WASHINGTON – Senator Ted Cruz, always keen to tap into the cultural angst on the right, accused the military of projecting an image of “thoughts” by featuring a female soldier raised by two moms in a recruiting ad.
He also spoke approvingly of Russia’s more macho outreach techniques, leading one critic to call him a “Kremlin Cruz.”
“Pansy” has long been a gay insult, and the senator used the term repeatedly and without any excuse last week.
“We see Democratic politicians, and these awakened left-wing bureaucrats and left-wing journalists, trying to destroy the US military trying to transform it, frankly a lot of thoughts. The military’s job is to kill the bad guys, and it’s to instill fear in America’s enemies, ”he told Fox News host Harris Faulkner, complaining of a “Cancer awakened” undermining American military power.
The outcry has simmered since late last week, when Cruz retweeted a viral video that contrasts with the military ad featuring a female soldier who marched for gay rights as a girl with an ad of the Russian army which shows chiseled shirtless men doing push-ups, paratroopers jumping from planes. , and a sniper aiming in the snow.
“Holy shit,” Cruz wrote in a tweet. “Maybe an emasculated and awakened army is not the best idea.”
A host of critics accused him of amplifying the Kremlin’s propaganda.
Some also demanded more precision: is the US military “emasculated” by having more women in uniform? By being inclusive? Are women all “thoughts” or is he referring to a mixed fighting force?
Cruz qualifies as dishonest to interpret his words as an attack on the army, rather than as an advertising campaign and the ideology behind them.
The controversy began when the military unveiled a new recruiting campaign. Five partially animated commercials feature a variety of officers and enlisted personnel, including a first generation immigrant, another who grew up on army bases, and the corporal. Emma Malonelord – the one who caught Cruz’s attention.
“This is the story of a soldier who manages your country’s Patriot missile defense systems,” she said in her announcement. “It starts in California with a little girl raised by two moms.”
Young Emma is seen playing the violin and marching for gay rights – “I like to think I have been defending freedom from a young age.” She is inspired by her mother’s persistence in recovering from a crippling accident, “to get back on her feet, finally stand at the altar to marry my other mom.”
High school student and sisterhood, “I needed my own adventures, my own challenge. And after meeting an Army recruiter, I found it – a way to prove my inner strength and maybe break some stereotypes along the way.
President Joe Biden has ended the ban on transgender troops. Its Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered diversity and inclusion training and focused on eradicating extremism in the ranks, an effort some conservatives see as an affront.
The backlash that the publicity provoked is therefore part of an ongoing struggle over military culture.
“Army ad about a woman with two lesbian mothers who joined the military to ‘discover her inner strength’ and ‘break stereotypes’. We’re the laughing stock of the world, ”conservative writer and talk show host Matt Walsh wrote on Twitter.
It was a week before Cruz intervened.
By this time, a Tik Tok video pitting the Malonelord ad against the Russian ad had gone viral. (The number of clicks on Tuesday exceeded 4.4 million.) Cruz retweeted it with the comment “awake, emasculated”.
“The Russians are building an army focused on killing people and smashing things. We are apparently building an army focused on the ability to explain microaggressions and critical race theory to members of Afghan tribes, ”tweeted John Hawkins, a blogger who runs Right Wing News.
Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, now radio and television host, attacked Malonelord on right-wing Newsmax TV: “You are a shame for what it means to serve in the military at any rank of soldier, the corporal. Emma Malonelord. “
As often happens when Cruz takes an edgy stance online, criticism has piled up, including late-night comics, LGBTQ advocates, and veteran Democrats.
On Monday night, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel taunted an ad that Cruz might find more to his liking: a photo of the Senator checking in for a flight home from Mexico, as he ditched a family getaway during ‘a storm that left millions of Texans without Heat or Power.
“Army. Be All You Can Be,” read the slogan, a play about the long-running “Be All You Can Be” recruiting campaign.
Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, deputy commanding general and chief of staff of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, which includes Army Recruiting Command, has gone as far as an officer can go slapping a senator.
He did not mention Cruz by name. But Twitter followers had no trouble making the connection when he tweeted his admiration for Malonelord: “CPL Malonelord is an air defender, but I would take her as a member of my tank crew (Gunner! ) NOW! #WeHaveTheBestPeople. “
A recurring theme in the anti-Cruz backlash centered on how he bowed to Donald Trump after losing the 2016 GOP nomination, even though the future president had denigrated his wife and claimed – without any evidence – that his father was part of the JFK Assassination Plot.
“Alexa, how do you easily spot guys who are unsure of their own masculinity?” tweeted MJ Hegar, the decorated Air Force fighter pilot who lost to Sen. John Cornyn last fall.
“Ted Cruz without irony using the word ’emasculated’ is hilarious. This nail of a human kissed the ass of a tyrant who called his wife ugly and accused his father of murder! tweeted Jason Kander, an Army National Guard intelligence officer who ran for the US Senate in Missouri in 2016.
They and other veteran Democrats appreciated the opprobrium to Cruz.
“Ted Cruz attacks a US Army soldier for telling his story, says he prefers the Russians. Because Ted Cruz is a sedition-loving traitor, ”said Vote Vets, which promotes progressive candidates who have served in uniform.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, also spoke of Cruz’s support for Trump’s efforts to reverse President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, which resulted in the Jan.6 invasion of the Capitol by a mob. pro-Trump.
Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs in 2004 when Iraqi insurgents shot down the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting, called Cruz’s comments “shameful” and accusing him of “pushing white supremacist propaganda and to denigrate the US military “which protected him and others during the riot.
Charlotte Clymer, a veteran of the Texas transgender army and former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, pushed back against the idea that women in uniform undermine military readiness.
Two women won the Silver Star for their bravery in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, she noted, 50 graduated from the US Army Ranger School and more than 150 died in the war on terror.
“Women are leading from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although he is an able-bodied young man, Ted Cruz did not serve a single day in uniform after the attack on our country. He’s a coward and a hypocrite, and the women he laughs at continue to serve every day to protect people like him who are ungrateful for their sacrifices, ”she said.
Like Kimmel, MSNBC’s Brian Williams reminded viewers of Cruz’s brief trip to Mexico in February.
Noting that he had bristled with the nickname ‘Cancun Cruz’, Williams said on his ’11th Hour’ show, “he really wouldn’t like to be called ‘Kremlin Cruz’ after his latest and remarkably stupid breach of judgment. Remember as you watch this how Ted Cruz dreams of one day becoming president of a country, maybe not of this country.
Williams then showed the Russian military recruiting video that Cruz had posted, with his “holy shit” comment.
Cruz claimed that he was “just arguing that our military must be able to kick Russian soldiers’ asses” and accused Williams of “throwing a whistling crisis”.
As a backlash, he also recalled that Williams lost NBC’s anchor office after embellishing claims about a close combat zone call.
“You are Pravda,” said Cruz, referring to the Kremlin-controlled media whose Orwellian name translates to “truth”.