What was Ted Cruz thinking? I’ve been asking myself this question with increasing frequency. Perhaps it began when the Texas Senator took a sinfully ill-advised trip to Cancún while his state was in the midst of a dire weather emergency in February. Then, there was the recent occurrence in which he attempted to make light of that trip – eliciting reactions that can be best summarised as a resounding “NOPE”. And now, Cruz has apparently convinced himself it would be a good idea to go after *checks notes* the US military.
On Thursday, Cruz shared on Twitter a TikTok video contrasting two clips: one which appears to be a recruitment ad for the Russian military, and another ad for the US Army. The former video features a string of short-haired, muscular, at times shirtless men doing push-ups, jumping out of an airplane, and aiming weapons. The US Army clip, on the other hand, is an animated video in which a real-life corporal shares her personal story of being raised by two mothers, watching one of her parents learning how to walk again after an accident, and eventually joining the force.
In other words, both videos riff on the same topic, apparently with similar aims. The main difference is that one is heavily masculine-coded, while the other involves all-female characters and goes beyond a brute show of force, delving instead into a personal narrative.
What did Cruz have to say about that discrepancy? The answer is right here on his Twitter feed. “Holy crap,” he wrote. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea…”
To say that his remarks backfired is like saying that Jimi Hendrix was OK at the guitar. In just a few words, Cruz managed to get it wrong on so many levels it’s actually kind of impressive – in a twisted, broken sort of way. Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost both of her legs after being injured in Iraq, put it this way in a tweet: “Holy crap. Perhaps a US Senator shouldn’t suggest that the *Russian* military is better than the American military that protected him from an insurrection he helped foment?”
Charlotte Clymer, also a veteran and a director of communications – and an occasional contributor to The Independent –wrote: “Am I surprised that Ted Cruz is mocking our military as ‘emasculated’? No. This is the coward who wouldn’t even stand beside his own wife when Trump publicly talked s*** about her.”
There is a lot to unpack here, starting with Cruz’s obvious optics failure. Beyond that, there is something so basic, so obvious in attacking the ad featuring the woman raised by two other women. Sexism and homophobia? From Ted Cruz? That’s about as groundbreaking as florals in spring.
But of course, our man Ted isn’t one to back down from a fight, even when it’s obvious he’s lost it (that seems to be a theme with the GOP these days). He attempted to paint the blowback to his original message as “lefty blue checkmarks losing their minds over this tweet, dishonestly claiming that I’m ‘attacking the military.’”
“Uh, no,” he added. “We have the greatest military on earth, but Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn them into pansies. The new Dem videos are terrible.”
OK, first of all, don’t use the word “pansy”. Ever. It’s heinous. Second of all, the animated video isn’t a “Dem” video. It’s a US Army video, unattached to a specific political party. It was shared on the YouTube channel for GoArmy, a recruitment platform. What’s worse, though, is that Corporal Emma Malonelord is a real person. Ditto her mothers. It’s their family’s story in the video, and it’s that same story that Cruz has chosen to ridicule.
This entire situation is made all the more maddening by the fact that military recruitment ads have always made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. Because they’re… well, you know! Recruitment ads! And my feelings about the US military–industrial complex are complex, and a topic for another day. But doing what Cruz did, ie mocking a real-life corporal for the sole purpose of owning the libs? That’s a no-go.
None of this is very surprising. This is, after all, the same Ted Cruz who in 2016 suggested it would be “nuts” to draft women into military combat. He has made his stance on women in the military very clear for a good amount of time now.
Listen. If your commitment to machismo is such that it causes you to alienate veterans, that’s your problem. Just maybe don’t try to be a political leader – especially not in one of the country’s top three states with the largest veteran populations, and definitely not if you’re toying with the idea of running for president in 2024. Now that would be a problem.