Fresh off weeks of infamy and accusations of sedition in the wake of the January 6 uprising at the Capitol, Ted Cruz, the US senator from Texas, was faced with a crisis in his home state last week: a once-in-a-decade snowy blast that left at least 4m state residents without power or heat in minus 18C temperatures, with some using melted snow to flush their toilets.
Greg Abbott, Texas Republican governor, declared a state of emergency. Beto O’Rourke, the onetime Texas congressman and Democratic presidential candidate, organised a statewide virtual phone bank to check on more than 150,000 elderly residents.
Cruz decided to take the approach extolled by James Taylor:
Lose your load, leave your mind behind . . .
It sounds simple. I just have to go
Together with his wife and two young daughters, the senator booked a last minute trip to Cancún, the spring break destination favoured by college coeds, for a stay at the Ritz-Carlton, where temperatures promised to reach 29C and rooms cost more than $300 a night.
“Our house is FREEZING,” Cruz’s wife, Heidi, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, messaged on a group text with friends — one of whom turned out to be not such a good friend after all and leaked the screenshots.
“Anyone can and want to leave for the week?” Heidi Cruz asked, sharing details for a direct United flight and the hotel accommodation.
The trip might still have gone as planned were it not for some of Cruz’s eagle-eyed fellow passengers, who spotted the rumpled lawmaker, in a seasonally flexible Patagonia jacket, at check-in and during boarding. They quickly spread the news, with photos, on social media.
By 6am the next morning — 10 hours after he landed near Mexico’s sun-kissed shores — Cruz had rebooked his flight to come home. Arriving back in Houston and looking sheepish in a Texas-flag adorned face mask, he admitted to waiting news crews that he had made an error.
“In hindsight I wouldn’t have done it,” he said, claiming that his 10- and-12 year-old daughters had cajoled him into it. “I was trying to be a dad.” Coming back early, he added, was proof that he was a good senator.
“I didn’t want all the screaming and yelling about this trip to distract even one moment from the real issues that I think Texans care about, which is keeping all of our families safe,” he said, seeking to shift the blame from his children on to the news media in an act of political ju-jitsu.
While some conservative commentators have defended Cruz — arguing, as one Fox News host put it, that the senator was being targeted not for the choice and timing of his vacation locale but because “he’s been an effective, consistent conservative for years” — most struggled to offer an explanation for his behaviour. Though some Democrats called for his resignation (again), Cruz is unlikely to face many consequences.
Five or six years ago an ill-advised political move or embarrassing revelation might have resulted in a delicately worded announcement about spending more time with one’s family. Donald Trump showed politicians of both parties that they have another option: wait out the storm long enough and it should pass, like a mild tropical squall.
Such has been the case for California Governor Gavin Newsom who was caught flouting his state’s lockdown rules at a maskless birthday celebration last year at one of Napa Valley’s most expensive restaurants and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who visited a San Francisco hair salon in the summer when they were closed by state order.
In Virginia, the state’s current governor and attorney-general have held on to the end of their four-year terms despite the emergence halfway through that they had appeared in either blackface or KKK garb as students. The list goes on.
Cruz has been facing calls for his resignation since he helped lead the opposition to certification of Joe Biden’s election, and voted against it after violent protesters stormed the Capitol. The fury over his Mexico trip is likely to be as shortlived as his ill-fated holiday.
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