Why Cruz Got Himself Booed

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Middle East

Last week Ted Cruz was invited to be the keynote speaker at a gala dinner for a group called In Defense of Christians, and he was booed off the stage. The group was made up mostly of Arab Christians, and the Christians they want defending were in the Middle East. Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East. Homes and churches are being destroyed. They are in serious trouble.

But instead of talking about the crisis Christians in the Middle East are facing, Cruz made the speech about supporting Israel.

On first glance, this looked like an unforced error on Cruz’s part. He could have stood up and given an anti-ISIS, rah rah Christians speech, and they would have loved him. But I have come to believe he deliberately antagonized the group; he wanted to be booed. Read on to find out why.

First, the boos. The real kicker was when he said “Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” at which point a large part of the audience lost it.

Since then all manner of people have tried to understand why Cruz gave such an inappropriate speech. James Zogby:

It is generally known that Ted Cruz can be a demagogue, a quality that makes him immensely disliked by his colleagues. He is also considered to be quite bright and calculating. And so as I have attempted to understand why he did what he did, two distinct scenarios come to mind. It is possible that he went to the IDC conference to provoke a “Sister Souljah” moment — which he could then exploit with his supporters on the fundamentalist right as evidence of his political courage. It is more likely that he had no clue about the reaction his taunting remarks would receive and was, therefore, stunned by the audience reaction — and that it was only mid-stream that he decided that he could use the audience reaction to his political benefit.

In either case, Cruz displayed a shameful insensitivity to the concerns of Middle East Christians and a total lack of awareness of their history and current needs. Like too many of his colleagues, he can only see the Middle East through then lens of what is good for Israel. Because he comes out of the Christian fundamentalist world and now operates in the bubble of Washington politics, he simply had no understanding of his audience and no desire to listen to them and learn from them.

That’s what I thought, too, but I realize now I was wrong. At the American Conservative, Rod Dreher shed some light:

The politics of the Middle East are tangled and almost impossible to understand. Many Maronites despise the Palestinians, for example, blaming them for destroying Lebanon. Within Lebanon, there is no love lost between Maronites, who are Catholics, and the Orthodox. But many Maronites are fond, however grudgingly, of the Israelis, because they see them as the enemies of their enemies, the Palestinians. But not all Maronites feel that way. It’s complicated. Insanely complicated. And everybody suffers from the same conspiracy theorizing that is common currency in the Middle East.

You will appreciate, then, what a diplomatic feat it was to bring a group of top Christian leaders from the Middle East together in Washington for a summit to talk about the crisis of the persecution of Christians in the region. The Washington Free Beacon shamefully characterized the event as a pro-Hezbollah hootenanny, citing the anti-Israel politics of some conference participants as if that were the most important thing about this religious and human rights event. As if Israelis were the only people in the Middle East whose suffering matters.

Look at the Washington Free Beacon headline, which came out before Cruz gave his speech. Just look at it.

A light dawns. He had to get himself booed off the stage or risk becoming a pariah to the wingnut twits who are his base. It was deliberate.

In particular, the Free Beacon, Breitbart, and some other of the more irresponsible far-right propaganda tools named one of the conference attendees, Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, as a Hozbollah supporter. But in June The Blaze reported,

A Hezbollah member of Lebanon’s parliament is criticizing Lebanon’s top Christian cleric after the religious leader visited Israel last week where he traveled with Pope Francis, prayed with local Christians and met with fighters from the now defunct South Lebanese Army (SLA) who fled to Israel more than a decade ago.

Member of Parliament Ali Meqdad on Saturday addressed Maronite Catholic Cardinal Beshara Rai’s meeting with the former Lebanese fighters, saying, “We do not want agents among us.”

This isn’t my primary area of expertise, but after some digging I get the impression that the Lebanese Christians are in a very precarious position of trying to not get caught in cross-fire between Hezbollah and Israel, and of course Lebanon also shares a long border with Syria, so they’ve got a lot to worry about, and the Patriarch is not averse to talking to people who need placating, including Hezbollah. And in 2011 he issued a statement that said Hezbollah had a right to defend itself against Israel, which may have been an expedient thing to say if you’re a Lebanese Christian. But in the simple minds of the children who run the Free Beacon and Breitbart, this makes the Patriarch and some other conference attendees the enemy.

The Christian Broadcast Network covered the speech this way —

Well, Sen. Ted Cruz had an interesting night in Washington D.C. Wednesday and our Brody File camera crew was there to capture it all.

Middle Eastern Christians booed Cruz off the stage during his speech at a summit in Washington D.C. It was sponsored by a group called In Defense of Christians.

Cruz came to speak about Christian solidarity with Israel but some in the crowd were Palestinian Christian supporters of the Syrian government and even the terrorist group Hezbollah. Things got rowdy.

But the summit was not about Christian solidarity with Israel. At The American Conservative, Daniel Larison wrote,

Cruz’s behavior was unnecessary, it was insulting to his hosts, it was needlessly provocative to the audience, and it was an embarrassment to his voters. Because he has proven time after time to be a shameless demagogue, none of that will bother him.

An important point that has been lost in many of the reactions to this incident is that Cruz was completely out of line to set some kind of ideological litmus test for the attendees that requires them to endorse the “pro-Israel” views that Cruz happens to hold. Cruz is free to hold those views, and many of his voters agree with him, but it is obnoxious to demand that others, including many Arab Christian clergy in attendance, subscribe to those views in order to obtain Cruz’s sympathy for their plight. Not only is “standing with Israel” irrelevant to the reason for the summit, but as this incident has proven it is a completely unnecessary distraction from the work of the organization that sponsored the event.

Even Ross Douthat gets it

WHEN the long, grim history of Christianity’s disappearance from the Middle East is written, Ted Cruz’s performance last week at a conference organized to highlight the persecution of his co-religionists will merit at most a footnote. But sometimes a footnote can help illuminate a tragedy’s unhappy whole. …

… Many conservatives think Cruz acquitted himself admirably, and he’s earned admiring headlines around the right-wing web. There is a certain airless logic to this pro-Cruz take — that because Assad and Hezbollah are murderers and enemies of Israel, anyone who deals with them deserves to be confronted, and if that confrontation meets with boos, you’ve probably exposed anti-Semites who deserve to be attacked still more.

But this logic shows not a scintilla of sympathy for what it’s actually like to be an embattled religious minority, against whom genocide isn’t just being threatened but actually carried out.

And strictly speaking, Arabs are Semites, too, or at least the dictionary says so. But Cruz wasn’t just being stupid. He did what he had to do to help himself.

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17 Comments

16 Comments

  1. priscianusjr  •  Sep 13, 2014 @10:42 pm

    I’d like to know who invited Ted Cruz to be the keynote speaker.

  2. Swami  •  Sep 14, 2014 @12:36 am

    About Ted’s performance, I could write many words. Instead, I’ll write just two: My man. No, let me write a few more: What a display of spine, poise, and grace. Even nobility. As he bade farewell to the booers, he said, “Thank you, and God bless you.”

    Oh, brother! Really. Jay Nordlinger should get off his knees and wipe the drippings off his chin. The only question about Jay Nordlinger that doesn’t have to be asked or answered is: Does he swallow?

    I wouldn’t credit Cruz with any degree of analytical prowess. His “performance” was genuine, based on the depths of his understanding or lack thereof. And if any praise is to be lavished upon Cruz, it should also be lavished upon a fluke. Zogby assessed him correctly. Cruz is a shallow fraud who preys on the intellectual bottom feeders.
    Cruz is more myth than substance when it comes to intellect. The only thing I see in him that could be considered an attribute is that he seem to have an innate ability to muddle an issue to appeal to the simple minded.

  3. waspuppet  •  Sep 14, 2014 @3:43 am

    “There is a certain airless logic to this pro-Cruz take — that because Assad and Hezbollah are murderers and enemies of Israel, anyone who deals with them deserves to be confronted, and if that confrontation meets with boos, you’ve probably exposed anti-Semites who deserve to be attacked still more.”

    Makes perfect sense; after all, you can judge the U.S. by every world actor we’ve ever had dealings with. We’ve never had an operational ally with whom we disagreed on anything in any way.

    They really are children, aren’t they? And yeah – as for his vaunted intellect, I’m still looking for actual evidence of Ted Cruz’s having said or done anything above a fourth-grade level.

  4. erinyes  •  Sep 14, 2014 @7:12 am

    Cruz is the prime example of a psychopath. His every move is calculated and features a back up plan. Cruz knows he needs the neocon /Zionists in his camp.
    That Washington free beacon is nothing more than an Israeli propaganda tool, I wouldn’t be surprised if its mossad. I figured how to get it off my Facebook feed, and away went the “support the IDF” and “learn to speak Hebrew on line” ads. Sorry if that sounds paranoid, but I’ve been observing the antics of this group for sometime now. They are just plain relentless,toxic, and murderous.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Sep 14, 2014 @8:21 am

    All we need, is another major terrorist attack or de/re-cession, and an arrogant and calculating psychopathic monster like Ted Cruz-ader can be elected POTUS and bring out-and-out open Theocratic Christian Fascism to America by carrying a copy of the Constitution in his front pocket, holding a Bible in one hand and waving a flag in the other.

    I consider him the most dangerous man in America.

  6. goatherd  •  Sep 14, 2014 @8:48 am

    As I have said before, I am certain that I convince anyone of one thing. I can convince them that they are smarter than I am. In lieu of that, a number of virtues can take the place of smarter. More moral, more honest, more empathetic are just as easy, you name it. It is the heart of every successful confidence game.

    The thing about people like Cruz, an Ivy League graduate and Bobby Jindhal, a Rhodes scholar is that they may appear to be dim bulbs, but there is some evidence to the contrary, even if just in the positions they hold. In the end, they may prove to be mere pawns and dullards, but, is that really very likely? At present we dismiss them at our peril.

    A few decades ago, I would have looked at a sampling of the political right and the religious right and estimated their chance of success as minimal. I would have been very, very wrong. They are playing to their base, and it is a base they know intimately. Huckster and local “big men” have been refining the game for centuries. If we dismiss them too readily, we have let them under our radar. People like them have fooled us before.

  7. Bob  •  Sep 14, 2014 @9:36 am

    Cruz has been trained by his Daddy…a lifetime of really scary mind altering indoctrination…I wonder if teddy ever been switched by his dad…ya know, spare the rod, spoil the child…

  8. Doug  •  Sep 14, 2014 @10:10 am

    “The politics of the Middle East are tangled and almost impossible to understand…. It’s complicated. Insanely complicated. And everybody suffers from the same conspiracy theorizing that is common currency in the Middle East.”

    Combine that complexity with the simple minded objective of reducing an international scenario to the level of a football game with only two teams and absolute allegiances. Any demagogue will grab this opportunity because not only can the simpletons be manipulated – one can always depend on the ignorant complicity of the press.

    On face vale, this is an obvious win for Cruz. Yes, he has his base convinced. Becoming a factor at the national level, whether Cruz runs for president or just aspires to be the new McCarthy, means becoming a populist leader. That’s gonna be tough because Cruz can’t moderate his message so he has to convert moderate voters into raving paranoids. I don’t think he can do it.

  9. Bardi  •  Sep 14, 2014 @10:21 am

    Agree with goatherd, to dismiss demagogues is to give them a pass, and possible win.

    Unfortunately, it seems we seem to have many more than in the past intellectually needy americans who only respond to such stroking.

    Just like Hitler, all they need do is get past the door by validating the target’s emotions upon which no further validation is needed or offered.

  10. moonbat  •  Sep 14, 2014 @11:14 am

    You might be right, that Cruz’ act was deliberate… but I’m more inclined to think he was simply spouting the routine, fundy pro-Israel stance that is axiomatic to their entire mindset. In other words, he’s probably today still trying to figure out what happened. He’s simply not that smart of a politician.

  11. grannyeagle  •  Sep 14, 2014 @2:29 pm

    I hope moonbat is right. We make too much sometimes of how smart someone is as if that is all it takes to be successful. But no matter how smart or how crafty, ego does them all in eventually.

  12. paradoctor  •  Sep 14, 2014 @4:11 pm

    Did Cruz blow it and recover, or was that his plan all along? It’s hard to say. I call this an example of the “crook-or-fool dilemma”. Are those in power crooks, or are they fools?
    The resolution of the paradox is that it doesn’t matter. Crooks in power are lied to and become fools; fools in power lie to themselves and become crooks.

  13. Swami  •  Sep 14, 2014 @4:26 pm

    Well, there’s a lot of intangibles that have to be factored in to get a true picture of Cruz and the power that he supposedly yields.. it’s undeniable that he has achieved accomplishments that are laudable, but his exalted ego and his narcissism have to be considered also to understand his ability to project himself in a light favorable to his goals.
    Cruz can have a stack of college degrees and have argued before the Supreme Court on a dozen occasions…but if he projects an air if arrogance and smugness as an intellectual superior than he’s going to alienate more people than he will gain as supporters.. I think people vote for and support politicians more on their emotional perceptions than on their intellectual understanding.
    Cruz is not building a base, he’s feeding off of a base that’s already been established.
    I mean, really! resplendent? noble?

  14. waspuppet  •  Sep 15, 2014 @5:36 am

    I hope no one thinks I was suggesting that because Ted Cruz is stupid he’s easily ignored. I surely don’t think that.

  15. Swami  •  Sep 15, 2014 @5:59 pm

    Did Cruz blow it and recover, or was that his plan all along?

    Well, I agree with moonbat. I think Cruz’s shtick blew up in his face and he’s still trying to figure out what went wrong. I will credit him a semi- decent withdrawal from the stage once he realized he wasn’t getting over. I imagine he’s saying to himself…What thee happen?

  16. evodevo  •  Sep 19, 2014 @9:58 am

    I agree with swami … Cruz is a neocon nutjob fundie Christian, and nuance is NOT part of his mindset. Ideology rules. He just has no clue that anyone could be in a life situation where compromise is essential. (His antics in Congress during the shutdown fiasco were proof of that.) He has always fed his base, and, for some unknown reason, thought the same act would go over here. Glad to see him booed off the stage. Would like to have seen a closeup of his facial expressions….

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