SPARTANBURG, South Carolina — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued here at a women’s forum hosted by Palladian View that President Barack Obama is waging a war on women.
“For the last six years under President Obama, 3.7 million have entered poverty,” Cruz said in opening remarks before taking questions from local reporters on a panel. “Under President Obama, the median income for women has dropped by $733. You want to talk about a war on women? That’s a war on women.”
Cruz opened his speech with some familiar and some new jokes about how distant Washington, D.C., is from the rest of America.
“I spent most of last month in Washington, D.C., so it is great to be back in America,” Cruz said when he took the stage, an infamous line he first coined when visiting Texas after the defund Obamacare battle in Washington about a year ago.
“Tomorrow morning when we go to church, a lot of our pastors may start by going to the original root–looking to the etymology. If you look to the etymology of the word ‘politics,’ it has two parts. ‘Poli,’ meaning many, and ‘tics’ meaning blood-sucking parasites. That fairly accurately describes Washington, D.C.,” Cruz then said, a new joke.
Cruz, who was joined here in the early presidential primary state at this event by his wife Heidi and 6-year-old daughter Caroline–their youngest daughter Catherine, who is 3 years old, was not with them here–also joked about how Caroline doesn’t like politics.
“Back when I was running for the Senate in 2012, we were going around the clock and one Saturday morning Caroline–who’s here in the audience–on Saturday morning at 6:30 in the morning, I was doing a radio interview on the phone,” Cruz said. “Caroline jumped out of bed and came running into our bedroom like she does on most Saturday mornings. Heidi was still lying in bed, and Heidi jumped out of bed. She grabbed Caroline and she brought her into the living room. She said, ‘not now sweetie. Daddy’s doing a radio interview.’ Caroline crossed her arms and stomped back and said ‘politics, politics, politics! It’s always politics!'”
That helped him shift into the theme of his speech, which is that the reason why the 50 or so folks were there in the audience on a Saturday morning–rather than doing something else–is because “the stakes in our country are incredible.”
“We’re here today because we’re concerned about the future for our kids and our grandkids,” Cruz said, adding that “there is no force in politics like Republican women” and he “would not be in the U.S. Senate today if it were not for Republican women.”
In his speech, Cruz laid out the three women in his life who had the most impact on him as a person: his mother, his wife Heidi and his aunt Sonia–who like his father Rafael fled communism in Cuba for America after fighting against the rise of Fidel Castro’s regime.
“What I want to do today is I want to talk about three women I admire, three women in my life who have had a real impact on my life,” Cruz said.
Cruz’s father Rafael and his story have been prominent during Cruz’s rise to political superstardom since first getting elected to the U.S. Senate a couple years ago, but his aunt Sonia’s story, his wife’s story and his mother’s story have not–Cruz later told Breitbart News this was one of, if not the first time he’s ever brought Sonia’s story up in public.
But each of the three women–his mother, his wife and his aunt–have their own compelling narratives that surround them, and their impact on Cruz as a senator and as a person.
“The first woman I want to talk about is my mom,” Cruz said, noting that his mother was born in Bloomington, Delaware, was his mother’s mother “was the second youngest of 17 kids.”
“It was a blue collar family, and no one in the family had ever gone to college,” Cruz said of his mother’s family. “When my mom was in high school, her dad was transferred down to Houston–and my mom became the first person in her family to ever go to college. She went to Rice University and graduated in 1956 with a degree in math. Now I tell you, my grandfather was not an easy man. He drank far too much and he had a view that women didn’t need to get an education. My mother was not someone who agreed and so my mother who is very quiet and soft-spoken with a steely spine, she stood up to her father and said she was going to go college and she was going to go to work. It was an epic battle.”
Cruz told the audience of how his mother then got a job at Shell oil company as a computer programmer. “Now you want to talk about two industries where there are very few women, you take the oil and gas industry and computer programming you put them together and there were virtually no women,” Cruz said. “When I was growing up my mom used to tell me about how she literally didn’t learn how to type–she said look, ‘I understood the world I was living in. It was the 1950s, I would be walking down the hall at Shell and men would stop me and they would say sweetheart, would you type this for me? My mom would be able to smile very gracefully and say I would love to help you out but I don’t know how to type. I guess you’re going to have to use me as a computer programmer instead.'”
Cruz noted like everyone, his mom’s life “has had its ups and downs–she’s had her challenges.”
“My mom when she came out of school she was shortly thereafter married. She had a son, a son named Michael,” Cruz said. “When he was just a few months old, my mom woke up and she found Michael dead in his crib. It crippled her. I’m going to tell you that had an enormous impact on my mother. It ended up breaking up her first marriage. To this day, I don’t know anyone who is more strongly pro-life than my mother is–when you see a baby taken from you far too early it makes it personal.”
Cruz also told the audience that his parents actually split up when he was three years old–only to reunite after his father became an active Christian.
“When I was a little kid, my parents were working in the oil and gas industry up in Calgary, Canada,” Cruz said. “Unfortunately, at the time, both my parents–neither one of them thought the relationship would work. They both drank far too much. My dad, when I was three years old, decided he didn’t want to be here anymore, that he didn’t want to be a dad to his three year old son. So my dad got on a plane and he flew back to Houston, and left my mother–so my mother found herself a single mom with a toddler son. Now thank God when my dad got to Houston, a colleague of his in the oil and gas industry–he invited him to go to pray. He went to Church and he gave his life to Jesus. It turned his life around. He went to the airport and bought himself an airline ticket and got on a plane and he flew back to Calgary to be with my mom.”
Cruz said that story proves to him “faith is real.”
“I don’t know everything but I know in my family it [faith] is the reason why I wasn’t raised by a single mom,” Cruz said. “It’s the reason why I had my dad in the house every day as a father when I was a kid. My mom has been a best friend my whole life and she has been an incredibly fantastic grandmother for our two little girls.”
Cruz then shifted into talking about his wife Heidi, who sat in the front row of the auditorium at the local community college while Cruz was on stage.
“The second woman I want to talk about is my wife Heidi,” Cruz said. “Heidi is here today. Heidi was raised, she was a child of missions. Her parents periodically lived across the world including two different times where Heidi lived in Africa, in Kenya and Nigeria, as a little girl. When she was four and six years old, she lived in Africa, she would describe how she would play with kids there. They spoke Swahili and she didn’t speak a word of it–she spoke English–yet somehow Heidi and they managed to play together and connect and have fun in the universal language of children. She, as a little girl, grew up in California–and as a little girl she started a business. She was a small business owner at the age of–I don’t know 8 or 9? And it was a business baking bread. She and her older brother both started competing bread companies. When they would come home and bake bread, they would sell it to their neighbors. They baked and sold tens of thousands of loaves of bread.”
Cruz noted how he and Heidi met while both working for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000–joking that means Bush is a uniter, not a divider.
“Heidi and I met on January 3, 2000,” Cruz said. “We were both working on the George W. Bush presidential campaign in Austin, Texas. We were actually one of eight marriages that came out of the Bush campaign–which leads to a lousy joke that I’ve told many, many times, which is: no matter what else you think of George W. Bush, in our house he will always be a uniter and not a divider.”
Cruz then shifted to his aunt Sonia’s story, which is very similar to his father Rafael’s–except she stayed in Cuba longer to fight Castro after he was in power. Cruz joked that Sonia is harder core than his father, who has gotten a reputation in conservative political circles for being one of the bravest leaders along with his son.
“The third woman I want to talk about is my Aunt Sonia,” Cruz said. “Many of you have heard me talk about my dad or you’ve gotten to know my father Rafael Cruz–who fled Cuba in 1957. Well, my Tia Sonia is my father’s sister–she stayed in Cuba after my father left. She was there once Castro took over. Now, if you think my father has strong views, that’s only because you’ve never met my Tia Sonia. She thinks he’s shy and needs to express himself. My aunt remained in Cuba after the revolution and she began fighting in the counter revolution–fighting against Castro. She was a high school girl, and three of them were on the softball team together in high school during the day and at night they’d go and burn down sugar cane as part of the counter revolution. My aunt ended up being thrown in prison and tortured when she was a teenager. She fled to Cuba in the early 60s and came to Texas to be with my father here–and she is a woman who just has great principle and fire. Her daughter Bibi, who’s my first cousin who is like a sister to me, my Tia Sonia raised Bibi as a single mom.”
Cruz said that because Sonia and the rest of his family have extended family in Cuba, occasionally his “Tia Sonia” goes back to Cuba to meet with them. He told a story of one person she met with when back there who cried as he praised her courage to get out of Cuba as Castro consolidated power, something this old friend of Sonia’s didn’t have the courage to do.
“My Tia Sonia told me a story of one time she was back there, she was there with my cousin, and she was visiting a high school friend who was at the time and now is a sort of mid-level Communist Party activist,” Cruz said. “She was in his house and he has a picture of Fidel Castro up above the sink. She described how they walked in and he took her into the kitchen and very carefully closed the curtains and sealed off the windows so no one could look in. Her friend sat down and began weeping uncontrollably, and said, ‘you know, Sonia, I look at your daughter. Bibi is young, she is vivacious, she’s a beautiful woman full of fire. I see the joy, I see the hope and sparkles in her eyes.’ He said, ‘I look at my own kids and my own kids, they don’t have that joy. They don’t have that hope. You had the courage to get out of here. You had the courage to escape and make it to America’ and he said, ‘my children will never have that hope. They will never have that freedom because I was too much of a coward to get out.’ Tia Sonia said he just sat there for about 15 minutes with his head in his hands, weeping. Then he stood up and walked over to the sink, turned it on and got some water to clean up his face–smiled broadly and opened the window shades.”
Cruz said that because of his family’s impact on him, he fights for them on the national level.
“One of the great lessons of being the child of an immigrant like my dad and the nephew of an immigrant like my Tia Sonia is it makes you wonder just how wonderful, just how special and just how precious our freedom is,” Cruz said. “If I were to tell you the women who I fight for the hardest, it would be our daughters Caroline and Catherine. Caroline is 6. Catherine is 3.”
That all gets back to his larger point–about how Democrats and President Obama are hurting opportunity for Americans.
“Right now for the first time in our nation’s history, most Americans don’t think their kids will have a better life than them–76 percent of Americans right now think their kids will have a worse life than they do,” Cruz said. “That has never been true in the history of our country.”