Conservatives have had it up to here (hand to top of forehead) with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). Having barely recovered from the Cruz-induced shutdown and the calamitous backlash against Republicans, the GOP had to endure another episode of Cruzian grandstanding and the post-grandstanding trash talk. Mona Charen of National Review (stocked with many Cruz admirers) writes that it is “particularly galling to see that rather than train his fire at Obama and the liberal machine that cocoons him, Cruz has become a one-man wrecking ball against Republicans.”
At issue was his stunt on the debt limit in which he denied the chance to force Democrats alone to pass a “clean” debt bill sent from the House, thereby forcing responsible Republicans (not he, who remains purer than the driven snow!) to provide votes to reach cloture. On the merits, only Dems voted to pass the debt limit. Cruz had no alternative to the clean debt limit and couldn’t have gotten it through if he did. The sole purpose of his gambit was to force Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to take arrows from the loud mouths at the Senate Conservatives Fund, Madison Project and other purveyors of the search-and-destroy mission against mainstream Republicans. Cruz once again can crow at the expense of those whose responsible conduct allows Cruz the luxury of grandstanding.
Cruz then had the nerve to blast his colleagues for “trickery.” (This replaces as the personification of “chutzpah” the man who murders his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan.) Every Republican voted no on the merits of the debt ceiling (would he have recommended they vote yes?), you see. So they are somehow in favor of a bill they voted against. Or something. All in all, it was a shabby show.
As Kim Strassel (why is it the women who are always the ones to decry self-promoters?) of the Wall Street Journal put it, “There was only one point to Mr. Cruz’s action: To force Republican colleagues, in particular Mr. McConnell, into voting ‘yes’ to proceed to the actual bill. Mr. Cruz has admitted as much, bragging to radio host Mark Levin the next day that his colleagues’ ‘heads exploded’ because he’d ‘forced’ them to ‘tell the truth’—namely, that they ‘wanted’ to give Barack Obama a ‘blank check to raise our debt.’” Well, that’s balderdash, and even Cruz must know that. (He is, however, consistent since he claimed those who opposed the shutdown supported Obamacare.)
Cruz is not a dumb man, so surely he knows what he is saying is patently false and unhelpful to his party. But he is, more than anything, an ambitious man. It is wrong to label him a McCarthyite, as some on the left do (for one thing, there were actual communists to worry about in the 1950s). He is, nevertheless, reminiscent of another figure, Shakespearean in fact, with “a lean and hungry look.” He plots, he schemes and he cloaks it all in self-righteousness.
What to do about a man like Cruz? For one thing it’s a farce to have him as a vice chair on the National Senate Republican Committee. He would more properly be placed on the Democratic counterpart. But really, the best Republicans can do is ignore him and support mainstream and responsible candidates. They can reject the grab-bag of flaky and unqualified candidates who would emulate Cruz (Matt Bevin in Kentucky being the prime example). And if Cruz should run for president on a platform of — hmm, grandstanding? — the voters can tell him what they think of him. There is nothing like getting 5 percent of the vote in New Hampshire to take the wind out of a pol’s sails.
This is a shame, not only because he does damage to his party, which has a real chance to take the Senate, but also because it is a waste of actual talent that could be used to win policy arguments. Cruz can be a positive and intelligent force on the right, as he has shown on foreign policy. By doing this, however, he reveals himself to be a two-bit operator for whom ambition crushes principle. He makes far too many enemies for too little positive result. That doesn’t get you to be president, no matter how many talk show hosts demagogue on your behalf.