Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw the Congressman and the Man

Comment by Jim Campbell

May 14th, 2019

Ms. Russell the original author of this piece paints a picture of Texas Representative Crenshaw as being fare more liberal than he actually is. (Source)

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Houston has joined a growing group of Republicans on Capitol Hill trying to build support in the GOP for better programs offering paid family leave to young parents.

Democrats have largely been more aggressive in calling for paid family leave, but that is changing as Republicans sign on, including Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, who has said she wants it to be a priority issue.

The Washington Examiner

Nicole Russell

May 14th, 2019  

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, has a congressional office in Washington, D.C., but he remains ever a Navy SEAL.

The 35-year-old refuses to sit down when he arrives for our interview. “We’re too exposed,” Crenshaw tells me as he approaches the outdoor table I’ve chosen for our interview.

It’s a Houston breakfast spot called Snooze.

Thank a veteran for his service by saying “Never Forget.”

He points to a table on the perimeter covered in pollen. “Let’s sit there.”

We sit in bright orange chairs, and now, from his vantage point, Crenshaw can see the entire outdoor patio, the adjacent patio, and the street.

He instantly relaxes, orders a double shot mocha with a little less chocolate and the “Smashed Avocado Benny,” and answers questions on a variety of topics, including President Trump, immigration, national security, his military service, his beer preferences, and “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson.

If Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., represent the polar opposites of our social media-driven political culture, then Crenshaw might be the man in the middle: an antidote to chaos in an ever-changing Washington, D.C.

He is at once a former SEAL still on a mission to cure what ails this country with his Harvard intellect, special operations forces-grit, and “Texas Forever” sensibilities.

Everything Crenshaw does, from his social media posts to his border control policy proposals, and even where he positions himself in an interview — is resolute, methodical, and deliberate.

This is most obvious in several ways inside Congress, but the way he engages with President Trump demonstrates this for outsiders.

Crenshaw has no qualms about calling Trump out via Twitter, but he does so with tact and respect.

When Trump recently tweeted criticism of the late Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, Crenshaw tweeted back: “There is just no reason to be talking about Senator McCain after he has passed.

He is not your political enemy Mr. President.”

On the other hand, there’s much Crenshaw agrees with concerning the president’s politics, particularly border control and immigration, a hot-button issue for someone who hails from a border state.

Unlike other issues, such as disaster preparedness, which is trickier to resolve, Crenshaw knows exactly how border security vantage point have become such controversial topics, and he says news media deserve some of the blame.

“The coverage and the debate surrounding the border wall has been wholly and completely dishonest.

The media should be ashamed of itself.

The Democrats have done a complete 180 on their own policy and started to make up arguments that simply are not true.

They started to argue against points we weren’t making.”

He credited Chris Cuomo for pointing out that walls are not immoral and says he “actually had some interesting coverage on it.”

Meanwhile, he maintains Jim Acosta “had the best coverage.” Crenshaw lowers his voice and quotes him: “There’s nothing happening here.”

“Exactly,” Crenshaw laughs.

He says the media cover for Democrats by making false claims about their views. “The media won’t hold [Democrats] accountable.”

He believes they regularly claim Democrats are not opposed to border security. “Yeah, [Democrats] are. When you want to diminish personnel or the capacity to contain them … you do want open borders.”

Rep. Dan Crenshaw: Trump ‘has a bad habit of repeating what Putin says’]

Crenshaw is weary of the Left’s empty talking points.

“They’ll claim walls are ineffective. You can debunk that in a second.” He chuckles. “There’s no Border Patrol agent that agrees with that idea.

It’s a silly talking point.

Those talking points, they spread like wildfire. They get repeated, and people dismissively shoo away the wall: ‘It’s medieval.’

It’s like, do you have any evidence to back that up? Do you have an argument at least? ‘No, not at all, it’s just a truth.

How dare you question the truth! It’s a consensus!’”

He chuckles again. “If enough people repeat it, it becomes a consensus.”

Crenshaw wants to change the argument about immigration, but he also advocates for specific ideas. He says 400,000 people crossing the border are simply too many, so he wants to change the asylum process.

Of course, national security seems like a natural topic for a SEAL Team 3 member-turned-politician, although he “never [had] political ambitions” during his 10 years in the Navy.

“I would say I got more interested in politics as far as issues outside of just national security maybe the last couple years of service. … It just sort of happened.”

Crenshaw was born in Scotland to American parents.

While he didn’t grow up in a military family, he wanted to be in wary forces from an early age.

His mother died of cancer when Crenshaw was 10.

His father worked in the oil industry, and Crenshaw spent time living in Ecuador and Colombia.

He went to high school in Bogotá and learned to speak Spanish fluently, which helped his ambition to join the elite military service.

After graduating from Tufts University in 2006, Crenshaw was commissioned in the Navy. In the SEALs, he served three tours in Afghanistan, and it was in Helmand Province that he lost his right eye in a roadside bomb explosion.

With his eye patch, he has a distinctive look that draws attention in our social media age.

Men applaud it, and women love its action-man appeal. Crenshaw recently showed off his glass eye to actor Chris Evans who portrays Captain America in the Marvel movies.

But he generally doesn’t mention it specifically. “I was injured,” he says simply. While he lost his right eye, surgery saved his vision in the left eye.

Walking the tightrope: Dan Crenshaw deftly balances between Never Trump and MAGA conservatives

“I certainly miss [the military],” he says with obvious nostalgia. “I never wanted to leave. I was injured in 2012 and fought the system to stay in for at least two [more] deployments, and that ended up being an impossible hill to climb.

Just because of the medical waivers that you need from the top echelons of the Navy in order to continue to deploy without it being questioned every single time.”

Being forced onto medical leave bothers him, and he believes the military “discharges people on medical retirements unnecessarily,” which is a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“A lot of these people get up and walk right out of the room after their debriefing,” he says. “They’re just fine.

They haven’t been in combat, and they haven’t been in hard training. I’m not saying there isn’t some sort of health problem, but that doesn’t mean the taxpayer should be on the hook forever.”

Crenshaw received two Bronze Star Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with valor for his service.

Despite his military accolades, Crenshaw hadn’t set his sights on public office, except for a brief stint with former GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, also a Texas Republican, as a military legislative assistant after he earned a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

That changed when Texas’ 2nd Congressional District became vacant. Republican Rep. Ted Poe was retiring, and after some encouragement, Crenshaw decided to join a small group of primary candidates.

Despite his lack of name recognition, Crenshaw felt confident.

“I had pretty high confidence we would actually win.

What’s the point of having any other kind of confidence, or any other choice in mind?”

Local groups held candidate forums, and he credits them with his success. “It’s democracy at work,” he says.

Brendan Steinhauser runs a public relations, government affairs, and consulting firm out of Austin, Texas, and worked on Crenshaw’s campaign.

“I am proud of the campaign we ran,” Steinhauser said in an email.

“We had a great candidate with a unique story to tell, and we told that story effectively by carefully targeting voters online, on the phone, and at the door.

Our campaign spent our resources effectively and efficiently, and we made sure that we were thoughtful about our message, and how that message was delivered to the voters.”

It wasn’t just the 2nd District that was happy to have Crenshaw; Republican Sen. Ted Cruz thought he was an excellent choice as well. In an email,

Cruz said, “The people of Texas’ 2nd District made a strong choice to be represented by a man of Dan Crenshaw’s character, whose courageous service to our nation and charismatic voice in Congress justify high hopes that he will vigorously defend liberty and fight hard for our fellow Texans and all Americans.”

Crenshaw’s star rose quickly after an impromptu stint on “Saturday Night Live.” He appeared on the show to accept Pete Davidson’s apology after the comedian made fun of his eye patch.

The gracious way Crenshaw handled the mockery, which included his own funny jab about Davidson’s then-recent breakup with singer Ariana Grande, and a surprising, heartfelt homage to Davidson’s father, who died in the 9/11 terror attacks, made his name recognizable to a broader audience.

“I don’t have an emotional reaction to [Davidson’s earlier joke],”

Appearing on “SNL” was “more of a cost/benefit analysis.” Still,.Crenshaw acknowledges the entire experience helped him.

“It would have been a much slower road up without [‘SNL’]”

Crenshaw has been in office only a few months, but he sits on the House Budget Committee and the Homeland Security Committee; he’s ranking member on the Subcommittee on Oversight, Management, and Accountability.

He’s also a member of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, which is apropos for a representative of Houston, which gets its share of natural disasters.

His policy initiatives are important, and he’s found it’s equally important to work with other people to get things done.

“I’m building some good relationships in D.C.,” Crenshaw says.

“You start with your freshmnclass, your caucus, find some Democrats you can be friends with.”

He works well with the chairwoman of the Oversight Subcommittee, Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a moderate Democrat who represents New Mexico’s 2nd District. “She’s willing to prioritize things we both want to work on. You could do a lot with the Subcommittee on Homeland Security to make an enemy out of me, and she doesn’t appear to want to do that.”

The feeling is mutual. In an email, Torres Small told me, “I truly appreciate Congressman Crenshaw’s willingness to put partisan politics aside while working on the tough issues.

We don’t always agree, but I think we work well together because we’re both interested in working together and continuing to learn.”

Together, they’re working on border control and hiring and retention of agents, disaster relief funding, and how the funding is filtered down as they seek to streamline that process.

“We both understand that there are challenges right now at our southern border, and we’re both interested in working to find practical, smart, and effective solutions to those challenges,” she said.

The first bill Torres Small introduced was co-sponsored by Crenshaw and “dealt specifically with the retention and hiring of border agents in rural areas,” she said.

She plans to work with Crenshaw to “forge bipartisan solutions that help make DHS more efficient and effective.

I am looking forward to continuing to work with him over the next two years,” she said.

Not all his Democratic relationships are quite as functional, however.

While Crenshaw is not at the same level of stardom as outspoken freshman Democrat Ocasio-Cortez, the two are frequently juxtaposed.

While she attracts disproportionate media attention, he also draws attention with his sharp wit and his demeanor, which is calm, refreshing, direct, and purposeful, creating a niche for the Texas freshman in the lower chamber. Because he is often compared to Ocasio-Cortez and because of her far-left views,

I asked Crenshaw if she is his nemesis. He laughed.

“She’s not my nemesis. She’s, in a sense, the Republicans’ best friend.

She’s actually a nemesis for moderate Democrats. She and I have nothing to talk about. I think she’s nice, from my limited interactions with her.”

Democrats aren’t the only ones with whom Crenshaw concerns himself.

He recently joined Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and others to advocate for a paid parental leave option, something conservatives have taken heat for failing to address sooner.

Even on the issue of abortion, Crenshaw stands out from concerns himself.

He’s anti-abortion, but he believes Republicans should do a better job of messaging. As far as defunding Planned Parenthood goes,

“That was never an easy promise,” he says. “It’s not like there is a line item for Planned Parenthood.

That was always a tough sell.

We should be making a broader argument about abortion.

It’s a natural human state to be pro-life.

Republicans need to realize that the solution isn’t to nitpick at women’s health centers, but the solution natural human bills. That’s the future. That’s a winning argument.

I want to see that go to the Supreme Court. That’s where we should focus.”

Despite his national name recognition after only a few months in office, Crenshaw keeps his feet firmly on the ground.

He shrugs at the question of whether an ego will threaten his otherwise straightforward, purposeful demeanor.

Crenshaw spends plenty of time in his district, not just at events but at local bars, where hanging out is a little more natural. “You get a sense from people. They’ll be pretty honest,” Crenshaw laughs.

“Voters cease to be polite once you’re a politician.” Crenshaw takes another look around, a wide gaze covering the restaurant, the adjacent patio, and the street.

Always aware of his surroundings and keenly aware of who he is and how he got there.

Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner ‘s Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota.OpinionHouse of RepresentativesCongressTexasCampaignsDonald TrumpAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTwitterBorder SecurityAbortionMilitary Appreciation


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