I wish we could go back to the days when we weren’t overwhelmed with breaking news every single morning. I’ve got a mish-mash of articles for your this morning.
The biggest news today will probably be what happens at Paul Manafort’s sentencing hearing at 3:30 this afternoon in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Courthouse News: Manafort Faces Decades in Prison at Virginia Sentencing.
Manafort, 69, faces up to 24 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. During his trial last August, spread over 12 rigorous days, prosecutors unfurled a complex web of fraud he coordinated in multiple countries with the help of his business associate, Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and testified against Manafort as the star witness.
Accused of failing to report roughly $16.5 million in income from his political lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine and its onetime President Viktor Yanukovych, the jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud after four days of deliberations….
Though none of the charges Manafort faced in Virginia directly involved any of his work on President Donald Trump’s campaign, Mueller’s underlying task – to unearth American activity connected to Russian meddling in the election – placed the spotlight firmly on the president’s onetime campaign chairman….
Manafort will go before Judge Ellis on Thursday afternoon for his sentencing.
Federal sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case suggest Manafort should serve 19 to 24 years in prison but Judge Ellis can impose any sentence he sees fit – including one well below the guidelines. Mueller has recommended Manafort be sentenced in the upper range of the guidelines.
As you probably recall, Judge Ellis is kind of eccentric and usually makes very blunt remarks. Remember, he asked prosecutors whether they had considered charging Mike Flynn with treason and told him “You sold your country out.” Read Ellis quotes at CNN: Baked Alaska and birthday cake: Memorable lines from the Manafort trial judge, T.S. Ellis.
I really dislike the conservative site Axios, but they have a good piece today: The biggest political scandal in American history.
Historians tell Axios that the only two scandals that come close to Trump-Russia are Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and the Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s, in which oil barons bribed a corrupt aide to President Warren Harding for petroleum leases.
Mueller has already delivered one of the biggest counterintelligence cases in U.S. history, author Garrett Graff points out — up there with Aldrich Ames (a former CIA officer convicted in 1994 of being a KGB double agent), or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (executed in 1953 for spying for the Soviets).
Watergate yielded more charges than Mueller has so far: A total of 69 people were charged in Watergate; 48 people and 20 corporations pleaded guilty. Mueller so far has indicted 27 people; seven have been convicted or pleaded guilty.
But historians say that both Watergate and Teapot Dome were more limited because a foreign power wasn’t a central player, and a much narrower band of potential offenses was under investigation.
A fourth notable scandal, the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s — in which arms were traded for hostages held by Iran, with the money usRed to fund rebels in Nicaragua — also involved a more limited range of issues.
Read the rest at Axios. It’s actually quite a bit more comprehensive than most of their stories.
J.T. Smith, who was executive assistant to Attorney General Elliot Richardson under Nixon, has an op-ed at The New York Times today: What if the Mueller Report Demands Bold Action?
Most people take for granted that both Mr. Mueller and the new attorney general, William Barr, accept the current Justice Department legal position — reached in a 2000 opinion — that a sitting president cannot be indicted. In a June 2018 memo, Mr. Barr said that under “the Framers’ plan,” the “proper mechanism for policing the president’s” actions “is the political process — that is, the People, acting either directly, or through their elected representatives in Congress.”
Yet since 1973, the Justice Department has revisited its position five times on the question of indicting a sitting president and reached different conclusions. In fact, as executive assistant to President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, Elliot Richardson, I can speak to the circumstances that delivered that first opinion: The principal purpose of the 1973 Watergate-era legal opinion — which concluded that a sitting president cannot be indicted — was to aid in removal from office of a criminally tainted vice president, who, the memo concluded, could be indicted.
But it was not intended to set an ironclad precedent that would forever shape how a president might be treated.
My experience makes me believe that Attorney General Barr should reconsider Justice Department policy. If the evidence gathered by the Mueller investigation on the actions of the president and his advisers indicates a crime, an indictment might be the proper course to hold the president accountable. Further, the indictment policy does not stand in isolation: It has repercussions for a Mueller report and access to it for Congress and the American public.
As Rachel Maddow reported recently, the 1973 policy was written when Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew was being investigated for “bribery, extortion and tax evasion.” (he was subsequently indicted and forced to resign). You can read more details about the history at the link. Smith’s conclusion:
Mr. Mueller’s investigation has brought us to face similar questions of institutional integrity and transparency for the American public. If Mr. Barr determines that Mr. Mueller’s findings compel legal action, he should reconsider the policy against indictment of a sitting president.
But if Mr. Barr holds to the view that a president’s actions should be policed by the political and not criminal process, it will be imperative that he share a Mueller report with Congress and, to the extent practicable, with the public, redacting only information that is classified or otherwise prohibited by statute.
In light of the gravity of our circumstances, it would be timely and appropriate for the Justice Department to reconsider the shaky policy regarding indictability of a sitting president and provide Congress and the public with the Mr. Mueller’s full findings and conclusions. Only through sunlight and transparency can we preserve confidence in our national institutions and leadership.
Yesterday the DNC announced that they will not hold a primary debate in conjunction with Fox News, citing Jane Mayer’s New Yorker Article. This is nothing unusual; the Democrats have refused to work with Fox News since 2007, but mainstream journalists are criticizing the decision.
Now media critic Margaret Sullivan has weighed in at The Washington Post: It’s time — high time — to take Fox News’s destructive role in America seriously.
Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer, and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the overall problem of Fox News, which started out with bad intentions in 1996 and has swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies.
The network, which attracts more viewers than its two major competitors, specializes in fearmongering and unrelenting alarmism. Remember “the caravan”?
At crucial times, it does not observe basic standards of journalistic practice: as with its eventually retracted, false reporting in 2017 on Seth Rich, which fueled conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton had the former Democratic National Committee staffer killed because he was a source of campaign leaks.
Fox, you might recall, was a welcoming haven for “birtherism” — the racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. For years, it has constantly, unfairly and inaccurately bashed Hillary Clinton.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Jared Kushner recently traveled to the Middle East and met privately with Saudi prince MBS. Now he won’t tell anyone what went on in his meetings. The Daily Beast: Embassy Staffers Say Jared Kushner Shut Them Out of Saudi Meetings.
Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of Jared Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court last week, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip. And that’s causing concern not only in the embassy but also among members of Congress.
On his trip to the Middle East, Kushner stopped in Riyadh. While there, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and economic investment in the region, according to the White House.
But no one from the embassy in Riyadh was in the meetings, according to those same sources. The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh.
“The Royal Court was handling the entire schedule,” one congressional source told The Daily Beast, adding that officials in the U.S. embassy in had insight into where Kushner was when in Saudi Arabia. “But that is normal for his past trips.”
Click the link to read the rest. A related article from the WaPo editorial board: Trump is covering up for MBS. The Senate must push for accountability.
New York Times gossip columnist Maggie Haberman relays former WH Chief of Staff John Kelly’s attempted cleanup of his mangled reputation following the revelations about Jared and Ivanka’s security clearances: John Kelly, Out of White House, Breaks With Trump Policies.
The former White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, on Wednesday declined to answer questions about the existence of a memo he wrote saying that President Trump had ordered officials to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a security clearance in May 2018.
Mr. Kelly also broke with Mr. Trump on key aspects of his approach to immigration and the NATO alliance, and said that his top concern about decisions made by the president was whether they were objectively right for the country when divorced from political concerns.
Mr. Kelly, who kept his voice level during a 90-minute question-and-answer session at Duke University, would not specifically address Mr. Kushner’s clearance being ordered by Mr. Trump, which The New York Times reported last week.
“I couldn’t — and I’m not dodging — I couldn’t comment on that for a couple of reasons,” Mr. Kelly said, citing clearances being among the things that he could not discuss, and that conversations with the president “at that level would certainly” be kept confidential under executive privilege.
Some of what Kelly did talk about:
Mr. Kelly, who left at the end of December, also made clear he did not consider himself working for Mr. Trump, but doing his civic duty to serve. If Hillary Clinton had won, he said, he probably would have worked for her as well.
Mr. Kelly defended the utility of the NATO alliance, which Mr. Trump has often criticized as an unfair financial drain on the United States.
On a wall at the border with Mexico, Mr. Kelly said that there were specific areas where it could be effective but constructing one “from sea to shining sea” was a “waste of money.”
The issuance of the zero-tolerance policy for border crossings that resulted in family separations “came as a surprise” to him and to other officials, Mr. Kelly said, defending his replacement as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, from criticism. He appeared to place most of the blame on the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who announced the policy.
I have a few more links to share, but this post is getting long. I’ll put them in the comment thread. What stories have you been following?
I said a few days ago that I didn’t believe Brett Kavanaugh would be confirmed to the Supreme Court. I’m even more sure of that now. It’s looking like the Republicans don’t have the votes as of now, and each days that goes by more ugly information comes out about Trump’s nominee.
Politico: GOP support for Kavanaugh wavers.
Senate Republicans have gone from confidently predicting the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to a new message: It all comes down to Thursday.
The GOP is staking Kavanaugh’s prospects to his hearing later this week, when he and Christine Blasey Ford will testify publicly about her allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school more than 30 years ago. It’s a shift that puts some of the onus on Kavanaugh to convince a growing number of wary senators whether his word is more credible than hers in the battle over the high court seat.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is warning his colleagues publicly and privately that his plan is to hold a floor vote on Kavanaugh no matter what happens in the Judiciary Committee, possibly as soon as early next week. Though Kavanaugh currently lacks the votes to be confirmed, the GOP leader is signaling that he will hold the vote anyway to force all 100 senators to go on record and put maximum pressure on red state Democrats that the GOP is hoping to defeat this fall, Republican senators said.
Whether that vote will be successful remains in doubt, the senators said.
That’s quite a shift. And more information could very well come out. Even a Yale professor who strongly supported Kavanaugh’s nomination is now having second doubts. The Yale Daily News: Second thoughts on Kavanaugh, by Akhil Amar.
Minutes after President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 to the Supreme Court, I published a controversial op-ed in The New York Times endorsing the nomination. I later testified in support of Kavanaugh on the final day of his confirmation hearings. I still stand by what I have said about Kavanaugh’s uniquely impressive judicial and scholarly record over the last dozen years. But now that serious accusations have arisen about his conduct in his teenage years, I believe that these accusations deserve the best and most professional investigation possible — even if that means a brief additional delay on the ultimate vote on Judge Kavanaugh, and even if that investigatory delay imperils his confirmation.
As agonizing as this delay might be for all concerned, in the long run this additional investigation is the best way forward, not just for the Court and the country and Kavanaugh’s accusers, but also for Kavanaugh himself. If the investigation’s facts and findings support him, then he will join the Court in the sunshine and not under a cloud. If instead the investigation uncovers compelling evidence against him, President Trump should be ready with a pre-announced back-up nominee.
Read the rest at the link.
I don’t know whether to buy into Michael Avenatti’s claims about a woman he represents or not. I really don’t like the way he’s hyping whatever he knows on Twitter and in TV appearances instead of having the woman and her other witnesses talk to someone in the media. The Daily Beast:
On Sunday evening, just as The New Yorker revealed the identity of a second woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, attorney Michael Avenatti announced that he, too, had “credible information” about Kavanaugh and his high-school friend Mark Judge.
The media-savvy lawyer told The Daily Beast on Monday that his client would be coming forward “in the next 48 hours” with details and accusations that mirrored those already leveled and could, in his estimation, torpedo Kavanaugh’s confirmation—all of which would seem helpful for Democrats as they make the case that Kavanaugh is morally unfit to sit on the Supreme Court….
Avenatti, who has flirted with a 2020 presidential bid, has so far revealed only some information about the allegations he is set to bring forward. He has yet to provide evidence or identify the woman he is representing, only teasing that he may do so via a television interview before Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford—who has accused the federal judge of sexual assault—appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Still, Rachel Maddow thought it was worth having Avenatti on her show last night, so I’ll reserve judgement until I see what he reveals tomorrow.
Based on watching his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and what I’ve seen of his Fox News interview last night, I have to say that Kavanaugh is a completely unimpressive person. I have to wonder if he would have gotten as far in his career as he has if he had not been dialed into the right wing anti-Clinton forces back in the 1990s.
Last night on Fox News, Kavanaugh came across as weird–wearing heavy pancake makeup, repeating the same talking points over and over, and seeming almost whiny about what he’s going through. Some clips from Aaron Rupar’s Twitter feed:
Kavanaugh repeatedly claimed that he always treated women with respect, but that claim was destroyed by a disgusting report in The New York Times last night: Kavanaugh’s Yearbook Page Is ‘Horrible, Hurtful’ to a Woman It Named.
Brett Kavanaugh’s page in his high school yearbook offers a glimpse of the teenage years of the man who is now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: lots of football, plenty of drinking, parties at the beach. Among the reminiscences about sports and booze is a mysterious entry: “Renate Alumnius.”
The word “Renate” appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Preparatory School’s 1983 yearbook, on individuals’ pages and in a group photo of nine football players, including Judge Kavanaugh, who were described as the “Renate Alumni.” It is a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.
Two of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates say the mentions of Renate were part of the football players’ unsubstantiated boasting about their conquests.
“They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his teammates. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”
The woman who was the butt of these sickening “jokes” never knew about it until recently.
This month, Renate Schroeder Dolphin joined 64 other women who, saying they knew Judge Kavanaugh during their high school years, signed a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is weighing Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. The letter stated that “he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”
When Ms. Dolphin signed the Sept. 14 letter, she wasn’t aware of the “Renate” yearbook references on the pages of Judge Kavanaugh and his football teammates.
“I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago,” Ms. Dolphin said in a statement to The New York Times. “I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”
Obviously, Kavanaugh was not respectful to women when he was in high school and he isn’t now based on his judicial opposition women’s bodily autonomy. Read more about the yearbook page vs. the Fox News interview in this piece by James Hohman at The Washington Post: The Daily 202: Kavanaugh’s memory of himself in high school is very different than his portrayal in the yearbook.
Last night, a man who was Kavanaugh’s roommate during his freshman year at Yale came forward, speaking to ABC News in San Mateo, CA: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Yale roommate says he believes second accuser.
James Roche says he was Kavanaugh’s roommate in the Fall of 1983.
“We shared a two-bedroom unit in the basement of Lawrence Hall on the Old Campus. Despite our living conditions, Brett and I did not socialize beyond the first few days of freshman year. We talked at night as freshman roommates do and I would see him as he returned from nights out with his friends,” Roche said in a statement….
“It is from this experience that I concluded that although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk. I did not observe the specific incident in question, but I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.”
Roche says he became friends with Debbie Ramirez. “She stood out as being exceptionally honest, with a trusting manner. As we got to know one another, I discovered that Debbie was very worried about fitting in. She felt that everyone at Yale was very rich, very smart and very sophisticated and that as a Puerto Rican woman from a less privileged background she was an outsider. Her response was to try hard to make friends and get along.”
Deborah Ramirez is the woman who accused Kavanaugh of exposing his penis and waving in her face during a drinking game. In case you haven’t read it yet, here’s the article in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer published on Sunday: Senate Democrats Investigate a New Allegation of Sexual Misconduct, from Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years.
In his Fox News interview, Kavanaugh claimed this couldn’t possibly have happened because it would have been the talk of the campus. But according to the article, students were talking about it then and are still doing so now.
Kavanaugh also claimed in the interview that he never had intercourse in high school and for years afterward. But of course he hasn’t been charged with that and there are many ways to sexually assault someone without vaginal penetration. Yuck I can hardly believe he said that on TV. So embarrassing for him and his wife!
Now people have come forward to say either that’s not true or he lied to them.
Kantrowitz is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin and an award-winning author.
I guess that’s it for me today. I really think Kavanaugh’s nomination will be withdrawn before the scheduled Thursday hearing. If it isn’t, the Republicans are going to look even worse than they do now.
I know there’s lots more happening in the news. What stories are you following?
The Republican Party has a new star, whether they want him or not. And, despite the Time Magazine cover, the new GOP star is not Florida’s Marco Rubio. It’s brand new Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
“Washington has a long tradition of trying to hurl insults to silence those who they don’t like what they’re saying,” Cruz told reporters on a visit to a Texas gun manufacturer. “I have to admit I find it amusing that those in Washington are puzzled when someone actually does what they said they would do.”
Employees at LaRue Tactical near Austin cheered the senator enthusiastically during his appearance.
Cruz, 42, raised eyebrows in Washington by aggressively criticizing former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, during a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.
Cruz angered lawmakers in both parties by suggesting, without giving evidence, that Hagel might have taken money from countries such as communist North Korea.
Since his aggressive cross-examination of Hagel at the confirmation hearing, both politicians and jouranlists have been comparing Cruz to the late, disgraced commie-hunter Joseph McCarthy–and Cruz revels in the criticism, regardless of whether it comes from the “liberal media,” Democrats, or moderate Republicans whom he deems cowardly and less than pure in their willingness to defend “conservative principles.”
I’m sure you’ve either read or heard about Jane Mayer’s recent New Yorker feature: Is Ted Cruz Our New McCarthy? Mayer wrote:
Last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s prosecutorial style of questioning Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary, came so close to innuendo that it raised eyebrows in Congress, even among his Republican colleagues. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called Cruz’s inquiry into Hagel’s past associations “out of bounds, quite frankly.” The Times reported that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, rebuked Cruz for insinuating, without evidence, that Hagel may have collected speaking fees from North Korea. Some Democrats went so far as to liken Cruz, who is a newcomer to the Senate, to a darkly divisive predecessor, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, whose anti-Communist crusades devolved into infamous witch hunts. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, stopped short of invoking McCarthy’s name, but there was no mistaking her allusion when she talked about being reminded of “a different time and place, when you said, ‘I have here in my pocket a speech you made on such-and-such a date,’ and of course there was nothing in the pocket.”
The hubbub triggered a memory for Mayer–a speech by Cruz that she had covered “two and a half years ago.”
Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there. Cruz attended Harvard Law School from 1992 until 1995. His spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request to discuss the speech.
Cruz made the accusation while speaking to a rapt ballroom audience during a luncheon at a conference called “Defending the American Dream,” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit political organization founded and funded in part by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. Cruz greeted the audience jovially, but soon launched an impassioned attack on President Obama, whom he described as “the most radical” President “ever to occupy the Oval Office.” (I was covering the conference and kept the notes.)
He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
Mayer then reports on her interviews with people who were at Harvard when Cruz was in law school–all of whom are flummoxed by Cruz’s accusations. Mayer suggests that Cruz may have been referring to
a group of left-leaning law professors who supported what they called Critical Legal Studies, a method of critiquing the political impact of the American legal system. Professor Duncan Kennedy, for instance, a leader of the faction, who declined to comment on Cruz’s accusation, counts himself as influenced by the writings of Karl Marx. But he regards himself as a social democrat, not a Communist, and has never advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government by Communists. Rather, he advocated widening admissions at the law school to under-served populations, hiring more minorities and women on the faculty, and paying all law professors equally.
Cruz responded to Mayer’s piece the next day after it appeared on-line:
Senator Ted Cruz has responded to The New Yorker’s report that he accused Harvard Law School of having had “twelve” Communists who “believed in the overthrow of the U.S. Government” on its faculty when he attended in the early nineties. Cruz doesn’t deny that he said this; instead, through his spokesman, he says he was right: Harvard Law was full of Communists.
His spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told The Blaze website that the “substantive point” in Cruz’s charge, made in a speech in 2010, was “was absolutely correct.”
She went on to explain that “the Harvard Law School faculty included numerous self-described proponents of ‘critical legal studies’—a school of thought explicitly derived from Marxism—and they far outnumbered Republicans.” As my story noted, the Critical Legal Studies group consisted of left-leaning professors like Duncan Kennedy, who is a social democrat, not a Communist, and has never “believed in the overthrow of the U.S. Government.”
Frazier also said she found it “‘curious’ that The New Yorker would cover Cruz’s speech ‘three years’ after he gave it. She didn’t seem to notice the irony that Cruz had demanded detail information from Hagel on speeches he had given as long ago as 2000.
Back home in Texas the reaction to Cruz’s recent behavior has been very different from that of the villagers and the mainstream media generally. From The Austin Statesman:
Six weeks after being sworn in, Ted Cruz returned to Texas a commanding figure, the center of attention in the Senate and the national media, loathed by the Washington establishment and, for that, all the more celebrated by conservatives nationally who found in him a champion both very smart and, it seemed, utterly fearless.
He had emerged from his baptism by fire more powerful for it, not only in national conservative circles but, by leveraging his new-found status, perhaps also in the Capitol he had so unsettled.
And all, Cruz said in an appearance this week at a Leander gun manufacturer, because he had done just what he told Texas voters he was going to do….
“I haven’t seen anyone that good,” said Tripp Baird, director of Senate relations for Heritage Action for America. “The guy literally day one was talking about guns, immigration and literally dismantling Chuck Hagel, all in one day.”
“The movement worked their tails off to get him elected, and I think he has met their expectations big time,” said Baird.
What Cruz understands, said Baird, is that the way to win in Washington is “take the fight to the other side. If you’re not willing to throw a punch, you’re just preparing for a fight you never end up getting in engaged in. What good are you? Go home.”
How will the dramatic emergence of Ted Cruz effect the current internecine struggle for control of the GOP? Will he throw the power back to the ultra-right? Or will be be marginalized by the villagers?
Steve Kornacki calls it “The GOP’s Ted Cruz Problem.”
We’ve seen senators like Ted Cruz before. The historical comparison most commonly invoked involves Joe McCarthy, whose scurrilous red-baiting crusade in the early 1950s shattered the careers of innocent public servants and alienated McCarthy from his fellow senators, but also made him a folk hero on the right. Jesse Helms comes to mind too. The far-right North Carolinian was generally seen as more trouble than he was worth by his party’s establishment (there were those in the Reagan White House who not-so-secretly rooted for his defeat in a close 1984 campaign against Democrat Jim Hunt), but the intense animosity Helms stirred among liberals only enhanced his status among the conservative masses….
For Republicans who believe their party’s post-2008 direction has been self-destructive, Cruz’s rapid rise is a troubling development, because it really has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with the outrage he provokes from Democrats and the media. The thorough beating they took at the polls last fall perhaps should have prompted rethinking on the right. But conservatives’ appetite for Cruz shows that the GOP base’s animating spirit still hasn’t changed: Loud, aggressive and reflexive hostility to President Obama, the Democratic Party and any Republican who would dare contemplate compromise is still how “conservatism” is defined.
What makes Cruz and Cruz-ism a particular problem for his party is the demographic conundrum Republicans now face. Obama’s reelection (and Democrats’ unexpected gains in the Senate) was testament to the rising clout of the “coalition of the ascendant” – African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, women (particularly single women), Millennials. As Joan Walsh pointed out last week, Cruz’s Cuban-American background by itself won’t improve his or his party’s standing with Hispanics or other minorities. Instead, he’s appealing to the aging, overwhelmingly white core of the Republican base – voters whose grievances against the government in the 1970s and 1980s turned them against the Democratic Party and attracted them to Ronald Reagan and his ideological descendants.
The Tea Party know-nothings have already pushed formerly “moderate” Senators McCain and Graham further to the right; why should we believe they’ll stand up to Cruz if he gains popular support around the country? Texas senior senator John Cornyn is reportedly already intimidated by Cruz’s popularity. According to Politico’s Mike Allen, Cruz now gets two votes in the Senate–his own and Cornyn’s.
On the other hand, Paul Waldman at The American Prospect thinks Cruz’s career is already dead and that he’s “the next Jim DeMint.”
A year or two ago, if you asked Republicans to list their next generation of stars Ted Cruz’s name would inevitably have come up. Young (he’s only 42), Latino (his father emigrated from Cuba), smart (Princeton, Harvard Law) and articulate (he was a champion debater), he looked like someone with an unlimited future. But then he got to Washington and started acting like the reincarnation of Joe McCarthy, and now, barely a month into his Senate career, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that Ted Cruz is not going to be the national superstar many predicted he’d be. If things go well, he might be the next Jim DeMint—the hard-line leader of the extremist Republicans in the Senate, someone who helps the Tea Party and aids some right-wing candidates win primaries over more mainstream Republicans. But I’m guessing that like DeMint, he won’t ever write a single piece of meaningful legislation and he’ll give the Republican party nothing but headaches as it struggles to look less like a party of haters and nutballs.
I hope Waldman’s right, but Cruz is a hell of a lot more dynamic than DeMint and probably a lot smarter (how many Tea Party candidates have “authored more than 80 United States Supreme Court briefs and presented 43 oral arguments, including nine before the United States Supreme Court”?). Cruz is an experienced debater and has become a very good speaker who can really rile up a right wing crowd, as Jane Mayer noted in her interview (above) with Rachel Maddow.
As Dave Weigel points out, Cruz is loving the condemnation he’s getting from Democrats, the media, and even fellow Republicans.
I doubt very much that Cruz go away quietly with his tail between his legs. The only question is what will he do to the Republican Party?