I seldom do a post that is little more than a reading recommendation with a link. And I seldom have a lot of good things to say about David Brooks. But I do believe in giving credit where credit is due, and this portrait of Cruz by Brooks is truly exceptional. Even (or especially) if you are inclined to pass Brooks over, give this a second look: definitely worth a read. And if you are left with any doubt that Cruz is an asshole and a jerk, you can check out Josh Marshall’s accounts here and here. Warning: Marshall, unlike Brooks, can be accused of liberal bias.
Salon writer Amanda Marcotte provides a useful, more critical perspective on Brooks’ column. Marcotte pummels Brooks for portraying Cruz as a betrayer of Christian conservatism, which, Brooks says, has often emphasized the need to lend a helping hand to the economically stressed and the least fortunate. Marcotte will have none of that:
The reality is that Ted Cruz is what these folks [i.e., Christian rightists] have always been: Mean-spirited people who use religion as a cover for their desire to control and punish. Brooks isn’t wrong that Christianity is supposed to espouse “humility, mercy, compassion and grace,” but for the Christian right, that’s always just been a handy disguise to wear while working on the true mission, which is control, punishment, deprivation, and abuse.
Marcotte can be faulted for overstatement and overgeneralization–there are undoubtedly Christian rightists who are genuinely compassionate people. And she is rather too hard on Brooks, who, notwithstanding his political myopia, has written a terrific personal portrait. But her broader political point is valid: Cruz fits quite well in the Christian conservative tradition, as a personification of its ugliest impulses.