Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) can barely contain his glee at being criticized for being a jerk, as reflected in this Reuters report from Corrie MacLaggan.

First-term Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas on Tuesday staunchly defended his aggressive, in-your-face style that already is raising eyebrows in Washington and has led a Senate Democrat to suggest his tactics reminded her of McCarthyism.

“Washington has a long tradition of trying to hurl insults to silence those who they don’t like what they’re saying,” Cruz told reporters on a visit to a Texas gun manufacturer. “I have to admit I find it amusing that those in Washington are puzzled when someone actually does what they said they would do.”

Employees at LaRue Tactical near Austin cheered the senator enthusiastically during his appearance.

Cruz, 42, raised eyebrows in Washington by aggressively criticizing former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, during a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.

Cruz angered lawmakers in both parties by suggesting, without giving evidence, that Hagel might have taken money from countries such as communist North Korea.

Charges that Cruz was being a lying bully were, of course, all mixed up with claims that he wasn’t being a good do-be freshman Senator who waits his turn and kisses up to those with more seniority. You get the impression his colleagues think he should have to earn the right to behave like Joe McCarthy.

But in any event, how much would Cruz pay to get that kind of reputation outside the Senate itself? Congress’ job approval rating is stuck in the mid-teens. He’s a member of a party that has raised hysterical unfounded attacks on the opposition into a virtually obligatory exercise (one of his critics, Lindsey Graham, was as unhinged in dealing with Hagel as Cruz himself), and part of an intra-party faction that thinks the GOP has been repeatedly betrayed by the civility (sic!) of its elected representatives. There is virtually no down-side to his current behavior.

Come to think of it, Joe McCarthy may have simply been many years ahead of his time.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.