Why you should care
Because it’s never too late for a postmortem romp.
In pursuit of his U.S. Senate seat in 2012, Ted Cruz sought out a private meeting in Dallas with former president George W. Bush. According to Politico, which interviewed people familiar with the conversation, Cruz previewed his outsider candidacy and asked for his fellow Texan’s support in outflanking the party establishment. “Ted, what the hell do you think I am?” Bush reportedly interjected.
So went the odd presidential candidacy of Cruz, who dropped out of the race on Tuesday. Every major American politician carries around contradictions, inconsistencies and awkwardly ironic biographical details. Appealing to diverse constituencies often entails donning multiple political skins — just look at Barack Obama of Kansas/Kenya/Hawaii/Illinois. But clearly, not every politician, including Bush, has Cruz’s appetite for living out the full measure of a contradictory political existence. And appealing to a former president to support an anti-establishment campaign — which did not respond to request for comment — was just the start.
A Government-Funded Birth
No one can choose his birthplace, and it’s unlikely that an anti-Obamacare crusader and aspiring U.S. president like Cruz would have chosen a government-funded Canadian hospital. But Foothills General Hospital in northwest Calgary, part of Alberta’s federally funded single-payer health-care system, is where the rather ironic tale of Cruz begins.
Some men are outsiders by nature; others because of their nature.
The son of two mathematicians/programmers, Rafael Edward Cruz was born on a snowy day in December 1970. Cruz’s political story may center around the fact that his father immigrated from Cuba with $100 sewn into his underwear, but by the early 1970s, the family was enjoying the Canadian dream, including a 3,400-square-foot house in a well-to-do section of Calgary, the “Houston of Canada.” Felito, as he was then known, and his family left Canada for Texas when he was about 4 years old … and he has been running from those formative years ever since. To add irony to injury, one of Cruz’s constitutional law school professors at Harvard has argued that his Canadian birth disqualifies him from being the U.S. president. Guess that’s a moot point now, eh?
An Outsider in the Inside Lane
Once in America, Cruz would take a quintessentially outside track to the corridors of American power, starting at Princeton where he was a champion debater. Cruz’s outsider trajectory would continue at Harvard Law School and then as a clerk for William Rehnquist at the Supreme Court, where Cruz refined his anti-elitism further over tennis and croquet matches with the Chief Justice.
Some men are outsiders by nature; others because of their nature. “I was far too cocky for my own good,” Cruz admits in his book, A Time for Truth, regarding his stint as a policy adviser for candidate Bush, and his combative demeanor seems to have cost him during that 2000 presidential campaign. Instead of a prominent job in the West Wing, Cruz was given a bureaucratic post at the Federal Trade Commission, and from there, he elected to climb a new greasy pole.
MisunderestimaTED: Cruz the Renegade
Cruz returned to Texas, where he reinvented himself as an anti-Washington, Tea Party insurgent, serving as the state’s solicitor general before running for the Senate in 2012. It was not a perfect fit: When Cruz admitted he “despises” avocados (in guacamole-laden Texas), The Dallas Observer quipped, “This is what happens when we elect a Canadian.”
Once in Washington, Cruz fortified his standing as an uncompromising outsider … with a few twists. After inveighing at length against the evils of Obamacare, Senator Cruz and his family opted to enroll in it once his wife took a leave of absence from her job at Goldman Sachs and he announced his run for president. And despite his wife’s tenure at Goldman and the massive loan it made his Senate campaign, Cruz has blasted Wall Street and “New York values” during his 2016 campaign … right before holding a fundraiser at the Harvard Club for some of the nation’s biggest financiers.
And Cruz’s list of once-manageable inconsistencies only goes on from there. Claim you’ve never met an anti-abortion activist who advocates violence just days after being endorsed by one? Check. Embrace your immigrant roots while taking a hard-line stance against undocumented immigrants? Check. Accuse those who fact-check your sensational claims of “yellow journalism”? Check.
In writing about another anti-establishment rabble rouser named Jesus, the Christian apologist and children’s author C.S. Lewis once argued that if you were to “accept his claim to be God” at face value, then there are only three options regarding his identity: He is a lunatic, a liar or the Lord. Until recently, a similar existential trilemma confronted voters asking, “Who is Ted Cruz?” Is he the crazy caricature of liberal lore? Is he “Lyin’ Ted” as Donald Trump would have us believe? Or might he be some sort of political demigod, capable of transcending the contradictions that ensnare mere mortals to pull off the greatest irony — and resurrection — of his life: winning the Republican nomination despite not having the most votes?
Now we know.