Is there nobody who can tell Ted Cruz to shut up?
The young senator from Texas has been on the job for about 100 days, but he has already turned the Senate’s ancient seniority system upside down and is dominating his senior Republican colleagues. He’s speaking for them on immigration, guns and any other topic that tickles his fancy; Republican leaders are seething at being outshone yet are terrified of challenging him.
Consider his news conference this week to promote the Republican alternative to gun control. With Cruz on the stage in the Senate TV studio: the bill’s primary author, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a 32-year Senate veteran and longtime chairman or ranking member of the finance and judiciary committees; Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (10 years in the Senate and eight in the House); and Dan Coats of Indiana (12 years in the Senate and eight in the House).
But Cruz took over the lectern and refused to relinquish it. He spoke 2,924 words for the cameras, more than Grassley (904), Graham (1,376) and Coats (360) — combined. Factoring in his dramatic pauses to convey sincerity and deep thought, Cruz’s dominance was even more lopsided. The others shifted uncomfortably and looked awkwardly around the room. At one point, Graham requested a chance to speak. “Can I?” he asked Cruz.
Cruz is 42, the same age Joe McCarthy was when he amassed power in the Senate with his allegations of communist infiltration. Tail-gunner Ted debuted in the Senate this year with the insinuation that Chuck Hagel, now the defense secretary, may have been on the payroll of the North Koreans. Cruz also wrote in Politico that “Hagel’s nomination has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government.” He later alleged that Democrats had told the Catholic Church to “change your religious beliefs or we’ll use our power in the federal government to shut down your charities and your hospitals.”
Now Cruz is turning his incendiary allegations against fellow Republicans. On immigration, he has described as amnesty the compromise that Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and three other Republicans negotiated with Democrats. Cruz said such a plan would make “a chump” of legal immigrants. On guns, he said the background checks Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) negotiated in a bipartisan compromise would lead to a national gun registry — an outcome the doomed proposal explicitly prohibited.
Democrats see a potential bogeyman in Cruz because of his outrageous pronouncements, and reporters love his inflammatory quotes. Republican leaders, however, don’t know how to control this monster they created.
GOP lawmakers encouraged the rise of the tea party, which now dominates Republican primaries and threatens the same leaders who nurtured it. Cruz’s fellow Texan, John Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, could face a primary challenge next year and therefore can’t afford to cross Cruz, who beat an establishment Republican in the 2012 primary. Likewise, the Senate GOP leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is up for reelection and has to keep on the good side of tea party favorites such as Sen. Rand Paul, also of Kentucky, and Cruz.
I’ve argued before that Cruz is more cunning than ideological. He’s Ivy League-educated and a skilled debater who has perfected a look of faux earnestness that suggests his every pronouncement is the most important oration since Gettysburg. Cruz has correctly calculated that the way to power among Senate Republicans is through attention-grabbing accusations.
On immigration, his Latino credentials have helped him undermine Rubio’s bipartisanship. When Rubio made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows April 14, he was confronted with Cruz’s criticism by both NBC’s David Gregory and ABC’s Jon Karl.
On guns, Cruz’s high profile required Grassley to give the upstart a premium chunk of floor time for his trademark falsehoods. Cruz claimed that his bill was the “result of multiple hearings in the Judiciary Committee.” (It was never brought before the panel.) He claimed the opposing legislation would extend “background checks to private transactions between private individuals.” (The bill applied to only advertised sales.) Off the floor, he made the patently false claim that the “so-called ‘gun show loophole’ ” doesn’t exist.
If Republicans are willing to look the other way when Cruz assaults the facts, they may find it increasingly grating to endure his assaults on their dignity. At their news conference on guns, Grassley was made to stand silently for half an hour while Cruz gave an eight-minute opening statement (more than twice the length of Grassley’s) and fielded six questions before yielding to his senior colleague. “I’m just going to say one thing,” Grassley said, “and then I’m going to have to go.”
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 19, 2013
Parallel to the ongoing discussion of whether or not the Republican Party has any serious interest in curtailing the right-wing bender it’s been on since at least 2009 (and arguably a lot longer), we have the interesting phenomenon of a new and very loud Republican Senator who stands proudly for the point of view that the bender needs to get a lot crazier. Here’s the most succinct version of his argument that Republicans are losing because they aren’t standing up for “conservative principles:”
“Why did we lose? It wasn’t as the media would tell you: because the American people embraced big government, Barack Obama’s spending and debt and taxes. … That wasn’t what happened. I’m going to suggest to you a very simple reason why we lost the election: We didn’t win the argument,” Cruz said before pointedly lowering his voice. “We didn’t even make the argument.”
Yeah, not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, as George Wallace used to say back in the day.
But beyond this continuation of the ludicrous proposition that Republicans are too moderate and compromise-oriented (which really hasn’t been a credible argument since 1990, if then), Cruz is already distinguishing himself as the kind of mendacious bully-boy–sort of a smarter version of the Rick Perry who first emerged on the 2012 presidential campaign trail roaring and strutting around and threatening to tear the godless liberals limb from limb–who makes any sort of bipartisan discussion absolutely impossible. And while a few Republicans whisper about him obliquely or off-the-record, he’s mostly been lionized for this behavior:
“Senator Ted Cruz came to Washington to advance conservative policies, not play by the same old rules that have relegated conservatives, and their ideas, to the back bench,” Michael Needham, president of the influential Heritage Action said on Tuesday. “It should come as absolutely no surprise the Washington Establishment – be it the liberal media, entrenched special interests or even wayward Republicans – are now attacking him in the press for following through on his promises.”
Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project, said: “It’s about time someone annoyed those who have been complacent in doing what is necessary to get the country back on track. We applaud Senator Ted Cruz’s dedication to conservative principles and being an articulate spokesman for those principles. We are pleased he is shaking up Washington and doing exactly what the people of Texas elected him to do.”
Having brought back memories of Joe McCarthy in his nasty interrogation of Chuck Hagel, Cruz is back in the news right now for smearing left-wing Harvard Law School professors as communist revolutionaries (his effort to back-track on the smear without admitting it didn’t work too well).
As both Steve Kornacki and Greg Sargent have argued today, the acceptance of Cruz by his fellow-Republicans as a hail-fellow-well-met (and perhaps the future face of the party!) shows the shallowness of the talk about “reform” in the GOP (or alternatively, the shallowness of the MSM’s understanding of what conservatives mean when they talk about “reform”).
So I propose a litmus test for all those Republicans who say they learned their lesson and want to build a GOP that is free of the rancor and extremism of the recent past. Let’s ask them: what do you think of Ted Cruz? Because if they won’t call this guy out, then they haven’t learned a thing.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 25, 2013
Rep. Michele Bachmann, Washington’s Most Beautiful Demagogue, has an enviable seat on the House Intelligence Committee, because, after the Republicans took control of the House, Rep. John Boehner thought that would be a good idea that wouldn’t end up embarrassing him and the Republican Party and the nation as a whole. Who could’ve predicted that Bachmann would use the position to advance dingbat conspiracy theories, seek press attention with wild accusations, and generally continue acting as Michele Bachmann has always acted?
Bachmann actually got more pushback than she probably expected when she accused Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin of being in league with the nefarious Muslim Brotherhood. John Boehner said “accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous,” which seems to suggest that the person leveling the accusations shouldn’t have a privileged position related to national security and intelligence. Bachmann is reportedly worried that her committee assignment is in jeopardy.
Here’s the problem, though: The more extreme House Republicans don’t actually have any respect for Majority Leader Boehner, who always wants them to do lame non-conservative stuff like “raise the debt ceiling after winning stunning concessions on entitlements from President Obama and the Democrats.” Michele Bachmann, who has a huge campaign war chest and a national following, is a bit more influential with this crowd. Lots of activist conservatives think even criticizing her crusade against shadow agents of Islamofascism was cowardly and out of line.
And Robert Costa reports that Boehner is basically scared to remove her from the Intelligence Committee. That’s not quite how he phrases it, but the implication is there. Boehner is sort of hoping people just stop paying attention to Bachmann so that he doesn’t have to do anything about her:
Bachmann doesn’t appear ready to back down. Instead, sources tell NRO, she is working behind the scenes to generate support for her intelligence-committee post. Conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck, who has spoken with Bachmann on his program about the Abedin story, has reported that Bachmann is “facing pressure to apologize for her comments” or risk being “removed from her position.” Republican House aides roll their eyes at the Beck story. No such pressure, they say, is being exerted on the congresswoman. If anything, a third leadership source reiterates, Boehner is doing his best to avoid spending time on the Bachmann matter, publicly or privately.
Yet the general goodwill that has existed between Bachmann and Boehner for the past year seems to be gone. Bachmann, long a force during closed-door conference meetings, is now a backbencher once again, at least in the eyes of many congressional politicos. Boehner may be pressured to kick her off the committee, but with her star power fading, he doesn’t seem in any rush to make her a martyr.
Yeah, this seems like spin from Boehner. He knows he’ll catch hell if he actually punishes Bachmann, and he’d just much rather focus on anything else. So he says she’s embarrassed herself and no one will pay her any mind in the future, because as we all know Michele Bachmann is very concerned with not seeming like a deranged kook. Boehner’s “just don’t look” strategy means she doesn’t actually need to worry about any repercussions for her irresponsible statements, and she will likely feel free to continue making them.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 27, 2012
Since the firestorm over contraception and religious freedom erupted, there seems to be some kind of consensus that the “culture war” has returned to the fore of American politics. The consensus is wrong. The culture war never stopped.
In fact, former Sen. Rick Santorum explicitly says so himself!
While campaigning in Columbus, Ohio, Santorum said President Obama’s “agenda” is,
not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.
Out of political convenience or cultural distance, Beltway conservatives refuse to see this: Hardcore conservative opposition to Obama has always been cultural and theological. The pop-theological mainstream of American evangelicals has so thoroughly assimilated the ideal of American capitalism that any deviation, however modest, from it is tantamount to radical godless humanism. And, in an extension of an older intradenominational debate, conservative Catholics like Santorum deeply mistrust the ideal of “social justice” as championed by the Catholic left.
As I’ve argued before, the line between culture and economics is disappearing. Santorum has muddied this picture somewhat with rhetoric aimed at blue-collar voters to the effect that he doesn’t believe that if we just cut taxes, ”everything will be fine.”
But such rhetoric, while interesting, is hollow; his economic agenda is full of tax cuts, and I see nothing in it that’s affirmatively different from Republican orthodoxy.
There’s a sense in which the proxy cultural war is nothing new. In Unadjusted Man in the Age of Overadjustment: Where History and Literature Intersect, historian Peter Viereck argued compellingly that the long strand of populism, from William Jennings Bryan to Robert La Follette to Joseph McCarthy, was all about “smashing Plymouth Rock” (i.e., the snooty Eastern Establishment). What McCarthy really hated about the likes of Alger Hiss wasn’t the communism per se, but his resemblance to the likes of Dean Acheson.
As McCarthy said in a famous 1950 speech in Wheeling, W.Va., the ones “who have been selling this nation out” were those
who have had all the benefits … the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in government that we can give. This is glaringly true in the State Department. There the bright young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouth are the ones who have been worst.
Unlike McCarthy, the Tea Party never felt it had to define Obama as an “enemy within”; born in Kenya, he was the ”enemy without”!
Make no mistake. Such has been the animating spirit of the Tea Party all along. That’s what is fueling the Santorum “insurgency” right now. Culture war is the big picture. Fail to see it, you won’t fully understand the 2012 presidential campaign.
By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, February 22, 2012
Joe McCarthy knew how to rile up the base. He knew his political hot buttons. He knew how to stoke fear and create a movement. He knew how to build a following by ratcheting up the rhetoric, the facts be damned.
Sadly, Rep. Michele Bachmann has followed in his mold: questioning the patriotism of members of Congress, fanning the flames of hatred of gays and lesbians and, now, attacking the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.
This HPV political maneuver may be her last. This should be her “have you no sense of decency” moment, just as the Army-McCarthy hearing was in the 1950s.
Somehow, the anti-vaccine movement has gained steam in the United States. Rumors that traditional vaccines caused autism began to spread. They were disproved but not before many parents declined to vaccinate their children.
A Science Times article in the New York Times (“Remark on Vaccine Could Ripple for Years”) points to a three to four year drop in vaccination rates after such publicity. Diseases such as measles and whooping cough, supposedly under control, have seen outbreaks. According to the Times, “measles cases in the United States reached a 15-year high last spring. “
The HPV virus is, unfortunately, far too common. More than 25 percent of women 14 to 49 have been infected, 44 percent in the 20 to 24 age range. Not only can HPV cause cervical cancer but it can cause other cancers as well.
Last year only 32 percent of teenage girls had been given the vaccine.
If Michele Bachmann’s scare tactics prove true to form, there will be a drop in the number of girls and women protected. By putting out false information, by repeating the statement of someone at the debate that the vaccine caused mental retardation, she set back the effort to save women’s lives. Hardly a pro-life position.
In fact, the vaccine can prevent unnecessary surgery for several hundred thousand women a year and even allow women to successfully carry a pregnancy to term.
Over 35 million doses have been distributed without any serious side effects. Thank goodness doctors and clinics and reputable research organizations moved quickly to take on Michele Bachmann.
But, make no mistake, she even stayed on the issue in Thursday’s debate. This woman won’t quit, no matter the facts or the implications of her actions.
She sees a political opening and she takes it, she sees a chance to rile the base and she seizes it, she sees a good sound bite and off she goes.
If, in fact, the experts are correct and this will set back vaccinations for years, Bachmann will need to do more than apologize for her McCarthy-like tactics. As he ruined innocent lives, she may responsible for doing the same. She will have to look herself in the mirror and know that her actions led to more women losing their lives.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 23, 2011