Dinner with Ted Cruz required prep work. A strategy. This much Jessica Herrera-Flanigan knew about her friend of many years, the conservative Harvard Law School standout who later became the solicitor general of Texas.
“Don’t talk politics!” she warned her boyfriend and future husband, Thomas Flanigan, who happens to be a political liberal. Don’t let him bait you.
But, settled into a table at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant near the Capitol in Austin a few years back, Cruz kept coming. Challenging “liberal” notions about climate change. Touting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Boom. Boom. Boom.
“It’s like, ‘Okay, I’m ready to take on the issues. Let’s see if you want to engage with me on it,’ ” recalls Herrera-Flanigan, who was a Harvard Law School classmate of Cruz’s and is now a D.C.-based consultant. “It’s not the political niceties.”
Cruz, as ever, was being the verbal grinder, the self-assured, nonstop talker who won national debate championships as an undergraduate at Princeton. In the realm of organized debating, there were rules and understandings. Point-counterpoint. Debate for the sake of debate to provoke a discussion, to make a point. And Cruz had many points to make in more than an hour of impassioned but convivial intellectual jousting.