Are Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas – for all practical purposes, the last two candidates standing in the Republican presidential nomination demolition derby – really the best the GOP could do?
The party of Lincoln couldn’t find someone – anyone – better than two guys who trade shots at and throw hissy fits about how their wives look? The political party that saw this nation through the Civil War couldn’t find someone other than two candidates who never found a cesspool they didn’t want to dive into?
This squabble between Trump and Cruz might be comic if it weren’t so pathetic.
It began when an anti-Trump super political action committee ran an ad that drew from an old photo shoot of the billionaire’s wife Melania. In the photo, Mrs. Trump wore little other than her smile.
The ad was an unsubtle attempt to do two things.
The first was to suggest, to use an old-fashioned term, that Melania Trump was a woman of loose morals.
The second goal was to get under The Donald’s notoriously thin skin.
Cruz said he had nothing to do with the ad – which may have been true, at least on the surface – but he didn’t exactly disavow or condemn it, either.
Trump reacted in Trumpian fashion. He threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife, Heidi. Cruz responded to that by calling Trump “a coward” for attacking a woman. Trump spat back with a post that featured an unflattering photograph of Heidi Cruz set beside a glamor shot of Melania Trump and the statement that a picture says a thousand words. Cruz returned that shot by adding “sniveling” to his previous “coward” reference.
All of this, mind you, took place while the nation of Belgium and much of Europe still was reeling from the terrorist attacks at the Brussels airport. As families from several nations – including the United States – prepared to bury their loved ones and as the world mourned, two men who aspire to lead the free world engaged in a spat that likely would embarrass any self-respecting sixth-grade boy.
When the bombs went off in Brussels, both Cruz and Trump hurried to attack both President Barack Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – the likely Democratic presidential nominee – for not responding to terrorist threats with appropriate seriousness and focus.
But within hours of both the murders in Belgium – and their statements criticizing their political opponents for not having a mature appreciation of the dangers relating to terrorism – Trump and Cruz were acting like 12-year-old boys taunting each other to prove to their puppy-love crushes that they were tough, tough guys.
The irony of the moment likely was lost on Cruz and Trump, but it was instructive for many of the rest of us.
If the attack in Belgium demonstrates anything, it is that the world must have serious and thoughtful leadership if we are to wend our way through this particularly tricky patch of human history. We need leaders who have the discipline to stay on task – to not be diverted or misdirected by provocations or deliberate distractions. We need leaders who are smart enough not to rise to the bait.
And we need a president who understands the responsibilities associated with the job and treats the office with dignity.
Perhaps there were presidential candidates in the Republican Party who fit that bill – Ohio Gov. John Kasich or U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, come to mind – but somehow they got beat by Cruz and Trump, each of whom has the emotional maturity and personal discipline of a rabid puppy.
People are dying in a dangerous world and these two would-be leaders can’t find anything better to do than taunt each other over Twitter. Terror stalks the globe and the two leading candidates for the presidential nomination of a great political party spit and snarl at each other like school boys.
This is the best the GOP has?