Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) delivers speeches all the time, but most of the time, they don't feature him leaving the stage while being booed. And yet, that's exactly what happened
While the nation watched President Obama primetime address the threat of ISIS Wednesday night, something else was happening in Washington: Senator Ted Cruz was getting booed off the stage of a Christian event. Cruz is often considered a rising darling of the American Christian right.... But Wednesday night, his Christian audience was largely Eastern and Arab. The brand of conservative, American evangelicalism that Cruz often champions -- one that often aligns itself with the state of Israel's interests -- did not sit well with everyone in attendance.
That's putting it mildly. A group called In Defense of Christians hosted a multi-day event in the nation's capital, and organizers invited Cruz to deliver the keynote address. The organization, which is committed to raising awareness of persecuted Christians and minority faith communities in the Middle East, held its gathering this week, and by all accounts, it had been a success -- right up until Cruz's remarks.
The right-wing Texan told the audience that Christians "have no greater ally than Israel." When the audience expressed its displeasure, Cruz pressed on, adding, "Those who hate Israel hate America. Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps."
When the booing grew louder, the Republican senator said too many in the audience are "consumed with hate," which, of course, made things worse. Cruz, just before leaving the stage, concluded, "I will say this: If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you, and God bless you."
After the event, the Texan told
a far-right website the audience showed "a shameful display of bigotry and hatred.... Anti-Semitism is a corrosive evil, and it reared its ugly head tonight."
In other words, we're supposed to see Cruz as the victim in this story. In his version of events, angry Middle Easterners, filled with hatred, didn't want to hear his nice message.
According to The Daily Caller, IDC Executive Director Andrew Doran then came on the stage and said, "For the love of God, we're here to talk about Christians and we're here to be united." In a statement issued after the event, the IDC blamed a "few politically motivated opportunists" for the incident. The Assyrian International News Agency interviewed several attendees, most of whom said they were present "to discuss the plight of the Christians in Iraq, not the Israel-Hamas conflict, and they resented the senator's attempt to 'hijack' the summit," the agency reports.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), whose district has a large community of Middle Easterners, told Robert Costa that Cruz's comments were "outrageous and incendiary
"I support Israel, but what Senator Cruz did was outrageous and incendiary," Dent said. "He showed a true lack of sensitivity for the people he was speaking to, especially the religious leaders who were there. It was a political speech, inappropriate and, overall, an uncomfortable moment." Dent added that Cruz seemed to be speaking "for another audience" beyond the ballroom that would later watch the video. "He was speaking to people outside of the building," Dent said. "It was a willful and deliberate confrontation, and very self-serving."
Just to flesh this out further, politicians usually don't want to be seen getting booed off a stage, but from Cruz's perspective, his reception is a plus. As he readies a national campaign, the right-wing senator now has a new talking point. "See how pro-Israel I am?" Cruz can now boast. "I tried to tell those Middle Easterners the truth, they booed me, and I didn't back down an inch."
It was an ugly scene, but for Cruz, it's quite possible this was a deliberately ugly scene, instigated on purpose to advance the senator's ambitions.
We're learning quite a bit about who Ted Cruz really is.