Paul Ryan is a leader, and hats off to him for stepping up and trying to bring coherence to the House GOP strategy and messaging. As one of the commentariat very uneasy with the Speaker's decision to open with a bid of a six week extension of the debt ceiling without any attached demands, I and my colleagues still have to recognize that someone needed to step up and pull the factions together, and that Ryan has agreed to grapple with the beast that is the House GOP Conference that is representative of its very varied party.
Whatever the result --and we don't know what it will be-- critics from right or left of what emerges as the deal will have to be very careful not to do to Ryan what has been done to Ted Cruz, to no lasting damage to Cruz but to great lasting damage to his critics. The diminishment of Cruz's critics is not good for the GOP either. Most of the time they are right in their observations of politics. That their upset got the best of their judgment is simply best forgotten for now, provided they leave off with it.
Disagreement with Ted Cruz (and Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio) on the tactics of the past few weeks is fine. Parties are big, sprawling affairs and they have to be if they are to assemble majorities that endure if only for a season or a session, so disagreements on tactics are inevitable. The near hysterical condemnation of Cruz, however, has been about those critics, not Cruz or his tactics, and the attacks have done real damage. The deeply personal assaults on Cruz have radicalized his core supporters, turning them from suspicious of the Beltway GOP to near-enemies of the same. Bad news all around because those core supporters are legion. The atmosphere in D.C. is poisoned enough (see Brit Hume's sober assessment) without the Beltway GOP going Borgia on each other.
When Ryan's plan is unveiled, it will be incumbent on the House GOP to pass it, preferably with unanimous support. Activists will have to swallow hard if it fails to satisfy them, trusting that the Chairman of the Budget Committee who has truly been through the wars with the president did indeed get the best deal available. Conference critics of the tactics to date (see my interview from Wednesday with Pennsylvania's Charlie Dent) should stand with critics of the compromise and vote yes.
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