By any fair metric, Donald Trump is well positioned to win the Republicans’ presidential nomination, and is already starting to shift his focus to the general election. But to think that the GOP frontrunner is finished complaining about his intra-party rival is to make a mistake.
Take this morning, for example, when Trump, repeating a story he saw in a tabloid, alleged that Ted Cruz’s father was seen palling around with Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. Politico reported this morning:
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being – you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said Tuesday during a phone interview with Fox News. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”“I mean, what was he doing – what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?” Trump continued. “It’s horrible.”
No, really, that’s what he said.
In keeping with his m.o., Trump’s odd broadside against his rival’s father comes on the heels of Rafael Cruz, a prominent surrogate for his son’s campaign, telling conservatives that a Trump presidency could lead to “the destruction of America.”
Evidently, Trump heard this and decided to respond with a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.
For what it’s worth, there’s no real reason to actually believe the conspiracy theory, but in the mind of Donald Trump, there’s little relationship between evidence and wild-eyed theories that he’s inclined to embrace and disseminate with great enthusiasm.
Remember this New York Times report from two months ago?
Mr. Trump, unlike most presidential candidates, does not shrink from addressing, and in some ways legitimizing, the wildest of hypotheticals. He has declared on a presidential debate stage that he knew a 2-year-old who immediately developed autism from a vaccination. He has appeared on the radio show of the noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has suggested that the government played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. He has said on Twitter that President Obama might have attended Justice Scalia’s funeral had it been held at a mosque, feeding into the pervasive rumor that the Christian president is actually a Muslim. And he shared with a rally crowd a dramatic story of a United States general executing Muslim insurgents with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, which has been dismissed as an Internet rumor.Part hair-salon gossip, part purveyor of forwarded conspiracy emails, Mr. Trump has exploited the news cycles of an Internet era in which rumors explode like fireworks and often take a long time to burn out. Mr. Trump’s willingness to touch on what passes for fact on fringe websites puts him in a unique class for a national major party front-runner.
Which is an exceedingly polite way of saying leading candidates for the nation’s highest office usually aren’t quite this ridiculous.
The aforementioned examples are really just a sampling. Trump has also lent credence to the theory that Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered; we don’t yet know who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks; and the “birther” garbage about President Obama, by some measures Trump’s personal favorite.
The broader question that’s tougher to answer: is Trump doing well in the Republican race despite his ludicrous conspiracy theories or because of them?