BuzzFeed handed Ted Cruz a loaded pistol this week and filmed as he pointed it at his big toe and started spinning it on his index finger. If you haven’t seen this video of Cruz “auditioning” to do voicework on The Simpsons, well, it’s … painful doesn’t cover it. A heartbreaking work of staggering chutzpah, maybe. So bad, in fact, that among a certain subset of Simpsons fans, it may help to disqualify him for higher office.
This is the sound of someone walking up behind your childhood and slipping a cold hand down its waistband.
Ted Cruz is implicitly asking for my vote with this “Hi, I’m Ted” routine. He’s intimating that he’s just a relatable guy (albeit one who thinks shutting down the government to make political hay is okely-dokely, says abortion rights harm women, and believes that NASA shouldn’t study the changing climate … because why would a space agency concern itself with Earth?). He’s pulling quotes from vintage early Simpsons episodes, going as late as the seventh Treehouse of Horror for that “twirling” quote, along with a couple of generic Monty Burns and Ned Flanders catch-phrases. I watched those episodes on cassettes repeatedly the era before the Internet was worth a damn, essentially on repeat. To casually misquote them to Simpsons snobs like me is to jumble a psalm.
This is Cruz demonstrating the difference between being a true geek and a mere dork. A Simpsons geek could tell you in a heartbeat that his rendering of the exchange between Homer and Lisa is borderline improv. In Season 7’s “Lisa the Vegetarian,” Homer runs down a list of meats (lamb, chicken, hot dogs) he can cook for her. She replies, and the bit builds to a succinct, absurd punchline:
Lisa: I can’t eat any of them!
Homer: Lisa, honey, are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad! Those all come from the same animal!
Homer: [chuckling] Yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
Cruz starts his re-enactment at the 0:22 second mark, proudly broom-cramming the original script into a wood-chipper:
Lisa: But dad! I’m a vegetarian! I don’t eat animals.
Homer: But Lisa — animals are so delicious. There’s the animal we get bacon from, the animal we get ham from, the animal we get sausage from.
Lisa: Dad! That’s all the same animal!
Homer: Oh, sure, Lisa. A magic animal, that all the wonderful foods come from.
This is Ted Cruz’s version of recalling Simpsons lines. Dude can’t even pander properly. And he wants to be your latex salesman.
In a field now turducken-tight with 17 Republicans and Democrats vying to become president, everyone needs to stand out. Cruz, running against his own reputation as an unabashed shitheel, has chosen this hill to mount. Look, he says with these leaky-balloon voice impressions, I’m a relatable dude. I nerd out on the same things you do. We could have a beer. We could reminisce about 15-year-old episodes of an animated sitcom. We could make the world a better place.
Except this conveys nothing of the sort. “The weirdest fucking thing I’ve ever seen,” Jon Stewart called it, and that dude has seen from weird. This was a patent failure to play against type. It was the YouTube-era version of Michael Dukakis clambering into a tank to convince the electorate of his military acumen in ‘88. George Bush’s campaign turned the dippy photo-op into one of the stickiest attack ads in history. (Thanks in part to Bush’s adviser Roger Ailes, who would go on to ride Simpsons riches to build Fox News and help determine the 2000 election for George W. Bush … small world, politics and cartoons.) Dukakis never lived his stunt down.
Cruz shouldn’t be president, and won’t be. I admire the effort in the BuzzFeed stunt, but I also hope its failure haunts his standing among dedicated Simpsons geeks. If he were really going for that vote, he only needed a one-line platform: “Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.”