Ted Cruz is not going to win Senator Congeniality.
Not that he cares. The newly arrived Texas Republican has come out, well, guns blazing — and not just on guns.
The traditional stance for a freshman senator is to hold back a bit. Being reticent and deferential are not qualities that come naturally to those who manage to win Senate seats, but most new senators choose, as much as it clashes with their instincts, to tamp down.
Since being sworn in less than two months ago, the 42-year-old tea party darling has:
Been one of three senators to vote against confirming fellow Sen. John Kerry as secretary of state.
Expressed “deep concerns” with a bipartisan immigration-reform blueprint crafted by, among others, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Introduced his first bill, to “repeal every last word of Obamacare.”
Tangled with Rahm Emanuel over the Chicago mayor’s “bullying campaign” to have the city’s pension funds divest their investments in gun manufacturers.
Most notably, Cruz — a Princeton debating champion, Harvard Law School graduate, law clerk to the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and Texas solicitor general — trained his formidable rhetorical skills on two targets: gun control proposals and President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican.
Cruz has taken the wear-their-scorn-as-a-badge-of-honor approach with liberal critics. “I view all of that as a sign that maybe we’re doing something right,” he told Glenn Beck.
Yet he has rankled even Republican colleagues, who think he lectures too much at private party sessions — “pontificates” is one word used — and listens too little, especially for a newbie.
One Republican senator described Cruz to me as “Jim DeMint without the charm,” referring to the rigidly conservative South Carolina Republican who left the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation — not exactly renowned for being warm and fuzzy. Cruz is said to have a frosty relationship with his state’s senior senator, John Cornyn, dating to Cruz’s surprising decision, as Senate candidate, not to endorse his fellow Texan’s bid for party whip.
Cruz was elected by the people of Texas, who knew what they were getting when they picked him over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the choice of the GOP establishment. That’s democracy. No one can claim to be surprised by Cruz’s positions.
But with his latest attack on Hagel, Cruz has gone too far. Cruz has every right — indeed, he has an obligation — to question Hagel vigorously. He has a right to demand relevant information. He has a right to vote against Hagel; indeed Republicans are now filibustering the nomination.
No supporting evidence
But Cruz doesn’t have the right to smear Hagel, with no supporting evidence, with insinuations that the nominee received money from foreign governments or extremist groups.
“We do not know, for example, if he received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups,” Cruz told the Senate Armed Services Committee before it voted Tuesday to approve Hagel’s nomination. “It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.’’
Cruz’s sleazy innuendos about hidden foreign money are undercut by a requirement to disclose any transactions with a foreign government — going back 10 years.
Where Cruz truly crossed the line, though, was in insinuating — with no proof whatsoever — that Hagel has something to hide.
Washington Post Writers Group