The short political life of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has not seen a shortage of talking points. In the months following Cruz’s surprise victory over establishment choice, Lieutenant-Governor David Dewhurst, and his notably less-surprising victory over Democratic Senate candidate Paul Sadler, Cruz has remained in the spotlight. While this attention was initially positive press for the Republican Party, Cruz has, more recently, cut a controversial figure.
On paper, Cruz’s record is enviable: A graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, an ex-clerk for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and former Texas solicitor general, Cruz’s résumé fits the profile of a rising-star in the Republican Party, a label that has been attributed on numerous occasions. His victory over a highly favoured establishment candidate, as well as a victory in the subsequent general election, provided the Tea Party with another high-profile standard-bearer to highlight their continued presence at state-level.
The senator’s fragile relationship with the truth, however, is not a new concept. In a speech by Cruz in 2010, he asserted that, during his time at Harvard, there were 12 communists on the teaching staff of the law school, who "believed in the overthrow of the U.S government," a position Cruz maintains to be correct, despite evidence to the contrary. During the Republican runoff in Texas, the then-candidate also suggested that his opponent, David Dewhurst, was endorsed by Governor Rick Perry to allow the Governor to remove Dewhurst from his position as Lieutenant, a charge vigorously denied by Perry. Perry commented that these comments were "a disservice to Texas voters.". Despite Perry’s indignation, the tactic appeared to be an effective one. More recently, Cruz was brought into the spotlight once more when he hinted that Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel had accepted money from North Korea for "speaking engagements". This earned him a rebuke from John McCain, who has his own reservations with Hagel, but told Cruz not "to be disrespectful or malign his character."
Whether these seemingly ludicrous claims are true or not, they are speculative. This is something that Cruz needs to eliminate if he is to seek higher office. The Calgary-born Cruz may not currently be eligible to occupy the Oval Office, but he certainly appears to be an ambitious character. Making controversial and unverified claims such as these will not stand him in good stead for a national run. We have seen national candidates err on the side of ridiculous in the past. Nationally, a moderated candidate tends to win out.
At a time when the Republican Party is attempting to present the conservative message through more positive spectacles, Ted Cruz may not be assisting them. The GOP’s decision that presentation and message, are the issues facing the party, will not be helped by rhetoric akin to that of the House Un-American Activities Committee. If the GOP are to push forward with their window-dressing strategy and become Newt Gingrich’s "happy party," they will have to rein these wild accusations.
Ted Cruz will continue to remain popular among Tea Party Republicans. His star will not fall among those who believe that the Republican problem in 2012 was that the platform was insufficiently conservative.
His chance to appeal to establishment Republicans, and to win back national vote-share for the GOP, as George Will had hoped, seems to be ebbing away. If he desires a greater national role than providing sound bites for the Glenn Beck Program, he needs to moderate his tone.