Cruz is in it for Cruz

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Hey, Look at Me Fail: Isn’t it obvious that Ted Cruz is in it for Ted Cruz? The man had a choice–he could fight the Senate’s push for “amnesty first” immigration legislation, which he had a very good chance of killing, or he could stage a showy fight against funding Obamacare that he’d certainly lose. The first course would annoy the business backers who fund Senate and presidential campaigns. The latter course would gin up and channel conservative anger, boosting Cruz’s profile in the caucuses and primaries,without doing anyone much damage at all (since it would fail). The choice seems to have been a no-brainer for the senator.

I originally thought Cruz opposed amnesty and took a dive on the issue, doing the minimum possible to maintain his credibility. I now don’t think his behavior was that bad. It was worse–his very opposition to amnesty was fake. Evidence: The New York Times, in a bit of Anticipatory Strange New Respect, recently ran a piece on Cruz’s attempt to stake out “middle ground on immigration.” The middle ground seems to be support for legalization that stops short of citizenship:

“A path to legal status, but not to citizenship. A green card with no right to naturalization.

Immigration-reform legislation from the Senate’s so-called Gang of Eight passed that chamber in June and includes a 13-year path to citizenship. Mr. Cruz pushed unsuccessfully for amendments that would have, among other things, eliminated the citizenship component.

Asked about what to do with the people here illegally, however, he stressed that he had never tried to undo the goal of allowing them to stay.

‘The amendment that I introduced removed the path to citizenship, but it did not change the underlying work permit from the Gang of Eight,’ he said during a recent visit to El Paso”  [Emphasis added]

Legalization-without-citizenship isn’t the position of anti-amnesty types. It’s the cutting edge position of pro-amnesty Republicans who are trying to sneak a lowest-common-denominator bill through the Republican House, knowing that once illegals are legalized citizenship can always be added later (or obtained through other, already-existing channels). Pro-amnesty journalists are even now going public with discussions of how to relax the citizenship demand.

Cruz isn’t in opposition to Karl Rove on this one. He’s saying what Rove’s side wants to hear. He even defies logic in a way familiar to observers of pro-amnesty agitation–claiming that he opposes citizenship because the prospect of getting it “perpetuates illegal crossings.” As if the prospect of getting legal status–status that enables you to freely work and travel in the U.S. and lets your children be citizens–doesn’t make illegal crossing attractive.

True, Cruz has talked about the need to “secure the borders first.” He even started a website called www.securebordersnow.com. But the promoters of the non-citizenship version of amnesty also talk about securing the border first–it just turns out that they probably only mean Congress has to pass a border bill before it passes a legalization bill.

Doesn’t Cruz mean the borders have to actually be secured? That’s what I thought, especially after hearing this speech, where Cruz makes all sorts of won’t-get-fooled-again noises and talks about how different the immigration conversation will look “once the borders are secure and we’ve managed to stop illegal immigration.”

But then I went and read the actual words of Cruz’s online petition, which says only that

 any immigration reform must lead with real border security first

[Emphasis on weasel words added.] Call me paranoid, but I now suspect there’s not really any difference between Cruz and the quietly pro-amnesty Boehner-camp position, as recently outlined by Rep. Goodlatte. Cruz won’t insist on securing the borders (and waiting to make sure) before he takes up legalization. He’s willing to support a bill that starts (“leads”) with an enforcement provision and ends with an amnesty provision, as long as the amnesty stops short of granting citizenship. That will come as a surprise to the Tea Partiers who’ve heard his rousing speeches.

In short, Cruz  is (1) bamboozling the base on amnesty while (2) he gooses them on defunding Obamacare.  In the course of (1) he appears to make the sort of gross political misjudgment familiar to followers of (2).  For example, according to the NYT‘s story,

Mr. Cruz said the Obama administration and partisan Democrats would not yield on the citizenship requirement ….

He’s wrong. Of course Democrats will yield on the citizenship requirement (if that’s the path to a path to legalization). In the Obamacare fight, Cruz has talked as if he might somehow force Democrats to abandon their achievement. He’s wrong! He goaded House GOPs to defund the program, then seemed to throw up his hands and said the Senate was a lost cause. On immigration, he threw up his hands in the Senate and left the fight for the House. I sense a pattern–in which Cruz attracts publicity but avoids victory, and then positions himself to blame others.

It’s enough to make Newt Gingrich look like a self-effacing idealist. Gingrich has a Cruz-size ego, but at least he actually opposed what he said he opposed–and when he provoked a government shutdown, he actually believed the tactic would work. Cruz doesn’t have that excuse.

P.S.: Cruz’s www.securebordersnow.com is now strangely blank, with no petition language at all.  Hmm.


What if God has no taste? The jewel-like figure that explains the universe looks like something you’d leave on the shelf at Bed Bath & Beyond. …


You Go First, Part XVIII: “Tests on the [Obamacare price] calculator initially scheduled to begin months ago only started this week at some insurers.”   Luckily, Ezra Klein’s authoritative juicebox Wonkblog tells me not to worry. …


Mickey Kaus