The Republican candidates in South Carolina have spent the last week beating each other up over their supposed untrustworthiness. This has had particular impact on Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who runs under the slogan “TrusTED” and talks ad infinitum about his consistently conservative record. Polls show that the charges against Cruz have slowed his ascent in South Carolina.
Meanwhile, Cruz slaps Republican frontrunner Donald Trump for his alleged lies on the campaign trail to conservative voters; Trump denounces those accusations and doubles down on the charge that Cruz is the true liar.
And then there’s Marco Rubio, sniping at Cruz while attempting to avoid Trump’s flailing fists of fury. He too says that Cruz is a liar; at the same time, Cruz calls Rubio a liar on immigration, Planned Parenthood, and same-sex marriage.
So, let’s sort this thing out: of the three candidates, who is the biggest liar?
Donald Trump. Trump lies routinely and repeatedly. On Saturday night, Trump said that George W. Bush had lied America into war in Iraq; two days later, he told Mike Gallagher that he’d never said that. Both were lies. He called Ted Cruz a liar in debate after Cruz said Trump supported funding Planned Parenthood – but Trump does support funding Planned Parenthood’s “non-abortion services,” a completely nonsensical position. During the debate, Trump claimed that Cruz operatives were calling people to tell them that he was dropping out of the race; he’s provided no evidence of that assertion. During the debate, Trump said that he had warned that an Iraq war would “destabilize” the Middle East – it never happened.
His latest: yesterday, he tweeted out a fake quote from former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), which supposedly ripped Cruz as “without a doubt, one of the most dishonest people in DC.” Coburn immediately responded by stating, “It’s an absolute fabrication. I’ve never said that, period. It’s unfortunate he would use my name to say something dishonest. It’s a total fabrication.” Trump eventually deleted the tweet.
Today, he continued calling Cruz the biggest liar he has ever met.
Ted Cruz. Trump and Rubio have been browbeating Cruz about his supposed dishonesty for weeks. Cruz, says Trump, is the most dishonest person he’s ever met; he can’t understand how Cruz calls himself a Christian. Rubio says Cruz is a liar, too. So, what has Cruz lied about? Trump says that Cruz lied about Ben Carson dropping out of the race in Iowa; we’ve dealt with the entire timeline here. Suffice it to say, that’s nonsense. Carson gave indicators he was dropping out to CNN, which reported it, and the Cruz campaign told people about it. End of story. The “voter violation” mailer used by the Cruz campaign is a campaign mailer. End of story.
Now, on to Trump’s accusations. Trump has called Cruz a liar for stating that Trump would appoint leftist judges (maybe, given that Trump said that he would appoint his own leftist sister to the Supreme Court, a position he now disowns); that Trump backs Obamacare (actually, Trump says he opposes Obamacare, but he supports a government-run universal healthcare system); that Trump wants to fund Planned Parenthood (true); that Trump is pro-choice (sort of, given that Trump says he supports “caveats” and doesn’t consider abortion murder); that Trump’s Supreme Court appointee would get rid of gun rights (unclear, see above).
Rubio has called Cruz a liar for targeting his immigration record (Cruz’s hit against Rubio’s immigration record is perfectly legitimate, as discussed here); saying that Rubio didn’t want to use Congress’ “constitutional authority to defund Planned Parenthood” (sort of, given that Rubio didn’t back attaching Planned Parenthood defunding to the appropriations process, while Cruz did, although Rubio is in favor defunding Planned Parenthood); that Rubio is insufficiently anti-same-sex marriage, and that Rubio believes same-sex marriage is “the settled law of the land and we must…surrender and move on” (Rubio said “we live in a republic and must abide by the law” and then suggested appointing judges to applying the Constitution properly while opposing a Constitutional amendment); that Rubio wasn’t sufficiently anti-same-sex marriage to earn the backing of the National Organization for Marriage (false, says NOM, although they originally said that Rubio’s opposition to same-sex marriage was “lip service…if he can’t even get behind a constitutional amendment that allows the People to decide the issue”).
Marco Rubio. Rubio has now unleashed ads claiming that Cruz wanted “mass legalization of illegal immigrants” (false, he voted against the Gang of Eight bill co-sponsored by Rubio, although he did propose an amendment that would have given legal work status to illegal immigrants; Cruz claims he proposed the amendment to show that the Gang of Eight wouldn’t compromise on legal status without citizenship). The Cruz campaign has demanded the ads be withdrawn.
Yesterday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) suggested that the Cruz campaign was responsible for a Facebook page claiming that Gowdy had withdrawn his support for Rubio. Cruz forcefully denied the allegations, but that didn’t stop Gowdy from releasing a statement stating that the Cruz campaign “may not place the same value on waging a contest based on truth and facts…we have seen a systematic effort by Senator Cruz and his allies to spread false information and outright lies in the hopes of winning votes by appealing to our lowest common denominator.” The Rubio campaign then cited a supposed list of Cruz lies: the Facebook post (denied by the Cruz campaign), the anti-Rubio immigration ads (the ads are essentially accurate), Cruz’s Planned Parenthood accusations (see above), the NOM controversy (see above), utilization of South Carolina push polls (an oft-used political tool), the Carson accusations (again, false), and the what the Rubio campaign termed a “softcore porn ad” (a ridiculous accusation – see here for more).
So, in other words, the Rubio campaign is now calling Cruz a liar based on a series of prevarications by the Rubio campaign about Cruz.
So, here’s the conclusion: both Rubio and Cruz are playing hard-nosed politics. They both nitpick each other’s record in usual political fashion, exaggerating here and there for effect. There’s nothing out of the ordinary going on in either campaign, although it’s certainly ugly up close.
Then there’s Trump.
Trump lives moment to moment, and he’ll disown his own comments as though they never happened. He switches positions based on what’s convenient, and he falsely accuses his opponents of lying about him.
If there’s a Big Fat Liar in this campaign, there’s little doubt who it is. And it isn’t either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.