Because Ted Cruz is so dumb.
Even Ted Cruz’s critics seem to concur on one point: whatever else you might say about him, the man is very smart. Mother Jones magazine has called him the “thinking man’s tea partier.” Josh Marshall, in a mostly withering assessment, made the same obligatory concession to his being an “incredibly bright guy.” Jeffrey Toobin’s recent, ostensibly critical New Yorker profile of Cruz is full of quotes about his being “the smartest guy in the room,” his “sophisticated” constitutional views, and the “extraordinary” erudition of his senior thesis.
Cruz likely finds all of this very pleasing indeed. In his interview with Toobin, Cruz quotes Sun Tzu, saying that “every battle is won before it’s fought. It’s won by choosing the terrain on which it will be fought.” In getting those who despise him to genuflect to his intelligence, Ted Cruz has already won one battle. Jeffrey Toobin may lace his piece with dismissive sneers, yet somehow he still contributes to the ever-growing heap of liberal respect for Cruz’s mental acuity.
But there’s no reason to keep this up. For one thing, it doesn’t seem especially true. It can’t really be that we think Cruz has a sophisticated mind, given that the only thoughts he produces are angry pants-on-fire platitudinous drivel. Even those who lavish praise on his oratory seem to agree that his heat-to-light ratio nears the infinite, and that “thoughtfulness” and Ted Cruz cannot exist in the same room. His only memorable quotes appear to be cheap jokes, and the most notable speech of his entire career is not his own, but Dr. Seuss’. Nobody who has witnessed a few minutes of Cruz’s piece of senatorial performance art would have thought to label him a thinker, were it not for the preexisting consensus that he is one.