Friday Talking Points -- Ted Cruz: Senator Ham-I-Am

Talk about missing the point. And no, I do not refer to the mindless mainstream media (who apparently don't know the difference between "a filibuster" and "a 21-hour ego trip").

No, the big point missed in the midst of Senator Ted Cruz's talkfest was the moral of the story he read. By now, most people have heard that Cruz read, in its entirety, the classic Dr. Seuss children's book Green Eggs And Ham -- tucking his own kids into bed, long-distance, via C-SPAN. Cruz then doubled down on his point-missing by comparing Obamacare to the story's green eggs and ham. Cruz really has no excuse for this monumentally idiotic mistake, since (as mentioned) he read the whole story from the Senate floor.

Don't remember the story? Haven't heard it in a while? Rather than subject yourself to Cruz reading the story, instead why not take two minutes to listen to what would qualify (if it existed) for the "All-Time Greatest Reading Of Green Eggs And Ham Ever, Bar None, Period, End Of Discussion" award. This refers, of course, to the eulogy given (the week Seuss died) on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." By none other than the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Seriously, if you've never seen it before, you owe it to yourself to check it out, as it is priceless (you can thank me later).

The protagonist of the story is beset by a character named "Sam-I-Am," who repeatedly tries what in advertising is called "the hard sell" -- for a plate of green eggs and ham. The protagonist refuses to eat this dish multiple times, until finally -- in order to make Sam-I-Am leave him alone -- he breaks down and tries a forkful. Whereupon he discovers that he does like green eggs and ham, after all -- he just needed to get past his fear of something new and actually try them. The moral, as with all Seussian morals, is so easy to draw a child understands it.

Ted Cruz, though -- quite obviously -- does not.

He even tried to equate Obamacare with green eggs and ham. Totally, completely, utterly missing the point that perhaps if America tried a little Obamacare, they wouldn't find it so objectionable. I mean, there simply is no other possible interpretation of the storyline. Coupled with the fact (which even Republicans are pointing out on the Senate floor, mind you) that Cruz's only goal this week was to get his mug on television (again: it was not a filibuster!), we feel it is entirely appropriate to henceforth ridicule Cruz with the moniker "Senator Ham-I-Am." Feel free to use this liberally, in future discussions of Ted Cruz.

We cannot claim ownership of the term, though. We got it from the brilliant Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles. Since the Post seems to have done away with permalinks to Toles's cartoons, the one referred to (if this link doesn't work) is Ted Cruz facing Uncle Sam, who is offering him some Obamacare on a fork. Toles struggles with his fake Seuss dialog (it's not as easy to write as you would think -- try it some time to see!), but he does end it well with:

I do not like it here or there,

I do not like Obamacare.

I do not like it, Sam-I-Am,

I like to grandstand, Ham-I-Am.

To which Uncle Sam is responding: "Just try it." Because, after all, that is the moral of the story.

Increasingly, the condemnation of Ted Cruz is coming from within his own party. The term "civil war" is cropping up to describe the intra-party viciousness. Leading this effort are Senators John McCain and Bob Corker -- who (accurately) pointed out this week -- on the Senate floor -- that the only thing that seems to matter to Cruz is getting himself on television. Cruz is also brewing rebellion by publicly undercutting the Speaker of the House and trying to form his own "Cruz Caucus" in the House. But it's not just Boehner who is feeling the wrath of the Cruzites (Cruzians?), Fox News has also come under attack from three Tea Party media stars: Sarah Palin, Mike Lee, and Rush Limbaugh. They're eating their own, folks. Couldn't have happened to a nicer political party, really. Stores in blue states are reporting shortages of popcorn on the shelves, as Democrats just sit back and watch the fur fly (well, no, that's not actually true, we just thought it'd be funny, that's all).

If you only read one anti-Cruz rant this week from Republicans, though, the best one by far was written directly to Tea Party voters from a former senior John McCain advisor -- it is nothing short of brutal. Enjoy!

One non-Cruz subject worth bringing up is the Republicans' continued failure to "reach out" to the demographic groups which shellacked them in the last election. Completely deaf and dumb to the irony involved, one group came up with the creepiest anti-Obamacare ad imaginable, with a "shades of that creepy 'Burger King' mask" Uncle Sam inserting himself (pun, unfortunately, intended) into a woman's Pap smear exam. While Republicans continue to try to pass laws which actually do insert the government into women's reproductive healthcare, across the land, now women are supposed to believe that Obamacare is doing the same thing? Way to "reach out," Republicans!

A Republican official in Arizona led the effort to "reach out" to minorities this week, using the phrase "shucking and jiving" to describe the President of the United States. So the GOP's got that minority outreach covered, there. Or maybe not.

It's Hispanic Heritage Month, so the House GOP thought it'd be a good idea to put out a video. A video where "immigration" was not even mentioned once. Way to "reach out" to another minority! The video was resoundingly ridiculed in the comments, to no one's real surprise. Maybe the House Republicans didn't mention immigration because the real immigration reform news is that two Republicans who were supposed to be in one of those "gangs" on coming up with a House immigration reform bill decided to throw in the towel on the effort -- increasing the chances that nothing is going to happen this year. Now that's the way to get Latinos to vote for you, guys! Way to re-brand your party!

And finally, we close this intro with yet another for the "you can't make this stuff up folks" file. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy invited all his fellow Republicans to a movie tonight, right before they're going to have to deal with the Senate's budget bill. The movie he chose? Prisoners. Which is about holding hostages.

Maybe Obamacare has some cure in it for the irony-impaired. We'll all find out next Tuesday, won't we? Sigh.


Dick Durbin certainly deserves at least an Honorable Mention this week, for standing up and questioning Ted Cruz during his "fauxlibuster." Durbin got Cruz to admit that his own health insurance comes from his wife's job (as a high-powered executive for Goldman Sachs), and that he won't be affected by whatever Republicans try to do to congressional health insurance plans.

Durbin has long been spoken of as one of two frontrunners (Chuck Schumer being the other) to take over Harry Reid's leadership position, in the future. So it was refreshing to see Durbin take on Senator Ham-I-Am.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to President Barack Obama this week. Not only has he given a few rousing speeches in support of Obamacare (more on this in a moment), but his diplomacy seems to be paying off in a big way.

A few short weeks ago, the inside-the-Beltway consensus was that Obama's presidency was all but over, due to foreign policy. Now, Obama is on the brink of getting a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria -- without firing a shot, as the majority of the American public desired -- and he just held a phone call with the leader of Iran, the first time such a high-level communication has happened since the 1979 revolution. The sanctions against Iran are working so well that they are desperate to get out from under them. Talks will no doubt begin shortly.

So while Obama's speech was indeed impressive (again, more on this in the talking points), he really has earned his MIDOTW award this week in the realm of foreign policy -- something few would have predicted mere weeks ago.

[Congratulate President Barack Obama on the White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Before we get to the main award, we have an anonymous (Dis-)Honorable Mention to hand out. We're not sure the perpetrators were even Democrats, but feel it's a safe enough assumption that they were at least what used to be called "fellow travelers."

A Ten Commandments monument near the Supreme Court was vandalized this week. There are several things wrong with this, the foremost being that destruction of property isn't generally agreed to be an effective way to conduct a political debate. But the real problem involves the circumstances. Because this monument was on private property. And nothing in the Constitution prohibits any such display, by any property-holder.

A church group near the Supreme Court building bought the monument when it was removed from a public display (after losing a court case). They then erected the stone tablets on their own property, after getting local government's permission to do so. Their property just happens to be where a Supreme Court justice might walk by on their way to work.

But even the most extreme separation of church and state believer should have no problem with such a display -- again, on private property. And, as we began, vandalism is outside the realm of political protest on such private property. It is nothing more than criminal behavior, and deserves to be denounced.

There is a happy coda to this story, though. Because if you are an atheist (or non-theist, even) there is now a new political action committee you can donate to, in order to effect political change. The Center for Humanist Activism has created the Freethought Equality Fund PAC, which will "provide financial assistance to candidates who support secular government [which] will benefit all Americans, including those who value the absence of government entanglement in religious beliefs." Want to fight religion in government? That's the way to do it, folks.

Moving right along, this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia who, in the middle of the Obamacare fight over the budget, indicated he was going to side with the Republicans on the next big Obamacare fight. Manchin expressed support for the "one-year delay" plan Republicans are now kicking around to use against the debt ceiling crisis (coming soon to a congressional chamber near you!).

It's one thing to buck your party on a vote. Manchin's always been sour on Obamacare, so this isn't entirely unexpected. But his timing stunk. He could easily have made his opinion known after we get through the first round of Obamacare hostage-taking.

So for jumping the gun on jumping the ship (how's that for a mixed metaphor?), Joe Manchin is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 275 (9/27/13)

Because Ted Cruz's histrionics sucked so much of the oxygen out of the political realm this week, we're going to devote all the talking points to the Obamacare fight.

Three of these come from a speech President Obama gave in Lanham, Maryland this week, in which he highlighted three of the more extreme examples of how Republicans are just absolutely losing it in their anti-Obamacare rhetoric. The other four stem directly from what Ted Cruz took 21 hours to say in the Senate. When you are required to stand and talk for that long, it's just about guaranteed that you'll say something silly. Cruz certainly didn't disappoint.

So here are seven ideas for Democrats to use when talking about the Obamacare battles in the upcoming week. They all have the same theme: "Really? That's what you're going with? Really?!?"


   The fauxlibuster

The first thing worth pointing out (because most of the media is simply too dense to understand it) is what Ted Cruz's speech wasn't. [Note: these first three talking points all come from an article which covered all the silly things Cruz said during his speech.]

"Ted Cruz, in his Egofest this week, likened Congress to professional wrestling, of all things. Cruz's point was that the outcomes were determined in advance -- everything was scripted. What he didn't mention was the irony of pointing this out, since he was not engaged in a filibuster when he said it. A lot of people are calling it a filibuster, but it wasn't. The big difference between a real filibuster and some pro-wrestling fakery? In a real filibuster, there is no time limit and there is an achievable goal. The outcome, to put it another way, is not known in advance. But Cruz's speech always had a time limit, and the outcome was guaranteed before he started speaking -- it wasn't going to change things one iota. Meaning the only one exhibiting pro-wrestling-like behavior in the Senate this week was Ted Cruz. Ironic, isn't it?"


   Nazi appeasement? Really?

You can't get much more "over the top" in political discussions as to follow the spirit of Godwin's Law -- the fact that when Nazi comparisons are used, all rational debate is pretty much over and done with.

"I stand with Senator John McCain in condemning Ted Cruz for likening the fact that millions of Americans have been shut out of the marketplace and will now be able to purchase affordable health insurance to Nazi appeasement in World War II. That is downright offensive, as McCain so clearly stated from the Senate floor, in his response. I am personally offended by such a comparison, and I think Ted Cruz owes millions of people an apology. I don't care how long he had been standing there, you simply do not cross this line of decency. I mean, really? Obamacare is equivalent to Hitler's Germany? That is completely offensive, no matter what you think about Obamacare."


   In small words, let's read it again slowly...

This is where the ridicule truly needs to focus, though.

"Is Ted Cruz just too stupid to understand very short words which were written for children? Does Cruz even have the slightest comprehension of the Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs And Ham that he read to his own children on C-SPAN? I bet his kids could tell you the lesson of this story: don't be afraid of things just because they're new -- because if you try it, you might like it! A five-year-old child easily understands the story, but I guess the entire point of it just flew over Senator Cruz's head. It's a shame, because it is a great moral lesson to learn, and one that Cruz should take to heart when it comes to Obamacare."


   The Bataan death march? Really, Ted?

Christine Pelosi caught this one, even if most of the media missed it.

"It wasn't enough for Ted Cruz to use appeasing Nazi Germany to smear those who support Obamacare, he also had to include the Pacific theater of World War II as well, when he used the Bataan death march as a metaphor. Let me say this in words short enough for Senator Cruz to hopefully understand: this stuff is offensive, Ted. You are undermining your own cause. You are being offensive to all Americans by using the brave sacrifices of our troops in the biggest war this planet has ever seen as political pawns so you can deny affordable health care to millions. Not only does this need to stop, but Senator Cruz really needs to apologize profusely for using this type of language."


   The most dangerous law ever? Really?

The final three talking points this week come from the aforementioned Obama speech. He took the opportunity to point out the craziness of his opponents' language, and he didn't even need to add Cruz to the list. Huffington Post has a video excerpt if you'd like to watch Obama make these points himself (although it does cut off the last bit of the Michele Bachmann response at the end, it's still well worth watching).

"It's not just Ted Cruz who has leapt beyond all the bounds of reason when warning of the supposed-dangers of Obamacare. President Obama pointed a few of these out in his recent speech, including Congressman John Fleming of Louisiana, who called Obamacare, quote, the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress, unquote, and for good measure threw in a warning that it was also the most, quote, existential threat to our economy since the Great Depression. Really? Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation in our entire history? Wow... I mean, just... wow. I would have gone with the Alien and Sedition Acts, personally [pause for laughter]. For anyone who says Obama should try somehow to negotiate with these people, I say that it is impossible to negotiate with such delusion."


   Or maybe the Fugitive Slave Act?

It just gets worse from there.

"If that weren't enough, Obama also pointed out that a Republican state representative from New Hampshire had called Obamacare, quote, as destructive to personal and individual liberties as the Fugitive Slave Act, unquote. Yep, you heard that right -- a slave being forcibly returned to his or her owner was less destructive to personal liberty than Obamacare. These people have lost their minds, folks. Or, at the very least, they've lost all sense of proportion, which is bad enough."


   Prime crazy from Michele

Of course, if you want some prime Tea Party craziness, it's always good to go to one of the sources, and find out what Michele Bachmann thinks about things.

"President Obama also laughed at Michele Bachmann -- although not by name -- and her assertion that Obamacare would 'literally' kill women, children, and senior citizens. Obama's response is worth quoting in full, here: 'I have to say, that [quote] is from six months ago. I just want to point out that we still have women. We still have children. And we still have senior citizens.' Obama has been pointing this biggest lie about Obamacare since it began, but it bears repeating once again: the so-called 'death panels' were nothing but a gigantic lie, folks."


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Become a fan of Chris on Huffington Post

Full archives of FTP columns:

All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank