The political history of Texas is one of colorful, headline-grabbing politicians. From Sam Houston to Lyndon Johnson to Ann Richards to Ron Paul, the characters who’ve occupied high office in this state are famous—and infamous—for their big personalities and the often unusual ways they have of saying and doing things. Junior senator Ted Cruz is no exception. So we’ve created the Ted Cruz Watch, to help readers track the senator’s latest doings and his whereabouts—be they in D.C., Texas, or, say, Cancun.

July 27, 2022: Ted Becomes a Strange Bedfellow of Those Pushing to Overturn Texas’s Sodomy Law

In 2015, before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case about the right to same-sex marriage, Ted Cruz told a conservative evangelical audience to pray that the justices did not “engage in an act of naked and lawless judicial activism.” Things have changed just a bit in the seven years since, and on Wednesday Cruz went to his favorite forum, the mainstream media, to clarify what naked acts he considers lawful. Voicing the senator’s support for repealing a 1973 Texas law that criminalized gay sex, Cruz’s spokesperson told the Dallas Morning News that his boss believes “Consenting adults should be able to do what they wish in their private sexual activity, and government has no business in their bedrooms.” 

The Texas law has remained on the books despite the landmark 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas that ruled it unconstitutional, along with similar sodomy bans in thirteen other states. Though currently unenforceable, the sodomy law has become freshly relevant after Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Lawrence ruling should be revisited in his concurring opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion. If the Supreme Court were to overturn Lawrence, state attorney general Ken Paxton has said he would defend the old state law.

Even at the time of the Lawrence ruling, 59 percent of Americans agreed that consensual gay sex should be legal, while 37 percent supported criminalization. Yet, nearly two decades later, Cruz is a near-singular voice among prominent Texas Republicans to call for a repeal of the sodomy law. (Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn did not reply to the DMN’s queries about the law.) Before he became the Speaker of the Texas House, Republican Dade Phelan indicated in 2019 that he also supported efforts to repeal the law. But while lawmakers filed bills to do that last session, when Phelan controlled the body, none came up for debate in the House.

While Cruz believes the government has no business in Texans’ bedrooms, his stance on the government’s involvement in bridal suites is murkier. Just as he did in 2015, Cruz still believes the Supreme Court was “clearly wrong” in its 5–4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized same-sex marriage as a constitutional right—a decision that Thomas also wrote in his Dobbs opinion should be revisited. At the same time, Cruz indicated he was not in favor of the court overturning Obergefell, because “​​it would be more than a little chaotic for the court to do something that somehow disrupted those marriages that have been entered into in accordance with the law.” But he believes the matter should have been left to the states. Cruz has also said he won’t support a bill codifying the right to marriage equality when it comes before the U.S. Senate, after a version passed the House with a single Texas Republican, Congressman Tony Gonzales, supporting it. 

In 2014, before the Obergefell ruling, same-sex marriage in Texas polled evenly, with 46 percent opposing and 46 percent supporting. There have been no recent polls on the issue in Texas, but 71 percent of Americans now support marriage equality, according to a Gallup poll from May, up 13 points from June 2015.

Cruz has spent much of the last year feuding with Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Elmo for their pro-vaccination messaging. As of press time, however, Bert and Ernie haven’t entered his crosshairs.—BR   

June 29, 2022: Ted Cruz Reignites His Feud With Muppets

On Tuesday, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former intern for Texas’s junior senator, testified before the House January 6 select committee about various events she witnessed while working in the White House as an aide to Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows. Ted Cruz, never one to shy away from making comments, had nothing to say about her testimony. He did, however, dedicate himself to his truest and purest avocation: picking fights with Muppets on Twitter. 

Last November, Cruz slammed Big Bird, declaring the big yellow Muppet’s message to young Sesame Street viewers about COVID-19 vaccines to be “government propaganda…for your 5 year old!” We can only assume that Cruz spent the past seven months salivating for a chance to turn his verbal machete on another Sesame Street character, and a segment from Tuesday finally gave him the chance. No longer content to merely beef with Big Bird, the senator opted to punch down at little Elmo. 

In the segment, Elmo—who, it should be stressed, is a puppet—talked with his Muppety dad Louie, also a puppet, about the Band-Aid he got after he received his COVID vaccine, which is now available to children who (like Elmo has been since his introduction in 1984) are younger than five years old. Louie says that he had questions about the vaccine that he discussed with Elmo’s pediatrician. The whole clip ends with a message that it’s okay to ask questions about vaccinating your kids—a sentiment at which Cruz seemed to take offense.

“Thanks, @sesamestreet for saying parents are allowed to have questions!,” Cruz tweeted, adding, “You then have @elmo aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.” He also included a link to a press release challenging the FDA’s emergency authorization of COVID vaccines for young kids. 

Cruz apparently believes that Elmo should have said something like “Elmo has family and friends that are at heightened risk of COVID, so Elmo got vaccinated to help protect them from infection!” or maybe “After reading a preprint on the medRxiv server, Elmo has learned that the BNT162b2 vaccine reduces the risk of fever and other general reactions from SARS-CoV-2! Elmo also learned that the vaccine has been tested in thousands of kids around Elmo’s age, and that its safety profile is similar to those of other vaccinations Elmo received as part of his regular schedule of childhood immunizations! Na na na, na na na!” Alas, the li’l guy didn’t offer such specific guidance to parents, leaving them to seek out more information on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine from non-Muppet sources. 
For his part, Cruz seems to enjoy the notoriety he receives from being the Senate’s chief Muppet bully. In perusing his Wednesday Twitter posts, you’ll find a clip from his podcast, The Verdict, but he mostly seems to be focused on sharing stories about his feud with wee Elmo. That certainly sounds like it would be more fun for the senator than commenting on the January 6 testimony offered by his former intern!—DS

June 23, 2022: The Senator Speculates on Merrick Garland’s Response to Dobbs Opinion

On his Wednesday night appearance on Hannity on Fox, Texas’s junior senator speculated on how United States attorney general Merrick Garland might respond when the Supreme Court opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization finally drops. How does the senator think the 69-year-old who has spent more than two decades on the bench will react to the case that, per a draft of the opinion that leaked last month, is likely to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion that the court found in Roe v. Wade

“The organized left, they’re going to engage in riots, they’re going to engage in violence,” Cruz told Sean Hannity. “They’re going to try to use political violence to advance their ends. The Department of Justice needs to step in and stop them. I halfway expect the attorney general to be rioting alongside them, because this Department of Justice has been so politicized.” 

For such a brief clip, there’s a lot to get through in Cruz’s statement! Certainly, the use of political violence in the debate over abortion is nothing new. Indeed, it’s been going on for decades. Anti-abortion activists have committed 41 clinic bombings in the U.S. and Canada since 1977, made 600 other bomb threats, and murdered four doctors and several clinic employees and volunteers. Cruz, in gaining a newfound interest in abortion-related political violence, joins nineteen GOP state attorneys general (including our own Ken Paxton) in determining that violence against anti-abortion groups, which thus far has manifested primarily in vandalism at so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” is an urgent threat. 

Regarding the Department of Justice, Cruz’s brief statement offers no specific examples of hyper-politicization. Cruz could be referring to Garland having not yet acted on the calls of the nineteen attorneys generals to investigate violence against anti-abortion groups. Or he could be referring to another popular right-wing grievance: the prosecution of figures connected to the riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021—an event that Cruz himself called a “terrorist attack” before offering a mea culpa for his statement at the feet of Tucker Carlson. Or he could be referring to the department’s decision to involve itself in challenging laws such as Texas’s SB 8, the anti-abortion law that created a civil “bounty” system to punish those who perform or “aid or abet” the procedure. If so, however, he’s describing the DOJ filing a lawsuit and then abiding by the court’s decisions against it, which is a far cry from Garland busting up a Starbucks. 

Cruz, of course, is a fan of hyperbole, and his hedge—that he only halfway expects Garland to take to the streets—indicates that the junior senator was just funnin’ with the host. It does, however, raise a question that’s much more fun to speculate upon than anything regarding abortion or the DOJ: Namely, how far do we think Merrick Garland could throw a brick? He’s not a tall man, and while his biography includes a number of extracurricular activities during his high school and college years (student body president, theater critic for the Harvard Crimson), it makes no mention of youth sports for the slightly built prosecutor. Even if it did, at 69 years of age, his best shot-putting days are probably behind him. This is pure speculation, but we’re going to guess that Garland could probably send a brick about eight feet, throwing overhand, and we are grateful to Senator Cruz for the opportunity to consider such a question about our nation’s top law enforcement official.—DS

April 21, 2022: The Senator Speaks His Disney Slash-Fiction Fantasies

Ted Cruz’s podcast remains the gift that keeps on giving, at least for the purposes of following the novel, incendiary, self-contradictory, or otherwise curious things said by Texas’s junior senator. During a recent live taping of The Verdict With Ted Cruz, the senator took on the object of the right wing’s current two-minute hate: Disney, the entertainment and media giant that conservatives have recently gotten mad at over its opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. While the bill made its way through the state house, the media conglomerate, one of Florida’s biggest employers and a major donor to Florida politicians, had no response to it. But after the bill passed, Disney vowed to use its influence to see it repealed. Blaming “woke” forces for steering the corporation into reversing its position on the bill, Cruz opined that “there are people who are misguided, trying to drive Disney stepping in, saying, you know, every episode now, they’re going to have, you know, Mickey and Pluto going at it.” This elicited awkward laughter from the crowd. 

Cruz was clearly joking—his cohost interjected with a “thank you for that image, senator”—but the senator also seemed to believe that his jest about Disney’s programming had a kernel of truth. “Look, I’m a dad,” he said. “It used to be that you could put your kids on the Disney Channel and be like, all right, something innocuous will happen,” implying that nowadays, parents never know when they’ll turn their back and their kids will be watching some hot Mickey-on-Pluto action. 

The Disney Channel’s current live-action lineup consists of the Jessie spin-off Bunk’d (no sex, no Mickey, no Pluto), the That’s So Raven spin-off Raven’s Home (same), the tween mystery Secrets of Sulphur Springs (same), and Disney’s Magic Bake-Off (a reality show in which kids make cakes). Its animated series are Big City Greens (two country kids move in with their big-city grandma, no sex involved), Amphibia (a tween makes friends with talking frogs, again no sex involved), and The Ghost and Molly McGee (a tween makes friends with a ghost, but not in an intimate way). The channel also airs the cartoon The Owl House, about two teen girls who discover a portal to another world, and who at one point in the second season share a dance on-screen. That is a far cry from, er, Mickey doing Pluto, as Cruz imagined, and an easy thing to explain to kids in an age-appropriate way (try “some girls like to dance with other girls”!). 

If Cruz harbors fantasies about seeing Mickey and Pluto in the midst of an intimate encounter, in other words, he’s not going to find them on the Disney Channel. Might we suggest that the junior senator try Tumblr?—DS

April 5, 2022: Ted Cruz Slams Due Process for Political Points

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Ted Cruz. That’s the logical conclusion from a bizarre-if-you-think-about-it-for-three-seconds rant that Texas’s junior senator, a lawyer who says he loves the Constitution, offered on Fox News on Sunday night. Asked about Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by host Mark Levin, Cruz claimed that public defenders (a role which Jackson once served) do their jobs because “their heart is with the murderers, with the criminals, and that’s who they’re rooting for.”

This is a wacky thing for any lawyer to say—a lawyer, better than anyone else, understands that an adversarial legal system requires each side to have representation. Cruz, in his Fox bit, praised prosecutors for taking their jobs “because they want to lock up the bad guys,” but failed to account for, er, the entire nature of the justice system. Sometimes the prosecutors have the wrong “bad guy!” Sometimes the “bad guy” didn’t break the law at all! Sometimes there’s not enough evidence to say that the person on trial is really a “bad guy” at all! Public defenders—who represent those who are accused of being “bad guys” but don’t have the money to pay for a lawyer—are the folks who see the full force of government authority bearing down on someone and say, “You’ve got to prove it first.” 

In the past, Cruz has found the role noble. When Botham Jean, an unarmed man, was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in his apartment in Dallas in 2018, Cruz was quick to make clear that his heart was—in his construction on Fox—“with the murderer.” In an interview at the time, Cruz argued that the police officer, Amber Guyger, “may have been in the wrong, and if a jury of her peers believes that she behaved wrongly, then she’ll face the consequences,” adding that “I don’t think we should jump to conclusions.” (A jury did, ultimately, find that Officer Amber Guyger committed murder.) 

Public defenders are an easy target. They stand by the people we are most angry with or frightened of, which is precisely why Cruz’s comments were so shameful—our system requires that someone do the job even though it’s not popular. This is pretty basic stuff; if Cruz’s education was worth a damn, he’s known all of this since his first pre-law class as an undergrad. But now that he can score a political point, he’s happy to go on TV to make an argument that every law professor he ever had is surely shaking their head at.—DS

March 28, 2022: Revisiting Cruz’s Role in Trying to Overturn the Election

The Washington Post published a blockbuster today about Cruz’s role in the fight to overturn the 2020 election results. While the story contains little in the way of previously unknown revelations, the context that it offers around the junior senator’s efforts is nonetheless worth our attention. 

Most notable in the report is a statement by J. Michael Luttig, the former federal judge who served as mentor to both Cruz and to Trump elections lawyer John C. Eastman, breaking with the senator. Luttig is a big deal in judicial circles; forty of his law clerks went on to clerk for the Supreme Court over his fifteen years on the bench, mostly for conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. “Once Ted Cruz promised to object, January 6 was all but foreordained, because Cruz was the most influential figure in the Congress willing to force a vote on Trump’s claim that the election was stolen,” Luttig’s statement read. “He was also the most knowledgeable of the intricacies of both the Electoral Count Act and the Constitution, and the way to exploit the two.” 

Luttig’s opposition to efforts to overturn the election have been documented before. His name appeared in the letter Mike Pence sent to Congress to explain that the vice president lacks the legal authority to change the results of an election. But Luttig’s break with Cruz (he’s since gone on to troll the senator on his recently opened Twitter account) is part of a larger pattern detailed by the Post: many of the senator’s former allies have expressed surprise and disappointment around his actions related to the election. 

To recap: Cruz began the post-election era by arguing on Sean Hannity’s Fox show on November 6, before the race had been called, that Democrats were “setting the stage to potentially steal an election.” He then volunteered to represent Pennsylvania Republicans in a long-shot bid to block certification of their state’s vote that the Supreme Court declined to hear. Still interested in arguing before the highest court in the country, he offered to represent Texas in a lawsuit brought by Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, in which the state sued Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in an attempt to have their election results thrown out. When that too failed, he tried to recruit other senators to vote to put a ten-day hold on Congressional certification of the election results, typically a formality. If he had successfully done so, that certification would not have happened until perilously close to the Constitutionally mandated Inauguration Day, potentially causing chaos. 

The Post quoted one adviser, speaking anonymously, about Cruz’s decision to get involved in Paxton’s lawsuit. “If you’re a conservative federalist, the idea that one state can tell another state how to run their elections is outrageous, but he somehow contorted in his mind that it would be okay for him to argue that case,” the adviser said. It also noted a Twitter thread from former Cruz staffer and current congressman Chip Roy, in which Roy called the suit “a dangerous violation of federalism.” 

Cruz’s efforts not just to overturn the election but to be the visible face of the movement to do so was spurred, the Post reports, by concerns that if he weren’t the foremost Trump ally in the Senate, Missouri’s Josh Hawley would be; a Cruz adviser told the paper that he worried he’d be “outflanked on his right.” It worked: ten other Republican senators joined Cruz’s effort to delay certification of the election in order to audit results, and the group came to be known as the “Cruz Eleven” (by the morning of January 6, the group had swelled to fourteen, though that number dropped again after the Capitol was stormed). The attempt to delay certification alienated another aide, Cruz’s then–communications director, Lauren Bianchi, who told Cruz he needed “to be the adult in the room” and abandon his efforts, a plea he rejected. 

The Post’s portrait of Cruz and his actions following the election is one of someone seeking “constitutional plausibility” in his efforts to circumvent the result, as a law professor interviewed by the paper put it. Many of the attempts to challenge the election result were ham-fisted and bizarre (recall Pence’s efforts to find legal experts who could affirm that the vice president of the United States is not the final arbiter of who wins the presidency), but Cruz’s were conducted with the savvy of a Monopoly rules lawyer who insists that players can’t just wad up some toilet paper to use because they lost all the houses. Unfortunately for Cruz, very few others seemed to agree. The Cruz Eleven shrank in number by the time the vote was called after the riot on January 6, and failed by a margin of 93–6, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.—DS

March 24, 2022: Cruz Asks if He Could Be an Asian Man

Having successfully faced down United Airlines customer service representatives at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport last weekend, Cruz has been in Washington this week for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. And what a hearing it has been! While Jackson is the nominee at the center of the event, Cruz has worked hard to be the hearing’s main character. 

On Wednesday, Cruz got into a shouting match with committee chair Dick Durbin, after the Illinois Democrat used his gavel to signal that Cruz had used up his allotted time for questioning. “You can bang it as loud as you want!” Cruz said, continuing to speak. “At some point, you have to follow the rules!” Durbin shot back. 

If Cruz’s performance wasn’t exactly great theater, it was nonetheless a strong pro wrestling promo; he questioned Jackson on her sentencing record in a handful of child pornography cases, frequently interrupting her as she attempted to answer. He waved a copy of Alex Vitale’s 2017 book The End of Policing at her—a book recommended to students by the library of the Georgetown Day School, on whose board of trustees Jackson sits—and asked her if she believes that “babies are racist.” In an attempt to get her to talk about the ability of transgender Americans to bring gender discrimination lawsuits, he asked if he could claim to be a different race to bring racial discrimination lawsuits. “Would I have the ability to be an Asian man?” he asked. It was a lot to take in. 

Cruz may have genuinely wanted answers to his questions. Or, as Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, put it, he might have just been chasing clout. “I know the junior senator from Texas likes to get on TV,” Leahy noted as the hearing grew increasingly testy. (Cruz, momentarily, failed to respond.) But, it turned out, he was quite interested in the dopamine hit of immediate feedback: following his exchange with Durbin, Los Angeles Times photographer Kent Nishimura took a photo of Cruz searching for mentions of his own name on Twitter. —DS

February 2, 2022: Cruz Employs a New Supreme Court Standard

On this week’s edition of Cruz’s podcast, the junior senator from Texas condemned President Joe Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to replace retiring Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer as “offensive.” Explaining his reasoning, Cruz said, “The fact that he’s willing to make a promise at the outset, that it must be a Black woman, I got to say that’s offensive. You know, Black women are, what, six percent of the U.S. population? He’s saying to ninety-four percent of Americans, ‘I don’t give a damn about you, you are ineligible.’” (Black women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, represent 7 percent of the population.) Cruz added, “If he came and said, ‘I’m going to put the best jurist on the court’ and he looked at a number of people and he ended up nominating a Black woman, he could credibly say, ‘Okay, I’m nominating the person who’s most qualified.’” 

Cruz’s argument has a few holes. For one, presidents have historically adopted plenty of eligibility restrictions for the job: the Constitution doesn’t require justices to be lawyers, for example, but since the very first justice, John Jay, everyone to serve on the court has been one. That means, in Cruz’s terms, the exclusion of 99.7 percent of Americans! Not to mention that even the vast majority of lawyers possess nowhere near the qualifications we’d want in a SCOTUS justice. (No disrespect to the Attorney That Rocks, but “rocking” is low on the list of qualities that a prospective jurist should possess.) 

As Cruz is aware, choosing to select from a certain group within the pool of qualified candidates is hardly rare. Donald Trump, before nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the high court in the fall of 2020, vowed to nominate a woman. “I will be putting forth a nominee next week,” he said. “It will be a woman.” Cruz didn’t opine then that Trump’s comment excluded the 49.2 percent of the U.S. population who are not women. And Trump, of course, was hardly the first president to consider such a criterion; Ronald Reagan, way back in 1980, made the same promise during his campaign before nominating Sandra Day O’Connor to the court. 

Second, the idea that there’s an objective “best jurist” is fraught. Debates exist over who the top performers are even in industries with advanced performance metrics—in baseball, we still debate who the best hitter is. As concerns the Supreme Court, there are candidates who are qualified (a small group) and candidates who are not (329.5 million Americans). The group of qualified candidates unquestionably includes some number of Black women. 

Third, of the justices previously confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, 94 percent have been white men; zero percent have been black women. Cruz, on his podcast, had no comment on what message that historical precedent has sent to Americans. —DS

January 7, 2022: Cruz Has a Rocky Interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson

The liberal media can be hard on Ted Cruz. Last winter, it made his father-of-the-year decision to take a Mexican vacation look like a cowardly escape to Cancún during a blackout. And this winter, it’s trying to twist his words. Who in the liberal media, exactly? Tucker Carlson, of Fox News.

To recap: On January 5, during a Senate committee hearing about the January 6, 2021, insurrection and the failures of the Capitol Police that day, Cruz said the country was approaching the “solemn anniversary” of a “violent terrorist attack on the Capitol.” That night, Carlson hammered him for his word choice, and Cruz reached out to him to make an appearance on his show. And on January 6, that “solemn anniversary,” Cruz did just that to clear the muck.

Carlson started the interview by damning Cruz with backhanded praise. The senator, he said, is a smart man who was once considered for a U.S. Supreme Court spot. Thus, he always chooses his words carefully. So why had he “lied” and called the Capitol riot a terrorist attack? Cruz didn’t get too far into his answer—his comments were “sloppy” and “dumb,” he said, contritely—before Carlson interrupted to repeat that he didn’t buy that explanation. (Though the Fox anchor didn’t note it, the explanation does seem implausible: in multiple official written statements over the past year, Cruz has referred to the Capitol riot as a terrorist attack. Perhaps he has “terrorist attack” Tourette’s.)

Cruz next attempted to make an appeal to common ground: like Carlson, he said, he has harsh words for those who assault law enforcement. He wasn’t calling “the thousands of peaceful protesters supporting Donald Trump” terrorists, just the “limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers.” Carlson, ever the scold, countered, incredulously, that those who assault officers should be jailed, but they aren’t “terrorists.”

For another five minutes, the tête-à-tête proceeded along similar lines. Carlson seemed unconvinced by Cruz’s backtracking, while the senator boxed himself into increasingly Fox News–y corners. Cruz eventually clarified that the riots were not an “insurrection,” countenanced a conspiracy theory that violence had been encouraged by the deep state, and assured Carlson that he had the interests of the rioters at heart. “While thousands of people were standing up to defend this country on January 6, at that exact moment I was standing on the Senate floor objecting to the election results, demanding that we impanel an election commission to consider evidence of voter fraud.”

The reaction to the interview on social media was gleeful. Cruz, for his part, shared the clip on Twitter, taking pains to apologize . . . that others weren’t getting his point. “I’m sorry that that 20-second clip led so many to misunderstand what I was saying,” he wrote. Sorry, indeed! —BR

January 4, 2022: Cruz Contemplates Impeaching Biden

Cruz ushered in the new year by discussing on his podcast what a GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives might do, should the party win a majority in the lower chamber come November. Specifically: impeachment might just be on the menu, y’all. While Cruz lamented the idea of taking a procedure that the Constitution reserves for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and using it for partisan purposes, he also expressed interest in doing just that to President Joe Biden. Why? Because, in his view, the Democrats did it first (twice). “They used it for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him,” he said. “One of the real disadvantages of doing that is the more you weaponize it and turn it into a partisan cudgel, you know, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

On what grounds might the GOP impeach Biden? Cruz suggested that the administration’s immigration policy—which the junior senator describes as a “refusal to enforce the border”—is “probably the most compelling” reason, though he didn’t rule out other, unnamed grounds the party might invoke. (No bother that, according to even the Koch-funded, libertarian think tank the Cato Institute, “Biden’s immigration policies and goals are largely the same as those of President Donald Trump.”) The junior senator seemed to acknowledge that impeachment would be the goal, and finding a high crime or misdemeanor will be up to the future House GOP majority. 

Cruz’s recollection of the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump is a bit off; both impeachments were bipartisan, the second significantly more so than the first. Republican senator Mitt Romney voted to remove Trump from office in his first impeachment trial over abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to the president’s alleged efforts to coerce Ukrainian officials to help his reelection efforts. And former GOP House member Justin Amash, who left the party to become an independent in 2019, voted to impeach. In the second proceeding on charges of incitement of insurrection related to the Capitol riot on January 6, ten House Republicans—and seven GOP senators—voted for Trump’s impeachment and removal.

Is impeachment inevitable if, as Cruz says, the GOP has a 90 percent chance of retaking the House in November? Perhaps not; Cruz says only that “there’s a chance.” Democrats, meanwhile, are likely to use the prospect of a retaliatory impeachment as a fund-raising and campaign issue, as the party did amid similar calls during the Obama administration. Has Cruz overplayed his hand, or is this all part of a four-dimensional chess game intended to get the opposition to normalize the prospect of a purely partisan impeachment? We’ll have to stay tuned to see! —DS

December 23, 2021: Cruz Recalls the Good Old Days of His Failed 2016 Presidential Campaign

What happens to a dream deferred? If the presidential aspirations of Texas’s junior senator are a representative example, dashed dreams lead to interviews with fifteen-year-old journalists about the good old days. On Wednesday, Cruz reminisced about his second-place bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016—in which he and his family were repeatedly mocked by eventual winner Donald Trump, whom he refused to endorse at the Republican National Convention that year—calling it the “most fun he’s ever had.” When asked by Brilyn Hollyhand, the teenage founder of the conservative Truth Gazette, if he would consider running again, Cruz said he would “in a heartbeat.”

Cruz is bullish about his 2024 chances, should he run. He explained to Hollyhand that the runner-up in an election is often the nominee the next time—citing Mitt Romney, who ran behind John McCain in 2008 before winning the GOP race in 2012, and Ronald Reagan, who finished second to Gerald Ford in 1976 before making his successful bid in 1980. “You come in with just an enormous base of support,” Cruz said. The problem for the senator is that, unlike Romney and Reagan, the man he lost to last time isn’t necessarily going to sit out the next election. And if Trump runs, the odds of a Cruz victory are looking pretty darn slim. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas in July, a straw poll found 70 percent of attendees favor Trump in 2024, while a mere 1 percent backed Cruz. Even with Trump off the poll, Cruz finished a distant third with 4 percent support, tied with Donald Trump Jr., and behind former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with 5 percent support and Florida governor Ron DeSantis with 68 percent. But whether it’s facing down Big Bird or Trump, Cruz has never been one to cower from challenging an imposing figure. —BR

November 8, 2021: Cruz Takes on Big Bird

Last week, the official Twitter account for Big Bird, the iconic Sesame Street character, posted a message in the voice of the character, announcing that the big yellow Muppet had received the COVID-19 vaccine:

The timing of the bird’s missive coincided with the Food and Drug Administration’s authorizing of the Pfizer COVID vaccine for emergency use in children ages five to eleven. Politicians across the spectrum weighed in on Big Bird’s announcement. The president of the United States of America wrote to the anthropomorphized avian, “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.” Cruz was a bit more cynical: “Government propaganda…for your 5 year old!” he wrote. 

Where to begin? First, pause to reflect on adults—ones elected to lead us, no less—talking to and about the Twitter account of a Muppet. Then consider some relevant facts on the beef between Cruz and Big Bird. 

First: Despite the fact that Sesame Street has run on PBS since its creation in 1969, the government does not own, control, or produce the show. Sesame Workshop, which owns and produces the show, is a privately controlled nonprofit organization. The vast majority of its funding comes from private sources—a $100 million block grant from Lego, revenue from its deal with HBO, and licensing revenue from toys and clothing. Only 4 percent comes from federal grants. If Big Bird’s tweet is propaganda, it’s primarily financed by corporate donations and traditional revenue. 

Second: This type of message is nothing new from the bird or the show. On Sunday, the Twitter account @MuppetWiki, which is now politically relevant, posted a clip from a 1972 episode of Sesame Street in which Big Bird received a vaccination, presumably for measles, mumps, and rubella (the vaccine was licensed by the FDA the previous year). In those rather more ordinary political times, the use of a big, friendly Muppet to help children feel safe around needles was uncontroversial, and Big Bird was not accused of being a government propagandist, even though significantly more of Sesame Street’s funding came from the publicly funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting at the time. 

Further, there’s a fine line between good public health advice and propaganda. Would Cruz argue that Elmo’s entreaty to children that they should brush their teeth is propaganda? What about “V Is for Vegetable”

Third: This is not the first time that Big Bird has found himself in the political crosshairs. In 2012, during a televised presidential debate, GOP nominee Mitt Romney proposed balancing the budget by defunding PBS, singling out the yellow fellow as a symbol of wasteful spending: “I like Big Bird,” the grown man declared, before saying that “I’m not gonna keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.” (Not only is the vast majority of Sesame Workshop’s funding from nongovernment sources, as previously noted, but it takes the Pentagon only six hours to spend an amount equivalent to the annual allocation that PBS receives from the federal government.) Big Bird responded with an appearance on SNL that week, but avoided commenting directly on Romney’s plan, in an attempt to avoid ruffling any feathers. To date, the creature has been similarly taciturn in response to Senator Cruz’s allegation that he is a government stooge. —DS

November 7, 2021: Cruz Offers His Secession Checklist, but Still Sees Hope for America

At a podcast taping last month at Texas A&M, Cruz responded to the question that’s nagged Texans since 1845: the one about secession. 

In response to an audience member, Cruz insinuated that he (like many Texans) may have thought in the abstract about the return of the Republic of Texas, but stated that he’s no secessionist. Instead, he advocated the position that Texas belongs in the United States as a counterbalance against the values the senator abhors. “I think Texas has a responsibility to the country, and I’m not ready to give up on America. I love this country,” he told the questioner during the event. “Texas is, right now, an amazing force to keep America from going off the cliff, keeping America grounded on the values that built this country.” 

That said, he offered a checklist of events that would tell him that it was time to bail on the grand American experiment. The items on the list are by turn extremely specific and plausible and utterly random (leaving him a bit of wiggle room if some of the policy-based boxes get ticked). His list:

  • If the Democrats end the filibuster.
  • If Democrats pack the Supreme Court.
  • If Democrats make D.C. a state.
  • If Democrats federalize elections and “massively expand voter fraud.”
  • If Democrats fundamentally destroy the country.

Ending the filibuster is unlikely but not impossible (politics betting market PredictIt.org currently sets a 3 percent chance it happens before the end of 2021); adding more members to the Supreme Court, an idea that was posited by progressives during the 2020 election campaign, appears to have lost steam (100:1 odds on PredictIt); and DC statehood is in a similar boat (also 100:1). Democrats “federalizing elections” is harder to imagine, but Cruz’s terminology is ill-defined: he could mean literally shifting the administration of elections to the federal government, which would require a constitutional amendment, or just passing federal voting rights legislation, such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would require a simple majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. 

As for the final two bullets: There are no real metrics through which “a massive expansion of voter fraud” can be judged. To “fundamentally destroy the country,” meanwhile, means different things to different people, so who knows!

The attempt to parse Cruz’s checklist is beside the point, however, as the entire exercise was clearly more of a thought experiment than an actual political agenda: Cruz still believes in the idea of the United States, a reassuring thing to learn about a member of the United States Senate, and while he seems to have daydreamed about an independent Texas, he has yet to become an advocate for a national divorce. As for who he’d like to see run the republic? “Joe Rogan? He might be the president of Texas!” he joked during the taping. —DS 

October 28, 2021: Cruz Weighs In on When It’s Okay to Make Nazi Salutes

On Wednesday, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Department of Justice, Ted Cruz grilled U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland over a memo his department issued this month. The memo concerns “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” toward school officials, largely around vaccination and mask-wearing (but also critical race theory), and calls for local leaders to meet with the FBI to discuss strategies for addressing such threats. The document has become a talking point in Republican politics in recent weeks. Many GOP figures, including Cruz, suggest that the DOJ is treating parents who oppose COVID-19 restrictions as potential domestic terrorists. 

In his attempt to characterize the actions of frustrated parents as good, old-fashioned free speech, Cruz mocked a specific example in the memo that he found nonthreatening: parents in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio who performed Nazi salutes when at board meetings. “My God! A parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because he thought the policies were oppressive,” Cruz intoned theatrically, before asking Garland if Nazi salutes were protected speech. Garland said they are. 

Responding to viral tweets about his performance, Cruz objected to characterizations that he was endorsing the use of Nazi salutes in all contexts. Rather, he said, the parents in the incidents he cited weren’t actually heiling Hitler to express support; they were making a point that the school board’s policies were akin to policies implemented by Nazis. The message they were sharing was that Nazis are bad, Cruz argued. (He also accused Democratic representative Eric Swalwell, who tweeted Cruz was defending Nazis, of “sleeping with Chinese spies,” a steamy, if unsubstantiated, accusation that’s neither here nor there in any case.) 

Many Jewish members of the communities where the Nazi salutes have been performed, however, aren’t swayed by the argument. Lauren Herrin, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in the Michigan community in which one of the salutes was performed, understood the context that Cruz said his critics ignored, but wasn’t satisfied by it. “People are likening vaccines and vaccines cards to wearing the Yellow Star,” she told her local paper. “It’s obviously very hurtful to many in the Jewish community because you cannot equate those two things.” The speech may be protected, in other words, and its intention may be to criticize policies those who perform it find oppressive—but it still minimizes the atrocities of the Holocaust. —DS

October 22, 2021: Cruz’s Joke Bill Finds Rare Cross-Aisle Buy-in

This week, Cruz filed the “Stop the SURGE Act,” which is what’s known as a “messaging” bill, intended to garner headlines rather than become law. It’s working! Here we are. The bill would require that undocumented immigrants at the Mexican border be transferred to new ports of entry that the bill would create far from the southwest: wealthy coastal vacation destinations such as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket; liberal enclaves including Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Palo Alto, California; and spots that troll specific political opponents of Texas’s junior senator, such as North Hero, Vermont (population 939), the location of Bernie Sanders’s lake house).

The bill won’t go anywhere, as Democrats control the House and Senate and are unlikely to spend time indulging a troll job from Cruz. But the junior senator’s point is that he believes leaders in progressive parts of the country would be aghast to see the immigrants who currently enter the country in Del Rio, Laredo, McAllen, and other parts of the border in their own communities instead. 

That appears to be a misread, however. Keith Chatinover, county commissioner in Massachusetts’s Dukes County, home of Martha’s Vineyard, told his local paper that he had no problem with Cruz’s proposal. “I would love Martha’s Vineyard to become a haven for new immigrants to this country, but Senator Cruz has no idea what he’s talking about regarding a ‘border crisis,’ ” he told the Martha’s Vineyard Times, pointing out that his own community has seen an influx of immigrants from Brazil. Massachusetts state senator Julian Cyr echoed the sentiment, telling the Boston Herald that he would “welcome the opportunity to have more people come to our region and work and live.”

The Stop the SURGE Act wouldn’t exactly be sound policy. Immigrants entering the country from Mexico are more likely to have family in South Texas than in rural Vermont, and access to legal resources for those seeking asylum is similarly more robust in Texas, where organizations to meet those needs have been built over many years. But it’s rare that a handful of progressive officials find common ground with a Ted Cruz trolling attempt, so we commend him for bipartisanship. —DS 

October 8, 2021: Cruz Is Still Not the Zodiac Killer

During the 2016 GOP presidential primary, Twitter users gleefully shared a meme suggesting that Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer. The joke didn’t really make sense. The long-unidentified serial killer, who murdered at least 5—and as many as 37—Northern Californians and taunted the police by sending them ciphers, operated in 1968 and 1969; Cruz knows a thing or two about fleeing a scene, but he wasn’t born until 1970. Nonetheless, the meme took off, driven in large part by the senator’s detractors who seemed to want to express that there was no limit to how creepy they found him.

In an unlikely twist, Cruz himself seemed to be delighted by the joke. In 2017, in response to Senator Ben Sasse (who was tweeting a joke about the theory, circulated by former president Donald Trump, that Cruz’s father helped assassinate John F. Kennedy), the junior senator tweeted the unreadable cipher that the Zodiac Killer had sent to police during his active years. The following Halloween, Cruz tweeted the puzzle again, unprompted. Last December, after a team of codebreakers shared that they had finally, after 51 years, cracked the cipher, Cruz retweeted the news with a brief, “uh oh”—probably the funniest joke the senator has ever made in public. 

Then, on Monday, a group of amateur sleuths issued a release claiming to have definitively identified the Zodiac Killer as someone other than Ted Cruz. The man they identified was alive in 1968, which makes him a more likely culprit than Cruz—who, again, was not. But amateur sleuths are not the most reliable detectives, and on Thursday evening, the FBI announced that, in the eyes of the Justice Department, the case was still open. Cruz engaged once again, tweeting, “Noooooooo!!!!!!!!”  

All of this is, of course, nonsense, but Cruz’s successful co-opting of a meme is one of the more successful pieces of political jiujitsu in recent memory. —DS

September 29, 2021: Cruz Tries to Dunk on Libs by Backing Anti-Vax NBA Stars

Ahead of the NBA season, Cruz, a noted basketball enthusiast, has a handful of new favorite players: Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins, Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. The makings of a formidable starting five, to be sure, but the Texas senator appreciates them for their work off the court: the group are among a handful of NBA players who have refused to provide the league with confirmation that they’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine. On Tuesday, Cruz tweeted his support for the Unvaxxed All-Stars.

Cruz’s relationship to the vaccine is complicated. He says he’s vaccinated. He added in May that the jab “has given us a lot of freedom.” And Ted Cruz loves freedom! However, he’s simultaneously argued against proposed government vaccine mandates, describing them as “authoritarianism.” Though some local restrictions will prevent unvaccinated players from entering arenas in certain cities, such as the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden in New York and the Chase Center in San Francisco, the NBA has imposed no such mandate. The league’s rules only indicate that unvaccinated players, who are restricted from certain social activities such as dining with teammates, are likely to have less fun on the road than their vaccinated teammates.

What’s the source, then, of Cruz’s vocal support for players who are refusing a vaccine that no one is mandating they get, that he himself has received, and that he has heralded for bringing Americans more freedom? It’s all about owning the libs. Cruz, a staunch opponent of abortion, ended his tweet with the longtime pro-choice mantra “your body, your choice.” “Standing with” the players who’ve chosen not to get vaccinated—or who won’t confirm they have been—by repurposing a catchphrase used by his political opponents is unlikely to get the NBA to change its relatively light policies around unvaccinated players. But failure to score actual points has never stopped the senator from trying to dunk on his opponents. —DS