Ted Cruz is the first major candidate to announce that he’s running for president in 2016. Since his election to the Senate in 2012, he has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration. He is an intelligent and skilled debater. However, Cruz’s candidacy isn’t good for the GOP.
Ironically, one of Cruz’s weaknesses is his similarity to President Obama. Neither have ever had any executive experience as a governor, cabinet official at the state or federal level, or even as a mayor. Also, both have had very short legislative careers in Washington.
In fact, their legislative careers mirror each other quite closely. Both have been the junior senators from their respective states and had four years separating their terms as senator and the presidential election. They’re even about the same age relative to the election. By some measures, Obama was among the most liberal senators. Ted Cruz has tried to position himself as among the most consistently conservative senators.
In 2008, Republicans criticized Obama’s lack of experience. Since then, Obama’s lack of experience has shown. On the domestic front, his “signature achievement” had a completely botched rollout. Basically every time scandal or controversy occurs, he reportedly only learns about it through news reports.
With foreign policy, the world is a complete mess. Putin is leading an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian Russia. The Middle East is in complete turmoil. ISIS is committing completely barbaric atrocities through Syria and Iraq. Boko Haram has sworn allegiance to the terrorist group. ISIS has also gained control in areas of Libya.
In response to ISIS, the United States has entered into a pseudo-alliance with Iran. All the while, we’re opposing Iranian-backed militias in Yemen. That country is basically in collapse and the United States has had to evacuate its facilities there a mere six months after Obama called it a success. Our Gulf allies such as Saudi Arabia have repeatedly made clear how concerned and dissatisfied they are with US policy towards Iran.
All of this is to say nothing of the nuke deal with Iran that is even causing Democrats to revolt against the president. True, Cruz is of a very different ideology than Obama, and some of these international conflicts are not necessarily a result of US policy. However, all of this should give Republicans pause in electing a novice.
Cruz isn’t the only first term senator likely to run for president on the Republican side. Especially notable are senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. All three of these candidates supported the “defund Obamacare” effort that resulted in a government shutdown in October 2013. Cruz often seemed to be the biggest supporter of the effort. In November 2014, he still defended the tactic. Cruz blames Democrats for the shutdown.
While it’s true that the shutdown would have been avoided had the Democrats accepted the House spending plan and President Obama signed it, this ignores the reality of the situation. The Republicans only held one chamber of Congress. Also, proponents of the tactic demanded that Democrats basically give up all funding for Obamacare (which has funding outside of congressional appropriations anyway) without giving any concessions on their own side. If the Democrats refused, a government shutdown, which wouldn’t destroy the country but would look terrible, would result.
Of course, given the extremity of the demand, Republicans would be blamed, especially with the more left-wing bias of most media. The defund effort amounted to its supporters telling the Democrats, “give us everything we want with no concessions on our side or we’ll create a stupid situation for which we’ll be blamed!”
This isn’t an isolated incident. In December, Cruz and Utah senator Mike Lee used procedural mechanisms to oppose Obama’s executive action on immigration. The result? Several senators had to cancel their plans and return to Washington for a weekend session in which Democrats were able to advance with votes that likely wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Also, Obama’s executive action still stands.
Such recklessness has made Cruz unpopular among many of his colleagues. A president needs a good relationship with Congress. President Lyndon B. Johnson, for example, used his skills as a former Senate Majority Leader to advance his goals. Part of President Obama’s issues with Congress has been his own disdain for it. Furthermore, Cruz even goes so far as to question his GOP colleagues’ resolve to end the ACA when they don’t embrace his ridiculous tactics, saying, “There is a powerful, defeatist approach among Republicans in Washington” in July 2013.
Ultimately, Cruz has spent his time in the Senate without any major legislative accomplishments. His claim to fame is not just his fierce opposition to Obama but also his recklessness that ultimately is little more than grandstanding. Such grandstanding is evidence of his hubris and disregard for the rest of the party. The GOP deserves better.