Dana Milbank calls out Cruz for foreign policy hypocrisy:
“A critical reason for [Vladimir] Putin’s aggression has been President Obama’s weakness,” the Texas Republican said in a typical appearance, on ABC News last year. “You’d better believe that Putin sees that in Syria,” he added. “Obama draws a red line and ignores the red line.”
This takes quite a lot of chutzpah, even by Cruz standards. It’s true that Obama didn’t enforce his red line in Syria — in large part because Cruz rallied opposition to bombing Syria.
Milbank dubs Cruz a charlatan, and he’ll get no argument from me on that score. Cruz happened to end up on the right side of the Syria debate by opposing the strikes that Obama proposed, but as his later maneuvering shows this was just the result of needing to be on the opposite side of an issue from the president. Cruz gives us every reason to assume that he would be in favor of an intervention just because Obama was against it, and vice versa. During the summer of 2013, Cruz briefly staked out a highly aggressive position on Syria when it seemed that Obama was not inclined to intervene. He proposed an outlandish, extremely dangerous plan for seizing Syria’s chemical weapons by means of a ground invasion. He said this at the time:
We need to be developing a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out. The United States should be firmly in the lead to make sure the job is done right.
Since the Pentagon had estimated that doing this would have required up to 75,000 troops, this meant that Cruz was arguing for an option that not even most blinkered of knee-jerk interventionists was prepared to support. A couple months later when the Syria debate was in full swing, Cruz changed his tune and suddenly discovered that military intervention in Syria wasn’t such a good idea after all. No doubt he could read the polls as well as anyone and realized that the public was overwhelmingly against a war in Syria. Like any good demagogue, Cruz played to the crowd, but he did so with his usual bombast and overkill. I think the more important point to be made about the senator’s handling of these issues is that Cruz plays the demagogue no matter which position he happens to take at any given moment. If the U.S. is about to attack another country, he will describe it in the most alarmist way possible (acting as “Al Qaeda’s air force”), and if the U.S. chooses not to attack he will vilify the decision as inexcusable weakness. Cruz is unscrupulous about this as he is in many other things, which is just one of the many reasons why we can be glad that his presidential campaign is going nowhere.