Who is Ted Cruz?

Texas GOP Senate sure-shot is the new conservative Latino cowboy in town

August 3, 2012

This has not been a good week for Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Sure, he’s making money hand over fist as his memoir, An American Son, sails up the New York Times bestseller list, but Politico, which has been promoting him since he started stumping for the senate, just ran this headline: “Move over, Marco Rubio: Ted Cruz’s star rises.”

There’s a new conservative Latino cowboy in town. And he’s so extreme, he makes Rubio look downright bipartisan (that’s good news in some circles, but not so good in others).

Who is Ted Cruz, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate seat in Texas, and the very likely winner of the general election contest in the fall?

Like Rubio, he’s Cuban-American (which means, if Cruz wins, all three Latino U.S. senators, including Democrat Robert Menéndez of New Jersey, would be Cuban-Americans). And like Rubio, he rode the Tea Party bandwagon to victory. (We’ll see if, like Rubio, he eschews the Tea Party senate caucus, or if he’ll embrace it. I bet embrace.)

But that’s about where the comparisons end.

Let me get Cruz's personal stuff out of the way: His Cuba story, unlike Rubio’s, is totally straightforward — his dad was a Fidel Castro partisan who saw the error of his ways and became a staunch anti-communist. Cruz barely mentions Cuba as a foreign policy concern, which makes sense if you aspire to represent Texas in the senate. He barely speaks Spanish and doesn’t pretend he does. He’s a Southern Baptist (his dad is a Baptist minister). He has never held elected office. He won the GOP primary with zero hep from Cuban-Americans (Jeb Bush, Rubio’s political godfather, threw a couple of fundraisers for him in Florida but there is no significant Cuban-American population in Texas) and a majority white vote.

But is he the Republican party’s great Latino hope? The voters in the run-off election Cruz just won were nearly all white. Hispanics make up 38 percent of Texas voters, a decisive segment, but the vast majority are Democrats. Cruz will very likely win in the fall but how many of Latinos will cross over to support Cruz in the fall?

Consider these issues:

* Cruz is absolutely against any kind of immigration reform or amnesty. After the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s SB 1070, Cruz said, “We need leaders who will get serious about enforcing the border: triple the border patrol; use walls, fences, and technology; end sanctuary cities; repeal Obama’s newly ordered amnesty; and end benefits like in-state tuition for illegal aliens.” Cruz is even against the DREAM Act.

* Cruz has said that the proudest moment of his legal career was the 2008 case Medellìn v. Texas, concerning a Mexican citizen, José Medellín — who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of two girls — as well as 50 other Mexican citizens in similar situations, none of whom had been advised of their right to seek legal help from the Mexican government after their arrests. Mexico had taken the case to the International Court of Justice, which ruled in its favor. Amazingly, the Bush administration — for whom Cruz had worked at one time — asked Texas to reconsider the convictions. Cruz argued before the Supreme Court that the feds could’t tell Texas what to do. The Supremes agreed and Medellín was executed shortly thereafter.

* Cruz is not just against the Affordable Care Act, he’s against any kind of federal health program. “I don’t think it’s government’s job to find health care for people,” Cruz said. “I think it’s the individual’s job to find health care.” In 2003, Cruz sued the Bush administration to strike down provisions of the Medicare drug benefit program.

* Cruz is so anti-gay he’s against gay pride parades. He actually tried to smear Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert for merely attending and tried to imply that his presence at the parade constituted support for same sex marriage.

* Cruz think Sharia Law is an “enormous problem.”

See what I mean? Rubio, who supports certain immigration reforms, cozies up to the GOP establishment, and personally opposes same sex marriage but believes states have the right to determine marriage laws, is practically liberal by comparison.