As a rule, it’s always best to treat politicians’ family members as off-limits. Candidates and elected officials invite public scrutiny when they choose to enter the political arena, but their kids, spouses, parents, and siblings do not. So long as they’re private citizens, they deserve to be left alone, regardless of their famous relatives.
But once in a great while, there are notable – and justifiable – exceptions.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, appears to be gearing up for a presidential campaign. It’s interesting, then, that his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), has become a 9/11 truther conspiracy theorist – a line he’s begun pushing with increasing enthusiasm. (You can almost hear the senator saying, “Dad, you’re embarrassing me!”)
And then there’s Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) father, Rafael Cruz. Andrew Kaczynski reported this week:
The father of Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said black people “need to be educated” about Democrats, so that they will vote Republican. Rafael Cruz, who made the comments at the Western Williamson Republican Club’s August meeting, added “the average black does not” understand that the minimum wage is bad.
The elder Cruz specifically said, “If we increase the minimum wage, black unemployment will skyrocket.” He added that Jason Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, “understands it, but the average black does not.”
As a substantive matter, all of this is ridiculous. What’s more, any right-wing figure giving lectures on what “the average black” does or does not understand is asking for trouble.
But as a matter of electoral politics, it also stands to reason that Ted Cruz is probably wondering right about now whether he can buy a one-way ticket for his dad to visit some far-away location until 2017.
Danny Vinik’s take on this rings true.
Here’s some advice for Senator Ted Cruz: When the presidential election heats up next year, keep your dad away from the media. In fact, keep him away from your campaign altogether. He’s bound to make impolitic comments that force you to you either denounce his position or stand by him and watch your poll numbers tank. […]Rafael has a knack for saying crazy things…. So far, that hasn’t put Ted in that tough of a situation. That’s going to change. If he runs for president and Rafael Cruz continues to stump for his son, the younger Cruz will have to answer for his dad comments. Does he really want to explain why the “average black” doesn’t understand the minimum wage?
And what about the “family members are off limits” rule? That’s still a sound policy, but Rafael Cruz doesn’t want to be a private citizen, free of public scrutiny – he wants to be a prominent far-right voice, giving strange speeches to conservative audiences. The same is generally true of Rand Paul – Ron Paul isn’t exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to maintaining a public persona.
It’s a dynamic worth watching as the Republicans senators move forward with their national plans.