President Barack Obama jabbed freshman Sen. Ted Cruz this weekend at the Gridiron Dinner with a joke that highlighted the Texas conservative’s Latino roots.
With all these new faces, it’s hard to keep track of who is in, who is out. And I know it’s difficult for you guys as reporters. But I can offer you an easy way of remembering the new team. If Ted Cruz calls somebody a communist, then you know they’re in my cabinet.
The joke was aimed at the grilling Cruz gave Obama’s secretary of defense nomination Chuck Hagel, along with Cruz’s disputed comment that there were 12 Communists on the faculty of Harvard Law when he and Obama studied there. But it was telling that Obama chose those words to make his dig at a politician who saw the authenticity of his Hispanic roots questioned repeatedly along the campaign trail.
Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and an American mother, and he identifies as Hispanic. With pale white skin and a southern drawl, he’s an easy target for those who would question his Latinidad. His far-right politics and affinity with the Tea Party don’t do much do boost his Tejano credentials either.
That combination of factors led Democrat Gilbert Hinojosa, the party chairman for the state of Texas, to say in an interview with the Houston Chronicle:
His last name may be Cruz, but there is nothing, not an ounce, about the way he thinks and the way he has led his life that in any way is similar to Hispanics in the state of Texas and all across America… Ted Cruz is as much Hispanic… as Tom Cruise.
Cruz’s attitudes may not seem all that Latino in the Southwest, where the typical Latino is a Mexican American who tends to vote Democratic.
But Cruz’s worldview is quite common among Cuban-Americans in Miami, where a generation of political opponents to Communist leader Fidel Castro made their home, beginning in the 1960s. Marco Rubio, not too far away from Cruz on the ideological spectrum, hasn’t faced similar questioning of his roots -- perhaps because he speaks fluent Spanish and has more vowels in his name?
What do you think of Ted Cruz's Hispanic roots? Let us know in the poll below and in the comments.