Ted Cruz

Andrew Harnik | AP Photo

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Here it comes.

Thinking for a nano-second that maybe, just maybe, they have finally done in Donald Trump—a recent Iowa poll has Trump running second to Senator Ted Cruz—in a blink the Establishment’s guns swivel to attack… Cruz.

Trump is not only not dispatched. New polls since that Iowa Des Moines Register poll have Trump breaking into the forties, leaving everybody, including Ted Cruz, in the dust.  But let’s focus here on Cruz, and the revealing attack on him that was penned by Max Boot over there in Commentary.

The title? Ted Cruz: The Anti-Reagan. 

Boot begins thusly:

Like many of his rivals for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz has embraced the mantle of Ronald Reagan. He regularly cites the Gipper as an inspiration, and last week gave a foreign policy address at the Heritage Foundation that was laced with tributes to him: “As Reagan knew well, the best way to project America’s leadership is by protecting and promoting America’s strength and this principle should always guide our actions.” I didn’t know Ronald Reagan (neither did Cruz), but I do know a lot about him. And from what I know, it’s fair to say that Ted Cruz is no Ronald Reagan. In many ways, he is actually an anti-Reagan.”

As the late president used to say? Well…

I actually did know Ronald Reagan. He was the boss for all of us who toiled in the Reagan White House, including me when I was a young White House political director. And as it happens, I also know Ted Cruz. And suffice it to say Ted Cruz is the real thing, a genuine Reaganite.

Boot begins by going after Cruz’s “tone,” bringing up the old Eleventh Commandment business that one should not speak ill of another Republican. The commandment was actually the creation not of Reagan, but the chairman of the California Republican Party Gaylord Parkinson. Let’s stop there a minute.

...to suggest for a nanosecond that Ted Cruz is somehow acting in un-Reaganesque fashion by opposing the same GOP Establishment Reagan fought against his entire political career is a blatant untruth. 

Why did Parkinson feel the need to come up with this jewel in the day? Because as Ronald Reagan was preparing to run for the Republican nomination for governor of California, Reagan was being attacked as an “extremist.” His opponent for the nomination, the liberal (read: Establishment) Republican Mayor of San Francisco George Christopher had already gone after Reagan by saying that if the actor had to use “several paragraphs”  to explain his views on extremism then, well, he was one.

But Parkinson’s 11th commandment was not always obeyed by Ronald Reagan himself. Over the years he called out the party’s moderates as “fraternal order” Republicans and said if they wanted to leave the GOP because he was returning it to its conservative values then, well, that was their decision.  Hardly a conciliatory “tone.” And, of course, Reagan was withering in his criticisms of Republican incumbent President Gerald Ford, finally launching a full-scale primary challenge to unseat him. To be sure, all human souls being unique, Ted Cruz is not Ronald Reagan; he is…Ted Cruz. But to suggest for a nanosecond that Ted Cruz is somehow acting in un-Reaganesque fashion by opposing the same GOP Establishment Reagan fought against his entire political career is a blatant untruth. 

Boot goes on… and we get to the real root of his problem with Ted Cruz. Cruz is critical of presidential opponent and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. And Max Boot admits that, um, well, golly gee, yes, he in fact is a foreign policy adviser to Rubio. Got it. Duly noted.

So when this attack on Cruz as not only no Reagan but as an “anti-Reagan” proceeds, what is really going on is the Rubio camp has marched forth to try and strip Cruz of his long established credentials as a solid and quite serious Reaganite.

Not having been there in the day, Boot trots out one of the Left’s favorite chestnuts about the Reagan-Tip O’Neill relationship. It is telling indeed that a Rubio adviser would use a leftist tall tale about Tip O’Neill, apparently blissfully unaware that O’Neill’s real feelings for Reagan were expressed thusly:

“The evil is in the White House at the present time. And that evil is a man who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations of America, and who likes to ride a horse. He’s cold. He’s mean. He’s got ice water for blood.”

Got that? Reagan was the “evil” in the White House. And the Rubio camp is trying to tell us that all was swell with Ronnie and Tip and if only Ted Cruz could pay more attention to leftist revisions about Reagan, then all would be well with the world.

This attack on Cruz is disingenuous to its last word. Cruz is accused of being anti-free trade, which is laughably untrue. What is true, as Cruz himself explained, is this:

As a general matter, I agree (as did Ronald Reagan) that free trade is good for America; when we open up foreign markets, it helps American farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers. But TPA in this Congress has become enmeshed in corrupt Washington backroom deal-making, along with serious concerns that it would open up the potential for sweeping changes in our laws that trade agreements typically do not include.”

Cruz goes on in detail, as only he can. But it is clear here that in their zeal to attack him on his Reaganite beliefs, Camp Rubio is deliberately misrepresenting Cruz’s trade stance to make him seem to be something he clearly is not: an anti-free trader. And doing this by shamefully invoking Reagan.  

Boot moves on, making a painful attempt to shield Rubio from Rubio’s wildly misguided backing of the Gang of Eight immigration bill by citing Reagan’s signing of the 1986 immigration reform bill.  As then-Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese has now said in a letter to the Wall Street Journal when Rubio was all gung ho for immigration reform:

“The '86 reform bill also had supposedly "rigorous" border security and immigration law enforcement provisions. So how did that pan out? On the day Reagan signed "comprehensive" reform into law, only one thing changed: Millions of unlawful immigrants gained "legal" status. The promised crackdowns on security and enforcement never happened. Only amnesty prevailed.”

This Meese description of what happened after Reagan signed the bill is, of course, accurate. Thus reading Boot’s citation of Reagan on this can only leave the impression that Cruz is being criticized by Rubio because Rubio, in the inner recesses of his deliberations on immigration, is ultimately just fine with the fact that, again in the words of Reagan’s own Attorney General, the “promised crackdowns on security and enforcement never happened. Only amnesty prevailed.”

Is this really where Marco Rubio stands on immigration? Apparently so.

On and on this goes, with Boot invoking Reagan’s name in the cause of defending the “neocons.” Let’s be clear. Ronald Reagan was no neocon, he was a conservative. He used the military to invade exactly one country—Grenada after a Communist coup in order to prevent the establishment of a Cuban-style Soviet base in America’s backyard. Reagan came to regret sending the Marines to Lebanon after 243 of them were killed by a suicide bomber. He vowed not to repeat the mistake. We will never know, but the notion of Reagan racing through the Middle East removing this or that dictator seems, to be charitable, unlikely.

There is a long way to go in this campaign as we prepare for the pause that is the inevitable Christmas/New Year break. Come January, the campaign begins in dead earnest.

When we get to that stage, the candidates will say what they are going to say. Charges will fly. But if one of those charges against Ted Cruz from Marco Rubio supporters is, as in this instance, to try and say that Ted Cruz is some sort of “anti-Reagan,” this sorely mistaken and deliberately disingenuous.  Which doesn’t say much about the Rubio campaign, does it?


Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director, author and CNN political commentator. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com and @JeffJlpa1.