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Cruz Takes Extra Credit on Campaign Trail

You might come to believe that Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, is the reason the stone monument to the Ten Commandments is still standing near the northwest corner of the Texas Capitol. It's not so.

Ted Cruz at a U.S. Senate candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012, in Austin.

Ted Cruz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, isn’t lying about his resume. But if you listen to him as he campaigns across Texas, you could easily walk away with an inflated impression of his accomplishments.

It’s easy to conclude, for example, that the former state solicitor general is the reason the stone monument to the Ten Commandments is still standing near the northwest corner of the Texas Capitol.

Earlier in Cruz’s campaign — and he has since taken care with this one — it wasn’t clear whether his father fled Cuba for America after fighting with Fidel Castro and other rebels, or fighting against them. (He fought with them, became disillusioned with the revolutionaries and then came to the U.S.) In the version that now appears in his biography on his campaign website, the revolution isn’t mentioned — just the date he came to the U.S. (1957) and a son’s proud retelling of his parents’ successes.

It’s not earth-shattering stuff. It's just inaccurate. And he’s certainly not alone among the Senate candidates. If you listen to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, you sometimes have to remind yourself that he is not the only politician working in the Texas Senate chamber. He’s usually the only one who’s not voting, but he doesn’t do all of that legislating by himself.

They let the false impressions stack up.

A Texas solicitor general is basically an assistant attorney general with appellate duties and a different title. The title was created in 1999 when John Cornyn, now a U.S. senator, was attorney general. Since then, Cruz held the job longer than anyone else, serving from 2003 to 2008.

Cruz was highly regarded at the Texas attorney general’s office. He’s smart, and he worked hard enough that Attorney General Greg Abbott would brag about him to reporters. He worked on a lot of cases, arguing nine times before the U.S. Supreme Court and writing briefs in those and dozens of other cases. His website says that he has authored more than 80 briefs in Supreme Court cases.

In that same spot, he opens the trophy case: “During Ted’s service as Solicitor General, Texas achieved an unprecedented series of landmark national victories.” The list that follows includes the Ten Commandments case and others.

It’s fuzzy, and it leads some to conclusions that aren’t harmful to the interests of a political candidate. The bio includes some of Cruz’s press clippings, too.

“We defended the Ten Commandments monument that stands on the state Capitol grounds,” Cruz told National Review. “We went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and we won, 5 to 4.”

The Tyler Morning Telegraph, in an editorial also linked on Cruz’s website, came away with the same impression, saying he had successfully defended the monument.

The impression is both true and incomplete. To be fair to Cruz, another article written at about the same time — and also included in that set of links in his bio — told the more complete story.

Here’s what he did: He led the team that wrote the brief in the Ten Commandments case. When that went to the Supreme Court, the actual presentation was shared by Cruz’s boss, Abbott, and by Paul Clement, then the interim U.S. solicitor general, arguing on the state’s behalf from his federal post. Cruz’s name was on the briefs, with Abbott’s and six others, but Cruz didn’t make the oral arguments.

Clements’ name is familiar to anyone who’s been following Texas’ redistricting case, as Abbott hired him to present the state’s case to the Supreme Court. Clement did that last week, arguing that political maps drawn by the Legislature should trump those drawn by federal judges in Texas. The court’s decision is pending. And he’s also the lead advocate for Texas and other states that have filed suit to overturn the federal health care law.

The state won that Ten Commandments case, and some of the work had Cruz’s name on it.

The misimpressions probably don’t amount to much more than nits to pick, but these candidates want voters to have a look at their credentials, and you might as well know what they are.

Unlike that block of stone they were protecting, it’s not monumental.

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