Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has been roundly and viciously criticized, not only by Democrats but also by his fellow Republicans, for launching a 21 hour filibuster Tuesday in an attempt to draw the nation's attention to the very deep flaws in the Affordable Care Act. Cruz's filibuster was undertaken, ostensibly, in what he knew to be a doomed attempt to defund the whole health care plan, which almost every Republican has agreed needs to be done but which no other Republican has any idea how to accomplish.

It's been very disappointing to see the response from his fellow Republicans. Many of them merely disagreed with the tactic, which is fine, but many others engaged in personal attacks on Cruz that were deeply discouraging. Senator John McCain, Rep. Peter King, and ersatz conservative Joe Scarborough at MSNBC were among the worst.

Senator Cruz during his 21 hour filibuster
Aside from the scurrilous attacks by these men, one of the more frustrating criticisms of Cruz was the assertion that what he was doing would never work. It was quixotic, a fool's errand, to fight a battle that couldn't be won. The Democrats control the Senate and the White House and there's no hope that Cruz would succeed. Thus, he was portrayed as everything from a "terrorist," an "arsonist," and an "extremist," (by Democrats) to a "fraud" and an "idiot" (by Republicans). I think this is not only a shameful response, it's absurd.

It's a bit like calling the Texans at the Alamo fools for standing and fighting when there was no way they could win. It's like calling the Spartans at Thermopylae idiots for refusing to flee when they knew they were in a hopeless position. I'd bet that many of those who think Cruz a "whacko bird" for fighting a fight in which he couldn't prevail were themselves inspired as they watched the movie version of Les Miserables by the young men who chose to fight an unwinnable battle on the barricades for the principle of liberty. The man who fights against impossible odds for what he believes to be right, who fights for a principle, is not a fool. In fact, we call such men heroes.

This leads me to another shameful criticism of Cruz, namely, that he only carried out the filibuster in order to bolster his chances of gaining his party's presidential nomination in 2016, not because he was animated by principle. According to the people who allege this, Cruz is in reality an unprincipled fraud whose primary motivation for taking the lead in the fight to defund Obamacare is pure political self-interest, but if this really was Cruz's motivation he chose a very odd strategy for achieving it - alienating the entire party establishment.

Furthermore, how do the people who bring this charge know that that is his motivation? What reason do they have for imputing ignoble motives to him? Have we become so cynical that we no longer believe that any politician ever does anything in the best interest of the country? Does everyone in politics always have a political motive for everything they do?

Why can't people disagree with someone without assuming the worst motives in that person? What sort of man is it who's so quick to attack an opponent with slander and insult, especially an opponent in one's own party? These attacks by Cruz's own colleagues in the GOP conference are not only extraordinarily hurtful they're historically unprecedented.

Throughout the barrage of invective, however, Cruz has responded with grace and forbearance, refusing to respond in kind to the calumnies to which he's been subjected. He's shown himself, through the arguments he's made and the irenic demeanor he has displayed, to have a compelling case against the Affordable Care Act, to be more principled than many of his detractors, and to be a far better man than any of his ugliest critics.