The anti-Cruz hype is that nobody likes him, everybody hates him, he has no friends.

The anti-Republican hype is that they’re racist bigots.

Here’s a story that could kill (or at least slightly injure) those two birds with one stone: the tale of Ted Cruz’s best friend in college, law school, and beyond, David Panton.

I first became aware of Panton on reading about this interview with Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz, which is fascinating in its own right:

Alan Dershowitz…confirmed for Megyn Kelly during an appearance on Tuesday’s Kelly File that Ted Cruz was one of the smartest students he ever had. Dershowitz said teachers love to be challenged. And Cruz disagreed with everything he said and made such brilliant arguments that Dershowitz never had to play the devil’s advocate.

…He also told Kelly that Cruz’s politics were the opposite of Dershowitz’, but they were clear, principled, unwavering, and very intelligently presented.

Here’s how Dershowitz brought up the topic of Cruz’s friendship with Panton:

[Cruz] had been a champion debater at Princeton and he and his Princeton roommate sat next to each other, and he was an African-American, a black kid from Jamaica, two of the most brilliant guys at Harvard Law school. And they were inseparable. And they had a team tag match. One guy finished, the other guy would raise his hand.

Here’s a photo from way back when:

panton

This was not just a passing thing or a token friendship, either; it seems like the real deal. The two have remained friends to the present day:

David Panton and Ted Cruz have been friends for the last 25 years, they attended one of the most prestigious universities at young ages, 17 and 20, and have since maintained a bond. Ted was like a lightning rod for controversy and a stickler for process and was disliked by many of his classmates until his friendship with the popular and extremely likeable Jamaican.

They became debate partners and roommates for the rest of their time at Princeton and continued when they went to Harvard Law School, winning the North American Championship in 1992 and becoming the top two debaters in the country. They both participated in political studies. Resulting from their close friendship, they became business partners. Cruz has made numerous visits to the island. Panton became Cruz’s best man at his wedding, whilst Cruz became godfather to Panton’s son with Lisa Hanna.

Note that “popular and extremely likeable” description of Panton. Interesting that he chose Cruz to be so close to. Here’s some more about Panton, who sounds like a pretty extraordinary person:

His brilliance as a Rhodes Scholar, which he received a doctorate in management studies from Oxford University, the youngest of his undergrad class, and among the youngest holders of a PhD from Oxford. He must be in the top 20 most brilliant Jamaican of all times, maybe not too far for the legendary Monsignor Wilson, who ranked sixth in the world in the 60s for brilliance. At Harvard Law School he became one of two black presidents in the history of Harvard Law Review, the other being President Obama.

There’s much more here. An excerpt:

The two were teenagers when they first met, assigned to live in the same freshman dorm at Princeton. They were an “unlikely couple,” Panton said last year to a radio station in Atlanta, where he now lives. Cruz was a deeply conservative Hispanic from a poor background while Panton, who is black, hailed from the upper crust of Jamaican society, where his father ran one of the island’s largest companies.

“Coming from a small school in a small town in Jamaica, I was young and felt both academically and culturally overwhelmed,” Panton told The Washington Post. “Ted was extremely pleasant and friendly and expressed genuine interest in my background.”

Cruz and Panton shared the love of a good argument and decided together to join Princeton’s competitive debate team, he said. Some classmates were baffled by the relationship between two people with seemingly opposite personalities. Panton, with his lilting Jamaican accent, exuded charm and made friends easily. Cruz was combative, developed few friendships and earned some lifelong enemies…

Panton said that over movies, video games and basketball, he saw another side of Cruz. “I am always surprised and perplexed by those who said they did not like Ted,” he said…

When Panton was elected to become the head of the Harvard Law Review, the first person he called was—Ted Cruz.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]