That's Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln looking on in disbelief at the mess Trump is making of the American presidential election. It's pretty funny, at first glance, but the problem with this cover is that the only thing many of those ex-presidents would find confusing about Trump is the television he's on.
Where to start? Teddy Roosevelt backed a racist imperial war and said white women using birth control were committing "race suicide" by turning their country over to less-fair-skinned hordes. FDR, the architect of Japanese internment, actually did the thing that people are calling Trump a fascist for defending—and kept the internment camps open long after they'd been deemed unnecessary in order to win a presidential election. I don't know what else to say about JFK other than that his personal life makes Trump look like Ned Flanders, and he started a land war in Asia we're still recovering from. George Washington owned people and bought an election by getting people drunk. All four were born into privilege. And Abe Lincoln—okay, let's not speak ill of the dead; that man slayed vampires.
The point here is that what is distasteful about Trump is not that he offends old-fashioned American values; Trump is distasteful because he taps into certain old-fashioned American values—nativism, brash tough talk, slow-burning authoritarianism; family dynasties—that have played a not-inconsequential role throughout our history.
The worst-case scenario for a Trump presidency is that he will do the very things those horrified ex-presidents did.
As a high school senior in the Houston suburbs in the spring of 1988, Ted Cruz sketched out a five-part plan for the rest of his life: go to Princeton, attend Harvard Law, become a lawyer, run for office—and win the presidency.
This ambition trajectory was detailed in his bio for a traveling club he belonged to as a teenager called the Constitutional Corroborators. Founded by a former vaudeville performer named Roland Storey, the troupe of high schoolers entertained Rotary Clubs and other civic groups across Texas reciting portions of the Constitution from memory. Another former Corroborator, Laura Calaway, dug up the program last week and posted it on Medium, along with a photo of a young Cruz eating a gummy bear.
Cruz appears to have followed the career path he sketched out in high school to a tee. He attended Princeton as an undergraduate and majored in political science (go ahead, read his thesis). Then he moved on to Harvard Law School (where he may or may not have formed a study group that excluded students who attended "minor Ivies"). He had a successful law practice, was appointed to political office, ran successfully for Senate, and now has a better shot than most at winning the presidency.
The Corroborators' year-end speech competition fell short of a Hollywood happy ending, however. As Calaway (a Hillary Clinton supporter) happily notes, she placed first while Cruz came in a disappointing third.
With the bromance between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump over, the mogul turned GOP front-runner has begun trash talking the senator from Texas. "He's a nasty guy," Trump recently huffed. "Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him." For members of the politerati, this was no revelation. As Cruz has quickly climbed the political ladder, he has left a long line of associates who complain, without much prompting, that he is an insufferable schmuck.
A prominent aide to George W. Bush's 2000 campaign could barely contain himself when we asked him to discuss Cruz, who worked in the campaign's policy shop. This person described Cruz as hyper-arrogant and widely despised, and he emphasized—over and over—that the pervasive dislike of Cruz within the Bush ranks had nothing to do with ideology. (Cruz, he noted, never objected to Bush's call for compassionate conservatism, immigration reform, and national education standards, and no one on the campaign regarded him as an ideologue.) The problem was simple: his personality.
"That's exactly what he was: a big asshole," says a campaign veteran who worked with Cruz.
"Ted thought he was an expert on everything," says this campaign veteran, who asked not to be named. "He was a smart and talented guy, but completely taken with himself and his own ideas. He would offer up opinions on everything, even matters outside his portfolio. He was a policy guy, but he would push his ideas on campaign strategy. He would send memos on everything to everyone. He would come to meetings where he wasn't invited—and wasn't wanted." In fact, this Bush alum recalls, "the quickest way for a meeting to end would be for Ted to come in. People would want out of that meeting. People wouldn't go to a meeting if they knew he would be there. It was his inability to be part of the team. That's exactly what he was: a big asshole."
The Bush vet goes on: "I don't know anyone who had a decent relationship with Cruz." And when Bush became president, his top campaign aides agreed Cruz should not be offered a job in the White House. "No one wanted to work with him," this source remembers. "George W. Bush couldn't stand the guy." This person adds, "It's a real quandary for Bush campaign people: Trump versus Cruz, who to vote for? And it would be a big quandary even if it's Cruz versus Hillary Clinton. That's how much they cannot stand him."
It may be easy for someone to lob anonymous shots at Cruz. But there are plenty of others, including prominent Republicans, who have not been shy about sharing their feelings about Cruz on the record. Here is a quick guide to Cruz's loudest detractors:
Fighting words: The 1996 Republican presidential nominee and former senator from Kansas told the New York Times last week that Cruz would be an ineffective president because "nobody likes him." He explained: "He doesn't have any friends in Congress. He called the leader of the Republicans [Mitch McConnell] a liar on the Senate floor. If you want to call somebody a liar in the Senate, you go to their office—you don't go on the Senate floor and make it public."
The beef: Last fall, Cruz mocked the failed candidacies of Dole, Mitt Romney, and John McCain, citing their efforts as evidence of the electoral impotence of mainline Republicans. But the feud with Dole began in 2014, when Cruz led a last-minute push to defeat the UN Treaty on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. He claimed the accord threatened American sovereignty. Dole, who suffered a disabling injury while serving in World War II, had come to the Senate floor in his wheelchair to lobby for passage of the treaty.
Bob Dole likes every GOP candidate in the field—except for the one he whispers at the end of this video: https://t.co/i7XGzyWdJW
Fighting words: McCain called Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and Rep. Justin Amash "wacko birds" in 2013. Last spring, McCain derided Cruz after Cruz boasted he had been leaning on McCain to loosen restrictions regarding guns on military bases. "It came as a complete surprise to me that he had been pressing me; maybe it was some medium that I'm not familiar with," McCain told Politico. "Maybe it was through, you know, hand telegraph; maybe sign language. Ask him how he communicated with me because I'd be very interested." In January, McCain suggested that Cruz might not be eligible for the presidency because he was born in Canada. "He fucking hates Cruz," a McCain adviser told GQ. "He's just offended by his style."
The beef: McCain considered Cruz's treatment of Dole unforgivable. "It was the most embarrassing day in my time in the Senate, to force Bob Dole to watch that," he told the New Yorker. And he certainly holds no warm feelings for Cruz, who once said he was "embarrassed" to have supported McCain in 2008. But McCain's hatred of Cruz is not just personal. It has a policy component: The two have clashed on drones, NSA data collection, and the nomination of McCain's friend Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense.
George W. Bush
Fighting words: "I just don't like the guy," the former president said in October.
The beef: Cruz worked as a policy adviser for Bush's 2000 campaign. But while most of Cruz's colleagues on the campaign got White House jobs, Cruz ended up at the Federal Trade Commission—an indication he had alienated his campaign comrades. Explaining W's dislike of Cruz, a Jeb Bush donor told Politico that "he sort of looks at this like Cruz is doing it all for his own personal gain, and that's juxtaposed against a family that's been all about public service and doing it for the right reasons. He's frustrated to have watched Cruz basically hijack the Republican Party of Texas and the Republican Party in Washington." Bush consigliere Karl Rove told Fox News that Dubya was particularly upset that Cruz had questioned Bush's nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts—whom Cruz himself had once praised.
The beef: Where to start? Cruz has served as a cheerleader for the House Freedom Caucus, the band of arch-conservatives who made Boehner's job all but impossible. He trod so heavily on Boehner's turf that he earned the nickname "Speaker Cruz." Cruz pushed for a government shutdown over defunding Planned Parenthood, and then he accused Boehner of selling out conservatives to cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi. When Boehner resigned, Cruz took a victory lap.
Rep. Peter King
Fighting words: When CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked the Long Island Republican if he would support Cruz as the nominee, King replied, "I hope that day never comes; I will jump off that bridge when we come to it." He has called Cruz a "carnival barker," a "counterfeit" with "no qualifications" who appeals "to the lowest common denominator," and "just a guy with a big mouth and no results."
The beef: King was one of the House Republicans most upset with Cruz's push for a government shutdown in 2013, which he considered disastrous for the party. "If you come up with a strategy that's going to shutdown the government of the United States, and you have no way of winning, you're either a fraud or you're totally incompetent," King told CNN.
Sen. Lindsey Graham
Fighting words: "He is an opportunist, he's a libertarian when it is hot," the senator from South Carolina told RealClearPolitics, adding that Cruz "has done more to allow ISIL to gain a foothold in Syria than any senator other than Rand Paul." Last week, Graham said picking between Trump and Cruz was like having to choose "death by being shot or poisoning," and he said the party would be better off if it picked "somebody out of the phone book."
The beef: Graham thinks Cruz has blocked national security measures for personal gain, and he rebuked the Texan for suggesting Hagel had received money from the North Korean government.
He was infamous for firing off mundane work e-mails in the middle of the night—it happened so often that some in the Bush campaign suspected him of writing them ahead of time and programming his computer to send while he was asleep. He was also known for dispatching regular updates on his accomplishments that one recipient likened to "the cards people send about their families at Christmas, except Ted's were only about him and were more frequent."
Supreme Court clerks
Fighting words: Former clerks who had worked at the Supreme Court when Cruz was clerking for Chief Justice William Rehnquist dissed his "dime store novel" write-ups of death penalty cases.
The beef: The New York Times reported that Cruz's fellow clerks believed he was "obsessed" with capital punishment and noted that clerks took offense at the airy tone with which he discussed executions when the court received last-minute appeals for a stay.
The beef: GQ reported that Cruz started a study group during his first year in Cambridge, but he announced that "he didn't want anybody from 'minor Ivies' like Penn or Brown." In an interview with the Boston Globe, another student recalled what happened when she agreed to carpool with Cruz: "We hadn't left Manhattan before he asked my IQ."
His Princeton roommate
Fighting words: "I would rather have anybody else be the president of the United States," screenwriter Craig Mazin told the Daily Beast in 2013. "Anyone. I would rather pick somebody from the phone book." On Twitter, Mazin—who has called Cruz "a nightmare of a human being"—recalled that when he was a freshman sharing a dorm room with Cruz, he would get invited to parties hosted by seniors because the upperclassmen pitied him. Cruz, he notes, "was that widely loathed. It's his superpower."
Getting emails blaming me for not smothering Ted Cruz in his sleep in 1988. What kind of monster do you think I am? A really prescient one?
The beef: It's personal. "I have plenty of problems with his politics, but truthfully his personality is so awful that 99 percent of why I hate him is just his personality," he said on the Scriptnotes podcast. According to Mazin, Cruz would hit snooze on his alarm clock over and over again, and he refused to stop doing this when Mazin asked. Also, Mazin says, Cruz was just weird. "I remember very specifically that he had a book in Spanish and the title was Was Karl Marx a Satanist?," Mazin told the Daily Beast. "And I thought, who is this person?"
Everyone else at Princeton
Fighting words: Per the Daily Beast, "Several fellow classmates who asked that their names not be used described the young Cruz with words like 'abrasive,' 'intense,' 'strident,' 'crank,' and 'arrogant.' Four independently offered the word 'creepy.'"
People might think Craig is exaggerating. He's not. I met Ted freshman week and loathed him within the hour. https://t.co/2ZrbTdjHJh
The beef: It's tough to pinpoint any one cause, but Cruz made female students uncomfortable by frequently walking to their end of the floor in his freshman dorm, wearing only a paisley bathrobe. When he announced his bid for president of the school's debate society, the other members had a secret meeting to pick an anyone-but-Cruz candidate. The eventual winner later acknowledged that "my one qualification for the office was that I was not Ted Cruz."
Fighting words: "If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy," Cruz said at a Republican debate in October.
The beef: Being well liked is not everything. At least that seemed to be the point Cruz was making about himself. He added, "But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done and I will get you home."
In the fall of 1996, locked in a tough re-election fight against Republican Susan Sweetser, then-Rep. Sanders got a big boost when feminist writer and activist Gloria Steinem came to Burlington. At the time, Sweetser was running negative ads attacking Sanders' liberal positions, and so the Sanders campaign held an event to highlight his support among progressive women. An opening act, a former state senator, told the audience that "a feminist is a person who challenges the power structure of our country" and "Bernie Sanders is that kind of feminist." When it was Steinem's turn, she started off with an announcement: "I'm only here today to make Bernie Sanders an honorary woman."
In his memoir, Outsider in the House, Sanders, who went on to beat Sweetser comfortably, called the event "the nicest moment of the campaign."
Sanders won't be able to count on a repeat performance this time around. Steinem, supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2008 and is back in her corner again.
Hillary Clinton was nodding to tradition when she jokingly referred to her husband Bill, the former president of the United States, as her "secret weapon." Puff pieces that describe a candidate's spouse as the campaign's "secret weapon" are as much a part of presidential campaigns as kissing babies and self-important Iowans.
"Edwards has been variously described as her husband's 'stealth fighter' or 'bulletproof cannon' or 'the most interesting person in the presidential race right now,'" McClatchy reported. "If not the dominant voice, Elizabeth Edwards has become the most provocative one."
In a dig at previous secret weapons, the Baltimore Sunreported that Bush had the added benefit of not being fully weaponized: "[t]he candidate's wife, who said one day she hoped to see a woman president, was careful not to sell herself as a striving political wannabe or a back-room adviser to her husband."
In addition to his wife, Tipper, Al Gore had a second secret weapon—his oldest daughter, Karenna. It's a wonder he ever lost:
New York Magazine
New York Magazine described the wife of the New Jersey Democrat as "slight, with birdlike features and luminous blue eyes," with "a waifish, spritelike appearance" that gives the air of "a Teutonic Audrey Hepburn."