Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post's pet "conservative", is attacking Ted Cruz and twisting herself into a virtuoso gymnastic knot to do so. Here's her thesis:
It is a shopworn technique of hard-line conservatives to declare themselves men and women of principle in contrast to those other Republicans -- the ones, you know, who pass legislation and try to represent their constituents. It is both self-serving (presuming principles are of no matter to opponents) and lazy in that it is always easy to say no, ridicule compromise and remain pristine rather than trying to improve legislation or introduce an alternative.
It's interesting that Rubin characterizes Cruz's Republican Senate colleagues as his "opponents", but it's more important to note that Rubin criticizes Cruz for not "trying to improve legislation" or "introduc[ing] an alternative". There will be a test at the end of this post.
Let's see what prompted the Post's pet "conservative" to attack an up-and-coming Senator who is already demonstrating political skill and leadership, shall we? It seems Cruz gave a talk to his constituents in which he reports that "a bunch" of his Republican Senate colleagues were "yelling at the top of their lungs" at him over the gun filibuster vote:
We've had probably five or six lunches with a bunch of Republican senators standing up and looking at Rand and Mike and me and yelling at the top of their lungs -- I mean really . . . And they said: 'Why did you do this? As a result of what you did, when I go home, my constituents are yelling at me that I've got to stand on principle.' I'm not making that up. I don't even bother to argue with them. I just sort of let them yell. . . . They said: 'Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The Democrats 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 just not be a bunch of squishes."
Frankly, Cruz's response to being yelled at by his colleagues seems rather mild to me. Yelling at someone is unprofessional and impolite at a minimum. It certainly qualifies as being a jerk, so at first glance, I was willing to follow along for this:
There is being principled, and then there is being a jerk. Putting down your colleagues to boost your own street cred with the base falls into the latter category.
But then I read the next paragraph...
There are many things wrong with Sen. Cruz's comments, whatever you think of the merits of the gun legislation.
Wait a minute, she's saying Cruz was a jerk? He was the one being repeatedly yelled AT, not the one doing the yelling.
For starters, it's just not smart to annoy colleagues whose cooperation and support you?ll need in the future. Second, as a conservative he should understand humility and grace are not incompatible with "standing on principle"; the absence of these qualities doesn't make him more principled or more effective. Third, for a guy who lacks manners (see his condescending questioning of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) he comes across as whiny. They yelled at me! Boo hoo, senator.
Yelling at Cruz, Lee, and Paul (the three Senators who have been shaking things up) isn't going to annoy them? How does yelling at the trio demonstrate humility and grace? Personally, I find his simple response ("Well, you could just not be a bunch of squishes") to be polite, humble, and graceful in comparison to being repeatedly yelled at.
The kicker, though, is Rubin's acceptance of the media meme that Cruz was "condescending" to Feinstein. He wasn't. I've seen the video.
He asked her to defend the constitutionality of her proposed assault weapons ban. She tried to duck the question. He pointed out that she didn't answer his question, and asked again. Polite and reasonable, without condescension at all -- well, without any from Cruz, Feinstein's answer was positively dripping with it.
The condescension talking point is the media take, but it bears no resemblance to the actual event.
There is a deeper problem, I think, with Cruz's approach to the Senate, which has nothing to do with ideology. The contrast between him and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is telling. Paul is no less conservative than Cruz, but he is polite to a fault, soft spoken and gracious. These qualities serve him well, indeed making some strident positions seem less so. Moreover, Rand Paul is trying to accomplish something. He's put forth a budget. He's offered suggestions to amend the Gang of Eight's immigration bill. He's suggested reforms to our drug laws.
It seems that the Cruz-Grassley gun bill
escaped Rubin's notice. He did
put together a constructive alternative to the Democratic position on gun control. It got 52 votes
But it gets better!
What exactly is Cruz doing affirmatively to aid the country, the conservative movement and the GOP? Yelling at people and voting no don't qualify.
Voting no is a good place to start, especially when it constitutes standing on principle and representing your constituents who are demanding you stand on principle. And if you remember, it wasn't Cruz doing the yelling
; he was the one being yelled at.
Cruz's actions suggest an immaturity and lack of sophistication about conservative governance. He might want to apologize to his colleagues for betraying their confidence and sit down and think what it is he wants to do in the Senate. Obstruction is easy; governance is hard. And if the answer is that only hackneyed gestures (e.g. push for repealing Obamacare with a Dem Senate majority, but offer no alternative) that interest him, then the people of Texas are being shortchanged. Worse, he's doing nothing to suggest he's a man of stature and future leader in the party.
His colleagues might want to apologize to him for "repeatedly yelling" at him. As far as I, one of his constituents, am concerned, standing on principle for the Second Amendment is
demonstrating his stature and leadership qualities. He has done more to lead the opposition on the gun control issue than any other Senator, and I completely approve of his performance.