Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), arguably the least liked and most ambitious member of the Senate who never hesitates to condemn fellow Republicans, won't criticize Donald Trump for the noxious idea that we should ban all Muslims from coming into the United States. What's the problem? Since he does not mind attacking fellow Republicans and he says he is a big supporter of the Constitution and religious liberty, this should be an easy call. But then, this line of inquiry assumes a level of principle and consistency that is utterly absent in Cruz's character. It ignores his insatiable ambition and lack of reticence in using fear and venom to advance his own career.
The Weekly Standard reported:
" 'I disagree with that proposal. I like Donald Trump,' Cruz said at a press conference when asked about Trump's proposed ban. When a reporter specifically asked Cruz - a Harvard-trained lawyer and former solicitor general of Texas - about the constitutionality of Trump's proposal, Cruz declined to express an opinion. 'I am focused on my policies and the solutions that I am proposing to the real problems of this country,' Cruz replied. 'And I recognize that a great many folks in the media would prefer that anyone running for president engage as an ongoing theater critic criticizing the proposals of others. I do not agree with his proposal.'
"Cruz had no words of criticism for Trump or his proposal and went on to praise the real estate tycoon for drawing attention to the issue of border security. 'Certainly in the media there has been no shortage of criticism for Donald Trump. I do not believe the world needs my voice added that chorus of critics. And listen, I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America's attention on the need to secure our borders. Border security is national security,' Cruz said."
Even worse, on Monday Cruz said he'd put Trump in his Cabinet. "I like and respect Donald Trump," he proclaimed. You have to wonder why Cruz would admire such a hateful figure with such extreme ideas. Is it Trump's misogyny that he finds commendable? Maybe he finds his plan to round up all illegal aliens and their children worthy of praise.
There are a bunch of reasons for Cruz to speak out, of course, whether the world "needs" it or not. Here are seven:
1. If you want to be a back-bencher in the Senate with no responsibility for anything, then you don't need to speak out. But Cruz is offering himself as leader of the party and the Free World. It's not the world that needs to speak out, it is someone trying to convince the public of his moral and geopolitical surefooted-ness that should feel compelled to demonstrate his worthiness.
2. If Cruz has spent any amount of time studying the issues (rather than ranting about "neocons") he surely knows that it is essential that we win back Arab Sunnis, including leaders of allies such as Egypt and Jordan if we want to defeat Islamic jihadism. Tolerating rank bigotry and refusing to denounce a program that would arguably bar heads of friendly states from coming here suggests he's not finished his preparation for the presidency.
3. He is supposed to be a defender of religious liberty. Isn't that what he says? The world didn't need him to speak out about Kim Davis, but he went to meet her to prove how committed he was to the free exercise of religion. Is it just Christianity that he will protect, or do Muslim get his attention and concern as well?
4. As a practical matter, by consistently cozying up to Trump, he makes himself unacceptable to the large plurality of moderate and somewhat conservative Republicans he must win over to get the nomination. The person most delighted by Cruz's moral spinelessness is, no doubt, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who remains one of the few unifying figures in the party.
5. Rubio's positive, forward-looking message now starkly contrasts with Cruz's appeals to fear of immigrants. Remember Iowa is a caucus where neighbors have to stand up and explain themselves to fellow caucus goers; they want to feel proud of their vote.
6. It makes Cruz look weak. (And why would Trump supporters move to Cruz if Trump - in supporters' minds the real deal - is still in there?)
7. Refusing to challenge Trump confirms skeptics' concern that Cruz is all about his own ambition and less about the success of the movement and the party.
Cruz is under attack for being insufficiently serious about his "no amnesty" pledge and about national security. You can see why he wouldn't want to offend any far-right voters. But that supposes Trump followers are actual voters, real Republicans and committed primary/caucus voters. If they aren't - if they consist of poll respondents and a limited number of rally attendees without real connection to the political process - all this genuflecting in Trump's direction will be for naught.
Whether or not Cruz's tactics "work," it does speak volumes about the sort of person who would wrap his arms around a candidate who has strayed from xenophobia to near-fascism. Really, Trump is a guy Cruz admires? Good to know - before anyone casts his vote.