Is Ted Cruz Trying to Reinvent Himself as a Civil Libertarian?

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Ted Cruz's first two months in the Senate have been anything but successful, earning him the scorn of his own party and a reputation as an extremist, do-nothing senator.

Time for a political makeover. Last week, when Sen. Rand Paul stood up to filibuster the Obama administration's drone policy, Cruz joined him, reading tweets in support of the filibuster. Last Thursday, Cruz and Paul introduced a bill they wrote together to prohibit the executive branch from dispatching unmanned drones to kill non-threatening U.S. citizens on American soil and to define “drone” as “an unmanned aircraft” while determining that the “prohibition under this subsection shall not apply to an individual who poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to another individual.” The bill came a day after Attorney General Holder said that the Obama administration doesn't consider itself able to drone-kill Americans not posing an imminent threat.

Well, it's a good bill because it's a good idea to put that restriction into federal law. But for Cruz, the politics are obvious. This is a man who said nothing, and I do mean nothing about the Bush administration's widespread, systematic abuse of American civil liberties. Cruz is an Obama-hater by trade, and he saw that Paul's filibuster was gaining support and hopped onto the civil liberties bandwagon.

His silence on this issue before the filibuster shows that without the groundswell of popular support for the filibuster, Cruz wouldn't give a damn about the drone policy. This is politics at its most naked. Is this part of a deliberate political makeover for Cruz, a sort of reset button for Cruz's term?

It certainly seems like it is. But the problem is this: Cruz won't be able to take it very far. The difference between him and Sen. Paul is that Cruz has never met a war he didn't want to cuddle with, he supports Guantanamo Bay, and he has no problem with warrantless wiretapping or the recently-signed National Defense Authorization Act's legalization of indefinite detention of Americans. Sen. Paul has built his career on longstanding opposition to the whole host of civil liberties violations and foreign policy miscues perpetrated by our government over the last decade – as well as many insane economic policies that favor only the wealthy.

Cruz can only walk so far with Paul on the path of civil liberties, so there's a natural limit to the extent of this makeover. And at some point soon, when Congress is focused on domestic issues, Cruz will reveal himself once more to be the rabid, anti-progress senator that he is.

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

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