In a 45-minute talk, the 76-year-old criticized his son's leading rivals for inconsistencies on immigration, abortion and education. He decried the Supreme Court for "calling homosexuality a civil right," accused the Republican Party of "relegating God to the basement" for the sake of "inclusion," and defended Ted against questions from conservative birthers. "The battle is not November of 2016. The battle is the primary," Cruz said during a prayer breakfast, conveying apologies from his son that he was not able to make it. "Stop listening to their rhetoric and start looking at their record. Jesus put it this way: You shall know them by their fruit. It's about time we do some fruit checking."
It's nearly always unfair to judge political candidates by the actions of their relatives. When politicians enter the fray, they necessarily invite scrutiny, but it's best to consider members of their family -- private citizens, uninvolved in the process -- off-limits.
But the rules change when a candidate welcomes immediate family members into the arena. Take Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, whose father, right-wing activist Rafael Cruz, spoke at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies over the weekend.
The Republican presidential candidate's father appears to have gone on quite a tear, blasting his son's rivals on "amnesty," Common Core, and being insufficiently opposed to reproductive rights.
According to the Washington Post's report, Rafael Cruz also lashed out at the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling. "I think the Devil overplayed his hand this time," he said. "They're calling homosexuality a civil right. The next obvious step is that they're going to come to your church and demand to be hired!"
Obviously, in reality, that's foolish, but the point here is that Rafael Cruz seemed to be playing the role of a campaign surrogate -- the far-right senator couldn't attend the National Federation of Republican Assemblies' event, but Cruz Sr. could.
And that creates a complicated dynamic.
If Rafael Cruz wants to travel the country saying ridiculous things, that's obviously his right, and the idea of holding Ted Cruz responsible for his father's tirades doesn't seem fair at all.
But if the Cruz campaign is going to use Rafael Cruz as a surrogate, dispatching him as a speaker who can represent his son when the senator is elsewhere, then the campaign starts to bear some responsibilities for what Cruz Sr. has to say for himself.
And looking over Rafael Cruz's page on Right Wing Watch, his rhetorical record is quite extraordinary -- and even more extreme than anything we'll hear from the GOP candidates themselves.
Again, if he's acting with complete independence from the campaign, then Ted Cruz probably doesn't owe anyone an explanation for his father's offensive rants. But once that firewall collapses, the questions begin.
The New Republic published a piece about a year ago that said, "Here's some advice for Senator Ted Cruz: When the presidential election heats up next year, keep your dad away from the media. In fact, keep him away from your campaign altogether."
If Team Cruz is ignoring this advice, it should expect quite a few questions about Rafael Cruz's rhetorical flourishes.