At a right-wing rally last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) railed against the international nuclear agreement with Iran in ways that seemed extreme even by Ted Cruz standards. “If this deal goes through, without exaggeration, the Obama administration will become the world’s leading state sponsor and financier of radical Islamic terrorism,” the Republican presidential candidate said.
But perhaps more interesting than the senator’s ridiculous rhetoric was his willingness to engage Code Pink and its co-founder, Medea Benjamin, in debate. As Roll Call reported, that may not have been the senator’s best idea.
“[L]et’s have some dialogue,” Cruz told her. “So one of the things you said is ‘if Iran is trying to get nuclear weapons.’ Well the nice thing is I believe … truth matters. You know one entity, one person with whom there is no ambiguity in terms of whether Iran wants a nuclear weapon is the Ayatollah Khamenei. Is President Rouhani. Both of whom explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about it.”Benjamin retorted, “That is absolutely false,” prompting jeers from a crowd of Iran deal opponents and a protest from Cruz that he not be interrupted.
The problem in this case is that Cruz’s claim is demonstrably wrong. The Texas Republican may believe that Iranian leaders will one day violate the terms of its agreement and develop such a weapon, but in reality, neither Khamenei nor Rouhani have “explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons.”
That just hasn’t happened. It’s not a matter of opinion. The fact that Cruz made the false claim while stressing that the “truth matters,” made this slightly more amusing, but nevertheless wrong.
When Roll Call asked the senator’s office to substantiate the claim, his press secretary could not “back up the statement.”
A day later, Roll Call again tried to clarify matters, but it reported that Cruz “still hasn’t acknowledged he flubbed one on Iran during a debate with CodePink.”
I’ll give Cruz some credit for at least engaging a critic in debate. For many, simply ignoring opponents is easier than having the argument. But it’s even more admirable when a debate is built on truths, not fabricated talking points.
The Washington Post also had a piece on the confrontation.
It turned into a debate between the self-identified avatar of “courageous conservatives” and the omnipresent anti-war activists of Code Pink – and it lasted as long as the average sitcom episode. The result, captured on video by the Cruz-positive team at Breitbart News, is among the most popular conservative entertainment of the past week. […]This encounter did not make the rounds on the left; it went viral on the right. A recap of the debate became the top trending story at the Washington Examiner. Washington Free Beacon reporter Adam Kredo, who stood right by Cruz during the debate, reported that the senator “tussled with and shut down a group of left wing activists.” On the first-generation conservative blog Powerline, it was reported that Cruz had “crushed” Code Pink.
As best as I can tell, not one of Cruz’s admirers noted that his principal talking point was simply untrue.