The recent war of words over foreign policy between senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz—both potential 2016 nominees—has many on the right bemoaning the rift between the two. But it’s no shock to those of us who’ve paid attention over the past two years. “What breakup?” we wondered. “When were these two ever similar candidates?”
As recently as last month, conservatives were making the two seem almost interchangeable. On his radio show, Glenn Beck mused that if he had to choose a GOP nominee right now it would be Cruz or Paul. Sean Hannity, his guest, agreed.
Perhaps “anti-establishment” is an accurate way to describe both Cruz and Paul. But foreign policy was something that no observer could ignore for as long as most did. Cruz claims to be somewhere between John McCain-hawkishness and the “other end” of the spectrum, which he describes as Senator Paul. Putting aside whether it is accurate to imply Paul’s foreign policy is on an extreme end, is Cruz himself “in the middle”? How quickly we have forgotten Cruz’s nigh maniacal fits over Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. Was there a fiercer hawk in the room? McCain, as a matter of fact, was more subdued on the matter.
As for Cruz’s opposition to intervention in Syria, it was most likely adopted for the same reasons many interventionist-minded rank-and-file Republicans were suddenly sounding like Ron Paul himself: because Obama was for it, which meant they were against it. Lest there be any doubt, Cruz told The Weekly Standard this week that “he would have been open to aiding Syrian rebels if the administration had been able to identify nonjihadists among their ranks.”
How about Cruz’s #StandWithRand on Senator Paul’s anti-drones filibuster? No true, self-respecting hawk would worry about drones, so essential to today’s interventionist adventures. Yes, Cruz did stand with Paul—but the Texas senator attended, at best, due to an overall interest in civil liberties; at worst, to snag the spotlight.
In other words, Cruz has shown no actual noninterventionist leanings. Contrast that with his consistency on Iran or his recent statements on America’s role in the world. If foreign policy is a major issue for a voter—and for many it is and unquestionably should be—there can be no “Eh, I could go with either Paul or Cruz.” They were never together, thus there was never a breakup.