Donald Trump on Tuesday implied that Ted Cruz’s father was an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald, John F. Kennedy’s assassin.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being – you know, shot,” said Trump during a phone interview with Fox News.
Though he did not say so, Mr. Trump was probably drawing on a recent story in the tabloid National Enquirer, which made the same charge. While the Enquirer has been correct on explosive political stories in the past – they were right about John Edwards and his extramarital affair – the sourcing on the Cruz/Oswald story is incredibly thin. It consists largely of alleged photo experts saying that a man in an old, blurry photo of Oswald looks like Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz’s Cuban-born dad.
Come on, really? “This is another garbage story in a tabloid full of garbage,” said Cruz communications director Alice Stewart.
Perhaps the Enquirer has its Cruzes mixed up. The photo in question is of Oswald passing out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans in 1963. According to author Gerald Posner’s definitive JFK conspiracy debunking book, “Case Closed,” a man named Miguel Cruz was among a group of anti-Castro Cubans who confronted Oswald while he was distributing this literature. They got into a brawl and some were arrested.
That Cruz was not related to Ted Cruz’s family.
The problem for the Republican Party is that other GOP candidates are going to get asked about Trump’s loose charges, such as this one, going forward. It’s easy to imagine reporters asking Republican Senate candidates whether they agree with the latest thing Trump said today, no matter how outrageous. Particularly if it’s outrageous, actually.
Democratic opponents will do their best to make Republicans appear supportive of whatever the heck it is Trump says. To see how that might work, look at this web ad for Connor Eldridge, a Democrat who’s running against incumbent GOP Sen. John Boozman in Arkansas. It’s brutal.
Trump’s risen as far as he has in part because of his ability to thrill supporters on the stump. His short, punchy language and penchant to say anything makes them feel like he’s fighting back against a “politically correct” and corrupt political culture. He shows no signs of dialing it back if, as likely, he’s the GOP nominee. It’ll be pretty interesting to see how that style plays in a general election.