An old adage (misattributed to Harry Truman by Maureen Dowd) advises newcomers to Washington that if they want to make a friend, they should buy a dog. Ted Cruz echoes that advice in a new interview with ABC News, in which he says that his ambitions in Washington didn’t involve becoming a beloved member of the clubbiest club in the world:
“There’s an old saying that, ‘Politics, it ain’t beanbag.’ And, you know, I’m not serving in office because I desperately needed 99 new friends in the U.S. Senate,” Cruz told ABC News’ Jon Karl in his first on-camera interview after the shutdown came to an end Wednesday night. …
And he made it clear that he thinks his Republican colleagues in the Senate are responsible for sabotaging his effort to tie funding for the government to an effort to defund or delay the health care law.
“I will say that the reason this deal, the lousy deal was reached last night, is because, unfortunately, Senate Republicans made the choice not to support House Republicans,” Cruz told ABC News. “I wish Senate Republicans had united, I tried to do everything I could to urge Senate Republicans to come together and stand with House Republicans.”
Cruz laid the blame on Senate Republicans attacking House Republicans during the shutdown:
“I think it was unfortunate that you saw multiple members of the Senate Republicans going on television attacking House conservatives, attacking the effort to defund Obamacare, saying, ‘It cannot win, It’s a fools error and we will lose, this must fail,’” Cruz said.
“That is a recipe for losing the fight, and it’s a shame.”
Well, the attacks went both ways, and that started before the shutdown. When Cruz and Mike Lee pushed hard for the defunding strategy and the shutdown tactics, their allies attacked Republicans who opposed those strategic choices as “voting for ObamaCare,” a charge that FreedomWorks continued this week. At the same time, Peter King and John McCain rushed to television to call conservatives crazy, stupid, or both. Both sides seemed intent on ignoring the fact that opposition to ObamaCare is one of the few issues that unites the GOP, and has for four years, and that opposition to strategy is not the same thing as opposition to end goals.
The only way to dismantle ObamaCare is to win elections. Democrats won’t just fold on ObamaCare because they don’t have to do so as long as they control the Senate and the White House; this is a lifetime achievement for them. That means that Republicans and conservatives have to stop attacking each other’s integrity over choices in tactics, and focus on winning elections that replace Democratic incumbents in the Senate with solid Republican candidates, and building the argument to eliminate ObamaCare altogether after the 2016 elections. And that means that conservatives and moderates within the party need to aim their rhetorical guns outward rather than inward, and activists need to focus on Democratic Senate seats rather than embark on purity campaigns within the GOP caucus.
What we have now is a recipe for losing the long-term fight, and it’s going to be a lot worse than a “shame” if that happens.
Update: Moe Lane creates a very handy flow chart on this topic.