1. Opinion

Ruth: Grasp of the obvious eludes tea partiers

Many years ago I heard a Baptist preacher offer up this golden piece of advice: You cannot talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into.

If only Sen. Ted Cruz, R-I Feel Petty, Oh So Petty, had been paying attention.

For more than two weeks the United States was thrown into disarray, the nation's credit rating threatened and its prestige around the world undermined. And for what? For nothing, unless you regard this whole senseless political finksmanship as a marketing gambit to boost membership in the Flat Earth Society.

Are there lessons to be learned from Washington's answer to "Hee-Haw on the Potomac"? Sure, beginning perhaps with the notion that civic illiteracy, especially among many elected officials, is at epidemic proportions.

This had to come as a surprise to the tea party members of Congress and their pandering princes of poppycock such as Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, but when you are complicit in shutting the government down — the government actually shuts down.

Perhaps this was the inevitable consequence for politicians who don't think beyond the next Fox News cycle. Perhaps they thought a government shutdown would only affect the Simon Legree villains of the far right such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Education Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The tea party didn't grasp when you shut down the federal government, small business loans and mortgages can't be processed. Head Start programs close their doors. Food inspectors can't inspect food. Science experiments at the National Institutes of Health grind to a halt. NASA becomes an echo chamber. And folks like the Washington, D.C., Police Department are expected to remain on the job and risk their lives for an IOU.

How else to explain the hypocritical presence of Cruz, Rep. Michele Bachmann and their fellow travelers at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall to bemoan the government shutdown they were responsible for?

But wait! It gets even more Glenn Beckish.

We learned over the past two weeks there are members of Congress who believe it would be fine to allow the world's superpower to default on its debts and that nothing more would happen than perhaps a few dunning notices from Sears.

Defaulting on the nation's debts would have eroded the value of the dollar, boosted interest rates and adversely impacted trade relations around the globe.

And yet Rubio, who thinks the road to the White House runs though the Villages, voted against increasing the debt ceiling.

Members of Congress, including Rubio and Cruz, take an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." But how do you define the behavior of elected officials who condone endangering the country's national and economic security? Political perjury, perhaps?

The tea party grumbles about not being taken seriously. But how can you be taken seriously when your only contribution to solving the nation's budgetary woes is turning the country into the Grand Duchy of Fenwick?

During the government shutdown, which began as an effort to defund and destroy the Affordable Care Act, not once did Cruz or Rubio and any of their fellow tea party Renfields offer any solutions to make the nation's health care system more affordable and accessible. Holding one's breath is not a rational public health policy.

If the tea party wants to be taken seriously it doesn't help when one of its leaders, Larry Klayman, took to the podium during the World War II Memorial rally to claim President Barack Obama "bows down to Allah," adding he that should "leave town, to get up and put the Koran down." It doesn't help Cruz's image that he did nothing to admonish Klayman.

And it doesn't help efforts by the tea party to deny there is an element of racism within its ranks when Confederate flags start popping up at the group's anti-Obama rallies.

The tea party wants to be taken seriously? It might start with taking the Pledge of Allegiance — without the crossed fingers.