U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, used a protester’s outburst Saturday to riff on how unhinged the left is, how the display of anger was evidence of the tough race he faces against U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the fall, and how it was really President Barack Obama who colluded with Russia, all while invoking a classic line from his favorite movie, “The Princess Bride.”
The interruption came early in Cruz’s conversation onstage with conservative radio host and blogger Erick Erickson on the last day of Erickson’s Resurgent Gathering, a conference for movement conservatives being held at the Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol.
Holding up a cardboard sign with the words, “Cruz: Russian bootlicker,” a young man stood and shouted toward the podium, “You’re a coward, Ted. Fight the trade war. Stand up to Russia. Stand up for all Texans.”
As he was being hooted at by the audience and led out of the hall, the young man chanted, “Beto, Beto, Beto,” a reference to Cruz’s Senate campaign rival, Democrat O’Rourke of El Paso.
Cruz suggested the man needed a dictionary so he could look up the definition of “coward.”
“It reminds me of ‘The Princess Bride,’” Cruz said of a movie whose dialogue he has been known to recite verbatim, “You keep on using that word. It does not mean what I think you think it means.”
“It seems to me the very definition of cowardice is standing up and screaming like a child and being afraid to engage in any substance, not knowing any substance, which is why you’re afraid to engage in any substance, and just yelling, ‘Russia, Russia, Russia,’ which is what I guess the fever swamps of the left have told him,” Cruz said.
“The irony of course is that eight years of Obama were eight years of absolute appeasement,” Cruz said.
Picking up on the language in the young man’s sign, Cruz said, “We saw eight years of bootlicking for Vladimir Putin.”
“And you want to talk about collusion, our friends, the networks, actually have Russia collusion of the president on live feed when Obama leaned over and said, ‘Tell Vladimir I’ll have much more flexibility after the election,’” Cruz said.
In 2012, Obama was overheard, in what he thought was a private aside to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, saying that he would have more flexibility to negotiate after the November election, a remark that was picked up by a White House television pool and Russian reporters.
“I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” replied Medvedev, who was preceded and succeeded by Putin.
Cruz was critical of President Donald Trump’s performance at his recent joint news conference with Putin in Helsinki, but said that the administration’s actual policies have been tougher on Russia than were the Obama administration’s, and that the reaction of Trump critics to the news conference — like that of former CIA Director John Brennan, who called it “treason” — was outlandish.
“It is not treason to speak foolishly at a press conference,” Cruz said.
In his immediate response to the protester’s outburst Saturday, Cruz said, “What you saw there, it’s not about Russia. That young man, bless his heart, couldn’t tell you a thing about Russia — has no idea.”
“He’s just angry, and Russia’s the latest thing they’re screaming,” he said.“That anger, by the way, is dangerous.”
“Look, the folks gathered here, we’re across the center-right, conservatives, libertarians, every one of us has to be taking this November election deadly seriously,” Cruz said.
While Cruz said that there is reason to question the accuracy of three recent polls that showed him only 2, 4 or 6 percentage points ahead of O’Rourke, he told the gathering that the results are cause for serious concern and “the fury” on the other side is dangerous to Republicans, including himself, this fall.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry was also interviewed Saturday by Erickson and expressed unreserved admiration for Trump, the former rival he now serves.
“I pray for the president, I pray for his health, I pray for his protection, I pray for his wisdom, and that would be my request of you as you kneel down at night,” the former Texas governor told the gathering.
“The onslaught that goes at him, the forces of evil that are arrayed against him, it’s stunning,” Perry said. “And let me tell you, he is a happy warrior. We talk about Ronald Reagan being a happy warrior. Ronald Reagan ain’t got nothing on Donald Trump. This guy is fascinating. His stamina. Watch him on TV. He is amazing.”