Open season on Fox News and Megyn Kelly? After spending the previous day finding herself back under fire from Donald Trump over her debate questions, Kelly interviewed Ted Cruz last night about immigration — and got rebuked by Cruz over her “mainstream media liberal journalist” questioning. Kelly repeatedly asked Cruz to answer a hypothetical involving deportation of a family with two anchor babies, while Cruz parried repeatedly by insisting that the immigration problem had to be handled sequentially. “I’m not playing that game,” Cruz insisted:
“If you have a husband and wife who are illegal immigrants, and they have two children here who are American citizens – would you deport all of them? Would you deport the American citizen children?” Kelly asked.
“Megyn, I get that that’s the question you want to ask,” Cruz said after repeatedly listing the steps Congress should take for addressing the issue. “That’s also the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask. They focus exclusively on 12 million people.”
Kelly then took issue with Cruz’s response, insisting that her question was fair.
“Is it an unfair question?” she asked the Texas lawmaker.
“It is a distraction from how we actually solve the problem,” Cruz responded. “You know, it’s also the question that [President] Barack Obama wants to focus on.”
The Washington Post’s Katie Zezima also picked up on the interview, but managed to get the quote incorrect … in a telling way:
“Megyn, I get that’s the question you want to ask. That’s also the question every mainstream media journalist wants to ask,” Cruz said.
No, Cruz clearly says, “That’s also the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask.” It’s not a small point, considering the context of the Republican primary race and Cruz’ position in it. Cruz has been positioning himself all along as the dependably anti-Establishment figure in the race, a position that Cruz has occupied since his decision to run for the Senate. He has delivered on his promise to shake things up ever since, but in a disciplined and strategic manner. Trump has usurped Cruz’ position in this race through rhetoric and personal attacks, but as Kelly notes in the opening of the show, Cruz has managed to at least keep pace.
Trump has set the tone for the low-engagement portion of this cycle with his attacks on all institutions, even the normally popular Fox News and Kelly herself. Cruz’ zinger here seems like a signal to Trump supporters saying I’m one of you. It’s only one moment in the interview, and by the end of the segment, they’re both laughing about not having to represent clients in law practices any longer, but the signal is there nonetheless. It’s a shot across the bow, and like everything Ted Cruz says, it’s deliberate and strategic.
It’s no secret that Cruz has positioned himself to claim Trump supporters if and when Trump either collapses or withdraws, but they really should have been Cruz voters from the beginning. Cruz has the policy depth and demonstrated commitment to anti-Establishment action that Trump lacks, plus a more cutting rhetorical edge that is more effective because it’s more disciplined. On top of that, no one will look in Cruz’ past to see wildly divergent positions on key conservative agenda items; Cruz has been consistently conservative since his days at Harvard, and that’s saying something. If Trump fades, Team Cruz will be the natural home for many of Trump’s supporters, and many of them may find themselves happier for that transition.
Update (AP): Wanted to add my two cents. There’s a good reason why Ted Cruz would get fidgety and try to work the refs when asked about what to do with illegals who are already here. Remember?
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. Mr. Cruz also noted that he had not called for deportation or, as Mitt Romney famously advocated, self-deportation.
Ed’s right, of course, that Cruz is hoping to inherit Trump’s voters once Trump is out of the race. Admitting that he’d tolerate guest workers is a singularly bad talking point for him in that context, knowing that Trump fans are animated about cracking down on illegals. Kelly was going after his potential Achilles heel with conservative populists.