At a time when national security and the threat of terrorism should be at the forefront of political conversation, the GOP primary has found a new low.
While the Republican race has already been heavily personal in nature, a new confrontation this week between Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz put the spotlight on the candidates’ wives.
The full-fledged brawl of words was instigated by, would you believe it, a Donald Trump tweet last Tuesday evening.
Responding to an anti-Trump Facebook ad in Utah portraying his wife Melania in the nude, the GOP front-runner tweeted: “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a GQ shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”
Cruz tweeted back calling Trump a “coward” and in savvy Twitter style finished off his tweet with “#classless.”
The ad was run by the Make America Awesome super PAC. Ted Cruz, the so-called establishment’s last stand against Trump, found himself embroiled in a true Trump media joust.
Trump got nasty on Twitter with unfavorable photos of Heidi Cruz next to Melania Trump, clearly comparing the two women’s looks. In a campaign mired in chauvinist rhetoric, some might find this to be in line with previous Trump profligacy.
The TV show celebrity turned politician didn’t stop there. The National Enquirer published a flimsy story about Ted Cruz potentially having past extramarital affairs. Trump’s involvement in the story has been strongly suggested, and as Chuck Todd said on “Meet the Press” over the weekend: “There’s more evidence that ties Trump to planting this story than there is to the story itself tying anything to Cruz.”
It is simply demoralizing that in a week that should have focused on national security and the threat of terrorism (and if the candidates would be prepared to deal with such threats on day one in the White House), the media was easily steered off course by Donald Trump.
The effect on Cruz has been noticeable. He is sounding more anxious; it looks like Trump may be finally getting under his skin, as he has with anyone else who tried to get in his way.
“He is emotional, he’s mad, and he’s showing it,” Hallie Jackson of NBC said of Ted Cruz over the weekend. In one of the more incensed attacks from Ted Cruz this entire cycle he addressed Donald Trump directly: “You’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone.”
We are experiencing the degeneration of longstanding rules of political etiquette. As Jessica Valenti of The Guardian put it: “Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have gone full caveman.”
An important factor, not addressed here, will be how the largest voter demographic, women, respond in a general election to the GOP nominee. Continuous swipes at women, from their looks to slams at Planned Parenthood, will surely hurt Republican chances come November.