This blog has occasionally accused Senator Ted Cruz of pandering. This is not one of those times.
Several of the prospective Republican presidential candidates attended the Iowa Agriculture Summit over the weekend. The event is usually an opportunity for office-seekers to suck up to Big Agriculture and pledge fealty to its big boondoggle: the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires that a certain amount of ethanol be blended into our gasoline.
The RFS is an appalling waste of both money and corn, and has caused far more environmental damage than even its initial skeptics could have imagined. Repealing it is one of the few issues that unites both Democrats and Republicans, environmentalists and oil companies. Yet it’s backed by an intricate survival mechanism: agriculture corporations that donate to presidential campaigns and the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses that require candidates to prostrate themselves before corn farmers.
Fortunately, Cruz wasn’t looking particularly supine over the weekend:
“The answer you’d like me to give is ‘I’m for the RFS, darn it,’” Cruz responded. “That’d be the easy thing to do. But people are pretty fed up with politicians that run around and tell one group one thing and tell another group another thing. Then they go to Washington and don’t do anything they said they would do.”
“I’m going to tell you the truth,” he added.
Cruz is the sponsor of a Senate bill to repeal the RFS standard over a period of five years, so it’s no surprise where he stands. But he did not try to nuance his position. He said he’s against corporate welfare of all kinds and against the government picking winners and losers.
Chris Christie was at the summit too, yet it was Cruz who showed the candor usually associated with the New Jersey governor. Christie barely deviated from Big Ag’s wish list. Scott Walker flip-flopped, saying he was for the RFS after having previously opposed it. Rand Paul has opposed ethanol in the past, but he didn’t show up at the summit, perhaps because of past tensions between his supporters and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. Branstad, by the way, was pathetically predictable on ethanol. “Don’t mess with the RFS!” he warned the candidates.
Only Cruz refused to kiss the agricultural companies’ ring. Best of all, the audience applauded his honesty. For that he deserves credit.