On Wednesday evening, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his wife, Heidi, will dine with President Trump at the White House. Cruz has been effusive in his praise of Trump lately, calling his joint address to Congress a “positive, unifying vision for the country.”
But the two former primary foes were not always so cordial, as the 2016 campaign got personal, dragging in both men’s wives, conspiracy theories about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and National Enquirer stories.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said of the man he called “Lyin’ Ted” during the primary. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it. I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”
Trump brought the rumor up again the day after accepting the Republican nomination in Cleveland.
In the heated contest, a group backing Cruz ran ads with some of Melania Trump’s modeling work in conservative Utah, suggesting she was unfit to be first lady. It led to Trump retweeting an image comparing the two candidates’ wives with an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, which is still active on his account:
After spending the early parts of the campaign saying he wouldn’t get into a “cage match” with Trump, Cruz accused the Trump campaign of planting a National Enquirer story accusing him of adultery in March, and unloaded on his opponent the morning of May’s Indiana primary.
“This man is a pathological liar,” said Cruz. “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.”
“The man is utterly amoral,” continued the senator. “Morality does not exist for him. It’s why he went after Heidi directly and smeared my wife, attacked her. Apparently, she’s not pretty enough for Donald Trump. I may be biased, but I think if he’s making that allegation, he is also legally blind.”
“But Donald is a bully. Bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There’s a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.”
Cruz spoke at the Republican National Convention, but didn’t explicitly endorse Trump during his address. After the election, Cruz’s name was floated as a possible attorney general — a maneuver the transition team employed with a number of former opponents, which had the effect, intended or not, of defusing their criticism and bringing them on board with the new administration.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked Wednesday whether Trump had plans to apologize to Heidi Cruz during her visit. Spicer did not answer the question directly, saying that the president is looking forward to the dinner and is willing to engage with anyone who can help move the country forward.
Cruz is far from the first former rival to make up with Trump following a contentious, mudslinging primary. Trump in turn will need his former rivals as he attempts to get health care reform and the rest of his agenda through Congress. But with the level of vitriol and deeply personal attacks on display during the campaign, it’s not just policy disagreements the Republicans will need to forgive.
Here are a few of the other reconciliations that have followed the White House win.
The Florida senator was harsh with the eventual primary winner, calling Trump a “con artist,” an “erratic individual” and “dangerous.” He also compared Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying, “There is a lunatic in North Korea with nuclear weapons, and some would say a lunatic trying to get a hold of nuclear weapons in America, but that’s different.” Rubio also got more personal, suggesting that Trump had small hands, which could signify a deficiency in other parts of his anatomy. This was partially in response to Trump labeling the senator “Little Marco.”
Despite these comments, Rubio eventually supported and voted for Trump. In the confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Rubio was aggressive with the Exxon-Mobil CEO, and made headlines suggesting he would become the Senate’s prime antagonist to the White House. Rubio eventually voted yes on Tillerson, and attended a White House dinner with his wife last month.
In November 2015, Trump implied the retired neurosurgeon had fabricated a childhood story about attempting to stab a friend only to have the friend’s belt buckle block the blade.
“So I have a belt: Somebody hits me with a belt, it’s going in because the belt moves this way. It moves this way, it moves that way,” said Trump at a rally. “He hit the belt buckle. Anybody have a knife? Want to try it on me? Believe me, it ain’t gonna work. You’re going to be successful, but he took the knife and went like this and he plunged it into the belt and, amazing, the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke.”
“He goes into the bathroom for a couple of hours, and he comes out, and now he’s religious,” Trump said. “And the people of Iowa believe him. Give me a break. Give me a break. It doesn’t happen that way. It doesn’t happen that way. … Don’t be fools, OK?”
“How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”
Carson was sworn in as Trump’s secretary of housing and urban development on March 2.
The feud between the Trump campaign and Ohio governor peaked during the convention — which Kasich refused to attend, even though it took place in Cleveland. Then-Trump campaign surrogate Paul Manafort called Kasich “petulant” and said he was embarrassing his party in Ohio. Trump’s April comments were more personal, when he said of Kasich, “I have never seen a human being eat in such a disgusting fashion.”
Kasich visited the White House in February for a 30-minute conversation with the president.
“The man is the president of the United States,” said Kasich following the meeting. “It’s sort of like being on an airplane; you want to root for the pilot. If you’re on the airplane with the pilot, you don’t want the pilot to screw up.”
“I can have my opinions, but now it’s time to be constructive. And sometimes being constructive is to not be positive, to make your point, and I’m very glad that I’ve been able to make my point on this whole business of Obamacare and Affordable Care Act, and I’m going to continue to make it. And if it upsets Republicans in the Congress, that’s life.”
In the early days of the Republican primary, the South Carolina senator called Trump a “jackass.” Trump responded by giving out Graham’s cell phone number at a rally and calling him a “lightweight” and “idiot.”
“He doesn’t seem like a very bright guy. He actually probably seems to me not as bright as Rick Perry. I think Rick Perry probably is smarter than Lindsey Graham,” Trump said.
Graham had lunch at the White House Tuesday, and said it went so well he gave Trump his new cell number. Perry was confirmed as Trump’s secretary of energy earlier this month.
The Kentucky senator was targeted early and often during the primary.
“First of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage,” said Trump during a September 2015 debate. “He’s number eleven — he’s got one percent in the polls.”
“I never attacked him on his looks,” Trump added, “and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.”
On Twitter Tuesday, Trump referred to Paul as “my friend” and said he expected him to come along in support of the new GOP proposed Obamacare replacement plan.
“Look at that face!” said Trump of the former Hewlett Packard CEO in a September 2015 interview. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
After the October release of the “Access Hollywood” tapes in which Trump appeared to describe himself sexually assaulting women, Fiorina called on him to drop out of the race and said that he didn’t represent her or her party. In December, during the transition, Fiorina visited Trump Tower and praised the president-elect as “a champion” and said he was adding “fantastic people” to his administration.
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