During his press conference following a campaign rally in Kansas City on Saturday afternoon, Senator Ted Cruz said that responsibility for the tone of a campaign “starts at the top,” and made the point that he is running to be the president of all Americans — not just conservative Americans.
Asked if he was concerned about the political atmosphere that is developing on the Republican side, where protesters now feel emboldened to shut down rallies, Cruz said that “no protester has the right to carry out violence, no protester has the right to threaten violence. And the First Amendment protects all of our right to speak. But it doesn’t protect your right to silence others. So we’ve seen protesters show up that are trying to shout down the speech, that are trying to disrupt — and that’s wrong — it’s abusive. It’s something the Black Lives Matter movement has pushed.” Cruz added that there are allegations that the Bernie Sanders campaign has been trying to disrupt campaigns, too. “That is wrong. Nobody has the right to silence the free speech of Americans,” Cruz declared.
Then he turned his attention to the Trump campaign.
“But at the same time I think with any campaign responsibility starts at the top. And the way you interact with citizens — even the ones who disagree with you — conveys a lot about a candidate. I am running not to be the president just of Republicans. I’m running to be the president of Republicans, of Democrats, of independents, and libertarians. I’m running to be the president of all Americans.”
There were no protesters at Cruz’s rally in Kansas City Saturday — just a happy, enthusiastic crowd of conservatives. But Cruz acknowledged that his campaign has seen its share of protesters. “Unlike Donald Trump, I don’t ask people in the audience to punch them in the face. I don’t ask them to engage in physical violence against the protesters,” he noted. “If the protesters are being disruptive, law enforcement will remove them. They don’t have the right to infringe on the free speech rights of others.”
Cruz continued, “But more than once, I’ve had protesters stand up to make a point and if they’re being civil and courteous, I’ll actually engage in a conversation with them, and treat them with civility and respect. I think that the way you interact with citizens expresses what kind of president you would be.”
Cruz also addressed Trump’s “troubling” practice of “demanding that citizens raise their hands and pledge their support of Donald Trump.”
“Listen,” Cruz argued, “this is America. We don’t pledge allegiance to any man. We pledge allegiance to the flag. We pledge allegiance to defend the Constitution. But it’s kings and queens who demand of their subjects that they pledge allegiance to them personally, and I have to say I think that is completely backwards. This is a job interview.”
He later declared that Donald Trump as president would be “a disaster,” but Hillary Clinton would be “an even worse disaster.”