Political Animal


February 25, 2013 3:41 PM The Cruz Litmus Test

By Ed Kilgore

Parallel to the ongoing discussion of whether or not the Republican Party has any serious interest in curtailing the right-wing bender it’s been on since at least 2009 (and arguably a lot longer), we have the interesting phenomenon of a new and very loud Republican Senator who stands proudly for the point of view that the bender needs to get a lot crazier. Here’s the most succinct version of his argument that Republicans are losing because they aren’t standing up for “conservative principles:”

“Why did we lose? It wasn’t as the media would tell you: because the American people embraced big government, Barack Obama’s spending and debt and taxes. … That wasn’t what happened. I’m going to suggest to you a very simple reason why we lost the election: We didn’t win the argument,” Cruz said before pointedly lowering his voice. “We didn’t even make the argument.”

Yeah, not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, as George Wallace used to say back in the day.

But beyond this continuation of the ludicrous proposition that Republicans are too moderate and compromise-oriented (which really hasn’t been a credible argument since 1990, if then), Cruz is already distinguishing himself as the kind of mendacious bully-boy—sort of a smarter version of the Rick Perry who first emerged on the 2012 presidential campaign trail roaring and strutting around and threatening to tear the godless liberals limb from limb—who makes any sort of bipartisan discussion absolutely impossible. And while a few Republicans whisper about him obliquely or off-the-record, he’s mostly been lionized for this behavior:

“Senator Ted Cruz came to Washington to advance conservative policies, not play by the same old rules that have relegated conservatives, and their ideas, to the back bench,” Michael Needham, president of the influential Heritage Action said on Tuesday. “It should come as absolutely no surprise the Washington Establishment - be it the liberal media, entrenched special interests or even wayward Republicans - are now attacking him in the press for following through on his promises.”
Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project, said: “It’s about time someone annoyed those who have been complacent in doing what is necessary to get the country back on track. We applaud Senator Ted Cruz’s dedication to conservative principles and being an articulate spokesman for those principles. We are pleased he is shaking up Washington and doing exactly what the people of Texas elected him to do.”

Having brought back memories of Joe McCarthy in his nasty interrogation of Chuck Hagel, Cruz is back in the news right now for smearing left-wing Harvard Law School professors as communist revolutionaries (his effort to back-track on the smear without admitting it didn’t work too well).

As both Steve Kornacki and Greg Sargent have argued today, the acceptance of Cruz by his fellow-Republicans as a hail-fellow-well-met (and perhaps the future face of the party!) shows the shallowness of the talk about “reform” in the GOP (or alternatively, the shallowness of the MSM’s understanding of what conservatives mean when they talk about “reform”).

So I propose a litmus test for all those Republicans who say they learned their lesson and want to build a GOP that is free of the rancor and extremism of the recent past. Let’s ask them: what do you think of Ted Cruz? Because if they won’t call this guy out, then they haven’t learned a thing.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Kathryn on February 25, 2013 3:54 PM:

    Great question, my expectation, they won't call him out (Cruz) and they haven't learned a thing or they've learned the wrong things.

  • Paul Gottlieb on February 25, 2013 4:09 PM:

    Ted Cruz does provide a litmus test, but it's a test for Democrats. Cruz is a bully, and a vicious smear-artist, but more than anything else, he's a liar. The question for Democrats is do they have the guts to call him out for the liar he is? Sarcastic sneering and ironic comments won't do the job; the Democrats need to stand up on their hind legs and declare loudly that Ted Cruz is a liar! He should never be allowed to get away with a single lying smear without being immediately called on it.

  • kindness on February 25, 2013 4:19 PM:

    All those in favor of 'Haven't Learned A Thing' vote Aye.


  • Braxton Braggart on February 25, 2013 4:24 PM:

    As a Texan, please allow me to say how truly sorry we are about this man. Many of us knew that he would be an embarrassment to us, but even so we misunderestimated how quickly that would happen.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 25, 2013 4:24 PM:

    The doubling-down on crazy just for the sake of crazy in the GOTea is pretty damn ridiculous. It's like Rebel Without a Cause--50 years removed: the angry white man senior citizen counter-culture. Yeesh...

  • Michael Ryle on February 25, 2013 4:26 PM:

    The comparisons with Joe McCarthy are way off the mark. For one thing, there's no such thing as a Communist any more and everybody, except apparently Cruz, knows that. If McCarthy had been railing against Martians, the comparison would be apt. Or if Cruz were railing against Muslims (I have no doubt he'll get around to it if he already hasn't.)

    There is a much better comparison. The Senate needed a Michelle Bachmann. Now it has one.

  • jjm on February 25, 2013 4:41 PM:

    “Senator Ted Cruz came to Washington to advance conservative policies, not play by the same old rules that have relegated conservatives, and their ideas, to the back bench,” Michael Needham, president of the influential Heritage Action said on Tuesday."

    The conservatives have done a magnificent job of relegating themselves to the back bench.

    Of course the GOP lost to Obama on the basis of preferring his clearly articulated policies not because the GOP 'didn't make the argument.' There was not a single occasion on which the GOP articulated ANYTHING other than conservative talking points without logic, nuance, or the possiblity of being 'argued.' There is no there there.

  • Renai on February 25, 2013 4:55 PM:

    He's just one more cookie-cutter Republican "standing up" for any indistinct point opposite the President. So he's loud, big deal.

    The Tea Party was supposed to go to Washington to shake things up too...they fizzled in the public's eye and simply became the Party of No.

    Now we have Senator No of the Party of No...that's how we solve things?


  • boatboy_srq on February 25, 2013 4:57 PM:

    @Braxton Braggart;

    This is feature-not-bug for the Teahad: they ran on the expectation that nobody would take them at their word when they talked up their platform/agenda, and that nobody would expect them to be as speedy in their accelleration to Full Wingnut once in office. See Gov. Voldemort as a prime example.

    The trouble with Teahadist elected officials is that they're like taking a thermonuclear device to the public sector: the initial damage is instantaneous and severe, and the residual radiation is substantial. Cleanup will take decades. The trouble is there are so many unwitting hands on the button - er, lever/punchcard/voting-machine-screen - that don't expect the damage to be so bad, or so lasting. It's a little like the DoD's inability to grasp how bad nuclear weapons would be when used, even after all the tests, and after Hiroshima and Nagasaki; half the ships at Bikini, for example, were expected to return to service or to successful mothballing once the tests were concluded - and few were fit even to scrap once they were exposed.

    I would dare the Teahad to present True Believer, Uncompromised, genuine Teahadist candidates for public office to illustrate just how insane the Teahad's goals are - but I'm afraid that if we elect even one more there may not be much left of their jurisdiction (city, state, district, whatever) left to rebuild.

  • rk21 on February 25, 2013 5:04 PM:

    I think conservatives have done a very good job of presenting their "argument". They are for almost no taxes on the rich, no environmental regulation, anti science, global warming and evolution deniers, against abortion in every instance and pro rape by ultrasound wands. I don't think I've missed anything. But if the essence of conservatism is not completely clear, maybe at their next convention they can stage a skit on stage with Clint Eastwood stomping on the face of an illegal immigrant, tie up a woman to a easy bake oven, grovel at the feet of a couple of wall street bankers, and mock lynch a couple of communist puppets. That should get the point across beautifully. And they'll still get the majority white male vote.

  • T2 on February 25, 2013 5:25 PM:

    Ted Cruz is the new Grover Norquist, with the exception that Cruz operates in plain view and Norquist does his work below the radar. Cruz is setting himself up as as The One. Disagree with him and get primaried on the right and smeared on the left. And I guarantee that the establishment GOP, what's left of them, don't have any idea what to do with him. If the Left let's him run unabated (certainly the Media will fall in line soon ), we will see Cruz Clones in every state in 2014 & 2016.

  • howard on February 25, 2013 5:27 PM:

    rk21 is on the right track in my estimation: insofar as cruz wants the gop to embrace "principles," they are principles that is has been embracing for years now, just as rk21 points out.

    cruz is said to be a smart guy, btw, but i'm hard pressed to see what's smart about someone who thinks that no taxes and no regulation constitutes a set of "principles."

  • Rabbler on February 25, 2013 5:46 PM:

    A litmus test failed is when a progressive commentator will only parenthetically hint that the Republicans might have been too far to the right prior to 1990. All the 60s music videos in the world won't fix that.

  • DRF on February 25, 2013 6:00 PM:

    Republicans aren't inclined to publicly criticize one of their own--that's not surprising and, the fact is, the Democrats have the same tendency. No one wants to give more ammunition to the opposing party than necessary.

    That's not to say that Cruz isn't hurting himself within his own party. Time will tell. If Cruz simmers down and stops making outrageous statements and accusations, he'll do fine; if not, he won't be likely to become a national candidate.

  • c u n d gulag on February 25, 2013 6:24 PM:

    Senator "Outta" Cruz "Control," is a run-of-the-mill big-mouthed Conservative lunatic.

    He's Ann Coulter without the little black cocktail dress, and with shorter, darker hair, and an even bigger Adam's Apple.

    He's an "attention whore" - with apologies to real sex-workers, who are worth quite a bit more as human beings than this ignorant self-absorbed sociopathic blow-hard (but, I repeat myself).

  • SYSPROG on February 25, 2013 9:42 PM:

    He came to 'advance Conservative policies'? What? LYING?

  • Perspecticus on February 26, 2013 6:45 AM:

    During the general election, the GOP hid Paul Ryan's actual beliefs and plans for a reason. I say let Cruz "make the argument". Until the GOP sees the entire country recoil in horror from the GOP's true platform, no change is possible.

  • Rick Massimo on February 26, 2013 8:58 AM:

    "Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project, said: “It’s about time someone annoyed those who have been complacent in doing what is necessary to get the country back on track."

    "BACK on track" s something Republicans throw out there casually and no one ever pushes back on.

    If you want to put us BACK on track, please tell us when in our history this country was ON track, by your standards. Then we can have a look at how things really were back then.

    Which, of course, is why they never, ever specify what era they're talking about. But it'd be nice for someone to ask.

  • Renai on February 26, 2013 10:42 AM:

    Now it's communism? Republicans are really running out of ideological drums to bang to keep their exhausted tribe dancing.

  • Mark on February 26, 2013 3:54 PM:

    The Republicans are a hockey team, and Ted Cruz is a goon. He's just there to be launched like a stupid missile at members of your team who the Republicans have failed to take out using other tricks. When all else fails, just throw Ted Cruz at them. They'll both get thrown out of the game, but your guy will be gone, too, while Ted Cruz will have done what he was hired to do.

  • JRBehrman on February 26, 2013 6:55 PM:

    The GOP will not disavow Ted Cruz. He is baiting the Congressional Democrats. And, they are taking it.

    The GOP regards the Congressional Democrats as risk-averse and defensive -- "reactionary liberals" was the term Newt Gingrich used.

    There is nothing to suggest otherwise. Indeed, they now have not just Cruz Steve Stockman, again, to deal with.

    So, the strategy for dealing with this?

    "Hold Harmless!", "Pink noise", and "Fall Back" on race-politics.

  • deke4 on February 27, 2013 9:52 AM:

    It boggles my mind that so many of those chickenhawk patriots would question the abilities of people, who unlike Kruz, served their country with courage and distinction during war time. Where, Mr. Kruz, were you in your generation's wars? Yet you have the gall to question the honor and patriotism of true American heroes. Where did you get data that Hagel may have received money from Hamas or Iran? Step up and do the only honorable thing you can do or perhaps have ever done. Answer the questions of where you got the names of the 12 avowed Harvard professors who are communist?
    I await your response to those 3 questions.
    1. Where and when did you serve on active duty?
    2. Where did you get data that Hagel may have been paid by Hamas and Iran?
    3. Who besides you holds a paper with the names of 12 communist Harvard professors?