Recently Guy Benson went on Fox to denounce Donald Trump for attacking Ted Cruz’s wife. This is right and good. All of us should be appalled that Trump chose to attack Heidi Cruz. But the media is playing a much more long term game, whether they realize it or not. The media is setting up a narrative with Melania Trump and Heidi Cruz that puts Bill Clinton off limits when Hillary campaigns in the general election.
Here’s a clip of the exchange: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Joy4Z4pEDA4
Notice the question that started this exchange, along with the body language that was used. Kelly starts the segment by asking, “Is it ever appropriate on the campaign trail to go after a family member?” While asking this, Kelly is shaking her head, indicating a “No” response, along with emphasizing with her tone and her eyes the word “family,” thus indicating the response that she is looking for. The question is legitimate, but the context of the question clearly leaves the viewer with the impression that the answer should always be, “No, it is never appropriate to go after family.”
Additionally, at the end of the clip, Kelly brings up the completely irrelevant point that all candidates came to Cruz’s defense when his children were attacked. By sandwiching the segment with these two points the clip associates the idea that the candidates wives are, like their children, off limits, and that they all agreed to that. Therefore, all family is off limits, and the candidates have equally agreed to this.
In context, Melania Trump was attacked for choices she made in the past during a modeling career. Whether or not you agree with those choices, the ad itself was in poor taste. Additionally, the ad wasn’t hitting Melania on a substantive policy issue, neither did it make an explicit claim to the morality of selling sex. Rather, the ad was more to the idea of, “Wouldn’t you be ashamed to have pictures like this floating about of the First Lady?” In that context, Melania is innocent in this particular case, and should be off limits.
Likewise, the response from Trump attacked Cruz’s wife, who was also innocent of any action in this particular event. Thus, she should never have been attacked at all. Trump revealed just how low class, immoral, and reprehensible he really is with his re-tweet. (I really want to write more about just how immoral and disgusting I find Trump, thinking to myself exactly what action I might have taken if he attacked my wife in that way. Others have already taken him to the woodshed, though he deserves more, until he is shamed into leaving public life forever.)
The problem is that the question sets up a false equivalence. Spouses are not equal to children. Spouses, as adults, can make political statements that should be examined and critiqued. This is especially true when your spouse stumps for you, or when your spouse has previously held office.
Family is not always off limits. Bill Clinton, for example, is not off limits. He has known and stated policy positions. The fact that he is married to a woman running for President of the United States means that his policy positions could, in fact, be influential in a future administration.
Likewise, if Melania Trump, or Heidi Cruz, makes a statement in a rally about a specific policy position, then those comments are fair game for criticism. If either of them puts themselves forward as knowledgeable on a given political subject, then that makes them fair game to critique.
Trump is low class trash. In this instance, the ad attacking his wife was equally trashy. However, the answer to the media should be, “No, family is not always off limits. Insulting a woman over her looks is.”