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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 19, 2013
CRUZ ON THE POTOMAC
BY BOB FRANKEN
How sad can one political party be? Things have gotten so bad for the Republicans that Karl Rove is presenting himself as a protector of reason. His latest creation is an organization that is supposed to weed out the looney-tunes candidates who can’t control the utterly ridiculous things they say. The Democrats, who would otherwise be doomed, survive the race because their opponents are such wild-eyed fanatics.
The rationale is that these extremists can’t get elected; but the real problem is that they can and do. Then they come to Washington and live up to their batty promises -- actually, down is probably more accurate. Meanwhile, those of us in media, always desperate for a new flavor of the month, pay far more attention to their careless ranting than we should.
That would pretty much describe what’s happened with Ted Cruz, the newly elected senator from the great state of Texas (although, as we know, there is widespread sentiment deep in the heart of Texas to secede and NOT be a state anymore). Cruz is a Nation’s Capitol newbie, but he has lit up the D.C. sky like that Russian meteorite, making lots of noise and causing an awful lot of damage. If the GOP leaders are really serious about shedding the party’s hateful image, they need to need to rein in those like him who speak for the haters.
He is just one of the hard-liners who carelessly run roughshod over fairness. Granted that polite Washington, after decades of mannerly deal-brokering, has managed to drag the country into a huge mess, it certainly can’t be undone by ugly politics.
Cruz makes a big deal about his Princeton and Harvard education. Certainly, one of his Ivy League professors taught him about McCarthyism. Sen. Joe McCarthy, as even us dullards know, blazed into national renown with his red-baiting. He quickly flamed out, but not before he had ruined many lives and reputations with his smears and innuendos.
We are supposed to learn from history, but sadly we have not. Cruz is just one of the McCarthyites who have their brief flings with prominence. Michele Bachmann comes to mind. Remember her? Maybe not now that Cruz has taken her demagogue crown. Like her, he also is willing to make careless accusations without a shred of evidence, just intimation. We witnessed him at work during the committee hearing considering Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary.
With no facts to back him up, Cruz suggested Hagel had received money from “radical and extremist groups,” and that he deposited funds in his bank accounts that came from North Korea. The charges were so outlandish that they even brought reprimands from Senate mean guys John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who, contrary to many indications, are really separate individuals.
McCain, in a New York Times interview, questioned whether Cruz was acting in “an appropriate way.” Graham called the questioning “out of bounds.” Cruz was defiant: “Comity does not mean avoiding the truth.” He was referring to the Senate tradition of extreme politeness where members are required by rule to be decorous even as they brutalize a colleague. It usually looks like an episode of Downton Abbey, with even more fuddy-duddies. At least Cruz is a change from the usual stuffed shirts.
Somewhere, though, there is a debate spot that lies between watching paint dry and letting it all hang out. What we are witnessing now is a fight to the death between two extremes. Compromise is not allowed, which is especially sad because on any given issue, constructive solutions are possible. On the right, in particular the mood is to just dig in and let the bomb throwers fire their vitriolic salvos. If Karl Rove and his fellow Republicans have any hope of returning to the mainstream, they need to scale back on the nastiness. For starters, they might want to turn on the Cruz control.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.