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Ask me for a profile in courage in the snow, and my answer would be quick and unequivocal:
When we were kids, a rare snowstorm hit Rockingham and forced schools to close. To celebrate the snow day, my buddies and I grabbed our guns – okay, they were sticks that our imaginations turned into guns – and rushed into the woods to play “combat.”
Darrell, my lifelong friend, and I were both about 11, which made us the oldest of our ragtag platoon. His brother Mark was the youngest at about 8.
We were traipsing through the woods wearing their dad’s army helmets from the Korean War, scoping out the enemy of the day, when Mark stepped into a puddle. His shoes and feet got soaked and he began to cry.
Within seconds, Darrell had taken off his boots and put them on his little brother’s feet. We called off the war and ran home to warm up. He ran home barefooted.
That was the most courageous thing I’ve personally ever seen in the snow.
Now, for the most cowardly thing I’ve seen. That would be Sen. Ted Cruz jetting off to Cancun during a deadly Texas snowstorm and power outage, leaving his constituents to suffer with no power, food or heat.
That’s not even the cherry on top of this pile of unplowed snow, though: the absolute worst thing Cruz did was blame his daughters.
In a press release issued by his office – after 12 hours of being incommunicado – Cruz sought to defend himself by saying “With school canceled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
Yikes. It took his brain trust 12 hours to come up with the old “The daughters made me do it” excuse?
First of all, a “good dad” would have stated “Sorry, but there’s a pandemic and we shouldn’t be traveling. Second, our state has been pummeled by a snowstorm, and a senator’s place is here with his constituents trying to help coordinate relief efforts. Now put on your mittens and run next door to see if Miss Betty needs anything.”
Hiding behind his adolescent daughters, predictably, insulated Cruz from criticism about as well as a tee shirt insulated his freezing constituents, some of whom were reduced to burning furniture for heat.
Snow – or how one handles or doesn’t handle it - has stalled many political careers. But now, John Lindsay, Michael Bilandic and Marion Barry, former mayors of New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., respectively, can all rest easy in their graves, because Cruz is the new reigning king of political snow blindness.
In January 1987, a day after Mayor Barry flew to the land of swimming pools, movie stars and cement ponds for the Super Bowl, D.C. got hit by a snowstorm that froze the city in place like a Caspar David Friedrich painting.
Barry didn’t come back to oversee the cleanup or even to commiserate with his constituents, but he never hid behind his children, either. That dishonor belongs to Ted Cruz. His daughters didn’t accompany him back to the Cancun airport, but I imagine them frantically trying to keep up, singing this Wayne Newton ditty. Maestro, hit it:
Daddy don’t you walk so fast
Daddy don’t you walk so fast
Daddy, slow down some
Cos’ you’re making me run
Daddy don’t you walk so fast...
Now if only for the sake of my re-election
I just had to go back home right there and then
And try to come up with a good excuse
For why I left y’all in the cold
To sip mai tais and work on this golden tan.
I knew that what my friend Darrell did was extraordinary. I know that what Cruz did was extraordinary, too – but not in a good way. An 11-year-old in North Carolina would know better than that.
Barry Saunders is a member of the Editorial Board, a former News & Observer columnist, and founder of thesaundersreport.com.