Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, on March 10, 2015.
Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Ted Cruz dings Hillary, crowd doesn’t


Sen. Ted Cruz attempted to ding Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, but his joke fell flat. 

“The Obama/Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind, it doesn’t work,” he said at the prospective presidential forum on. “By the way, I understand Secretary Clinton chose not to join us.”  

“If only you could have found a foreign nation to foot the bill,” he joked, referring to the reports that the Clinton Foundation had accepted money from a foreign nations without properly informing the State Department. It’s a joke he used last month at the Conservative Political Action Committee gathering, but it didn’t go over as well.

The Texas Tribune reports that there were audible grumbling and fidgeting in the audience from the several hundred firefighters in attendance. The forum was bipartisan, so decidedly less comfortable territory for the far-right politician, who earned his own criticism for showing up 15 minutes late to his own speech. “I showed up on time,” former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, another Democrat considering a bid. 

Cruz also tried to rebrand “the 1%” on Tuesday, using the buzz word for the uber-wealthy to paint a picture of how big government harms everyday people.

“We’ve seen over the past number of years, two Americas emerge. At the very top, top 1%, with the largest federal government in our history, earning a higher income,” said Cruz, a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender, at International Association of Fire Fighters presidential forum in Washington, D.C. “For the rich and powerful, big government has been a good deal, but working men and women are suffering.”

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The 1% refers to the top percent of wealthy Americans. The buzz word emerged during the Occupy Wall Street protests; protesters adopted the slogan “we are the 99%” as they protested against lax financial and tax policies they argued contribute to income inequality.

Some Democrats embraced the populist protests. The Democratic Party has long sought to raise the minimum wage and hike taxes on America’s top earners. Now, ahead of 2016, Republicans are trying to shed the notion that the GOP is more aligned with big business interests than working-class Americans.

Cruz, who said Tuesday the best solution is to “abolish the IRS,” has argued in recent weeks that President Obama’s administration and big government exacerbate income inequality. 

“The top 1% under President Obama, the millionaires and the billionaires that he constantly demagogued, earned a higher share for our income than any year since 1928,” Cruz said last month.