The 2016 presidential race has finally, officially, really begun. All those articles and videos and news pieces you’ve been seeing for the last 18 months about 2016? They were just the pregame show. This week the starter gun went off at last with the entry of the first declared candidate in the race: Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Cruz started his campaign off with a bang this week, announcing his candidacy at Jerry Falwell’s (fully accredited, seriously) Liberty University during the morning convocation, which is a compulsory part of the school’s curriculum. The excitement was palpable!
How Ted Cruz’s speech is playing with Liberty U kids on Yik Yak pic.twitter.com/gh4xbmVsSU
— Tyler Kingkade (@tylerkingkade) March 23, 2015
Cruz is probably best known for leading the Republican effort to defund the Affordable Care Act by holding it hostage in budget negotiations, which led to the 2013 government shutdown. It didn’t work, and even staunch critics of the ACA criticized him for it, but Cruz blamed the whole thing on Obama and lived to fight another day.
Ironically, he’s now in the position of having to enroll in an ACA-backed insurance program because his wife is losing her policy provided through her employer, Goldman Sachs, but unsurprisingly, he doesn’t see any hypocrisy or intellectual disconnect there.
Since officially announcing his candidacy, the Internet has quickly filled with pieces speculating whether Cruz can or can’t win the presidency: Is he too conservative? Is he conservative enough? Will he push the Republican party too far to the right?
On the right, Cruz’s intellectual bona fides are touted, along with his hard-nosed ambition and ruthless tactics. “He has an impressive intellect and a flair for rhetoric and debate,” gushes a recent op-ed in the National Review. The National Review’s own Kevin D. Williamson goes so far as to point out that critics giving Cruz no chance sound a lot like the people who pooh-poohed Ronald Reagan.
On the left, people are snorting with derision at the very idea that a guy this extreme could be president, and at the same time (if my social media feeds are any indication) hoping he gets the nomination, because he would be so easy to beat.
It’s hard to imagine anyone farther to the right — after all, one of his most trusted advisors on foreign policy just published an Op-Ed in the New York Times insisting that bombing Iran is the only way forward in the Middle East. But in the current political climate, when what looks to me like a massively successful presidency is being condemned as an unmitigated failure by half the country, I don’t necessarily see extremism as a liability.
But we don’t have anything to fear from Ted Cruz. He will not be president. He will not be the Republican nominee. He will not be the running mate for whoever is the nominee. He will not even be able to parlay this doomed campaign into a job on Fox News, as so many failed candidates have before him. And it’s not because of his extreme views on climate change, or Iran, or women’s rights, or the IRS, or anything else.
It’s because Ted Cruz is fucking creepy.
Everyone seems to be dancing around it, calling him “unlikable” and “uncompromising” and “extreme.” All of that is true, but it is all subordinate to Ted Cruz’s defining characteristic, which is “being fucking creepy.”
Think about it: have we ever had a creepy president? We have had presidents we disliked, wherever we fall on the political spectrum, but we’ve never had one that qualified as creepy, unless you count the sweaty, paranoid Richard Nixon, but he was more pathetic than creepy, and either way Ted Cruz makes him look like George Clooney.
Can you even imagine having Ted Cruz on the front page of the newspaper every day for four to eight years? Or hearing his voice on the radio every day? Or giving press conferences? The State of the Union? Because I can’t.
Ted Cruz will not, cannot be president because, let’s be honest, he looks and sounds like a child molester. I am not suggesting that he actually is a child molester. I have no way of knowing something like that and would never accuse anyone of anything so horrible without evidence.
But I am saying that if I was making a movie and needed to cast a child molester, Ted Cruz would be my first choice. Would I put him in like a tattered clown suit? Maybe a mechanic’s overalls? A stained T-shirt and cardigan? Or just keep him in the suit-and-flag-pin combo he currently favors? That’s the beauty of casting Ted Cruz: He would be a plausible child molester in any outfit you put on him. All he has to do is open his mouth and say something in that weaselly little voice while his beady little eyes barely even open and his chin struggles to make itself visible even though he’s not really fat.
That’s not to say that Cruz has no range; there are lots of other roles you could cast him in. He’d make a great bumbling guidance counselor in a teen comedy. Or an uptight dad in a teen comedy. Basically any kind of antagonist in a teen comedy, he’d be perfect for. I could see him as the officious assistant floor manager at a grocery store, in a short-sleeved shirt and tie with an apron, always hassling the wisecracking hero. Serial killer, obviously; David Fincher’s ZODIAC would have been way scarier if Ted Cruz had been in it.
I once met an older guy who had had some marginal success as an actor in Hollywood — he wasn’t famous or anything, but he’d made a living — and he told me that it was all because, as he put it, he knew what kind of dog he was. He wasn’t very tall, he had curly red hair, so he didn’t waste his time going after leading man parts; he tried for background character roles, best friend roles, funny sidekick roles, and he got them.
Ted Cruz clearly does not know what kind of dog he is. He has risen as far in government as he’s going to. It’s frankly astonishing that he’s risen as far as he has, until you remember that he’s from Texas, the same state where dismembering a guy does not necessarily mean you murdered him.
Americans like to see something of themselves in the presidents they elect. No matter what you think or thought of them politically, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan all have or had a certain intangible charisma. Obama has it shooting out of his pores. George W. seems like he’d be a lot of fun at a barbecue. Clinton is the kind of guy you’d go to dinner with and keep listening to long after the dessert and coffee have been cleared. Reagan had so much, we elected his VP just because we didn’t want to let go (kind of like how I talked myself into loving 5150.) Even if you agree with his politics, can you really say you can see Ted Cruz joining this list of people?
We aren’t always the best at seeing through bullshit or bad ideas — you can look to the Iraq War or Obamacare (depending on your politics) for evidence of that — but the American people can absolutely see creepy coming a mile away.
I am glad to have Mr. Cruz in the race. I think he will provide enormous comic relief. The idea of him out on the campaign trail trying to connect with people sounds so deliciously awkward I’m tempted to quit my job and spend the next 18 months filming it. But let’s not worry or even seriously consider the idea that he might become president, because he won’t. He’s just too fucking creepy.