Inside the Beltway: Cruz crucible

The press has proclaimed that it’s the moment of truth for Sen. Ted Cruz — the day of reckoning, the week that will make or break his career. Or words to that effect. Journalists have pulled out the handy dramatic narrative that places the Texas Republican in a high stakes trial by fire as he seeks to defund the Affordable Care Act, while keeping the federal government open for business.

It’s also a convenient way for the press to declare that (a) the Republican Party is fractured and in disarray, (b) the Republican Party is to blame for everything bad, (c ) the tea party is crazy. Or they’re anarchists.

Mr. Cruz, meanwhile, is a force to be reckoned with, and has not backed down from his proposal, framing it with the straightforward finesse of a former solicitor general who penned more than 80 U.S. Supreme Court briefs and personally presented 40 oral arguments.

Headlines often speak loudest, though, as major Capitol Hill political theater commences. Among the most recent:

Ted Cruz: the distinguished wacko bird from Texas” (GQ Magazine), “The most important week of Cruz’s career” (Washington Post), “Gut check time for Senate GOP” (Fox News), “Cruz moment of truth: what is his new ‘path to victory’?” (Christian Science Monitor), “Shutdown threat reveals split in Republican Party” (Los Angeles Times), “The GOP’s reckless stunt” (Politico), “Congress: clock is ticking” (NBC News), “Ted Cruz is driving Washington crazy” (Salon).

NO ONE IS BLAMELESS

So all the unpleasant hubbub on Capitol Hill is because of those truculent Republicans? Well, not necessarily.

“If the federal government shuts down because Republicans and the Obama administration fail to agree on a budget, there will be plenty of blame to go around,” says a Pew Research Center poll released Monday.

“About as many say they would blame the Republicans (39 percent) for such a standoff as say they would blame President Obama (36 percent), with 17 percent volunteering that both would be equally to blame.”

It’s a cliffhanger, too.

“The public is divided over whether a budget deal will be reached by the Sept. 30 deadline for shutting down the government: 46 percent say the two sides will reach a budget agreement, 45 percent say they will not,” the poll says. See more numbers in today’s Poll du Jour at column’s end.

FOR THE LEXICON

“Health Care Marketplace”

The cozy new name for the health insurance “exchange” now associated with the Affordable Care Act; registration via a fancy new website gets underway in one week. Yes, the media will overuse the term, so prepare accordingly.

BIG GOVERNMENT JITTERS

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