This is the first in a series of articles that profiles each presidential candidate and examines the good and bad traits of their political careers. Each article will wrap-up by answering if their candidacy will have a net positive or negative impact on the liberty movement.
If not for Rand Paul, Ted Cruz would likely be the Republican candidate that mostly closely aligns with the principles of liberty. This isn’t to say that Cruz’s political philosophy is considered to be libertarian leaning. Rather this speaks more to how far the other Republican candidates have strayed from the principles of liberty.
It’s hard to believe that Ted Cruz has only a little over two years of service time in the Senate. Immediately upon arriving in Washington Cruz made a name for himself as a skilled orator and provocateur. Almost instantaneously upon landing in the Senate he began challenging the status quo by agitating veteran establishment politicians on both sides of the aisle. His clash with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) over her proposed bill to ban assault weapons let the political world know that Cruz was intent on making waves.
Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta Canada. His father was a Cuban immigrant and his mother an US citizen (more on this later). Growing up in Texas, Cruz had early exposure to the ideas of liberty. While attending high school in Houston, Cruz participated in a group called the Free Market Education Foundation. This group first exposed him to free-market economic philosophers such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Frédéric Bastiat and Ludwig von Mises. After high school Cruz made his way to Princeton, where he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy. Cruz moved on to Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1995 with a Juris Doctor degree.
Ted Cruz started his law career by clerking for J. Michael Luttig of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Then he clerked for William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States. After the clerkships he began working for a private practice before joining the presidential campaign of George W. Bush in 1999 as a domestic policy adviser. After Bush was elected President, Cruz served as an associated deputy attorney general and as a director of policy planning at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Cruz returned to Texas and was appointed to the office of Solicitor General of Texas, where he served from 2003 to 2008. During this time his most noteworthy case was District of Columbia v. Heller. Cruz drafted the amicus brief, which was signed by the attorneys general of 31 states. It stated that the D.C. handgun ban should be struck down because it infringed upon the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Finally, after leaving the Solicitor General position in 2008, Cruz worked for a private firm in Houston, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
With the background Ted Cruz has it’s easy to see why he was able to hit the ground running in the Senate and quickly become a voice for change in the Republican Party. Without further ado, let’s begin examining the good and the bad of presidential candidate Ted Cruz. At the end we will try to determine what kind of impact his candidacy could have on the liberty movement.
Defender of the Second Amendment
As we discussed above, even before entering the Senate Ted Cruz had made a name for himself as someone who seems to truly understand the importance of protecting the right to bear arms. In a recent interview with Breitbart News he called the Second Amendment “a fundamental check on government tyranny.” He’s even challenged Vice President Biden to engage in an hour-long debate on gun control. I don’t know about you, but I would pay good money to see that debate!
Stood with Rand Paul during historic drone filibuster
During Senator Rand Paul’s 12 hours, 52 minute long filibuster that delayed a vote to confirm John Brennan for CIA director, Cruz stepped in several times throughout to provide a respite to Senator Paul. The intention of the filibuster was to raise awareness about Brennan’s stance on the use of government drones on U.S. soil. Prior to the filibuster Cruz had pressed Attorney General Eric Holder to say whether he believes the U.S. government has the authority to order a lethal drone strike on U.S. soil. Holder evaded the question several times before finally saying,
Let me be clear, translate my appropriate to no. I thought I was saying no. All right? No.
Cruz’s experience as a litigator undoubtedly helped him pin down Holder by forcing him to answer the question directly. This insistence on clarity will be a welcome trait in a field of presidential candidates who have made a political career by straddling the fence on important issues.
Favors reforming the NSA
The ideal candidate would be in favor of abolishing the NSA, but Cruz’s desire to investigate the agency and reform their intrusive practices has to be looked at in a positive light. This becomes apparent when considering that almost all of the other presidential candidates, except Rand Paul, want to maintain the status quo of NSA surveillance. Cruz has at least shown willingness to shine a light on the agency, which will only help with continuing to notify Americans that the most sensitive aspects of their lives are likely stored on NSA servers.
Led Efforts to defund Obamacare
Cruz is probably best known, at least in progressive circles, for his failed attempt to defund Obamacare, which led to a partial government “shutdown.” Of course, nothing bad really happens when the government “shuts down”, but that is an irrelevant detail to those in the media who thrive on anything that serves to satiate the masses demand for outrage porn.
Cruz has promised to repeal Obamacare if elected president, but has not made it clear if he fully understands that the problems with the healthcare industry are larger than Obamacare. One of the root causes that have led to a decline in care and increased expenses is the cartelization of the industry, which occurred long before Obamacare. For more on this and to hear about a free market approach to health care, check out a recent episode of the Lions of Liberty Podcast with Dr. Keith Smith of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
At least Cruz is bringing attention to a broken system, but he’s probably not diagnosing the root cause of what ails the health care industry.
Thrives when his opinion is unpopular with the establishment
Cruz is not shy about clashing with his own party or those across the aisle. He stands apart from most in the political establishment through his voting against the authorization of states to collect internet sales tax, willingness to take the blame for a government shutdown, opposition to the TSA, disapproval of the NDAA, or push to allow the selling of National Parks to the states.
We’ve heard all of the good traits, now it’s time to reflect upon the bad.
Major donor has been investigated for tax evasion
It is being reported that Ted Cruz has a network of super PACs that have already raised $31 million toward the Texas senator’s presidential run. Among the PAC’s investors is thought to be Hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer who has previously been investigated by congress for accusations that his fund evaded the payment of $6 billion in taxes between 2000 and 2013. Obviously, it’s good news for Cruz’s campaign that he’s able to drum up significant financial support this early, but the involvement of Mercer could very well cast a cloud of corruption over the campaign. This isn’t to say that other presidential candidates aren’t bankrolled by shady billionaires, but the media is likely to give these establishment candidates a pass. The same treatment is not likely for a controversial figure like Cruz.
Rails against cronyism, but embraces it in personal life
By embracing affiliations with donors who potentially used their position of power to shelter wealth, we know that Cruz at least appears to not be wholly practicing what he preaches in regards to thwarting crony capitalism. It turns out he has some ties to Wall Street and crony capitalist tactics right in his own home! Cruz’s wife Heidi is a VP at Goldman Sachs. He even admitted that Wall Street banks like Goldman seek favor and protection from the government.
It is common knowledge the close relationship Goldman Sachs maintains with the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. How can we expect Cruz to challenge a broken financial system that transfers wealth from the poor to the wealthy when he is directly profiting from his wife’s involvement in the cronyism?
Hawkish foreign policy
Ted Cruz does not closely align with the ideas of liberty when it comes to foreign policy. He favors the use of sanctions, which are an act of war, as an acceptable policy for the U.S. government to influence the behavior of foreign governments.
Recently Senator Cruz and Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) reintroduced the Sanction Iran, Safeguard America Act. The act would impose economic sanction on Iran that would negatively impact the people of Iran. The use of sanctions always hurts the citizens more than it does the government.
Cruz has even likened Iran to Nazi Germany in 1938. During a recent radio appearance he made the comparison:
“I believe we are hearing echoes of history. I believe we are at a moment like Munich in 1938,” Mr. Cruz told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “The problem with Iran, it is led by theocratic zealots who glorify death and suicide, and my view, if the Ayatollah Khamenei acquired a nuclear weapon, the odds are unacceptably high he would use that nuclear weapon either in the skies of Tel Aviv or New York or Los Angeles. And we should not be willing to risk that global cataclysm.”
Last time I checked Iran had yet to invade another country. The comparison to Nazi Germany is ridiculous. This is one of Cruz’s more insane comments and it compliments his foolish and illogical foreign policy rather well.
Favors a flat tax
Ted Cruz has stated that he wants to abolish the IRS and replace it with a flat tax. Advocates for small government probably expected this item to appear as a mark in the senator’s favor. This thought process fails to understand that a flat tax would result in a huge tax increase to the poorest people in the country. Rather than raising taxes on the poor, the focus should be on expanding the number of people who pay zero taxes. A presidential candidate working to expand liberty should seek ways to decrease the tax burden on individuals, not expand it. A flat tax is simply a reorganization of a broken system that will only serve to help the wealthiest, while hurting the poor.
Wishy Washy stance on the War on Drugs
Senator Cruz had previously criticized president Obama for failing to aggressively enforce the federal ban on marijuana in states that have legalized pot for medical or recreational use. Recently he has changed his view by embracing the federalist model, which permits for states to act as what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called “the laboratories of democracy.”
From a purely utilitarian perspective, this is a good thing. Ultimately, this view should result in fewer people being locked in jail for possessing a plant. However, when it comes to defending individual rights this model is fatally flawed. If you understand the principles of liberty, then you must recognize that individuals own their bodies. To truly defend liberty, a candidate must consistently defend individual rights at the state and federal level. Cruz’s new stance on legal marijuana is a cop-out and should not be met with favor by liberty lovers.
Unclear stance on immigration
For someone born outside of the United States, Cruz does not have a very sympathetic view toward immigration. Cruz’s father was born in Cuba and Cruz was born in Canada. Because his mother is a U.S. citizen, he is considered a natural-born citizen. Sarah Helene Duggin, from Catholic University, is an expert on the topic. In October 2013, she wrote at length about a potential Cruz candidacy.
“For Senator Cruz—who was born in Calgary, Alberta, to an American mother and a Cuban father—the question is more complicated,” Duggin said back in October 2013. “There is a strong argument that anyone who acquires United States citizenship at birth, whether by virtue of the 14th Amendment or by operation of federal statute, qualifies as natural-born. The Supreme Court, however, has never ruled on the meaning of the natural-born citizenship requirement. In the absence of a definitive Supreme Court ruling—or a constitutional amendment—the parameters of the clause remain uncertain.”
Cruz has not provided details as to what his immigration policy may be during the campaign. We do know that he lists one his greatest accomplishments on immigration policy as leading “the fight to…stop President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesty.” Prior to this Cruz proposed an amendment that would have barred undocumented immigrants from gaining a path to citizenship.
Based on these actions it appears that Cruz is hostile towards allowing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The topic of immigration is a divisive one, mostly because the discussion fails to include an essential tenet, property rights. Cruz is not helping to advance the understanding of how property rights factors into the discussion. His anti-immigration stance fails to provide any insight into how immigration could be handled in a more free society.
…and the Liberty?
Ted Cruz really is a mixed bag when it comes to analyzing where he falls on the liberty spectrum. On the one hand, he grades very well in regards to his defense of the Second Amendment, efforts to clarify domestic drone policy, desire to reform the NSA, opposition to Obamacare, and comfort taking controversial or unpopular positions. In contrast he grades poorly with regards to his questionable donor base, close ties to crony capitalists, hawkish foreign policy, support of a flat tax, unprincipled perspective of the War of Drugs, and an undefined immigration policy.
Ted Cruz’s inconsistent behavior makes me question his principles. After all, this is a man whose law firm donated $200K to President Obama’s campaign and now has become the President’s harshest critic. He’s a man who decries government stimulus, but as a lawyer in private practice once defended stimulus spending.
Who is the real Ted Cruz?
Is it the man who has made a name for himself as a maverick in the Senate and stuck his neck out while defending the right to bear arms, dismantle Obamacare, and reduce the size of government? Or is he the man who wants to expand the size of government by increasing military spending, raising taxes on the poorest citizens by implementing a flat tax, and playing nice with the cronies on Wall Street who he literally goes to bed with every night?
It’s tough to figure this guy out. Overall, I’m glad that he’s running for President. He’ll be an articulate voice for the Second Amendment and during the race will identify some intrusive action by the U.S. government at home. But I would not be excited for a Ted Cruz presidency. The idea is terrifying. Cruz is a neoconservative at heart and his foreign policy sounds like it would be at least as aggressive as George W. Bush.
Throughout the presidential race there will be times when Ted Cruz adds a bit of libertarian flavor to the race and he’ll challenge the other candidates where they favor more coercive government measures. But at the end of the day, Cruz’s foreign policy and links to crony capitalist are just too worrisome to get truly excited about.
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