Just when it seemed that the Republican presidential race couldn’t get any less edifying, Donald Trump went after Heidi Cruz and the National Enquirer entered the fray.
The latest flap began when an anti-Trump super PAC used a nude photo from a Melania Trump modeling shoot in an ad meant to warn Utah voters off making her first lady. The ad was tasteless (and unnecessary in a state that Ted Cruz was about to win with nearly 70 percent of the vote). Trump would have been justified in strongly objecting to it. Instead, he falsely insisted that Ted Cruz was behind the ad and, true to his bullying style, threatened to reveal damaging information about Heidi Cruz. This alone would have marked a new low — has a presidential candidate ever threatened a rival’s spouse before? — but Trump followed it up with a re-tweet of an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz juxtaposed with a flattering image of his wife. So Trump had immediately scraped an even lower low.
Such is Trump’s boundless capacity to make everything he touches in this race reek of the gutter. Much of the media coverage played the controversy as if Cruz and Trump were equally responsible for it, when Cruz acted completely honorably. He had nothing to do with the super-PAC ad and denounced it. He said only complimentary things about Melania and defended Heidi, who is extremely accomplished herself (and, if we may add — lovely). Ted Cruz deserves great credit for trying to maintain his dignity, and that of his party, in a contest that Donald Trump has made the political equivalent of a Bravo reality show.
The National Enquirer piled on by publishing wild innuendo alleging multiple Cruz affairs. There is no direct evidence that Trump was responsible for the so-called report, but he is friends with the head of the supermarket tabloid, and the piece quoted Trump’s bottom-dwelling political associate Roger Stone, who imagines himself a Machiavelli of political dirty tricks. Mustering all his disingenuousness, Trump said he hoped the story wasn’t true, while noting that some past National Enquirer reports have been borne out (although most of what it publishes is self-evidently trash). Trump said this even though his own spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, is one of the women alleged to have had an affair with Cruz. For her part, Pierson denied the report, but said she spoke only for herself, not the other women alluded to — a response just as classy as anyone who has seen Pierson’s absurd defenses of her boss on TV would expect.
Cruz vehemently denied the National Enquirer report with the righteous indignation of a man who can’t believe that this is what the presidential race has come to.
But Republicans should get used to it. There will, at the very least, be weeks more of this. And if Trump is its nominee, the GOP will be associated with swinish politics all the way to Election Day, if not beyond.