Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

What the Ted Cruz spectacle is all about

By Gloria Borger, CNN Chief Political Analyst
updated 4:44 PM EDT, Wed September 25, 2013
Almost 22 hours after he started, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas finally ended his oral assault on Obamacare on Wednesday, September 25. His all-night speech blended political rhetoric and emotional pleas for all of his GOP colleagues to join him in blocking any government funding for the health care reforms.<!-- -->
</br>Technically, Cruz's remarks did not constitute a filibuster. A filibuster is a tactic used to delay or block a vote on legislation or an appointment. Lawmakers can keep a debate going without interruption indefinitely. They don't have to specify what they are filibustering but must keep speaking or, in the case of one senator on the list, singing. Here are some of the most memorable and longest filibusters in Senate history. Almost 22 hours after he started, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas finally ended his oral assault on Obamacare on Wednesday, September 25. His all-night speech blended political rhetoric and emotional pleas for all of his GOP colleagues to join him in blocking any government funding for the health care reforms.
Technically, Cruz's remarks did not constitute a filibuster. A filibuster is a tactic used to delay or block a vote on legislation or an appointment. Lawmakers can keep a debate going without interruption indefinitely. They don't have to specify what they are filibustering but must keep speaking or, in the case of one senator on the list, singing. Here are some of the most memorable and longest filibusters in Senate history.
HIDE CAPTION
Longest filibusters
Longest filibusters
Longest filibusters
Longest filibusters
Longest filibusters
Longest filibusters
Longest filibusters
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sen. Ted Cruz spent more than 21 hours arguing against funding for Obamacare
  • Gloria Borger: Cruz's actions are perplexing, but he may be trying to be a GOP spokesman
  • She says Cruz wants to cuddle to the tea party base by advocating a shutdown
  • Borger: Cruz has divided the Republican party in a Palinesque way

(CNN) -- This isn't the idealism of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

It isn't as dark as "House of Cards," either.

So how about settling on something lighter, like say, "Animal House," in which the dean famously says, "The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me."

And so it goes with Sen. Ted Cruz, at least when it comes to killing Obamacare. The first-term GOP Texan is the self-appointed executioner of a law Republicans despise. But truth be told, it's hard to figure out exactly what Cruz's faux filibuster on the Senate floor this week was really about. He's against big, bad Obamacare, we get it. Only he was asking Senate Republicans to vote against something that would actually kill Obamacare. Huh?

Nevermind. None of this has been about reality. Rather, it's about cementing a new definition of leadership: Positioning yourself as the spokesman for your political base by telling it exactly what it wants to hear. In Cruz's case, it's the tea party base. Lucky for him, there's a made-for-TV bully pulpit, plenty of time to talk and the talking points are easy and oh, so, predictable.

Main Street fed up over Beltway shutdown battle

Consider this sound bite extraordinaire: "This is a fight to restore freedom to the people," says Cruz, clearly not inhibited by any lack of self-importance. "This is a fight to get the Washington establishment, the empire, to listen to the people."

See some of Ted Cruz's marathon remarks
Sen. Ted Cruz's war on Obamacare

Not exactly Abraham Lincoln, but it's a whammy of a bite. In it, Cruz gets to cuddle the tea party while taking on the evil establishment — and by that he means the awful folks in his own party who would not shut down the government over a doomed move to kill Obamacare. Imagine that: Republicans refusing to catapult a man they don't like into the presidential arena.

Maybe they're part of Cruz's evil establishment, but if they are, they're trying to save him — and the party — from itself on the issue of shutting down the government. Cruz is thinking 2016, but they're thinking about the repercussions for the GOP if the government shuts down.

While some polls show that two-thirds of tea party sympathizers are just fine with a shutdown over health care reform, a majority of independent voters are not. And last time I checked, those are the folks whom the GOP needs to win over if its going to win the White House. But I digress.

Facebook users mentioned 'Obamacare' 300,000 times in the U.S. and 360,000 globally, according to data from the site.  Facebook users mentioned 'Obamacare' 300,000 times in the U.S. and 360,000 globally, according to data from the site.
Facebook users mentioned 'Obamacare' 300,000 times in the U.S. and 360,000 globally, according to data from the site.Facebook users mentioned 'Obamacare' 300,000 times in the U.S. and 360,000 globally, according to data from the site.

Right now, Cruz has divided the Republican Party in a Palinesque way, only worse because he is an actual senator with actual authority who could have an actual presidential candidacy.

'Green Eggs' and Facebook users  'Green Eggs' and Facebook users
'Green Eggs' and Facebook users'Green Eggs' and Facebook users

"We have been beaten up by his so-called grassroots movement back home. They pound us with ads, we hear about what he wants at town halls. We don't like Obamacare, either. But there's another way to go about this," says a senior House Republican. "He [Cruz] won one primary in a red state in a Republican year, and now he's busy running for president."

Oh, and by the way, he adds, "he's all about raising money. And doing it at our expense."

Why is it at the GOP's expense? Because Republicans are now afraid of being challenged from the right in primaries. They're not worried about their Democratic opponents; they're worried about the opponents on their right whom, many believe, Cruz would support and throw them under the bus. They're against Obamacare, but are they against it enough?

"He's a demagogue-and-a-half," complains the House Republican. "This is not what you do to your teammates."

Ah, but that's the crux of it all: Cruz doesn't need a team. He's got the floor to himself. And he's got the people, right?

That is, until he doesn't.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT