'Establishment Tribes Beat Drums against Ted Cruz'

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Angelo Codevilla is the dean of conservative strategists, a senior member of the Reagan team during the 1980s, and the author of the best recent book on American security strategy. Like Ted Cruz, Prof. Codevilla rejects the false dichotomy of isolationism vs. neo-conservative interventionism: America is not out to remake the world in its own image, but to secure itself from foreign enemies. Sometimes that means using power abroad, and using a lot of it–but the criteria must be America’s self-interest.

In a new essay for Asia Times, Codevilla make short work of the Establishment counter-attack against Sen. Cruz, taking on the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, the Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith, the American Enterprise Institute’s Gary Schmitt, and other luminaries. It’s a must read. Some choice excerpts:

Simultaneously, as if signals from a council of sachems had summoned them to the warpath, the Republican establishment’s warriors took after Ted Cruz. Pat Buchanan encapsulated this establishment: “… officeholders past and present, donors, lobbyists, think-tankers angling for jobs, party hacks and talking heads [who] discuss how to frustrate the rising rebellion against what they have done to America.”

The establishmentarian drumbeat against Cruz has involved but a whiff of argument on policy, and a few twisted or out of context attributions. But it has consisted mostly of attacks on the man’s character. Fox News led the way with characterizations ranging from flip-flopper to “servile.”

Britt Hume, heretofore its resident adult, said that Cruz had “difficulty shaking hands with the truth.” The point in print, in the blogosphere, as well as on TV is: he’s not one of us, not of our kind, and hence unsuited for responsible office. This very vehemence ensures the attacks’ success. For sure, Cruz ain’t no part of the establishment. Whether that convinces voters to vote against Cruz or for him is another matter.  What follows here is an overview of the written attacks, which reveal more about the attackers than they do about the target thereof.

The Wall Street Journal is the Republican establishment’s intellectual apex. This is what flows down from that hill.

A  recent Journal lead editorial hit Cruz for supporting restrictions on the government’s practice of collecting data on all telephone traffic, supposedly just to look good to libertarians. No one could guess that there are dispositive substantive reasons for believing that unfocused bulk data collection is worse than useless. The debate on this, which has been going on within the intelligence community for thirty years, has been decided internally by bureaucratic and interest group force majeure. But even folks who know none of this are painfully aware that our intelligence analysts, far from having algorithms that can find the equivalent of just the right dust particles inside mountains, let boulder-size facts about such as the murderers of Fort Hood, Boston and San Bernardino roll over them. Cruz’s argument is that there is a lot more safety to be gained by focusing surveillance on mosques than on your mom. Crazy argument, isn’t it?


The Journal’s ace foreign policy columnist, Bret Stephens, even called Cruz an impostor, claiming there are conflicts between what he says and what really thinks. Unlike the rest of the editorial board, Stephens knows how well Cruz understands America’s foreign policy problems, and claims to respect his intellect. He asks why Cruz does not go along with the Journal’s prescriptions. His answer: “character.” Bad character.

Stephens writes: “The central foreign-policy challenge facing the next president is how to re-establish American credibility with friends who no longer trust us and enemies who no longer fear us. Mr. Cruz gets this, just as he gets that the purpose of US foreign policy cannot be to redeem the world’s crippled societies through democracy-building exercises. Foreign policy is not in the business of making dreams come true—Arab-Israeli peace, Islamic liberalism, climate nirvana, a Russian reset, et cetera. It’s about keeping our nightmares at bay. Today those nightmares are Russian revanchism, Iranian nuclearization, the rise and reach of Islamic State and China’s quest to muscle the US out of East Asia. How to deal with them? Mr. Cruz has thoughts on these and other important matters.” All true.


Below the Journal’s level, the establishment’s intellectual standard drops steeply. The attacks coming from there would be sad, or just funny, if they did not represent the mentality of people who might well have hand in foreign policy were an Establishment’s candidate become president.

For the neoconservative Weekly Standard, which feeds lines about foreign affairs to one establishment candidate (Marco Rubio), the essence of US foreign policy must be the promotion of democracy in other lands. This, to be clear, is the doctrine of second generation neoconservatives, and is contrary to the views of the original neoconservatives, prominently former U.N ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick. In her influential article “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” she had drawn a distinction between the necessity for America to oppose Communist dictatorships – because they threatened America – and the relative uselessness of president Jimmy Carter’s opposition to non-communist ones, because they do not.


Down another intellectual rung, the American Enterprise Institute, where Kirkpatrick once set the tone on foreign policy, published a piece by Gary Schmitt, “ Co-Director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies and Director of the Program on American Citizenship,” that boldly -but quite ignorantly – asserts second generation neocon orthodoxy against Kirkpatrick and Cruz at once: “Dictatorships and Double Standards” didn’t fly the first time. And it won’t do any better in Cruz’s 2.0 version.”

Here is Schmitt. You just can’t make this stuff up. “Cruz’s willingness to live with dictatorships would have been at odds with Reagan’s larger strategic goal of bringing down the Soviet Union and freeing the peoples of Eastern and Central Europe.” Schmitt supposes that promoting democracy in Russia was the purpose of Reagan’s policy toward the Soviet Union rather than one set of means among others in the fight against a mortal enemy. In the name of neocon 2.0 orthodoxy, Schmitt reverses the natural order between ends and means.

Read Codevilla’s whole essay here.