Sen. John Cornyn on the Tea Party's "impossible standard"

The Texas senator -- now facing a right-wing primary threat -- pushes back against Tea Party absolutism

Published December 10, 2013 6:15PM (EST)

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

In an interview with Texas Monthly conducted in November but published Tuesday, Texas Sen. John Cornyn — who is now facing a primary challenge from the extremely right-wing Rep. Steve Stockman — complains that the Tea Party has created "an impossible standard" for Republicans to live up to.

Comparing the Republican Party's current absolutism to the more open-armed approach advocated by Ronald Reagan, Cornyn told the Texas Monthly that "I don't know how we got off on this track, where some people are welcome in our party and some people are not. Hence my reference to Ronald Reagan's line, 'What do you call someone who agrees with you eight times out of 10? An ally, not a 20 percent traitor.' Well, we're at a point where you can agree with someone 98 percent of the time, but they think of you as a 2 percent traitor, which is just an impossible standard."

Expressing his disapproval for the RINO (Republican in name only) epithet popular among movement conservative circles, Cornyn said, "If I found someone who agreed with me nine times out of 10, I'd be working with them all I could. I wouldn't be calling them names."

Cornyn also took some shots at Tea Party-aligned activist groups like FreedomWorks, saying, "There are several Washington, D.C.–based groups that want to cynically manipulate people for their own fundraising purposes."

Read the whole interview here.

[h/t Talking Points Memo]

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Gop Civil War John Cornyn Steve Stockman Talking Points Memo Tea Party Texas Monthly