The Wall Street Journal’s hatchet job on Ted Cruz
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I support Ted Cruz. I realize he’s not perfect, but no candidate is. What matters to me is that his political values most closely align with mine, that he’s not scared of a fight (and, especially, he’s not scared of the media), and that he is truly smarter than just about everyone else out there. I learned yesterday, though, that Kimberley Strassel at the Wall Street Journal most definitely does not like Cruz. She wrote a savage hit piece on him essentially blaming him for ISIS’s ability to spread throughout the United States. (That spread, of course, has nothing to do with Obama’s open borders policy and the contempt he shows for every person and idea that suggests that Islam might have a problem.)
But before honing in on her perception about Cruz’s alleged security failures, Strassel first lambastes him as a rank opportunist who cares only about self-aggrandizement and refuses to take care of the GOP’s needs:
The senator’s supporters adore him because they see him in those moments when he has positioned himself as the hero. To them he is the stalwart forcing a government shutdown over ObamaCare. He’s the brave soul calling to filibuster in defense of gun rights. He’s the one keeping the Senate in lame-duck session to protest Mr. Obama’s unlawful immigration orders.
Mr. Cruz’s detractors see a man who engineers moments to aggrandize himself at the expense of fellow conservatives. And they see the consequences. They wonder what, exactly, Mr. Cruz has accomplished.
ObamaCare is still on the books. It took the GOP a year to recover its approval ratings after the shutdown, which helped deny Senate seats to Ed Gillespie in Virginia and Scott Brown in New Hampshire. Mr. Obama’s immigration orders are still on the books. The courts gained a dozen liberal judges, all with lifetime tenure, because the lame-duck maneuver gave Democrats time to cram confirmation votes through. Mr. Cruz’s opportunism tends to benefit one cause: Mr. Cruz.
So it’s Cruz’s fault we have Obamacare and it’s his fault because . . . he took a principled stand against it? (I admired that stand when he took it and I still do.) The fact is that Cruz is one of the few Republicans in Congress who actually stood by the party planks and actual promises he and other alleged conservatives made to voters since 2008. He is the only one in Congress on the right who shows the slightest bit of spine. So when Strassel writes, “but Obamacare is still on the books,” the real question shouldn’t be “How do we blame Ted Cruz?” Instead, the real question should be “How did this happen when Republicans control Congress and the purse strings?”
Strassel’s claim that, following Cruz’s principled stand, it took Republicans “a year to recover,” is patently ridiculous. Republicans have enjoyed greater electoral success in the past six years than the party ever has — and she is going to blame defeats in Virginia and Massachusetts on Cruz. That is infuriating.
The above insults are just throat-clearing for Strassel’s real issue: Ted Cruz has made us less safe than we should be because he refuses to authorize the government to turn America into even more of a police state with endless spying on citizens:
Mr. Cruz regaled the crowd about how he had opposed a proposal to intervene in Syria and how he doesn’t support “nation building.” To this he could add a few others: He has consistently voted against defense reauthorization bills that enable troop funding. And this spring he ginned up support to pass a law that undercuts the National Security Agency’s ability to use metadata to root out terror plots. Mr. Cruz, citing “privacy rights,” co-sponsored the bill, along with Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Al Franken and Barbara Boxer.
It may have seemed like a good idea to Mr. Cruz at the time. But after Paris, he finds himself with a national security agenda that is increasingly at odds with the public will. Florida’s Marco Rubio (who opposed the NSA bill) had fun this week reminding Americans of the stark foreign-policy differences between himself and the Texan, noting that Mr. Cruz has supported laws that “weaken U.S. intelligence.” Mr. Rubio, who has delivered at least 10 major foreign-policy addresses in the past few years, is running as the unabashed hawk, calling for robust new U.S. world leadership. Mr. Cruz may have walked himself into playing the counterpoint—a Rand Paul stand-in.
Strassel is snide — and she is wrong. Cruz is absolutely right to place limits on the NSA and meta-data. As is developed at some length my post about a talk by Mary Theroux of the Independent Institute, all of us should be deeply suspicious about our government at this point — a government that hoards people’s information like a miser and that is becoming ever more out of control and the master, not the servant, in this country:
The government’s spying on American citizens is so enormous we literally cannot comprehend its scope. The data collection (which is in the multiple zetabytes) grossly violates our inherent Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. NSA employees before Snowden tried to blow the whistle on this beginning around the year 2000, and got ferociously persecuted by the government because of their efforts. Snowden’s spectacular leak broke that log jam.
But here’s the really important thing that Theroux said: The government gets so much data, it’s useless for the stated purpose of crime and terrorism prevention. As it comes in, it’s simply so much white noise. It certainly didn’t stop 9/11 or the Boston bombing. In this regard, think of England, which has more CCTVs per capita than any other country in the 1st world, and maybe in any world. Nevertheless, these cameras do nothing to prevent crime. As the number of cameras has increased, so has the crime rate. The data is useful only after the fact, to help (sometimes) apprehend the criminal.
Well, one can argue that ex post facto apprehension is a good thing — but it’s a good thing only if there’s been a clear violation of a pretty well known law (e.g., don’t beat people to death or don’t rob a jewelry store). We’re looking at something much more sinister here. Think of the volume of law in America and, worse, think of the staggering volumes of rules interpreting those laws.
As Theroux noted, Stalin’s chief of police famously said (and I’m paraphrasing) give me the man and I can find the crime. We Americans have a government that’s sitting on data that can be used to criminalize us after the fact the current government (Republican or Democrat or Third Party) doesn’t like us. It’s like a landmine under every American.
No thinking citizen should trust a government that produces a Lois Lerner and then protects her from indictment, even though at least one of the charges against her is that she released private data the IRS held to Democrats for partisan purposes. Nor are abusive employees the only problem. Don’t forget that the government is so dysfunctional that the Office of Personnel Management allowed personal information for millions of employees (including social security numbers and security check information) to get into hackers’ hands. Our government has proven itself to be both corrupt and incompetent, yet Strassel excoriates Cruz for refusing to give it an even longer leash.
Here’s the reality: All that meta-data the government collected has yet to be used to stop a single terrorist incident. All it does is collect more and more information that our government can use against us. It is an Orwellian nightmare that Stalin and other authoritarians of whatever stripe could only dream of having. If it had stopped the Tsarnaev brothers, or any of the other attacks on our soil, perhaps we should feel differently, but there is no evidence that it has made any real difference.
Our Founding Fathers had several guiding principles, one of which is that the good intentions of a benevolent government could not be trusted in perpetuity. The Founders loved George Washington and would have elected him King, but they were worried that a George Washington III might prefer to be a tyrant.
Moreover, having excoriated Cruz for not being hawkish enough, Strassel then admits that, maybe, just maybe, he’s hawkish after all:
Mr. Cruz will certainly argue that he’s more hawkish than Mr. Paul. He has consistently criticized Mr. Obama for failing to demonstrate international leadership. Many of his votes are accompanied by disclaimers. He says, for instance, that he opposed the defense reauthorization bills because they didn’t contain language prohibiting the indefinite detention of citizens.
That’s a pretty important disclaimer, isn’t it? Yes, I voted against a defense reauthorization bill because it gave the government the unconstitutional power to detain citizens indefinitely. Here’s Cruz’s December 2013 Facebook post explaining just how important that “disclaimer” is:
Today I voted against the National Defense Authorization Act. I am deeply concerned that Congress still has not prohibited President Obama’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process.
The Constitution does not allow President Obama, or any President, to apprehend an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and detain these citizens indefinitely without a trial. When I ran for office, I promised the people of Texas I would oppose any National Defense Authorization Act that did not explicitly prohibit the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. Although this legislation does contain several positive provisions that I support, it does not ensure our most basic rights as American citizens are protected.
I hope that next year the Senate and the House can come together in a bipartisan way to recognize the importance of our constitutional rights even in the face of ongoing terrorist threats and national security challenges. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee toward this common goal.
Strassel’s attack on Cruz’s “disclaimer,” rather than weakening him in my eyes reveals why I think Cruz is the best candidate: He’s a true constitutionalist. He believes that the Constitution is (a) a contract between the government and the people, and that the government that breaches it is unfit to govern; and (b) that the Constitution is the single best guide for governance ever written. Cruz recognizes that there is always a balancing act between the powers that a properly limited government needs to serve all Americans and the individual rights inherent in each citizen. He’ll defend America, but he won’t destroy her to defend her.
As to Syrian intervention, Strassel attempts to paint Cruz as the ultimate non-interventionist, a dangerously insular, 21st century Charles Lindbergh:
If national security continues as a pressing theme, will voters put their faith in a candidate who is on record (whatever the nuance) against military spending, against intelligence capabilities, against a proactive stance in Syria?
In fact, contrary to her casual assertions, Cruz took a much more intelligent position in 2013 than Obama’s meaningless “red line.” Writing in the Washington Post, he explained:
I do not believe a limited airstrike, as proposed by the president, will lead to success or improve conditions in Syria. There are other actions we can and should take to confront this atrocity, starting with forcing a vote in the U.N. Security Council condemning Assad for this attack; doing so would unify the world against the regime and expose China’s and Russia’s support for this tyrant.
The president insists on using a military option, which I oppose for three reasons:
First, Assad’s actions, however deplorable, are not a direct threat to U.S. national security. Many bad actors on the world stage have, tragically, oppressed and killed their citizens, even using chemical weapons to do so. Unilaterally avenging humanitarian disaster, however, is well outside the traditional scope of U.S. military action.
Second, just because Assad is a murderous thug does not mean that the rebels opposing him are necessarily better. As of May, seven of the nine major rebel groups appeared to have significant ties to Islamists, some of whom may have links to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Their presence and power have only increased, according to media reports. We should never give weapons to people who hate us, and the United States should not support or arm al-Qaeda terrorists.
Third, the potential for escalation is immense. Syria is in the midst of a sectarian civil war, born of centuries-old animosities. We have no clear ally in this Sunni-Shiite conflict, and any “limited” and “proportional” strike could quickly get out of control, imperiling our allies and forcing us into the civil war.
In other words, the downsides to Obama’s plan were enormous, and offered few upsides. Having explained his opposition to the President’s plan, Cruz went on to define U.S. interests and spell out how he thought they could best be protected:
U.S. military force should always advance our national security. Should we in the future have intelligence that al-Qaeda or Hezbollah is on the verge of acquiring chemical weapons or that Iran is nearing a nuclear breakout, I would support aggressive military action to prevent them from acquiring those weapons because the alternative is unacceptable: allowing Islamic extremists to acquire chemical or nuclear weapons that could be used to slaughter millions in New York or Los Angeles or London or Tel Aviv.If such occasion arises, the United States must lead to defend its national security interests. No other country is capable of putting together a coalition of like-minded nations and leading the fight against tyranny. And our allies should be encouraged to join us because it is in their own interests.
Yet none of this is occurring now. The administration’s current policy is based on averting immediate risk and accommodating the international community, as is demonstrated by its proposed defense of international norms in Syria. This action fails to protect U.S. long-term national security interests. I cannot in good conscience support it.
Cruz’s own words show that, contrary to what Strassel implies today, he was not advocating staring blankly at our navels. Strassel’s mistake is that she’s looking at the situation in Syria through a 2015 prism. Syria is problematic today, in 2015, not because of the Syrian civil war, but because of ISIS victories in Syria and Iraq. The issue in 2013, however, when Cruz was looking at America’s interests, rather than the UN’s, was not what to do about ISIS, which was a strategic, not existential, threat, but whether to attack the government of Syria. That government then posed and still poses as much threat to us as the government of Libya did in 2012. Americans might well have supported air attacks in 2013 but, given what happened following air strikes in Libya, Cruz’s opposite argument was entirely legitimate.
Strassel’s attack on Cruz’s position vis-a-vis Syria reveals the true reason behind her hostility — she’s a Rubio supporter. This would be the same Marco Rubio who is open-minded about the endless and unchecked flow of immigrants crossing America’s southern border — a situation that currently seems like a much greater risk than Cruz’s refusal to listen in on even more phone calls. There’s no surprise there, of course. Although I think the WSJ has one of the best editorial pages in today’s media, it’s no secret that it supports the Chamber of Commerce’s view of immigration; namely, the more the better, whether legal or illegal. Oh, and by the way, Rubio also voted “no” on a use of force resolution in Syria.
It’s noteworthy and, indeed, telling that Strassel did not contact Cruz for this article and give him a chance to respond. This is a hit piece. The only thing it establishes with certainty is that Strassel just announced her choice in the Presidential primary. As the primaries continue, expect similar hit pieces in the WSJ against anyone not named Rubio.