Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) bizarrely counts the Clinton-Gingrich government shutdown fight as a victory for Republicans. Yet his historical ignorance hit a new high with his idolization of the late Sen. Jess Helms (R-N.C.). In a speech yesterday, he declared the Senate needed  “100 more like Jesse Helms.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

At the onset, let me say Helms was an avid supporter of segregation and any mention of his career expressing admiration for parts of his legacy need to be candid about that and deplore it. It is an odd thing indeed to say in 2013 we should have “100 more like Jesse Helms.”

But aside from that, Cruz misunderstands Helms’s national security views. Cruz, like his more brazen compatriot Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has taken a variety of positions, including opposition to surveillance of foreign suspected terrorists, which certainly would have made Helms break out in hives. Moreover, his position on Syria runs counter to Helms’s life’s work.

Let’s begin with Cruz’s speech:

Now, I am going to suggest to you that it is not the job of the men and women of our military to send statements about international norms. It is the job of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines to stand up and defend the United States of America, to kill our enemies, and to defend our national interest. The President’s objective in Syria was fundamentally wrong because it was directed at this international norm.

This is flat out wrong. The president and conservatives have identified a national interest in getting rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — in so small part because he is an ally of Iran and houses Hezbollah — and guaranteeing WMDs are not used. Cruz intentionally misleads on this point. He goes on to complain the proposed action was too small, but, of course, he would oppose larger action. He showed no understanding that there are anti-jihadi rebels whom we have an interest in prevailing. Although he goes on to demand unequivocal statements about Iran’s acquisitions of WMDs, he neglects to mention Iran is in Syria aiding Assad or that the Syrian use of WMDs is a devastating example for Iran and the other nations in the area.

Aside from his lack of intellectual honesty, Cruz is ignorant about Helms. Those who knew and worked for Helms are aghast at the comparison. Danielle Pletka, a former senior staffer for Helms and now with the American Enterprise Institute, e-mails me, “Helms was no isolationist. He was an original sponsor of the Iraq Liberation Act. He supported lifting the Bosnia Arms Embargo. He supported NATO expansion. He supported stronger action against Saddam Hussein in the wake of the Anfal campaign. He supported the Contras (arming the rebels).” She continues, “He met with Libyans who wanted to oust Qadhafi. He despised Assad. What Helms hated was Communism. What Helms loved was freedom and liberty. A compilation of his work is called: Empire for Liberty.”

In short, she says, “I  would like to think that he would have pushed the President to help the Syrians fight for themselves when this battle began almost two years ago.”

Cruz is entitled to whatever views he likes, and I encourage him and Paul to test their views in a forum where questions are allowed by knowledgeable opponents. (Paul had to go to Heritage for his Iran speech earlier this year, no doubt, because AEI insists the speakers submit to questions.) What Cruz should avoid however is attaching himself to the lineage of conservatives who would have ferociously opposed his views.