Newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — where else? — is already developing quite a reputation as one of the most reactionary men ever to serve in that body, garnering comparisons to Sen. Joe McCarthy. And for good reason, as Jane Mayer notes at the New Yorker. Cruz claims that there were a dozen communists who wanted to overthrow the government at Harvard Law School when he was there in the 90s.
Two and a half years ago, Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there. Cruz attended Harvard Law School from 1992 until 1995. His spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request to discuss the speech.
Cruz made the accusation while speaking to a rapt ballroom audience during a luncheon at a conference called “Defending the American Dream,” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit political organization founded and funded in part by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. Cruz greeted the audience jovially, but soon launched an impassioned attack on President Obama, whom he described as “the most radical” President “ever to occupy the Oval Office.” (I was covering the conference and kept the notes.)
He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
So name them. Be specific. After all, if they really advocate overthrowing the U.S. government, they are committing a crime and they need to be outed, right? Or is Cruz merely trying to score cheap political points with the Tea Party crowd, a fair number of which actually do advocate revolution against the government? Even the most famous and prominent conservative at Harvard Law School criticized Cruz:
Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried, a Republican who served as Ronald Reagan’s Solicitor General from 1985 to 1989, and who subsequently taught Cruz at the law school, suggests that his former student has his facts wrong. “I can right offhand count four “out” Republicans (including myself) and I don’t know how many closeted Republicans when Ted, who was my student and the editor on the Harvard Law Review who helped me with my Supreme Court foreword, was a student here.”
Fried went on to say that unlike Cruz, or McCarthy, who infamously kept tallies of alleged subversives, he had never tried to count Communists. “I have not taken a poll, but I would be surprised if there were any members of the faculty who ‘believed in the Communists overthrowing the U.S. government,’” he said. Under the Smith Act, it is a crime to actively engage in any organization pursuing the overthrow of the U.S. government.
Fried acknowledged that “there were a certain number (twelve seems to me too high) who were quite radical, but I doubt if any had allegiance or sympathy with anything called ‘the Communists,’ who at that time (unlike the thirties and forties) were in quite bad odor among radical intellectuals.” He pointed out that by the nineteen-nineties, Communist states were widely regarded as tyrannical. From Fried’s perspective, the radicals on the faculty were “a pain in the neck.” But he says that Cruz’s assertion that they were Communists “misunderstands what they were about.”
Did we die and go to the 1950s?