17 December 2015

Rubio and Cruz magnify GOP fissure


As Democrats prepare for their weekend debate, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Mike O’Malley should only hope to have as substantive and yes combative a debate as the GOP candidates provided on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. [Note to O’Malley and Sanders: You might want to respond to Clinton’s (truthful) claim that Obamacare pushes people into part-time work and that it should be changed.]

As to those differences among Republicans, on national defense and immigration especially, the fallout continues.

Stephen Hayes notes that on defense issues, Sens. Rubio and Cruz got into a discussion at close quarters they’ve been having separately on the campaign trail for months. It was “some of the most substantive and intense back-and-forth of the entire night,” Hayes explained.

Rubio hit Cruz for his support of the USA Freedom Act, which ended bulk data collection by the NSA, and criticized Cruz’s votes against all recent versions of the National Defense Authorization Acts in favor of Rand Paul’s budget. Cruz, for his part, accused Rubio of supporting Obama/Clinton policies in the Middle East and defended his vote for the USA Freedom Act by suggesting that the law enhanced the government’s ability to track would-be terrorists.

As Byron York reports, both Sens. Cruz and Rubio shaped their debate discussion of the immigration reform bill from 2013 to suit the realities of a presidential campaign for 2016. Sen. Rubio described what would be nearly impossible to legislate – enforcement and border security first, citizenship for current illegal immigrants second – and Sen. Cruz, well, pretty much lied about what happened back in 2013. Back then York had asked if he supported allowing illegals to get green cards and he said yes.

“Legalization is the predicate of the Gang of Eight bill,” Cruz responded. “And in introducing amendments, what I endeavored to do was improve that bill so that it actually fixes the problem.”

At the debate and then after he denied he ever supported his previous position.

Some people on the right are happy about this, as is the case with The Right Scoop:

Look, Cruz is a fighter. If this doesn’t demonstrate that, I don’t know what does. Even if some use it to try and smear him, he still fought to defeat a bill that was about amnesty and I’m sure he doesn’t regret it, especially considering he was successful. And I’m glad he did.

Others, such as Leon H. Wolf at Red State are less thrilled that Cruz decided to take the gloves off against Rubio, especially since he’s refused to do so against Donald Trump who is his main rival for the mantle of most-conservative candidate.

What the country watched [at the debate] was a Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who called Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) a liar several times to his face, and also on more than one occasion treated him like someone who was ignorant of the issues. After the way Cruz has treated Trump throughout this contest, that’s a major problem.

And then Wolf issued a stern warning:

It’s [Cruz’s] prerogative to attack whoever he wants, wherever he wants, for whatever reason he wants. After all, he is trying to win a race. But if he continues to go after the actually conservative Rubio while at the same time playing public footsie with the fraudulent Donald Trump, I’m less and less going to consider him one of two equally acceptable choices for the nomination….If you’re going to be a happy warrior who doesn’t attack other Republicans no matter what they say about you, then be that happy warrior. If you’re going to be an attack dog when attacked, then turn the same vitriol on Trump that you turned on Rubio… You can’t have it both ways. And I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

Given the outbreak of hostilities between the Rubio and Cruz camps post-debate, it is unlikely Cruz has decided to heed Wolf’s advice. As for Rubio, he has good reason to go after Cruz. To get the nomination he’s got to beat Cruz and Trump has to implode (please God), and then he’s got to be palatable to voters who want a solution for the millions of illegal immigrants that President Obama hasn’t already unconstitutionally amnestied.

And by the way, if you think these divisions are only being debated among the presidential candidates, you’d be wrong. Suddenly, Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2,000-page omnibus spending bill, which was supposed to solve the budget crisis so that everyone could go home for Christmas happy, is being attacked because it allows a waiver for caps on foreign worker visas that Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions really doesn’t like. “The GOP-led Congress is about to deliver Obama a four-fold increase to one of the most controversial foreign worker programs. The result? Higher unemployment and lower wages for Americans,” Sessions complained.

Abby W. Schachter is editor of CapX America.