Ted Cruz’s “aw shucks” act is wearing thin.
The Republican senator from Texas likes to pretend he is above the fray of Washington bickering, focused on large issues and too big to engage in character assassination.
But the reality is that Cruz is the Republican king of nasty attacks. He explodes rhetorical nuclear bombs on his opponents, only to feign outrage when his victims respond in kind, or in many cases, with relative spitballs.
Take his defund Obamacare effort. The tactic to eliminate President Obama’s health care law had zero prospect of success, which Cruz undoubtedly knew despite what he sold the conservative grassroots. Nonetheless, Cruz and his allies declared that anyone who didn’t join them in their legislative Charge of the Light Brigade in effect supported Obamacare and were part of the Republican “Surrender Caucus.”
“I am perpetually frustrated by what seems to be the ‘Surrender Caucus’ in the Congress, the group that just wants to give in,” Cruz said on Sean Hannity’s radio show July 25, “the group that just want us to give in and who say, well, President Obama will never give in on his top priority. Well, why is it that he gets to hold his principles, and it’s assumed that we have to roll over, when the American people are with us?”
By Cruz’s definition, Republican senators like Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and congressmen like Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, two of the staunchest opponents of Obamacare from the very beginning, are actually de facto supporters of the president’s health care law. Why? Because they live in reality and understand that Obamacare can’t be defunded while Democrats control the Senate and the presidency.
When Cruz started to be criticized for pushing his impossible strategy, he acted like he couldn’t imagine why his fellow Republicans would dare say a nasty word about him.
“Let’s be clear on the intraparty fight: I have not said an ill word about any of my colleagues,” Cruz said on Laura Ingraham’s show July 31, denying he ever used the term “Surrender Caucus,” perhaps not knowing radio shows are recorded for posterity. “I have not said an ill word about any of my colleagues, and they have said some pretty nasty words about me.”
Not only did Cruz use the term to describe Republicans who questioned his Defund effort, but so did his chief of staff, who Cruz tried to throw under the bus in the Ingraham interview.
Then there was Cruz’s 21-hour speech on the Senate floor in which he compared those who opposed his Defund strategy to — wait for it — Nazi appeasers.
“If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany — look, we saw it in Britain. Neville Chamberlain told the British people: Accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that is not our problem. Let’s appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We cannot possibly stand against them,” he said.
“In America there were voices who listened to that; I suspect the same pundits who said it couldn’t be done. If this had happened in the 1940s, we would have been listening to them. Even then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond the carrier pigeons and letters and they would have been on TV saying: You cannot defeat the Germans.”
In what is becoming a pattern for Cruz, he is now backing away from what he said.
“I went through the centuries where, over and over again, when facing big challenges, Americans have risen to the occasion,” he told David Gregory on Meet The Press Sept. 29, explaining away his slander. “At every stage, there were the voices of conventional wisdom that said this can’t be done, and every time, Americans have risen to the challenge.”
Perhaps, but the fact is he also compared those who oppose his strategy of being similar to Nazi appeasers. There’s just no getting around that.
Still, Cruz pushes on, acting like he is the victim of scurrilous attacks and suggesting he is too noble to respond in kind. But as we’ve seen, that’s a bunch of nonsense.
Cruz’s deceitful demagoguery ultimately pushed the GOP to shutdown the government without any real plan to achieve anything substantive. Polling shows that the public blames the GOP more than the Democrats in Congress or President Obama for the shutdown, even as President Obama and his deputies seem to unnecessarily be trying to make the pain of the shutdown more intense. But when the media should be focused on the pitiful launch of the Obamacare exchanges, they are distracted by the inanity of shutdown politics. One poll even shows that support for Obamacare has increased seven percentage points during the shutdown.
But don’t worry. Ted Cruz paid for a poll that shows things are not quite as bad as other polls indicate, even if still not favorable to the GOP. That should be comforting to Republicans.
All evidence indicates that Cruz is extremely smart. He has to know he is pursuing a dishonest strategy, both in deceiving the conservative base about the potential to defund Obamacare and lying in national media interviews about what he has said about his Republican opponents.
Sadly, so far Cruz’s “aw shucks” strategy seems to be working, at least in terms building his own brand. He appears to have so far paid little price among the conservative grassroots for his vicious and wholly deceptive attacks against his Republican peers. On Saturday, he won the Voters Values Summit straw poll by a very wide margin.
For some reason, the conservative base trusts Cruz. They believe his holier-than-thou act.
When the tea party first arose, the movement righteously warned that out-of-control spending and looming entitlement liabilities would destroy the country if not addressed. That message remains as vitally important as ever. But Cruz is hijacking the tea party movement for his own ends — to build the Ted Cruz brand. He should be ashamed of deceiving those who have invested so much faith in him and for defaming his colleagues in order to build up his own reputation.
And if the conservative grassroots continue to follow Cruz, they will be led from the current government shutdown to future electoral shut downs.