Trib Fest 2012
Ted Cruz and Julian Castro share the stage at Texas Tribune Fest, national politics take the spotlight
Want to fill an auditorium with politicos, policy wonks, students and reporters fast at 8 a.m. on a Saturday? Put San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz on the same stage.
To kick off a Saturday of sessions at the second annual Texas Tribune Festival, Tribune head honcho Evan Smith interviewed the two rising stars of Texas, and arguably national, politics.
Before July 31 of this year, neither name was well known beyond state lines. Castro has served as the mayor of San Antonio for two years, and Cruz is the former state solicitor general.
By the end of that fateful day in July, it was announced that Castro would deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention (cue White House speculation), and Cruz defeated Lt. Governor David Dewhurst in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. July 31, Smith suggested to the audience, was “the portal from which the future of Texas was visible.”
The fact that auditorium seats were filled by 8 a.m. and dozens of stood along the walls of the room just to hear these two men engage with one another speaks volumes to their rising stardom.
If this is the future of Texas, it’s calm and collected. Castro and Cruz kept things classy in their conversation, and at times were lighthearted with one another. Perhaps it was too early on a Saturday to get contentious, but both seemed open to thoughtfully talking about things in a cooperative way.
Still, for a session titled “The Future of Texas Politics,” much of the discussion focused on national issues du-jour such as taxes, federal health care reform, immigration, the federal deficit…and of course, the presidential election.
When Smith asked the panelists what state America is in right now, each had the chance to make a case for their presidential candidate’s fundamental philosophies.
Cruz took the direct approach — “America is at a crisis point…I think we’re at a fiscal and economic cliff…we’ve pursued programs that have created a debt that is out of control.”
Castro, perfectly coiffed and beaming in his silk blue tie, seemed to assume President Barack Obama’s air of class, diplomacy and even temperament in his response — “To the extent that we’re a nation in ‘crisis,’ I believe that fundamentally we can overcome this in a fairly rational and reasonable way.”
This is where things got familiar. Much of the conversation started to sound like their convention speeches. Castro believes that while we’re not in the most ideal place as a country, we are better off than four years ago; Cruz, on the other hand, believes Mitt Romney can do a better job at pulling the country out of the recession.
Castro supports the federal health care law, and Cruz would repeal it. None of this was shocking to audience members — we all just wanted the chance to see the two on stage.
Immigration rounded out Smith’s interview with the two politicos. Castro believes “comprehensive immigration reform” is a must for the next administration. Cruz, however, said “immigration is an issue that I think sadly neither party is serious about; both are demagoguing on the issue.”
The fact that auditorium seats were filled by 8 a.m. and dozens of people stood along the walls of the room just to hear these two men engage with one another speaks volumes to their rising stardom. After the interview, audience members whipped out iPhones and took photos of Castro, asked him to sign festival programs and ogled at his dreamy good looks. Cruz, too, hung around to shake hands and continue conversations with festival attendees.
If these two represent the future of Texas, it will be an interesting one. Let’s just make sure we bring Texas into the conversation.