In Ted Cruz v. Paul Ryan, Ryan is the winner

Story highlights

  • S.E. Cupp: Paul Ryan's proposal on entitlements has been attacked by Ted Cruz backers
  • She says Ryan is pursuing the worthy goal of reforming entitlement programs
  • Cupp supports Cruz's effort to defund Obamacare but says Ryan's plan isn't in conflict
  • She says GOP shouldn't get locked into internal battle over tactics

The Los Angeles Times headline said it all: "Rep. Paul Ryan Fails to Close Republican Divide."

When this became Ryan's job, or whether his now "controversial" Wall Street Journal op-ed was even an attempt at doing that, is anyone's guess.

But once again, Republicans have decided to cannibalize themselves viciously and needlessly instead of uniting over common goals.

To be clear, the divide on the right isn't over policy. No Republican I've met thinks Obamacare is good legislation. No one is suggesting capitulation on the debt ceiling. Everyone wants spending cuts, entitlement reform and deficit reduction.

S.E. Cupp

Where we're divided is over tactics. Incidentally, Ryan hinted at this in September to Politico:

"Yeah, there's a bit of frustration. ... We all believe the same thing, we all want to achieve the same goal, and so we shouldn't be questioning each other's conservatism over tactical disagreements."

Guess no one on Team Ted Cruz got that message.

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After Ryan's op-ed, which pushed for a strong-willed fight for entitlement reform in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, failed to mention the unholiest of Tea Party holies, Obamacare, he was nailed to a proverbial cross by Ted Cruz defenders, who then immediately told everyone at Golgotha -- or on Twitter -- of his betrayal.

Cruz speechwriter Amanda Carpenter tweeted, "There is one big word missing from this op-ed. It's start (sic) with an O and ends with BAMACARE."

Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler was similarly snarky: "Much like White House press, Paul Ryan doesn't mention Obamacare in WSJ oped. #shutdown."

Over on Red State, Daniel Horowitz posted the questions, "So we are going to ditch the fight over Obamacare, which is extremely unpopular, to fight for Medicare reform? Really, Paul Ryan? And they think we are politically stupid?"

Now, nowhere in Ryan's op-ed does he suggest ditching the fight over Obamacare. As Cruz's cheerleaders point out, Ryan doesn't even mention the health care law.

But the thing that defies logic (and good manners) is the necessity of this kind of puerile bullying. Ryan's plan isn't in competition with or heretical to Cruz's message. It's simply another objective conservatives should fight for, both in the short term and the long term.

Furthermore, the sniping is just unseemly, and frankly, Cruz's defenders are only managing to make Ryan look like the grown-up.

I don't recall Ryan jumping into the fray when plenty of Republicans were criticizing the strategy to defund Obamacare -- a position by Cruz that I have applauded as heroic. When Sens. Bob Corker and Orrin Hatch and Rep. Peter King were scolding Cruz for a plan they knew was ill-fated, Ryan was virtually silent on the move. This, even though Cruz has never been shy about his disdain for Ryan Republicans. Back in March, Cruz criticized Ryan's budget plan for its Medicare cuts. And he's made it clear he doesn't trust Ryan when it comes to budget negotiations.

It's hard to argue that Ryan isn't a staunch conservative. To treat him like a traitor is preposterous and unproductive. And while I admire Cruz's conviction, and stand by his commitment to peel back a program as odious and ruinous as the Affordable Care Act, he has to learn to work with others on his own team.

The Los Angeles Times headline isn't accurate. Instead of reading "Rep. Paul Ryan Fails to Close Republican Divide" it should read "Team Cruz Rips Republicans Apart. Again." If he keeps it up, he'll lose people like me who are with him on the policy, but quickly losing patience for his tactics.

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