THE TV – “Saturday Night Live” is on. They usually have a good thrashing of current affairs. Ah, here comes the opening skit. It’s “Sesame Street” with the same-looking set, but wait, that guy seems awfully familiar, standing there -- sneaky eyes, short beard. Good grief. It’s Texas’ own U.S. senator, Ted Cruz!
What unfolds next is a complete skit – not just a snarky mention on “Weekend Update” – with Cruz taking on Big Bird. But first, in case you were putting up “Beto for Guv” signs – or tearing them down -- and missed the background, here’s the bit: Big Bird, beloved face of "Sesame Street," said that he/she/it had received the COVID-19 vaccine. "My wing is feeling a little sore, but it'll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. (CNN reporter) Erica Hill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!”
What? Urging children to get vaccinated so they won’t die of COVID-19? Them’s fighting words for the Texas Republican senator who leaped into action, tweeting: "Government propaganda...for your 5 year old!" As you can imagine, everyone took sides. (These days we always do.) The panel on “Fox & Friends” defended Cruz, and Lisa Boothe, a Fox News contributor, said “brainwashing children who are not at risk from COVID” was “twisted.” Steve Cortes, a host on the conservative Newsmax network, said, “This kind of propaganda is actually evil. Your children are not statistically at risk, and should not be pressured into a brand new treatment. Do Not Comply!”
Across the aisle, those on “The View” took Big Bird’s side. Hillary Clinton posted a photo of her alongside Big Bird. Her caption read, "It's a bird that teaches children things. Like how to stay healthy. That's it." Mary Trump, former President Donald Trump's niece and one of his fiercest critics, wrote on Twitter: "Big Bird is kind, compassionate, empathetic, loving, adored, and vaccinated. Ted Cruz is . . . vaccinated."
But the late-night comics had the best time. Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert joked about Cruz night after night. “Big Bird doesn’t fly south in the winter, unlike Ted Cruz.” Jimmy Kimmel observed: “The latest thing that the anti-cancel crowd wants to cancel is ‘Sesame Street.'” Even late-night comics in Canada made Cruz their punching bag.
Then came the opening salvo from “Saturday Night Live.” In the skit, “Cruz” hosts "Cruz Street." The senator is joined in the sketch by several guests — including actors playing that loose cannon from Georgia, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and podcast host Joe Rogan. The real-life Greene and Rogan have both pushed misinformation about the virus and vaccine. Big Bird himself, played by Kyle Mooney, also makes an appearance, telling the senator that he has suffered embarrassing side-effects after his vaccination. Cruz recommends he bathe in Borax.
Now why would “the senator from Texas” (he’s always introduced that way before the insults) take on an 8-foot, 2-inch yellow bird who has been entertaining and educating children since the 1970s but is perpetually six-and-a-half-years-old? His tweet came less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Pfizer's pediatric vaccine for children ages 5-11. What does Dr. Cruz know that Dr. Fauci doesn’t know? What a humiliation for the Lone Star State.
Let’s take a look at our junior senator. He is Texas’ first and only foreign-born senator who, until it was made public during his first race for the Senate, maintained dual citizenship in both the U.S. and Canada. Indeed, he could just as easily run for a seat in the Canadian Parliament. Before he was elected to the Senate most Texans had never heard of him. He had served as Solicitor General of Texas from 2003 to 2008. (Quick question: who is the current Solicitor General of Texas?) In the senate, he soon made a name for himself – names I cannot print. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fellow Republican, said, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”
In an effort to kill Obamacare, Cruz talked on the Senate floor for 21 hours and 19 minutes, one of the longest in Senate history — three hours shy of Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1957 record, and just short of New York Republican Alfonse D'Amato's 1986 talkathon when he railed against a defense bill for 23-plus hours.
To while away his hours, “the senator from Texas” read from "Green Eggs & Ham" by Dr. Seuss. Later, he sold signed copies of the book and announced, “We've raised $125K in just 24 hours!” If all buyers gave the minimum $60 donation, which was the deal, Cruz would have signed more than 2,000 copies. And talk about politics making strange bedfellows – or pure opportunism – during the GOP presidential primaries, Cruz said, “Donald Trump is a pathological liar.” After Trump ridiculed Cruz’s wife’s looks, Cruz said: “I don’t get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that’ll do it every time. Donald, you’re a sniveling coward.” Trump about Cruz’s father: “What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.” After Trump got the nomination, they had dinner together and called it a “love feast.”
In Cruz’s last run for the Senate in 2018, he received 4,260,535 votes to Beto Rourke’s 4,045,632. (Neal Dikeman, the Libertarian candidate, got 65,470.) That’s a difference of – wait, math is not my strongest suit – 214,921 votes. It was the narrowest U.S. Senate race since Sam Houston beat Thomas Jefferson Rusk in 1845, I think. (I’m not real good at history, either.) No, actually it was the closest U.S. Senate race in Texas since 1978. Those 4,260,535 Texans who voted for Cruz owe the rest of us an apology.
Ashby reads “Green Eggs & Ham” at firstname.lastname@example.org