The main part starts at 2:30 below and runs to the end. Question for Harvard Law grad and former Texas solicitor general Cruz: Is Trump’s plan constitutional?
When a reporter specifically asked Cruz–a Harvard-trained lawyer and former solicitor general of Texas–about the constitutionality of Trump’s proposal, Cruz declined to express an opinion. “I am focused on my policies and the solutions that I am proposing to the real problems of this country,” Cruz replied.
Cruz has gotten in minor political trouble before by pronouncing a policy favored by border hawks unconstitutional. Remember his semi-flip-flop on birthright citizenship? In 2011, when he was running for Senate, he said that birthright citizenship for illegals born in the U.S. is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. If you want to change it, that’s fine, but it’ll take a constitutional amendment. Four years later, in the middle of a GOP primary, he’s open to changing birthright citizenship by “legislation or a constitutional amendment.” Which means either his reading of the Fourteenth Amendment changed or he’s willing to lay aside his own interpretation of it to push for statutes favored by his base even if he believes in good conscience that they’re unconstitutional. I’m dying to know what his read is on Trump’s plan, but he’ll never say. What would happen to his conservative cred if he told Trump fans that the Constitution doesn’t let them do everything they want to do to protect the country? That’s why Marco Rubio keeps needling Cruz for his vote on the USA Freedom Act, actually. Since when do Fourth Amendment considerations get in the way of counterterrorism?
Rule one of blogging is to have a strong opinion on any position you take but I see both sides’ point on the “Should Cruz slam Trump?” question. Why should Cruz jump through the media’s hoop in ritually denouncing Trump? Why is Republican A forever being forced to own or disown whatever controversial thing Republican B has said? When the rules of that game apply equally to Democrats, which they will never do, then maybe Cruz should feel obliged to say something. Besides, the primaries are ultimately just a big game of “Survivor” and Cruz is playing strategically. The first part of his strategy is to never, ever imply that Trump fans are bad people by denouncing their candidate as immoral. I just got through explaining in the Ryan post why that’s a smart approach. The second part of his strategy is triangulation, positioning himself as the sensible middle ground between two foolish extremes. He’s done that explicitly on foreign policy by describing himself as somewhere between Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and he’s done it implicitly on immigration by contrasting his security-first approach with Rubio’s Gang of Eight bill while also being careful not to endorse Trump’s plan for mass deportation or to rule out legalizing some illegals. What he says in the clip below is also a form of triangulation — sure, he doesn’t support a total ban on Muslims but he supports restricting refugees from nations where terror groups hold territory. It’s a good-faith disagreement on, uh, whether we should categorically exclude every member of a major religion from entering the U.S.
But I understand why people get annoyed at watching Cruz gladhand Trump too, whatever the strategic benefits. This is, after all, a guy who got where he is by RINO-stomping every establishment Republican in sight. He’s been laying into Rubio, quite effectively, for about a month for selling out the base on amnesty and selling out the Bill of Rights on natsec grounds. He’s a warrior for conservative principle who will speak the truths his enemies cannot bear to hear — unless he covets their voters and/or fears being attacked by them, as he does with Trump, in which case he turns into a kitten rubbing against their ankle. There was no need for the smarmy obsequiousness near the end here about refusing to lend his voice to the chorus of Trump critics. He could have run through his “I like and respect Donald Trump” song and dance while also calmly picking apart his Muslim ban on the substance of it, as an ineffective and counterproductive policy. As it is, he keeps coming off like Chester to Trump’s Spike even though Trump has committed many more sins against conservatism than his nemesis Mitch McConnell has. And he does this because, when push comes to shove, Cruz is in it for Cruz. If his own personal ambition requires him to look the other way again and again and again and again at the worst serial offender against Reaganism in the GOP race, no problem. Maybe he’s saving up all of his attacks on Trump for the home stretch in Iowa, when he simply has no choice but to take the gloves off. We’ll see.
Exit question: If Cruz thinks Trump’s plan is constitutional, why not say so? Trump fans would be grateful. And since Cruz is already on record as saying he disagrees with the plan, the media couldn’t treat his legal opinion as support for the policy.