Ted Cruz, Texas's New Senator, Gets Schooled Over His Chuck Hagel Campaign
There are few Senatorial chapters more infamous than Joe McCarthy's months-long screed against the purported communists infiltrating the American government during the 1950s. The man's grating, acidic line of questions and insinuations have long stood as the apogee of paranoia within Washington.
Cruz wasn't smiling yesterday.
Indeed, McCarthy's purported search for the closet communists have set the lowest bar for Senatorial decorum, and the man has, rightly, been lambasted ever since. His actions spawned rebuke from all sides. After Joseph Welch's timeless reproach -- "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" -- the questioning, and McCarthy's political career, shriveled. McCarthyism -- the ignorance, the condescension -- has been largely avoided in the seven decades since.
Fortunately, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is here to make sure that McCarthy's memory carries forward to another political generation. And, thanks to Bill Nelson, the senior senator from Florida, we can be assured that Welch won't remain the lone individual willing to castigate those without standing, and without decency.
For those who've not followed, Cruz has spent the last week channeling the ghost of McCarthy, blasting baseless accusations at Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator and President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense. The freshman senator seems intent on wringing some sort of Islamist bent from Hagel, parsing verbs and phrases and looking, exegetically, at every single interview and financial source the former senator has ever crossed.
It's been, indeed, a show. Cruz's grandstanding -- coming in front of a man in receipt of two Purple Hearts -- has provided wonderful political theater, and has prolonged what was once a fait accompli. His requests have been, as Armed Services Committee Chair Sen. Carl Levin said, "unprecedented."
And until yesterday, they've been unencumbered, and unchecked. Granted a certain amount of room through his recent election, Cruz had paired platform and hubris into a run of conceit unparalleled since, well, McCarthy.
But Tuesday saw a breaking point. As Levin called for a vote -- such discussion on Hagel's patriotism could only run so long -- Sen. Nelson took a moment to touch on a topic festering since last week:
"Mr Chairman, Sen. Cruz has stated his opinion, which he's entitled to," Nelson began. "But I want to put on the record that this Senator feels that Sen. Cruz has gone over the line. He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee in your conclusions, which you're entitled to come to, about him, in essence, being cozy with Iran."
Turning to Cruz, Nelson continued: "And you have also stated your opinion that you don't think that he has been truthful with this committee. Those are two fairly strong statements."