I can only assume this means Rand still thinks he has a chance to win. Otherwise it’s nuts to alienate Cruz by backing up Rubio on his attack on Cruz’s 2013 legalization amendment. Cruz and Rand are allies on most issues; Paul would have more sway in a Ted Cruz administration than he would with any other Republican in the White House. If he was going to kneecap Cruz, the time to do it was early, when Rand still stood a chance of contending himself. Not now, when Cruz is libertarians’ only hope against Trump, Rubio, and Christie.

Maybe he’s just being spiteful? Cruz, the master of restraint against Trump, could teach Rand a thing or two about letting your emotions overwhelm your strategy.

“Without question both Rubio and Cruz have been for amnesty, so it’s kind of a silly debate,” the Kentucky senator said. “The amendment that Cruz put forward at the time — no one understood it to be a poison pill, it was not advocated or put forward as a poison pill, it was an advocacy for legalization and normalization.”…

“I think Cruz is being disingenuous and not honestly presenting the facts when he says that he was not for legalization: He’s wanted to have it both ways,” Paul said. “His amendment, I think, was put straight forward — and I don’t think there’s any contemporaneous evidence that he was putting forward something that he didn’t really believe in.”…

“It stretches credulity, and I think it also makes you wonder about exactly whether or not we can take him at face value on what he presents, if he’s willing to reconstruct a history that’s not really the same as what happened,” the Republican presidential candidate added.

Fair point about Cruz wanting to have it both ways — that’s my read on his amendment as well — but how on earth do you go after Cruz for being duplicitous on immigration without emphasizing that Rubio’s been even more duplicitous? Team Cruz, at least, is starting to zero in on that (finally):

Rick Tyler is Cruz’s national spokesman. Is Rand right, though, that “no one” understood Cruz’s legalization amendment two years ago to be a poison pill? Nope — or at least, it depends on whether you’re talking to Cruz’s allies or enemies. His enemies, like Gang of Eighters John McCain and Jeff Flake, claim they thought Cruz was offering his amendment in earnest because he really did want to see more work permits for illegals (but without a path to citizenship). Not so, say border hawks Jeff Sessions and Mike Lee. He was anti-amnesty all the way. You can listen to both below; this debate, as always, is complicated by what precisely is meant by “amnesty,” but cover from conservatives as respected as Sessions and Cruz is obviously a great help to Cruz.

How about the man himself, though? When push comes to shove, Cruz is the only person who knows exactly what he intended with that amendment. Reporter David Drucker of the Examiner went back through his archives and found an interview he did with Cruz in July 2013, just a few days after the Gang of Eight bill passed the Senate (with Cruz voting no and Rubio voting yes, of course). You should read all of it (it’s not long) rather than have me excerpt it for you, as there’s no snippet that perfectly summarizes Cruz’s view. Note, though, that all of his criticism is reserved for a path to citizenship, not for giving illegals some form of basic legalization via work permits. It’s citizenship that’s unfair to legal immigrants who’ve waited their turn, says Cruz; it’s citizenship that incentivizes more illegal immigration; and it’s citizenship that absolutely can’t pass the Republican House. None of that is strictly true, though. Legalization, i.e. work permits, achieves all the same bad ends. It’s unfair to a legal immigrant who’s waiting patiently for a visa in his home country; it incentivizes illegal immigration by rewarding border-jumpers with residency in the U.S., albeit without voting rights; and it shouldn’t pass the Republican House and probably wouldn’t for the simple reason that legalization will almost certainly lead to a path to citizenship eventually. There’s no logical reason for Cruz to attack citizenship but not legalization unless he’s leaving the door open a crack for the latter. In fact, he mentioned to Drucker at one point that when Hispanics in Texas are polled on the subject, a plurality preferred legalization without citizenship for illegals to either citizenship or the status quo. “If you get out from the Democratic partisans,” he said, “the Democratic partisans are focused on political objectives, not actually on fixing the problem.” Evidently “fixing the problem” involves legalization, the compromise position between the extremes of full citizenship and mass deportation.

What Cruz also said, though, to his credit — and this is the crucial distinction between him and Rubio — is that he opposed the “legalization first” scheme of the Gang of Eight bill. If we’re going to end up legalizing some people, which I think is probably inevitable given the need to compromise with Democrats to get anything passed, we absolutely must use that leverage to have beefier enforcement measures put in place first. That’s the only way to prevent the need for another amnesty 20 years from now. Security first, legalization second. Cruz has never wavered from that position. Rubio not only wavered, he cast a vote for the opposite position. Ultimately that’s the only thing that matters in their differences on immigration. Trump fans who think we’re going to ship out 11 million people may feel differently.