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.
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.
The backlash against US president Barack Obama shows that Australian conservatives were never friends with America as a whole – they were just mates with the American right, writes Michael Cooney.
How can Julie Bishop expect to make real progress in stopping the spread of terrorism while she undermines our alliance with the United States?
Her speech to the United Nations this week was a strong one – and a strong reminder of how valuable to Australia’s national interest a two-year place on the Security Council is proving. Yet within hours, the Foreign Minister was on national television saying she “understands” conservative fury at the American president.
What is going on?
Since President Obama left Australia, the Australian right’s attack on our ally has been astonishing. The Treasurer boasts of having ignored the president’s speech at the University of Queensland and mocks his troubles with an oppositionist senate. (These remarks, as well as failing to understand how important American executive power can be, seemed smarter before the Abbott Government’s own Senate fiasco over FOFA laws.) The Foreign Minister complains that the president doesn’t know enough about what the Government is doing to conserve the Great Barrier Reef. The Queensland Government whinges that it bent over backwards to help arrange the UQ address and this is the thanks it gets. Queensland state MPs are even considering sending a written complaint to the White House. (The Tsar has been warned!)
It’s not only politicians; conservative commentators have also piled in.
Peter van Onselen reports that the Prime Minister was “privately seething” about Obama’s speech – although not completely privately, if PVO has the yarn. Paul Kelly was so disoriented by the whole event that he briefly demanded Bill Shorten act on climate change – “What the hell is Australia doing?” he hounded an understandably perplexed Opposition Leader on Sunday morning TV. (Meanwhile, Greg Sheridan’s contribution on the topic quite defies paraphrasing.)
These are the people who roar treason at any sign of progressive dissent on foreign policy, yet are now utterly exposed – a conga line of hypocrites.
When was the last time an Australian government and an American administration had a relationship this bad?
John Howard was hardly a golf buddy of Bill Clinton’s, and wasn’t delighted with the level of US support to our operation in East Timor in 1999, but he knew where the alliance big picture lay. The MX missile crisis of the mid-1980s was smoothed over by the diplomacy of Kim Beazley and the good relationship between President Reagan and Prime Minister Hawke.
Maybe someone who lived through the Whitlam era (I was three in November 1975) would be able to compare the trans-Pacific tensions of that period. Were they worse than this? Not necessarily. Some argue that despite their obvious political differences, there was some basis of respect between Whitlam and Nixon – Whitlam’s grand China triumph must have appealed to the audacious half of Nixon’s divided heart – but there’s no doubting the period was a difficult one for the Alliance.
In any case, it’s certain right now is the worst moment in Australia-US relations in 40 years, and maybe longer. What’s more, and for surely the first time in our shared history, the personal relationship between the Prime Minister and the president is making it worse, not better.
I was in the galleries of the Parliament in November 2011 to watch President Obama speak on the future of democracy in Asia and the future of our alliance. One of the striking memories of that day was then opposition leader Tony Abbott’s “weird and graceless” speech: rather than sincerely welcoming our friend, he attacked the Gillard government, not only for its handling of uranium sales to India, but over the tax on mining rents and economic policy in general. This was a big clanger, with newspapers reporting his own backbench complaining they were “squirming in their seats” and commercial television hosts quizzing Tony Abbott the following day about his lack of respect.
Our visitors noticed too.
In office, Tony Abbott hasn’t got any better. As PM, he wrapped his first visit to the US in other travel, to France and Canada, and made great play in advance of his arrival in Washington of his plans to ally with conservative, coal-fuelled Canadian PM Stephen Harper against our ally’s goals for climate change action. Then, ahead of the president’s visit to Australia for the G20, Australian Liberals repeatedly spoke, on the record and off, about “the lamest of lame ducks”. Put aside for the moment the Australian Government’s own inability to pass budget measures, and put aside that the next Australian election is likely to come before the next US poll. Doesn’t the Australian national interest require a strong US and a strong president?
The reality of climate change policy is that the policies of Australia and the US have never been so far apart in an international forum as they were in Brisbane this month.
In turn, the reality is that six decades of conservative mythology about their support for the Australia-US alliance is just that.
It turns out Australian conservatives never were friends with America as a whole – they were just mates with the American right.
With a liberal Democratic president in the White House, they are putting partisanship ahead of patriotism – and this doesn’t just threaten the Great Barrier Reef, it weakens the fight against terrorism as well.
And worst of all, it’s not a problem which will expire with the end of President Obama’s second term. Imagine what the next President Clinton will say when she visits.
Michael Cooney is executive director of the Chifley Research Centre, the ALP’s think tank. He was speechwriter to prime minister Julia Gillard. View his full profile here.
Australia is on the road to a Tea party revolution
Shirtfronting, Islamaphobia and sweeping national security laws all point to a political culture that’s growing increasingly more extreme
Australia is undergoing a Tea party revolution. A t-shirt that reads, “if you don’t love it, leave” is a stirring paean to patriotism. Like its American cousins, supporters talk of small government (except when it comes to finding money for defence and bombing Islamic nations), endorse hyper partisanship, oppose action on climate change, distrust non-Christians and non-Zionists and embrace insularity.
The past is celebrated, the future is feared and the present is up for grabs. Bernardi’s recent statements about his fear of Muslims and the supposed security threats of the niqab or burqa were a perfect Tea party tactic, allowing xenophobia out of the bottle with its message spread by reliable media courtiers. Abbott then rushed in to restore order and condemn the move while still expressing unease with the head-wear.
One of the central ways to break this predictable cycle is resisting the dishonest and incendiary Murdoch agenda that rewards mates and celebrates a blokey, Anglosphere myopia. It’s no wonder his publications are so keen to dutifully join any conflict with a new Muslim foe. After all, Rupert’s great vision, expressed again recently to G20 finance ministers, is damning socialism, praising deregulation, small government and unfettered capitalism. Such thinking has helped him and his mates handsomely.