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Mayer writes: Democrats went so far as to liken Cruz, who is a newcomer to the Senate, to a darkly divisive predecessor, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, whose anti-Communist crusades devolved into infamous witch hunts."

Sen. Ted Cruz (photo: David J. Phillip/AP)
Sen. Ted Cruz (photo: David J. Phillip/AP)

Is Senator Ted Cruz Our New McCarthy?

By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker

23 February 13


ast week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz's prosecutorial style of questioning Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for Defense Secretary, came so close to innuendo that it raised eyebrows in Congress, even among his Republican colleagues. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called Cruz's inquiry into Hagel's past associations "out of bounds, quite frankly." The Times reported that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, rebuked Cruz for insinuating, without evidence, that Hagel may have collected speaking fees from North Korea. Some Democrats went so far as to liken Cruz, who is a newcomer to the Senate, to a darkly divisive predecessor, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, whose anti-Communist crusades devolved into infamous witch hunts. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, stopped short of invoking McCarthy's name, but there was no mistaking her allusion when she talked about being reminded of "a different time and place, when you said, 'I have here in my pocket a speech you made on such-and-such a date,' and of course there was nothing in the pocket."

Boxer's analogy may have been more apt than she realized. Two and a half years ago, Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there. Cruz attended Harvard Law School from 1992 until 1995. His spokeswoman didn't respond to a request to discuss the speech.

Cruz made the accusation while speaking to a rapt ballroom audience during a luncheon at a conference called "Defending the American Dream," sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit political organization founded and funded in part by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. Cruz greeted the audience jovially, but soon launched an impassioned attack on President Obama, whom he described as "the most radical" President "ever to occupy the Oval Office." (I was covering the conference and kept the notes.)

He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, "would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School." The reason, said Cruz, was that, "There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government."

"We are puzzled by the Senator's assertions, as we are unaware of any basis for them," Robb London, a spokesman for Harvard Law School, told me. London noted that Cruz had contributed "warm reminiscences" of the school by video for a reunion of Latino alumni. "We applaud the fact that he has pursued public service, as so many of our graduates have done. We are also proud of our longstanding tradition of freedom of speech and the robust range of views and debates on our campus."

Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried, a Republican who served as Ronald Reagan's Solicitor General from 1985 to 1989, and who subsequently taught Cruz at the law school, suggests that his former student has his facts wrong. "I can right offhand count four "out" Republicans (including myself) and I don't know how many closeted Republicans when Ted, who was my student and the editor on the Harvard Law Review who helped me with my Supreme Court foreword, was a student here."

Fried went on to say that unlike Cruz, or McCarthy, who infamously kept tallies of alleged subversives, he had never tried to count Communists. "I have not taken a poll, but I would be surprised if there were any members of the faculty who 'believed in the Communists overthrowing the U.S. government,'" he said. Under the Smith Act, it is a crime to actively engage in any organization pursuing the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Fried acknowledged that "there were a certain number (twelve seems to me too high) who were quite radical, but I doubt if any had allegiance or sympathy with anything called 'the Communists,' who at that time (unlike the thirties and forties) were in quite bad odor among radical intellectuals." He pointed out that by the nineteen-nineties, Communist states were widely regarded as tyrannical. From Fried's perspective, the radicals on the faculty were "a pain in the neck." But he says that Cruz's assertion that they were Communists "misunderstands what they were about."

It may be that Cruz was referring to a group of left-leaning law professors who supported what they called Critical Legal Studies, a method of critiquing the political impact of the American legal system. Professor Duncan Kennedy, for instance, a leader of the faction, who declined to comment on Cruz's accusation, counts himself as influenced by the writings of Karl Marx. But he regards himself as a social democrat, not a Communist, and has never advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government by Communists. Rather, he advocated widening admissions at the law school to under-served populations, hiring more minorities and women on the faculty, and paying all law professors equally.

Sounding like a disappointed professor, Fried said that Cruz's willingness to label the faculty Communist "lacks nuance." He said he remembered Cruz well, as "very bright, very hard-working and very conservative, in a well-mannered, agreeable way." So he said, "This surprises me. It suggests he's changed."

So too, perhaps, has the U.S. Senate. your social media marketing partner


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+73 # phrixus 2013-02-23 18:42
"Is Senator Ted Cruz our new McCarthy?" No, but he IS the latest wing-nut to rear his head out of the lunacy pond which has become the Republican Party. I don't know whom in America the last ten years of crazies from the GOP represent but they sure as hell don't have anything in common with any of the conservatives I know. Maybe they're just a whole bunch of Ted Nugent worshipers. The GOP needs an extreme makeover before it becomes even more of a dysfunctional laughingstock than it currently is.
+54 # Walter J Smith 2013-02-23 19:52
Fortunately for the world, Ted Cruz will have talked himself unelected long before his six years is up.
+11 # ruttaro 2013-02-24 11:14
One would think so. However, he has a couple of things working for him right now: a) he speaks to a very hard right organization that has lots of money and a constituency that will never come out of their bunkers, and b) after solidifying his street creds with the loonies llike Limbaugh et. al. he will count on electorate amnesia so he can redefine himself. Let's not forget that right wing corporatists chose Reagan to be thier guy and after that one speech in 1964 went aout and repackaged him as the affable Gipper and iconic cowboy from the west embodying all those "real and true" American values.
He wants to be the core conservative who is banking on the pendulum swinging back and in about twelve years after a stint as governor of Texas, he will run for President, riding in from the west, following after Reagan's horse, with all those "real and true" American values.
He just needs to be careful, though. Following the horse in front of you means you might just step in it.
+22 # Lolanne 2013-02-24 12:00
Quoting Walter J Smith:
Fortunately for the world, Ted Cruz will have talked himself unelected long before his six years is up.

Let us fervently hope so! But we can't count on that. Don't forget, TEXANS elected him...Texans, who have a state gov't that has legislated against teaching its kids critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, it appears those skills have not been taught in Texas for a lot of years, else how to account for the fools it elects, both at the state and federal level???
+30 # CAMUS1111 2013-02-23 20:45
Ted Cruz: Too stupid, ignorant and crass to be "McCarthyesque. "
+33 # Davethinks 2013-02-24 00:43
I suggest that it is a mistake to condemn Cruz as stupid although ignorant may apply. Voices that arise and seem too radical or stupid to believe, end up at the head of movements. Cruz is dangerous. His ideas may seem too crazy for people to follow, but we know people follow crazy ideas. Do not be snide; do be alert to oppose with vigor.
+31 # pbbrodie 2013-02-24 08:01
Unfortunately, Cruz is not stupid or ignorant. You do not become the editor of the Harvard Law Revue with those qualities.
The truth is that Cruz is quite dangerous and perhaps even crazy but definitely not stupid.
+3 # flippancy 2013-02-26 11:03
Quoting pbbrodie:
Unfortunately, Cruz is not stupid or ignorant. You do not become the editor of the Harvard Law Revue with those qualities.
The truth is that Cruz is quite dangerous and perhaps even crazy but definitely not stupid.

But the wingnuts claim that Obama, the editor of the Harvard Law Review is stupid. He's demonstrably far more intelligent than Cruz, so I guess if Obama isn't smart, Cruz must be of subhuman intelligence.
+28 # stannadel 2013-02-23 23:25
Cruz is a nasty bastard, but if he edited the Harvard Law Review he isn't stupid and it would be a serious mistake to assume he is. Nor, given political realities in Texas, is it safe to assume he won't win re-election. He is smart and dangerous--just like Joe.
+31 # chicagoflygirls 2013-02-24 01:58
Regarding 'Fortunately for the world, Ted Cruz will have talked himself unelected long before his six years is up. I disagree.

He is from Texas, where there is a continuing supply of wingnuts and ignorant voters to keep them in office. His style of lying and pandering is a high art in Texas.

I miss Molly Ivins so much! She was a Texan who could regularly put the needle in these blowhards, and she saved the soul of Texas in the process. Now the jackasses just run amuck there.
+16 # jon 2013-02-24 10:41

"I miss Molly Ivins so much! She was a Texan who could regularly put the needle in these blowhards, and she saved the soul of Texas in the process. Now the jackasses just run amuck there."

Yes! Would that we had the benefit of Molly's insight and wit into this ever increasing lunacy from the right.
+9 # hoodwinkednomore 2013-02-24 03:59
Ayn rand is everywhere! Yikes...
+14 # hammermann 2013-02-24 08:06
In 6 years Texas will be far more blue, and a whack-job creep like Cruz will have a problem being elected statewide. But yes, he is another road marker on the Repubs march to irrelevance.
+20 # Susan1989 2013-02-24 08:09
What cesspool do these people climb out of? I sense that Americans electing a black President has stirred up the rampant racism in America. Not that we didn't know it was there...but it is now more overt.
+15 # Smokey 2013-02-24 08:31
Don't laugh at Cruz. The Rush Limbaugh crowd loves the guy and Cruz has the ability to make a mess in American politics. Cruz is another pint-sized fascist with close ties to both the big oil companies and the Tea Party.
+14 # jon 2013-02-24 08:40
George Wallace once famously said that he lost the first time he ran for an elected office because his opponent out-shouted him with the "N-word. He then said, he vowed never to be out-shouted that way again, and went on to be a Governor.

Ted Cruz is making the same sort of base political noise to the same mentality for the same ends.

His tactic is nothing new, that is for sure. But then, why should anything creative be expected from the forces of opposition to creativity.
+22 # cabotool 2013-02-24 09:37
I was attending Stanford from 1952 until 1960. I believe it was in 1956 that the infamous HUAC hearings were held in San Francisco. My wife, Marion, was a highly principled and strong minded woman and she participated in the protest of McCarthy. She was from Dallas and if she were alive today, she would be working to impeach Ted Cruz. I pray that there are like minded persons in Texas that will take up the task of impeaching this unpleasant man.
+17 # Citizen Mike 2013-02-24 09:38
Communists? What century is this guy living in? Classic communism on the Soviet model, calling for violent overthrow and forced collectivism, is dead as a doornail today. It has no support worldwide, and never had much traction here in the US.

In my youth, when we were hippies, we rejected materialism and turned against all establishment authority, which included rejection of labor unions and the Communist Party, too. We were not at all communists although we supported a spiritualized communal responsibility and pacifist forms of resistance to authority.

Remember, the labor movement supported the war in Vietnam and opposed us, while the classic commies condemned us for bourgeous hedonism.

Ironic that the only guys out there today calling for violent overthrow of the government are the rightwing extremists who are hoarding guns with the intent to do battle with our own police and military. If you are looking for violations of the Smith Act, look at the Nugent supporters and paranoid racist militia members. I quote here:

"Under the Smith Act, it is a crime to actively engage in any organization pursuing the overthrow of the U.S. government."
+10 # kelly 2013-02-24 12:08
Google a picture of them side-by-side, the resemblance is uncanny. And don't be fooled. His name may be Cruz, but he was born in Canada...up close to isn't altogether impossible...oh well, what I wanted to remind you of is that it is not, I repeat, NOT against the law to be a member of the Communist party in the United States these days. It is against the law to plot to overthrow it(which, it seems to me, is what all the gun freaks do when they say they need guns so they can rise up against the government they don't trust). I tried to tell a friend of mine the other day--I'm from Texas--that this Cruz guy is a fear-mongerer. She said she didn't want to listen to any more of my nonsense. Okay.
+6 # Cdesignpdx 2013-02-24 23:36
So glad to hear Cruz was born in Canada. He can't become President. Any idea about the status of his parents? God hope they weren't U.S. citizens in temporary residence there!
0 # kelly 2013-02-26 09:16
Well his father was an immigrant, but from Cuba, and his mother was from Delaware. Both worked up there on the oil fields. The main problem is that the wording is about a person being born of American parents living outside of the US can produce American citizens. The definition of American citizen is supposed to be a person of established residentcy for at least 10 years. Well Cruz's mom is from Delaware but his dad came over during Castro's takeover...Cruz was born way before the 10 year period was up.
+2 # flippancy 2013-02-26 10:59
The Communist party and for that matter, King George, never presented the threat to America that the Republican party does.
+4 # heraldmage 2013-02-24 14:57
Sure wish Senator Hutchison hadn't retired. The GOP are making a laughing stock of Texas.
But we want them to keep it up so we can recall them or at the very least defeat them in the next election. Once we get an approved redistricting that is. Than I'll know how many people on my block are in the same district.
+9 # Wyntergreen 2013-02-24 21:06
Personally, I think we need MORE communists in government and our educational institutions.
+2 # wrknight 2013-02-26 08:33
For kristsake, communism died long ago, and in fact may never have actually lived. It didn't even survive in its native country; and those countries that claim to be communist are communist in name only with no resemblance to Marxism.

People like Cruz who peddle the communist boogeyman threat are either brain dead or trying to divert people's attentions away from something they are hiding. People who believe that crap are simply brain dead.
0 # politicfix 2014-03-14 18:35
Ted Cruz needs to be exposed for who he is and what he's up to. Check out this website and see his ties to the Wall Street banks, Goldman Sachs, and whose father is a Cuban communist.

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