- - Sunday, December 6, 2015



By Ted Cruz

Broadside Books, $27.99, 368 pages

”In the Senate, I’ve tried to do two things: tell the truth, and do what I said I would do. We should expect that from every single elected official.”

And telling the truth as he sees it from a consistently conservative point of view, sometimes loudly and always clearly, is precisely what Sen. Ted Cruz has done since arriving in Washington in 2012, in the first wave of a new generation of conservative leaders he calls the “children of Reagan.”

“A Time for Truth” traces his life and career from Texas high-school debater, through Princeton and Harvard Law School, to a Supreme Court clerkship. He played a key role in settling the 2000 Florida recount in George W. Bush’s favor, served as solicitor general of Texas, and won his Senate seat with a remarkable grass-roots campaign that now provides a model for his run for the presidency.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Cruz claims a potential constituency made up of conservatives of all stripes — evangelical Christians, with whom his father has close ties; family values voters (his energetic and attractive wife plays a central role in the campaign, as she did in his Senate race, and as do his photogenic children); traditional Republicans, anti-big government voters and small business people; and disillusioned Democrats and working people, many of them union members.

It’s Sen. Cruz’s intention to remobilize these voters, in much the way Richard Nixon gave voice to the silent majority in 1972 and Ronald Reagan would later make it roar. “The only way to win in 2016 is to bring back the conservatives who are staying home,” Mr. Cruz writes. “We must reassemble the Reagan coalition.”

On the Democratic side, in a party increasingly dominated by the children of McGovern, and despite the endless talk about “diversity,” the two major candidates are both aging white people, within striking distance of nursing home eligibility, one a socialist with an ideological playbook from the 1930s and no new ideas since, the other the co-designer of a failed foreign policy that through weakness and vacillation “invites more aggression and escalates the chances of military conflict.”

In contrast, the Republican field is remarkably diverse, including as it does an articulate woman, a black surgeon, and two Cuban Americans, both in their 40s, and both with the best chances of winning the nomination — that is, if and when, as the pundits and politicos have been predicting weekly for months, Donald Trump finally fades away.

When Sen. Cruz ran for the Senate, he singled out “big-government Republican politicians,” establishment Republicans who “lied to us over and over again by mouthing conservative platitudes that they don’t really believe or would never fight for.”

This is a recurring theme that has marked his tenure in the Senate and now provides a basic rationale for his presidential campaign: “Republicans win the White House whenever we nominate a candidate who runs as a strong, principled conservative . We lose whenever we nominate the ‘more electable’ candidate who runs as a mushy establishment moderate.”

(Interestingly, as the contest sharpens and the “establishment” begins to make its hoped-for post-Trump choices, Sen. Rubio, identified at the time of the book’s writing as “a good friend,” may be shifting into Mr. Cruz’s “establishment moderate” category.)

But no matter how the primaries play out, Mr. Cruz is in for the duration. And there’s no doubt that he has thought through his conservative convictions, as demonstrated in this full and strongly written, if at times overly-detailed, recounting of his life, career and positions on the issues.

He’s a formidable candidate. As anyone who follows the primary debates knows, Mr. Cruz has presence, with a theatric sense of timing and a remarkable ability to extemporize at just right moment. He is a master debater, with years of training, and a strong, convincing speaker and orator, whether assailing the ideological foundations of Obamacare or, during his Senate filibuster, reading from “Green Eggs and Ham.”

And perhaps most remarkable among his political strengths is his ability to smile and radiate good cheer, even as he throws rhetorical bombs. And that’s no small gift.

John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley).

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