When the going gets tough, the tough get going — but all the way to Cancun? As millions of fellow Texans freeze and boil water in the weather catastrophe that has descended on them, Ted Cruz apparently decided that Mexico was the better part of valor. Social media accounts lit up with pictures of the Senate Republican heading to Cancun last night. David Shuster reported that he’d confirmed the trip, earning scorn for Cruz from media outlets across the spectrum — even Fox, Reuters reports, which noted that “the pictures speak for themselves”:

 

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz flew to the Mexican resort city of Cancun with his family, Fox News reported on Thursday, as millions of his fellow Texans struggled through a deadly deep freeze, sparking a slew of criticism.

The Republican lawmaker, 50, faced widespread criticism as photos circulated on social media showing him in an airport line, in a passenger lounge, aboard an airliner and departing an airport in Mexico. It was unclear when the photos were taken and Cruz’s Senate office did not respond to multiple queries.

Fox News said Cruz flew to Cancun with his family, quoting an unidentified Republican source who said: “The photos speak for themselves.”

In a weird echo of the Justine Sacco social-media avalanche, it appears that Cruz had second thoughts once he landed in Cancun:

What in the world could Cruz have been thinking? It’s true that senators play no role at all in managing state affairs, so his presence in Texas wasn’t required in any formal sense. Members of Congress get elected to deal with federal issues, while state and local governments handle day to day operations within their jurisdictions. Even on the issue of emergency relief, federal intervention would come from the executive branch.

Politically speaking, though, this is a monster of an unforced error, assuming that “the pictures speak for themselves.” If Cruz wanted to get out of Texas, the only option should have been Washington DC, where he could work on facilitating emergency assistance for his state. If this was a long-planned vacation, it should have been canceled, or the Cruz family sent along without Ted. This is a crisis made for public relations, especially for politicos with the kind of national ambitions Cruz has. He should be at emergency shelters in Texas handing out blankets and serving meals, or on the front lines of the energy-distribution problems demanding data and answers. If he didn’t want to do any of that, then he should have stayed home while writing press releases expressing his solidarity with his fellow Texans. This isn’t the time for Ted to take a cruise, so to speak.

Cruz no doubt wants to make another run for the presidency in 2024. He’d better hope he can live this down by that time, especially if Donald Trump wants to try again for the nomination. This is an easy dunk on Cruz for any opponent in any contest. Even if he doesn’t run for president in 2024, he’ll have to run for re-election — and Texans might not forget the Cruz cruise easily by then.

Update: Cruz’ office won’t comment on the story, but NBC reports that the Houston police department confirms it. They provided him with a light security response for his travel through the airport:

Cruz’s Senate office did not respond to NBC News’ repeated requests for comment.

The Houston Police Department confirmed to NBC that Cruz’s staff contacted them on Wednesday afternoon to assist him in his arrival and movements through Houston’s international airport.

“They reached out to us, let us know that he was going to be arriving and could we assist, so upon his arrival to the Houston airport we monitored his movements,” a police department spokesperson told NBC.

Cruz’ officer better have a really good explanation for this, especially using first-responder resources for personal travel during an emergency — even just this nominal level of police resources.

Update: No, he wasn’t just dropping his family off in Cancun either:

Update: Ted Cruz just issued a statement:

The “am flying back this afternoon” doesn’t exactly commit to the idea that Cruz had planned to make that journey back today from the start. See the above tweet as a reference to why Cruz is careful to speak only in the present tense.