I enjoy Frank Capra movies. Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) every year at Christmas is a must. Another favorite Capra film for me is Academy Award winning “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939), the story of young, wholesome Jefferson Smith – played by Jimmy Stewart – who goes to Washington as senator of a western state. As we see in the film, a significant component of the political culture of Washington is deception and manipulation. I could not help think of Capra’s movie as I read Sen. Ted Cruz’s recently published book A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America.
With his hand on his family Bible and his Cuban-born father in attendance, Ted Cruz was sworn into the U.S. Senate on January 3, 2013. Soon after President Obama nominated Senator John Kerry to be secretary of state, Kerry paid a “courtesy call” to Cruz and the other senators voting on Kerry’s nomination. Aware that Kerry had publicly stated that the tea party was a threat to the nation with its “absurd notions,” Cruz found Kerry surprisingly pleasant. As Cruz writes, a D.C. staple is that “regardless of the scathing things said in public, we are privately all supposed to be buddy-buddy” (p. 230).
When Cruz voted against Kerry’s nomination – only two other senators did likewise – Washington insiders gasped at the nerve of a freshman senator voting against Kerry, an icon of the institution. And of course the media – almost all Democrats – demand their views be upheld. For them, an opposing conservative is probably stupid or evil.
Cruz would not allow himself to be manipulated by inside Washington culture to support Kerry’s nomination. He could not play the buddy-buddy game. As Cruz saw it, Kerry for four decades had been on the wrong side of virtually every foreign policy issue. In the 1980s, Kerry favored the communist rule of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and opposed Reagan’s successful efforts to win the Cold War; in the 1990s, he opposed the Gulf War that liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein and viewed terrorist-supporting Yasser Arafat in a favorable light; and in more recent years, he criticized the successful 2007 U.S. troop surge in Iraq and encouraged an American alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Kerry almost received full support from voting senators. But Cruz voted with his conscience; he believed that Kerry as secretary of state would be “harmful to the national security interests of the United States” (p. 231). Like Jefferson Smith in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Cruz stayed true to his principles and his constituents.
Today, as President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Democrats continue to support the misguided Iran nuclear deal let us hope more politicians oppose the expectations and manipulations of Washington political and media insiders.