Cruz Missile Misfires

by Dish Staff

Ted Cruz did Harry Reid a big favor on Saturday, demanding a vote on Obama’s immigration EO that backfired in a big way. Allen McDuffee explains how his shenanigans gave the Dems everything they wanted for Christmas and then some:

Reid and his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had worked out an agreement Friday to hold a vote on the spending package on Monday. But Cruz’s last-minute procedural maneuver to demand a vote on immigration scuttled that deal and forced senators to stay in Washington for the weekend. Not only did the immigration vote fail by a wide margin, 74-22, but the maneuver allowed Democrats to advance a slate of two dozen Obama nominees to executive branch positions faster than they otherwise would have proceeded. The nominations include Tony Blinken as deputy secretary of state, Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general, Sarah Saldana as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Carolyn Colvin to lead the Social Security Administration.

The “cromnibus” spending bill, meanwhile, passed 56 to 42, with 24 Republicans supporting it. Cruz’s buddies on the right are less than thrilled. Jennifer Rubin, for one, rips the junior Senator a new one:

Consistently rejecting useful and conservative legislation because of small infirmities is not the behavior of a leader dedicated to accomplishing important things, and it suggests Cruz is grossly unsuited for the Senate, let alone higher office. Imagine if he ran a state — or the country — without super-majorities of Republicans. Things would be worse than they are now. Rigidity of mind and contempt for opponents in a president have resulted in paralysis and nastiness for six years, so why repeat the experience? And really, if Cruz could find some other way to get attention, get his face on TV and get money out of gullible hard-right voters, don’t we think he’d take it?

Matt Lewis urges conservatives not to hold back from criticizing radicals like Lee and Cruz:

[T]he larger problem is that if conservatives are afraid to say “the emperor has no clothes,” then we will continue rewarding the wrong things, which means conservatives will continue losing. Is it wise to look the other way? It doesn’t do much good to pretend that the touchdown counts for your team when it was scored in the wrong end zone, but what if even after watching the game film, we still decline to tell our star player he cost us the game? This raises a question: Who cares more about something, the guy who ignores its faults or the guy who wants to address them?

Drum, meanwhile, neeners:

I’m sure the NRA is thrilled. Ditto for all the Republicans who were apoplectic over the nomination of Tony Blinken as deputy secretary of state. And megadittoes—with a megadose of irony—for Cruz, Lee, and all their tea party buddies who objected to confirming Sarah Saldaña to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Their objection, of course, was meant as a protest against Obama’s executive order on immigration. Now, thanks to a dumb little stunt that was pathetic even as an empty protest against Obama’s immigration plan, they’re going to lose an actual, substantive protest against an Obama immigration nominee. Nice work, guys. But I guess it’s a nice big platter of red meat that plays well with the rubes. With Cruz, that’s all that counts.

Jonathan Bernstein compares the cromnibus fight to last year’s shutdown battle, in which Cruz also played a key role:

Of course, part of normal bargaining involves a certain amount of brinkmanship and part of deliberate shutdown politics can involve claims that the other side is “really” responsible for the breakdown. The process goes off the rails when it includes excessive demands, backed up by ultimatums, that are far outside what appears to be the normal range of bargaining. Demanding a repeal of Obamacare (or “defunding”) despite a solid Democratic majority in the Senate and a Democrat in the White House is of a different order than a fight about a relatively small provision of Dodd-Frank, or the other policy riders added to the current funding bill.

In any case, it was clear from the beginning of last year that the radicals were more interested in the principle of blackmail than they were in the fate of any particular hostage. Indeed, most of the drama of the government shutdown involved Republicans flailing around looking for a good demand they could make for the shutdown they had already engineered.

What Are Ted Cruz’s Chances?

Yesterday, I wrote, “I expect Cruz to run, and I would not be surprised if he won.” Jonathan Bernstein, on the other hand, gives him the “longest odds” of any “viable candidate”:

Not just because he’s an irresponsible demagogue, or because he’s made enemies in the Senate. And not just because he’s almost certainly a weaker general election candidate given that he’s by far the one most likely to be perceived by voters as an ideological extremist. The biggest reason Cruz’s nomination bid would be unlikely to succeed is that Republican party actors mostly identify him with the October 2013 government shutdown, which, apart from a small number of radicals, is perceived as a hugely damaging unforced error. Remember, not only were Republicans widely blamed for the shutdown, it also had the side effect of distracting the press from the disastrous first weeks of the Obamacare exchange rollout. Even party actors who are itching to nominate a real conservative after suffering through Mitt Romney and John McCain (and in many cases having decided that George W. Bush was no conservative after all) are unlikely to choose a candidate whose strategic judgment has proved to be suicidal for the movement.

But Michael Tracey isn’t writing off Cruz. One reason:

I would implore all readers to watch a full Ted Cruz speech if he or she has not already. The man is simply a performative marvel. He manages to strike some sort of preternatural balance between fiery Southern Baptist sermon and stand-up comedy routine, invariably bringing crowds to their feet. In the era of the tweet-sized soundbite, Ted Cruz’s mastery of the one-liner and the pun are not trivial; they are integral to his success.

Another factor:

In the post-Citizens United landscape, traditional donor class support is becoming less and less important. Multi-billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was able to bankroll Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential bid as nothing more than a personal vanity project. Gingrich went onto win the South Carolina primary. That unpredictable dynamic will only have been heightened by 2016. Ted Cruz may be disliked by elements of the GOP elite, but he doesn’t have to rely on their support to prevail, as likely would have been the case in years past.

Instead, Cruz can lean on what I’ll term the “para-establishment”—a constellation of advocacy groups, media entities, individual mega-donors, and others who have long ago thrown their lot in with Cruz.

Allahpundit imagines how the primaries might shake out:

Cruz isn’t really running against the entire field, at least in the early states. He’s running against Paul. If he can finish ahead of Rand in Iowa and New Hampshire, the thinking goes, conservatives who prefer Rand will abandon him as a lost cause and line up behind Cruz for South Carolina. If Cruz can get to that point, he’ll take his chances against the centrist champion, no matter who it is. If it’s Jeb, Cruz will add an anti-dynastic note to his broader “return to Reagan” message. If it’s Romney, he gets to pound Mitt for having blown his and the GOP’s chance of regaining the White House once before. And if it’s Christie, he’ll count on the right’s disdain for the big guy plus Christie’s personal abrasiveness to alienate voters. All of which makes me wonder if the donor class won’t decide to skip those three and back Rubio instead.

Ted Cruz Thinks Ross Douthat’s An Anti-Semite [Updated]

And Mollie Hemingway and Matt Lewis and K-Lo and Rod Dreher and Michael Brendan Dougherty … and so many others who, however politely, expressed their misgivings over Cruz’s inflammatory speech to Middle East Christian groups, in which he “trolled the victims of genocide”, as Dougherty memorably tweeted. Ross’s piece is the best I read on the subject, and if you can find a scintilla of anti-Semitism in it, well, you’re probably Leon Wieseltier. But this is what Cruz just said to The World magazine in response to his critics:

Among one particular community, which is sort of the elite, intellectual Washington, D.C., crowd, there has been considerable criticism. … A number of the critics, a number of the folks in the media have suggested, for example, that my saying what I did distracted from the plight of persecuted Christians. What I find interesting is almost to a person, the people writing those columns have never or virtually never spoken of persecuted Christians in any other context. I have spoken literally hundreds of times all over the country. This is a passion. I’ve been on the Senate floor, and I intend to keep highlighting this persecution. I will say it does seem interesting that the only time at least some of these writers seem to care about persecuted Christians is when it furthers an anti-Israel narrative for them. That starts to suggest that maybe their motivation is not exactly what they’re saying.”

“Almost to a person”?

Cruz should name names if he believes that his critics have never written about Christian persecution in the Middle East before now. It is not my impression. But the imputation of anti-Semitism is yet another instance in which the neocon right simply refuses to engage the arguments about policy in the Middle East without resorting to this kind of rhetorical blackmail. It’s a reminder not just of Cruz’s deep McCarthyite tendencies, but of a dangerously crude view of the world in which bright and permanent abstractions – Israel always right! America just needs to bomb its enemies! – have replaced any actual engagement with reality.

Cruz is a domestic creature. He cares about marshaling and exploiting the fanaticism of the Zionist Christianist right and winning the mountains of cash available to any GOP candidate who backs Likudnik policies and the permanent annexation of the West Bank. What he isn’t is a thinker on foreign policy, someone who has any sort of clue how to engage a messy and dangerous world. And yet what he represents is clearly a rising force on the right – a kind of Jacksonian myopia that we thought had suffered a mortal blow in the sands of Mesopotamia but is now back, pristine, and ready to go to war against Islam all over again.

Update: Perhaps sensing that he had falsely accused so many writers of being anti-Semites and not caring about Middle East Christians, Cruz has just walked back his words in an email to Matt Lewis:

It was a mistake to suggest that critics of my remarks at IDC had not spoken out previously concerning the persecution of Christians; many of them have done so, often quite eloquently.  It was not my intent to impugn anyone’s integrity, and I apologize to any columnists who took offense.  The systematic murder of Christians in the Middle East is a horrible atrocity, and all of us should be united against it.  Likewise we should speak with one voice against the persecution of Jews, usually being carried out by the very same jihadist radicals.

Is The Border Crisis Over? Ctd

Border Crossings

Dara Lind relays further evidence that the answer is yes:

[T]he fact that, as of August, fewer children are arriving this year than arrived at the same time last year indicates that this isn’t just a seasonal slowdown. It really looks like the flow of children into the country has slowed down to nearly manageable levels for the time being.

Indeed, the US government is no longer overwhelmed by the flow. Border Patrol officers are legally required to turn unaccompanied children over to the Department of Health and Human Services no more than 72 hours after they’re apprehended. At the worst parts of the crisis this summer, they weren’t even close to meeting that deadline — they took an average of more than three weeks. Now, according to Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, they’re back to normal, turning kids over to HHS well within the 72-hour window.

In another post, Lind contrasts Ted Cruz’s border rhetoric with this new reality:

Cruz warned explicitly that promises of “future amnesty” would only make the problem worse. On June 30th, President Obama gave a Rose Garden speech explicitly promising to take further executive actions on immigration. Those promises included, in Cruz’ words, “plans to give amnesty to millions more who arrived in our country illegally.” Cruz said that because of those plans, Obama was responsible for the border crisis — and predicted that “the surge of unaccompanied children trafficked to the United States by drug cartels and transnational gangs will not ebb until Congress restrains the President from taking any further executive action.”

That’s not what happened. The surge has ebbed — largely due to law-enforcement efforts by US and Mexican authorities, and Mexican efforts to catch children traveling through Mexico before they arrive in the US.

Recent Dish on that ebb here.

Cruz Missile Shoots Down Border Bill

The House’s modest emergency spending bill to address the child migrant crisis was scuttled yesterday after the GOP leadership failed to convince the Tea Party caucus to vote for it. I harrumphed about it last night. Cillizza breaks down how it happened, for anyone who can’t already guess:

The failure of the GOP leadership’s immigration solution fits a now-familiar pattern for congressional Republicans. Led by Boehner, the party’s top brass fight with President Obama on the parameters of a legislative solution to a problem in the country.  In hopes of answering the “do nothing” charges leveled at them by Democrats, those same GOP leaders put a proposal on the table that offers a handful of concessions but nowhere near the number the White House is demanding. The tea party faction in the House — led by Sen. Ted Cruz (yes, you read that right) — balks, demanding that the GOP make no concessions of any sort to the president. The party leaders whip support for the bill but, ultimately, find that 20 (or so) of their conference will not be for it under any circumstances. That means Boehner either has to a) pass legislation with Democratic votes or b) pull proposals off the House floor to avoid embarrassing losses.

The issues change — tax increases, immigration, the farm bill and so on and so forth — but the underlying reality remains the same: House Republicans simply cannot be led.

Chait, too, has seen this show before:

The House is a highly autocratic chamber that traditionally passes basically anything the leadership of its majority party wants to pass. The Tea Party has changed all that, by bringing to Washington a large enough bloc of Republicans who don’t want to vote for anything that they can bring down even bills that are far too conservative to be passed into law. That’s why House Republicans have had to pull bills to lift the debt ceilingextend tax cutsextend farm subsidies, and reopen the government. In Boehner’s House, failure is always an option.

This particular bill pitted the GOP’s desire to actually stop waves of illegal immigration children from streaming across the border — theoretically a point of bipartisan agreement — against their distrust of Obama in particular and legislation in general. Republicans dealt with the problem, as they often do, by crafting the most conservative possible bill — thus losing all Democratic support — yet still not often to win support from enough Republicans.

Vinik looks at the role Cruz played:

Since his election in 2012, Cruz has angered a number of his Senate colleagues. He was the architect of the “defund Obamacare” movement last year that ended in a politically toxic government shutdown and eventual Republican capitulation. In February, Cruz forced some of his Republican colleagues to take a politically-damaging vote to raise the debt ceiling. In all of these situations, Cruz has been focused on his own political future, staking out a position as far to the right as he can. He didn’t care that his antics damaged the party. They were good for Ted Cruzand that’s what mattered.

That’s what happened again on Thursday with the House GOP’s bill to address the border crisis. And it’s going to continue happening in the future, particularly on immigration-related issues where Cruz has always taken a hard line position.

Ben Jacobs remarks on what a blow this is to the party leadership:

The failure of the vote, which comes just before Congress’s August recess, means it is unlikely that any additional funds will be allocated to deal with the border crisis until September at the earliest—and also signals the official death of the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill. It also marks yet another political defeat for Boehner and House leadership in what was the first test of new Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who recently took over the position when former Whip Kevin McCarthy ascended to Majority Leader. McCarthy replaced Eric Cantor, who stepped down after losing his primary last month to anti-immigration candidate Dave Brat.

Scalise, as whip, is responsible for party discipline and making sure that Boehner has an accurate sense of how many votes he has within the GOP caucus on a particular bill. This was the first controversial vote that the Louisiana conservative had to organize Republicans for in his new position, and it’s clear that he wasn’t able to rally as much support among GOP backbenchers as he initially thought.

After the bill failed, Boehner and his deputies suggested that the president take executive action on the crisis instead, which was pure political gold for Democrats, and pretty rich at that:

Democrats got plenty of yuks out of the House GOP’s response to the failure. In a joint statement, the party’s four House leaders attempts to move blame and the buck back over to Barack Obama. “There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” they wrote, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.” Faiz Shakir, an adviser for Harry Reid, immediately tweeted the punchline: “The same people who are suing the president for taking exec action are calling on him to take exec action.” A little cute, maybe, but for the umpteenth time—the first day of a new leadership team!—the House GOP leadership has stepped on a rake.

Noah Rothman is disappointed for reasons of politics, not policy:

Lacking the authority to resolve the border crisis on their own, the House GOP sought an advantageous position for the summer in order to put the onus back on the president. That effort failed and, unless the House Republicans’ emergency scramble to craft and pass some border measure is fruitful, GOP members will spend the summer explaining to the press why they did nothing on a “crisis” but were perfectly united when it came to suing the president. And the average Democratic base voter will be that much more energized for it. …

This was an unforced error. One which serves to elevate the careers of a few while diminishing the party’s overall chances for success in November. The House Republicans may yet correct this mistake, and the damage might be mitigated if they do. But if they do not, this is going to be one long August recess.

But the Bloomberg View editors refocus on the fact that the child migrant crisis is, y’know, a crisis:

The protection of refugees — legitimate and otherwise — is both a moral crisis and a policy challenge. These children are a genuine strain on the immigration system, and adjudicating their cases will cost money. At the same time, many have fled violence and deserve a chance to make their case for asylum. Meanwhile, House leaders have delayed a planned recess, in the apparent hope that they can still achieve the goal of appearing to do something. When members return, Election Day will be that much closer. It’s not easy to imagine that this Congress could reach new lows. But it may.