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Cruz accidentally gives away the game

For weeks, Ted Cruz has gone after Planned Parenthood. But in a new campaign ad, he accidentally admits his opposition has very little to do with the group.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina May 9, 2015. (Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina May 9, 2015.
Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) new campaign ad targets Planned Parenthood, which wouldn't be especially noteworthy were it not for the far-right senator's specific pitch.
As msnbc's Emma Margolin reported yesterday, Cruz also intends to "prosecute" the health care organization over fetal-tissue research.

"For a century, Americans have helped heal and care for millions in need. Our values propelled extraordinary innovation. America made the world better," states a narrator in the 30-second spot. "So how did America become a country that harvests organs from unborn children? And who has the courage to stop it?" "Ted Cruz will prosecute and defund Planned Parenthood," the narrator continues. "Help Cruz restore American values."

The most glaring problem with the commercial is the contradiction Cruz and his team failed to notice. The ad opens with images of Polio victims while the narrator touts America's history of helping "heal and care for millions." It's a nice, accurate message, except for the fact that fetal-tissue research used "fetal kidney cells to create the first poliovirus vaccines, which are now estimated to save 550,000 lives worldwide every year."
In other words, in an ad attacking fetal-tissue research, Cruz highlighted children who were rescued by fetal-tissue research. Not to put too fine a point on this, but perhaps the Republican's campaign team should have given this a little more thought.
But there's another, less obvious angle to this. When we look past the spin and the hysteria surrounding the recent Planned Parenthood videos, what the right appears to be outraged by isn't the health care organization, but rather, fetal-tissue research itself.
The videos were a reminder to the political world of a common medical practice that the public usually doesn't think much about: after a pregnancy is terminated, fetal tissue is used by medical researchers to explore treatments and cures for all kinds of ailments, "from vision loss to cancer and AIDS."
There's simply no evidence that Planned Parenthood has done anything wrong, except making fetal tissue available to medical researchers -- a practice specifically authorized by Congress over two decades ago, with broad, bipartisan support.
In this light, Cruz's argument isn't just wrong; it's bizarre. America used to make the world a better place, his ad argues, "So how did America become a country" that values fetal-tissue research?
Well, by Republicans and Democrats voting for it, in order to help make the world a better place. It's really not that complicated.
If Cruz finds this research so offensive, why hasn't he introduced legislation to ban it? Indeed, the law has been on the books for 22 years -- if Republicans are genuinely outraged by this research, why have they made literally no effort to block the science Congress already authorized? Perhaps because Cruz's campaign ad is a misleading sham?
The Texas Republican may not realize it, but the commercial gives away the game. After weeks of complaints about Planned Parenthood, Cruz has made plain what the right actually believes: the health care organization isn't the issue here. Cruz and his allies are principally concerned with life-saving medical research from fetal tissue.
Everything else is noise.
Disclosure: My wife works at Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece and her work is unrelated to the controversial videos.