Trump and Cruz are down in the mud and the blood and the beer, punching and kicking and clawing and generally trying to bite each other’s nuts off.
All in all a bold and brassy show (to borrow a phrase from Senator Ted’s fellow Texan, Kinky Friedman).
OK, lets start by reviewing how it came to this.
Back in June when Trump declared his candidacy and started talking trash to power — and to anyone else within earshot — the nation’s self-appointed arbiters of political correctness in the media started piling on, as did most of the 15 other Republican presidential candidates.
And just as quickly the latter worthies came sailing off into a leisurely death spiral in the polls.
Almost alone Cruz refrained, and was largely spared The Wrath of Trump. This left Cruz, who resonated with many of the same voters as Trump, free to do his own thing — which was to build a formidable grassroots organization in Iowa that, starting in December, allowed him to top Trump in a number of polls there.
That was intolerable for Trump, since a big part of his campaign pitch was that he was a winner and had the polls to prove it.
So Trump started sniping at Cruz.
Trump started with a shot at Cruz’s evangelical bonafides — evangelicals are a big part of the Republican base in Iowa — but it fell flat. Cruz is the son of a preacher, for god’s sake.
So on Jan. 6, Trump tried a nastier line of attack. He questioned Cruz’s eligibility to run for President on grounds that Cruz had been born in Canada and therefore he failed to meet the Constitutional requirement that the President be a “natural born citizen.”
Cruz initially tried to laugh it off — he tweeted a link to the video clip from the old Happy Days show of Fonzie jumping the shark — but Trump doubled down on the charge. He also began playing “Born in the USA” at his rallies.
So at the Republican debate last Thursday (Jan. 14) Cruz cut Trump a second asshole over the issue — with surgical precision. He also launched an attack of his own on Trump, charging that he had “New York values.”
So who’s gonna’ win the cage match? I have a hunch Cruz is.
Trump’s challenge to Cruz’s presidential eligibility has about as much legal merit as his birther challenge to Obama’s eligibility.
Americans born abroad to U.S. parents are natural born citizens in the eyes of U.S. law. How else do you explain the fact that they are not required to go through a naturalization process — which is the only thing that distinguishes a naturalized citizen from a natural born one?
There have been at least seven candidates for president (including two presidents, Chester Arthur and Obama) whose eligibility for the office has been challenged on grounds that they were not natural born. None of the challenges has ever made it out of the lower courts.
If Cruz is not a natural-born citizen, neither are tens of thousands of Americans born to the families of U.S. servicemen, diplomats, CIA officers, foreign aid workers, missionaries and corporate employees while they were posted abroad. In putting a question mark over Cruz’s citizenship, Trump is putting one over theirs as well.
As for Cruz’s accusation that Trump held “New York values” — it was an obvious innuendo intended to paint Trump as a closet liberal. And during the debate Trump had a terrific riposte to it — he played the 9/11 card, pointing to the gallantry of New York City’s firemen, police and first responders as examples of New York values in action. He also called Cruz’s ploy “very insulting,” which is amusing coming from a candidate whose campaign is built around the art of the insult.
Trump’s riposte could have fatally wounded Cruz had things ended with Cruz offering an abject apology, as Trump and a number of others, including New York Governor Andrew Cuono, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlassio and Hillary Clinton demanded.
But Cruz, like Trump, is a no apologies sort of guy, and the day after the debate he doubled down on the New York values narrative with a scathing faux apology that transformed the innuendo into an explicit laundry list of New York political values that conservative Republicans (the folks who will pick the candidate this cycle) find offensive, including gun control, abortion, gay marriage, the ban on fracking, anti-cop feeling, high taxes and over-regulation of small business.
And then to prove Trump had New York values, he also produced videos of Trump singing the praises of Hillary Clinton and supporting partial birth abortion and gay rights because “I’ve lived in New York City, in Manhattan, all my life, so my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa.”
By last Monday, Cruz’s assault left Trump howling like a stuck pig, tweeting like a whirling Dervish and quoting scripture like Elmer Gantry unto evangelicals — while the New York media elite, of all people, rushed to defend him.
What Cruz has done, in short, is manage to inject Trump’s past support of liberal causes into the campaign in ways that can’t be ignored and may well stick, which no other candidate has been able to do up to now. Whether that will do him any good remains to be seen. But he is the first candidate who has struck at Trump and succeeded in drawing blood.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.