Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave the keynote address to close out the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference. In an impressive sign of his conviction, and comfort with public speaking, he doesn’t use any prepared notes. He doesn’t even stay behind the podium.
As with many other speakers, Cruz warmed up the audience with a bit of humor, comparing the supposedly draconian sequestration spending cuts with a two-percent reduction in the size of CPAC dinner servings. He jokingly professed himself astonished that anyone could still be standing after such severe dietary restrictions, since President Obama insisted that the tiny sequestration cuts would disable much of the federal government. “I’ll always be haunted by the sight of Newt Gingrich’s emaciated face… it’s like Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables.”
Later, he had a great riff on Vice President Joe Biden’s advice for people to defend themselves against criminal assault by purchasing a double-barreled shotgun and firing one barrel in the air. Cruz thought that sound like good advice, if you happen to be under attack by a flock of geese… or a drone.
He also had a bit of fun with Senator John McCain referring to him and Rand Paul as “wacko birds,” saying he initially thought it might be the military term for a new class of unmanned aerial vehicle. He embraced the label proudly. “If standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution makes you a wacko bird, then count me a proud wacko bird. And I think there are more than a few other wacko birds gathered here today.”
Cruz has no patience for the “defeatist attitude” among Republicans who have been trapped too long inside the Beltway. He cited Senator Rand Paul’s (R-Kentucky, by way of Texas, as Cruz happily reminded the audience) drone strike filibuster, sequestration, and Cruz’ own amendment to defund ObamaCare as examples of “a dirty little secret the mainstream media won’t pass on to you: for the past three weeks, conservatives have been winning.”
For Cruz, it’s all about standing on principle and declaring that the the power of government has limits, with the Constitution serving as a chain to bind the ambitions of the State, not restrain the freedom of the American people. He’s got the right idea about forcing Democrats to own, and defend, their failures. Noting the unanimous Senate Republican support for his effort to defund ObamaCare, Cruz said it was a debate that left Democrats “stood together to keep imposing the economic costs, the harms as people are losing their insurance, as employees are being forced to reduce their hours, as insurance premiums are skyrocketing on young people… every Democrat voted together to maintain ObamaCare funding, even if it pushes us into a recession.” Later, he suggested Republicans should likewise invite Democrats to tell kids trapped in failing public schools why they should never be allowed to escape.
How do Republicans build the successes of the past three weeks into a continuing momentum of victory? “I’m going to suggest two very simple steps: Number One, defend the Constitution. And Number Two, champion growth and opportunity.”
On the first point, he sees liberty “under assault from every direction,” from gun control (where he alluded to his encounter with a shrill Senator Dianne Feinstein) to ObamaCare, regulations against political speech, the war against religious liberty, drone weapons soaring past the Fifth Amendment, electronic surveillance and the NDAA punching through the Fourth Amendment, and federal omnipotence making a mockery of the Tenth Amendment.
Recalling his time as Solicitor General of Texas, when he did battle with a Republican Administration, he vowed that “no President, Republican or Democrat, has the Constitutional authority to give away U.S. sovereignty… We’ve seen Republicans stand up to Republican presidents. My question to you is, where were the Democrats when Rand and the rest of us were standing on the rest of the floor, on drones?”
Cruz called for a return to Reganesque economic policy to end what he calls “The Great Stagnation.” This would be a dramatic departure from President Obama’s approach, which has involved high taxes, high spending, and “sending regulators like locusts to destroy small businesses and jobs.” He lamented the rise in unemployment among some of the groups liberals profess to care most about – blacks, Hispanics, young people – and was eager to pit his “opportunity conservatism” against such a dismal record.
Repealing ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial legislation (“talk about a bill you don’t have to read any further than the title!”), eliminating corporate welfare, building the Keystone oil pipeline, reining in the Environmental Protection Agency, auditing the Federal Reserve, and stopping the endless Quantitative Easing program would all be key components of Cruz’ growth agenda.
Furthermore, he called for eliminating the Department of Education, because “education is too important for it to be controlled by bureaucrats in Washington, taking choices away from parents and kids.” He called for conservatives to champion school choice, “the civil rights issue of the next generation.”
Cruz won big applause by declaring, “We need to stand with Israel… but we need to stop sending foreign aid to nations that hate us.” He drew a contrast between the White House canceling public tours due to sequestration, but sending a vastly larger sum of money to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt without strings attached.
He called on the CPAC crowd to help spread his message in a way that media gatekeepers couldn’t shut down, via smartphone and website, and solicited their help in designing the pro-growth policies needed for American renewal. Remembering how his Cuban father arrived penniless in Texas at the age of 18, he wondered how a message from 55 years in the future informing the young man that his son would someday be sworn into the Senate would have been received. “That would have been unimaginable,” said Cruz. “That would have been beyond anything he could possibly have conceived. And yet there was my father, sitting in the gallery, looking down as I took the oath of office.” His father turned out to be in the audience, standing to receive an ovation from the crowd.
Senator Cruz implored conservatives to ignore those who presume to dictate the new, smaller limits of possibility. “We’re here because we’re not willing to give up on America. We are facing a fundamental choice – a choice that cuts across all issues. It is a choice between surrendering, or standing up now to defend our liberty. On guns, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? On drones, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? On spending, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? On debt, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? And on the Constitution, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? That, my friends, is change we can believe in.”