It is a familiar theme now for Trump, claiming that we have got to keep out Muslims until we figure out what’s going on and how to fix it, and now, with Ted Cruz, the same: no Ted Cruz until we figure out for certain whether he’s an American.
“I say to Ted, as a Republican because I think it’s very important, you gotta get it straightened out.”
Cruz laughed off Trump’s claim that his old buddy is just trying to help him. And there is nothing at all surprising about this strategy. Conservative have employed it for decades. You don’t have to prove anything, which is the beauty of it: you just cast doubt.
This worked during the long war over the safety of tobacco use. They used it again with global warming. They employed it with Obama, not only with regards his citizenship but his religion.
And now Trump, arriving on a fertile field of Iowans’ doubt after an 11-day absence, is using it to good effect on Ted Cruz.
Trump made two appearances in Iowa yesterday, and speaking to a crowd in Clear Lake he said that Cruz cannot get away with claiming this is a “settled issue,” even though, really, it is.
“You can’t have a person running for office, even though Ted is very glib, and he goes out and says, ‘Well, I’m a natural born citizen.’ The point is, you’re not.”
So, of course, he’s telling Iowans, don’t waste a vote on a guy who might end up in court for years trying to prove he is actually an American citizen.
Trump did allow that his adversary John McCain is actually an American:
“The difference is his two parents were both in the military. What are you gonna do? Say, ‘Mom and dad, you should have taken me back home to be born, I can’t run for president?’ He was born in a military base, and I understand that.”
To a crowd in Ottumwa (you know, the home of M.A.S.H.’s Cpl. Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly), Trump repeated the familiar refrain that Cruz “has to straighten out his problems,” casting a doubt even more vague but for that reason more ominous, saying only that “we’ll discuss that later.”
Cruz was also in Iowa yesterday, and has been busing across the state for six days. While in Waverly said of Trump’s forays into birtherism,
“I recognize that there are candidates in the field that don’t want to talk about those issues, and they want to instead encourage the good people of the media to go down rabbit trails and engage in silly sideshows. I don’t think the American people are interested.”
Cruz ought to know. He does the same thing himself, avoiding substantive debate on the issues. It is ironic that he is now falling victim to his own tactics. Of course, he is a Republican, and Trump is a Republican, so none of it should come as any surprise.
Trump also invoked the wishy-washy ghost of Romneys past: This is the guy who used to love Hillary and her abilities to be commander-in-chief before he hated her, but rather than explain that discrepancy he turned a blind eye to hypocrisy and went after Cruz instead, accusing him of being against government subsidies for ethanol before he was for them.
“All of a sudden he was getting clobbered, and all of a sudden he said, ‘Ah, oh, I’m for ethanol.’ You can’t do that. You can’t do that with you know, three weeks to go, you’re not allowed to do that. So, nobody really believes it.”
What you said, Donald. We’ve been saying the same thing about you, and you just justified our concerns. Nobody really believes it.
Their complete disregard of the facts and refusal to talk about the issues in more than the vaguest of terms leave them both open to charges of posing as Republicans for laughs. They’re almost caricatures.
And to hear the anti-science Cruz claim that “facts matter” is too rich:
According to Trump, Cruz likes ethanol now because the oil companies are paying him to like ethanol. So Cruz said,
“It’s factually inaccurate that the oil company’s lobbyists are supporting me. The major oil companies and their lobbyists are not. They’re supporting other candidates in this race. Those are the facts, and facts matter.”
Since when? To either of you? Here they are, arguing over who’s lies to believe. If we could ship them both to Canada it would be great. But while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have clear differences of opinion on actual issues, these two will continue to squabble like little kids over nonsense.
Trump, of course, can’t launch a substantive attack on Cruz, which would focus on his religious extremism, because Trump wants those religious extremists in his camp, so he goes after his opponent’s citizenship instead.
And the mogul apparently thinks he won yesterday’s debate. He had so much fun denigrating Cruz, in fact, that he promises to come back Tuesday to afflict the people of Iowa with even more birtherism:
I want to thank the people of Iowa for an unbelievable day. The crowds were amazing. Will be back Tuesday!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2016
Cruz is telling Iowans Jesus will heal their pain, but I don’t think Jesus can save them from either Cruz or Trump. The Iowa caucuses are on February 1, and only that will end the bleeding.
For now, they (and you) can tune in today to Trump and Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, and Trump and Chris Wallace on Fox. Stay tuned.
Photo: Screen capture, CBS News.