Bill Kristol has about had it with Ted Cruz.
In a radio conversation Thursday morning, the Weekly Standard founder and multi-platform pundit made sure to establish a base coat of respect, even admiration for the energetic and courageous conservatism of Texas’ freshman Senator.
But he grows weary of what he perceives as attacks from the Defund Obamacare chorus that anyone preferring another path must be an unfit warrior in the battle against the fraudulently-named Affordable Care Act.
The community distancing from the Defund movement contains people I have long respected, from Bill Bennett to Charles Krauthammer to Texas’ other Senator, John Cornyn.
All point to the near certainty that the defund effort will fail on the Senate floor, and succeed only in marginalizing the Republican party with another government shutdown PR disaster.
They have a point. And it’s probably not helpful to refer to them as members of a “surrender caucus.”
But rather than quibble over the word choices of Cruz, Utah Senator Mike Lee and others rallying around them, I prefer to examine why I will stand with the defund effort until it breathes its last.
Massive tyranny requires bold response. Obamacare is not just another big-government bad idea that can be whittled and trifled with by detail guys like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. It is a scourge of epic proportions, the most stunning hijacking of our economy and our liberties in modern times.
Parsing the poisonous pages of the Affordable Care Act gives the impression that this is just another in a series of noble pushbacks that Republicans will mount in the Obama era.
It is no such thing. It is an attack that necessitates a reply that reflects our outrage.
We all know it passed, and that it is “the law of the land.” Well, here’s another matter of law-- Congress holds the purse strings, even to measures that have passed. If they can legally turn off the money spigot to fend off this nightmare, that is as legitimate an exercise of public will as its hasty, ramshackle passage in March 2010.
Now to the skeptics’ points:
“It cannot succeed.” Perhaps not, but it will succeed in doing two things-- galvanizing the passions of a dispirited GOP base that is sick of tepid party leadership that has ushered us into our current mess as surely as liberal Democrats have done.
And it will provide that lost, precious commodity: clarity. We will know who the fighters are. Not just the talkers, the arguers, the pontificators and posturers, but the warriors willing to suit up and stare down this administration on every hill. This is a virtue that can separate bold leaders from colleagues who are ideologically similar but stylistically quieter.
“The government shutdown will hurt the Republicans.” In the short term it may, but the harshest licks will come from people who will savage the party anyway, no matter what it does.
Among the Americans who may blanch at the brief spectacle of a shutdown, some may actually come to understand, even admire the fire of leaders who stand up for what they believed in as they argue that a few days of government stoppage are a paper cut compared to the national evisceration that lies ahead if this law takes hold.
“This will hurt GOP Senate chances in 2014.” For every fence-sitting voter left cold by the defunders’ passions, I would suggest there are two dispirited or non-voting Republicans who will thank God some in the party are finally sprouting some spine.
Defunding naysayers will continue to protest the criticisms leveled by those walking the point on the Obamacare battlefield. But what they should worry about most is the mood of the electorate.
While pragmatists wring their hands about the dozens of strategies they will try to employ in 2014, protesting the coarseness of their more intrepid colleagues, millions of voters are looking for a new kind of leadership, unapologetic and fearless.
So let’s try this: Instead of name-calling, the Defund Caucus members should patiently but assertively explain why they are more than willing to spend 2014 chipping away at Obamacare, but only after spending some of 2013 trying to stop it in its tracks.
In return, skeptics should stop fussing about how futile the effort is, cowering over how the big, bad media will say mean things about the effort.
My own state of Texas provides an example of the inspirational value of standing and fighting against long odds.
If you are fuzzy on what actually happened at t Alamo, the bottom line is that it was a massacre. Nearly 200 Texas freedom fighters were annihilated by a Mexican force almost ten times larger.
But their refusal to surrender was an example of courage that spread to countless hearts across Texas, inspiring vast numbers to join the fight. The following month, in April 1836, Mexico was forced to surrender at the Battle of San Jacinto, where Sam Houston’s forces brought the enemy to its knees in under twenty minutes.
But the part of my state’s history that will stick with you most is the letter written by 26-year-old Alamo commander William Barret Travis, who wrote a letter while under siege, to be shared with “The People of Texas and all Americans in the World.”
Knowing a violent death was likely days away, he wrote:
“Fellow citizens and compatriots;
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man.
The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat...
“I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country.
Victory or Death.”
Now tell me again why we should fail to at least try to defund Obamacare.