News & Politics

Political Nightmare: Far-Right Firebrand Ted Cruz Cozies Up to Casino Kingpin Sheldon Adelson and NY Billionaires

Cruz tries to paint himself as a moderate.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants you to know he's really not all that right-wing. “I don’t think I’m all that conservative,” he told a group of donors last week. “And it’s interesting. Reagan never once beat his chest and said ‘I’m the most conservative guy who ever lived.’ Reagan said, ‘I’m defending common sense principles—small businesses, small towns.'”

It wasn't the first time Cruz tried to paint himself as a moderate. Earlier this year, he said we should be “reluctant” to use military force abroad, but that he is “somewhere in between” Senator Rand Paul's (R-TX) more restraint-oriented approach and Sen. John McCain's (R-TX) more hawkish views.

But the irony is that as Cruz seeks to identify himself as a moderate to the electorate, he is courting some of America's most extreme pro-Israel figures in advance of a possible 2016 run.

Cozying Up To Casino Kingpin Adelson

Casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson is the GOP's bigoted kingmaker. In addition to being one of Election 2012's single largest donors, he funds a variety of pro-Israel and anti-Muslim organizations, and has directly promoted Islamophobia, telling a crowd of young Jews going on Birthright trips not to let “Muslim student organizations take over the [college] campuses.” He most recently made headlines for saying that the United States should launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran, and that it is unimportant for Israel to be a democracy, because democracy isn't in the Torah.

Despite Adelson's open advocacy for mass murder, Cruz met with him for two hours this week in a private meeting that quickly turned controversial when it was reported that Adelson thought Cruz was “too right-wing” and therefore unelectable. Adelson later called the New York Observer, which first printed his remark, to say that wasn't what he said at all. Whatever the truth about Adelson's views on Cruz, the Texas senator was in full courtship mode this week, as he spoke not only to the casino magnate but to a wide set of pro-Israel extremists in New York City.

Courting People Too Extreme For AIPAC

Unlike the staunchly right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Zionist Organization of America doesn't even pretend to believe in eventual Palestinian statehood. Its leader, Mort Klein, had this to say on the idea of two states:

"We also need to understand that a sovereign state doesn’t necessarily create a civil and peace-loving society—it only strengthens the ability of the underlying culture to promote their agenda. In this case, it’s a horrible agenda. Iran, Libya, North Korea, Afghanistan and Syria are sovereign states. Are they lovely and peaceful?

"All of these points make it clear that those who oppose a Palestinian state have at least as legitimate a position as those who support it…. The last thing in the world Israel needs is another anti-Israel terrorist dictatorship on its longest border. No wonder far less than half of the American Jews and non-Jews support such a state, despite the US and international media’s constant promotion of a Palestinian state."

Cruz seemed to offer his stamp of approval to this ideology, speaking at ZOA's Justice Louis D. Brandeis dinner, joining Klein and a host of other hawkish donors and media bigwigs, including Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, U.S. News and World Report publisher Mort Zuckerman, Pastor John Hagee, celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) confidante rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

Cruz faced a much friendlier audience than his last major Middle East-related address, where he was booed by Arab Christians for saying they must support Israel. He was awarded the organization's “Bob Shillman Award” for his pro-Israel advocacy, by none other than influential Democrat Alan Dershowitz.

To chants of “Go, Ted, go!” and “Cruz 2016!” the crowd ate up Cruz's address. He told them exactly what they wanted to hear, saying that “threats to Israel have never been greater” and we need “leaders who will act” (presumably to strike Iran, or any number of favored hawk causes).

Although Cruz received some of the biggest applause, including a standing ovation, his fellow speakers offered the fiercest rhetoric. Klein made sure to emphasize Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, to jeers from the crowd, while Hagee, who was once in hot water for comments that seemed to rationalize the Holocaust as an act of God, called Obama the “most anti-Semitic president ever.”

Will He Run?

On the Democratic side of the presidential ticket, the field is fairly clear: Hillary Clinton is expected to run and she may face a handful of challengers.

The Republican field is crowded, and wooing mega-donors like Adelson is like a game of chess; he's one of the most powerful if not the most powerful piece. This will require Cruz not to moderate his views, as he is now attempting, but to escalate his war hawkishness and his anti-Palestinian rhetoric. There is some evidence this may actually even win over Democratic Zionists like Dershowitz and Democratic donors like Michael Teinhardt, a former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, who hosted Cruz at his investment firm's offices this past week.

Lockstep support for the Israeli government is the key priority for these militaristic ideologues. Jerry Levin, a past president of United Jewish Appeal, summed up the rising support for Cruz with his statement: “How can you win? Can we help you? Is there a plan?"

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Election 2018
Environment
Food
Media
World