Ted Cruz went on a blistering ramble against Donald Trump on Tuesday, delivering a list of stinging personal attacks that included calling the GOP front-runner a "serial philanderer," "pathological liar" and a "narcissist." [...] "This man is a pathological liar. He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth," Cruz told reporters in Evansville, Indiana.
It might be easier to believe Ted Cruz's latest condemnations of Donald Trump if Cruz hadn't spent months saying the exact opposite.
To the extent that facts still matter, Cruz's criticisms are rooted in fact. The senator is obviously feeling desperate, and working from the assumption that a furious tirade late in the process might help his floundering candidacy, but that doesn't mean his attacks are incorrect.
The problem, rather, is what Cruz used to say about Trump.
Last summer, for example, when much of the massive GOP presidential field was condemning Trump's rhetorical excesses, Cruz did the opposite, praising his rival's "bold" and "brash" style. At one point, the Texas senator appeared on national television to applaud Trump for being "willing to speak the truth."
So, which is it? Should voters believe Ted Cruz when he says Trump is "a pathological liar," or should voters believe the other Ted Cruz who insisted Trump "speaks the truth"?
As recently as December, Cruz said on Twitter the political establishment may be waiting for some kind of "catch" between the two candidates, but it wouldn't happen. "Sorry to disappoint," Cruz said at the time, "[but Trump] is terrific."
Apparently, Trump was terrific before he was serial philandering narcissist.
I realize, of course, that Cruz's previous praise for Trump was a calculated strategy. The Texas senator believed that Trump's candidacy would eventually falter, and if Cruz could position himself as the principal beneficiary once Trump's supporters shifted their allegiance to a new candidate, Cruz could reap a windfall.
It was, however, a gamble that failed. Trump's support didn't collapse -- it actually grew quite steadily -- and Cruz found himself stuck trailing the candidate he'd spent months complimenting.
The Texan is now reduced to effectively telling the public, "Never mind all of that stuff I said before that I didn't really mean. What really matters are the attacks I'm willing to make now."
Or put another way, Cruz is now admitting that he lied about the candidate he considers a pathological liar. If the senator and his team see this as the pitch that will turn around their struggling campaign, now would be a good time to start lowering expectations.