An “absolutely toxic co-worker,” “singularly dishonest,” “smarmy,” and a “sociopath”: these are just a few of the ways that Senator Al Franken describes Senator Ted Cruz in his new book, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.
Franken devotes an entire chapter of Giant of the Senate to Cruz and, while promoting the book, has spent the last week doling out insults directed at the Texas senator during numerous media appearances. “I probably like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz,” Franken told a giggling Anderson Cooper. “He’s kind of a toxic guy in our office,” Franken continued, “the guy who microwaves fish.”
According to the Washington Post, who describes the Franken-Cruz dudefight as a “blood feud,” the line about hating Ted Cruz is taken from Franken’s book and it’s clearly a favorite of Franken’s—he repeated it during a Wednesday morning appearance on The View. During his appearance on The View, Franken also criticized Cruz for his history of obstructionism, including his willingness to shut down the government “for no reason.” Franken also repeated his “guy who microwaves fish” line, must to the delight of the ladies of The View.
In a Wednesday radio interview, Franken reminded everyone that his dislike of Cruz is hardly singular. He recalled seeing an unnamed Democrat colleague who, on drawing Cruz’s name for a Secret Santa, “then drop it on the floor. I’ve actually had that happen.” Franken’s story here is a reminder that the Senate’s dislike of Cruz is one of the few things that unites a Senate that is otherwise fractured by often deep ideological rifts. In 2016, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham “joked” that if you “killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, no one would convict you.” Similarly, a beleaguered John Boehner called Cruz a “jackass” in 2015.
Franken’s reputation for insulting Cruz has itself become a bit of a joke. During an appearance on Samatha Bee’s Full Frontal, Franken took turns exchanging Cruz-specific insults with the host. The insults ranged from “The love child of Joe McCarthy and Dracula” to “a terrifying fundamentalist swamp Reagan.”
For his part, Cruz has reacted exactly as you would expect: a passing reference to bad liberals combined with some bad tweets. “Al is trying to sell books and apparently, he’s decided that being obnoxious and insulting me is good for causing liberals to buy his books,” Cruz said. “I wish him all the best,” he added. On Wednesday, Cruz responded with the worst kind of tweet: an attempt at topical humor.
Though this dudefight has been particularly enjoyable, in large part because Ted Cruz is an unmitigated asshole, as Franken pointed out in his interview with The View, he has serious objections to Cruz’s style of governance. Franken clearly objects to Cruz’s behavior in the Senate and, in between hurling insults, has mentioned Cruz’s lack of collegiality as well as his disregard for the actual function of the Senate, namely to make laws. “Ted Cruz isn’t just wrong about almost everything. He’s impossible to work with. And he doesn’t care that he’s impossible to work with,” Franken writes in his book.
The chapter devoted to Cruz is titled Sophistry, a reference to an interaction Franken had with Cruz over the Sandy Hook shooting. Via the Post:
As the story goes, Franken was deciding whether to co-sponsor a bill reviving a ban on assault weapons when Cruz approached him on the Senate floor and told him that anyone who favored the ban was “engaged in sophistry.” When Franken challenged him about the statement some days later, Cruz pretended the exchange never happened.
“A flat denial,” Franken writes. “That’s when I realized that Ted Cruz was really something special.”
Franken’s story is a pertinent reminder about why exactly everyone hates Cruz, if not also a reminder that Franken’s comedic treatment of Cruz is undeservedly tame.