Patterico's Pontifications

2/20/2014

Thomas Sowell Gets It Wrong on Cruz, Part II: Is He Starting to Come Around?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:33 am

The peerless Thomas Sowell is better at articulating principles of economics and freedom than he is at analyzing politics, and I probably share that failure with him. I’m about to criticize him again, but my intent is not to dump on this great man . . . and I hope I am starting to notice hints that Sowell “gets it,” at least in part.

Sowell’s latest column starts weak and ends strong, but the strong part undermines the arguments of the weak part so badly that the reader is left asking: so, aren’t you wrong after all, then? The overall impression is one of a column written by a bipolar person, who swings from one pole to the other during the course of writing the piece.

Sowell begins the column by attacking Cruz, putting some predictable meat on the bone of his complaints that crazy Ted Cruz is undermining the electoral prospects of Republicans. Cruz’s sins? 1) Filibustering against ObamaCare and 2) insisting that Republicans attach their names to a vote to continue the suspension of the debt ceiling:

Senator Cruz’s filibuster last year got the Republicans blamed for shutting down the government — and his threatened filibuster this year forced several Republican Senators to jeopardize their own reelection prospects by voting to impose cloture, to prevent Cruz from repeating his self-serving grandstand play of last year.

Basically, Sowell is saying that Cruz done wrong by 1) taking a stand against ObamaCare at some political risk to himself and Republicans, and 2) insisting that Republicans be accountable for their votes on the issue of whether to rein in our insane debt. Those things sound good to me, but Sowell has a reason (if a poor one, in my opinion) for complaining about them: we are putting at risk the re-election of Republicans to the Senate and White House.

But then, Sowell spends the second half of his column explaining why these Republicans don’t really deserve to be re-elected. He doesn’t put it in these terms, of course, but the attack on the GOP establishment is fairly pointed. It starts off with Sowell’s criticism of Republicans’ unwillingness to articulate their principles:

One of their most maddening qualities has for decades been their can’t-be-bothered attitude when it comes to explaining their positions to the American people in language people can understand. A classic example was Speaker of the House John Boehner’s performance when he emerged from a meeting at the White House a while back. There, with masses of television news cameras pointed at him, and a bank of microphones crowded together, he simply expressed his disgust at the Obama administration, turned and walked on away.

Here was a golden opportunity to cut through the Obama administration rhetoric and set the record straight on the issues at hand. But apparently Speaker Boehner couldn’t be bothered to have a prepared, and previously thought out, statement to present, conveying something more than his disgust.

Indeed. The opposite of walking away from the podium and failing to make an argument, by the way, is to stand up and make your argument in a very public way, designed to grip the public’s attention. Something like, oh, say . . . a filibuster. (Or, if you can’t achieve that, a staged quasi-filibuster that resembles the real thing closely enough for government work.) Something like what Ted Cruz did, Dr. Sowell, that you are blaming him for.

At the very end, almost as an afterthought, Sowell says that maybe the problem isn’t just messaging, but a lack of principle:

The Republican establishment has more than a tactical deficiency, however. They seem to have no principle that they offer or follow with any consistency. Their lack of articulation may be just a reflection of that lack of principle. It is hard to get to the point when you have no point to get to.

Ted Cruz filled a void. But the Republican establishment created the void.

Well, yeah. Isn’t that kind of the point?

Here’s the thing. Sowell’s strategy is to get us in control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, so we can pass a repeal of ObamaCare. But this is not going to be easy. Millions of Americans are being given subsidies as part of the ObamaCare travesty. Electing enough Republicans to control Congress and the White House is necessary to repeal ObamaCare, but it is not sufficient. We also need those Republicans to have spines. As I pointed out in my last post criticizing Sowell, we did not reform entitlement programs during the period when we controlled these two branches of government last decade. Why would it be different now??

If we have a GOP establishment that is too scared to stand up and make a speech about ObamaCare; if we have a GOP establishment that is too scared to either impose the debt ceiling or say why we shouldn’t . . . then we have a GOP establishment that is going to be too scared to repeal a program that gives Americans huge handouts.

I have been right there with Sowell in the past arguing that we have to face some practical realities to get Republicans elected. But my attitude has changed as I watched the re-election of this President, the implementation of this disastrous program, and the constant stream of lies, unconstitutional power-grabs, and thuggery against enemies that we have seen from this administration. At this point, Christine O’Donnell could fly into Washington D.C. on a broomstick and I would cheer her on as long as she voted reliably for my policies.

I’m surprised and a disheartened that Sowell is unwilling to champion Ted Cruz, one of the few people in politics who seems to be standing up for the principles Sowell has spent his professional life arguing for, simply because there might be some short-term political risk inherent in Cruz’s actions. Making a stand despite the politics is what we want in a leader. Holding politicians accountable for their votes is what we want in a leader. Standing up to Barack Obama’s oppressive policies is what we want in a leader.

I hope there is a “Cruz Control Part III” that expands on the end of Sowell’s column — the GOP establishment’s lack of principle — and comes around to the notion that we need people like Ted Cruz.


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