Texas Republicans Become Arabian Knights


Eileen Smith

Last week Texas Republican heavyweights, from Gov. Rick Perry to Senate nominee and Latino rising star Ted Cruz, weighed in on the riots in Libya almost as quickly as Mitt Romney. The riots, triggered by an amateur soft porn-like YouTube movie depicting the prophet Muhammad in a derogatory way, have since spread across the Middle East, prompting Obama opponents to seize this ripe political opportunity to attack the president and his policies as completely inept.

Before even grasping the depth of the volatile situation—which left four Americans dead including the U.S. ambassador to Libya—Romney released a statement criticizing the Obama administration for its “disgraceful” and “conciliatory” response and accused the president of being an apologist, a popular Fox News talking point that comes in handy for nearly all areas of foreign policy. Sure, it might not be true but it’s an easy and surprisingly effective way to rally the Republican faithful and neocon hardliners. (Congressman Michael McCaul of Austin called on the administration “to end its timid foreign policy and suspend being an apologist for actions of the United States around the world.”)

In a hastily arranged news conference, Romney doubled down on his comments saying that it was “disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” According to TIME’s Mark Halperin, Romney’s comments are “likely to be seen as one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign.”

The day after the killings at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Perry released a harsh statement saying that Obama’s “impotent foreign policy” and “shameful lack of leadership” contributed to the burning of an American flag in Egypt, which “helped to embolden our enemies in the region.” The governor also accused Obama of trying to “lead from behind” in Libya and “allowing Libyan rockets and artillery to be scattered to the terrorist winds.” In the past Perry has referred to Obama’s Middle East policy as simultaneously naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous.

Few people are aware that Perry is actually kind of a big deal in the Middle East. While in Israel in 2007 to receive the Friend of Zion award, he boasted of the “special kinship” Texas has with the Israeli people, saying, “We are both independent-minded and self-reliant, and our history is grounded in strong stands against impossible odds.” (Cue secession talk here.)

As the Dallas Morning News reported, Ted Cruz saved his remarks for like-minded conservatives at last weekend’s Values Voters Summit, where he said that the president has weakened the U.S. and essentially abandoned Israel. Tough talk for someone who refers to himself as the “Cruz Missile.”

“There are radicals throughout the world—Islamic terrorists that would murder each and every one of us,” Cruz said. “And it says something that we have a President of the United States that is utterly unable to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorist.’ If memory serves, it wasn’t a random collection of Boy Scouts on those airplanes [on 9/11].”

Cruz added that “bullies and tyrants don’t respect weakness.” He should know.

But leave it to Congressman Louie Gohmert last Thursday to really work in the crazy:

“We have a leader who takes a minute and a half out on a big whoop-de-do campaign stop, to say ‘Wait, wait, wait, it’s been a tough week, we’ve lost some people … an ambassador. Ah, now back to the fundraising and the fun and the cheering for me.’”

Gohmert added that he wants a commander-in-chief who says, “You know what, you took out our people, we’re taking you out. And you’re going to learn, you don’t come after our people.”

Brilliant. I assume the Tyler congressman will be on the front lines.