Ted Cruz’s extreme views stir concern
Washington - The Republican political establishment has begun throwing its support behind US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in an effort to stop his rival, businessman Donald Trump, from winning the Republican nomination for president. However, many of Cruz’s positions — and those of his advisers — are so extreme that the adage “Be careful what you wish for” may apply.
Cruz is not only personally disliked by many of his colleagues for his obstructionist tactics on the Senate floor and for his diatribes against the body’s leadership but for his extreme right-wing views that are beyond what the general American public would support.
Still, a Trump nomination worries so many Republicans, in large part because he is seen as a demagogue who would lose the presidential race to the likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, that many are willing to bite the bullet and support Cruz.
But if Trump is a demagogue who many feel is unelectable in November, Cruz is not far behind. In the wake of the recent terrorist bombings in Brussels, Cruz said authorities should “patrol and secure Muslim neighbourhoods” in the United States “before they become radicalised”. Trump, who normally delights in criticising Cruz, said: “I think that’s a good idea.”
Cruz’s statement was widely denounced by Democrats as unconstitutional and discriminatory for singling out a religious group for special police scrutiny. Some Republicans agreed with the criticism, though others — seeing Cruz as their best hope against Trump — equivocated, saying only that Cruz should have made a better choice of words.
Cruz also said during a political debate that he favoured “carpet-bombing” the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq and was dismissive of the large number of civilian casualties that would occur in such operations. And he said he would only favour accepting Syrian Christian refugees, not Muslim refugees, to the United States.
So where is Cruz getting his advice from on such issues? Reporting over the past few weeks has revealed Cruz’s foreign policy advisers as ranging from anti-Muslim demagogues to a couple of alumni from the Iran-Contra scandal from the 1980s.
One demagogue is the notorious Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy who has warned of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy in the United States and has called for the re-establishment of the House Un-American Activities Committee from the 1950s to root out this “insidious peril”. A prominent civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, described Gaffney as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes”.
Gaffney was among the so-called birther conspirators who claimed that US President Barack Obama is a secret Muslim who was born outside of the United States.
Cruz has defended Gaffney as a “serious thinker who has been focused on fighting jihadists, fighting jihadism across the globe”. When pressed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about several outlandish Gaffney quotes, such as his claim that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Cruz said it would be silly to play a media game to say he agreed with every statement of an adviser.
Another controversial Cruz adviser, although not an Islamophobe, is Elliott Abrams, now of the Council on Foreign Relations. Abrams was indicted for lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal but was pardoned by president George H.W. Bush, who was vice-president during the scandal.
Abrams has long supported Israel’s Likud Party and, as a neoconservative, was an early advocate of the Iraq war of 2003. Abrams was advising Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio but, when Rubio dropped out of the race, he shifted to Cruz.
Still another controversial Cruz adviser is Andrew McCarthy, an Islamophobe like Gaffney. McCarthy in 2011 charged that the religion of Islam, especially mainstream interpretations of Islam, “radicalises” Muslims. Again, like Gaffney, he has stated that Obama is a secret Muslim not born in the United States.
With advisers like these, it is not surprising that Cruz has taken the positions he has so far. These advisers seem to reinforce his own right-wing views and, for the most part, they match Trump’s views on the “Muslim threat”.
Unfortunately, if another terrorist attacks linked to ISIS occurs in Europe or the United States, more Americans, out of fear, will subscribe to such views. With so little daylight between them, at least on this issue, Trump and Cruz will compete for this constituency. But if the Republican political establishment believes Cruz is their saviour against Trump, they should think again. They are very much alike as extremists.