I posted a bit earlier on the panic the GOP Establishment finds itself in over the rise of Donald Trump and his apparent immunity from traditional laws of political behavior and consequences. They are becoming just as panicked about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Now a Super Pac run by a major Rubio supporter is attacking Ted Cruz for his vote to rein in the data collection efforts by the NSA.
Some conservatives have wondered whether Ted Cruz’s support for the USA Freedom Act, which curtailed the National Security Agency’s ability to collect metadata from phone records in bulk, would eventually prove a weakness among a Republican electorate that is fundamentally hawkish.
Now, a little over a week after ISIS gunmen murdered hundreds of civilians on the streets of Paris and pushed terrorism to the top of voters’ minds, a conservative group is set to air ads that will hit Cruz for his support of the Freedom Act. American Encore, a group founded by Sean Noble, a former Koch brothers’ operative, is paying for the ad, which go up in the Des Moines, Iowa, market Tuesday morning on broadcast and cable. According to Noble, American Encore is putting about $200,000 behind the 30-second spot, which will air over the next two weeks.
The ad, which features scenes from Paris in the wake of the recent massacre, accuses Cruz of voting to “weaken America’s ability to identify and hunt down terrorists” and of supporting a bill that “was crafted to hobble the gathering of intelligence.”
This issue goes back to Cruz joining 66 other senators in voting for the USA Freedom Act which limited the ability of federal agencies to bulk collect phone records.
At a forum last Monday in Washington, Rubio singled out Cruz for voting to “weaken” intelligence efforts when he joined 66 other senators to approve the USA Freedom Act, which banned the bulk collection of data on Americans’ phone records, among other things. Rubio was among 32 senators who opposed final passage of the bill.
Noble, a former operative in the Koch brothers‘ network who personally supports Rubio, said Cruz’s vote amounted to political posturing for a presidential race that was expected to look a lot different then than it does now.
“At the time, it’s clear that he viewed Rand Paul as his main competition for that wing of the party,” Noble said, referring to Cruz’s libertarian-leaning colleague in the Senate. “And then [billionaire Donald] Trump and [retired neurosurgeon Ben] Carson showed up and threw that completely into the mix, and so obviously after Paris, everyone wants to take the hardline.”
“He can’t talk like Reagan and vote with Obama,” Noble added of Cruz. “We need a consistent leader, and American Encore’s tradition has been first and foremost, we need to prepare America for the future to have the encore, and national security is the No. 1 issue on that.”
What do we know about Noble and his group? Not much and what we do know is seedy:
The group, previously known as the Center to Protect Patient Rights, is headed by Sean Noble, a former major player in the Koch political universe. Noble was reportedly ejected from the Koch network after a poor electoral showing in 2012 and an involvement in funneling $11 million through his organization into a California ballot initiative campaign that led to a high-profile investigation. There were also concerns that he was diverting large sums to his consulting firm to greatly enrich himself.
Noble’s line, and the angle of the video, pretty much parrot the criticism Rubio made last week:
Marco Rubio attacked Ted Cruz as a supporter of laws that will “weaken” national intelligence programs, linking Cruz’s support for surveillance reforms to the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
In painting Cruz as weak on national security, Rubio moved to associate his rival with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the Kentucky Republican who is wary of military intervention overseas. Rubio voted with the party’s hawkish wing this spring, led by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R-Ky.), to preserve existing National Security Agency surveillance authorities that many Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans believed were too broad.
Cruz supported legislation that ended bulk data collection programs, breaking with Rubio to side with libertarian-leaning Republicans and Senate Democrats.
“At least two of my colleagues in the Senate aspiring to the presidency, Senator Cruz in particular, have voted to weaken the U.S. intelligence programs,” Rubio said at a Wall Street Journal forum. “And the weakening of our intelligence gathering capabilities leaves America vulnerable. And that is exactly what’s happened.” The other Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was referring to is Paul.
This, of course, is a ridiculous attack and looks a lot like attacking Trump for the model of car he owns. Highlighting your own support for mindless and haphazard surveillance of Americans is not a big selling point with conservatives.
Cruz, unlike Trump, is the Establishment Republicans’s worst nightmare. We’ve seen from Trump’s actions in business that he understands how the game is played. He understands the power of government to assist business and probably, truth be told, thinks that is one of its primary objectives. He understands the Ex-Im Bank and big finance an bail-outs and would probably be a candidate the US Chamber of Commerce and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would come to love. Yes, he’d keep his base entertained with theater but business, real business, would get done. Ted Cruz has shown during his time on the Federal Trade Commission (this is a must read, btw) and Texas Solicitor General that he understands conservative policy and that he acts, aggressively, to implement it.
Attacking Cruz for pulling in the NSA might be a winner in some circles. Voting in a super-minority led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) might look like courage on K Street. But to most people you are saying you have kicked conservatives to the curb and are currying Establishment support.