Wissot: Pulling a Ted Cruz is now part of our lexicon
When they send Americans to Mexico, they really don’t send their best. I’m referring here to the junior senator from Texas who recently dealt with the icedemic tormenting his state by flying to the sunny climes of Cancun where warmth and water were in plentiful supply.
Not since former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford made “hiking the Appalachian Trail” a euphemism for meeting your mistress in Buenos Aires has a politician engaged in inexplicably clueless behavior.
What was Ted Cruz thinking when he boarded that flight to Mexico? Did he think that somehow taking a vacation to get away from conditions that less privileged citizens in Texas couldn’t get away from wasn’t any big deal? Or did he think that wheeling his carry-on bag through Bush International Airport escorted by a phalanx of Houston’s finest wouldn’t be noticed by anybody? If he thought the former he was arrogant. If he thought the latter he was ignorant. Arrogant ignorance is the death knell for many a political career.
Cruz, to his credit, didn’t try to cover-up his ill advised mini trip. He admitted he made a mistake. In fact, he went so far as to acknowledge that he “started having second thoughts almost the moment he sat down on the plane” — which begs the question: Why didn’t he go a little bit further and get off?
A week later, Cruz actually went out of his way at the CPAC conference in Florida to rescind his apology when he joked that the good weather gracing Orlando still didn’t compare with Cancun’s. Not since Beethoven has anyone revealed himself to be that tone deaf.
What could Cruz have done if he remained in strife-ridden Texas? For an answer, he might turn to the example set by two of the Democratic Party’s rising political stars: Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the notorious AOC. O’Rourke, who narrowly lost to Cruz in the 2018 Texas Senate race, ran a virtual phone bank set up to contact senior citizens and connect them with resources during the disaster. AOC, whose personal and political ties to Texas are non-existent, flew down there and used her celebrity status to raise millions of dollars in relief aid.
Cynics might respond that their actions were politically calculated and designed to embarrass Cruz on his home turf. So what if they were? Who cares as long as the people of Texas benefited? If their motivation was self-serving and done for political expedience, at least they accomplished more than Cruz did by jetting off to Cancun. In the future, if Cruz doesn’t want to be upstaged by political opponents in a moment of crisis, he might think twice before doing something really selfish and stupid that affords them an opportunity.
What makes Cruz’s behavior all the more bizarre is that he is a master manipulator of political optics, carefully choosing select moments to bring national attention to himself. As proof, recall the 21-hour nonstop marathon reading of Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” he gave in 2013 on the Senate floor in order to block Obamacare from moving forward. Or look at his recent failed argument before the Supreme Court to rule in favor of Donald Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud in the free and fair election of Joe Biden as president.
This time the optics spoke for themselves. Unlike Richard Nixon’s famous “I am not a crook” declaration (he was) or Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman“ (he did), Ted Cruz will forever be remembered not for lying but for escaping. Like a robber caught on security cameras fleeing the scene of a robbery, the image of Cruz wheeling his suitcase through Bush International will be if “a picture is worth a thousand words” more significant than anything he might say for the rest of his life.
Cruz is up for re-election in 2024. He needs to try and mend fences with the Texas electorate or face the possibility of AOC taking up residence in the state and challenging him for his Senate seat.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.