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September 03, 2014 9:52 AM When Will Ted Cruz Tell His Old Man to Get a Grip?

By Ed Kilgore

One of the things that makes U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) fascinating is the lift his career has given to the religio-political stylings of his father, the Rev. Rafael Cruz, director of Purifying Fire Ministeries, a spiritual warfare outfit from suburban Dallas. Now you’d think Cruz the Younger would be sufficiently right-wing to please most conservative palates. But no: he regularly sends the old man out to fire up crowds and say things most Republican orators only hint at. Robert Costa explained their relationship as follows about a year ago:

Cruz has kept his father, a 74-year-old pastor, involved with his political shop, using him not merely as a confidant and stand-in, but as a special envoy. He is Cruz’s preferred introductory speaker, his best messenger with evangelicals, and his favorite on-air sidekick — a presence who softens his edge….
This summer, father and son have also been traveling together throughout the country, speaking to conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere. Their roadshow has enthralled many on the right and startled Cruz’s potential 2016 rivals. No one else in the emerging GOP field has an ally like the charismatic elder Cruz….
There was Rafael Cruz in Des Moines, Iowa, last month, speaking to ministers at the Marriott hotel and collecting business cards in the lobby; a month later, he was in Ames, Iowa, pacing the stage at a conservative summit and drawing cheers for his broadsides against President Obama. His fiery speech at a FreedomWorks event in July drew heavy praise from talk radio.
Rush Limbaugh especially loved how Rafael Cruz compared the president’s “hope and change” message to Fidel Castro’s appeal decades ago. “This guy is knocking it out of the park!” Limbaugh exclaimed.
Conservative leaders agree. Bob Vander Plaats, a top Iowa conservative who hosted the Cruz duo last month, calls Rafael Cruz’s speeches “inspiring” and says the image of a father and son laboring together resonates with values voters. Former senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who now runs the Heritage Foundation, is another admirer. He has worked alongside Rafael Cruz this month to rally against Obamacare.

Trouble is, Rafael Cruz has a tendency to say things many of us consider kinda cray-cray. I first really paid attention to him when he spoke at the 2013 Family Leader Summit in Iowa:

He dated the slide towards national degeneracy to the 1963 Supreme Court decision banning school prayer, the “massacre of 55 million babies” to Roe v. Wade, and the introduction of full-on socialism in America to the administration of Jimmy Carter (!), held in abeyance solely by the mobilization of Christians on behalf of Ronald Reagan.

Soon after that David Corn of MoJo got interested in Rafael Cruz and easily dug up some rich examples of the old man espousing up-front Christian Nationalist Dominionism and calling the President of the United States a Marxist determined to exterminate religious belief. Confronted with the cray-cray, Ted Cruz’s office blandly indicated Rafael didn’t speak for his son. And best I can tell, the Ted ‘n’ Rafael tag team road show went on exactly as before.

Now a new video of Rafael Cruz has popped up wherein he tells a conservative audience in Texas about his encounter with an African-American “Democrat” pastor in Bakersfield, California, as an example of the dreadful ignorance of black folks who—believe it or not—don’t understand that “government handouts” have enslaved them; that legalized abortion is a racist genocidal conspiracy aimed at people of color; and that the Republican Party is responsible for all civil rights legislation. The money quote that’s getting picked up here and there comes from Cruz’ characterization of a book by black conservative journalist Jason Riley:

Jason Riley said in an interview, Did you know before we had minimum wage laws black unemployment and white unemployment were the same? If we increase the minimum wage, black unemployment will skyrocket. See, he understands it, but the average black does not.

Now you might think this doesn’t rank among the top ten most offensive things Pastor Cruz says every time he opens his mouth. But there’s something about the effortless and absolutely self-convinced way he says outrageous things that makes it a bit startling the first time you are exposed to his act.

The funny thing is that you’d figure Rand Paul was the potential 2016 candidate with the most significant Daddy Issues. If Rafael Cruz keeps it up, and there’s zero reason to think a zealot like him won’t, Ted Cruz may have to spend more time defending him than he’d like—or have a quiet son-to-father talk followed by some dog-whistle training for the Reverend.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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