From Texas on the Potomac:
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) called on Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz to apologize Friday for a joke Cruz made about retired senator Bob Dole of Kansas at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.
“All of us remember President Dole, and President McCain and President Romney,” Cruz said. “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.”
…In an interview Friday morning with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC, McCain, a close friend of the 90-year-old Dole, criticized Cruz, saying that any joke about an injured veteran not having principle was in poor taste and that he needs to issue an apology.
Well now. John McCain bitching about Ted Cruz on MSNBC. If that’s not the perfect snapshot of how deep the rot has penetrated the Republican establishment, I don’t know what is. I am certain Cruz respects Dole’s service to his country just as much as anyone else. But just as McCain’s service doesn’t exempt him from criticism, neither should Dole’s service exempt him. One wonders if McCain would have said Cruz should have had to apologize to the family of Richard Nixon had Cruz worked him into his speech somehow. After all, not only was Nixon a World War II veteran as well, but he’s dead.
I share the sentiments expressed in this piece from Jonathan Tobin in Commentary magazine from last year:
To say that Dole passed his best-used date is not to mock him for his age or infirmity. The fact that he is wheelchair-bound and losing his sight should grieve us all. He is the exemplar of the “greatest generation” veteran who nearly died as a result of his wounds and then spent nearly four decades in public life in the postwar era. He deserves every possible honor that his country can give him. But let’s get real. Dole was also an apt symbol of the failures of the self-proclaimed Eisenhower Republicans in Congress. His 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. As much as the abrasiveness of Ted Cruz makes many of us long for the more easygoing style of partisanship Dole practiced, there was a reason the GOP abandoned it: it didn’t work….
Dole may still resent Newt Gingrich’s calling him the “tax collector for the welfare state” but the reason why that phrase stuck is that his generation of Republican leaders accepted the premise that their purpose was to work within the existing political structure rather than trying to tear it down and rebuild it. Dole was not the RINO some on the right thought and was, in his own way, as tart a partisan wag as any of his successors in the GOP caucus. But he also represented a spirit of accommodation that went beyond the schmoozing needed to pass legislation when both parties could agree. If the Republican Party moved in a different direction in the early 90’s with Gingrich’s Republican revolution and then later with the Tea Party that rejected the free-spending GOP of the George W. Bush era, it was because there are times when parties need people who will offer a genuine alternative rather than a willingness to compromise principles.