What was the controversy?
If Cruz made a mistake, it was to have mentioned North Korea at all. One, it is unlikely that North Korea would have provided income to Sen. Hagel, although his failure to release his sources of income does not answer the question. But the lesson for Cruz here is to understand that the left wing and the media will take the most controversial thing a conservative says and use it to represent everything they have said.
Gone unmentioned in the news coverage was Cruz’s repeated praise of Hagel’s military and public service, which Cruz did as recently as Tuesday when the Senate Armed Services Committee debated Hagel's nomination before voting him out on a party-line vote.
Cruz does not hold a grudge against former Sen. Hagel (R-Neb.). Indeed, he could not as he barely knows him and their Senate service did not overlap.
No, instead a personal grudge was held by Sen. John McCainJohn McCainThe trouble with Rex Tillerson Senate: Act now to save Ukraine A Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair MORE (R-Ariz.), whom the media did not criticize. McCain admitted as much on Fox News's “Cavuto” last week, specifically recalling Hagel’s criticism of former President George W. Bush as a cause for much of the personal opposition.
Cruz is following in the footsteps on other courageous conservatives, many of whom were elected in the wave year of 2010. The torch was passed from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who resigned in January and was a lone conservative voice in the Senate for many years, until he was able to help elect more conservatives.
The days of freshman senators being “seen, not heard” are gone. Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSenate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules Juan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama The ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? MORE (R-Fla.) was only elected barely two years ago, and he gave the Republican response to the State of the Union address and is a likely presidential candidate in 2016.
Seniority is respected in the Senate, but today freshmen are impatient. Many of them are in high demand for fundraising, speaking events and on TV and talk radio. They are able to drive a message to a large audience through Twitter and Facebook in ways older senators cannot.
Cruz ran as a strong conservative in his unlikely, longshot bid for the Senate in 2012. No one in Texas is surprised by his votes or actions.
Will he shrink from conservative leadership in light of the criticism of late?
I cannot imagine he will. He is not built that way.
In fact, he is in greater demand now than ever before, as it was recently announced he would be the closing speaker at CPAC in March.
Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzSenate GOP: National museum should include Clarence Thomas Senate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules Week ahead: AT&T-Time Warner merger under scrutiny MORE is here to stay. That prospect will drive liberals and the media crazy.
Matt Mackowiak is an Austin, Texas, and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC and co-founder of Must Read Texas. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.