Now, That’s Conceited

I grew up in Princeton, New Jersey where “Yale Sucks” t-shirts were ubiquitous precisely because there was no argument that Harvard was the country’s premier university and the only debate was over which institution deserved the position of number two. Sometimes people would acknowledge that Stanford deserved a place in the debate, but I am familiar with the conceit that there are “minor Ivies.” Still, I was a little shocked to learn that Ted Cruz refused to study the law at Harvard with anyone whose undergraduate degree was from Brown or Penn.

Princeton turned out to be as alien to Cruz as Austin had been to his father some thirty years earlier: “I did not know anybody there; I didn’t know anybody who had gone there.” Like his father, he needed to earn tuition money. Unlike his father, he didn’t do it by washing dishes. He got a job with the Princeton Review, teaching test-prep classes.

The elite academic circles that Cruz was now traveling in began to rub off. As a law student at Harvard, he refused to study with anyone who hadn’t been an undergrad at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. Says Damon Watson, one of Cruz’s law-school roommates: “He said he didn’t want anybody from ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.”

My hat’s off to Ted Cruz for gaining admittance to Princeton and excelling in the debating club. I’ll give him credit for excelling at an institution where he didn’t initially know anyone and where he never quite fit in. It’s the same kind of credit I give to Michelle Obama and Sonia Sotomayor. I mean, good for them. Congratulations.

But, to be so conceited about your accomplishment that you won’t study with someone from Cornell or Dartmouth or Brown or Penn? Growing up where I did, I’ve known more than my fair share of arrogant self-entitled jerks who were born on third base and thought that they hit a triple. But Ted Cruz takes the cake.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.