Ted Cruz Looks Stale and Old and Past His Time

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images

From Esquire

Not long after Jackie Bradley Jr.'s grand slam rose into glorious heights of righteousness and unbridled joy before leaving the ballfields Tuesday, I switched over to the debate in Texas between Congressman Beto O'Rourke and Senator Tailgunner Ted Cruz. On the level of pure personality, it was a fascinating exchange. O'Rourke's appeal was broad and warm. Make no mistake: This is a guy with some serious chops. Meanwhile, Cruz was so thickly enfolded in his basic ideological exoskeleton that the two men seemed to be talking to different electorates in different dimensions.

One of them was clearly inviting people into something bigger than the candidate and the campaign, and the other seemed to be offering himself up as a stalwart barrier against whatever it was that his voters thought O'Rourke was ginning up. If I was scoring-and if I were, say, Harold Lederman-I'd give it to O'Rourke on points if only because not only did he make Cruz look oily-which is not at all hard to do-he also made him look stale and old.

Photo credit: Tom Reel - Getty Images

In other words, he made Cruz, who rode into the Senate as a bombthrower's bombthrower, and who has behaved that way in the Senate to the point where the members of his own caucus facetiously fantasize about his murder, look like a tired Washington hack. And when O'Rourke dropped the old Trumpian kill-shot, "Lyin' Ted," on him, Cruz's smile became even more deeply saponaceous.

It’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted, and its why the nickname stuck because it’s true.

But it wasn't just O'Rourke's youth and openness that made Cruz reek a little bit of stale history. It was also a couple of things that Cruz said-worn and reliable old dodges that have been working for Republican candidates, in primaries and in general elections. For example, from the transcript, on the subject of the budget-busting tax cut that, only Monday, Mitch McConnell used as a potential excuse for taking a whack at Social Security and Medicare:

I AM PROUD TO SUPPORT THE TAX CUT, IT IS PRODUCING ENORMOUS BENEFITS FOR THE STATE OF TEXAS ON THE COUNTRY. WE ARE SEEING RECORD GROWTH, RECORD LOW UNEMPLOYMENT, 4 MILLION NEW JOBS IN THE LAST LOCAL YEARS. WHEN THINK THE DEMOCRATS DON'T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT IF YOU WANT TO PAY DOWN DEFICIT AND DEBT, AND IT CARE PASSIONATELY ABOUT THE DEFICIT AND DEBT, IF YOU WANT TO DO IT, THE ONLY WAY THAT IS STRONG TO DO THAT IS ECONOMIC GROWTH. IN THE 1960'S, JOHN F. KENNEDY, A DEMOCRAT, CAMPAIGNED ON TAX CUTS. HEADING THE CORPORATE TAX RATE. HE SAID THAT A RISING TIDE WOULD LIFT ALL BOATS, AND HE PASSED IT AND THE ECONOMY BOOMED. IN THE 1980'S, RONALD REAGAN CAMPAIGNED ON CUTTING TAXES TO GET THE ECONOMY GROWING. HE PASSED IT AND FEDERAL TAX REVENUES WENT UP.

This is old and tired. As has been said over and over again, since before Ted Cruz came to the Senate, when Kennedy got his tax-cut passed, the top rate was at 91 percent. After the cut, it was 70 percent. If you want to support a top rate of 70 percent, I'm all in for you. (Also, Kennedy wanted an even lower top rate, 65 percent, but the Republicans refused to give it to him because they didn't want to give him a complete victory in advance of the 1964 election. Times, they do change on you.)

Photo credit: Tom Reel - Getty Images

And the Reagan tax cuts, as defined by his first budget and his complete embrace of supply-side voodoo, was followed by a massive recession that cost the Republicans 27 seats in the House and the deficit managed to achieve escape velocity. All of which forced Reagan to...ahem...raise taxes in 1982. From Bloomberg:

The 1980s tax increases are less well-known, in part because they didn't involve increases in individual income tax rates. The biggest, the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, increased revenue mainly by tightening up rules on depreciation, leasing, contract accounting and investment tax credits. The Social Security Amendments of 1983 sped up planned increases in payroll tax rates, among other things. The Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 changed rules on interest exclusions, income averaging and such. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 closed a few loopholes and extended a telephone excise tax. And the Tax Reform Act of 1986, while it lowered the top individual income tax rate to 28 percent from 50 percent, contained enough offsetting changes that, for the first two years after enactment, it raised tax revenue.

This is an old talking point and an equally old argument and, making in in 2018, as the deficit vanishes past the Van Allen Belt, on the day that McConnell intimated that it would be used as a club on very popular programs, it made Cruz sound past his time. Cruz's answer when-Holy crap!-the climate crisis actually came up in a political debate also marked him as the Ghost of Reagans Past.

THE CLIMATE HAS BEEN CHANGING FROM THE DAWN OF TIME AND IT WILL CHANGE AS LONG AS WE HAVE A PLANET EARTH. I AM THE SON OF TWO MATHEMATICIANS AND COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS. I BELIEVE IN SCIENCE AND A CHAIR THAT RYAN'S COMMITTEE AND -- CHAIR THE SCIENCE COMMITTEE. WE LOOK AT THE SCIENCE AND DATA BEHIND GLOBAL WARMING. WE HEARD TESTIMONY AND DATA. FAR TOO MANY DEMOCRATS APPROACH THE ISSUE NOT AS A MATTER OF SCIENCE. I THINK WE SHOULD FOLLOW THE SCIENCE AND EVIDENCE. INSTEAD, THEY APPROACH IT AS A MATTER OF GOVERNMENT POWER. THEY WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL THE ECONOMY.

This, not a week after a massive hurricane almost turned the Florida Panhandle into a new natural harbor in southern Alabama. It isn't just that Cruz sounded wrong. He sounded like he hadn't read a newspaper in six months.

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In addition, I'm not exactly sure that Cruz should have been boasting about how close he was to a president* who treated him, his wife, and his father as a doormat, while trying to make the fact that O'Rourke is a Democrat and, therefore, unlikely to get along well with the president* a compelling issue. As O'Rourke said:

IT'S INTERESTING TO HEAR YOU TALKING ABOUT A PARTISAN CIRCUS. IF YOU HAVE A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP, THEN WHERE IS THE RESULT OF THAT? YOU WERE ALL TALK AND NO ACTION. THE TARIFFS THE PRESIDENT HAS LEVIED AND THE TRADE WARS HE HAS ENTERED INTO ARE HURTING OUR STATE MORE THAN IT IS HURTING TEXAS. OUR FARMERS, RANCHERS, MANUFACTURERS AND EXPORTERS HERE IN SAN ANTONIO, WHERE we PURCHASED OUR TUNDRA AND MET THE FOLKS WHO MAKE IT.

I still think Cruz is the smart bet in this race, but the overwhelming impression from Tuesday night is that he's a politician past his time. It was absolutely startling.

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