There’s something particularly on-brand about Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, being photographed at the Houston airport reportedly on his way to Cancún, Mexico. After hours of speculation and reporting that confirmed Houston police had known he was there, Cruz finally put out a statement on his trip.
“With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,” Cruz said, adding that he and his Senate team “will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.”
As far as explanations go, that one rates maybe a C-plus; I somehow doubt it will draw a ton of sympathy, especially his attempt to deflect from his decision by playing the “good dad” card. But as we get in our richly deserved dunks, I think we have to acknowledge that many of us feel something else lurking beneath the outrage and schadenfreude.
The simple fact is that when we saw those pictures from the airport, a lot of us were — and still are — jealous of Ted Cruz.
I know, I know. It’s a strange and alien state of being. “Jealous of Ted Cruz” may in fact be a newly discovered emotion, unique to this point in history. But it’s true. We’re jealous — and we should be able to admit that without condoning his actions. I envy the freedom that Cruz apparently enjoys.
Somehow, over the years, he seems to have lost all sensation in the part of his brain that triggers feelings of shame. It’s the kind of weightlessness that feels more characteristic of a TikTok-loving himbo than a former Texas solicitor general.
And yet, it’s the only explanation I have for his refusal to back down from the most cringeworthy of positions. From his earnest and mundane love of Campbell’s soup to the mendacious and deadly claim that the coronavirus would go away after the November election, Cruz goes all in when others would do anything to make the embarrassment stop.
“Jealous of Ted Cruz” may in fact be a newly discovered emotion, unique to this point in history.
He’s the man who read “Green Eggs and Ham” on the floor of the Senate in a bid for attention disguised as a crusade against Obamacare. He’s someone who lent his winking support to conspiracy theories about the election that his own party helped spread, then refused to back down after the U.S. Capitol was overrun.
And it’s in that lack of shame, that inability to be embarrassed into doing the right thing, that Cruz draws his strength. It’s something that in a more principled politician would be almost noble. Instead, we tend to marvel at his audacity even as his colleagues refuse to hide their distaste. We try to project ourselves into his position and find it nearly impossible — it exceeds our capacity.
Try it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.
Imagine having the lack of self-awareness to call out a Democratic politician for traveling to Mexico during the pandemic before flying to Mexico yourself less than two months later.
Imagine that you were one of only six Senate votes against the last coronavirus relief package that passed in December. Imagine being opposed to any new stimulus package while still having the cash to blow on a resort vacation for your pre-teens. (Who I’m sure are having a great time with their friends — but this isn’t about them.)
Imagine having the privilege of being able to give your kids exactly what they want without hesitation — again, in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Imagine blaming your children for your own lapse in judgement.
Imagine being able to travel freely in the middle of that pandemic. Imagine feeling secure enough in this fact to the extent that you hop on a plane for a quick back-and-forth to Mexico right now.
Imagine being able to escape the cold of winter for the Mexican sun, even for a day, leaving your fellow Texans unable to escape the frigid nightmare that millions are enduring as a result of your own party’s unwillingness to adapt. Imagine living that experience while knowing your senator had managed to leave it all behind.
Imagine accepting the idea that as a senator, you have no power to help alleviate the suffering of your constituents.
Imagine being able to so thoroughly cast off your responsibilities in the middle of a crisis. Imagine doing so without an apology.
Imagine being Ted Cruz.
It’s tough. But I’ve also never wanted to imagine it more.