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The Question Ted Cruz Can’t Answer

Of hacks and men.
October 10, 2022
The Question Ted Cruz Can’t Answer
(Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

Ted Cruz called me a hack last week.

Usually I wouldn’t think twice about this. I mean, Cancún Cruz is the guy who groveled in front of his orange daddy after Trump said his wife was ugly and his father was a murderer. It’s a classic cycle: The abused becomes the abuser.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if maybe Ted was on to something—after all, he might be the nation’s premier expert on the subject of hackery.

So I figured we should review the merits of his case together. You know, to be all fair and balanced.

It all began when I encountered Ted during his “Truth and Courage” bus tour. The bus was stopping in Queen Creek, Arizona for an event with Blake “Got a Res at Dorsia?” Masters and former drag king Kari Lake. The trio were rallying at San Tan Flat, a restaurant with a MAGA Republican theme. Apparently we are now so polarized as a country that you can sell food by giving the finger to 51 percent of the country. Awesome.

Anyway, I was there with Jennifer Palmieri because I was guest-hosting this week’s episode of The Circus (you can take in the scene yourself using the magic of videotape). For the show, we were focused on how “election integrity” was defining the Arizona elections this fall. It seemed like a natural subject for inquiry. Cruz was the Texas senator who objected to Arizona’s electoral count in 2020 and Lake might be the nation’s most enthusiastic stop-the-stealer. (So much so that the former president is reported to have been taken aback by her obsession with the issue.) Both Lake and Masters won their primaries in large part due to their fealty to Trump and the Big Lie.

As might be expected, the attendees at San Tan Flat sporting their Let’s Go Brandon shirts cared very deeply about the matter. Several voters Palmieri and I talked with shared variations of the “felt tip pen conspiracy theory” that has been pushed by election deniers in their state. One woman told us she was never going to use mail-in ballots again. Another said she didn’t trust “Doug Douchey” and thought her Republican governor’s certification of the state’s election was part of a nationwide scheme to steal the election from Trump. I couldn’t find anyone who thought Biden had legitimately won Arizona, though one man got close to acknowledging that Biden’s win might have been due to expats from California and Minnesota moving to Arizona and voting Democrat . . . though he still thought the real explanation was fraud.

Despite the passion in the crowd for relitigating the 2020 election, the subject didn’t show up in any of the three prepared speeches. The only exception came during Cruz’s remarks when a man in the crowd shouted “2000 MULES,” a reference to Dinesh D’Souza’s conspiracy movie about the 2020 election. Cruz awkwardly responded “Text 2000 Mules”—which doesn’t mean anything. Text it to who? For what purpose? But the crowd was delighted by it anyway, since they were clearly familiar with the movie.

Following the rally Cruz stuck around to take questions from the media, and as luck would have it, he looked right at me and smiled. Possibly because he remembers my brief period as a supporter of his in 2016 when he was the last person alive who could stop Trump. Or possibly because of my welcoming mien. Either way, I took it as an opportunity:

“Hey Senator, nice to see you in Arizona. You objected to the 2020 vote here. . . . Since then there have been a few audits. The Republican governor, the Republican Senate president, the Republican speaker of the House all said the election was fair. Do you disagree with Doug Ducey and agree with Blake Masters and Kari Lake? Or have you changed your view? It’s been two years now.”

At this point Cruz launched into a rant about how “the people of Arizona” don’t care about the 2020 election. He insisted that what they really care about is gas prices and food prices and the rising murder rate. Before he could continue his listicle I interrupted.

“The people of Arizona voted for Joe Biden though. Right? Did they not?”

Cruz proceeded to call me a shill and a hack and repeatedly shouted “you’re done, you’re done” as I continued to try to get an answer to a very simple, yes-or-no, factual question about the 2020 election result—that he had tried to overturn.

Blake Masters offered a similar deflection during his debate with Mark Kelly the next night, backing away from his more direct claims about voter fraud in favor of word salad about how Big Media, Big Tech, and the FBI were to blame for Trump’s loss.

Consider the incongruity.

On the one hand, the people who go to see Cruz, Masters, and Lake at MAGA-themed restaurants are obsessed with election fraud. They are obsessed with election fraud in large part because they were told by Cruz, Masters, and Lake that they should be obsessed with it. But at the same time, the people on stage no longer want to talk about election fraud. And they don’t just want to avoid the subject. When pressed, they’re not even willing to hold to the same fact-set they were pushing just a few months ago!

Let me restate: Cruz perpetrated this lie and helped convince tens of millions of MAGA supporters that the lie was true. And now he acts as if Big Media is biased for asking him to clarify whether or not he still holds to the lie that his supporters are still obsessed with.

Let’s be honest: My question to Cruz wasn’t hard to answer.

He could have simply said: Of course Joe Biden legitimately won. I trust the audits and Gov. Ducey. And Joe Biden has been a complete disaster when it comes to x, y, and z, and that’s why we need to elect Patrick Bateman Masters to the Senate, so he can take a coat hanger to this entire administration.

But Ted Cruz can’t give that very obvious answer.


Because if he does, he knows he will be booed, again, by the people who give him his power.

Not only do the MAGA “people of Arizona” care about the Big Lie—they care about it so deeply that they will cast out any heretic who doesn’t adhere to the creed.

Cruz is desperate to let Republican voters continue to believe that he thinks the lie is true, but is also worried about losing swing voters if they decide that he’s not just another craven pol they can live with, but a weirdo true believer.

The deal Ted Cruz struck with the orange devil required him to put his conscience in a box. He can have everything he ever wanted—short of the presidency, lol—as long as he keeps quiet about just a few little things: his wife’s dignity, his father’s honor, and the results of the 2020 election.

For all these reasons, Ted Cruz can’t tell the truth about this uncomfortable subject, Cruz lashed out at me. I disrupted his incoherent posture by asking him a question that, as a matter of Republican politics in the Year of Our Lord 2022, he can’t answer.

So you tell me who the hack is.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.