To offer more context from Cruz’s statement, he said in part, “The CDC, months ago, rightly concluded that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks because the whole purpose of a vaccine is to not get the disease. That decision was right. The science hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is the politics. A year and a half ago, the CDC was one of if not the most respected scientific and medical organization in the country. Today, the credibility of the CDC is in tatters because leadership of the CDC has been willing to allow science to become politicized. We’ve seen Dr. Fauci take virtually every position on virtually every subject under the sun.”
Later in the same speech, he added: “My view is simple: we should not have mandates. What does that mean? That means no mask mandate. That means no vaccine mandates.” After sharing that he himself has been vaccinated, he accused Senate Democrats of “theater” by returning to masks post-CDC guidance, saying, “We saw Democrats putting on masks, not because the vaccine suddenly stopped working yesterday, but it was working two days ago. Nope. Because now it is a virtue signal of submissiveness to wear a mask.”
Here is his address in video form, which covers a solid seven minutes of time.
Kaine managed to smoothly address Cruz’s theater in about three minutes, noting that he wanted to share a “correction” in response to Cruz. In response to Cruz, Kaine said in part, “That’s frankly ridiculous. In your comment, you never said anything about the delta variant. You never said anything about the rising caseload in Texas, and Virginia, and everywhere. You didn’t acknowledge that the Texas Department of Health Services, before the CDC, is still recommending that people wear masks because of the delta variant.
“You can have opinions about the potency of the delta variant and we can debate those. But when you say that the CDC action yesterday was based purely on politics and was unrelated to the surge in the delta variant that is hospitalizing people at near-record numbers and killing far too many Americans … I just worry about folks who are watching a hearing like this.
“When they think that their representatives of government are trashing the institutions of government and asserting that they’re only acting by politics when we are in the middle of such a challenging spike in the pandemic, the effect of those comments is to weaken people’s beliefs in the institutions of this country. And these institutions aren’t perfect because humans aren’t perfect. But I’ve lived in a military dictatorship. I’ve seen how other people live. I just don’t feel that we should be needlessly trashing our health agencies as they’re trying to recommend in difficult circumstances ways people can be safe.”
He summed up his statement noting, “We’re just trying to do the very best we can to keep people safe. And I don’t know why folks are trying to undermine that.”
Here is Kaine’s statement:
Mind you, Cruz is far from the only Republican throwing a fit about wearing masks. For example, we saw fellow Texas Republican Chip Roy stoke hysteria about his staff being “arrested” over their refusal to follow U.S. Capitol Police guidelines and mask up. Roy pushed a vote to adjourn, which yielded no Democratic votes and a meager showing from his peers in his own party, before a number of House Republicans marched maskless over to the Senate Chambers, where masks are technically only recommended, not required. In recent days, we’ve also seen Republicans like QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. Lauren Boebert make a show of being anti-mask.
In an ideal world, these people wouldn’t have a national—if not international—platform to spew their dangerous conspiracy theories and fearmongering. But they do, and vulnerable people may believe them and follow their lead. That’s part of the reason we have to fight disinformation every day and lead with truth, responsibility, and stamina.