‘You either hate him or you hate him’: Why Ted Cruz just can’t get it right

Texas senator has changed course so many times it is hard to keep track, writes Andrew Buncombe

Thursday 21 January 2021 20:41 GMT
Ted Cruz is said to have few friends on Capitol Hill
Ted Cruz is said to have few friends on Capitol Hill

There was a time, not so very long ago, when Ted Cruz pitched himself as the model of integrity, the very antithesis of the likes of Donald Trump.

Campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination in 2015 and 2016, he was an early favourite of many conservatives and “pro-constitution” Republicans.

He had enough support among evangelicals to bag Iowa, the very first state in the primary process, and to earn a brief word of congratulations from Trump, before Trump resorted to form and accused the Texas senator of “stealing” the race.

Later, as the race thinned and Cruz found himself fighting against Trump for his political life, he famously accused him of being a “pathological liar”, as the Republican frontrunner insulted the senator’s wife, and claimed his father was somehow involved in the assassination of John K Kennedy.

“He is proud of being a serial philanderer,” hissed Cruz. “He describes his own battles with venereal diseases as his own personal Vietnam.”

Trump then went on to win the Indiana primary, and Cruz dropped out of the race. Such was the bad blood, that “Lyin’ Ted” did not endorse Trump at that summer’s Republican convention, waiting until September before finally offering his support.

Republican Ted Cruz compares himself to Bernie Sanders

Since then, like a mountain stream in flood, Ted Cruz, 50, has changed course several times.

In 2018, the man who studied at Princeton University and Harvard Law School, wrote a profile of Trump for Time magazine, in which he heaped bountiful praise on him.

“President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America,” he said. “The fact that his first year as Commander-in-Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.”

Cruz, a hardline conservative on social and economic issues and who was among the most strident Republican backers of Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s 2018 pick for the Supreme Court, might have fancied himself another run at the White House in 2024.

Yet he has found himself in controversy, after supporting Trump’s assertion that Joe Biden’s victory was unfair and that the 2020 election was rigged. Though unable to provide any evidence to prove such assertions, he was among more than a dozen Republican senators and 150 members of the House planing to vote against Biden’s confirmation in a joint session of Congress on January 6.  

“The purpose of the objection was to protect the integrity of our election,” he told KTRK-TV

“Eleven senators came together and proposed that the Congress create an election commission that would be credible, impartial, and could conduct an emergency 10-day audit into the election returns, into the very serious allegations of voter fraud, that could consider the evidence and make a definitive adjudication.”

When Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol and stopped the vote to confirm the electoral college tallies of the 50 states, some of those senators decided not to oppose.

Yet Cruz still voted to oppose, along with Missouri senator Josh Hawley, Mississippi senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Kansas senator Roger Marshall, Louisiana senator John Kennedy, and Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville.

Cruz denounced the violence that left five people dead, among them a Capitol Hill police officer. But he in turn was condemned for seeking to stop the democratic transfer of power and the ratification of Biden’s win.

In Texas, the Houston Chronicle wrote in an editorial: “Those terrorists wouldn’t have been at the Capitol if you hadn’t staged this absurd challenge to the 2020 results in the first place.” 

Some believe that Cruz’s chances of having a successful run have been derailed because of his association with the events of January 6.

“Cruz is very talented, really savvy. Obviously ambitious. The first time he ran for president he did really well. I would never count him out. But it’s hard to argue that the last few weeks have been helpful,” GOP strategist Alex Conant told the Dallas Morning News. “Cruz has angered a lot of people who otherwise could be helpful to him in a future campaign.”

Cruz has long been seen as someone who was popular with the base of the party, but less liked by its elected officials.

In 2013, when he forced a government shutdown in an effort to derail the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, he was named “Man of the Year” by two conservative publications, The Blaze, and The American Spectator.

At the same time he was derided as the most disliked politician on Capitol Hill. In a 2016 interview with CNN, fellow Republican senator Lindsey Graham “joked” that “if you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you”.

In 2018, Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke captured the imagination and enthusiasm of millions of Americans, when he challenged Cruz in that year’s senate race, and ran him very close

In the aftermath of the inauguration of Joe Biden, an event that had to take under the protective gaze and weaponry of 25,000 National Guard soldiers following the attack on the US Capitol, Cruz has again been looking to land some punches.

Perhaps seeking to make headlines to appeal to that chunk of Republicans who have feverishly supported Donald Trump - a calculation that also presumably lay behind his and Hawley’s decision to vote against Biden’s certification - the Texan attacked the new president’s decision to rejoin the Paris Accord on climate. The US had joined in 2016 under Barack Obama.

“By rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, President Biden indicates he’s more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh,” Cruz tweeted, seemingly of the belief that the deal had something to do with France, rather than being an international agreement to try and tackle climate change that was signed in the French capital.  

“This agreement will do little to affect the climate and will harm the livelihoods of Americans.”

Cruz’s comments were widely ridiculed, not least by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

“So happy that USA has finally rejoined the Pittsburgh Agreement. Welcome back,” she tweeted on Thursday, without mentioning Cruz by name.

Meanwhile, the Lincoln Project, the group of “Never-Trumper” Republicans said its next target would be Cruz.

The Hill reported that co-founder Rick Wilson had revealed now Trump was no longer president, he planned to turn his attention to Cruz.

It said Wilson told politics-focused podcast “Y’all-itics” he would focus on the Texas senator because of his support of Trump’s challenge to the legitimacy of Biden’s win.

“We all know Ted Cruz is sort of a political force of nature. He is what he is. You either hate him or you hate him,” Wilson said. 

“And he is a guy who went so far over the edge, not just to appease Donald Trump and Trump’s base, but because he felt like Josh Hawley had got out ahead of him on it.”

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