As I'm sure many of you have heard by now, Sen. Ted Cruz released a new ad featuring his daughters, which was mocked in an editorial cartoon by The Washington Post, and then subsequently retracted by the paper following outcry over the depiction of Cruz's daughters as a pair of monkeys dancing to Cruz as their organ grinder.
I don't condone attacks on anyone's children and I take issue with the Post depicting them as monkeys, but as Chez Pazienza at The Daily Banter rightfully noted, it is fair game to call out Cruz for exploiting them for political gain himself and then using them as human shields to insulate himself from any criticism for doing so: Ted Cruz Exploited His Daughters for Political Gain and It’s Fair To Call Him Out for It:
There’s a gentleman’s agreement in politics that kids are off-limits. As vicious as the political discourse can sometimes get and as hard as politicians and would-be politicians go after each other, attacking someone’s children or family has always been considered a below-the-belt kind of punch. It’s frowned upon for the simple reason that a candidates family, his or her kids in particular, are non-combatants. They’re innocents who didn’t ask to be thrust into the spotlight. Also, a lot of times, they’re genuinely little children.
Such is the case with Ted Cruz, whose young daughters, Caroline and Catherine, are featured prominently in a new ad released by Cruz’s campaign. In the ad, Cruz pretends to read children’s stories to his little girls as they’re curled up on a couch next to the family Christmas tree, but of course the stories have titles like “How Obamacare Stole Christmas” and “The Grinch Who Lost Her E-Mails.” It’s exactly the kind of uninspired cheese you’d expect from a dumb doofus like Cruz, but maybe the important thing to keep in mind is that during the commercial, his daughters actually get in on the action rather than simply appearing as political window-dressing, proof Cruz is a boring family man and therefore ready to be leader of the free world. At one point, one of the girls pretends to read the Hillary Clinton story “Grinch” story, precociously scolding Clinton to the canned delight of both Cruz and his wife.
While it can be argued that every politician uses his or her family to some extent, if only to prove his or her life is “normal” or “traditional,” it’s rare that a candidate genuinely trots out his kids and gives them speaking parts in campaign ads and it’s even rarer that those kids participate in direct attacks on the competition. There’s just something tawdry about the sight of a child running down Dad’s talking points, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s so cynical to use kids as human shields in politics given that the competition can’t hit back at them without looking terrible. This is why the no-children rule works both ways and it’s considered as déclassé to exploit your kids as part of your campaign as it is to attack a candidate’s kids on the trail or in the media.
But Ted Cruz did exploit his kids — and he did it knowing full-well that if anyone called him out for it he could take umbrage on behalf of his unimpeachable daughters’ hurt feelings. So when The Washington Post ran an editorial cartoon this morning that featured Cruz dressed as an organ grinder Santa with two dancing monkeys attached to him on leashes, he and his supporters lashed out immediately. He claimed the high ground, sarcastically calling the cartoon “classy” and expressing disappointment that his opponents would be so morally bankrupt as to attack his children. Granted, portraying them as monkeys was asking for trouble, but make no mistake: the cartoon, by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Ann Telnaes, was aimed not at Cruz’s daughters but at Cruz himself. It implied that little Caroline and Catherine were dancing monkeys to Cruz, not to Telnaes or The Washington Post.
We now live in a world where President Obama’s daughters have faced unprecedented attacks from the right, with conservative website comment sections relentlessly hurling racist invective at them and even establishment conservatives scolding the girls when it suits their agenda. The difference between Obama’s daughters and Ted Cruz’s, however, is that Cruz specifically dragged his daughters out onto the battlefield while Obama, and really most political players from both parties, try to distance their children from the actual fighting because they know how vicious it can get. If you’re a parent and a politician trying to keep your kids safe, which is the responsible thing to do, then they should be completely off-limits. But if you’re a Sarah Palin or a Ted Cruz, and you’ve deliberately made your family part of your shtick and have used it as a cudgel to beat your political adversaries, you shouldn’t be able to hide behind them.
Cruz of course is fundraising off of the entire debacle as well... or as the talking heads over on Fox call it, a gift from heaven just in time for the holidays. That didn't stop them from sharing in Cruz's faux outrage over the editorial, with John McCain's daughter, Meghan, carping about the terrible supposed "double standard" when it comes to politicians and their children being off limits on this Thursday's Outnumbered:
TANTAROS: Alright, so Meghan, you were nodding, and you were very fed up yesterday, understandably.
MCCAIN: Yeah. I was so mad yesterday.
TANTAROS: Understandably so, because your family have come under fire for years, especially your mentioning your sister, but you have as well, being the daughter of a presidential candidate and a long time senator. So what do you think about Cruz hitting back with the cartoon?
MCCAIN: I think 100 percent. I think the cartoon he hit back with was pinpoint, on point where he should be. I just think it's exhausting to have this double standard. This is nothing that would ever have been done or said about the Obama daughters or Hillary Clinton's daughter, or Chelsea Clinton's soon to be granddaughter that is herself and I just think it showcases the liberal media bias and I think Ted Cruz should keep attacking and do everything possible and keep highlighting this, because it highlights something that is important.
First of all, Andrea Tantaros knows full well the one attacking McCain's sister with their whisper campaign about her father having a black baby was the George W. Bush campaign, not liberals.
I also don't know what rock McCain has been living under if she honestly believes that no one has ever attacked the Obama girls or Chelsea Clinton, so I'd say it's safe to say she's lying.
You had the attacks over the eye rolling at the turkey pardoning.
Rush Limbaugh decided to get in on that as well saying that "we've got a child here playing president."
Wingnut Rep. Steve King attacked the Obama daughters for heaven forbid, going on spring break.
And I'm sure there are many, many more where this came from, but you had El Rushbo calling Chelsea Clinton the White House dog back when she was just 13 years old.
And just this week we had Bill Kristol's son in law's rag referring to Chelsea's new baby as a "spawn."
I'm sure I missed a whole lot more examples of the right wing attacking either Jimmy Carter's daughter, Chelsea Clinton or the Obama daughters, but to borrow a phrase from McCain, this "double standard" just has me exhausted.
Feel free to add more in the comments section below, or you can let Meghan McCain know why she's full of it on Twitter here: @MeghanMcCain.