Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, poses for a portrait following an interview with the Associated Press in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. Cruz outlined an approach to foreign policy inspired by Ronald Reagan, saying he would restore the American leadership missing from the world under President Barack Obama. But pressed on how he would address specific hotspots of today, Cruz places limits on American action, including refusing to back ground troops to combat the Islamic State. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A Substantive Debate About Ted Cruz

As my friend Alex Castellanos notes below, I’ve responded to a piece by his and a piece he viewed favorably. He emailed and asked if I’d put up his response, which I am very happy to do. It is below. — Erick

A few days ago, my friend Erick Erickson responded to an article about Senator Ted Cruz, which I recently shared with a few friends. The post was written by another good friend, Curt Anderson.

Characteristically, Curt’s piece left little room for misinterpretation. It was titled, Donald Trump Isn’t the Biggest Narcissist in the GOP Field. Ted Cruz Is.

Erick’s response, which you should also read, is here. It occasioned questions I hope Erick and other Cruz supporters will consider.

First, for those who don’t know Erick Erickson as I do, he is a wonderful human being and as solidly conservative as the greatest of all powers could create. He loves the Lord and loves our country. He loves his family and the conservative cause, as well as good bourbon, barbecuing, and the freedom with which all Americans are blessed.

Erick responded to Curt’s arguments against Ted Cruz the same way as many of the Senator’s supporters: He did not take the criticism seriously. Mostly, he dismissed the critique, not on its merits, but because of the illegitimacy of its source. Arguments that come to Cruz supporters from the “Washington consulting class” or the “GOP establishment” are usually shelved as unworthy of consideration. In fact, Erick makes the point that Cruz’s advocates see such attacks as “endorsements” of their champion as an anti-establishment outsider.

Erick is right about that: Cruz supporters embrace all attacks from within the Washington beltway as validation of his insurrectionary candidacy.

Let me suggest that in doing so, however, they sell the conservative cause short. There are more than a few Washington consultants, and even members of the DC establishment, who are just as conservative as any Cruz supporter.

Cruz’s advocates should allow other conservatives to object to the Texas Senator, not on his principles but his politics. The argument that Senator Cruz, as a politician, is the wrong vehicle for the right cause is strong and worth honest consideration.

First, let me admit that Curt Anderson is both a talented and proficient member of the “Washington consulting class.” Not unlike Erick Erickson, however, he is also a for-real conservative.

His first client was The National Right-to-Life Committee.  He works for the NRA.  He got his start in politics with Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and The Moral Majority.  He opposes gay marriage because of his faith and in public, in print, in Politico, he has defended the right of other conservatives to do the same.

Like Erick Erickson, Curt reads his Bible, goes to church on Sundays, and is still married to the same woman he gave his vow.  Loyal to his friends, good to his word, he would rather lose a client than his soul.  Curt Anderson is a conservative who happens to be a Republican, not the reverse.

Curt has guns. I don’t. Curt hunts. I don’t. Curt is honest to a fault….

I am a member of the Washington establishment.

Dismissing Curt’s alarm because he is a “Washington consultant,” though he has helped elect conservatives like Senator Ron Johnson, Senator Tom Cotton, and Governor Bobby Jindal, seems iniquitous.

Regardless of the source, however, Cruz supporters would benefit from taking conservative criticism of their candidate seriously. They should respond as Erick Erickson usually does, substantively and on the merits.

Admittedly, my apprehension of Senator Cruz has questionable provenance.

I read The New Yorker, go to cocktail parties, and regularly commit punditry, among other crimes common to the Washington class. I am a conservative, too, however, and my concern is that Senator Cruz is damaging the conservative cause, not advancing it.

You will find those concerns expressed more completely here and excerpted below. They sum to this:

Why does Senator Cruz refuse to allow Republican majorities in both Houses to reach agreement on legislation, when he knows it only results in compromises outside those GOP majorities and legislation that is more left-wing and dangerous?

So who is to blame that the House passed a nearly two-trillion-dollar funding package that oozes slime and political favors?  Who chose to travel down this road?

There are 247 Republicans in the House, sworn in January 3rd, 2015.  A simple majority is 218 of 435.  Republicans have 29 more votes than they need to pass anything they choose – if they can agree to do it.

At some point, there is going to be a funding bill.  Every Republican knows that some level of government will be funded.

The GOP’s choice is this:  Will Republicans get together, compromise amongst themselves and do that job?

Or will they refuse to work it out within the GOP… and let the compromise occur between Democrats and Republicans, spawning another monstrous Washington grotesquery like Ryan’s inherited funding package?

Ted Cruz made his choice, as he always has.  He selfishly inspires others to do the same.

He’s not against compromise.  He just pushes it down the road.
Ted Cruz is the poster boy of the Republican who won’t compromise within his party, and so hands funding power to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, to let them do his work for him.  And, unfortunately for the nation, they do.

Why?  As Anderson notes, Cruz would rather be the martyred leader of a failed cause than a contributor to a successful team. He’s been an outsider in everything he’s done.

Without irony, Senator Cruz titled his recent book, “A Time for Truth.” In it, he writes, “I refused to play sports as a child.”

As he grew older, Cruz finally did engage in sports, he confesses, not to be part of a team, but in a conscious effort to make a ridiculed, lonely boy then called, “Felito,” a little less shunned.

Cruz should have played.  He could have learned what others who have led teams to success always figure out.

  • “I think, team first. It allows me to succeed; it allows my team to succeed.” – LeBron James.
  • “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”  – Mia Hamm.
  • “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi.

Politics is a team sport.  Skins v. shirts.  Redskins v. Cowboys.  Democrats v. Republicans.  That’s how we govern our nation. There is an “R” behind Cruz’s name. That is the party he chose.

But Ted Cruz is still the hapless kid on the sidelines, the lonely outsider, envying those on the field who joyously sacrifice for each other and celebrate each other and take each other to victory.

Ted Cruz will never be on a team, much less lead one.

I would ask Cruz supporters to respond, having no doubt they can do so seriously, substantively, and on the evidence. And please feel free to interrupt, even if I am reading The New Yorker or playing squash with Mortimer Duke at the gymnasium.

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Alex Castellanos

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