Texas is freezing. Hundreds of thousands of households are without power or access to safe drinking water; millions of people are effectively and indefinitely trapped in circumstances incompatible with their survival. Families are sleeping in their cars, running the engine to keep their babies warm, and being poisoned by carbon monoxide. Neighbors are huddling their families together in any nearby house that still has running water, amid a pandemic that was already sickening thousands of Texans per day even before a polar vortex settled over their state and for all intents and purposes reverted its shabby infrastructure to the Bronze Age.
And there was Texas Senator Ted Cruz, caught on surreptitious photograph with his family aboard a flight to sunny Cancun, Mexico, which is fully 1,700 miles away from the state he represents at the highest level of the federal government, where people are suffering and terrified and facing the choice between carbon-monoxide poisoning and freezing to death because the critical infrastructure has collapsed like it was held up by toothpicks. And then, what felt like mere minutes after that photograph blew up the media, there was the discovery that Cruz had suddenly appeared on the list of passengers for a flight from Cancun right back to the good old United States. Then came photographs of him shambling back through Cancun International Airport, alone with his large suitcase; and video, recorded by incredulous fellow passengers, of him disembarking (with a police escort!) at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
You can be disgusted by a monstrous dereliction of moral duty by one of the people most empowered to direct help toward Texas right now; you can join crescendoing calls for Cruz to resign. Spare a moment to laugh at this absolute goober’s excuse, first!
Here was his first official statement on the matter, issued yesterday while he was still in Mexico:
With school canceled 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. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our home warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.”
And here is an extremely busted-looking and -sounding Cruz, trying out a version of this when reporters caught up to him in the airport in Cancun, on his way back to Texas:
His daughters had asked to go on a trip, was the line. Good ol’ Dad was just seeing them safely to their destination, you see, out of grim fatherly duty. Not for Dad are the warm gentle Caribbean breezes of 80-degree Cancun! He is merely squiring his fair ladies to safety, as any noble old-fashioned man would, before returning, once more unto the breach, dear friends.
Even this feeble line of indefensible nonsense had collapsed by the end of the day—not only under the weight of its own hilarious tone-deafness, but because the Cruzes’ friends and neighbors just straight-up ratted them out to the New York Times.
When Ms. Cruz wrote to the group text chain of neighbors trying to weather the extreme conditions early Wednesday, she said the family had been staying with friends to keep warm, but quickly pivoted to offering an invitation to get away.
“Anyone can or want to leave for the week?” she wrote. “We may go to Cancún.” She teased a “direct flight” and “hotels w capacity. Seriously.” Ms. Cruz promptly shared details for a Wednesday afternoon departure, a Sunday return trip and a luxurious stay at the oceanfront Ritz-Carlton in the meantime.
By the time Cruz spoke again to the public, this time from back in Texas (and with protesters screaming “Resign!” at him in the background), his line had changed a little bit: He was ready to acknowledge, at least, that it had been intended as a week-long family vacation, and that it had been a bad idea.
“The last 24 hours, it has become a news story and a bit of a Twitter sensation that I went with my family, traveled yesterday to Mexico. I just got back, I flew out late last night, we had spent two days without power, and my girls wanted to take a trip, with their friends, and frankly get somewhere, ah, where it was warmer, and Heidi and I agreed, we took them, I flew them down last night and then I just flew back today.
“We left yesterday, the plan had been to stay through the weekend with the family, um, that-that-that was the plan, and-and-and, you know I have to admit, it was, [heavy sigh] the last week’s been tough on a lot of folks, um, we, when our power went out, we were initially, we, we, we had power longer than many, in fact a lot of our girl’s friends came over, we were hosting them for dinner and they were at our house because we had power and no one else did, and then the power went out right as we were starting to sit down for dinner and was out for two days.
“And our girls, when they got the news that school was canceled this week, uh, they said look well why don’t we take a trip, let’s, let’s go somewhere where it’s not so cold. And, and, Heidi and I, this had been a tough week and it’s been a tough year for kids, kids all across the state of Texas, uh, we were trying to be good parents and said, OK, we’ll do it, and we booked the flight.
“Whether the decision to go was tone-deaf, look it was obviously a mistake and in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it. Um, I was trying to be a dad.”
Is that how it works in your family? Ted Cruz’s daughters are 10 and 12 years old, the same ages as my two kids. My two kids do not have a vacation card they can play at any time! There is no break-in-case-of-emergency glass over a red Trip To A Luxury Resort In Cancun button in either of their rooms, or anywhere else. In my family now, as well as in my family when I was 10 (or 12, or 17), as well as in pretty much every normal family I’ve ever heard of, the response a child gets to the proposal, “Dad, school is out for this week because of snow, I want to go on vacation to Mexico” goes something like, “And I want a mound of gold bullion taller than our house. Please go clean your room.”
I just love the idea that Ted Cruz, who has never mastered any convincing impersonation of anything like conscience or decency or even a particularly well-informed idea of what people are like, thought this line—With school canceled for the week [because our state is frozen and has no power and no clean water and people are freezing and dying], our girls asked to take a [whole-ass] trip with friends [and my spouse and I said yes to impulsive international travel, in the middle of a pandemic, because we’re rich and none of this really affects us and we can afford to just parachute away from any and all discomfort, unlike all the people presently freezing and dying all over the state I represent in the U.S. Senate]—would in any way modify, rather than highlighting and underlining, what anybody would find repugnant and atrocious in the sight of a U.S. Senator flying to a sunny, warm vacation spot in the middle of a catastrophe endangering tens of millions of residents of his state. These are the fabled political instincts of a dude once regarded as a near-mortal lock to ride Tea Party fame to the Republican presidential nomination, in action!