In a hard-hitting, incredibly researched piece of journalism entitled "Me & Ted", Josh Marshall polled his progressive friends at Princeton and found that they all thought Ted Cruz was an asshole.
Well, it turns out Ted and I went to college together. And not just we happened to be at the same place at the same time. We were both at a pretty small part of a relatively small university. We both went to Princeton. I was one year ahead of him. But we were both in the same residential college, which basically meant a small cluster of dorms of freshmen and sophomores numbering four or five hundred students who all ate in the same dining hall.
As it turned out, though, almost everyone I knew well in college remembered him really well. Vividly. And I knew a number of his friends. But for whatever reason I just didn't remember him. When I saw college pictures of him, I thought okay, yeah, I remember that guy but sort of in the way where you're not 100% sure you're not manufacturing the recollection.
I was curious. Was this just my wife who tends to be a get-along and go-along kind of person? So I started getting in touch with a lot of old friends and asking whether they remembered Ted. It was an experience really unlike I've ever had. Everybody I talked to - men and women, cool kids and nerds, conservative and liberal - started the conversation pretty much the same.
"Ted? Oh yeah, immense a*#hole." Sometimes "total raging a#%hole." Sometimes other variations on the theme. But you get the idea. Very common reaction.
Wow, so this is what famous journalists do? Hey, I can do the same thing.
I went to Princeton with Eliot Spitzer. He was a couple of years ahead of me but had a really high profile on campus, in part due to his running for various University Student Government offices. So I checked with many of my friends back in college, and you know what? They all thought Spitzer was an asshole. I was reminded that we all disliked him so much that when one person (full disclosure, it was me) drunkenly asked who wanted to go moon Spitzer and the governing council meeting next door, we got 30 volunteers. He was so irritating that he actually inspired a successful opposition party cum performance art troupe called the Antarctic Liberation Front (Virginia Postrel also wrote about it here).
Wow, am I a big time journalist now? Will GQ be calling for me to do an article on Spitzer?
Look, this is going to be true for lots of politicians, because they share a number of qualities. They tend to have huge egos, which eventually manifest as a desire to tell us what to do because they know better than we do. They are willful, meaning they can work obsessively to get their own way even over trivial stuff. And they are charismatic, meaning they generally have a group of people who adore them and whose sycophancy pisses everyone else off. In other words, they are all assholes.