(See update below.)
Did you hear? Ted Cruz finally criticized Donald Trump! The New York Times says so, therefore it must be true ... right?
Senator Ted Cruz raised questions on Wednesday at a private fund-raiser about whether Donald J. Trump, his bombastic rival for the Republican presidential nomination, has the “judgment” to be president and mused about “strength,” according to two people who attended the event in Manhattan.
... inside a conference room in a Madison Avenue office, with about 70 people pressed around a table, Mr. Cruz gave a candid assessment of the race, lumping Mr. Trump with another candidate whose supporters the Texas senator hopes to poach, Ben Carson, according to two people present for the remarks.
“Both of them I like and respect,” said Mr. Cruz, according to one attendee, who requested anonymity to describe what happened at a private event. “I don’t believe either one of them is going to be our president.”
... he added, according to a second attendee, “You look at Paris, you look at San Bernardino, it’s given a seriousness to this race, that people are looking for: Who is prepared to be a commander in chief? Who understands the threats we face?”
He went on: “Who am I comfortable having their finger on the button? Now that’s a question of strength, but it’s also a question of judgment. And I think that is a question that is a challenging question for both of them.”
Did he say this? I'm sure he did but, as NBC reports, he doesn't have the guts to admit it:
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has been reluctant to speak ill of Donald Trump on the campaign trail, would not say on Thursday whether he told donors behind closed doors that he questions Trump's judgment.
"I'm not going to comment on what I may or may not have said at a private fundraiser," Cruz said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation Thursday. "Ultimately the decision (for voters) is who has the right judgment, experience, and judgment to serve as commander-in-chief."
Jeb Bush, the man who would be frontrunner, was as surprised as anybody when Donald Trump jumped into the 2016 presidential race in June. His instinctive first reaction was to hold his tongue....
Like everyone else, Bush soon found Trump impossible to ignore....
“Seriously, what’s this guy’s problem?” he asked one party donor he ran into recently, according to accounts provided by several sources close to Bush -- and he went on to describe the publicity-seeking real estate developer now surging in public polls far ahead of Bush and all the 15 others in the Republican field as “a buffoon,” “clown” and “asshole.”
That was strategically leaked, obviously by the Bush campaign, so it would land on the day of the first Republican presidential debate. But after it did, Megyn Kelly asked Bush about it in the debate, and Bush denied the leak was accurate:
KELLY: Governor Bush, I want to ask you, on the subject of name calling of your fellow candidates, a story appeared today quoting an anonymous GOP donor who said you called Mr. Trump a clown, a buffoon, something else that cannot be repeated on television.
BUSH: None of which is true.
KELLY: Is it true?
BUSH: No. It’s not true.
Look, mainstream media, I know this is how the game is played. But it shouldn't be. If a candidate says something genuinely newsworthy at a private event and you learn about it, by all means report it. But don't retransmit messages the candidates leak to you that they don't have the honesty to acknowledge. If they're going to be cowards, let them hire their own conduits for these messages. You shouldn't do it for free on their behalf and pretend it's news.
UPDATE: Oops -- the Times now has audio.
I changed my mind. If Cruz leaked this story and assumed he'd have deniability because he thought there was no audio available and there actually is audio, then he stepped on a rake -- and that's news. If he staged this rollout in two parts but is now going to berate the media for exposing a private conversation that he leaked, then the Times should tell us flat out that the whole thing was engineered by Team Cruz. If he'll now openly criticize Trump, well, it's about freaking time.