The press is suddenly obsessed with newly minted wingnut Texas senator Ted Cruz, whose insolence gets a front-page story in today's New York Times As you know, in Chuck Hagel's confirmation hearing, Cruz made some scurrilous and utterly unsupported insinuations:
"We do not know, for example, if he received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups," Cruz said before the committee vote. "It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea."On the surface, it seems healthy that this McCarthyism is being criticized by the press and by some fellow senators. But what's really happening is that everyone is posturing emptily, and everybody wins except the public.
From today's Times story:
... [Cruz] could not be more pleased. Washington's new bad boy feels good.But nothing's happened to Cruz. He hasn't been censured. He hasn't been formally reprimanded. And even his supposed critics within his own party are helping to carry out the fatwa against Hagel.
"I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo," he said in e-mailed answers to questions, in lieu of speaking. "That is what I intend to do, and it is what I have done in every way possible in the responsibilities that have been granted to me."
... Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said that some of the demands Mr. Cruz made of Mr. Hagel were "out of bounds, quite frankly." Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, issued a public rebuke after Mr. Cruz suggested, with no evidence, that Mr. Hagel had accepted honorariums from North Korea.
"All I can say is that the appropriate way to treat Senator Hagel is to be as tough as you want to be, but don't be disrespectful or malign his character," Mr. McCain said in an interview.
Democrats were more blunt.
"He basically came out and made the accusation about money from North Korea or money from our enemies, and he just laid out there all of this accusatory verbiage without a shred of evidence," said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri. "In this country we had a terrible experience with innuendo and inference when Joe McCarthy hung out in the United States Senate, and I just think we have to be more careful."
So he gets to rally the knuckledragging Republican base, without consequence. McCain and Graham and other centrists get to seem like supporters of fairness and comity and civility, without actually doing anything to their McCarthyite colleague. And Democrats denounce him in stronger language, but also do absolutely nothing.
It appears, from a quick read of this history of congressional rebukes, that the Senate simply doesn't use a formal reprimand. The House will reprimand a member, the punishment being somewhat short of a formal censure -- Joe
I say break with tradition and reprimand his ass -- with a threat of censure if he tries any more stunts (you know he fully intends to). He wants to break with custom and throw his weight around, even though he's only been in the Senate for a few weeks? Then break with tradition and smack him down. A reprimand would be a wrist-slap, but it should also be a warning. Problem is, no one wants to do that -- supposedly right-centrist Republicans want to praise civility only enough to stay in the good graces of the mainstream press (especially Sunday talk show bookers), while Democrats just keep hoping, against all evidence, that Republican non-cooperation is just a phase the party will grow out of any day now. The press is tut-tutting, but the press will never say what needs to be said, which is that the Republican Party is unfit to participate in the representative government of a civilized nation.
And so the status quo doesn't change. Everybody postures, and everybody wins, except America.