As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. That isn’t to say that first impressions are necessarily immutable destiny in politics, since there are those who have bombed in their national debut and turned things around, and others who looked terrific at first but turned out to be something less. Bill Clinton gave a famously terrible speech at the 1988 Democratic convention, and Sarah Palin was dynamite in her speech at the GOP’s 2008 gathering. Nevertheless, there are some things you just can’t overcome, particularly if what caused them wasn’t a bad night’s sleep but the very core of your being.
A year or two ago, if you asked Republicans to list their next generation of stars, Ted Cruz’s name would inevitably have come up. Young (he’s only 42), Latino (his father emigrated from Cuba), smart (Princeton, Harvard Law) and articulate (he was a champion debater), he looked like someone with an unlimited future. But then he got to Washington and started acting like the reincarnation of Joe McCarthy, and now, barely a month into his Senate career, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that Ted Cruz is not going to be the national superstar many predicted he’d be. If things go well, he might be the next Jim DeMint—the hard-line leader of the extremist Republicans in the Senate, someone who helps the Tea Party and aids some right-wing candidates win primaries over more mainstream Republicans. But I’m guessing that like DeMint, he won’t ever write a single piece of meaningful legislation and he’ll give the Republican party nothing but headaches as it struggles to look less like a party of haters and nutballs.
It’s kind of remarkable how quickly things went south for Cruz. First he made a splash at Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings by implying, without any evidence, that Hagel was on the payroll of foreign enemies. Lindsay Graham called it “out of bounds,” and even grumpy John McCain, who hates Hagel’s guts, rebuked him. Then on Friday, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker revealed that in 2010, Cruz made a speech in which he charged that when he was at Harvard Law School, “there were twelve [members of the faculty] who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.” This is what scholars of rhetoric call a lie. By way of explanation, his spokesperson said that what Cruz said was accurate, since there are people on the Harvard Law faculty who advocate Critical Legal Studies, which back on Planet Earth does not actually involve overthrowing the United States government. It’s kind of like someone saying, “Ted Cruz advocates stoning disrespectful children to death,” then saying that the statement is true, because Cruz once approvingly quoted the biblically-derived saying “spare the rod, spoil the child.” (For the record, I have no idea if Cruz approves of corporal punishment, nor if he has actually participated in any child-stonings.)
So the idea that Ted Cruz is an up-and-comer with a bright future is pretty much dead, replaced by the idea that Ted Cruz is an ideological extremist who employs some of the most shameful political tactics you can imagine, including just making stuff up about people he doesn’t like. Maybe this was inevitable, since by all accounts he really is kind of a jerk, and really does have some crazy ideas. He may end up a favorite of right-wing talk radio, and a hero to Tea Partiers, but he’s not going to be a real power in Washington.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 25, 2013
The wonderful Jane Mayer recounts an Americans for Prosperity rally she covered in Texas two and half years ago, at which now-Texas Senator Ted Cruz “accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there” in the early 1990s. The revelation of these baseless, McCarthy-esque accusations sheds light on the origins of Cruz’s baseless, McCarthy-esque questioning of Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel. (The best part of Mayer’s piece is the bewilderment of Charles Fried, a Republican who served in the Reagan administration and later taught Cruz at Harvard, who diplomatically told Mayer that Cruz’s statement “lacks nuance.”)
[Cruz] then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
Cruz’s communist conspiracy theories pre-date his Tea Party associations; in 2009, he gave an interview to Marvin Olasky, editor of the evangelical WORLD magazine, and former provost of The King’s College in New York City. In the WORLD Q&A, Cruz made the same accusation about Obama and Harvard:
Q: Then on to Harvard Law School: What was that like? Understanding Harvard Law School is very important to understanding our president, Barack Obama. He is very much a creature of Harvard Law. To understand what that means you have to understand that there were more self-declared communists on the Harvard faculty than there were Republicans. Every single idea this president has proposed in the nine months he’s been in office has been orthodox wisdom in the Harvard faculty lounge.
Q: Why are they so far to the left? The communists on the Harvard faculty are generally not malevolent; they generally were raised in privilege, have never worked very hard in their lives, don’t understand where jobs and opportunity come from. If you asked the Harvard faculty to vote on whether this nation should become a socialist nation, 80 percent of the faculty would vote yes and 10 percent would think that was too conservative.
About a year later, in 2010, I heard Olasky interview David Noebel, one of the leading lights, as it were, of the Christian anti-communist movement and founder of the “Christian worldview” educational organization, Summit Ministries. Olasky hosted Noebel for an audience at The King’s College (the evangelical former home to the disgraced Obama conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza). The pair recounted the Cruz comments about Harvard with noticeable glee, and Olasky was so admiring of Cruz that he predicted he’d be a “future president of the United States.” About Harvard Law School, Noebel added, Cruz “told you the truth about who’s involved there.”
Noebel would know about how to make wild accusations about the “red menace” in the halls of power; in his book, You Can Still Trust the Communists To be Communists (Socialists and Progressives too), a 2010 reissue of the 1960 edition by the Christian anti-communist Fred Schwarz, who died in 2009, Noebel extensively quotes the Cruz WORLD interview to explain how Obama “has been swimming in radical, shark-infested Socialist waters for much of his life.” Noebel also insists that “most Americans are totally unaware that the US House of Representatives crawls with a large, well-organized assembly of Socialist organizations,” and that these organizations “quite literally comprise a Socialist Red Army within the very contours of the House of Representatives.” This is all owing to members of Congress not adhering to Noebel’s “Christian worldview,” which he claims is locked in a cosmic conflict with other “worldviews,” specifically Islam, secular humanism, Marxism-Leninism, cosmic humanism, and post-modernism.
In the WORLD interview, Cruz took care to point out that he “was raised a Christian and came to Christ at Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston. In terms of political views, I’m a plain and simple conservative: I’m a fiscal conservative, I’m a social conservative. I think there are absolute truths about what is right and about what works.”
In the postscript of his book, Noebel asserts that Schwarz “greatly influenced the newly rising conservative movement that ultimately produced leaders” including Ronald Reagan, James Dobson, Olasky, Tim LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Bill Buckley, Jerry Falwell, and others. Perhaps he can now add Cruz to that list.
By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, February 22, 2013
This week Republicans in the Senate once again blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would take further steps to guarantee access to the legal system for women who charge they’ve been paid less than men for doing the same job. (That’s illegal, in case anyone was thinking of trying it.) Justifying his vote against the act, Rand Paul compared it to Soviet communism. This is sort of a dog bites man story; on a given day, Rand Paul probably compares several dozen things to Soviet communism. But here, for what it’s worth, is why he thinks legislation to make it easier for women to sue when they’ve been paid less than men for doing the same job is just like Soviet communism:
“Three hundred million people get to vote everyday on what you should be paid or what the price of goods are,” Paul told reporters on Capitol Hill. “In the Soviet Union, the Politburo decided the price of bread, and they either had no bread or too much bread. So setting prices or wages by the government is always a bad idea.”
Mr. Paul does not appear to understand either the law which he has just voted against, or the class of economic transaction about which he is speaking. If a woman sues because she has been paid less than a man for doing the same work, and a judge rules in her favour, that is not an instance of “setting prices or wages by the government”. The wage in question was set by the employer. What the judge has ruled is that the employer cannot offer different wages to different employees based on their sex. Why might such a hypothetical judge make such a ruling? Because, as noted above, offering different wages to different employees based on their sex is against the law, and has been so since 1963.
I. What Are the Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination?
1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
2. the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;
But should it be illegal to offer different pay for the same work based on an employee’s sex? Maybe not. Mr Paul’s argument here implies he thinks it should be okay. So, let’s try a thought experiment. How would you react to seeing a job advertisement that read: “Associate lawyer in patent firm, 3 years’ experience required, salary $100k for man, $77k for woman”? Is that okay? If not, why not? How about this: “Associate lawyer in patent firm, 3 years’ experience required, salary $100k for Christian, $70k for Jew”? How about “Salary $100k for white, $65k for negro”?
The Paycheck Fairness Act, like the Lily Ledbetter Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, is not an instance of government price setting. It is an instance of government prohibition of certain forms of exploitative price discrimination. It is illegal for an employer to pay a woman less than a man for the same work just as it is illegal for a shop owner to charge a Jew more than a Christian for the same loaf of bread. There have been places in the world where at various times shop owners were allowed to charge Jews more based on their religion, to pay untouchables less based on their caste, and so forth.
Those places were not freer than America. Indeed, one place where employers were free to discriminate against women and Jews, and did so avidly, was the Soviet Union. One of the key differences between the Soviet Union and America is that in America, we have an independent judiciary to which individuals can turn for enforcement of their legal rights when someone is screwing them over because they are of the wrong race, colour, religion, sex or national origin.
In America, you have rights, and what makes those rights non-meaningless is that you can use the legal system to defend them. Mr Paul’s ideological system has performed the ingenious trick of twisting his head around 180 degrees, such that he views the fact that Americans have legally enforceable rights not to be discriminated against as a form of communism.
By: M. S., The Economist, June 6, 2012
Ayn Rand has a large and growing influence on American politics. Speaking at an event in her honor, Congressman Paul Ryan said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”
A few weeks ago, Maureen Fiedler, the producer of the weekly radio show, Interfaith Voices, asked me to participate in a debate with Onkar Ghate, a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. I eagerly accepted. I wanted to hear how a follower of Rand would defend proposals to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps while exempting the wealthy from paying their fair share.
In one sense there was agreement. Maureen, a Sister of Loretto, argued that Republican budget proposals turned their back on Christ’s admonition to care for “the least among us,” the hungry, the sick, the homeless. Ghate did not dispute that. Rand, he said, was an atheist who did not believe in government efforts to help those in need.
Ghate countered Sister Maureen’s religious position with a moral argument. He maintained that redistribution of wealth was unfair to the rich and weakened the ambition of the rest. I wasn’t surprised by this position, since I’d heard it repeatedly during the fight on welfare reform.
What I did find startling was Ghate’s insistence that just as there should be a separation of church and state, so there should be a separation of economics and state. That notion really got me thinking.
I’ve always understood that one’s loyalty to God should take precedence over one’s patriotic duty. Churches are exempt from taxation, and conscientious objectors aren’t required to serve in war. Our high regard for the First Amendment shows the preeminence of faith in the American consciousness.
But to place economics on the same level as religious freedom seemed to me almost blasphemous. Are we really to believe that the freedom to make money should stand on the same level of religious liberty? Are the words of Milton Friedman equal to the Sermon on the Mount? I don’t think so. But maybe in the eyes of Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan, they are.
Ayn Rand’s biography goes a long way toward explaining her animus to government. Her first-hand experience of communism showed her how the state can crush people, kill dissent, and exile lovers of freedom to the gulag. Horrified by what government power could do, she was determined to shrink it to the point of impotence.
America was the perfect place for Rand’s single-minded celebration of the individual. After all, this was the nation that inspired intrepid emigrants to leave behind country, family, and friends with little more than the shirt on their back to make a new life. Here they wouldn’t be judged by what they were before or who their parents were but by what they could made of themselves.
America was a beacon of freedom from its earliest days. But the freedom to earn one’s living is not the same as the freedom to emasculate government. It’s a mistake to enshrine individual liberty without acknowledging the role that a good government plays in preserving and promoting it. Look at places like Haiti, Somalia, and the Congo to see what happens when governments aren’t around much.
When government is marginalized, it’s not just individual freedom that suffers; the economy suffers too. A vibrant capitalism requires a legal system: contracts must be honored, fraud punished. Markets have to work, and for that we need a strong infrastructure of roads, rail, energy, and water and sewage systems.
Good government sets us free to spend our days in fruitful endeavors, not evasive action motivated by fear and distrust. Government regulations reassure us that speeding drivers will be arrested, that the financial products we buy won’t cheat us, and that it will be safer to put our money in banks than under our pillows. If we can’t trust our food to be healthy, our drugs to be safe, or our planes to fly without crashing, we’ll waste a lot of productive time.
During the debate, I also raised the point that the separation of economics and state implies that businesses and the people who run them are under no obligation to be patriotic.
In the 19th century, the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Fricks, and J.P. Morgans wanted America to do well because their own fortunes were tied to American prosperity. They made America a great economic power by creating jobs and technological advances right here at home. They knew that their own fortunes were bound up with the well-being of their fellow Americans.
In Ayn Rand’s America, the first obligation of CEOs is to their shareholders, not to citizens. Their business is global, not local. Why should they care if they send jobs overseas? Why should they be concerned if American kids can’t do math or write a sentence? They’ll just outsource the work. Why should they worry that the next generation of Americans is going to have a tough time? Their own kids will do just fine. And in the meantime, they’re doing just fine themselves.
Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, sees a problem with this view. He writes, “You could say, as many do, that shipping jobs overseas is no big deal because the high-value work–and much of the profits–remain in the U.S. That may well be so. But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work–and masses of unemployed?”
Don Peck makes a similar point in his new book, Pinched, and in an Atlantic cover story. “Arguably,” he writes, “the most important economic trend in the United States over the past couple of generations has been the ever more distinct sorting of Americans into winners and losers, and the slow hollowing-out of the middle class.”
Besides this economic problem, I also see a moral issue with Ayn Rand’s insistence that all of us, CEOs included, should be totally free of the ties that bind. I especially disagree when it comes to CEOs. As I wrote here a few months ago, the wealthy have a special responsibility. Much will be asked of those to whom much has been given. Participating in government and civic life, serving in war, helping the less fortunate, and–yes–paying a fair share of taxes are inescapable responsibilities for all Americans, especially for those who have realized the American dream that inspires us all.
I doubt there was anything I could have said in the debate that would have induced Onkar Ghate to view the meaning of freedom in a different light. I suppose he might say the same of me. Still, I can’t see how one can be free in a vacuum. Freedom takes work, by each of us, and by our government, to create the place where each of us can prosper. The freedom to sleep under a bridge is no freedom at all. We can only be free when we work together for the well-being of all Americans–including the least among us.
By: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, The Atlantic, August 23, 2011