Ted Cruz and the Reds

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 25 2013 6:29 PM

Ted Cruz and the Reds

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A woman holds a flag depecting a picture of Che Guevara during a protest by public workers, small political parties and non-profit organizations against government austerity on February 23, 2013 in Madrid.

Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU,PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images

Harvard Law grad Dan McLaughlin leaps to the defense of Ted Cruz. The charge: Cruz showed up at a 2010 Americans for Prosperity event and said this about the school:

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.
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The source: A very weighty-sounding Jane Mayer story, which—McLaughlin is on the money here—only uses the word of the contemporary faculty adviser, Charles Fried, to debunk this. "She never asks Fried to name any of these people, but just takes him at his word that he has a list of Republicans on the faculty," said McLaughlin. Good point! And then he quotes my colleague:

Now, it’s something of a hyperbolic flourish to describe armchair radicals of this sort as people “who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government,” and as Fried notes, the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 had necessarily pushed a lot of previously proud Marxists to go underground and readjust their rhetoric. But as even Matt Yglesias conceded, “[t]he conclusion that …a follower of Marx’s ideas is, like Marx, a Communist seems perfectly plausible.”

Again, I agree that this is a fair conclusion. But didn't Cruz take it farther? He didn't just suggest that the professors were Communists. He suggested that they "believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government." Cruz surely knows that there are Marxists who prefer to change institutions slowly, as social Democrats working within the system. This is how he's described Barack Obama, as a socialist trying to fundamentally destroy what America stands for.

What's the difference? It's mostly rhetorical, but that's the point—that's what frustrates Cruz's newfound enemies. He's got a room of Tea Party activists who are inclined to believe the worst about the left, that its leaders are literally trying to overthrow our system of government and way of life. He indulges the theory. He assigns a number of bad guys—12—which implies that they can be named and shamed, or that they could have been but were protected by yet more enemies of freedom.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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