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Hullabaloo


Thursday, December 10, 2015

 
Cruz's pivot to normal human

by digby



The New York Times today has a story about Cruz showing his human side on the trail:

Senator Ted Cruz had been at it for several minutes, offering handshakes and uneasy smiles, when he encountered an apparent holdout in the crowd.

Mr. Cruz squatted. He squinted. He had heard something about a toy collection. And so, about three feet above the floor of an American Legion hall here, the senator began his questioning.

“You have lots of toys?” he asked 3-year-old Isaac Josselyn. Nothing.

“What’s your favorite toy?” More silence.

“Do you have a dinosaur?’”

“Do you have a fire truck?”

“You have a toy monkey?”

Isaac stared blankly.

“A toy monkey!” Mr. Cruz shouted, revving for a punch line no one understood. “You know what that means? You get to be the monkey in the house!”

Isaac shuffled away. Mr. Cruz turned quickly to an adult well-wisher. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said softly.

Less than two months before voting begins, Mr. Cruz, of Texas, has vaulted into the Republican presidential race’s top tier as the consummate Washington bomb thrower — wagging fingers, pounding lecterns and gleefully accumulating enemies in both parties.

Now comes the hard part: making friends.

As his crowds swell in Iowa and he battles with Donald J. Trump to lock down the party’s more conservative voters, Mr. Cruz — appraised as grating and pompous as a matter of bipartisan consensus — is working diligently at the simple task of establishing human connections.

It is a bigger lift than it might seem. Mr. Cruz appears keenly aware of his charm deficit, acknowledging in private that his retail campaigning skills can lag behind his grasp of policy. At a debate in October, he became perhaps the first candidate in modern history to declare himself unappealing bar company.

“If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy,” he said, when asked to name a weakness. “But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done and I will get you home.”

This is all strategic on his part. He's proved his fiery wingnut bonafides. He's got the evangelicals. (Iowa evangelical leader Bob VanderPlatz and OG Movement conservative leader Richard Viguerie both endorsed him today.) Now he's going to try to boraden his reach.

He's pretty Nixonian when it comes to the personal touch. But he's not as bad as some people think. Back in November I noted an interview with Jake Tapper in which he seemed like a normal human being and it startled me. Don't assume he can't do it because he can:

CRUZ: You know, I will say something.

As you know, I met my wife, Heidi, on the Bush 2000 campaign. And we were one of eight marriages came out of that campaign, which -- something I tell young people, if you're looking to meet a spouse, come to a presidential campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ: And it led to a lousy joke that I have told all over the state of Texas, which is, whatever anyone else thinks of George W. Bush, in our house, he will always be a uniter, and not a divider.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Let's -- let me -- let's stay on the family theme, but a slightly more serious one.

Jeb Bush has been talking about his daughter's struggles with addiction recently. It's a huge issue out there, especially in New Hampshire, where...

CRUZ: Yes. Yes.

TAPPER: ... you're campaigning a lot these days.

In your book, which I have read and I do recommend -- it's a great -- it's a great campaign book, one that you actually wrote -- you write rather movingly about your older sister Miriam...

CRUZ: Yes.

TAPPER: ... her struggles with anger, and ultimately with drugs. And she died in 2011, after accidentally overdosing.

CRUZ: Yes.

TAPPER: Did that experience teach you anything in terms of dealing with addiction as a society or as a representative of the government?

CRUZ: It's a horrible disease. And I have seen it firsthand.

I mean, my sister Miriam was 9 years older than I am, so I grew up with her. She was my half-sister from my dad's first marriage. And her parents got divorced when she was a little girl. And Miriam was always very angry about it. And it -- it consumed her.

And she was -- she was smart. She was beautiful. And yet, her whole life, she lived basically as an angry teenager. She was sort of frozen emotionally in a state of rebellion. And she -- she made decision after decision that was the wrong decision. And she struggled her whole life with drug and alcohol addiction.

She was in and out of prison for petty crimes, I mean, for shoplifting, for -- for little things. But she kept associating with people who were really bad actors.

And, you know, when I was in my mid-20s, things got really bad for Miriam. She actually -- she was living in a crack house.

TAPPER: In Philadelphia.

CRUZ: Yes.

And so my dad flew up to see me, and the two of us, we left our rings and our watches and our wallets and everything, because we were driving to a crack house to try to get my sister out. And, you know, we didn't know if we'd be robbed or shot or what -- what we were going to experience.

And we pulled her out. We went to a Denny's and spent about four hours trying to talk to her, saying, Miriam, what are you doing? And she was just angry. She wouldn't change.

And you can't -- with an addict, you can't make them change if they're unwilling to get treatment, if they're unwilling to walk a different path. And, you know, Miriam had a son, my nephew Joey, who was going into seventh grade at the time. And we're saying, "Miriam, look, Joey needs you."

She wasn't able to provide for him, so I had just gotten out of law school. I ended up putting a $20,000 cash advance on my credit card and paying to put Joey in a military school, Valley Forge Military Academy.

And I think that year made a real difference in his life, providing some structure and some order. And then, by the end of the year, she had improved somewhat and was able to care for her son again.

But then, as you noted, she...

TAPPER: Yes.

CRUZ: ... a few years ago overdosed one night. And Joey came to the apartment and -- and found her dead.

TAPPER: That's a horrible story. And our -- my deepest condolences.

CRUZ: Yes.

This guy is smart and he's strategic. And he's a nightmare.


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