By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By just about any measure, Congress is at its lowest point in history. Only 9 percent of the country has a favorable view of the 535 men and women who make up the bicameral body. One poll even revealed that they're less popular than cockroaches, traffic jams, and that ultimate barometer of public repulsion, Nickelback.
Why such unhappiness? Because our legislators rarely resemble human beings. When the main job requirements are boasting, begging for money, and possessing the moral elasticity to promise anything to anyone, only narcissists and sociopaths need apply.
But within the cast of America's longest-running reality show, some manufacture a weirdness that soars above the rest. Meet the ten members of Congress who are setting records for creepiness and depravity.
Slideshow: The 10 Weirdest Members of Congress
10. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Protecting America's Golf Courses From an International Conspiracy
Cruz has been called the "intellectual voice of the Tea Party," a laurel on par with being the valedictorian of a carjacking ring. He's been known to brag that, as Texas state solicitor, he once nullified the divorce of two gay men. His biggest campaign applause line comes with the boast of how he had a man sentenced to death.
But it's Cruz's Agenda 21 conspiracy theory that sets him apart.
Agenda 21 is the kind of feel-good plan that's made the United Nations a model of ineffectiveness for nearly 70 years. It's a vaguely worded, nonbinding, 300-page resolution that reads like a fifth-grader's wish list for a better world. (Combat poverty! Prevent deforestation!)
The measure is so innocuous that known radical George H.W. Bush signed on in 1992, as did the heads of 178 other countries. Since then, it's been largely forgotten. Except by Cruz.
As he sees it, Agenda 21 is actually a conspiracy led by liberal financier George Soros to rob honest Americans of their property rights — two words sure to induce Pavlovian terror in anyone living west of the Mississippi.
Cruz claims Agenda 21 is a "globalist" plan to forcibly relocate rural Americans into urban "hobbit homes," which are too small for necessities like a still or a firing range. He also believes it will lead to the abolishment of paved roads and golf courses, threats scientifically proven to unbolt the wallets of Republican donors.
The Loudest of the Loudmouths
In a town full of bluster, no one blows harder than Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, a Category 5 hurricane of bombast.
A trial lawyer who specialized in contractor fraud, Grayson burst onto the scene after winning election in 2008 as the loudest critic of the Iraq War. The Democrat, whose district stretches north from Vero Beach to Cocoa, was funny and clever and had a way with words you might expect of someone who made his living convincing juries to give him money.
Yet as righteous as that original cause may have been, he soon earned a reputation as the biggest contributor to the partisan firefight disabling Washington, resulting in his being the only Democrat nominated for this list by members of his own party.
Of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Grayson once said: "I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he's talking."
On another occasion, he noted that "scientists have studied this difficult question of why some people have a conscience and some people don't. Some people are called Democrats, and some people are called Republicans."
Grayson also referred to a female adviser to the Federal Reserve as a "K Street whore." His opponents, meanwhile, are best-known as "foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals."
But while he may be more artful of tongue than the average politician, he shares his colleagues' gift for situational ethics when the going gets tough.
In 2010, for example, he was on the verge of losing his seat in Florida to Republican challenger Daniel Webster. That's when the antiwar Grayson trotted out the go-to smear of tin patriots everywhere. He released a campaign commercial referring to Webster as a draft dodger who didn't love his country.
Webster, it turns out, had been rejected for military service on medical grounds during the Vietnam War. But to Grayson, this meant his opponent was practically a terrorist. He began referring to Webster as "Taliban Dan."
Grayson lost that election, and Washington got a little less breezy. But the winds resumed last fall when he won a newly drawn seat centered in Clearwater, Florida. Among his first acts was to coin a new term for Republicans: the "bath salts caucus."
Like all Grayson one-liners, it was funny and even contained a kernel of truth. But it wasn't particularly helpful in getting members of Congress to put down their plastic swords and do something useful for the country.
8. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tennessee)
The Anti-Abortion Zealot With a Running Tab at Planned Parenthood