On Friday we noted that The New Yorker had dug up a three year old speech in which freshman Sen. Ted Cruz had charged that there were at least a dozen professors at Harvard Law School during his time there in the mid-90s who “would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
Professor Charles Fried, a Republican and Reagan administration Solicitor General, shot down Cruz’s claims and criticized his recklessness.
Now Cruz has responded through his spokesperson Catherine Frazier. The response? Cruz is totally right if you change what Cruz said.
“It’s curious that the New Yorker would dredge up a three-year-old speech and call it ‘news’. Regardless, Senator Cruz’s substantive point was absolutely correct: in the mid-1990s, the Harvard Law School faculty included numerous self-described proponents of ‘critical legal studies’ — a school of thought explicitly derived from Marxism - and they far outnumbered Republicans.”
Now ‘Critical Legal Studies’ does derive some of its ideas from the Marxian tradition. But Cruz didn’t say there are some professors at Harvard who belong to a school of legal thought with a Marxian background. He said there were a dozen who “say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
The handful of people Cruz now says he was referring are Social Democrats, not communists. And there’s zero evidence any of them support overthrowing the government of the United States, let alone openly saying so, as Cruz claims. This isn’t the 1930s we’re talking about. This was back in 1990s.
Cruz is a very smart guy. There’s no question about that. But it’s also clear he has a real problem with lying. Or rather, a sort of situational ethics in which lying is acceptable because it advances a political cause.
I don’t think we knew at the outset how strong the McCarthy comparison was. A Senator tossing around baseless allegations of treasonous activity and a strong physical resemblance definitely gets your attention. But here we see it again with a slippery effort to slink away from very serious charges when called on them. This is a dangerous guy, all the more so since he’s obviously so sharp and quick on his feet.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.