Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) may be the brightest light to adorn the Republican party in many years. He knows how to make the case for conservative ideas, pointing, for example, to the contrasting fates of Detroit and Houston to illustrate the superiority of conservative policies. So it’s 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. His most recent foray into sabotaging his colleagues concerned the debt-limit increase.
Because Speaker Boehner sent over a “clean” debt-limit bill, Republican senators had decided to let it pass with only Democratic votes. Republicans would not be endorsing the Democrats’ spending priorities, but neither would they be opening themselves to the accusation of flirting with national default. With Obama’s political fortunes sinking and several “red state” Democratic senators in jeopardy, Republicans have a good chance to retake the Senate in November — unless they fall into civil war.
The job of the Republican party until 2016 is to limit the damage that Obama can inflict on the nation and the world.
Senator Cruz objected to permitting the debt-ceiling vote with only Democratic votes. He demanded that the bill meet a 60-vote threshold (his right according to the rules). And so the Senate leadership, including Mitch McConnell, who is facing a primary challenger and a well-placed Democratic opponent, was forced to vote for the bill. Cruz then swanned over to the cameras to proclaim that some in Washington were “not listening to the people.”
Cruz claimed later that he had been vilified for “fighting on this.” No, he was criticized for trying to turn a winning hand into a losing one. A filibuster would have permitted Obama to thunder indignation about Republican obstructionism, while allowing Democrats to escape an uncomfortable vote.
Some grass-roots Republicans are highly receptive to the argument that only Republican leadership cowardice can explain the Obama phenomenon. Cruz croons the melody baldly. He told one gathering that his colleagues reproached him, saying, “I go home and constituents are yelling at me that I gotta stand on principle.” I’ll donate $1,000 to the Cruz for President committee if one senator ever said any such thing. Cruz continued: “‘Before you did this, the politics on this were all great. The Dems were the bad guys. The Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’ Well there is an alternative. You could all just not be a bunch of squishes.”
Cruz stoked the shutdown fever, while his aide called other Republicans the “surrender caucus.” Cruz’s allies threatened to primary senators who objected. In the end, the shutdown cratered the Republican party’s popularity and forced them to accept the same deal they could have had in September. That the deal wasn’t worse is a tribute to the much-scorned Boehner and McConnell. If senators are going to face primaries for their votes, Cruz should be among them, because after fulminating for three weeks, he too voted to fund the government.
Senator Cruz has many gifts. He’s a skilled rhetorical marksman (if no tactician), but by firing at his own side, he may be doing more damage to the Republican party than any Democrat has done.
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2014 Creators Syndicate, Inc.