No, Gov. Brownback, Cruz didn't violate Reagan's 11th commandment

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is the latest Republican to twist Ronald Reagan's "Eleventh Commandment" to suit his purposes by falsely accusing Sen. Ted Cruz of violating it.

According to Brownback, the junior senator from Texas is a big meanie for pointing out the objective fact that Bob Dole's namby-pamby 1996 bid for the presidency was disastrous.  The congenitally outraged Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) agrees with Brownback and is demanding that Cruz apologize.

But what did Cruz actually say to ignite such passions?

“You want to lose elections?  Stand for nothing,” Cruz said last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. 

Look at the last four congressional elections – '06, '08, '10, '12. In three of the four, we followed that strategy: '06, '08, and '12.  We put our head down, we stood for nothing, and we got walloped.  The one election that was a tremendous election was 2010, when Republicans drew a line in the sand.  We said, unequivocally, we stand against ObamaCare, against bankrupting the country, and we won in an historic tidal wave of an election.

But what Cruz said next angered Brownback, himself a former U.S. senator.

And then, of course, all of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney.  Now look: those are good men.  They’re decent men, but when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.

“I don’t appreciate it,” Brownback told Fox News.  “I understand why people do that, but Bob Dole is a great American.  You can disagree with him on policy, but he’s the iconic figure of the World War II generation.  He’s a wonderful man.  He led the Senate for a good period of time.”

In fact, Cruz expressly disagreed with Dole on policy alone and praised him, calling him a "decent" man.  Cruz didn't get personal.  A media-savvy politician, he deliberately sugar-coated his criticism of Dole.

Cruz failed to make the point that no one has ever accused Dole of being principled.

Of course, Republican relics like Dole and the rest of the RINO chorus are a big part of the problem, because they haven't even tried to take on big government.  They share at least some of the blame with Barack Obama and leftist Democrats for America's ongoing decline.

But Cruz didn't say any of this.  He took the high road, unlike his many detractors in the Republican Party.

When Brownback was asked whether his party should be nominating moderates or conservatives, he said, “I think you’ve got to wait and see what the landscape actually says at that point in time.”

“But, my point is, the Reagan point is, you just don’t speak poorly of fellow Republicans.  You know, and Reagan was always a very inclusive person and he had a lot of moderates in the party,” Brownback said.

In fact, Ronald Reagan never said "don't speak poorly of fellow Republicans," as I wrote in this space last month.  Reagan's "Eleventh Commandment" doesn't require Republicans to refrain from a substance-based critique of fellow Republicans.

Ronald "I paid for this microphone!" Reagan would never have demanded that conservatives hold off on policy-centered criticisms.  He was a master raconteur, a street fighter, and a shrewd tactician.

"The commandment never meant that one Republican could not criticize the policies or philosophies of another Republican," according to Reagan biographer Craig Shirley.  "It meant only that one could or should not engage in personal attacks on another Republican."

The so-called commandment originated with Gaylord Parkinson, chairman of California's Republican Party, according to Shirley.

After the nasty 1964 presidential primary contest in California between Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Parkinson tried to put the pieces of the damaged state party apparatus back together.

During the California gubernatorial primary in 1966, Reagan's rivals in the GOP savaged him, calling him “temperamentally and emotionally upset."  They suggested that Reagan's switch from Democrat to Republican “might indicate instability.”  Reagan turned the other cheek.

Reagan acknowledged that his embrace of Parkinson's code was based on the "personal attacks" leveled at him in that governor's race.

"But it did not mean he would not criticize fellow Republicans over ideology and philosophy," Shirley said.  "Indeed, most of Reagan’s political career was marked by challenging the reigning Republican orthodoxy."

As for Dole, he deserves to be criticized – aggressively and exhaustively.

Newt Gingrich called Dole the “tax collector for the welfare state” for good reason.  While in the U.S. Senate, Dole gave lip service to conservative values, but in practice he embraced big government, just as George W. Bush and Mitt Romney did in office. 

After praising Dole for his military service and public career, Jonathan S. Tobin wrote at Commentary that the former Senate majority leader's "get-along-to-go-along style in which compromise always seemed to be the keynote was never going to fix the out-of-control growth of the federal government[;] it just managed it."  Dole "represented a spirit of accommodation that went beyond the schmoozing needed to pass legislation when both parties could agree."

Dole is so accustomed to, so eerily comfortable with hoisting the white flag that he can't handle it when Republicans actually manage to act like Republicans every once in a while.

He hurt his own party and bolstered the left's fantasy-based narrative last year when he foolishly regurgitated Democratic Party talking points.

Like a garden-variety liberal talking head, Dole complained that nowadays the GOP should be “closed for repairs ... It seems almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget or legislation."

When Dole vented last May, he left out the fact that even before the partial government shutdown in October, congressional Republicans had caved many times to Obama and the Democrats and cut (awful) deals.  Since October, the Republicans have squandered any leverage they had by giving up on various items like the sequester and abandoning the fight over the debt limit.

And to make matters worse, the death cult that is the Republican leadership is still angling to ram an immigration amnesty through Congress, which would be an extinction-level event for the Grand Old Party.

There is only one reason why Congress has failed for several years running to adopt a budgetary blueprint: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).  Democrats don't want to approve a budget because doing so might lead to dreaded fiscal discipline.  Democrats believe, probably with some justification, that a budget would limit them later when Congress got around to considering appropriations bills.  Democrats much prefer using all-or-nothing continuing resolutions and omnibus appropriations legislation instead of doing the job taxpayers pay them to do by going through the regular appropriations process.

When the TV interviewer asked Dole whether he would be welcomed by the Republican Party today, he replied, “I doubt it.  Reagan wouldn’t have made it, certainly Nixon wouldn’t have made it, because he had ideas.  We might have made it, but I doubt it.”

Dole is dead wrong.  He would be perfectly at home on the Hill today. 

The Senate's RINO minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House RINO chief John Boehner (R-Ohio) would welcome the impuissant consumer-product pitchman back with open arms.  They want the taxpayer-funded goodies to keep flowing and have made their visceral hatred of real conservatives clear.

Dole-style squishiness on the issues that matter is applauded every day by GOP leadership on Capitol Hill and by Karl Rove and his acolytes.

It's not a violation of Reagan's Eleventh Commandment to point this out, either.

Matthew Vadum (website) is an investigative journalist in Washington, D.C. and author of the ACORN/Obama exposé Subversion Inc.  Follow him on Twitter.

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