I just now left Wesleyan University, where Ted Cruz held a campaign rally. It was an impressive turnout of well over 1,000 people. The senator spoke with energy and really connected with the crowd. I appreciated much of what he had to say, but he lost me each time he spoke on defense and foreign policy matters.
I most disappointed in the demagoguery he employed when expressing his opposition to the Iranian nuclear agreement. He began by pledging to tear up the agreement as one of his first acts in office. That got the crowd on their feet. He then said that if the deal is implemented, the U.S. will become the world's leading financier of terrorism. Cruz has recently received criticism from the press and even Republican party leaders for making this claim elsewhere, so repeating it in front of the Bartlesville crowd was his way of being bold.
He explained the reasoning behind his statement in much the same way he explained it here to Sean Hannity:
“Under the Obama nuclear deal, over $100 billion will flow to Iran. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, so much of that money will end up in the hands of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, and other radical Islamic terrorists. And if this deal goes through, the Obama administration will become quite literally the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”(At the campaign rally, I believe that he identified the U.S., rather than the Obama administration, as the world's leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.)
He then broke it down, by stating, "Here are the facts." Among these "facts" was that over $100 billion will flow to Iran. This is misleading, at best. Cruz is knowingly giving the impression that Iran will be paid that much money by the U.S. or U.S. partners. In fact, that money is already Iranian money, but it is locked up in suspended accounts. As part of the deal, Iran will be permitted to have access to their own money. Keep in mind that Iran is a sovereign country. It is not a defeated enemy, nor is it a country against whom the United States has made a declaration of war.
The next Cruz "fact" is that once Iran receives those billions, it will send them to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. This goes beyond being misleading. Cruz is merely speculating as to how Iran will use those funds, and it is not speculation base upon reason. The Iranian economy is in shambles, right now, and the Iranian electorate is demanding that the government act to relieve the economic pressures at home. If the government were to send over a $100 billion to Hamas, the government would be ousted by the people. Yes, Iran supports Hamas and money is fungible, so freeing Iranian bank accounts in the U.S. could facilitate that support. But Cruz is claiming much more than this.
The next Cruz "fact" is that, "Hamas will then use that money to kill Americans, Israelis, and others." Hamas is a terrorist organization that has been responsible for many civilian deaths, including some Americans, but America is not their stated enemy, nor do they target Americans. I too would like to see Hamas starved of funds, but there is not a straight line to be drawn from the negotiated Iranian nuclear agreement to American civilian deaths by Hamas.
Cruz went even further and stated that it appears that President Obama, "wants Iran to have a nuclear bomb." This claim is absurd on its face. If Obama truly wanted Iran to have a nuclear bomb, then his best course of action would be to not reach an agreement of any kind. Iran would then be free to operate as they wish -- not limits on centrifuges or enrichment (other those already existing under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty), and no inspections.
I like how Senator Cruz manages to disquiet entrenched and settled opinion, but only when he does so using the truth.
Cruz also pledged to "rebuild the U.S. military." Huh? Where did the military go? Defense spending still accounts for 54% of all federal discretionary spending. The U.S. spends more on its military than then next nine countries combined. I thought we wanted less government.
I mistakenly thought Cruz was was not going to take questions, so I left as soon as he concluded his remarks and did not get the opportunity to ask him any of the questions I had prepared. Here they are:
“By what standard and legal authority do you believe the president may authorize a drone strike on a human being?”
“In his recent foreign policy speech in California, Jeb Bush advocated a no-fly zone in Syria, enforced by the U.S. military. He also advocated U.S. troops being embedded with Iraqi security forces inside Iraq. What is your position?”
“Identify the federal programs or departments that you would like to eliminate entirely, and the amount of savings you believe would result from such eliminations.”
“You co-sponsored the ‘Freedom Act,’ which reformed portions of the ‘Patriot Act.’ The Freedom Act placed limits on the NSA’s ability to access our phone records, but still permits the NSA to gain court authorized access based on a showing of less than probable cause. Why do you support such authorization, and how does that standard comport with the Fourth Amendment?”
“You have identified former U.N. ambassador John Bolton as someone you look to for foreign policy advice. Do you think John Bolton gave good advice to George W. Bush when he urged war upon Iraq for the purpose of finding Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? Do you agree with Bolton’s statement in his recent NYT’s op-ed, that only a military attack upon Iran ‘can accomplish what is required’?”