It has become a standing tradition for Presidential candidates to release a book in support of their candidacy. Typically, these books are part autobiography/part campaign PR. For the most part, candidates will predictably muse over their working class upbringing before painting with a broad brush the picture of America as we could know it -- if only we would give the candidate our vote. Most view these books as little more than an extension of campaign rhetoric and bio fluff.
But, as has become the norm for Senator Ted Cruz, he appears unaware of (or unconcerned with) such tradition.
In his book, A Time for Truth, Cruz uses his introduction to tell a vivid story of his own party at work behind closed doors. Recounting the fight to raise the debt ceiling in February of 2014, Cruz invites readers "behind the curtain" of policy luncheons reserved only for GOP Senators. It was at such a luncheon (according to Cruz), where his own party's leadership caved to President Obama's request for a "clean bill" (one without conditions), to raise the Federal Debt ceiling. He recalls his outrage and disbelief that Republicans (who had campaigned as fiscal conservatives) were so willing to acquiesce to Democrats and the Obama Administration. It was at this moment that Cruz took a stand that would frustrate GOP leadership and earn the freshman Senator from Texas the label of "minority maker."
Running your campaign as the outsider has become a Presidential cliché. Already in this election cycle, most other GOP candidates are staking their claim to the label -- that of an outsider who will fight for the people against a corrupt Washington machine. The difference with Cruz is that he's not afraid to call out others by name on both sides of the aisle. Of course, the sitting President from the opposing party is supposed to be treated like an over-stuffed piñata ripe for constant barrage -- that tradition is also well polished from both sides.
But to call out your own party leaders and fellow Senators by name can be seen as either bold, callus, or both.
Although Cruz refers to "Republican leadership" throughout the book (which is clearly a thinly veiled reference to Mitch McConnell), he is critical of McConnell and his tactics on more than one occasion (including another fight over Obamacare): "Mitch McConnell and the GOP leadership team would decide to publically, directly, and aggressively lead the fight against the House Republicans and in favor of Obamacare ... perhaps they were simply angry that a handful of senators would have the temerity to take our case straight to the American people."
During the Senate vote on Obamacare when Cruz attempted a filibuster, he recalls about fellow tea party member and Presidential candidate Rand Paul: "My friend Rand Paul came to the Senate floor to ask questions that seemed deliberately designed to undermine our efforts ... His questions echoed the skeptical attacks of Mitch McConnell, and I marveled that Rand had decided not to be with us in this fight."
The mere reference to this specific story is undoubtedly strategic. Rand Paul may be one of the biggest threats to Cruz during the nomination process. To some, Paul offers a more moderate form of libertarianism (and to some, a more polished one).
Cruz goes to great length to portray Utah Senator Mike Lee as his closest ally and most likely political kindred spirit. While this portrayal is perhaps provided without Lee’s consent, it’s also not as consequential (since Lee is neither up for election nor seeking the Presidency).
His Cuban roots and the influence of his Cuban born father (a political thorn to Castro), are also detailed. While this segment of Cruz’s biography is interesting, it’s hard to know exactly how it will impact his overall message on the campaign trail. With the potential for normalized relations with Cuba on the horizon, Cruz’s response to questions surrounding US-Cuba relations and immigration may prove to be another quality that distinguishes him from his fellow GOP colleagues.
In the book’s final chapter, Cruz draws inspiration from the Reagan years and that “shining city on the hill.” While there is some poetry to the writing here, it's also the most blatant campaign fluff. Whether Cruz actually believes he's the one to return America to the “glory years” of the early 1980s, or whether that’s even plausible is irrelevant in many ways. Such literary allusions to Reagan have become commonplace among Tea Party activists and candidates. Without doubt, Ted Cruz will not be the last to invoke the memory of “the Great Communicator” during this campaign season.
It’s hard to say if activists and organizers of the Tea Party movement envisioned the current landscape for the GOP candidates moving into the 2016 Presidential race. The Tea Party has not changed the GOP establishment fundamentally (as they originally set out to do), but they've successfully elected several members to Congress, including three current Presidential candidates (Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mario Rubio). What's clear is that these three former allies will be adversaries (for the next few months, at least) if one of them is to secure the GOP nomination. In a race that pulls no punches, Cruz may have been the first to start throwing them. #News