Why Ted Cruz Thinks the Media Gets Conservatism Wrong

Texas Senator Ted Cruz talks to TIME about Barack Obama, foreign policy and his spats with fellow Republicans

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Charlie Neibergall / AP

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, right, talks with Republican Party of Iowa co-chairman David Fischer before a fundraising picnic for the Iowa Republican Party in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 19, 2013

Alex Altman’s profile in this week’s magazine, “Cruz Control,” can be read here for those with a TIME subscription. Not a subscriber? Click here.

In seven short months, Ted Cruz has become the most controversial member of the Senate. Perhaps the most combative member of a chamber known for comity, Cruz’s withering criticisms of Washington have made him a champion for the conservative base and a potential pot stirrer in the 2016 GOP nominating contest. Cruz, whom I profile in the new issue of the magazine, sat down with TIME on Aug. 2 at a hotel in New Orleans, where he delivered a speech to the RedState Gathering of conservative activists. Below are excerpts of his comments, which are condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

What do people misinterpret about you?
I don’t know what others misinterpret. I think most Americans don’t really care about politicians bickering in Washington. There have been some political actors and some elite [media] that have tried to paint a caricature and thrown some rather heated insults. I have not reciprocated, and I don’t intend to reciprocate. Indeed, in my time in office, I have endeavored not to speak an ill word about any colleague.

There’s an old joke that politics is Hollywood for ugly people. An awful lot of the press coverage about Washington reads like coverage of Hollywood. Madonna is having some spat with Sean Penn. Who cares? And who cares which politician is mad at that politician? My single greatest frustration in Washington is in the seven months, the U.S. Senate has spent virtually zero time even talking about jobs and the economy. We spent a month battling about taking away people’s Second Amendment gun rights.

(MORE: Ted Cruz Challenges Republicans to Do the (Pretty Much) Impossible)

I do think in the media there is a tendency to describe conservatives as one of two things: stupid or evil. And those are the two categories that every conservative gets put in by Democrats and the media. A conservative is either stupid — too dumb to know the right answer — and even worse, if they actually know the right answer, then they’re evil. They want people to suffer. I suppose I feel mildly complimented in that they have recently invented a third category, which is crazy. It’s the alternative to stupid or evil. And now crazy is the third one, because it seems inconceivable that there could be Americans who believe in free-market principles and believe in the Constitution and are working to defend them.

Even if you have not engaged in ad hominem attacks, your criticism of fellow Republicans as a group has been quite strong.

That’s an important distinction. From the day I began campaigning, we focused on the undeniable fact that career politicians in both parties have gotten us in the mess we’re in. There’s a significant difference, however, between speaking about problems generically that are occurring in the Washington establishment and entrenched politicians, and insulting a particular officeholder.

The way you talk about empowering the grassroots reminds me a lot of Barack Obama. Disagreements in policy aside, did you watch Obama in 2008 and build certain elements of your approach off his? 

I think Barack Obama is an extraordinary politician. And I respect Barack Obama a great deal. I think he is committed to his principles, which is rare in politics. Now I also think, and please don’t leave this part out, that the principles he believes in are profoundly dangerous. I respect that he believes, I think genuinely, with all of his heart, that government control of economy and redistribution of wealth betters the world. I think moving in that direction has wreaked havoc to the American economy. The people who suffer in the Obama economy have been young people, African Americans, Hispanics, single moms.

There were two campaigns on which we modeled our campaign for Senate, and they were Obama’s campaign for President in 2008 and Marco Rubio’s campaign for Senate in 2010. If you look at that 2008 Democratic primary, there was no more formidable, unstoppable candidate — other than an incumbent President — in modern times than Hillary Clinton. And Barack Obama ran a guerrilla campaign that empowered the people. So for Christmas I gave a number of campaign staffers David Plouffe’s book, The Audacity to Win.

(MORE: Scams, Fraud Among Obamacare Concerns)

If you go back to 2011, everybody in Texas believed [my] race was impossible. What I would say on the campaign trail is very similar to what I say now with respect to [defunding] Obamacare. Conventional wisdom said this was impossible, that I cannot win this race. And you know what? They’re right. I can’t win this race. It is beyond my capacity. But you can. In this fight against Obamacare, everyone’s telling the people they can’t do this. That the graybeards in Washington have decided this is not an option. And I think there is no more potent force in politics than the grassroots, mobilized and standing up.

How would you characterize your foreign policy views? 

Right now there is a divide, say, between the views of John McCain on the one hand and the views of Rand Paul on the other. I like and respect both men, and I would say that my views are somewhere in the middle. The person whose views on foreign policy mine are closest to is Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s views on foreign policy, and how I would characterize my views, are that I think the United States should be a clarion voice for liberty, that we should speak against oppression, against tyranny and for freedom.

I think the U.S. needs to be exceedingly reluctant to put our men and women in harm’s way. I think if and when military action is justified, it should be justified only to protect the vital national-security interest of the U.S. But I also recognize the U.S. is today the world’s lone superpower. We have nations that have considerable hostile intents toward the U.S. And we have radical Islamic terrorists who would readily murder our citizens. I support peace through strength. I think developing our military strength so that we can defend our national-security interests makes it far less likely we’ll be drawn into war.

I think being unequivocal about redlines that cannot be crossed serves as a far more effective deterrent than the Obama Administration’s endless negotiation with no clear consequence. The President laid out a redline on Syria. Then there were no consequences for months. What does that tell the world? When the U.S. says something, at least under this President, we don’t mean it. You can ignore what we say.

Are you running for President?

I am a big believer in the principle that good policy makes good politics. I understand a great many people want to focus on the politics of 3½ years from now. What I can tell you is that my focus every day is on the U.S. Senate, because the Senate is the battlefield. And what I tell my staff is, if we do the right thing, the politics will take care of itself.

If you look at the last 40 years, the clearest pattern that emerges is when Republicans nominate a strong conservative as a presidential candidate, Republicans win. When Republicans nominate a candidate who runs as a moderate, Republicans lose. Now what is the conclusion of all the political consultants in Washington, looking at those last 40 years? We need to nominate a moderate. Because they’ve lost every single race for four decades.

Alex Altman’s profile in this week’s magazine, “Cruz Control,” can be read here for those with a TIME subscription. Not a subscriber? Click here.

674 comments
therightleft
therightleft

Ted Cruz and his fellow Republicans are trying to grab the wheels of a ship that has its rudder stuck to the extreme right. . Until they get this party's rudder somewhat straight, they will keep going in circles, rather than forward.

People like Rush, Hannity and the Fox News Channel has them exactly where they want them. They are not going to far away from these people with their movements.

Charlie468
Charlie468

"conservatives are  two things: stupid or evil." Well Ted, there are a lot of reasons for that. Start with Backman, Gomer, Santorum, some clueless Texan who can't remember three things in a debate, the witch,...need I go on.

Charlie468
Charlie468

He and Rand Paul will make the Primary Debates interesting. Someone had to replace Bachman, Perry, Santorum and the pizza king.

reldresal
reldresal

Cruz who wants to shut down the government cannot purport to be in the middle of anything regarding politics. He is an extremest which is never healthy.  He is no Reagan who happened to be an attractive actor in his youth.  The two statements that jump out at me amongst all the political lingo are "politics is for ugly people," and "conservatives are  two things: stupid or evil."  He sounds like a black and white thinker from those statements alone. His brand of crazy may serve him better on a psychiatrists couch than in the political arena serving the people. This man is crying for attention and it isn't pretty.

QFAs
QFAs

cruz has no interest in citizens' rights; his desire is for national fame, precisely as he alludes to in this interview.  And even within this short interview he contradicts himself, claiming to avoid denigrating those holding elected office while regularly doing precisely that to President Obama.  He is also dead wrong regarding conservatives: Kemp and Buchanan were truly conservative, the two Bushes and Reagan were centre of the road.  It is only by the crazy cruz standard they are today considered moderate.

ezduzit757
ezduzit757

Doesn't he look like grandpa Munster?

BillPike
BillPike

My wife and I have been big supporters of Senator Cruz when he was in Texas fighting the supreme court over our rights--and he won time and time again.  I first saw him in person when he spoke at our church and I knew that I knew that here was someone DC would have a problem with---he wants us as in U.S. to go back to what Washington, Jefferson, and others saw for our country---not a "king" sitting in DC giving away our country, weakening our position overseas, and flat out ruining our country.  IF YOU REALLY WANT CHANGE GET BEHIND SENATOR TED CRUZ AND WE WILL RETURN THIS COUNTRY TO US THE VOTERS AND NOT THE ELITIST AND SOCIALIST THAT DOMINATE OUR GOVERNMENT TODAY.

Sunflower52
Sunflower52

Brandon3510...NOT forcing religious beliefs???  Excuse me, but aren't several states passing strict abortion laws because they feel it is "morally" wrong for a woman to have an abortion?  In addition, aren't many states against same sex marriage because it goes against "God's Word"?  Seems pretty clear to me that the separation of church and state has pretty much bitten the dust.  I don't recall ever having an atheist approach me or come to my door (over and over)  trying to talk me into NOT believing in God. Yes, I too feel that Cruz and his kin fail to see that their idea of forced morally is no different than the Taliban.  Wake up voters or the next "right" they want to take away based on their high moral ground could be own that you would miss.

seqretsquirrel
seqretsquirrel

So Cruz is for a foreign policy based on supporting freedom. Easy to say but what would his policies be toward the Syrian civil war, the Egyptian coup, the Saudi (and many other 'friendly' Arab nations) theocratic monarchs?

SamSmith
SamSmith

I cannot believe the people of Iowa allow the Republicans to trash there state for a long weekend.   Every day we hear more crazy speeches and words coming out of the Republicans. Nothing New, its the same trash talk they did in 2010 and 2012.   When will they mature and grow out to be a real political party?

SamSmith
SamSmith

Ted Cruz and his farther are Canadian born citizens.  They were not born in the USA, yet for some reason he is getting a pass if he want to run for President.  Guess it must be the color of the skin! 

Sunflower52
Sunflower52

As I've said before:  Please, please, please let Republicans like Cruz do their crazy best.  Makes the elections in 2016 a cakewalk, unless of course, the Republican efforts to restrict voting rights carries.  As a woman men like Cruz makes my skin crawl.  He, and others of his kind, fail to see that their continuing efforts to control women by basing their platforms on their own moral beliefs is exactly the same as the religious laws of others they so rage on about.  Let's see him run for president and see how the Republicans hound him about his citizenship since he was born in Canada.  According to him his mother was an American citizen so therefore he is.  Funny how that argument didn't satisfy the "birthers" that support his party.  I do believe he also is threatening not to less CNN or MSMBC have access to him should he run in 2016 because of the Hilliary documentary.  Guess he's never heard of freedom of the press.  What a moron.

Onepatriot
Onepatriot

So many of these republicans say Obama wants a redistribution of wealth.  No one I know of is talking about taking anything away from any wealthy person except their ability to hide tax money from the government.  And government control of the economy is bad?  Come on, Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve have saved our financial system from plunging.  Many retirees have recovered their savings that was all but wiped out by the economy when it was left to run free with no constraints. 

Mr Cruz talks about the young, African Americans, single moms, Hispanics as suffering under the Obama economy. Ha. They suffer because of your Republican party's obstructionism to a public works bill which would fix our decaying infrastructure and put people to work.  And, they need the Obamacare plan which you Republicans have pledged to repeal.   And, by the way, it's un-American to claim you love this country and not help to fix these  bridges that are in desparate need of repair.  You, Mr. Cruz, are no patriot and.the tea party is a minority that is hurting this country.

simplefaith
simplefaith

I say Madam President Hillary Clinton for President!

JasonKarov
JasonKarov

Cruz is a radical Christian Taliban male who would force his socially "pure" ideology on everyone else, and will fail as a Senator as Joe McCarthy did.

roknsteve
roknsteve

So The Crazy Ted Fest is gonna last all weekend.  Woo-Hoo!!! 

therightleft
therightleft

The main idea of Conservative movement is to preserve the status quo of a system, preferable to them. That system is built on a feudal concept of the elite( a few very rich and powerful) holding all the levers of the government using the clergy and the military / military industrial complex as the levers to control the masses. Give the masses, a gun, a Bible and a flag and keep them distracted. It is also known as the Attila the Hun syndrome. Every year there is a new campaign of loot and plunder to keep the masses rallied and making the rich even more so.

Conservatism by its own admission is a refusal to change with times. It's core cause is to make it difficult to impossible for the ones at the bottom to have a chance to rise by denying them any upward movement assistance, defining them as handouts.

Conservatism's primary goal is to conserve the hold of the feudal class over the masses. Any change in that status is an anathema to the cause.

The modern history has been unkind to Conservatives, handing down major and minor defeats in every area, from slavery to women's rights, to civil rights to Social Security to the most recent, Obamacare.

JohnLofton
JohnLofton

FORGET, PLEASE, “conservatism.” It has been a failure because it has been, operationally, de facto, Godless. In the political/civil government realm it has ignored Christ and what Scripture says about the role and purpose of civil government. Thus, it failed. Such secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God they are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:


”[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

“American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."


In any event, “politics,” for the most part today, is whoring after false gods. It will not save us. Our country is turning into Hell because the church in America has forgotten God (Psalm 9:17) and refuses to kiss His Son (Psalm 2.) See, please, 2 Chronicles 7:14ff for the way to get our land healed.


John Lofton, Recovering Republican

JohnLofton.com

Editor, Archive.TheAmericanView.com

Active Facebook Wall

JLof@aol.com


EricBlankenburg
EricBlankenburg

With regards to foriegn policy, President Reagan sent troops into Lebanon. Senator Barry Goldwater said it was a huge mistake.


241 American servicemen were killed by suicide bombers.


What did Reagan do? He got smart and left.


Here is what President Reagan said in his autobiography:


"Perhaps we didn't appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and the complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle. Perhaps the idea of a suicide car bomber committing mass murder to gain instant entry to Paradise was so foreign to our own values and consciousness that it did not create in us the concern for the marines' safety that it should have. In the weeks immediately after the bombing, I believe the last thing that we should do was turn tail and leave. Yet the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there. If there would be some rethinking of policy before our men die, we would be a lot better off. If that policy had changed towards more of a neutral position and neutrality, those 241 marines would be alive today."


I was in the Air Force at the time and remember the situation very clearly.


Staying out of the crazy Middle East is not John McCain's foreign policy. It's Rand Paul's.


So, what is Cruz's foreign policy, because Rand Paul and Ronald Reagan seem to be on the same page.


TonyB
TonyB

@SamSmith what isn't color related.? GOt this crap pres because of color. 

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@SamSmith I think Sen. Cruz's father was born a Cuban citizen, not a Canadian citizen. 


ex animo

davidfarrar

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@SamSmith

He is getting a pass for the same reason Obama got a pass...our courts have allowed the definition of an Art. II, §1, cl. 4 natural born Citizen to be changed from its original meaning under natural law, which requires the father to be a US citizen, to positive statutory law, which simply requires one parent to be a US citizen at the time their offspring is born outside of the United States.

It's unconstitutional, of course, but there you have it.

ex animo

davidfarrar

maxie
maxie

I think you mean Monica Lowanski's EX boy friend's wife for president

TonyB
TonyB

@JasonKarov WOw Taliban and Christian are well lets say it this way so stupid people like this guy can understand. Christians fight Taliban . Taliban fight Christians .. simple got it. here if you are still not understanding Google egypt. 

Brandon3510
Brandon3510

The "Christian Taliban"??? The left get crazier day by day!

an.empty.suit
an.empty.suit

@adele033 says the person who has yet to accomplish anything as significant as pulling off being elected to the U.S. Senate. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@EricBlankenburg Reagan got smart? Is that before or after he illegally sold weapons to Iran to support right wing death squads in Nicaragua?

PacificSage
PacificSage

@EricBlankenburg 

I believe Rand Paul want to sever ties with Israel. That is pure Alex Jones crazy thought. He will never get past the beltway elite or win the presidency with that policy.

Sorry Eric, but even if he actually wins the presidency & doesn't recant (which I don't think he will) he'd likely be assassinated. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Brandon3510 Christian Taliban is a nice way of describing that wants to dictate morality to the American people and force their religious beliefs down everyone's throat

dectra
dectra

@DavidFarrar@SamSmith


Bet Jesus is so proud of you..... 

Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV / 91 helpful votes

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

40acres
40acres

@DavidFarrar @ezduzit757 @SamSmith

Where in this clause does it say anything about inheriting the citizenship of the father?

>>>No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.<<<

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

@ezduzit757 @DavidFarrar @SamSmith

It does, indeed, make him a US citizen by statutory law, but not an Art. II, §1, cl. 4 natural born Citizen. In order to be a Art. II, §1, cl. 4 natural born Citizen, one must inherit the the citizenship of the father. In this respect, Sen. Cruz and Obama are not Art. II, §1, cl. 4 natural born Citizens.


ex animo

davidfarrar


seqretsquirrel
seqretsquirrel

@Brandon3510 a) So only Christian societies have marriage? What happened in the millenia of human civilization before the Bible was written? b) There were a number of polygamous marriages in the Bible but no one is suggesting we legalize those. Why not? 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Brandon3510 Agreed which is why I have said that Radical Islam and Radical Christianity have much in common. Nether have a place in US government.

Brandon3510
Brandon3510

We disagree with our historical references. As I stated ealier, there are always fringe elements in groups who take the message and twist it for there own desires. This is not Christian or biblical. They will be held accountalbe. To label all Christians as believing this is hypocritical. Speaking of Africa, Chistians have been murdered frequently in recent years for their beliefs. Boko Haram and other Islamic groups are slaughtering Christians daily.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Brandon3510 Actually marriage was practiced long before the writing of the Bible by various cultures. And you seem to forget the separation about Church and State. Atheists, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Wiccans live in the US as well. Why should your book of beliefs dictate how they live their lives? And as for Africa it isn't rhetoric, funding and lobbyists from guys like Pat Robertson and Rick Warren can be clearly seen working with the legislators creating these laws to make homosexuality punishable by death.

Brandon3510
Brandon3510

Marriage is a biblical. A union between one man and one woman. Why must the rule of marriage be changed for nonbelievers? As far as Africa, that is just rhetoric. I am fine with whoever homosexuals want to be with, but to claim discrimination becasue people believe that their biblical institution of marriage should be left alone is not right. Homosexuals have gotten their way, all you have to do is move to a state that allows it. I find it funny that the left is always complaining about discrimination, but it is fine when it is Christians who are the victims, they cheer for it.

Brandon3510
Brandon3510

No one is forcing anything. People are telling people about the gospel of Jesus. If you don't want to listen then don't, sure their are fringe fanatics unlike in any group who distort the message for their gain. You are free to have whatever moral standard you please. I have seen first hand the atrocities of the Taliban and to equate Christians with that group is ignorant and offensive. Bur it us ik