The weekend of the Iowa Freedom Summit was seen by many as the unofficial kickoff of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, and Ted Cruz was in full campaign mode. Before delivering a rousing speech to a raucous crowd at the summit, Cruz took some time to meet with activists from Liberty Iowa, a group founded after Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, to answer questions on a variety of issues. Cruz challenged the group to throw him “no softballs”, and they engaged in a back and forth that lasted about two hours. The meeting went by largely without disagreement, or with only expected disagreements on things like Iran. That being said, one interesting moment occurred when Cruz appeared to flip flop on his stance that President Obama must enforce marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington.
When asked about this stance, Cruz claimed that he never took the position to begin with, and had been talking about Eric Holder’s instruction to not prosecute for small amounts of marijuana. Cruz claimed that his view of Washington and Colorado was the federalist view that it was the states choice. Seeing Ted Cruz take a states rights position on marijuana immediately raised questions in my mind. This is an opinion that I can find no record of having been expressed by Cruz in the public eye, and is directly contradicted by his past statements on the subject.
Ted Cruz gave the keynote speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation about a year ago, and spelled out a position which clearly stated his opposition to Obama’s selective enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act. From 7:21-8:41, after joking about the ‘Colorado brownies’ the crowd had been provided with, Cruz argued that while “reasonable arguments” can be made about legalizing pot, the president ignored criminal laws by circumventing congress, and telling the people to ignore the law. While the only explicit reference to the states in question was made in a joking manner, the line of logic most certainly applies to Obama’s decision regarding the two (now four) states where marijuana is legal recreationally, as they are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. This was reflected in the media coverage of the remark, which was universally that Cruz had attacked Obama’s allowing of Washington and Colorado to enforce their own drug laws.
This was reinforced in an appearance on ReasonTV, where Cruz called Obama’s refusal to enforce marijuana laws “dangerous to liberty”, and demanded that he go to congress instead of deciding to refuse to enforce the law. He claimed Obama’s approach to drug policy is to “announce that they will stop enforcing certain drug laws”, and said that was a “very dangerous precedent”. This is a clear contradiction of Cruz’s statements to Liberty Iowa.
What is most fascinating to me about this reversal of positions is that it came during a private meeting with libertarian activists in an early caucus state. Is Ted Cruz trying to pull a fast one on Iowa libertarian activists? It appears that a man who has gone to Washington with a reputation for being a “straight shooter” may have finally found a constituency towards whom he will pander for votes. Cruz talked during the meeting of trying to compete with Rand Paul for the liberty vote, but it appears that if he wishes to do so he may end up flip flopping on some key issues. Will he make the calculation that this is worth it, or abandon the liberty vote strategy for what he sees as more fertile ground? It will be fascinating to see how Cruz handles this balancing act going forward.