Washington Gadfly

Cruz Attacked For Isolationist Dog Whistle

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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Maybe the next time Ted Cruz wants to appropriate the language of a famous aviator while debating the other GOP presidential contenders he should choose Chesley Sullenberger instead of Charles Lindbergh.

Cruz today was blasted by Marco Rubio’s super PAC and neo-con intellectuals because at the debate he called for an “America First” foreign policy when attacking Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s supposed misadventures overseas.

Lindbergh’s America First Committee, of course, was the leading group opposed to the United States entering World War II or even providing aid to Great Britain and other groups fighting the Nazis.

God forgive me for sounding like Chris Matthews but it is reasonable to conclude that Cruz, a Harvard-trained lawyer who chooses his words carefully, knew full well that his term is a dog whistle for isolationists. In fact, a Marco Rubio super PAC reportedly blasted Cruz for barking up that tree.

Conservative Solutions PAC chairmen Warren Tompkins told donors in an email that, “Ted Cruz is no dummy” and “knows what he’s saying when he calls for an ‘America First’ policy. ‘America First’ was the pro-German organization in the 1940s that advocated keeping America out of World War II. It was also the phrase used by Pat Buchanan in his isolationist campaign in 1992.”

“Cruz should explain why he is choosing to describe his position in the same way as noted isolationists in American history,” the email continues. “And he should explain why his voting record against our intelligence capabilities and military funding, and his position in favor of anti-American dictators is not in keeping with those harmful chapters in our history.”

Similarly, Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin blasted Cruz this morning for sinking “further into the far-right brew of isolationism and xenophobia.”

Rubin quoted AEI vice president Danielle Pletka saying, “Good for Ted Cruz for being honest. He doesn’t want to be anywhere in the world, doesn’t want America to lead, and harkening back to the likes of Pat Buchanan and Charles Lindbergh is truth in advertising for him.”

Don’t speak too fast, Danielle. Thus far, Cruz has displayed slickness, not honesty. He basically endorsed historical isolationism without saying so outright.

The Cruz campaign has not responded to the criticism as of mid-Wednesday afternoon. It remains to be seen if he will embrace the term or claim his remarks are being taken out of context.

There should not be any forbidden words in election campaigns. But politicians who use loaded language with obvious historical connotations should defend the terminology, not run away from it or dismiss criticism as “political correctness” run amok.

If Cruz does not want people to compare him to Charles Lindbergh then he shouldn’t talk like him.