U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, listens during Bloomberg Television in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, March 24, 2015. Cruz said his presidential run will be about bringing people together—even including social liberals, if they're interested. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ted Cruz

What It’s Like to Meet Ted Cruz

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In case you didn’t hear, Donald Trump invited Ted Cruz to speak at the RNC in prime time with no expectation that Cruz would keep his word by endorsing Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz immediately accepted the prime time speaking spot.

In case you didn’t hear, Donald Trump waived his right to review Senator Cruz’s speech in advance, the first time that’s happened in our lifetimes according to Tucker Carlson. Mr. Trump respects Senator Cruz enough to let the senator say whatever he wants.

How Senator Cruz handled the kindness shown him reminds me of the time I met Ted Cruz, one one one.

I met Ted Cruz in September 2015. We both came off the stage of an event at the same time. I stopped and said, “Senator Cruz, I’m Bill Hennessy. As a founder of the tea party movement, I want to thank you for fighting for our freedom.”

I don’t know what I expected of him. I’ve met presidents. I’ve met senators. I’ve met supreme court justices (before they were supreme court justices). I’ve met many members of Congress and lots of state legislators. I’ve met admirals and generals. Some of them were glib, some were sincere, but all were friendly. Especially the admirals and generals. All made me feel like they were happier to meet me than I was to meet them. 

Here’s what happened as I introduced myself to Ted Cruz.

First, as I spoke, Senator Cruz stretched his neck and took a deep breath without saying a word. He watched me with his chin up.

Then, I noticed that my right hand was hanging between us. He made no attempt to accept the handshake I was offering.

Next, Senator Cruz dropped his gaze slowly down my body to my feet, then slowly back up to my eyes. I felt like I was back in Navy boot camp in PR inspection. Then Senator Cruz slowly waved his right hand between us, right to left, signaling that my time was up, move on.

I’m lucky that I don’t need a senator’s approval to feel good about myself. Twenty years ago, Senator Cruz’s cold dismissal might have crushed me. Not this time. I was actually amused.

For weeks I mulled the incident in my mind. I told very few people about it, and I didn’t blog about it. I was not afraid that my story would affect the primaries. But it was a private moment, and I meant what I told him. I am truly grateful for his work in the Senate, even if his strategies usually fail.

But over time I came to understand what Senator Cruz told me about himself that night. He told me he’s a small man.

I know enough about body language to know why Senator Cruz straightened and puffed his chest. Males of all mammal species stretch and inhale to appear larger. It’s a dominance move. I am three or four inches taller than Senator Cruz. Maybe he was trying to match my height.

Before you read too much into that, most men do this subconsciously in situations where they perceive a threat to their status or safety. Some men feel threatened more easily than others. I have no idea what I did or said to trigger Senator Cruz’s dominance stature. Maybe I sounded more threatening than I meant to. Maybe I startled him. Maybe Cruz practices looking tough in a mirror. I don’t know. But I do know that most senators, most politicians, don’t react this way to my presence. They use very subtle signs of dominance, like putting their hand on my elbow or standing too close, but that usually comes after a few pleasantries to break the ice.

Senator Cruz didn’t want the ice broken. He made no attempt to win me over. Cool, I guess. Some politicians seem glib because they need to be liked. Senator Cruz has no desire to be liked.

My experience may explain why Senator Cruz failed to click with evangelicals and many other conservatives he expected to dominate. Ted Cruz is cold. He lacks warmth. And studies show that people judge warmth even more critically than competence.

If you are a regular reader, you know that between September 2015 and February 2016, my feelings about Donald Trump turned. My feelings about Ted Cruz turned, too. Maybe my growing dislike of Senator Cruz resulted from my experience with him. Probably his rudeness affected me. His dismissive rudeness motivated me to look very critically at the Senator. And the more I looked, the less I liked.

As you know, I analyzed Senator Cruz’s campaign strategy. My analysis showed that Cruz’s strategy was flawed from the start. The details are in my book, so I won’t waste words here. But by January I knew that Cruz was unlikely to win the nomination and had almost no chance of winning a general election. There just aren’t enough true believers, and Senator Cruz lacks the warmth to win over casual voters. I question whether he even wants to win over others.

So why am I writing this now?

Because tonight Ted Cruz tried to emulate Ronald Reagan of 1976. Like most of the senator’s political strategies, this one failed. And it failed because his ego got in the way as it always does.

Instead of Reagan ’76, Ted Cruz became Ted Kennedy ’80. 

They say the measure of a man is how he treats people who can’t do a thing for him. I can’t do a thing for Ted Cruz, and he let me know it.

Tonight, Donald Trump gave Ted Cruz free reign of the RNC stage to say whatever he wanted, and Ted Cruz rudely dismissed Mr. Trump, just as Cruz rudely dismissed Bill Hennessy last September.

Now I ask: who’s the egomaniac?

Also published on Medium.

  • gregzotta

    To you SILLY anti-Trumpers, You do know what the country will get if Killary is elected, don’t you? I challenge you anti-Trumper’s to go to his site, check on his positions and then make an argument that those positions are not Constitutional and Conservative. You would lose that argument because they are. Then you say you can’t believe him, but I say you do not know that for sure. So, if you truly care about where this country is headed you should give trump that chance to make believers out of you. Again, the alternative would be disastrous for the country.

  • Ender Wiggen

    One giant flaw, Trump did see the speech. Trump knew Cruz wouldn’t endorse him, and let him speak.


    Now you could say he was magnanimous in letting Cruz move forward. I could buy that.

    You could watch the speech. Look at Trump look like sour puss as if he had no clue what was happening and listen to the boos while Cruz is actually speaking about the Constitution.

    I get it Bill. Hillary is bad, scary! Roger that. It’s like your in a mental pretzel convincing yourself you took the moral high ground.

    • whennessy

      You’re right. Trump did vet the speech and let Ted speak.

      I think Trump is amazingly perceptive. He knew that letting Cruz speak would destroy Cruz’s credibility. So he gave Ted enough rope to hang himself. And Ted did.

      With all of Cruz’s education, he doesn’t understand people. Trump does understand people like a great behavioral psychologist.

      Check out these stories, also on Hennessy’s View:
      Why does Ted Cruz’s Speech Bother Me So Much?
      What If Ted Cruz Said This Instead?
      How Donald Trump Destroyed Ted Cruz

  • Laserotti

    Egomaniac? Both of them, plus Hillary, Obama and most politicians are Ego…it’s how they get there I guess. To your point, if Cruz was more personable he probably would have won. Politics is show for too many. However, Trump is just petty and prone to be a bully in my opinion which doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t think he is evil or the next Hitler but if he wins it’s going to be a sh!t show because the left will push it and he’ll eat up the attention. If Hillary wins, it will be even worse. I’ve been trying to be positive but the arc of recent history is downward. It will take all of us to fight against the downward spiral with positive energy, but I fear I and most others don’t have the strength to affect change. Negative energy begets negative results. Hold on.

    • whennessy

      They all have tremendous egos, of course. That’s necessary for politics at that level.

      From what I’ve learned this week, though, Trump sounds like a guy who listens to a lot of people before he makes a decision. For instance, he listens to construction workers, not just architects. He listens to his kids, not just consultants. He listens to voters, which is why he was so well tuned to their angst and frustration.

      There’s a risk in choosing Trump, I agree. But there’s also great opportunity. If Mike Pence influences him, if Donald Jr. and Eric influence him, I think we’re going to be alright with President Trump. But if conservatives turn their back on him, others will rush in to influence President Trump. Or Hillary wins.

      Our best strategy is to use President Trump to advance our cause. That requires, of course, there is a Trump presidency.

  • Dave Schmitt

    While Tucker Carlson and others were lamenting that Trump broke tradition by not vetting Cruz’s speech, I was thinking “This is another example of Trump’s respect for people by giving them free reign, enabling them to achieve their own success or failure.” And Cruz clearly failed, as he has so often in the Senate and during the primaries. OTOH, Newt came out and ad-libbed a brilliant repudiation of Cruz’s self-serving advice to conservative voters.

    • whennessy

      Cruz is a terrible strategist. You might expect a lawyer of his stature to be be better at strategy, but I’m beginning to think that legal strategy is very different from real life strategy. This probably owes to law being a closed system with defined boundaries while life is an open system with infinite confounding variables.

      But look at Cruz’s strategic record:
      1. His shutdowns, which I initially supported, accomplished nothing, but they gave Democrats sanctimonious talking points. Most people blamed Republicans, and conservatives in Congress lost stature and influence.
      2. His Evangelical strategy was fundamentally flawed from the start and would have resulted in a massacre in November. If the key to the White House was to activate non-voting or casually voting Evangelicals, he would have swept the South. But Trump dominated the South.
      3. He played nice with Trump through Iowa hoping to pick up Trump’s supporters after Donald faded. Cruz called Trump “terrific,” “energizing,” and said he “speaks the truth.” But if Trump hadn’t faded by Iowa, why would anyone think he’d fade then?
      4. Cruz wrote off the Northeast, except for Maine. He even dissed New York values. I think that was an attempt to shore up his base, but his personal base never wavered. A better approach would have been weakening Trump in Trump’s own backyard.
      5. Cruz repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to honoring the pledge he signed to support the Republican nominee, including Donald Trump by name. These reaffirmations came after Trump’s call for temporary ban on Muslim immigration.
      6. Cruz didn’t just dis Trump at the RNC–he dissed everyone who voted for Trump. This morning he criticized Trump supporters while speaking to the Texas delegation.
      7. Cruz foolishly admitted that his refusal to endorse stems from personal animosity, not philosophical differences. He said, “I still haven’t gotten an apology.”
      8. Cruz told the Texas delegation, “I will not throw rocks at Donald.” Two questions later, he threw rocks at Donald, saying, “Can any of you imagine our nominee answering questions from ordinary people like I am?”

      Being philosophically right is not that same as being strategically effective. In war, you want to be on the side that wins, not that side that marches best. The Brits learned that during our Revolution. When it comes to strategy, Ted Cruz is Cornwallis and Trump is Francis Marion.

  • gregzotta

    Ted Cruz, what a DISAPPOINTMENT!! Ted you LOST the campaign and showed you are a sore loser. I supported Ted Cruz until Trump became the presumptive nominee. I am now supporting Donald Trump, who was my second choice, because I truly care about the direction this country is headed. At the first debate all the candidates, including Ted Cruz took an oath to support the nominee. Cruz supporters believe, “principle before party voters.” Here is the problem with that position, Cruz took an oath to support the nominee and then did not live up to that oath. Cruz did not endorse Trump, thus going against his WORD, which is an UNPRINCIPLED stance. It was a classless act and shows his word is meaningless.

    • whennessy

      And today Cruz proved himself Lyin’ Ted again.

      After swearing that his non-endorsement was all about “freedom and the Constitution,” he admitted that he broke his oath to support solely because Trump insulted his wife and his father. This was just personal, not business.

      Ted could have said that. He could have said, “If I don’t endorse Donald, I’ll break my vow to my party and to my country. If I do endorse him, I’ll break my vow to love, honor, and obey my wife. Because I made my vow to my wife first, and I hold that vow and relationship above all others, I will not endorse Mr. Trump. But I will eagerly vote for Trump and Pence on November 8, and I beg you to follow my example.”

      That would have brought the house down and made Cruz look like both a genius and a great man. As we learned, though, Cruz is neither.

      • gregzotta

        It is called INTEGRITY! Ted Cruz pledged to endorse the nominee no matter who it was and then went against his pledge. Then took the stage and did not endorse Trump. And went out of his way when he used the phrase “vote your conscience” which was the mantra of the #NeverTrump Unbound rabble rousers, who were looking for a way to thwart the will of the people who voted for Trump in the primaries. I supported Cruz and championed him during the process up until the time Trump won and became the presumptive nominee. Cruz should have been the better man and honored his pledge and UNIFIED the party, but he did not. And today he doubled down on his non endorsement. That is why I posted the following immediately after his speech.

  • Stacey Dee

    Great commentary of personal experience and analysis of the #SelfServingSenator Ted then…and now.

  • Steve Spencer

    Good Story. I too started as a Cruz supporter, and was until tonight. He was my first choice. I am crushed to see the real him tonight. No wonder people are so cynical.