marathon defense of abortion. If you run a web search on the phrase “Wendy Davis sneakers,” you’ll get more than 375,000 hits. If you do the same thing for “green eggs and ham,” you’ll be five pages deep into search results before the name Ted Cruz even comes up — so pick your battles more carefully.
A few other suggestions: You dismissed Senator Cruz as a “darling of the tea party.” Outside the newsroom, that’s a feature, not a bug. The same could be said for his being called one of the “wacko birds” of the Senate by John McCain, whose fawning over President Obama and cavalier treatment of erstwhile ticket-mate Sarah Palin mark him as untrustworthy among conservatives. If you want to make the case that Cruz is “divisive,” avoid using a divisive figure like McCain to do it, and do not be surprised if you get pushback from readers who wonder why you rarely cast President Obama in the same light.
When Cruz announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination in a speech to students at Liberty University, you snarkily observed that students there are required to attend convocations, but your sneer was too obviously a variation on phrasing that our president is already notorious for: Capacity crowd, Senator Cruz? You didn’t build that!
I do not much listen to radio host Glenn Beck, but give Beck credit for pointing out something you missed on purpose: the Liberty University policy that compels students to attend convocations does not require them to give standing ovations to convocation speakers, and Senator Cruz earned one of those. It wasn’t his first, either. Ironically, you dumped everything you learned in J-school about the weakness of ad hominem arguments to question the Senator’s “supposed” intelligence while declaring him “remarkably close-minded and factually impaired.” Given the ovations the man earns, lots of people seem to disagree with your assessment. Do you think anyone who agrees with Senator Cruz is similarly close-minded, I wonder? To put the question as directly as possible: How much of your readership are you willing to antagonize?
Consider the charges that you level against this particular Republican: He’s skeptical about claims for man-made climate change, unwilling to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants “despite” representing the people of a border state, and among the experts in Constitutional law who think Roe v. Wade was poorly decided. What looks unreasonable and polarizing to you seems principled to those of us who do not share your under-examined presumptions. If what you mean is, “We would respect Ted Cruz if only he were more like Barack Obama,” then please say so and be done with it.
I have a few disagreements with Senator Cruz myself. I do not think he or his party can muster the political will to close the IRS or radically simplify the U.S. tax code. In my opinion, Cruz was mealy-mouthed on the radio the other day when Sean Hannity asked him how he would grade President Obama’s job performance, and he refused to answer because, he said, he would “rather look forward than back.”
But your main quarrel with Senator Cruz seems to be that he is not tepid enough to be welcome at the altar of bipartisan consensus. You might want to re-think that line of attack, if only because those of us who hold conservative political views understand that “togetherness” and “tolerance” are — among other things — nicknames for the blankets that progressives often use to smother opposing points of view.
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