John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

The Sophistry of Sen. Ted Cruz

According to a snarky graphic I spotted on Facebook earlier, MSNBC has accused Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) of "utter ignorance" of the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, but in fact, says the graphic, it is MSNBC that is utterly ignorant, because Cruz "was the attorney who argued Heller AND WON!" [Emphasis in the original. Also "WON" was underlined twice in red.] Interesting!

Alas, apparently untrue. The plaintiff's lawyers were Alan Gura, Bob Levy, and Clark Neily; Gura was the one who actually argued the case. Now, Cruz was involved with Heller; he drafted and was the lead counsel for the amicus curiae brief filed by the State of Texas and 30 other states. And according to Cruz's Wikipedia page, he "presented oral argument for the amici states in the companion case to Heller before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit." I have no idea what that means, nor can I consult the original source because [citation needed], but I infer that it means he didn't argue Heller per se, but some related case.

As to whether he's ignorant of the decision, I doubt it. What led MSNBC (actually, Joe Scarborough) to accuse Cruz of being ignorant of Heller was something Cruz said in a recent Senate hearing on the Sen. Diane Feinstein's proposed assault weapon ban:

I pose to the senator from California, would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment, namely, would she consider it constitutional for congress to specify that the first amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?

I believe Scarborough's point was that Cruz seemed to be implying that the Second Amendment prohibits Congress from banning certain types of firearms, even though the Heller decision explicitly upholds the right to do exactly that sort of thing. Justice Scalia's majority opinion states that "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms," nor on "the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of 'dangerous and unusual weapons.' " Therefore, in Scarborough's opinion, Cruz must be ignorant of what the Heller opinion says.

But I don't agree with that conclusion. Cruz, it seems to me, is guilty not of ignorance but of sophistry and charlatanism. I'm sure Feinstein would have answered his question in the affirmative … and I'm equally certain that if asked the same question under oath, he would say yes too. Given that state's long history of disregarding the rights of defendants, it's a near certainty that as Solicitor General of Texas he's argued in favor of limiting 4th Amendment rights in some circumstances, and I doubt he's on record as favoring the publication and distribution of, say, child pornography, so obviously he would agree that it's "consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment."

Cruz is reputed to be very smart, and I have no reason to doubt that, so I'm certain he not only understands exactly what Heller said, but also that he's aware of the inherent contradiction between saying the Second Amendment is inviolate but the rest of the Constitution isn't. But as an ambitious Republican politician, he can't afford to be honest about it, and he knows that a) his supporters will accept whatever he says at face value, and that b) his dishonesty will be reported, if at all, not as dishonesty but as an instance of opinions differing. So why tell the truth?

Tags: an element of overwhelming ruin, current events, politics
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