Little is more damaging to the public’s trust and faith in government than when elected officials engage in gratuitous lies—statements that can only convince those who don’t bother to check the facts underlying them, made for their momentary impact on the theory that the effect is worth the eventual exposure of the lie for what it is. Such lies are detestable, because they not only reinforce the impression that politicians lie when their lips are moving, they also convey the message that lies are merely tools of the politicians trade, and not even particularly shameful or worthy of criticism. When a politician engages in such transparent dishonesty, he or she is saying, quite literally, that lying is no big deal.
It is a big deal. It is especially a big deal when the point of the lie is to fool the public into believing something the politician is doing is a big deal itself, when it is really a sham.
Welcome to Sen. Ted Cruz and his fake filibuster, also known as Ted Cruz’s Bad Jimmy Stewart Impression.
Evoking memories of the Frank Capra classic, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” Sen. Cruz told the world that he was going to talk on the floor of the Senate against Obamacare until he couldn’t stand any more…you know, just like the Jimmy’s idealistic junior Senator in the film, who finally collapses of exhaustion to end his filibuster but whose courage makes the corrupt, manipulating senior Senator from his state confess that he was trying to fund a lousy health care b…no, wait, it had something to do with a kids camp and influence peddling. I haven’t seen the film in a while.
Cruz, however, unlike Stewart, is not engaging in a filibuster, because he is not trying to block a vote or anything else: Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on funding the Affordable Care Act for today, whereupon Cruz has to sit down and shut up whether he can still stand or not. Senator Cruz, then, is grandstanding. He’s pretending to be giving a courageous, principled, one-man-against-the system speech that is only limited by his own endurance, when he is really engaging in pre-staged political theater, wasting time and playing hero, knowing full well that the media—mostly the news media that doesn’t like Cruz and Republicans, because modern American journalism reliably filters what the public is told according to its own political agendas— will report to anyone paying attention that he is just giving a “very long speech.”
Imagine: beginning a public display framed as an act of principle and integrity with a lie.When a politician intentionally does something like this we know immediately that the politician is…
- …a phony.
- …a liar.
- …thinks we are stupid.
- …does not value candor, disclosure and honesty.
- …thinks the public is stupid.
- …is either too careless or too calculating with his use of the language, and
I believe in signature significance, that a single act can tell us a great deal about someone’s character, because someone with good character would never engage in such conduct even once.
Today’s fake filibuster tells me everything I need to know about Ted Cruz.