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Cruz-a-Thon: Why the media are swept away when Ted talks

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Sept. 25, 2013. (ap)

The Ted Cruz show may or may not have been a brilliant political tactic, but it sure mesmerized the media.

There was so much Cruz in my Twitter feed that it took nearly as long to read as it would have to listen to the senator’s 21-hour talk-a-thon.

Cruz himself conceded, I think this is after he read “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor, that he is “a man of many imperfections.”

“A reporter wants to write on those imperfections, there’s no shortage of material,” he said. “But as long as they’re writing on those, they’re not talking about the ideas.”

And in a follow-up appearance with Rush Limbaugh, he compared reporters to “gossip columnists.”

Fair enough. The media have been swooning over the circus atmosphere of the faux filibuster and blathering on about Cruz, the Texan who is not only a piñata for liberals but has attracted all kinds of scorn from his own party.

And if the thing is being covered as a melodrama, whose fault is that?

By leading a crusade to defund ObamaCare that even GOP leaders say is going to fail and by risking a government shutdown that could hurt his party, Cruz made himself the story.

So of course he’s going to get a bunch of “man in the news” pieces in the papers and be the focus of endless cable talk segments.

On a substantive level, it’s hard to argue that Cruz accomplished much, since when he was done the Senate voted 100-0 to proceed with the budget bill.

But on the level of political theater, he certainly took center stage.

The liberals have been whacking away.

“His action hurt his fellow Republicans without doing anything to abolish ObamaCare,” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank said. “But the filibuster did achieve something: It gave Cruz more TV exposure and further endeared him to the tea party. And for the ambitious senator from Texas, the most important thing has always been Ted Cruz.”

The New York Times editorial page commented on Cruz as well.

“Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the public face of the aimless and self-destructive Tea Party strategy to stop health care reform, began an endless floor speech on Tuesday with the theme of ‘make D.C. listen,'” the editorial says. “But even his Republican colleagues had long since stopped paying attention to his corrosive bombast, tired of his pious insults to his own party and unimpressed with his eagerness to shut down the government in pursuit of an ideological dream.”

But many conservative commentators have also been whacking the senator. Take, for instance, Fox’s Charles Krauthammer.

"And what are we talking about instead of ObamaCare?” he asked. “Implementation of the train wreck? We're talking about Ted Cruz, shutdown of the government, people who are not going to get their Medicare, soldiers who aren't going to get their pay. Why? Because Cruz is pulling this stunt which will have no effect at all in the end.”

It may not be a Republican “WAR,” as the screaming Huffington Post headline claimed after John McCain followed the talk-a-thon by scolding Cruz on the Senate floor.

McCain ripped Cruz for likening the battle against ObamaCare to the one against Nazism, and then said, “we fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost.”

"One of the reasons was because we were in the minority, and in democracies, almost always the majority governs and passes legislation," he said.

As Cruz sees it, he is fighting for the principle of trying to undo a health care law he detests. But what he did was also a stunt, and it’s his doing that the headlines have mainly been about Ted Cruz.

Whether or not Cruz has one eye on 2016, you have got to give him one thing. A guy who became a senator less than nine months ago has the whole media and political class talking about him.

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Media Buzz, hosted by Howard Kurtz, airs on Sundays at 11AM and 5PM ET on Fox News Channel.