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CHRISTOPHER MUTHER

Ted Cruz: Poster child for bad travel decisions

The senator’s Cancun trip shows callousness not just toward the Texans he left behind, but toward every American actually following the rules

In this image from video, Senator Ted Cruz walks to check in for his flight back to Texas at Cancun International Airport in Mexico, Thursday.
In this image from video, Senator Ted Cruz walks to check in for his flight back to Texas at Cancun International Airport in Mexico, Thursday.Dan Christian Rojas/Associated Press

The CDC has recommended for nearly a year that US residents avoid travel to other countries. Texas Senator Ted Cruz claimed he was opting to ignore the advice this week when he took his infamous trip out of state because his children (ages 10 and 12) wanted to go to Cancún in the middle of a pandemic.

We now know that wasn’t really the case — his “freezing” wife, Heidi Cruz, was the mastermind — but even if it had been true, most responsible parents would have told their tweens that the closest they’re getting to Mexico these days is a chalupa from a drive-through at Taco Bell. Instead, Cruz packed a suitcase the size of a steamer trunk, left the family poodle, Snowflake, behind, and dashed off for fun in the sun.

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Also, way to throw your kids under the bus, senator.

There’s no need to reiterate the extraordinarily poor timing of Cruz’s trip while Texas froze. That burro has been beaten to death, shamed, and then beaten some more. This is a look at a man who should be setting an example for the millions of Texans who are aching to travel. But in order to be able to see their families and friends again safely in the future, they’ve followed Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice and stayed home as much as possible. They’ve worn their masks, practiced social distancing, and washed their hands diligently.

Most of all, they’ve canceled trips to help stop the spread and pined for the days when they can pack a suitcase and get on a plane again.

And then there’s Ted Cruz, who has taken a different approach. In July, Cruz was photographed mask-free on an American Airlines flight. This was at a time when American mandated all passengers wear masks. Cruz was photographed with a cup of coffee in one hand and his phone in the other. Airlines allow passengers to take off their masks to eat and drink. But it appeared that Cruz was doing neither. He was reading his phone. Cruz’s office said the senator was following the rules, but shortly after the scandal, American Airlines reached out to Cruz to review its policy with him. There were also reports that Cruz was maskless at the gate while waiting to board that July flight.

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Mexico has become a favorite vacation spot for US residents throughout the pandemic because it does not require a negative COVID-19 test for entry. The lack of restrictions may give travelers a false sense of security, but Mexico now has the third highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world. COVID-19 has killed more people in Mexico than in India — a country with 10 times the population. According to the Associated Press, that number is likely underreported because of the country’s low testing rate.

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has refused to wear a mask. He’s encouraged Mexicans to protect jobs by eating in restaurants. He’s resisted lockdowns because of their impact on the economy.

Mexico’s undersecretary of health, Hugo López-Gatell, has told Mexicans to stay home, warning of shortages of oxygen tanks and sympathizing with overtaxed health care workers. But after delivering those messages, López-Gatell was spotted relaxing on a sandy Pacific beach nearly 500 miles from his residence in Mexico City. He was also photographed maskless at a bar and a crowded airport.

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Some Americans who are tired of wearing masks have happily followed the lead of these Mexican officials when they have traveled to the country. In January, the Instagram account Gays Over Covid, started calling out gay men who were partying in Puerto Vallarta, including a big, maskless New Year’s Eve party.

Cruz, who was photographed wearing his mask at the airport and on the plane going to and from his Ritz Carlton Cancún getaway this week, hasn’t been the most mask-friendly senator. In November, Cruz called Sherrod Brown “a complete ass” for asking another senator to wear a mask on the Senate floor. In December, Cruz, an attorney by trade, blasted the CDC for issuing guidance that those who have been vaccinated not travel and continue to take the same precautions they did before the vaccine.

“This is a bizarre, lunatic, totalitarian cult,” Cruz said in a tweet responding to Dr. Vin Gupta’s mask-wearing advice. “It’s not about vaccines or protecting people’s lives — it is instead profoundly anti-science, and is only focused on absolute govt control of every aspect of our lives.”

At least Cruz, who, as of late December, had not been vaccinated, is consistent in his laissez-faire coronavirus messaging. But timing aside, he has no business getting on a plane. His casual travel shows nothing but callousness for those of us who have been following the rules, and that’s on top of letting his daughters take the fall for his actions. Back at the Cruz residence, Snowflake the poodle is sitting in a corner, silently judging the entire fiasco.

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Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.