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November 16, 2016

A few (of many, many, many) reasons I am rooting really, really, really hard for Ted Cruz to be our next Attorney General

CruzI am so excited by this developing news that Ted Cruz is perhaps going to be our nation's next Attorney General.  Let me report the basic news and then set out just a few reasons why I think all Americans who are committed to the rule of law — including the most ardent Trump supporters and especially the most ardent Trump haters — should want Prez-Elect Trump to be calling Cruz, rather than, "Lyin' Ted," Attorney General Rafael Edward Cruz:

President-elect Donald Trump is considering nominating Texas Senator Ted Cruz to serve as U.S. attorney general, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Cruz, 45, was at Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday. When approached by reporters on his way out, Cruz said the election was a mandate for change but didn’t say he was under consideration for a job.

Cruz unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination. He and Trump were at odds during the primary, viciously attacking one another. Trump nicknamed Cruz “Lyin’ Ted.” Cruz didn’t endorse Trump during a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. In September, relations between the two men seemed to improve when Cruz said he would vote for Trump.

I could likely write a hundred posts explain why everyone interested in criminal justice reform generally, or sentencing reform and marijuana reform in particular, should be much more excited about Ted Cruz as Attorney General than any of the other names that have been floated. For now, I will just start with the three main reasons I am so thrilled:

1. The profoundly personal: Like far too many people, I tend to assume people who have a similar background to me think a lot like me. Ergo, I must admit that my (unhealthy?) "man love" for Ted Cruz may have a lot to do with these aspects of his background (via Wikipedia):

Cruz graduated cum laude from Princeton University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.... Cruz's senior thesis at Princeton investigated the separation of powers; its title, Clipping the Wings of Angels, draws its inspiration from a passage attributed to US President James Madison: "If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." Cruz argued that the drafters of the Constitution intended to protect the rights of their constituents, and that the last two items in the Bill of Rights offer an explicit stop against an all-powerful state.

After graduating from Princeton, Cruz attended Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1995 with a Juris Doctor degree. While at Harvard Law, he was a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review...

Cruz married Heidi Nelson in 2001. The couple has two daughters, Caroline and Catherine.... She is currently taking leave from her position as head of the Southwest Region in the Investment Management Division of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and previously worked in the White House for Condoleezza Rice and in New York as an investment banker. Cruz has joked, "I'm Cuban, Irish, and Italian, and yet somehow I ended up Southern Baptist."

As some readers may know, I graduated from the same university and law school as Senator Cruz (two years earlier, so I never met him), and I also was extremely lucky to meet and marry a beautiful blonde woman who is a lot different than me (and smarter than me) and who has blessed me with two daughters.

2. The principled political: I have long been impressed with Cruz's willingness and eagerness to combine political acumen with principled commitments. Though I tend not to be a fan of the tactic of shutting down the government, I am a fan of anyone who will be driven even to the point of serious career risk to make a principled stand based on principled beliefs.  This Cruz character was on display throughout the 2016 campaign: at first, before the voting started, Cruz worked with Donald Trump because he say Trump as a voice for outsiders.  Once the voting started, Cruz treated Trump with respect and also tried to highlight how he was more principled and had more personal character than Trump.  Then, rather than avoid going to the Republican National Convention (as did Gov John Kasich and other establishment types that Trump defeated), Cruz went into the Trumpian lion's den and told all Republicans and all Americans to vote their conscience.

Now that Americans in key states have all voted their conscience and Trump is Prez-Elect, Cruz is not licking his wounds and plotting how to make Trump fail.  Instead, Cruz is apparently willing and perhaps eager to serve all Americans in the Executive Branch after a number of years in which he served only Texans in various ways as a state official and then as a US Senator.  Moreover, this past political history (not to mention his Princeton University senior thesis) would seem to ensure that Cruz would not serve as a Trump toady as Attorney General.  I make this point because I think the last two Presidents first selected (ground-breaking) accomplished lawyers to serve as attorney general (Alberto Gonzales and Eric Holder) who were, in my view, not-very-successful in part because they were perceived to be (and likely were) far too cozy personally and politically with the President.

3. Criminal justice reform:  There are dozens of reasons I think an Attorney General Cruz would be great for adding momentum to the criminal justice reform movement.  I will not try to list all those reasons here and will just instead link to prior posts on this blog highlighting some reasons I sincerely hope I get to talk about Attorney General Cruz on this blog in the coming months and years, with a few posts emphasized that I think everyone MUST read ASAP:

"On Criminal Justice Reform, Ted Cruz Is Smarter Than Hillary Clinton"

Are Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz now back on the same page with respect to sentencing reform?

Can Senator Ted Cruz, who says "Smarter Sentencing Act Is Common Sense," get SSA through Congress?

"The Prison Reformer Who Champions Ted Cruz"

Shouldn't true fiscal conservatives question a federal program with 600% recent spending growth?

"Criminal Sentencing Reform: A Conversation among Conservatives"

Spotlighting that nearly all GOP Prez hopefuls are talking up sentencing reform

November 16, 2016 at 08:47 AM | Permalink


Doug, his co-sponsorship of the proposed Back the Blue Act, which would make the murder of virtually any police officer in the Nation a federal offense, does not give me great confidence that he actually respects the constitutional boundary between the national and the truly local.

Posted by: Michael J.Z. Mannheimer | Nov 16, 2016 9:25:54 AM

I examined his website when Prof. Eugene Volokh endorsed him and it looked like he supported various conservative policies, which in various cases would not support federalism or libertarian goals that sometimes are cited here.

I gather the guy is very smart and qualified on a basics level, but the "principle" of shutting down the government is not one I support, he repeatedly game (to be blunt) off as an asshole (even his fellow Republican senators felt him insufferable and in various cases more concerned about himself than institutional concerns) and the end of the day (unlike someone like Kasich) ENDORSED the guy that did things such as go after his own family.

Charming. But, hey, better than the Supreme Court, I guess. OTOH, I thought Trump was for a new path. Instead, we have typical conservative types like this offered and the head of the RNC as chief of state. Well, sure. Stephen Bannon.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 16, 2016 9:56:39 AM

I examined his website when Prof. Eugene Volokh endorsed him and it looked like he supported various conservative policies, which in various cases would not support federalism or libertarian goals that sometimes are cited here.

I gather the guy is very smart and qualified on a basic level, but the "principle" of shutting down the government is not one I support, he repeatedly came (to be blunt) off as an asshole (even his fellow Republican senators felt him insufferable and in various cases more concerned about himself than institutional concerns) and the end of the day (unlike someone like Kasich) ENDORSED the guy that did things such as go after his own family.

Charming. But, hey, better than the Supreme Court, I guess. OTOH, I thought Trump was for a new path. Instead, we have typical conservative types like this offered and the head of the RNC as chief of staff. Well, sure. Stephen Bannon.

ETA: The first comment was posted too fast; sorry. Can be deleted. As to the "must reads," I commented on one of more of them. I simply don't know what the guy who eventually endorsed Trump after saying he was a horrible grifter would do in office. Good to hope there. But, I rather someone else in the forefront of the reform movement in the position. Plus, would Trump actually want such a critic in his Cabinet?

Posted by: Joe | Nov 16, 2016 10:01:27 AM

"Now that Americans in key states have all voted their conscience and Trump is Prez-Elect, Cruz is not licking his wounds and plotting how to make Trump fail."

All Americans voted their conscience or whatever, but sure, the Electoral College is a thing, so people in some states turn out to be more important there.

Cruz his whole career was about advancing his own interests. Such is the way of a politician though he expressed it in some particularly unsavory ways. Now, it would be in his interest to support Trump to some extent, apparently. But, the idea is not simply "to make Trump fail." It is to make sure some unsavory things fail. So, e.g., Rand Paul is "plotting" how to "make Trump fail" to appoint someone like Bolton in the Cabinet.

If you like the guy in the office, fine, but coming off as a tad strong.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 16, 2016 10:14:32 AM

In the Midwest, we are hearing rumors that Kris Kobach is at the top of the list. If Trump's main legal issue is immigration rather than sentencing reform, Kobach has had his hands in most of the state-based immigration enforcement initiatives of the past decade.

Posted by: tmm | Nov 16, 2016 11:29:38 AM

I find it unfathomable that Trump would consider appointing any sitting Republican Senator to any job in his administration. They only have two votes to spare in the Senate...a point that I have made before. And Cruz's seat in Texas is by no means "safe" especially when the Dems would push super hard to poke Trump in the eye. No IMO the risk is just not worth the reward. There are lots of people who can be AG why on earth would you mess with the Senate to do it....it makes no sense.

(Having said that, I can see why from a career stand point Cruz might want the job...)

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 16, 2016 11:48:30 AM

I agree with Daniel, I could see a SCOTUS appointment but upsetting the Senate balance over an executive branch position (even an important one like the AG) seems like a poor choice all around.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 16, 2016 4:23:40 PM

Senate vacancies typically filled be gubernatorial appointment. Only Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin allow their seats in the US Senate to remain open until a replacement can be elected.

Posted by: Bryan | Nov 16, 2016 5:12:03 PM

I'd like to see Sessions out of the Senate. Except Alabama would elect or appoint Roy Moore.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Nov 16, 2016 6:31:07 PM

Good grief, Doug. Do your daughters share your enthusiasm at the thought Ted Cruz would be in charge of prosecuting women who cross state lines to seek abortions?

Posted by: anonningly | Nov 17, 2016 12:27:15 PM

Maybe you should read the NY Times article describing him as the law clerk who would pass around the death penalty fact patterns to his fellow clerks to garner support for his pro-death position before sanctifying him based on his educational pedigree.

Posted by: Joseph Gentile | Nov 17, 2016 12:58:23 PM

Bryan, while Governor gets to appoint a temporary Senator in Texas, (unless things have changed recently) Texas requires a relatively quick special election with a jungle primary. While Republicans should be able to hold the seat, if too many top Republicans run, there is a chance that the seat could go to the Democrats if the Democrats run two strong candidates in the primary.

Posted by: tmm | Nov 17, 2016 2:04:35 PM

Cruz for Attorney General?

uring an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, the host sought clarification from the Texas senator about this controversial aspect of his platform. From the transcript via Lexis Nexis:

KELLY: [Y]ou don’t favor a rape or an incest exception to abortion and for people like me, this may be a problem in getting behind President Ted Cruz. They think you may be too far right on social issues.

CRUZ: Well, listen, let’s talk – you know, when it comes to rape, I’ve spent a lot of years in law enforcement. I was the solicitor general in the state of Texas and I have handled cases with horrific cases of rape, of people who committed child rape, people – I went before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued in defense of state laws imposing capital punishment for the very worst child rapists. And when it comes to rape, rape is a horrific crime against the humanity of a person and needs to be punished and punished severely but at the same time, as horrible as that crime is, I don’t believe it’s the child’s fault. And we weep at the crime. We want to do everything we can to prevent the crime on the front end and to punish the criminal, but I don’t believe it makes sense to blame the child.

The host responded that people who support exceptions to an abortion ban will argue that Cruz’s policy would force women “to go through unspeakable trauma to carry her rapist’s baby for nine months.” The senator then changed the subject a bit, saying states should debate their own limits on reproductive rights.

When it comes to evaluating Cruz as a general-election contender, the senator is extremely far to the right on most of the major issues of the day, and this is no exception – some polling suggests 83% of Americans believe women impregnated by a rapist should be legally allowed to terminate that pregnancy.

It’s worth noting for historical context that in every presidential election since the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, the Republican ticket has opposed abortion rights, but supported a rape exception. Cruz, should he be the GOP nominee, would be further to the right than any of his modern Republican predecessors.

Posted by: anon1 | Nov 17, 2016 2:57:21 PM

And you really think he should be attorney general. Read the following from a New York Times Article:

In 1997, Michael Wayne Haley was arrested after stealing a calculator from Walmart. This was a crime that merited a maximum two-year prison term. But prosecutors incorrectly applied a habitual offender law. Neither the judge nor the defense lawyer caught the error and Haley was sentenced to 16 years.

Eventually, the mistake came to light and Haley tried to fix it. Ted Cruz was solicitor general of Texas at the time. Instead of just letting Haley go for time served, Cruz took the case to the Supreme Court to keep Haley in prison for the full 16 years.

Some justices were skeptical. “Is there some rule that you can’t confess error in your state?” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked. The court system did finally let Haley out of prison, after six years.

The case reveals something interesting about Cruz’s character.

Posted by: Clint | Nov 17, 2016 11:14:39 PM

Your kind of guy indeed, DB. Good luck with that.

Posted by: John | Nov 18, 2016 7:11:27 AM

Professor, Ted Cruz, good for sentencing reform? Are you kidding?

"Cruz hasn’t hesitated to take polarizing stances, even when doing so means taking on his Republican colleagues. Last October, for example, a criminal-justice reform bill came before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, which would give judges more flexibility in sentencing and add rehabilitative services to prisons, is a product of the increasing bipartisan movement to reform the criminal-justice system, which is supported by such disparate actors as the Koch brothers and the ACLU. And it’s the baby of Senator Mike Lee, the Tea Party-supported Utahn, who’s emerged as one of the most passionate conservative advocates for reform.

Lee is also Cruz’s best friend—maybe his only friend—in the Senate. In his memoir, Cruz writes that no one stood by him “more courageously or indispensably” than Lee during his 21-hour anti-Obamacare speech that preceded the 2013 government shutdown. The pair have a joint fundraising committee and have posed together with a tiger-skin rug.When Lee brought up his bill in the committee hearing, he wasn’t sure if he’d have Cruz’s support. But he certainly didn’t anticipate what came next.

Cruz attacked the bill as dangerous and politically poisonous. He said it would lead to more than 7,000 federal prisoners let out on the street. “I for one, at a time when police officers across this country are under assault right now, being vilified right now, when we’re seeing violent crime spiking in our cities across the country, I think it would be a serious mistake for the Senate to pass legislation providing for 7,082 criminals to be released early,” he said. The bill, he claimed, “could result in more violent criminals being let out on the streets, and potentially more lives being lost.”

Cruz went on to warn his fellow senators that if they voted for the bill, they would imperil their careers. “We know to an absolute certainty that an unfortunately high percentage of those offenders will go and commit subsequent crimes,” he said. “And every one of us who votes to release violent criminals from prison prior to the expiration of their sentence can fully expect to be held accountable by our constituents.” Essentially, Cruz was saying that the legislation would let dangerous people out of prison, they would commit more crimes, and the senators would be subject to Willie Horton-style attack ads.

Lee, who was sitting right next to Cruz, could not believe what he was hearing. The bill, he responded, wouldn’t actually release any violent criminals from prison, and its sentence reduction for gun crimes was to reduce the minimum for felons caught with guns or ammunition from 15 years to 10 years—a provision that had once sent a man to prison for 15 years when he picked up a stray bullet in order to clean a carpet. “It is simply incorrect to say that this suddenly releases a bunch of violent criminals. It is tougher on violent offenders,” Lee sputtered. “That statement is inaccurate…. We’re not letting out violent offenders. That is false.”

Lee’s communications director, Conn Carroll, confirmed to me that Lee and his staff had no advance warning that Cruz was planning to brutally attack—and, in Lee’s view, misrepresent—his friend’s bill. “Going into that hearing, we definitely thought it was in the realm of possibility he would come out against it, just not with that kind of colorful language,” Carroll told me. The bill made it out of committee that day, but now it appears to be in trouble, with several other Republican senators taking Cruz’s line against it at a Senate lunch last week.

Today, Lee has conspicuously joined every other sitting senator in declining to endorse Cruz’s presidential run. And while Lee and Cruz are still friends, the episode vividly illustrates Cruz’s talent for irritating other senators."

Posted by: anon | Nov 18, 2016 8:28:39 AM

In reality, Ted Cruz is as volatile and impulsive as people claim Trump to be and he blows with whatever right-tending breeze prevails.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Nov 18, 2016 9:19:01 AM

Anyway, more consistent Trump supporter, Jeff Sessions, seems to be the choice.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 18, 2016 10:27:31 AM

"I have long been impressed with Cruz's willingness and eagerness to combine political acumen with principled commitments."

The fact that Cruz endorsed Trump and now is willing to be part of his administration after Trump attacked his wife's looks shows Cruz has no principled commitments whatsoever. So happy you both have two daughters and blonde wives. That's awesome.

Posted by: Jerry Bischoff | Nov 18, 2016 11:29:17 AM

Nice try.

Posted by: Findloss | Nov 18, 2016 5:45:37 PM

This particular post does not resemble the cool and erudite posts Berman has written in the past. It reads as a high school appraisal of identification with personality traits of a public figure as opposed to any keen insight into real-life policies of this Cruz figure, who remains as obscured by the favoritism rhetoric displayed in this post as his campaign promises were; just empty labels and rhetoric designed to sway people who don't want to investigate claims of righteous personality traits into any depth. The first reason given above, that Cruz graduated from your university and also married a blonde woman, in no way whatsoever qualifies him as any leadership position into one of the highest law and order positions in the country.

Posted by: Madeline Josefsberg | Nov 18, 2016 9:43:39 PM

Right on the nail, Madeline. Thank you for putting it so clearly.

Posted by: anonningly | Nov 22, 2016 10:52:39 AM

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