Hennessy's View

What It’s Like to Meet Ted Cruz

In case you didn’t hear, Donald Trump invited Ted Cruz to speak at the RNC in prime time with no expectation that Cruz would keep his word by endorsing Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz immediately accepted the prime time speaking spot.

In case you didn’t hear, Donald Trump waived his right to review Senator Cruz’s speech in advance, the first time that’s happened in our lifetimes according to Tucker Carlson. Mr. Trump respects Senator Cruz enough to let the senator say whatever he wants.

How Senator Cruz handled the kindness shown him reminds me of the time I met Ted Cruz, one one one.

I met Ted Cruz in September 2015. We both came off the stage of an event at the same time. I stopped and said, “Senator Cruz, I’m Bill Hennessy. As a founder of the tea party movement, I want to thank you for fighting for our freedom.”

I don’t know what I expected of him. I’ve met presidents. I’ve met senators. I’ve met supreme court justices (before they were supreme court justices). I’ve met many members of Congress and lots of state legislators. I’ve met admirals and generals. Some of them were glib, some were sincere, but all were friendly. Especially the admirals and generals. All made me feel like they were happier to meet me than I was to meet them. 

Here’s what happened as I introduced myself to Ted Cruz.

First, as I spoke, Senator Cruz stretched his neck and took a deep breath without saying a word. He watched me with his chin up.

Then, I noticed that my right hand was hanging between us. He made no attempt to accept the handshake I was offering.

Next, Senator Cruz dropped his gaze slowly down my body to my feet, then slowly back up to my eyes. I felt like I was back in Navy boot camp in PR inspection. Then Senator Cruz slowly waved his right hand between us, right to left, signaling that my time was up, move on.

I’m lucky that I don’t need a senator’s approval to feel good about myself. Twenty years ago, Senator Cruz’s cold dismissal might have crushed me. Not this time. I was actually amused.

For weeks I mulled the incident in my mind. I told very few people about it, and I didn’t blog about it. I was not afraid that my story would affect the primaries. But it was a private moment, and I meant what I told him. I am truly grateful for his work in the Senate, even if his strategies usually fail.

But over time I came to understand what Senator Cruz told me about himself that night. He told me he’s a small man.

I know enough about body language to know why Senator Cruz straightened and puffed his chest. Males of all mammal species stretch and inhale to appear larger. It’s a dominance move. I am three or four inches taller than Senator Cruz. Maybe he was trying to match my height.

Before you read too much into that, most men do this subconsciously in situations where they perceive a threat to their status or safety. Some men feel threatened more easily than others. I have no idea what I did or said to trigger Senator Cruz’s dominance stature. Maybe I sounded more threatening than I meant to. Maybe I startled him. Maybe Cruz practices looking tough in a mirror. I don’t know. But I do know that most senators, most politicians, don’t react this way to my presence. They use very subtle signs of dominance, like putting their hand on my elbow or standing too close, but that usually comes after a few pleasantries to break the ice.

Senator Cruz didn’t want the ice broken. He made no attempt to win me over. Cool, I guess. Some politicians seem glib because they need to be liked. Senator Cruz has no desire to be liked.

My experience may explain why Senator Cruz failed to click with evangelicals and many other conservatives he expected to dominate. Ted Cruz is cold. He lacks warmth. And studies show that people judge warmth even more critically than competence.

If you are a regular reader, you know that between September 2015 and February 2016, my feelings about Donald Trump turned. My feelings about Ted Cruz turned, too. Maybe my growing dislike of Senator Cruz resulted from my experience with him. Probably his rudeness affected me. His dismissive rudeness motivated me to look very critically at the Senator. And the more I looked, the less I liked.

As you know, I analyzed Senator Cruz’s campaign strategy. My analysis showed that Cruz’s strategy was flawed from the start. The details are in my book, so I won’t waste words here. But by January I knew that Cruz was unlikely to win the nomination and had almost no chance of winning a general election. There just aren’t enough true believers, and Senator Cruz lacks the warmth to win over casual voters. I question whether he even wants to win over others.

So why am I writing this now?

Because tonight Ted Cruz tried to emulate Ronald Reagan of 1976. Like most of the senator’s political strategies, this one failed. And it failed because his ego got in the way as it always does.

Instead of Reagan ‘76, Ted Cruz became Ted Kennedy ‘80. 

They say the measure of a man is how he treats people who can’t do a thing for him. I can’t do a thing for Ted Cruz, and he let me know it.

Tonight, Donald Trump gave Ted Cruz free reign of the RNC stage to say whatever he wanted, and Ted Cruz rudely dismissed Mr. Trump, just as Cruz rudely dismissed Bill Hennessy last September.

Now I ask: who’s the egomaniac?


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