Rush Limbaugh has been a rather consistent defender of Donald Trump, even in the billionaire’s most alienating moments.
But Trump’s attacks on his enemy du jour, Sen. Ted Cruz, was a bit much for the conservative radio host.
Limbaugh declared Trump’s criticism of Cruz’s challenges of the GOP establishment as a tactical campaign error. In vintage Trump style, the real estate mogul did not mince words, using the word “maniac” to characterize Cruz’s railings on the Senate floor against the Republican leadership.
He wasn’t the only conservative leader turned off by Trump’s attack on Cruz. Radio talk show host and former Reagan administration official Mark Levin, for example, also took issue with the implication that conservatives who take a stand against GOP business-as-usual are off-kilter.
Levin, who has been a very vocal champion of Trump, condemned the billionaire's comments about Cruz on his Facebook page: "Does that make all conservatives who support Cruz against [Mitch] McConnell, et al, maniacs? And he thinks Cruz is owned by the oil companies because he opposes taxpayer-subsidized ethanol, like most conservatives? Defending the GOP ruling class and lurching left are dumb tactics.”
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Levin concluded that Trump “really screwed up this time. Big time."
Limbaugh said on his radio show Monday: “My questioning here about the way Trump has gone off Cruz here, calling him a maniac, refusing to work with people in the Senate, the reason I’m focusing on that, folks, ’cause that’s so unlike Trump. I mean, that’s a huge mistake."
“On paper it’s a huge mistake,” Limbaugh said. “Trump gets away with his mistakes. Such is the bond of loyalty that his support base has for him that he gets away with them. And I don’t think he’s made that many. Don’t misunderstand.”
“But for any of you who are holding out hope that Trump is a genuine conservative,” Limbaugh said, “a genuine conservative, even in the Republican field, would not go after Cruz this way. So that just raised a red flag for me, made me somewhat curious.”
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” with host Chris Wallace, Trump described Cruz as unfit for the presidency because of his well-known ways of alienating his GOP colleagues, which, among other things, led to the infamous government shutdown in 2013 over Obamacare and, recently, an unsuccessful attempt to cause another one over Planned Parenthood funding.
“Look at the way he’s dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a – you know, frankly like a little bit of a maniac. You’re never going to get things done that way," Trump said.
Trump said that Cruz doesn’t have the requisite quality of getting along with others in order to achieve a goal.
Cruz, who has taken to such things as reading Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” – in character – on the Senate floor five hours into a 21-hour speech, responded to Trump’s attack with a Twitter link to the song “Maniac” from the 1983 hit movie “Flashdance,” which the senator is said to love.
Before the recent exchanges, Cruz and Trump had claimed the most amicable relationship among the GOP presidential rivals. Apparently Cruz crossed the billionaire’s electoral red line when he outperformed him in recent voter polls, and – to boot – criticized him at a private fundraiser in Manhattan.
Speaking about Trump and the other political outsider near the top of the GOP polls, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Cruz said, "I don’t believe either one of them is going to be our president.”
According to an audio recording of the event that was made available to the New York Times, Cruz went on, “You look at Paris, you look at San Bernardino, it’s given a seriousness to this race that people are looking for: Who is prepared to be a commander in chief? Who understands the threats we face?” he asked.