Monday, February 25, 2013

Ted Cruz, Like Most Texas Republicans, Understands The Danger Of Thinking


I think it was Texas, but it may have been Kansas, but one of the primitive, anti-education states was looking into officially banning "critical thinking" from schools. [UPDATE: Sorry, Kansas; it was in the official 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party, which advocated eliminating the minimum wage and the prevailing wage, doing away with the Department of Education and Department of Energy, and “reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education” and opposed multicultural education and “critical thinking skills" because they “focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”] So Texas Republicans elected the most primitive throwback in a Senate filled to capacity with primitive throwbacks, Ted Cruz.

Cruz is the next step in Texan de-evolution after Rick Perry. As we've mentioned before, he seems determined to have his name forever linked to that of one of his heroes, Wisconsin '50s alcoholic villain Joseph McCarthy. Last week, the New Yorker let him know that no one fears him enough to get away with his lies and innuendo the way McCarthy was feared at the dawn of the Cold War and "Red Scare." Except Miss McConnell and John Cornyn; the two of them are now obsessed with getting yelled at by Ted Cruz. Not even South Carolina closet case Lindsey Graham is afraid of Cruz and called his McCarthyite grilling of Chuck Hagel "quite frankly... out of bounds." You go, girl! And Lindsey's big brother, John McCain rebuked Cruz for insinuating, without evidence, that Hagel may have collected speaking fees from North Korea. Generally speaking, every remotely decent person in the Senate was horrified by Cruz's behavior and Barbara Boxer came closer than anyone to calling him an outright McCarthyite.
Boxer’s analogy may have been more apt than she realized. Two and a half years ago, Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there. Cruz attended Harvard Law School from 1992 until 1995. His spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request to discuss the speech.

Cruz made the accusation while speaking to a rapt ballroom audience during a luncheon at a conference called “Defending the American Dream,” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit political organization founded and funded in part by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. Cruz greeted the audience jovially, but soon launched an impassioned attack on President Obama, whom he described as “the most radical” President “ever to occupy the Oval Office.” (I was covering the conference and kept the notes.)

He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “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.”

“We are puzzled by the Senator’s assertions, as we are unaware of any basis for them,” Robb London, a spokesman for Harvard Law School, told me. London noted that Cruz had contributed “warm reminiscences“ of the school by video for a reunion of Latino alumni. “We applaud the fact that he has pursued public service, as so many of our graduates have done. We are also proud of our longstanding tradition of freedom of speech and the robust range of views and debates on our campus.”

Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried, a Republican who served as Ronald Reagan’s Solicitor General from 1985 to 1989, and who subsequently taught Cruz at the law school, suggests that his former student has his facts wrong. “I can right offhand count four “out” Republicans (including myself) and I don’t know how many closeted Republicans when Ted, who was my student and the editor on the Harvard Law Review who helped me with my Supreme Court foreword, was a student here.”

Fried went on to say that unlike Cruz, or McCarthy, who infamously kept tallies of alleged subversives, he had never tried to count Communists. “I have not taken a poll, but I would be surprised if there were any members of the faculty who ‘believed in the Communists overthrowing the U.S. government,’” he said. Under the Smith Act, it is a crime to actively engage in any organization pursuing the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Fried acknowledged that “there were a certain number (twelve seems to me too high) who were quite radical, but I doubt if any had allegiance or sympathy with anything called ‘the Communists,’ who at that time (unlike the thirties and forties) were in quite bad odor among radical intellectuals.” He pointed out that by the nineteen-nineties, Communist states were widely regarded as tyrannical. From Fried’s perspective, the radicals on the faculty were “a pain in the neck.” But he says that Cruz’s assertion that they were Communists “misunderstands what they were about.”

It may be that Cruz was referring to a group of left-leaning law professors who supported what they called Critical Legal Studies, a method of critiquing the political impact of the American legal system. Professor Duncan Kennedy, for instance, a leader of the faction, who declined to comment on Cruz’s accusation, counts himself as influenced by the writings of Karl Marx. But he regards himself as a social democrat, not a Communist, and has never advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government by Communists. Rather, he advocated widening admissions at the law school to under-served populations, hiring more minorities and women on the faculty, and paying all law professors equally.
What's the difference? None at all in the dark, paranoid world of Ted Cruz and his crackpot followers. But Cruz is still embarrassed that other senators are forming a negative opinion of him so early in his Capitol Hill career. He's backing away from the specificity of his silly list of 12 but he had a spokesperson, Catherine Frazier, answer questions from the media and she's claiming that Cruz's "substantive point... was absolutely correct."
She went on to explain that “the Harvard Law School faculty included numerous self-described proponents of ‘critical legal studies’-- a school of thought explicitly derived from Marxism-- and they far outnumbered Republicans.” As my story noted, the Critical Legal Studies group consisted of left-leaning professors like Duncan Kennedy, who is a social democrat, not a Communist, and has never “believed in the overthrow of the U.S. Government.”

Among those who have taken issue with Cruz’s castigation of the Harvard Law School faculty are his former law professor, Charles Fried, who is a well-known Republican and former Solicitor General to Ronald Reagan. In his 2010 speech, Cruz had said there was only “one” Republican on the faculty, but his former professor, Fried, told The New Yorker there were at least four, including himself.
I bet Miss McConnell never imagined he'd wind up with someone even worse than DeMint in his crazy caucus!

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