Ted Cruz, the running man.
Ever since I first got to really know him in 2008, Ted Cruz has been a man more obsessed with running for office than actually serving. Now, with just two years and two months in his first elective office, the Houston Chronicle is reporting that Cruz is poised to announce as a candidate for president.
One of the first things Cruz may have to do on the campaign trail is explain to his social conservative base why in 2009, while preparing to run for state attorney general, he took more than $250,000 in campaign funds from out-of-state investment bankers who supported legalizing gay marriage. Cruz in February introduced legislation to leave same-sex marriage up to the states, a clear move to cut off the U.S. Supreme Court before it rules on the issue.
Cruz took the donations in 2009 when he was trying to out-position state Representative Dan Branch in an expected race to replace then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, who had been expected to run for governor. Abbott delayed his gubernatorial quest for four years when Rick Perry decided to seek re-election. Cruz out-paced Branch by raising more than $1 million in the first part of 2009.
The gay rights donations were from two very conservative investment bankers, one in New York and one in San Francisco. While both men would be in full agreement with Cruz on many issues, they were worlds apart on same-sex marriage even in 2009. But that did not stop Cruz from taking their money – and it was their money that gave Cruz his fundraising advantage over Branch.
One donor was Paul Elliott Singer of the hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation. Singer, whose son married his partner, donated $425,000 and raised another $500,000 to push for legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. In 2012, Singer donated $1 million to the American Unity PAC, with the purpose of supporting candidates who back gay marriage. Singer gave Cruz $25,000 in 2009.
The other donor was Peter Thiel of San Francisco, a venture capitalist behind Facebook and PayPal. Thiel, who is openly gay, is more libertarian than Republican, having financially supported Ron Paul in the past. “I believe that gay rights and marriage rights for gay people should not be a partisan issue,” Thiel said at a 2010 fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.”Gay marriage can’t be a partisan issue because as long there are partisan issues or cultural issues in this country, you’ll have trench warfare like on the western front in World War I. You’ll have lots of carnage and no progress.”
In a 2009 essay published about a month before his $235,000 donation to Cruz, Thiel laid out his case for becoming a libertarian with the phrase: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” Thiel blamed “welfare beneficiaries” and the women’s vote as having “rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” Since less than a month passed between Thiel’s essay and Cruz taking his money, it would be fair to ask Cruz whether freedom and democracy are incompatible.
Less surprising than that Singer and Thiel would donate to a conservative candidate is the fact Cruz would accept their money at the same time he was appealing to Texas social conservatives on issues such as banning gay marriage in Texas and his defense before the U.S. Supreme Court of displaying the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds. Normally, I am hesitant to play the guilt-by-association game that politicians have to agree with their donors, but these two individuals made up a quarter of Cruz’ 2009 justification for why he was the more viable Republican candidate for attorney general.
But then, Cruz always has been something of an opportunist. In January 2011, it was not clear whether Perry would once again block his boss’ path to the Governor’s Mansion. But with Kay Bailey Hutchison retiring, the Senate seat was open. So he jumped into that race for the 2012 cycle. In his brief tenure in the Senate, he has shot into the national eye not so much by taking on Democrats as being a thorn in the side of the Republican leadership. At first this brought to my mind Louisiana’s Huey Long’s antagonizing of FDR. Senate Republicans hated Long. Senate Democrats loathed him. And President Roosevelt called Long one of the two most dangerous men in American. But Huey Long was a career politician compared to Ted Cruz. Long had served for 14 years as an elected Louisiana official before entering the Senate and demagoguing his way to national prominence. Even Texas’ version, William Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, had two years as governor under his belt before entering the Senate.
I’ll leave the debate on the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, to the Democrats and Republicans. But glancing through the rest of the legislation filed by Cruz since he’s been in the Senate, mostly it is pandering. A look at a few:
S.505 – A bill to prohibit the use of drones to kill citizens of the United States within the United States. I haven’t heard of a drone strike in the U.S., but what about Texas Department of Public Safety helicotpers? Maybe it is different because these were not U.S. citizens.
S.1661 – A bill to require the U.S. State Department to offer rewards of up to $5 million for information regarding the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
S.2024 – A bill to leave the definition of marriage up to the states.
S.2067 – A bill to prohibit the Department of Treasury from assigning tax statuses to organizations based on their political beliefs and activities. This stems for the slow approval of Tea Party tax-exemption determinations.
S.2170 – The American Energy Renaissance Act of 2014. Like Obamacare, I leave this one to the operatives of both sides. But essentially, it removes most restrictions on oil and gas production and refining. The legislation is as the crux of Cruz’s position on climate change: “data are not supporting what advocates are arguing.” California Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday said Cruz is “absolutely unfit” to be president because of his denial of climate change.
The real bottom line here is I don’t think Cruz is running to win the Republican presidential nomination next year. He’s running perhaps for the number two spot on the ticket. He’s running maybe to set the stage for a real run for the nomination in 2020 when he’ll only be 50 years old. He’s running maybe to promote his political views. Or Ted Cruz is running because running is what Ted Cruz does.
Ted Cruz is the running man.