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Politico’s Evan Thomas: Ted Cruz a ‘Potentially Dangerous’ Demagogue

The liberal media’s effort to demonize Sen. Ted Cruz continues. On last Friday’s episode of PBS’s Inside Washington, the mostly left-leaning panel of journalists piled on the criticism of the junior senator from Texas. The attacks were focused on Cruz’s questioning of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during Hagel’s confirmation battle. Moderator Gordon Peterson presented the topic like this: “The Tea Party activists love this guy for being so aggressive. I’m wondering how this aggression so early in his career plays on in the Senate.”

But according to panelist Evan Thomas, a Politico contributor, Cruz is not merely aggressive; he is dangerous: “You need to watch this guy, because there are a lot of demagogues out there, but not that many who are that smart. He is really, really smart, and that makes him potentially dangerous.” [MP3 audio here.]

This is not the first time the media has tried to paint Cruz as a dangerous demagogue. A few weeks ago, MSNBC's Chris Matthews compared Cruz to Joe McCarthy - a danger to liberalism, if there ever was one. The McCarthy comparisons are silly. Cruz is not conducting a witch hunt; he simply raised some serious questions about Hagel’s suitability for the position of defense secretary.

Charles Krauthammer, the only conservative on the Inside Washington panel, captured the absurdity of focusing on Cruz rather than Hagel:

 "Here we are in a time when Iran is about to go nuclear, we're winding down our wars, we have a really important choice in the secretary of defense, he gives the worst performance in a hearing I’ve seen in 30 years, he has no idea what containment of Iran means... and we want to talk about a junior senator from Texas? We haven’t spoken a lot about Hagel. I think that’s the real issue."

Unfortunately, the other panelists wouldn’t have any of this criticism, insisting that they had discussed Hagel thoroughly. NPR’s Nina Totenberg put in her two cents, saying of Cruz, “He is very glib, and he made sure that the attention was focused on him.”

No, Nina, it seems the liberal media is intent on putting the spotlight on Cruz in an effort to smear him. It's a rather cynical, but all-too-frequently used tactic the Obama-boosting media deploy against assertive conservatives.

Below is a transcript of the full conversation:

GORDON PETERSON: Well, he's only been on the job for a month, but Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has come roaring out of the gate.

TED CRUZ: The attention that has focused on me, in my opinion, is actually primarily being driven by an effort to distract from the merits of the Hagel nomination.

PETERSON: That’s Texas Senator Ted Cruz, one of 14 senators calling on President Obama to withdraw Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense. One of only three to vote against John Kerry to be secretary of state. The Tea Party activists love this guy for being so aggressive. I’m wondering how this aggression so early in his career plays on in the Senate, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, with all due respect to the junior senator from Texas, the most attention he got was by leaving the distinct impression that there was a real possibility that Chuck Hagel had collected speaking fees from North Korea and Saudi Arabia, which was totally fabricated and totally false right up there along with the Friends of Hamas and other bogus contrivances of the Tea Party crowd. But this is a man, I think you could say fairly, is not hiding his light under a bushel.

PETERSON: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I love this show. Here we are in a time when Iran is about to go nuclear, we're winding down our wars, we have a really important choice in the secretary of defense, he gives the worst performance in a hearing I’ve seen in 30 years, he has no idea what containment of Iran means, and a Democratic senator says of him that he won’t be bringing the potato salad to the mensa picnic this week and we want to talk about a junior senator from Texas? We haven’t spoken a lot about Hagel. I think that’s the real issue.

PETERSON: We haven't spoken a lot about Hagel?

(crosstalk)

NINA TOTENBERG: When you have a new figure in the United States Senate, and I actually know Cruz because he, for many years he argued cases for Texas in the United States Supreme Court. He is very smart. He is very glib, and he made sure that the attention was focused on him. This was not a distraction. This was Ted Cruz doing this.

EVAN THOMAS: You need to watch this guy, because there are a lot of demagogues out there, but not that many who are that smart. He is really, really smart, and that makes him potentially dangerous.

KRAUTHAMMER: Notice, Gordon, how you didn’t ask about the Hagel nomination’s prospects and its worthiness. Instead we’re talking about –

(Crosstalk)

KRAUTHAMMER: – so isn’t that an interesting idea?

PETERSON: Is he gonna make it?

SHIELDS: Like all good Catholic boys, he’s gonna be confirmed. [Laughter] Only this time not by the bishop, but by the Senate.

PETERSON: And Senator Shelby’s gonna go along with it too.

SHIELDS: Senator Shelby, a distinguished American leader from Alabama, former Democratic senator, later Republican senator, switched in 1994, has announced his support.

--Paul Bremmer is an intern for the Media Research Center.