What is Ted Cruz's end game? Cruz is supposed to be running for president, but apparently that is less interesting to him than maneuvering to kneecap anyone who has the temerity to think that the House of Representatives needs a Speaker. On the Meet the Press on Sunday, Cruz, who seems to be orchestrating the secretive Freedom Caucus that is preventing Republicans from settling on a likely Speaker, refused to label Rep. Paul Ryan as a "true conservative" when asked to do so by Chuck Todd.
"I have said consistently I’m gonna stay outta that," he said. He then labeled radio host Mark Levin, who has been open in his contempt for Ryan, as a "true conservative," making it clear that Cruz is not only not staying out of it, but is gunning for Ryan behind his smiles and claims to friendship. Indeed, any claim of Cruz's to be staying out of it is farcical, as it seems more likely that he's actually leading the Freedom Caucus in its shadowy conspiracy to undermine any attempts by Republicans to get this Speaker situation squared away.
The real question is why. The most likely explanation is that Cruz wants a government shutdown real bad, and if he can't get his fellow Republicans to vote for one, he'll get it through subterfuge. As ThinkProgress lays out, John Boehner is set to retire as Speaker at the end of the month and the U.S. is set to hit the debt ceiling in November. There's a strong possibility that, without any leadership, the House might just neglect to raise the debt ceiling, causing the U.S. to go into default. That would create economic catastrophe, but hey, it would probably stop a lot of government spending temporarily, giving Cruz that shutdown that he craves.
Still, that leaves us with the question of why. Is it just that Cruz is a megalomanic whose desire for power is such that he will cause national ruin just to prove that he can? Or is there some kind of other goal here? Does he think that he's Littlefinger on "Game of Thrones," someone who sows chaos and war with an eye towards taking advantage of the confusion to angle for more power? If so, exactly how does he think that's going to work?
There is always the possibility that Cruz is just a plain true believer who, having fed on a steady diet of conservative anti-government propaganda throughout his adult life, just plain believes that shutting down the government and defaulting on our loans is inherently a good thing. It's easy to see how, particularly for the apocalyptic Christian sorts that make up the radical wing of the Republicans that Cruz unofficially leads, conservatives might decide that the only way to "save" this country from itself is to burn the place to the ground and start over.
All of this is why Ted Cruz is a uniquely dangerous person. His motivations are obscure and it's always possible he's playing some game that the rest of us are not privy to. Running for President while orchestrating an economic collapse and massive destruction of the federal government isn't just a little bit irregular, but total madness. Whoever Cruz sees as the winner as this dangerous game he's playing, it's clear who he sees as the losers: Nearly all the American people.