September 14, 2013


Washington Builds a Bugaboo : How does Senator Ted Cruz tick off liberals? Let us count the ways. (Andrew Ferguson, September 23, 2013, Weekly Standard)

The essence of McCarthyism is bullying, and Cruz is frequently called a bully--not only of men like Chuck Hagel but also of women like Dianne Feinstein, the California senator who redoubled her efforts for gun control after the killings at Sandy Hook elementary school. For his part, as a private lawyer, solicitor general of Texas, and now as a senator, Cruz expresses a special, not to say obsessive, fondness for the widest possible reading of the Second Amendment. 

In a widely replayed exchange, Cruz asked Feinstein to explain why she felt that the Second Amendment allowed the government to restrict the kinds of weapons citizens were allowed to buy, when she would never allow similar restrictions on the First Amendment or the Fourth. 

By any objective reading, Cruz's point was weak--no constitutional right is completely unrestricted--and his unblinking insistence on pursuing it was unsettling to watch, but his tone was never harsh or disrespectful or, for that matter, bullying. It was Feinstein's wounded, girlish reply, which quickly caromed around the Internet, that allowed his opponents to portray Cruz as a bully. 

"Senator, I'm not a sixth-grader," she said, adding, in a non sequitur, that she had, as a mayor in the 1970s, seen people who were shot. Therefore she didn't need a "lecture" on the Constitution.

Feinstein's reasoning was no more careful than Cruz's. His larger transgression, however, was threatening to filibuster the gun bill with his Senate colleagues Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. In Cruz's telling, the threat led to a delay in the Senate vote on the bill. This bought gun control opponents enough time to turn weak-kneed Republicans against it. The result was that a major piece of legislation that had looked unstoppable was turned back over a weekend. Gun control, for now, is dead as a federal issue. 

In a more respectable cause--blocking an anti-abortion measure, for example, or stopping a cut in food stamp funding--Cruz's defeat of the gun bill would look like what it was: a daring and skillful piece of parliamentary maneuvering. Instead it rendered him guilty of an offense even greater than bullying: effectiveness. 

Posted by at September 14, 2013 6:23 PM

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