Monday, August 20, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: A 'Cash for Cruz' 21-hour telethon

This wasn't a filibuster. It was a Washington telethon for the tea and antipathy party. About the only thing missing toward the end of the 21-hour-plus stroll through Dr. Seuss and revisionist World War II history was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz singing "You'll Never Grifter Alone," with a beaming Koch brother sitting on his knee.

If you were glued to C-SPAN during Cruz's "Marco and Ted's Bogus Journey Comes To Washington," you might have been left with the impression this was the story of a heroic patriot rising up against the forces of evil as the lone vanguard to stop the Affordable Care Act.

Not quite. Cruz, the Norma Desmond of the Beltway, was merely announcing to the right-wing world of ideologues that he was ready for his close-up — checks, credit cards and cash happily accepted.

Lost amid the Obamacare hand-wringing is that some $400 million has been raised, about 80 percent by anti-anti-anti Affordable Care Act groups, to inveigh against the law. That kind of money buys an awful lot of Agenda 21/black helicopters/jack-booted storm-troopers/death panel paranoid propaganda. But wait, there's more — a lot more.

U.S. News and World Report noted recently the advertising wars over the health care law could top $1 billion, which ought to have everyone curled into a fetal position awaiting a plague of frogs to descend upon the issuance of the first insurance exchange health care policy.

Perhaps the most telling incident of Cruz's "Who's the fairest of them all?" exercise occurred when he gazed lovingly across the Senate floor to Florida's most junior Sen. Marco Rubio, who has spent more time in office writing self-promotional books than sponsoring legislation.

"You inspire me," Cruz gushed in the Senate's version of Jerry Maquire. What he actually meant was: "You had me at Citizens United."

It's a good thing Cruz took note of his colleague's presence when he did. Rubio was in the chamber just long enough to give the walking Texas political pyramid scheme a quick "attaboy!" before heading off to his own Washington fundraiser.

No doubt Rubio truly does inspire Cruz. Since arriving in Washington as the beefcake centerfold for the tea party, Rubio has become a moneymaking machine for all manner of sky-is-falling political groups, raising $5.2 million this year. His Reclaim America PAC has raked in about $1.8 million, although it's not clear who the senator wants to reclaim America from since the country seems to be just where it's always been.

Nobody has moved Rubio's cheese, much less the Rocky Mountains.

Cruz's PAC, the Jobs, Growth and Freedom Fund, only has a lousy, stinking $313,000. That will barely get you a cup of coffee with Karl Rove. But that is likely to quickly change.

As the New York Times reported this week, in the days before Cruz embarked on the Beltway version of Johnny Carson's old huckstering "Art Fern's Tea Time Movie," his apparatchiks started contacting conservative political groups, advising them that something big was in the works and to activate their fundraising tools.

While Cruz spoke on the Senate floor, his PAC was holding a Washington fundraising event at $2,500-a-head, just to watch the United States senator demonstrate a knowledge of history that suggests Common Core standards really are needed.

Other groups latched onto Cruz's ascot during his Senate panhandling, including the Republican National Committee, which launched "Stand With Ted.'' Freedom Works, the Club for Growth, the Tea Party Patriots, the Heritage Foundation and the Senate Conservative Fund all hit up supporters for contributions.

Cruz began the day as just another ambitious politician with delusions of Hail to the Chief in his head. He came back as the undisputed three-card-monte hustler of Washington's temple of money changers.

There are many fair criticisms of Obamacare. It will have its glitches, its setbacks, its potholes.

But to its detractors the Affordable Care Act represents a mother lode of opportunism for the merchants of fear such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Horton Hears a Boo!, to slip deeper into the pockets of their marks and extract more money than Obamacare will cost them.

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