It would be easy to have fun with the idea of Sen. Ted Cruz wandering into the land of #freebritney.vAfter all, this is a man whose association with pop culture tends to be as the butt of its jokes.
On his podcast Verdict over the summer, Cruz spoke passionately and with great legal insight about the case of pop star Britney Spears. And now he has engaged in a bipartisan hearing on toxic conservatorships like the one that the singer appears to have at last escaped.
It’s worth taking seriously, and we are glad Cruz did for three reasons.
First, the senator is right on the issue — what happened to Spears shouldn’t happen to anyone in this country.
Second, Cruz has managed to find an area where he and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, have actually found common ground in a time when we desperately need common ground.
Third, Cruz’s stance on Spears gives the country an opportunity to understand his political philosophy in a context that helps clarify why it is attractive to a lot of Texans — and Americans.
For those who haven’t been following the story, Spears, 39, has lived for the last 13 years under a conservatorship that saw her father, Jamie Spears, control her finances as well as major elements of her life.
Spears’ efforts to get away from the conservatorship were consistently blunted by a California court. Legions of her fans waged a campaign for years under the #freebritney slogan. Excellent reporting by The New York Times and greater legal pressure from Spears finally saw her father suspended from the conservatorship in late September.
But the question of how this happened and whether it could happen to someone else is one Cruz is seriously considering in the light of personal liberty vs. the power of the state.
“She shaved her head,” Cruz said in the podcast, recalling a public breakdown Spears had in 2007. “Last I checked, shaving your head is not a capital offense. She had pretty hair, but who the hell’s business is it if she wants to shave her head? The threshold for taking away someone’s liberty and capacity to make decisions properly under the law is very high and it should be high.”
Spears claimed in court that her conservatorship team had required her to use birth control against her will, something Cruz properly compared to forced sterilizations in communist China.
In his statements at the Sept. 28 public hearing, Cruz said he is emphatically in the #freebritney camp. We aren’t surprised, because Cruz is usually in the camp of individual freedom over governmental power — a place many Americans are politically.
The popular culture dismisses Cruz as a conservative caricature. But the thread of his philosophy on personal liberty runs consistently. If it is true about Britney Spears, we might be wise to consider in what other cases it merits our attention.
— Tribune News Service