It’s all theater, folks.
An anti-Trump Political Action Committee that has raised only about $20,000 runs an ad on social media targeted at Mormon voters in Utah….and all hell breaks loose.
Ahh, the power of social media and the political value of feigned indignation.
The ad (above) featured Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, posing in the nude for GQ Magazine in 2000. It was posted by the Make America Awesome PAC, founded in 2015 by Liz Mair, a Republican-leaning political strategist. Its contributions have come from a small group, including Donald Gayhardt CEO of payday lender Tiger Financial Management/Speedy Cash, Virginia Postrel, a Libertarian political and cultural writer, and Donald Sherwood, a former Republican Congressman representing Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district.
What made it all fascinating is how Trump and Cruz took advantage of the situation by publicly exchanging schoolyard taunts.
Knowing how to maximize attention, Trump Tweeted:
“Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”
“Wow @SenTedCruz, that is some low level ad you did using a picture of Melania in a G.Q. shoot. Be careful or I will spill the beans on your wife.”
(One theory is that Trump was referring to a 2005 incident when a depressed Heidi Cruz was observed sitting next to an expressway with her head in her hands. But admit it, ladies. You’d want to sit on a curb and cry if you were married to Ted, too, wouldn’t you?)
Cruz responded with this Tweet:
“Pic of your wife not from us. Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought. #classless”
Then Trump Tweeted:
“Lyin’ Ted Cruz denied that he had anything to do with the G.Q. model photo post of Melania. That’s why we call him Lyin’ Ted!”
Not to be left out, Liz Mair followed up with a Tweet of her own:
“Hi Donald, I know you’re really upset about that ad, but it was Make America Awesome’s, not Ted Cruz’s.”
And then late Wednesday night, Trump kept the dispute alive and visible with another incendiary Tweet and photo:
My goodness. How crass can you be?
The fact is, however, the initial ad would have quickly sunk into oblivion if Trump and Cruz had not exploited it to their perceived advantage.
Pundits have been fulminating about this controversy, focusing on the coarseness of the Mair ad and the candidates’ trigger-finger responses. The major media attacked Mair’s ad for “slut-shaming” Melania Trump and called out Donald Trump for throwing a Trumpertantrum.
But the pundits have completely missed the point.
Its all theater, folks, and we’re all suckers for being drawn into the attention-grabbing drama that either candidate could have stopped at any time. The candidates are the actors preparing themselves for the greatest acting job in the world.
As Ronald Reagan said, “For years, I’ve heard the question: “How could an actor be president?” I’ve sometimes wondered how you could be president and not be an actor.”