When analyzing the latest in this it-can’t-be-more-custom-made-for-cable-news presidential race, the only movie that comes to mind with today’s latest developments regarding Ted Cruz and the National Enquirer is an infamous exchange in 1984’s Ghostbusters on whether or not ghosts actually exist:
Peter Venkman (Bill Murray): “Well, you can believe Mr. Pecker…”
Walter Peck (William Atherton): “My name… is Peck.”
The exchange eventually ends with Venkman “confirming” that Peck is operating without an essential male body part. Fast forward to 2016 and it’s a man named David Pecker — the Enquirer CEO — who is now part of a narrative that has included hand sizes and all the 9th grade innuendo that predictably followed in front of millions during a nationally-televised presidential debate (we are a long way from “There you go again…”). We’ve also drifted into old nude modeling photos of the wife of the GOP frontrunner and the appearance in general of the spouse of the man chasing him for the nomination. It’s officially the Reality TV election on 24/7 cable news in all of its tabloid glory with plenty of Twitter snark to go around.
So if the Enquirer is now part of the equation thanks to (very flimsy) allegations around Ted Cruz having not one but five extramarital affairs, the only question that should be asked about this narrative’s arrival is, “So… what took you so long?”
In following the new rules for journalism in covering this mess, Rule #1 dictates this question — regardless of situation or story — must be asked before all others:
“What does this all mean for Donald Trump?”
In this case, it brings the campaign again to a personal level that results in Cruz needlessly playing defense around a story 99.99 percent of you never thought would be dominating news cycles (with the Texas senator basically being accused of morphing into a 20th Century Bill Clinton). Cruz would have been better off dismissing this story with a chuckle while scolding the press for not focusing on more important issues, but instead went the strongly-worded denial route (calling the piece “garbage” while using the word “henchman” two-too-many times). And it was far too wordy a statement to provide on the situation if making it go away quickly was the objective. Not smart for such a smart guy, as it only gives reporters more incentive to dig and provides legs to the story in the process.
It’s also more reason to provide airtime to Trump’s official unofficial adviser in Roger Stone, whom the Cruz camp feels lit the match here due to his close relationship with the aforementioned Mr. Pecker, a major tabloid honcho Trump is also quite friendly with. Speaking of the delegate leader, here’s his official statement on the matter:
“I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week’s issue of the National Enquirer is true or not,” Trump said in a statement Friday, “but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it, and have not, as yet, read it. I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer and unlike Lyin’ Ted Cruz I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchman [sic] and then pretend total innocence.”
“Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone,” he continued. “And while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz. I look forward to spending the week in Wisconsin, winning the Republican nomination, and ultimately the presidency in order to Make America Great Again.”
You don’t need to hear audio inflection or see any kind of video expression to know that Trump isn’t loving this regardless if he or Stone are responsible for it (The Daily Beast reports the Rubio camp has been peddling the story for months). Either way, it puts Cruz in a no-win, uncomfortable (especially for him) situation while buying Trump another few news cycles to avoid talking about anything resembling substance around taxes, tariffs, foreign and immigration policy. And since it’s the Enquirer, a publication that has broken — as Trump correctly pointed out — its share of big stories that have taken down big politicians, even a presidential contender in Edwards (winning a Pulitzer here), it gives the story just enough potential to at least discuss it in your typical cable news segment. And even it all ends up as a big nothing-burger with cheese, it will somehow only help Trump… because Rule #2 of this campaign season says nothing ever seems to derail this freight train on the way to having the most delegates heading into the Quagmire in Cleveland known as the GOP Convention in July.
Did the tabloid candidate once again turn the most important election of our lifetime into an episode of Keeping Up with the Cruzes? Or did this story come from elsewhere?
It’s nothing to be proud of. And if you think this is the bottom of gutter politics, just wait until the general.
Because we won’t just need any kind of long shower to rinse off the stench of this election, but the kind of hosing down one gets before entering prison.
Hand sizes. Other sizes. Nude photos. Allegations of extramarital affairs. And an important man named Pecker in the middle of the latest theater of the absurd.
That’s the last month of this primary season in five sentences.
Hard to believe there’s just 225 days more of this to endure before it’s over.
Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.