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Can We Stop the Rubio-Cruz Mutually Assured Destruction?

Rick Tyler, the now-former Cruz campaign spokesman, is a good guy who, by his own admission, exercised very poor judgment in publicizing what turned out to be a false story about Marco Rubio.

The story, which contorted an incident caught on video, sounded kooky from the start: Rubio, while encountering Ted Cruz’s father and a Cruz staffer reading the Bible in a hotel lobby, purportedly said, “Got a good book there, not many answers in it.” Rubio is, by all accounts, a devout Christian and he has spoken eloquently about his faith during the campaign; if there were a report of his having made a statement so contradictory of his nature, it should have been quadruple-checked before anyone decided to go public with it. And even if verified, it would have been more sensible to think the remark a poor attempt at humor than a reflection of Rubio’s beliefs, so far better to ignore it as one of those dumb things exhausted people say in a tense situation.

But of course, Rubio did not say what Tyler reported; he said the opposite: “All the answers” are in the Bible.

As many have observed, this incident does not occur in a vacuum. I am a Cruz supporter, so it is perhaps no surprise that I think the two others that have gotten attention are much ado about nothing.

First, there was the Ben Carson episode in Iowa: As voters were getting set to caucus in Iowa, the Cruz campaign publicized a CNN report suggesting Dr. Carson was getting out of the race. The story was based on the peculiar decision by Carson to go home to Florida for a few days rather than continue his floundering campaign in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Carson, of course, did not get out of the race, though it was certainly reasonable to deduce (as the CNN correspondents did) that things were heading in that direction. Indeed, other candidates in the race who have announced they were leaving the trail to go home, have soon thereafter suspended their campaigns. In any event, the Cruz camp’s pouncing on the story had no material impact on the Iowa result. Carson’s poor outcome is the predictable effect of his bumbling campaign.

It bears noting, moreover, that Cruz has never said an unkind word about Carson, whom he has consistently treated with great respect. Donald Trump, by contrast, buffoonishly compared Carson to a “child molester” in commenting on what Carson described in his autobiography as the “pathological temper” he had to overcome. What’s more, Trump intimated that Carson lied about a stabbing incident also outlined in the book. Yet, Carson lets the Trump remarks roll off his back while carrying on as if Cruz – not Trump, not CNN, Cruz – just stole his favorite toy. Go figure.

The other brouhaha involves the Cruz campaign’s publication of a Photoshopped picture of Rubio shaking hands with President Obama in order to emphasize Rubio’s alliance with the president on trade promotion authority. This is the sort of caricature that political campaigns and political journals engage in all the time, and Cruz has been on the receiving end of his fair share.

Why a Photoshopped picture is somehow worse than a cartoon would have been is beyond me – but then again, to me, the whole thing seems moronic since (a) there are actual photos of Rubio and Obama shaking hands, so it’s not like a caricature was necessary to make the point; and (b) it’s not much of a point given that handshakes are indicative of civility, not political agreement. (For what it’s worth, I shook hands with President Clinton at a signing ceremony not long before I voted against him in 1996, and I was honored to do so. I shook hands with the radical lawyer Bill Kunstler almost every time I saw him in court. I would shake hands with President Obama if I were to encounter him and he offered me his hand. So what?) Since the kerfuffle is both routine and pointless, the hysterical reaction of the Rubio camp to the faux photo seems just as juvenile as the Cruz camp’s publication of it.