During the 2016 campaign, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called President Trump everything from a “sniveling coward” to a “pathological liar” to “utterly amoral” to a “serial philanderer.” The insults were lobbed under the assumption that Trump would not go on to become president. Now that he has, Cruz has become one of Trump’s most feckless sycophants in Congress, continually debasing himself to curry favor with the man who mocked the appearance of Cruz’s wife and implied his father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
On Wednesday, Cruz was able to rally behind two of Trump’s most hare-brained causes in a single tweet, complaining to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that when the platform highlighted Cruz’s comments about the need for a Space Force to protect from “space pirates,” it only featured tweets joking about the remarks. When MSNBC’s Chris Hayes called Cruz’s complaint the saddest tweet he’s ever seen, the senator expressed a desire for space pirates to devour Hayes’ liver, adding a few skull-and-crossbones emojis for good measure.
May Space Pirates devour your liver. 🏴☠️ 🏴☠️
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 16, 2019
Trump has recently heightened his criticism of tech companies for censoring conservative accounts (which is not happening). “They don’t treat me well as a Republican,” the president tweeted last month. “Very discriminatory, hard for people to sign on. Constantly taking people off list.” On Wednesday, the White House took action, kind of, unveiling an online tool for people to register complaints of online bias.
Trump has also, of course, advocated for the establishment of a Space Force to govern military activity beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Cruz is on board. “Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors,” he said Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate subcommittee on aviation and space. “Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.”
Though Cruz is right in that adversarial nations like China — Russia, too, which Cruz didn’t mention for some reason — are developing technology that could be used for ill means in Earth’s orbit, experts and military officials have decried the idea of forming a new branch of the armed forces dedicated to extra-atmospheric threats. The Air Force already does this, and disrupting the infrastructure already in place would create a bureaucratic nightmare and cost billions. “This is a dumb idea. The Air Force does this already. That is their job,” tweeted retired astronaut and current U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona Mark Kelly. “What’s next, we move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the ‘under-the-sea force?'”
Trump’s idea to create a Space Force seems to have arisen on a whim, likely in service of the branding opportunities it would provide. “I was not really serious,” he explained to military personnel when he first floated the idea publicly last March. “Then I said, what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that. That could be a big breaking story.”
A big breaking story it was, so Trump kept mentioning it, inspiring attempts from his most loyal water-carriers to legitimize the idea while using the kind of fantastical, militaristic language that tickles the president. Vice President Mike Pence became the administration’s pre-eminent mouthpiece for the plan, promising “an elite group of joint warfighters, specializing in the domain of space.” (Cruz had opted for the elaborate historical warship metaphor.)
But that wasn’t all from the Senate’s bearded clown on Wednesday. A few minutes after he railed against Twitter for not taking his “space pirates” comments seriously, Cruz took another cue from Trump, posting a picture of himself smiling next to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right autocrat who has disparaged the press, joked about rape, called immigrants in Brazil the “scum of the Earth” and has said he would rather die than have a gay son.
Heidi & I had dinner w/ @jairbolsonaro in TX, after DeBlasio disinvited him from NYC. After years of tension btwn leaders in Brazil & US, it’s good for Western Hemisphere to have Brazilian President who wants to be strong ally to America. We extend the hand of friendship. pic.twitter.com/vwjwdgcYI6
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 16, 2019
Trump invited Bolsonaro to the White House in March, praising the “very outstanding job” the Brazilian leader has done. As former Obama staffer and Pod Save America co-host Tommy Vietor tweeted in response to Cruz grinning next to him: “Fascist sloppy seconds. Good bumper sticker for Cruz’s next campaign.”
Cruz’s fierce criticism of Trump during the 2016 campaign is now a distant memory. The symbolic ending to his opposition campaign came during the Republican National Convention that summer, when he was booed for refusing to endorse Trump during his address. The following day, Cruz explained that he is not a “servile puppy dog” who will bend to the will of someone who has slandered his family.