Jonah Goldberg

Ted Cruz is no Joe McCarthy, as so many liberals bizarrely claim. But he might be the conservative Barack Obama.

The charge that he's the new McCarthy is something of a compliment from liberals. It means they don't like him, can't really explain why and need to demonize him instead. In other words, he must be doing something right.

For conservatives, the comparison to Obama probably stings more than the McCarthyite smear.

But think about it. Both men have impeccable educational credentials. Obama went to Occidental College, transferred to Columbia University and got his law degree from Harvard. Cruz went to Princeton University, where he was a national champion debater, and got a law degree from Harvard. Cruz's legal career was objectively more impressive than Obama's. He clerked on the appellate court and for Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the Supreme Court. He held numerous prestigious jobs in and out of government. Like Obama, he taught law, but Cruz was also the solicitor general of Texas and argued before the Supreme Court nine times.

National Review editor Rich Lowry identified one plausible source of elite liberal hatred for Cruz: betrayal. "Cruz is from the intellectual elite, but not of it, a tea party conservative whose politics are considered gauche at best at the storied universities where he studied. He is, to borrow the words of the 2009 H.W. Brands biography of FDR, a traitor to his class." (I hate to correct my boss, but Brands didn't coin that phrase).

What liberals hate in Cruz, they love in Obama: a product of an elite education who confirms all their feelings of superiority. Obama took the desiccated ideas of campus liberalism and made them seem vibrant, stylish and even populist.

There are other similarities. But the most relevant one comes in their similar approach to politics (not political philosophy, where they are light years apart).

Both landed in the U.S. Senate, running with larger ambitions in mind and promising to be unstinting champions of their party's principles.

Moreover, both grasp that historically the Senate whittles away presidential timber. Like John F. Kennedy, Obama was there just long enough to run for president. And while Obama was there, his chief goal was burnishing his presidential image, not racking up legislative accomplishments. Cruz has been a senator for eight months, and he already looks like a presidential contender.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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