During a speech from the Senate floor on Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blasted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in direct terms on an arcane topic. "What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what [McConnell] told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again was a simple lie," Cruz said. "We know now that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment, that he is willing to say things that he knows are false."
At issue was McConnell's handling of the Export-Import Bank, a contentious, if little-understood vehicle for facilitating American business interests internationally. Cruz's speech eventually expanded outward, accusing his peers of corruption and cronyism, of sacrificing working mothers and miners, who don't have lobbyists, in favor of corporate interests. (He quickly clarified that individual miners don't, anyway.)
It's impossible to look at the senator's vehement speech -- which our veteran man on the Hill, Paul Kane, said was "unlike anything I've ever seen" -- outside of the context of Cruz's presidential campaign.
Earlier today, Cruz unveiled the endorsement of the prominent conservative personality Brent Bozell.
"We need a courageous conservative who tells the truth and does what he promises," Bozell said in the campaign's video statement. "We need to nominate an inspiring leader who has proven he is willing to take on the Washington cartel and buck the political establishment of both parties."
That "Washington cartel" line has been a centerpiece of Cruz's campaign rhetoric. He praised Donald Trump on Fox News earlier this week, because Trump is "bold and brash, and he’s willing to speak the truth. And he’s taking on the Washington cartel."
Cruz used the line during his fiery speech this morning, too. "This Senate operates exactly the same" as it did when Democrats controlled the body, he said. "The same priorities! And let me tell you why. It's not that this majority doesn't get things done; it does get things done. But it listens to one and only one voice: That is the voice of the Washington cartel, of the lobbyists on K Street of the big money and big corporations."
Campaigns go to great effort to layer different delivery vehicles for the same message. They'll send out leaflets making a particular argument at the same time that they're running a TV ad on the same issue on local news broadcasts. They'll throw in a volunteer phone call on top of it. Message reinforcement is Campaign 201. (That's a step more advanced than 101.)
If it is purely a coincidence that the Bozell endorsement was released an hour before Cruz made headlines by attacking McConnell over the same issue, it's an extremely fortuitous one. (Editor's note: There are no coincidences in politics. At least not ones like this.) Cruz was reacting to McConnell's actions on the floor, but likely had some sense of where the wind was blowing. Not that Cruz never offered vehement floor speeches before he was running for president, of course, but in the scramble for headlines in the Trump-dominated moment, this was a pretty good two-fer.
It's also worth picking up another point made by Kane on Twitter. As noted above, Cruz has repeatedly refused to criticize Trump, ostensibly because he won't play the "media game" pitting Republican against Republican. "In my time in the Senate I haven't impugned the character of Republicans or Democrats and I don't intend to start today," he told Bloomberg's Mark Halperin on July 18.
He intended to start a week later.