Commentary: Ted Cruz, Obamacare, Green Eggs and a Canadian Ham

Commentary: Ted Cruz, Obamacare, Green Eggs and a Canadian Ham

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's displayed some bizarre behavior this week, including his "filibuster" against Obamacare.

Published September 26, 2013

What do critics think about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz? One person calls him a "fraud." Another calls him a hypocrite who doesn't listen. A third called his remarks a "disservice" to brave Americans who came before him.

And that's just what his fellow Republicans have to say.

"He's a fraud," declared Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. King opposes Cruz's political theatrics in the battle over the federal budget. Cruz, of course, would respond that members of Congress need to listen to the people. "But to be told we're not listening by somebody who does not listen is disconcerting," said Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. And then there's Sen. John McCain, the former Republican presidential nominee, who said he rejects Ted Cruz's comparison of Republicans to those who appeased the Nazis, calling Cruz's words a "disservice" to those who fought in the war.

That's not all. Even the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal this week accused Cruz of leading a feckless "charge into fixed bayonets." Although the Journal vehemently opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, it takes a surprisingly realistic position on the issue. "The only way to repeal the law is to win elections," the paper editorialized.

But Canadian-born Ted Cruz thinks he speaks for the American people. That's one of the many contradictions that make Cruz potentially the most dangerous politician since Joe McCarthy.

Cruz attacks the East Coast elite, even though he was educated at East Coast elite schools Princeton and Harvard.

Cruz accuses his congressional colleagues of not listening to the American people, even though polls consistently show Americans do not want to repeal Obamacare or shut down the government because of it.

And Cruz portrays Obamacare as an assault on democracy, even though it was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and essentially ratified by the American people who re-elected the president two years after he signed the bill into law.

As evidence of America's opposition to the law, Cruz cites phone calls, emails and letters he's received in his office. That's misleading for at least a couple of reasons.

First, it's true that Obamacare remains unpopular in public opinion polls, but not because of some conservative revolution against health care reform. In fact, nearly half of the law's critics, according to one recent poll, don't like the law because it's not liberal enough. Presumably, they would like to see a government-run public option or a single-payer system in which the government guarantees health care for all Americans.

Second, and more to the point of Cruz's disgusting demagoguery, angry phone calls and emails to one member of Congress aren't enough to override the will of the rest of the American people. Cruz represents a state of 26.9 million, in which barely 4.4 million of them voted for him last year to become a senator. Even if all 4.4 million Cruz voters called his office to complain about Obamacare, that wouldn't be enough to overturn the will of the 66 million people who voted for President Obama in the same election last year.

As a Harvard-trained lawyer, Cruz surely knows better, which is why he's so dangerous in the first place. He's not stupid. He's cynical. Which could explain his bizarre behavior this week.

First he hoodwinked House Republicans to vote for a bill to defund Obamacare which had no chance of passing the Democratically-controlled Senate or being signed by the president. Then he backtracked and admitted the bill would fail in the Senate, infuriating House Republicans after he had led them down his march of folly.

Next, Cruz launched a 21-hour talkathon, disguised as a filibuster to delay action on the very same bill he had urged House Republicans to pass. Yes, Ted Cruz's widely mislabeled "filibuster" was actually a delaying tactic against his own bill!

Cruz warned fellow Republicans that a vote to allow the House Republican bill to the floor of the Senate was actually a vote for Obamacare. Then, after Cruz ended his fauxlibuster, he went ahead and voted for the same motion he spent 21 hours telling everybody else not to vote for. It passed 100 to 0 with Cruz's vote. Does any of this make any sense?

Yes, if you understand Green Eggs and Ham, the famous Dr. Seuss' story which Cruz actually read on the Senate floor during his fauxlibuster. The narrator in Dr. Seuss' famous story repeatedly explains he does not like green eggs and ham, not in a boat, with a goat, in the rain or a train. He doesn't like green eggs and ham anywhere. That is, until he tries it, and he realizes he actually likes the unusual combination.

That's the big fear that Ted Cruz and his fellow Republicans harbor. After spending three years and tens of millions of dollars scaring Americans with silly lies about death panels and government bureaucrats standing between you and your doctor, Republicans are deathly afraid that Americans will actually like Obamacare once they try it and get to know it.

Ted Cruz is no dummy. He knows he's going to lose this battle. So the best he can hope for is to confuse his green Tea Party followers with his fake acts of defiance and then ham it up for the press.

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for each week.

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Written by Keith Boykin


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