“You Are The Problem, Politician”: Ted Cruz Is Losing Because He’s The Second-Best Con Man In The Republican Party
The most revealing debate of the 2016 primary was held on the side of a road in Marion, Indiana, on Monday. In a widely circulated video, Ted Cruz asks a Trump supporter wearing dark sunglasses and a contemptuous grin to kindly explain what he finds so appealing about the Donald.
“Everything,” the man replies.
The former litigator implores his opponent to be more specific. The man says, “The wall.” Cruz informs him of an interview Trump gave to the New York Times, in which he reportedly suggested his most ambitious proposals were just campaign poses. “Lyin’ Ted!” the man retorts. “You are the problem, politician.” Cruz presses on, noting that Trump is the only 2016 candidate who has been sued for employing the undocumented and that, at his resort in Florida, the mogul has shown a preference for hiring guest workers over American-born citizens. “I believe in Trump,” the man eventually interrupts.
“A question here everybody should ask,” Cruz begins.
“Are you Canadian?” the man finishes, to the adulation of his peers.
Watching this exchange, one experiences a strange, disorienting sensation — sympathy for Ted Cruz. With patience and courtesy, the Texas senator tries to engage his interlocutor in a fact-based discussion of Trump’s merits as a candidate, only to be rebuffed and then humiliated by the ecstatic epistemological closure of the Trumpen proletariat.
But Cruz does not deserve your sympathy (and not just because he is almost certainly a serial killer who terrorized northern California throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s). In Marion, Cruz was overwhelmed by the very force that birthed his presidential campaign. Back when Trump was still dreaming of buying the Buffalo Bills, Cruz was already exploiting the defiant faith of GOP voters.
In 2013, the freshman senator rallied the conservative grassroots around a plan to build his email list, disguised as a strategy for repealing the Affordable Care Act. Cruz assured the tea-party faithful that Republicans could force Barack Obama to rip up his signature legislative achievement by threatening to shut down the federal government — a notion roughly as plausible as Mexican taxpayers funding Trump’s border-long monument to American xenophobia. But implausibility wasn’t an issue for Cruz, who made sure that blame for his gambit’s inevitable failure would be laid at the feet of his skeptics.
“I can’t count the number of Republicans in Washington who say, ‘Look, we can’t defund it. No, no, no. We can pass symbolic votes against it but we can’t actually stand up and take a risk and be potentially be blamed,” Cruz told a crowd at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, framing his colleagues’ assertion of basic facts as proof of their duplicity.
How many of those colleagues found themselves in debates like the one Cruz suffered in Marion? How many tried to explain the nature of divided government to earnest constituents, only to be told, “You are the problem, politician”?
Contrary to popular conception, Cruz’s quixotic mission wasn’t driven by ideological fervor but by ruthless ambition. The senator was willing to throw his party and government into chaos for the sake of attaining greater fame and power. This cynicism was of a piece with his broader career. As Ross Douthat has convincingly argued, Cruz’s political trajectory resembles that of an unscrupulous striver, not an uncompromising zealot. He is a populist who, whilst attending Harvard Law School, refused to study with anyone who hadn’t gotten their bachelor’s degree at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. He is an anti-Establishment gadfly who tried desperately to win a spot in George W. Bush’s inner circle. Once he was rejected by the Washington Cartel and successfully rebranded himself as the sworn enemy of “compassionate conservatism,” Cruz waffled on matters of trade, immigration, and government spying, all while relentlessly hectoring the other members of his caucus for their political cowardice. He is a #NeverTrump conservative who spent the first half of his campaign defending and then imitating the Donald’s demagoguery.
Cruz is not losing the Republican primary because of his commitment to principle and reason; he is losing because he is the second-most-talented liar his party has to offer.
“[Trump] is perpetuating the greatest fraud in the modern history of politics,” Cruz told Glenn Beck on Tuesday.
That statement shouldn’t be read as condemnation but as a confession of defeat.
By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 3, 2016
“Suddenly, Ted Cruz Seems Like A Gentleman”: Into What Kind Of Weird Cosmic Rat-Hole Have We Let Ourselves Be Dragged?
Pinch yourself, hard.
The unthinkable, the unimaginable, the impossible is happening.
People are actually feeling empathy for Ted Cruz.
What does this say about our beloved America? Into what kind of weird cosmic rat-hole have we let ourselves be dragged?
One of the coldest, most despised figures in the Senate, Cruz is endeavoring to appear human. The same snide jerk who led the costly, unpopular Republican shutdown of the government is now warming hearts for the way he rushed to the defense of his wife, Heidi.
For this Frankenstein turn of events we can thank Donald Trump.
In case you hadn’t heard, the spouses of the two GOP presidential front-runners were the hot topic in the race last week. Second were the terrorist attacks in Brussels.
The wife feud ignited when an anti-Trump super PAC republished a naked photo of Melania Trump, a former model.
Before you stop reading and go Google the picture, you should know that the anti-Trump super Pac is called Make America Awesome Again. It is run either by hapless idiots or evil geniuses.
Cruz adamantly asserts he had nothing to do with the political ad featuring the future Mrs. Trump, posing 16 years ago for the British edition of GQ magazine. The Melania photo was supposedly dredged up to target Mormon voters, who would be so offended by her nakedness that they’d turn to Cruz instead.
The idiot theory holds that some bozo working for this PAC actually stood up and said: “Hey, I’ve got a fantastic plan to stop Donald. Let’s publish a picture of his incredibly beautiful wife with no clothes on!”
However, the genius theory says this ad wasn’t really designed to stir up the Mormons. It was meant to provoke the Big Orange Trumpster.
Under any other circumstances, Trump would have been elated to see a nude photo of Melania splashed all over the media and Internet. He brags about her physical attributes to just about anyone with a microphone.
And if he had a serious brain under that teased monkey pelt on his head, he would have laughed off the ad, printed up T-shirts with the picture and started selling them at his rallies.
But no, that would have been way too cool, way too smart. Instead, Trump impulsively launched into one of his spluttering Twitter attacks, threatening to “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife, Heidi.
Nobody knew what on Earth Trump was babbling about. Heidi Cruz is an executive at Goldman Sachs in New York, and one of her husband’s top fundraisers.
Rather, his next move was to re-tweet a nasty post by one of his followers. It was an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz positioned side-by-side with a glamour shot of Melania. The meme caption: “No need to ‘Spill the Beans.’ The images are worth a thousand words.”
And with that Trump once again answered the question that many millions of Americans wonder daily: Could he possibly be more loathsome?
Cruz shrewdly responded by taking the high road, or what passes for a high road in this gutter-fest of a campaign:
“Donald, real men don’t attack women,” he tweeted. “Your wife is lovely, and Heidi is the love of my life.”
Aw. Meet sweet, calm, tender Ted. Where’s he been hiding all these years?
After seeing his wife coarsely mocked in public, he reacts with a gentle scold, a compliment to Mrs. Trump and reiteration of his own devotion to Heidi.
Trump ends up looking like a pig, while Cruz ends up looking almost like a gentleman.
If you’re Donald, it must feel like you’ve been schooled.
Cruz’s denials notwithstanding, he is more than slippery enough to have masterminded this whole scenario, knowing Trump would overreact in the lowest, meanest way.
That’s the genius theory — Cruz knew in advance about the nude Melania attack ad, and he threw it out there as bait.
The idiot theory says Cruz didn’t know — it was simply a campaign screw-up that turned into a golden gift.
Either way, presidential politics has entered a new rodent phase that can only drag us deeper and dirtier. November can’t come soon enough.
OK. Now go Google that silly photo if you want.
By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for the Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 30, 2016
Reince Priebus had an awkward morning.
The chairman of the Republican National Committee appeared before some of his biggest skeptics at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and all but conceded that Trump will be the nominee.
It was hard to watch.
Priebus walked onstage with Sean Hannity, and the pair plopped down in bright white chairs for a heart-to-heart about the state of the presidential race. They started with a fairly dry discussion of the RNC’s re-vamped role as a data-gathering organization, with Priebus insisting that the party was doing everything it could to replicate Obama’s 2012 voter-targeting successes.
In 2012, Priebus noted, the party was “embarrassed.”
(Would hate for anything embarrassing to happen this time around!)
Priebus then effectively put a stake in the heart of Rubio’s presidential hopes. According to reports, Rubio and his team are gearing up for a chaotic turn at the party’s convention this summer—that means they hope they can use back-room deals and horse-trading to help Rubio win the nomination, even if Trump or another candidate gets more votes than he does in the primaries. There’s an emerging consensus that this is the only way Rubio could become the party’s nominee. After all, he’s only won a single early state contest, the Minnesota caucuses. Not great.
But Priebus said he doesn’t think any machinations like that will work.
“I think a lot of this is early talk,” he said, alluding to Rubio’s strategy.
“I think the odds of a contested convention are very small.”
When Hannity pressed him further on the prospects of a contested convention, Priebus all-but-explicitly made a dig at Rubio.
“I would suggest that it’s better to win,” he said. “And it’s better to win races and accumulate delegates.”
There’s only one candidate who is on track to win the nomination the old-fashioned way, and last night he bragged about his penis size.
It wasn’t always this way for Priebus. He was hailed as a hero when he came into the position as Republican National Committee boss following the Tea Party-driven election of 2010. While the election results from that year were fantastic for the RNC, the committee had been rocked by a spending scandal—including a bill for nearly $2,000 at a bonage club in West Hollywood. Donors blamed then-chairman Michael Steele.
Six years later, it was Priebus who was in a bind.
Perhaps more significantly, though, Priebus telegraphed a wee bit of chagrin about his party’s undeliverable (and somewhat impossible) promises. Towards the end of their chit-chat, Hannity pressed Priebus on a fact that’s very ugly for the party: Its voters are pissed.
“You look at the state polls, exit polls in every state, there’s anywhere between 55 and 65 percent of Republicans that feel betrayed,” he said.
“On the issue of repealing and replacing Obamacare, on the issue of promising in 2014 to stop executive amnesty, there’s a feeling that Republicans didn’t fight, that they were too timid, that they were afraid they were gonna get blamed for a government shutdown. How does that —”
“Yeah, if I could singlehandedly repeal Obamacare, if I could, obviously, tear up executive amnesty, I would do it right here,” he said.
“But they had the power of the purse,” Hannity retorted.
“They do, but they also have the Constitution that provides for veto authority,” Priebus replied.
That might sound like a wonky discussion about the mechanics of Congressional funding. But the reality is that it went straight to the heart of why so many loyal, rank-and-file Republican voters are willing to support the guy with the little hands: because on immigration, the Republican Party has over-promised and under-delivered.
In the final week before the 2014 midterm elections, when Republicans were working furiously to defeat incumbent Democrat senators and regain control of the upper chamber, Priebus made a promise he couldn’t keep: He promised that Republicans would defund the president’s executive action protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“While I can’t speak for the legislature, I’m very confident we will stop that,” he told a Tea Party group on a conference call. “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen: Defunding, going to court, injunction. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And for so many reasons, and just the basic fabric of this country, we can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen. I don’t know how to be any stronger than that. I’m telling you, everything we can do to stop it we
That didn’t happen.
In the months after Republicans won back the Senate—thanks in large part to activists rallying behind the party’s anti-undocumented-immigrant rhetoric—nothing happened. Some conservatives in the House and Senate tried to partially defund Department of Homeland Security, and the House took a symbolic vote on it. But fears of a government shutdown kept Republicans from going all-in on the immigration question. So Priebus’s promised opposition never truly materialized.
At CPAC, people remember.
“Look, I’m not—I’m for—I—I—I don’t think you can, you can’t promise things that you can’t deliver,” Priebus said, stammering. “That’s clearly something that you can’t do.”
The crowd murmured and booed.
“As the chairman of the RNC I don’t get—I don’t have the authority to walk across the street and pass the bills singlehandedly,” he said, after Hannity tried to shush the riled-up crowd.
“The people elected—that’s what are primaries for,” he continued.
By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, March 4, 2016
“The GOP Cannot Be Saved, But The Country Still Can Be”: A Rare Convergence From Two Sides Of The Political Spectrum
This morning I read two articles that probably each deserve a post of their own…they’re both that good. But I’m going to write about them together because, in an interesting way, they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum but converge on the same place.
The first one comes from someone who now calls himself a “former Republican.” Robert Kagan says that Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein Monster. He outlines much the same process I wrote about recently in: Post-Policy Republicans Gave us Donald Trump. Kagan describes the three things Republicans did to create this monster.
Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements; the persistent call for nullification of Supreme Court decisions; the insistence that compromise was betrayal; the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at?
No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers. Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue? Who was it who frightened Mitt Romney into selling his soul in 2012, talking of “self-deportation” to get himself right with the party’s anti-immigrant forces?
3. Obama hatred
Then there was the Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified…
Thus Obama is not only wrong but also anti-American, un-American, non-American, and his policies — though barely distinguishable from those of previous liberal Democrats such as Michael Dukakis or Mario Cuomo — are somehow representative of something subversive.
Kagan’s conclusion to the prospect of Trump being the GOP nominee is something I’ve heard from a few other Republicans.
So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.
The other article I’d like to highlight comes from the other end of the political spectrum, so it might not be as surprising or monumental. But as President Obama’s former speechwriter (including during the 2008 primary), Jon Farveau admits that he was not always a fan of Hillary Clinton. He writes about how his view changed while he worked with her in the White House.
The most famous woman in the world would walk through the White House with no entourage, casually chatting up junior staffers along the way. She was by far the most prepared, impressive person at every Cabinet meeting. She worked harder and logged more miles than anyone in the administration, including the president. And she’d spend large amounts of time and energy on things that offered no discernible benefit to her political future—saving elephants from ivory poachers, listening to the plight of female coffee farmers in Timor-Leste, defending LGBT rights in places like Uganda.
He then walks us through the different side of this candidate that was brought to us by Ruby Cramer in her article titled: Hillary Clinton wants to talk with you about love and kindness. Favreau’s conclusion is that it is even more important to elect Hillary Clinton this year than it was to elect Barack Obama in 2008. That is a huge statement coming from someone like him. Here’s the kicker:
Every election is a competition between two stories about America. And Trump already knows his by heart: he is a celebrity strongman who will single-handedly save the country from an establishment that is too weak, stupid, corrupt, and politically correct to let us blame the real source of our problems—Muslims and Mexicans and Black Lives Matter protestors; the media, business, and political elites from both parties.
Trump’s eventual opponent will need to tell a story about America that offers a powerful rebuke to the demagogue’s dark vision for the future. I like Bernie Sanders. I like a lot of what he has to say, I love his idealism, and I believe deeply in his emphasis on grassroots change. My problem is not that his message is unrealistic—it’s that a campaign which is largely about Main St. vs. Wall St. economics is too narrow and divisive for the story we need to tell right now.
In her campaign against Sanders, Hillary has begun to tell that broader, more inclusive story about the future.
What we see is Kagan looking for a way to “save American” from the Frankenstein monster created by the GOP and Favreau suggesting that, in order to combat the monstrous story of America being sold by Trump in this election, we need an alternative to that “demagogue’s dark vision for the future.” Both of them see the answer to that in Hillary Clinton. It’s a rare convergence of two sides that is worth paying attention to.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 26, 2016
“Unlike Anything Ever Tried In American History”: The ‘GOP Gamble’: Voters Won’t Care About Court Blockade
As far as Senate Republicans are concerned, the fight over the Supreme Court vacancy is now officially over. They’ve declared themselves the winner.
Every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel responsible for evaluating judicial nominees in detail, met in private this morning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Soon after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime committee member, told the Associated Press the GOP group came to an agreement: there would be no hearing, no vote, and no confirmation of any nominee, regardless of merit or qualifications.
A partisan blockade, unlike anything ever tried in American history, is the only course the Republican majority is willing to consider. Period. Full stop.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said today he wouldn’t even speak to a Supreme Court nominee if he or she showed up at his office. Soon after, McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the same thing.
So, is the fight over an unchosen, unknown nominee finished before it begins? Well, maybe.
President Obama and his team are no doubt aware of the developments on Capitol Hill, though it’s unlikely West Wing officials are going to simply quit, telling each other, “Well, we tried.”
What’s probably going to happen is that the president will nominate a qualified official for the high court; he’ll encourage senators to do their job while honoring the constitutional process; and then Democrats hope for the pressure to change the politics.
The next question, of course, is whether such pressure is going to exist.
Last week, a Fox News poll found a clear majority of Americans agreeing that the Supreme Court’s vacancy should be filled this year, not next. This week, a Pew Research Center survey found similar results.
In the high-stakes battle over replacing Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a majority of Americans (56%) say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy. About four-in-ten (38%) say the Senate should not hold hearings until the next president selects a court nominee.
Of course, while independent and Democratic voters agree on senators doing their duty, the same poll found that 66% of GOP voters want the blockade to continue – and those are very likely the only voters Senate Republicans care about right now.
It sounds cynical and undemocratic, but by all appearances, GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill just don’t buy into the notion that there will ever be a public backlash against them – on practically anything. Cycle after cycle, their antics are rewarded, even after a government shutdown, a debt-ceiling crisis, and a complete unwillingness to govern on practically any issue.
Periodically, someone will say, “The public won’t stand for this,” to which Republicans respond, “Of course they will. Voters don’t pay much attention anyway.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 23, 2016