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What to do about Ted and Kenny?

You wouldn’t think it would be possible for Ted Cruz to become more loathesome, but if you think that you seriously underestimate him.

Not Ted Cruz

Two nights before the Electoral College certification in Congress, Ted Cruz was in vintage form.

The junior U.S. senator from Texas was calling in to a friendly conservative radio host — Mark Levin — and setting up Wednesday’s vote to be the kind of intraparty line in the sand that has powered his political rise.

By then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had made clear that he opposed objections to certifying Joe Biden’s election as the next president. But Cruz and 10 other GOP senators announced they would still object unless Congress agreed to an “emergency audit” of the presidential election results.

Cruz told Levin that there were some conservatives “who in good conscience” disagree with his view of Congress’ role in certifying the presidential election results, and that he had talked to them and did not fault them. On the other hand, Cruz said, there were “some Republicans who are not conservatives but who are piously and self-righteously preening” when it comes to the issue.

In spearheading the group of objectors, Cruz arguably upstaged U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, who announced his plan to object three days earlier — and, like Cruz, is considered a potential 2024 presidential contender.

But on Wednesday, what Cruz might have thought was a savvy political play took an alarming turn: Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed and ransacked the U.S. Capitol while lawmakers were considering Cruz’s objection. Three people suffered medical emergencies during the siege and died; their deaths were in addition to another woman who was shot by a Capitol police officer.

Cruz denounced the violence but incurred a fierce backlash from critics in both parties, who said his drive to question the election results — and appease the president and his supporters ahead of a possible 2024 run — helped fan the flames of anger among Trump supporters. Prominent Texas Democrats called for him to resign. Many others suggested he’d played an inciting role in one of the darkest days in modern American history.

Politically, it was a high-stakes distillation of GOP tactics in the era of Trump.

“His challenge of the Electoral College votes helps him among core Trump supporters but risks further damaging his political standing among rank-and-file Republicans like moderates and suburban swing voters who have traditionally formed a stable winning coalition for Republicans in Texas and nationally,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, who added, “Siding with Trump is risky.”

Few people can pull of smarm and condescension at such a high level, but Cruz makes it look easy. The political environment was very favorable to Democrats in 2018 in large part because of anger against Donald Trump – and, it would seem, his absence on the ballot – and that went even further in the Senate race, where Cruz and his extreme unlikability took it the extra mile. Maybe a better politician, or at least someone who more closely resembles a normal human being, could get that to simmer down over time, but Cruz never misses a beat. He’s cast his lot with the Trumper deplorables, and maybe that’s his best bet to get an edge in the 2024 GOP presidential primary. All I know is, the more people who are sick of his shit, the better. Whether he runs for President or Senate or both in 2024 (remember that legally, he can do that in Texas), I expect we’ll be able to drum up some enthusiasm against him.

Having said all that, I’m unfortunately quite ambivalent about any effort to get him expelled from the Senate. I’ve no doubt that plenty of his Republican colleagues in the Senate also despise him, but voting to boot him out, which will take a non-trivial number of Republicans to happen, is a heavy lift. Just the act of putting a partisan target on his back like that will force some of them to defend him, and that’s the last thing we want to do. Chuck Schumer takes over as Senate Majority Leader on January 22, two days into the Biden administration. There’s a ton of vital stuff that needs to happen right away, from COVID relief to voting rights and much more, and the last thing we’re going to need is a sideshow. And look, as much as I’d love to see Cruz get the heave-ho, even if it did happen Greg Abbott would get to appoint his replacement, who almost by definition will be able to work better with his Republican mates. Where’s the upside in that? Let him stay where he’s mostly going to be ineffective and might help keep his caucus divided.

Now, Ken Paxton, on the other hand…

Best mugshot ever

On Wednesday morning, Ken Paxton stood in front of a roaring crowd, reminding a sea of President Donald Trump’s supporters that the president “is a fighter” and his backers must be, too.

“We’re here. We will not quit fighting,” he said, slamming Republican officials in Georgia who have stood by President-elect Joe Biden’s victory there. “We are Texans, we are Americans, and we’re not quitting.”

But by the evening — after members of the crowd he had invited to Washington, D.C., stirred up with false claims about election fraud, resorted to violence, smashing windows and scaling walls to breach the nation’s Capitol in a mob that forced members of Congress to flee and left at least one woman dead — he had claimed they were not his ilk at all.

“These are not Trump supporters,” he falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook, citing incorrect reports that the pro-Trump mob that invaded the Capitol had been infiltrated by liberal antifa activists.

[…]

On Thursday, Grand Prairie state Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, called for an investigation into Paxton’s role in Wednesday’s riot, leaving the door open to curbing the power of his office, restricting its budget, even censure and impeachment.

“From filing a fraudulent lawsuit that fueled unhinged conspiracy theories about a free and fair election, to egging on the crowd of insurrectionists in Washington, D.C., Paxton has played a major role in creating the national crisis that culminated with the first breach of our nation’s capital since the War of 1812,” Turner said. “Even today, Paxton has used social media to spread lies about yesterday’s acts of violence and insurrection.”

In December, Paxton’s support for Trump took the form of a widely panned, and ultimately rejected, lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to toss the election results in four battleground states that had handed the White House to Joe Biden. The lawsuit leaned on discredited claims of election fraud in the battleground states.

Paxton finds himself in a precarious political position, even before Wednesday’s disastrous events. Since October, he has been embroiled in a scandal after eight of his top aides in the attorney general’s office told authorities they believed he was breaking the law by doing a series of favors for a political donor.

Texas Republicans — many of whom stayed quiet for the past five years as Paxton battled felony securities fraud charges — came forward to express their disapproval. Some fellow conservatives, including his former top aide U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, have called for his resignation. An FBI investigation into Paxton’s conduct is reportedly moving ahead full-throttle, and in the meantime, the fresh criminal allegations are poised to impose tens of millions of dollars in costs to his constituents: Texas taxpayers.

Paxton has been in hot water before, and often escaped it only to climb higher politically, galvanizing support from the Republican party’s right flank. He alienated some with a long shot run for Texas House speaker, then got elected to the state Senate. He has characterized long-running felony securities fraud charges as a political witch hunt, much as Trump did in Washington.

Still, Paxton may have fewer defenders now than ever before.

At a low point in his rollercoaster political career, Paxton is betting on the Trump base to bring him back up the hill, lending the legitimacy of office to debunked claims that have motivated violence.

Here, I think the calculus is a little different. Opposing Paxton’s need for need for millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees should be easy enough, and will provide a test as to whether his wings can get clipped a bit. I don’t expect much more than that, for the same reason I don’t expect even the biggest Cruz-hating Republicans in the Senate to support a motion to expel him, but we can certainly make him more toxic, and harder for his buddies to defend. Paxton had the second-worst showing in 2018, right behind Ted Cruz, and I think it’s fair to say that patience is a little thin for him. Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick and the rest have to consider the possibility that Paxton and his FBI investigation – even if Trump swoops in with a pardon – will be a burden on them in 2022. I’m sure they believe they’ll be re-elected anyway, but who needs the headache?

What they do about it is less clear. They could support a primary challenger – more likely, they’d just not get in a challenger’s way – or they could just avoid talking about Paxton as much as possible. Or they can just grit their teeth and stand by their man. I’m not listing the “quietly push him to not run for re-election” option, because I think it’s pretty clear that’s not going to work. So what we need to do is help keep the spotlight on our felonious and insurrectionist AG. There’s a petition to sign that calls for his resignation or impeachment, if you’re the petition-signing type. But mostly, just make sure everyone that you know also knows what a terrible person he is. We’re going to have to throw him out the old-fashioned way, so we’d better get to work on it.

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28 Comments

  1. Jules says:

    Charge them both with murder. It’s being reported that a police officer has died as a result of the Republican party riot at the Capitol.

  2. David Fagan says:

    Yes, force all Republicans to resign and crush the GOP, Democrats will have what they’ve always wanted and no one to blame anymore.

    Sheila Janson Lee has a reparations bill that she wants passed and lets see how the Democratic party reacts to that. A bill about Democrats’ constituency that got them in office. Will they support their constituency? Will they take their victories and run? Tune in February 1, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

  3. ken roberts says:

    Has Ken Paxton said that he’s running in 2022?

    If he runs, he’s certain to draw at least one well-known candidate in the Republican Primary. That opponent is likely to have far less baggage than Paxton, through sheer probability. Without any outside information, it seems someone like George P. Bush might challenge Paxton. Bush isn’t totally without baggage (e.g., The Alamo; Bush was a jerk to me in college), but it’s far less baggage than Mr. Paxton.

    I think Republicans realize that Paxton is very vulnerable in the general election in ways that other candidates wouldn’t be. 2022 is likely to be more favorable to statewide Republicans than 2018, but Paxton’s taken on much more damage in the interim. He probably would have lost in 2020 had the election been then.

  4. brad says:

    David,

    The GOP and its Duck Dynasty/Clown Car/Duke of Hazard leadership is crushing itself. No help needed.

  5. Flypusher says:

    Find a new shtick dude. The D majorities are narrow, and Joe Manchin is soon to be one of the most powerful members of the Senate. Biden will get his nominations approved, but there won’t be a total annihilation of the filibuster or any SCOTUS packing.

    Also how dishonest of you to equate punishing malfeasance with one party rule. Even if all the reps in the sedition caucus resigned or were expelled, pretty much all of them would be replaced by other Rs.

  6. Flypusher says:

    Depending on the challengers, I just might have to cross over to vote in the R primary next year just to primary the assholes like Paxton and Patrick. The downside is that the Ds are finally giving me choices in their primaries, and of course this puts me on R mailing lists. More birdcage liner I suppose.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    Jules,

    If you want to charge them, then there’s a long line of people BEFORE Trump that you’ll need to charge for the very same thing. She-Jack, Al Green, Maxine Waters, Pelosi, Shumer…..all of them and more have made incendiary comments that promoted the violence we saw play out from the very beginning, when your people tore up D.C. on inauguration day. Have we forgotten ‘Disrupt J-20?’ Have we forgotten all the cities burned and sacked by the BLM, including Houston? If you forgot, maybe go to the Verizon Store and Cafe Express downtown and ask the employees there about it.

    And look at Al and Sheila right now….they are STILL actively trying to incite violence with their inflammatory impeachment threat. Trump already put out his hostage video….he surrendered. He capitulated. It’s over. Yet Al, Sheila, and others want to KEEP ON stoking the violence, just for fun.

    So if you want arrests for inciting violence, I’m OK with that. As long as you make the arrests in the chronological order that they happened in. You good with that?

  8. David Fagan says:

    If the Republican party is the racist institution people claim it is, then shouldn’t the Republican National Committee be defunded as an institution that perpetuates it?

    Did this committee help fund the rally Trump was speaking at before all hell broke loose? Therefore they are funding the action and should not be allowed to function as a committee of a purported racist organization.

    Should Paypal consider not allowing transactions with the institution as a violation of its bylaws as it has with other organizations?

  9. Manny says:

    David, I know you have a computer and internet or you would not be posting, researching a little may help you make a case for whatever you are making a case for. I am not sure what point or points you are trying to push.

    The Republican Party is not funded by the government. Elections are funded by the government and an argument could be made that the parties should pay for the elections, especially primary elections.

    Even the KKK is allowed to exist as are all other organizations, that is one of the many things that makes America great.

    Even Trump toadies like Bill Daniels come here to espouse their racist filth. Wonder why you don’t see my name over on Big Jolly? They don’t like people that disagree with their point of view and don’t allow them to post. Bill can go over there say all kinds of things like he did yesterday.

    “What I saw was the people invoking their right to peaceably assemble and petition their government for the redress of grievances. A fraudulent election, banana republic style, is a legitimate beef, and the people have a right to demand that fraud be nullified and rectified.”

    That is what Bill saw yesterday, he is like the orange buffoon, racist to the core.

  10. Jules says:

    trump, cruz, and paxton incited the Republican party riot at the Capitol during which a police officer was murdered. They should be tried for capital murder, just as the driver of a getaway car would be at a bank robbery where a teller was murdered.

  11. voter_worker says:

    Any news yet on second thoughts from Sen. Cruz’s major financial backers? Sen. Hawley’s apparently are having revelatory epiphanies, and Simon & Shuster cancelled his book deal. And off-topic, Dominion has filed suit for defamation against Sidney Powell for $1.3 billion.

  12. Flypusher says:

    I’d mock him for the false claims of his 1A rights being infringed, but the dude went to Yale Law and clerked in the SCOTUS. He knows. This is just more koolaide for the gullible to swallow.

  13. C.L. says:

    Go Dominion !!! About time bullshit libel and slander is prosecuted. How quick do you think Boeing or GE or General Motors would sue if there were folks on TV purposefully telling everyone their products were somehow unsafe or fraudulent ?

    I hope S. Powell and R. Giuliani have a good lawyer.

  14. Flypusher says:

    I hope S. Powell and R. Giuliani opt to defend themselves.

  15. Jules says:

    CL, Fly, I hope they defend each other

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    Boeing didn’t sue anyone who complained about them after a couple of their 737-Max jets fell out of the sky. Truth is the ultimate defense from charges of libel and slander.

    And I don’t remember, did The General sue Ralph Nader after he wrote his book that pretty much sunk the Corvair? I mean, maybe they did. I really don’t remember.

  17. Flypusher says:

    Dominion is willing to state their accusations in front of a judge. Powell and Giuliani weren’t.

  18. C.L. says:

    Fly… SNAP.

  19. Flypusher says:

    Because we could all use a laugh, here is Randy Rainbow’s latest work (NSFW due to some salty language):

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wT5kafhG3Qw

  20. Manny says:

    Bill evidence is starting to emerge that the take over was pre planned and that the goal was to take hostages. The goal at least was to delay certification.

    You are part of an insurgency to take over the country, very similar to Maduro but not as incompetent as Trump and his troop of idiots.

  21. Lobo says:

    RE: “Boeing didn’t sue anyone who complained about them after a couple of their 737-Max jets fell out of the sky.”

    Bill: Not sure what your point is about this.

    The big legal action news concerning Boeing is this:

    Department of Justice
    Office of Public Affairs
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Thursday, January 7, 2021

    Boeing Charged with 737 Max Fraud Conspiracy and Agrees to Pay over $2.5 Billion

    The Boeing Company (Boeing) has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal charge related to a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with the FAA AEG’s evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane.

    Read the remainder here:

    https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/boeing-charged-737-max-fraud-conspiracy-and-agrees-pay-over-25-billion

    It’s one of those other news items that’s getting short shrift, along with the record 3,800+ daily deads from the coronavirus.

    As for Paxton, keep in mind that he has the Texas Supreme Court in his pocket, to put it colloquially, and that much damage has already been done by way judicial ratification of Ken Paxton blueprint jurisprudence. All that needs to be done in future cases is to invoke the hallowed doctrine of stare decisis (in the High Court) and binding SCOTX precedent (in the inferior courts). A lasting legacy of governmental entity jurisprudence no matter whether Paxton will fade from the scene or not.

    The overarching jurisprudential philosophy on the SCOTX might be called Judicial Statism. Major tenet: the State is entitled to win because the State is the State.

    Think of the GOP-Supremes as having institutional loyalty to the AG’s Office, rather than to Paxton as an individuals, because the AG’s Office is critical of keep the GOP-controlled State and its officials immunized, and critical to prevent courts from holding them accountable, and constraining their powers. They do so with doctrines such as governmental immunity, absolute immunity, official immunity, elevation of the interests of the State to trump the interest of individuals and local governments, and statutory construction rulings that gut protections and remedies provided to Texans by Texas Tort Claims Act and the Whistleblower Act. Paxton’s army of lawyers work up the cases for them and, as we saw in 2020, bring cases of their own to subdue local officials and prevent them for serving their respective metropolitan constituencies.

    Ted Cruz has a patronage appointment waiting from him to the Texas Supreme Court, should he get tired of being Senator, or be kicked out. Perhaps he will eventually shine bright as Chief Justice of the Second Republic of Texas, what with the secession rumblings and the forthcoming war of words (and more) with the Democrat-led federal government.

  22. Jules says:

    Lobo, Texas Supreme Court Justices are elected, not appointed.

  23. Lobo says:

    BENCH POLITICS IN TEXAS

    Jules: Thank you for bringing it up … that SCOTX members are elected.

    De facto, however, we have a hybrid judicial selection system in Texas, in which partisan gubernatorial appointments play a critical role.

    Currently, 8 of 9 Texas Supreme Court Justices were initially appointed by Rick Perry or Greg Abbott. The exception is John Devine, who defeated incumbent David Medina in the GOP primary with Tea Party support in 2012 (in a run-off). That’s why he is not beholden to Governor Abbott like his peers, and predictably dissents in favor of serial litigant Dr. Steven Hotze et ilk. So, the rift in the GOP is reflected on the Court. The other side of the political/judicial-philosophy spectrum, however, is not represented at all. And that’s a critical problem that the Commission of Judicial Selection ignored. Such ideological monoculture facilitates judicial overreach and partisan jurisprudence.

    TACTICAL STEP-DOWNS AND MOVE-UPS

    Vacancies that give the GOP Governor the opportunity to appoint a successor are created by GOP incumbents resigning before their term is completed (most recently, Justices Green and Phil Johnson). That’s also how Nathan Hecht became Chief Justice. Jefferson resigned to make more money advocating for private interests from the other side of the courtroom, and Hecht was then elevated to Chief, and a second vacancy was created by Hecht’s promotion. Call it the game of musical benches, if you will. It previously involved appointing court-of-appeals justices to the supreme court, thus creating second vacancies on the intermediate court.

    In the 2018 elections, however, numerous GOP incumbents were defeated, and Abbott then appointed some of the justices that had been rejected by the voters to vacancies. For former Houston COA justices Bland and Busby, that involved a promotion to the highest court. For Abbott appointee Jeff Alley in El Paso most recently, it involved immediately returning to the same court (the 8th Court of Appeals), from which the voters had just ousted him. https://ballotpedia.org/Jeff_Alley

    So much for election of judges in Texas. The Governor has the ability countermand the will of the voters.

    TO BE WANTED SOON: NEW CHIEF JUSTICE

    Chief Hecht has just been re-elected for a six-year term, which he likely won’t serve out because he will reach mandatory retirement (although, maybe, some sort of tolling or skipping doctrine can be discovered or devised to shave off a few years for purposes of maintaining eligibility).

    A vacancy for Position 1 (Chief) can thus be anticipated, and the Governor will have the privilege to fill it with a properly screened candidates.

    That Ted Cruz will be tapped for Chief Justice is only speculation at this point, of course, but it’s hardly out of the question. If a sitting associate justice is promoted to Chief — say Justice Eva Guzman, for example — this will create another opportunity for the Governor to make a partisan appointment to fill her current associate-justice slot. That would be a countervailing consideration.

  24. Jules says:

    Lobo, I had forgotten about their little trick of resigning at a certain time so Abbott could make appointments.

    I sincerely hope that Ted Cruz is done for politically. His attempt to steal the election will not be forgotten, no matter how weasly he tries to weasel his way out.

  25. mollusk says:

    Jules, unfortunately there’s a significant slice of the electorate that not only appreciates but venerates weasels. (apologies to all the respectable actual furry quadropods)

  26. […] the meantime, we know he’s not going to resign or be expelled, but we can enjoy the clamor for those things to […]

  27. […] the Kuff points to Ted Cruz and Ken Paxton as the top two priorities for those who value democracy in […]