WASHINGTON, D.C., February 16, 2013 — There is something admirable and refreshing about U.S. Senators who keep a low profile and fly under the radar. They are the serious legislators who get things done. They usually do not have the time or inclination to engage in partisan rancor or self-aggrandizing showiness. They know they are big, so they act modest.
Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Carl Levin (D-MI) come to mind. They try to uphold the tradition of statesmanship in the U.S Senate. They have been around the block long enough to understand the importance of focusing on the serious, and ignoring the frivolous. They go about their business quietly and discreetly. When they speak, it becomes important, so people listen.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) could learn something from their approach.
Cruz has been in the United States Senate for less than two months and is making his voice heard, but he is doing it in the wrong ways.
He voted against the Violence Against Women Act. He was one of three senators who voted against confirming Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as secretary of state. Most notably, in the final meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense, Cruz suggested that Hagel had accepted money from countries that oppose American interests. “It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea,” Cruz said.
It is one thing to question Hagel’s past policy positions and how they may adversely affect his ability to meet the challenges America will face from Iran, North Korea, and Islamic terrorism. It is another to impugn his character and patriotism.
Chuck Hagel loved his country enough to volunteer to serve in the Vietnam War, and has two Purple Hearts to show for it. So a little more respect for a decorated war hero would not be out of line.
For someone who has been in the Senate for less than two months, Cruz is already over-exposed. Meanwhile, one of his fellow newly elected senators has been strategically more circumspect.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has been keeping her head down, deliberately avoiding the spotlight, and even hiding from the Beltway media. But the minute she asks a panel of top regulators at a Senate Banking Committee hearing to cite the last time they took a Wall Street Bank to trial, it becomes a big story. Wall Street bankers may be upset, but Main Street is not. They see someone who is protecting consumers against the “too big to fail,” “too powerful to sue” banks. Ted Cruz can learn something from her approach also.
We live in a world of oversized egos.
Everyone wants to talk every time. People are constantly looking for the next spotlight to stand under because they think that they are larger than life. Former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-IL) illegally spends $750,000 in campaign funds on a $43,000 Rolex watch and fur coats, among other things. President Barack Obama wins an election so he thinks he can steamroll Republicans. Senate Republicans are filibustering Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense because of personal beefs because Hagel was critical of his own party during the Bush administration.
There is too much “me” and not enough “us” in American politics today, too much selfishness and too little magnanimity.
So here is a piece of advice for Ted Cruz: disappear for a while.
Stay off the cable talk shows for a couple of weeks. No appearances on “Fox News Sunday,” “Face the Nation,” or “Meet the Press.” Go back and begin to repair your relationship with some of your colleagues. Start introducing legislation that will make a difference in the lives of all Americans, or at least attach your name to the ones that might.
You have a chance to be a major player in shaping the future of your party. So start by becoming a serious legislator. When you come out for a major speech or interview, make it count. But for now, get behind the scenes, and stay there for a while.
Speak softly but carry a big stick.
Ayobami is a graduate student in George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.