Code Pink gives Cruz early de­bate prac­tice

Ac­tivists, heck­lers put a spin on event meant to share anger over Iran deal

The Washington Post Sunday - - CHEAP FIX: HEROIN’S RESURGENCE - BY DAVID WEIGEL david.weigel@wash­post.com

It was sup­posed to be a quick show of strength by con­ser­va­tive groups op­posed to the nu­clear agree­ment be­tween Iran and the United States.

In­stead, it turned into a de­bate be­tween the self-iden­ti­fied avatar of “coura­geous con­ser­va­tives” and the om­nipresent an­ti­war ac­tivists of Code Pink — and it lasted as long as the av­er­age sit­com episode.

The re­sult, cap­tured on video by the team at Bre­it­bart News, is among the most pop­u­lar con­ser­va­tive en­ter­tain­ment of the past week.

The drama be­gan Thurs­day af­ter­noon, when Con­cerned Women for Amer­ica brought Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Chris­tians United for Is­rael cam­paigner Gary Bauer to the White House gates.

Code Pink’s pres­ence was a given. Led by Medea Ben­jamin, who in the past few years has in­ter­rupted ev­ery­one from Pres­i­dent Obama to Henry Kissinger, the group re­lent­lessly works its way into con­gres­sional hear­ings and po­lit­i­cal events. If there is a pic­ture of a po­lit­i­cal fig­ure with an­gry protesters hold­ing signs be­hind him, odds are Code Pink did it. (The pink­ness is a play on the long-de­funct, much mocked Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity color code for po­ten­tial risks.)

Cruz is­sued his fa­mil­iar ar­gu­ments against the Iran deal. Code Pink ac­tivists, easily able to swarm an out­door event like this, kept heck­ling. Af­ter a few min­utes, Cruz dared the loud­est heck­ler to stand and de­bate him.

“It is very in­ter­est­ing to see those who pro­fess to be­lieve in free speech be afraid of speech," said Cruz. “Hold on a sec­ond — Sir, come for­ward. You want to be a part of the dis­cus­sion?”

The main heck­ler stood down, and Code Pink dis­patched Ben­jamin to de­bate Cruz. He talked about the deal, specif­i­cally. She talked about the ben­e­fits of diplo­macy, gen­er­ally.

“Over $100 bil­lion will flow to Iran that they will use to fund ji­hadists,” who will mur­der peo­ple, said Cruz.

“The only way we’re go­ing to stop Iran from get­ting a nu­clear weapon is through ne­go­ti­a­tion," said Ben­jamin, who in­sisted that Iran’s real nu­clear am­bi­tions were still mys­te­ri­ous, or over­hyped.

“I think in de­bates, truth mat­ters,” said Cruz. “One en­tity with whom there is no am­bi­gu­ity, in terms of whether Iran wants nu­clear weapons, is Ay­a­tol­lah Khameini. . . . I rec­og­nize that the Code Pink folks like to hold up signs say­ing, ‘Peace with Iran.’ Do you know who doesn’t re­cip­ro­cate those views? Iran.”

Code Pink protesters did not stut­ter or fal­ter. But they were pit­ted against one of the best de­baters at the high lev­els of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. This en­counter did not make the rounds on the left; it went vi­ral on the right.

A re­cap of the de­bate be­came the top trend­ing story at the Washington Ex­am­iner. Washington Free Bea­con re­porter Adam Kredo, who stood next to Cruz dur­ing the de­bate, re­ported that the sen­a­tor “tus­sled with and shut down a group of left wing ac­tivists.” On the first-gen­er­a­tion con­ser­va­tive blog Pow­er­line, it was re­ported that Cruz had “crushed” Code Pink.

Few sen­a­tors would have both­ered.

Ear­lier this year, when a Code Pink heck­ler in­ter­rupted a meet­ing of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the “low-life scum” to exit. Se­cu­rity made it so.

But Cruz saw a chance to work a punch­ing bag, in full view of the con­ser­va­tive base that he courts. He took that chance.

A de­bate with ac­tual Repub­li­can ri­vals for the pres­i­dency will fol­low in less than three weeks.

LUIS M. ALVAREZ/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, de­bates with Medea Ben­jamin, Code Pink’s co-founder, the nu­clear deal that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion made with Iran. Ben­jamin and heck­lers had in­ter­rupted a speech by Cruz near the WhiteHouse.

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