Will Ted Cruz’s new book on political courage include a chapter on David Simpson?

Good afternoon Austin:

Bit late today. I’d like to blame the cold, but that’s irrelevant, and anyway it’s a bracing 48 degrees in my airy, lightly heated home.

Anyway, onward.

Apparently not satisfied with the success of  the best-selling Ted Cruz to the Future coloring book, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz will on June 30 be releasing a book, Ted Cruz: A Time for Truth,  and not a moment too soon. By the end of June, I imagine that the Texas senator, God willing, will almost certainly be a declared candidate for president.


Cover of Ted Cruz's forthcoming book
Cover of Ted Cruz’s forthcoming book

The book is being published by Broadside Books. According to its mission statement:

Broadside Books is a pioneering new imprint of HarperCollins that specializes in conservative non-fiction writing.  Broadside publishes works covering the full range of serious right-of-center thought and opinion—employing traditional hardcover and paperback formats and a groundbreaking e-book series.  The imprint prides itself on discovering new writers and younger talent as it seeks to create a forum for cutting-edge conservative ideas.  Broadside authors are leaders in a significant intellectual movement that seeks to redefine and reinvigorate the conservative tradition.

According to Hillel Italie at the AP:

HarperCollins Publishers told The Associated Press on Thursday that it has set a June 30 release date for the book, for which Cruz reached a reported seven-figure deal last year. Cruz, a first-term Texas Republican considering a presidential run in 2016, said in a recent telephone interview that in a time of “extraordinary challenges” he wants to tell his story and share his message of free markets and constitutional liberties.

From Cruz coloring book )Really Big Coloring Books)
From Cruz coloring book (Really Big Coloring Books)

“Men and women are frustrated with career politicians in both parties who are not listening to them,” Cruz told the AP, adding that the themes of a possible White House candidacy are “certainly reflected in this book.”

Ted Saves America
Ted Saves America

Cruz, a favorite among tea party activists who has battled with Democrats and members of his own party, also said he wants to counter the “caricatures” of the right as “stupid,” ”evil” or “crazy.”

“The image created in the mainstream media does not comply with the facts,” he said.

Cruz joins a bipartisan field of possible candidates with books out in the past couple of years, from Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton to Republicans Scott Walker and Rand Paul. He said that “A Time for Truth” will include vignettes about Anwar Sadat, Elie Wiesel and others who “had the courage” to speak out even at risk to themselves, a theme he acknowledged can be found in a famous work by a future president, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles In Courage.”

The vignettes draw upon “an aspect of what Kennedy did” in his book, Cruz said of “Profiles in Courage,” a tribute to U.S. senators who took stands unpopular within their own party.


Cruz Hydra Crime Fighter. From Ted Cruz coloring book
Cruz Hydra Crime Fighter. From Ted Cruz Coloring book

The book should be interesting,

Cruz likes to quote Reagan to the effect that, the way you win elections is you paint in bold colors not in pale pastels, taken from this Reagan speech, below, to Young Americans for Freedom in 1975. (Implied instructions on Cruz coloring book – use only bold crayons and don’t worry about staying within the lines.)

Here, as reported by Slate‘s Betsy Woodruff,  is Bold Color Cruz’s reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before the House:

After Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz held court for a glut of reporters in Statuary Hall, and his response to the Israeli prime minister’s message was unequivocal: The current situation with Iran, Cruz said, is just like the run-up to World War II.

“The deal being negotiated today is reminiscent of Munich in 1938,” the slow-talking Texan said, referring to the Munich Agreement that let Nazi Germany annex part of Czechoslovakia. “And when the administration comes back to America and promises peace in our time, we shouldn’t believe them now any more than we should have believed them then.”

Comparing the Obama administration to Neville Chamberlain, the British leader whose historic legacy is that he tried and failed to appease Hitler, is quite a strong statement. When a reporter asked Cruz if today was really comparable to the rise of the Third Reich, Cruz said, “Yes.”

“There is one threat, and one threat only, on the face of the globe with the potential to once again annihilate 6 million Jews,” Cruz continued. “A nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to the nation of Israel, that’s what Prime Minister Netanyahu has told us.”

Cruz went to even greater lengths to be crystal-clear.

From the Beret Project (http://beretandboina.blogspot.com/2012_10_01_archive.html)
From the Beret Project

“It is worth underscoring that the word existential does not mean a Frenchman in a black beret chain-smoking,” he said. “It means going to the very existence of the nation of Israel.”

What a great line. And I’m assuming that Cruz actually delivered it, though I am a little thrown off by Woodruff’s description of Cruz as a “slow talking Texan.”

If Cruz’s book is to include vignettes about Anwar Sadat, Elie Wiesel and others who “had the courage” to speak out even at risk to themselves, he might add to his profiles in courage someone closer to home  – Rep. David Simpson, Republican of Longview.

From Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer’s Unfair Park blog:

The most progressive plan yet to fix Texas’ backwards marijuana policy has come from, of all places, a Longview Republican. 

A new bill from State Rep. David Simpson would control pot just like any other plant.

“I am proposing that this plant be regulated like tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee,” Simpson said in a statement. “Current marijuana policies are not based on science or sound evidence, but rather misinformation and fear.”

So far so good, so great. Unfair Park can see the Amsterdam-style coffee shops dotting Lower Greenville already, a bong rip and a latte quickly becoming the new shot and a beer. You must be wondering, though, as we were, what made Simpson see the light. The answer, as it was for Paul 2,000 years ago, is Jesus.

“All that God created is good, including marijuana. God did not make a mistake when he made marijuana that the government needs to fix,” he said. “Let’s allow the plant to be utilized for good — helping people with seizures, treating warriors with PTSD, producing fiber and other products — or simply for beauty and enjoyment. Government prohibition should be for violent actions that harm your neighbor — not of the possession, cultivation, and responsible use of plants.”


Beyond being written by the state rep Unfair Park would most like to party with, Simpson’s bill goes further and makes more sense than the many weed reform bills on offer this legislative session …. Leave it to a Tea Partier from East Texas to top them all.


Rep. David Simpson

In this clip, below, David Parkman, a young, nationally syndicated political analyst, is pleasantly surprised by Simpson’s reasoning, happy to have him making the case the way he does, even if he doesn’t find that line of argument necessarily persuasive.

“I don’t even understand how all this is coming together in this way,” Parkman says.

Simpson explained his thinking in a TribTalk commentary:

The time has come for a thoughtful discussion of the prudence of the prohibition approach to drug abuse, the impact of prohibition enforcement on constitutionally protected liberties and the responsibilities that individuals must take for their own actions.

The Bible warns about excessive drinking, eating and sleeping (Proverbs 23:21), but it doesn’t ban the activities or the substances or conditions associated with them — alcohol, food and fatigue. Elsewhere, feasting and wine are recognized as blessings from God.

Scripture stresses respect for our neighbor’s liberty and conscience, moderation for all and abstinence for some.

Should we be concerned for our friends and neighbors who abuse a substance or activity? Yes, we should help them through sincere and voluntary engagement, but not with force and violence.

Is there a place for prohibition? Yes, a prohibition of aggression (Romans 13). Our laws should prohibit and penalize violent acts. This is the jurisdiction of the magistrates under the new covenant — harm to one’s neighbor.

Civil government should value everything God made and leave people alone unless they meddle with their neighbor.

 Here’s coverage from Smell the Truth, a blog at SFGate, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, that provides “coverage of medical marijuana news and cannabis industries.”

Just days after the conservative states of Utah and West Virginia began considering allowing state residents to access medical marijuana, a Texas lawmaker announced plans to decriminalize cannabis in the Lone Star state.

“I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix,” wrote state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, in a column in the Tribune on Monday.

The Republican-led HB 2165 repeals dozens of marijuana statutes in Texas, which has some of the most notorious marijuana penalties in the nation. Last year, a teen faced life in prison for making brownies with a marijuana extract.

Rep. Simpson wants to decriminalize cannabis Texas-style — without all the layers of government regulation and red tape. HB 2165 would simply treat cannabis like a crop, similar to tomatoes or coffee. The conservative lawmaker states that cannabis prohibition runs counter to Republican values and it runs counter to Christian beliefs.

 To get a clearer idea of Simpson’s political philosophy, there is this from his recent blog on Texas Independence Day:

Recently I filed House Bill 1751 to provide a mechanism to enforce Article I, Section 29 of the Texas Constitution which  states: “To guard against transgressions of the high powers herein delegated, we declare that everything in this “Bill of Rights” is excepted out of the general powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate, and all laws contrary thereto, or to the following provisions, shall be void.”

HB 1751 would enable the Legislature to refuse to use state resources to enforce a federal law that it identifies as in conflict with the Texas’ Bill of Rights (Article 1 of the Texas Constitution) which is very similar to the U.S. Bill of Rights.

The federal government may act unconstitutionally, but it should not do so with our aiding and abetting it. This bill formalizes a process by which our state may assert its 10th Amendment rights when the federal government exceeds its jurisdiction. 

A deeply religious libertarian, Simpson is something of a solitary figure in the Legislature. Perhaps no member so clearly marches to his own drummer. This from a 2011 profile of Simpson by the Texas Tribune’s  Becca Aaronson and Brandi Grissom that appeared in The New York Times under the uber-Cruz headline: A G.O.P. Legislator Ardently Conservative, God-Fearing and Not a Team Player:

He bowed his head, tightly shut his eyes and pressed his index finger to his lips, waiting and praying for the Texas Senate to approve one of his biggest priorities of his freshman legislative session: a measure that would apply criminal penalties to federal airport security agents who conduct intrusive pat downs. 

It is just unreasonable for the federal government “to say, ‘We grope you or you don’t fly,’ ” the lawmaker, Representative David Simpson, Republican of Longview, said.

As with all of the bills filed by Mr. Simpson, a Tea Party conservative, this one failed. The Senate sponsor of the measure pulled it after the United States Justice Department threatened to shut down Texas’ airspace if it became law.

In the just-ended legislative session, Mr. Simpson made a name for himself — and not always a nice one — with his passionate push for the so-called “anti-groping” bill and his outspoken stance against bills he believed represented government intrusion on personal freedoms. Driven by his beliefs in liberty and God, he said he set out in his first legislative session to restrict government.

“One hundred eighty-one people don’t have the wisdom, don’t have the knowledge, to tell 25 million people how to live their lives,” he said. “We’re not a house of God.”

Several legislative colleagues said they appreciated Mr. Simpson’s sincerity and devotion, but they also found his sometimes-confrontational approach and independent style off-putting, even annoying. And in Longview, at least so far, the reviews of his legislative debut are mixed.

Mr. Simpson, a 49-year-old father of seven, takes the criticism in stride. Quoting the Gospel, he said, “If all men speak well of you, woe be unto you.”

While Simpson’s approach to pot policy is all bold colors, Cruz’s is a bit more pastel.

Like President Obama’s thinking on same-sex marriage, Cruz’s thinking on marijuana policy seems to have evolved, according to a recent report by Jacob Sullum at the libertarian Reason magazine:

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland today, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) endorsed marijuana federalism during an exchange with Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity. “Look,” Cruz said. “I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the laboratories of democracy.’ If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.”

It is heartening to hear Cruz, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, endorse this position, which any consistent federalist should support, regardless of his feelings about marijuana. Yet it seems inconsistent with Cruz’s criticism of the Obama administration for failing to interfere with legalization in Colorado and Washington. Speaking at a Texas Public Policy Foundation conference in Austin a little more than a year ago, Cruz argued that the Justice Department should be vigorously enforcing the federal ban on marijuana in those states:

A whole lot of folks now are talking about legalizing pot….And you can make arguments on that issue. You can make reasonable arguments on that issue. The president earlier this past year announced the Department of Justice is going to stop prosecuting certain drug crimes. Didn’t change the law.

You can go to Congress. You can get a conversation. You could get Democrats and Republicans who would say, “We ought to change our drug policy in some way,” and you could have a real conversation. You could have hearings. You could look at the problem. You could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn’t happen. This president didn’t do that. He just said, “The laws say one thing”—and mind you, these are criminal laws; these are laws that say if you do X, Y, and Z, you will go to prison. The president announced, “No, you won’t.”

The Justice Department did not actually say it would “stop prosecuting certain drug crimes.” In the memo to which Cruz was alluding, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told federal prosecutors they should focus their efforts on marijuana suppliers who are either breaking state law or implicating any of eight “federal law enforcement priorities.” For good and ill, the feds have a great deal of discretion in how they enforce the Controlled Substances Act, and they have never prosecuted more than a tiny percentage of violators. Yet Cruz criticized the Obama administration for using that discretion to respect state policy choices. The alternative—raiding every state-licensed grower and retailer—would have effectively shut down these “laboratories of democracy,” or at least their experiments with allowing commercial production and distribution. 

And if, as early feminists put it, “the personal is political,” we can thank the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, and its U.S. political editor David Martosko, for providing a comprehensive, up-to-the-minute rundown of Republican presidential candidate’s histories of marijuana use, evasions and regrets, if any.

Here are the headline and subheads, which, all by themselves, read beautifully and tell the story:

EXCLUSIVE: Top Republican contender Ted Cruz ‘foolishly experimented with marijuana,’ his campaign admits after Bush confesses to high-school pot use
It was ‘when he was a teenager,’ Cruz’s spokesperson told Daily Mail Online; ‘It was a mistake, and he’s never tried it since’
Rick Perry, Donald Trump and John Bolton say they have never smoked pot; Rand Paul hints that he ‘wasn’t a choirboy’ – but won’t answer directly
Marco Rubio refuses to answer, saying no one will believe him if the answer is ‘no’; Carly Fiorina will only say she opposes legalizing weed
Spokesmen for Govs. Scott Walker and Gov. Chris Christie, and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, ignored questions entirely
Bush told the Boston Globe on Friday that he had smoked pot as a teenager at his elite prep school

Here is a little more on Cruz from the story, which noted that his admission was the only one that was a new addition to the store of public knowledge.

 Teenagers are often known for their lack of judgment, and Sen. Cruz was no exception,’ a Cruz spokesperson said.

‘When he was a teenager, he foolishly experimented with marijuana. It was a mistake, and he’s never tried it since.’

The spokesperson wouldn’t elaborate about how many times Cruz had tried the illegal drug, over how long a period the experimentation occurred, and exactly how old he was at the time.

Daily Mail Online asked spokespersons for 10 likely Republican presidential candidates whether their bosses had ever lit up doobies, smoked bongs or otherwise tried weed. Seven of them responded.

Cruz’s reply was the only one that provided a new admission of what tends to become a character issue during major political cycles.

The Daily Mail article also noted that, if recent presidential history is any guide, marijuana use is a prerequisite for power:

The last three U.S. presidents were all admitted pot smokers: Bill Clinton claimed improbably that he never inhaled, while Barack Obama said he definitely did. 

George W. Bush told his biographer after he left the White House that he never answered the question publicly because he didn’t want American children following his example.

In that light it’s unclear whether admitting to having tried a few joints in college is the disqualifier that it likely was in the 1940s or ’50s. 

But Cruz’s conservative political base may not look kindly on the news.

An aide to a Democratic senator told Daily Mail Online: ‘Just wait until the tea party gets its hooks in this. I mean, we all have skeletons and even moral crusaders eventually topple of their own weight, right?’

God may never make a mistake but ….
From a PolitiFact Texas this week from the Statesman’s Gardner Selby:

The state government can afford tax cuts and targeted investments and will still have billions of dollars left over, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told an Austin radio station.

“We are in the best financial shape of any state in the country,” Patrick said in the Feb. 25 interview on KLBJ-AM. “We’ll have about $11 billion or so in our rainy day fund by the end of our fiscal year. That’s more money in reserve than the other 49 states combined.”

Could it be that Texas will have more money in its rainy day fund than all other states combined when the fiscal year ends Aug. 31?


A fall 2014 report by the National Association of State Budget Officers initially made us think Patrick was onto something. The group’s Fiscal Survey of States said that state budgets show reserve balances nationally totaling $53.1 billion nationwide. “A disproportionate share of state budget reserves are concentrated in Alaska and Texas, which account for $20.6 billion or 38.8 percent of states reported total balances in fiscal 2015,” it said.

But, it turns out that Alaska has greater reserves than Texas and, thus, obviously, while, “Texas appears to have bigger balances than many states … its predicted totals don’t dwarf all other states’ projected savings combined.”

After we found this data, Patrick’s office told us Patrick made “an unintentional error” in the radio interview. Spokesman Alejandro Garcia said Patrick takes pride in the state stockpiling reserves, but he’d meant to talk up jobs created in Texas versus jobs created in all other states combined “as he ad-libbed the comment.”

To err, of course, is human, but forgiveness is not a PolitiFact category, so Patrick still got a Pants on Fire!

With PolitiFact Texas in mind, Progress Texas preemptively changed a mocking headline about state Rep. Tony Tinderholt from “Four-Time Divorcee Will Protect Sanctity of Marriage,” seen below on their brainstorming whiteboard, to “Five-Time Married Politician Wants to Defend Sanctity of Marriage,” on the resulting blog post.

Progress Texas whiteboard
Progress Texas whiteboard

The post, by Elise Lindstrand, begins:

Tony Tinderholt, Texas State Representative, is your hero defending the “sanctity of marriage.” Marriage is serious business for Rep. Tinderholt, as evidenced by the fact that he has had five of them, which is why he filed a handwritten complaint yesterday against a judge for allowing Texas’ first legal same-sex marriage.

And if that sentence above didn’t contain enough to confound you: fifth marriage, handwritten complaint… Tinderholt, who is not a lawyer, was apparently confused about the basic facts of the court order which allowed for a Texas marriage license to be issued to a lesbian couple who have been together for 30 years. The complaint named the wrong judge and case and cited a procedural law that had not been violated.

Progress Texas describes itself as a public relations shop promoting progressive ideals while also pushing back on bad policies and bad behavior from the right wing. We focus on issues important to a growing number of people in our state: affordable healthcare, voting rights, LGBT rights, marijuana policy reform, abortion access, fighting income inequality, and accountability in government.

The executive director is Ed Espinoza, who it describes thusly:

 Ed brings state and national credentials to the team with more than 20 years of experience on 50 campaigns, and winning 9 of 10 races in Texas. From 2009-2011, he served as Western States Director at the Democratic National Committee. He has written for Politico and is a frequent guest political analyst for CNN and other broadcast outlets. In 2008, he was a Superdelegate for President Obama from his home state of California. Ed’s professional background also includes work for public relations firms Golin/Harris and Fleishman-Hillard, providing communications and media support to Fortune 500 brands including Nintendo of America and Sony Computer Entertainment of America.
Originally from Long Beach, he went to school at UCLA and the London School of Economics. He runs, travels, and collects cocktail books. He also loves football (both kinds). Little known fact: as a kid, he appeared in an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D.

Espinoza said they changed the wording of the headline referring to Tinderholt’s marital record, just in case it turned out that there was an annulment, as opposed to a divorce, somewhere in there, or some other complicating fact.

It appears he need not have worried. In a story a year ago when Tinderholt was running for the seat he ultimately won, the Daily Kos did a little research and reported:

It is obvious that he must believe in marriage because his marriage and divorce record shows lots of activity. Tinderholt has been married at least five times to four different women and divorced at least four times. These marriages are from Texas Marriage and Divorce Records. He’s lived in other states and this is just his marriage record in Texas!  There may be others in other states.  He married and divorced one woman twice.  He’s been married at least five times and his current wife is at least his fourth wife!

 Last night Progress Texas marked its 4th anniversary with a well-attended reception at the Brew & Brew, which adjoins its office at San Marcos and 5th, timed to a ProgressNow national conference, which has brought staffers from the group’s affiliates in other states to Austin.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been four years, especially in a state where people think the word `progress’ is a bad word,” Espinoza told the gathering.
“We never expected it to be easy,” Espinoza said. “Progress never is … We don’t always make the headlines. We think of ourselves as your secret weapon. When progressive groups are out there pushing issues, we try to make sure to get you in the news.”
Among those attending last night were Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant – Texas’ first same-sex married couple – both long active in progressive politics in Austin, and who may want to invoke the Simpson “God doesn’t make mistakes” argument in defending their right to marry.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler made brief remarks.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Ed Espinoza at Progress Texas anniversary celebration.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Ed Espinoza at Progress Texas anniversary celebration.
State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, was the headliner. She was introduced by Espinoza, whose campaign he worked on as a consultant. Gonzalez, coming off a long day that was still far from over, kept it short.
 “I’m completely exhausted – I ran out of Red Bull,” Gonzalez said. But, she said, “it’s probably been a long time since I’ve been surrounded by so many beautiful people, and you’re beautiful because your minds, your hearts and your souls are so progressive – and I work in the Capitol and I’m surrounded by the exact opposite. All of the time.”
The Mary Gonzalez poster that hangs in Ed Espinoza's office.
The Mary Gonzalez poster that hangs in Ed Espinoza’s office.

Author: Jonathan Tilove

Jonathan Tilove is the Statesman's chief political writer. He was a Washington correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 2008 to 2012. Before that he covered race and immigration issues for Newhouse News Service for 18 years.

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