At a Republican event in May, a reporter asked several of the GOP presidential candidates to name the greatest living president. Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz all mentioned Ronald Reagan -- who died in 2004.
This week, BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray raised a related question while interviewing Cruz, making a deliberate effort to get a better answer. It didn't go well.
Asked by BuzzFeed News to cite his greatest foreign policy influence apart from Reagan, Cruz cited Reagan anyway. "If you ask the question, the answer is Ronald Reagan," Cruz said. "You might not like that answer, but that is the truth."
On the surface, it's hard not to marvel at the knee-jerk response. The senator heard the question, and probably could have named some other people who've influenced his thinking on foreign policy, but the poor guy just can't help himself. If Cruz were asked about his greatest influences on other policy areas, I suspect we'd hear the same answer.
But just below the surface, I can't help but wonder just how much Cruz knows about Reagan's foreign policy.
Does Cruz realize Reagan ignored conservative complaints and compromised with bitter, "evil" U.S. enemies? Does Cruz know Reagan cut and ran from the Middle East in the face of terrorism? Does Cruz appreciate the fact that Reagan had a frosty and difficult relationship with Israel?
Does Cruz know that Reagan's White House tried to trade arms for hostages with Iran in order to finance an illegal war? Does Cruz realize Reagan tried to improve U.S. relations with Iraq after Saddam Hussein gassed his own people?
The Texas Republican says his greatest non-Reagan foreign policy influence is still Reagan. I suppose the follow-up question is, can Cruz explain in any detail why he thinks this?