Marco Rubio’s robotic recitation of anti-Obama talking points may have been the biggest story coming out of Saturday’s GOP presidential debate, but at least one candidate stood out with his unrelenting dishonesty: Ted Cruz.
Following his opening statement, almost every remark from Cruz was either completely misleading or flat-out wrong.
1) Dirty Tricks
Cruz kicked things off by flatly lying about his campaign’s role in propagating a rumor about one of his rivals leaving the race during last week’s Iowa caucuses.
Shortly before Iowans started casting votes, the Cruz campaign urged its supporters to tell caucus-goers that Ben Carson was likely dropping out of the race and that his supporters should back Cruz instead.
At the debate, Cruz blamed a CNN report for suggesting that Carson was withdrawing from the race, claiming that it was an honest mistake from his campaign and blaming the network for only having “corrected” its reporting several hours later in the evening.
Cruz’s claim is bogus, and seeing that the dirty tricks story has been in the news for days, he must know by now that it is not true.
CNN never reported that Carson was quitting the presidential campaign. Its first report on Carson’s plan to fly to his Florida home after the caucuses, apparently so he could get a fresh set of clothes, stated that the neurosurgeon planned “to stay in the race beyond Iowa no matter what the results are tonight.”
“CNN never reported that Carson was suspending his campaign and never issued a correction, because there was no need to do so,” Dylan Byers notes. CNN itself strongly rebutted Cruz’s claim: “What Senator Cruz said tonight in the debate is categorically false. CNN never corrected its reporting because CNN never had anything to correct. The Cruz campaign's actions the night of the Iowa caucuses had nothing to do with CNN's reporting. The fact that Senator Cruz continues to knowingly mislead the voters about this is astonishing.”
The Texas senator’s campaign, it seems, is trying to cover up one lie with another.
2) North Korea
On the topic of North Korea, Cruz said that the Clinton administration allowed “billions of dollars” to flow into North Korea and that “the lead negotiator in that failed North Korea sanctions deal was a woman named Wendy Sherman who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton promptly recruited to come back to be the lead negotiator with Iran.”
The Washington Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee writes that Cruz’s statement “significantly overstates the monetary benefits of the Clinton deal to North Korea.” As part of a limited accord known as the Agreed Framework, the North Korean government agreed to replace a “plutonium reactor with two light-water reactors,” and in return the U.S. supplied the country “with 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil every year to make up for the theoretical loss of the reactor while the new ones were built.” Any money involved in the deal, writes the Post’s Glenn Kessler, went to companies outside of North Korea.
“It’s simply false that Clinton eased sanctions that led to billions of dollars flowing into North Korea, allowing it to build a nuclear weapon,” Kessler writes. “Virtually no funds were received by North Korea as a result of the Agreed Framework. He also notes that Cruz’s claim about Sherman is “also wrong,” since “she did not negotiate the Agreed Framework.”
Cruz finished his remarks by alleging that North Korea or another state could then use a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack to “take down the entire electrical grid on the Eastern seaboard, potentially killing millions,” a notion roundly dismissed as overblown by security experts but is popular in right-wing media.
After receiving applause for suggesting that he would task Donald Trump with building a wall along America’s southern border, Cruz said he would offer no path to legal status for any of the undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., instead promising to deport them all through existing law.
“I will enforce the law, and for everyone who says you can’t possibly do that, I would note that in eight years, Bill Clinton deported 12 million people,” he said. “In eight years, George W. Bush deported 10 million people. Enforcing the law — we can do it. What is missing is the political will.”
The Associated Press reports that Cruz’s figures on past administrations are just plain wrong: “Statistics from Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that roughly 1.6 million were deported under Bush, not 11 million. Under Clinton, about 870,000 immigrants were deported, not 12 million, according to the Migration Policy Institute. So far, about 2.4 million have been deported under the Obama administration.”
He also falsely claimed that undocumented immigrants are eligible for federal welfare benefits.
Cruz, unsurprisingly, is no stranger to telling falsehoods about immigration.
4) Health care
Cruz’s rant against the “disaster” of “socialized medicine,” in which he warned of health care rationing and doctor shortages, was so egregious that Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post laid out a six-point debunking of his claims.
Cohn notes that “countries with ‘socialized medicine’ seem to be getting results that are as good if not better than what the U.S. gets from its health care system — and they do so while spending far less money” and tend to have more physicians per capita than the U.S.
The rationing claim, reminiscent of the “death panel” smear, is also misleading, as countries with “socialized medicine” perform just as well if not better in providing services like hip replacements, while de facto rationing already exists America, as many people cannot afford or are unable to access health services.
When asked about his remarks mocking Donald Trump’s temperament, Cruz pivoted to criticizing President Obama, whom he said “is unwilling even to acknowledge the enemy we’re facing.” “[Obama] will not even use the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ much less focus on defeating the enemy,” he said.
Cruz’s insistence that the Obama administration is ignoring the threat from terrorism came amidst news that a U.S. drone strike killed a senior commander of Al Qaeda and that ISIS is losing territory and followers in the Mideast in the wake of a U.S.-backed campaign against the terrorist organization.
He seems to think that the problem could be solved just by uttering the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” even though many experts caution that using such terms could be a huge propaganda victory for terrorists who try to claim that they are the true Muslims fighting against western powers that are warring against Islam, along with isolating the vast majority of Muslims and Muslim-led governments that oppose groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Cruz also misled on what he called the “generally recognized” definition of torture in his defense of waterboarding.
After criticizing the “James [sic] Bergdahl deal,” Cruz also denounced the Obama administration for releasing or ending the prosecution of “up to 21 terrorists or potential terrorists” as part of a deal with Iran to secure the release of four American prisoners.
Cruz was wrong on both counts: The U.S. only released seven people who were convicted or prosecuted for violating trade sanctions on Iran or, in one case, hacking a Vermont engineering business. The other 14 were only facing extradition and do not reside in the U.S.
Naturally, Cruz also used debunked revisionist history to extol the Reagan administration's dealings with Iran.
Of course, we’ve known for quite a long time that Cruz has a difficult time with the truth.