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Milbank: One man's courage to buck the RINO charge

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the conservative provocateur enjoying a reign of terror over his Republican Party, committed his latest outrage last week, saying the men and women of the U.S. military would “serve as al-Qaida’s air force” in Syria.

Most Republican lawmakers cower before the freshman senator because they are afraid to offend his tea party followers. But not Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a second-term Republican from Illinois who as an Air Force pilot served three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan and is now in the Air National Guard.

“That is a cheap line by some people to garner headlines and not a serious discussion about what is going on in Syria,” Kinzinger said at Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing into President Barack Obama’s request to use force against the Syrian regime.

The next day Kinzinger told me the Cruz crack was “highly offensive” to his fellow warriors. “Look, I disagree with the president on a lot, but he’s the president of the United States and he’s made a decision which I think is important,” said Kinzinger, who supports a U.S. strike. “When it comes to foreign affairs, people shouldn’t be out there to give cheap-shot headlines. People’s lives are on the line, and so is America’s reputation.”

Kinzinger’s view makes him old school, a throwback to an earlier Republican Party that respected the balance of power and believed politics stopped at the water’s edge. But Kinzinger is 35 and charismatic — just the sort of anti-Cruz the Republicans need if they are again to be a party that does more than sabotage government.

A couple of weeks before taking his Syria position, Kinzinger came out against the effort — another Cruz provocation — to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded. “You can’t come here and just say if we don’t get our way we’re going to burn the place down,” the young congressman told me. “If we respect the Constitution, and we do, we respect that we’re only one-third of the government and you’re not going to get your way all the time. ... We’ve got to get away from being the guys that scream and yell on cable TV.”

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