Just one day after Ted Cruz launched his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination with another attack on President Obama's signature health care law, the Texas senator made a second, more surprising announcement: He's signing up for Obamacare. "We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care and we're in the process of transitioning over to do that," Cruz told The Des Moines Register on Tuesday.
Political hypocrisy can be a tricky thing. A few years ago, for example, Republicans condemned President Obama's stimulus package, the "Recovery Act," even while pleading for stimulus funds for their states and districts.
This was not, strictly speaking, hypocrisy -- GOP lawmakers opposed the endeavor that rescued the economy, but concluded that if the resources were available, they might as well take advantage. The problem was that Republicans said Recovery Act dollars were incapable of boosting the economy, unless the dollars were spent on their constituents -- an intellectually dishonest posture.
All of which leads us to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his embrace of an unexpected label: Obamacare customer.
Apparently, the senator and his family have enjoyed coverage through his wife's private-sector employer, but because she's taking an unpaid leave of absence, the Cruzes will do what millions of other Americans have done: take advantage of benefits available through the Affordable Care Act.
And on the surface, there's nothing wrong with that. Like the Republicans who foolishly condemned Obama's stimulus initiative, Cruz does not believe ACA benefits should exist, but so long as they do, the right-wing presidential candidate is comfortable receiving those benefits in order to help himself and his family.
Whether or not this constitutes hypocrisy is debatable. But either way, we're left with the awkward realization that Ted Cruz wants the Affordable Care Act to stop helping your family and start helping his own family.
Indeed, Cruz, perhaps more than any political figure in the country, is consumed by an irrational, fire-breathing hatred for the health care reform law, which he's determined to destroy at all costs, no matter the consequences. The Republican senator has presented an alternative approach, which can charitably be described as a bad joke.
Cruz's opposition to the ACA defines him. It is the basis for much of his political identity. It wasn't long ago that the senator boasted, "I'm happy to tell you now I am eligible for [Obamacare] and I am not currently covered under it."
Given all of this, for the far-right Texan to "transition" to the ACA system that ostensibly disgusts him is, if nothing else, ironic. (Jason Millman added, "If he signs up on an exchange plan, Cruz won't be taking the federal contribution, his campaign told CNN. So, in that sense, he's sticking to his guns.")
I'd just add that in the summer of 2013, the right launched an aggressive campaign urging Americans not to sign up for ACA coverage. Consumers were supposed to just take one for the team and go without access to medical care in order to advance an ideological cause. Remember the "Refuse to Enroll" campaign? How about the "Citizens' Council for Health Freedom," which at the time was "actively encouraging uninsured Americans not to sign up for coverage under the health care law"?
These were Ted Cruz's allies. Two years later, it seems he no longer has any use for their message.