Be careful what you wish for. The Republican Party sought a crop of new leaders with the vitality and ideological fire both Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney lacked heading into 2016. Now they’ve got them, most notably Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s leading the charge to either “defund” Obamacare or shut down the government, to the horror of McCain and other so-called “establishment Republicans” (as if there were any such thing.) Even Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul has maybe kinda sorta suggested that shutting down the government to defund Obamacare is a bad idea -- even though he signed Sen. Mike Lee's letter threatening to do so.
Cruz has no such qualms. Headlining former Sen. Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation’s “Defund Obamacare” rally last night in Dallas, he fired up the crowd with his Obama attacks. (Of course, I can’t help but note the irony of Heritage sponsoring Cruz’s “Defund Obamacare” tour when Heritage was the source of one of the plan’s key provisions: the individual mandate to carry health insurance.) Even though some Obama defenders showed up and heckled Cruz, the junior Texas senator and his father were the stars of the night.
“We’ve all seen this movie before,” Cruz told the audience. “President Obama and Harry Reid are gonna scream and yell ‘those mean, nasty Republicans are threatening to shut down the government.’” He went on: “One side or the other has to blink. How do we win this fight? Don’t blink!” Only squishes blink.
“Now is the best time we have to defund Obamacare,” Cruz told the crowd of 1,000. “We’re seeing bipartisan agreement that the wheels are coming off.”
The wheels came off the Heritage event, though, when Cruz’s father, minister Rafael Cruz, took the stage to close it out. When it comes to red meat and red-baiting, Ted is a piker compared to his Cuban refugee father, who talks of Castro’s tyranny but never mentions the fact that he supported the Cuban communist leader’s revolution against Batista. Again we heard Cruz Sr. warn that Barack Obama is leading us toward socialism. This time, though, he didn’t merely exaggerate, he outright lied, insisting “Sarah Palin was right” about death panels in Obamacare.
Cruz was oddly specific, as though he’d had a very vivid hallucination: There is a 16-member death panel, he told the rapt crowd, that “will be implemented next year.” Those “16 bureaucrats will decide” not only whether you get life saving treatment, but even knee surgery, Cruz warned the audience, farcically. Instead of a “knee operation,” maybe you’ll just get “a wheelchair” and pain medication instead. Cruz also predicted shortages of aspirin and a hike in staph infections under Obamacare, just like in his native Cuba (although many of Cuba’s medical shortages are due to the U.S. embargo.) Essentially, according to Cruz, the death panel will tell many of us “Go home and die!” And to think Republicans complained about Rep. Alan Grayson’s rhetoric back in the day.
The Cruz and Son roadshow would scare normal voters, but it seems ideal for a GOP primary. Even in Texas, Cruz is the state’s GOP voters’ top pick for a presidential nominee, above Gov. Rick Perry, who is hoping to ride off into the sunset away from the statehouse and toward another primary run. Not so fast, Governor. Cruz had a solid lead even before Perry reversed himself and asked for at least some Medicaid funding for Obamacare, making himself obviously a “squish.”
At what point might Cruz Sr. become a drawback for his son? Can you say “never?” In the important Tea Party primary within the GOP primary, he is leaving Marco Rubio and Rick Perry in the dust, and is neck and neck with Rand Paul nationally. (That’s why Cruz allies are accusing Paul allies of pushing questions about Cruz’s eligibility to be president especially in Iowa, although the two men profess to be friends.) It looks increasingly like Ted Cruz (and his father) dream of him as the 2016 nominee. But so do Democrats.