“A big waste of time,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tweeted about Sen. Ted Cruz’s 21-hour speech. (The Washington Post has posted the transcript.) I remember what some would call an earlier Cruz waste of time.
Back in the middle of the last decade, before Cruz embarked on his political career, and while I was still a University of Texas professor, he joined me and three other UT profs in planning for what we hoped would eventually become a new major in Western Civilization and American Institutions.
Cruz, then solicitor general of Texas, the state’s chief lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court, was the only non-UT person who met with us, and we welcomed his thoughtful input—but I was a little puzzled as to why he came.
Cruz’s intelligence and eloquence, along with his Hispanic surname, clearly gave him electoral potential, but he received no political advantage from showing up, and none of the other three professors or I had a voting bloc or money to throw his way.
All I could figure is that he cared about the ideas, and about what Texas students would learn—and that impressed me. Sadly, other UT professors joined with administrators to strangle Western Civilization and American Institutions. So, in one sense, our efforts were a waste of time. In another sense, it was one of those “lost causes” worth fighting for.
In 2009, after leaving UT, I interviewed Cruz before students at The King’s College in New York City. At that time he was planning to run for attorney general of Texas—turns out he’s in the U.S. Senate instead. Cruz and Barack Obama both graduated from Harvard Law School, and Cruz’s explanation of why President Obama does what he does is still the best I’ve heard:
“Understanding Harvard Law School is very important to understanding our president, Barack Obama. He is very much a creature of Harvard Law. To understand what that means you have to understand that there were more self-declared communists on the Harvard faculty than there were Republicans. Every single idea this president has proposed in the nine months he’s been in office has been orthodox wisdom in the Harvard faculty lounge.”
Cruz was referring to small-c “communists” rather than members of the Communist Party.
Then, in discussing the need for Republicans to have both strong principles and communication ability, he concluded with the best explanation of GOP failure in 2008 (and, it turns out, in 2012) that I’ve heard:
“You have to be able to motivate, inspire, and connect with people. And maddeningly, in the Republican Party we manage to elect people over and over who don’t have firm principles; if they have firm principles they don’t have a backbone; and if they have firm principles and a backbone they can’t communicate to save their lives. That’s consistently a recipe for failure.”
I’ve interviewed more than 100 leaders in front of students in New York and Virginia, and Cruz is the only one who received a standing ovation from students. That impressed me also. I wrote in a column four years ago, “Meet Ted Cruz, the Republican Obama,” and spoke about him as a future president of the United States. Last night I put aside my baseball watching for one evening and watched a couple of hours of what Harry Reid called “a big waste of time.” It was time well spent.