There’s a flurry of chatter this morning to the effect that Ted Cruz may have released classified information in last night’s Republican debate. Marco Rubio hinted at that in the debate itself when he said he would be more careful than Cruz in not releasing classified national security information in a nationally televised debate. Now Sen. Burr (R), the chair of the Senate intelligence committee says that his staff will be looking into whether Cruz did in fact cross the line.
It’s impossible from the outside to know whether or not Cruz did in fact release protected information. We don’t know the details of what was being discussed or which parts of it are considered classified. As with the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s emails, much of the question itself is shot through with politics, inherent ambiguity and as often as not dealing with information which may be technically classified but shouldn’t be because of rampant over-classification.
We’ll have more on this shortly. But I think that at this point this is best seen as an intra-Republican political dispute. I strongly suspect that in substantive terms the charge against Cruz is bogus. Marco Rubio has strong reasons to try to trip Cruz up at this point. He is the main obstacle to Rubio moving into a one on one contest with Donald Trump. He’s also trying to prove himself as the serious national security candidate vis a vis Cruz – with the latter’s hints of libertarianism and lack of relationship with DC neoconservatives. Senate Republicans like Burr meanwhile have two overlapping reasons for wanting to hurt Cruz. First, he’s probably not a viable general election candidate. So they don’t want him as nominee. Second, most of them despise him personally.
As I said, this is best seen as a political fight – rather than a substantive controversy over national security secrets. This isn’t to defend Cruz. I’d love to see him get himself in hot water. But I’ve seen enough of these leaked classified info disputes that they are usually BS driven by political considerations. But even as a political fight it could definitely become a thorn in Cruz’s side, if his enemies have enough to go after him with. That is especially so since the GOP has already committed to going after Hillary Clinton for another bogus ‘leaked classified material’ story.