Here’s the one thing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has in common with the average middle-class American: Ted Cruz (R-TX) is his worst nightmare.
Not that McConnell disagrees with Cruz’s billionaire-coddling, revanchist paranoid fantasies that pit anyone who doesn’t agree with Dick Cheney 100 percent of the time as a UN-brainwashed, disloyal “Friend of Hamas.”
What terrifies McConnell as he attempts to saw logs is just how easily Senator Ted Cruz could destroy his political career.
Cruz crushed Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst in the Lone Star State’s 2012 U.S. Senate GOP primary by running against the “establishment.” Unlike Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock or Christine O’Donnell—Tea Partiers who all won GOP primaries in purple states—Cruz’s primary win in blood-red Texas was a ticket straight to the upper house of Congress, where he has instantly replaced Jim DeMint (R-SC) as the Republican who sounds the most like Glenn Beck, if Beck had ever left puberty.
With one endorsement, one press release or even one wink in the right direction, Cruz could turn some lucky Tea Partier into a serious candidate to defeat Mitch McConnell, the man who has led Senate Republicans since they became the minority in 2007.
Usually a new senator spends his first few years keeping a low profile and kissing up to the leadership. Cruz has effectively reversed this process. Every time a microphone gets near his face, he creates excruciating headlines for the GOP. And the Republican leadership is all puckered up and dying to plant one on Cruz’s nether regions, according to National Review Online.
“He’s ready for primetime on day one, which is pretty unusual for somebody who just got sworn in,” McConnell says. “He’s a deadly weapon.” He is also “good company,” according to McConnell, who recently accompanied Cruz on a delegation to Israel and Afghanistan.
Cruz — the perfect representative of dive-bombing GOP primary voters who would rather flame out trying to destroy Obama than actually govern — has Mitch McConnell on a leash. And because Republicans have used the filibuster to hijack control of lawmaking and appointments in this country, this means that the farthest right of the GOP now effectively has control of the Senate and much of the government.
Thus Senate Republicans — who have already set records for obstruction — are already sinking to new depths just months into the 113th Congress.
Only three senators voted against John Kerry’s nomination for Secretary of State: Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who believes God is telling him that global warming is a hoax; John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate Minority Whip and the only man more afraid of Ted Cruz than Mitch McConnell; and Cruz.
Why did Cruz oppose Kerry? He said that John Kerry, along with fellow decorated Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel, is a “less than ardent fan” of the U.S. military.
But Kerry was still confirmed – because Republicans thought they had a chance at his seat.
Cruz was not happy with the president being able to pick his own cabinet and went much harder at Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense. In this, he again thrilled his base, who see the former Republican senator — who like millions of Americans pointed out that George W. Bush was the worst president since Hoover — as the shining example of a RINO – Republican In Name Only.
(By the way: Who would want to be a “Republican in name only?” That’s like being a “biker in smell only.” I want the terrible reputation of being a member of the political party that bungled two wars and destroyed the economy, but I don’t want to get the tons of money I’d get for actually kowtowing to big oil and defense contractors.)
A graduate of Harvard Law School who has argued in front of the Supreme Court several times, Cruz prosecuted Hagel exactly how a GOP primary voter would love to, by reading information straight from right-wing sites known more for their ALL-CAPS ACCUSATIONS than fact-checking.
His prosecution peaked with an accusation so baldly ridiculous that even Republicans almost laughed aloud:
“He could not even say that the $200,000 he received did not come directly from a foreign government…It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.”
Let’s just assume that the North Koreans have bought the first enlisted member of the U.S. Army ever nominated for Secretary of Defense because I get most of my intelligence from the reboot of Red Dawn.
Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who has spent the last four years launching baseless attacks against the president, slightly chided Cruz for impugning the former senator’s integrity.
But that didn’t stop McCain from joining Cruz in what was effectively the first filibuster of a Secretary of Defense nominee during wartime in U.S. history.
Why? Because Republicans love it.
Back to the National Review Online:
Cruz was derided for his “bogus attack” on Hagel, for “hectoring” the nominee, for turning the hearing “into a clown show,” and even for channeling the spirit of Joe McCarthy.
For conservatives, that may be one of the surest signs that Cruz is doing something right.
McCarthyism used to be nearly universally denounced in this country as a relic of an unbelievably dark time in American politics. But that was before McCarthyism got its own news channel and that news channel took over the Republican Party.
Now that Republican Party has its perfect hero – a Ivy League-educated, Canadian-born savant who prides himself on telling conservatives, “Don’t read the New York Times” – because not believing Times writers like Nate Silver worked out for them so well in 2012.
Ted Cruz is now effectively the Minority Leader of the Senate. And this may help Mitch McConnell survive in 2014 . But it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the party — or the country.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com.