Texas Sen. Ted Cruz distanced himself from his past support for Chief Justice John Roberts on Saturday, offering up an alternative history where Roberts -- whom he once called a friend -- was never appointed to the court.
"I want to focus on two moments in time that made a world of difference," the Texas senator told a gathering of conservatives at Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Council convention in St. Louis on Saturday.
Cruz first focused on George H.W. Bush's nomination of David Souter over Edith Jones to the Supreme Court before quickly turning his attention to Chief Justice John Roberts.
"Let's fast forward to 2005," stated Cruz. "In 2005, in one room was John Roberts and in another room was my former boss Mike Luttig, the rock conservative on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and George W. Bush picked John Roberts."
"Now in both instances, it wasn't that they were looking for someone who wasn't a conservative, it's that it was easier. Neither Souter nor Roberts had said much of anything. They didn't have a paper trail, they wouldn't have a fight. Whereas if you actually nominate a conservative, then you gotta spend some political capital. Then you gotta fight."
Cruz stated if Jones and Luttig had been on the court instead of Souter and Roberts, then the marriage laws in every state would still be on the books and Obamacare would not been law.
Cruz's claim, besides being counterfactual (Souter retired from the court in 2009, while Roberts dissented on the landmark same-sex marriage ruling this year), shows how the candidate has completely come full circle on Justice Roberts.
In a National Review op-ed in 2005, Cruz argued Roberts' limited record was not a problem at all, citing three reasons.
That complaint misses the mark for three reasons. First, his judicial record would have stretched 14 years, had Senate Democrats not delayed its consideration twice, in 1991 and again in 2001. When his nomination did finally make it to the Senate floor, in 2003, he was confirmed by unanimous consent.
Second, many distinguished jurists, such as Chief Justices William Rehnquist and Earl Warren and Justices O'Connor, Souter, and Thomas, similarly had very limited experience on the federal bench prior to ascending to the Court.
And third, although two years on the bench provides a limited number of opinions, he has a far longer record that is relevant: his professional career as a Supreme Court litigator.
Cruz also had praised Roberts' abilities as a litigator. In internal email conversations exclusively obtained by BuzzFeed News from Cruz's time as solicitor general, the Texan relayed to his staff in 2005 that Roberts was a role model for how to "carry out our craft."
Cruz wrote how his former boss Chief Justice William Rehnquist viewed Roberts as "the best Supreme Court litigator in the nation," which Cruz declared was a sentiment that enthusiastically" agreed with.
"I've worked with John and seen him argue numerous cases, and, to my mind, there's not another appellate advocate who's even close," wrote Cruz.
Cruz added that Roberts had an "unparalleled credibility before the Justices" because of his style.
"What made John so good at the podium was the way he could, eschewing rhetoric, calmly and coolly answer each and every difficult question that came his way. His balanced, reasonable tone commanded enormous respect at the Court and, over the years, he earned unparalleled credibility before the Justices."
Cruz conclude by saying that watching Roberts he learned "a little better how to try to carry out our craft with the highest level of skill and integrity."
In 2005, Cruz also said he had been one of those who helped recruit Roberts to help with the Bush v. Gore recount in Florida.
Earlier this year, Cruz suggested Roberts should resign from the court.
Cruz's 2005 email is below:
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at email@example.com.
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