A bipartisan consensus is emerging, as it has in the past, around the condemnation of Ted Cruz. After the Texas senator was seen traveling to Cancún on Wednesday night as millions in his state went without power for a third straight night, he faced derision from both sides of the entrenched political divide. “This is about as callous as any politician can get,” Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “I mean this is kind of day-one stuff if you’re a politician,” Fox News host Jesse Watters added. “If there’s a weather disaster in your state, you don’t go on a tropical vacation.”
But Cruz isn’t the only leader who ignored this day-one lesson in recent years. If our nation’s increased pace of manmade and natural disasters has taught us anything over the past decade or so, it’s that some politicians can’t help but follow the “rules for thee, but not for me” approach to governing and legislating during a crisis. Below are some of the more notable leaders joining Ted Cruz in the crisis-vacation hall-of-shame.
Democrats’ pandemic dining and sheltering on vacation
A year of restricted travel and dining has been difficult on our nation’s political elite. On the day before Thanksgiving, Denver mayor Michael Hancock tweeted that residents should “avoid travel, if you can.” Less than an hour later, he boarded a plane to Mississippi for the holiday; like Cruz, who said he was trying “to be a good dad,” Hancock said he made the “decision as a husband and father.” Unlike Cruz, he did not lie about his planning process for the trip until his neighbors dimed him out.
Other Democratic leaders had similar failures last year: California governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco mayor London Breed flouted their own COVID restrictions by dining semi-outdoors at the upscale French Laundry in Napa Valley. Los Angeles County supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s sanctimony in November was even worse, eating outdoors at a restaurant in Santa Monica hours after voting to ban outdoor dining in the nation’s most populous county. And in Texas, Cruz joins Austin mayor Steve Adler, who flew to Mexico in November while encouraging city residents to stay home — just as Cruz did the day before his trip.
Getting ahead of himself in December, Cruz described the bunch in a tweet as “complete and utter hypocrites.”
Chris Christie’s beach day for one
The most punitive of the political vacation scandals took place in 2017, when former Republican governor Chris Christie shut down state beaches amid a budget standoff just before the Fourth of July — only to enjoy Island Beach State Park, where there’s a governor’s residence, all by himself.
At a press conference that day regarding the shutdown, Christie was asked if he had gotten any sun that morning. “I didn’t,” he said, “I didn’t get any sun today.” Hours later, the New Jersey Star-Ledger published photos taken of him with his feet in the sand:
George W. Bush’s ranch retreat during Hurricane Katrina
As it became clear that Hurricane Katrina was going to be a disaster on the Gulf Coast, President George W. Bush did not rush back to work from his month-long vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Rather staffers reportedly avoided giving him detailed briefings about the pending storm. Only after aides showed him footage of the battered coast did he return to D.C. — two days after Katrina hit and 29 days into his vacation. The delay would set the tone for Bush’s botched and indifferent response to the crisis, one from which his administration would never recover.