When Ted Cruz complained last week about a political cartoon featuring the senator’s children, he raised a credible point. Norms and decency standards may fray, but most can agree that politicians’ family members should generally be off-limits unless they choose to enter the arena.
But Rafael Cruz, the Texas Republican’s father, is a different story. He’s served as a surrogate for his son’s campaign, which makes Rafael Cruz’s right-wing vision fair game.
The Washington Post the other day published an advance look at the pastor’s new book, “A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America,” which is filled with the predictable screeds – President Obama is compared to Fidel Castro, for example – though one argument stood out for me.
Cruz writes that there is no such thing as separation of church and state and it is not enshrined in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The Ten Commandments, he writes, are the foundations for these documents. […]The pastor warns that there are five areas where the United States could change and “jeopardize our freedom,” including that “freedom of religion could become freedom of worship,” meaning that people would be punished for worshiping outside of churches. He said Obama has made appointments of people who think the government should discriminate against Christians.
Substantively, all of this is quite bizarre, even by 2015 standards. If the nation’s founding documents are based on the Ten Commandments, why don’t the Constitution and Declaration of Independence mention the Decalogue or Christianity? Can Cruz identify anyone, anywhere in the United States, who’s even hinted at punishing Americans for worshiping out of houses of worship? Can anyone name an anti-Christian Obama appointee?
But even putting reality aside for a moment, the challenge for the Republican presidential hopeful is confronting questions about whether he believes any of his father’s nonsense.
As we discussed over the summer, if Rafael Cruz wants to travel the country saying inflammatory things – he blamed the Devil, for example, for Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling – that’s obviously his right, and the idea of holding Ted Cruz responsible for his father’s tirades doesn’t seem fair.
I have some relatives whose ideas I consider ridiculous, and I wouldn’t want anyone attributing their beliefs to me, just because of the family connection.
But the Cruz campaign has used Rafael Cruz as a surrogate, dispatching him as a speaker who can represent his son when the senator is elsewhere – which generally makes it more difficult for Cruz Jr. to distance himself from what Cruz Sr. has to say.
If Rafael Cruz is acting with complete independence, then Ted Cruz probably doesn’t owe anyone an explanation for his father’s offensive rants. But once that firewall collapses, the questions begin.
The New Republic published a piece more than a year ago that said, “Here’s some advice for Senator Ted Cruz: When the presidential election heats up next year, keep your dad away from the media. In fact, keep him away from your campaign altogether.”
Well, here we are, 15 months later. The presidential election is indeed heating up, but the Cruz campaign seems to be ignoring this advice. How long until the senator starts fielding questions about the degree to which he agrees with his father’s radical vision?