Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More Notes on the Cruz Speech

First, on "fillibuster." As Josh Huder pointed out on twitter, there certainly is a filibuster involved here. That's correct, but the filibuster is, essentially, the objection to the motion to proceed, which forces a cloture vote and sets the clock for the cloture vote. That's the filibuster. By all accounts, the filibuster will be defeated at that point. Cruz's speech is occupying a (very large!) portion of the time within that filibuster; if he wasn't speaking, either someone else would be or the Senate would be in recess. So there is a filibuster -- which Cruz and Mike Lee are responsible for -- but this speech itself isn't delaying or obstructing anything.

Given all that, I'm pretty much fine with calling it a filibuster or not. On twitter, I went with "fauxlibuster" (was I first on that? I went with it right at the start, but I might have seen someone else use it).

Second: while it's fair to talk about the speech in the context of GOP WH 2016 (Chuck Todd called it "the world's longest presidential stump speech"), that overlooks the specific point of this specific tactic for him right now. As far as I can see, this is all about his slip last week in which he admitted, after the House vote, that defunding would lose in the Senate and that therefore the key to the strategy would be the House sticking to its position after that -- which was interpreted by frustrated House Republicans as defeatism. More than anything, this speech is his response to that -- even if it is entirely useless from a parliamentary point of view, it's going to be impossible for Republicans to complain that Cruz didn't fight hard.

Third: On the other hand -- it sure will be interesting to see whether Republicans yield back postcloture time, or otherwise fail to use their maximum available delays later in the week. Not that it really matters; this isn't the kind of fight in which adding a few days of delay actually makes any real difference. But it will be interesting, nevertheless.

Next: it's worth emphasizing, as some others have, that this stunt is in fact very different from recent similar stunts by Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul. In both of those cases, the point of the extended speech was to raise the visibility of an issue. That's certainly not the case with health care reform! Neither the issue in general, nor Cruz's views on the issue, have been marginalized in the press. And as Ezra Klein pointed out this morning, Cruz hasn't exactly been focused on the evils of Obamacare; he's spent more time, really, on bashing "Washington" (and to a large extent Republican Senators) for supposedly not listening to the will of the people.

All in all, as silly politician stunts go, this is one of the least useful and impressive. It's far more focused on Ted Cruz, personally. There's no other particular point to it. I am, in general, in favor of silly politician stunts (and I suppose this one can very much be justified on representation grounds; Ted Cruz promised the voters who put him there that he would be a blowhard, and look!). But it's a lot easier to mock this one than to get up much enthusiasm for it.

19 comments:

  1. Regarding #2: WHY would Cruz need to do anything after his "slip?"

    Answer: because he needs party actors to think he has a good tactical mind...nobody wants a president on their side who accidentally gives away the store.

    In other words, see Chuck Todd. This is 100% about running for president.

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    1. Yes, this whole episode has struck me about wanting to be President and nothing else. Which is funny, because the GOP donors seem to be very angry at Cruz right now.

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  2. I have been warning people here in Texas that we should not try to out-crazy Arizona, that they will beat us every time.

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  3. Cruz's filibuster is showing him to be a blowhard who's also clueless about politics.

    In the Tea Party primary I'm expecting him to to be called "More anti-Constitution than Obama" for his opposition to the exclusionary rule.

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/clip/4344533

    The political landscape is changing in ways that make it perilous for predictable conservatives.

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    1. No offense, but...........what?

      I've literally never even heard of that as a political topic of any stripe. Apparently one line in that video was a throwaway mention of judicial nominees abusing in his mind a courtroom rule, which Wiki says has to deal with standards of allowable evidence collection and which Ronald Reagan "strongly opposed and tried to eliminate". And now apparently you're suggesting Reagan's stance is a bigger violation of liberty to Tea Party voters than every crime their imaginary version of Obama has committed?

      You guys *really* live in a hilariously tiny bubble sometimes.

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    2. Im sympathetic to the idea that no 'conservative' is safe from being branded a RINO, even one who is the current hero of the day.

      But Cruz really is establishing himself as a savior with this whole affair. It's accomplishing exactly what JB argues it is intended to do. There are legislators with zero policy daylight between themselves and Cruz who are being accepted by the movement as RINOs simply because of tactical differences. Cruz could slip, of course. Or someone else could supplant him. But this stunt is working exactly as intended, and it is turning him into a tea party legend.

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    3. Adam, the exclusionary rule works by excluding evidence that was obtained in violation of your fourth amendment rights (ie, without a warrant). The fourth amendment wouldn't mean much without it.

      To quote wikipedia:
      "The amendment is enforced by the exclusionary rule."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

      "You guys *really* live in a hilariously tiny bubble sometimes."

      A bold statement from someone who lacks even the most basic wiki-level understanding of the topic.

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    4. Drew, you may be right. It will be interesting to see if Cruz gets a bump in early primary polling, just as Paul did.

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    5. Couves, I think this issue may make for an interesting test of just how post-policy/post-substance the GOP is. Im not aware of any 4th amendment litmus test, but this should be the sort of thing a post-policy party will gloss over in a candidate who otherwise makes them feel fired up over hating Obama, taking their country back, etc. Cruz is ably demonstrating a capacity for the style and tactics that the tea party favors, which ought to take precedence in a post-policy party.

      It's also an interesting glimpse into the notion that "Constitutional conservatism" is mostly a way to lend outside authority to policies you already are predisposed to favor, and it usually entails emphasizing the parts of the Constitution you like to the exclusion of those you dont.

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    6. Couves,

      I wish it were so, but I'll be very surprised if Tea Partiers are on your side on that one, let alone have it as a litmus test. Some of the Paulite libertarians, yes (although even there my guess is that it's fewer than you suspect), but Tea Partiers? I suppose we'll just have to see.

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    7. Drew, I'm not sure about your first point, but I'd agree about "Constitutional conservatism." I'd say the same about "civil libertarians" who fail to support the second amendment. Of course, reasonable people can disagree on these issues – my point was more about how this particular battleground exposes Cruz to novel attacks from the Paulist faction.

      Jonathan, I'm not predicting it will come up, much less be a litmus test (perhaps my analysis reverted to hopeful bluster). But if Cruz and Paul are major primary contenders, I suspect you'll see things like this challenge Cruz's "I'm a constitutionalist just like Rand!" pose.

      Rand also benefits from the lack of clear partisan battle lines on issues like this – he’s unlikely to turn off moderates by making a reasonable defense of basic Constitutional protections. Whereas, Cruz's tea party appeal has more to do with the sort of chest-pounding dogmatism that will inevitably scare-off some voters.

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    8. I'm suspicious that it would come up; "tough on crime" doesn't get the same mileage it used to, and the value of moderates in a Republican primary is obviously suspect. But it's still very interesting; it could be one of those cases where the party (or this faction of the party) uses the primary to decide what they think about an issue.

      I would note, though, that this is an easy issue to bluster as "tough on crime", and Cruz has demonstrated that he's good at bluster. OTOH, the Constitutional argument does take a little explanation, and Paul has demonstrated that he's not great at that.

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    9. "...Paul has demonstrated that he's not great at that."

      I thought he did a great job on the drone issue -- it's hard to imagine how he could have done better.

      Any constitutional argument requires some explanation, but that would go for Cruz as well. If Cruz tries to duck the issue with some "tough on crime" bluster, then he wouldn't look so much like a constitutionalist anymore.

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  4. I had the same thought about representation, but my thought was more PG-13 than Jon's: Cruz promised voters he would be an asshole, and well, he's delivering.

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    1. I second that! Ted Cruz is quite the embodiment of the Tea Party tendency to simplistic, slogan-ish non-solutions. Real Americans everywhere love him!!!

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    2. There is something to this, I think. Tea Party politicians promise, almost above all, an attitude: "I don't just want the same policies you want; I'm also giving you a vindictiveness you want!"

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    3. Another thought: let's all remember how Joe McCarthy ended up.

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