Sen. Ted Cruz recently referred to “New York values” in criticizing Donald Trump. It is unfortunate that he had to invoke a people and region in attempting to point out Trump’s changes of opinion regarding certain issues and to defend himself against Trump’s ridiculous questioning of his eligibility to be president.
A New Yorker who lost a family member on 9/11, and was dismayed by the senator’s comment, approached me. While considering Sen.Cruz’s comments and Donald Trump’s response, others were interviewed regarding their opinions.
President Obama in his last State of the Union address noted the divisiveness now in America. It appears he is unwilling to look in the mirror for its cause. Yet, is Sen. Cruz also attempting to separate Americans? In a recent radio interview he stated, “Donald comes from New York and he embodies New York values.” But what are “New York Values,” and who represents those values considering many of America’s cultural, scientific and military elite have come from New York. Those interviewed represented a “melting pot:” some Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, with Irish, Italian, and Greek backgrounds.
Retired Col. Jack Jacobs is a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions during the Vietnam War. As a Republican, he found Sen. Cruz’s comments offensive. He noted, “Maybe the media is partially responsible because his comments might reflect Middle America’s perception of New York. People trying to carve out and distinguish New Yorkers based on their values does not know what they are talking about. I do not agree that basic values are reflected in who you elect.”
He went on to say, “I don’t think you can distinguish New York in terms of patriotism from anyone else in this country. We all agree on some very basic principles. In any military unit it is mostly impossible to tell where anyone is from. We are all Americans who believe in upholding and defending the Constitution.”
But Americans watched the exchange the senator had with Maria Bartiromo during Thursday’s Republican debate:
Maria Bartiromo: “Mr. Trump embodies ‘New York Values.’ Can you explain what you mean by that?”
Senator Cruz: “You know, I think most people know what ‘NY values’ are.
Bartiromo: “I’m from New York.”
Senator Cruz: “You’re from New York, so you might not. But I promise you in the state of South Carolina, they do.”
Maureen and Al Santora watched the senator’s response at the debate. Both are Republicans who lost a son, Christopher, a New York City firefighter, on 9/11. They think the senator made a major mistake and regard his statements as a lack of understanding about New Yorkers.
They feel “the statements shows how he knows very little about New York. On 9/11 it didn’t matter to a terrorist if someone was from Iowa, Georgia, or New York. It especially did not matter if they were a Democrat, Independent, or a Republican. He insulted New York today, who will it be tomorrow, Iowans or Southerners? Yet, we don’t think the senator is a bad person and have always liked him. We would be willing to break bread with him and would even make him dinner.”
The senator tried to explain his comments by saying, “There are many, many wonderful, wonderful working men and women in the state of New York, but everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro- gay-marriage, [and] focus around money and the media… I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who’ve been let down by liberal politicians.” He referred to New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Maureen and Al resented the apology because it was not directed toward the people of New York, but rather a criticism of New York politicians. What they want Sen. Cruz and other Americans to understand is that every state has its liberal progressive politicians including Texas, where Wendy Davis ran for Governor. “That is what Sen. Cruz does not understand. He attacked an entire group of people, and needs to understand we do not have a monopoly on extreme liberals.”
Although registered as “unaffiliated,” Debra Burlingame disagrees with the others interviewed and supports the senator’s statements. She commented, “This is a phony controversy. Having lost my brother Charles, I do not see the senator’s statements as having anything to do with 9/11. He owes nobody an apology. I think he nailed it against the New York political elite that is running this state into the ground with their crazy policies. An ordinary person who is a conservative is not welcome in New York and has to whisper their beliefs around the water cooler. The comments were not about the people of New York but about the politicians.”
Joe Holland, also a Republican, who lost his son Joey when the World Trade Center collapsed, agrees with Cruz’s statement about New York politicians, but does not think he should have brought up New York values because “it has nothing to do with this election. Before he speaks about the people he should spend a couple of months in New York.”
Judi Reiss, a Democrat, feels that people like her are not welcome in the Republican Party. For her, Cruz signified that unless people agree with conservatives on a complete basis you are unwelcome, even if someone agrees with them fiscally and regarding national security issues. She noted, “I am a supervisor of my township and was elected because of the support of diehard Republicans. A key issue we all agreed on was our New York values of community. We go to work, send our children to school, and just want to feel safe. Let’s remember that New York values were exemplified by songwriter Irving Berlin in ‘God Bless America,’ George M. Cohan in ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,’ and Emma Lazarus who wrote ‘Give me your tired, your poor.’ I do think when speaking of New York values it is appropriate to bring up Sept. 11 because afterward we picked ourselves up and continued on with our lives. My son who died would have said, ‘mom get even by doing well. Get up and do what you have to do.”
What most interviewed want Sen. Cruz to understand is that New York is made up of different cultures, religions and political views from the most liberal to the most conservative. Instead of magnifying our differences, they want elected officials like the senator to find commonalities under the umbrella that we are all Americans.