Ted Cruz is smart. But all evidence suggests he's never thought for himself.
This story about Ted Cruz's radical senior thesis is fascinating and should be read in full. But I wanted to highlight one little piece that prefaces his college years and beyond:
RAFAEL EDWARD CRUZ'S CONSERVATIVE baptism came at 13, when his parents enrolled him in an after-school program in Houston that was run by a local nonprofit called the Free Enterprise Education Center. Its founder was a retired natural gas executive (and onetime vaudeville performer) named Rolland Storey, a jovial septuagenarian whom one former student described as "a Santa Claus of Liberty."
This is a person who has, apparently, never questioned for a moment what he was taught at age 13. And the radical, right wing political philosophy he adopted at that tender age seems to be the basis for his entire identity. That's very creepy.
Storey's foundation was part of a late-Cold War growth spurt in conservative youth outreach. (Around the same time in Michigan, an Amway-backed group called the Free Enterprise Institute formed a traveling puppet show to teach five-year-olds about the evils of income redistribution.) The goal was to groom a new generation of true believers in the glory of the free market.
Storey lavished his students with books by Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises, political theorist Frédéric Bastiat, and libertarian firebrand Murray Rothbard—and hammered home his teachings with a catechism called the Ten Pillars of Economic Wisdom. (Cruz was a fan of Pillar II: "Everything that government gives to you, it must first take from you.") Storey's favorite historian was W. Cleon Skousen, an FBI agent turned Mormon theologian who posited that Anglo-Saxons were descendants of the lost tribe of Israel. Skousen was also a patriarch of the Tenther movement—whose adherents view the 10th Amendment as a firewall against federal encroachment. (By Skousen's reading, national parks were unconstitutional.)
Cruz was a star pupil. "He was so far head and shoulders above all the other students—frankly, it just wasn't fair," says Winston Elliott III, who took over the program after Storey retired. When Storey organized a speech contest on free-market values, Cruz won—four years running. "It was almost as if you wished Ted might be sick one year so that another kid could win."
Cruz and other promising students were invited to join a traveling troupe called the Constitutional Corroborators. Storey hired a memorization guru from Boston to develop a mnemonic device for the powers specifically granted to Congress in the Constitution. "T-C-C-N-C-C-P-C-C," for instance, was shorthand for "taxes, credit, commerce, naturalization, coinage, counterfeiting, post office, copyright, courts." The Corroborators hit the national Rotary Club luncheon circuit, writing selected articles verbatim on easels. They'd close with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be."
FROM HOUSTON, CRUZ MOVED on to Princeton and then Harvard Law School, a period of his life he refers to, with some seriousness, as "missionary work." He has said of his time in Cambridge: "The communists on the Harvard faculty are generally not malevolent; they generally were raised in privilege, have never worked very hard in their lives." He was a believer in a land of Philistines.
It doesn't always go down that way. Take for example this equally precocious 13 year old kid:
One of the biggest hits at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference was a homeschooled pundit with the voice of a Muppet and the ideology of Alex P. Keaton. Laugh all you want, but the way things are going, he could soon replace Michael Steele.
Guess what he did?
It’s almost a job requirement for a 13-year-old to do things that will make him cringe as an 18-year-old. Some regret a death-metal phase, others a Bieber haircut. Jonathan Krohn says that his big embarrassment is his stint as a conservative pundit.
Apparently, Ted Cruz managed to never question anything, never reflect, never wonder if he was just saying "stuff he had heard for a long time." He stopped thinking at age 13.
In his early teens, Mr. Krohn wrote a book titled “Define Conservatism” and made a speech at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference that caught fire. He was courted by Fox News, mentored by William Bennett and anointed “the future of conservatism.” A frequent cable-news guest and Tea Party speaker appearing in sweater vests or suits and ties, he was called Alex P. Keaton, Lil’ Limbaugh, the Little Mr. Conservative (in a headline with a 2009 article in these pages), Urkel, a Muppet and Doogie Howser, G.O.P.
But Mr. Krohn, it turned out, was a work in progress, and by this spring his transformation seemed nearly total: from a buttoned-up kid to a shaggy young adult with facial scruff and untucked shirts; from a golfer to a lover of art films; from a home-schooled Christian living in Duluth, Ga., to a secular New York University freshman in the East Village. Most jarring of all, he renounced his earlier political beliefs.
The turnabout made him something of a pariah among conservatives (Mr. Bennett now declines to discuss him) and ruptured his family.
“I started reflecting on a lot of what I wrote, just thinking about what I had said and what I had done,” Mr. Krohn told Politico last summer. He said he came to believe that “it was naïve,” that he was “a 13-year-old kid saying stuff that he had heard for a long time.”
He added that from now on “I want to be Jonathan Krohn, and I’m tired of being an ideology.”