Is Ted Cruz Really an Awful, Terrible Jerk?

Well, terms like “pompous asshole” and “backpfeifengesicht” tend to come up.

Branden Camp/ZUMA Wire

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With the bromance between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump over, the mogul turned GOP front-runner has begun trash talking the senator from Texas. “He’s a nasty guy,” Trump recently huffed. “Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.” For members of the politerati, this was no revelation. As Cruz has quickly climbed the political ladder, he has left a long line of associates who complain, without much prompting, that he is an insufferable schmuck.

A prominent aide to George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign could barely contain himself when we asked him to discuss Cruz, who worked in the campaign’s policy shop. This person described Cruz as hyper-arrogant and widely despised, and he emphasized—over and over—that the pervasive dislike of Cruz within the Bush ranks had nothing to do with ideology. (Cruz, he noted, never objected to Bush’s call for compassionate conservatism, immigration reform, and national education standards, and no one on the campaign regarded him as an ideologue.) The problem was simple: his personality.

“That’s exactly what he was: a big asshole,” says a campaign veteran who worked with Cruz.

“Ted thought he was an expert on everything,” says this campaign veteran, who asked not to be named. “He was a smart and talented guy, but completely taken with himself and his own ideas. He would offer up opinions on everything, even matters outside his portfolio. He was a policy guy, but he would push his ideas on campaign strategy. He would send memos on everything to everyone. He would come to meetings where he wasn’t invited—and wasn’t wanted.” In fact, this Bush alum recalls, “the quickest way for a meeting to end would be for Ted to come in. People would want out of that meeting. People wouldn’t go to a meeting if they knew he would be there. It was his inability to be part of the team. That’s exactly what he was: a big asshole.”

The Bush vet goes on: “I don’t know anyone who had a decent relationship with Cruz.” And when Bush became president, his top campaign aides agreed Cruz should not be offered a job in the White House. “No one wanted to work with him,” this source remembers. “George W. Bush couldn’t stand the guy.” This person adds, “It’s a real quandary for Bush campaign people: Trump versus Cruz, who to vote for? And it would be a big quandary even if it’s Cruz versus Hillary Clinton. That’s how much they cannot stand him.”

It may be easy for someone to lob anonymous shots at Cruz. But there are plenty of others, including prominent Republicans, who have not been shy about sharing their feelings about Cruz on the record. Here is a quick guide to Cruz’s loudest detractors:

Bob Dole

Fighting words: The 1996 Republican presidential nominee and former senator from Kansas told the New York Times last week that Cruz would be an ineffective president because “nobody likes him.” He explained: “He doesn’t have any friends in Congress. He called the leader of the Republicans [Mitch McConnell] a liar on the Senate floor. If you want to call somebody a liar in the Senate, you go to their office—you don’t go on the Senate floor and make it public.”

The beef: Last fall, Cruz mocked the failed candidacies of Dole, Mitt Romney, and John McCain, citing their efforts as evidence of the electoral impotence of mainline Republicans. But the feud with Dole began in 2014, when Cruz led a last-minute push to defeat the UN Treaty on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. He claimed the accord threatened American sovereignty. Dole, who suffered a disabling injury while serving in World War II, had come to the Senate floor in his wheelchair to lobby for passage of the treaty.

Sen. John McCain

Fighting words: McCain called Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and Rep. Justin Amash “wacko birds” in 2013. Last spring, McCain derided Cruz after Cruz boasted he had been leaning on McCain to loosen restrictions regarding guns on military bases. “It came as a complete surprise to me that he had been pressing me; maybe it was some medium that I’m not familiar with,” McCain told Politico. “Maybe it was through, you know, hand telegraph; maybe sign language. Ask him how he communicated with me because I’d be very interested.” In January, McCain suggested that Cruz might not be eligible for the presidency because he was born in Canada. “He fucking hates Cruz,” a McCain adviser told GQ. “He’s just offended by his style.”

The beef: McCain considered Cruz’s treatment of Dole unforgivable. “It was the most embarrassing day in my time in the Senate, to force Bob Dole to watch that,” he told the New Yorker. And he certainly holds no warm feelings for Cruz, who once said he was “embarrassed” to have supported McCain in 2008. But McCain’s hatred of Cruz is not just personal. It has a policy component: The two have clashed on drones, NSA data collection, and the nomination of McCain’s friend Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense.

George W. Bush

Fighting words: “I just don’t like the guy,” the former president said in October.

The beef: Cruz worked as a policy adviser for Bush’s 2000 campaign. But while most of Cruz’s colleagues on the campaign got White House jobs, Cruz ended up at the Federal Trade Commission—an indication he had alienated his campaign comrades. Explaining W’s dislike of Cruz, a Jeb Bush donor told Politico that “he sort of looks at this like Cruz is doing it all for his own personal gain, and that’s juxtaposed against a family that’s been all about public service and doing it for the right reasons. He’s frustrated to have watched Cruz basically hijack the Republican Party of Texas and the Republican Party in Washington.” Bush consigliere Karl Rove told Fox News that Dubya was particularly upset that Cruz had questioned Bush’s nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts—whom Cruz himself had once praised.

John Boehner

Fighting words: The former speaker of House has called Cruz “that jackass” and a “false prophet.”

The beef: Where to start? Cruz has served as a cheerleader for the House Freedom Caucus, the band of arch-conservatives who made Boehner’s job all but impossible. He trod so heavily on Boehner’s turf that he earned the nickname “Speaker Cruz.” Cruz pushed for a government shutdown over defunding Planned Parenthood, and then he accused Boehner of selling out conservatives to cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi. When Boehner resigned, Cruz took a victory lap.

Rep. Peter King

Fighting words: When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked the Long Island Republican if he would support Cruz as the nominee, King replied, “I hope that day never comes; I will jump off that bridge when we come to it.” He has called Cruz a “carnival barker,” a “counterfeit” with “no qualifications” who appeals “to the lowest common denominator,” and “just a guy with a big mouth and no results.”

The beef: King was one of the House Republicans most upset with Cruz’s push for a government shutdown in 2013, which he considered disastrous for the party. “If you come up with a strategy that’s going to shutdown the government of the United States, and you have no way of winning, you’re either a fraud or you’re totally incompetent,” King told CNN.

Sen. Lindsey Graham

Fighting words: “He is an opportunist, he’s a libertarian when it is hot,” the senator from South Carolina told RealClearPolitics, adding that Cruz “has done more to allow ISIL to gain a foothold in Syria than any senator other than Rand Paul.” Last week, Graham said picking between Trump and Cruz was like having to choose “death by being shot or poisoning,” and he said the party would be better off if it picked “somebody out of the phone book.”

The beef: Graham thinks Cruz has blocked national security measures for personal gain, and he rebuked the Texan for suggesting Hagel had received money from the North Korean government.

Everyone on the 2000 campaign

Fighting words: (See above.)

The beef: Per GQ:

He was infamous for firing off mundane work e-mails in the middle of the night—it happened so often that some in the Bush campaign suspected him of writing them ahead of time and programming his computer to send while he was asleep. He was also known for dispatching regular updates on his accomplishments that one recipient likened to “the cards people send about their families at Christmas, except Ted’s were only about him and were more frequent.”

Supreme Court clerks

Fighting words: Former clerks who had worked at the Supreme Court when Cruz was clerking for Chief Justice William Rehnquist dissed his “dime store novel” write-ups of death penalty cases.

The beef: The New York Times reported that Cruz’s fellow clerks believed he was “obsessed” with capital punishment and noted that clerks took offense at the airy tone with which he discussed executions when the court received last-minute appeals for a stay.

Harvard Law School classmates

Fighting words: A pompous asshole.”

The beef: GQ reported that Cruz started a study group during his first year in Cambridge, but he announced that “he didn’t want anybody from ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.” In an interview with the Boston Globe, another student recalled what happened when she agreed to carpool with Cruz: “We hadn’t left Manhattan before he asked my IQ.”

His Princeton roommate

Fighting words: “I would rather have anybody else be the president of the United States,” screenwriter Craig Mazin told the Daily Beast in 2013. “Anyone. I would rather pick somebody from the phone book.” On Twitter, Mazin—who has called Cruz “a nightmare of a human being”—recalled that when he was a freshman sharing a dorm room with Cruz, he would get invited to parties hosted by seniors because the upperclassmen pitied him. Cruz, he notes, “was that widely loathed. It’s his superpower.”

(Backpfeifengesicht, by the way, translates to “face that should be slapped.”)

The beef: It’s personal. “I have plenty of problems with his politics, but truthfully his personality is so awful that 99 percent of why I hate him is just his personality,” he said on the Scriptnotes podcast. According to Mazin, Cruz would hit snooze on his alarm clock over and over again, and he refused to stop doing this when Mazin asked. Also, Mazin says, Cruz was just weird. “I remember very specifically that he had a book in Spanish and the title was Was Karl Marx a Satanist?,” Mazin told the Daily Beast. “And I thought, who is this person?”

Everyone else at Princeton

Fighting words: Per the Daily Beast, “Several fellow classmates who asked that their names not be used described the young Cruz with words like ‘abrasive,’ ‘intense,’ ‘strident,’ ‘crank,’ and ‘arrogant.’ Four independently offered the word ‘creepy.'”

The beef: It’s tough to pinpoint any one cause, but Cruz made female students uncomfortable by frequently walking to their end of the floor in his freshman dorm, wearing only a paisley bathrobe. When he announced his bid for president of the school’s debate society, the other members had a secret meeting to pick an anyone-but-Cruz candidate. The eventual winner later acknowledged that “my one qualification for the office was that I was not Ted Cruz.”

Ted Cruz

Fighting words: “If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy,” Cruz said at a Republican debate in October.

The beef: Being well liked is not everything. At least that seemed to be the point Cruz was making about himself. He added, “But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done and I will get you home.”


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