Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Passion For Destruction

The is no question that Ted Cruz is smart. Yet he is doing a very dumb thing by threatening America's economic stability. Something is guiding him besides reason and logic, and it is not too difficult to figure out what.

Cruz's father, who was born in 1939 in Matanzas, Cuba,[14][13] "suffered beatings and imprisonment for protesting the oppressive regime"[13][18] of dictator Fulgencio Batista. He fought for communist revolutionary Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution[19][20] when he was 14 years old, but "didn't know Castro was a Communist." A few years later he became a staunch critic of Castro when "the rebel leader took control and began seizing private property and suppressing dissent."[13][21] The elder Cruz fled Cuba in 1957 at the age of 18, landing in Austin[18] to study at the University of Texas, knowing no English and with only $100 sewn into his underwear.[22][23] His younger sister fought in the counter-revolution and was tortured by the new regime.[20] He remained regretful for his early support of Castro, and emphatically conveyed this remorse to his young son over the following years.[13][20]

Cruz attended high school at Faith West Academy in Katy, Texas,[26] and later graduated from Second Baptist High School in Houston as valedictorian in 1988.[11] During high school, Cruz participated in a Houston-based group called the Free Market Education Foundation where Cruz learned about free-market economic philosophers such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Frédéric Bastiat and Ludwig von Mises.[20] The program was run by Rolland Storey and Cruz entered the program at the age of 13.[18]
I went to public school in Katy for a number of years. It is a small town that originated as a train stop on the Kansas-Texas railroad and became rice farms; the soil is a few inches of topsoil over clay, the land is flat, and rain is plentiful. By the time I moved there suburbs had sprung up in the relatively cheap land between Katy and Houston, and now most of the rice fields are covered with houses and strip shopping centers. It is relatively easy to live in a bubble there, especially if you only go to religious schools.

Like Ayn Rand, Ted Cruz learned a very valuable lesson at a young age: governments can be agents of oppression and fear and destroy lives. Also like Ayn Rand, Cruz viewed his family's experiences through the filter of his own personality and life experiences, and determined that the only way to deal with possibility of oppressive governments is to destroy them before they can destroy you.
Back in February Frank Bruni wrote this about Cruz:

Ted Cruz, a Republican freshman in the Senate who has been front and center in his party’s effort to squash Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense, has a problem. He’s an ornery, swaggering piece of work. Just six weeks since his arrival on Capitol Hill, he’s already known for his naysaying, his nit-picking and his itch to upbraid lawmakers who are vastly senior to him, who have sacrificed more than he has and who deserve a measure of respect, or at least an iota of courtesy. Courtesy isn’t Cruz’s métier. Grandstanding and browbeating are.

He sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and during its final meeting on Tuesday about Hagel’s nomination, he made such nefarious and hectoring insinuations about Hagel’s possible corruption by foreign influences that McCain, who’d gleefully raked Hagel over the coals himself, more or less told Cruz to cool it. It was an unforgettable moment, and one that Republicans shouldn’t soon forget, because Cruz, 42, isn’t simply the latest overeager beaver to start gnawing his way through the halls of Congress. He’s a prime illustration of what plagues the Republican Party and holds it back.  
A fascinating illustration, too. On the surface, he should be part of the solution: young, Latino, with a hardscrabble family story including his father’s imprisonment in Cuba and escape to the United States. But Republicans who look to him and see any kind of savior overlook much of what drags the party down, which isn’t merely or even principally the genealogy of their candidates. It’s the intransigent social conservatism, the whiff of meanness and the showy eruptions. It’s what Cruz, who rode a wave of Tea Party ardor to victory in Texas in November, distills.


One voter tells the pollster that he’d be more kindly disposed toward Republicans if they could “be more pro-science.” Cruz has expressed skepticism about climate change, a position perhaps in tune with his hyperconservative base and his state’s oil interests but at odds with his apparently keen intellect.

He has an impressive academic résumé: an undergraduate degree from Princeton, followed by law school at Harvard. I’ve talked with his fellow students at Harvard and with his former colleagues from George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. All of them mention how fiercely smart he is.

But the flattery stops there. They remember him as arrogant, sour and self-serving, traits that apply to his brief time in the Senate so far. In questioning Hagel during the nominee’s confirmation hearing, he took a surprisingly, audaciously contemptuous tone.

Separately, in front of an audience of conservatives, he smirked dismissively as he griped that Hagel and John Kerry were “less than ardent fans of the U.S. military.” Those two men fought in Vietnam, and earned Purple Hearts; Cruz never served in the institution he purports to regard so much more highly than they do.

ONLY three senators voted against Kerry’s confirmation as secretary of state. Cruz was among them.

He has an affinity for opposing, a yen for obstructing. He belonged to the minority of 22 senators who voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which passed with 78 votes. He also voted against suspending the debt ceiling for three months and against aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

He has already flagged his disagreement with the immigration reform proposal by a bipartisan panel of senators. He has already indicated antipathy to the new push for meaningful gun control. During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when he was twice asked about the broadly reviled National Rifle Association ad that brought the president’s daughters into the debate on guns, he more or less defended it.

He’s been quick to seize spotlights like the one presented by “Meet the Press,” and while newly minted senators often keep a relatively low profile, he reportedly holds forth in Senate conferences at great and off-putting length. And he’s drawing unusual admonitions from senior Republicans.

“I think he’s got unlimited potential,” Senator Lindsey Graham told Politico. “But the one thing I will say to any new senator — you’re going to be respected if you can throw a punch but you also have to prove you can do a deal.”

Indeed, the challenge for Republicans now — a challenge that, to limited and varying degrees, Rubio and even Eric Cantor are beginning to grasp — is to be seen and to act as a constructive force, as a party that’s for things, that wants to be inclusive and that operates with a generosity of spirit, not an overflow of spite. With his votes and his vitriol, Cruz undermines that. He brings himself plenty of attention. He’ll bring Republicans nothing but grief.

 Bruni was absolutely correct, of course, and now here we are in an unnecessarily precarious position. Cruz doesn't want to be constructive; he wants to be destructive. Like Megan McArdle, he wants to destroy "Obamacare" to save America and he is absolutely positive he is smart enough to do it. Cruz has a plan for destruction. He does not have a plan for what will happen after he pulls down the government, because reconstruction or reformation is not his goal.

Ted Cruz faced a barrage of hostile questions Wednesday from angry GOP senators, who lashed the Texas tea party freshman for helping prompt a government shutdown crisis without a strategy to end it.

At a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Republican after Republican pressed Cruz to explain how he would propose to end the bitter budget impasse with Democrats, according to senators who attended the meeting. A defensive Cruz had no clear plan to force an end to the shutdown — or explain how he would defund Obamacare, as he has demanded all along, sources said.      

Things got particularly heated when Cruz was asked point-blank if he would renounce attacks waged on GOP senators by the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group that has aligned itself closely with the Texas senator.

“It seems that there is nothing the media likes to cover more than disagreements among Republicans, and apparently some senators are content to fuel those stories with anonymous quotes,” Cruz told POLITICO. “Regardless, my focus — and, I would hope, the focus of the rest of the conference — is on stopping Harry Reid’s shutdown, ensuring that vital government priorities are funded, and preventing the enormous harms that Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans.”

But as the government shutdown heads into day three, a number of Republican senators privately blame the Texas freshman for contributing to the mess their party finds itself in. And now that they’re in it, they say it’s up to Cruz to help find a solution.

“It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was,” said one senator who attended the meeting. “I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch.”

Obviously Cruz believes or pretends to believe the Megan McArdle of his party, who warn that "Obamacare" will bankrupt the US and kill millions of Americans. Most of all, Cruz seems to believe the McArdles  who warn that "Obmacare" will bring the end of Freedom (TM). 

Once the government gets into the business of providing our health care, the government gets into the business of deciding whose life matters, and how much.  It gets into the business of deciding what we "really" want, where what we really want can never be a second chocolate eclair that might make us a size fourteen and raise the cost of treating us.
I realize that to most people, these are airy-fairy considerations that should be overridden by the many "practical" considerations of the awesomenes of central health care.  Well, I'm actually pretty underwhelmed by that awesomeness, for reasons I'll happily elaborate elsewhere.  But not here, because fundamentally, to me, the effect on the tax code and the relative efficiency of various sorts of bureaucracy are mostly beside the point.  The real issue is the effect on future lives, and future freedom.  And in my opinion, they way in overwhelmingly on the side of stopping further government encroachments into health care provision.

And if it's a choice between freedom and fascist oppression, collateral damage doesn't matter. So what if a few thousand furloughed  people lose their homes or can't feed their kids? It's better than the total destruction of the US. True, McArdle does not want the government to shut down because it would hurt the financial industry, but it's a little too late to put that horse back in the stable. She convinced a lot of people that millions would die with "Obamacare" and now it's too late to rein them in. Ted Cruz doesn't care what Megan McArdles want and he can be just as self-serving, spiteful and argumentative as she can.

But personal satisfaction is only part of the story. By forcing a shutdown, Cruz  has proven to the world that Rafael Edward Cruz is a very powerful man. He has been in office only 10 months and nearly has brought the government to its knees. If you cannot use your power you do not have any, which is why the right is so desperate to get any concession, no matter how minor. Power confers authority and authoritarians will follow anyone with power. (And will stop following them when their power wanes.) Cruz will lead them right over a cliff. His ideology demands it, his career will profit from it, and he will reap all the benefits of increased personal power. The consequences of his actions are irrelevant since he will not be facing them.

In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Buffy's boyfriend, Angel, turns evil and decides to create a Hell on earth. When he was a (human) child, Angel was belittled and criticized constantly by his overbearing father. He grew up to be a vainglorious drunk, whose needs drove him to attempt to create a brave new world that would compensate for all the miseries of his past. In this world he would be big, important, admired, respected, feared. When he was "good," these impulses drove him to be hero, a leader who helps the helpless and inspires others to do the same. As an evil vampire, it drove him to attempt to end the world. Which did not sit well with the other Republicans vampires, who did not want to destroy the world to "save" it.

SPIKE:  We like to talk big.  Vampires do. ‘I’m going to destroy the world.’  That’s just tough guy talk.  Strutting around with your friends over a pint of blood.  The truth is, I like this world. 
You’ve got . . . dog racing, Manchester United.  And you’ve got people.  Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs.  It’s all right here.  But then someone comes along with a vision.  With a real . . . passion for destruction.  Angel could pull it off.  Goodbye, Piccadilly.  Farewell, Leicester Bloody Square.  You know what I’m saying?

A passion for destruction is a very dangerous thing. McArdle does not have the stomach for destruction; like Spike she enjoys the world the way it is, despite her constant undermining of its institutions. She likes shopping on the internet and bar-hopping and libertarian wingnut welfare. She doesn't want to eliminate the billions of people who need her guidance and instruction via high-paying media gigs. But Ted Cruz is ambitious. Ted Cruz has (part of) a plan. And Ted Cruz, thanks to the short-sided and underhanded tactics of his tribe, has the power to bring about the Apocalypse.

Atlas Shrugged had a plan for America after it was destroyed; it would be rebuilt by the elite for the elite, using nearly free natural resources. Ted Cruz doesn't even have that; after the deluge comes nothing. Just his absolute confidence that remaking the world in his own image will no doubt be a gloriously successful enterprise (for him, at least), no matter how much destruction is created.

Thrilling Update!:

Cruz Won’t Hold Up Vote on Reopening Government

Ted Cruz told reporters he will not hold up a vote on the newly announced plan to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, but expressed his dissatisfaction with the deal.
“Unfortunately, once again, it appears, the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people,” Cruz said. The Texas senator commended the House for keeping up the fight over the past few weeks, but sharply criticized the Senate for “doing nothing to respond to the suffering that Obamacare is causing millions of Americans.”

While Cruz vowed to continue fighting Obamacare through different means, he would not delay the current plan. ”There’s nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days,” he said.
If this is true we commend Cruz on his belated Come To Jesus moment. God only knows what disaster he will come up with next. Also, I would watch my back if I were a Senate Republican. All that spite and ambition did not just go away.


Mr. Wonderful said...

Why should he worry about the aftermath of his destruction? Isn't he a Person of Faith? Doesn't he deeply believe that his invisible super-hero creator will look smilingly on his good works, and provide?

Susan of Texas said...

God helps those who help themselves?

I'm disappointed in Cruz. He could have dragged this out a few more days. I guess he got tired of playing keep-away with the Democrats' homework.

Kathy said...

Cruz is Pride, personified, as Delay was Greed made mortal. I suspect Cruz will end up in a place very similar to Delay's.

Susan of Texas said...

We just have so many....