I’ve been wondering for several months how the left would tackle Ted Cruz should he eventually rise in the polls as I expected he would. Looking at his candidacy, he’s been sterling. However, as the left does, they find an angle on a conservative candidate, and drive it into the depths of hell. Regarding Cruz, I think I finally see where they’re going to go.
Up until this point, Cruz didn’t pose a threat to the left; he was middle-of-the-pack. I–as well as many conservatives–knew he would eventually rise, threatening the elites in the Democratic Party, as well as the establishment nominees within his own party. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime politician, along the lines of Ronald Reagan, or Margaret Thatcher. He’s the conservative antidote to the Washington disease. He has a formidable intellect, a deep understanding and love of the Constitution, and, perhaps more important than anything else, a stunning political savvy.
It’s this savvy that the left is going to use as a weapon against Cruz. Sorry in advance, I’m going to do a lot of quoting, but I think it’s important to show the full extent of the argument.
Yahoo Politics recently published a piece by Andrew Romano, which, at first glance, reads like a balanced, and perhaps even laudatory account of Cruz’s rise in the political world. But it becomes clear as the piece goes on that Romano’s intent isn’t to write a simple history of Cruz in politics, but rather a very well-structured and underhanded hit-piece.
In the article, Romano touts Cruz’s planning in the American territories like the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as well as his touring and early ground game in the so-called “SEC primary” states.
“Perhaps when it comes to campaigning for president, Ted Cruz isn’t a wacko bird after all, the new thinking goes. In fact, it seems like he knows exactly what he’s doing…Every politician plans, plots or schemes (depending on how pejorative you want to be about it); that’s part of the job. But not every politician is a prodigy at it…With the possible exception of Frank Underwood, the fictional star of Netflix’s House of Cards, there may be no shrewder, more calculating figure in American politics than Cruz — and so far, nearly all his calculations have paid off.”
Romano carefully quotes Cruz allies, such as Charles Cooper, James Ho (who followed Cruz as solicitor general of Texas), and college friend Michael Lubetzky, who offer glowing opinions of the Senator, but every quote is used to paint a larger, less flattering picture–one in which Cruz isn’t quite human.
Romano goes on:
“Many of his peers found him unlikable. Among the words they have used to describe the collegiate Ted Cruz in the decades since: ‘abrasive,’ ‘intense,’ ‘strident,’ ‘crank,’ ‘arrogant’ — even ‘creepy.'”
Romano also offers seemingly adulatory words from fellow collegiate debater Sacha Zimmerman:
“It’s chess to him. He’s a machine. He sees all these options — plan Bs and Cs. ‘If this move happens, then this move happens.’ [He would] reframe the whole debate…Cruz thought of angles ahead of time and found ways make them work for whatever the theme of the debate was…Cruz would already have his approach thoroughly mapped out, and he would have already thought through every alternate argument too. It was huge advantage.”
However many laudatory quotes Romano presents, it still comes across as unseemly. This is an extremely well-crafted hit-piece. Romano is shining through a negative lens things that most would consider positive. It’s all thought-seeding.
Romano eventually cultivates the seeds he’s planted earlier in the piece, writing about Cruz’s big moment at the CNBC debate:
“Yet on second viewing, what’s striking about Cruz’s pivot is how premeditated it sounds. Cruz’s tell is the way he was able to rattle off, with remarkable accuracy, the most unflattering questions his rivals had already been asked. It seems clear that Cruz arrived in Boulder planning to spend the first part of the debate making a mental list of every ‘biased’ query for later use. By the time Quintanilla got around to him, he was ready to strike.”
Notice a very strong trend? Cruz is incredibly intelligent! He’s scheming. Cruz is a debate phenom! He’s premeditated. Cruz is remarkable! He’s abrasive.
Romano again makes an about face, quoting legal journalist Jeffery Toobin, who seemingly praises Cruz’s legal career in appellate litigation:
“[Cruz’s legal career shows] the kind of politician Cruz has become — one who came to Washington not to make a deal but to make a point.”
Romano follows that up with:
“That’s undoubtedly true…To be a good appellate lawyer — and Cruz, according to James Ho, his successor as Texas solicitor general, is ‘easily the best appellate lawyer in the state of Texas and truly one of the best appellate lawyers in the nation’ — knowing the rules very, very well is essential. But you also have to know how to make them work in your favor.”
He’s principled! He’s calculating.
After writing at length about Cruz’s alleged failures to play well with others–from Harvard all the way to the Bush administration–Romero quotes James Ho again:
“Ted has this powerful combination. He’s able to fight for his vision of the Constitution and to fight for his principles. But he’s able to do so with the kind of rhetoric and the style of argumentation that convinces people who would normally disagree with him.”
Then brings it back down with this less positive twist:
“Maybe so. But while Cruz clearly holds strong, sincere views on the original intent of the Framers and the power of free-market economics, winning — the argument, the debate, the case, the election — seems to be at least as important to him.”
He’s so sincere, but…
Romano just keeps chugging along with this back-and-forth style, writing something seemingly positive, or sharing favorable quotes, then dropping a “but…” at the back end to show why it isn’t a positive at all.
It goes on and on. How Cruz lost a school election because people hated him, how fellow conservatives are uncomfortable by his strategizing, and how it seems condescending, how Cruz’s open talk of strategy is unnerving and arrogant.
I read this piece and said to myself: “This is the way the left will hit Cruz.”
Since there’s nothing on him at this point–no skeletons in his closet, no allegations of illegality–the left has resorted to doing what they say Cruz does best: Reframe the argument.
Throughout the piece, Romano uses words like “scheming,” “plotting,” “calculating,” and “opportunism” regularly, and makes sure to mention, as far as I can tell, every single thing Cruz has done that could be seen as a negative: litigating for Pfizer, representing a student-loan company over an indebted student, and a Chinese company over an American businessman. Anything without context that can be used to imply character flaws, Romano throws on the table.
It’s a clever argument, to be sure, because it’s not really an argument at all. It’s a series of implications intended to seed negative thoughts about Cruz as a person. These seeds, the left hopes, will develop into something substantial as they wash about in the minds of readers.
Watch for this line of argumentation being used by the left in the coming weeks and months as Cruz rises. He’s calculating, scheming, obsessed with winning, desirous of power, inhuman, callous, an opportunist, and overly shrewd. They’ll try to make Cruz into the most unlikable person since Richard Nixon because it’s all they’ve got. Don’t buy into it.
Look at Cruz’s record. Look at Cruz’s consistency. Look at Cruz’s sincerity. It’s all there.
Is he flawed? That’s like asking “Is he human?” He’s obviously flawed–as was Reagan, as was Thatcher, as are we all. That’s beside the point. Reagan and Thatcher were still extraordinary leaders. Leaders aren’t perfect people, they’re people who charge to the front of the battlefield.
And I have a message to the jackasses trying to use this line of reasoning against Cruz: Don’t try to outsmart someone who’s significantly smarter than you are–or do, and see what happens.