Ted Cruz Forgets the One Rule of Saying You're Cutting Federal Agencies

Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate offered little in the way of new rhetoric or tactics from Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The Canadian-born first-termer stuck to his usual strident style — one picks up things like that as a college debater at Harvard — decrying the big government boogeyman, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's suggestion that maybe the United States should fund the military-industrial complex at a slightly lower level and a century of mildly progressive American income taxation.

By virtue of his experience at Harvard, Cruz has an advantage over many of his fellow debaters: He very rarely looks lost. Cruz never looks like a deer in the headlights, like Ben Carson, and never sounds hopelessly unsophisticated like Donald Trump. Cruz may be saying completely crazy things — he wants a flat tax for both individuals and businesses and announced Tuesday he wants to spike five federal government agencies — but he says them with confidence and smarmy authority.

Tuesday though, he cracked, only a bit, and just once. It just so happens that, when you add just a bit of home-state context, Cruz's slip was magical. Before viewing the video, here are the five federal agencies Cruz wants to get rid of: the IRS and the Departments of Energy; Education; Commerce; and Housing and Urban Development. Now watch:  As you can see, Cruz claimed during the debate that he wants to dump the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce again and HUD.

That's right, just as Rick Perry did four years ago, Cruz couldn't even remember the names of all the federal departments he wanted to abolish. He hates big government so much that it makes him inarticulate. Now, in contrast to Perry, Cruz only bobbled briefly before charging through the rest of his answer. He forgot to name the Department of Education to the chopping block, but he sounded OK, so it seems unlikely that what happened will put any significant dings in his campaign.

Cruz has a good line later in the debate, telling Paul, "[y]ou think defending this country is expensive, try not defending it," and generally didn't do anything to detract from the growing consensus that he will hang around long enough to be the hyper-conservative alternative to the only really conservative, Marco Rubio, who is positioning himself as the non-Carson/Trump frontrunner.

Our junior senator is continuing to roll, it seems. Heaven help us.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young