Presidential candidate Ted Cruz made a somewhat uncomfortable appearance on the Stephen Colbert show this past week. I say “uncomfortable” not because Cruz was caught off guard or unsure of himself, but because the studio audience was pretty loudly, audibly hostile to him. In fairness, Colbert asked them to stop actually saying “Boo” at one point, but his own sympathies are in fact pretty liberal, so he tried to get in his share of cutesy zingers during questioning (some of which actually fell embarrassingly flat, not that the audience would have admitted it).
Still, Cruz handled himself in a relaxed, gracious manner that I think came off well. The biggest “joke’s on you” moment for Colbert came when Cruz was laying out a list of principles he stands for, like economic stewardship and respect for the constitution. Colbert interjected, “And no gay marriage.” Cruz decided to say that he believed according to the Constitution, marriage should be left to the states, whereupon Colbert showed his ignorance of the 10th Amendment by interrupting again, “Yeah, the Constitution doesn’t say anything about gay marriage.” “Exactly,” replied Cruz. See Amendment 10. Oops.
But I confess that I came away a little bit disappointed with Cruz overall, which surprised me. While Colbert eventually asked him point-blank on the marriage issue, “I’m asking what you want,” he didn’t really answer the question directly. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Cruz to state plainly that marriage is between a man and a woman and that it would in fact be disastrous even on a state level to re-define it. He chose instead to focus on the “5 robed men in Washington can’t make fiat law” angle, which is certainly a good and important point to make, but it’s not sufficient to address the whole issue.
This rhetorical reserve is connected to another little exchange, where Colbert questioned him about political civility. He asked whether Cruz would agree that it’s important not to call his political opponents “the devil” or “diabolical,” in the interests of bi-partisan collaboration. “Absolutely. There’s nothing diabolical about you,” said Cruz equably. He also agreed that his Democratic opponents aren’t “diabolical.”
I realize this was the rhetorically suave path to take, but I would have liked to see Cruz give some push-back on this point as well, especially in the aftermath of this ongoing Planned Parenthood scandal. The evil on display in these videos truly is diabolical, and yet every Democrat in the House and Senate has voted against a bill to cut funding for the organization. I’m sorry to say Rand Paul voted against it too, though he said it was because some other aspect of the bill would create more debt, not because he disagreed that Planned Parenthood should be shut down. I’m still disappointed. However, it’s safe to say that the Democrats are pretty much universally pro-abortion. And at this point, I think it’s also safe to say that they are doing the devil’s work by banding together in support of Planned Parenthood. I think it’s been safe to say it for decades, but all the more so now that the light is being shone on even deeper layers of evil, lies and corruption.
What Cruz should have said is this: “Well, Stephen, I don’t know. Why don’t you give me an example, and I’ll tell you if I agree or not?” Instead, he talked about not responding to “insults” in kind, which isn’t even the same thing. It’s one thing to make an inappropriate, petty attack on somebody’s person, as has doubtless happened to Cruz. It’s another thing to make a pointed, accurate accusation of evil.
If there was ever a time to take the kid gloves off and put the boxing gloves on when it comes to the rhetoric of political discourse, this is it. Yes, I realize Colbert framed these questions by asking Cruz to make the case for why non-conservative voters should consider him, and a truly hardball answer like what I’ve sketched out would most likely alienate such voters. But so what? Non-conservative voters will never consider a conservative candidate anyway, no matter how much his policies align with what’s actually in their own best interests morally, economically, etc. Pigs will fly before that happens. So why bother being suave?
I’m still happy with the idea of a Cruz primary win, and I have hopes that he might still go all the way. But this is the wrong socio-political moment for him to pull his punches. It’s okay Ted, you can say it out loud: The enemy is diabolical.