*This article of mine is published on CNN.*
Isn’t it ironic (read: maddening) that the wife of a politician often plays such a crucial role in making her husband’s public image pristine? And while the wife of a politician must prioritize protecting her husband’s image at any cost, who is offering her that same security? Is anyone there to shield her from the often-continuous humiliation of being a political wife?
The latest case in point to join the long list of women standing by their man? Senator Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz.But unlike her fellow political wives, Heidi Cruz isn’t standing next to the metaphorical podium to make her husband look good. She showed up next to another politician: President Donald Trump.
This week, President Trump is interviewing potential candidates to take the top job at the World Bank, and one of the people he met for the position of president is none other than Heidi Cruz, a managing director of the investment division in Goldman Sachs’ Houston office.
Despite her qualifications, she’s not expected to get the job. As Cruz’s spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, told CNN, “It was an honor for Heidi to be considered by the administration as a finalist for president of the World Bank. She was humbled to be among a strong list of other strong candidates to serve,” Frazier added.
Normally, that would be the end of this story — but there’s quite a toxic, sexist history between Donald Trump and Heidi Cruz. Trump targeted her on Twitter after an anti-Trump super PAC used an old photo of his wife Melania posing nude, in a provocative Facebook ad that read, “Meet Melania Trump. Your Next First Lady. Or, You Could Support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”Shockingly the now-President Trump took to Twitter to threaten “Lyin’ Ted” to “be careful” or else he would “spill the beans” on his wife.
The tweet was followed up with a retweet of a Trump follower who posted a photo of Heidi Cruz next to a glamour shot of Melania Trump, with the caption: “no need to ‘spill the beans’ the images are worth a thousand words.”
Ted Cruz responded by calling Trump a “sniveling coward” and demanded Donald “leave Heidi the hell alone.”
While Trump never apologized for the incident, he did express “some regret” over the tweets, and the Trumps invited the Cruz family to dinner at the White House in March 2017.
The President and Ivanka Trump even traveled to Texas in 2018 to support Cruz’s Senate campaign. According to Politico, the Cruzes also had dinner with Ivanka Trump, who is leading the World Bank search, and Jared Kushner in September.
This entire situation is a win-win for Trump. The optics of just interviewing and considering Heidi Cruz for the World Bank position is great for his image. It makes Trump look good because, not only did he consider a woman for the role, but she’s the wife of a former adversary to boot.
Heidi Cruz, on the other hand, has very little to gain from being paraded around by Trump. Plus, something about Trump’s considering — and then likely rejecting — Heidi Cruz three years after ridiculing her looks on a national campaign trail just doesn’t sit right.
And it’s not just about how incredibly impressive Heidi Cruz’s resume is. We’re talking about a Harvard Business School graduate who is a managing director at Goldman Sachs.
She also previously served as an economic adviser for former President George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, and later worked for his administration in various economic roles, including with the Treasury Department and the National Security Council.
You would think the sticking question would be, “Why would the Cruzes repeatedly set themselves up for humiliation by Trump?”
In addition to insulting his wife’s looks during the 2016 campaign, Trump even tried to link Ted Cruz’s father to the assassination of President Kennedy.
Why then do the Cruzes insist on joining the burgeoning cohort of people — which also includes Mitt Romney and Chris Christie, among many others — who have come in for the Trump humiliation treatment?
Among this list of people, it is Heidi Cruz who stands out, especially when you think of the shockingly depressing revelations that Heidi Cruz made in an interview with The Atlantic last year.
In it, Cruz talks candidly and movingly about her struggles giving up on her career for her husband, joining the campaign trail, moving to Texas from Washington, something she likened to “divorcing an essential piece of herself” and identified as a contributing factor in her struggle with depression.
Reading about Cruz’s mental health issues and professional sacrifices as a woman, I just have to ask: hasn’t she suffered enough? Why should she feel “humbled” in any context having to do with the administration of a man who attacked her for two reasons: she is a woman, and he knew he could get away with it?
It may appear harmless that in American political culture, we still value men in part by their “better halves.” But it’s actually deeply problematic and sexist in 2019 that we still ask women to sacrifice and humiliate themselves for their husbands.
It goes to show that even today in America, being a political wife often means you may end up with very little autonomy over the kind of life you lead — and it may look nothing like the one you envisioned for yourself.
If you have any doubts about that, just read what Heidi Cruz has to say about her experience.
*This article of mine is published on CNN.*