Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told Texas Monthly that members of the Tea Party set an “impossible standard” for the GOP a couple of weeks before Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), a Tea Party firebrand, decided to run against Cornyn in the 2014 Senate primary.
The comments were made in a November interview with Texas Monthly that was published on Tuesday.
“I don’t know how we got off on this track, where some people are welcome in our party and some people are not,” Cornyn said when asked if his November comments about the “big tent” GOP were directed at the Tea Party. “Hence my reference to Ronald Reagan’s line, ‘What do you call someone who agrees with you eight times out of ten? An ally, not a twenty-percent traitor.’ Well, we’re at a point where you can agree with someone 98 percent of the time, but they think of you as a 2 percent traitor, which is just an impossible standard.”
Cornyn also said that he doesn’t believe the GOP should use the term RINO.
“If I found someone who agreed with me nine times out of ten, I’d be working with them all I could. I wouldn’t be calling them names,” he said. “That’s not a recipe for success. So you can count me in when it comes to stopping the name-calling; that’s really the lazy person’s substitute for thoughtful discussion and debate.”
Cornyn said that the differences between the establishment Republican party and the Tea Party are about messaging, not policy.
“As it turns out, most of the differences are about tone and style; they are not about policy. Even the most recent debate over the government shutdown and the effort to defund Obamacare was about tactics, not about goals,” Cornyn said, adding that explaining his governing style “seems to address most if not all of the concerns that voters have in the primary.”
Cornyn also addressed a tweet he published in November that indicated he thought that the White House pushed for a nuclear deal with Iran in order to distract from the botched Obamacare rollout.
“Notice that I didn’t mention Iran there. Now, there’s no question I was thinking in part about that, but I was also thinking about Benghazi, the IRS and Syria. I do think the president has been very skillful at changing the subject whenever there’s bad news,” he said. “I will not mislead you and say that I wasn’t thinking about Iran, but it was just one element.”