Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gestures during a break in the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECKROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) during a break in CNN’s Republican presidential debate Tuesday in Las Vegas. (Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The Post reports:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) defended his role in the 2013 immigration battles Thursday, telling reporters at a rally here that the Republican “establishment” was misleading people about why he introduced an amendment to penalize workers in the United States illegally.

“Let me use a Las Vegas analogy, from poker,” said Cruz. “It’s called ‘calling their bluff.’ Listen, the Democrats and the establishment Republicans who supported the Gang of Eight — they claimed they cared about the people who were here illegally. And so I introduced an amendment that made anyone here illegally permanently ineligible for citizenship. That amendment called their bluff, because it revealed that the members of the Gang of Eight were hypocrites.”

To put it differently, Cruz told multiple members of the media and his colleagues that he really wanted legalization but that was not true. It was a lie because he did not want legalization or any other bill. That’s the excuse?

In listening to Cruz’s remarks in 2013, one cannot miss how sincere and earnest Cruz sounds. He was so convincing that multiple reports at the time portrayed him as trying to reach agreement on legalization. He gave no wink, no hint he was really a virulent opponent of immigration reform. He sure got a couple of members of the Gang of 8 to think he wanted a bill. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is quoted as saying Thursday, “You can only take people by their words. His words were clear that passage of that amendment would improve the chances of passage of the bill. He made that clear and he made both on the floor and off the floor.”

The take-away, then, is that he is an extraordinary liar — either then in convincing people he was sincere or now in trying to convince people he was not. (I have no idea which it is.) For a guy running against those scoundrels inside the Beltway, Cruz seems to outdo his colleagues when it comes to telling people whatever they want to hear.

Longtime Cruz watchers are well aware that Cruz excels at being entirely disingenuous:

Cal Jillson, a longtime political analyst at Southern Methodist University in Texas, has watched Cruz’s climb in politics and notes the ease in which Cruz can shift, crediting his days as a lawyer and early years as a Princeton debate team champion.

“He can say whatever he chooses to say, even when changing his views, without blinking an eye or looking like he’s under pressure or trying to remember what his new position is,” Jillson said. “With less facile politicians, you can see the gears turning in their head when they used to believe one thing and want to say another.”

And really, Cruz’s character was the point of probing all this, both in the debate and the back-and-forth that has gone on since then. We know that Cruz currently rails against “amnesty” (though won’t say if he would favor a Donald Trump-esque roundup of millions) and that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) no longer wants a single, comprehensive bill but instead wants to pursue border control, next fix the legal immigration system and then set up conditions for a path to citizenship. We know where Rubio stands, but figuring out what Cruz is really for and how far he’d go to get it is impossible. This really is a guy who will say whatever needs to be said at any moment to further his political prospects. (It’s the same on the NSA metadata program: Then, he bragged he was curtailing the government’s power and now, he falsely claims his vote was to expand our surveillance abilities.)

This has been the dig all along against Cruz, namely that excessive ambition mixed with insincerity stands out, even in the U.S. Senate. Someone so boastful of his commitment to conservative ideology seems to have no ideology other than self-advancement. He can rationalize his contradictions all he likes, playing the word games to rival Bill Clinton, but he cannot avoid the appearance is that of a slippery pol who thinks he is smarter than the rest of us. No wonder his colleagues dislike him so intensely. And no wonder the Rubio team has been licking its lips, waiting to pounce with piles of research demonstrating Cruz’s habitual disingenuousness. (“Cruz’s response [to Rubio] highlights his greatest weakness: he’s just too slick and self-aggrandizing.”)

Conservative columnist Peter Wehner remarks on Cruz’s bobbing and weaving:

Senator Cruz, for reasons of political expediency, now opposes something that two years ago he supported. That’s not admirable, but it’s not unheard of in politics. What makes things a good deal worse for the junior senator from Texas is that he’s dissembling about his record — and then he has the gall to (in the context of a discussion about surveillance) upbraid Rubio, saying “Marco knows what he’s saying isn’t true.” In psychology, what Senator Cruz is engaging in is known as projection — and combining it with dishonesty is a rather troubling mix, particularly for someone who wants to be president. . . .

It would be a shame if those who claim to be defenders of conservatism decide that they can distort truth and reality to get the man they want. Because the man they want may, in the end, do considerable damage to the principles and virtues they claim to cherish, like the traditional belief that truth exists independent of what we hope for and the political candidates we are drawn to.

The campaign bumper sticker could read, “Cruz, the postmodern conservative!” At any rate, the point has been made: Cruz is so effective at misleading voters one cannot tell when, if ever, he is being sincere. If he can lie with such ease and “reframe” his views so readily, how will Congress and the American people trust him?