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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Jayne: Cruz’s tap dance takes the prize

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published: May 29, 2022, 6:02am

They have no answers. That much is clear.

All they can do is deflect and make excuses and pander to the fears of enough Americans to distract from the conversation.

“They,” of course, are Republican politicians. The question in need of answering, of course, is why ours is the only developed nation where mass shootings are commonplace.

And in a long series of tap-dancing competitions, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz may have won the blue ribbon last week.

Following the murder of 21 people, including 19 students, at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Cruz attended a vigil for the victims. There, he employed the kind of mock empathy that is all too common when correspondent Mark Stone of Britain’s Sky News engaged him:

“There are 19 sets of parents, who are never going to get to kiss their child good night again.”

Is this the moment to reform gun laws?

“You know, it’s easy to go to politics.”

But it’s important. It’s at the heart of the issue.

“I get that that’s where the media likes to go.”

It’s not. It’s where many of the people we’ve talked to here would like to go.

“The proposals from Democrats and the media, inevitably, when some violent psychopath murders people …”

A violent psychopath who’s able to get a weapon so easily. An 18-year-old with two AR-15s.

“If you want to stop violent crime, the proposals the Democrats have, none of them would have stopped this.”

But why does this only happen in your country? I really think that’s what many people around the world, they just cannot fathom. Why only in America? Why is this American exceptionalism so awful?

“You know, I’m sorry you think American exceptionalism is so awful?”

I think this aspect of it.

“You know, you’ve got your political agenda.”

No honestly.

“God love you.”

At this point, Cruz starts making his escape. He must have had a flight to catch to Cancun. The journalist walks alongside him.

Senator, it’s not. I just want to understand why you do not think that guns are the problem. It is just an American problem, sir. You can’t answer that; you can’t answer that, can you, sir?

Cruz stops for a moment.

“Why is it that people come from all over the world to America? Because it’s the freest, most prosperous, safest country on Earth. And save me the propaganda.”

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In the course of a 94-second interview, Cruz managed to disparage Democrats and the media. He managed to twist a question about American exceptionalism. He managed to drop in a speech about American greatness.

And when he is on the campaign trail, you can bet he will mention how he challenged an uppity foreign reporter and stood up for good, ol’ America.

But he never answered the question. He never pondered or considered why this only happens in the United States.

OK, a stand-up interview at a memorial service is not the best place for detailed policy discussions. It is not the best place to debate whether assault weapons should be banned or whether “red-flag” laws are effective or how to improve mental health care.

But it does seem to be a reasonable place for a quick answer about why this only happens here — if you have any answers.

Instead, gun-rights supporters have spent decades deflecting the issue. And the media and voters shamefully have allowed them to get away with it.

The United States is, indeed, the only developed nation where mass shootings regularly occur. They happen in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo and Parkland, Fla., and the list goes on.

And the fact that mass shootings can occur at elementary schools, with children as the victims, and not create fundamental change is an embarrassing commentary on this nation. There is no exceptionalism in that.

All of that was encapsulated in a brief interview with a U.S. senator from Texas. But he is merely a symptom of a disease in which too many people ignore the obvious answer.