WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Cruz does look and behave a little like Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, the post-World War II predator who tore up the nation and the Republican Party with flimsy charges about communist infiltration.
Cruz, the filibust-meister from Texas, has the same sneer and penchant for carelessness that McCarthy did, and the animal hunger for attention. There are some differences. It took McCarthy three years after entering the Senate to explode onto center stage, not just a few months. And, McCarthy did want people to like him.
McCarthy’s anti-communism became a mark of cuddly middle-class and blue-collar Catholic identity in the 1950s, fueled by Ambassador Joe Kennedy’s money and the Kennedy press lackeys. But McCarthy was a one-issue fanatic.
Cruz, on the other hand, shleps across the ideological spectrum, supporting Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on the libertarian left in his crusade against National Security Agency spying, and now the corporate right in its struggle to bury the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In full-throttle, Cruz is every bit as mean as McCarthy, who labeled anyone who blocked him as a “commie” or “fellow-traveler.” According to the blog Politico, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., slammed Cruz in a closed meeting for siccing his right-wing friends on him for refusing to support Cruz’s crusade to give the nation’s health care back to the insurance industry or shut down the government.
Staring at Cruz, Boozman said he hasn’t been bullied since seventh grade, and won’t be bullied now, Politico reported.
Undaunted, Cruz, in his filibuster, likened those who wouldn’t support him to appeasers whose weakness led to World War II. Cruz didn’t mention Hitler, but the implications were strong enough to lead Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Navy pilot who survived a North Vietnamese prison camp, to protest.
And where did Cruz go after his filibuster was shut down? To speak on the radio show of his soul mate, Rush Limbaugh – bent on taking his cruelty and gutter politics to the presidential level. Unfortunately for those back home who are yearning for reform, Cruz’s politics is not about progress or product, but about money and power and market share.
Cruz’s 2012 election to the Senate was a battle of the super PACs – the money mountains made possible by the Supreme Court’s definition of money as free speech. The Texas Republican establishment used millions from a mammoth super PAC hoping to knock Cruz off in a primary. But Cruz recruited far-right super PAC millions to help him win on the margins.
And likewise, the offensive against the Affordable Care Act is not about ideology. It is about money – whether industry or the government controls health care. The insurance business spent a record $57 million on the 2012 federal campaigns, two-thirds going to the Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The health insurance folks killed government intervention in the 1940s, and again in 1994. The spending bill and the debt limit crises are probably their last shot, once the state exchanges actually start linking individuals to underwriters next month.
Buffalo Nite in Washington was another social success last week, with the top award going to former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, now a lobbyist. Time to take this event to another level and make next year’s honorees the families of those killed on Colgan Flight 3407 in Clarence Center four and a half years ago. Their campaign for airline safety – against a sluggish Federal Aviation Administration – has led to some important safety reforms. There may be more, once a long-secret audit report on the crash ordered unsealed by Federal Judge William M. Skretny is made public.