Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

What the Ted Cruz spectacle is all about

By Gloria Borger, CNN Chief Political Analyst
September 25, 2013 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
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
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT