When U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced on “Face the Nation” recently that he’d be running for a third term, he was pressed by moderator Margaret Brennan about the “term limits” legislation he’s filed. His response was typical equivocation.
“Two-term Sen. Ted Cruz on Sunday sought to fend off questions about his intention to seek a third term after introducing a constitutional amendment that would restrict senators to two terms in office,” CBS News reported in February. “During an interview on the CBS News program, ‘Face the Nation,’ host Margaret Brennan pressed the Texas Republican about his decision to run for a third term, asking him why he’s doing the very same thing he’s seeking to restrict. His response, ‘If and when it passes, I will happily, happily comply. I’ve never said I’m going to unilaterally comply.’”
I remember several more interesting episodes from Cruz’s illustrious career – like heading off to Mexico when the power went off in Texas. He blamed it on his daughter, who on social media indicated that wasn’t the case, saying the trip was not that important to her. I’ll bet that was a happy family conversation in the Cruz household.
Then, of course, he spent years criticizing and trying to undo the Affordable Care Act, only to sign his family up for coverage under it.
Apparently, Cruz and many other politicians have never heard the adage: “Actions speak louder than words.” Why is it that so many people either in public office or running for it find it so hard to speak honestly and with transparency about what they truly believe?
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cleared that up for us in 2002: “We know there are known knowns: There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns: That is to say there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Apparently, there are categories of ignorance.
We may remember former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s famous grasp of history:
“… The very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”
Yes, they did. It only took “four score and seven years” and a bloody Civil War, and the founders’ tireless efforts were rewarded.
Then, there was the trailblazing maverick Sarah Palin, who was going to keep an eye on Russia with binoculars from her front porch. Republican Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s deep and profound understanding of the Constitution.
“Protecting and defending the Constitution doesn’t mean trying to rewrite the parts you don’t like,” she famously tweeted a year ago.
Perhaps the Constitution specifically, and civics in general, weren’t covered much in her educational background. and while her freedom of speech remains inviolate, perhaps she should exercise more frequently her right to remain silent. That’s taken from the 5th Amendment, under protection against self-incrimination. That’s how we “rewrite” parts that weren’t covered originally, or that no longer apply.
Of course, political blunders aren’t limited to conservatives. President Joe Biden once referred to himself as a “gaffe machine,” and he wasn’t wrong. Everyone can misspeak, particularly under scrutiny and in the spotlight. But the key is that once something inaccurate or lacking insight is proclaimed by a public figure, it is critical that he or she either corrects the record or at the least explain what was meant. What’s wrong is to dig their heels in deeper.
Those in authority can’t just make outrageous utterances to the public and not be held accountable. and they cannot take umbrage when others point out the fallacies in what they’ve said or written. A notable former president didn’t understand that. His mantra seemed to be that if he said something and repeated it often enough (and loudly), that it would become an accepted fact.
Credibility is something that has to be earned over and over, and can be easily undone by fiction. So too is trust. There are too many sources and people who are checking everything for accuracy. Spreading inaccuracy and misinformation is just too easy to do, but so too is getting caught.
I enjoyed the response of Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, to Lauren Boebert’s rant in the House about Democrats trying to curtail the right to free speech by the Department of Homeland Security.
“Unlike some of our colleagues on the other side, we’re not interested in censoring other people’s speech,” Raskin told the chamber as reported in Huffpost last May. “We want the whole world to see how the gentlelady from Colorado speaks, in public, as a member of Congress. We want everyone to look at that.”
To Cruz and others who should be seeking to lead and represent us with candor, transparency, and integrity, I end with the wise words of President Abraham Lincoln: “Say what you mean and do what you say, even if it’s costly and inconvenient.”
Tom Walters recently retired as the fine arts director for Methuen Public Schools. He lives in Londonderry and has a blog: imthinkingno.com. Reach him at email@example.com.
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