I conclude my fair and balanced comparison of Ted Cruz and John Kennedy here, noting that the living senator’s fortunes have slipped badly in the last two Tuesdays, from high hopes to on the ropes. Why? Perhaps voters are finally learning what he really stands for and what he doesn’t. That, at least, is the message coming out of the Northeast.
So back to our comparisons, which Cruz, for reasons unfathomable to the rational mind, has asked for. Ted Cruz says man-made global warming is a hoax, disagreeing with 97% of the world’s scientists—those presumably not employed by the fossil fuel industry. (Did Ted manage to dodge his science requirement while an undergraduate at Princeton?) Kennedy, on the other hand, the man most responsible for sending humans to the moon, was a lover of science and scientists.
Proof? Who can forget his April 29 1962 dinner honoring Nobel Laureates, where his ever-present wit was on display in his welcoming remarks to his guests:
“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Ted Cruz cites JFK’s tax cuts of 1962 as evidence of his true Republican nature, echoing such other lightweight minds on the right as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Lawrence Kudlow who have made similar whole-truth-allergic claims. What they don’t tell you is how much he lowered them, who benefited by the lowering, and why he felt it was good policy for those times. Last to first: Truman and Eisenhower had kept tax rates high after World War II to pay off its costs and fund reconstruction; (we actually paid for the wars we waged in those days, though apparently no one ever told W); Kennedy thought the time was right to stimulate the economy with a tax cut and he lowered the top bracket from 91% to 65% (it is now 39%); more important, perhaps, in defense of JFK’s liberal credentials, the bottom 85% of the payers got 59% of the savings; the top 2.4% got 17.4%. Compare that with recent aid-the-rich tax cuts. Don’t even dare bring up that supply-side canard. And face up to what history has already shown; John Kennedy was a Keynesian through and through.
Cruz pushes a flat tax of 10% and abolishing the “death” tax, not to mention eliminating the IRS entirely. Look beyond the much-ballyhooed simplicity of filing your tax return on a postcard and see another giveaway to the rich. (By the way, I’ve yet to hear a dead person complain about paying that death tax; apparently it don’t hurt too much.) Some questions that JFK might have asked: Acknowledging that the idea has been around a long time, if the flat tax is such a great idea, why hasn’t it been tried before? Other than in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? And how did that work out? A word of caution. Before widespread adoption of the flat tax, let’s have Kansas try it out first. They like to play Russian roulette with the tax code.
Ted Cruz is opposed to abortion without exception-- rape, incest, life of the mother, Zika virus, etc. He’s not a great fan of contraception, either. I can find no specific words JFK had on the subject because it wasn’t in his day the issue it is now. We may assume he himself was no stranger to contraception. And I assume his response to abortion would have been nuanced, given his commitment to individual freedom and equality for women.
Cruz rants against Obamacare (more properly the Affordable Care Act) and repeatedly claims he’ll repeal it immediately upon assuming the presidency. What will he replace it with? For a year or more he didn’t have a coherent answer. Now he claims to, but it has made little impression on the public; it includes the dubious remedy of “health saving accounts.” Isn’t the problem that many folks don’t have the money to fund those accounts?
So where did JFK stand on health care? The narrow defeat of his “Medicare” bill in 1963 was, to him, his most frustrating failure. Ironically, his tragic death that year helped Lyndon Johnson get it passed in 1965. You might say his bloody shirt gave us what every American now gets at age 65. And is grateful for.
Cruz likes to bait and switch on the subject of civil rights; with him “civil” morphs into “religious” rights, specifically the “unequal” rights of Christians in the U.S. who are persecuted by secular democrats. He would scapegoat Muslims instead, have police patrol their neighborhoods, keep them under observation. As for non-Cuban Hispanics, should they stay or should they go? Depends on today’s political weather. Otherwise, Ted is rather consistent in civil rights matters: he opposes amnesty for illegals, opposes same-sex marriage, opposes gay pride parades; opposes affirmative action; opposes any gun control measures because citizens then would not be able to protect themselves against government tyranny; opposed reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act; dodges the equal pay for women question.
Cruz on foreign policy.... hardly are those words out than a vast fear rising out of memory troubles my mind. Let’s reverse the order of attention here and start with JFK. Why? Because JFK’s skill in foreign policy is the primary reason we’re all alive and able to even discuss the matter. You doubt it? Maybe you weren’t around or paying attention back in October 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world held its collective breath, which could have been its last, while nuclear war hung in the balance. Facing CIA and senior military officers’ pressures to bomb the Soviet Union, and Republican criticism for having the nation in a dire situation inherited from them, John with his brother Robert finessed our way back from the brink, gave his famous, conciliatory American University speech, and launched his peace-through-strength campaign for the brief time he had left. Those efforts are trickling out through recently released documents, including an intent to pull out of Vietnam early on, and an even earlier feeler through back channels seeking rapprochement with Castro’s Cuba. First contact was apparently made a few days before the shooting in Dallas...and thereby came to naught. Cruz, incidentally, has condemned Obama’s recent gambit to repair relations with Cuba after 57 years of greater or lesser hostility.
There! Now we’ve gone and done it. Finally reached the point of no return in facing the horrors of Cruz’s foreign policy, which even many arch-conservatives think more dangerous than Trump’s. Cruz has already cozied up to some of the world-class, off-the-charts, far-far-right Islamophobes, including Frank Gaffney, Elliot Abrams and John Bolton, for foreign policy guidance. No doubt they will help him explain the wisdom of picking a fight with two billion-plus Muslims that is bound to turn out badly for all concerned.
We already know from his threats to carpet bomb Isis that Cruz likes channeling World War II Britain’s “Bomber” Harris (the RAF called him, “Butcher” Harris), proving, I guess, that war criminals and their wannabes are to be found most everywhere most any time. But untested Ted lacks the basic military sense to know that “area bombing” (Harris’s term) won’t work. He wouldn’t be bombing a Hamburg or Dresden—large cities in a modern organic state of concentrated industrial power—where you can exact a tremendous loss of art and life (including probably a baker’s dozen future Nobel Laureates in the hard sciences). He would only further pulverize to powder hapless Syria’s dry sands with little harm to the Caliphate. ISIS doesn’t deploy panzer divisions. They’ve deliberately decentralized, scattered their holy warriors with their Toyota pickups and rocket launchers for waging hit-and-run jihad and seeding terrorist cells abroad.
Other policy follies from TrustTed? Ever more military spending for hardware not needed in the asymmetrical wars of the future. And by all means build that wall—maybe he can go in halfsies with Gauleiter Trump?-- to protect Texans from those illegal aliens who once owned Texas before today’s Texans took it from them. But jaw-dropping wonder of wonders is Ted’s promise, always delivered with passion, to rip up the nuclear treaty with Iran on his first day as president. Strangely, this folding of a winning hand is echoed by other GOP candidates for the presidency; after all it took to get the treaty, including agreement not only from allies France and Britain, but you can-be-sure one-time-only assent from Russia and China, you wouldn’t consider waiting for Iran to break the treaty first?
Hey Ted! Guys! I know you’ve been working hard over there at the Tortilla Coast....Why don’t you have one last Margarita, knock off early, and drop by a friendly little poker party me and my friends hold monthly. I understand you have some familiarity with the game, Ted. We’ll save a seat for you...and your like-minded marks...uh...buddies. We can accommodate them, too. As I said, it’s a friendly little game, you know, table stakes, pot limit.
I have found that in my quest to find similarities and differences between Cruz and Kennedy, I’m best served by going on-line to study their words...the quotes they wish to be remembered by. My utter favorite by Cruz is this one:
"If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany—look, we saw it in Britain. Neville Chamberlain told the British people: Accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that is not our problem. Lets appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We cannot possibly stand against them."
Yes, a jumbled, ungrammatical, incoherent historical mishmash that gets just about everything wrong. First, let’s give this a timeline. Hitler came to power in 1933. Neville Chamberlain (a Conservative, by the way) went to Munich in September 1938 to preserve “peace in our time” by agreeing to German annexation of the Sudetland from Czechoslovakia. World War II officially began September 1, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland. The German siege of Dunkirk took place in May 1940. WWII ended in Europe in April-May 1945.
First off, Ted, I’d advise an apology to the memory of Neville Chamberlain and to the British people. They did not turn their back on Europe, as you claim; they suffered more than 68,000 casualties at Dunkirk alone, not to mention more than 200 ships lost there and a massive amount of armaments the British Expeditionary Force left on the continent for Field Marshals Gerd von Rundstedt, Erich von Manstein and blitzkrieg master “Hurricane” Heinz Guderian to collect.
As for quailing before German military prowess, which you, Ted, seem to doubt was necessary, and/or condemn Chamberlain for, there was good cause for choosing the path of peace over fighting a war; Britain was totally unfit to fight, and knew it. Indeed, I’m surprised you didn’t already know that, since your new Republican idol JFK wrote about it in his first book, Why England Slept. You know, his senior’s thesis he wrote at Harvard, published in 1940, that became a bestseller? In Kennedy’s analysis, democracies by their very nature are at a disadvantage to totalitarian states in going to war, what with needing public consent and all. And JFK is sympathetic to Chamberlain’s plight. What? You haven’t read the book? I thought all you sons of crimson hung out together? You know, Ted, I’m starting to think you know as much about the Nazis and world history as I know about the true state of Schrodinger’s cat.
But don’t despair. In going back to your quotes immortalized on-line, I think I’ve found your problem:
“I am blessed to receive a word from God every day in receiving the scriptures and reading the scriptures. And God speaks through the Bible.”
Contrast that with JFK who said:
“The human mind is our fundamental resource.”
Ted, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re reading too much scripture! You gotta branch out! But there’s hope and help close by. You can start with humble old me. (Sure, maybe I’m sucking up...maybe angling for a cabinet position appointment...state if it’s open...I love to travel.) But wait, I must beg off. I hear you’re a stickler for credentials...something of a snob, really, about schools and such, and who you’ll deign to study with. Humble me, a humble product of the humble University of California, Los Angeles, far from that ivy league of eastern gentlemen. Probably not worthy. Besides, you have more qualified help close by. Your law degree I read is from Harvard, where you are said to have been magna cum laude. (For me that seems a stretch, but...standards are slipping everywhere I guess.)
Yes, your place is at JFK’s school, Harvard ...and atheist-pragmatist philosopher George Santayana’s school, Harvard...and the school also of philosophers C. S. Peirce and William James, founders of America’s mainstream philosophy pragmatism, which as we were taught even at UCLA also happens to be the bedrock of American liberalism, which also happens to be anathema to—Omagosh! Candidate Cruz! That explains another nugget I recently mined from the quotable Cruz that just might shed new light on who you really are:
“Going to school on a campus where the faculty overwhelmingly disagrees with you, and where the student body overwhelmingly disagrees with you, is challenging. If you go in without a firm foundation, it can undermine what you believe.”
You’re talking about Harvard, aren’t you? And Princeton before that where you did your undergraduate work? But wait a cotton-pickin’ moment! Isn’t that why we seekers of truth go to universities? To test our beliefs against those of others and see how they hold up?
Yours apparently did hold up, but at what cost? To live as a fundamentalist Christian absolutist in a post-Einsteinian universe is to the wrap yourself in comfy cotton swaddling of half-remembered and certainly distorted experience and old tried and untrue dogma, which in turn may foster a certain comforting narcissism and nourish delusions of grandeur. But ignoring the last century-plus of advancements in science and philosophy doesn’t do you much honor or get you much respect in thinking circles--not among serious pilgrims on the trail to learn why we’re here, where we’re going, and what it all means.
Truthfully Ted, if your mission was to snare the uneducated and cognitively limited and those folks rightly frightened by being alone on this darkling plain where evolution has dropped us all, and you reassured them the grave is not all there is, and they will see their children again in paradise...or somewhere, then I would respect you for that. But I detect no such Christian purpose in your cowardice. Rather, from what I hear and read, you are widely disliked. A man whose moorings and motives remain suspect. A poseur. What does Ted want?
What is he after? At least a small majority of those who have asked themselves those questions think your beliefs are flexible, that you’re a careerist after power, a power that you know you would likely squander, but most of all—the romantic always—you long for a revered place in the conservative pantheon. (Frankly, I personally prefer you when you’re playing your usual crafty role of Iago to those dramatic ventures into “statesmanship” or leading the faithful out of Egypt.)
While your biography overflows with praise given and awards won for debating skills and knowledge of constitutional law, it falls far short for where you long to go. Yours remains a vertical intelligence, a skill set that provides your resume with several serviceable bullet points. It may also suit your personal need for a security blanket and a following, but it has no relevance to the rest of us living and thinking in the modern age. We continue down the long hall of existential mirrors, always ready for the answer that is never there, getting instead the answer that begets more questions, their answers always deferred until the next time, the next inconclusive fact found, the next spurt of quest, and then without warning we exit, and there is no next time, exit cogito...farewell sum.
It may be, as is whispered in the wings, that you are a closet Dominionist whose real mission is to impose a Christian theocracy on the United States from the top down. Certainly there is some cause to believe so. After all, your insane father is one. And the crank David Barton, your trusTED advisor, is one. Are there more?
As for John Fitzgerald Kennedy, he remains what he was. A liberal. A democrat. A pragmatist. The very definition of the charismatic man.
Whatever you turn out to be, Ted, you are certainly no John F. Kennedy. Not even close. Nor is he you. After diligent comparison we must conclude that the only likeness between you was that you are bipedal members of the same genus and species. Otherwise, you’ve got a cephalopod claiming to be a tiger.