As we discussed a month ago, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) career on Capitol Hill is off to a difficult start. The Atlantic noted “a remarkable number of both Republicans and Democrats” have already come forward “to say that they think Cruz is kind of a jerk.” The New York Times added that “even some Republican colleagues are growing publicly frustrated” with the right-wing freshman.
It can, however, get worse. In fact, Cruz seems to be going out of his way to make enemies and alienate people.
Just a few days ago, Cruz made an unannounced appearance at the FreedomWorks Texas Summit, where he openly mocked his Senate Republican colleagues, calling them “squishes” who don’t like to be held accountable.
“Here was their argument,” Cruz said of Senate Republican. “They said: ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The Democrats were the bad guys. The Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’ “Well, there is an alternative: you could just not be a bunch of squishes.”
It’s worth pausing to appreciate the irony: Cruz was the one afraid of a debate on reducing gun violence, and it was his GOP colleagues who were kowtowed into ignoring common sense and popular will.
But even putting that aside, it’s unclear who the senator thinks he’s impressing by taking cheap shots at his ostensible allies. It’s reached the point at which even Jennifer Rubin wants the Texas Republican to stop “being a jerk.”
Wait, it gets worse.
In Cruz’s version of events, he’s the hero of his own morality play, killing gun reforms singlehandedly, eking out a surprise victory at the last minute, thanks to his awesome awesomeness.
Dave Weigel rained on Cruz’s parade.
But Cruz blurs the timeline. In his version of events, Democrats were convinced up to the last minute that they could break 60 votes on Manchin-Toomey (“the look of shock from the senior Democrats!”) and Republicans shamed Cruz for his … well, for his ballsiness, in this telling. Fellow Republicans, says Cruz, were “yelling at us at the top of their lungs! Look, why did you do this! As a result of what you did, I gotta go home and my constituents are yelling at me that I’ve got to stand on principle!”
Back on Earth, Democrats basically knew that they wouldn’t break 60 on the night before the series of gun votes; Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted his disappointment. Cruz was in those rooms with GOP senators, and I wasn’t, but if they were angry at him on the week of April 8, it wasn’t because they disagreed with his gun stance, or lacked principle. It was because they considered it astrategic.
Reporters who live in D.C. and spend too many daylight hours talking to politicians, we get that. This was a pretty simple story of ideological preferences and interest group pressure. But Cruz wants a voter back home, a Republican activist, to learn something else – a Jimmy Stewart tale, in which the rest of the GOP was ready to sell you out until one man stood up and thundered “nay.”
All of this dishonest grandstanding may make right-wing activists swoon, but it should also cause Cruz some trouble on Capitol Hill. Senators have traditionally forged relationships with their colleagues in order to build coalitions and be more effective in passing legislation. Cruz is going out of his way to do the opposite – scolding his veteran colleagues, lecturing them on his wisdom, and creating conditions in which just about everyone who knows him dislikes him.
This should make it all but impossible for Cruz to play a constructive role in the chamber, though that may not matter to him, since he doesn’t seem especially interested in governing anyway.