OK, Sen. Ted Cruz showed me: I accused him of hypocrisy for his Nelson Mandela praise last week – praise that horrified his racist wingnut Facebook fans – and he followed up by attending Mandela’s memorial service this week.
That’s nice. But far from getting into the “What Would Mandela Do?” spirit of the day, he made headlines by walking out on the speech by Cuban President Raúl Castro. President Obama, meanwhile, is being torched by the right for shaking Castro’s hand, and even seeming to “bow” to the Communist leader; can’t some tall conservatives, at least, explain that what we saw was a tall man greeting someone shorter? Nah.
Of course, Cruz couldn’t pull off his walkout with quiet dignity. ABC News broke the story, and its headline reads “Cruz says he walked out of Mandela service when Raul Castro spoke.” Get that? It appears Cruz wasn’t spotted walking out, he announced it, with a hectoring statement from his spokeswoman to ABC: “Sen. Cruz very much hopes that Castro learns the lessons of Nelson Mandela. For decades, Castro has wrongly imprisoned and tortured countless innocents. Just as Mandela was released after 27 years in prison, Castro should finally release his political prisoners. He should hold free elections, and once and for all, set the Cuban people free.”
I can very much promise you that Ted Cruz has not learned the lessons of Nelson Mandela.
Communist Cuba did indeed help the African National Congress and Mandela always expressed his gratitude. Castro had as much right as Obama to speak at the service. In fact, one lesson of Mandela applies to Cuba today: We should stop seeing the world in Cold War terms – which is what led the U.S., particularly Ronald Reagan and the American right, to support Mandela’s jailers and their apartheid rule -- and realize that we can do more to support democracy in Cuba by engaging with Castro than by walking out on him.
Also: Are we supposed to think it’s a big deal that Cruz won’t endorse Steve Stockman against “liberal” Texas Sen. John Cornyn (he of the second most conservative voting record in the U.S. Senate, which is saying something). Because it’s not. “As the senator has said many times, he will likely not get involved in any incumbent primaries,” Cruz’s communications director told Jonathan Martin. (That's a promise he made to mend fences with his GOP colleagues after his government shutdown fiasco.)
Of course, anyone who cared about either the state of Texas or the state of the Republican Party would "get involved" in that race. They'd stand up and say Steve Stockman isn’t fit to be a rodeo clown, let alone a U.S. senator, and endorse Cornyn. If Cruz’s staying neutral is supposed to represent a new maturity, I’d hate to see what’s considered his juvenile behavior.
Well, we’ve already seen it. But still, what a low bar for Ted Cruz’s “maturity.” Even Rand Paul is backing his Kentucky colleague Mitch McConnell over his 2014 Tea Party challenger – and Matt Bevin, said challenger, isn’t a racist nutjob. If Cruz won’t support Cornyn, that’s because he’s hoping he can get an edge on Paul with the racist nutjob vote in 2016. Good luck with that, Sen. Cruz.