Conservatives’ defenses of Sen. Ted Cruz’s decision to fly to Cancun, Mexico amid a pandemic and a humanitarian crisis in his home state of Texas are growing more absurd by the hour.
Right-wing talk radio host Erick Erickson kicked things off early Thursday as news spread of Cruz’s flight to Mexico after storms had wiped out electricity in large swaths of his state, leaving many without heat during a brutal cold snap.
Erickson argued there was simply nothing the Texas Republican could have offered his constituents in their time of urgent need.
“The fact that people think Ted Cruz, a United States Senator, can do anything about a state power grid, even his own, is rather demonstrative of the ignorance of so many people who cover politics,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a since-deleted post, Dan Isett, a conservative Texas communicator, offered a “few notes” on Cruz’s getaway, including that the senator “doesn’t set state and municipal electric policy” and that he isn’t missing any votes because the U.S. Senate is not currently in session.
“If you’re big mad he took his kids on vacation, you’re just a partisan hack,” Isett wrote.
Jeffrey Blehar, the co-host of National Review’s “Political Beats” podcast, couldn’t wrap his head around why Cruz’s trip was controversial.
“He’s in DC,” Blehar wrote. “What’s he supposed to do, fly to Texas to freeze in solidarity or something?”
In fact, Cruz wasn’t in Washington, D.C. Rather, he and his family were spotted boarding a plane in Houston, one of the cities hit hardest by the record cold snap and subsequent power outages.
Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro said that while the trip was “bad optics,” the situation in Texas “is not a real-time crisis that Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, can do anything about.”
“Do they expect Ted to go there with, like, a blowtorch and start defrosting all of the pipelines?” he asked.
But the most asinine take — so far, anyway; it’s still early — goes to conservative crank, racist and conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza. He argued Cruz would have been essentially useless and was doing his home state a favor by fleeing.
“What could [Ted Cruz] do if he were here in Texas?” D’Souza pondered out loud on Twitter. “I’m hard-pressed to say. If he’s in Cancun, that means he’s not using up valuable resources of energy, food and water that can now be used by someone else. This is probably the best thing he could do for the state right now.”
So what could Cruz have done, other than putting on a hard hat and helping to thaw out frozen instruments at power plants?
A lot. Anything, really.
And if he needed specific ideas, he only had to look toward other current and former elected officials in the Lone Star State.
Take Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic presidential candidate who also ran unsuccessfully for Cruz’s Senate seat in 2018. Around the time that reporters were confirming Cruz’s flight to Mexico, O’Rourke was posting about the number of wellness checks he and others had made that day.
Ezra Levin, a former congressional staffer and a co-founder of the progressive nonprofit Indivisible, swung back at Erickson’s post by noting that all congressional offices have a large constituent services arm.
“During local crises that part of the office gets busy and the member can get personally involved,” Levin wrote.
The extent of Cruz’s personal involvement thus far seems to have been warning his constituents to stay home before he himself left the state.
“If you can stay home, don’t go out on the roads. Don’t risk the ice,” he said in a radio interview on Monday. “We could see up to 100 people lose their lives this week in Texas, so don’t risk it. Keep your family safe. Just stay home and hug your kids.”
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Cruz said he was simply escorting his daughters on vacation.
“With school canceled this week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” he said. “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.”
It didn’t take long for Cruz’s story to begin falling apart.
NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander confirmed with a source Thursday afternoon that Cruz was initially scheduled to fly home on Saturday, but booked a return ticket early Thursday morning.