It’s hard to believe but Ted Cruz and Barack Obama do have one thing in common. Both have now won awards more for their potential than for their achievements. In Obama’s case, it was the Nobel Peace Prize, an award given to the likes of Yasser Arafat for bringing “peace to the Middle East” and, yes, Al Gore for his maunderings about the weather. In Cruz’s case, it was the Claremont Institute’s Statesmanship Award, previously given to the likes of Milton Friedman and Margaret Thatcher.
I leave it to you to decide which is the greater honor, but I was in attendance Saturday night at Claremont’s annual Churchill dinner at the Beverly Wilshire to see Cruz receive his award and, more importantly, deliver a speech. I was anxious to go because the Texas senator is one of the men of the Republican hour and a darling of the militant wing of the party. He is also quite clearly a bright fellow, a cum laude graduate of Princeton where he was a national debating champion, then a magnum cum laude grad of Harvard Law where he was called “off-the-charts brilliant” by none other than Alan Dershowitz, who, to my knowledge, has never said quite the same thing about Obama. From there the future Texas senator went on to clerk for Chief Justice Rehnquist.
Perhaps even more impressive about Cruz is that he was already studying such free-market economists as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Frederic Bastiat and Ludwig Mises in high school. Not too many of us could say that. But if we had, I suspect this country would be a lot different.
My problem with the Texas senator, as I have written previously, has been one of tactics, not ideology. I was put off, as were a significant portion of the electorate, if we can believe the polls, by his effort to shut down the government over Obamacare, even though that same electorate disdained Obama’s absurd healthcare legislation — or should I say prevarication? Nevertheless, for a moment, the Republican brand was damaged. I was worried that it might be fatal. I was dead wrong.
I wanted to hear Cruz speak at the Churchill dinner to see if I was dead wrong about him as well. I think I probably was. The man delivered a fine speech. He was personable. He was funny. (He made father-in-law jokes rather than mother-in-law jokes.) He hit his ideological marks and he also spent time defending his tactical position.
He quoted Lady Thatcher in his defense when she famously said, “First you win the argument, then you win the vote.” So true, and just the opposite of our current president whose “argument” was the puerile and non-existent “hope and change,” really no argument at all, before he won the vote — and look what that has done to our country. Liberals in general don’t make arguments (largely because they don’t have any). They appeal to emotion.
Of course, conservatives and libertarians must appeal to emotion as well — to some degree at least — if they intend to win elections. I was concerned Cruz would not be able to do that. I am much less concerned now.
Does that mean I am signing up on the Cruz for President train? No. It’s way too early for that and, if the last go-round is any indication, I’m going to change my mind about twenty-five times anyway. The only train I will sign up for is getting a Republican in the White House, virtually any Republican. I have to admit it. I’m desperate.
Before I stop, I’d like to tip my hat to the Claremont Institute. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s doing great work. You should educate yourselves. And you should read its Claremont Review of Books. It’s sort of the non-pharmaceutical antidote to the New York Review of Books and, on occasion at least, considerably wittier.