THE BLOG

Cruz Control: An Elitist at Liberty University

03/30/2015 12:06 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2015

Who is the real Ted Cruz? His life is full of double identities and mixed loyalties. He was born in Canada, but puts on extra Texas bravado, going so far as to ask the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court whether or not his cowboy boots would be acceptable footwear for a lawyer before that august bench. He has a Hispanic last name, which, in Texas, usually points to a Tejano or Mexican lineage, but his real lineage is Cuban. Perhaps the most mysterious part of his multiple identities is the incredible elitism and snobbery he evidenced as a law student at Harvard. This is worth examining for a number of reasons.

In a profile for GQ magazine in 2013, Cruz's law school roommate offered an anecdote that has never been refuted by Cruz: Ted would only consent to study with other Ivy League grads. Cruz dismissed graduates of Penn or Brown as unworthy grads from the "minor Ivies."

One one level, this seems completely absurd, self-aggrandizing and the worst form of elitism. Imagine what Cruz would say if it surfaced that the young Barack Obama, studying law at Harvard, made such statements. On another level, this seems like evidence of a huge inferiority complex, where a young man whose father is a fundamentalist, fire-and-brimstone preacher finds himself first at Princeton, and then at Harvard, where the first question asked by your fellow students, after "Where did you prep," is "What do your parents do?"

I feel Ted's pain. When I went to Brown (one of those "minor Ivies," so beneath Ted Cruz) I felt terribly out of place answering such questions. I "prepped" at Omaha Central High School. My father worked in the motor pool for a meatpacking company, and my mother was a grocery checker. Many of the people I met at Brown had parents in positions of great wealth, great accomplishments or both. Heads of companies and even some heads of state. I'm sure that was true for Cruz at Princeton. There are many ways to be a fish out of water, and Ted Cruz has been one most of his life.

But it says something about a person, how they respond to being in a minority. One response is to find your group of like-minded people, and demonize everybody else. Some far-left liberals do this by demonizing anybody with great wealth, great accomplishments or both. Some far-right conservatives do this by demonizing anybody who cares about those without great wealth or great accomplishments. Some manage to be liberal or conservative without demonizing anybody. It is possible. And an argument can be made that it is far healthier for individuals and for nations, to disagree without bringing on the fire and brimstone. Here is where I see a very interesting contrast between Obama and Cruz, both as law students, and as politicians.

Demonizing others is sometimes used as a way of increasing one's own self esteem, especially when one is feeling under attack. What is so interesting to me about Barack Obama is that, although the right wing has been trying for years to paint him as a man of hatred and demonizing, Obama's writing, organizing and speech-making are exactly the opposite of this. Let's look at his first election, at Harvard Law School. Obama was elected president of the Law Review in part because he got along with just about everybody. He won this first election "because people on the other side believed he would give them a fair shake."

Obama's words have always been measured and generous to those with whom he differs, from his days at Harvard Law to his days in the White House. Fox News makes assertions, but can't point to any real evidence that Obama acts out of hatred of white people, or hatred of conservatives, or hatred of anybody. Some far-left liberals are disappointed that Obama does not bring on the fire and brimstone, but they don't understand President Obama. A key to understanding Obama is his first election, back in law school. Obama is comfortable in his own skin. What does the evidence say about Ted Cruz?

So here's the curious thing: How does the Ted Cruz, who wouldn't even study with anybody lesser than his fabulous young self, coexist with the Ted Cruz who makes his announcement for president at Liberty University? Are the young people at Liberty University, where the SAT score takes a backseat to religious fervor, somehow now worthy of Ted's favor? Or, is Ted Cruz playing a con game with his own psyche? Let's see what comes of his campaign. Let's see what the evidence will show.