America’s worst politicians

Alternative weeklies from around the nation tell us about the bottom feeders of public office

America’s worst politicians
illustration by Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

For an interactive version of this story, click here

Exactly 238 years ago this week, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that King George III was “a Tyrant ... unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Ever since then, Americans have been calling out their leaders. “Tyrant” was just the start. We’ve moved on to “crook” (Nixon), “liar” (Clinton) and “moron” (Dubya).

Whether or not you agree with the peanut gallery, there’s no denying that such written assaults on public honchos are as American as baseball, apple pie and the iPhone.

Those closest to American politics – writers and editors of the alternative press from across the land – have combined their collective genius here. They’ve named some of the nation’s worst elected leaders from across the country, then separated them into hatemongers, sleazeballs, blowhards and horn dogs. Take note; Election Day approaches. – Chuck Strouse, editor, Miami New Times


Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

In 2010, Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, affixed her signature to the infamous immigrant-bashing legislation called Senate Bill 1070 and rode a wave of xenophobia to electoral triumph, a book deal, conservative accolades and liberal opprobrium. She did this despite massive goofs such as claiming that headless bodies were routinely found in the Arizona desert, blanking for several seconds during a TV debate with her gubernatorial rivals and claiming her dad died fighting the Nazis when he actually worked in a munitions depot during World War II and died 10 years after the war ended.

Brewer spent millions in donations on appeals to a U.S. district court’s injunction against most of SB 1070. Then, in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court overthrew a large part of the statute as unconstitutional. Still, it had its intended effect. More than 200,000 Hispanics fled the state because of SB 1070 and other anti-immigrant laws, according to one estimate. They took their purchasing power with them to other states, making Arizona’s recession even worse.

Brewer still plays the race card, even as a lame duck with zero political prospects. For instance, she stubbornly refuses to relent on her executive order denying driver’s licenses to so-called DREAMers who qualify for deferred action under a federal plan.

Recently, the governor has tried softening her image by pushing through a Medicaid expansion and overhauling Arizona’s inept Child Protective Services. Nevertheless, her political gravestone is destined to read, “Signed SB 1070.” – Stephen Lemons, Phoenix New Times

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, Arizona

Congressman Paul Gosar stood beside flaming racist Cliven Bundy and Bundy’s band of armed militia members ready to battle the Bureau of Land Management in southern Nevada – all over the rancher’s refusal to pay his bills. But Gosar’s opportunistic move (a publicity stunt to score points with his militia-minded constituency) blew up in his face.

Bundy’s public pontification on how African-Americans were perhaps better off under slavery, along with his radical, violent rhetoric, was enough to convince several politicians who had aligned themselves with the rancher to issue statements blasting his atrocious views.

But not Gosar – at least not that anybody can tell from his website. Calls to his office to see if the congressman publicly renounced his Nevada pal weren’t returned.

Gosar’s hypocrisy is striking. When he offers thoughts about immigration, he blusters about America being “a nation of laws” and how all immigrants must “play by the rules and earn their way honestly.”

Apparently, obeying the law doesn’t apply to his rogue-rancher buddy, who was warned repeatedly about allowing his cattle to graze on restricted land and owes the feds about $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. – Monica Alonzo, Phoenix New Times

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona

Congressman Trent Franks is a Tea Party Republican who’s obsessed with women’s private parts. Don’t believe it? It’s reflected in the umpteen anti-abortion bills that this one-trick political pony has sponsored during his lawmaking career. Considered nutty by too many of his congressional colleagues, none has gone anywhere.

Most infamously, a 2013 bill that Franks introduced would have outlawed all abortions 20 weeks after fertilization. In pushing for the law, Franks, who must have graduated from the Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock School of Medicine, tried to assuage his colleagues’ concerns about pregnancy from sexual assault by telling them that “the incidences of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” – Monica Alonzo, Phoenix New Times


Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert

Jason Rapert is the Elmer Gantry of the Arkansas Legislature – a Brush Arbor Baptist preacher, bluegrass fiddler and proprietor of a putative African missionary effort that specializes in countries where homosexuality is a crime.

The Republican from Bigelow’s outrage at the “radical homosexual lobby” and “elitist judges” over the march of marriage equality knows no bounds. On his passion meter, that subject is up there with his views on President Obama (he wants him impeached), fracking (it’s seriously good) and abortion (uh-uh). On that last issue, Rapert tried to pass a six-week abortion limit but settled for 12; it was immediately invalidated by a Republican federal judge who, unlike Rapert, still believes Roe v. Wade guides federal law.

The judge did keep in place a mandatory ultrasound for women, which will mean an invasive vaginal probe in some cases. Rapert believes the United States, its laws and its people should be governed by God’s commandments. And it’s Rapert’s interpretation of the commandments, not those of different religious persuasions, that counts. – Max Brantley, Arkansas Times


California State Sen. Leland Yee

This longtime San Francisco-area pol, a Democrat, was indicted in March for trading an official proclamation for $6,800 in cash from an undercover FBI agent, as well as brokering a meeting between a prospective donor and his fellow legislators in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in “donations” well in excess of federal campaign limits. But that’s not even the good stuff. The good stuff involves international arms dealing and a co-defendant named Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.

Chow, we learned from court documents, is a convicted felon once involved with everything from dealing heroin to pimping underage girls. But even while being held up as a model of rehabilitation by no less than U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chow led an international crime syndicate involved with murder for hire, money laundering, and drug and gun trafficking, prosecutors allege.

When an FBI agent pretending to be part of Chow’s gang approached Yee for help with obtaining missiles and other weapons, the state senator didn’t just agree – prosecutors allege he also walked the agent through the steps to acquire them from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines.
There’s much, much more to the story, but here’s probably a good place to end when it comes to Sen. Yee: When this one-time rising star in the California Democratic Party failed to resign his seat, fellow senators voted to suspend him with pay. And though those pesky criminal charges forced Yee to abandon his run for California secretary of state, it was too late to change the ballots, and the flood of bad publicity around his name didn’t seem to matter much to voters – more than a half-million Californians still backed him. The would-be arms dealer who allegedly exchanged political favors for money beat out five other candidates. – Sarah Fenske, L.A. Weekly


Florida Gov. Rick Scott

He looks like Voldemort, speaks in the high-pitched timbre of a Wes Anderson movie villain and wants to drug-test as many human beings as possible. More disastrous for Florida residents, he’s recklessly rejected federal stimulus packages and dismantled regulatory agencies. He’s Rick Scott, and he’s America’s least popular governor for damn good reasons.

Backed by a wave of Tea Party support – and bankrolled by $70 million of his own cash – he won a shocking gubernatorial victory in 2010. The win was all the more remarkable considering Scott’s background. His fortune came from founding a health-care empire, later called Columbia/HCA, which paid the single largest Medicare fraud fine in U.S. history – $1.7 billion for stealing from the feds.

Scott showed that his wanton disregard for regulation didn’t end with his golden parachute from his felonious firm. In the governor’s office, he quickly stripped millions of dollars from the state health-care agency and laid off environmental regulators. He also signed new laws requiring all welfare recipients and every state employee to undergo random drug testing. How did he get around the slightly sticky wicket that a firm he owned makes millions by administering such tests? He signed the company over to his wife. (The courts have since thrown out the drug-testing laws for violating the Fourth Amendment.)

He’s made other shady moves. Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal aid to build a high-speed train in Central Florida and lied about the state having to eat cost overruns for the project. During the 2012 presidential election, he tried to suppress black votes with blatantly race-based bans on Sunday early voting (which black congregations dominate). He also tried to kill a prescription-drug database that has decimated oxycodone abuse, while his underfunded health-care agency has allowed steroid clinics – like the Biogenesis clinic at the heart of last year’s Major League Baseball scandal – to proliferate.

And through it all, Scott has largely flouted Florida’s Sunshine laws by hiding his correspondence from the public and resisted reporters’ attempts to hold him accountable – all while grinning like a demented right-wing Skeletor for TV cameras at scripted events. Is it any wonder his opinion polls have struggled to top 30 percent since he was elected? – Tim Elfrink, Miami New Times


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois

Even toward the end of his 22-year mayoral reign, when he started selling off pieces of the city to hide its escalating financial woes, Richard M. Daley had broad support in Chicago. Sure, he was a tyrannical, thin-skinned jerk who doled out jobs and contracts to friends, but he was the people’s tyrannical, thin-skinned jerk who doled out jobs and contracts to friends. His successor, Rahm Emanuel, is simply a jerk.

At least that’s how he’s seen by lots of Chicagoans after his first three years in office. In a recent poll commissioned by the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel had the support of a meager 29 percent of city voters.

The mayor and his allies stress he’s made “tough choices” to get the city back on track, starting with restoring fiscal discipline. It’s certainly true he’s shuttered mental health clinics, raised water fees, privatized city jobs, laid off teachers and closed schools – four dozen of them at once. At the same time, he’s poured millions of additional dollars into non-unionized, privately run charter schools.

But it’s not only what he’s done; it’s also how he’s done it. Emanuel is widely seen as an outsider who uses Chicago as a backdrop for his broader political ambitions. Though he appears regularly in city neighborhoods for news conferences, his daily meeting schedule is filled with millionaire corporate leaders and investors, earning him the nickname “Mayor 1 Percent.” Still, Emanuel remains a formidable politician. He already has more than $7 million in his campaign coffers and is prepared to raise millions more before he’s up for election next February. Rahm may not be loved, but he’s unlikely to go down unless some high-profile candidate runs against him, and so far, that special someone hasn’t jumped into the race. – Mick Dumke, Chicago Reader


Horn Dog
Kentucky State Rep. Jim Gooch

While serving in the Kentucky General Assembly for the past two decades, Jim Gooch has made a name for himself as the state’s No. 1 climate-change denier. Gooch – as chair of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee – once held a hearing to get to the bottom of this so-called global warming kerfuffle; the hearing featured only two witnesses, who were climate-change deniers but not scientists. He explained he didn’t want any scientists to testify because “you can only hear that the sky is falling so many times.”

Gooch has accused the scientific community of engaging in a massive cover-up and fraud to perpetuate the “hoax” of global warming and has even suggested that Kentucky secede from the union to avoid EPA rules. He also sponsored a bill this year to openly discriminate against utility companies that seek to switch from coal to natural gas. Gooch happens to own a company that primarily sells mining equipment to coal companies.

He’s also made a name for himself as being quite the ladies’ man. He interrupted and blocked a vote to recognize the courage of two legislative staffers who stepped forward to accuse a legislator of rampant sexual harassment. Following that spectacle, the same staffers accused Gooch of inappropriate behavior, including throwing a pair of pink panties onto their table at a conference and saying, “I’m looking for the lady who lost these.” Gooch excused himself by saying that a woman had slipped the panties into his pocket moments earlier and that “actually they weren’t pink; I think they may have been beige.” – Joe Sonka, LEO Weekly


U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota

Minnesota natives include Prince and Michele Bachmann, explanation enough why the state’s official bird is the loon.

Both His Royal Badness and the Tea Party’s homecoming queen have shown themselves to be geniuses at bizarre self-promotion. Alas, only Prince is a genius at his job. The congresswoman, on the other hand, is retiring in 2014 one step ahead of looming congressional censure, if not outright criminal charges.

Negro Leaguer Satchel Paige once pronounced that “it ain’t bragging if you can do it.” Bachmann, however, still preens in self-congratulation despite her utter political failure. A defrocked demagogue, she still pretends her Tea Party is a reactionary revolution, not a moribund refuge for the Republicans’ traditional bloc of bat-shit-crazy far-right-wingers.

Bachmann’s gift for gaffes became horridly apparent in 2012, when she lasted one presidential primary. Visiting Waterloo, Iowa, the candidate grandiosely lauded the town because it birthed that embodiment of red-blooded patriotism, John Wayne. Unfortunately, Waterloo’s most famous native son is actually mass murderer John Wayne Gacy.

The stench still hovers from her sixth-place Iowa finish. Her pathetic showing is remarkable, considering the amount of cheating allegedly perpetrated by the Bachmann campaign. Purported election law violations have been or will be investigated by the House Ethics Committee, the Federal Election Commission, Iowa’s Senate Ethics Committee and the FBI. Additionally, one of her Iowa operatives stands accused of making illegal payoffs to political consultants, and Bachmann has been sued for stealing Hawkeye State email lists.

Prospects for Bachmann’s next gig range from hosting her own Fox News blabfest to sitting in a defendant’s chair. She has said God told her to run for national office. And thank the Lord, Congress shortly won’t have Michele Bachmann to kick around anymore. – Neal Karlen


Missouri State Sen. Brian Nieves

Majority Caucus Whip Brian Nieves wasn’t about to be sidelined last year as national lawmakers took up gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre. Sure, Nieves is just a lowly state senator from Missouri, but he’d teach that “Barack Hussein Obama” not to trample on his sacred right to bear arms.

Nieves’ “Second Amendment Protection Bill” would have made it illegal to enforce federal gun laws in Missouri. Never mind that the headline-grabbing bill would never have passed constitutional muster even if the governor hadn’t vetoed it. Undeterred, Nieves filed a similar bill this year that was so confusing even the NRA couldn’t endorse it. Then again, not much makes sense with Nieves – be it his screaming fits on the senate floor, his grammatically challenged Facebook rants, or his angry exchanges with constituents (one of whom he allegedly referred to as a “piece of fuck”).

Oh, and let’s not forget that pending civil lawsuit in which a fellow Republican accuses Nieves (who by his own admission is armed “97 percent of the time”) of pulling out a gun and physically and verbally assaulting him. Now, after a dozen wild years in office, perhaps Nieves will finally holster it – a bit.

In March he announced his plan to leave the senate to pursue the job of recorder of deeds in his home district. Why would a firebrand legislator want to become a paper-pushing bureaucrat? Because, Nieves says, the people deserve a “constitutional freedom fighter” in county government.
– Chad Garrison, Riverfront Times


Montana State Sen. Art Wittich

The call for campaign finance reform has escalated dramatically since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. Much of the concern centers on the shadowy world of so-called dark-money groups – politically active nonprofits that aren’t required to disclose their donors. No politician in Montana is more closely tied to dark money than Senator Art Wittich, a Republican from Bozeman and the 2013 state senate majority leader.

For years, Wittich’s law firm acted as the registered agent for the nonprofit, Colorado-based American Tradition Partnership (ATP). Formerly known as Western Tradition Partnership, ATP was featured in a 2012 exposé on Frontline. Wittich’s firm also represented ATP in its challenge to Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, which barred corporate spending in state campaigns for a century. The act was overturned.

Relying in part on information contained in several boxes of documents recovered from a meth house in Colorado, Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices has issued eight rulings of campaign practice violations against ATP over the past year. One of them was tied to Wittich’s 2010 primary bid.
The commissioner also ruled this year that Wittich violated campaign law during that race by coordinating with and accepting corporate donations through ATP. A district court judge recently declined a recommendation that Wittich be removed from the 2014 ballot. So the senator will again bid to run – in a district where he does not reside. – Alex Sakariassen, Missoula Independent

New York

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, New York

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino seized the moment following this past May’s rampage in Santa Barbara, California, that left seven people dead. He aimed to bolster his conservative cred while appealing to the moderate New York voters he’ll need to unseat Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November’s election. Astorino blamed the tragedy on inadequate resources for mental health treatment and argued that tighter restrictions on gun ownership would not have saved lives. “Government failed,” the GOP gubernatorial candidate said gravely. “Here you had a person who is mentally unstable. Clearly this young boy had problems, and yet the system failed him.”

Though Astorino made a valid point, the glaring problem with his grandstanding, as the New York Daily News later revealed, is that he had just spent four years slashing the mental health budget in Westchester County. Mental health funding fell from just under $18 million to $8.4 million on Astorino’s watch. Staffing at the relevant county agencies dropped from 152 to 74.

Hypocrisy doesn’t necessarily equate to stupidity, but Astorino has made a campaign pledge that covers both bases on this issue. He has vowed to repeal New York’s SAFE Act, which was approved after the Sandy Hook massacre. It includes a provision that requires mental health professionals to evaluate people who have made threats to harm themselves or others and, if necessary, refer them to authorities who can confiscate weapons before a killing spree. – Keegan Hamilton


Ohio State Rep. John Becker

“This is just a personal view. I’m not a medical doctor.” So says Becker, who, after less than a year in Columbus has introduced a dozen bills, all of them bat-shittier than the last. His personal, nonmedical opinion, if you were wondering, pertained to HB 351, a bill that would have banned health-care providers from covering abortions. And not just abortions in the sense we all know, but a hazy, very unscientific view of abortions that would include “drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”

And he’s after IUDs, which are proven to be, as Slate pointed out, among the most cost-effective and, ya know, effective forms of birth control.

Becker advocated the impeachment of a federal judge in Ohio who had overturned part of the state’s same-sex marriage ban. He also penned an open letter in the wake of gay marriage approval in Massachusetts advocating a constitutional amendment prohibiting the practice. (He also wanted to expel Massachusetts from the union and remove a star from the flag.)

He has admitted to being a bit of a Don Quixote with his opinions, though we’re pretty sure Becker has never read Cervantes’ masterpiece. Otherwise, he would have read passages like “When equity could and should be upheld, do not apply the rigor of the law on the accused; the reputation of a rigorous judge is no better than a compassionate one” and then promptly proposed a bill to ban Man of La Mancha. – Vince Grzegorek, Cleveland Scene


Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe likes to walk softly and carry a big flamethrower. Whether it’s gay rights, immigration reform – which he has called “illegal alien invasion” – or requiring voter ID cards, you can count on the eight-term Republican from western Pennsylvania to unleash a double dose of inflammatory rhetoric.

As chairman of the powerful House State Government Committee, Metcalfe authored a controversial voter ID law and then drew fire when he went on a Pittsburgh radio station to complain about people who were too “lazy” to apply for the ID card. Then, when newbie state Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly gay lawmaker in Harrisburg, tried to speak on the house floor last June in support of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, Metcalfe relied on his direct connection to the Divine to deny Sims the right to speak. Metcalfe said Sims’ intended remarks were “in open rebellion against God’s law.”

The far-right conservative took the limelight in Harrisburg in 2001 when he introduced a resolution asking the federal government to fund and deploy a national defense missile system. No one could figure out why state lawmakers should be debating the issue, but the measure passed anyway. His latest crusade, launched in May, was to call on Gov. Tom Corbett to appeal a federal court decision that struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. He is consistent, at least, and he sees himself as being ahead of the curve. As Metcalfe, 51, told the liberal news website Talking Points Memo: “I was a Tea Partier before it was cool.” – Lil Swanson, Philadelphia City Paper

South Carolina

Horn Dog
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, South Carolina

Until June 2009, Mark Sanford was little more than a buffoon in a sensible libertarian sports jacket from the clearance rack at Kohl’s. During his first term as governor of South Carolina and most of his second, there were laughs aplenty. He took two piglets into the statehouse to protest earmarks. One was named Pork, the other Barrel – natch – and one, if not both, promptly shat on the floor during Sanford’s important presser.

Then there was the time when the state legislature overrode, or nearly overrode, all of his vetoes. We’re not sure if that was in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 or 2009 because it seemed to happen every year.

But then came some real creepiness. It began when Sanford apparently told his staff he was taking off to hike the Appalachian Trail, but instead he flew to Argentina on the taxpayer’s dime to be with his mistress.

Upon his return home, the Luv Guv gave a strangely honest but extremely uncomfortable confession on live television. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Bible-beating members of the South Carolina Statehouse didn’t demand his immediate resignation – and this was even after they had read his erotic poetry. Shortly after Sanford’s affair became public, his wife Jenny divorced him and wrote a tell-all book (the governor once gave her a piece of paper for her birthday featuring a drawing of half of a bicycle, and the next year he gave her a drawing with the other half, along with a $25 used bike). Jenny also filed a complaint with the court after Mark repeatedly trespassed on her property; he even hung out at her home during the Super Bowl when she wasn’t there.

But despite all of that – the cheating, the lying, the stalking and the terrorizing – Sanford ran for his old U.S. House seat and won. Now he can take his mistress out to eat in D.C. without meeting the disapproving eyes of his constituents back home
in Charleston. – Chris Haire, Charleston City Paper


Horn Dog
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Tennessee

No one should be robbed of the joy of discovering an artist’s early, lesser-known work. So if you don’t know the pre-2012 past of Republican Scott DesJarlais – whom Esquire’s indubitable political blogger Charles P. Pierce dubbed a “baldheaded bag of douche from Tennessee” – allow us to loop you in.

In 2010, when the then-unknown Dr. DesJarlais was challenging incumbent Democratic Congressman Lincoln Davis in Tennessee’s Fourth District, things got ugly. That was because some papers from DesJarlais’ divorce nearly 10 years earlier made their way into the public eye. The good doctor’s ex-wife claimed his behavior had become “violent and threatening.” She accused him of dry-firing a gun outside her bedroom and putting a gun in his mouth for three hours. DesJarlais cast the revelations as the desperate “gutter campaign” of a losing candidate.

But that gutter proved to be a veritable Mariana Trench. Two years later, DesJarlais, who by then had become an incumbent, found himself in trouble again when more information surfaced from the same bitter divorce. This time it was revealed that the “pro-life, pro-family values” Republican had pressured a mistress – who was also a patient of his – to get an abortion. He would later explain that, actually, he had pushed for her to get an abortion as part of a ruse to expose the fact that her pregnancy was a lie.

Brilliant! There was more: dalliances with six women – two patients, three co-workers and a drug rep – and a confession that he had supported his ex-wife’s decision to get two abortions before they were married. By the grace of Tennessee voters, he was re-elected. By the grace of God, that will be corrected this fall. – Steven Hale, Nashville Scene


U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas

There will soon come a day when Steve Stockman, the U.S. representative for the 36th District of Texas, will depart his Washington, D.C. office for the last time and fly home to Southeast Texas, never to return to the city he so loathes. He probably won’t fire a celebratory bullet through the Capitol dome. He probably will give it some consideration.

Because Stockman, if nothing else, is the congressman of the gun. It began in 1995, during the first year of his initial, short-lived stint in Congress, when he wrote in Guns and Ammo that the Clinton administration had orchestrated the siege on David Koresh’s Waco compound “to prove the need for a ban on so-called ‘assault weapons.’” Oddly, Stockman’s political career quickly fizzled: He lost his next election. But he resurfaced in 2012 a totally unchanged man.

Less than a month after the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings, he introduced the Safe Schools Act, which would have repealed federal laws keeping guns away from schools. He then vowed to pursue the impeachment of Barack Obama after the president issued minor executive orders seeking more gun control, which Stockman called “an existential threat to this nation.”

Occasionally, and memorably, he has exerted himself, with no NRA puppet strings visible, to fight climate change, sex education, and, in February 2013, the Violence Against Women Act, which provides protection to gay and transgender people. “This is helping the liberals, this is horrible.

Unbelievable,” Stockman said. “What really bothers – it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender or whatever. How is that – how is that a woman?”

It’s this rhetorical flair that journalists will miss come next January, when Stockman, after recent failed bids for the Senate and his House seat, departs Washington again, likely for good this time. The gun lobby might miss him too, but only until it gets its strings attached to the new guy. – Joe Tone, Dallas Observer

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Texas

Stupid is as stupid does, but the problem with Republican Ted Cruz is that the freshman senator from Texas isn’t stupid. Since taking Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat in 2012, he has spent his time railing against pretty much every other politician from either side of the aisle. This approach has earned him the loathing of members of his own party, but it has gotten him tons of attention and made him a household name.

These are not the moves of a stupid man. It’s a clever strategy. Cruz has made himself a Tea Party poster child and become a national political star with clear presidential intentions thanks to his remarkable talent for spouting off against most of the legislation anyone proposes. (Of the almost 500 votes he has cast since being elected to the Senate, more than half have been nays.)

The height of the Cruz show came when he staged a nonfilibuster filibuster to take another stand against the Affordable Care Act, even though the stunt was basically political grandstanding. Cruz stood there reading Green Eggs and Ham while the rest of Congress tried to make a deal to get the government running again.

It would be comforting to write Cruz and his antics off as the doings of a not-so-bright politician, but if he were as one-dimensional and guileless as he pretends to be, he’d be on his way out, a one-term senator. As it is, he looks to be setting himself up for a 2016 run at the White House. – Dianna Wray, Houston Press