Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was in full Ted Cruz form Tuesday afternoon as he spoke to a rapt audience at the Willard Hotel in downtown Washington. The crowd, Concerned Veterans for America, was mostly in his corner. The setting was a dimly lit basement banquet room with enormous marble green columns, beautiful ornate chandeliers and a Christmas tree in the corner.
Simple. Festive. Cheery. And eventually, in came Cruz.
The Weekly Standard editor-in-chief Bill Kristol moderated a panel and introduced the senator, who was running late. Kristol is a decent emcee in that he makes jokes. He also acknowledges awkwardness.
“Am I just going to get a signal when Sen. Cruz shows up?” Kristol asked as he stood before the crowded room waiting for him to arrive. A few moments passed. “Let’s take a break!”
Just then, a gentleman at my table prepared to leave. “Sen. Cruz didn’t show up,” he told the table. “I can’t wait. You can tell him he missed the most important person.”
Soon Cruz arrived. Kristol returned to the podium.
“In my 30 years, I don’t know of any senator who’s made such a difference as Sen. Cruz has in a short two years,” he gushed.
Cruz, looking crisp with his signature slicked back hair and dark suit, began by lobbing a verbal smooch right back at Kristol and the audience.
“Thank you for your friendship and strong leadership in defending this country,” he said. “I want to thank y’all for being at this conference and focusing on issues of national security,” he said warmly.
He came right out with it: The world is not safe.
“What we’ve seen is America recede from leadership in the world — and it has not made the world a safer place,” said Cruz, building up to full Cruz momentum as he shifted between loudly pounding out his words and speaking softly.
His dramatic effect worked. The room was completely silent and still, with guests waiting on his every word.
With the 2016 presidential race coming up, Cruz made sure to repeatedly bash the “Obama-Clinton” foreign policy agenda.
“The failures of the Obama-Clinton [policies] are manifest,” he said. Sounding a little like Glenn Beck, he added, “It’s almost like the whole world is on fire right now.”
Just to inject some lightness, he said, “I guess Antarctica is doing well.” More seriously, “Leading from behind does not work.”
Cruz talked about what America should be rather than what it is.
“We should be the clarion voice for America,” he declared in his quiet, almost whispering voice.
Instead, he explained, America under Obama is failing. He spoke of a pastor being held in an Iranian prison and Obama doing nothing about it. He spoke of prison guards “throwing feces and urine.” And then, “I have a question. Where is America?”
Cruz addressed the U.S. getting involved in world-wide conflicts. His philosophy? “We should remain reluctant to engage in military conflict, but if we have to, we [should get in] and get the heck out.” Cruz said we shouldn’t try to turn countries into Switzerland. As he sees it, “It is our job to hunt down our enemies and kill them before they kill us.”
Moving on: Russian President Vladmir Putin, who Cruz doesn’t appear to be too fond of at all.
“Putin is not a complicated guy,” said Cruz. “He is a KGB thug. … When you’re working with a dictator on anything, they don’t respect weakness, it doesn’t work.”
On ISIS: “The president announced we have no policy on ISIS, which surprised zero point zero people on this planet.”
Cruz said the solution to ISIS “is not expanded Medicaid in Iraq.” (An older man’s laughter belted out of crowd after this one …)
The senator talked about terrorists in the Middle East who cannot be deterred. “Seventy-two virgins change that calculus,” he said to more laughter.
He returned to Obama bashing. “What a failure of leadership at a time when the world is on fire,” he said, again returning to that fire.
Cruz didn’t miss the chance to dig into Obama’s secretary of defense candidates. “It was disquieting to see person after person pull their name out of consideration for Secretary of Defense,” he said, noting that he’d give Ashton Carter, Obama’s new nominee a fair shot. “It is an unfortunate statement that we are facing the fourth secretary of defense in six years.”
On that note, said Cruz, “Thank you and God bless.”
Trish, a woman at my table from American Lifestyle Media who didn’t want to give her last name, seemed blown away by Cruz’ speech. “He exceeded my expectations,” she said, her eyes lighting up. “All I can say is: no TelePrompter.”
But not everyone was so enthralled.
Elena Tscherny, here from Peru, summed the speech up in a few words.
“Kind of terrifying,” she said.
Asked if she thought Cruz was exaggerating or blowing things out of proportion, she replied, “Yeah. I am scared of his military goals.”
No word on how this woman got into the event with views like this.