There’s a word for the great pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune: schadenfreude. Ted Cruz, normally known as a royal pain, is once again winning the contest for schadenfreude poster boy. He is ... well, let’s call on his famous associates to describe him:
Former Speaker of the House John Boehner said Ted Cruz is “Lucifer in the flesh.” Boehner spit out those words sometime after freshman Sen. Cruz had pretty much singlehandedly caused the government shutdown in 2013 over his plan to get the White House to strip funding from Obamacare, despite leadership’s efforts to block that maneuver as “In your dreams, rookie.” By the time that failure was over, Cruz had established a reputation as a backstabbing (even for Washington), smarmy (even for Washington), unlikable (ibid) political figure from braggadocio Texas. Lone Star State swagger doesn’t help.
“I don’t like him,” said Bob Dole, who likes everybody.
And former Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, who has always maintained the New Yorkers’ approach to personality, said, “I’ll take cyanide if he ever got the nomination.”
There are actually two points here. First, Ted Cruz is running for president. He has before; he will again.
Second, Cruz wants to be despised. That’s the only explanation for his continuing exploits, the latest of which is Cancungate. More about that in a moment. Apparently, he’s developed a master plan where the premise is that Americans will vote for someone they hate for being a snake, slithering against the political world, speaking with forked tongue, and overall playing the wretched villain. My nickname for him is “Snidely Whiplash.”
Which brings us to his Cancun adventure. Can I get away with describing the stunned reaction with a “WTF”?
What ambitious politician in his right mind would leave his state where millions of its residents are freezing because of a massive electric power failure in historically cold winter weather and take his family for an escape to Cancun? Who would be so blatant about it? He was caught, which wasn’t difficult, since he was easily recognizable in the Houston airport rolling a cutesy little suitcase combo onto the plane, and then in sunny Mexico wearing an ill-fitting golf shirt.
Even worse is he tried to lie his way out of it, changing his story several times -- at one point, blaming his daughters.
And worst of all, he left a little white poodle named Snowflake behind to fend for himself in the family’s frigid house.
So let’s see here. We have an insensitive-to-his-desperate-constituents United States senator who is entitled, who thinks he’s smarter than everybody else and makes no bones about it, who almost got beaten by a no-name Democrat (gasp!) and who has antagonized everyone from Texas to Washington. Yup, that certainly seems like presidential material to me. That other Mr. Congeniality, Donald Trump, called him “Lyin’ Ted,” and nobody along the many stops on the Ted Cruz life’s highway objected, no matter how accomplished he’s been.
Speaking of Donald Trump, his lapdog Lindsey Graham said, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”
Obviously, Ted Cruz doesn’t care (well, he cares about the killing part). He believes that the path to success is littered with enemies, and he may be right.
It is routinely littered with people who pretend to be your BFFs. As Harry S. Truman said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Although with Snowflake’s abandonment, Cruz may have blown that one.
But Ted Cruz doesn’t even pretend to be your friend. He’s a misanthrope if there ever was one. He doesn’t bother to hide it. Actually, it’s downright refreshing. He wants everybody to understand the unvarnished truth about him and his hateful but unorthodox election campaigning style. Next up he’ll be running for mayor of Cancun.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.