June 2015: The Worst Video Media Disaster

Joe Biden’s oldest son, Beau, died of brain cancer on May 30. It was the latest blow in a life of tragedies for the vice president, whose first wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972.

In response to the news, politicians on the opposite side of the aisle suspended partisan attacks on Biden and expressed their sorrow. It was heartening to watch as political rivals put their humanity above their politics.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)—a presidential candidate and longtime critic of Mr. Biden’s—struck the perfect tone with a beautifully crafted statement, which he released on his website three days after Beau’s death.Ted Cruz Biden Statement

If Mr. Cruz meant those words, his sentiment was short lived. At a GOP dinner the following day, Cruz decided to take a swipe at Biden and use him as a cheap punch line.

“You know the nice thing? You don’t need a punch line. I promise you, it works. The next party you’re at, just walk up to someone and say, ‘Vice President Joe Biden,’ and just close your mouth. They will crack up laughing.”

While Cruz was gleefully mocking his political opponent, Mr. Biden was preparing to bury his son. Contrast Mr. Cruz’s words with this agonizing photo of a grieving father, taken at Beau’s viewing a few days later.


Political attacks are nothing new. Candidates of both parties engage in them. And Cruz’s attack is consistent with the fact that some politicians are particularly juicy targets. Former vice presidents (or VP candidates) Al Gore, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, and Dick Cheney all come to mind as occasional political punch lines; a simple mention of their names, uttered at the right time to the right audience, is almost certain to draw groans or laughs.

But regardless of which party you support or what ideological beliefs you hold, some things should be sacred in American public life. One of them is that politicians should place a moratorium on personal attacks during a time of profound personal grief.

That I have to write such a thing seems absurd—it’s a truth so obvious it shouldn’t have to be stated—and yet, some public figures clearly need to be reminded of it. And that Ted Cruz—a father of two young daughters—needs to be reminded of this makes him this month’s worst video media disaster.

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