I despise Ted Cruz’s politics. I have to get that out in the beginning because I’m going to spend the rest of this piece singing his praises for last night’s performance at the RNC.
The fact that he could stand in front of a stadium full of people, a stadium largely booing him and not cheering him, and get his last thoughts out — all while maintaining his somewhat creepy smile — this guy is truly a political ‘Man of Steel.’
I mean, there could of been tomatoes thrown at him (or shoes) and he’d still finish his preplanned remarks, never deviating and not getting distracted by the crowd’s heated booing and cat-calls to ‘endorse Trump.’
Even the great Ronald Reagan would occasionally lose composure when being heckled, like telling a member of a group of Republican congressional candidates to ‘shut up,’ before continuing his remarks.
But before getting back to Cruz’s performance last night, and what it means, we should look at more examples, like Reagan’s, to see how our country’s leaders have acted under fire.
Franklin’s Ability To Stir The Pot With Wit
While Benjamin Franklin never held a high political office nationally after the Revolution (he served as the 6th President of Pennsylvania), his thoughts and ideas left a great impact on the Constitution.
Franklin was first and foremost a man of the press, a printer with dozens of papers and cities influenced by his thoughts — which weren’t always popular.
We remember Franklin as a man of wisdom and wit, but he was also a man that knew how printers stayed in business — through advertising.
On one occasion, Franklin drew sharp criticism from the local clergymen over an advertisement that specifically forbade clergymen from passage on a ship.
Franklin’s cool witty style retorted:
If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed. — Apology for printers.
I like this old example from a Founding Father, because it teaches us that responding with wit is often the only thing a heckled politician can do, other than silence, and we have plenty of modern examples of both.
Bill Clinton’s 1993 State of The Union: Heckles and Boos
The Republican delegation openly and loudly scoffed and laughed at President Clinton’s remarks on the budget, at which point Clinton went off of his pre-planned remarks to throw in his own witty jab, drawing cheers from the Democrats:
Well, you can laugh, my fellow Republicans. But I’ll point out that the Congressional Budget Office was normally more conservative in what was going to happen and closer to right than previous presidents have been. — 1993 State of the Union
But at other times he responded with silence, like the 1998 State of the Union, where he was booed by some Republicans for suggesting to allow those over 55 to ‘buy-in’ to Medicaid.
Instead of going off-message, he simply allowed both sides to get their booing and cheering out of their systems — then causally continued his remarks.
Sometimes silence really is ‘golden’ in politics.
Bush Steadfastly Ignores 2005 Booing
Many in the media have wrongly called the booing of Bush during his 2005 State of the Union the first of its kind, when Clinton was probably the first, though transcripts rarely reflect off-message remarks.
But Bush steadfastly ignored the booing and cat-calls, and continued with his speech.
Now, this wasn’t to the level that Cruz faced, only a few seconds of jeers, but Bush continued on.
But if you are going to use the booing of Bush in 2005, you also have to include — in fairness — the fact that Republicans openly cheered when Bush demanded that the Senate ‘do its job’ and give every nominee an ‘up or down vote.’
In 2017, it will be interesting to see how such an ‘up or down’ comment will be received — whether jeers or cheers, it will definitely be an indication of the Congress the president is facing.
Obama heckled with, ‘You lie!’
In 2009, President Obama was called-out by Rep. Joe Wilson’s (SC-R) shout ‘You lie!’ in response to his claims on immigration before a joint-session of Congress.
Probably the most vocal of any voices of disapproval during a presidential speech, but it was definitely impassioned by the deeply divided Congress on the issue of immigration.
In most parliamentary systems of government, direct insults to another member or to the head of state are considered out of order, with rules forbidding members from such behavior. The U.S. House and Senate are no different, both having rules of order with rules specifically addressing member’s behavior.
Obama was mostly unfazed by the disruption, merely stating ‘that’s not true,’ and then continuing on.
But the real issue is, America is becoming more and more divided and the critical responses greater and greater — and Cruz’s speech last night was more about the divide within his own party than anything else.
2016: Why Does It Really Matter?
Political conventions have a long history of being contentious, but usually by the time a nominee is ‘anointed’ the convention proceeds into lockstep with the party’s platform and strategy to take down the opposition.
But Cruz’s remarks largely stunned the crowd, especially his review of the principles of the Republican Party that he loved — almost implicitly stating that some were under fire with the current platform and candidacy of Donald Trump.
With the Log Cabin Republicans openly condemning their party for the most anti-LGBT platform in its history, Cruz reminded the audience that the same Bill of Rights defends gay and straight people alike.
Cruz’s message is of great importance to America as a whole, not necessarily the content, but his delivery and what it means.
In almost all primary elections, the nastiest of campaigns are finished with losers endorsing the winners, and everyone joining together to win for their party.
Cruz's message is of great importance to America as a whole, not necessarily the content, but his delivery and what it means.
But Cruz’s speech was a message of ideology, a frank message that acknowledged that both parties have the same objective, just different views of how to make America the best it can be.
Americans need to take that to heart.
There are no ‘tin-man’ conservatives or ‘straw-man’ liberals, there are only Americans. Americans with at times very heated opinions, but still Americans.
Within his party, Cruz is also acknowledging the fact that the 2016 primary was a war of party ideology within the parties themselves — and not everyone is satisfied with the outcome.
But Cruz’s message is most important in one aspect, you still vote your conscience when in the voting booth.
Party-line voters have created a reality that both major parties have come to count on — a certain percentage of locked in votes.
But this paradigm is no longer true for 2016, and both parties are seeing defections to minor parties and even some cross-party defections within the major parties.
Who knows what effect this will have on Cruz’s future in politics, but one thing is certain . . .
He was spot on when he stated that everyone needed to get to the polls and vote their conscience.