Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., would be more likable were it not for the fact they’re craven opportunists.
They don’t even try to hide it.
Both talk a big game about principles, and both fold at the first sign of a threat to their standing with their respective bases. For Cruz, there’s a lot of chest-thumping about the U.S. Constitution and individual liberties. For Gillibrand, there’s a great deal of boasting about championing women’s rights and protections for sexual abuse victims.
But when it comes right down to it, both senators would just as soon jettison their respective agendas if doing so meant boosting their personal brands, thus acquiring more power and influence.
It’s the sort of naked opportunism that has Gillibrand turning on her patrons, the Clintons, at the most politically advantageous moment. It's the sort of opportunism that has Cruz going from macho, principled paterfamilias to subservient lackey in the blink of an eye.
On the left side of the aisle, you have Gillibrand attacking then-GOP nominee Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention last year by saying, “[He] thinks that women should just work harder because … ‘You’re going to make the same if you do as good a job.’”
Yes, very bad for women indeed.
Gillibrand also warned in Nov. 2016 that then-Sen. Jeff Sessions' refusal to characterize President Trump’s infamous "Access Hollywood" tape comments as “sexual assault” rendered the Alabama Republican unfit to serve as attorney general.
Now, fast-forward several months, and Gillibrand is shrugging off questions about whether Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who stands accused of multiple acts of sexual misconduct, ought to resign from office.
“It’s his decision,” she told reporters Thursday. “I was the first Democrat to call for the investigation. I think having that process is important.”
One can't help but wonder where Gillibrand ranks groping and forcibly kissing on the unfit-for-office scale.
The New York senator says she cares about abuse victims, but she didn’t speak up about the women former President Bill Clinton preyed on until it was politically convenient. She says she cares about victims, and she’ll gladly attack Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexually assaulting at least two minors, but denouncing Franken is apparently a bridge too far.
Four women all with shocking stories. I believe them.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) November 10, 2017
On the other side of the aisle, you have Cruz, the Republican response to Gillibrand’s style of naked opportunism.
Take, for example, this shameful interview from Thursday where Cruz goes from scoffing at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., declaration that Moore’s sexual misconduct allegations make him an unwelcome figure in the Senate, to furrowing his brow and saying the allegations against Franken are very serious indeed:
FOX NEWS HOST TO @tedcruz: You cool working with alleged child molester Roy Moore if he's elected?
CRUZ: Sure, no problem, that's up to the voters.
FOX NEWS HOST: And what about alleged groper Al Franken?
CRUZ: Now that's a very serious problem. I'm extremely concerned. pic.twitter.com/1QzMq0Hud5— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 30, 2017
Cruz, ever the moral crusader, doesn't even bat an eye at the idea of serving with an accused predator, saying instead he’s excited to serve with Moore in the Senate. The Texas senator even shakes his head sadly at the idea that McConnell would try to block the Alabama candidate from being seated. But the allegations against Franken? Well, that's a different story. This is serious.
This nakedly partisan approach to accusations of sexual misconduct isn’t so much a moment of craven opportunism as it’s an embarrassingly obvious bit of politicking. Moore is red. Franken is blue.
The opportunism here is that Cruz, a self-professed lover of the Constitution, is excited to welcome a GOP candidate who has an extraordinarily tenuous (if not outright hostile) grasp of U.S. law.
If Cruz cared about defending personal liberties, he would not be as enthusiastic about welcoming to the United States Senate a man who was removed twice as Alabama’s chief justice for ignoring a federal judge's orders. A lover of liberty would be less thrilled about welcoming a candidate who supports religious tests for public servants. A true lover of liberty would find no joy in welcoming a man who would police bedrooms for double-plus-ungood sexual acts. All of this is to say that Cruz is not the patriot he claims to be.
For Cruz, the important thing isn't that Moore is a fellow lover of liberty, but that Moore has the backing of MAGA-land. As usual, all the Texas senator really cares about is breaking off a piece of that sweet, sweet populist action.
Honestly, when it comes right down to it, the only thing Cruz and Gillibrand really seem to care about is career advancement. Neither seems particularly interested in how they get it so long as they get it.
Congress is staffed from top to bottom with opportunists. It comes with the territory. But you'd be hard pressed to find two lawmakers who are as uniquely shameless about it as the senator from New York and the senator from Texas.