It may sound strange, but one of the oddest things to happen last Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the controversial January 6 riot had nothing to do (or at least not much) with the actual event itself.
It definitely wasn’t air-brain vice president Kamala Harris temporarily putting her clownish smiling and cackling mug to the side to breathlessly declare that the sixth day of January in the year 2021 will live on in the same “infamy” category as December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor Day) and September 11, 2001 (the world changing Islamic terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3000 Americans in New York City and Virginia). And it wasn’t senile president Joe Biden’s follow-up speech where he lied through his gritted teeth about what the day meant and the complicity of former President Donald Trump in fostering the protest. It wasn’t even the disgustingly nauseating tribute Speaker Nancy Pelosi put on in the capitol building, which featured a zoom/video performance of some unknown song (at least to me) performed by the cast of the Broadway hit “Hamilton”. (What the heck was that, anyway? The actors appeared in a Brady Bunch-like tick-tac-toe board! Think of the parodies this one will generate!) And what about the absurd candlelight prayer “vigil” outside the capitol building with Nanny P and “Chucky” praying? Were those real candles? It looked to me like a gathering of socialism worshipping fraternity members conducting an induction ceremony with wooden paddle at the ready. Thanks to the Democrats, the memory of January 6 will live on, alright. But sooner rather than later folks will remember how over-the-top the current congressional leadership went and forget about the actual mayhem itself, which wasn’t nearly as laugh-inducing… nor as entertaining. No, what was truly odd about last Thursday evening was the confrontation between Fox News’s “Mr. Everything” Tucker Carlson and stalwart conservative Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The day before, Cruz said something that caused all conservatives to pause, and wonder, ‘Did he really say what I thought he just said?’ Carlson invited the Texan on to his program to explain himself. The exchange wasn’t exactly heated, but Tucker didn’t hold back his criticisms or his profession of disbelief at Ted’s rationale, either. A “softball” appearance on a friendly network it was not. Daniel Chaitin and Emily Brooks reported at The Washington Examiner:
“Sen. Ted Cruz says he made a ridiculously clumsy mistake in casting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol as a ‘violent terrorist attack.’ The Texas Republican, who was facing intense criticism from his usual allies for the remark, sought to clear the air Thursday during an appearance on Fox News. Cruz said the phrasing he used, marking the one-year anniversary of the riot, was ‘sloppy, and it was frankly dumb.’
“However, Carlson said he wasn't buying it, noting that the senator does not have a history of using words carelessly. ‘I don't believe you used that accidentally,’ Carlson insisted.
“Cruz defended himself by saying that's the sort of phrasing he always uses to talk about the few people who attack police. The senator said people misunderstood him in thinking that he was referring to all supporters of former President Donald Trump. ‘What I was referring to are the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers,’ Cruz said.”
For what it’s worth, Cruz didn’t get angry that Carlson challenged his veracity. If prizes are awarded for clever acting, Ted deserves consideration, though having observed him quite a bit over the years, the senator seemed sincere. As a champion speech and debate participant and accomplished appellate lawyer, Cruz is exceedingly good at keeping his cool. Yet you also know when he’s mad or if someone’s gotten under his skin. This wasn’t the case on Thursday night.
Such went the back and forth between the two conservative titans. It’s hard to explain, but I believed them both, primarily because they were both correct. Carlson, as he always does, goes out of his way to stick it to Republicans for wavering and wishy-washy moments. Cruz teed it up for him with the “terrorist” label, which was clearly out of line and not reflective of his usual fierce defense of constitutional liberty and effusive praise for the conservative grassroots.
Yet Tucker wasn’t about to grant Ted an easy pass for his apology and simple disclaimer. The Washington Examiner writers continued, “Carlson did not accept Cruz’s explanation. ‘If someone assaults a cop, he should go to jail. I couldn’t agree more,’ Carlson said. ‘But the person is still not a terrorist. How many people have been charged with terrorism on Jan. 6? Why did you use that word? You’re playing into the other side’s characterization.’”
Yes indeed, Carlson hit the nail on the head, which makes the whole episode so puzzling. What possibly could’ve motivated Cruz to do such a careless thing? Does he want to stand out to police officers as a defender of the badge no matter what? Does he want to wrest a strong constituency for Donald Trump away from the frontrunner in 2024? It would never happen. Trump is known to exaggerate a tad. Cruz? Not nearly so much.
I’ve rejected one conceivable explanation -- that Cruz was trying to curry favor with the establishment media. Trump and most Republicans not named Mitt Romney or Lisa Murkowski don’t love the media, but there are few who’ve consistently criticized the liberal talkers and writers more than Ted has done throughout his career. Cruz cares what the media thinks -- all politicians do to some extent -- but the courtesies end there.
It’s always a love to hate-type scenario. If there was no fake news media, Trump wouldn’t have derived so much satisfaction from bludgeoning them.
So what then? If you didn’t know better, you could surmise Cruz conjured up the “terrorist” label to steal a token of attention for himself on a news day that was destined to be dominated by Democrats and their circus sideshow celebrations, snooze-fests, hyperbolic tantrums and fits of weeping. I’m a little surprised the leftist sympathizer party didn’t offer symbolic reenactments of Mitt Romney sprinting down the hallway or hire some friendly Antifa goons to recreate the sacking of Nancy Pelosi’s office for them.
But “terrorists”? Criminals perhaps. Not sure you could lump them in with Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Or even Tim McVeigh.
“Terrorist” is how Liz Cheney would depict all Trump supporters. So would Adam Kinzinger and every other #NeverTrump loser who values the adoration of the elite class over the views of the man and woman in Everytown, U.S.A. These gutless wonders are poll and focus group watchers who enslave themselves to public opinion surveys. This certainly isn’t Ted Cruz. There isn’t a public fist fight with a liberal that Cruz would shy away from, is there?
In Cruz’s defense, the senator is one of a handful of reliable conservatives who regularly places himself at the epicenter of the battle over practically everything political, so we shouldn’t jump too quickly on one admitted mistake. Donald Trump once wrote that any publicity is better than no publicity at all -- even if it’s negative. Ted seems to have learned that lesson since tangling with Trump over and over in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries.
Regardless of whether you believe Cruz or not, one can’t help but conclude that the Texan indelibly damaged his political prospects here. Whereas before I wasn’t sure if another presidential run -- be it 2024 or further down the road -- was in the cards for Ted Cruz, I’m sure it wouldn’t succeed now. The first question in any future debate would be directed at Ted to query if he still believes that Trump supporters are “terrorists”. He’ll get pretty practiced at answering the question, but it would still stand out.
As I watched Ted dance and weave around Carlson’s examination, the thought occurred to me… Cruz is now destined for the Supreme Court, or perhaps a high cabinet post in the next Republican administration (assuming it’s a conservative Republican who’s elected). If Trump runs again and wins, he’d probably welcome the opportunity to put Cruz in some position where he wouldn’t generate attention-stealing headlines.
Of course, Ted could stay a senator, though with his recent political snafus, the road to reelection has become more challenging. Being caught vacationing in a warm and tropical environment while Texas froze last year wasn’t his best move. It made him look callous and uncaring to be discovered in a compromising position, even if he was with his family.
Ted Cruz doesn’t get enough credit for the many good things he does, but he also can’t be caught on TV apologizing all the time for the few slip-ups he commits. Or explaining what he truly meant by the use of a harsh word like “terrorism” to describe the 1/6 riot. After a while, a seat on the Supreme Court might start looking pretty good to Ted, don’t you think?
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