On a break during a business trip to Washington last year, David Panton hailed a cab to take him to the Capitol. He told the driver he was going to see the Texas senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
“He’s racist,” the cabdriver replied, according to Mr. Panton.
Mr. Panton, taken aback, informed his driver that Mr. Cruz had a bust of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the right side of his desk, that he was the only senator to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela and that he had a “black guy” as a college roommate and best man at his wedding.
“I don’t believe that,” the cabby said, as Mr. Panton tells it.
“Well,” Mr. Panton replied, “you’re talking to him.”
But through it all, he could depend on Mr. Panton — his former roommate, debate teammate, business partner and political booster — as a source of unconditional support, the guy who extends a hand when the whole world seems to offer a stiff-arm.
They both picked subjects for their senior theses while still freshmen. Mr. Cruz wrote about the Constitution’s Ninth and 10th Amendments, Mr. Panton about a Jamaican politician. They were best known around campus, and beyond, as debate partners. When Mr. Cruz was elected president of the Clio, or conservative side, of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, the umbrella group for all of the school’s debating activities, Mr. Panton was his whip. Mr. Panton continued on to be a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and joined Mr. Cruz at Harvard Law School, where Mr. Panton, like Barack Obama before him, became president of the Harvard Law Review.
Former debate team members said Mr. Panton used to duck out of pictures if he determined them to be potentially damaging to his chances of becoming prime minister of Jamaica.
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