Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), under fire from multiple 2016 presidential competitors on national security, released an ad in Iowa vowing to bomb the Islamic State to smithereens. The ad is typical Cruz — full of bombast but empty and wrong-headed. No serious national security or military expert present or past thinks you can dislodge the Islamic State from the vast territory and many cities it holds from the air. (Today, Jeb Bush made just this point.) Cruz’s opponents are happy to point out that at times he even sounds like he acknowledges that ground troops are needed.

Cruz is in hot water, in part because of his vote — at a time when he was trying to appeal to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voters — to curtail the NSA metadata program. Things got substantially worse for him when an Associated Press report over the weekend explained that the government was inhibited from accessing metadata regarding the San Bernardino attack because its NSA access lapsed under legislation Cruz voted for.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been bashing Cruz, responded: “Just four days before the terrorist attack in California this week, the USA Freedom Act limited our access to critical information about potential threats. Because too many in Washington have failed to grasp the nature of this enemy, we have less access to intelligence information now than we did just days ago.” He urged, “In the wake of Wednesday’s attack on innocent Americans doing nothing more than going about their daily lives, we must act swiftly to reverse the limitations imposed on these critical intelligence programs. Radical jihadists are trying to kill as many Americans as they can. Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals need access to this information. Failing to give them the tools they need to keep Americans safe is dangerous and irresponsible.”

Rubio got some critical support from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.),  who has introduced legislation to partially reverse the Cruz-supported legislation. Cotton released a blistering statement Sunday:

On Wednesday two terrorists killed 14 innocent people and injured 21 in San Bernardino, California. The hours and days that follow an attack of this nature are critical to discovering its origins and thwarting other attacks. But the FBI has been forced to investigate this attack with one hand tied behind their back because our valuable NSA metadata program was shut down just days earlier.
To put it simply: the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since Fort Hood is now serving as the guinea pig in a giant experiment on our national security. It’s a frightening and uncomfortable thought. I hope this is the first and only example we see of the danger in shifting from a proven effective system to a new, untested one purely for political talking points. That is why the Congress must take up and pass the Liberty Through Strength Act II and give our law enforcement and intelligence community the officials the tools they need to keep us safe, including accessing the legacy metadata lawfully collected prior to the USA FREEDOM Act.
I hope this is the only lesson President Obama needs to understand the danger in putting his political agenda ahead of our national security.

He could have added to the list of those needing a listen both Cruz and Paul.

This is not Cruz’s only problem. His opponents also point to his vote against the National Defense Authorization Act at a time our troops are in the battlefield. His excuse — that he promised voters he wouldn’t vote for any measure to allow detention of U.S. citizens as enemy combatants — is even more problematic. First, would he really cut off funds for the troops based on one issue, a theoretical matter no longer at issue (since the administration is not adding to the Gitmo population)? Moreover, that position runs counter to the historical precedent that Americans who took up arms against the United States are treated like other enemy combatants. In this regard he is, like Rand Paul, clinging to a domestic criminal law paradigm instead of a war-fighting one.

The irony here is that Cruz’s pandering to neo-isolationists was entirely unnecessary. The passing fancy with libertarianism vanished as the president showed what happens when the United States refuses to act and hamstrings itself. Cruz will have to explain himself in the wake of the San Bernardino massacre, just as Hillary Clinton and the president, who share Cruz’s view on NSA and refusing to send additional ground troops to fight the Islamic state, will need to.