If attention was what Ted Cruz was after, he is getting it in bucket loads after announcing his candidacy for President before a mandatory filled auditorium at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. That's right, students faced fines if they didn't attend. Others pitched up in T-shirts proudly proclaiming that they "Stand with Rand."
Unfazed, Ted delivered a sanctimonious speech, telling of his origins, which Donald Trump questions; promoting small business, replete with a "Kenyan girl" coming to America (Obama's niece maybe?); telling us that "American Exceptionalism" is all about that "Shining City on a Hill" that St. Ronnie so often evoked; giving us a brief history lesson Tea Party style; lambasting "Obamacare" and the IRS while defending Hobby Lobby (thunderous applause); telling us what a great guy Benjamin Netanyahu is; and that if he was President it would be America first at the UN. You can read the full transcript here.
We all knew it was coming. Ted has been running for President ever since he swept Texas to become its Senator in Congress in 2012. Since then, he has regaled us with tales from Dr. Seuss to keep filibusters going into the wee hours of the morning, long past children's bed times. New York GOP Rep. Peter King lambasts Ted Cruz for trying to shutdown government, considering him nothing more than a "carnival barker."
2016 will still be about Obama because Obama will still be in the White House. Dr. Ben Carson even opined that Obama might call off elections all together and declare himself "El Comandante," if anarchy were to break out. In addition to Lost, Carson seems to be watching too much The Walking Dead.
You get the feeling that these candidates live in a world of television, not much unlike the town of Pleasantville. The reality we know doesn't even enter their heads. It's understandable given that Americans prefer fictional presidents, even Kevin Spacey's notoriously duplicitous Frank Underwood, to Obama.
You can run as a "fictional" President in the primaries, but what happens if you are lucky enough to assume office? All presidents have faced this conundrum. As low as Obama's approval ratings are, they are still far higher than were Bush's or even Clinton's approval ratings in their last two years of office. We recently had Monica Lewinsky remind us of Bill's notorious affair, which led to his impeachment by the US House. Americans seem to prefer fantasies to reality, even when everyday events are made into a "reality show," as is the case with network news today.
Ted plays on those fantasies. He is a populist candidate in the mold of Lonesome Rhodes from the movie Face in the Crowd. He seems to have even shaped the same smirk that Andy Griffith gave his loathsome character. The amazing thing about Ted is that he can go totally unplugged and his base of supporters still loves him. Like Rhodes, you will never forget Ted's face either. Guys like Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum are all interchangeable. Ted stands out in the crowd. Love him or hate him, you won't be able to shake that image of him.
Most likely he will tear the Republican Party apart, assuming he stays in the race. It may be nothing more than a cheap ploy, like the filibuster he pulled at the end of 2013 to stall the joint Congressional appropriations bill. Ted might not see his time as now, but rather is using this election to put his name out for consideration in the future. After all, he is a young man, only 44. He will still be as lively in 2020 or 2024. This is a good way to project a sense of national support and drop out before any actual votes are counted.
Ted may say the most outlandish things but he is not stupid. He knows that all the condemnation he is receiving won't affect his base of support, because the harsh criticism is coming from the sources the Tea Party loathes. Ted will always play his base, knowing that his supporters will keep him a Texas Senator as long as he wants to be, biding his time not much unlike Martin Sheen's character in The Dead Zone, who oddly enough became President in The West Wing. We can only hope Ted doesn't have this in mind for the country.