Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) isn’t really a senator anymore, at least not in any kind of practical sense. He’s more of an activist-personality-provocateur with voting privileges in the world’s most deliberative body. Cruz hasn’t actually passed any meaningful bills and doesn’t seem to have any intention of developing a legislative record of any kind – being a “senator” isn’t really the point.
And with Cruz’s antics in mind, a variety of labels come to mind that could be used to describe the Texas Republican, but “statesman” isn’t one of them. It’s what makes stories like these all the more amusing.
Fresh off forcing fellow Republicans into a painful vote on the debt ceiling – solidifying his status as the most loathed member of the caucus and a hero to conservative activists – Sen. Ted Cruz will head to Sarasota tomorrow to be honored as “statesman of the year.”
The Sarasota GOP says more than 1,700 people have said they will attend the rally.
Of course, Sarasota Republicans don’t seem entirely serious when bestowing their annual honor. Previous winners of the “statesman of the year” award include Donald Trump and Sean Hannity.
In other words, this appears to be some combination of a joke and a fundraising stunt, organized by some folks with a strange sense of humor. Cruz is no more a statesman than I am an astronaut. He’s a far-right agitator who rejects compromise, embraces an extreme worldview, and peddles strange conspiracy theories.
But the faux award got me thinking: whatever happened to the existence of actual Republican statesmen and women?
It wasn’t too long ago that the GOP cultivated a reputation as the party of grown-ups, especially when it came to international affairs and diplomacy. Republicans like Dick Lugar fit the bill as clearly having a dignified, statesmanlike presence in American politics.
But that generation is no longer on Capitol Hill and the party’s noticeable lack of statesmen and women reinforces the perception of a radicalized party. If we stretch the definition to the breaking point, maybe John McCain would claim the mantle, but let’s be honest – even other Republicans who’ve tired of his tantrums would be hard pressed to call him a “statesman.”
* In a “heated dispute over immigration-law overhaul” [in 2007], McCain screamed at Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), “F*** you!” He added, “This is chickens*** stuff…. You’ve always been against this bill, and you’re just trying to derail it.” [5/19/07]
* In a discussion over the “fate of Vietnam MIAs,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked McCain, “Are you calling me stupid?” “No,” replied McCain, “I’m calling you a f***ing jerk!” [Newsweek, 2/21/00]
* At a GOP meeting in fall 1999, McCain “erupted” at Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and shouted, “Only an a**hole would put together a budget like this.” When Domenici expressed his outrage, McCain responded, “I wouldn’t call you an a**hole unless you really were an a**hole.” [Newsweek, 2/21/00]
Maybe someday the party’s posture will shift, but for now, anyone looking for actual statesman of the year in GOP politics should probably look at lists of incumbents defeated in Republican primaries.