Ted Cruz: Our Last, Best Hope

Ted Cruz is the a gifted outsider with unique leadership capacities. He has a brilliant grasp of Constitutional law from his service as Texas' solicitor general, a granular understanding of business economics from his service at the Federal Trade Commission, and a clear vision of what America should and shouldn't do in foreign policy. He was an academic superstar at Ivy League universities but never let his success flatter him into complacency. He has deep religious conviction. He also has the will to lead. It's not surprising he isn't popular among his Senate colleagues: if Cruz is elected president, it will shut down a corrupt and cozy game. He has the brains to understand the problem and the guts to clear the obstacles to a solution.

Donald Trump's popularity rests on his knack for handling politics as reality television. Americans always have distrusted elites, but today's popular culture takes this to a pathological extreme. We find it oppressive to admire anything that is better than us. Instead, we identify with what is like us. That's why we listen to singers who sound like an average drunk with a karaoke machine instead of Frank Sinatra. That's why reality TV is so popular. Everybody gets to be a star. We like to watch ourselves in the mirror. This blend of narcissism and resentment is toxic. Trump's bling-and-babes lifestyle has become a national paradigm for success. We're not Trump's constituents; we're a virtual posse.

We keep hearing that Trump is a businessman who will "get things done." That is utterly wrong: the most successful businessmen are very good at very limited number of things. Great entrepreneurs, as George Gilder wrote, are the kind of people who sit up all night thinking of better garbage routes. Trump is not even a particularly successful entrepreneur; if he had put the $100 million he inherited in 1978 into an index fund, he'd have twice as much money today. As a casino investor, he doesn't compare to Sheldon Adelson, who came from poverty and now has ten times Trump's wealth. In fact, Trump has the worst possible kind of background for a president: as the child of wealth running a private company, he is used to saying "Jump," and having his lackeys say, "How long should I stay in the air?"

Trump doesn't read. He brags about his own ignorance. Journalist Michael d'Antonio interviewed Trump at his New York home and told a German newspaper:

"What I noticed immediately in my first visit was that there were no books," says D'Antonio. "A huge palace and not a single book." He asked Trump whether there was a book that had influenced him. "I would love to read," Trump replied. "I've had many best sellers, as you know, and 'The Art of the Deal' was one of the biggest-selling books of all time." Soon Trump was talking about "The Apprentice." Trump called it "the No. 1 show on television," a reality TV show in which, in 14 seasons, he played himself and humiliated candidates vying for the privilege of a job within his company. In the interview, Trump spent what seemed like an eternity talking about how fabulous and successful he is, but he didn't name a single book that he hadn't written.

"Trump doesn't read," D'Antonio says in the restaurant. "He hasn't absorbed anything serious and profound about American society since his college days. And to be honest, I don't even think he read in college." When Trump was asked who his foreign policy advisers were, he replied: "Well, I watch the shows." He was referring to political talk shows on TV.

Trump voters may not read, either, but they should want their president to know something about the problems he proposes to address.