The many frenemies of Ted Cruz and 6 other things we learned from his new book
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz promises to take readers behind the scenes in Washington with his new memoir, A Time for Truth. And what he writes is not always flattering – even about himself.
The book went on sale Tuesday, and Cruz’s promotional tour includes signings in Houston, Katy, Arlington and Waxahachie over the next two days.
In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Cruz said he wrote the book during “lot of late nights, a lot of weekends, a lot of hours on the road. … A significant chunk of the last Christmas vacation, while my girls were opening presents under the tree, I was back in the home office pounding away at the keyboard.”
Here are seven new insights Cruz offers in the book:
The Cruzes and Castro
Cruz offers the most detail yet about his father’s revolutionary roots in Cuba, where Rafael Cruz helmed an insurgency against dictator Fulgencio Batista that landed him in jail, where he was brutally tortured. When released, he set his sights on joining revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.
“My dad asked if he could join Castro in the mountains and keep fighting,” Cruz writes. “But he was told there was no way to get to the rebels.”
His father did not know then that Castro was a communist, Cruz emphasizes. In those days, “Castro was seen as a freedom fighter, an inspiring figure to Cuba’s restive youth, or, as my Dad puts it today, ‘fourteen-year-old boys who didn’t know any better.’”
Rafael Cruz later renounced Castro, revisiting places in America where he had spoken in support of Castro’s revolution and admitting he was wrong. Ted Cruz concludes that his father was “fooled by Castro, but only for a time, and only in his youth.”
Losing a Half-Sister
Cruz opens up throughout the book about past vices of family members, but no recollection is as tragic as that concerning his half-sister Miriam. She “refused to change her path” in life, Cruz writes, recalling a lifestyle fraught with drug addiction and petty crime.
At one point, Cruz and his dad tried to intervene, traveling to Philadelphia, where she was staying at a crack house with her young son Joey. “It was a fruitless effort,” Cruz recalls, but he did try to set Joey on the right path, taking a $20,000 cash advance on his credit card to send the fatherless child to military school.
Miriam died of an accidental drug overdose in 2011, just as she found herself capable of taking care of Joey again.
“I loved my sister,” Cruz writes, “and she spent much of her life trapped by the demons of addiction and anger.”
His Democratic Friend
Few people in Washington impress Cruz or strike him as having uncomplicated motives – including members of his own party. But one person who comes off especially well in his book is, of all people, a New York Democrat.
“I have always been impressed with people who stand up for principle when it matters and when there’s a price to be paid,” he said of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in a Monday interview.
Cruz conceded he was initially undecided on the best approach to reforming how sexual assault is handled in the military. But his Senate Armed Services Committee colleague’s arguments pulled him to her side.
“I was persuaded by and inspired by the diligence and discipline and tenacity with which Kirsten has fought this fight,” he said. “I’ve been proud to work very closely with her to make the case in a bipartisan manner to our colleagues.”
Mistakes Were Made
Cruz has consistently come off as cool, calm and confident throughout his battles in Congress. But he admits coming up short on the messaging behind some of those battles, including his role in the debt-ceiling debate in 2014.
Cruz writes that he could have done a better job explaining his strategy to both supporters and the media, especially those typically sympathetic to Republicans. He specifically laments criticism from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which derisively labeled him “The Minority Maker.”
“Over and over again, I had to explain myself to people who usually were on our side, especially because the attacks from supposed Republican allies often inverted what was actually happening,” Cruz writes.
Another error Cruz notes came during his opposition to Chuck Hagel’s nomination for secretary of defense. Hagel had refused to specifically identify the source of $200,000 of his recent income. In questioning, Cruz suggested the money could have come from North Korea.
“In uttering those two words, I allowed the White House and the Democrats to change the subject,” Cruz recalls. “Immediately I was accused of a ‘new McCarthyism’ by somehow asserting that Hagel had received money from North Korea — an assertion I did not actually make.”
The Bush Years
As much as Cruz portrays himself as a political outsider, his book shows he was a witness to much of the modern Republican Party’s history. He completed a clerkship under the late Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist in the mid-1990s, but his first true taste of politics came in Austin, where he worked as a policy aide for George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign.
He knew then-Gov. Bush well enough to earn one of his famous nicknames, “Theodore,” for his “super-serious” demeanor. And as a lawyer, he was a player in the 2000 Florida recount litigation. But the experience left him devastated when he did not land a senior role in the West Wing.
“When that didn’t happen, and it became clear it wasn’t going to happen, it was a crushing blow,” he wrote.
For a teenage Cruz, popularity seemed to be everything at one point.
Cruz writes that he “had enough of being the unpopular nerd” about halfway through middle school, ditching his glasses, taking up sports and changing his first name from “Felito” to “Ted.” By the time he got to high school — where he was elected class president — he had achieved his goal but also learned a valuable lesson.
“Happiness doesn’t come from popularity, but rather from doing something that matters, making a difference, and fulfilling God’s plan for your life,” Cruz recalls.
Cruz’s teenage years still weren’t entirely without sin. In one case, he vandalized a rival school with toilet paper and shaving cream, leading to a car chase with janitors who had spotted the mischief. When Cruz was caught, his school’s principal threatened to recommend his admission be rescinded at Princeton University.
Cruz’s Many Frenemies
Cruz’s most critical literary passages are often about members of his own party:
- Karl Rove: Even before the book’s release, Cruz made headlines recounting an argument with Bush strategist Rove. When Rove tried to call off a Cruz endorsement from the elder President Bush, Cruz writes that Rove “suggested that the elder Bush was too old to have good judgment anymore.” Over the next 24 hours, the two men engaged in a war of words that, given that both worked on the Bush 2000 campaign, was striking in how quickly it escalated.
- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: In a scathing introduction to his book, Cruz charges his party’s leaders with surrendering to the Democrats over the debt ceiling, risk aversion, “chicanery” and caving in to President Obama. He generally avoids naming names, but does call out McConnell specifically. Later in the book, he accuses McConnell of breaking a promise to keep the Senate’s political arm from favoring incumbents in primaries.
- U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.: Cruz mostly paints a picture of loyal friendship with Kentucky’s other senator, who is also running for president. Cruz credits Paul with an early Senate campaign endorsement in 2011 that helped him gain traction and as a reliable ally in his early months as a senator. But, Cruz says, Paul proved “notably less helpful” during Cruz’s 2013 marathon Senate floor speech over the 2010 health care law. “My friend Rand Paul came to the Senate floor to ask questions that seemed deliberately designed to undermine our efforts,” he writes.
The McConnell and Paul passages lead to questions over how Cruz could, as either president or a rank-and-file U.S. senator, have effective relationships on Capitol Hill.
Cruz brushed off the notion in a Monday interview with Tribune, insisting that “to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never spoken ill of any senator, Democrat or Republican.”
“When you don’t personalize it and attack people personally, I think that makes it easier to find common ground,” he added. “You leave an opening to meet in the middle.”