On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz made the most significant break with a party leadership in modern memory when he called Republican majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar over a clandestine deal the latter had made with Democrats to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
Cruz’s war of words with McConnell has an element of strategy to it — he’s without question positioning himself as the anti-establishment GOP hopeful among the “serious” candidates in the 2016 field — but he’s also expressing sincerely and widely held concerns that the Republican Party is powerless to stop the Obama administration’s compound abuses of power through the choice of McConnell and John Boehner.
The GOP leadership in both houses of Congress has perfected something Ace of Spades appropriately called “Failure Theater” back in March — namely, that all of the attempts to move a conservative agenda forward or even to stop the Obama administration’s various power grabs don’t just fall short but are intended to do so while presenting the duped voters back home with a “Well, we tried” shrug.
As a result, there is no repeal of Obamacare afoot despite countless meaningless votes to kill it. Nothing was done about a patently unconstitutional executive amnesty scheme until a courageous federal judge in Texas finally blocked it. Nothing was done to stop the president from getting unprecedented authority in the arena of foreign trade. The inability to stop a catastrophic nuclear deal with Iran was pure Failure Theater — in fact, the Republican-led Senate actually passed legislation to make it more difficult to stop the Iran deal.
And with the successive demonstrations of Failure Theater, in which the conservative base and the few members of the House and Senate who do attempt to honestly represent it make a demand for a strong stand on an issue only to see that stand watered down and frittered away through meaningless votes or worse, what ought to be a lame duck administration has become even more aggressive in arrogating power to itself beyond any grant in the Constitution.
Two examples stand out of recent vintage.
In the case of the IRS and its scandalous attempts to persecute conservative activists, this month it was revealed that not only was the tax agency conspiring with the Justice Department to illegally share millions of pages of tax information in an effort to launch a prosecutorial fishing expedition aimed at punishing the president’s political enemies in advance of the 2012 election, but it was systematically performing IRS audits of conservative donors it found from lists obtained in the records of conservative-leaning 501[c]4 organizations.
Considering that one element of the impeachment charges filed against Richard Nixon was the attempted abuse of the IRS, the Congressional reaction to this information — which wasn’t released to the public until Judicial Watch was able to pry it loose with a Freedom of Information lawsuit — ought to be to dismantle the agency. Congress has the power of the purse, after all; just defund the IRS completely until a special prosecutor is named to go after everyone involved in the targeting scandal.
Yes, but this can’t be done, say our betters in the leadership, because the president won’t cooperate and will veto any spending bills that don’t include full funding for the IRS and every one of his other governmental priorities (including Planned Parenthood, which we will get to shortly).
Precisely. And why is this the end of the conversation? Because Boehner and McConnell both pledged never to cause a government shutdown again, a pre-emptive surrender that has signaled to the president he will win every fight he wants to simply by finding ways to make policy around Congress. This surrender was born out of the myth that the 2013 government shutdown over Obamacare “damaged” the Republican Party, something widely discussed as axiomatic in Washington despite the fact the party gained eight Senate seats and a few seats in the House in the 2014 elections.
The voters who entrusted the GOP with its current majorities have noticed Failure Theater and do not approve, which is the primary explanation for the current Donald Trump boomlet and the Republican Party’s progressive downturn in approval despite the unpopularity of this president.
The arrogance of the administration has taken a dramatic upward trajectory ever since the shutdown was taken off the table late last year.
The Obama administration’s lawlessness reached a pinnacle last week after videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of body parts from aborted fetuses began to surface. The videos, shot by the Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life group following the proven drip-drip-drip media model perfected by James O’Keefe during his 2009 ACORN takedown, should have the same catastrophic effect on an even bigger target collecting some half-billion dollars in federal funding per year.
In the Senate, amendments to de-fund Planned Parenthood were filed but not passed. Meanwhile, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was confirmed thanks to 10 Republican Senate votes, announced she would be launching an investigation as a result of the videos… into their producers.
So when evidence of illegal activity by a constituent organization within the Democratic Party’s constellation is produced, this administration investigates the whistleblower. And does so in broad daylight.
Nothing is done about it.
This isn’t about politics anymore. We are now beyond the question of what will work in the next election cycle. What is at stake now is the future of the American republic and constitutional governance — because if Congress cannot be relied on to put a stop to rampant lawlessness and corruption at the highest levels within the executive branch, the government as a whole no longer has the moral standing to put a stop to lawlessness anywhere.
The whole system begins to break down when the public ceases to consent to be governed. The Obama administration has driven us to that point, and the weak GOP leadership has all but broken the opposition party through multiple showings of Failure Theater.
Amid this, Cruz has declared his war on McConnell which might turn him into the standard bearer for the conservative movement in the 2016 presidential cycle, or lead to his irrelevance in his current position until new leadership is found in the Senate at some future time.
In the meantime, Obama plots his next offensive against the limits of federal power, knowing there is nothing his timid, flaccid opponents in Washington can do to stop him.