Donald Trump may not know Russian President Vladimir Putin is implicated in a killing or that “paying for everyone’s health care” is essentially single-payer, universal health care. Nevertheless, he does know something about dealing with other people, and in that regard is the perfect combatant to take on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who knows virtually nothing about that.
In the words of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cruz has an authenticity problem. It is one Trump is expert at exploiting. On the loans Cruz took from Goldman Sachs and Citibank but did not disclose during the 2012 Senate race, Trump zeroed in on the issue on “Face the Nation“:
TRUMP: Well, I think that Ted Cruz has been severely affected by the Goldman Sachs loans, which he didn’t disclose. And it was on his personal financial form, and the Citibank loans he didn’t disclose.
JOHN DICKERSON: Couldn’t that have just been a mistake?
TRUMP: No. It could have been, but it is — two loans, give me a break, OK? And he is supposed to be Robin Hood for everybody. He didn’t disclose them because he didn’t want to say that he is dealing with the bankers. Don’t forget he said he sold his assets.
Trump is on the money, pardon the pun, explaining how Cruz set up a false narrative of himself and then had to hide the loans and make up a tale of self-sacrifice later. Trump can read an amateur manipulator and poseur because he’s a professional, highly skilled one. Cruz is a relatively poor fabricator compared with Trump.
There is another sort of authenticity problem Cruz has. Because his ideological poses are so staunch and inflexible he: 1) does not bother to learn if they match the facts and 2) cannot deal effectively when adverse information pops up.
On foreign policy, he is so busy smearing “neocons” that he invented a “carpet bombing” strategy to destroy the Islamic State, even though no serious person in either party (and virtually all credible, neutral military and foreign policy experts) thinks this would be effective, and in any event, it would be a war crime. Likewise, in order to maintain his pose Cruz has to make up all sorts of facts (e.g. we, not his own people, decided to take out Hosni Mubarak; Moammar Gaddafi was an ally.)
That has been Cruz’s problem on immigration. He went so overboard in embracing the anti-immigration (illegal OR legal) stance that talk radio and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) peddle that he outran his own record. He used to speak favorably about legalization. He used to be in favor of a massive increase in H-1B visas. When ideology meets record, he reverts to a familiar tactic: He misrepresents the facts.
We saw it again in a remarkable exchange with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday”:
CRUZ (ON VIDEO): We have seen now in six years of Obamacare that it’s been a disaster. It is the biggest job killer in this country, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and have been forced into part time work, have lost their health insurance, have lost their doctors, have seen their premiums skyrocket.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But, Senator, the fact checkers say you’re wrong. Since that law went into effect, the unemployment rate fell from 9.9 percent to 5 percent, as 13 million new jobs were created and 16.3 million people who were previously uninsured now have coverage.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of problems with Obamacare. But more people have jobs and health insurance than they did before Obamacare.
CRUZ: Chris, the media fact checkers are not fair and impartial. They are liberal, editorial journalists. And they have made it their mission to defend Obamacare.
WALLACE: There’s certainly no question that more people have jobs and more people have health insurance coverage.
CRUZ: Yes, there is question. Number one, we have the lowest percentage of Americans working today of any year since 1977. That’s fact. They focused on —
WALLACE: But there are 13 million jobs created, sir. That’s a fact.
CRUZ: The fact is that from 2008 to today, we’ve seen economic growth of 1.2 percent on average.
CRUZ: Chris, don’t interrupt me. I’ll give an answer —
WALLACE: That’s changing the subject.
WALLACE: Thirteen million new jobs have been created.
Only then does Cruz acknowledge that the rate of job creation — there are jobs being created! — is “historically slow.” It just took several instances in being called out for misrepresenting facts for him to concede the indisputable. The conversation continued:
WALLACE: Let’s talk sir about your alternative, what you say you would do after you repeal Obamacare, how you would replace it. And this is what you listed in the debate.
Sell health insurance across state lines, expand health saving accounts, make insurance portable so you can take it with you if you switch jobs. Now, conservative think-tanks say those are good ideas. They also say they would have no effect in giving people who are now uninsured health coverage.
CRUZ: Well, that’s simply not the case. So, for example, the biggest barrier to access is cost. If you want more people covered, what you want is lower costs. When you ask people, “Why don’t you have health insurance”, they say, “Gosh, I can’t afford it.”
Allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines would create a true 50-state national marketplace. That would drive down the cost and expand the availability of low cost catastrophic coverage.
WALLACE: But, sir, the Congressional Budget Office, nonpartisan, the National Center for Policy Analysis, certainly not a left wing group, have both said that that kind of selling insurance across state lines would have minimal effect in expanding access.
CRUZ: Well, I can’t speak to what the CBO can say. What I can tell you is if you want more people to have choices, you want more choices and lower costs. That’s what gives more people health insurance.
He cannot speak to facts from impartial experts, for sure. He must once again deny reality because it does not sync up with his rhetoric (nothing good at all, anywhere came from Obamacare). He assumes his supporters are know-nothings who believe his inflexible, false rendition of events. And worse, he has no specific, concrete and workable ideas to address the problem. He has spent so much time learning to inflame voters he has nothing to offer but anger and only a passing acquaintance with reality.
As for getting along with people, Trump made clear that deal-making is essential to politics: “When I see Ted Cruz standing in the Senate and nobody else is with him, he’s standing all by himself, and you have got all of these other politicians, senators, and congressmen generally, and he is trying to — he is by himself.” He continued, “It is wonderful. And I can understand how a radio show host could say, oh, isn’t that wonderful? You’re not going to get anything done. You have got to be able to get things done. Ted doesn’t have an endorsement from one United States senator.”
That puts Cruz in the position of insisting he can do deals with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Does any Republican or Democrat in Congress actually think that is true? Cruz cannot make deals with his own side, let alone reach across the aisle. When confronted on this improbable claim, Cruz insisted he could do deals because he had always treated his colleagues with respect. What?! Ask Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), whom he treated like a fourth-grader in lecturing her on guns; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whom Cruz called a “liar”; or any Republican who was accused of wanting to keep Obamacare because he or she opposed Cruz’s goofy shutdown.
Cruz, it is evident from his life story and career encounters, has sublimated everything — personal relationships, kindness and honesty — to pursue his raw ambition. While we all need goals, when the goals become the be-all end-all — more important than doing your current job well, learning the facts and developing others’ trust and respect — that is a problem. Ironically, Cruz’s ambition for power and adulation is not all that different from Trump’s quest for fame and wealth. The difference is Trump is candid about it. In a way, that’s refreshing.