Ted Cruz in LA

The Texas Senator and 2016 presidential candidate was in town yesterday for some fundraising, but first he made a stop at the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills to deliver a speech. This city being a Persian Jewish enclave, and Nessah Synagogue the largest Persian Jewish temple in the US, I’m sure you can guess the topic – the Iran deal.

I was told the service coincided with a Jewish holiday, but I’m not totally clear on which one. I could be wrong, but from a quick search it seems to be either Tu B’Av or Tisha B’Av. The latter seems more likely. Actually, this was the first time I have ever been to Temple. Nessah is orthodox, and I had no clue what the protocol was when I went inside. Like a pro, I confidently walked in on the right side trying to look like I knew where I was going. The ladies all gave me a strange look because, well, I’m not a lady. I went over to the men’s side and stood along the wall since the place was full and every seat taken. My brother was with me and we stood stiff off to the side trying to be formal and respectful. But, as I continued to observe, I saw that it wasn’t as formal as it appeared. Later my brother said “why can’t I be a Jew? You can show up for Temple whenever you want, walk around, talk to people and throw candy at babies.”

The room slowly filled up, and Cruz eventually walked in and people came up to greet him and shake hands. The room got so crowded that the Fire Marshall showed up and made sure the aisles were clear. After about 10 minutes, the always awesome Rabbi Shmuley Boteach took the stage to introduce Cruz with his typical firebrand energy.


Ted and Shmuley.

After some technical difficulties with the yarmulke, Cruz began “You know, this week’s Torah reading covered the Ten Commandments, a topic rarely discussed, or followed, in Washington, DC. Among them is the fairly simple and straightforward proposition: ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’ That, in particular, is an admonition from God that all of us should heed. Today, the threats facing Israel, the threats facing America, the threats facing the world . . . have never been greater. And now, more than ever, is a time for truth,” he said (casually name dropping the title of his book). “When we call evil by its name, it has a clarifying power that has never been more needed than it is this instant, right now.”

He covered various subjects from his uncannily successful legislation to bar terrorists from entering the United States after the appointment of Hamid Aboutalebi – who was involved with the taking of American hostages in Tehran during the Carter administration – as Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, to President Obama referring to the kosher deli murders in Paris as a “random act of violence”, to the White House saying the 22 Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS were killed because of their Egyptian citizenship. It was an inspiring, thought provoking speech which he gave without notes, and which was frequently interrupted by applause and cheers.

The main reason I went to the event was to see Cruz live and up close. I watched him as he walked out, and I stood in the outer hall as he went to the banquet in another room. He walked past me within hand shaking distance, though I didn’t try to shake his hand. I just wanted a good, up close look at his face. He seemed a bit out of place in the crowd, and he wasn’t wearing a fake TV politician grin as people approached him. I happen to like that he’s not so great on the optics front. I agree with the sentiment that we need a nerd who will deal with numbers, data and strategy. No more cool guys with bitchin’ ideas.

Alas, this is also the only thing I don’t like about Cruz so far. He’s a bit geeky, so, when he’s in front of a camera he over does it and is always talking as if he knows he needs to use the video for a campaign ad later. It’s really too bad because I think not enough people are listening to him because of it. (And if he gets elected, the media will be merciless in mocking his appearance. The mainstream media has had so much time off during the two Obama terms, they’re going to get up to stretch and remember why they exist and come back with a vengeance. I guess that’s good after all, but it’s also super hypocritical.) However, I didn’t see that at the Nessah synagogue. He was natural and engaging during the speech, and even quite humble among the crowd. As the campaign goes on, I hope we see more of that Ted Cruz.

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