Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ted Cruz: Not missing any opportunity to miss an opportunity

At the end of this summary explanation of our voyeuristic fascination with the sex lives of politicians comes a challenging question: what if Ted Cruz is innocent?

If he's innocent, then the National Enquirer has printed factually false information with the clear intent of defaming him. If he is innocent then the National Enquirer owes him both an apology and significant monetary damages.

But regardless of whether he's innocent of adultery or not, what he is guilty of is stupidity. Regardless of whether the National Enquirer story is true or not, it was both foolish and clumsy to give the story a life of its own by wrapping it up in its own anti-Trump packaging. By making the story part of the larger campaign rhetoric between him and Donald Trump, Cruz made a discussion of his private life a legitimate public interest.

Back in 2008, the New York Times ran a poorly sourced story hinting at an affair between Presidential contender John McCain and a Washington lobbyist. McCain issued a simple, terse, and swift denial of the allegation, and thereafter refused to comment further. The story went nowhere fast, because without ongoing response by McCain the story had no staying power.  

This is the second time in as many weeks that Cruz has missed an opportunity to show his statesmanlike side. The first was his failure to come out swiftly in condemnation of Liz Mair's ugly implication that Melania Trump did not deserve to be First Lady; he could have seized that moment to rise above politics and defend the larger political principle that wives should be off limits, period. The National Enquirer piece likewise was a chance for him to show a cool head under fire, and a determination to press ahead with his agenda, and not get moved off message by salacious gossip. 

We should not care overmuch if Ted Cruz has committed adultery. We should, however, care about how Ted Cruz handles a crisis, be it personal or political--and so far, he handles crises very badly.