Politics & Policy

Boehner’s Unreasonable Attack on Cruz

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

We get it. John Boehner doesn’t like Ted Cruz. In a witless cheap shot, Boehner called him “Lucifer in the flesh” at an event at Stanford University. Boehner’s attitude is widespread among Republican insiders who are foolishly allowing personal ill will to cloud their reasoned judgment about who, among the candidates left in the GOP race, is the best representative of conservative principles and policies, and about who would be the best candidate in the upcoming general election.

On both counts, Cruz is the obvious choice. Ted Cruz is a constitutional conservative dedicated to reducing the outsized federal government to its proper size and functions, and to restoring to the states and the people as much freedom as possible. This has been the core of his message throughout his career, and throughout this campaign. Cruz is an outspoken opponent of abortion, a dedicated defender of the constitutional right to religious liberty, and a staunch advocate of the right to keep and bear arms — positions that he has considered carefully and that he can defend articulately. He has assembled a thoughtful, capable team of advisers to guide him. If he were president, we would have a good shot at getting a stronger economy, a Supreme Court with a less grandiose conception of its role, a less centralized health-care system, and a more sensible foreign policy.

And he is a disciplined candidate who has built an impressive campaign operation. Head-to-head polling shows him running within the margin of error against Hillary Clinton.

By comparison, the same polls suggest that Trump would run worse than his two Republican rivals: He is currently trailing Clinton by 8.5 points, on average, and currently has a toxic image among key groups in the broader public.

Boehner’s attitude is widespread among Republican insiders who are foolishly allowing personal ill will to cloud their reasoned judgment.

As for the substance, Trump is no constitutionalist, having suggested that as president he would “open up” libel laws to prosecute journalists and order American soldiers to commit war crimes. He has taken liberal stances on a variety of issues — abortion, transgenderism, Israel, &c. — then reversed himself, and he has polluted sound positions, like immigration hawkishness, with his boob-bait-for-Bubba demagoguery. On foreign policy, he has been largely incoherent, and occasionally appalling (e.g., his high regard for Vladimir Putin).

All of this is why prominent conservatives who might not be counted among Cruz’s friends — Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush come to mind — have urged the party to rally around Cruz as the only reliable conservative left in the race.

They’re right to do so, and not to give in to the petty grudge-holding of John Boehner. In 2013, when Cruz was engineering his ill-fated government shutdown, his Republican critics, including us, warned against interpreting tactical disagreements as evidence of disagreements about objectives. We encouraged conservatives not to indulge in knee-jerk responses that, though cathartic, would ultimately set back our common goals. That argument works in both directions. Whatever his personal feelings, Boehner agrees with Cruz on most questions of principle and policy, and it’s a shame he can’t act accordingly.

With a critical contest in Indiana just days away, Ted Cruz needs the support of any and all conservatives committed to a smaller state and greater individual liberty.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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