Well, Washington, D.C. is Oz of course, everybody knows that, yet the debate rages on whether it is the book version or the movie version. In the book Oz is a real place, but in the movie it is just a dream. Is Washington, D.C. as destination for people looking to accomplish things a realistic vision or a quixotic fantasy?
Indeed old Washington hands, particularly manicured ones, understand perfectly the controversial lyric by America:
Oz never did give nothin’ to the Tin Man
That he didn’t, didn’t already have
And cause never was the reason for the evening
Or the tropic of Sir Galahad.
Critics and poets wrangle over the meaning of those words, particularly “cause” and “tropic.” Here in D.C. the point is clear. The wannabe takes up some popular cause — say, interning for the Democrat party in Washington — so he can show he has a heart. Attending a fancy event thrown by insiders, he finds that the cause is not the reason for the evening; the evening is the goal, the cause is the means. The elites wish to hobnob without being charged with excess, so they hide behind some self-congratulatory cause. All the feverish energy (the “tropic”) promoting the cause is to create an atmosphere to portray themselves as gallant saviors like Sir Galahad. The newcomer is the decent guy who had a heart all along, a realer heart than the shiny plastic model he can pick up from Oz.
Republicans have experienced this phenomenon acutely in the half-century since Barry Goldwater defined the conscience of the modern conservative. They come to D.C. like so many Mister Smiths to defend the Constitution and limit the federal government to its appointed role. When they show up with stars in their eyes, the long-timers quickly put them in their place. They are greeted with a simple formula: “Here is how we do things here. People who rock the boat are humiliated and ostracized. People who go with the flow are eligible for a boatload of perks. Which will it be?”
This explains how Republicans arrived at their present un-pretty pass. After winning the House in 2010 and adding the Senate in 2014, given a mandate by voters to stand up to the President and to Harry Reid, the Republicans have shown a lack of heart and courage worthy of the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. They make little threatening noises about withholding funds from this or that but when Obama does not blink, their resolve melts in a warm puddle at their feet.
Most recently we witnessed Speaker John Boehner warning Obama that his executive orders to stop prosecuting illegal immigrants amounted to “playing with fire” which would result in “getting his fingers burned.” Without hesitation, Obama burned Boehner and gave him the finger. The Republican response was muscular indeed, but they used the muscles for yoga rather than weightlifting, doing a total fold and bending over backwards.
Republican voters feel disgusted and betrayed. Staffers for Republican representatives are barraged daily by callers reciting the oaths of office, oaths mostly unprintable here in a family magazine.
The solution is for Tin Man Republicans to merge with Cowardly Lion Republicans and together look for a heart. The heart will incorporate the courage as well. If they heed America, they can look for the heart inside themselves and save the airfare to Oz. A bit of CPR should get that good heart pumping again.
The good news is the CPR has arrived, and it stands for Cruz-Paul-Rubio. Ted Cruz was the first to declare his candidacy in the 2016 presidential primary, Rand Paul followed, and Mario Rubio has scheduled an “important announcement” for April 13 in Miami. With these three fearless truth-tellers in the race, the Party will be given a jolt that should get its heart beating again.
They cannot all three win the position but all three are winners already. They speak well, they articulate their views, and they respect the Constitution above convention. Their candidacies merge to provide the blessing of CPR, making them the rare politicians who keep their EMT promises. I know they will be sore at me for lumping them together; each is a sparkling individual in his own right. I have met Cruz and Paul, interviewed Paul for this magazine, and voted for Rubio twice: I like ’em all! For now the larger message is how lucky we are to have these musketeers shooting at the bad guys.
Can any of them win the presidency or are they unelectable firebrands as the media claims? I will answer by repeating a conversation I had last week when I went to buy my last kosher pizza before Passover. A rabbi friend who grew up in Manhattan collared me: “If you think the country is just waiting for the chance to vote for Ted Cruz, I can assure you that is not the case.”
I answered him: “Wow, this is déjà vu. Thirty-six years ago I had this exact conversation several times, but for Ted Cruz, substitute Ronald Reagan.”