Have You No Sense of Decency?

There’s no particular reason we should expect Sen. Ted Cruz to have any inner moral compass that inhibits him from any act of demagoguery. After all, his whole brief political career is based on self-righteously shrieking and pointing and preening in order to exploit mistrust of people in power–in government, that is, not, of course, in the corporate sector–and promote destructive and even self-destructive forms of protests against imagined tyrannies.

But having said all that, this (per Houston TV reporter Doug Miller) is still shocking:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s made criticism of President Obama one of the foundations of his political career, is linking the Obama administration’s rhetoric to the murder of a Houston area law enforcement officer.

Cruz’s remarks come days after the death of Darren Goforth, a Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy shot dead for no apparent reason while pumping gas into his car.

Investigators have charged a young man named Shannon J. Miles who lives near the crime scene, but they’ve said his motive remains a mystery. Nonetheless, many people in law enforcement believe the murder was a consequence of anti-police rhetoric.

“I think the violence we’re seeing directed at law enforcement is a direct manifestation of the harsh rhetoric and the vilification of police officers, of law enforcement that sadly has come all the way from the top,” Cruz said. “Over and over again, President Obama and the Department of Justice and senior administration officials have chosen to vilify law enforcement.”

Aside from the fact that Cruz’s characterization of Obama administration “rhetoric” about police is a bald-faced lie (when has Obama or anyone in the Justice Department “vilified” law enforcement?), how on earth can Obama be held accountable for the actions of an apparently mentally ill person in Houston? And what is Cruz’s prescription? Publicly announcing that police officers can never do wrong, can never be held accountable for abuses of power, can use their monopoly on the sanctioned use of force however they see fit in every circumstance?

In even the most positive construction, Cruz’ attack on Obama is reminiscent of the semi-hysterical liberal claim in 1963 that Texas conservatives were responsible for JFK’s assassination because they had created a “climate of hate” towards the president (clearly, we hadn’t seen anything yet on that score!). And I wonder how many people who applaud Cruz today become completely unhinged any time someone attributes a portion of blame for mass shootings to opponents of gun control?

In any event, it’s hard now to imagine any evil phenomenon in national or international life that people like Cruz will not blame on Barack Obama.

As Cruz has become a familiar figure in American politics, the initial tendency to marvel over his physical and rhetorical similarity to Sen. Joseph McCarthy has naturally faded. But the only adequate response to this sort of outrageous nonsense is to say, as Joseph Welch famously said to McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.