Jeff Mullin (column mug)ENE

Politics these days is a cutthroat affair, with foes squaring off on both sides of the aisle over any number of issues.

But today’s hottest political battle doesn’t pit some of the usual suspects against one another, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell against Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, or Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi against top GOP congressman Kevin McCarthy.

No, this week’s key Washington dustup pits Republican Sen. Ted Cruz against … a Muppet.

And not just any Muppet, mind you, but the scion of Sesame Street, the one, the only, Big Bird.

Big Bird is an 8-foot, 2-inch 6-year-old with bright yellow feathers and huge eyes.

He also isn’t real, but we’ll get to that later.

In a tweet earlier this week (and who if anyone should be tweeting but a bird, especially a big one), Big Bird declared “I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. Ms. @EricaRHill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!” Erica Hill is a CNN journalist who recently hosted a show called “The ABCs of COVID Vaccines,” which was geared toward answering kids’ questions about being vaccinated.

Big Bird, as a 6-year-old, recently became eligible to receive his shot after the FDA gave the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine emergency authorization for use in children age 5-15 years.

Again, keep in mind, Big Bird is not real, or at least is as real as claims the last presidential election was stolen by the Democrats.

Cruz — one of those perpetuating the Big Lie about the 2020 election — took exception to Big Bird’s tweet and responded with a little chirping of his own.

Cruz posted a video of someone in a Big Bird costume breaking down a door, with the caption “Big Bird coming over to vaccinate your kids,” and decried Big Bird’s tweet as “Government propaganda for your 5-year-old.”

Wait a minute. Big Bird is a fictional TV character. Ted Cruz is a U.S. senator. Big Bird loves everybody, even Oscar the Grouch, his next-trashcan neighbor. Ted Cruz says an election decided by 74 electoral votes, roughly 7 million popular votes and nearly 5 percentage points was stolen. Which one is spewing government propaganda?

This is not the first time Big Bird has become embroiled in politics. During the 2012 presidential election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney used Big Bird as an example of spending cuts he would make to reduce the federal budget deficit. Romney proposed cutting funding to the National Endowment for the Arts which, among other things, keeps Big Bird in bird seed.

“I like PBS. I love Big Bird,” said Romney. “But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

Big Bird declined to respond, saying he didn’t want to “ruffle any feathers.”

Big Bird’s tweet may help ease the fears some young children may have about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and it may not. In his tweet Big Bird merely shares the fact that he received his vaccine. He does not order his young followers to get the shot, he doesn’t even encourage them to receive the vaccine.

Now that Big Bird has had his COVID shot, he and Cruz have something in common besides a head full of feathers, since Cruz himself has been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile a whole lot of real issues are bogged down in the Senate, all the while Cruz is taking on a beloved Muppet, who is not real.

At least Big Bird owned up to getting the jab, unlike Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who at first said he had been “immunized,” then recanted after he tested positive for COVID-19. He has since been fined by the NFL for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Of course Rodgers, who earns a cool $22.4 million per year, was fined only $14,650, or roughly $20 in real people’s money. That shows you how serious the NFL is about the whole COVID thing.

After taking on Big Bird, Cruz has been pilloried by the late-night comedians. Seth Meyers called him a “widely disliked wannabe werewolf with the charm of a serial killer and the voice of a dying barn owl.” Ouch. That’s not nice.

Big Bird is nothing if not nice. I’m sure he has nothing against Cruz. In fact he would probably try to cheer the senator up with one of his favorite quotes, “Bad days happen to everyone, but when one happens to you, just keep doing your best and never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself.”

Today’s column is brought to you by the letter C, for Cruz. And childish, that too.

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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at janjeff2002@yahoo.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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