Ted Cruz is talking foreign policy because it's generating headlines, and generating headlines is one of Ted Cruz's skills. But it will be interesting to watch Cruz feel his way through this issue as he explores a potential presidential campaign.
The Texas Republican is admired in conservative circles for his stands on domestic issues, namely his opposition to the Affordable Care Act. When it comes to international affairs, it's harder to define Cruz than other potential 2016 contenders like fellow Senators Rand Paul, who advocates a hands-off approach, and Marco Rubio, who wants to increase ground troops in Afghanistan. On Sept. 20, the Washington Post's Dan Balz picked apart Cruz's statements on fighting the Islamic State, showing that Cruz's plea to "bomb them back to the Stone Age" didn't exactly amount to foreign policy plan. And as the National Journal pointed out Monday, Cruz's statements are sometimes contradictory:
In one breath he says, "It is not the job of our military to occupy countries across the globe and try to turn them into Democratic utopias," and in the next he calls the Islamic State "the face of evil" and argues they must be defeated with overwhelming military force. These principles are not inherently in conflict, but as many presidents have come to realize, they are often difficult to marry.
So what are the foreign policy credentials for Cruz, who has no military experience and doesn't sit on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee? (The upshot: Cruz's opponents won't have much to target.)
• He voted against President Barack Obama's top foreign affairs nominations: Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Cruz was one of three senators to oppose Kerry, saying the former Democratic presidential candidate had a "less-than-vigorous defense of U.S. national security issues." His opposition to Hagel, in which Cruz implied the former Vietnam combat veteran and Republican senator may have received money from North Korea and Saudi Arabia, drew the scorn of several colleagues, including fellow Republican John McCain.
• The one bill Cruz has had signed into law denies visas to United Nations ambassadors who are known terrorists.
The bill was aimed at Iran's U.N. ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi, who participated in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The Obama administration had said it wouldn't approve a visa for Aboutalebi, but the president signed the bill anyway, saying the changes were only "advisory" and noting his constitutional right to receive or reject ambassadors.
• Cruz led the charge to strip IMF funding from an aid package for Ukraine.
While Cruz and other Republicans were threatening to oppose the aid package unless funding for the International Monetary Fund was removed, Rubio took the opposite view, writing in the Washington Post that "the need to send a strong bipartisan message of solidarity to the people of Ukraine and a statement of resolve to Moscow far outweighs any misgivings I and others might have."
Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid eventually took the opposite view, as Democrats stripped the IMF funding to win support for the aid package.