In just a few days of governing by hashtag, Ted Cruz has gone from asking for a government shutdown to protesting one now that it's happened and people think it's dumb. Last week, the Texas senator wanted to #MakeDCListen by shutting down the government unless Democrats agreed to defund Obamacare. On Wednesday, he wanted Congress to #LetTheVetsIn — as in, open the World War II memorial so veterans could visit. The memorial, like other national parks, was closed by the shutdown.
If you've forgotten, Republican leaders were initially opposed to shutting down the government. House Speaker John Boehner spoke out against it. But Cruz and other conservatives campaigned for the strategy. In a speech September 19, Cruz said the last shutdown had a pretty a good outcome: "If House Republicans hadn't stood up in 1995, we wouldn't have seen those kind of public policy results that benefit the country," Cruz said. "Because Republicans stood their ground."
Boehner eventually capitulated by adding an amendment defunding Obamacare to the government-funding resolution. Because Senate Democrats would simply vote to remove the amendment, Cruz then had to filibuster the defunding bill. On September 26, Cruz tweeted, "This debate's in your hands. #MakeDCListen and vote against cloture & to #DefundObamacare." Voting against cloture — if he could have sustained a filibuster — would have prevented the Senate from passing the bill and eventually caused a shutdown. (Instead, the Senate stripped out the amendment and sent the resolution back to the House.) As Republicans were increasingly criticized for threatening a shutdown over Obamacare, Cruz shifted slightly: "The American people don't want Obamacare or a govt shut down. The House listened. Will the Senate? #MakeDCListen," he tweeted September 29. Get that? Republicans would be forced to shutdown the government unless Democrats defunded Obamacare.
The Senate refused to defund Obamacare, and the House refused to pass a continuing resolution without anti-Obamacare amendments. So the government shut down. And now all this dumb stuff is happening because of it — the National Institutes of Health is turning away kids with cancer from clinical trials, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he couldn't "guarantee" America's safety during the shutdown.
And, of course, there's the shutdown side effect that's getting the most attention: World War II veterans were blocked from going to the war memorials on the national mall. Their outrage went viral, and on Wednesday, after many protests, the National Park Service decided to let the veterans into the World War II memorial. Cruz and his aides seized on the issue. His speechwriter Amanda Carpenter retweeted @LettheVetsIn saying, "Spokesman for @nps says they were told to barricade the #WWIIMemorial by the White House OMB. #LetTheVetsIn." Cruz issued a press release slamming an outcome of the shutdown he campaigned for . "President Obama is so fixated on forcing Obamacare on the American people that he’s even willing to deny World War II veterans the right to access the memorial they have earned through their heroic service," Cruz said. "President Obama is so set on imposing his destructive, far-left ideology that his government is literally barricading World War II veterans out of their memorial and blocking funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs." He insisted Obama sign the mini-CRs that would keep noncontroversial parts of the government open, like parks and Washington, D.C.
Despite Cruz's efforts, this #messaging hasn't reached the people who need to hear it the most: the veterans. NBC News' Ali Weinberg tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, "On the National Mall earlier today, one fed-up Korea veteran asked, 'What's this Cruz guy doing? What's wrong with him?'"
Update: On late Wednesday afternoon, Cruz tweeted:
(Photos via Twitter, Associated Press.)