When responsible, mature public officials are asked about the "Jade Helm 15" conspiracy theory, there are a few acceptable responses. "What's the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theory?" is a fine answer. So is, "I have real work to do and there's little time for fringe nonsense."
But Dave Weigel talked to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over the weekend, who offered a more troubling response
to the same question.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Saturday that he'd been hearing concerns about Jade Helm 15, a domestic military training exercise that has become a fount of conspiracy theories, and that he wanted questions about it to be answered. "My office has reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise," Cruz, a Texas senator, told Bloomberg at the South Carolina Republican Party's annual convention. "We are assured it is a military training exercise. I have no reason to doubt those assurances, but I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don't trust what it is saying."
As the Bloomberg Politics report added, the right-wing Texan went on to say he's fielded "a lot" of questions about the conspiracy theory, adding, "I think part of the reason is we have seen, for six years, a federal government disrespecting the liberty of the citizens. That produces fear, when you see a government that is attacking our free speech rights, or Second Amendment rights, or religious liberty rights. That produces distrust."
Apparently, we're supposed to believe that right-wing media figures have disseminated nonsense to right-wing activists who end up believing ridiculous theories ... and this is all President Obama's fault.
It's one of the reasons Cruz's posture is so hard to take seriously.
As we talked about
last week, the U.S. military is launching a training exercise called Jade Helm 15 over the summer, which will include a series of training drills throughout the Southwest, from Texas to California, for about 1,200 special operations personnel.
In some right-wing circles, however, Jade Helm 15 is the basis for an extraordinary conspiracy theory
. The idea gets a little convoluted -- fringe theories often are -- but the unhinged activists apparently believe the Obama administration, in conjunction with the U.S. military and Wal-Mart, is planning to impose martial law on much of the country. As they see it, the plan also includes gun confiscation and "secret underground tunnels."
Fear of the training exercise became so widespread that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered the Texas Guard to "monitor" the military exercises -- just in case. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also assured supporters that he's on the case
and will look into the matter, too.
Part of the issue here is the oddity of Cruz's office purportedly reaching out to the Pentagon directly. I'm trying to imagine how that conversation might go.
CRUZ'S OFFICE: Some of our constituents are concerned the Pentagon is launching an invasion that will lead to martial law. So, is the Pentagon launching an invasion that will lead to martial law? PENTAGON: Nope. CRUZ'S OFFICE: Sounds good to me!
If you're nutty enough to take the conspiracy theory seriously, wouldn't you also be nutty enough to assume the military is in on the elaborate scheme?
Republican Todd Smith, a former Texas lawmaker, wrote to his governor last week, arguing that it's wrong for officials to "pander to idiots
." Smith added, "Is there anybody who is going to stand up to this radical nonsense that is a cancer on our state and our party?"
I don't know the answer to that question, though it seems clear that Ted Cruz will not be that person.