He did What?
Senator Ted Cruz has never been on the shortlist for the Most Empathetic Politician Award. But his latest demonstration surprised even the most jaded political hands.
As Cruz’s home state of Texas rocked by a blizzard that caused widespread power outages and left dozens of deaths across the country, Cruz took a plane last night and s he flew to Cancún, Mexico for a family vacation. The photos have started circulated on social media this morning, accompanied by a chorus of dismay and ridicule.
Early this afternoon, he released a statement saying his children had wanted to take a vacation and arguing that he was still able to work from abroad. “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew with them last night and I’m coming back this afternoon,” he said, adding that he was planning to go home today.
Later, after returning to the United States, Cruz said the trip was “clearly a mistake” and said he started to “question” it as soon as he got on the plane to Mexico. .
I called a few crisis communications professionals who worked with other besieged politicians to get their views on Cruz’s fiasco. They all sang a variation on the same theme: just wow.
“You can pretty much do damage control for anything, and I think he could do damage control for that,” said Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist who worked on Pete’s presidential campaign. Buttigieg last year. Still, she added, “You must be wondering what the hell was he thinking about doing that. The optics of it couldn’t be much worse. “
Stu Loeser, the longtime press secretary to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who often made low-key trips to Bermuda during his tenure – was also surprised by Cruz’s decision to fly the co-op out of town. one of the most vulnerable moments in his state of recent memory.
“The hardest part in politics and the hardest part in crisis communication is the same thing: being able to predict the future,” Loeser said. “But in this case, people have been without electricity for days. You knew what was going to happen.
Risa Heller, a crisis consultant who advised disgraced former rep Anthony Weiner, said that even in a fast-paced 24-hour news cycle, Cruz’s decision to take his vacation could be hard to live with. “It will stay with him for a long time,” she said. “The people of Texas won’t forget that a guy they chose to advocate for went on vacation at their darkest moment.”
She added, “Sometimes someone comes out of town and something crazy happens and they have to come back. You can say, “I understand that”. But it’s not that. This storm happened and then he left. This sends a real message to his constituents. I guess time will tell if they’ll forgive him, but that’s pretty unforgivable.
Republican strategist Joel Sawyer helped former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford weather the 2009 scandal about his secret vacation with a lover, who nearly ended his political career. (He eventually finished his term as governor and then returned to his former seat in the House.) Sawyer said that after Sanford left the governor’s mansion, he worked to restore his reputation by offering contrition.
Sawyer was not so sure that Cruz wanted to do the same. “Yes, he can control the damage, but it will require great humility on his part,” he said. “I don’t know how well Ted Cruz can muster.”
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