The audacity of hoping that Ted Cruz can be sold as ‘a man of humility’

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Good evening Austin:

Standing at the back of the overflow crowd at Ted Cruz’s gala pro-life rally in West Des Moines last night, I was reminded of the timeless wisdom of Rodney Dangerfield: Want to look thinner? Stand next to fat people.

What brought this to mind was the obvious effort last night, by Cruz and by the Who’s Who of those who preceded him, most especially Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to present Cruz as the preferred choice for president because of his humility.

Hmm.

Cruz is routinely described as the smartest guy in the room. But the humblest guy in the room?

How humble can you be when you’re constantly being told that you’re the smartest guy in the room?

And, if you read a lot about Ted Cruz, one of the themes that emerge in a lot of the coverage is that humility is among the least of his virtues. In fact, it is more often characterized as a fatal flaw. To celebrate Cruz’s humility is kind of like an ancient Greek going, “You know what I like about that Achilles? His heel. The guy has the most awesome heel.”

But this effort to raise Cruz’s humility quotient makes a certain amount of sense.

One rule of politics is to go after your opponents’ greatest strength. In 2004, John Kerry relied on his record as a hero of the war he opposed, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth set about, (in the lingo of Lee Atwater, on using Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in 1988) “stripping the bark off” Kerry’s hero story and turning Kerry’s strength into a liability.

What is going on here is the inverse. If Cruz’s perceived lack of humility is seen as a weakness, go right at, and make the case that, lo and behold, Cruz is actually a most humble man.

Now, this is obviously all in the context of making the case for Cruz against Donald Trump, which, of course, is a gift. Compared to Trump, Cruz is a self-evident portrait in humility. Anybody would be. Compared to Trump, Kanye West is all sackcloth and ashes.

Woven into the depiction of Cruz’s humility, is his religious faith. He is obedient to Jesus, a man who humbles himself before the Lord. Trump, meanwhile, has said he can’t recall ever asking God’s forgiveness.

With that, some excerpts from last night’s rally.

The Temptation of Louie Gohmert

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First up was U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert from Tyler, Texas.

I’ve known Ted Cruz for a number of years now and everybody talks about how brilliant he is. Yes, he’s incredible as a debater, as an attorney arguing before the Supreme Court, an attorney arguing before his wife.

He is absolutely incredible and I know that I have had temptations, like a lot people, to want to support the second person in the history of humanity not to need to ask God for forgiveness. I know that’s a struggle but I have settled on an endorsement that is not moving. It’s for the guy who knows who he is. He knows who God is. And he knows that Creator that our Founders wrote about. He knows that our rights don’t come from government, they come from God, and our job is to protect them, every one of those rights.

As Gohmert finished, Rick Perry came out on stage.

“Oh my Aggie buddy, Rick Perry,” said Gohmert, who was a freshman when Perry was a senior at Texas A&M.

Rick Perry: Seeking Forgiveness Before Breakfast

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Perry explains that Cruz was solicitor general for Texas when he was governor.

He is powerfully incredibly sharp intellect.

But he’s also man that I’ve really gotten to know over the last four moths. Frankly, just because he was my lawyer, didn’t mean that I knew that much about him.

(After Perry dropped out of the presidential race) he called me multiple times and said, `Governor, i want to sit down with you and, 80 miles out of Austin, Texas (at the governor’s home in Round Top) he took a day off from his presidential and I can’t tell you how precious that it is. Outside of his family and his faith, his time is the most precious thing that he has, and he gave a day to me so that I could talk to him, not to talk about politics, not about the election not about philosophy. I wanted to know who Ted Cruz, the man was.

And I wanted to come back to Iowa to tell you I know this man, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him and here’s what I found.

One of he great gifts that he has, this man may be the best listener of anyone that I have been involved with in public office. That is a gift

And the other thing that I found out in that conversation and phone calls subsequently, Ted Cruz knows what he does not know. You know how important that is in the in the Oval Office in he most powerful job in the world to know what you do not know, to realized you’ve got to have people around you, you’ve got to have people around you that are experts that you trust, that you empower to go deal with those agencies of government, to go deal with those foreign countries, to deal with military and foreign affairs. There are some people who don’t know what they don’t know. Know what I mean? That scares me.

I don’t want someone in the Oval Office who thinks they know everything, because that person hasn’t been born yet. That person is not alive and never will be. I want somebody who puts a team together.

I’m gonna wrap up with three things that are incredibly important from my perspective about the characteristics of a leader. In my 35-plus years of public service, as a pilot in the United States Air Force, and working int Texas state government, I’ve had the opportunity to observe a lot of people and a real leader, a real leader, a great leader is a person of humility, a person who understands they work of you, not the other way around. All too often people go to Washington, D.C. or they want to be the governor of a state so they can wield that power, they can have the trappings of that office. Ted Cruz will understand that

he works for you, that he’s your hired hand. He’s going to do your will. He’s going to tell you what he’s going to do and then he’s going to go do it.

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I want a president of the United States in the Oval Office who is grateful, grateful to God almighty, and knows that they are there in that place by the grace of god and those of you who know Ted Cruz’s story – his father, an alcoholic, left his family, but by the grace of God came back convicted, understands the concept of grace, probably gets up every morning and asks God for forgiveness at least a couple of times even before breakfast, is my bet. Some people don’t have to do that, most of us do.

But, by the grace of God, this man knows that he could be in a lot of different places had Jesus Christ not convicted his father.

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I want a man of humility, I want an individual of courage and I want someone who is grateful to God for where they find themselves in life . that is the characteristics of a great leader

Bob Vander Plaats: Exodus, Donald Trump, John Lennon and Jesus

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Vander Plaats is the president and CEO of the Family Leader, the influential Christian conservative organization in Iowa.

This race has come down to two individuals – Donald Trump and Ted Cruz,, and we need to choose well. So if you want to vote for anybody else I would say that vote goes to Donald Trump if you don’t vote for Ted Cruz.

Vander Plaats recalled meeting in Israel with a top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, when he learned Vader Plaats was from Iowa, told him to “choose well.” Vander Plaats said, that Exodus 18:21 offers people of faith guidance on how to “choose well” in looking for a leader.

You are to look for capable men among the people, men who fear God, men of integrity who hate dishonest gain.

Vander Plaats said:

When I read Exodus 18:21 and I apply to the two different candidates, I’m going to  be very transparent here with you, with Donald Trump this is what we’re going to get. In July of 2015, on the stage of the Family Leader, he said he has never asked God for forgiveness. He has also said he liked veterans who weren’t captured, disparaging every prison of war that there is.

Many of you know my story. Darla and I have four boys. She argues she has five but we have four. Our third son, Lucas, is very uniquely gifted. He was severely disabled by birth. So it really rocked my world when I saw a candidate for the president of the United States openly mocking and insulting people with disability. This country must have a higher standards than that .

But then, just last weekend at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, he said he could go out into New York City and shoot somebody and he would not lose any support and, right away, I thought of John Lennon and the Beatles saying we’re more popular than Jesus.

That’s a pride and an arrogance and temperament that’s a role of the dice to be president of the United States.

Ted Cruz: We Cannot Have Another Narcissist Replace `The Chosen One’

 

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On Trump skipping tonight’s debate:

It is an amazing statement for a presidential candidate to say I am not willing to show up for a debate

This entire process is a job interview. We’ve spent seven years with a narcissistic, self-involved president in Washington who thinks the American people work for him, who behaves like an emperor who decrees something, it must be so. It has been all about Obama, the Chosen One, for seven years.

What does it say if a presidential candidate is not wiling to stand in front of the men and omen of Iowa. What does it say if Donald says, `My time is more important than your time.’

You know, Monday we will complete the Full Grassley, having gone to all 99 counties of Iowa, standing in front of the men and women of Iowa, looking you in the eye and answering the hard questions, that any candidate who hopes to win the state of Iowa owes the men and women of this state.

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And I believe for any candidate to have a chance of winning Iowa, you have to have the humility to stand in front of the people of this state, and I believe for any president to have the right temperament to be an effective president, not an imperial dictator like we’ve seen for the last seven years, you have to demonstrate the humility to understand you work for the American people and not the other way around.

 

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So who says Ted Cruz lacks humility?

Frank Bruni of the New York Times caught one of the first stops Tuesday on the Cruz-Perry humility tour, at a bull barn in Osceola.

His column was headlined, The Twinned Egos of Cruz and Trump

OSCEOLA, Iowa — For a few minutes I wondered if I’d wandered into the wrong barn.

Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, was introducing the candidate I’d come to see, but with descriptions that bore no relation to the candidate I’d come to know.

He called this man “one of the great listeners that I’ve ever been around in my entire life.” He praised him as “a person who is full of humility.”

Then it hit me: Perry was playing defense and asserting the precise virtues that the candidate famously lacks.

Because when most people think of Ted Cruz, they don’t think: listener.

And when Cruz took the microphone and made his remarks, I hardly thought: humble.

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Every successful politician is a self-promoter. Every campaign is a sequence of boasts. In an ideal political environment, the narcissism is tempered and the worst narcissists foiled.

But the current ecosystem is toxic, and Trump and Cruz flourish. Neither demonstrates an especially robust appetite for listening, though listening is important. Both are full of a great many things. Humility isn’t among them.

A couple of weeks ago it was David Brooks, in the New York Times, on The Brutalism of Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz is now running strongly among evangelical voters, especially in Iowa. But in his career and public presentation Cruz is a stranger to most of what would generally be considered the Christian virtues: humility, mercy, compassion and grace.

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Traditionally, candidates who have attracted strong evangelical support have in part emphasized the need to lend a helping hand to the economically stressed and the least fortunate among us. Such candidates include George W. Bush, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

But Cruz’s speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them. When he is speaking in a church the contrast between the setting and the emotional tone he sets is jarring.

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The best conservatism balances support for free markets with a Judeo-Christian spirit of charity, compassion and solidarity. Cruz replaces this spirit with Spartan belligerence. He sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaches them to answer hate with hate. This Trump-Cruz conservatism looks more like tribal, blood and soil European conservatism than the pluralistic American kind.

Evangelicals and other conservatives have had their best influence on American politics when they have proceeded in a spirit of personalism — when they have answered hostility with service and emphasized the infinite dignity of each person. They have won elections as happy and hopeful warriors. Ted Cruz’s brutal, fear-driven, apocalypse-based approach is the antithesis of that.

OK. Bruni and Brooks. The New York Times. Haters.

What else?

A couple tidbits from his Ivy League and George W. Bush campaign days from a 2013 Jason Zengerle profile of Cruz in GQ.

As a law student at Harvard, he refused to study with anyone who hadn’t been an undergrad at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. Says Damon Watson, one of Cruz’s law-school roommates: “He said he didn’t want anybody from ’minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.”

And:

Cruz’s personal style earned him many detractors in BushWorld. He was infamous for firing off mundane work e-mails in the middle of the night—it happened so often that some in the Bush campaign suspected him of writing them ahead of time and programming his computer to send while he was asleep. He was also known for dispatching regular updates on his accomplishments that one recipient likened to “the cards people send about their families at Christmas, except Ted’s were only about him and were more frequent.”

From Shane Goldmacher and Daniel Lippman at Politico.

Almost from his arrival at Bush’s headquarters, colleagues say Cruz flashed many of the same assets and liabilities still on his political balance sheet: acumen and ambition, combative and conservative instincts, elbows as sharp as his smarts, a knack for self-promotion and rubbing colleagues the wrong way.

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But Cruz acknowledges he made mistakes. “Listen, I am neither the first nor the last person to learn lessons when you’re young,” he said. “And maturity and humility are two of the most important lessons that most young people need to learn, and I certainly needed to learn.

Sure. People grow and mature. Cruz may have a late-blooming humility.

But that is not suggested by the portrait of how Cruz navigated the immigration issue – in which he now portrays himself as the hero of the anti-amnesty forces – written by  Slate’s William Saletan in The Real Ted Cruz.

It’s subhed: I studied nearly every word the Texas senator uttered during the immigration showdown. He may be the most spectacular liar ever to run for president.

Ted Cruz is the only true conservative running for president. That’s the message of his campaign: He’s the only senator who stood and fought against amnesty, Obamacare, and Planned Parenthood. His finest hour was the defeat of immigration reform three years ago. Democrats wanted to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Cruz said no. He took on the establishment and won.

It’s a good story, and the immigration fight tells us a lot about Cruz. But the fight didn’t happen the way he says it did. Cruz didn’t marshal the opposition or even take a firm stand. He’s a lawyer, not a leader. He chose his words exquisitely so that down the road—say, in a future campaign for president—he could position himself on either side of the immigration debate. And he delivered, with angelic piety, speeches that he now claims were lies.

Cruz told his version of the story last month at a campaign debate in Las Vegas. The “battle over amnesty,” he said, was “a time for choosing.” In that battle, Cruz stood with Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to secure the border. Sen. Marco Rubio, Cruz’s Republican presidential rival, stood on the other side, colluding with Democrats to push “a massive amnesty plan.” “I have never supported legalization,” Cruz told the debate audience. In fact, he asserted, “I led the fight against [Rubio’s] legalization and amnesty.”

I’ve studied nearly every word Cruz uttered during the immigration showdown. I’ve put it together in a timeline that runs from January 2013, when Cruz was sworn in, to the end of June 2013, when the Senate passed the bill. The timeline, which you can read here, shreds Cruz’s mythical account. But it also paints an unsparing portrait of how Cruz—who has now clawed his way to the front of the Republican presidential pack—thinks and operates.

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You get the idea.

A lot of people don’t see a lot of  humility in Ted Cruz.

I think for many of his supporters, that humility is embedded in his religious faith. He is humble before god.

But, to detractors, that kind of humility can come across as sanctimony.

As Cruz told a New Year’s Eve conference call to supporters, “I want to tell everyone to get ready, strap on the full armor of God, get ready for the attacks that are coming,. Come the month of January we ain’t seen nothing yet.”

 

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