Ted Cruz is an excellent debate. Nevertheless, as he won't acknowledge, he has subtly- and wisely- altered his argument on immigration since Tuesday's Las Vegas event.
Slate's William Saletan points out that "Cruz’s shift" from support to opposition to legalization of illegal immigrants "has been documented by the Texas Tribune, National Review, Yahoo Politics, FactCheck.org, and many others." (See here for the links he provided.) Now The Hill reports
Two of the Republican senators who with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) authored 2013’s comprehensive immigration reform bill say they believe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered amendments to improve their legislation.
Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake say they think Cruz wanted the “Gang of Eight” bill to pass, despite his arguments today that he was always an opponent of the bill.
The legislation — and Cruz’s motivation in offering amendments at the time — has become a flashpoint in the Republican presidential race, where Cruz and Rubio are battling for support from grassroots conservatives. Many GOP primary voters are strongly opposed to efforts to increase immigration.
The 2013 bill created a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, and Cruz argues Rubio’s support for it highlights a key difference between the two candidates.
Rubio’s counterargument is that the amendments offered by Cruz at the time show their positions on immigration really aren’t that different. While Cruz was opposed to the broader bill, he backedamendments that increased legal immigration.
Cruz’s allies argues that his amendments were “poison pills” designed to undercut support from the larger piece of legislation, but the remarks from Flake and McCain — a frequent critic of Cruz — offer support for Rubio’s position.
We don't know, additionally, why in the recent debate Rubio complained
As far as Ted's record, I'm always surprised by his attack on this issue. Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally. Ted Cruz supported a 500-percent increase in the number of H-1 visas, the guest workers that are allowed into this country, and Ted supports doubling the number of green cards.
Perhaps Rubio aims to increase confusion, to engender a "he said, he said" response among prospective GOP primary voters, by conflating the positions of, or minimizing the differences between, himself and the other plausible candidate. It would be bad strategy, however, because as Steve M. recognizes
Yes, every time this is brought up, doubts about Cruz form in the minds of immigrant-hating Republican voters. But those same immigrant-hating Republican voters are also reminded anew that Marco Rubio helped write an "amnesty" bill. Every time this is discussed, Rubio is linked to a moment in his career you'd think he'd want brought up as little as possible.
Yet, Cruz's approach, aside from noting "Marco wants to raise confusion," was uncharacteristically inept. His response continued
it is not accurate what he just said that I supported legalization. Indeed, I led the fight against his legalization and amnesty. And you know, there was one commentator that put it this way that, for Marco to suggest our record’s the same is like suggesting “the fireman and the arsonist because they are both at the scene of the fire.”
He was fighting to grant amnesty and not to secure the border, I was fighting to secure the border. And this also goes to trust, listening on to campaign trails. Candidates all the time make promises. You know, Marco said,” he learned that the American people didn’t trust the federal government.”
Cruz could have done better by owning up to what he was doing, to acknowledge- yea, boast- that he supported legalization. He should follow the lead of one of his prime (undeclared) supporters, Rush Limbaugh, who on Thursday remarked
It was the Gang of Eight, 'cause there were eight guys in it -- and Cruz was not one of them. Now, here again is what this is about. They're trying to revise or rewrite the history of the debate. The Gang of Eight bill had two planks in it. One is "path to citizenship," which means vote, and the other is legalization, which means amnesty. They wanted both. The proponents of the Gang wanted both. Legalization -- no criminals anymore, no more criminal distinction -- and citizenship -- which means you get to go down and register at the DMV tomorrow as a Democrat.
The Republican donor class likes the notion of legalization, which would provide a boost in the labor supply likely to have a downward effect upon wages. If citizenship- as in the Gang's bill- includes a path to citizenship and thus greater bargaining power for immigrants, that can dealt with down the road.
The Republican popular base is less concerned about the impact upon labor supply or wages. It opposes citizenship primarily because the right to vote inevitably would come with it. GOP primary voters fear citizensip largely for the reason Limbaugh stated: "citizenship- which means you get to go down and register at the DMV tomorrow as a Democrat." Apprehensive GOP primary voters envision a nation- their nation- in which not only are more Democrats elected, but in which their own votes are diluted. Their influence, additionally, would be diminished by indiviudals perceived as outsiders and who (they believe) would be a drain on them.
"The Gang of Eight bill," Limbaugh claims, "was to register 20 million new Democrat voters. The Democrat Party needs a permanent underclass of dependent people who are ill-educated, poor, maybe don't even speak English well. They can't survive without government assistance. That's the ideal Democrat voter. The more of them, the better. "
By late Thursday, Cruz had altered his message, crowing "By calling their bluff, we won. We defeated amnesty. We beat it," by sponsoring "an amendment that made anyone here illegally permanently ineligible for citizenship.”
Cruz might as well be honest and say "yes, I have been in favor of legalization. However, that's a way of preventing citizenship and allowing millions of foreigners to vote for the Party that gives them free stuff." (The mainstream media wouldn't mind; he didn't say "Mexicans," so it's alright.)
The Texas senator should also keep repeating "the Gang of Eight." Those eight privileged and well-connected Senators were very impressed, all puffed up, that finally they could be part of a "gang." But that included four Democrats, a fact disconcerting to most Republicans. And the term reinforces the perception of a bunch of good old boys in Washington in cahoots against the American people. To most GOP voters, they are good ol' boys meaning harm, unlike the fellows in mythical Hazzard County, Georgia. (The south and the Confederate flag- this is, after all, a post about the Republican Party. Rest in peace, Waylon.)
These people at Politifact bizarrely believe Ted Cruz didn't support legalization because his advocacy of a bill providing that was only a tactic. For the vast majority of us on either side, Cruz's opposition to citizenship is what matters, and GOP primary voters are among that vast majority.