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“The Ted Cruz Armageddon Is Coming”: For Now, He’s On Probation

Did you catch Ted Cruz’s numbers in that Pew poll that came out this week? You may not have, because there were a few other things going on. So take a guess as to his favorable ratings among Tea Party people. I can tell you that 18 percent expressed no opinion, so the numbers add up to 82. So, 65-17, 68-14? Could he possibly have topped 70?

He sure could have. It was 74-8. Eight! It used to be 47-10 in a prior poll. In other words, a lot of people who weren’t able to form an opinion of him now can, and it’s swooning. Among non-Tea Party Republicans, as you’d imagine, a rather different story: It’s 56-44 (everyone has an opinion!). That’s favorable, but it ain’t 74-8. And in these numbers, among dozens of other auguries, we see the Armageddon that’s coming in the GOP between now and 2016. What on earth are the establishment Republicans going to do about this man?

Examine with me a few more numbers, from an earlier Pew survey taken over the summer. That one found that while Tea Party people make up 40 percent of Republican voters, they make up 49 percent, or roughly half, of those who vote in every primary. Got that? OK.

So now put the two surveys together: Half of the most loyal Republican voters approve of Cruz at 90-percent levels (74 is nine-tenths of 82). Still think he couldn’t win the nomination?

You better believe he can. The chance that he could win a presidential election is as close to zero as any plausible candidate’s chance could be. I think he tops out at around 180 electoral votes. But the nomination? Not. Impossible. At. All.

So I ask again: What are the establishmentarians going to do? What, for example, can Mitch McConnell do? Not a whole lot. Individual senators are pretty autonomous. Remember when liberals were screaming during the health-care debate, “Why doesn’t Obama give Ben Nelson the Johnson Treatment?” Because the Johnson Treatment doesn’t work anymore, least of all on the serenely messianic, of which Cruz is definitely one.

Can a group of establishment senators break him, as a previous cohort, led by Margaret Chase Smith, broke Joe McCarthy? They can try, and that might make some difference. Their success will depend to a great extent on where the right-wing media decide to land. Will Roger Ailes and the rest of them do what’s right for the party and the country, or for the ratings and the bottom line? Why do I not want to know the answer to that question?

Much will hinge on what happens in 2014, in the coming crisis negotiations and then in the elections. If Cruz overreaches in January, they’ll polish him off. He is presumably smart enough to know that he’s on probation. So my guess is that as the January deadline approaches, Eddie Haskell will start bringing the teacher some apples. He’ll behave. Oh, he’ll mis-behave just enough to signal to the peanut gallery that he’s still Eddie Haskell; the world’s Eddie Haskells can’t help themselves. But he’ll keep it in line. And if he’s very smart, he’ll do those little, sugary things that senators value so much—the hand-written note when the wife’s checked into the hospital, that sort of thing.

He’ll spend the rest of 2014 guiding the Tea Party like Columbus on the Santa Maria. Rand Paul will be back there on the Niña, and farther back, Marco Rubio on the Pinta, straining to catch enough wind to keep up. But everyone will know who’s holding the compass.

The elections will be crucial. If the GOP loses control of the House because of perceived Tea Party looniness, Cruz will be blamed and held accountable. As for the Senate, it’ll be just slightly more nuanced. We’re seeing now that all these Tea Party people are going to challenge establishment Republicans. If some of them win their primaries but lose the general to a Democrat—if, say, Nancy Mace, the Citadel grad, beats Lindsey Graham but then loses in the general, giving South Carolina its first non-racist Democratic senator since Fritz Hollings, who’s probably the only non-racist Democratic senator the state has ever had—Cruz will, again, be blamed and held accountable. But say Mace wins, and a few others do too, even if the GOP doesn’t take control of the Senate. And say the Republicans hold the House. That’s a slightly ambiguous result. But any ambiguous result is easy for a demagogue to spin into a great victory. It’s precisely the kind of thing demagogues do best.

If the results a year from now don’t give the establishment the excuse it needs to bury him, Cruz will be off to the races. And then, Armageddon will come. To whom will the establishment hand the silver cross and vial of holy water? Chris Christie? Jeb Bush? South Dakota Senator John Thune, who offends no one (not yet, anyway) and who quietly voted for the deal to reopen the government and avoid default?

This will be a war. And it just might be a war the extremists will win. Establishments have power and money, and it is true that Republican voters have typically, after all the noise, gone in the establishment direction (McCain, Romney). But the insurgents have been advancing the beachhead, and unless they’re pushed back once and for all, it’s only a matter of time. But an epic battle looms. I cry for what these maniacs are doing to my country, but at the same time I plan on enjoying every minute of it.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 18, 2013

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Tea Party, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Scary Cruz Control”: Republican Leaders Don’t Know How To Control The Monster They’ve Created

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

April 22, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Cruz Litmus Test”: If Republicans Won’t Call This Guy Out, They Haven’t Learned A Thing

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

February 26, 2013 Posted by | Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

” Washington’s Most Beautiful Demagogue”: John Boehner Would Rather Not Deal With Michele Bachmann

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

July 28, 2012 Posted by | Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Snooty Eastern Establishment”: Rick Santorum Didn’t Restart The Culture War–It Never Stopped

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.

I’ve been trying to make this case (though not in the way Santorum is making it) all along.

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

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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