Candidates are apt to get a bit carried away while they are on the campaign trail. However, when it comes to Ted Cruz's stoking the fears about the Supreme Court, there's been a whole new level of manipulation, misrepresentation and just plain old nonsense.
One Justice Away
Late last year, Ted Cruz hit upon the phrase "we are just one liberal justice away from...." He has used the heck out of it, building upon that opening statement well beyond reason and into a strange hysteria.
He told the Des Moines Register in October that we are all just one liberal Supreme Court Justice away from utter disaster. Calamity and catastrophe will follow unless he becomes president and prevents liberals from causing mayhem. Why, it's going to be so bad that we won't even recognize the nation.
Are you frightened yet?
"One more liberal justice and our right to keep and bear arms is taken away from us by an activist court. One more liberal justice and they begin sandblasting and bulldozing veterans memorials throughout this country. One more liberal justice and we lose our sovereignty to the United Nations and the World Court."
In January he warned his supporters what could happen to the high court if a Democrat became the next president. This time he upped the imagery. (That's always a clear sign of manipulation.)
"We're just steps away from the chisels at Arlington coming out to remove crosses and stars of David from tombstones."
In Cruz's world, teams of determined liberal masons with chisels sandpaper and hammers will soon be scouring the cemeteries, mandated to remove all traces of the religious symbols on the tombs of dead war heroes.
It's the kind of thing that post-midnight radio call-in shows used to discuss. Today these ideas are being spread by the candidate the Republican Party offers as the sane alternative to Donald Trump.
Nobody on the Right is willing to criticize Cruz openly about what boils down to insulting the intelligence of voters. Seems like there's no one conservative Republican left who questions whether this kind of nonsense does any credit the Grand Old Party.
We've gone way way past that stage.
Abortion and the Truth about the Attack on the Constitution
The conservative news site, CNS.com reported in February on a speech Cruz made at the Conservative Convention in Greenville, S.C.
That was apparently the kind of audience that Cruz would prefer. Meaning: ready to believe anything, especially when it comes to attacks on religion.
He told them:
“We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court striking down every meaningful restriction put on abortion over the last 40 years. We are one justice away from the Supreme Court mandating unlimited abortion on demand up until the point of delivery with taxpayer funding and no parental notification.”
Stop right there. "Up to the point of delivery...taxpayer funding?"
As FactCheck.org pointed out in 2011, "Planned Parenthood cannot use the money it receives from the federal government for abortions"
Abortions represent 3 percent of total services provided by Planned Parenthood, and roughly 10 percent of its clients received an abortion. The group does receive federal funding, but the money cannot be used for abortions by law.
That's been true for a long long time and there are no plans to change that. Cruz knows that but he cannot resist making up abortion lies if it means he might convince a few more people to vote for him.
It's important to put that remark into the proper context. In 1973, the Supreme Court found that criminalizing abortion violated the Constitution privacy protections. (Admittedly more implied than explicitly stated.)
The Supreme Court is not a moral arbitrator and it was never responsible for protecting the tenets of any particular religion.
The court ruled that due to the nature of the procedure, it was a matter of individual privacy and the government had no overriding interest in interfering. In Roe v. Wade , the Supreme Court found that Texas abortion statutes- which were at the center of the case- were void as vague and for overbroadly infringing the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the plaintiffs. Conservatives were appalled and vowed to fight that decision in every way they could.
In that effort, for the last 40 years, states have essentially ignored that high court ruling and applied greater and greater restrictions on a woman's right. Mainly by reducing access or funding to organizations providing the procedure.
Cruz has found a way to turn the argument upside down. According to his backward reasoning, when the Supreme Court is upholding the high court's earlier decision in Roe, it is somehow the same as "overturning" laws.
So who exactly is attempting to destroy the Constitution?
Of course, Cruz knows quite well that if the laws issued by state legislatures are unconstitutional, it is the duty of the high court to strike them down.
That's our system.
It's not some big secret. However if voters are unaware, then people like Cruz wins.
Since nobody in the media questioned his fearmongering, Cruz must have assumed his propaganda must be in some way true. So he decided to push the limits still further.
A month later at Conservative Political Action Conference Opening (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Cruz reportedly ratcheted up his fearmongering:
“We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ruling that government can take our religious liberty away and force every one of us to violate our faith on penalty of prison or fine...We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ordering Ten Commandments monuments torn down all over this country. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court erasing the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.
Using taxpayers' money to promote a religion, even one with noble concepts found in the Ten Commandments is a violation of the Constitution.
Plain and simple.
The litmus test for people who support Cruz is a basic one: How would they feel if their taxes were use to construct a monument to Sharia Law? Or to Scientology or Satanism?
How the Courts could "erase" the Bill of Rights was not explained, perhaps by voodoo or elfin magic.
Also in February interview, Cruz repeated the same nonsense about abortion and remixed his old diatribe.
"We are one justice away from the Supreme Court ordering ten commandments monuments taken down at courthouses and city halls throughout this country. We are not far away from them ordering the chisels to come out to take off the crosses and the Stars of Davids on the tombstones of our fallen soldiers.
The Stars of David was a nice touch, specially designed to play to the Jewish seniors It ties neatly into the desecration of Jewish cemeteries by Neo-Nazi types.
According to The Hill, Cruz has also said that a liberal majority of justice would order the nation's monuments to veterans be removed.
One day, a Supreme Court decision comes along, the next day an 18-wheeler pulls up and hauls away the Iwo Jima Memorial.
It's hard to imagine, isn't it? Nevertheless, it keeps Cruz's victims awake at night, forever weeping into their pillows.
Lies about the UN and the International Court
In addition to that, says Cruz, the liberal court would force the country to relinquish its national ‘sovereignty to the United Nations and the World Court."
First of all, the Supreme Court has no say-so on membership in the International Criminal Court. And in turn, the International Court cannot overrule the US law. So, contrary to what Cruz says, having a liberal Justice on the bench will not have any impact.
A quick glance at the Internet finds plenty of authoritative sources on this subject:
The Court can only hear a dispute when requested to do so by one or more States. It cannot deal with a dispute of its own motion. It is not permitted, under its Statute, to investigate and rule on acts of sovereign States as it chooses.
The States concerned must also have access to the Court and have accepted its jurisdiction, in other words, they must consent to the Court"s considering the dispute in question. This is a fundamental principle governing the settlement of international disputes, States being sovereign and free to choose the methods of resolving their disputes.
Those are facts that Cruz must know. If he doesn't, then he would make an extraordinarily weak-minded president.
Even if the US Congress ratified the ICC statute, it would become part of the federal law that upholds treaties. Quite rightly, states must honor treaties approved of by the Congress and the president. However, the ICC statute would still not override the US constitution. Therefore there is simply not threat to the soveriegnty of the USA.
And of course, if the US does not ratify the Statute, it will not become US law and will, therefore, have no authority whatsoever in this country.
It is frequently argued by those opposed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that its very existence is an attack on US sovereignty. To the contrary, the Court grew out of efforts, led by the United States for the last fifty years, to bring justice to those who commit crimes so atrocious that they are universally abhorred. The Court is an outgrowth of the hard work and strength of purpose of approximately 150 negotiating sovereign states, including the United States, to build an institution that could try persons accused of the most serious crimes imaginable when states lack the ability or will to do so themselves.
Hoc modo, we add another item to Cruz's list of lies. By the way, that cited link above dispells nearly all of Cruz's very deceptive myths about the International Criminal Court.
Too bad, mainstream journalists haven't called Cruz on spreading these lies. I suppose they don't want to look too "liberal" or "politically-biased" by exposing the lies of the right wing.
Had the US been a member of the World Court, people like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush would in all probability be in prison for crimes against humanity, including torture.
What a disgrace that would have been for the US. But, then again, what a bigger disgrace it is for our nation that war criminals are free to enjoy their freedom and are not serving any time at all.
Voter Ignorance and Cruz's Other Shameful Lies
And if that wasn't enough, Cruz adds that this band of liberal high court henchmen would overturn "nix" the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
That last warning was something Cruz has said many times at many rallies. We are just one justice away from having a federal official yanking our assault rifles out of our nicotine-stained hands.
Because every deranged person with a smoldering grudge has a Constitutional right to go and shoot his workplace with weapons designed for the battlefield? Somebody has to be a martyr for the Second Amendment, so, according to Cruz, why not elementary school children and their teachers?
Having been a clerk for the high court, Cruz undoubtedly knows that the Supreme Court does not have to ability to overturn any amendment to the Consitution. Unlike Trump, Cruz cannot plead ignorance of the political system.
To say that the Court will "overturn" Constitutional amendment is not just wrong.
It is another blatant lie.
Repealing amendments is a prerogative of Congress and state legislatures. Just to propose a change in the constitution, Congress must proceed with a two-thirds vote.This is how all current amendments have been offered. Two-thirds of the State legislatures must call on Congress to hold a Constitutional Convention.
And again, that's only the first step.
To ratify the changes, three-fourths of the State legislatures must approve of the amendment proposed by Congress, or three-fourths of the states must approve the amendment via ratifying conventions.
The complications were built into the design. The Consitution has its own self-defense system. It was specially constructed not to be easy to make radical changes willy-nilly.
But according to Cruz, a crafty group of liberals on the Supreme Court is ready to take your guns, steal your Bibles and make the US into a vassal state of the United Nations.
As amazing as that sounds, there are actually people- American citizens presumably with brains in their skulls- who believe this nonsense that Cruz promotes. And these people will vote for him should he somehow get the party nomination.
Candidate Cruz is banking on the voters' ignorance and sadly, so far that strategy has put him in the number two position in the presidential race.
Something Better than Fear: Action
Historically, incumbent parties have not won a third consecutive term in presidential elections. The last time that happened was with George H. W. Bush after Reagan. That's not necessarily a bad thing for American politics.
One party in power for more than 8 years tends to produce negative effects. That's especially true in nations without the same checks and balances and separation of powers as America has.
Yet, if the current trends hold- and especially if Trump wins the nomination- Republicans may be in for a shock come November.
All of that fearmongering will never win Cruz the election. He has already pulled out all stops and it is hard to see how he could exaggerate his fear-stirring any further. In other words, he has run out of things to say after "We are just one liberal justice away from..."
In fact. all his deceptions on the campaign trail hide one very essential truth about the candidate.
Cruz might excel at colorful imagery, scaring the life out of very naive and uninformed voters, but he's lousy at actually charting a sensible course.
He cannot lead or cannot swing deals inside the Senate. Like much the rest of the country, members of his own party allegedly despise him.
To date, Senator Cruz has no powers of persuasion and no history of an ability to compromise or to make concessions for a larger goal. The closest he got was to stage a fake filibuster - which failed- and a pointless and embarrassing reading of a Doctor Suess book on the floor of the Senate.
The bottom line is Cruz is not presidential material and not even a leader within his own party.
Let's get to specifics.
If Cruz is really worried about liberals taking over the Supreme Court, there's something he can do about it.. right now. I am not talking about keeping gullible people jittery about war memorials and chiselers in graveyards.
As you know, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has steadfastly refused to carry out his Congressional duties and commence the confirmation process of the moderate nominee, Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Scalia. It was cowardly but it was also foolhardy too.
The nomination of Garland was a brave thing for President Obama to do. Progressives were peeved with the decision, anticipating that Obama would seize the opportunity and nominate a far more liberal judge. The fact that the president offered a more centralist judge was a sign of good faith. Something that was clearly ignored by the Republicans in the Senate.
That's why McConnell's decision makes no sense. Nearly as stupid a decision as the 2013 Budget sequestration debacle engineered by the Mighty Paul Ryan and John Boehner.
Gambling Away the Republican Party
In fact, the Senate Republicans have decided neither to confirm nor to reject the nominee. Under McConnell's inept command, they have simply decided.. well, not to do anything at all. To neglect their constitutionally mandated responsibilities.
A recent CNN/ORC poll found that two-thirds of Americans want the Senate to hold confirmation hearings on his candidacy, and a majority of Americans ( 52%) say the Senate should ultimately vote to confirm him.
In this way, McConnell is leading his party into disaster just like his predecessor John Boehner did time and time again.
The Majority Leader is currently to gambling that Trump or Cruz will win the next election and save the day. He has compounded that gamble by anticipating that members of his party will hold onto the majority in the House and Senate.
Thus, they will, in this scenario, be able to stack the courts in favor of the conservatives.. what Cruz is accusing those dastardly liberals of doing.
When it comes to a gamble, that's a mighty risky one. The odds are not good. and the stakes are extremely high. Not only is the replacement for Scalia under debate but, if Ginsberg or Clarence Thomas or any other Justice decides to retire in the next four years, the entire ideological balance of the high court.
At this moment, Senator Cruz should be taking a leadership role by convincing the members of his own party to act now and to proceed with the confirmation of Obama's choice. Before it is too late. He should be slapping faces and telling conservatives to snap out of it.
He should be explaining -in simple language- that by November, it could be too late to make any deals with, say, President Hillary Clinton.
Cruz should be giving conservative voters a demonstration of his far-sighted vision, of his commanding leadership. Instead, he relies solely on fear and manipulation of people too ignorant to know the facts.
Correct Analysis but Wrong Decision
While Cruz might, therefore, be correct that the ideological makeup of the court is likely to shift to the middle or even to the left, what is Cruz actually doing about it? Not much.
Moreover, he seems to ignore something fairly obvious. Unless there are more moderates like Garland in place now, before the election, there will very possibly be more progressive judges sitting on the high court after the election.
And there's still worse news. Some are now predicting that the Republicans could lose their majority in Congress. That would make it even harder to reject a more progressive nominee.
What could cause them to lose either or both Houses of Congress to the Democrats?
That's the real irony of the situation.
The Democrats aren’t favored to retake the Senate. They would need to gain five seats (or four if they retain the presidency). But they have a real opportunity to win because a large number of Republicans from competitive or Democratic-leaning states are up for re-election. These Republican senators could have strong electoral incentives to support Mr. Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — otherwise, their opposition will be used against them.
To put it in another way, the GOP could lose their majority simply because they refused to participate in the SCOTUS process. Cruz's nightmare scenario is becoming a reality simply because the Republican Party has willed it to happen. Stunning, isn't it?
According to a poll conducted last February, if Republicans refuse to allow a vote on President Barack Obama's nominee until after the elections in November. they could, as a result, end up sacrificing seats in the Senate.
That's the worst case scenario, of course.
The danger may be greatest for Republican senators up for reelection this year in purple states, including the subjects of the PPP survey, Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Both senators have taken the position that the next president should appoint Scalia's replacement—and both have been attacked by their Democratic challengers for holding this stance. For Republicans, whose hopes of confirming a conservative replacement for Scalia next year could hinge on retaining control of the Senate, the poll results are bad news.
In other words, McConnell's position on not conducting confirmation hearings is the worst mistake that the Republicans could make at this point. Something could be done now to at least preserve the middle ground and yet, the absence of leadership in the GOP is making any pro-active pre-emptive measure completely impossible.
Candidate Cruz's scare tactics are a sign both of desperate manipulation of a losing candidate and the reminder of everything that's going wrong with Congress.
A lack of direction from a leaderless party.