The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ted Cruz goes Peak Senate in opposition to Emperor Obama

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stands in front of pheasants that were shot during a hunt hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) thrives on drama. He has a flair for hyperbole and a penchant for wrapping mundane aspects of policy-making in the costumes of the American Revolution or classical literature.

And so, with President Obama expected to announce a series of actions on immigration Thursday night, and with Cruz having long sought to frame Obama as being imperial, Cruz took to the floor of the Senate to deliver a speech worthy of the great Roman orator Cicero to criticize Obama's behavior.

And when we say "worthy of Cicero," it is meant literally. Cruz actually took a speech from Cicero from 63 B.C., changed references to murder and revolution into ones about the IRS and the Constitution, and hammed his way through.

Here's the result:

In case you (unlike Cruz) didn't study classical literature in the Ivy League, some background: Cicero's speech from the floor of the Roman Senate addressed Lucius Sergius Catilina, a senator who was plotting to overthrow the body. Catiline was there to hear Cicero's words, and fled Rome when he realized his plot had been discovered.

In other words: It was a slightly different situation than what is happening in Washington currently.

Below is Cruz's speech, with his updates to Cicero's words marked. (We used this translation of Cicero -- as, it seems, did Cruz.) Pay close attention to the differences.

When, O Catiline President Obama, do you mean to cease abusing our patience?

How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now?

Do not the nightly guards placed on the Palatine Hill border
do not the watches posted throughout the city —
does not the alarm of the people, and the union of all good men and women
does not the precaution taken of assembling the senate in this most defensible place —
do not the looks and countenances of this venerable body here present, have any effect upon you?

Do you not feel that your plans are detected? Do you not see that your conspiracy is already arrested and rendered powerless by the knowledge which that everyone here possesses of it? What is there that you did last night, what the night before — where is it that you were — who was there that you summoned to meet you — what design was there which was adopted by you, with which you think that any one of us is unacquainted?

Shame on the age and on its lost principles! The Senate is aware of these things; the consul Senate sees them; and yet this man lives. Lives! dictates by his pen and his phone. Dictates! Aye, he comes even won't even come into the Senate. He takes a will not take part in the public deliberations; he is watching and marking down and checking off for slaughter he ignores every individual among us. And we, gallant men and women that we are, think that we are doing our duty to the republic if we keep out of the way of his frenzied attacks.

You ought, O Catiline President Obama, long ago to have been led to execution defeat by command of the consul your own disdain for the people. That destruction which you have been long plotting against us ought to have already fallen on your own head.

What? Did not that most illustrious man, Publius Scipio, the Pontifex Maximus, in his capacity of a private citizen, put to death Tiberius Gracchus, though but slightly undermining the constitution? And shall we, who are the consuls Senate, tolerate Catiline President Obama, openly desirous to destroy the whole world with fire and slaughter the Constitution and this Republic? For I pass over older instances, such as how Caius Servilius Ahala with his own hand slew Spurius Maelius when plotting a revolution in the state how the IRS plotted to silence American citizens. There was — there was once such virtue in this republic, that brave men and women would repress mischievous citizens with severer chastisement than the most bitter enemy. For we have a resolution of the senate, a formidable and authoritative decree against you, O Catiline Mr. President; the wisdom of the republic is not at fault, nor the dignity of this senatorial body. We, we alone — I say it openly — we, the consuls, are waiting in our duty to stop this lawless administration and its unconstitutional amnesty.

Some small tweaks! Take out a little "destroy the world with fire;" add a little "destroy the Constitution." Lose the bit about how Spurius Maelius was murdered; reference the IRS scandal instead. A few additional displays of courtesy to his female colleagues (we're in the 21st Century, after all), and Cruz had himself a speech.

But how does he top this? Obama is in office two more years, and Cruz -- already well down the path of drawing extreme analogies -- will have to try. Can we predict a moment in which Cruz arrives on the floor of the Senate in a luxurious toga, raising a hand to the marble statuary lining the chamber as he bellows, "Et tu, Barack?"

Even money says it will happen before Spring.