In Jimmy Stewart’s 1939 classic movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Stewart’s character, Jefferson Smith, holds the floor for many hours, railing against the corruption he sees in the Senate.
It is probably the most famous filibuster in history, but it never actually occurred in real life.
In that, it has much in common with the almost 22-hour speech given by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz that began Tuesday afternoon and ended Wednesday. Cruz’s address technically wasn’t a filibuster in that it did not delay passage of a stopgap spending bill in the Senate on Wednesday.
What it might have accomplished is to delay congressional action enough to make a partial government shutdown unavoidable.
Stewart’s performance earned him film stardom and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Cruz, it would appear, dearly hopes his performance earns him stardom among tea party conservatives and the Republican nomination for president in 2016 despite his antics dismaying many of his GOP colleagues.
Cruz said upsetting the Republican leadership is “survivable. … Ultimately, it is liberating.”
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Cruz was just wasting time.
“He raised some money with the tea party folks,” Reid told the Associated Press. “That’s what it’s all about.”
We didn’t watch all 22 hours of Cruz’s address, but we watched enough to know that what his stunt was all about was a quixotic effort to defund Obamacare and raise his standings with the most passionate part of the Republican electorate.
What’s the harm in that?
Well, if Congress doesn’t pass legislation that allows the United States to pay its bills, the government will stop doing a good deal of what it does, but will continue to implement Obamacare.
For instance, all the national parks, zoos and museums will close, and if you’re trying to get your passport promptly for a trip this autumn, it probably won’t get processed in time.
Military people will eventually get paid but will have to wait for their paychecks until the crisis is over, and most civilian military employees will be furloughed.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be shut down, delaying gun permits.
Federal small-business and housing loans would be delayed, too.
Oh, and thousands of federal employees would be temporarily thrown out of work, causing great hardship for them and their families, in addition to the American economy.
A Bloomberg poll released this week showed that Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama and Obamacare, but not as much as they disapprove of Congress. They — and we — wish those House and Senate characters would stop being bad actors playing political games, and start thinking about real-life honorable compromise for their country.