Bill Clinton, Heidi Cruz are latest family members turned into campaign fodder

Bristol Palin
Bristol Palin Associated Press

Over the last few days media outlets have retold a story about an incident involving Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, more than a decade ago.

Bill Clinton’s past, um, indiscretions came up during Sunday night’s Democratic debate.

Fair game or not, political spouses and kin can be baggage or boon, or both, for a presidential candidate.

Here’s a look at some recent examples.

Bill Clinton

No surprise here, really. Clinton’s past sexual escapades have already surfaced in the campaign and were front and center during Sunday night’s Democratic debate. Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked outright whether he regretted calling the former president’s indiscretions “deplorable.”

“That question annoys me,” Sanders snapped. “I cannot walk down the street, Secretary Clinton knows that, without being told how much I have to attack Secretary Clinton.”

But he went on: “Yes, his behavior was deplorable. Have I said a word? No, I have not. I’m going to debate Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley on the issues facing the American people, not Bill Clinton’s personal behavior.”

Sanders doesn’t want to talk about Bill Clinton’s past, but Donald Trump has signaled that he will.

After Hillary Clinton accused Trump of having a “penchant for sexism,” Trump warned her. “Hillary, when you complain about ‘a penchant for sexism,’ who are you referring to. I have great respect for women. BE CAREFUL!” he tweeted.

Chelsea Clinton

Novice campaigner Chelsea, who is pregnant with her second child, stepped out of the shadows swinging this month in New Hampshire. In her first speech of the presidential race, she said that “Senator Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare.”

Sanders’ supporters called her statement “misleading” and a “lie.” Sanders shot back with more friendly fire.

“Chelsea Clinton is a very smart and capable young woman,” Sanders told CNN. “I’m sure she loves her mother and she’s trying to do everything she can to make sure her mom wins, that’s pretty natural.

“I have four kids, seven grandchildren, they’re rooting for me,” he added. “But I was a little disappointed that what Chelsea said was simply not accurate.”

Now that she’s inserted herself into the campaign, the tabloid media is shadowing her. The Daily Mail ran pictures of her on vacation last week “at one of Turks and Caicos’ priciest resorts where villas cost up to $34,000 a night.”

Ivanka Trump

If a poll were taken, it might show that Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is the most popular Trump of all. (Like Chelsea Clinton, she is pregnant.)

A recent, glowing profile in Vanity Fair detailed how the savvy businesswoman is able to keep her own image above reproach while supporting her shoot-from-the-lip father.

“Everyone knows she is first and foremost a Trump – she even works for the family company,” a source in New York social circles told Vanity Fair.

“But that doesn’t mean she is 100 percent just like her father, or even agreeing with everything her father says. She is definitely her own person, and she is a person a lot of people would like to be associated with for exactly that reason.”

The Bushes

Republican candidate Jeb Bush has no shortage of political family history to contend with in the 2016 campaign. His brother George W. Bush left the White House with a dismal approval rating, and Jeb has been tripped up by the question of whether he would have invaded Iraq in 2003.

At first, he said yes, he would have invaded. Then no. Then he didn’t understand the question. He has since refined his position, saying: “Were there errors along the way in Iraq? Yeah, you bet. There were errors of faulty intelligence that both Democrats and Republicans alike saw and believed.

“So there were lessons in every presidency, not just 41 and 43, but I’d say 42 and 44 and all the others as well. But I’m proud of my brother’s service. He kept us safe.”

Also, in 1999 it came to light that his wife, Columba, had declared $500 worth of goods at customs during a trip to Paris when she actually made close to $20,000 in purchases.

His daughter Noelle faced drug charges in 2002, and his son Jeb Bush Jr. was cited for public intoxication and resisting arrest in 2005.

Tipper Gore

Remember that long, awkward kiss she and her husband, Vice President Al Gore, shared in front of millions of people on stage at the 2000 Democratic National Convention?

Geez, mom and dad. Get a room.

Tipper carried more baggage into the presidential campaign than most spouses because of her fight with the music industry in the 1980s. She was the most prominent member of the Parents Music Resource Center, which fought to get “Parental Advisory” labels on music akin to the way movies are rated PG, R and so on.

Her work earned her nasty nicknames like “uptight prude” and “public enemy No. 1.”

She also announced in 1999 that she had been treated for depression after their son was injured in an automobile accident.

In 2010 the Gores announced that after 40 years of marriage they were separating. They have not divorced.

Heidi Cruz

Ted Cruz’s wife, described as his “secret weapon,” just discovered that the past will come back to haunt you when your husband runs for president.

In recent days Buzzfeed and the New York Times have written about an incident back in 2005.

Right after she quit a dream job at the White House and moved to Texas, where her husband was state solicitor general, police found her sitting beside an expressway on-ramp with her head in her hands.

She was so depressed that the police officer noted in the report, “I believed that she was a danger to herself.”

Ted wrote about his wife’s period of depression in his book, “A Time For Truth.” She has said she wants people to recognize “that we all have rough patches.” She is currently campaigning and raising money for him after taking a leave from her job with Goldman Sachs.

Bristol Palin

No one outside of Alaska knew much about Sarah Palin when she became John McCain’s running mate. They knew even less about her family, including daughter Bristol, a 17-year-old high school senior who was pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby when her mom became a vice presidential candidate.

That news wasn’t made public until after Palin entered the race. McCain said he knew about the pregnancy when he chose Palin and did not think it disqualified her from being vice president. McCain’s rival, Barack Obama, rushed to Bristol Palin’s defense as well.

“Let me be as clear as possible,” Obama said. “I think people’s families are off-limits, and people’s children are especially off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics.”

Since the campaign, the Palins have rarely been far from the media glare.

In September 2014 some of the family members — allegedly including Bristol and her brother, Track — got into a drunken brawl at a house party in Anchorage.

And unwed Bristol Palin’s private life became news again when, after high-profile work with The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, she announced last summer that she was pregnant with her second child.

“I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you,” she told her fans.

Then on Monday night, the day before his mother endorsed Donald Trump, Track was charged with assault and possession of a weapon while intoxicated in Wasilla, Alaska.

Meghan McCain

John McCain’s daughter made headlines of her own by documenting life on the campaign trail for the sought-after voters of Generation Z in her racy McCain Blogette blog.

But her too-honest portrayal and rebel ways caused campaign staffers to dub her “too controversial,” and they banished her and her friends from campaign appearances just a few weeks before the election.

She described that experience to The New York Times as “baptism by acid.” “I just thought I was doing a fun thing, and that everyone would want to get in on it,” she said.

In her later book, “Dirty Sexy Politics,” she revealed how she nearly overdosed on Xanax on the day of the election.

Billy Carter

Jimmy Carter’s brother was easily one of the most controversial and colorful siblings in all of presidential history.

The media loved him and his good ol’ boy Southern ways. “Yes, I’m a real Southern boy,” he told reporters, over drinks, at his gas station in Plains, Ga. “I got a red neck, white socks, and Blue Ribbon beer.”

This quote is part of presidential lore: “My mother went into the Peace Corps when she was sixty-eight. My one sister is a motorcycle freak, my other sister is a Holy Roller evangelist and my brother is running for president. I’m the only sane one in the family.”

After his brother was elected, Billy became a media star, appearing on talk shows and selling his own brand of brew called Billy Beer.

Four years later he made headlines and problems for his brother’s administration with deals he struck with the Libyans.

Billy died of pancreatic cancer in 1988 at the age of 51.