At Hagel's confirmation hearing, Cruz employed charts and a scratchy tape from an Al-Jazeera interview with Hagel to challenge the nominee. But it was his guilt-by-association line of questioning that surprised several in the Senate, particularly when Cruz tried to link Hagel to Charles Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia who resigned in March 2009 as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman was undone by congressional criticism over his comments about the Israel government and alleged ties to foreign governments.
Cruz cited media reports that Hagel traveled with Freeman to China. Hagel said he had never been on a trip with Freeman and hadn't spoken with him in years.
Cruz shifted the questioning.
"Is he someone whose judgment you respect?" he asked.
Cruz's questioning raised the specter of 1950s communist-hunter Joe McCarthy, the former Wisconsin senator. He has dismissed those suggestions, and conservatives have come to his defense.
In Texas this week, those who came to meet Cruz at stops like Lodge Lumber and La Rue Tactical in Leander took no issue with his line of questioning.
At the end of a tour at Lodge Lumber, Cruz was met by a supporter who carried in his billfold several fake dollar bills bearing Obama's face, including one that read, "The People's Republic of Hollywood." He said it was the president he wanted Cruz to keep in his sights.
Owner John Lodge said he felt that for the first time in a long while, someone in Washington was on his side.
"He gets with them. He's gotten down to business," Lodge said. "He's the man."
Cassata reported from Washington.
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