If Amnesty Wins, Blame Cruz

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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If an immigration amnesty bill passes in this Congress-and there’s a definite chance it will–I know whom I’ll blame: Senator Ted Cruz. This might seem odd, since Cruz opposes amnesty. It’s not. Cruz was the national politician best positioned to stop the bipartisan, MSM-backed push for “legalization first.’ He not only failed to rise to the occasion, he’s recently increased its chance of becoming law.

The two-count indictment:

1. He didn’t step up in the Senate: As a charismatic Latino apostate, Sen. Marco Rubio quickly became the leader of the pro-amnesty faction in the Senate.  The anti-amnesty faction (composed entirely of Republicans) … well, they needed a leader too, especially a Latino leader, especially leader who was also a potential presidential candidate (and who could therefore scare all the other waffling presidential candidates with the possibility that he’d run against them on the immigration issue).  Such a spokesman would be in the press and on the Senate floor, day after day, making the case against the “Gang of 8” con job even if it risked costing him some MSM and donor support.  Cruz would have been perfect–he can be brilliant in argumentative give and take. But he didn’t do it. Instead, he contributed the minimum necessary to maintain his credibility as a foe of the Gang of 8: promoted an online petition, gave a nice floor presentation and a couple of cogent outdoor addresses to African American marchers and Tea-Partiers rallying on the mall. But the job of actually leading the opposition, day in and out,  fell to Sen. Jeff Sessions–who was organized, forceful and logical but couldn’t bring the PR heft to the fight that Cruz could. You got the impression that Cruz felt the Senate was a lost cause, and he behaved accordingly–which made the Senate close to a lost cause.

2. He may have blunted the grass roots August anti-amnesty push: Once the Gang of 8 bill cleared the Senate, the best hope of blocking it was to delay House consideration until after the August recess, when the Republican grass roots could attend town halls and drive home that they’d oppose any backsliding from their elected Representatives. At the same time, it became clear that the amnesty-friendly GOP House leadership realized that the way to sneak amnesty through was to not talk about it, lest those grass roots get riled up. Hence, the Boehner “piecemeal” strategy–nothing to see here, just a few little bills!

Into this void stepped Cruz, who made a bold attempt to rouse a “grassroots army” for the cause of … defunding Obamacare.  So instead of haranguing their members about unchecked immigration, hard core red-staters would harangue them about the Democrats’ health care plans. Cruz’s strategy had no hope of actually defunding Obamacare,. By attempting to shut down the government over the issue it had a much greater chance of reviving Democratic fortunes. (I thought Republicans had learned from the past two or three times this tactic failed).

And it might wind up giving us amnesty. Democrats are secretly delighted, of course: with the Tea Partiers distracted, fence-sitting Reps might have enough breathing room in the fall to sneak some kind of mass legalization through–maybe not a full “path to citizenship” for everyone, but Dems could go back and fix that later, once the millions of illegals had been given legal status. As an added pro-amnesty bonus, Cruz was helping to rehabilitate fellow defunder Rubio, giving the latter something to posture about once he became too terrified to even mention his deceptive immigration plan.

Almost certainly both these moves have helped Cruz’ presidential ambitions. Big GOP Donors, who almost unanimously favor amnesty, are sophisticated enough to know the difference between fighting 100% against it and going through the motions. They will remember and reward Cruz’s restraint. And he’s rising in the polls–the grassroots have been galvanized by Cruz’s Obamacare fight as surely as they could have been galvanized by a high-profile Cruz immigration fight.

They still might be galvanized enough to stop the bill. But it won’t be thanks to Sen. Cruz.

Mickey Kaus