Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) needs to stop defending the disastrous 2013 shutdown. The stunt he inspired was, for all but the Kool-Aid drinkers, a low point in recent Republican history. It plunged the party into a slump and allowed the president to divert attention from the looming Obamacare debacle. It was only after the shutdown ended by complete surrender that Republicans and the media could focus on the horrible Obamacare rollout.
The shutdown was so harmful that virtually no conservative — not even Cruz — recommends a repeat over the president’s executive order on immigration. So why is Cruz still belaboring the point? On “Fox News Sunday,” there was this exchange on GOP remedies in response to the president’s executive action:
CHRIS WALLACE: But you’re willing to shut down departments and you’re willing to take the backlash? I mean, it didn’t work very well with Obamacare, sir.
CRUZ: Well, let me point on you, you notice, at the time, you and a lot of folks in the press said what a disaster it was to stand up and fight on Obamacare. That it was going to cost Republicans the majority. It was going to cost seats.
Let me point out, we just had an historic election where we won. It’s going to end up being nine seats in the Senate. We retired Harry Reid. We’ve got the biggest majority in the House since the 1920s. And the number one issue that candidates campaigned on was Obamacare.
Now, listen, it was a mistake for President Obama and Harry Reid to force a government shutdown, but it was not a mistake for Republicans to stand up and fight on Obamacare. And not only did the disaster that a lot of folks predicted not happen, it was the biggest victory we’ve had in a long time. Republicans need to actually do what we say we will do, and not just have a lot of empty smoke.
Stop, senator. Just stop. When you talk that way — and with such conviction — anyone not in your sliver of conservatives (plenty of whom opposed the shutdown) thinks you are daft. The party won in 2014 because it ran people who did NOT support the shutdown and who vowed to govern responsibly. The people who agreed with Cruz and supported the shutdown lost in the primaries.
Cruz’s problem is that he went out on a limb in 2013, misled his fellow Republicans that there was an endgame and wound up being excoriated by his own party. It was a bad misjudgment, indicative of someone starved for the limelight. But repeating his talking points only makes Republicans think Cruz has learned nothing. And maybe he hasn’t.
He should see what two other GOP senators who supported the shutdown, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), did after the shutdown: They got serious about governing and became idea factories for conservative reform. They have a series of affirmative proposals, not a grab bag of anti-government one-liners. It was the Rubio-Lee philosophy and tone that GOP Senate winners adopted in 2014.
Unfortunately, Cruz never moved on. Perhaps his ego would not allow him to admit fault. (Remind you of anyone?) He instead jumps from one hot-button issue to the next, fixing on a senseless catchphrase here or a bad analogy there, in lieu of responsible leadership.
After Obama, the GOP and the country at large are not about to put another untested, self-deluded ideologue in the White House. If Cruz ever wants to be competitive for the presidency or recover the trust of his party, he better reinvent himself as a mature legislator.