Pulp Fictions

Jack Hanson on the Ted Cruz-NYT feud

ROUGHLY SINCE WATERGATE (or time immemorial, depending on who you ask), it has been universally acknowledged and assumed that politicians lie and cheat their way to the top. “By the time a man gets to be presidential material,” Gore Vidal once snarled, “he has been bought ten times over.” But what if the politician is the one doing the buying? And what’s more, once he’s been accused, does it matter if he’s guilty? Does any of this matter at all?

Ted Cruz has never been popular with Left-of-center Americans. He is unabashedly far-Right, supporting decreased regulation of firearms, airtight national borders, and a capitalism which is laissez-faire to the extreme, going so far as to call for the abolition of the IRS. And yet both his credentials and his heritage make it difficult to brand him with the usual Red State slurs of hick, bigot, etc. (though he sometimes leaves that flank open). He is Princeton- and Harvard Law-educated, and the first Hispanic and Cuban-American to serve as a Senator from Texas. In 2008, he was named one of the 50 most influential minority lawyers in the country by the National Law Journal. The picture of the man is complicated, a stand-out in what seems like (and is consistently portrayed as) a hegemonically white, anti-intellectual party. This leads many to believe Cruz is the GOP’s best chance in 2016. 

Liberals must have sighed in relief, then, when it came out that Cruz’s new book, A Time for Truth, was left off the New York Times best-seller list for suspicious buying patterns. The Cruz campaign immediately cried foul, accusing the NYT of partisan bias, and, in more adventurous moments, citing a major left-wing conspiracy to damage Cruz’s integrity. The NYT was resolute in its claim that it had found evidence of “strategic bulk sales,” despite denials by publisher Harper Collins and retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Do we really have another year and a half left of this nonsense? Did it ever matter whether Cruz’s book got on the list?

And now it’s over. The book has made it onto the list, with the NYT reporting that the same process which kept Cruz off the list has now allowed him on, the bump in legitimate sales due no doubt to this controversy, a marvelous irony (or discouraging example of astute politicking). Cruz and Co., predictably, claim that the paper is just covering its tracks, having been caught out executing their nefarious agenda.

Do we really have another year and a half left of this nonsense? Did it ever matter whether Cruz’s book got on the list? Chances are it won’t change any minds: a Democrat might vote for a Republican in smaller elections, but in the Presidential race people vote tribally. The only possible point of interest in this “scandal” is that if Cruz’s campaign did carry out some kind of massive buy-up, it should worry his supporters that they got caught doing it. It’s really a low-level deception, so far as American politics go. 

If this is the first lie they’ve told, they should get some practice. They’ll have to tell much bigger ones yet. 

JACK HANSON is a contributing editor for Partisan.