Good day Austin:
At a little before 4 in the morning Tuesday I became aware that overnight, @tedcruz’s Twitter account had liked a porn video.
I was not pleased.
I had just risen and was behind the eight ball to get that day’s First Reading done – Alex Jones’ 9/11 exclusive: President Trump is being drugged in his Diet Cokes – and didn’t want to be distracted by something so trivial whose progression over the next news cycle or two or three (I’m no longer quite sure what a news cycle is or how long its lasts) was so predictable.
There were, even in the middle of the night, questions of irony and hypocrisy.
I was unimpressed.
A familiar trajectory was already assured: Viral mocking of Cruz, lots of masturbation double entendres and ultimately, what we wouldn’t see or hear, a phone call from some college student working in Cruz’s office as an intern for the semester to his folks to explain to them that, yes, things had been going great, and Sen. Cruz was terrific and really encouraging and had even given him some responsibility in his social media operation but that, well, something kind of crazy and unfortunate had happened, and well, the senator had put in a good word for him at Tortilla Coast, and assured him that, when it comes right down to it, he’ll learn even more about life and the world by busing tables there until he goes back to school than he would answering constituent mail, and, after all, TC is where the Freedom Caucus sometimes meets, so who knows where busing dishes there may lead.
And then the late-night comedians would each take a whack at Cruz.
And all of this would happen with or without me, and I wanted to stick to the task at hand of writing about how Alex Jones was warning President Trump that his chief of staff was systematically drugging his Diet Cokes.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I’m not above riding the Bruise Cruz for some clicks and yucks.
Four months later, I’m still getting the occasional retweet on this gem from Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s book, Giant of the Senate.
But that, I thought, was actually funny and revealing because here was a senator ready to toss aside any shred of senatorial courtesy to trash a colleague who he felt had earned it.
So, it was amusing and said something about something.
But Cruz-Twitter-account-likes-porn was just icky and, unless you think that Ted Cruz is full on Anthony Weiner weird – which I don’t – then this episode didn’t really say anything about anything, except as a reminder of how many people really hate Ted Cruz and enjoy reveling in their loathing.
So I tried to keep my mind on Alex Jones and the drugging of President Trump’s Diet Cokes.
But then, about an hour later, this, from Rick Dunham, former Houston Chronicle Washington bureau chief, now directing a journalism program in China.
Wow. China. The waking world. There seemed to be billions more Cruz haters than I had ever anticipated.
I had Morning Joe on. It is a long-time bastion of Cruz-bashing. They hatedCruz back when they loved, or at least liked, Trump. And they’ve loathed Cruz since they turned against Trump with a vengeance.
But even they just seemed to be going through the motions on this one, unable to rouse themselves to even a credible pretext of why they were talking about this.
Mika: Now the most important story of the day, right?
Joe: What story is that?
Mika: Shortly after midnight last night, the Twitter account of Ted Cruz …
Joe: Oh come on.
Mika: It’s not that important. But why’d he do this? Did someone else?
Joe: Mike (Barnicle), you read this. I don’t want to know this.
Mika: But why’d he do this?
And with that, they made Mike Barnicle do it.
Ultimately, Cruz faulted an unnamed staffer.
Meanwhile, ever helpful, Alex Jones wondered whether Cruz was being victimized by a double standard.
The night followed the predictable course.
But it didn’t end there.
The story continued into yesterday.
Then came the nadir of this story’s sad arc.
Let’s look at that a little closer, or at least in bigger print.
OK. Here it is.
BASH: Can you tell me the staffer’s name?
Why? To what end?
BASH: I can’t believe I’m going to ask you this, but you’re officially saying Ted Cruz is okay with people buying six toys?
So one minute Cruz is being asked, “Do you appreciate the irony that you defended a Texas law banning sales of sex toys?” And the next minute, after he explains that it was his obligation as solicitor general in Texas, to defend Texas laws in court, no matter how “idiotic” they might be, Bash, who noted that Cruz had come on the show to talk about tax reform, is aghast that Cruz is now apparently, officially a defender of the right to bear dildos.
From Leif Reigstag at Texas Monthly: Ted Cruz’s Twitter Account Got Caught ‘Liking’ Porn
It’s the latest addition to a long list of weird social media moments for the junior senator.
This all comes as Cruz continues to work out the kinks in his political career following his failed presidential campaign. Just days before “Milf Hunter”-gate, the New York Times published a story about Cruz as he visited flood-stricken areas in Texas, observing that Cruz’s presidential election defeat seems to have “spawned a kinder, gentler ‘Cruz 2.0.’” That kindness, apparently, extended to complimenting the physique of the people on the ground. As the Times wrote, Cruz “greeted Coast Guard heroes with dazzling torsos. ‘Almost every one of them ripped,’ he marveled on the Senate floor, holding for dramatic pauses pregnant enough to require bed rest. ‘These are guys that know their way around a weight room.’”
I had also noticed that line from Matt Flegenheimer in his story, Ted Cruz 2.0? Senator Adjusts With Trump in Office and Houston Under Water,
Just as I had also noticed Cruz’s odd comment on the Senate floor about the “ripped” Coast Guard heroes.
But Flegenheimer’s description of the line’s delivery as holding for dramatic pauses pregnant enough to require bed rest, seemed itself pregnant with the implication that Ted Cruz was indulging in some repressed homoerotic lust.
Please. No. Stop.
Which brings us to the question of why the extraordinary wellspring of antipathy to Ted Cruz.
There is a rich literature on this.
A small sampling:
From the Telegraph: Why do so many people hate Ted Cruz? Many of those who’ve known him and worked with him claim the Republican presidential candidate is brilliant but arrogant and self-serving
It all started when he was a teenager…
From the New Republic on March 4, 2016:
Indeed indeed, I cannot tell, / Though I ponder on it well, / Which were easier to state, / All my love or all my hate. —Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau, it seems, never met Ted Cruz, a man so blissfully easy to hate that loathing for him has become a form of political poetry: “wacko-bird,” “abrasive,” “arrogant,” and “creepy” are some of the kindest adjectives that have been thrown his way. Cruz has alienated about everyone he’s ever encountered in life: high school and college classmates, bosses, law professors, Supreme Court clerks, and especially his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Some detest Cruz the politician because of his grandstanding, but most dislike Cruz the person. In that respect, he’s really not your average politician—after all, most people hate politicians. But everyone hates Ted Cruz.
Much of the antipathy was provoked by Cruz with calculated purpose and to great effect.
From Molly Ball at the Atlantic in January 2016: Why D.C. Hates Ted Cruz:
Cruz’s fans say it’s because he stands on principle. But his critics say he’s never achieved anything—except burnishing his own brand.In the three years since he arrived in the U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz has become easily the most hated man in Washington—a fact he’s now using to his advantage as a presidential candidate. But why?
From Jack Shafer at Politico Magazine, also in April 2016: Why Ted Cruz Loves to Be Hated.
Last night, former Speaker of the House John Boehner captured the nation’s attention by calling presidential aspirant Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh” in an appearance at Stanford University.
Having established his Satanic theme, Boehner continued. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”
That same month, Rolling Stone compiled A Compendium of People Who Hate Ted Cruz’s Guts
“One thing Ted Cruz is really good at: uniting people who otherwise disagree about everything else in a total hatred of Ted Cruz”
It included, of course, Princeton roommate Craig Mazin: “Ted Cruz is a nightmare of a human being. I have plenty of problems with his politics, but truthfully his personality is so awful that 99 percent of why I hate him is just his personality. If he agreed with me on every issue, I would hate him only one percent less.”
Mazin was all over this week’s tweet.
Of course, not everyone hates Ted Cruz.
But for Trump, Cruz might have won the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Back in February 2016, just before Trump’s South Carolina victory, when Cruz was very much in the hunt, I did a First Reading – Why Ted Cruz isn’t Ronald Reagan – looking at Cruz’s likability problem, in which I talked to University of Texas government professor and polling expert Daron Shaw.
This is some of what he said:
I think his likability numbers are really dangerous right now. The tag on him — if Marco Rubio is too callow and inexperienced and Trump’s a bully, Ted is being defined as the guy that nobody likes and Trump has built on that, and that’s really a problem.
It’s not a Senate race. Its a presidential race and people don’t like to vote for somebody they don’t like. And I don’t know how Ted deals with that.
And if I were on Ted’s team, I’d be very concerned with how do you deal with that. I think that at some level you have to be just a little bit likable, and I think Ted’s in danger of losing control of that, and that’s something that probably could hurt him and maybe cost him the nomination and certainly that could cost him in the fall.
You talk about New York values. What New York values means to me is the New York guy really knows how to pick out your weak spot. That’s Trump. It was Ted, it was Marco, it was Jeb. He just picks it and picks it. He’s got a genius for that.
I know Ted from the Texas Lyceum. I worked with him in 2000 on the Bush campaign, and I never thought of him as unlikable.
The media is always looking …whats the hook? Some are right but some of them are not right. You know Carville used to rail on this that once the media settles on one of these they’ll never back off. They are trying to figure out Ted. They haven’t gotten it right but this unlikable thing is becoming a meme and I think it’s political poison. What do you do, have Ted kiss babies?
Well, it has become a meme. Everybody hates Ted Cruz.
But, as Shaw’s colleague Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, told me yesterday of Cruz, “his negatives are intense. If you don’t like Ted Cruz, you really don’t like Ted Cruz.”
But, Henson said, as long as the anti-Cruz feeling remains confined to those who were never going to vote for him to begin with, the intensity of their loathing is immaterial.
“As we saw in pretty stark terms in the last national election, you can rise pretty far even though partisans of the other party really intensely dislike you bordering on a kind of mania,” Henson said.
And so, even with a Senate opponent in Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is as likable as Cruz, as the meme would have it, is unlikable, Cruz is the odds-on favorite to win re-election in 2018. The race is his to lose.