Ted Cruz has made a name for himself as a no-nonsense, tell it like it is Senator who’s more concerned with following his principles than he is sticking with his party and that’s what has launched him to be the darling of the Tea Party and conservatives across the nation. His classmates and professors at Harvard aren’t surprised by this in the least, as interviews with them have revealed that he was just as much of a polarizing figure then as he is now.
Today many people describe Cruz as a “power hungry, self righteous piety” who’s driven by a narrow minded political view and they cite a “witch hunt” against the nominee for the Secretary of Defense as their evidence, even though Cruz vehemently denies such charges.
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The Boston Globe interviewed dozens of his former classmates and professors and what they found was that he was respected by all for his intellect and described by both friends and enemies as “brilliant with a hard edge.” They said he was also unwilling to yield or compromise, which is a trait that shows through now more than ever with his service in the Senate.
The president of the Harvard Law review, Ted Ruger, said that “He never really had an off switch with his debater’s demeanor,” when describing Cruz’s hardheadedness. “We just realized that was the way a discussion with Ted was going to go. If you expected something different, you came away shaking your head.”
It’s that same determination and stubbornness that draws much criticism from his colleagues in the Senate now, many of the saying that he’s more notorious than he is popular.
However Cruz said that in hindsight the three years he spent at Harvard Law helped to sharpen his political vision and prepared him for the intense debates he would get into with liberals once he got into the big leagues of politics, something that is his signature on the national political stage. Even with that in mind, he said he’s nowhere near as feisty as he used to be and that he’s calmed down a lot since those days.
“I suspect I was not the first 21-year-old who thought he knew more than he did,’’ Cruz said in an interview in his Senate office. “And one of the virtues of age, one of the virtues of getting married and becoming a father, is it often leads one to take a more measured approach to life.”
Cruz’ views in school made him stand out from his liberal classmates and even though he had a reputation for a quick-witted debate champion, he said that having such differences was a challenge.
“Going to school on a campus where the faculty overwhelmingly disagrees with you, and where the student body overwhelmingly disagrees with you, is challenging,” Cruz said. “If you go in without a firm foundation, it can undermine what you believe.”
Cruz stood out academically from the rest of his class of 560, and Alan Derschowits, who taught Cruz in his first year of criminal law class, described Cruz as a natural born leader and said that he was one of a few who he has seen that possessed the traits that Cruz had.
“Every year you see two or three students who you know are natural leaders. Everybody saw that with Barack Obama . . . Everybody saw that with Elena Kagan. There are students who come in with charismatic qualities who other people follow. He was one of them.”
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Cruz joined the Law Review while at Harvard, and ended up being the principle editor. One of Cruz’s fellow classmates, who served on the Law Review with him, said that when Cruz would debate liberals on campus it would be like “poking at snapping turtles with a stick,” he said ti didn’t take much of a stick and they would snap from getting upset, Dean Newton explained.
While Newton saw their occasional sparring with liberals as fun, Cruz had a much more passionate tone about him. His adversaries thought him to be relentless and his allies said he was misunderstood.
“He’s a litigator. He has strong views and he makes his points clearly and emphatically,” his long time best friend David Panton said of him. “Some people think his language is hard.”
Cruz ended up graduating magna cum laude from Harvard then went on to accept a series of clerkships that paved the road for him to become senator. While reflecting on his lessons at Harvard, he said that people needed to be more civil in politics even though he’s known for a hardline stance and bull headed tactics.
“There is a depressing tendency in modern political life to disparage those who disagree with you as either stupid or evil,” he said. “’They’re either too dumb to know the right answer or, even worse, they’re smart enough and yet they wish suffering on others and are just downright evil.’ The truth of the matter, most people are neither.”