Senator-Elect Ted Cruz on the Way Forward For Conservatives
HH: One of the bright spots in the election of 2012 was what Texas did, which was send Ted Cruz to the United States Senate. The Senator-Elect from Texas joins me now. I guess I’m going to just start calling you Senator Cruz. Senator, welcome, it’s great to have you.
TC: Hugh, it’s always great to be back with you.
HH: Hey, congratulations. I haven’t talked to you since the election. I know you’ve been back and forth to D.C. Have you gotten your committee assignments yet?
TC: No, they still have not made those. They’re actually still waiting to have the discussions back and forth between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell on the ratios between the parties, so we’re going to have to wait some time to find out about committee assignments.
HH: I see, and I will talk about probably in the second segment that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has quite right and smartly made you their deputy chair heading into this new election cycle.
TC: That’s correct, and I am happy to work very hard to hopefully, come 2014, to retire Harry Reid as majority leader.
HH: Let’s talk about that after the break. Let’s stay on substance for a second. One more looking backwards question. Did you leave any campaign debt unretired? Is www.tedcruz.org still up and running?
TC: God bless you. That is a fabulous question. We do still have a significant amount of debt, about $400,000 in debt, and so we’re continuing to raise money to retire that debt. And it certainly would be welcome, if any of your listeners felt so inspired, to go online at www.tedcruz.org and help us do so, that would make a real difference.
HH: You know, I want to encourage everyone to do that, because the last thing…you’ll get that retired, but the sooner you get that retired, the sooner you can turn your full attention to the future and everything else going on. So www.tedcruz.org. How much did you end up raising, Senator? You did a great job at that, because you asked people for their support, and they gave it to you.
TC: Well, we ended up raising over $14 million dollars. And it was incredible. Now just in the primary, the other side, we were outspent over three to one. It was over a $50 million dollar primary.
HH: That is remarkable. Well, okay, www.tedcruz.org. Let’s get to the substance. I am a little uneasy with the fact that a big deal is being negotiated now before the new Congress which has been elected takes its seat. For example, I don’t know that you’ll even get to vote on the policies that will impact your tenure as a United States Senator. What do you think about that? And how are they hearing from Ted Cruz about Ted Cruz’ views of what ought to be in the big deal?
TC: Well, I am certainly visiting with my hopefully soon-to-be colleagues in the Senate, and sharing my views with them privately. Look, you and me, both. I am very nervous about what this lame duck might do. The President, I think incorrectly, but I think he has read this election as a mandate to come even harder, even more aggressively at raising taxes, at increasing spending and growing the debt. And I think, I don’t think that’s right. And he seems bound and determined to raise taxes on Americans. And I very much hope Republicans hold the line and make clear we need to get the economy going. And jacking up taxes on small businesses and job creators is not the way to do so.
HH: Now Senator Cruz, there’s a lot of talk about deduction caps, and oh, let’s limit the home mortgage interest deduction, let’s limit the charitable deduction, the state tax deduction. What do you make about that, because I think that aims right at the heart of the Republican Party, the home-owning, Church-going, charity-giving middle class.
TC: Well, it’s…I think the Obama administration is trying to push any avenue they can to raise taxes. I mean, that is their focus, is they want more and more money so they can spend more and more money, because their view is the federal government knows far better what to do with your money than you and I do. I am all for eliminating deductions if you’re also lowering rates and simplifying the tax code. If you’re moving towards a flat tax that is fair, that is uniform, that applies for everyone, then I think limiting deductions makes an awful lot of sense, although I would preserve under any circumstances the home mortgage deduction and the deduction for giving for charity. I think those two are critical deductions. But I think everything else should be on the table. The trouble is what Obama wants to do is get rid of the deductions, and keep the high rates. In fact, what he wants to do is jack up rates on top of that. And I think that would be a serious mistake.
HH: Now you’re in an interesting position. You’re a young man, you have a long career ahead of you if you choose and God blesses you with a healthy life, and all that is taken for granted for I ask you this question. President Obama is actually only a passing issue for you. He will be gone before you stand for reelection again, Ted Cruz. So how do you view the first couple of years of your tenure there as you begin to lay down your service to the people of Texas and your vision for the United States?
TC: Well, I think we’re really at a critical turning point in our country, and I’ll tell you, I believe the next two and four years are going to be very challenging. I think our nation is facing crushing debt, out of control spending, and we now have a reelected president and a Senate majority leader who believe that the American people want more of the same. My focus every single day in the U.S. Senate is going to be on helping turn us around, turn us to a different path, to a path that works. My focus is going to be on limiting spending and the debt, on fundamental tax reform, and on stopping the crushing regulations that are killing jobs. There are 23 million people all across this country who are struggling to find work, and we’ve got to get the government out of the way of creating jobs and getting Americans back to work.
HH: Now this is the $64,000 dollar question. How big did you win in Texas, Ted Cruz?
TC: We won by 16 points.
HH: All right, so you had a huge win. Mitt Romney carried the state, obviously. Why is Texas so different from where I’m talking to you from, California? I mean, I can drive, I go there a lot. I’ve got great affiliates in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and across the state. I’ve got lots of friends in Texas. They’re the same people, you know, cut me, we bleed and all that good stuff.
HH: Why is your culture so different?
TC: Well, I’ll tell you, you can draw a terrific object lesson comparing the policies that have been enacted in the state of California and the state of Texas. I was just in California over Thanksgiving. My in-laws are from the Central Coast of California. California has incredible natural beauty, it has tremendous resources. And for a couple of centuries, California has been an economic engine, a jewel nationally. What’s happening in California right now I think is tragic, because you’re seeing misguided policies, and those policies are identical to those of the Obama administration – more and more spending, more and more taxes, more and more regulation. Those policies in California are killing jobs and bankrupting the state. And Texas has adopted policies that are 180 degrees opposite, the mirror image. Instead of high taxes, we’ve lowered taxes. Instead of out of control spending, we’ve restrained spending. Instead of unleashing regulators to destroy small businesses and jobs, we’ve restrained regulation. And I’ll tell you, Hugh, there are a thousand people a day moving to the state of Texas because small businesses are thriving, and jobs are created when you allow the private sector to thrive.
HH: So what is it about California that prohibits it from moving in that direction? I think it might be public employee unions, but I’m wondering from your perspective what you think it is.
TC: Well, and I certainly would not hold myself out as an expert on California politics, but what I can tell you is that you’ve got the public employee unions by all appearances have a stranglehold on the state legislature. And you’ve got elected officials there who are beholden to those unions, because they provide the manpower and the cash to keep those politicians in power. And as a result, they keep bankrupting the state. And the remainder of the state, the voters in California, unfortunately, keep voting to double down on policies that don’t work. California voters just elected a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature.
TC: …that will raise taxes yet again. And if you look at this last Census, this the first Census in 80 years when California has not gained Congressional seats. And you look at the demographics of California, California is hemorrhaging population. Now illegal immigration is refilling the bucket so that effectively, California’s population is treading water. But the people who are fleeing the state are small business owners, are the entrepreneurs, are people creating jobs. And that’s really dangerous for California. And if California is hurting, it’s dangerous for the country. And so I worry very much about seeing the voters for California keep going down that road, and I hope they get back to the policies that are working in Texas that have worked in the past in California of low taxes, limited government, limiting regulations and empowering the private sector. That’s what creates opportunity and makes this nation such an incredible land of opportunity.
HH: Last question before the break, Ted Cruz. If the California delegation comes to you, your new colleagues, Boxer and Feinstein, say you know, we need some help in California, we need some federal funding to close gaps and make up, what’s your answer going to be to them?
TC: Not in a million years.
HH: (laughing) Good.
TC: And you know what? If my friends from the state of New York or the state of Illinois come and ask me the same thing, of course I’m going to say the same thing. The policies are bankrupting their states, and it’s not going to work to shift the bill to other Americans who are not embracing those misguided policies.
HH: That is a terrific answer.
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HH: Senator-Elect Cruz, I mentioned before we went to the break that immigration is going to be front and center on the agenda of the Senate and the House coming up in the new term. Obviously, the President has pledged to do that. I don’t know what your exit polls were. What percentage of the Hispanic vote did you win if you trust exit polls in Texas?
TC: Well, Texas, we actually didn’t have exit polls, so we don’t have clear numbers to indicate. We did quite well along border counties and along counties near the border that are overwhelmingly Hispanic. We won a number of those counties by significant margins. But we don’t know precisely how we did, because none of the major media outlets paid for exit polling, because Texas wasn’t a swing state.
HH: All right, so tell us then, I assume you won far more percentage of the Hispanic votes than did Mitt Romney, who fell below 30% in what is a deeply troubling demographic trend. How do you want your colleagues in the Senate, and Republicans generally to address the issue of what to do about illegal immigration?
TC: Well, there’s no doubt that it is critical for Republicans to do a better job connecting the Hispanic community. If we are going to remain a viable national party, we’ve got to connect with a community that is growing and that shares conservative values. Now I think a mistake a lot of Republicans make, and a lot of media analysts make, is they view Hispanics as single issue voters who care only about immigration. I don’t think that’s right. I’ll tell you, we did polling in the state of Texas looking at the Hispanic community in the state of Texas, and overwhelmingly, the number one issue for Hispanic voters in Texas was jobs and the economy. There was no other issue even close. It was exactly the same as you saw among Anglos, among other ethnic groups. The problem, I think, with Republicans and the Hispanic community is twofold. Number one, we didn’t effectively make the case that the policies of limited government, of limiting regulation, of lower taxes, create jobs, expand opportunity. I mean, the classic means of climbing the economic ladder has been small business. Do you know that one out of every ten Hispanic households is a small business owner? There are 2.3 million Hispanic small business owners in this country. And I think the Republicans did an incredibly poor job making the case to Hispanics and to voters across the country that if you want opportunity, if you want jobs, you can’t have the federal government serving as an impediment, and putting barriers in the way of small businesses and entrepreneurs. But number two, I think where immigration is relevant, really comes to tone. And I think sometimes when Republicans discuss immigration, our tone is far too harsh, and I think it turns off a lot of Hispanic voters, because listen, you’re not going to vote for somebody if you think they don’t like you. I mean, that’s a basic principle of elections going back to time immemorial. And I think that the position of the Republican Party should be that shared by most Americans, which is that we need to be serious about securing the border, about stopping illegal immigration, and at the same time, we’ve got to remain a nation that welcomes and that celebrates legal immigrants. Americans by choice is what Ronald Reagan called legal immigrants, people who come here seeking the American dream. And we need to do a far better job of celebrating legal immigration rather than just talking all the time about the very serious national security problem of illegal immigration.
HH: Now I believe it’s the case, Senator-Elect Cruz, that 75% or more of Republicans are in favor of regularizing people who are not in the country legally, of finding those who are working hard and have been here a while, and saying you get to stay, and here are the conditions under which you stay. The number of years it takes to qualify for citizenship is open to debate, and some people want it to be a short number like four, and some people want it to be a long number like twelve or thirteen. I just don’t think there’s actually that much debate about this issue. I’m curious if you think there is, or if this could actually be something on which the Republicans quickly lead on?
TC: Well, I’ll tell you, I think there is real resistance to a broad amnesty program, to a program that would allow those who are here illegally to skip to the front of the line, to get a path to citizenship, that forgives their breaking the law. And I think there are very good reasons for that resistance. Number one, we’re a nation that is based on rule of law. As you know well, it is one of the foundations of our country, our Constitution. It’s part of what has led to the singular opportunity and freedom we enjoy in the United States. But number two, I think, any policy that embodies amnesty, in my opinion, is unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who have waited years and sometimes decades waiting in line to come here and follow the rules and come here through the legal process. And I think if we improve legal immigration, if we improve the processes so it’s not so onerous, so there’s not such an incredible delay for people to come here legally. That will reduce significantly the incentives for people to break the law and come here illegally.
HH: Okay, that’s going to be a huge debate, and when it opens, I hope you’ll come back and spend a lot of time. I do want to ask you one more question before we run out of time. We’ve got three minutes here. You’re now the deputy at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This is ironic, because of course, you were an insurgent candidate in Texas. And the NRSC has gotten in trouble before, for example, with your new colleague, Marco Rubio, when it supported Charlie Crist against him originally. And I just finished reading Senator Rubio’s wonderful biography, An American Son, and you know, the NRSC almost is tone deaf sometimes about who represents the new, emerging Republican Party. Are you going to caution them against primary fights? Are you going to encourage them to pick the right people in primary fights?
TC: Look, there is no doubt that in the past, people in Washington have been particularly poor at picking winners and losers in primaries, and in siding usually with moderate establishment candidates against strong conservatives. And the argument is given, as it was in Florida with Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, that the squishy moderate is “more electable.” I don’t think that’s proven to be the case. I think voters are looking for principled, strong conservatives who know what they believe, who are serious candidates, who can go and win the argument. You know, Margaret Thatcher famously said first you win the argument, then you win the election. What I intend to focus on in the Senate, and particularly at the National Republican Senatorial Committee is helping elect strong Republicans, strong conservatives in 2014 so that we can retire Harry Reid as majority leader, because right now, with the Democrats controlling the Senate, the Senate under Harry Reid has been Barack Obama’s biggest protector. And to do that, to retire Harry Reid and take a majority, we’ve got to win the argument. And that’s what I intend to work very hard to do, is to work with candidates to help them do it, and help them do it on a national basis.
HH: And 30 seconds, Ted Cruz, how important are smarts to this? I mean, I’m done with dumb. I do not like trying to get dumb people elected. It’s just impossible to do.
TC: You know, you’ve got to have, it matters a lot. And it matters that you know what you believe. You know, one of the things that doesn’t work is when you have candidates who are just reading talking points. I mean, one of the reasons why your and my hero, Ronald Reagan, was such an incredible leader is he knew his principles, and he articulated them from the heart. And that resonates and works with the American people. And we need candidates who can do that.
HH: Ted Cruz, congratulations. America, www.tedcruz.org. Get on over there, help retire the campaign debt, and help get him off to a great start in Washington, D.C. Look forward to talking you many, many more times over the years, Ted Cruz.
End of interview.