Ted Cruz's demented "socialist" snipes: Here's how you know he's running a losing campaign

Desperate new argument only proves it: The Red Menace is alive and well, he says -- but Medicare doesn't count

Published April 22, 2015 4:15PM (EDT)

  (AP/Andrew Harnik)
(AP/Andrew Harnik)

Ted Cruz is still out there, running for president, and trying to convince people that he’s totally ready to run for president. Much like the current occupant of the White House, Cruz launched his presidential bid after less than half a term in the Senate, and his eagerness has given rise to questions about his “experience.” Barack Obama faced those same questions, though he took proactive measures to neutralize the issue well in advance of his presidential run. Cruz, however, has chosen a different path – he’s claiming that he’s a super-experienced Senate leader who’s been leading the fight on blah blah yadda yadda etc.

That’s nonsense, but Republicans have been arguing for years now that first-term senators make bad presidents, so he has to do what he can to claim the “experience” mantle and quell the suspicions of the GOP base. And he’s apparently test-driving a few new arguments for why his thin Senate résumé is no big hindrance.

Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel reported yesterday that Cruz, campaigning in New Hampshire, challenged the argument coming from some Republicans and conservative pundits that the GOP should nominate a governor, and not a senator, because governors have better “experience.” Chafing again at the implied comparison to Obama, Cruz argued that it’s not Obama’s senatorial experience that makes him bad, but rather his raging socialism:

Here’s what history teaches us. About half of the presidents have been governors; half of them, senators. There have been good and bad presidents who were both. Jimmy Carter was a governor. He was a trainwreck. Obama is not a disaster because he was a senator. Obama is a disaster because he’s an unmitigated socialist, what he believes is profoundly dangerous, and he’s undermined the Constitution and the role of America in the world. I think the test we ought to apply is not what job title a person had. I think the test we ought to have is: Who has stood up and fought?

Again, Ted Cruz hasn’t really “stood up and fought” so much as he’s stood up and shouted HEY LOOK AT ME I’M STANDING. But the “Obama’s a socialist” stuff is interesting because it shows what kind of campaign Cruz is going to run: specifically, a losing one.

To be clear, Cruz calling Obama an “unmitigated socialist” isn’t exactly an earth-shaking development. When he ran for the Senate in 2012, he called the president an “honest-to-God socialist” and “a clueless, out-of-touch socialist.” (He even tried to paint his opponent in the Republican primary as a quasi-socialist backer of “European-style” healthcare programs.) He wasn’t making a coherent argument against the policies of the incumbent administration – he was just tickling the rage centers of the conservative brain. And he probably figures that since it worked in Texas, it’ll probably work pretty well in the Republican primary.

The problem with railing about Obama being a “socialist” – aside from the fact that he isn’t one – is that at the end of the day, everyone’s a little bit socialist, especially when running for president. Even Ted Cruz!

A couple of weeks ago, Cruz sat for an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, and Harwood asked him if Ronald Reagan was right to campaign so vigorously against the creation of Medicare in the 1960s. Medicare, of course, is a single-payer healthcare system that Reagan and others warned would deliver the freedom-loving American people into the clutches of the Red Menace. Cruz refused to answer the question. Harwood also asked whether George W. Bush was right to expand Medicare to cover prescription drugs, thus adding yet another layer to the redistributive welfare state. Cruz refused to answer that question, as well. “There is a broad, universal consensus that Medicare is a fundamental bulwark of our society,” Cruz said. “Look, it's one thing to have asked 50 years ago should we have created it. It's another thing when you have a generation of seniors who paid into it 30, 40, 50 years who have been made promises. We need to honor those promises.”

The reason Cruz can’t go to war on the “socialized medicine” of Medicare is that he needs conservative seniors who love their Medicare to vote for him. Instead he goes after Obamacare, which isn’t as popular (though its numbers are creeping up) to make the case that Obama is an “unmitigated socialist,” even though the ACA is pretty damn mitigated as far as socialism goes.

But that’s what Cruz is going with. Just like Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann before him, Ted Cruz will power his way to the presidency by lashing out wildly at the president’s out-of-control socialism.

By Simon Maloy

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