I want to tell you a love story. It’s the story of all of us. It’s a love story of freedom.
—Republican Senate nominee Ted Cruz at the Republican National Convention, August 28
If you were eager to watch Ted Cruz’s speech last night you most likely ended up watching it on his website since none of the major cable networks—not even Fox!—considered it important enough to cut away from their punditry roundtables and interviews with random sparkle-studded delegates. Is that any way to treat a rising Republican star, this year’s Marco Rubio, if you will? Cruz, the only Texan with a prominent role at the convention, has two big things going for him: He’s an über-conservative and he’s Latino. He’d be a Republican triple-threat if he wasn’t part Canadian.
Of course it’s tough to follow a man as gifted as former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, but Cruz tried his best. He first thanked his “thousands and thousands” of liberty-loving tea party activists who propelled him to victory. (And make no mistake, this speech was for them. You can tell by the repeated invoking of the founding fathers.)
“We are seeing a great awakening, a national movement, of ‘We the People,’ brought together by what unites us—a shared love of liberty—and an understanding of the unlimited potential of free men and free women.
“I want to tell you a love story. It’s the story of all of us. It’s a love story of freedom. It’s the story of our founding fathers who fought and bled for freedom then crafted the most miraculous political document ever conceived, the Constitution.”
Luckily for those scholars in the audience, Cruz’s speech was not just a love story but a lesson in history as well, with solemn nods to General Santa Ana, the Greatest Generation, Nazis, communism, civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and, naturally, Ronald Reagan, whose name in Republican circles calls for genuflection or at the very least Tebowing.
Cruz also shared his personal family history, all of which we’ve heard before, especially that of his Cuban father who fled to America with just $100 sewn into his underwear. He then muttered a few lines in broken Spanish to prove that he’s not really Canadian. (In an interview with WFAA News in Dallas yesterday, Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa questioned whether Cruz is actually Hispanic.)
Talking about his father gave Cruz a perfect opportunity to talk about his anti-immigration stance.
“Fifty-five years ago, when my dad was a penniless teenager, thank God some well-meaning bureaucrat didn’t put his arm around him and say let me take care of you. Let me give you a government check and make you dependent on government. And by the way, don’t bother learning English. That would have been utterly destructive.” Cruz also accused the Obama campaign trying to “divide America,” including “telling Hispanics that we’re not welcome here.”
Speaking of not rolling out the welcome mat, Cruz told Telemundo on Monday that he thinks Romney should immediately end the administration’s deferred action policy and reinstate deportations of undocumented young people.
Overall Cruz’s speech seemed awkward. He walked back and forth rubbing his hands together like he was interviewing for The Tonight Show, breaking into uncomfortable chuckles and smirks to polite applause. I would expect more from someone who’s won debate championships and successfully argued cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. But clearly humor is not Cruz’s strong suit. Earlier this week he made a joke to Republican delegates at a conservative rally saying, “We have so many things to be thankful for. So many blessings, including [that] we can be thankful for Hurricane Isaac. If nothing else, it kept Joe Biden away.” (Biden postponed his trip to Orlando due to the tropical storm.) Politics 101: If you’re not funny, don’t try to be. See Mitt Romney’s laugh-out-loud birther crack or any callous remarks by one-time comedian Dennis Miller.
Considering that the party’s main goal coming out of the convention was to have Ann Romney “humanize” her cyborg-like husband, Cruz was an interesting choice for prime speaking slot. Appearing on Meet the Press just two weeks ago, he expressed serious doubts about Romney’s chances.
“My view for months has been if this presidential race focuses on issues, if it focuses on the economy, on President Obama’s abysmal economic record, Republicans win. If it’s a battle of personalities, Republicans will lose.”
So much for the love story.