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JUDY WOODRUFF, host of PBS "NewsHour": We watched this drama play out this week, David, in Congress, which ended up in the Senate with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas essentially hanging some of his fellow Republicans out to dry. What was he trying to accomplish, and did he — did he do it?
BROOKS: Nothing says Valentine’s Day like Sen. Ted Cruz, our national aphrodisiac.
What — what he was trying to do is — it’s unclear. There are a couple — the official explanation was that he wanted Republicans to fight. He thinks there’s a spending problem in the country, and Republicans should fight harder before raising the debt ceiling, and they should get some spending reforms. That’s the nominal explanation.
The effective explanation, he was going to force a lot of Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell, that are up, to force — to make them cast an unpleasant vote, which is going to help make it harder for them in the primaries against a more rightward challenger. And so he put a lot of people in a tough bind.
And the basic problem have been here before. They’re not all insane. They saw how badly it went last time, and they made a completely rational strategic decision, let’s just let it go and let’s move on and talk about something else. And that’s called basic strategy, nursery school-style.
And yet, somehow, there are some in the party who think strategy is bad. They just want to run into the wall again and again and again. And I would put Ted Cruz in that category.
WOODRUFF: Is it working for him, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS, Creators Syndicate columnist: We will find out, Judy two years from right about now, because if Ted Cruz is going national, he has already carved out for himself a niche, which is that, I’m not the establishment Republican. You’re not going to get — we tried — we tried John McCain. He worked across the aisle. He was bipartisan, and he got 90 percent of Democrats voted against him.
And then we had blue state Mitt Romney, who had worked with Democrats in Massachusetts, and 93 percent of Democrats — there’s only one Republican who has gotten one out of four Democratic votes. That was Ronald Reagan. He was an ardent conservative. And I’m going to stand up against the establishment of both parties. I’m not like — I’m the anti-Washington candidate.
I think that’s what he’s casting himself as. I think David is absolutely right that what he’s done to his own party — the Democrats owned the debt ceiling. They were going to raise the debt ceiling all by themselves with nobody else’s votes. What he forced Republicans to do — and they had to — no — no Republican could be the 60th vote to cut off debate. So they had to get — round up seven more to cast an unpleasant vote.
And as Bob Dole used to say, wisely, we senators love to make tough speeches. We don’t like to cast tough votes. And this was a tough vote that Ted Cruz forced them to cast.
WOODRUFF: So where does this leave the — the Tea Party? I mean, and we should say, this comes on the heels of the House, where Speaker Boehner couldn’t, David, round up enough Republicans to get behind a plan that would counter the — the Democrats wanted a clean extension of the debt limit with no strings attached. The Republicans were looking for something, couldn’t get enough votes, but it never — it never came together. What does all this say about what is going on in that party?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think the Tea Party is going to be a permanent feature of the party. Those people were always here before we called them the Tea Party. And there’s two features. One, they’re — like a lot of Republicans, they think that we’re spending too much money. Two — and this is more a matter of strategy — they just don’t believe in it. They don’t believe in strategy.
They think simplicity, just whatever Washington is doing, just mess it up, and so a direct, full-bore, frontal assault approach again and again and again, whereas somebody like John Boehner says, well, you know, you pick your fights. I think — and so — but they’re against that sort of game playing, what I would call just intelligent strategy.
So, they are going to be a permanent part of the party. What is happening now is exasperation. What you’re seeing is beginning to see the Republican establishment, who have been terrified of the Tea Party, suddenly begin to say, we have got to stand up.
And so the most weirdly cowardly people on earth are the establishment. They hate to take on the renegades. And — but you’re beginning to see John Boehner leading the way, really, had a series of press conferences over the past couple of weeks or months really saying, you know, no, I’m not going to do it your way. I’m going to do it my way. This is the way I was taught to do politics. I will do it this way.
You’re beginning to see Bob Corker, a lot more senators coming out more forthrightly, certainly John McCain and people like that, and saying, no, we’re not going to do it that way. We’re going to do it the way that parties are supposed to do it, with strategy, with a little surrender here, be aggressive there, seize our opportunities, not just run into brick walls.
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