The key bit comes at the very end, in response to a question about who’s responsible for the temporary suspension of death benefits to families of fallen troops. McCain’s answer: Everyone in Congress — but, implicitly, especially the “defund” caucus. You can tell how eager Maverick was to make that point by how quickly he turns a segment about the administration giving short shrift to the military — normally an easy lay-up for a Republican against a Democratic president — into a lament about Cruz et al. I’m not sure a guy who’s positioned himself as the lead Republican opponent of the “wacko birds” should be ruminating on holding people accountable, but if he’s leaning towards not running again in 2016, he’s got nothing to lose. No doubt he’s enjoying sticking it to tea partiers immensely.
If nothing else, this clip illustrates the slightly (but only slightly) exaggerated truth that “there are now two Republican parties.” Case in point:
Tea Party Republicans approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing by a 72%-25% margin. However, a plurality of NON-Tea Party Republicans disapprove by a 49%-42% In addition, 69% of Tea Party Republicans believe the GOP is demonstrating strong leadership and standing up for what they believe in, versus 29% of them who say they’re putting their political agenda ahead of what’s good for the country. But those numbers are reversed among NON-Tea Party Republicans — 53% say they’re putting politics first, while 41% think Republicans are standing up for what they believe in. And then there’s this: Among Tea Party Republicans, Ted Cruz has a 52%-4% fav/unfav rating. But among non-Tea Party it’s 13%-23%.
Either that rift is healed in the next two years or the primary campaign in 2015 is going to be … really something. One question for the “defund” supporters, though: If this really was about trying to build consensus in Congress to stop O-Care, why is Mark Begich claiming that none of the defunders ever met with him to pitch him on joining them in voting no? He’s a red-state Democrat who’s up for reelection next year; it’s unlikely that he’d break ranks with his caucus, but if any Dem is going to, it’s one who’s in Begich’s position. Instead, he claims, “The only time Ted Cruz said something to me was when I was literally coming to the floor, you know the two tables down by the desk there where you cast your vote. He said, ‘You should vote for this.’ That was it.” Could be that Begich is lying, of course, but if he’s going to lie, there are more self-serving lies he could tell than that one. E.g., “I have grave concerns about ObamaCare, and Senators Cruz and Lee begged to meet with me about them. But once they threatened to shut down the government, I told them ‘Hell, no!'” A lie along those lines would please Alaska GOPers by signaling his alleged “concerns” about O-Care and Alaska Democrats by punching Cruz and Lee. And showing that he was opposed to the shutdown would please both. Instead, he’s making the lesser claim that no one on the defund side ever tried to meet with him. That makes me think it’s true, and if it’s true, why is it true? What did defunders have to lose by feeling him out to see what he’d need to conceivably vote with Republicans against Reid’s amendment stripping the “defund” provisions out of the House bill? Remember, Reid could have lost as many as three Democrats on that and still passed it by simple majority, so he might have let Begich cross the aisle in order to protect himself with reddish Alaska voters. Why not try?