By John David Dyche
Remember when Texas Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called Kentucky Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar? Nobody backed up Cruz but several senators supported McConnell.
After this week's Republican presidential debate, Cruz stands convicted under the doctrine of "takes one to know one." The Texan's dissembling on immigration has provided tasty fodder for the conservative commentariat.
The issue on which Cruz compromised his credibility is whether he supports a legal status for the 11 million or so illegal immigrants currently in America. He indisputably did, but tries to deny it.
Florida Senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio supported the so-called Gang of Eight bill that provided a path to citizenship for the 11 million. Rubio says he learned that such a comprehensive bill cannot pass because people do not trust the federal government to enforce immigration laws.
So Rubio now supports first hiring 20,000 more additional border agents, completing 700 miles of fencing, implementing mandatory e-verify and entry/exit tracking systems to prevent visa overstays, and reforming the legal immigration system.
After those things are done, however, Rubio still backs legalization and possible citizenship for the 11 million if they undergo a background check, pay a fine, and start paying taxes. He admits his position may be at odds with a majority of the GOP.
Cruz caustically criticizes Rubio as being for "amnesty." But Rubio pointed out that Cruz himself had supported "legalizing people who are in this country illegally," along with "a 500 percent increase in the number of H-1 visas, the guest workers that are allowed into this country," and "doubling the number of green cards."
Confronted with these facts while trying to portray himself as an immigration hardliner, Cruz responded, "It is not accurate what he just said, that I supported legalization." But it is, and demonstrably so, as many reporters and commentators, including several who are otherwise sympathetic to Cruz, quickly made crystal clear.
Next, Rubio asked Cruz point blank whether he ruled out "ever legalizing people that are in this country now." Cruz, in weasel words one commentator correctly characterized as "Clintonian," responded, "I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization."
Cruz now tries to deny his own words.
"If this amendment is adopted to the current bill," Cruz claimed, the 11 million would, "be eligible for legal status and indeed, under the terms of the bill, they would be eligible for [green card] status as well, so that they are out of the shadows, which the proponents of this bill repeatedly point to as their principal objective to provide a legal status for those who are here illegally to be out of the shadows."
Cruz now claims his amendment was a "poison pill" intended to prevent passage of the bill, but he sang a different tune at the time. "I don't want immigration reform to fail. I want immigration reform to pass," said Cruz, the linguistically gifted constitutional lawyer. "I believe if this amendment were to pass, the chances of this bill passing into law would increase dramatically."
The next month on the Senate floor, Cruz doubled down on his support for legal status for the 11 million.
"If the proponents of this bill actually demonstrate a commitment, not to politics, not to campaigning all the time, but to actually fixing this problem, to finding a middle ground that would fix the problem and also allow for those 11 million people who are here illegally a legal status with citizenship off the table. I believe that is the compromise that can pass."
On the Fox News program Special Report the day after the debate, anchor Bret Baier confronted Cruz with his contradictory statements. You can watch it here.
"You said you wanted it to pass at the time," Baier said to Cruz. "Looking back at what you said then, and what you said now, which one should people believe?" Suffice it to say that Cruz did not, and indeed cannot, offer a convincing answer.
Cruz will not now say what he would do with the 11 million. His staff, scrambling to clean up after his debate mess, suggests he now sort of supports Donald Trump's unrealistic proposal to deport all of them.
It is a wonder that Cruz's trousers have not spontaneously combusted at some point as he tries to deny the reality of his record. Cruz is clearly is not the kind of candidate to be encumbered by the truth.
So next time you hear Cruz calling someone else a liar, consider the source. And since Cruz is willing to so brazenly deceive on this issue, consider whether you can trust him on anything else.
Rubio did support a path to citizenship for the 11 million in the Gang of Eight bill. Cruz did not, but he clearly did support legal status, or "amnesty" as he calls it.
You can disagree with Rubio, of course. But at least you can believe him.
(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)
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