As I write Ted Cruz is working overtime to provoke President Obama into shutting down the US Government and possibly invite a default on our national debt. It is hard to see any winners in this sick game of political chicken other than Senator Cruz himself. I will skip over the legislative history of why Congress must repeatedly vote to raise the national debt ceiling and approve a continuing resolution, other than to observe that it is tantamount to going on a shopping spree with the family credit card and then later informing the store that members of the family still needed to separately approve those charges before they can appear on the credit card bill. In other words, Congress passes individual legislation that requires the government to spend money and then threatens to shut down the government because it does not like the total amount of spending.
Senator Cruz is being blamed by Democrats and moderate Republicans (yes, there are some left) alike, but it seems to me he is the only winner here. He profits while our nation suffers because if the President flinches and accepts some modification of or delay to the Affordable Care Act (the primary House Republican demand) then Cruz comes out a winner. Alternatively, if the Republicans decide they cannot again be backed into the nihilist corner of the party that shuts down essential government services, then Cruz can play his favorite role of the last man of principal standing among Republicans in Washington. Either way, his stature as a 2016 Presidential candidate is enhanced.
The wisdom of the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare or ACA) is open to debate. However, since its passage by both houses of Congress in 2010, it has been largely upheld as constitutional by the US Supreme Court, and implicitly ratified by the national electorate in the 2012 Presidential election since both President Obama and Mitt Romney made the ACA a key election issue. Today, Senator Cruz and his House Republican followers are fighting a rear-guard effort to defund or delay the Act. Republican Senator John McCain, an early opponent of the ACA, nonetheless has criticized the right wing of his party for holding the financial health of the nation prisoner to their attempt to repeal the Act. He has privately commented that they are bad losers who refuse to accept the result, wise or not, of the democratic process.
So, what is the connection between Ted Cruz and Miley Cyrus? Both the Senator and the singer follow in a long line of narcissists who cynically deploy shock tactics to gain attention and notoriety by pushing the then accepted norms of behavior. In this, they are no different from Janet Jackson's famous "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl (when some of her curves just happened to escape her dress on national television), Madonna's repeated and well-orchestrated efforts to push the boundaries of sexual decorum, or a long list of rappers' misogynist, murderous and drug-embracing rants. It is the role of music and the arts to push boundaries and occasionally make us uncomfortable. Until this week, I had not thought that this was also a prime qualification for the US Senate.
Whatever we may think of Ted Cruz and the substance of his politics, his "take no prisoners" style and insistence on breaking the accepted government norms has catapulted the elitist freshman senator from Texas to national prominence and a good shot at the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. Whatever happens to the country in the meantime, be damned.