WASHINGTON — In extraordinarily sharp remarks Friday, President-elect Joe Biden compared Sen. Ted Cruz to Hitler’s propaganda master in the way he peddled Donald Trump’s “big lie” about election fraud, though he stopped short of blaming him for the riot by a pro-Trump at the Capitol as many Texas Democrats have done.
He called Cruz’s efforts “shameful.”
The Texas Republican led an effort in the Senate to block congressional certification of Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, insisting that widespread doubts about the legitimacy of the election demanded an emergency investigation to allay public concerns. The riot, which left one Capitol Police officer and four others dead, delayed that review on Wednesday.
Biden noted that Cruz, like Trump, had spent weeks questioning the legality and accuracy of balloting in a half-dozen states, despite an utter lack of evidence.
Asked if Cruz should resign, or Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who also led the objections that delayed certification, Biden said: “They should be just flat beaten the next time they run.”
“The American public has a real good clear look at who they are. They’re part of the big lie. The big lie,” he told reporters in Wilmington, Del.
It was at that point that he invoked Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist, recalling his exaggeration of civilian deaths in the firebombing of Dresden, repeated by newspapers around the world. Goebbels maintained that the bigger the lie, and the more it was repeated, the more likely it was to be believed.
Biden did not mention Adolf Hitler, whom Goebbels served, nor compare Trump to him.
“I was pleased to hear some of the more prominent Republicans say to me that the Ted Cruzes of the world are as responsible in terms of people believing the lies, as – not as responsible but similarly responsible – Trump. But they didn’t say go to the Capitol, I’ll be with you, follow [as Trump did]. That’s a different story,” Biden said.
Conservative commentator George Will, among others, accused him of sedition and said he will bear a “scarlet S” the rest of his public career.
Leading Texas Democrats such as Julian Castro and his brother Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio demanded Cruz resign, as did Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Cruz chalked up such talk to political opportunism by adversaries, making clear he will not follow their advice.
Some critics accused Cruz of inciting insurrection in the wake of the deadly riot at the Capitol.
“It is your self-serving attempt at sedition that has helped to inspire these terrorists and their attempted coup,” alleged Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso Democrat who came close to ousting Cruz in 2018.
Cruz denounced the attack at the Capitol in real time as a “despicable act of terrorism,” and has repeatedly called for prosecution of those involved.
He has defended his demand for an inquiry into alleged irregularities in the election, saying Thursday that even in hindsight – knowing about the riot –he would still have pursued a delay and object to Congress affirming Biden’s victory. Doing otherwise, he said, would amount to shirking his duty, and he expressed disappointment that his argument did not gain enough traction among colleagues.
“Yes. Absolutely,” he told KXAS-TV (Ch. 5). “I would object and urge that we should follow the law and follow the Constitution.”
At the same time, with Trump’s presidency ending, his power waning and calls for impeachment or removal through a 25th Amendment process by which the vice president and cabinet could declare him unfit, Cruz has begun distancing himself in a way he avoided doing for over four years.
“I do think the President’s rhetoric and his language has been over the line,” Cruz said. “I think it was irresponsible. I think it was reckless…. He plainly bears some responsibility.”