Ted Cruz’s fall from grace

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker

— When Shake­speare wrote the “truth will out,” he must have had Ted Cruz in mind.

Cruz’s truth — or his true self — has been leak­ing by steady drips ever since he be­gan his can­di­dacy, which was at ap­prox­i­mately 12:10 p.m. on Jan­uary 3, 2013, when Cruz was sworn in as a fresh­man sen­a­tor from Texas.

No one in Wash­ing­ton failed to no­tice the speed and tra­jec­tory of Cruz’s sin­gle-minded cru­sade, from his quasi-fil­i­buster read­ing of “Green Eggs and Ham,” to his or­ches­tra­tion of the gov­ern­ment shut­down nine months af­ter tak­ing of­fice, to his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign an­nounce­ment. Fleas have taken longer to sup. But Cruz had just two years to grab the me­dia’s and, there­fore, the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion and he hit the ground at a sprint, which, come to think of it, is some­thing one would rather like to see.

Stories be­gan to pile up about Cruz’s am­bi­tion, his self-pro­mo­tion, his ut­ter lack of re­gard for good or­der and his will­ing­ness to tram­ple any­one in his path. When you hear that ev­ery­one in Wash­ing­ton dis­likes Cruz, which though mean­sound­ing is largely true, it isn’t only be­cause of his scorched-earth tactics but

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mainly ow­ing to the loom­ing tower of his mas­sive ego.

In this, he and Don­ald Trump are well matched.

But Cruz’s truest self was re­vealed in an un­scripted mo­ment cap­tured Sun­day by TV cam­eras, un-for­tu­itously just two days be­fore the In­di­ana pri­mary. It oc­curred sud­denly and for no ap­par­ent rea­son.

There stood Cruz be­hind his wife, Heidi, in the midst of a crowd and within feet of Carly Fio­r­ina, Cruz’s short-suf­fer­ing, vice-pres­i­den­tial choice. When, oops! Where’d she go? Fio­r­ina sim­ply dis­ap­peared. Or, rather she seemed to drop through some in­vis­i­ble trap door. It was both breath­tak­ing and weird. What hap­pened next was even weirder.

Mrs. Cruz can be seen reach­ing out to­ward Fio­r­ina, a look of con­cern flash­ing across her face. Cruz ap­peared to glance in that di­rec­tion, too, and then turned and be­gan shak­ing hands with sup­port­ers as though noth­ing had hap­pened. It is so shocking, so lame, so lack­ing in aware­ness or care, that you can’t be­lieve what you’ve wit­nessed. You think, surely, you must have missed some­thing.

What you missed is the man Ted Cruz isn’t.

Not to go over­board with pro­nounce­ments, but Cruz lost the elec­tion in that mo­ment. Or will have by the time ev­ery­one sees it. Even if Cruz missed the fall ini­tially, and this isn’t clear, the video plainly shows his lack of ac­tion. In­deed, his de­ci­sion not to act. This mi­nus­cule mo­ment, though fleet­ing, is nev­er­the­less nov­e­l­esque in scope, a story about the greed of am­bi­tion and the am­biva­lence of nar­cis­sism.

The truth will out. It may not be fair to sum­ma­rize a per­son’s con­tent based on a few, iso­lated frames, but some­times that’s all it takes to end a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

One sec­ond, you’re a can­di­date. The next, you’re a cad.

What­ever Cruz has wanted vot­ers to think about him — the qual­i­ties and char­ac­ter that can’t be gleaned from a re­sume — he lost con­trol of the nar­ra­tive. His re­flex in a cri­sis mo­ment wasn’t to help but to con­tinue his march along the road to self­dom.

But she was fine, some will ob­ject. She may have sig­naled to Cruz that she was OK and that he should con­tinue. It doesn’t mat­ter. When a lady falls, a gen­tle­man helps her up. Pe­riod. It was ac­tu­ally a rare op­por­tu­nity for Cruz to shed his im­age as a rep­til­ian barfly and trade his mom-jeans for Ly­cra tights and a cape. But, no. In a Ti­tanic fail, he pad­dled away as his fe­male crew­mate foundered.

Some may ar­gue that chivalry is dead. Sadly so. Good men have been slapped too many times for pay­ing a com­pli­ment or hold­ing a door. Still, we want our pres­i­dents and their spouses to be ladies and gen­tle­men. And, for most women, equal­ity was never meant to jus­tify leav­ing them to fend for them­selves — or for men to be treated as univer- sally sus­pect.

It wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing for Fio­r­ina to wave Cruz away. She’s no one’s damsel in dis­tress, but that’s not re­ally the point. It was for Cruz to act. What we can in­fer from this mi­cro­scopic event is that Cruz’s over­ar­ch­ing in­stinct isn’t to serve but to pre­vail. Some­thing tells me that if the 3 a.m. call came in, he’d let Heidi get it. Which might be the best op­tion yet.

Kath­leen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@ wash­post.com.

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