The New York Times has a new story out on Ted Cruz’s debating career at Princeton. It turns out that the Texas senator’s speaking style hasn’t changed much over the years. The emotional, “overly prepared,” and often hammy speeches that will surely define his presidential bid were also a strength and weakness of his time on the college debate circuit.
During this period of his life, Cruz was also honing another favorite rhetorical flourish: references to Les Misérables. Cruz would often drive teammates to tournaments in his 1978 Ford Fairmont — I mean, the “Green Bomb.” According to Stephen Wunker, these trips would often involve listening to musicals.
“He was an extreme fan of the Les Misérables soundtrack.”
The world probably could have guessed Cruz’s affinity for the weepy epic before today. The musical has made an appearance in several of the Texas senator’s speeches. During his 2013 address at CPAC, Cruz made a joke about the sequester that involved the film adaptation of the play.
We’re here in Washington at a momentous time. And I mean, of course, the sequester. In honor of the sequester, for each of you who went to dinner tonight, your meals were reduced by 2.4 percent. And I can tell you I can see the looks of hunger and famine in your eyes. Indeed, I don’t know how you’re possibly still able to stand on 97.6 percent of your dinner. And I’ll always be haunted by the sight of Newt Gingrich’s emaciated face. It’s like Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables.
When speaking about the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 in February, Cruz said, “We need to recognize young people make mistakes. We should not live in a world of Les Misérables, where a young man finds his entire future taken away by excessive mandatory minimums.”
If Cruz’s opponents are looking for a way to trip up the politician during upcoming debates, the article also reveals the senator’s kryptonite. Jokes always messed up his routine. Cruz’s attempts at humor also often fell flat.
A Harvard debate reunion booklet, which seems to be chock full of less-than-flattering anecdotes about debaters from other Ivies, includes a memory of Cruz from David Kennedy.
In one debate, he proposed a method to detect infidelity, in which God should “give women a hymen that grows back every time she has intercourse with a different guy, because that will be a ‘visible sign’ of the breach of trust.” Mr. Kennedy’s debate partner mocked Mr. Cruz’s knowledge of the subject matter by contorting herself to see how the anatomy in question could be “visible,” according to the booklet.
Ted Cruz’s repertoire of impressions was also beginning to accrue at Princeton. During a debate when he was being mocked by other students, he rose from the audience and said, “I’m not a crook,” in his best Nixon voice. He has since added many more impressions to his arsenal:
Correction: Daily Intel, after a brief but intense bout of Wednesday brain freeze, referred to Ted Cruz as a Florida senator in an earlier version of this post. He is obviously from Texas.