Analysis by Chris Cillizza
WASHINGTON, DC -- The Covid-19 vaccine debate is getting weird. On Twitter, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz accused Big Bird of pushing "Government propaganda...for your 5 year old!" after the Muppet tweeted about getting the shot in his wing.
It's hard to imagine how we all missed it.
After all, an 8-foot, 2-inch yellow bird is sort of hard to miss.
But, lucky for all of us, Cruz is on the case!
See, after Big Bird, beloved face of "Sesame Street," tweeted -- ahem -- that he had received the Covid-19 vaccine ("My wing is feeling a little sore, but it'll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy," wrote Mr. Bird), the Texas Republican senator lept into action.
"Government propaganda...for your 5 year old!," Cruz tweeted.
See, Big Bird is part of a conspiracy to get your 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated against Covid-19! That damn yellow bird wants your kids to get a vaccine that will not only protect them from a virus that has killed more than 750,000 Americans but also keep them from unintentionally spreading it to parents and grandparents who may well be more susceptible to more serious infections even if they are vaccinated.
(Sidebar: Before you tell me that kids don't really get sick from Covid-19, do your research. According to the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health System Tracker, Covid-19 was the 6th leading cause of death among kids aged 5 to 14 in September. Same was true in August.)
This is, in a word, dumb. The idea that Big Bird is some sort of Deep State propagandist is roughly as credible as the notion that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. Or that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Taking on Big Bird -- I can't believe I just wrote that -- is pure virtue-signaling by Cruz. Rather than take Big Bird's tweet on vaccination at face value -- Cruz decided that it offered him an opportunity to score points with the Trumpist wing of the party that he desperately needs for his future national ambitions.
(Almost on cue, Donald Trump's son Eric picked up on the Big Bird tweet because of course he did.)
While Cruz is just posturing for political gain here, he's also wrong on the merits of his opposition to vaccines -- summarized in another tweet over the weekend as the "right to make your own medical choices."
See, here's the thing: Covid-19 is an infectious disease. Which means that when you make a decision not to get vaccinated, it's not just about you and "your own medical choices." It's about all of us. It's about giving the virus more chances to mutate in ways that produced the Delta variant. It's about unnecessarily endangering those who may not be able to receive the vaccine because they are immuno-compromised. It's about protecting older people who have been vaccinated but are still potentially vulnerable to breakthrough infections.
So, no, Ted, this isn't about "government propaganda...for your 5 year old!". It's about using every tool at our disposal -- including an 8 foot tall bird -- to remind people that we are all in this together and that we have a shared responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us. Simple.