Like him or hate him, you have to agree that Ted Cruz, graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law, Supreme Court law clerk and million-dollar lawyer, is a smart guy. Smart doesn’t mean he’s right about anything, but it has to mean that he understood exactly how he financed his Senate campaign. And it was not by liquidating everything his family had, as Cruz has repeatedly claimed.
Cruz got a low-interest loan from Goldman. Goldman Sachs: two of the least popular words in the English language.
When he was running unsuccessfully for re-election as governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine never uttered the words “Goldman Sachs” in his stump speech, which was notable since he was the former CEO of the company and had spent much of his career there. “Do you know how badly Goldman polls?” one of his aides whispered to me. Perhaps the more significant question is how well they did in the 2008 recession.
Of course Cruz took a loan from Goldman — and another one from Citibank. It makes a lot more sense than liquidating all your stocks and paying the capital gains tax. Heidi Cruz has come close to explaining this. She is on leave from her job at, well, you know where.
But here’s the strange part. Did Ted Cruz think no one would find out? Did the anti-establishment bad boy — the outsider who criticized establishment Republicans for being too cozy with Wall Street and Big Business — really think that he could run for president and no one would ever find out that those all-important negative ads he ran were brought to you by Goldman Sachs?
Rule No. 1 in politics, a rule a former George W. Bush staffer such as Cruz would presumably have learned along the way, is that bad news always comes out. The only question is how. If you control it, you can temper its outcome. If you go into denial, pretending it will never come out, then it definitely will — at just exactly the wrong time, e.g., when everybody is ready to hand you Iowa. In Bill Clinton’s case, it was right before New Hampshire.
Potential vice presidential candidates are vetted within an inch of their lives. You would not believe the minutiae that teams of lawyers dig up on all the contenders, ever since poor Thomas Eagleton was picked and then unpicked when it was learned that he had been treated for depression with electric shock treatment. Finances, follies, you learn it all.
Presidential candidates are vetted in a different way. The better you’re doing, the more insistent the scrutiny. I figured folks would wait until he’d won Iowa, but why wait? The media, which Cruz so enjoys vilifying, is vilifying him. And as far as I can tell, they’ve won this round.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting a loan to finance your campaign. Mostly, it is seen as a sign of commitment, that you’re willing to put all your skin in the game. If he’d taken it from a local bank, potentially paying more than he did by getting the money from Goldman, you wouldn’t be reading about this. But Goldman is the symbol of Wall Street excess, and Ted Cruz getting the rich guys’ rate is not exactly the image he’s trying to portray with Iowa only weeks away.
Which brings me back to my point. Everything is going to come out. So if Cruz had told us himself, six months ago, when no one was paying attention, it would be old news, not a front-page story. Oh, the fun is just beginning — for the press, anyway.