Senator Ted Cruz joined me on today’s show:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Cruz, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
TC: Hugh, always great to be with you.
HH: I’ve got a lot to cover. I want to start, though, on a soft subject. Can we enlist your assistance in curbing Lone Star State Supreme Court Justice, Don Willett’s Texas triumphalism tweets?
TC: (laughing) I’m afraid you’ll get no help from me on that. Donnie Ray is a dear friend of mine, and Texans will always be triumphant.
HH: All right. Well, let’s get to the foreign affairs. And a serious, short subject first – trade promotion authority, specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership Pact coming up soon.
HH: Coming up soon, Ron Fournier wrote about it in the National Journal today, because he said Hillary’s in trouble. The head of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Mark Perone, is against Trans-Pacific Partnership Pact. Where’s Ted Cruz on this?
TC: I strongly support free trade, have long been an enthusiastic advocate of free trade. I think it benefits America. It benefits our farmers. It benefits our ranchers. It benefits our businesses. In Texas, there are about 2.2 million jobs that depend on free trade and exports, and I think it’s beneficial to open up new markets.
HH: All right, second sort of obscure but very important issue, on Monday, I was in D.C. at the Metropolitan Club, in fact, and I got cornered about an issue that then appeared in the L.A. Times yesterday. I’ll read you the start of the story. “As economic leaders gather here this week for meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, China is set to kick off a rival infrastructure development lender that promises to shake up the traditional American-led global financial order. Beijing in Wednesday is officially announcing the founding members of its Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, which will use its initial capital of $50 billion, and eventually $100 billion, to invest in roads, cell phone towers, railways, airports and other infrastructure projects across Asia.” Senator Cruz, my international development friends were saying this is a nightmare for us, and we did not, the Obama administration, did nothing to stop China from doing this.
TC: Well, I think it’s a manifestation of what we have seen across the globe, which is that for the last six years under the Obama-Clinton foreign policy, America has receded from leadership in the world, and it’s crated a vacuum. And other nations have stepped into that vacuum. You’ve had horrifically bad actors like the nation of Iran, which is in a much stronger position today than they were when Obama was elected. You have extreme radical Islamic terrorists like ISIS. You’ve got Russia on the ascendancy, and in the Pacific, you’re seeing China building up its military, using more and more force to put pressure to expand its reach. And this is one manifestation of that, that when we lead from behind, the world is a more dangerous place. And that’s been the most consistent consequence of the foreign policy of the last six years.
HH: So do you think we should worry about the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank?
TC: Well, yes and no. Look, when it comes to competing with foreign governments, and particularly totalitarian communist governments on the percentage of GDP that government is spending, we don’t want to compete in that regard. And so they’re, you know, if they want to spend billions of tax dollars from the government for centralized planning, I think we have no interest in competing in that battle. Now we do want to make sure we have a qualitative military advantage. But in terms of just more and more domestic spending, China is welcome to go down that road. I don’t think it’s a road that leads to prosperity. What should concern us, though, is to the extent that China is building alliances, regional alliances throughout the Pacific that are coming at the expense of other nations that had been standing with America, and we’re seeing this pattern across the world, that our allies…you know, a couple of months ago, I was in Munich at the Munich Defense Conference, and there were, I don’t know, 60 or 70 nations who are close allies of our there. They were heads of states, defense ministers, foreign ministers, and over and over again, the same conversation happens, which is these close allies of ours will pull you aside and in hushed voices, they say where is America. We had one of our very close allies in the Middle East who said to us at the time, said it is very difficult to be America’s friend right now, because we can’t trust you. And to the extent this represents other countries in Asia moving more into the orbit of China and away from the West, that is a disturbing development.
HH: Now as a bridge to the Iran sanctions, which is complicated, Jennifer Rubin, who has often been a critic of yours in the Washington Post, wrote a column yesterday and said I wish people would ask all the presidential candidates a bunch of questions, one of which I pulled out for you, just one. What do they, presidential candidates, Ted Cruz, think we should do about the United Nations? We’re supposed to be there for one forum where all countries can be present, I guess. And if we weren’t there, they’d go someplace else like France, and we would miss all the international scuttlebutt. But really, have we reached a point where more harm than good is being accomplished? Is there a way to wrest more control away from human rights abusers and aggressive tyrants? It’s a serious subject, Jennifer wrote, and candidates should be thinking about how to strengthen and expand alliances, e.g., which Japan, India and our hemisphere, etc., that are productive, and to rethink our participation in, and funding of ones that are not. So how do you answer her questions, Senator Cruz?
TC: Well, I actually agree it’s a good question. I don’t always agree with what that columnist has to say, but I think it is a very good question. I do think that there is value to an aggressive, international role for America, and so for example, America’s leadership on the U.N. Security Council is one of the most important things protecting our friend and ally, the nation of Israel. And in fact, one of the real criticisms of the Obama administration is for the first time in modern history, the Obama administration has stepped back from using our position on the Security Council to stand with Israel, and they’ve been threatening to accede to the U.N. moving against Israel and using international law to undermine Israel. I think that’s a mistake. But I think the broader point, the U.N. has done a lot of pernicious damage. And whether it is the human rights, human rights tribunals, which you know, membership of countries like Cuba and Libya, and I mean, it’s almost out of Saturday Night Live. They find every bad actor to put in a position of opining on human rights. Or whether it is international tribunals trying to undermine our sovereignty, you know, as you know, Hugh, before I was in the Senate, I was the solicitor general of Texas, the chief lawyer of the state in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. And I held that position for five and a half years. The biggest fight of my tenure, the biggest success we had, was a case called Medellin V. Texas, which you know quite well…
TC: …but your listeners may not be familiar with it. That case dealt with the United Nations and the World Court, which is the judicial arm of the U.N., issued an order to America to reopen the convictions of 51 murderers across this country. And it was the first time a foreign court had tried to bind the federal justice system. And Texas stood up. We fought the U.N. and the World Court. I argued this case twice in front of the United State Supreme Court. We had 90 foreign nations on the other side. We had the U.N. and the World Court. And sadly, we had the president of the United States, who I might note to my great regret was not Obama. It was George W. Bush. And George W. Bush signed a two paragraph order that attempted to order the state courts to obey the World Court. And Texas, I was very proud of my boss, Attorney General Greg Abbott, because when he and I talked about what to do, it was an unusual thing for the state of Texas to stand up and be litigating against the president of the United States, who was a Texan, a Republican and a friend. But I went twice before the Supreme Court and argued, number one, that the World Court and United Nations has zero authority to bind the United States justice system, and number two, the president of the United States, whether he’s a Republican or Democrat, has no constitutional authority to undermine U.S. sovereignty. And we won, 6-3. The Supreme Court agreed with us across the board. And so I fully agree we need to be vigorous standing up for our sovereignty and against the abuse of power from the U.N. and its various tribunals.
HH: And that lead me to Iran. And the Medellin case is in fact a great place to jump off into this. Yesterday, the president of Iran, echoing the Supreme Leader two days ago, said sanctions have to come off the first day we sign this agreement. And the President did a head fake on this last week in an NPR interview, saying don’t worry, this isn’t a Security Council thing. Well, in fact, he can’t alter the Security Council charter, and Russia’s not going to give up their veto. So what is going on with the Iran sanctions bill, because this deal cannot possibly be one that is going to be any good. But is the Senate putting itself in the position of empower the president to remove these sanctions without a straight up endowed or treaty-like vote?
TC: Right, I think this deal is profoundly dangerous. I agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu that it is an historic mistake. And in my judgment, the single greatest national security threat facing the United States today is the threat of a nuclear Iran. And this deal only accelerates Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Under this deal, billions of dollars will flow into Iran. They keep their centrifuges, they keep their enriched uranium, they keep enriching uranium. And it will only facilitate, they, if we go down this path, we will be repeating the mistakes of the 1990s where the Clinton administration did the same thing with North Korea, and the result was they got nuclear weapons. With Iran, it’s qualitatively more different. This is a regime where the Supreme Leader leads the masses in chanting death to America. And it is my hope that we see leadership in the Senate to stop this bad deal. I’m trying to do everything possible to bring together Republicans and Democrats to say we will not approve of any deal that allows or facilitates Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. And I would note another consequence of this lousy deal is billions of dollars would flow into Iran that they would continue to use. They are the leading state sponsor of terrorism globally. The President is proposing we allow billions of dollars to go into Iran which they can use to fund Hezbollah and Hamas and terrorists throughout Latin America. And it is profoundly dangerous to this nation. And I think the American people are deeply concerned about this. I hope we see leadership in Congress to stop it. And it’s why the President is so concerned about submitting the deal to Congress for approval, because he cannot defend it substantively, it is such a bad deal from U.S. national security interests.
HH: Senator Cruz, if you’re elected president, and the Congress has failed to reject an Iranian deal that is flawed, in your opinion, will you repudiate it on the first day? Or will this Corker process invest it with sufficient legislative patina that it’s not an executive agreement that can be repudiated on the first day?
TC: I’ll give you three answers to that question. Yes, yes, and absolutely yes. It is, I was proud to join with 46 other senators several weeks ago in sending a letter to Iran that laid out that under the United States Constitution, there are two and only two ways to make binding law in America. You can either, the President can negotiate a treaty, which he submits to the Senate and it’s ratified by two-thirds of the Senate, or you can pass legislation through both houses of Congress that’s signed into law by the president. Absent either of those, it is not binding law in the United States of America. Now as you’ll recall, the administration and much of the mainstream media, their reaction was hysterical, that they were deeply dismayed at the letter. It’s very interesting, the Iranian foreign minister, Zarif, he publicly said to the senators who’d sent him the letter, said no, no, no, you don’t understand. Under international law, a head of state speaks for his nation and can bind the nation in perpetuity. And I have to admit my reaction, I chuckled at that and said well, you know, he’s right insofar as he’s speaking of the nation of Iran. Iran has a supreme leader. And if you disagree with the Ayatollah Khamenei, they’ll take you and shoot you. But thankfully, the United States of America doesn’t have a supreme leader. So neither this president nor any president has the authority to bind this nation absent passing law through the means laid out in the Constitution. And it is the reason why the Obama White House is talking about trying to go to the United Nations Security Council, because they’re trying to end run submitting an agreement to Congress. And whether or not the President goes to the Security Council, even if he got the Security Council to pass something that ratified this deal, that still would have no binding effect on the United States of America. And the controlling precedent on this question is Medellin V. Texas, the case that I argued and won twice before the Supreme court.
TC: And so as a matter of binding law, the next commander-in-chief must be prepared to repudiate any bad deal that endangers American security, that endangers the lives of men and women across this country. And I think deal does exactly that.
HH: All right, Senator, I want to move to a couple of other things. One of them is sort of a meta media question. What matters more – knowing if a candidate for the presidency will attend a gay wedding, or whether he or she will destroy the Islamic State before it throws hundreds, if not thousands, of more gay men to their deaths from towers? What matters more knowing?
TC: There’s no doubt the latter does. But you know, that’s part of the gotcha game that the mainstream media plays, where they come after Republicans on every front, and it’s designed to caricature Republicans to make them look stupid or evil or crazy or extreme. And it’s because, sadly, most media players are not actual objective journalists. They are active partisan players. Right now, the mainstream media are the praetorian guard protecting the Obama presidency, and there is no group on this planet more ready for Hillary than the mainstream media. And it’s the reality of we need to focus on what matters. The American people care about jobs, growth and opportunity. The American people care about defending our Constitutional rights, and the American people care, as you rightly noted, about restoring America’s leadership in the world, and defending this nation. ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism poses an enormous threat to this nation, and we need clear-eyed, strong leadership to stand up and defeat radical Islamic terrorism, and to be willing to call it by its name, which sadly the current president is not willing to.
HH: Well, having put it into context, now I want to ask the question that was asked of Senator Rubio yesterday. If you had a loved one or a friend getting married in a same sex wedding, would you attend it?
TC: Well, I will tell you, I haven’t faced that circumstance. I have not had a loved one go to a, have a gay wedding. You know, at the end of the day, what the media tries to twist the question of marriage into is they try to twist it into a battle of emotions and personalities. And they try to make it say, so for example, you know, they routinely say well, gosh, any conservative must hate people who are gay. And as you know, that has nothing to do with the operative legal question. And listen, I’m a Christian, and the Scripture commands us to love everyone, and to love everyone, and all of us are sinners. But the legal question, I’m a Constitutionalist. And under the Constitution, from the beginning of this country, marriage has been a question for the states. It has been a question for elected legislatures in each of the 50 states. And what we’ve seen in recent years from the left is the federal government and unelected federal judges imposing their own policy preferences to tear down the marriage laws of the states. And so if someone is running for public office, it is perfectly legitimate to ask them their views on whether they’re willing to defend the Constitution, which leaves marriage to the states, or whether they want to impose their own extreme policy views like so many on the left are doing, like Barack Obama does, like Hillary Clinton does. That’s what we would be doing.
HH: I want to go to your Constitutional originalism here.
HH: I’ve been asking candidates the same thing. The President has basically nullified the immigration laws of the United States. But so have Colorado and Washington State nullified the federal drug laws.
HH: If you’re the president, will you enforce the federal drug laws?
TC: Well, I think that is a qualitatively different situation, because in that instance, I’m a believer in federalism on a great many issues. I think it was some of the genius of the framers, is understanding that we have many different states, and the citizens of each state are going to have different values. And so as you know, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis referred to federalism and the many states as laboratories of democracy. When it comes to a question of legalizing marijuana, I don’t support legalizing marijuana. If it were on the ballot in the state of Texas, I would vote no. But I also believe that’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination. And the citizens of Colorado and Washington State have come to a different conclusion. They have decided they want to legalize it. I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision, and one of the benefits of it, you know, using Brandeis’ terms of laboratories of democracy is we can now watch and see what happens in Colorado and Washington State. There have been lots of theoretical arguments for a long time about the consequences of legalizing marijuana. We can now see. If those states suddenly see a dramatic increase in teen drug use, if they see a dramatic increase in crime, if they see significant harmful effects coming from it, I suspect other states are going to be far less eager to walk down that road.
HH: All right, last question, Senator…
HH: …because I’m up against a hard break here, and I told your friends and your staff I’d only keep you to 20 after the hour. We’ve got, I’ve asked everyone about the Ohio Class submarine that is run out of time in 2025, and there’s no money for it, 2029. I’ve asked everyone about number of carrier groups. You and Senator Rubio voted for $20 billion extra in the OCO, Overseas Contingency Operations fund. Senator Paul said not unless there’s an offset. Is that a significant difference? And will Ted Cruz, if he’s president, get the Ohio Class replaced and 11 or more carrier groups funded?
TC: Well, we have got, let’s start from first principles. The first object of the federal government is to defend our national security. And right now, we are not doing that. It’s the reason I voted, along with Senator Rubio, for substantially higher Defense budget, because we’re not meeting the needs we are right now. Now I agree we need to pay for that, and indeed joined with Mike Lee in an amendment that would provide that you would have offsets elsewhere in the budget to pay for it. But what should be driving our Defense expenditure is what is needed to defend our national security. It should not be a political question from Washington. And so at the end of the day, look, I don’t think you should have Congress micromanaging and picking particular weapons systems and engaging in what is often a game of Congressional pork, which is supporting whatever systems happen to be in their particular districts. I think instead, what we should be doing is setting the overarching objective, which is defending this nation, standing up to the very real threats, whether it is an ascendant Russia, whether it is an expanding China, whether it is Iran on the verge of nuclear weapons, or whether it is ISIS and radical terrorism throughout the world. And then working with the military top brass to modernize our equipment and weaponry, whether it is carrier groups or submarines or planes or ensuring that we have the troop strength that is necessary. And I think the next president is going to face a very difficult situation, because under the Obama presidency, we have undermined our readiness in a way that makes us far less able to defend this nation.
HH: Senator Ted Cruz, always a pleasure, come back soon, Senator, love talking to you.
TC: Thank you, my friend, we’ll talk soon.
End of interview.