As of this writing, we know the fertilizer explosion in West, Texas killed at least 14 residents and injured 200 others with many still missing. "Your heart weeps for their suffering," said Sen. Ted Cruz, who toured the disaster area on Friday with Sen. John Cornyn. It feels wrong to talk politics when they're still looking for bodies, but a respectful silence would only reward Cruz and Cornyn for their putrid hypocrisy.
Sometimes the truth overrides good manners, even in a nice place like West, which has a special place in the heart of anyone who's made the otherwise dreary drive on IH-35 between Austin and Dallas and pulled off at exit 253 to get a sweet, chewy kolache at the Czech Stop, perhaps the best-reviewed convenience store in Texas on Yelp. When news filtered in about the explosion late Wednesday night, every one I know had the same question: Is the Czech Stop still standing?
It was, and it stayed open all night and ever since to serve food for the first responders, and we love them for it. So when Cruz wears his weeping heart on his sleeve or Cornyn worries about the 60 people unaccounted for, even Texas liberals grant them the sincerity of their emotions because we're right there with them.
But it was what Cruz said yesterday in Washington before he decided to visit West that deserves condemnation: "It's truly horrific and we are working to ensure that all available resources are marshaled to deal with the horrific loss of life and suffering that we've seen," he said.
The Ted Cruz who promised to get federal help for West is the same guy who voted three times against federal Sandy aid and blamed it all on pork, though Politifact called that a lie.
"Senator Cruz promised the voters of Texas he would take principled stands when it comes to fiscal responsibility and protecting America's sovereignty," said his spokesman. But it's a lot easier to take principled stands when your heart only weeps for people who can vote for you. Congratulations, Ted. You're a real Washington politician now.
Cornyn practices a more dignified denomination of hypocrisy. If Cruz is a Pentecostal politician, Cornyn's a Methodist, but it's all still the same situational ethics. Cornyn's another one of the upstanding Republicans who voted against Sandy aid after requesting federal disaster aid for their own states.
In 2009, Cornyn got the USDA to give Texas agriculture disaster relief when the hottest summer in recorded history turned Texas into a Dust Bowl sequel. Instead of expressing gratitude, however, Cornyn issued a petulant press release tweaking the Obama administration for not hopping to it sooner.
"While this is certainly overdue, seeing as it was signed into law more than a year ago, it will be welcome news to the Texas farmers and ranchers who have suffered through this year's devastating drought - the worst some parts of Texas have seen in 50 years," said Cornyn.
The drought continued and contributed to the spate of wildfires Texas suffered in 2011 when 19,000 fires burned more than 3.5 million acres of land. Cornyn again reached his hand out for a handout, his manners being slightly improved: "We ask that this be done now without delay," he said.
Much as we like to think everything's bigger in Texas, Cruz and Cornyn might not be the biggest hypocrites in the Senate. That honor should go to New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte and Pennsylvania's Patrick Toomey, both Republicans, who each requested federal Sandy aid for their states before voting against the Sandy aid legislation.
And it's almost reassuring to know that Cornyn engages in rank hypocrisy, indicating as it does evidence of brain activity behind his untroubled visage. If Cornyn started acting like a man with a conscience, we'd worry. Cornyn seems perfectly suited to compiling a doctrinaire Republican voting record without going to the effort of convincing us that he means it. No snake handler, that one.
But Cruz was supposed to be the one who believed all this stuff, the one whom the political winds couldn't turn. Maybe he saw the devastation and realized they needed help, politics be damned. Or maybe he's just figured out this is how politics works.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com  and on Twitter @JasStanford.