Carol Platt Liebau

The shutdown talks have become a debacle. Before anyone starts trying to lay blame exclusively on Ted Cruz/The Tea Party or Republican leadership/The "Surrender Caucus," just take a moment to get real.

In fact, the behavior on both sides has been absolutely appalling. The GOP was dragged into this shutdown showmanship without a plan. Why was there no plan? Before you reflexively denounce Ted Cruz's effort to filibuster ObamaCare, consider the fact that those who now criticize him articulated no meaningful plan of opposition to a White House now defined by its bullying arrogance toward political adversaries and ordinary taxpayers. Those of us "normal people" in the country resent the way we're being treated, but no one in the Washington caucus seems to notice. Ted Cruz was -- at least -- trying to stand for something, and he did it articulately.

On the other hand, a lot of Cruz's behavior -- starting a high-profile political endeavor without a thought-through strategy for victory -- smacks of opportunism. Using inflammatory language -- like calling his colleagues "the surrender caucus" -- was needlessly divisive and committed the cardinal sin of impugning motives, rather than disagreeing on behavior or tactics. Cruz has a reputation for being smart, so it's hard to believe he didn't know his plan wouldn't attract a lot of support from his colleagues, not least because it's his. Perhaps he didn't care . . . and was willing to posture for the base in hopes of getting a leg up for a 2016 run for president. That tactic may work for him personally, but it has helped spark internal GOP warfare (which, again, boosts Cruz's "outsider" cred, but hurts the rest of the regular Americans who have to live with the results of it in Obama's America).

Let's stipulate that Cruz's behavior was self-serving and ultimately counterproductive. In fact, it was no more so than the behavior of those like John McCain -- who routinely postures themselves, just for a different audience (made up of Beltway grandees rather than Tea Party activists). One wonders whether McCain hates Cruz so much because the two men have more than a few qualities in common (not least their disdain for those who disagree with them and their desire to style themselves as "outsiders" or "mavericks").

And then those, like McCain, who designated themselves Cruz's intra-party adversaries, turned to their friends in the MSM to trash the upstart -- despite themselves having articulated no plans to advance conservative objectives. They put their own wounded pride and outraged dignity above the needs of the small businesspeople, employers and taxpayers who sent them to Washington to try to move the ball forward, not just make nice with the other team. They helped the MSM spin a tale of Tea Party craziness and intransigence that was at odds with the facts on the ground -- but which played nicely into the Democrat narrative.

The House and Senate Republican leadership have been caught in the middle of a lot of this. But in truth, the House leadership does little to communicate with activists in the base, seemingly having imbibed the Democrat/MSM spin that they are radical crazies who can't be reasoned with. In fact, the base is largely composed of normal people increasingly incensed by the behavior of their elected representatives. It's time to speak to them, and with the respect they deserve. Throughout this entire episode, John Boehner or Eric Cantor couldn't sit down with someone fair -- like Anderson Cooper, perhaps -- and explain what the House was doing, or wanted to do, and why? Really? Couldn't ask to go on Rush's show, or Hannity's, or Hugh Hewitt's?

It goes without saying that the behavior of Reid and the Democrats, along with the MSM, has been disgraceful. But that's not news. The job of the GOP'ers in Washington necessarily has to be to outsmart them. Neither faction has, or did. They've primarily just scored points off each other in an attempt to curry favor with the audience they care about most. And they have played into the hands of their adversaries by directing the bulk of their ire at their intra-party rivals. America will pay the price for their foolishness. Shame on them all.


Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.