Ted Cruz Comes to New York

New York GOP loves Senator Ted Cruz.  The Texas firebrand is scheduled to headline a big-bucks fundraiser in Manhattan later this month as a featured guest.  Special guests include State Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican Conference Leader.  Regular guests are expected to pay $1000 for dinner, with proceeds benefiting the state party organization (which, considering its successes these past several election cycles makes you wonder what exactly the money gets spent on).  By ponying up $5000 per person, however, you can get a picture taken with the senator.  This should be fun to watch.

Senator Cruz is a rising star of the national party.  He burst into office just a few months ago and has lost little time in irking just about everyone on both sides of the aisle.  And while his Tea Party fervor and Lone Star swagger may not sit so well with some, the consequences are more than just personal.

This is the same Ted Cruz, after all, who was quoted late last month calling his fellow Republican senators “squishes” for not supporting a filibuster against the gun safety bill.  He says they should stand on principle and vote their conscience.  Admirable sentiments, yes, but Cruz was describing a closed-door meeting which his colleagues traditionally do not discuss.  Such freedom of expression, painting himself as the ethical exemplar among his morally bankrupt brethren can’t have won him much fondness around Capitol Hill.

Democrats, of course, have some stark disagreements with Cruz on policy, but his personality manages to make that situation even worse.  In the early phase of the gun debate the gentleman from Texas publicly questioned his committee chair’s grasp of the U.S. Constitution.  That chair, five-term California Senator Dianne Feinstein, slapped him down immediately with the heated reminder “I’m not a sixth-grader.”

Patterns of offense aren’t difficult to see.

Beltway insider stuff.

That’s what they’ll say about all that.  That’s what the big New York Republicans will say when they line up for a $5000 photo.  It’s easy enough to imagine.  Big deal, they’ll scoff, while straightening their ties and checking their hair, inching steadily forward towards the famous face, a chance for a smile, a handshake, a click.

An awkward thought might intrude.  Is Congressman Peter King around?  He’s the Long Island Republican who said New York supporters should cinch up their purse strings when certain members come calling.  He made that suggestion about members of Congress who voted against funding for the Hurricane Sandy recovery.  Ted Cruz was one of the principal voices railing against what he called pork.

You can’t hold that against him, the supporters might object.  The invitation to this event says very clearly that “Senator Ted Cruz is appearing at this event only as a featured guest.  Senator Ted Cruz is not asking for funds or donations.”  That’s the obvious defense against King, taking the most narrowly legalistic reading of his threat.

Of course, as they get closer to the head of the line, craning their necks to see Cruz smiling up ahead, they might recall his sudden calls for federal aid for victims of the explosion at a massively under-regulated Texas fertilizer plant.  New York pork, it seems, makes good Texas barbecue.

That’s just his job, they’ll say, all the while rehearsing happy banter they can exchange with Cruz once they finally get to the head of the line.  He’s representing his state, serving his constituents.  That’s how Congress is supposed to work.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Either way, that’s not what I’d tell those people.  I won’t make the policy arguments, the constitutional debate – I, also, am not a sixth grader.  There’s a time and a place for that, but it’s not in the last minute or two before they get their $5000 grip and grin.  I wouldn’t talk to them as a lawyer.  I’d talk to them as a mom.

As a mom, I’m genuinely worried about the world my three young daughters are growing into.  Guns, industry regulations, emergency aid — these are very real problems with dangerously real consequences.

Government has a role to play in these arenas but some are obstructing that role.  Ted Cruz is one of those people, he’s a star to those people.  He stands on his principles, he’ll tell you.  He’ll vote his conscience.  You can trust that.  Those principles, however, let him betray his friends, insult his adversaries, demand austerity for some while soliciting tax dollars for others, and turn a cold shoulder to some of New York’s most vulnerable while picking the pockets of our most affluent.

This is what I’d tell them.  Senator Ted Cruz is no straight shooting champion of conservative principles warring against the dysfunctional status quo.  He’s just dysfunctional himself.


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