Martin Bashir | January 31, 2013
>> all right. let's get right to it. we're joined now by " washington post " political columnist dana milbank , professor james peterson of lehigh university , and msnbc contractor jimmy williams . dana , i'm going to start with you. we saw freshman senator ted cruz of texas making a big push in the spotlight. this time going after chuck hagel . he was one of three senators who streeted against john kerry 's appointment of secretary of state. he seems to be staking out a specific territory for himself, sort of more on the right. but when you wrote about senator cruz during the election, you said that you were, quote, comforted by the theory that cruz is driven more by ambition than by tea party doctrine. so does that theory still give you comfort?
>> it does, karen. i mean, i can't say that what he's doing right now is reassuring for people who are seeking some sort of moderate and reasonable behavior. now, he voted against kerry most likely like his fellow texas senator john cornyn to appease the big donors down there in texas who have it in for john kerry . he's definitely been a real hotdog since he's arrived in the senate wanting to stir things up as much as possible. he's very careful though. so if he sees the winds beginning to blow another way from what we've seen in the past and i have known him for -- since a dozen years ago when he was a junior staffer on the bush campaign , what we know is that he'll go in that direction. and it seems that the tea party is receding a bit and you can bet that ted cruz will catch that wave.
>> just as a follow-up to that, dana , in "the washington post " today there was an interesting story about the sort of fine line that cruz is actually trying to walk in terms of on the one hand the tea party but on the other hand sort of taking a vice chair position with the national republican senatorial campaign committee, which we know jim demint refused to do. so he seems like he's trying to play it very carefully here.
>> it's huge ambition, and the idea of embracing the tea party , look, this guy is not a fire breather . he's from the ivy league , from harvard law school . there's not a lot of evidence of outrageous political views in his past. he's doing it because that's where the power is in the party right now. and as soon as people start to realize that the power is shifting elsewhere, ted cruz will tone it down as well. the fact of the matter is if you want to be a success in today's republican party , you are still far more worried about primary challenges on the right than you are about cooperating with democrats or passing legislation. that's just the political reality that he's living with as opposed to what is genuinely ideology for him.
>> jimmy, two other republicans who actually voted against the kerry nomination, james inhofe of oklahoma and cruz 's fellow texan john cornyn and " roll call " reports senator cornyn could be facing a primary opponent next year. kind of to the point dana is making, do you think he actually cast that vote against john kerry to stay closer to ted cruz and avoid a tea party challenger?
>> i think that certainly was part of his thinking. if he didn't, then what an ironic kind of vote it would have been. cornyn is doing exactly what cornyn should do for the state of texas , for his primary. which is to move to the far right as dana just said. the problem with that is that i'm not sure how far right you must go on the republican side these days to not get primaried. let's take, for example, utah senator bob bennett . remember him? you couldn't get much more conservative than bob bennett , yet he was primaried in the state of utah . not a liberal bastion. and so i guess these days the tea party -- i have always said this and you heard me say this before, both sides have their fringes. the far left and the far right. it seems to me if you're looking at the opposite end of the magnet, the far right has a far harder or far stronger pull on their party than the far left does. and that's why i think you're seeing cornyn and others do what they're doing today and will continue to do until barack obama is not president.
>> so professor, speaking of another tea party darling, sarah palin actually campaigned to get tet cruz elected to the senate, and his star seems to have eclipsed hers. and unlike palin, ted cruz is i think known as someone who has some intellectual heft. he was william rehnquist 's first hispanic clerk, he went to harvard law school like our president and alan dershowitz who said that cruz was off the charts brilliant. is he going to be the next hot shot of the tea party with a little bit -- with an extra dash of smarts?
>> well, it's interesting. he's been referred to as the republican barack obama . i don't know about that particular analogy, but clearly his bona fides as a political thinker were established in the ivy league and he seems to be, at least according to dana 's chronically of his career, very, very shrewd. i would say in addition to him being an operator, he is also an identify l ideologue. i think he's going to have to smarten up a little biabout the direction the tea party is going to continue to go in terms of its vise grip control over the republican party because i'm not sure that can hold through immigration reform , through the series of different financial fiscal debt talks that have to occur. i think he will be smart in what he does. he has eclipsed palin. he's an ideologue in such a way that his charisma is not sort of dwarfed by that. his charisma shines through even though he has a right wing ideolo ideology. very complicated and interesting character and obviously we're going to be seeing a lot more of him.
>> as you mention, i do think he presents himself with -- you can tell he's got sort of a slightly different background than some of the others in terms of sort of what he's done and where he's been. now, you mentioned your column visiting the bush campaign back in austin in 2000 when you met ted cruz for the first time and he was working there. as a long time -- let's call you a student of this man, where do you see his career taking him? is he the new leader of the republican party ?
>> well, no, i'm not necessarily sure that's what he's doing. he's just been elected, so he's got six years to play with here, and, look, he wants to see what direction things are headed in. i think what his main goal right now is to get noticed, get his name out there. that's why you see him putting on a little video show at the chuck hagel hearing today. that's why you saw him having a chart of all these a scary looking guns in front of wayne lapierre yesterday. he's being a hotdog and a show boat to get his name out there. i don't see him having quite the charisma of say a marco rubio who got here first and has the support of many of the same type of people. so i don't think he's necessarily first in line. he's not a 2016 candidate, but he's a very savvy guy who is going to figure out what it takes to keep his job and get ahead.
>> jimmy, ted cruz isn't the only rising star on the right. you have got now virginia attorney general and perhaps the future kuch cuccinelli . he has a book coming out. he reportedly said, quote, sometimes bad politicians set out to grow government in order to increase their own power and influence. they often grow government without protest from citizens, and sometimes they even get buy-in from citizens, at least from the ones getting the goodies. that sounds a little bit like mitt romney and the 47%, doesn't it?
>> no, it sounds a lot like it. except --
>> he didn't get the memo.
>> that's right. he definitely got the memo. he's only running for governor of a state that barack obama has now carried twice. we know that it's a state with an increasing african-american population, an increasing latino population. the suburbs around d.c. and down in the newport news and virginia beach area are growing and ber oning and the rural areas are becoming less rural. if he would like to take those ideas and espouse them in his one run for governor then he should do that, except it may not work very well for him in a state that's not just trending purple, it's trending blue.
>> it sounds to me, that reads to me as though in terms of a strategy for a governor's race that the cuccinelli campaign knows there is a different swath of voters that they want to try and make sure that they turn out and they may not be some of the voters who turned out during the presidential race .
>> to me just doesn't make a lot of political sense. when i say he didn't get the memo, he doesn't understand the damage the 47% kind of comment did to mitt romney 's chances of being president, and a lot of that is localized state kind of voting daniel because at the end of the day the 47% has a lot of republicans in it. the 47% is represented by a lot of red states . and so they have to have a different kind of conversation with that constituency to win them over. cuccinelli , like cruz in some ways, has really got to find his way in a moment where the republican party , i think, is going through a lot of sort of structural changes and wrestling with how to deal with a lot of national conversations that are pulling them more to the center. the kind of rhetoric we have seen coming from the right, yorn if that kind of rhetoric -- first, it didn't work in the presidential election . i don't know if it's going to work going forward.
>> thanks so much.