“I’m a Christian first, American second, conservative third and Republican fourth. I’ll tell ya, there are a whole lot of people in this country that feel exactly the same way.”
-- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX/Canada)
I am quite certain that Sen. Cruz is 100% correct, that a whole lot of people in this country do indeed feel exactly the same way he does. The problem here is, unlike Mr. Cruz, not a single one of them is running to be President of the United States, hoping to become chief executive of the entire country, whatever their religious beliefs, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces, swearing an oath to protect, preserve and defend the U.S. Constitution. (A Constitution, it should be noted, which whimsically includes the very First Amendment.about making no law in regards to religion or the establishment thereof.)
By the way, for what it's worth, I'm one of those "whole lot of people in this country" who actually feels exactly the same as Ted Cruz -- that he is indeed a Christian first, and an American second. And a Republican fourth. I would add, too, that if I was a Republican, it would creep me out to read a statement like this and even consider voting for him to be president. Or pretty much anything. Including leader of my party, which he puts fourth.
I also think it probably wasn't a great political tactic of Mr. Cruz to proclaim he was an American second. After all, it comes as a sensitive time for and and leaves a wide opening for his opponents to say, "Ted Cruz's statement doesn't surprise me, since I would expect any person who was born in Canada to say he was an American second."
In fairness, there's at least one perspective where his statement is reasonable. That's if he was running to be Pope. Unfortunately, a) the job isn't open, and b) he's not.
An article I read on Daily Kos asked the pointed question, imagine if a candidate for president who was Jewish said that he or she was a Jew first, rather than an American. Their candidacy would be over. (The author noted, as well, that if any prominent American -- not even a candidate for president or any office -- noted being a Muslim before being an American. "Heads would explode."
I'll go a step further with specifics. If John F. Kennedy had said this in 1960, he not only wouldn't have been elected president, he would not have gotten the Democratic nomination. A great many Americans were concerned that a Catholic president would take orders directly from the Pope. The barrier was so strong that Mr. Kennedy felt it necessary to address the issue head-on and went to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, an organization of Protestant clergymen and gave a long speech on the subject. Among other things, he said --
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
He addressed the issue forcibly, as well, in West Virginia, which had the lowest percentage of Catholics of any state in the Union, and ended up winning the state's primary, which is considered the turning point in his campaign.
Certainly the situation of being Catholic is different from declaring one a Christian, but the principle of situation of the separation of church and state and no religious test for office is the same, as is the concept of considering if Kennedy had said he was a Christian first.
For that matter, imagine if Barack Obama had ever said that he considered himself a black man first, and an American second. Conservative Republicans went nutso crazy when he and his wife simply tapped fists together, painting it as a black fist-bump.
Yet there is Ted Cruz telling the public that before being an American he is a Christian. That his personal beliefs have precedence over any decisions he would have to make for the good of all America. (For goodness sake, he only had "Republican" fourth, remarkable for someone who wants to be the leader of Republicans.)
Then again, Donald Trump just told people that he believed he could walk down Fifth Avenue and shoot a person, and not lose any support. Quite a gallingly thoughtless and mindlessly insensitive thing for anyone to say at any time, let alone in today's gun culture of mass shootings. But most especially if you want to be President of the United States.
So, I'm not quite sure if my level of disbelief of how today's leading Republican Party candidates continually say things that disqualify themselves from being President could get any lower. Though they keep trying. And Ted Cruz came pretty darn close.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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