Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) may have failed to derail the confirmation of recently sworn-in Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, but in an interview published Wednesday the freshman Tea Party icon stood firmly by his aggressive questioning of Hagel at an earlier Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Speaking with the Texas Tribune, Cruz brushed off the backlash and subsequent comparisons to Cold War-era McCarthyist tactics, welcoming them as a badge of honor.
"It is interesting that in just a few weeks, The New York Times has repeatedly targeted my defense of conservative principles as objectionable in their view," he said. "I think the fact that The New York Times is so hysterical after just a few weeks may perhaps be a sign that we’re doing something right."
While the Times has reported on pushback from some of Cruz's Senate colleagues and published at least one op-ed critical of the freshman senator, the most prominent report on Cruz's echoing of McCarthy came in a February New Yorker article.
According to the piece, Cruz gave a speech two years ago accusing the Harvard Law School of "harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there" from 1992 until 1995. Cruz later stood by the contention.
Cruz went on to charge that the media had mounted a coordinated assault against him in order to deflect scrutiny of Hagel's record.
"I think it is unfortunate that those attacks to some extent achieved their objective, which is changing the conversation from Hagel’s record, which is where the conversation should be," Cruz told the Tribune." It’s worth underscoring that my focus in the Hagel confirmation, and my focus in every other proceeding in which I participate in the Senate, has focused on substance and, in particular, Mr. Hagel’s policy record. It has not focused on personal issues, and, indeed, the character attacks that have been raised have been leveled at me for asking questions that I think every senator should be concerned to know the answer."
But some Republicans disagreed with Cruz's claim that he stayed away from character attacks. In interviews with the Times, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) cautioned Cruz not to "be disrespectful or malign [Hagel's] character," while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) characterized Cruz's demands of Hagel as "out of bounds, quite frankly.”
Hagel was sworn in on Wednesday, following a drawn-out confirmation marked by Republican opponents taking an unprecedented vote to delay the process. In a statement released after Hagel's confirmation, Cruz said that he still had concerns over Hagel's record on Israel and Iran.