Book Review: A Time for Truth by Ted Cruz

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A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America by Texas Senator Ted Cruz is as generic as its main title, which is also the title of 1978’s A Time for Truth by former Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon, a Republican like Cruz (Simon followed up in 1980 with A Time for Action). There’s also an interesting detail about the book’s title. More on that later.

Ted Cruz does give a general sense of himself and his ideas in this 2015 memoir. Though reading political memoirs is generally a slog and this one is no exception, the first-term senator comes across as generally authentic if calculated. As with Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, he writes in the spirit of guarded disclosure, as if he’s telling tales from the past in a way that’s designed to conceal and protect as much as to reveal and inform.

The approach is a compartmentalized, not really integrated, political career chronology more or less aligned with Cruz’s personal life. By now, most readers know his basic biography, the fact of his becoming a Christian, his father from Communist Cuba, his working mother, his wife and daughters, the Ivy League education and legal career before being elected U.S. senator from the Lone Star state. I do not get a strong sense of his character from the biographical writing. He does, however, express a particular view of the world.

Judging by A Time for Truth, Cruz seems primarily moved by a desire to become influential in some meaningful sense, and everything here indicates that he very much wants to become president of the United States. Whether he’s a zealot or an idealist is hard to tell, and in either case he writes like he’s a missionary. Certain positives and negatives emerge and the whole exercise of reading political memoir for scrutiny of a man’s true intentions and character is part of what makes it exhausting and tedious; the reader ought to be able to access and become acquainted with the presidential candidate’s character and views in the most naturally affirming and embracing way. All I can tell from this book is that he thinks he’s here to realize his mission, such as he defines it, and that, during his first elected term as a senator, he thinks he should be president. But so did Barack Obama.

I do appreciate that Sen. Cruz takes stock of President Obama’s basic value proposition back in 2008. Too many on the right dismiss those who considered voting for then-Sen. Obama as simple-minded because, they argue, it was obvious from the start that he was out to destroy America. Cruz rightly argues otherwise, writing that “[i]n 2006, Obama had declared that ‘increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally.’ [Obama] added at one point that ‘Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.’ This seemingly principled position changed dramatically when Obama won the presidency.”

Noting Obama’s early deception is important because it differentiates Cruz from Obama. Like Fidel Castro before he seized power in Cuba, Obama had defined himself in 2008 by platitudes. There was nothing clear and obvious about Obama’s plans to change, by which he meant destroy, America. Leonard Peikoff observed in late 2008 that Obama is dishonest, yet the full extent was not clear to most until he was elected. By then, damage was being done, leaving a lone outcry from the floor of Congress during an Obama speech: “He lies!”

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, gets right to naming his beliefs. Writing about his father’s conversion to Christianity, Cruz writes:

shortly after 11 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, 1975, he dropped to his knees and surrendered his life to Jesus. That day changed his life, and mine as well. The following Sunday, he made a public profession of faith at Clay Road, a small church in the suburbs of Houston. And the next week, he went to the airport, bought a ticket, and flew back to Canada, returning to my mother and me. He asked my mom to forgive him, and for them to start over. Five years later, in 1979, I too asked Jesus to be my savior at Clay Road Baptist Church.”

Cruz’s profession of faith is, as I wrote a few years ago (“Ted Cruz and Praying for Time”), disturbing to any advocate for reason. Throughout A Time for Truth, it is clear that faith affects, impacts and contaminates Cruz’s ability to think. Cruz does not hide this fact. He relishes it, as one would expect. For example, he wrongly concludes that the United States is founded as a Judeo-Christian nation as he recalls a college professor who also influenced a fellow famous Texan in media:

I had wonderful professors in college, most notably Robby George, one of the leading conservative thinkers in the nation. Learning from Professor George was one of the best things about Princeton. The New York Times has called him the ‘country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.’ As Glenn Beck has observed, George is ‘one of the biggest brains in America.’ From abortion to marriage to the natural rights of men and women, George is a sometimes lonely but always powerful voice within academia for the Judeo-Christian values on which this country was founded.”

For those concerned about the future of the Supreme Court, it’s worth noting that Cruz, who proposed having an elected Supreme Court, also admits to being “strongly influenced by Robert Bork’s 1978 classic, The Antitrust Paradox.” Like Ronald Reagan, whom he also admires, Ted Cruz expresses an American sense of life, observing that “[u]ntil the time of the American experiment, much of human existence had been, as Hobbes famously observed, ‘nasty, brutish and short.’ Now, with American free enterprise, the possibilities were endless—not guaranteed, but also not limited.” Quoting Reagan, he praises “individual freedom and the profit motive”.

But what constitutes freedom to Ted Cruz is always contradicted by his faith. For instance, he argues that “[t]he First Amendment was not adopted to create government hostility to religion; rather, the First Amendment exists to protect the religious liberty of every American.” This of course is not true. The freedom of speech is inalienable and it exists as recognition that man is free to express himself, not as a means to protecting liberty—let alone “religious liberty”, a confused, meaningless term—but as an example of liberty. Cruz is a typical conservative, too, arguing for anti-obscenity laws. He is not an advocate of freedom of speech, he totally fails to hold the Obama administration to account on this crucial issue and he concludes that the freedom of speech “can be prohibited.” It is good to know that Cruz opposes free speech and may as president, like Obama, seek to impose censorship.

In chapter after chapter of his memoir, Ted Cruz, who I think is tragically the best among the current field of major 2016 presidential candidates (as I wrote in “The Iowa Caucuses”) demonstrates a failure to grasp man’s rights and the nature of government. On ObamaCare, which he correctly denounces for “[d]enying individual choice and freedom”, he opposes the government takeover of the medical profession and insurance industry as “antithetical to the American way and our tradition of liberty.” But ObamaCare is a law, not a lifestyle choice, and it is important to know that this six-year-old law violates the rights of every American to choose, practice and contract for health care. Cruz, citing tradition and the American way, makes it sound like ObamaCare’s worst transgression is its newness. Liberty is the American birthright. Of course, this deficit in his understanding applies to his refusal to recognize a woman’s right to abortion. So, while he rightly derides ObamaCare as denying the individual’s free choice, he makes the same mistake.

Cruz’s flaws are serious. He pledges to “[p]reserve and reform our entitlements…”, supports a Constitutional amendment to force upon the country a balanced budget, a terrifying prospect for the future of freedom in what is now an entrenched welfare state, he wants to impose government term limits, which is also incompatible with liberty, and he proposes a “lifetime ban on former members of Congress ever lobbying”, which again raises questons about his inclination to censorship. Additionally, he wrongly labels Democrats as “the party of government”, failing to distinguish what he means by government and explain that Democrats are the party of big government, and he writes that he thinks government should “foster productivity”, which is also not the proper role for the state. State-sponsored fostering of productivity has led to countless American dangers and disasters, from the 1930s Depression and TARP, stimulus and bailouts to statist Donald Trump.

But Sen. Cruz, who was recently endorsed by economist Thomas Sowell, has also proven himself to be capable of bold, independent, rational thought and action. He opposes government subsidies for ethanol, yet he decisively won last month’s Iowa caucuses. He seeks to repeal ObamaCare, a monstrosity that deserves to have been abolished years ago. He pledges to take a measured, cautious approach to foreign policy, resisting the altruistic approach of Bush in Iraq, and vows to wipe out the Islamic jihad. And, most important in an election year with a Bush, a Bush wannabe, a Clinton, a socialist and a fascist, Cruz demonstrates a serious, scholarly grasp of the enormous challenges that lie ahead.

In A Time for Truth, for example, Cruz puts Obama’s presidency in perspective:

The [press], despite its overwhelming support for the president and his policies, has also been the target of harassment. Two years ago, without bothering even to reveal its reasons, the administration secretly collected two months of phone records from the staff of the Associated Press, which called the action ‘a massive and unprecedented intrusion into how news organizations gather news.’ That same year, they targeted James Rosen, a reporter at Fox News, by labeling him a possible ‘co-conspirator’ in a leak investigation. To quote the New York Times editorial board—not something I expect to make a habit of—the Obama administration, with its abuse of Rosen, ‘moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news.’

In our history presidents of both parties have at times abused their power and exceeded their constitutional authority. But in the past, members of the president’s own party—in Congress, in his cabinet, and among independent groups—have shown the courage and principle to stand up to him.

What is unprecedented is the remarkable silence of Democrats in the face of Barack Obama’s lawlessness and massive expansion of federal power. The sad fact is that for the Democrats in Washington—and for far too many in my own party as well—politics comes before principle. Electoral considerations come before country. And no offense perpetrated by a party’s leader is too outrageous for them to defend.

When President Bush exceeded his constitutional authority and attempted to order the state courts to obey the World Court, I was proud to go before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Texas and defend the Constitution. The Court struck down his unconstitutional order, 6–3. Where are the Democrats willing to do the same to stop their party’s abuse of power?

An executive’s defiance of the rule of law ought to trouble every American—if only because Barack Obama will not be president forever. Even if you agree with Obama’s policies, if this president has the power to ignore the law, then so do his successors—including successors from the opposing party.

This is not what our Founders hoped for. This is not the vision for our country that millions of Americans share. And it does not have to be this way. The genius of the Constitution is that it protects our country from executive branch excesses through the system of checks and balances. The legislative and judicial branches can impose limits on the executive’s assertion of power—provided we as public officials have the political will to do it. With the proper leadership, we can restore the purpose and vision behind the American experiment.”

Notably, and disconcertingly, Ted Cruz’s A Time for Truth also neglects to mention the September 11, 2001 Islamic attack on America in a chapter on the Bush administration, for whom he once worked. Worse, Cruz writes that he thinks “God knew what He was doing in 2001.” This really calls his rationality into question. Today, Cruz agreed with the Obama administration forcing Apple to decode its own iPhone in the name of national security.

Whether President Cruz would be as good or as bad as his best and worst qualities suggest remains, as with pre-election Barack Obama, unknown. I know that his competition in the presidential contest is atrocious. I also know that some of his positions are excellent and some of his positions are terrible. After reading A Time for Truth and trying to take a measure of the man and his character, I think it’s a positive sign of self-awareness that he recalls excelling in the classroom, being too competitive and cocky and being lousy at sports. He also remembers pulling what he calls a teenage prank at Christmastime which involves taking lights from several houses and decorating another house with them, which strikes me as quite elaborate for a prank.

In preparation for this review, I came across an alternate and apparently rejected book cover art which replaced the book’s current subtitle, Reigniting the Promise of America, with the subtitle: Reigniting the Miracle of America. This may be a sign that Cruz either ditched or dodged his faith for a less mystical, more secular tone. Whatever the case, and whether Ted Cruz is nominated and elected the 45th president of the United States, A Time for Truth contains evidence of both.


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Related

The 2012 Republicans

The 2012 Democrats

Ted Cruz and Praying for Time (2013)

The Iowa Caucuses (2016)

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