The Ultimate Ted Talk

A number of observers have noted the media hypocrisy over the treatment of Ted Cruz’s impressive 21-hour speech and Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis’s similar effort recently in the Texas legislature.  (Obama must surely be wondering how Cruz was able to talk cogently for 21 hours without a Teleprompter.  Cruz’s bravura performance was, as I say, the ultimate TED Talk.)  We know how this story goes for the media: Davis is a hero!  Make her governor of Texas!  Cruz is a clown.  A dangerous clown.

There’s an older parallel that might be recalled to mind.  In 1971, antiwar Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska convened a special committee hearing so that he could read into the record the freshly leaked, but not yet published, Pentagon Papers.  Acting under the immunity provided by the Constitution’s speech and debate clause, Gravel could get away with putting the secret documents in the Congressional Record.  (The Supreme Court later cleared the way for the NY Times and others to publish the papers, lifting the Nixon’s Administration’s injunction against publication.)

Here’s how Wikipedia records the Gravel episode:

On the night of June 29, 1971, Gravel attempted to read the papers on the floor of the Senate as part of his filibuster against the draft, but was thwarted when no quorum could be formed. Gravel instead convened a session of the Buildings and Grounds subcommittee that he chaired.He got New York Congressman John Dow to testify that the war had soaked up funding for public buildings, thus making discussion of the war relevant to the committee. He began reading from the papers with the press in attendance,omitting supporting documents that he felt might compromise national security,and declaring, “It is my constitutional obligation to protect the security of the people by fostering the free flow of information absolutely essential to their democratic decision-making.”

He read until 1 a.m., until with tears and sobs he said that he could no longer physically continue, the previous three nights of sleeplessness and fear about the future having taken their toll. Gravel ended the session by, with no other senators present, establishing unanimous consentto insert 4,100 pages of the Papers into the Congressional Record of his subcommittee. . .

Did the media or the Establishment treat Gravel’s stunt like they reacted to Cruz?  Did anyone call him a terrorist or threat to national security?  The sequel on Wikipedia summarizes the obvious answer:

The events of 1971 changed Gravel in the months following from an obscure freshman senator in a far corner of the country to a nationally visible political figure. He became a sought-after speaker on the college circuit as well as at political fundraisers, opportunities he welcomed as lectures were “the one honest way a Senator has to supplement his income.”

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