When choosing support for a political candidate, character matters. No matter how much you may agree on matters of policy, there are some people who have proven themselves so morally and ethically debased that voting for them can never be a viable option.
One such person is Senator Ted Cruz.
This may surprise some people. On many issues, after all, it would seem that Senator Cruz would be an ideal candidate. He has consistently argued for shrinking government, has sound economic principles, and says most of the right things. Yet he remains someone I would never support, and here is why: Senator Cruz has repeatedly and consistently acted in a manner that demonstrates that he simply lacks the most basic, most fundamental character traits needed to lead, revealing himself in the process to be a truly despicable individual.
It is a matter of public record that Senator Cruz has deliberately sabotaged efforts to cut spending just so he can fundraise off the failure to cut spending. He has consistently thrown his allies and supporters under the bus when it suited him. He has changed his stances frequently depending on how the political winds are shifting, and then blatantly lied about it. As in actually, flat out, lied (lying being, it seems, a rather frequent habit of the Senator’s. As is rewriting history and discarding former allies). In the words of Jennifer Rubin “This really is a guy who will say whatever needs to be said at any moment to further his political prospects”.
To use just one example, his actions in leading opposition to the Vitter Amendment is, in the words of Americans for Tax Reforms’ Ryan Ellis, “ a classic case study in how this entire affair was bungled by a few narcissistic conservative groups and senators, who actually did quite well from the shutdown. They themselves have profited handsomely in emails and donations, as reported in multiple press outlets. But the damage they caused may have inflicted a mortal wound to the cause of Obamacare repeal”.
To be clear – Senator Cruz deliberately torpedoed an effort to reduce government spending, just so he could make millions.
Can anyone who believes in smaller government truly support someone like this?
But what started it all for me was how, in September last year, he committed what Christian conservative writer writer Pascal Emmanuel Goby rightly described as “the most cynical and despicable political stunt of the year, which is certainly saying a lot.” An stunt for which I personally knew conservatives present in the room who walked in Ted Cruz supporters, and walked out saying they would rather spoil a ballot than vote for him.
This is, of course, simply one act of political bastardy – one act of many committed by the Senator – but it is one that I feel is telling, and deserves to be more widely shared.
But first, some context.
In September of 2014, as ISIS was sweeping through the Levant massacring Christians in its path in its genocidal terror, a new advocacy group, In Defence of Christians, pulled together what was “a major logistical miracle. At the time, ISIS’s genocidal campaign had not yet attracted significant mainstream attention, and this summit was designed to combat that. “Somehow they managed to get all the Patriarchs of the Middle East — Catholic & Orthodox of all the various rites, as well as evangelicals and others– to meet together to present a unified voice in Washington as advocates for their people across the Middle East.”
The Summit, held in Washington DC on September 9-10, was the largest gathering of Middle Eastern Christian leaders in centuries. For the first time Catholics, Orthodox, Assyrians, Copts, Evangelicals were together, united in the common goal of protecting their flocks from being butchered and slaughtered by the ISIS hordes. “The mood was one of “the ecumenism of the martyrs,” in Cardinal Sandri’s phrase, with all participants willing to put aside for a time their political and theological differences for the sake of something more important: defending defenceless and persecuted Christians around the world. “
And the conference was succeeding beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, with millennia-old conflicts and enmities set aside for the common good. And it was not just leaders who were there, many were victims of persecution who had fled their ancestral homes on pain of death; as one attendee noted: “ I sat next to an Iraqi man whose family had been turned out of their homes and had to flee the area their people had settled for thousands of years.
Enter Ted Cruz. Senator Cruz, who was invited to deliver the Keynote address.
Things started off well. Cruz started off by noting that “Tonight we are all united in defense of Christians” which was greeted with applause. He noted that “we are all united in defense of Jews” – to more applause. He said that “ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and their state sponsors like Syria and Iran all engaged in genocidal campaigns” – yet more applause.
At this point, Sen Cruz transitioned rather rapidly, away from defending Christians against whom genocide was being committed, to defending the state of Israel.
While like his opening remark that” these were initially applauded, as these progressed, first to arguing “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state” – a statement which, in the context of Middle Eastern reality and politics, meant it was inevitable some Lebanese Christians would object to, but which nonetheless garnered some applause, as did his call for Christian-Jewish unity.
However, his comments became increasingly more aggressive, hostile, and then – staggeringly – directly insulting to the crowd. It was “at that point that some in the audience objected to Cruz turning a celebration of Christian unity into a lecture on a divisive subject that many in the crowd experienced as part of their everyday lives. Cruz returned accusations of hatred.” As people from the audience were literally shouting out that they agreed with him, but begging him to move along as that wasn’t the topic at hand (and noting that “the room was full of Arab Christians who, had they been seen applauding the state of Israel in that room, would have faced the real prospect of death once they got back home), Senator Cruz responded with ever increasing vitriol and began to insult and abuse the gathered crowd.
Finally, in a moment perfectly designed to go viral, Ted Cruz stormed off stage proclaiming “I will say this, if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you”
Let me be crystal clear here: Ted Cruz came to an apolitical summit in defence of Christians who were being slaughtered, and after being consistently applauded, decided to insult the participants – deliberately goading and provoking them to the point where their applause turned into boos so he could storm off stage seemingly like he was doing so in defence of Israel from anti-semitic attacks.
There is no doubt – none whatsoever – in my mind, or in the mind of anyone who attended, that this was a deliberate, calculated, ploy, designed to create a news headline and video of Ted Cruz seemingly being booed for his support of Israel, and standing up for principle (Particularly relevant given that Cruz had copped some criticism over this issue the week preceding the conference). It was obvious to almost all that “Cruz, a savvy politician, knew the reaction he would provoke.. and he maximized his political moment before the many cameras.” He, in calculating that many Evangelicals do not consider Middle Eastern Christians “real” Christians, chose to make the victims of mass atrocities the collateral damage of his latest political ad.
And the pro-Cruz media outlets duly complied, with severely edited video clips immediately surfacing praising his courage, and visitors to Ted Cruz’s website could see:
Let me be abundantly clear here. There is no doubt – none whatsoever – that Sen Cruz deliberately used Christian leaders whose flocks were being massacred, as the fall guys of a grubby political stunt. He deliberately goaded, provoked, and insulted an audience into booing him, ignoring repeated calls for restraint, just so he could fundraise off the reaction.
I am as full-throated in my defence of Israel as any can be, but it is clear that Cruz’s choice of words were deliberate and precise, and designed with no possible other outcome than to antagonize and provoke a response and force him to walk out. As conservative columnist Ross Douthat noted, “If Cruz felt that he couldn’t in good conscience address an audience of persecuted Arab Christians without including a florid, “no greater ally” preamble about Israel, he could have withdrawn from the event. The fact that he preferred to do it this way instead says a lot — none of it good — about his priorities and instincts.”
As Rod Dreher noted, “Ted Cruz was absolutely right to say, “If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ” — and the room applauded that! But if you read everything he said, he keeps pushing the political point about Israel, goading these people into a reaction. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
In the words of PEG, “This much, however, is absolutely clear: Cruz tarred and attacked one of the most powerless and beleaguered minorities in the world, solely for personal political gain.”
So there you have it. Ted Cruz used the victims of genocide as a cheap prop in a fundraising campaign, and this demonstrated something about his character that was utterly vile.
As even National Review was forced to admit there was not a shred of anti-Israel animus at the conference and that “some of the booing was a reaction to what was perceived by many as a politician using a good cause to drive his political agenda… From inside the ballroom Wednesday night, Cruz’s remarks were widely agreed to be unnecessarily off-topic and divisive, sabotaging the good work that was in progress. Christians are dying and we’re throwing political slogans at one another and making judgments.”
And this is the fundamental issue. At a time when the issue of genocide committed against Christians in the Middle East at was not the mainstream media issue it has become since; (“to America’s strategic class, the Middle East’s Christians simply didn’t have the kind of influence required to matter”.), Ted Cruz used it in grubby political stunt, using his platform to go after the victims of Terror. As the organisers stated in their post-conference media release, “A few politically motivated opportunists chose to divide a room that for more than 48 hours sought unity in opposing the shared threat of genocide, faced not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of all other faiths and all people of good will”. And the misuse of this opportunity to take a stand against the mass slaughter of innocents – and indeed to attack them simply as a ploy to dominate the next 24 hours news cycle – is simply unforgivable.
I will, once again, conclude with the words of PEG “I am no Ted Cruz antagonist. I am a supporter of the Tea Party — it’s done, on the whole, a world of good for the Republican Party by reinvigorating it and strengthening it. I even supported Cruz’s push to shut down the government to stop ObamaCare implementation. And I am also a full-throated supporter of Israel. But let’s be clear about what Cruz was doing in D.C.: using one of the world’s most beleaguered minorities as a prop for his own self-aggrandizement.”
As I said at the outset of this post, character matters, and this incident of abusive unethical conduct for cynical self-aggrandisement is just the one that revealed to me what Ted Cruz’s character was truly like. In the same way that Rod Dreher wrote, a week after the event, that he “still could not get over the audacity and the cruelty of the act, and the shamelessness of his using the most persecuted and threatened Christians in the world to boost his own political prospects or to cover his flank with his domestic audience” nor can I.
And so, as much as I may agree with Senator Cruz on many policy issues, he has revealed himself as someone who I could never, ever support. For if you are someone who will deliberately ‘troll victims of genocide’ , then I will most certainly never stand with you