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“On His Way To Irrelevance”: Ted Cruz, Suddenly The GOP’s Biggest Loser

Sen. Ted Cruz’s fearless crusade to defund what he calls Obamacare ended with a whimper not a bang Thursday, as the junior senator from Texas dropped his demand that the Senate vote on amendments to defund the Affordable Care Act before passing the $1.1 trillion spending bill.

“The majority leader and Senate Democrats have chosen not to listen to the American people,” Cruz said. The Senate voted 72-26 first to cut off debate, then to pass the bill.

Apparently Cruz’s Senate GOP colleagues spent the Thursday lunch hour begging him to drop his plan for a defund-Obamacare vote, according to the Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery. He still tried, but he didn’t try that hard.

Concerned that the freshman senator’s quick surrender might be interpreted as backing down – which it was – his office issued a statement later saying “he remains committed to keeping the conversation about Obamacare front and center as the law continues to harm more and more Americans by raising their premiums, canceling their plans and keeping them from their doctors.”

Sure. The Affordable Care Act is on its way to stability, as the number of signups continues to surge in advance of the March 1 deadline, and as people who lost coverage find better plans and/or subsidies. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, is on his way to irrelevance.

Cruz made some headlines Wednesday for picking up the right-wing staffer fired by the House Republican Study Committee (for leaking their deliberations to right-wingers in Congress). Hiring Paul Teller his deputy chief of staff was supposed to be a stick in the eye to his moderate colleagues, but nobody outside the wingnut blogosphere seemed to really care. Teller, who tried to sabotage his House GOP bosses but got caught, might be a good hire if Cruz planned to run against John Boehner for speaker, as he seemed to want to do last fall. Sadly for Cruz, he can’t do that as a senator.

His presidential hopes don’t look much more encouraging. Let’s stipulate that national 2016 polls have little predictive power in January 2014 – in fact, they’re rarely predictive later in the cycle, because the primary and caucus delegate count is the only poll that matters. Still, they tell us something about each potential candidate’s national appeal. And Cruz’s is diminishing.

Just a month ago, he was tied for fourth place in the NBC/Marist Poll, with the support of 10 percent of those surveyed. Now he’s down to 5 percent, and way behind the top-tier candidates, in seventh place – he even trails Rick Santorum. (He came in first in a late-September Public Policy Polling survey done at the height of his government-shutdown showboating.)

Interestingly, Christie is still the GOP front-runner in the Marist Poll, although he’s slipped badly in a head-to-head matchup with Hillary Clinton – from 3 points behind just a month ago to 13 points behind now. As a journalist, the stumbles of Christie and Cruz sadden me a little bit, selfishly: It would be a lot of fun to cover them going head to head in 2016. And imagine if they teamed up as running mates: Mean and Meaner. On the other hand, as a human being, it’s a relief to see two men renowned for their self-regard and nastiness get undone by it.

There’s even bad news for Cruz in Texas, where state Sen. Wendy Davis is actually outraising Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in advance of their 2014 contest for governor. Democrats are more than ready to make Texas a blue state again, and it may not happen in 2014, but it could by the time Cruz has to run for reelection in 2018.

Ted Cruz may still run for president, but in reality, he’s mainly in the running to become Jim DeMint, the former senator and current Heritage Foundation head – a right-wing firebrand who makes enemies out of even some ideological friends, establishes no Senate legislative legacy, and moves on to a lucrative, flattering wingnut welfare sinecure.

They’re buddies now, but DeMint might want to watch his back. Cruz is smarter than he is, and makes sure everyone knows it. He’d run a crackerjack think tank, making sure to hire nobody from the “minor” Ivies.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 17, 2014

January 18, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Nonsense”: Blaming President Obama For Passing A “Partisan” Health-Care Bill?

Here’s one thing I absolutely cannot stand hearing: that President Obama is getting what he deserves now because he passed such a “partisan” health-care bill. The suggestion is truly beyond belief and, quite literally, totalitarian in spirit, in the way it flips the truth so perversely on its head, turning the perpetrated-upon into the perpetrator and the aggressor into the victim. As Obamacare flails, one hears the “partisan” line frequently these days on television and radio. More maddeningly still, the alleged liberals and fact-based reporters on various panels often permit it to go unchallenged. Let’s set the record straight.

Obama came into office trying to reach out to Republicans and their voters. Remember Pastor Rick Warren at the inaugural? Remember how the president met with pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion rights groups early on? (You may not, but he did.) He also tried to horse-trade with them on the stimulus. True, he would not compromise on a tax credit for low-wage workers that Republicans opposed. (Interesting to read this article in retrospect; Obama was trying to help here the later-famous 47 percent.) But he did offer movement on tax cuts, and the Senate did pass a Charles Grassley amendment about the alternative minimum tax. And, at the White House’s request, certain expenditures the White House thought would repel Republicans were stripped out in the hopes of winning GOP support. But that, of course, did not happen in any meaningful way.

In the late spring of 2009, Obama started talking health care. He sat down with Republicans over the summer. He invited a group of Republicans into his office and told them he’d put tort reform in the bill if it would get him Republican votes. They stared at him. Other administration officials met with Republicans a number of times to see if anything could be put in the bill to appease them. The answer was always no. Remember here that the Affordable Care Act is basically a Republican plan to begin with, as the individual mandate idea came from the Heritage Foundation. So you might have thought that some Republicans would be OK with that.

Outside the administration, Democrats in the Senate negotiated with Republicans for months. Those Democrats finally did decide, on August 17, that it was time to throw up their hands, and they reluctantly proceeded without Republicans. “Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul…” is how the Times opened its article on the matter. But it wasn’t for want of trying. Democrats tried, for ages.

Why did they stop trying? Maybe because of things like then-Sen. Jim DeMint’s vow July 9 to make health care Obama’s “Waterloo.” Or maybe Democrats took the hint July 16, when they heard Minority Leader Mitch McConnell say, “We’re doing everything we can to defeat it.” Or maybe it was July 22, when Orrin Hatch, once a reasonable conservative, walked out of the Senate negotiations and announced he would not back any bill. That was, of course, the summer of the Tea Party town hall madness.

It was obvious by then—really before, but certainly by the time of Hatch’s departure—that Republicans would never agree to anything about health-care reform. They would say Obama wouldn’t accept their ideas, and there would be about a half an iota of a smidgeon of truth in that protestation, but of course the reason Obama didn’t accept their ideas is that their ideas were far worse than what ended up in the bill. They put out a four-page set of broad principles in June 2009. Then they filled in some details, and the Congressional Budget Office went over it. Unsurprisingly, it was a joke. The CBO found that it would have increased the number of uninsured and raised premiums for millions. Oh, and get this: Under their plan, insurance companies could still have denied coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Ending that is the main point of reform, and ending that is why reform is so hard.

So Republicans gave no support at all, by design, essentially from the beginning. And then they blame Obama for passing a “partisan” bill? It’s beyond Kafkaesque. It really is like an old communist secret-police trick: We will seize most of your farmland and then jail you for failing to live up to the production quotas.

And then they vote 40 times to repeal it. And then Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the House, goes on MSNBC on Thursday, and Chuck Todd asks him if the Republicans want the Affordable Care Act to fail, and he says: “Never.” Never! Can you imagine? Voting to repeal something 40 times is kind of an odd way for a group of people to express their desire to see it succeed.

At a moment when Obamacare is on the ropes, and in a country of people with memories shorter than Michele Bachmann’s future in public life, Republicans know that they can repeat such a dishonest talking point and get a fair percentage of Americans to believe Obama behaved like some raging partisan. The associated corollary point is that this was about his ego or some such nonsense.

Uh, no. Progressive-minded people have been wanting to pass universal health care in the United States for a century. Usually they were Democrats, although back in the day some were Republicans, including Teddy Roosevelt. It has been the major unmet policy goal of American liberalism for decades—not because Democrats want to overpower Republicans politically, but because Democrats want people to have access to health care. Republicans don’t. Since the policy goal makes utterly no sense to them, they assume everything is about politics. Obama wasn’t being “partisan.” He was fulfilling a long-held policy goal—and a central campaign promise, by the way. I thought we were supposed to like it when politicians keep their promises. But now that’s partisan, too, at least to people who see everything through partisan glasses.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 19, 2013

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rule And Ruin Party Crashers”: The Tea Party’s Drive For Ideological Purity

In the late nineteen-sixties, Mitch McConnell came to Washington to work as an aide to Senator Marlow Cook, a Kentucky Republican. Cook backed clean-air standards and limits on strip mining. It was a time of political diversity among Republicans: in 1970, Senate Republicans endorsed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. McConnell was briefly a fellow-traveller of those who regarded government as a source of public protection. He once called the Nixon Administration “at worst, completely reactionary.”

In 1984, McConnell was elected to the Senate, on the coattails of Ronald Reagan’s landslide reëlection. By then, a movement of Southern and evangelical conservatives was rising within the Party. McConnell tacked right periodically, saluting the new Republican leaders. During the Administration of George W. Bush, he backed the President by voting, with Ted Kennedy, to enact No Child Left Behind and the expansion of the Medicare drug benefit. By 2009, after Wall Street melted down, McConnell had risen to Minority Leader, and he forged a deal with Democrats to bail out big banks.

Then the Tea Party rose up in fury, and McConnell moved right again, in an effort to reinvent himself as an anti-government insurgent. It wasn’t easy; he was sixty-nine, and his long jowls and round eyeglasses gave him the look of a Taft Administration clerk. Nonetheless, in 2011, he led the Senate Republicans through a ruthless, extortionate campaign to threaten default on the national debt. It succeeded. President Obama wobbled and accepted budget cuts. Afterward, McConnell called the national debt “a hostage worth ransoming.”

This autumn, he supported the Tea Party radicals’ second threat to default on the debt and a sixteen-day shutdown of the federal government. This time, though, Obama held firm, and, in the end, McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner were forced to choose between Tea Party principles and the viability of the world economy. McConnell negotiated his party’s late-hour capitulation, and, within days, Tea Party groups called for his ouster. The Senate Conservatives Fund, a PAC founded by Jim DeMint, the president of the Heritage Foundation, which has bankrolled Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, and other highly conservative candidates, announced that it would finance a Republican primary challenge against the Minority Leader next year, because he “has a liberal record and refuses to fight for conservative principles.”

Other veteran Republicans who joined McConnell on the debt-ceiling vote are facing similar challenges from Tea Party-backed candidates. Those targeted include Thad Cochran, of Mississippi, who was elected to the Senate in 1978; Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina; and Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee. In 2012, such primary challenges weakened the Party’s competitive position, and allowed the Democrats to win an eight-seat majority in the Senate. Even now, the insurgents seem less interested in victory than in purification. “We know which senators fought for liberty, and which ones caved to Obama,” Lee Bright, the South Carolina state senator who is challenging Graham, told Slate recently. “We’ve got a list.” The Tea Party’s approval ratings have plummeted since the shutdown ended. Business lobbies and their PACs, appalled by the shutdown’s estimated twenty-four-billion-dollar cost to the economy, are signalling that they may pull back from uncompromising candidates. But the fact that PACs like the Senate Conservatives Fund are willing to force incumbents into expensive, distracting primary fights makes it even less probable that the Republicans can retake control of the Senate.

Like a guerrilla army, the Tea Party is learning how to influence public opinion even when it loses a conventional battle. The budget caps that Obama conceded in 2011 have already enshrined in law a portion of the movement’s draconian fiscal agenda. And although Cruz and his allies in the House won no additional cuts this time, they managed to spread magical thinking among their followers about a possible future debt default. (The next debt-ceiling deadline arrives early next year.) Cruz and the others systematically promoted the idea—the fantasy—that, if the Treasury Department were prohibited from issuing any new debt to finance interest payments and government operations, the country would do just fine. The global economy, this story goes, far from collapsing into crisis, would prove resilient, and, while some nonessential federal departments might wither for lack of funds, that would only demonstrate how Americans could get by with a much smaller government.

This campaign has been dismissed by some Wall Street analysts as just a form of coercive bargaining. Washington is a grand opera of phony crises. Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than seventy times since 1960 without forcing an actual default. It’s tempting to believe that even a diva like Cruz, who, after all, holds a law degree from Harvard and evidently aspires to higher office, would never countenance a final default. Yet history is rife with political radicals who have shocked the world by doing just what they always said they would: Confederate secessionists, for example, who seem to inspire so many Tea Partiers today.

The Tea Party’s anti-intellectualism reflects a longer, deeper decline in the Republican Party’s ability to tolerate a diversity of ideas and public-policy strategies, and to adapt to American multiculturalism. Mitt Romney’s poor showing among Latino voters in 2012 helped insure Barack Obama’s reëlection. Republican leaders, chastened and without any other obvious way to increase their vote base before 2016, pledged earlier this year to revive a comprehensive immigration-reform bill. Yet party leaders, in part because they have been tied down since July by the debt confrontation, haven’t found a way to move legislation past the nativist caucus in the House.

As recently as 2007, when the Bush Administration almost passed a similar bill, it still seemed possible that a modernizing Republican Party might build a formidable political coalition of Latinos, evangelicals, disaffected Catholic Democrats, high-tech entrepreneurs, libertarians, social and educational reformers, and eclectic independents. Instead, as Geoffrey Kabaservice puts it in his history of the Republican decline, “Rule and Ruin,” movement conservatives have “succeeded in silencing, co-opting, repelling, or expelling nearly every competing strain of Republicanism from the party.” Political purges have no logical end point; each newly drawn inner circle of orthodoxy leaves a former respected acolyte suddenly on the outside. That a Tea Party-influenced purification drive now threatens such a loyal opportunist and boardroom favorite as Mitch McConnell seems a marker of the times.

McConnell’s would-be usurper is Matt Bevin, a businessman who owns a bell company; his campaign slogan is “Let Freedom Ring.” He told Glenn Beck recently, “We have got to wean people from this idea of free lunches.” (He might start with fellow Kentuckians; their state pays sixty-six cents in federal taxes for every dollar of federal spending it takes in.) Bevin pleaded, “What we need to tell the American people is that the party’s over.” Presumably, he didn’t mean the Grand Old Party, but the American people may be forgiven for thinking that he did.


By: Steve Coll, The New Yorker, November 4, 2013

October 28, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Revisionist History Mistrial”: Jim DeMint’s Silly Argument On Obamacare Was Soundly Overruled

The Heritage Foundation’s Jim DeMint – the proto Ted Cruz – has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning where he makes the case against Obamacare and explains why his organization pushed Cruz and the tea party right to shut down the government (and, presumably, why Cruz is threatening to try to do it again). Most of it is pretty standard anti-Obamacare fare, but one section is worth noting for its casual dismissal of last year’s election results.

Responding to the notion that Republicans should lay off Obamacare because the president won and they lost last November, DeMint writes:

… ObamaCare was not the central fight in 2012, much to the disappointment of conservatives. Republicans hoped that negative economic news would sweep them to victory, and exit polls confirmed that the economy, not health care, was the top issue. The best thing is to declare last year’s election a mistrial on ObamaCare.

Sorry, but you don’t get to declare a mistrial on election results because you don’t like them.

First, this raises the obvious question: Would DeMint entertain a similar argument against repealing Obamacare were Mitt Romney president right now? If negative economic news had indeed swept the GOP to victory, would anyone on the right find credible the argument that because the economy, not Obamacare, had been the big issue of the campaign, the GOP had no business trying to roll back the law?

Of course they would not – because the mistrial argument is silly. It’s true that exit polls showed the economy to be overwhelmingly the biggest issue of the campaign, with 59 percent of voters citing it as their top issue and health care a distant second at 18 percent. But there’s a difference between something being the driving issue of the campaign and being the only one. Voters didn’t cast their ballots in an issue void and it’s not like Obamacare was some sub-rosa topic that wasn’t properly litigated. It was the focus of politics for most of President Obama’s first term. Mitt Romney made it a mainstay of his campaign and ran ads on it.

So the fact that voters had bigger concerns isn’t grounds for a mistrial, but instead is a clarifying fact about their priorities. Last November, voters, having had years to digest the Obamacare wars, decided that the law isn’t the existential crisis that DeMint, Cruz and their ilk do and also decided to rehire the fellow who instituted it. Oh, and among the 18 percent of voters who did name health care as their top priority, three-quarters voted for President Obama.

I suppose there is one positive to come out of DeMint’s op-ed. By arguing that elections don’t count when it comes to secondary issues, he’s implicitly saying that elections do have consequences in regard to the top issue. That being the case, I look forward to DeMint and the Heritage Foundation graciously ending their opposition to President Obama’s economic agenda.

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, October 18, 2013

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Will Republicans Learn?”: Jim DeMInt And The Heritage Foundation Simply Do Not Have Their Best Interests At Heart

After congressional Republicans’ total surrender finally ended the government shutdown that they caused, and removed the country from the brink of a calamitous debt default, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) joined MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown on Thursday morning to break down the costly political defeat.

In Hatch’s estimation, the Heritage Foundation and its political arm, Heritage Action for America, deserve a good portion of the blame.

“Heritage used to be the conservative organization helping Republicans and helping conservatives and helping us to be able to have the best intellectual conservative ideas,” the seven-term senator explained. “There’s a real question on the minds of many Republicans now…is Heritage going to go so political that it doesn’t amount to anything anymore?”

“Right now I think it’s in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington, D.C.,” Hatch added.

If Republicans are smart, they should be doing everything possible to make sure that Hatch is proven correct. Arguably no single force has been more destructive to the Republican Party since the 2012 election than Heritage.

After President Barack Obama routed Mitt Romney among Latino voters by an overwhelming 71 to 27 percent margin last November, many Republicans — including the Republican National Committee — accurately diagnosed the GOP’s performance among the rapidly growing demographic as a huge impediment to winning national elections in the future. Most focused on comprehensive immigration reform as the best solution to the problem. And while fixing the broken immigration system would not be the cure-all that many Republicans hope, there’s no question that a sincere effort to solve the crisis would go a long way toward erasing Latino voters’ memories of “self-deportation.”

Ignoring that logic, Heritage stepped in to stop congressional Republicans from helping the nation — and themselves.

As debate over a comprehensive immigration reform bill heated up in Congress, the Heritage Foundation released a report claiming that the bill would cost a minimum of $6.3 trillion over the lifetimes of the 11 million immigrants who could gain legal status as a result. The report utilized a deeply flawed methodology — even many Republicans scoffed at its shoddy accounting — and quickly turned into a public relations nightmare once it was revealed that one of the authors admitted that he hadn’t even read the bill in question, and the other had posted inflammatory articles about Latinos’ inferior intelligence to a “white nationalist” website. In other words, Heritage managed to neatly personify the ignorant bigotry from which the Republican Party was desperately trying to distance itself.

Heritage Action would go on to strongly warn Republicans against passing any serious immigration reforms. And although they were unable to prevent the comprehensive bill’s passage in the Senate — with the support of 14 Republicans — it kept up the pressure on the House of Representatives, which is full of more conservative members with more reason to fear challenges from the right (due to their two-year terms and extremely conservative districts).

Heritage’s efforts have been successful so far; almost four months after the Senate passed the immigration bill, it appears to be dead in the water in the House. Meanwhile, 75 percent of Latinos now disapprove of congressional Republicans. Additionally, by encouraging the right to rise up against immigration reform, Heritage may have dealt a fatal blow to Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) chances of navigating the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, potentially removing a top-tier presidential candidate from the board.

Heritage also damaged the GOP by politicizing the farm bill. Usually the legislation, which contains both subsidies for farmers and food aid for working Americans, is one of few initiatives to gain bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. This year, however, Heritage Action demanded that the bill be split into two sections: a “farm-only bill” containing the agricultural subsidies, and a separate bill dealing with food aid — and mandating sharp cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as food stamps).

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) put forth an amendment to split the farm bill, as Heritage Action proposed, but it failed to pass. Heritage Action then “keyed” a no vote on the bill, leading 62 House Republicans to oppose it — enough to prevent its passage, due to the opposition of Democrats who were appalled by its harsh cuts to food aid.

The bill’s failure was a tremendous black eye for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and clearly established that he was at the mercy of the right wing of his caucus — a condition that helped lead him into the disastrous shutdown and debt ceiling standoff.

Two weeks later, the House would pass a split bill without any funding for food stamp and nutrition programs — reinforcing the party’s damaging image as a group that does not care about the struggles of everyday Americans. And for their trouble, Heritage Action slammed those Republicans who voted for the bill that it had supported just weeks earlier, now claiming that the legislation “would make permanent farm policies—like the sugar program—that harm consumers and taxpayers alike.”

Heritage Action’s reversal infuriated many Republicans, and even led the influential House Republican Study Committee to ban the group from its meetings. But it ultimately did very little to reduce Heritage’s reach within the party, as the government shutdown would show.

As Time‘s Zeke Miller has reported, nobody did more to cause the shutdown than Heritage Action. Although Republican leadership had hoped to avoid another politically disastrous budget battle, they did not anticipate the right’s commitment to battling over the law — a fervor that was whipped up by Heritage. Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham took a nine-city bus tour with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), demanding that conservatives stand up against Obamacare, whatever the costs. The group spent $550,000 on a digital advertising campaign criticizing Republican congressmembers for perceived weakness on the issue. It keyed votes against any government funding bill that wouldn’t dismantle health care reform. It aggressively used social media to promote Senator Cruz’s 21-hour non-filibuster against the Affordable Care Act. And it assured Republicans that provoking a crisis over the law would not cripple them politically.

As we now know, that was not the case. The shutdown totally failed to stop the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, but it did send the GOP’s poll numbers into a freefall, and seriously jeopardize the party’s once-bulletproof House majority. And once again, for their troubles, right-wing Republicans who followed Heritage into battle got stabbed in the back almost immediately.

“Everybody understands that we’ll not be able to repeal [Obamacare] until 2017,” Needham said during a Fox News appearance on Wednesday. Apparently “everybody” didn’t include dozens of House Republicans, or Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint. Just as with the farm bill, Heritage led Republicans further and further to the right — then turned on them as soon as it became convenient.

There’s no reason to believe that Heritage will change its pattern any time soon — as long as there is money to be raised from the far right, Heritage has no incentive to stop pressuring Republican politicians to take more extreme positions. Quite simply, that is their business model. It also seems very unlikely that Speaker Boehner will change his pattern of allowing the far right to pressure him into supporting Tea Party-backed plans in exchange for letting him keep the Speaker’s gavel.

Perhaps the business community — which is well represented on the Heritage Foundation’s board of trustees — will attempt to moderate the group’s political activities, in an effort to counteract their disastrous economic effects. Or perhaps Republican voters will finally run out of patience for Heritage’s preferred brand of governing by self-created crisis.

If not, the Republican Party is in trouble, because the evidence is clear: Heritage simply does not have its best interests at heart.

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, October 18, 2013

October 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Heritage Foundation, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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