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Ever since I could remember I’d wished I’d been lucky enough to be alive at that great time-when something big was going on, like the Crucifixion. And suddenly I realized I was. Here I was living through another crucifixion.
Ben Shahn, On painting a gouache: Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco (1932
He could not do it by himself. He had to be joined by others as committed as he. He had to be joined by others as mindless as he. And joined by legions of tea partiers he was. Many of them from Texas. Among them was Representative Joe Barton (R. TX). Mr. Barton is former chairman of the House Energy Conference Committee. It was he who famously explained in 2010 (when questioning the wisdom of deficit spending to fund national wind turbine energy )that: “Wind is the way you shift the heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up?” Addressing the effects of the tea party caucus as the government shutdown began he said: “I think the conservatives in the House have had some notable successes. You’re never 100 percent successful but we certainly saved lots and lots of money.” He was presumably not referring to the fact that the shutdown was estimated to have cost the government somewhere between $12 billion and $24 billion.
Of course Joe Barton and Ted Cruz were not the only performers from Texas. Congressman Louie Gohmert was also in favor of the government shutdown. He did not realize that the shutdown would have consequences. He was outraged when he learned that the World War II Veteran’s Memorial had been shutdown. In an interview with Glen Beck he said: “All you can figure is that somebody intentionally did this to make it difficult for World War II veterans. Just to create pain. Just for political gain.” He must have been right because Rep. Steve Stockman, one of his Congressional colleagues from Texas issued a press release in which he said: “Obama and Democrats are curb-stomping veterans because they believe their allies in the mainstream media will falsely blame it on Republicans, even though order to kill funding and close war memorials come on the letterhead of Democrat leaders and the White House.”
At the better-known crucifixion there were seven last words. At the Cruzifixion of the United States Ted Cruz held forth for more than 21 hours in order to prevent the U.S. Senate from legislating. In the 21 hours he spoke he spoke mostly nonsense. His most cogent moments came when he read aloud the children’s story of “Green Eggs and Ham”, a story that seemed singularly inapposite since the character who insisted he disliked green eggs and ham ended up telling his tutor, Sam-I-Am, “I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you. Thank you, Sam-I-Am.” That subtlety escaped Mr. Cruz’s notice who at the end of his 21-hour soliloquy still hated Obamacare. Many of his words were little more than mean spirited attacks on programs Ted Cruz did not understand and a man he could not stand.
When it became apparent that the party in the loony bin was coming to an end, the Republican members of the House reached out to the Lord. On October 15, two days before the government shut down came to an end, Republican members of the House joined together in singing a rousing version of an old hymn, “Amazing Grace”. They were led by Rep. Steve Southerland (R. FL). They sang the song in lieu of the morning prayer. Like Mr. Cruz in reading the children’s book, they didn’t fully understand the words of the hymn they sang. The first stanza is singularly appropriate to the conclusion of their tactics to keep the government shut down in place: “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” On the 17th day the shutdown ended and the country was resurrected.
Some might think that having been defeated Mr. Cruz would have taken his cross and gone home. He has not. On the day that the government shutdown came to a close he put a hold on the approval by the senate of the nomination of Tom Wheeler to be the head of the F.C.C. He says the hold will be released as soon as he receives certain assurances from the nominee. Once he receives those assurances he will take his cross and together they will wander off in the political wilderness in search of new programs to cruzify. Time will tell what they may be.
Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.