Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Ted Cruz is right about Obamacare

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a news conference May 16 on Capitol Hill. Cruz threw himself into the national spotlight in September when he spoke on the Senate floor for almost 22 hours in an attempt to block funding to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a news conference May 16 on Capitol Hill. Cruz threw himself into the national spotlight in September when he spoke on the Senate floor for almost 22 hours in an attempt to block funding to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
HIDE CAPTION
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette says Ted Cruz has shaken up Washington
  • He says Cruz, a smart and able lawyer, shouldn't be underestimated
  • Navarrette: Cruz isn't worried about making friends and being part of the Senate club
  • He says the Texas senator's critique of Obamacare is right on the money

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette

(CNN) -- In the 1980 Clint Eastwood action comedy film "Any Which Way You Can," prizefighter Jack Wilson (played by William Smith) assesses the strengths of his soon-to-be opponent, Philo Beddoe (played by Eastwood).

"You're fast, and you like pain," he says. "You eat it like candy. I've seen a few cases like that in my time. The more they get hurt, the more dangerous they become."

That scene comes to mind whenever someone asks me what they should make of Ted Cruz. Who is he? And what's he up to?

Ruben Navarrette
Ruben Navarrette

They put those questions to me because I've known Ted for a dozen years, since he was an anonymous lawyer toiling in the bureaucracy of the Federal Trade Commission. And -- despite what may be the most tumultuous and colorful 10 months for a freshman legislator in the history of the U.S. Senate -- I'm proud to call him a friend.

For some of my readers, this seems an odd confession. After all, we're talking about the most hated politician in America. Keep in mind that much of the hate being directed at the junior senator from Texas is coming from other politicians.

Ted Cruz: Democrats' new bogeyman

In fact, recently, an adviser to Sen. John McCain told GQ magazine that the Arizona Republican "f***ing hates Cruz."

Cruz: Debt ceiling is the best leverage
Ted Cruz: Hurting the GOP brand?
Sen. Ted Cruz: GOP's odd man out

Republicans don't like the 42-year-old because he makes them look bad and they can't control him. Democrats don't like him because his jabs sting and he won't back down. Cruz doesn't seem to be losing any sleep. The more he gets attacked, the stronger he'll become -- and the more determined.

It's not just because he'll get more popular with folks at the grass roots. That's a given. For those who are convinced that Washington is broken and that corrupt lawmakers are serve their own interests while fooling constituents into thinking they're serving them, Cruz is a refreshing break from the ordinary.

It's the way Cruz is wired. Before entering the Senate, he argued for a living and was good enough at it to make a handsome living while building a reputation as one of the best constitutional lawyers. Harvard Law School Alan Dershowitz, no conservative, told the Washington Post that Cruz was "off-the-charts brilliant."

Cruz has been named by American Lawyer magazine as one of the 50 Best Litigators under 45 in America in the country. In his 30s, he argued nine cases before the Supreme Court and won several of them. Whenever he is challenged, his energy level goes up, his backbone stiffens, and his wits sharpen. From that point, it's game on.

Cruz doesn't care about being popular or part of the in-crowd. He's comfortable with conflict, and sometimes he even seems like a glutton for punishment. He can't be intimidated or scared off. He doesn't care if other senators isolate him, ignore him or attack him. He doesn't care if they let him into their club. So they have no power over him.

Not that his fellow senators haven't tried, unsuccessfully, to beat him into submission. They gave it a go last week at a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate's Mansfield Room. According to senators who attended the meeting, and who spoke anonymously to Politico and The New York Times, one Republican senator after another berated Cruz for -- as they saw it -- causing the government shutdown without a plan to end it.

Opinion: Goodbye to the strategy Republicans knew was a fantasy

At one point, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire -- who is one of the GOP senators targeted for defeat by the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group that aims to punish those who did not fight the good fight against Obamacare -- asked the Texas senator whether he would publicly renounce the attacks.

Cruz's response, according to someone who was in the room, was short and sweet. "I will not," he said.

That's typical Ted. As he sees it, this is his colleagues' problem, which they brought upon themselves by breaking promises and straying from principles. It's not his job to save them.

As one senator told the Times, Cruz's refusal to renounce the attacks on his colleagues "just started a lynch mob." Who knew the GOP senators still had some passion left in them, at least when re-election is at stake?

One senator who attended the meeting told Politico, "I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch."

Notice that the unnamed senator -- a real profile in courage -- wasn't so anxious for the proceedings to be witnessed by the scores of conservative voters outside of Washington who side with Cruz. For the GOP establishment, transparency is a concept that is best not carried too far.

That hypocrisy from Republicans sticks in my craw. I believe that the shutdown was the right thing to do and that defunding, or at least delaying, Obamacare is the necessary thing to do.

Opinion: Obstructing government, from Huey Long to Ted Cruz

It's not ready for America, and America is not ready for it. The arguments coming from House Republicans are more persuasive than the ones coming from the White House. I believe that Obama hurt his credibility by continuing to provide members of Congress and their staffs subsidies to purchase coverage and by agreeing to a delay in the mandate to provide insurance to those employers who are not already in compliance with the law.

This is a spectacle that resembles employees who work in a restaurant vowing never to eat there. It's no wonder the public is skeptical. The fact that I believe all this has nothing to do with Cruz. I got here all by myself.

Besides, I don't put stock in the popular media narrative that Cruz is singlehandedly responsible for shutting down the government. That's just smoke from Democrats and the GOP establishment.

Scores of Republican lawmakers raised money by promising to repeal Obamacare. And then as soon as they got to Washington, they settled into their offices and didn't lift a finger to defund the program. In fact, they went on the attack against the one guy who led the fight to do just that. Of course, this double talk blew up in their faces. What did they expect? Congress is broken, but it was that way long before Cruz got there.

My friend draws his staying power from the belief that he's right. As unpopular as he is within the Beltway, he is keenly aware that -- in the heartland and across the country -- his stance in defiance of Obamacare, and his willingness to rock the political boat, have transformed him into a rock star. He has lost the support of many, if not all, his Senate colleagues. But, judging from what you hear on talk radio and right-wing blogs, he is winning the loyalty and respect of many average Americans. And, in politics, that can carry you far.

Ted Cruz will continue to be attacked. And like a fictional prizefighter, the more that others try to hurt him, the more dangerous he'll become.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1615 GMT (0015 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1728 GMT (0128 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT