‘We ain’t doing diddly squat,’ Ted Cruz tells fellow Republicans

Good morning Austin:

A week ago Sunday, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were interviewed by Evan Smith at the Texas Tribune Festival, and despite Smith’s admonition, a small but significant number of audience members here in what Cruz referred to as “the People’s Republic of Travis County,” hissed some of Cruz’s comments.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2014 – US Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the fourth annual Texas Tribune Festival held at the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September 20, 2014. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

But Smith need not have worried. If hissing is the sound of air going out of something, for Cruz being hissed is not the least bit deflating. Quite the opposite. It seems to pump him up, to invigorate him.

In fact, one of his virtues as a public figure is how he seems to thrive on negative energy. Recall the tumultuous speech before the Republican National Convention in July 2016 when he exited the podium to a cascade of boos.

But this past weekend, Cruz was on friendlier terrain, appearing on Friday night and Saturday night at two major tea party events.

From Patrick Svitek at the Texas Tribune:

GRAPEVINE — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was ticking through his hopes for Congress this year before a Tea Party group here Saturday when one of his comments drew a sarcastic retort from the audience.

“I believe we will get tax reform done,” Cruz said.

“In my lifetime?” a man blurted out.

Cruz, not missing a beat, responded with his own question: “How old are you?”

It was a lighthearted but revealing moment in a weekend where Cruz, in a pair of appearances before influential conservative groups, sought to explain — and in some cases, distance himself from — congressional Republicans’ dismal track record under President Donald Trump. At times, it felt as if Cruz was discussing an institution of which he hasn’t been a part of for the last four years.

“Am I the only one here frustrated with Congress?” Cruz asked the audience at both events, each time receiving a loud chorus of “no”s in return.

“Look, we got a unique opportunity,” Cruz said Friday night in Tyler, addressing Grassroots America We the People. “We have a Republican Congress, Republican heads of every agency, Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and we ain’t doing diddly squat.”

xxxxxxx

In Tyler …. Cruz appeared at a dinner in honor of the Texas Freedom Caucus, the 12-member conservative bloc in the state House that formed earlier this year. Lavishing praise on the legislators, Cruz continued to vent to the audience about Congress, telling them, “I cannot tell you how much I wish we can take the Freedom Caucus and replace the United States Senate.”

I was not at either event, but a video of the NE Tarrant Tea Party appearance was posted on YouTube.

What is striking is that as Cruz approaches a re-election campaign in 2018, in which he is being challenged by U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, he remains, as he was when he ran for Senate in 2012 and for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, a critic not so much of Democrats – that’s a given – but of Washington and especially the Republican leadership in Washington, mostly in Congress but also now in a White House he sees as an uncertain ally, even on an issue as seemingly fundamental to President Donald Trump as immigration.

You can’t see the audience on the video, but you can hear them and especially a few members of the audience who were apparently quite close to the microphone, with their out-loud responses to Cruz’s remarks. In my transcription below of some of what Cruz said, the audience comments are in parentheses. In some cases, Cruz responds to their shouted comments.

I especially like the running audience commentary because it act as a kind of cross between a tea party Greek Chorus and a Peanut Gallery, that captures the restive mood of the crowd.

Ted Cruz with julie White McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party.

After opening remarks, Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, posed questions to Cruz that were submitted on Facebook and at the event.

On immigration:

TED CRUZ: So I am – I’m just trying to choose my words carefully. Listen, we had an election where front and center, immigration was in front of the American people. (Still is… It is …No more amnesty.)

Amnesty’s wrong. There were an awful lot of politicians who got elected saying they were opposed to amnesty. I can tell you right now – so the president did something  very good. The president announced that he is ending DACA, the president’s illegal executive order. That was the right thing to do. When Obama issued executive amnesty, it was lawless, it was unconstitutional, it was instructing the federal government to ignore federal immigration law.

And listen, when I was running for president I promised that my first day in office, Jan. 20 , 2016, i would rescind every illegal executive action from Barack Obama. It was the right thing to do to rescind that order. But there are a lot of folks in Congress that are looking to reinstate it to go a lot further.

(No)

A lot of Republicans.

(RINOS … What are they afraid of? Who are they afraid of? What are their names?)

You know it’s easier to list those that aren’t. There aren’t many. To be honest, there are a handful of us who are speaking out against amnesty. I’d say myself, Mike Lee, Tom Cotton. You start running out of fingers.

I can tell you what I’ve told my colleagues. If we go through 2017 and 2018 and we haven’t repealed Obamacare, we haven’t done a tax cut, we haven’t done major reg reform, and the only two accomplishments of a Republican Congress are a massive bailout for insurance companies and a massive amnesty package, (What have we accomplished?), we are headed to a bloodbath in 2018. (That’s right …  You better believe it.)

I don’t know if my colleagues believe it or not, but there are a lot of reports publicly that the White House is pushing that. I think it’s a mistake. I don’t think we should reward illegal behavior. And one of the things I will note is a very serious concern about a DACA amnesty, and everyone under DACA can in time get a green card, and then, under present immigration law, use chain migration to bring the families in, you’re talking about 3, 4, 5 million people, and that’s just wrong. It’s not right. (No. No. Democrats)

Look, my view of immigration, and the overwhelming majority of Americans, our views on immigration are very simple. I can sum it up in four words. Legal – good. Illegal – bad.

So that’s an area I’m worried about the direction Congress will go because the Democrats want to go that way and a whole lot of Republicans as well. (They’ll pay for it. They’ll pay for it.)

Julie McCarty: So this might have something to do with that. Mitch McConnell needs to go. What would be a good recommendation to replace him, and what do we need to do as voters make that happen?

Cruz: Listen, leadership needs to lead. We’re not getting an awful lot of that in Washington. (Obviously.)

The frustration is massive. (Drain the swamp.)

If we don’t see leadership now, in 2019, we’re not going to be electing a majority leader. We’re going to be electing a minority leader. (That’s right.) The sad reality is, Republican senators are with him (McConnell). That’s the sad reality. (It’s the entitlement power that’s doing us wrong.) 

It’s frustrating, and I promise you, as frustrated as y’all are, I sit here every day, I’m banging my head into this every day. And the message that I’m trying to convey to whoever the leader is, I don’t really care, is very simple. Let’s do what we say. Let’s get it done. Failure is not an option.

In a discussion about the failed efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, Cruz recalled Arizona Sen. John McCain’s pivotal vote in the middle of the night.

CRUZ: Skinny repeal went down by a single vote, it was at 2:30 in the morning, I’ll tell ya, when that happened I had to turn and leave the Senate floor because if I had stayed on the Senate floor I would have said some things to my colleagues that were not appropriate to say on the Senate floor. (You should have said them anyway … Exactly what we’re thinking …  Say it out loud.)

Cruz said he would be calling together the Republican working group on repealing Obamacare to see if they can yet put together a repeal and replace bill “from the bottom up.”

McCARTY: Border wall funding. It is being delayed by Republicans?

CRUZ: No, it’s being delayed by Democrats and most Republicans are not wiling to fight for it, (Why? Exactly.) Because they are responsive to the donor class and not to the voters, (Here,here,)  and the donor class doesn’t particularly care.

Look, there’s an odd divide in the Republican Party between many of the donors and many of the voters. One of the great challenges of the Republican Party is that the donor world  doesn’t really like the grassroots, and  many of the grassroots doesn’t particularly like the donors. (Absolutely.) 

And to be honest, this is one of the challenges, and I tell both sides, they say can’t we get rid of the other guys, and I go, no, if we actually want to win we have to bring a coalition that brings everyone together.

But here’s the challenge, because the Republican leadership listens to the donor class, so what I’ve suggested to a number of House members, is look, go back to your districts, hold a town hall, set up a white board and just ask your constituents, what should our priorities be, and then shut up and listen, shut up and write down, so building a border wall would be on it for Texas, absolutely. 

So just write down what your constituents say, you come up with a list of 20, 19 of those are nowhere on leadership’s priorities. And then what I suggest to the members is go get the 50 biggest lobbyists in Washington, put them around a table (And shoot them.). And do the same exercise. Set up a white board, ask them their priorities, and you come up with 20,  19 of them will be leadership’s priorities. That’s the disconnect that is so frustrating.

When it comes to a border wall, most Republicans are for it, but they don’t really care that  much about it and they’re not willing to spend political capital and really fight for it, and Democrats are fighting tooth and nail, so you recall Democrats say it’s too expensive – first time in the history of the universe Democrats thought anything was too expensive.

(Democrats say) It’s too expensive. We can’t afford a border wall. Baloney. They oppose a border wall because Democrats support illegal immigration. You know there’s a new politically correct term for illegal immigrants. It is undocumented Democrat. (That’s right)

I think our leadership needs to put these issues to a vote and fight for them, but right now there is very little will in Congress or, for that matter, in the administration, to fight the fight.

(Why is that?)

Because the donors don’t care. It doesn’t matter to them and that’s who they listen to.

McCarty noted that members of Texans for Vaccine Choice were present. They were pleased with legislation in Austin in the last session to protect vaccine choice, but worried about federal interference.

While noting that he vaccinates his children and “we don’t want an epidemic,” Cruz said “parental choice is a fundamental liberty protected in the Constitution” (Amen.)  He said the federal government should stay out of it and  leave it to the states.

Cruz said his thinking on the Senate filibuster had evolved and he would now vote to end it.

McCARTY:  Leaders in our government know exactly who is leading and financing the Antifa movement. Why do we not expose who they are? (George Soros.)

CRUZ: Look, when it comes to George Soros, when it comes to those on the left, they have consistently sought to undermine democracy, to spread violence, and to spread dissent and unrest. (Communism). Yeah that too.

Cruz also said, White supremacists and Nazis and the Klan are ignorant bigots and fools.

McCARTY: Where do you stand on the Texas Land Commissioner’s plan to reimagine the Alamo? (Groans Oooh. Boo.)

 

CRUZ: Well, I will confess that I know a lot of people are concerned about the Alamo. Now look, the Alamo is a priceless Texas treasure, and it needs to be preserved for generations to come. (Amen, applause) And I think the people of Texas should be very vocal defending the Alamo. I think that is important.

I confess I haven’t studied the details of the particular plan. I know people have very real concerns, and the wonderful thing about our democratic process is that people have the opportunity to express our concerns and make them clear. I think what is unequivocal is that we should  protect, preserve and treasure the Alamo and treasure our history.

On NAFTA, Cruz said, I’m not sure which direction this administration is going to go on NAFTA. I think there are competing voices within the administration on NAFTA. 

He said he thinks renegotiating NAFTA is a good idea if it’s about opening foreign markets to American good, but not if it is about erecting barriers to foreign products in the American market.

Ultimately, he said, I think that would hurt Texas badly.

McCarty finished up by asking Cruz, “Is there hope?”

CRUZ: Yes. I believe that with all my heart.

Are there aspects that are frustrating?

Absolutely. 

Are there times you want to yell at the television screen? (All the time. All the time …  I want to shoot it … That’s when I watch The Walking Dead).

Yes.

Cruz talked bout Harvey and how Texans rose to the occasion.

He ended by talking about his father.

Many of you all know my dad, Rafael Cruz. As you know, my father as a teenager was  in prison, tortured, had his teeth kicked out of his mouth, thought he was going to die. They pulled him front of a firing squad. and he was able to get out of Cuba, escape, come to Texas, and you know,  I’ve thought, if somebody had come to that 18-year-old kid in 1957 in Austin, Texas, washing dishes. He couldn’t speak English. If someone had  told him, fifty years hence your son is going to be sworn into office as a United State senator, that teenage immigrant could nor have imagined that, that would have been beyond any conception he could have seen  and yet, in Jan 2013, when I was standing on the Senate floor with my hand on my father’s Bible, my dad was sitting in the gallery with tears streaming down his face.

That’s America. It’s who we are.

Meanwhile, after the event, McCarty posted this.

Mizani is challenging Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, who was a tea party hero when he was first elected but has since fallen from grace with McCarty and the NE Tarrant Tea party.

From Mizani’s Sept. 20 campaign announcement.

Armin Mizani Launches Campaign for State Representative in House District 98

(Keller, TX) Keller City Councilman Armin Mizani has officially announced his campaign for state representative in House District 98—an area encompassing cities such as Colleyville, Southlake, Keller, Grapevine, Westlake, Haslet, and portions of Fort Worth and Trophy Club.

Armin launched his campaign saying, “Texans face big challenges and deserve leaders who will represent our conservative values. As State Representative, I will bring conservative leadership to the Texas House where we will double down on our efforts to address government spending and rising property taxes, curb illegal immigration, reform our broken school finance system, and protect the sanctity of life.”

He continued, “During my time on the Keller City Council, we successfully fought to reduce the property tax rate each and every year I was in office and introduced the first increase to the homestead exemption in over 30 years. It mis time for us to elect leaders who will stay true to their campaign promises rather than back down to the establishment and political class down in Austin.”  

“In 2012, House District 98 unseated a seven term incumbent because they were tired of conservative legislation being shut down by the Austin political class and special interests. Unfortunately, our current State Representative, someone who I and many others supported, has become part of the same political class he once campaigned against. I have been asked by local leaders across this District to step up and run and I am honored to answer the call.” 

Apart from sharing a photo, Cruz did not endorse Mizani.

“No,” said McCarty in an email. “We didn’t ask.”

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