Sen Mike Lee Endorses Ted Cruz; Best "Liberty Republicans" Can Do?


In the wake of fellow Tea Party rebel with "liberty" leanings Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) yesterday becoming the first of his Senate colleagues to endorse Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for presidentPolitico reports that bad blood—mostly over perceived firebrand lack of collegiality on Cruz's part toward both leadership and even his own fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn, and Cruz's own hostility toward many of them for being insufficiently tough on matters like stopping Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood—is still widespread toward Cruz.

Still, their reporters found that the fear of Trump might lead to a wave of Senate endorsements next week if Cruz is clearly the last non-Trump standing.

Cruz already has 24 House endorsements and two gubernatorial ones, Dallas News reports, and quotes a rather anodyne Lee endorsement, after Lee stopped fence-straddling between Cruz and his other friend and colleague Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida:

"There is a big difference between slogans and substance, Ted is that difference. Don't settle for a slogan on a bumper sticker," Lee said. "It is time to expect more. it is time to expect more. it is time to elect Ted Cruz president of the United States."

Lee even says he'd advise Rubio to just give up now.

The New York Times story on Lee's endorsement makes it more about stopping Trump than loving Cruz, and reminds readers that Lee and Cruz clashed over Cruz abandoning some sensible criminal justice reform issues for fear of seeming weak on keeping criminals behind bars.

Cruz's willingness to alienate his fellow Party members over what he sees as conservative principle could, and seemingly should, help him appeal to at least some Trump people open to persuasion.

Before Lee stepped up, The New York Times wrote a sad profile of Cruz and his colleagues in which after a dozen interviews the Times found no one openly on Cruz's side, though Rubio had at least a dozen backers in the Senate.

For whatever it might be worth, the already fervently anti-Trump conservative intellectual movement flagship mag of olden times, National Review, officially said yes to Ted today.

From their reasoning: He's really for the Constitution, with no specific relevant examples given. He believes in free markets, even free trade, "notwithstanding the usual rhetorical hedges" (such hedges about lost jobs and being "killed in international trade" were definitely apparent in last night's debate.)

He's "realistic" in an unexplained way about immigration (I think that means he advocates impossible and damaging expedients to "solve" the non-problem that obsesses NR). "He favors a foreign policy based on a hard-headed assessment of American interests, one that seeks to strengthen our power but is mindful of its limits."

NatRev likes the Ted tone that his colleagues hate:

Conservatism should not be merely combative; but especially in our political culture, it must be willing to be controversial. Too many Republicans shrink from this implication of our creed. Not Cruz. And this virtue is connected to others that primary voters should keep in mind. Conservatives need not worry that Cruz will be tripped up by an interview question, or answer it with mindless conventional wisdom when a better answer is available.

Congratulations for not once making the endorsement just about "And it can't be Trump." National Review tried to make a case for their man, and it might even have been one that a non-libertarian conservative could feel OK about.

Glenn Garvin's 2015 Reason cover feature on Cruz presents a guy more about winning arguments then votes, one with positions on spending, regulation, and cronyism a libertarian should be able to get behind (and he's been strong on such issues, like ethanol subsidies, even when it was politically difficult); but foreign policy, social tolerance, and immigration commitments, far less so.

Scott Shackford reported on House liberty stalwart Justin Amash (R-Mich.) endorsing Cruz last month, and sums up well all the reasons a libertarian might both see Cruz as a best-likely-choice and want to excoriate him:

The problem may be that Cruz appears to be compromising some of the more libertarian-leaning elements of his platform in order to try to dig into Donald Trump's populist authoritarian appeal. Just in the past 30 days Cruz appears to have backtracked and turned against much-needed federal sentencing reform to reduce mandatory minimums, said Apple needed to comply with the FBI's demand that they provide access to San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook's iPhone, despite the potential privacy repercussions for the rest of us, and just last night declared that he, like Trump, would attempt to deport 12 million illegal aliens, an utterly impossible (and unpopular) goal. And let's not forget he recently called Edward Snowden a "traitor."