There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?
The seventh episode of the “Star Wars” saga is now playing in theatres. But the latest installment of Star Wars-themed political hooks and dialogue on seemingly premiered weeks ago on Capitol Hill.
Search your feelings. You know it to be true. The keyboards of congressional communications directors and wordsmiths cough up “Star Wars” references like General Grievous hacks up lungs. It’s surely liberating for these flaks who feel most Capitol Hill verbiage is practically frozen in carbonite.
Writing press releases for lawmakers insistent on sounding au courant (or perhaps, au Coruscant) ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy. You’ve got to get the meme of the moment.
Don’t believe me?
I find your lack of faith disturbing.
The Force is strong with GOP presidential aspirant Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. So much so that Cruz’s campaign set up a contest to award supporters tickets to see “The Force Awakens.”
Cruz’s backers score points in the “Star Wars” ticket lottery if they get involved in campaign activities and events.
Cruz has seemingly deployed “Star Wars” references since the Battle of Yavin. Back in 2013, Cruz seized the Senate floor for 21 hours to rail against ObamaCare.
“We need a rebellion against oppression,” Cruz argued at the time. “I will confess that the phrase of rebellion against oppression conjured up to me the Rebel Alliance fighting against the Empire. The Empire being the Washington, D.C., establishment.
Indeed, immediately upon hearing that phrase, I wondered if at some point we would see a tall gentleman in a mechanical breathing apparatus come forward and say in a deep voice, “(Sen.) Mike Lee (R-Utah), I am your father.’”
Naturally, Cruz suggested that the “Empire will strike back,” and added that the Rebel Alliance “will prevail.”
It’s unclear whether Cruz then headed to the Senate parking lot to preside over a ceremonial corpse burning of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.
Perhaps a bigger question is which Force Ghost appeared as an apparition in the background: Sebastian Shaw or Hayden Christensen?
So long as Cruz keeps the Ewoks out of this.
The U.S. Senate is a natural forum for “Star Wars” banter. The entire series is laced with political references. In “The Phantom Menace,” Senator Palpatine chastised the Galactic Senate.
“The Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good. There is no civility. Only politics.”
This sounds familiar. Wonder if they used the nuclear option to change the filibuster precedent in the Galactic Senate, too?
You thought the Trans-Pacific Partnership was complicated? Try parsing the opening crawl of Episode I. It declares that “the taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute” and that “the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events.”
Last week, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., took to the Senate floor (in this galaxy) to assail government waste. Flake titled his report “The Farce Awakens.” The senator spoke in front of a chart featuring pigs wielding lightsabers.
It’s unclear how hogs figured out how to use Kyber crystals.
Flake then compared construction delays and cost overruns on the second Death Star to typical Washington waste.
He says those issues aren’t limited to a “galaxy, far, far away.” The senator cited a NASA initiative to engineer a cloud city on Venus to the Cloud City of Bespin, in, as Flake calls it “The Emperor Strikes Back.”
Flake also lambasted the Pentagon for trying to develop a robot greeter.
“These are not the droids the government is looking for,” he opines.
To hear Flake tell it, government waste should wind up in the trash compactor on the Death Star.
“I hope this gives Congress something to ‘Chewie’ on,” Flake deadpans.
Flake isn’t the only one making the rhetorical jump to hyperspace.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, recently introduced the YODA, the “You Own Devices Act.” Farenthold contends the “Internet of Things” and proprietary software could challenge the concept of owning property.
Guess Farenthold never bargained with the Jawas.
As a part his Senate campaign, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., blasted out a fundraising appeal sprinkled with more “Star Wars” references than alien creatures imbibing at the Mos Eisley Cantina.
“Dear Padawan,” begins Grayson’s missive. “’Tis I, Rep. Jedi Master Alan Grayson. Here’s an update on our Senate race. We’re going to win, because we’re focused, and as Qui-Gon Jinn told us, your focus determines your reality. Or as Yoda put it, ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’”
Grayson proceeds to quote Han Solo, Admiral Ackbar, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme, Princess Leia and Ahsoka Tano in the fundraising request.
It’s unclear whether Grayson’s political opponents may respond by trying to convince voters he carries “the death sentence on 12 systems.”
Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., chimed in on “Star Wars” at the recent bust dedication of former Vice President Dick Cheney at the Capitol.
“When the vice president had his critics just going off the deep end, as they often do, he asked Lynne, his wife, ‘Does it bug you when people refer to me as Darth Vader?’ And she said, ‘No. It humanizes you,’ ” Ryan said.
Ryan followed this up Friday with a news release reiterating his opposition to congressional earmarks.
Earmarking is a former Capitol Hill practice that loaded up spending bills with specific money allocations for various projects. This often prompted lawmakers to support the legislation.
The speaker’s office alluded to the earmark phenomenon as residing “A long time ago in a Congress far, far away … .”
“Star Wars” devotees all know that Han shot first. But on Capitol Hill, it was the late-Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who fired the first “Star Wars” verbal volley more than 30 years ago.
In the early 1980s, President Reagan pushed for the construction of the Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI.
The system would protect the United States from Soviet attacks by intercepting missiles with rockets.
Reagan had just designated the Soviet Union the “evil empire” in a speech. Kennedy then decried SDI as science fiction, referring to Reagan’s ideas as “reckless Star Wars schemes.”
The “Star Wars” moniker stuck. Support for SDI dissipated on Capitol Hill faster than spooked Sand People riding Banthas.
Since then, lawmakers have rarely missed a chance to indulge in “Star Wars” digressions, regardless of political issue or topic.
On Friday morning, the Senate was poised to take its final vote of the year to approve the massive $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package. Seconds before the roll call, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., took to the floor to encourage her colleagues to vote aye.
“Let’s vote for it and may the Force be with us,” implored Mikulski.
It must have been. Senators adopted the measure 65-33.