Only six weeks into his term, Cruz has made a name for himself – among members of both parties – as arrogant, confrontational, and polarizing. He exemplifies the worst of Republican obstructionism, and his extreme positions are at odds with Latino voters. It’s time the GOP presses the Cruz control button.
Republican leaders admit that Cruz went too far with Hagel. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that his demands were “out of bounds, quite frankly.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) rebuked Cruz for implying that Hagel had received money from North Korea. “All I can say is that I think the appropriate way to treat Senator Hagel is to be as tough as you want to be,” he said in an interview, “but don’t be disrespectful or malign his character.” They’re both right. Cruz made serious charges against Hagel without any evidence, and his grandstanding deserved to be called out.
Unfortunately, Cruz knows no shame. At a conservative summit in January, he described both Hagel and then-Senator John Kerry as “less than ardent fans of the U.S. military.” Yet both men served in the Vietnam War before Cruz was born. Hagel earned two purple hearts and Kerry received three, along with a Silver Star and Bronze Star. Although Cruz never served in the military, that did not stop him from disrespecting two decorated veterans.
On gun control, Cruz is long on posturing, short on solutions. A strong supporter of the Second Amendment, he tried to bring assault weapons into a hearing on gun safety. He defended an ad by the National Rifle Association, featuring President Obama’s children, by calling the president an “elitist hypocrite.” And after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed his city’s pension funds and banks to divest from gun manufacturers, Cruz invited banks and gun companies to do business with Texas. He compared Emanuel to “The Godfather” and warned against his “bullying.”
Cruz’ voting record reinforces the image of the GOP as the “Party of No.” He voted against the Violence Against Women Act. He voted against the confirmation of John Kerry as Secretary of State. He voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy victims. He is far from the moderate face of the GOP that Republicans are now eager to present.
As one of only three Hispanic Senators, Cruz enjoys a position of influence and visibility. However, Republicans are mistaken if they believe he can help them win over Latinos. Cruz has “deep concerns” about the immigration reform deal recently announced by the Senate. He is against any pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, a position supported by clear majorities of Hispanics. No wonder Cruz was elected without support from Hispanic voters. From health care to immigration reform, he is against many of the policies that Latinos support.
“I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo,” Cruz told The New York Times in an email. But compromise is an essential component of leadership. He could best serve his constituents by building bridges with fellow lawmakers, instead of alienating them. Cruz has already been compared to the infamous Joe McCarthy by Hardball’s Chris Matthews, bloggers, and Senator McCaskill.
Cruz’s allegations against Chuck Hagel were unfounded and offensive. Cruz is neither a good poster boy for moderate Republicans or for Latino Republicans. Texans deserve better – as do all Americans.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.