With some actual votes on the table in Iowa, anybody with questions about the guy who leads the Republican race, for now, could do worse than to read through Erica Grieder’s 10 thoughts in a “Field Guide to Ted Cruz.” My general impression is that the profile she paints is one of those pictures that somebody looking for flaws could pick through criticism, but taken as a whole, the image is exactly what one thought it was.
Cruz is ambitious (duh, he’s running for president) and strategic. He’s not downright dishonest about his beliefs in the way Obama is, but he’s got the lawyer’s knack for dodging inconvenient counterpoints. He’s not as far right as some would take him to be, but he’s not a progressive putting on a conservative minstrel show. This paragraph from Grieder strikes me as key:
… Cruz is running for the Republican presidential nomination, at a moment when the party itself seems to have gone wildly off the raise. So, realistically, we might have to make do with educated inferences. Mine is that Cruz is a mainstream conservative from the modern Texas Republican establishment. Given his background, he has an unusual expertise and commitment to constitutional issues. He has a lot of intellectual and temperamental overlap with longtime attorney general Greg Abbott, who is now the governor of Texas. (National readers who aren’t familiar with Abbott might want to take a look at Texas Monthly’s profile of Abbott, by my boss Brian Sweany.) But more generally, like most of the Republicans who have held high office in Texas lately, Cruz is fiscally conservative, and focused on fiscal issues; socially conservative, but only once or twice a season; pragmatic rather than ideological; and, as noted earlier, not nearly as radical as his reputation would suggest.
Some conservatives might hear mild alarms going off while reading that, but Grieder subsequently adds a balancing paragraph that interlocks with the above in a way that ought to be reassuring:
In light of his lifelong obsession with the subject, I am reasonably confident that Cruz’s diabolical plans, and thirst for world domination, are ultimately constrained by his own fealty to the supreme law of the land. What’s more, Cruz has specific expertise in the constitutional limits of the office he’s currently aiming for. His arguments against the president’s executive overreach have been backed by unique professional credentials, which actually exceed Obama’s. Both men are graduates of Harvard Law, and have been professors of constitutional law. Cruz is also the person who has successfully argued, at the Supreme Court, that an executive order issued by George W. Bush amounted to an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. If Cruz becomes president, he may start to feel differently about executive power, but at least he’s given the subject plenty of thought, and has reflected on the story of Joseph, who was doing well in Egypt, until there came a pharaoh who knew not Joseph.
An inference one can make about lawyers, orators, or other people who work in rhetoric who spend time crafting their language carefully, even if it seems slick, is that beneath it all, they have a respect for the truth. If the ends justify the means and honestly is of no import, then they’ll simply lie reassuringly. If you’re looking for a president who understands and supports the Constitution (and who would be limited by it, while insisting that others in government are, as well), it would be difficult to find a candidate who’s built up more credibility on the issue.
Make that a plausible candidate. Often — more often, as we’re repeatedly deceived by those in public office — we’ll only truly accept the perfect and impossible. We want somebody, for example, who will never compromise on principle, even in their language, but who will be able to work with opposition and make deals (because not making deals leaves only dictatorship). That’s not only a practical impossibility, but also a logical impossibility.