Thursday, September 26, 2013

It Goes On and On and On

Was reading about this 21-plus hour “filibuster” by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) this week, with much of the commentary focused on reducing it to a peculiar kind of political performing with little practical consequence beyond the already controversial freshman senator alienating colleagues in both parties. And perhaps promoting his own star among a certain, small segment of the American voting public.

Some of the articles noted how “filibuster” was not really an accurate way of describing the performance, since Cruz knew even before starting that he had no way of achieving his ostensible goal of preventing the Senate from voting on a budget plan to keep the government open through a deadline coming up next Monday and thus maintain funding for the new “Obamacare” law. Thus was the speech and its inordinate length even more strange.

Like I say, Cruz began making enemies shortly after joining Congress this year -- even the iPhone-poker playing John McCain called him a “wacko bird” (along with a couple of others) back in the spring. And his speech contained a lot that appeared pretty wacko, especially out of context, including references to Duck Dynasty, White Castle burgers, the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street film franchises, The Little Engine That Could, Ashton Kutcher, Darth Vader, Toby Keith, and Green Eggs and Ham.

Setting aside the specific political context for Cruz’s marathon play, there’s something curious about the wildly out-of-proportion step of speaking for 21-plus hours in such a forum.

Cruz came a bit shy of the longest ever filibuster speech by Strom Thurmond lasting 24 hours and 18 minutes in which he spoke against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, one of many actions in the South Carolinian’s long career in which he established his lamentable opposition to racial equality. Like Cruz, Thurmond also peppered his speech with a lot of obscure, irrelevant matters, most famously a digression on his grandmother’s biscuit recipe.

I’m thinking yet again about the debates this week about televised poker, and how the long, uninterrupted and unedited broadcasts may be better for demonstrating the game’s skill component, but are much less likely to retain an audience. Thus is TV poker necessarily reduced to highlights and other unusual moments that in real time disrupted the monotony but in an edited package are made to seem representative.

Much as commentators on the crazy-long senatorial speeches focus on irrelevant or tangential biscuit recipes and Dr. Seuss readings, so, too, does an hour-long program condensing a day’s worth of poker focus on the unusual.

Speaking of long-winded politicians, I’ve been continuing my Nixon studies and am now in the middle of his 1,100-plus page post-presidency opus, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon.

I have to read it at home, as it’s too big to take anywhere. I mean, really, I’d need an extra suitcase to carry it on a tourney trip.

I could filibust open somebody’s head with this sucker.

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