By Ian Swanson and Jonathan Easley
Ted Cruz laid into Donald Trump with his most personal and toughest criticism since the GOP presidential campaign began, calling him a “pathological liar” on Tuesday who doesn’t understand the difference between the truth and lies.
Cruz prefaced his comments by saying that for the first time, he wanted to say exactly what he thought of Trump after the front-runner suggested Cruz’s father might have had something to do with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The Texas senator accused Trump of being both disingenuous and self-aggrandizing, saying Trump was a “narcissist” at a level “I don’t think this country has ever seen.”
“Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and says, ‘Dude, what’s your problem?’ ” Cruz said.
“Whatever lie he’s telling, in that minute he believes it, Cruz added. “But the man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him.”
He criticized Trump for tweeting an unflattering picture of his wife, Heidi Cruz, saying it is just one piece of evidence that Trump is scared of “strong women.”
“It’s why he went after Heidi directly, attacked her and smeared her,” Cruz said. “Heidi isn’t pretty enough for him. … Donald is a bully. … Bullies don’t come from strength, they come from weakness. … There’s a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.”
“Donald has a real problem with women,” Cruz continued.
He then noted that Trump defended boxer Mike Tyson, who was convicted in Indiana on rape charges, and told Trump’s supporters they should not believe their favored candidate.
“Donald is cynically exploiting that anger, and Donald is lying to his supporters,” he said. He went on to insist Trump would betray his them by not doing what he promises, including his pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Cruz’s all-out assault suggested his campaign might be nearing its breaking point.
Cruz raised the stakes for a one-on-one confrontation with Trump in Indiana last week, signaling he believed he could defeat the GOP businessman in the state. Polls now show that Cruz is behind Trump, who is expected to win the state on Tuesday. With a win in Indiana, Trump will be the presumptive GOP nominee and Cruz’s hopes for a contested convention this summer where he could emerge as the nominee will fade.
Cruz has appeared frustrated in recent days.
On Monday, he made the unusual move of confronting a group of Trump supporters outside his campaign stop. As Cruz sought to reason with the men, he was met with derision about being born in Canada, insults about his wife’s employer and doubts about his chances of being the GOP nominee.
On Tuesday, Trump’s comments about Cruz’s father and the Kennedy assassination appeared to set the Texan off.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said, calling into “Fox and Friends.” “Nobody even brings it up; they don’t even talk about that.
“What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting?” Trump asked.
Cruz said the country is facing the “abyss” with the possibility of Trump as president.
“If Indiana does not act, this country could plunge into the abyss,” he said.
He dug into Trump’s past as a Manhattan playboy, savaging Trump for bragging about his infidelities.
“Donald Trump is a serial philanderer and he boasts about it,” Cruz said. “This is not a secret, he’s proud of being a serial philander. I want everyone to think about your teenage kids. The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery. How proud he is, describes his battle with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam. That’s a quote from the Howard Stern show.
“Do you want to spend the next five years with your kids bragging about infidelity?”
Cruz has been looking for a game-changer in Tuesday’s Indiana primary. He brokered a deal with John Kasich, the other GOP candidate in the race, that led the Ohio governor to give up campaigning in the state in a move meant to help Cruz and hurt Trump.
Cruz also named Carly Fiorina as his running mate in a bid to change the race’s momentum.
So far, the moves do not appear to have made much difference.
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In his tirade, Cruz also singled out Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, the media titans who control Fox News, accusing them of being in the tank for Trump.
“Network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump,” Cruz said. “Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at Fox News have turned Fox News into the Donald Trump Network, 24-7.”
Cruz said Murdoch has a history of “picking world leaders” abroad but said he’s never before asserted that kind of influence in the U.S.