Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ted Cruz vs Chris Van Hollen-- How To Win Friends And Influence People


Ted Cruz wants to make a name for himself as the Senate's biggest douche bag. Fellow Texans Louie Gohmert and Steve Stockman could give him a run for his money in the House, but in the Senate... Cruz is as bad as it gets. I suspect other Republican congressmen don't like being publicly referred to as squishes by this loudmouthed Texas pissant. And outside of Texas, it's not a good idea calling the grieving and sincere parents of the murdered Newtown victims political props.
In his short time at the Capitol, Senator Ted Cruz, a freshman Republican from Texas, has shown little regard for long-standing rules of decorum. But on Friday, he publicly discussed the closed-door dealings of the Senate Republican Conference-- and trashed his colleagues in the process.

Stopping by a Texas meeting of the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks, Mr. Cruz called many of his colleagues “squishes,” forced to stand on conservative principles by the uncompromising stands of a triumphant trio of Republican “constitutionalists”: himself and Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

...“We’ve had probably five or six lunches with a bunch of Republican senators standing up and looking at Rand and Mike and me and yelling at the top of their lungs-- I mean really upset. And they said: ‘Why did you do this? As a result of what you did, when I go home, my constituents are yelling at me that I’ve got to stand on principle.’ I’m not making that up. I don’t even bother to argue with them. I just sort of let them yell.”
Yesterday Maryland Congressman, a member of the Democratic House leadership, also publicly disagreed with his colleagues... although he didn't call anyone names or try to pump up his own stature at their expense the way Cruz did. Van Hollen was one of just a handful of Democrats who voted NO on the FAA sequester fix. Unfairly, I assumed he voted against it-- along with 3 other Marylanders-- because he can commute to work by car and doesn't have to worry about flight delays. But that wasn't the impression he gave the Washington Post's Greg Sargent during an interview yesterday. His thinking was a lot more strategic than selfish.
By agreeing to give the FAA flexibility in implementing the sequester, in response to the outcry over flight delays, Democrats effectively squandered their leverage in the sequester battle, by signaling that they will selectively undo its effects when the political going gets tough. Does that mean they’ve lost the sequester fight completely?

In an interview this morning, Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen-- a top party strategist-- was surprisingly frank in conceding that Dems had given away crucial leverage by agreeing to the FAA fix. But he said Dems could still make up some of that lost ground-- and called on them not to agree to any more targeted sequester fixes.

“We have certainly made it more difficult to stand firm going forward,” Van Hollen told me. “But we’re going to have to reclaim some lost ground here. We cannot have a situation where people just cherry-pick the sequester.”

Van Hollen bluntly suggested that Dems-- in agreeing to just a targeted FAA fix-- had sent a message about Congress that it’s only responsive to powerful interests.

“If you do that, you’re attacking the symptoms rather than the underlying cause,” Van Hollen said. “When you do that, what happens is the most politically strong groups with the most lobbyists get relief, at the expense of everybody else. Meals on Wheels, or kids on Head Start, or grants on biomedical research-- all of those get left behind.”

...Van Hollen called on Dems to have a united front in this battle going forward, and said they should not agree to any more targeted fixes. “I don’t think we should be voting for exceptions to this,” he said. “We’re going to have to draw a line and say we’ve got to deal with this in a comprehensive way, rather than play Whack-a-Mole.”

“It’s going to be tough,” Van Hollen acknowledged, speaking of the pressure that will be brought to bear on Dems to agree to more targeted fixes. “That’s why it’s going to require a united position and leadership.”
Andy Hounshell is the progressive Democrat in Ohio running against John Boehner-- and he knows how these conservative tricks work. He has a similar view on this that Van Hollen holds. This morning he told us:
"It is nice to see that Congress can agree on something, unfortunately it is something that affects a small percentage of Americans. While I am sure that the inconvenience of flight delays can be troubling to some, it pails in comparison to the cuts to programs that many Americans depend on such as Meals on Wheels. It would be great to see our Representatives sit down and actually deal with the entire budget and sequester rather than hen pick where the pinch of the sequester is going to be felt. It looks like that pinch is going to be felt by the people in this country who can't afford lobbyists. Kids in Head Start and seniors relying on the Meals on Wheels program are the ones who need their Congress right now. It would be nice if their Congress was as worried about them as they are about travel delays for those who are fortunate enough to travel by plane. By plucking out the problems that only affect the affluent, it leaves only the poor and middle class to deal with the pinch of the sequester, and we know how that works out."
If you'd like to help us elect the kinds of progressive strategic thinkers that Van Hollen clearly needs in Congress, well, you can find Andy Hounshell and others with similar views here on the Blue America ActBlue page.

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