Does Ted Cruz Realize What He Got Wrong About Hagel?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Corrie MacLaggan tags along with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and obtains that natural byproduct of a Cruz interview: confident self-regard. We’re reminded that Cruz’s fellow senators have accused him of McCarthyism, but we only see Cruz blow them off as haters:

On Tuesday, Cruz said he worried that his concerns about Hagel - such as what he sees as Hagel’s refusal to answer certain questions about financial disclosure - were getting lost in the focus on Cruz’s style.

“Washington is a rough-and-tumble place, and I certainly don’t mind if some will take shots at me,” said Cruz, who has been unusually assertive for a freshman senator. “What I do think is unfortunate is if the coverage of the political game overshadows the substance.”

This is completely backward, and another interesting example (we needed another today?) of how deductive reasoning girds the Dump Hagel campaign. Cruz is one of many Republicans who’ve blasted Hagel. Democrats aren’t crying “Tailgunner Joe!” at all of them. Their anger at Cruz stems from one comment made during the committee vote last week. Previously, Cruz had sent Hagel a letter asking for proof that “foreign nationals, foreign sovereign debt funds” hadn’t funded his speeches in the past five years. At the vote, Cruz reiterated this. “[Hagel] could not even say that the $200,000 he received did not come directly from a foreign government,” said Cruz. “It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.”

That was what Democrats objected to. (John McCain objected, too.) Cruz was implying that Hagel straight-up lied, or lied by omission, on his ethics forms. In nominee questionnaires, Cabinet nominees have to declare whether they have “received any compensation from, or been involved in any financial or business transactions with, a foreign government or an entity controlled by a foreign government” in the 10 years before their nominations. Hagel answered “no.”

Previously, Cruz had asked Hagel to prove that he hadn’t taken a dime from “foreign nationals.” That was clever. That widened the possible circle of evil influence. His problem was that those questions weren’t turning up anything juicy—the Atlantic Council’s disclosure (PDF) of foreign donors revealed a list of U.S. allies (yes, including the Saudis) funding the group, but nothing scary enough to hit Hagel with.

So Cruz tripped over his sword. There’s a big difference between asking whether a nominee was enriched by a “foreign national” and positing that he may have had money “deposited in his bank account” by a rogue state. He’s got to be hoping that the media skips past this in their forthcoming “Ted Cruz: Threat or Menace?” profiles.