Who Is Ted Cruz?

Veterans, their families and supporters hold a rally at the WWII Memorial to protest its' closing, in Washington, DC.

A reader writes:

On the Ted Cruz ego vs. paranoia discussion, I will say I knew him pretty well in college, law school, and beyond, and it’s hard to believe that he’s actually become someone who believes this stuff. He’s incredibly well-educated, and at least used to have a circle of friends that included people very different from his general conservative bent. Sarah Palin, for instance, wouldn’t have survived a day at Princeton, and certainly not as an editor on the Harvard Law Review. My sense is that being in the Senate has taken him too far outside his natural skill-set. He has always been a debater at heart – someone who enjoys taking extreme positions – not because he believes them necessarily, but because it’s fun.

Being a lawyer was a great fit in that way because you are paid to take a side, knowing that you are not tasked with crafting the outcome, but instead are playing your part in an adversarial system. Making policy, on the other hand, requires a very different mindset, and rewards different skills. I didn’t watch the filibuster, but having heard about it, it’s completely in his comfort zone, and exactly the kind of thing he knows how to do – talk for hours about why an extreme position actually makes a lot of sense because working out compromises with fellow legislators, or considering the actual consequences of taking such extreme positions – not naturally his strong suit, and not what he enjoys doing.

Honestly, I think Obama could figure him out in five minutes. Hell, Obama probably managed people much like Ted when Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review. More importantly, Obama’s natural strong suit – using the rope-a-dope strategy – is perfect for sending Ted back to the private sector (where he would probably be happier anyway). There is no limit to the extremism of the positions Ted would take, given the chance, and the right encouragement. He treats every political discussion like a college-style debate, and the more ordinary people see of his scorched-earth argument style, I think the less they’re going to like it.

Update from a reader:

Back in 2007 or 2008 when Ted Cruz was the Texas Solicitor General, he came to speak at my law school. He was already then seen as a star in conservative legal circles, and I think many safely assumed he would have a very rapid political ascent. One anecdote that he shared, which I still remember vividly today, speaks volumes. He was a young member of the Bush legal team in Bush v. Gore, and he told us that the night before the Supreme Court argument he led a small group of Bush attorneys in a recitation of the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. As he recounted the story and a recited a few lines of the speech for us, it was quite clear that this was for him a very fond and proud memory.

Isn’t it clear to all, by now, that Ted Cruz relishes being one of the “few, we happy few?” When Cruz has been spouting off nonsense, many have asked whether he isn’t smart enough to know better. From everything I’ve heard, Ted Cruz is smart enough to know better as a matter of policy. But smarts are no guarantee of a lack of hubris, and Cruz’s prideful side is busy telling him that the crazier he is, the more alone he is in his positions; and the more alone he is in his positions, the more attention he alone will receive. It’s exactly as Henry V said: “the fewer men, the greater share of honour.”

(Photo: Cruz makes his way through a crowd of veterans, their families and supporters holding a rally at the WWII Memorial to protest its closing on October, 13, 2013. By Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)