Politicians hoping to avoid mockery and criticism are in the wrong line of work. Once you enter the arena, you can safely assume that you'll be the subject of jokes and ridicule, without much regard for fairness. It just comes with the territory.
But basic human dignity requires some sense of limits. It's a shame Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) temporarily forgot this simple norm last night.
Campaigning in Michigan, the right-wing senator told an audience:
"Vice President Joe Biden. You know the nice thing? You don't need a punch line. "I promise you it works: the next party you're at, just walk up to someone, say, 'Vice President Joe Biden,' and just close your mouth. They will crack up laughing."
The Republicans in attendance applauded their approval.
The Detroit News' Chad Livengood asked Cruz after his remarks about the propriety of taking rhetorical shots at Biden, so soon after Beau Biden's death, and Cruz simply walked away without answering.
That's very likely because there was no good answer. Beau Biden died of brain cancer at age 46 just five days ago. His funeral is this weekend. Cruz knows this, but he's so accustomed to taking cheap shots at Biden in his standard stump speech, there was no little voice in his head telling him, "Maybe this is the wrong time to publicly mock a grieving vice president."
Soon after, Cruz's posture changed. As msnbc's David Taintor noted last night, the Texas Republican issued a statement acknowledging, "It was a mistake to use an old joke about Joe Biden during his time of grief, and I sincerely apologize. The loss of his son is heartbreaking and tragic, and our prayers are very much with the Vice President and his family."
An American Bridge tracker caught both Cruz's remarks and his willingness to walk away from a question about the propriety of his joke.