Ted Cruz Played Politics With the Shutdown and Lost. Now He’s Feigning Innocence.

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Jan. 27 2014 8:26 AM

Ted Cruz’s Shutdown Revisionism

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, addresses a conservative audience on Oct. 11, 2013, two days after presenting his shutdown strategy poll to other Republican senators.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Yesterday on Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer asked Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, “Would you ever conceive of threatening to shut down the government again?” Cruz replied that Schieffer had his facts wrong:

Cruz: I didn't threaten to shut down the government the last time. I don't think we should ever shut down the government. I repeatedly voted to fund the federal government.
Schieffer: Senator, if you didn't threaten the shut down the government, who was it that did? ...
Cruz: It was Harry Reid and President Obama. … The reason we had a shutdown—Look, the Democrats were very candid. I know they told you, they said, “We think the shutdown benefits us politically.” Right now the Democrats are telling you that they want another shutdown, because they think it benefits them politically. Why is it hard to understand that they forced the shutdown, when they think it benefits them politically?”
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That’s a rational argument. The politicians who saw the shutdown as politically advantageous were the ones who caused it. So says Ted Cruz.

But what was Cruz saying during the shutdown? Here’s what he told Republican senators on Oct. 9, 2013, according to David Drucker’s astute reporting in the Washington Examiner:

Sen. Ted Cruz during a closed-door lunch on Wednesday argued to his Republican colleagues that the campaign he led to defund Obamacare has bolstered the GOP’s political position in dealing with the government shutdown.
Republicans who attended the weekly lunch hosted by Senate conservatives confirmed that Cruz presented a poll that the Texan paid for. Cruz’ pollster, Chris Perkins, was there for a portion of the discussion to help walk members through the poll and discuss the party's messaging strategy.

Drucker’s report illustrates the truth about the shutdown: Politicians on both sides—Obama, Reid, and dozens of Tea Party Republicans in the House and Senate, led by Cruz—thought the fiscal standoff over Obamacare would benefit their party. That’s why the standoff happened.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

When Cruz advises you to blame the politicians who thought they would benefit, that’s generally sound advice. What he neglects to mention is that he was among them. In fact, he was the leader on the Republican side. As Charles Krauthammer patiently explained at the time, Cruz was disastrously wrong about the political fallout.

Now Cruz is recasting his ineptitude as innocence. He’s asking you to believe that because the shutdown hurt Republicans politically, he never wanted it. He wants you to follow his logic instead of researching what he actually did. Logic is useful, but it’s not enough. Always check the record.