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Mimi Swartz: Ted Cruz, Liar and Thug

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Since his revolting performance at the failed revolt on January 6, Ted Cruz has emerged as leader of what is known as the #SeditionCaucus. Mimi Swartz, executive editor of the Texas Monthly and contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, recently called him out as a hypocrite and a phony who used his credentials to attack our democracy:

When I was growing up, I was often reminded that people with fancy educations and elite degrees “put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us.” This was back in the early 1960s, before so many rich Texans started sending their kids to Ivy League schools, when mistrust of Eastern educated folks — or any highly educated folks — was part of the state’s deep rooted anti-intellectualism. Beware of those who lorded their smarts over you, was the warning. Don’t fall for their high-toned airs.

Since I’ve been lucky enough to get a fancy enough education, I’ve often found myself on the other side of that warning. But then came Jan. 6, when I watched my Ivy League-educated senator, Ted Cruz, try to pull yet another fast one on the American people as he fought — not long before the certification process was disrupted by a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol and forcing their way into the Senate chamber — to challenge the election results.

In the unctuous, patronizing style he is famous for, Mr. Cruz cited the aftermath of the 1876 presidential election between Rutherford Hayes and Samuel Tilden. It was contentious and involved actual disputes about voter fraud and electoral mayhem, and a committee was formed to sort it out. Mr. Cruz’s idea was to urge the creation of a committee to investigate invented claims of widespread voter fraud — figments of the imaginations of Mr. Trump and minions like Mr. Cruz — in the election of Joe Biden. It was, for Mr. Cruz, a typical, too-clever-by-half bit of nonsense, a cynical ploy to paper over the reality of his subversion on behalf of President Trump. (The horse trading after the 1876 election helped bring about the end of Reconstruction; maybe Mr. Cruz thought evoking that subject was a good idea, too.)

But this tidbit was just one of many hideous contributions from Mr. Cruz in recent weeks. It happened, for instance, after he supported a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (under indictment since 2015 for securities fraud) in an attempt to overturn election results in critical states (it was supported by other Texan miscreants like Representative Louie Gohmert).

The esoteric exhortations of Jan. 6 from Mr. Cruz, supposedly in support of preserving democracy, also just happened to occur while a fund-raising message was dispatched in his name. (“Ted Cruz here. I’m leading the fight to reject electors from key states unless there is an emergency audit of the election results. Will you stand with me?”) The message went out around the time that the Capitol was breached by those who probably believed Mr. Cruz’s relentless, phony allegations.

Until last Wednesday, I wasn’t sure that anything or anyone could ever put an end to this man’s self-serving sins and long trail of deceptions and obfuscations. As we all know, they have left his wife, his father and numerous colleagues flattened under one bus or another in the service of his ambition. (History may note that Senator Lindsey Graham, himself a breathtaking hypocrite, once joked, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”)

But maybe, just maybe, Mr. Cruz has finally overreached with this latest power grab, which is correctly seen as an attempt to corral Mr. Trump’s base for his own 2024 presidential ambitions. This time, however, Mr. Cruz was spinning, obfuscating and demagoguing to assist in efforts to overturn the will of the voters for his own ends.

Mr. Cruz has been able to use his pseudo-intellectualism and his Ivy League pedigree as a cudgel. He may be a snake, his supporters (might) admit, but he could go toe to toe with liberal elites because he, too, went to Princeton (cum laude), went to Harvard Law School (magna cum laude), was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Mr. Cruz was not some seditionist in a MAGA hat (or a Viking costume); he styled himself as a deep thinker who could get the better of lefties from those pointy headed schools. He could straddle both worlds — ivory towers and Tea Party confabs — and exploit both to his advantage.

Today, though, his credentials aren’t just useless; they condemn him. Any decent soul might ask: If you are so smart, how come you are using that fancy education to subvert the Constitution you’ve long purported to love? Shouldn’t you have known better? But, of course, Mr. Cruz did know better; he just didn’t care. And he believed, wrongly I hope, that his supporters wouldn’t either.

I was heartened to see that our senior senator, John Cornyn, benched himself during this recent play by Team Crazy. So did seven of Texas’ over 20 Republican members of the House — including Chip Roy, a former chief of staff for Mr. Cruz. (Seven counts as good news in my book.)

I’m curious to see what happens with Mr. Cruz’s check-writing enablers in Texas’ wealthier Republican-leaning suburbs. Historically, they’ve stood by him. But will they want to ally themselves with the mob that vandalized our nation’s Capitol and embarrassed the United States before the world? Will they realize that Mr. Cruz, like President Trump and the mini-Cruz, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, would risk destroying the country in the hope of someday leading it?

Or maybe, just maybe, they will finally see — as I did growing up — that a thug in a sharp suit with an Ivy League degree is still a thug.

I have two questions for Cruz:

  1. How can someone born in Canada run for president of the United States?
  2. Cruz says we should believe Trump. Trump said Cruz’s father assassinated JFK. Did he?

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