Jonah Goldberg nails why I continue to prefer Ted Cruz to Donald Trump, despite the fact that Donald Trump is playing the media beautifully and sounding the right notes on his horn:
While Ted Cruz may be slippery on this issue or that — like most politicians — he is obviously and clearly a conservative. Unless you are willing to take Donald Trump at his word — and a great many are for reasons that baffle me — he’s not a conservative. Or if you think that’s too harsh, the case that he’s a conservative requires an enormous amount of subjective good will and credulousness. Even those who hate Ted Cruz readily concede he’s a conservative, because that’s an objective judgment. There’s nothing in the record that requires Trump’s critics to make the same concession.
Think of it this way: There were Christians who were opposed to the Roman Empire and there were barbarian pagans opposed to the Roman Empire. One could, for strategic or conversational simplicity, refer to both groups as “anti-Roman” or even “anti-establishment” but that doesn’t mean the pagans should be confused for Christians or vice versa.
In pretty much any fight between Trump and Cruz, I side with Cruz unapologetically because Cruz is an ideologically consistent conservative (for instance, whatever flaws a president Cruz might have, I don’t worry about the kinds of Supreme Court justices he would look for). Indeed, among the reasons I hope Cruz beats Trump in Iowa, one of the biggest is that I want Cruz to be rewarded for opposing the crony capitalist moonshine known as ethanol. Governor Terry Branstad came out against Cruz — violating his pledge of neutrality — because as the living embodiment of the GOP establishment in Iowa, he sees Cruz as a threat to the ethanol racket. Given Cruz’s need to win in Iowa, that makes his position a profile in courage. Trump meanwhile is pandering to the ethanol lobby. Perhaps pandering is the wrong word, given that support for industrial policy and crony capitalism is perfectly in sync with his economic philosophy. And that, again, is one of the many reasons I don’t think the guy is a conservative.
Also, if you want principled conservativism, Ted Cruz is refusing to bow down before the corn lobby in Iowa — despite the fact that Iowa’s governor, after promising to remain neutral, is now supporting Trump because, within conservative circles, Trump will say just about anything to get the votes and polls. I’m not accusing him of lacking principles. I believe this is simply decades of showmanship. He makes a good show, but can he govern?