Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Ted Cruz is right about Obamacare

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
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
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 7:12 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT