There is no bigger flip-flop (not even his 180-degree turn on legal immigration) in this race than the assessment of Donald Trump by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). He sure seemed sincere when he was praising Trump. Now he spends a good deal of his allotted town hall time on CNN bashing the front-runner. Did he get Trump wrong? Did something change?

Remember Cruz did not merely avoid criticizing Trump. Cruz appeared with and gave a warm arm pump to Trump and then a brief hug at a rally on Iran in September 2015. (He certainly got into close physical proximity with Trump in a way New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie never did with President Obama.) Cruz visited him at his office (imagine Jeb Bush doing that!), where they posed for pictures (thumbs up!) He defended Trump outside Trump Tower. Cruz praised Trump for raising immigration (as if it was not previously an issue).

In interviews he praised Trump to the hilt, saying, “I am proud to stand with Donald Trump. I like him and respect him.” On “Meet the Press,” he declared, “I like Donald Trump. He’s bold, he’s brash and I get that it seems the favorite sport of the Washington media is to encourage some Republicans to attack other Republicans. I ain’t going to do it. I’m not interested in Republican on Republican violence.” He even offered a “salute” to Trump after the latter called illegal immigrants rapists and criminals. Cruz was admiring to the point of obsequiousness.

But come mid-January Cruz was tormenting Trump for his “New York values.” Did he acquire those values only in January, 2016? Seems odd it never caught Cruz’s attention earlier.

Last night at CNN’s town hall Cruz still maintained the fiction he “likes” Trump. (Who buys that?) He went on multiple anti-Trump riffs. “So, his claim is if you tell people his record, if you actually show Donald Trump on national television his own words, that he’s going to file a lawsuit to prevent you from doing that. I pointed out, listen, we’ve got at least four pieces of evidence. Number one, his own words on national television. Number two, what he said on the debate stage four days ago, singing the praises of Planned Parenthood. Number three, last year, not very long ago, when talking about Supreme Court nominees, Donald said his sister – now his sister is a Court of Appeals judge who was put on the Court of Appeals by Bill Clinton.” He continued:

[W]hen the Democrats took over Congress Donald and his son gave about three times as much to the Democrats as they did to the Republicans. They helped fund putting Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate. They helped set the stage for Obamacare.
And, for anyone that actually cares for conservative judges, I’ll tell you, Anderson, there is no universe in which I could write a check to Chuck Schumer or Harry Reid, or Hillary Clinton, or John Kerry, or Joe Biden, or Jimmy Carter, and anyone who’s done that by definition does not care about conservative justices because the people he supported fought tooth and nail to put liberals on the Supreme Court. I think the stakes are too high for that.

None of this came up before January 2016, yet Trump’s behavior and positions were well-known. Later in the debate Cruz had this exchange:

COOPER: Just a quick follow up. Donald Trump has said that George W. Bush didn’t keep this country safe because 9/11 happened on his watch. What’d you think when you heard that?
CRUZ: I thought it was ridiculous. I thought it was really painful. Listen, I like Donald. I am not going to engage in personal attacks, but I think his policy positions have not made any sense.
When he stood up and defended impeaching George W. Bush — that was his position. George W. Bush should have been impeached.
Listen, I’m a constitutionalist. My entire adult life has been spent defending the Constitution, defending the Bill of Rights. The standard for impeachment is high crimes and misdemeanors. He had no argument that George Bush committed any high crimes and misdemeanors. He just said on the stage it was a mistake.
You know, you don’t impeach people for things you say are a mistake. And, at the time that Donald Trump was promoting impeachment, look, that was the — those were the views of the Michael Moore’s of the extreme fever-swamp of the left. And, I have to say to see on a Republican presidential stage a candidate suggesting we should have impeached George W. Bush. I think that really draws into question the judgment of that candidate to be commander in chief.

Funny, Trump last October was blaming Bush 43 for 9-11 and Cruz had nothing to say.

At any rate, Cruz should be clear — since it goes to his judgment and ability to size up others: Was he putting on a show back then for his own political purposes (but he was so convincing, just as he was on legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants!); did Trump change (nothing we’ve seen suggested Trump’s wild ideas and inconsistencies are new); or did Cruz not realize how bad Trump was?