Friday, September 27, 2013

The Cruz Craze

Ted Cruz has spent 21 hours in the well of the Senate, trying to stop the funding of Obamacare. There is near uniform agreement that he was wasting his time, knew he could not prevail, and was only interested in his own self-aggrandizement. All of that may be true. I was speaking to a very liberal friend of mine yesterday (yes, they're out here, too) and he said that the problem with Republicans is that they've allowed themselves to be hijacked by right wing zealots who want an end to government and hate Obama. I told him that I failed to see how that hijacking had been successful since Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn and others were actively seeking to delegitimize Ted Cruz, and he was being publicly pilloried by voices like Dr. Krauthammer and David Brooks. People like me, I told him, were simply trying to provide some balance against a Democratic Party that has been wholly subsumed by immoderate progressives, embodied by Obama, Reid and Pelosi.

When I was growing up, the Democrats were a schizoid group: there were Southern Democrats who actively opposed segregation and voting rights; there were strong foreign policy advocates like Scoop Jackson who would be viewed as incredibly hawkish today; and, let's remember that the sainted Bobby Kennedy, as his brother's Attorney General, used the power of federal law enforcement to spy and collect "opposition research" on Martin Luther King. But that "big tent" party began to change with the emergence of Gene McCarthy and George McGovern, the youthful opposition to the Vietnam War, the emergence of a radical fringe which embraced violent action, and Richard Nixon's abuse of power. This also served to solidify the creeping leftwing inclinations of mass media, exemplified by the NY Times, Washington Post and CBS' "60 Minutes".

Where are the voices of moderation in the Democratic Party today? Which voices can be described as the strong foreign policy advocates of the day? Which demand creation of more federal programs and which demand a more restrictive fiscal policy? if you're honest, you know the answer  - there are no dissenting voices. Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Durban, Wasserman Schultz, Feinstein, Mikulski, Schumer - you know I could go on and on. In the Republican Party, however, there is real difference of opinion, and this is characterized by today's media as a "civil war"; completely absurd. There's Mark Kirk and Lisa Murkowski, really more Democrats than Republicans; Rand Paul, who, while trying to posture as a friend of Israel, argues like his dad against foreign aid; John McCain, who calls Ted Cruz a "wacko bird" and wants to send sophisticated weaponry to al Qaeda sympathizers in Syria; and Peter King, whom I always admired for his strength in foreign affairs, publicly trashing Cruz in very personal terms. In which party is ideological purity demanded and in which party is there a legitimate struggle for ideological dominance? In years past, it was Republicans as the former and Democrats as the latter. That position has reversed itself since Obama's inauguration. Where are Democratic voices of dissent? How long did it take for one of Obama's own to speak out against his threats to attack Syria? Why are unions so conspicuously silent on the current Obamacare debate when their members will be subjected to excise taxation for their expensive health plans?

So, trash Ted Cruz to your heart's content. Mock him for reading his daughters "Green Eggs and Ham". His faux filibuster was undertaken to challenge the anemic establishment of the Republican Party, because he felt like drawing a red line ought to mean something to someone at some time. He will become a hero to many because he is willing to confront not only unpopular legislation, but the arthritic condition of his own party. Calling it a "civil war" is media hyperbole, of course, intended to inflict further damage on the party's perception. But, at least there is real discourse going on to best determine the future direction of the party, out in the open and open to all. There is nothing negative or destructive about that process.

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