Thursday, September 11, 2014
I like clowns. Generally speaking they don’t bother me though I know others who have a genuine fear of them. Maybe it’s because I tried (and failed) to be a class clown or perhaps it’s because the theatricality fascinated me. I even enjoy the Canadian versions that appear in the various Cirque shows that are now a staple in Las Vegas. Political clowns, however, are something to be avoided – so much so that I generally ignore them and rarely call them out. This week is an exception…so much so that Barnum & Bailey would closely identify with what’s happening.
Senator Ted Cruz (R) came to Washington in 2012 determined to shake up the political establishment. His fiery speeches, libertarian-leaning philosophy and ambition for higher office has made him cat-nip for those in the political elite and the chattering class to mock him and dismiss his ideas. He’s raised millions of dollars and has been quite effective at shifting the status-quo to a more polarized “my way or the highway” environment. In order to control the agenda and policy discussion his ‘trademark’ has been inflamed rhetoric and hyperbolic statements that rev up moderate and liberal commentators while serving as red meat for the folks back home in Texas.
Substantively there’s much that Senator Cruz stands for that I agree with. In many speeches he has demanded that President Obama obtain authorization from Congress before he takes military action against ISIS. He cogently argued that the Constitution provides that Congress alone has the authority to declare war. (The Commander in Chief can use military action when there’s an imminent threat to U.S. interests.) Cruz is absolutely right. The problem, of course, is that this is true for all actions that the President (and his predecessors) have taken since World War II. U.S. interests have become so widespread and all-encompassing that notifying Congress of military action has become a require act of reporting rather than a request for permission. Demanding a war authorization is the right thing to do; but the reality is Congress ceded that authority a long time ago.
Cruz is scheduled to introduce legislation soon (9/2014) that would revoke the U.S. citizenship of anyone fighting or providing support to terrorist groups working to attack the United States. “Americans who choose to go to Syria or Iraq to fight with vicious ISIS terrorists are party to a terrorist organization committing horrific acts of violence, including beheading innocent American journalists who they have captured,” Cruz said in a statement.
Of course Congress has no authority in the Constitution to revoke citizenship. Cruz, a lawyer, should know this. The legislation (or even the promise of it) is political theatre. So why give heed to this play versus the more flamboyant grandstanding he did on Obamacare and other issues like Immigration? The idea of this proposed law is McCarthyism, pure and simple. Wikipedia’s definition: “McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.” Named after U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy for his dogged pursuit of communists, the term is now used to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.
The era of Communist baiting in the United States is still a blemish on this country’s record of democracy.
The Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) is a Sunni extremist group that follows al-Qaeda's hard-line ideology and adheres to global jihadist principles. It is not a friend to the U.S. or to western style democracy. I do not support them, their ideas, ideals, practices, actions or anything about them. As vehemently and completely as I oppose all that they stand for I equally believe in individual’s rights to support something I don’t. Just because an American citizen supports ISIS (or Vladamir Putin or anybody else) is no reason to take away the citizenship that guarantees them the right of free expression and free association.
Individuals must be held responsible for their actions. In the event somebody took an action contrary to U.S. law, then there are consequences and the Constitution already considers all of that.
Introducing a piece of legislation that is not constitutional, inflames public opinion and further polarizes the political discourse is sadly not new, nor unique to Senator Cruz. As a de facto protégée of Senator McCarthy it will take years to undo the damage if this progresses. With a paralyzed legislative process its unlikely that it will ever become law. It’s this sort of behavior that gives clowns a bad name and make people afraid of them.