ANYBODY BUT TRUMP: It doesn’t much matter that famous bank robber Willie Sutton denied ever saying, “Because that’s where the money is,” when asked why he robbed banks. History has a way of remembering things the way it likes. Good thing because that’s the only conceivable explanation why GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz is coming to Montecito next Saturday to hang out at the manse of Carl’s Jr. mogul Andrew Puzder.
For the record, Santa Barbara is not Cruz country. The fire-and-brimstone/you’re-all-going-to-hell politics espoused by Cruz are violently at odds with Santa Barbara’s squishier brand of Republicanism, far more concerned about capital gains taxes than who’s sleeping with whom. But these are dark days for Establishment Republicans like Puzder, such the quintessential Insider that his diatribes against raising the minimum wage appear in the Wall Street Journal with drumbeat regularity. This year Puzder has already made at least $332,000 in political campaign donations, writing checks to a host of failed presidential aspirants, including Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and most recently Marco Rubio. With this paper trail, we can safely assume Puzder is part of the Anybody-but-Trump movement galvanizing the Establishment wing of the GOP. Clearly, he doesn’t believe Ohio Governor John Kasich — whose style and positions are most in sync with Santa Barbara — can derail the Donald. Hence the Cruz fundraiser.
With Trump stomping his way to decisive victory in this week’s New York primary, California primary voters — for the first time since 1976 — actually matter. Cruz didn’t merely lose New York; he was chased out, despite pledging the most unconditional support imaginable to the State of Israel. Cruz, a devout fundamentalist Christian, personifies the premillennial dispensationalist strand of Protestant thought that holds the Second Coming of Christ — a k a The Rapture — cannot occur unless the Jewish Temple that once existed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is rebuilt.
Making this problematic, at least from an American foreign policy perspective, the temple in question existed on what’s now a part of Jerusalem that lies in the West Bank. And that is currently occupied by the Palestinians. In some tellings, the Rapture cannot take place until a red heifer is sacrificed, as well. Where Cruz stands on the red heifer issue — I am told breeding experiments are now underway to create a biblically acceptable red cow — I don’t pretend to know. His support for Israel, however, is unquestionably absolute. But none of this impressed New York voters, or the headline writers of the Daily News who told Cruz to take the “F U Train” out of town. After coming in a distant third even to Kasich, Cruz will soon be riding the “F U” train all the way to Andy Puzder’s house in Montecito.
Puzder was most recently in the news announcing his company — CKE Restaurants — would be moving from its Carpinteria headquarters to Nashville, Tennessee. Although Puzder was a bigger-than-life trial attorney in a previous incarnation — of unquestionable intellectual prowess — California’s labor laws have proved too complicated for him. In the past eight years, CKE has been forced to pay $20 million to settle multiple class-action claims — many alleging wholesale and premeditated failure to pay managers the overtime to which they are entitled — filed in California. Beyond that, Puzder and CKE are perhaps most famous for accelerating the strumpification of American culture. What else do you call 11 years of TV ads showing scantily clad supermodels with various condiments dripping down their chins performing fellatio on their fingers? CKE, it should be noted, is more than Carl’s Jr. It’s also Hardee’s, Green Burrito, and a few other franchises with about 3,600 outlets and about 20,000 employees nationwide. If national fast-food pay trends hold true for these workers, about 90 percent were making less than $9 an hour until a few minutes ago. With the minimum wage the hot sexy issue among Democrats — chronic wage stagnation being a harsh reality even the most conservative economists acknowledge — Puzder is leading the rhetorical charge against efforts to bring the bottom up. Should the federal minimum wage increase, he’s talking about automation. Critics have objected Puzder is paid $17,000 a day while many of his employees make about $15,000 a year. In the context of fast-food-industry norms, that’s not quite as bad as it looks. If these numbers are accurate, it means Puzder makes 291 times more than his lowest paid worker. The industry average is 721, making Puzder a model of restraint.
The Puzder-Cruz connection might appear more desperate and incongruous than it really is. After all, back in the 1980s, Puzder — then a Missouri trial lawyer — helped champion an anti-abortion bill that declared life begins at conception. Though the bill never mentioned abortion, it effectively prohibited any state employee from assisting in the provision of one. The legality of the law was challenged; the case went all the way to the Supreme Court; it was upheld by a 5-to-4 majority. Likewise, the Affordable Care Act — a k a Obamacare — has had few critics as loud and passionate as Puzder. Excepting, of course, for Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz is most famous for his incessant efforts to shut the federal government down — much to the eventual embarrassment of GOP leadership — but his aim was always to achieve the repeal of Obamacare. Who can forget his 21-hour marathon anti-Obamacare speech — a filibuster by any other name — during which he read Dr. Seuss’s immortal masterpiece, Green Eggs and Ham, out loud.
Though I won’t be there next Saturday, I’m guessing Puzder will offer guests platters of green eggs and ham. Obviously, they’ll be delivered by a flotilla of skinny supermodels licking their fingers. Ah, the Rapture!