Ted Cruz: The Distinguished Wacko Bird from Texas

In less than a year, Texas Republican Ted Cruz has become the most despised man in the U.S. Senate. He’s been likened to Joe McCarthy, accused of behaving like a schoolyard bully, and smeared by senior members of his own party. Is this any way to get ahead in Washington? Well, Cruz is no dummy—just ask him—and his swift rise might prove that it’s the only way:

It’s hard for Ted Cruz to be humble. Part of the challenge stems from his résumé, which the Texas senator wears like a sandwich board. There’s the Princeton class ring that’s always on his right hand and the crimson gown that, as a graduate of Harvard Law School, he donned when called upon to give a commencement speech earlier this year. (Cruz’s fellow Harvard Law alums Barack Obama and Mitt Romney typically perform their graduation duties in whatever robes they’re given.) Even Cruz’s favorite footwear, a pair of black ostrich-skin cowboy boots, serves as an advertisement for his credentials and connections. “These are my argument boots,” he told me one morning this summer as we rode the subway car beneath the Capitol to a vote on the Senate floor. “When I was Texas solicitor general, I did every argument in these boots. The one court that I was not willing to wear them in was the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was because my former boss and dear friend William Rehnquist was still chief justice. He and I were very close—he was a wonderful man—but he was very much a stickler for attire.”

It was only after Rehnquist died that Cruz felt comfortable wearing his cowboy boots in the Supreme Court—and only then because John Roberts (“a friend for many years”) blessed it. “I saw John shortly after his confirmation,” Cruz said, “and I guess I was feeling a little cheeky, because I took the opportunity to ask, ‘Mr. Chief Justice, do you have any views on the appropriateness of boots as footwear at oral argument?’ And Chief Justice Roberts chuckled and he said, ‘You know, Ted, if you’re representing the state of Texas, they’re not only appropriate, they’re required.’”

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