The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ad Translator: Ted Cruz’s definition of winning

Placeholder while article actions load

Over the long Christmas weekend, the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) debuted an ad titled "Victories," marketed toward potential Iowa caucus-goers. The campaign pushed the ad to national reporters Monday, with just a little more context. What's most striking about the spot, however, is just how long Cruz has put his legal victories at the top of his resume -- and which ones he now focuses on.

The ad runs down four Cruz victories, with no citations but a few visual clues. Those victories, explained:

Defended the cross. And won.
In 2010, while a lawyer in private practice (between his term as Texas solicitor general and the U.S. Senate), Cruz took up the case of veterans groups that wanted to display the Mojave Memorial Cross, and had been stymied by atheist groups. Cruz did not personally argue the case before the Supreme Court, but did pro bono work for the veterans and did plenty to publicize the case -- which ended in a victory. This ad is actually the second one in Cruz's career to focus on the cross

Protected the Ten Commandments. And won.
In 2002, the self-described "religious pluralist" Thomas Van Orden sued for the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the Texas state capitol. (It had been there for 41 years, pre-dating the late 1990s boomlet of culture wars between atheists and socially conservative Christians.) Texas won the case, 5-4, when it got to the Supreme Court -- though then-Attorney General Greg Abbott made the argument in person.

Fought for the Second Amendment. And won.
This nods at several of Cruz's causes, in the law and the Senate. In 2008, Cruz again led the states (31 this team) in an amicus brief, arguing for the end of Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban. But more frequently, when he discusses victories on behalf of gun owners, he retells the fight over post-Newtown gun bills that broke out as soon as he'd joined the Senate. He put it most succinctly as the keynoter at the 2013 Ronald Reagan Dinner for the Iowa GOP. "Even though Washington was convinced that nothing could stop the anti-gun agenda of the president," said Cruz, "when it came time for a vote, every single proposal of the president that would have undermined the Second Amendment was voted down on the Senate floor. This was the power of the grassroots."

Stood up for the Pledge of Allegiance. And won.
In 2004, after atheist activist Michael Newdow won lower court victories in his quest to end the recitation of "under God" in the pledge, Cruz and the rest of Texas's legal advocates spoke for all 50 states in an amicus brief -- which is now hosted at Cruz's campaign site. The Supreme Court overruled the lower courts on a technicality, asserting that Newdow lacked standing to bring the suit. In speeches, Cruz often says that the states won "unanimously."

Any long-time watcher of Cruz has heard these stories before. In 2010, for example, he told an audience of Heritage Foundation donors about the victories in Texas, paying special attention to the Ten Commandments case.

But in these sorts of speeches, Cruz often talks about a case he argued before the Supreme Court -- Medellin v. Texas. After a Mexican national raped and murdered two Americans, and after he confessed, he learned that the Vi­enna Con­ven­tion had granted him the right to seek assistance from his consulate. The In­ter­na­tion­al Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. had vi­ol­ated Jose Medellin's rights. The administration of President George W. Bush announced its intention to respect the ICJ. Cruz and Texas fought that and won.

The absence of that story in this short ad doesn't say much. Perhaps Cruz is saving it for later; perhaps, with the support of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), he doesn't need to do more to convince Iowans of his credibility on national sovereignty.