Whichever side of the aisle your politics are on, that’s quite a provocative comparison that Jonah Goldberg makes in his latest L.A. Times column:
Both men have impeccable educational credentials. Obama went to Occidental College, transferred to Columbia University and got his law degree from Harvard. Cruz went to Princeton University, where he was a national champion debater, and got a law degree from Harvard. Cruz’s legal career was objectively more impressive than Obama’s. He clerked on the appellate court and for Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the Supreme Court. He held numerous prestigious jobs in and out of government. Like Obama, he taught law, but Cruz was also the solicitor general of Texas and argued before the Supreme Court nine times.
National Review editor Rich Lowry put his finger on one plausible source of elite liberal hatred for Cruz: betrayal. “Cruz is from the intellectual elite, but not of it, a tea party conservative whose politics are considered gauche at best at the storied universities where he studied. He is, to borrow the words of the 2009 H.W. Brands biography of FDR, a traitor to his class.” (I hate to correct my boss, but Brands didn’t coin that phrase).
What liberals hate in Cruz, they love in Obama: a product of an elite education who confirms all their feelings of superiority. Obama took the desiccated ideas of campus liberalism and made them seem vibrant, stylish and even populist.
Both men made political hay of their ethnicity. It worked better for Obama, but it’s worth noting that Cruz has an impressive list of “firsts” for a Latino, which he proudly — and rightly — highlights in his official biography.
The real similarities, however, come in the form of their approach to politics. Both landed in the U.S. Senate, running with larger ambitions in mind. Moreover, both grasp that historically the Senate whittles away presidential timber. Like John F. Kennedy, Obama was there just long enough to run for president. And while Obama was there, his chief goal was burnishing his presidential image, not racking up legislative accomplishments.
While Jonah believes that Cruz may be the GOP’s equivalent of Barack Obama, Bryan Preston writes that he’s not the second coming of the GOP’s Newt Gingrich. And despite our admiration for Newt’s accomplishments in securing a Congressional GOP in 1994 after decades in the Congressional wilderness, in many respects, that’s a good thing: “2013 Is Not 1995, and Cruz Can Win,” Bryan writes.