Mona Charen

This is not the first time Cruz has showboated at the expense of his party. In March, the president had proposed gun control legislation. This put red state Democrats in an awkward position. Cruz attempted to ride to the Democrats' rescue by threatening to filibuster any gun control measure. Wiser Republican heads prevailed, and the measure did come to the floor for a vote, where Democrats handed Obama and Reid a defeat.

Cruz claimed later that he had been vilified for "fighting on this." No, he was criticized for trying to turn a winning hand into a losing one. A filibuster would have permitted Obama to thunder indignation about Republican obstructionism, while allowing Democrats to escape an uncomfortable vote.

Some grass-roots Republicans are highly receptive to the argument that only Republican leadership cowardice can explain the Obama phenomenon. Cruz croons the melody baldly. He told one gathering that his colleagues reproached him saying, "I go home and constituents are yelling at me that I gotta stand on principle." I'd donate $1,000 to the Cruz for President committee if one senator ever said any such thing. Cruz continued: "'Before you did this, the politics on this were all great. The Dems were the bad guys. The Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.' Well there is an alternative. You could all just not be a bunch of squishes."

Cruz stoked the shutdown fever, while his aide called other Republicans the "surrender caucus." Cruz's allies threatened to primary senators who objected. In the end, the shutdown cratered the Republican Party's popularity and forced them to accept the same deal they could have had in September. That the deal wasn't worse is a tribute to the much-scorned Boehner and McConnell. If senators are going to face primaries for their votes, Cruz should be among them, because after fulminating for three weeks, he, too, voted to fund the government.

Cruz has many gifts. He's a skilled rhetorical marksman (if no tactician) but by firing at his own side, he may be doing more damage to the Republican Party than any Democrat.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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