Senator Ted Cruz took the stage today at the Family Resource Council’s Values Voter Summit — and took on the hecklers who tried to derail his speech.  With obvious delight, Cruz told one heckler that he’d taken more questions in this one speech than Barack Obama had all year, and then told another that he was grateful that Obama’s staff came to the event rather than cause “mischief in the country.”

Needless to say, the audience roared with approval:

  • In response to one heckler, Cruz said: “Thank you, sir, for being here. You know, look, it is a great thing that people can express their First Amendment rights. And I only wish the Obama administration respected First Amendment rights that much.”
  • To another heckler, Cruz responded: “Ma’am, thank you for being here. I wish you would participate in the democratic process through speaking respectfully. … It seems that President Obama’s paid political operatives are out in force today. And you know why? Because the men and women in this room scare the living daylights out of them.”
  • Interrupted again, Cruz took aim at the president: “You know what? I’m curious. Is anybody left at the Organizing for America headquarters? I’m actually glad that the president’s whole political staff is here instead of actually doing mischief in the country.”
  • When another heckler yelled out a question, Cruz responded: “You know what’s striking, actually? In the course of this brief speech, we’ve heard more questions than President Obama has allowed in the last year.”
  • The heckling then led Cruz to “make an offer” to Obama. “I would welcome the president, if he wants to get a hundred of his most rabid political operative in a room, I’ll answer their questions on television as long as he likes. And in exchange, all that I would ask, Mr. President, is you take not a hundred, but ten of the men and women in this room, and spend 30 minutes answering their questions for the American people.”
  • To another liberal activist, Cruz responded: “Oh, they don’t want the truth to be heard. They definitely don’t want the truth to be heard.”

Maybe someone can explain the strategy here for the Democrats and/or progressive activists. Heckling and interrupting an event like this is dumb under any circumstances, as it makes the hecklers look petty and ridiculous and engenders sympathy for the speaker. It also allows adept speakers to both raise their profile and take shots at your cause from a much higher platform, literally and figuratively — and on CNN in this case, too.  And specifically in this case, it rallies people around Cruz at a moment when he’s taking quite a bit of heat inside the GOP tent, giving him great sound bites that are practically guaranteed to go viral.

Great strategy, hecklers. It’s not quite as bad as turning the National Parks Service into shock troops against World War II veterans, but it’s not all that far off, either.

Watch the entire speech here, along with excerpts passed around by Cruz’ office earlier today:

“Throughout history we have seen great nations rise and fall. And everyone here today is here today because we are not content for the United States of America to rise and do anything but continue to be the greatest country on the face of this Earth.

“Only the American people can turn this great nation around. Only the American people. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is nothing new under the sun. As dire as things are, I want each of us to remember back to 1978 and 1979. Those were dark times with 22 percent interest rates. Double-digit unemployment, gas lines going around the block; our hostages languishing in Iran for 444 days. The President of the United States said: we have to accept malaise, the Soviet Union can’t be stopped; our foreign policy is ‘détente’—which I’m pretty sure is French for surrender. And what were we all told, over and over again? There is nothing you can do about it. It can’t be done. The top marginal tax rate is 70 percent and it will stay 70 percent no matter what. The Soviet Union cannot be defeated. The government will always grow and freedom in America will always recede.

“In 1980, the Reagan Revolution began across this country. I’m looking at a lot of foot soldiers and generals from the Reagan Revolution. A lot of men and women in this room bear the scars and understand the power that when the people rise up, ultimately sovereignty resides in one place and one place only. And that is with We the People.

“I’m going to suggest a model for how we turn this country around in the next couple of years. It is the model we have been following together to stop that train wreck, that nightmare, that disaster that is Obamacare.

“It is because of you that the House of Representatives has been standing strong because the House has been listening to the people; It is because of you that for the past two months the country has been engaged in a national debate about the enormous harms that Obamacare is causing.

“All of the millions of Americans who are losing their jobs, being pushed into part time work, losing their health insurance. It is because of you that the American people are energized, and we see the Obama Administration defending positions that are utterly and completely unreasonable. Repeatedly the House of Representatives has acted to compromise, to fund vital priorities, and repeatedly President Obama and the Democrats have refused to negotiate.

“There are two things I have unabiding faith in: One is a benevolent God who loves each and every one of us, and number two is the American people who love liberty and opportunity unlike any nation, any people in the history of this world.

“Each of you is called to be here. Much like Esther, you are called for a time such as this. For hundreds of years every generation of Americans has given to their kids and grandkids greater opportunity, greater prosperity, a greater future. If we keep going down this road, we will become the first generation not to do that. And every man and woman in this room believes in your heart and in your soul that is utterly and completely unacceptable.”