CNN's Jeffrey Toobin: Ted Cruz’s Goal Is a Right-Wing ‘Purification Ritual’

Last fall, not long after the federal government’s partial shutdown ended, The New Yorker’s David Denby alleged that shutdown point man Ted Cruz seemed to be pursuing the presidency “by sowing as much confusion and disorder as possible—playing the joker in a seemingly nihilistic charade whose actual intent is a rational grab for power.”

There’s nothing as pointed or nasty as that in “The Absolutist,” Jeffrey Toobin’s 8,400-word New Yorker profile of Cruz, but Toobin does paint Cruz as an extremist – more of a Goldwater figure than a Reagan figure – as well as a hypocrite regarding judicial activism.

From Toobin’s article, which appears in the June 30 issue of the magazine (emphasis added):

Cruz’s ascendancy reflects the dilemma of the modern Republican Party, because his popularity within the Party is based largely on an act that was reviled in the broader national community. Last fall, Cruz’s strident opposition to Obamacare led in a significant way to the shutdown of the federal government.

“It was not a productive enterprise,” John McCain told me. “We needed sixty-seven votes in the Senate to stop Obamacare, and we didn’t have it. It was a fool’s errand, and it hurt the Republican Party and it hurt my state. I think Ted has learned his lesson.” But Cruz has learned no such lesson. As he travels the country, he has hardened his positions, delighting the base of his party but moving farther from the positions of most Americans on most issues. He denies the existence of man-made climate change, opposes comprehensive immigration reform, rejects marriage equality, and, of course, demands the repeal of “every blessed word of Obamacare.” (Cruz gets his own health-care coverage from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a vice-president.) Cruz has not formally entered the 2016 Presidential race, but he is taking all the customary steps for a prospective candidacy. He has set up political-action committees to raise money, travelled to early primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, and campaigned for Republican candidates all over the country. His message, in substance, is that on the issues a Cruz Presidency would be roughly identical to a Sarah Palin Presidency…

Conservatives have long denounced liberal judges and lawyers for judicial activism—that is, for using the courts to overrule the work of the democratically elected branches of government. Roe v. Wade, which invalidated state laws banning abortion around the country, is the consummate act of liberal judicial activism. In the eighties and nineties, however, as Reagan nominees began to dominate the federal judiciary, conservatives began to use the courts for their own political ends as well. Conservatives like Cruz never stopped denouncing liberals for their efforts to use the courts to promote their ideological agenda, even as they began to do much the same thing themselves. The heart of Cruz’s legal career was a sustained and often successful undertaking to use the courts for conservative ends, like promoting the death penalty, lowering the barriers between church and state, and undermining international institutions and agreements…


The way Cruz characterizes the divide in American politics—Washington vs. the people—is demonstrably incorrect. Far more significant than the conflict between the capital and the people is the ideological clash between left and right. Cruz’s rhetoric is mostly an exercise, in the manner of Sun Tzu, of framing the narrative in the most advantageous way. “Anti-Washington” is better positioning than “doctrinaire,” but that is what Cruz is, even compared with his likely rivals for the Republican Presidential nomination. Unlike Marco Rubio, Cruz opposes comprehensive immigration reform; unlike Rand Paul, Cruz embraces the confrontational foreign policy associated with the George W. Bush Administration.

Cruz speaks of challenging “the corrupt bipartisan cabal in Washington,” but what he’s really proposing is a purification ritual, the fulfillment of a conservative agenda that has moved well to the right of that of his hero Ronald Reagan. The only Republicans he wants to challenge are those who want to coöperate or compromise with Democrats…

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters