Ted Cruz vs. Chuck Hagel

(Credit: BBC) (Credit: BBC)[/caption]

When he won his run-off primary against Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, many in the liberty movement were curious about what Ted Cruz would be like in the US Senate.

Ron Paul endorsed Cruz, but Cruz wouldn’t reciprocate even after his first choice, Rick Perry, had dropped out.

Cruz was also fairly mild in his critique of the American warfare state and before running for Senate, Cruz was a bureaucrat in the FTC and a domestic policy advisor to George W. Bush. There was nothing especially damnable about that, but neither did it suggest that Cruz offered anything special for the movement.

All of this left the broader Paul movement wondering what we had in Ted Cruz, but his behavior with Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel is probably a good indicator.

There’s no doubt Hagel’s performance on Thursday was lackluster, but one couldn’t help but have the feeling that Hagel was facing the Inquisition on charges of heresy against the Empire.

There was plenty wrong with what Cruz did on Thursday – his brusque, interrupting manner reminded everyone that this guy was a lawyer – but it was his artful, context-twisting to make an ideological point that is most despicable:

“In a speech on the floor of the Senate you referred to Israel’s military campaign against the terrorist group Hezbollah as a, quote, ‘sickening slaughter.’ Do you think it’s right that Israel was committing, quote, a ‘sickening slaughter,’ as you said on the floor of the Senate?”

As David Weigel points out at Slate, Hagel did indeed say the words “sickening slaughter,” but they were in the context of the conflict as a whole, “blaming both sides, and quickly following up by criticizing Iran and invoking the ‘special relationship.'” In Cruz’s telling, Hagel was siding with Hezbollah against Israel when the context of the speech says no such thing.

It’s obvious that the primary objection to Hagel isn’t what he has or hasn’t said about Israel, Iran, etc. The main objection to him is that he wasn’t loyal enough to the party or President Bush when Iraq and the surge were becoming new articles of faith in the conservative catechism and Cruz’s actions are just an extension of that battle.

Everyone paying attention to these proceedings knew John McCain was going to don his Torquemada mask. McCain, after all, based his entire 2008 presidential campaign on being right on the “surge” and on Iraq, a war the entire country had long soured on.

But perhaps what’s most troubling about the exchange with Cruz is that the Texas Senator was not around for the political battles of the surge and had no good reason to pummel Hagel the way he did. He didn’t have a personal or political stake in the surge or its “success” as McCain did, so it’s puzzling why he wanted to harangue one of the few mainstream Republicans who had the courage to call a spade a spade unless Cruz wanted to be associated with and receive the cheers of foreign policy hard-liners.

The Cruz-Hagel exchange may also just be the bearing of the fruits of a Tea Party that never had a discussion about foreign policy. It was troubling that as a candidate, Cruz had very little to say on the subject and actively distanced himself from people like Ron Paul. Some of these fears were confirmed when he resorted to such plainly devious tactics to insinuate Hagel was insufficiently pro-Israel.

Could Ted Cruz play the part of a Jim DeMint-type of Republican: be fairly good on domestic issues while agitating for interventionist foreign policies before gradually edging away from it? Only time will tell, but if what Cruz truly has to offer was on stage on Thursday, it doesn’t look promising.