Ted Cruz, the Junior Senator from Texas, has seen his poll numbers rapidly increase in recent weeks and, despite having terrifyingly bad positions on almost every issue, has emerged as the main challenger to Donald Trump. The prelude this latest debate, therefore, was hyped as a contest between Cruz and Trump, and unfortunately Cruz was not shown to be as crazy as is true. His answers were exactly what much of the Republican base wanted to hear which is worrying for all sane people around the world.
Cruz began his contribution to the evening’s proceedings by accusing President Obama of engaging in “doublespeak” because he was “going after our constitutional rights”. What the Senator is referring to is the attempts by President Obama to get sensible gun control measures implemented before he leaves office which, as legal scholars from across the political spectrum have pointed out, is not the same as trying to legislate to get rid of the Second Amendment.
Also, if we accept the false premise that Obama was trying to repeal the Second Amendment, he couldn’t. You cannot legislate to get rid of constitutional rights, and the President doesn’t legislate anyway. If the Democrats were trying to get rid of the Second Amendment he could do it in two ways, neither of which are open to him. He could go through Article V of the US Constitution which enables a Constitutional Convention to be called if two-thirds of state legislatures call for one on a specific issue, however the Democrats don’t control both houses in two-thirds of legislatures.
The second option would be if two-thirds of Congress agreed to have a Constitutional Convention on the issue of repealing the Second Amendment, which is also closed because the GOP control both houses of Congress. Essentially, in this little sentence Cruz, who prides himself on his knowledge of the Constitutional, has revealed himself to be one of two things: a man totally ignorant of the US Constitution, or a deceitful politician who is actively trying to make the Republican base think their constitutional rights are under threat. Personally, I believe it to be the latter.
Cruz then went on to chastise the Obama Administration for wanting to bring in tens of thousands of refugees “when the Head of the FBI has told Congress they cannot vet those refugees”. Politifact, the fact-checking organisation that bends over backwards to seem impartial (and therefore is more lenient with the Republicans), has determined this statement to be “mostly false”. This is unsurprising as James Comey, the Director of the FBI said that he couldn’t personally vet every single refugee, which was what the bill in question (American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015), said. What Cruz ignores is that Comey only said that he personally couldn’t vet tens of thousands of refugee, however Cruz has universalised this to mean that the entire US government cannot vet these refugees. This is, unsurprisingly, bullshit.
His solution to this problem (that doesn’t exist) is to stop any refugees coming from countries in which ISIS or Al-Qaeda control “substantial amounts of territory”. He then cited India as a model for this as “they weren’t having problems”. Firstly most Syrian refugees are now in Jordan so would they be let in? Secondly, if that is your logic, would you let in people from Nigeria where a substantial amount of land is controlled by Boko Haram? Thirdly, what does “substantial amounts of territory mean”?
Finally, India does have Islamic terrorism. Republicans talk about 9/11 a lot so let’s do the same. Since 9/11 there have been attacks all over India perpetrated by a wide range of groups, many of which were Islamists. To name just a few: the 2002 Akshardham Temple attack killed 32 people, the 2005 New Delhi bombing killed 62 and injured 210 others, the 2003 Mumbai bombings killed 52 and injured 300, the 2008 Mumbai attacks killed 166 and injured over 600, and the 2013 Hyderabad blasts which killed 17 and injured 119.
On the issue of surveillance and privacy, the Texas Senator said “I joined with conservatives in the House and the Senate to reform how we target bad guys”. This shows how pathetically uninformed the Republican base is. To boil down a complicated policy area into simply ‘fighting bad guys’ illustrates the infantile approach of both Republican politicians and Republican voters.
When everybody in the world talks about fighting terrorism everyone says something along the lines of ‘it’s complicated’. For politicians like Cruz to imply that it’s incredibly simple by reducing down to ‘USA vs the bad guys’ is worrying, especially given that the winner of this contest might one day have the nuclear codes.
He also repeatedly said “radical Islamic terrorists” because it is thought in the far-right bubble that by calling ISIS radical Islamic terrorists, part of the battle is won as the enemy is named. President Obama has generally refused to call ISIS by this phrase because he wants to avoid associating Muslims with ISIS. As an atheist I find this annoying because it ignores that fact that there would be no religious terrorism if there was no religion, but I can understanding why Obama doesn’t choose to do this. Also it’s worth pointing out that identifying ISIS as radical Muslims doesn’t really doing anything to defeat them so this is, in its distillation, a pointless debate.
On foreign policy more broadly Cruz said that any foreign policy should be “America First”. In order to display his libertarian credentials, he said that Assad should not be toppled because ISIS would fill the void; remarkably this was a completely sane statement. He then put this sanity behind him to complain that America should “stop being Woodrow Wilson democracy promoters”. Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy philosophy was Liberalism, which focusses on the importance of trade, international institutions, and democracy.
What Cruz is doing, however, is incredibly misleading because what he’s doing is implying that the escapades of the US in recent years were an expression of Liberalism. Indeed this wouldn’t be surprising as George W. Bush often spoke about “spreading democracy”. If we look at the historical record we can easily establish what Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy was. As outlined in his Fourteen Points speech, Wilson wanted to promote democracy in Europe after WWI and establish the League of Nations to prevent unnecessary wars. The wars of Bush and Obama have been based in pure realpolitk, and have not been about trying to spread democracy. The 2003 Iraq War was used to show Bush as a decisive leader after 9/11 and Obama’s interventions in Syria and Libya have been destabilising at best. Cruz, in this one statement, has tried to brand Liberalism with the mistakes of recent years when anyone vaguely knowledgeable about foreign affairs is aware that these interventions have been expressions of neo-Conservatism.
Cruz and Rubio sparred over campaign tactics, surveillance, the National Defense Authorisation Act, and illegal immigration. Check out my piece on Marco Rubio to see my analysis of these dust ups.
Cruz’s final contribution came in the form of portraying himself as the only candidate that would be an effective President. The Texas Senator, in a rhetorical reference to himself, said: “who has the experience, the vision, and the judgement to be Commander-in-Chief?”. Even if we are generous and say that Cruz has the vision and judgement to be President, which I would personally dispute, he clearly doesn’t have the experience to be President. He is a first-term Senator from Texas and has never had any experience as a political executive (i.e. like a Governor or Cabinet Secretary). He continued that all of the people on the stage, including Carly Fiorina and John Kasich, would be infinitely better than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which was an unsurprising thing to say in front of a Republican audience.
He ended his remarks by putting Iran and ISIS in the same category of “radical Islamic terrorists”. Obviously this is stupid because Iran is fighting ISIS and Iran aren’t trying to take over the world. But I believe that the reason Cruz is doing this is to court the’ Americans living in Israel’ vote as Benjamin Netanyahu is the only other person who says that Iran is the biggest threat to world peace.
To conclude Cruz debate performance was very good and his rhetoric against other candidates, especially Marco Rubio, was well-received by the Republican base. When this campaign began I couldn’t fathom a situation in which Cruz could win because he was so right-wing, but with the rise of actual fascism in the form of Donald Trump the debate has shifted so far to the Right that Cruz could be the nominee. In my view Cruz could well be the only candidate more dangerous than Donald Trump as his financial policies, which weren’t mentioned in this debate, would ruin the American economy and could have repercussions around the world. Cruz shouldn’t be in second place but he is and this is profoundly worrying, especially given that the most likely Democratic nominee is an establishment puppet of Wall Street.