The new U.S. Senator from Texas, Republican Ted Cruz, is rapidly building a reputation, although one that few should be proud of. In the short time he’s been in the Senate, Cruz has found himself in a small, hardcore faction of right-wingers on a variety of issues. For example, he cast a “no” vote on the Violence Against Women Act, which passed the Senate by a large margin. He also was one of just three senators who voted against the confirmation of John Kerry as U.S. Secretary of State. He even attacked Kerry and Chuck Hagel, the Republican nominee for Defense Secretary, as insufficiently supportive of the military. Kerry and Hagel served in Vietnam, both earning Purple Hearts. Cruz never served in the military.
Sen. Cruz’s crude attacks on Hagel during the latter’s Senate confirmation hearing were too much even for some of his Republican Senate colleagues. And his insinuations that Hagel might have earned money from our nation’s foreign enemies have led more than one observer to compare him to the notorious Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose red-baiting smears in the 1950s were infamous. From a piece in the New York Times this week:
Without naming names, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, offered a biting label for the Texan’s accusatory crusade: McCarthyism.
“It was really reminiscent of a different time and place, when you said, ‘I have here in my pocket a speech you made on such and such a date,’ and, of course, nothing was in the pocket,” she said, a reference to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s pursuit of Communists in the 1950s. “It was reminiscent of some bad times.”
In a separate piece, “The G.O.P.’s Nasty Newcomer,” New York Times columnist Frank Bruni sees Sen. Cruz as yet another example of a Republican Party that “accommodates too much quackery, belligerence and misplaced moralism to play a fully credible part in a vital, essential debate about the size and scope of government”:
“On the surface, he should be part of the solution: young, Latino, with a hardscrabble family story including his father’s imprisonment in Cuba and escape to the United States. But Republicans who look to him and see any kind of savior overlook much of what drags the party down, which isn’t merely or even principally the genealogy of their candidates. It’s the intransigent social conservatism, the whiff of meanness and the showy eruptions. It’s what Cruz, who rode a wave of Tea Party ardor to victory in Texas in November, distills.”
We saw that intolerance and meanness during the Republican primary for the Senate seat last year, when Cruz attacked one of his opponents, Tom Leppert, for walking with his constituents in gay pride parades when he was mayor of Dallas:
“When the mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement. It’s not a statement I believe in.”
And what statement is that, Sen. Cruz? That Leppert was the mayor for all of his constituents, not just some?
Not surprisingly, religious-righters in Texas love Sen. Cruz. The question is whether most others will tire of his extremism, intransigence and nastiness over the next six years. After all, that’s what happened to Joseph McCarthy.