Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas with presidential aspirations, is a product of our celebrity culture. He makes sure he says the most outlandish things – one guesses to gain continuing attention and to appeal to a right-wing base, which seems to consistently turn more radical. In a state that often talks secession from the union, Texans love him, but this affection is not now shared, even among many fellow Republicans, maybe because of the “upstage factor.”
He spent much of the summer recess crisscrossing Texas and keynoting conservative functions saying that if Obama does not defund Obamacare, he will bring down the government.
Now, his bizarre – if not racist — plaint is that we need 100 more like Jesse Helms’ in the Senate. For those who remember Jesse Helms, he was an unapologetic racist. He was ardently opposed to all kinds of civil rights measures and even tried to block the Senate from approving a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. But he was an equal opportunity bigot. There was no cause of equality he seemed to be for, including gay rights, affirmative action, equal pay for women, affordable health care, voting rights and civil rights – to name just a few.
In a political landscape in which it’s difficult to shock audiences, one would guess that Cruz and his advisors calculate his next action move, noting those moves that get most media attention. For example, much to his camp’s dismay, in August, President Obama’s new dog got more national attention than Cruz’s summer recess campaign calling for the defunding of “Obamacare — or else we’ll bring down the government.”
Cruz also makes sure he covers all the conservative bases. In August, speaking at the Family Leadership Summit at Ames, Iowa, he had acerbic words about Hillary, whom he expects to be his opponent for the next presidential campaign.
The planned NBC and CNN movies about Hillary Clinton will be nothing more than love letters to her, he said. “And indeed I would expect both of those movies to be released on Valentine’s Day,” he intoned, playing to the right-wing crowd. In his syrupy but scornful tone, he went on, “I expect the central debate in those movies to be whether she is eligible for sainthood or if she can only be named a saint posthumously.”
Republican National Committee Chairman, Reince Preibus had already weighed in on this by threatening a boycott of NBC if the Clinton documentary was aired. Not authoring this, Cruz didn’t comment on Preibus’s threat.
Near the end of July, he had also turned up in Denver at the Colorado Christian University’s fourth-annual Conservative Western Summit. In addition to defunding Obamacare, another measured assault balloon centered on the IRS, a GOP-supported scandal: “abolish the IRS and rewrite the nation’s tax code.” Roughly 2,000 Republican voters applauded the far-right message.
Attached to the Tea Party Movement, Cruz seems to revel in its message and his relationship with it. Whether the Harvard-educated freshman Senator is a racist remains to be seen. It seems more likely his acclaim of Helms, in saying we need 100 more like him, is more in this acclaim’s maverick appeal and in the specter of aghast reactions to it than for true allegiance to racism.
His short history of performances indicates early political schooling, and is more of a studied shrewdness in gaining media attention, establishing a sort of celebrity status, promoting entertainment value and honing his audience appeal than it does for claiming any serious affirmation of principle. I believe his real beliefs, though rock-hard conservative, lie hidden.
He sees himself running for president in 2016, already noting the one-term-Senate-based Obama success, thus seeing his own ascendency from a celebrity-based, soft-right philosophy rather than the pseudo-left of Obama.
As a smart planner and keen competitor, his mocking attack on Hillary Clinton was just part of an early assault on the image of a possible opponent for his planned presidential campaign.
Unlike Mitt Romney and most future Republican candidates, he is smart enough and smoothly deceptive enough to take his performance to a broader audience of voters when the general election comes.
I believe we will see him in serious contention in 2016.Tweet
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