Oops! U.S. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Returns from Mexican Vacation

Are legislators allowed to be gone during disasters?

It is a given that chief elected officials and those charged with the responsibility for the oversight of emergency management, disaster response and disaster recovery need to be at the office and working during a disaster. If, perhaps, a disaster happens when you are on vacation, you need to catch the next plane home and be back in the saddle immediately.  Many an elected executive has been captured by news organizations for not following that rule of thumb and paid the price in unwanted attention.

Today, it was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's turn to have the spotlight on him and his "leaving the state of Texas" while they have been dealing with cold weather and storms that have significantly impacted the electrical power grid in that state. 

I don't know if the media has "inventoried" where all the other elected officials for the state of Texas are at present and if they are there on duty. 

I have to say this is the first time I recall a legislator being called to account for leaving the state for the sunny and warmer temperatures of Mexico (Cancun to be more specific). Hmm, did he have a return ticket date?

There are several items that may cause more attention to fall on Sen. Cruz. One is his high profile nationally in Republican and national politics. Another is the fact that there are many who look on him unfavorably. Thus, if they can "poke him in the eye," there are those who would look to take advantage of the opportunity to call attention to him in a negative manner. 

Then, from the Washington Post, there is this quote from an article they did just today, "Even before he skipped town, Mr. Cruz’s critics were already recirculating tweets he sent last summer criticizing California for being 'unable to perform even basic functions of civilization' after the state's governor asked residents to conserve electricity during a spate of deadly wildfires. Mr. Cruz lampooned California’s 'failed energy policy' as the product of liberal excess. [Words like these stick in the craw of those impacted.]

"Mr. Cruz had been acutely aware of the possible crisis in advance. In a radio interview on Monday, he said the state could see 100 or more deaths this week. 'So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids,' he said.

"More recently, in December, Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, for taking a trip to Cabo while telling constituents to 'stay home' during the pandemic.

"'Hypocrites,' Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. 'Complete and utter hypocrites.'"

One last observation. We had a huge system-wide power outage in western Washington around December 2006, as the transmission and distribution system in the majority failed in a windstorm. I recall asking the emergency manager for the city of Medina, Wash., what the residents of his city did when the power outages impacted them. This is the most expensive zip code here in the state. It is the city where Bill Gates lives, etc. He replied, "They all flew to their homes in Hawaii." Getting out of Dodge is OK for a citizen or billionaire, but government officials don't have that luxury (odd use of the word). 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.