Friday, January 29, 2016

TED CRUZ AND THE LIMITS OF NARCISSISTIC SELF-PITY

Ted Cruz had one particularly bad moment in last night's debate:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) told the moderators of the Republican presidential debate at Iowa Events Center on Thursday that he might just take his ball and go home.

His threat to leave the stage came after he accused Fox News’ questioners of encouraging his rivals to attack him.

“I would note that the last four questions have been, ‘Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted.”

Cruz’s comment provoked loud boos from the audience. His critique of the debate questions came after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) was asked about how his plans to confront the jihadist group ISIS would differ from those put forth by Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.)

Moderator Chris Wallace offered a retort to Cruz.

“It is a debate sir,” Wallace said.

Cruz wasn’t satisfied with Wallace’s response.

“No, no, a debate actually is a policy issue,” Cruz said. “But I will say this, gosh, if you guys say -- ask one more mean question I’m going to have to leave the stage.”

It was unclear if this was a real threat, a badly delivered joke, or a shot at Donald Trump....



Well, obviously it was a shot at Donald Trump, or at least an expression of Trump envy -- hey, he can be petulant and walk away, why can't I? I think it's clear that it was also meant as a joke (in a serious/not serious way). But the audience couldn't tell it was a joke. It came off as self-pity.

But why should that be a problem for Cruz? It's never a problem for Trump. Trump's approach to the debates has been one long pity party, from his initial spat with Megyn Kelly to his complaints about debate length to his boycott last night. And yet he gets away with it. Why?

For that matter, why does Cruz get away with self-pity at other times? Here's Charlie Pierce writing about Cruz on the campaign trail, in moments that were clearly much more favorably received than last night's failed joke:
[Cruz] glistens ... when he gets all whispery and moved by his own words, describing his own martyrdom at the hands of liberals, and the media, and the leaders of his own party. A lone warrior, "constitutionalist fighter," as he says. He glistens more brightly when he's calling the president "...an imperial dictator like we've had the last seven years," or narcissistic and self-involved. He glistens more brightly when he talks about the seven battles he's fought against the right to choose and against marriage equality. He brags about the victories he's won as regards the former issue before the members of that same Supreme Court, which he calls "activists" when he talks about the decision in the latter question of which he doesn't approve. He glistens more brightly when he talks about "bearing the stripes" of his vain attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and about "bearing the stripes" of defeating a very reasonable immigration reform bill that had passed the Senate. He glistens more brightly when he talks about how he has stood tall and dared to call "radical Islamic extremism" by that name. He glistens, Ted Cruz does.
Here's the difference between Trump and Cruz: Trump has been such a relentless bully, to the delight of Republicans, that he can get away with just about any amount of self-pity, for any reason. The voters are certain that he's a tough guy. They know he's not a sniveling whiner (even when he clearly is a sniveling whiner).

Cruz doesn't have carte blanche to whine in the same way. He can't always get away with it. When can he get way with it? When he's whining about being attacked by Antichrists -- evil forces his audiences think are also attacking them. He's a victim of the president's executive orders! He's a victim of the Affordable Care Act! He's a victim of political correctness because he wants to say "radical Islamic extremism"!

Cruz has limited immunity on whining. He can feel sorry for himself when he's feeling sorry for himself in ways Republican voters feel sorry for themselves. But when he's complaining about Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly, Republican voters can't relate.

Trump has unlimited immunity. He's seen as an across-the-board tough guy. So he can whine about anything at any time.

Yes, Ted, it's unfair, because any idiot can see that Trump isn't really all that tough.

But don't whine about the unfairness. You can't get away with it.

8 comments:

Theo said...

I think Cruz was obviously joking and it wasn't self-pity. He's taking every opportunity to mock Trump and be a thorn in his side; this was another instance. I thought it was kind of funny and wasn't badly delivered at all, although it apparently flew over a lot of people's heads.

In a post last night about this at Crooks & Liars, everyone was taking this very seriously and wondering how Cruz would deal with Putin et al. "Knock, Knock", doesn't anyone notice the parallels with the way Trump acted and the left's (and some on the right's) response? It was a joke! (I'm proudly on the left and am a liberal--that four-letter word that politicians on the left are afraid to use.)

Victor said...

Just what we need as POTUS:
A wannabe tough-guy who's really a sniveling WATB!

Putin and the other real tough leaders of the world must be ROTFLTAO!

All of these GOP clowns look like Junior HS losers.
Hillary, a "girl," will give any of these clowns wedgies, and take their lunch money - and so will the ASst. Principal, "Grandpa" Sanders!

Unknown said...

I can't stand either one; each is a despicable, self-centered, selfish, self-aggrandizing, self-motivated narcissistic con artist grifter.

But if I were compelled, by law or circumstance, to pick between them as to which of these appalling a-holes is 'tougher', in the sense of being more ruthless and better suited to surviving personal disaster, and particularly if my own security or well-being depended on it my choosing correctly, I would not hesitate to pick Trump over Cruz.

In commemoration of this choice, I hereby offer, free of charge, this idea for a nifty campaign slogan:

"TRUMP 2016: Probably Less Awful Than Cruz"

swkellogg said...

Trump's "in" with the base is that he can at least convincingly simulate the demeanor and tone of a tough guy. He has the bluster and bravado. Something that he no doubt learned from exposure and interaction with the real deal.

So his whining sounds (to the base) like he's taking a tough talkin' stance.

Cruz is ultimately too proud and deeply immersed in his intellectual bona fides to go the full Lonesome Rhodes route necessary to hoodwink the shit kickers into believing he is one of them. The Bacon wrapped assault rifles, camo face paint, and buffalo plaid shirts are a nice try. They just aren't enough to conceal his "laminated excuse note last chosen in gym class valedictorian" status.

So his whining (to the base) just sounds like whining.

retiredeng said...

Cruz should know that you can't use subtle jokes with this crowd of humorless pinheads. They only "get it" when you outright provoke their hatred of "the other."

Leo Artunian said...

Putting a joke across requires that the person making the joke be perceived by the audience as someone who is relaxed enough to be funny. Cruz is such an up-tight, self-important prig that it's hard for anyone in his audiences to believe he's capable of making a joke. Some of those on the left might be quicker to pick up on the possibility that Cruz might be joking, but only because they already see him as ridiculous and as someone whose words can't be taken seriously.

Steve M. said...

Well, he got laughs laughs with this.

MrKatz said...

This!