Politicians lie. It’s almost non-controversial; elected officials are advocates who want to show themselves and their causes in the best possible light. Nobody tells the whole truth.
Senator Ted Cruz wants you to think he is different: the video he released Monday morning ahead of his presidential campaign announcement was titled “Time for truth.” Those were also the first words he spoke at Liberty University after making his official announcement.
If Cruz is different, however, it’s because of how boldly he claims things that aren’t even remotely true. His vacations from reality take on a gleeful exuberance, like a college freshman on his first trip to Daytona.
Cruz told a CPAC crowd, for example, that Democrats issued an ominous threat to the Catholic Church: “Change your religious beliefs or we’ll use our power in the federal government to shut down your charities and your hospitals.” Politifact naturally deemed this “both incorrect and ridiculous.”
A quick survey of some other Cruz gems:
- Cruz said ISIS is “right now crucifying Christians in Iraq, literally nailing Christians to trees.” It wasn’t, and Cruz wasn’t able to offer any evidence.
- Cruz described a “strong bipartisan majority” in the House that voted to repeal Obamacare. Two Democrats joined the Republicans.
- He bluntly claimed that “the jurisdictions with the strictest gun control laws, almost without exception … have the highest crime rates and the highest murder rates.” This is not true.
- In recent weeks, Cruz has been using some variation of this line: “There are 110,000 agents at the IRS. We need to put a padlock on that building and take every one of those 110,000 agents and put them on our southern border.” The IRS doesn’t have 110,000 employees, let alone agents. (There are 14,000).
This may read as an oppo-dump of misstatements from a guy who’s now running for president. But anyone who has followed Cruz’s career knows it’s the tip of the iceberg—he frequently just seems to be free-associating conservative grievances with “facts” pulled from nowhere.
In some ways this is a huge asset for Cruz: he is clearly trying to establish himself as not only the most right-wing presidential candidate, but the truth-teller who isn’t afraid to say what conservatives know to be right. (They got that e-mail forward about it, after all!)
Combined with his aggressive play for evangelical voters, in this way Cruz is not unlike the Michele Bachmann of years past—except with a much better political resume and a bigger bankroll.
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Of course, the last image many people have of Bachmann is being chased down a hallway by CNN’s Dana Bash in the final days of her congressional career; Bash wanted to confront Bachmann over the thoroughly ludicrous claim that Obama was spending $1.4 billion on personal expenses each year. It wasn’t the first time the mainstream media made hay with Bachmann. Even normally credulous reporters just couldn’t resist the easy layup.
One wonders if Cruz, too, might eventually see his truthiness turn into a liability. Speaking at CPAC is one thing, but standing on the national stage seeking to be president is another.