Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) isn't officially filibustering a House spending bill he pushed for but doesn't want Senate Democrats to tamper with — Democrats will start stripping a measure to defund ObamaCare later Wednesday, no matter how long Cruz talks — but he is putting on an impressive show.
To fill his 13 hours (and counting) of floor time, Cruz compared his fellow Republicans to Nazi appeasers, said that most people in Washington wear "cheap suits with bad haircuts," said a lot of negative things about the heath care law he was protesting, and read tweets from supporters. He didn't read the phonebook — the archetypal filibuster trick — but in a particularly memorable moment, he did read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.
And not everyone was impressed:
Whereas Rand Paul spoke about drones for 13 hours Ted Cruz quoted Green Eggs And Ham.— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) September 25, 2013
I think that green eggs and ham becomes the moment when the Tea Party's influence in Congress starts its nosedive— Chris Golden (@chrisgolden) September 25, 2013
That seems a little harsh. Cruz got our attention — the point of his quasi-filibuster — and in many ways Green Eggs and Ham was an inspired choice of reading material: Most of us know and love Dr. Seuss' more famous children's stories — we either had them read to us as children or have read them to our own children, or both — and Cruz's set-up of a working father reading his daughters a bedtime story is charming. His communications team effectively played up that angle:
Green Eggs and Ham is something that unites us, unlike, um, ObamaCare.
On the other hand, has Cruz ever read the book before? Green Eggs and Ham's message isn't very subtle — and in the context of his fight against ObamaCare, it's a little self-defeating. Slate's Matthew Yglesias makes the obvious point:
The narrator keeps insisting that he hates green eggs and ham, but he's never had green eggs and ham. When he finally tries them — he likes them! The Democrats' bet on the Affordable Care Act is that it's like green eggs and ham — they're convinced the public will like it when they try it.
Conservatives like Cruz claim that this is wrong. That Americans will taste the green eggs and ham and they're going to hate it. But their actions speak otherwise. They're desperate to repeal the law before it's implemented.... Instead of acting like they're confident that the voter backlash to the green eggs and ham will power them to victories in 2014 and 2016, they're engaging in flailing desperate tactics to make sure nobody tries the green eggs and ham. [Slate]
The idea that this ObamaCare saga ends "with America thanking the government for something it was sure it wasn't going to like" may sound like "some liberal fantasy interpretation of Cruz's selection," says Tommy Christopher at Mediaite, but Cruz explicitly made a similar point in July. If Republicans don't defund the program now, Cruz told Fox News' Sean Hannity, "in all likelihood, ObamaCare will never, ever be repealed." He continued:
Why is that? Because on January 1, the exchanges kick in, the subsidies kick in.... Their plan is to get the American people addicted to the sugar, addicted to the subsidies. [Cruz, via Mediaite]
In that light, maybe Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham was some sort of cautionary tale, a sub rosa call to arms for conservatives amid his overt call to arms for conservatives. Or maybe Cruz really is an undercover liberal covertly trying to sink conservatism through guerrilla tactics like reading Dr. Seuss into the Senate record:
Fact: Dr. Seuss was a big-government HUAC-attacking New Deal liberal. #CruzFail— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) September 25, 2013
Hey has anyone noticed that Cruz is wearing a *Blue* tie? Conspiracy? #JustSayin— Doug Mataconis (@dmataconis) September 25, 2013
Of course, it's also possible that Cruz just likes the book, as he said in his faux filibuster. After all, Green Eggs and Ham was a big enough hit in Canada — where Cruz was born and lived until he was 3 or 4 — that the Ontario band Moxy Früvous recorded this minor hit in 1992:
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