The Senate, generally speaking, is one of the most polite places on Earth. Even when senators are attacking each other, they tend to do it in amicable terms and always with the label “my friend” or “my colleague” attached to it.
Not Al Franken. At least when it comes to Ted Cruz, that is.
“I probably like Ted Cruz more than most of my colleagues like Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz,” Franken said on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday morning. “And I make an exception with him because he is a toxic coworker, and to get anything done in the Senate, you’ve got to be collegial. You’re a small town of 100 people. Ted doesn’t get anything done. His big accomplishment was shutting down the government.”
Franken’s comments on “New Day” are in support of his new book, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate,” in which he devotes an entire chapter, entitled “Sophistry,” to Cruz.
Cruz is, unsurprisingly, unamused.
“Al is trying to sell books, and apparently, he’s decided that being obnoxious and insulting me is good for causing liberals to buy his books,” Cruz told Politico. “I wish him all the best.” (Note: He doesn’t really wish Franken the best.)
What explains Franken’s particular animus toward Cruz? I asked a handful of Democrats familiar with Franken’s thinking to explain.
“I do not think Franken is unique in his loathing of Cruz,” said one former senior Democratic Senate staffer. “I just think he is unintimidated by him intellectually and is used to calling out absurdity, and so he is willing to express aloud what a lot of other members think privately.”
Another source suggested that Franken is, true to his public statements, simply put off by what he believes is Cruz’s unwillingness to ever even consider working across the aisle to get things done.
“Al writes a lot about how he’s worked hard to build good relationships with his GOP colleagues (he wrote a country song with Orrin Hatch!) because he figured out pretty quickly that that’s the only way you really get stuff done,” the source said.
The fight is likely to be good politics – and business – for both men. Franken, to Cruz’s point, is likely to sell a few more books with his willingness to thrash Cruz given that liberals loathe the Texas Republican. And being attacked by Franken, one of conservatives’ favorite bogeymen, is all upside for Cruz too.
While Franken’s attacks might make their occasional encounters in the Senate hallways a bit more awkward, the real game could come in 2020 when and if Franken (or maybe even Cruz!!) run for president.
If Franken is this nasty about Cruz now, imagine what he would say if one or both of them were running for president!