Washington has a new Cruz missile, a Ted Cruz missile, willing to obliterate anything that stands in the way of his No. 1 priority: calling attention to himself. There is no Cruz control when it comes to his shameless self-promotion. Let’s leave it to others to call him a jerk. And others are. He doesn’t stand out in that department. Washington is crawling in jerks.
His problem is that he’s beginning to look foolish. There he was, the newbie senator from Texas, once again more than willing to cast himself as the leader of the regressives. Here’s his dilemma: He may have a lot of book learning (he went to Princeton and Harvard, after all), but when it comes time to maneuver the treacherous thicket of Washington politics, the man is starting to look like he just fell off the turnip truck.
He spent all summer shooting at an easy target by whipping up right-wing resistance to Obamacare. He had managed to stand out, even among the other members of his party who also have been doing everything to sabotage the new health system just as it goes into full effect. Ever since it passed Congress in 2010 — and it did pass — they have demonized this crowning success of their great Satan, Barack Obama. Thanks to the feckless communication efforts of the Obama forces, their enemies have succeeded in confusing a population about what all the changes will mean.
This is fertile ground, then, for Cruz and his merry band of opportunists. They have spent the past several months promoting their concocted grand scheme to bring government to a halt and even hold the nation’s credit capability hostage unless the White House agrees to a budget plan that defunds Obamacare, effectively shutting it down.
What we are now learning is that Cruz and his crew are in way over their heads — though, apparently, he is over his bladder. He stood for more than 21 hours on the Senate floor yammering away about blocking a vote on the government-funding/health-care-defunding legislation sent over by the House of Representatives. (Question: What does it take to conduct a filibuster? Answer: Depends.) It was probably appropriate that Cruz filled part of the time reciting “Green Eggs and Ham.” The guy is truly a ham. But after all his squealing, he sat down, only to rise again and vote FOR the legislation he was trying to block.
It does look foolish, doesn’t it? So foolish that Sarah Palin joined his crusade because defunding has become a tea party article of faith. Cruz has now positioned himself as the Big Tea. He and his fellow zealots were able to bully the GOP House to pass the legislation that attaches defunding to the measure needed to keep the government up and running. He did so over the objections of Speaker John Boehner, who has been around the track a few times and remembers how the Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took most of the blame for shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. Gingrich was a Ted Cruz predecessor, but the way things work here, embarrassing failure isn’t the end of the jerky ride. Newt is still rattling around, making big bucks as a consultant, running for president, hosting a TV show and living the good life.
So Ted Cruz knows he can bluster all he wants about how a government shutdown is worth risking if it stops Obamacare in its tracks. Not that it makes any difference to him, but there is one teensy-weensy little problem: It doesn’t. By law, the money for the Affordable Care Act keeps on flowing, no matter what.
Surely someone who always fancies himself as the smartest guy in the room knew that. So what would possess him to make so much noise about a result he was well aware couldn’t happen? This indiscriminate Cruz missile will blow up anything as long as it inflates his image.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.