March madness: Trump and Cruz weaponize the wives

     From left: Heidi Cruz, wife of Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    From left: Heidi Cruz, wife of Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    Remember how the Republicans went bat-crazy because Barack Obama spent 55 seconds dancing the tango instead of rushing home to Do Something about Brussels? Despite the fact that he has great communications gear at his fingertips 24/7?

    They were implying that a Republican president would be better than Obama in a crisis. But the only way to test that theory is to scrutinze the top contenders, to delve into their post-Brussels dialogue, to track their enlightened exchanges on issues of national security, to parse their words of wisdom. In the aftermath of Brussels, they had four full days to engage in that fashion. We shall begin with Ted Cruz.

    “Let me be clear: Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.”

    Yup, that’s what Cruz said on Friday. Not very presidential, way worse than a tango. But surely his main opponent, Donald Trump, did better than that.

    “There are things about Heidi that I don’t want to talk about. You could look, but I don’t want to talk about them.”

    Yup, that’s what Trump said yesterday, insinuating anew about Mrs. Cruz — in retaliation for what he thinks was Cruz’s social media assault last week on Mrs. Trump. All this, in the wake of a National Enquirer report which alleges that a sex-crazed Cruz has repeatedly made a chump of Mrs. Cruz — which prompted Cruz to blame the tabloid’s “made up lies” on Trump; which prompted Cruz to deny any desire to canoodle with Trump. That remark deserves some context — the rat copulation thing dates back to a word coined during Watergate — but hey, why bother.

    How far this party has fallen these last 40 years. Can you imagine President Gerald Ford and challenger Ronald Reagan talking like that in 1976, as they battled all the way to the GOP convention? Reagan: “I could tell ya things about Jerky Jerry’s wife, Betty, like what a lush she is, but I don’t wanna talk about it.” Ford: “I got the hotter wife because Nancy, the B-movie actress, is a cold fish.”

    But seriously, what is up with this wife thing? I had mistakenly assumed that the Republican race plummeted to its nadir several weeks ago when the topic was penis size. But apparently there is no rhetorical floor. Even at an opportune moment when voters would’ve benefited from hearing substantive alternatives to Hillary Clinton’s Wednesday counterterrorism speech, Trump and Cruz battled for primal male superiority. The message was fit for etching on a cave wall:

    Me Got Best Woman

    There’s stuff here that tops anything The Onion could ever dream up. A pro-Cruz super PAC ran a Facebook ad showing a pic of Trump’s wife Melania flashing bare tush during her modeling era (Trump said yesterday that, “from what I hear,” Cruz “bought the cover shoot” and fed it to the super PAC; Cruz says no); some social media troll tweeted side-by-side pix of Heidi and Melania, to show that Melania was hotter, and Trump passed it along to his minions (“It was a retweet that somebody sent to me”); the National Enquirer says that Cruz had extramarital affairs with five women (which, if true, prompts us to ask, “Really, ladies? Ted Cruz?”), and Cruz blames it on “Trump and his henchmen,” but Trump says he “had nothing to do with it,” even though it’s fact that he’s tight with the Enquirer CEO. Whose surname, I kid you not, is Pecker.

    @Don_Vito_08: “A picture is worth a thousand words” @realDonaldTrump #LyingTed #NeverCruz @MELANIATRUMP pic.twitter.com/5bvVEwMVF8

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2016

    Donald, real men don’t attack women. Your wife is lovely, and Heidi is the love of my life. https://t.co/pprXhIMzUT

    — Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 24, 2016

    “By the way,” Trump said of Cruz yesteday, “he’s the one who started it.” Which is the kind of crap that adolescents say while they’re whacking each other in the back seat of a car.

    But I was talking about the primal male thing, using wives as weapons. Are these candidates even dimly aware of the damage they’re doing to themselves with female voters? Trump circulates the Melania-is-hotter retweet to parade his allegedly superior male sexual bona fides — look what I got! — eliding the fact that Heidi is a career woman. Cruz allies (perhaps with help from Cruz) circulate the bare tush pic to suggest that Melania’s alleged lack of sexual propriety disqualifies her hubby from the White House — eliding the fact that Melania is a serious philanthropist who speaks five languages.

    Which brings us back to Obama. How fascinating it is that his approval rating has spiked in recent weeks. In the latest Gallup rolling average — conducted after his tango — 53 percent of Americans like the way he’s handling his job, with 44 percent in dissent. That’s his widest positive spread since the spring of 2013. In fact, he’s been solidly net positive all this month. We can speculate endlessly about why, but permit me to hazard an informed guess:

    The cratering Republican freak show is making him look better all the time.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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