In a foreshadowing of what Hillary Clinton can expect thrown at her in this fall’s general election, Donald Trump yesterday threatened to expose a deep dark secret about Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi.
What raised Trump’s ire was a new ad from an anti-Trump Super PAC that included a photo of Trump’s wife Melania posing nude.
Back in 2000, Melania, a model, had posed for GQ in a James-Bond-esque nude photo shoot.
Trump last night blamed the ad on Cruz, and then went further — in classic Trump style, or lack thereof, threatening to attack Cruz’s wife.
Cruz then denied it, and called Trump a “classless coward.”
While Trump is widely disliked by the public at large — his unfavorable rating is at a record 61%, and rising (see below) — he still poses a unique challenge to Hillary Clinton, in that Trump is willing to say things, especially sexist things, that other candidates wouldn’t dare. And while the public at large won’t be thrilled with such attacks, the attacks themselves are still wildcards — they’re things so outlandish that candidates don’t usually prepare for them, so it’s not entirely clearly how a candidate caught so off-guard will respond.
In Hillary Clinton’s case, Trump will likely attack her for remaining married to her husband, the former president. In January of this year, Trump said that attacking Secretary Clinton for her husband’s peccadilloes was “fair game” because Bill Clinton is campaigning for his wife.
And while it’s true that Bill is campaigning for Hillary, all spouses campaign on behalf of their husbands or wives. So, if it’s fair game to talk about Bill’s private life, then Trump must think it’s fair game to talk about Melania’s nude photo spread — and to investigate her sex life, and the proclivities of Trump’s previous wives as well (he’s been married three times).
In fact, none of this tells us anything about the job the candidate might do in office.
What’s motivating Trump in all of this isn’t simply retaliation for attacks on Melania. Trump has a growing record of tolerating intolerance, especially as it concerns women.
In just the past week, we saw Trump cyber-stalking Fox News personality Megyn Kelly. Things got so bad that Fox News publicly called Trump out for “sexism.”
We also saw Trump’s boorish behavior at an editorial board meeting at the Washington Post, where a young female reporter asked Trump a policy question, and he told her she was “beautiful.”
Then there’s the case of Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
In addition to fending off accusations of having assaulted conservative reporter Michelle Fields at a Trump event, and grabbing a male protester at a second event, Lewandowski now faces new charges, which he denies, of making numerous sexually inappropriate comments to women with whom he worked, including reporters on the campaign trail.
The charges came in a long story this week from Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins and Rosie Gray. The Trump campaigns denies the accusations, and is now threatening to sue Buzzfeed, while the publication stands by its story.
Ironically, one of Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton is that she allegedly “enabled” her husband, and thus Hillary is “bad for women.” (A rather ridiculous claim.) But what of Trump-the-enabler? We’ve seen how Donald Trump has coyly embraced the violence at this own campaign events, by first denying it even existed, then claiming it was the fault of Democratic agitators who had it coming — all the while, Trump whips up his supporters even more.
And we’ve seen how, after being called out on his sexist treatment of Megyn Kelly, Trump doubled down and issued even more tweets attacking the Fox reporter.
And finally, there’s Lewandowksi. Any other campaign would have been terribly concerned about repeated accusations of aggressive physical behavior by its campaign manager, especially when that behavior involves women.
Not Donald Trump.
While Lewandowski was facing many of these accusations, Trump put the embattled campaign manager front and center on stage with him at this big event in Florida, as if to say, “atta boy.”
Now who’s the enabler?