As a professor at Harvard Law School, Elizabeth Warren often referenced her time in Texas.
Warren, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and later taught at the University of Houston Law Center, was known during her first stint at Harvard for her Texas-based hypotheticals and her no-nonsense Texas-style.
So the liberal Massachusetts senator must find some amusement in the media’s tendency to compare her to another freshman U.S. senator — Texas Republican (and former Harvard Law student) Ted Cruz.
Cruz and Warren, of course, have almost nothing in common ideologically. Warren is one of the most left-wing members of the Senate, while Cruz is one of that body’s most conservative firebrands.
And yet, as others have noted, the two freshman senators are stylistically simpatico.
Within weeks of arriving in Washington, Cruz and Warren each earned reputations as bulls in the proverbial china shop — Cruz for his grilling of Chuck Hagel in his nomination hearing to become secretary of defense; Warren for her grilling of Wall Street regulators.
In contrast to Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, both of whom kept low profiles during their first few years in the Senate, Cruz and Warren arrived with guns blazing.
As Fox News analyst Juan Williams has noted, both senators are populists who see themselves in “a David v. Goliath struggle between grassroots activists and the political elite.” In sum, neither Cruz nor Warren went to Washington to make friends. They went to shake things up.
In a city accustomed to newcomers being seen and not heard, Cruz and Warren’s take-no-prisoners approach to policy-making has, shall we say, ruffled a few feathers.
But, then, what else would you expect from folks who hail from Harvard Law and the great state of Texas — two places where arrogance and bombast know no bounds?
Of course, whether one regards Cruz and Warren as contemptuous or courageous depends entirely on one’s political perspective. Not surprisingly, both engender strong feelings of loyalty and dislike from opposite sides of the aisle.
But one thing is for sure: both senators have many in their respective parties calling on them to seek the presidency.
A Cruz v. Warren presidential match up may be premature for 2016. And for now, the smart money remains on a Rubio v. Clinton contest.
But Cruz v. Warren is not outside the realm of possibility. If not in 2016, perhaps down the road.
In the spring of 1993, there were a half-dozen or so students from Texas in Liz Warren’s Secured Transactions class at Harvard. (Ted Cruz was not one of them, although, notably, he was a Harvard Law student at the time). Warren, who employed the Socratic method in her teaching, often called on and needled these students, with whom she had a good rapport.
One day, the students from the Lone Star state all showed up wearing T-shirts that said “Don’t Mess with Texas.” Although the Texas students all sat together in a row at the front of the room, it was 10 minutes into class before professor Warren noticed the message for her emblazoned across their chests. When she did, she looked up with a smile and said, “Perhaps Texas shouldn’t mess with me.”
None of us in the classroom that day thought it anything but a good-natured response to a silly prank. Who among us possibly could have imagined it might foreshadow — two decades later — a hotly contested presidential race between a former Harvard professor and a former Harvard student?