New York Times' Sneak Attack on Senate GOP: Become 'Senatorial' Via Big Spending

May 9th, 2016 9:29 PM

New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer issued a subtle sneak attack on conservative senators in her “Congressional Memo” Monday, which was pinned to Ted Cruz returning to the Senate after dropping out of the Republican presidential race: “Crossroads for Cruz As He Returns To the Senate.” Republicans can become “thoughtful” and “senatorial” in Steinhauer’s eyes by calling for government spending or gun control.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is expected to return to the Capitol this week, the last of four Republican senators battered and beaten by Donald J. Trump to trudge back to the world of meetings over cafeteria cod and roll call votes to name the national mammal.


But outside the noise and theatrics of the campaign, Mr. Cruz also finds himself at a potential turning point in his Senate career, both as a returning failed presidential candidate and as an unpopular firebrand who has been most comfortable as a thorn, rather than partner, to other Republicans.

The Senate has a rich history of members whose run for president failed but who came back to effective legislative careers.

All of Steinhauer’s heroic examples of modern-day returning senators trended leftward.

From Henry Clay, who ran for president three times in the 1800s, to Hubert Humphrey, who narrowly lost to Richard Nixon in 1968, to Edward M. Kennedy, one of the greatest bipartisan lawmakers of all time, to John McCain, who was defeated by Barack Obama in 2008 and is now an effective chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also-rans can find their Senate home a great refuge.


At the same time, even lawmakers who wore their antagonism of leaders with honor can evolve into statesmen in the Senate. This was the case with Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania -- now best known for his bipartisan efforts at a gun safety law -- and Mr. Flake, who used to irritate House leaders and is now considered one of the most thoughtful members of the Senate.

Sneaky Steinhauer didn’t mention exactly how Sen. Flake evolved from being an “irritating” House member to a “most thoughtful” senator, but it probably has something to do with Flake being part of the failed Gang of 8 senators pushing immigration reform in 2013, and for his advocacy on another liberal-leaning issue: Normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.

Steinhauer is a fan of moderate Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Cruz- and Trump-bashing exxtraordinaire, while conservative Sen. Marco Rubio became suddenly “more senatorial” by calling for more money to be spent on something.

Mr. Graham returned to the Senate being, well, Lindsey Graham. He quips, he votes, he goes on television and is funny. “Eating a taco is probably not going to fix the problems that we have with Hispanics,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash last week, referring to Mr. Trump’s photo on Twitter of himself with a taco bowl. “I think embracing Donald Trump is embracing demographic death.”

Mr. Rubio has become more senatorial in a classic sense than he had been in the last two years, going to the floor of the Senate to fight for money to combat the Zika virus, and traveling to the Middle East.

Not so for the most libertarian among the Republican senators who ran and failed in 2016, according to Steinhauer.

Mr. Paul’s return has been decidedly different. He has mostly just walked around looking miserable.

Last October, Steinhauer co-wrote about the chaos around electing a Republican leader that was chock full of hostile labeling.

But it also represents another victory for the clutch of unyielding hard-line conservatives who toppled the ambitions of yet another member of the party leadership....[former House Speaker John Boehner] who said last month that he would leave at the end of October after more than four years of relentless needling from his right flank....A group of about 40 hard-right House conservatives announced on Wednesday night that they would support [Rep. Daniel] Webster....”