Indecision 2016

Vetting Ted Cruz’s Presidential Resumé

We read the Republican presidential candidate's book (well, the Houston parts, anyway) so you don’t have to.

By Scott Vogel September 1, 2015 Published in the September 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Paul Naughton

Like a great many of us, Ted Cruz says his earliest memory is of being spanked for misbehavior in a Houston grocery store. His crime, according to the recently published A Time for Truth, was an insistence on playing the kazoo over his mother’s objections. Having been on both sides of the kazoo issue (loved it then, hate it now), Cruz’s anecdote proved unhelpful in our ongoing efforts to decide the Houstonian and Texas Senator’s fitness for the presidency. Still, we were certain that something in Cruz’s Bayou City background would move the needle.

Let’s see. He tells us that he spent his elementary school years at “West Briar, a small private school that had been founded by a number of Jewish doctors.” A quick Internet search produced only a West Briar Middle School, an Energy Corridor campus neither elementary nor private. Hmm. Has it closed, we wondered? Was this obfuscation? Could Cruz be hiding some shameful third grade infraction? Had the kazoo obsession led to truancy? The world may never know.  

Moving on, young Felito Cruz, as he was then known, attended junior high at Awty International School, where he was a self-described geek before studying the popular kids and vowing to “consciously emulate that.”  Felito joined sports teams, he tells us, visited a dermatologist for his acne, traded glasses for contacts, lost the braces from his teeth, grew six inches, and changed his name to Ted. The campaign was apparently successful (“it was interesting to see what these sorts of small conscious changes could produce”), but just when we were starting to suspect an unhealthy preoccupation with the frenzy of renown, Cruz shifts gears. The experience taught him that “happiness doesn’t come from popularity,” he avers, a guiding principle that would one day prove handy when dealing with the Republican establishment.

We were left similarly ambivalent by the Northwest Academy Incident, in which high-school Ted got caught wrapping said academy in toilet paper. What seems at first a tale of indiscretion, however minor, becomes instead a parable of conviction. “I think it would be in poor character”—Cruz tells the principal at his own school, Second Baptist, when asked to cough up the names of his co-conspirators—“and contrary to my integrity to give you those names, and I’m not going to do so.” 

Indeed, in all of Cruz’s Houston years, we found just one instance of poor judgment: in 1995, as a young Baker Botts lawyer, he actually gave up a ticket to see the Rockets in Game 4 of the NBA finals, and all because of some big meeting in Washington. That’s just—wrong. We don’t care if the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court wants you to be his clerk. Rehnquist Schmen-quist!

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