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Senator Ted Cruz on 2016, TPA, TPP And The Islamic State

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Texas Senator Ted Cruz joined me on today’s show:




HH: Happy to welcome United States Senator Ted Cruz to the program. Senator Cruz, welcome back, it’s great to have you, as always.

TC: Hugh, it’s always great to be with you.

HH: You had a good night last night. I was reading at CNN that three of the top ten conservative donors have announced they’ve banked $37 million dollars in support of your bid, and you were with some of those people at the Knickerbocker Club last night. That’s always a good night.

TC: It has been really tremendous. The fundraising support we’ve seen both from major dollar donors who’ve given the superPAC over $37 million dollars, and then from grassroots donors, where just in the very first week, we raised another $4.3 million dollars from over 51,000 contributions, people in all 50 states going to and supporting the campaign. And it really has been breathtaking, the energy…

HH: Given that kind of momentum on the financial side, when Politico yesterday wrote, the Katie Glueck piece, Ted Cruz team looks beyond Iowa and New Hampshire. Stuck in the pack in the Hawkeye State, the Texas senator looks to later voting states. How did you react when you saw that?

TC: Oh, well, look, as you know, the press always has its agenda, and they’re pushing their agenda. What is absolutely the case is number one, we are competing hard and vigorously in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, in all three of the first primary states. And the grassroots support we’re seeing there has been phenomenal. What that story talked about is in addition to that, you know, the RNC has changed the rules that accelerated the process this year. So after those first three states, there’s going to be another 20 states in rapid succession. And in order to win, we believe, you’re going to have to be able to run a national campaign. So we’re putting major resources of time and energy in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, but we’re also putting time and energy in the states that follow it up. So just in the past couple of weeks, I’ve traveled and campaigned in Georgia and North Carolina, in Michigan, in Massachusetts, all of which are early primary states. And we’re putting leadership teams in place in all of those states as well.

HH: So Senator Cruz, avoiding process questions, but just cutting to the chase, do you think we’re headed for an open convention? As your political director told Katie Glueck, this is, there are 2,470 delegates total. You need 1,236 of them to win. None of them can be accumulated at any one time, which is why it’s a marathon more than a sprint. This number of proportional races, the SEC primary on March 1, then Ohio is going to Kasich on March 15th, all these different things, you think we’re going to have an open, brokered convention?

TC: It is certainly a possibility. It hasn’t happened in a long, long time, but you’ve obviously got a wide field, and if it stays splintered, that could happen. Historically, what has happened is that the first three states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina had a disproportionate impact. And they certainly have a big impact on momentum. And so what we’re doing is we’re planning for both contingencies. We are going all in on Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and putting together the grassroots teams we have there, we’ve announced our state leadership teams. And in all three of those states, the state leadership teams are incredibly strong and robust. And I’ll tell you, Hugh, what’s among the most encouraging is the leadership teams that have come together, what we’re seeing is the old Reagan coalition come together. We’re seeing conservatives and Evangelicals and libertarians. We’re seeing people across the spectrum of views, and that’s what it’s going to take to win. So we are prepared and fighting vigorously in the early states, and you know, when we launched the campaign, Heidi and I went on a barnstorming tour of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, we had standing room only crowds at every town hall we do. The local press repeatedly reported that the crowds coming out for us were much larger and often double the size of the other candidates, double the size of Jeb Bush, double the size of Scott Walker.

HH: What’s the diversity in the crowd, Senator?

TC: It is rich and diverse. So I’ll give you an example. Just a week ago, was up in New Hampshire, did a series of town halls. We had a town hall at the University of Southern New Hampshire, had 600 people come out. Now New Hampshire’s not a big state. You don’t get 600 people at an event. The diversity there, it was across age ranges, it was predominantly working-class. And in fact, the next day, we did an event in Andover, Massachusetts. Now this is bright blue Massachusetts, Democratic stronghold. We did an event at the home of a state representative, one of the strongest conservatives in the state legislature. We had 650 people come out in bright blue Massachusetts into his backyard. And the most encouraging thing, you were asking about the composition of the crowd, they were Reagan Democrats. They were Irish Catholic, they were truck drivers and mechanics and waitresses and teachers and moms. And it’s all the people who have been getting hammered by the Obama economy. And it’s all the people who have been staying home. If we’re going to win the general in 2016, and I believe we are, it’s going to be because we bring back the Reagan Democrats and the conservatives who have been staying home the last two elections.

HH: Last question before I turn to policy, Senator Cruz, I have a new book coming out, The Queen, in which I have a chapter about you. It’s my message to, my advice to Hillary. And I tell her, Ted Cruz could beat you, or you could win 43 or 44 states against him. Do not debate him. That’s my advice to Hillary Clinton. Do not get in the ring with you. Do you think you can compete with her for the Latino-American vote with is estranged from the Republican Party?

TC: Absolutely and without a doubt. When I ran for Senate and was elected to the Senate from Texas in 2012, I got 40% of the Hispanic vote in the state of Texas. Now that was at the exact same time that Mitt Romney was getting clobbered with 27% of the Hispanic vote nationwide, and the reason, we did a lot of polling in Texas among Hispanic voters. The reason for the difference between Romney’s support and my support in the Hispanic community, it all came down to one issue. Who cares about voters like me? And the Democrats did a great job, an unfair job, but a very effective job of vilifying Mitt Romney as an out of touch, rich aristocrat who didn’t care about working men and women. I spent a great deal of time, Hugh, telling my personal story, telling the story of my father fleeing Cuba, where he was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba as a teenager. And when my dad arrived in America, he was 18 years old. He couldn’t speak English. He had $100 dollars in his underwear, and he washed dishes making $.50 cents an hour. That is a story all of us share, but in the Hispanic community in particular, that is an immigrant experience that ties us together and resonates powerfully. And you know, Hillary Clinton embodies the bipartisan corruption of Washington. And I have to say I’m looking forward to standing across from Hillary Clinton on that debate stage.

HH: But what if she says no mas? What if she says not going to go?

TC: You know, I don’t think she will succeed in avoiding and running away from the debate. And if she tries that, we’d take the case to the American people. And you know, one of the great things about modern technology is we can go directly to the people with talk radio, with the internet, with social media, and reach out and connect and move the people. And this is going to be a grassroots fight. But even Hillary Clinton, as aloof and disconnected as her campaign has been, I don’t think she can avoid debating and trying to defend her policies. And…

HH: Do you expect she’ll discuss Libya on Saturday at Roosevelt Island, Senator Cruz?

TC: That she will? I doubt it in any serious length. You know, she has been, look, to date, her campaign has been almost entirely mum. She doesn’t take questions. And it’s been devoid of substance. When it comes to foreign policy, about the only thing she speaks on is in her book. I mean, she did lay out some views in her book, but she hasn’t on the campaign trail gotten into Libya, she hasn’t gotten in Iran and the Iranian nuclear deal, which is the single biggest threat to our national security we’re facing. She hasn’t even answered the question whether she agrees with President Obama on free trade or not. I mean, she’s just avoiding questions across the board.

HH: Let’s take that opportunity, then, to go and talk about free trade. TPA, TPP, Export-Import Bank, Senator Cruz, for clarity’s sake, can you quickly give us an overview of where you are on those three issues as there’s quite a lot of confusion among conservative voters as to where different people are and why on each of those three issues?

TC: Sure. There is a lot of confusion, and there’s unfortunately a lot of misinformation that you can get on the internet, that people are confused. So let’s explain what each of those three are. TPA is trade promotion authority. That’s also known as fast track. That is the process through which free trade agreements are negotiated. Historically since FDR, virtually every president has had fast track authority. What fast track provides is simply if a free trade agreement is negotiated, the Congress will vote on it up or down without amendment. And history has demonstrated for the last 80 years that the only way to get free trade agreements adopted is to have fast track, that if there is no fast track, free trade agreements do not end up being negotiated. TPA is what the Senate voted on recently. I voted in favor of fast track, because I support free trade. I think free trade benefits America, it creates jobs, opening markets to our farmers, to our ranchers, to our manufacturers, improves economic growth. In Texas alone, roughly three million jobs depend upon international trade. And if you support free trade, the only way history has shown free trade agreements get negotiated is with fast track. Now there is a second issue that’s caused a great deal of confusion, and that is TPP.

HH: Trans-Pacific Partnership.

TC: Correct, and that is one specific trade deal that is currently being negotiated. It is separate from TPA. Congress has not voted on TPP. And there’s a great deal of concern about TPP. Now I have not voted on TPP, and I haven’t decided if I will support it or not, because the negotiation isn’t complete. And I’m going to wait and review and see what the agreement is first before assessing if it would be beneficial or harmful.

HH: And you were against Export-Import, and I told people that, and we disagree on that. But I just wanted people to understand you were yes on TPA, undecided on TPP, no on Export-Import. And then I want to get to what you wrote today, Senator, so that we don’t run out of time, because I think your piece in the Washington Examiner is important. You wrote about the war against the Islamic State, and you endorsed the David Petraeus concept of an overwhelming air campaign and direct support of the Kurds. But you did not directly address how many and when American troops, if any, have to go back.

TC: Right.

HH: And I’m talking to General McChrystal tomorrow. He’s at the Nixon Library tonight, and he’ll be in my studio tomorrow. I think every military person I’ve talked to says we’ve got to send significant number of American troops over there or the Islamic State will continue to erupt and threaten this country. What do you think?

TC: Well, I think several things. I think the first thing that is missing is a commander-in-chief who defines our objective up front. And that objective should be to destroy ISIS, and indeed, more broadly, to defeat radical Islamic terrorists. All of the problems we’re seeing dealing with ISIS stem from the failure of President Obama to define that objective and to pursue a serious military strategy to accomplish it. Indeed, President Obama just a few days ago candidly admitted that he still doesn’t have a strategy to deal with ISIS, a remarkable admission that for anyone observing and watching this, surprised nobody, because it’s evident they’re not pursuing a strategy to accomplish it. If the object is to destroy ISIS, then I think the specific means of carrying it out should be determined primary by military expertise. Now there are a number of different components that we ought to consider employing. First of all, as I wrote today, we should be using overwhelming air power, not constrained and limited air strikes as we’re doing now that in many ways is really more of a photo op foreign policy, but using air superiority to punish and pound ISIS into oblivion. And right now, our military is operating under very constrained rules of engagement that are limiting the effectiveness of our air power.

HH: Are you concerned about civilian casualties, collateral damage and creating more terrorists by virtue of our operations in close quarters? I read the Wall Street Journal story on Mosul yesterday. They’re pretty deeply embedded. Their precision strikes are not that precise.

TC: Right, look, of course we should be concerned with collateral damage. And American military power has always worked to minimize civilian deaths. But if we are ineffective in our military strategy, that ultimately will result in far more civilian deaths, because ISIS is oppressing and murdering Christians, murdering Jews, even murdering Muslims who do not ascribe to their radical Sharia Law. And so we need to be using air power effectively, number one. Number two, when it comes to boots on the ground, we have right now a tremendous opportunity, because the Kurds are today fighting, the Peshmerga, the fighting forces of the Kurds, are fighting ISIS today. They have been longtime allies of America. They’ve proven to be reliable allies. And the Obama administration refuses to arm the Kurds. Instead, they’re sending the weaponry to Baghdad, which doesn’t, will not pass it on to the Kurds. This makes no sense, because the Kurds are, in a very real sense, boots on the ground for us. And the Kurds are fighting ISIS. We ought to be giving them weaponry so that they can be killing ISIS.

HH: And a last question, Senator, because we’re running up against, I know you’re on a tight schedule.

TC: Sure.

HH: Defense Appropriations bill is going to be back in the Senate soon. There should be money in there for the Ohio-Class submarine replacement in a separate line item. Democrats have said they’re going to filibuster the Defense Appropriations Bill. A) are you going to make sure there’s the Ohio-Class money? And B) should we break the filibuster like they broke the filibuster to make sure our men and women get the money they need to fight this war?

TC: Well, I think Republicans are committed, and I’m certainly committed, to ensuring that we provide the funding that is needed both for the elements of our nuclear triad, including the Ohio-Class submarine, but more broadly for readiness that has been severely degraded under sequestration. You’re right that the Democrats are threatening a filibuster of the Defense Appropriation. It’s not clear they can maintain it, and so your question, should we break the filibuster, absolutely we should. And I can tell you, you know, as you know, I serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee. On the National Defense Authorization Act, in committee, the Democrats threatened, they told us they were going to bloc vote against the National Defense Authorization Act, because they wanted to hold Defense funding hostage in order to force higher spending in non-Defense areas like the EPA and the IRS. Well, that proved to be a hollow bluff. When it came time to vote in the committee, only a handful of Democrats voted no, and the rest voted yes.

HH: But to be precise, Senator, if they did have 40-plus votes blocking Defense Appropriations, I was asking whether you ought to borrow from Harry Reid’s book and break the filibuster as he did with the D.C. Circuit nominees. Would you be in favor of going with a simple majority vote on the motion of the chair as to the interpretation of the rules?

TC: Okay, I didn’t understand the question as you first asked it. I do not believe that there would be the votes for Republicans to use the so-called nuclear option to end the legislative filibuster.

HH: But would you support ending, would you support using it?

TC: No, I would not, and indeed of the 54 Republicans we have, I am not aware of any who support ending the legislative filibuster. And the reason is in the long term, the legislative filibuster serves conservative purposes. It slows down the legislative process. Now that can be frustrating when we want to do good things. But far more often than not, when Congress is moving quickly, it is moving quickly to attack our liberty, to strip away our rights, to expand government. And the legislative filibuster has prevented a great deal of mischief. And so in the long term interest of the liberty of the citizenry, and also slowing down the growth of government, I think we should preserve the legislative filibuster, but we need to beat Democrats and make the case on the merits that we’ve got to fund our vital national security needs.

HH: Senator Ted Cruz, thank you, a topic for another day, because I think in the long run, we’re all dead with ISIS and Iran if we don’t break the legislative filibuster and they’re not funding the military, but for another time. Senator, always a pleasure, thank you for joining us, you’ve been generous with your time today.

TC: Thank you, Hugh, God bless.

End of interview.


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