How Can You Tell When Ted Cruz Is About to Dis A Colleague?

The Texas senator's ubiquitous set-up line: “He's a good man.”

Photographer: Bloomberg/Getty Images

When it comes to dealing with potential 2016 election opponents, Senator Ted Cruz seems to have settled on a response: He calls him a “good man.”

Take, for example, his description of Rick Santorum, who recently criticized Cruz and others in the New York Times. “I think Rick Santorum is a good man, and he’s entitled to express his views,” Cruz said Tuesday morning on “Fox & Friends.” But what voters will be looking for, he said, was someone willing to stand up and lead. 

Sometimes Cruz calls someone a good man without the added "but." Despite refusing to endorse fellow Texas Senator John Cornyn in his 2014 re-election race, Cruz in March 2014 called him “a friend and a good man” in a Facebook post. But more often than not, “good man” is a precursor to an assessment of the candidate’s shortcomings.

Here are six examples of Cruz complimenting good men (both female candidates and instances of “good woman” are rare) who have or might run for president. 

Santorum 

During an interview published Monday in the New York Times, the former Pennsylvania senator asked if we “really want someone with this little experience” running for president, referring to Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Cruz. He said that the latter two were better known for their words than their actions. “Do we really want somebody who’s a bomb thrower, with no track record of any accomplishments?” he said.

Paul’s senior adviser told the Times they wouldn’t respond to comments from someone who has spent years “trying to convince people to elect him to an even higher office than the one he was booted out of.” (Santorum lost his 2006 Senate re-election race by 18 points.)

Cruz? He called the former senator a good man, then argued that ultimately voters want someone who’ll take a stand. 

“What I think that people are going to assess is who’s standing up and leading,” he said Tuesday. “I mean that’s the test, as a primary voter, that I intend to apply.”

Jeb Bush

As David Weigel noted, Cruz has said multiple times over the last few months that, while he likes Jeb Bush, the only way Republicans will win in 2016 is if they pick someone who isn’t a moderate. During a December 2014 appearance on Fox News’ Hannity, Cruz called Bush “a good man” who “did a good job as governor in Florida.”

But “I believe the only way we win in 2016 is if we follow Reagan’s admonition, if we paint in bold colors and not pale pastels, that if we continue to run to the mushy middle that the same voters who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home again and we will not win.”

Paul Ryan

The 2013 government shutdown has largely been blamed on Cruz, despite his statements arguing the opposite. So when Ryan said in September 2014—both in interviews and in his book “The Way Forward”—that the shutdown was a “suicide mission” for House Republicans, Cruz complimented him. 

“I like Paul Ryan, he’s a good man,” Cruz said in an interview with the Tea Party News Network. “I will say I don’t think it is beneficial when Republican leadership throws rocks at conservatives, at conservative activists across this country.”

Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney

Possibly the best line in Cruz’s 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference speech was his ‘have you heard the one about the three moderate Republican presidents’ joke. “All of us remember President Dole, and President McCain, and President Romney,” he said. “Now, look, those are good men, they’re decent men, but when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”

At least two people weren’t laughing. Bob Dole told NBC News that “Cruz should check my voting record before making comments. I was one of President Reagan's strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional Republican conservative.” McCain said that while he and Romney could take it, going after Dole—who was gravely wounded in World War II—“crossed a line.”

Marco Rubio

In July 2013, Jonathan Karl at ABC’s “This Week” asked Cruz if he opposed the immigration reform bill’s pathway to citizenship. He did. Karl asked if he thought the bill would pass. He said he didn’t. Then he asked Cruz if supporting immigration reform would hurt Rubio—the “captain” of the Senate effort to pass the bill—and his political future.

CRUZ: Oh I don’t know. Marco Rubio is a friend of mine. He’s a good man. I like him, I respect him. And I think on immigration I think he proceeded in good faith. I think he believes in the Gang of 8 Bill. 

But...

KARL: But you also think he’s dead wrong on it.

CRUZ: If the Gang of 8 Bill became the law, in another 10, 20 years, we wouldn’t have 11 million people here illegally, we’d have 20 or 30 million.

Mitt Romney (Part II)

During a speech to a group of conservative activists weeks after the 2012 presidential election, Cruz said Romney lost because of his infamous "47-percent" comment. “I think Mitt Romney’s a good man, a man of character, a man who ran a hard, disciplined campaign,” he said, according to a transcript from the Atlantic. “But Republicans nationally, the story we conveyed, was 47 percent are stuck in a static world. We don’t have to worry about them is what that clip famously said … I cannot think of an idea more antithetical to the American principles this country was founded on.”

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