Five days after Beau Biden’s death, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) appeared at a Michigan fundraiser where he publicly mocked Vice President Biden. A reporter for the Detroit News asked Cruz after his remarks about the propriety of taking rhetorical shots at Biden, so soon after his son’ death, and Cruz simply walked away without answering.
A day later, the far-right senator realized he was wrong. “It was a mistake to use an old joke about Joe Biden during his time of grief, and I sincerely apologize,” Cruz said in a statement.
It was, of course, the right decision. Politics can get rough, but basic human dignity requires at least some sense of limits.
Two months later, however, here we are again. NBC News reported from the Iowa State Fair:
In his “soapbox” remarks at the Iowa State Fair on Friday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz criticized Jimmy Carter’s presidency - a day after Carter’s moving public admission about his cancer.“I think where we are today is very, very much like the late 1970’s. I think the parallels between this administration and the Carter administration are uncanny, same failed domestic policy, same misery, stagnation and malaise, same feckless and naive foreign policy. In fact, the exact same countries, Russia and Iran, openly laughing at and mocking the president of the United States.”
On a substantive note, Cruz’s rhetoric is plainly ridiculous and deeply at odds with reality. Even he ought to know better.
But even putting facts and pesky policy details aside, it was literally yesterday when former President Jimmy Carter, now 90, spoke publicly about cancer spreading to his brain and the medical treatment he’s receiving.
Cruz couldn’t take cheap shots at the ailing former president some other time?
What I suspect happens is that Cruz, like every other presidential candidate in both parties, has standard remarks, well memorized and repeated daily, that don’t change. The far-right Texan enjoys ridiculing Joe Biden, so he ridicules Joe Biden all the time, without stopping to think about the vice president mourning over his son’s passing.
The GOP senator takes pleasure in comparing President Obama’s tenure to the late 1970s, so he does so every day, even though it makes no sense, and even though it involves bashing Carter the day after his cancer announcement.
In other words, in my heart of hearts, I rather doubt it’s overtly deliberate. It seems very hard to believe Cruz, as ugly as his politics may get, specifically deciding to go after the former president the day after the cancer news. More likely, this is just routine rhetoric that the Republican candidate repeats without thinking.
But maybe that’s not a good thing. Perhaps these incidents should serve as a reminder to Cruz that context and circumstances matter, and there’s nothing wrong with politicians adjusting stump speeches in response current events.