Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has often encouraged libertarian fearmongering on the National Security Agency surveillance program, accusing the government of listening in on our calls. He praised Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for his drone filibuster and has resisted putting forth a full-throated plan to defeat the Islamic State. And there was no bigger opponent of immigration reform — “amnesty!” — when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was battling his way through the Senate.

Now Cruz is trying to find middle ground so as not to be on the same page with Paul. “As Republicans debate whether to renew the post-9/11 PATRIOT Act, Cruz is staking out a position between two of his main rivals, the hawkish Marco Rubio and the libertarian-leaning Rand Paul,” Politico reports. His efforts last time it came up for a vote to tie the NSA up in knots earned him the scorn of serious national security experts and officials, including former CIA chief Michael Hayden and former attorney general Michael Mukasey. It will be interesting to see Cruz explain exactly where the abuse is (an independent panel found none) and why he would join the American Civil Liberties Union in trying to hamper data collection.

And on immigration, in the wake of cryptic comments by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Cruz (to the delight of those of us who recognize that immigration is critical to a pro-growth agenda) declared: “I consider myself a proponent of immigration reform. There is no stronger advocate of legal immigration in the U.S. Senate than I am.” (I would love to see him debate Sen. Jeff Sessions.) Time reported:

The GOP presidential hopeful opposes citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but he stressed Wednesday the need to celebrate and encourage legal immigration. And he noted his support for dramatically increasing the available number of high-tech visas. His remarks drew an implicit contrast with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a likely rival for the GOP nomination, who recently took a protectionist stance on legal immigration levels.
Cruz declined to directly answer a question from TIME about whether he would support a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., indicating a legislative fix should first focus on shoring up border security.

Well, that sounds exactly like Jeb Bush and former Texas governor Rick Perry (who actually did something for border security). Despite all Cruz’s posing and attack-dog politics, I have long thought there is not any significant difference between him and these two on this issue. (This is one reason the talk-radio attacks against Bush as out of the mainstream on immigration are so off-base. Bush is the mainstream.)

There are a few noteworthy aspects to this. First, for someone who constantly espoused the hardest of hard lines, it is delightful to watch Cruz migrate away from unsustainable positions for the sake of political expediency. Hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue, eh?

Second, the right wing and Cruz in particular like to portray themselves as representative of conservatives and Republicans more broadly. But it turns out their brand of paranoia (fear of government reading your e-mails and of foreigners stealing our jobs) puts candidates in the kiddie pool, splashing around with marginal candidates and way, way down the list of popular presidential candidates. Those views don’t make one presidential; they make one into a fringe candidate (along with stunts such as the government shutdown). We are reminded that Cruz previously showed little enthusiasm for some mainstream positions. It is only now that he is looking for a reasonable approach to those here illegally and considering support for robust anti-terrorism efforts. The scramble is on to correct course and get on the side of sound conservative policy.

Third, I never mind a reasoned change of heart, but since Cruz’s only claim to fame was “standing and fighting” on various fronts, what should we make of the fact that he was fighting for the wrong things (a government shutdown, hobbling the NSA, vilifying an earned pathway to legalization)? Such are the travails of a freshman senator who has accomplished so little and done it so loudly.