Ted Cruz speaking at CPAC 2015. Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)
Ted Cruz speaking at CPAC 2015.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
Ted Cruz speaking at CPAC 2015.Photo credit: Dave Davidson - Prezography.com
Ted Cruz speaking at CPAC 2015.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Audio of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaking about same-sex marriage in Manhattan has led some, including GOP Presidential candidate, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, to question Cruz’s consistency and authenticity. Shane Vander Hart argued that Cruz was being perfectly consistent in both Iowa and New York. In both places, he stated that marriage was an issue best left up to the States:

Look if Cruz touted a Federal Marriage Amendment in Iowa, and if he said it was his top priority I could agree with Huckabee. The fact is that he didn’t.

Vander Hart argues Cruz’s policy stance in both places is the same and he’s correct. But I would contend the question isn’t really the consistency of Cruz’s policy but the authenticity of Cruz himself.

Take a look at Ted Cruz’s presidential announcement in March at Liberty University. There, he asked the audience at the evangelical college founded by Jerry Falwell to imagine a Ted Cruz presidency and what would that look like:

Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.

Senator Ted Cruz tells Conservative Christians, if “I’m elected President, we’re going to have an administration that defends and upholds the ‘sacrament of marriage.’” Marriage is a priority, marriage is important and critical to this senator. He tells the audience he’s going to make sure this government doesn’t undermine the values we both hold dear. Cruz’s father, a key campaign surrogate, has gone as far as to say same sex marriage “could destroy America.”

Now, let’s take a look at the Senator’s remarks in Manhattan, a city of progressivism and secularism. Quoting from the transcript from Politico:

Male questioner: “Can I ask you a question? So, I’m a big supporter. And the only issue I really disagree with you about is gay marriage. And I’m curious: Given all the problems that the country’s facing — like ISIS, the growth of government — how big a priority is fighting gay marriage going to be to a Cruz administration?”

Cruz: “My view on gay marriage is that I’m a constitutionalist and marriage is a question for the states. And so I think if someone wants to change the marriage laws of their state, the way to do so is convince your fellow citizens — and change them democratically, rather than five unelected judges. … Being a constitutionalist is integral to my approach to every other issue. So that I’m very devoted to.”

Same questioner: “So would you say it’s like a top-three priority for you — fighting gay marriage?”

Cruz: “No. I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority. And that cuts across the whole spectrum — whether it’s defending [the] First Amendment, defending religious liberty, stopping courts from making public policy issues that are left to the people. …

“I also think the 10th Amendment of the Constitution cuts across a whole lot of issues and can bring people together. People of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio. … That’s why we have 50 states — to allow a diversity of views. And so that is a core commitment.”

Now Ted Cruz was speaking not to an evangelical college, but to a high-powered donor who doesn’t agree with him on gay marriage and he wouldn’t even state any position on whether same sex marriage should be legal or not. His position is he’s a Constitutionalist and it has nothing to do with sacraments or defending family or standing up for values or saving the country from destruction. The way he explained it in New York, it’s about making sure, if same sex marriage is legalized, it’s done properly.

Had Cruz said, “My position is that, for many reasons, I think marriage should be between one man and one woman, but as a Constitutionalist, I believe this is an issue best left to the states,” this wouldn’t really be an issue. However, Cruz won’t state a position on marriage in New York other than it should be decided by the States. Based on his statements in Manhattan, New Yorkers would think Cruz had the same opinion on same-sex marriage that Stephen Douglas did on slavery, “I care not whether it’s voted up or down.”

In playing this game, Cruz has shown himself willing to do what Huckabee says he has refused to. In an interview with Breitbart radio last month Huckabee told of being approached by at least three billionaire donors who liked his message and wanted to support him but with a catch, “‘Well, we just want you to lay off the issues of sanctity of life, and don’t talk about marriage.’ And I said, ‘I can’t do that. You know, I just can’t. Because to me these are issues of heart. They’re issues of principle. I don’t think that our country and culture is made better by the elimination and eradication of 60 million unborn children in the past 42 years. And I think it’s akin to the savagery of slavery. We’ve gotta stop it.’ And with that, it was kind of, ‘Well, thank you very much,’ and now they’re giving to these other candidates.”

It could be argued what Cruz did was clever politics. He didn’t antagonize New Yorkers with big checks by standing out as some nut who had a problem with same sex marriage. Rather, he was a Harvard lawyer whose only problem was with technocratic violations of the Constitution and process. While in places like Liberty University and Iowa, he made Evangelicals feel he was on their side and would fight for them.

Dave Wegel of the Washington Post acknowledged this difference of tone and says it’s what Conservative Christian voters have been looking for:

Their problem is that social conservatives, who feel they fumbled away the 2008 and 2012 nominations, are happy to have a slick candidate of their own. They don’t see Cruz saying one thing in Manhattan and another in Muscataine. They see him outsmarting people, and they think getting someone in position to appoint judges in 2017 is worth the slickness.

Perhaps, in the heady circles of Washington, DC that Wegel is most familiar, the contradiction of using slick, deceptive, and manipulative tactics in order to achieve more righteousness in government is lost on many leaders who advocate for “values.” Cruz’s clever politics and slickness is a feature, not a bug. These leaders haven’t been paying attention to this cycle.

In 2016, we’ve shown a disdain for politicians as usual. Polls have shown up to 60% of GOP voters support Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Carly Fiorina, three candidates who haven’t been elected to so much as their local school board. Cruz has burnished his credentials as someone who will fearlessly stand up for what he believes no matter what the cost. The image of Cruz at a fundraiser, soft pedaling his views on same sex marriage to a big donor goes against the image with which he’s sold himself to voters.

This is not a good year to be a clever politician. Ask Rand Paul. Paul is a far better politician than his father, and he’s doing worse, and it’s his political skills that have hurt him most. He’s carefully balanced his rhetoric on issues such as moral values and national security. He’s caught between the activists who backed up his father and traditional conservatives who are key to winning the GOP nomination and is struggling to win either.

Meanwhile, Trump is far from a conservative. His statements have shown a breadth of ignorance and arrogance that staggers the imagination. However, it seems like he really believes whatever he’s saying and isn’t trying to impress anyone. Even his statement that the Bible is his favorite book and then his inability to identify a favorite passage come off less like Howard Dean’s opportunistic statement that his favorite New Testament book is Job and more like what an average person might say to a Gallup pollster. Trump thinks the Bible is good but knows little about it. Voters are looking for authenticity, and GOP voters are evidently desperate enough for it to take authentic ignorance and arrogance.

These recordings make Cruz look like a slick politician and the slicker Cruz looks, the more his belief he will capture Trump’s base or even be able to beat Trump in a head to head race sound fanciful.

Disclosure: Adam Graham has endorsed Mike Huckabee for President and is author of the ebook, Road to Victory: A Conservative’s Case for Mike Huckabee and is host of the Truth and Hope Report Podcast which is currently airing a series, “Our Man Huck.”

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