Q&A

Ted Cruz is a ‘False Prophet,’ Says a GOP Presidential Candidate

Tea-party shenanigans have pushed onetime hard-liner Rep. Peter King toward the center.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 02: U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) speaks to the media after a meeting regarding the Sandy aid bill with Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) January 2, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House Republican leadership was criticized for not acting on the Senate passed legislation for Hurricane Sandy disaster aid. 
Getty Images
Oct. 3, 2013, 4:05 p.m.

Ted Cruz may have over­taken Rand Paul as the GOP’s latest torch­bear­er of brash con­ser­vat­ism, but if you fol­low that lin­eage back far enough, past Michele Bach­mann and Al­len West, you’d find Peter King, a gruff New York con­gress­man who a few years ago earned com­par­is­ons to Joseph Mc­Carthy for hold­ing hear­ings to root out “ter­ror­ists” in Amer­ica’s Muslim com­munit­ies. But King is an in­sti­tu­tion­al­ist, and in post-shut­down Wash­ing­ton, he’s be­come Cruz’s un­likely ant­ag­on­ist. The two mem­bers of Con­gress, both flirt­ing with pres­id­en­tial bids, rep­res­ent dif­fer­ent paths the GOP could choose in the com­ing years. In an in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al, King calls the sen­at­or from Texas a “fraud” and a “false proph­et.” Ed­ited ex­cerpts fol­low.

How did we get to a gov­ern­ment shut­down?

It was ba­sic­ally driv­en by the Ted Cruz wing of the party — the people who vote against John Boehner on every key budget is­sue of the past two years. They’re driv­ing the train. So I blame Cruz and the group that is with him in the House.

They bear re­spons­ib­il­ity for the shut­down?

Ob­vi­ously, the ini­tial blame goes to Re­pub­lic­ans. Hav­ing said that, the pres­id­ent of the United States can­not sit on the side­lines and act as if this is some­body else’s gov­ern­ment and say it’s all Re­pub­lic­ans’ fault — like he’s not go­ing to sully him­self by get­ting in­volved. For the pres­id­ent not to en­gage with Re­pub­lic­ans on this, not at­tempt to re­solve it, is, to me, in­ex­cus­able.

How can John Boehner re­as­sert con­trol over his caucus?

Un­for­tu­nately, and people will get hurt in the mean­time, we may need to wait un­til there’s a crit­ic­al mass; when people in the Ted Cruz wing start get­ting neg­at­ive re­ac­tions in their dis­tricts, when people start telling them to knock it off. Un­til then, it’s go­ing to be hard to get con­trol. Of course, when it does get re­solved, they’re go­ing to say we gave in too quickly. To me, I don’t think we should care what they think, but they are a real­ity with­in the party. John has a lot more pa­tience than I would.

You’re a pretty con­ser­vat­ive guy. Were you sur­prised to sud­denly be the adult in the room?

People who knew me grow­ing up can’t be­lieve that I’ve sud­denly be­come the voice of reas­on. It’s just something that happened. The whole time, I was go­ing along and was only vot­ing on those amend­ments [to de­fund Obama­care] be­cause I was told it was part of some en­dgame. But on Sat­urday night, I real­ized that there was no plan. And I saw real an­ger on the floor. People — wheth­er you call them the si­lent ma­jor­ity or whatever — are fed up with the Ted Cruz wing. I figured, every­one’s talk­ing, no one’s do­ing any­thing, and I hardly ever speak in con­fer­ences. But you can only be quiet for so long. So I spoke up. And that’s how I as­sumed this lead­er­ship. But it’s not something I was look­ing for. We’ll see where it goes.

On Monday night, it looked like a mod­er­ate re­bel­lion to the tea party was brew­ing, but it nev­er ma­ter­i­al­ized. Were you dis­ap­poin­ted more mem­bers wer­en’t be­hind you?

I was dis­ap­poin­ted but not sur­prised. They felt it was too risky to vote against it, since it was con­strued as a vote not in fa­vor of keep­ing the gov­ern­ment open but in fa­vor of Obama­care. John Boehner — and this is totally le­git­im­ate — made very per­son­al ap­peals to mem­bers to stick with him.

If you run for pres­id­ent in 2016, would you po­s­i­tion your­self as a coun­ter­weight to the Cruz wing?

The Amer­ic­an people are look­ing for an adult lead­er. Not this pan­der­ing and this ap­peal­ing to the low­est com­mon de­nom­in­at­or. Ted Cruz spent the month of Au­gust and the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber telling House mem­bers: “You de­fund Obama­care, and we’ll take care of it in the Sen­ate.” That was a fraud! From day one, he had no way of get­ting that through the Sen­ate. How these guys let them­selves get de­luded, or wanted to get de­luded, is bey­ond me.

So if Cruz is a fraud, what’s his real game?

Put­ting him­self out there. He’s locked in maybe 15, 20 per­cent of the Re­pub­lic­an Party. I don’t think he can go bey­ond that, but that’s a lot of people. I mean, you’re wast­ing my time and I’m wast­ing your time talk­ing about him. No one even cared about Ted Cruz a few months ago. But he has sold a false bill of goods. He’s a false proph­et.

How many GOP votes do you think there are in the House for a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to re­open the gov­ern­ment?

This is one of those things that there’s no way you can prove wheth­er I’m telling the truth or not, but I’d say clearly two-thirds [of the GOP caucus] would vote yes if it was a secret bal­lot. Maybe even three-quar­ters. On an open vote, I would say it’d be sim­il­ar to the fisc­al-cliff vote, where there’d be enough [to pass it with Demo­crat­ic votes].

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