GOP primary has gotten even more ridiculous: The Donald Trump-Ted Cruz catfight reaches glorious new heights with threat of lawsuit

Now that Trump has threatened to sue Cruz, you can expect their battle to just get more absurd from here on in

Published February 18, 2016 7:22PM (EST)

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Rick Wilking)
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Rick Wilking)

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have been taking shots at one another for several weeks now. After his narrow victory in Iowa and subsequent loss in New Hampshire, Cruz knows his chances of winning the nomination are dwindling by the day. The latest South Carolina polls, a state in which Cruz has some natural advantages, offers little hope: He's still losing to Trump by double digits and is statistically tied with Rubio for second.

Since they're essentially competing for the same constituencies, the Trump-Cruz spat will surely get more interesting as we approach the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1. Indeed, it's already quite entertaining. At Wednesday's MSNBC Town Hall, for example, Trump threw a few rhetorical jabs at Cruz. “You look at a guy like Ted Cruz, he's a nasty guy,” Trump said. “He doesn't have one Republican endorsement from the Senate and he works with the Senate. Not one senator has endorsed him, and he's a senator. It's fine to stand on the floor of the Senate for a day or two days and have everyone else in the Senate laughing at you and you do nothing. I mean, he accomplished nothing with that. He talked and talked and talked for two days...he got nothing out of it.”

Cruz, naturally, used the Town Hall to double down on his narrative about Trump's clandestine liberalism:

“In 2006...when the Democrats took over Congress, Donald and his son gave about three times as much to the Democrats as they did to the Republicans. They helped put Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as Speaker of the House and Majority leader of the Senate. They helped set the stage for ObamaCare...And anyone who's done that by definition does not care about conservative justices because the people he supported fought tooth-and-nail to put liberals on the Supreme Court.”

Cruz isn't wrong about Trump. Trump is an ideological chameleon who has taken all sorts of contradictory positions over the years – on abortion, on trade, on taxes, and on entitlement reform. None if it matters, however. As I noted earlier, Trump's appeal is emotional and it cuts across conventional idelogical lines, and so pointing out his incoherence won't undermine his support.

At any rate, Trump has responded to Cruz's attacks as only Trump can: by threatening to sue him. Earlier this week Trump's lawyer sent Cruz a cease-and-desist letter stating that Cruz's claims are “completely disingenuous” and “replete with outright lies, false, defamatory and destructive statements and downright fabrications.” Redundancies aside, that's a pretty thorough – and mildly amusing – warning.

In addition to being a capable lawyer, Cruz also excels at political theatre. Trump's legal gambit plays right into his hands. Wasting no time, Cruz fired back with this delightful rejoinder:

“I look forward to any lawsuit and let me note by the way, one of the things I look forward to most of all is deposing Donald Trump. And for that particular endeavor I may not use outside counsel. I may take the deposition myself. And I will say this: Whether in a deposition or in a court of law, getting Donald Trump under oath, under penalty of perjury, answering these questions? Well I'll point out it didn't work very well for Bill Clinton. Donald Trump does not want to be under oath answering questions about his own record...”

Of course there's no chance any of this ever happens, but it sure is fun to speculate. And you can expect these sorts of hijinks to continue. Cruz lacks any discernible capacity for shame, and so he'll keep one-upping Trump as this race heats up. No matter what happens, I'm fairly certain that means we all win.

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By Sean Illing

Sean Illing is a USAF veteran who previously taught philosophy and politics at Loyola and LSU. He is currently Salon's politics writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read his blog here. Email at

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2016 Elections Aol_on Donald Trump Republican Party Ted Cruz