Franken: Campaigning as a thoroughly disagreeable guy

There’s a word for great pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune: schadenfreude.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, long known as a royal pain, is once again winning the contest for schadenfreude poster boy these days. He is ... well, let’s call on his famous associates to describe him:

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner called Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.” Boehner spit out those words after the then freshman almost singlehandedly caused the government shutdown of 2013 over his mission to strip funding from Obamacare, despite leadership’s efforts to block the maneuver.

By the time that episode was over, Cruz had established a reputation as a backstabbing (even for Washington), smarmy (even for Washington), unlikable (even for Washington) political figure from braggadocio Texas. And his Lone Star State swagger didn’t help.

“I don’t like him,” said Bob Dole, who likes everybody. “I’ll take cyanide if he ever got the nomination,” said former Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.

There are actually two points here. First, Ted Cruz is running for president. He has before and he will again.

Second, Cruz wants to be despised. That’s the only explanation for his continuing exploits, the latest being Cancungate.

Apparently, he’s developed a master plan on the premise Americans will vote for a snake slithering against the political world, speaking with forked tongue and playing wretched villain. My nickname for him is “Snidely Whiplash.”

That brings us to his Cancun adventure.

What ambitious politician in his right mind would leave his state when millions were freezing because of a massive electric power failure in historically cold winter weather and take his family for an escape to Cancun? Who would be so blatant about it?

He was caught, which wasn’t difficult, since he was easily recognizable in the Houston airport rolling a cutesy little suitcase combo onto the plane, and again lazing in sunny Mexico in an ill-fitting golf shirt.

Worse, he tried to lie his way out of it, changing his story several times, and at one point blaming his daughters. Worst of all, he left a little white poodle named Snowflake behind to fend for himself in the family’s frigid house.

So let’s see here. We have an insensitive-to-his-desperate-constituents senator who is entitled, who thinks he’s smarter than everybody else, who almost got beaten by a no-name Democrat (gasp!) and who has antagonized everyone from Texas to Washington. Yup, that certainly seems like presidential material to me.

That other Mr. Congeniality, Donald Trump, called him “Lyin’ Ted,” and nobody along the many stops on Ted Cruz life’s highway objected. Trump lapdog Lindsey Graham said, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

Obviously, Ted Cruz doesn’t care — well, other than the killing part. He believes the path to success is littered with enemies, and he may be right.

It is certainly littered with people who pretend to be your best friends forever. As Harry Truman said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

However, with Snowflake’s abandonment, Cruz may have blown that one.

Ted Cruz doesn’t even pretend to be your friend. He’s a misanthrope if there ever was one, and he doesn’t bother to hide it.

Actually, it’s downright refreshing. He wants everybody to understand the unvarnished truth about him and his hateful but unorthodox election campaigning style.

Next up he’ll be running for mayor of Cancun.

Bob Franken is a former CNN political reporter syndicated through King Features.


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