After [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]’s electrifying speech at the RedState Gathering this year, I happened to be wandering around the media area for unrelated reasons when Cruz entered the press avail room to answer questions from the assembled throng. Normally, I could care less for this particular kind of circus and was prepared to just back out of the room quietly, but something about the energy of the reporters there was different than it had been for the other candidates, so I decided to stay and watch for a few minutes to see what would unfold.
What I saw angered me, but didn’t really surprise me. For no apparent reason, the press was there almost exclusively to harass [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] about Donald Trump’s infamous comments about Megyn Kelly from the previous night. Now, I know that one of the media’s favorite games to play with any Republican candidate is to try to make them answer for every other Republican who has ever lived, but with Cruz the intensity and persistence of the questioning was truly something to behold. In response to the first question, Cruz said something to the effect of, “I respect Megyn Kelly as a journalist, and that’s all I intend to say about this matter. Will someone ask me a question that is relevant to the American people?”
Again and again, the reporters present ignored this and continued to ask about Trump’s comments. Even when Cruz began responding to these questions with, “Instead of answering that question, I’m going to answer a question I think is relevant to the American people,” and then posing a question to himself and answering it – the media still continued to press on. Later that night on the talking head shows, I saw more than one pundit chastising [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] for failing to respond to Trump’s comments. This trend has continued over this most recent week’s campaign stops throughout the South, as reporters pepper Cruz with questions about Trump wherever he goes.
Of course, there’s no substantive reason for this. [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] and Donald Trump share no obvious personal or professional connection. They aren’t from the same state. To my knowledge, Donald Trump has never endorsed one of Cruz’s campaigns or donated to him. They aren’t, as far as I can tell, personal friends or people who share almost anything in common. There’s no reason why, of all the Republican candidates, that [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] in particular should be answerable for everything that falls out of The Donald’s mouth.
Of course, there is a reason why the media wants to make Cruz answerable for Trump – but the reason is political/strategical rather than one borne out of legitimate newsworthiness. It is widely assumed, from a political standpoint, that if Trump implodes, Cruz stands to gain the most from the fallout. After all, the main allure of Donald Trump is that he pretends to be [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] – i.e., a firebrand conservative who isn’t afraid to stand up to the establishment. Sooner or later, it is assumed by most people, Trump’s fans are going to realize that he is not who he pretends to be, and they will be looking around for who that person really is. A fairly sizeable plurality of these folks, it is assumed, will settle on [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ].
So what the media is basically attempting to do here is to drive a wedge between Cruz and Trump’s followers. I don’t have a huge objection philosophically to someone (i.e., one of the other candidates), doing that. I’m just at a loss as to how that is the job of the alleged news media. Playing “will Candidate X say something to piss off Candidate Y’s voters” is fair game (or at least plausibly defensible) when the two share some obvious personal or professional connection, or when one has perhaps campaigned or fundraised for the other in the past. In the case of Cruz and Trump, it’s nothing more than a transparent attempt to put their fingers on the scales of the electorate and pit one Republican against another.
Memo to the media: this isn’t your job, it’s just your favorite hobby. Do it on your own time and don’t burden us with your infantile obsession with pin-the-extremist-on-the-Republican.