I am offering each of the remaining six would-be GOP nominees airtime this week, up to 30 minutes, to discuss the state of the race and the SCOTUS vacancy. The first to appear was Senator Td Cruz, who joined me shortly after President Obama’s press conference earlier today:
HH: On a very important day in the argument over the vacancy on the Supreme Court, I’m so pleased to begin with United States Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Judiciary Committee, a candidate for president. He also gave a major address on rebuilding our military today, which I will cover. Senator Cruz, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
TC: Hugh, my friend, it’s good to be with you.
HH: I am so glad that, you know, I’m neutral in this race, and I will remain neutral so I can be a fair participant in these upcoming debates. But I’m so glad that you as a person who has appeared before the United States Supreme Court nine times will be on the stage to at least lay out for the national television audience the specifics about what the Constitution obliges the Senate to do or not do. We’ve just heard the President of the United States distort that. I’d like to play for you what he said, Senator Cruz, and get your reaction.
HH: Cut number three:
BO: But this is the Supreme Court, and it’s going to get some attention. And we have to ask ourselves as a society a fundamental question. Are we able to still make this democracy work the way it’s supposed to, the way our founders envisioned it? And I would challenge anyone who purports to be adhering to the original intent of the founders, anybody who believes in the Constitution, coming up with a plausible rationale as to why they would not even have a hearing for a nominee made in accordance with the Constitution by the president of the United States with a year left, practically, in office. It’s pretty hard to find that in the Constitution.
HH: Senator Cruz? How do you respond to that?
TC: Well, look, like so many things President Obama says, it is complete nonsense. It is untethered to the Constitution, and it is untethered to how our government operates. Now let me say first of all, Justice Scalia was a lion in the law. He spent three decades on the Court, Hugh. You and I were both blessed to know him, and to know him quite well. I’ve known him for 20 years. And he was an extraordinary intellect. He was a man who single-handedly changed the course of American law. And indeed, as Ronald Reagan was to the presidency, so was Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court. And his death leaves an enormous void on the Court. The Court, as you know, is dangling in the balance. And this nomination is going to change the balance of power, potentially dramatically, on the U.S. Supreme Court. Now what President Obama does well is for the last 80 years, the Senate has never confirmed a Supreme Court nominee who was nominated during an election year. And this year is not the year to start, particularly with a president like Obama whose hallmark of his presidency has been the lawlessness and open defiance of the Constitution. We should not allow a lame duck president to ram through a Supreme Court justice that would dramatically alter the balance of power on the Court. Instead, we should make this Election 2016 a referendum on the U.S. Supreme Court. And if the Democrats want to put a hard core liberal on the Court, their avenue for trying to do so is win the election in November, but let the American people have a choice. That’s what I intend to fight for, it’s what I called for when news of Justice Scalia’s passing became public, and I’m very gratified that Republican leadership in the Senate is agreeing with that call and standing united and saying no. The next president, whoever he or she is, will be the one making the nomination to fill this vacancy.
HH: Senator Cruz, I have been an advocate of no hearings, no votes, because I don’t want it to be personal to whomever the president nominates. It’s perfectly within his rights to nominate someone.
HH: In fact, he could recess appointment someone right now. I believe you agree with me on that, do you not?
TC: He certainly has the authority to nominate someone. And I expect him to do so. In fact, sadly, I expect him to make a very political nomination, to nominate someone for whom there is a substantial political constituency in the November elections to try to turn it into a partisan issue. But you know, the President’s statement that the Senate is, somehow has a responsibility to confirm his nominee is complete nonsense. Under the Constitution, the Senate has the power to advise and consent. Well, we are advising right now that a lame duck president is not going to get a Supreme Court confirmation in the final year of his presidency. Rather, we are going to leave it to the American people, in particular, Hugh, because the stakes are enormous. As you know, we have four hard core liberal judicial activists on the Court. If a fifth liberal judicial activist is confirmed to the Court, we will see our most fundamental rights undermined. We will see the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms effectively written out of the Constitution. Justice Scalia’s most significant opinion of his tenure was Heller V. District of Columbia, which upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms. It’s a case I know very well, because I represented 31 states in the Heller case defending the 2nd Amendment. One more liberal justice, and the Court will overturn Heller and conclude that no American has any individual right to keep and bear arms. One more liberal justice and we will see every restriction on abortion that has been put in place in the last 40 years reversed by the Court as the Court will mandate unlimited abortion on demand up to the moment of delivery, partial birth, with taxpayer funding and no parental notification. And one more liberal justice, Hugh, and we will see our fundamental religious liberty undermined dramatically. We will see Ten Commandments monuments taken down all across this country. We will see veterans memorials that contain any religious symbol taken down. And we’re not far away from a Supreme Court, with one more liberal justice, that would order the chisel to come out to remove the crosses and the Stars of David from the tombstone of fallen soldiers. That kind of dramatic decision needs to be made by the people, by the voters, not by a lame duck president. And President Obama knows that, even though he’s going to play politics with this issue as he does everything else.
HH: I agree with you on the stakes, and I believe it is important that everyone who wants to be the Republican nominee be able to articulate as you just did those stakes, because they just are so immense. But today, and your colleagues, Senator Ayotte, Senator Portman, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, all of whom are standing for reelection, have all said no confirmations in 2016.
HH: But Senator Grassley today held open the door to a hearing for a nominee, as did Senator Tillis. I think that’s a mistake, Senator Cruz. What do you think, because again, I don’t want anyone to be Borked. I don’t want…
HH: …the internet to turn on some unsuspecting, they won’t be unsuspecting, nominee, and be savaged, because it’s not about the nominee. It’s about the institution.
TC: I agree with you that it doesn’t make sense to hold a hearing, because it is about the institution and presidential abuse of power, which we’ve seen for seven years. You know, I will say one of the real consequences of Justice Scalia’s passing is it has elevated the stakes in this election. We saw on the Saturday debate as everyone was focused on the six individuals standing on that stage who is best prepared? Who can we trust? Who do we know beyond a shadow of a doubt will nominate and fight to confirm principled Constitutionalist conservatives? And I think that is absolutely critical, particularly because if we make 2016 a referendum on the Supreme Court, as Republicans, we need to nominate a candidate who understands these issues, and who can go head to head with the Democrats. I’ve got to tell you, Hugh, I cannot wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders and make the case to the American people that their vision of the Supreme Court, their vision of the Constitution, would undermine our basic freedoms and what that means. I think that’s one of the reasons so many conservatives are uniting behind our campaign, because the other candidates on that stage, they’re good, honorable people, but they do not have the experience or the track record defending the Constitution, defending the Bill of Rights. And we have seen already too many Republican presidents who were not willing to invest the political capital to nominate and confirm principled conservative jurists.
HH: Now Senator Cruz, because I expect this interview to travel, and to be, we will post it with the audio, I want to lay into it some evidence for the Senator Majority Leader’s decision first by playing a little Chuck Schumer from 2007…
HH: …when the Senator explained there would be no confirmations for 18 months prior to the end of W.’s term.
TC: Yup, yup.
HH: Here is Chuck Schumer.
CS: That we should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances.
HH: And here is Senator Patrick Leahy from 2006 on the Thurmond rule.
Reporter: Wait, you should probably tell us what you, the Thurmond rule was.
PL: The Thurmond rule, the Thurmond rule, in memory of Strom Thurmond, he put this in when the Republicans were in the minority, which said that in a presidential election year after spring, no judges would go through except by the consent of both the Republican and Democratic leader. I want to be bipartisan. We will institute the Thurmond rule.
HH: And so Senator Cruz, just an hour ago, President Obama was asked about his participation in a failed filibuster against Justice Alito’s nomination. And here is what he said, cut number one:
Reporter: How do you respond to Republican criticism that your position is undercut by the fact that you and other members of your administration who were in the Senate at the time tried to filibuster Judge Alito in 2006?
BO: You know, the, look, I think what’s fair to say is that how judicial nominations have evolved over time is not historically the fault of any single party. This has become just one more extension of politics. And there are times where folks are in the Senate, and they’re thinking, as I just described, primarily about is this going to cause me problems in a primary, is this going to cause me problems with supporters of mine. So people take strategic decisions. I understand that. But what is also true is that Justice Alito is on the bench right now. I think that historically, if you look at it, regardless of what votes particular Senators have taken, there’s been a basic consensus, a basic understanding that the Supreme Court’s different.
HH: Senator Cruz, that’s just not true.
HH: And it flies, how do you react to that?
TC: Well, listen, I think it’s interesting hearing Barack Obama admitting that when he was Senator, he just behaved as a hard core partisan, you know, when he’s denouncing everyone else as partisan. The question was his own vote, and listen, part of the reasons Supreme Court nominations have become politicized is that liberal judicial activists have perverted the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court were simply following the law, applying the Constitution, then it wouldn’t matter if one were on the left or right if you’re simply following the law. But for the last 50 years, the left has used the Court to force their left wing agenda that is contrary to the will of the voters. And you take, for example, the gay marriage decision last summer. That was a decision utterly without basis in the Constitution, utterly without basis in the law. It was five unelected judges using their own policy preferences to set aside the democratic wishes of 330 million Americans across this country. And if the Supreme Court liberal justices are going to behave like politicians, making public policy decisions, they shouldn’t be surprised when the political branches and the people restrict and push back on their imposing their own views on this democratic republic.
HH: Senator Cruz, I’m amused by the number of mainstream media commentators and Democratic activists who are concerned for the future of the Republican Party by conducting a no hearings, no confirmation policy. Do you think this has any chance of befuddling the American public and somehow creating enough smoke that they don’t see through the history, the record, the actual votes, the blockade that Senator Leahy ran from ’01 to ’05, the absolute blockade in ’08? Do they have any chance of making this argument work?
TC: Well, listen, they always have a chance when the media behave like they always do as left wing partisans. And so when President Obama nominates someone, I think there’s a very good chance he will nominate a minority, because he’ll see political benefits to doing so. The media will become a hallelujah chorus, just repeating the administration’s talking points about the mean Republicans who are blocking this nominee. But you know, it’s evidence number one from listening to Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy, the absolute hypocrisy of their position. It’s like each of them could say no, no, no, we only meant that we’ll do this for Republican nominees. For Democrats, our standards are different. And I do have real faith in the American people, that the American people see the abuse of power from President Obama, see the abuse of the Constitution. I’ll tell you, what we’re seeing, Hugh, both here and South Carolina, and all across the country, is we’re seeing conservatives coming together and uniting behind our campaign. You know, in the state of Iowa, all of the pundits said over and over again we couldn’t win in Iowa. They all said Donald Trump’s going to win, Donald Trump’s going to win. And yet on Election Day, we saw the largest turnout in the history of Iowa. And we won more votes than any candidate has ever won in the history of the Republican Caucus. And what we saw that was so encouraging is we saw that old Reagan coalition coming together. We won conservatives, but we also won Evangelicals. And we also won Reagan Democrats, and we also won young people. And that’s what it’s going to take to win both the primary and the general election, is bringing that Reagan coalition together. We’re seeing that here in South Carolina. I think the Supreme Court and the need for a president we can trust on judicial nominations is a big reason. I also think a big reason is that the most important determination the voters are making is who’s prepared to be commander-in-chief. The most serious responsibility any president has is to keep his country safe, and who has the clarity of vision, the experience, the judgment, the temperament, and I think temperament was on full display Saturday night, and the strength of resolve to identify our enemies, to defeat our enemies and keep America safe. And I think those two questions, more than anything, explain why conservatives continue to come together and unite behind our campaign.
HH: One last question about the Court, and then I want to turn to your speech on the Yorktown today, Senator Cruz. Former Secretary of State and former Senator Clinton has come down adamantly that the president’s eventual nominee be given a vote and be confirmed. Now to hear the Willie Sutton of classified data out there demanding that the rule of law be respected is itself jarring. But do you believe that former Secretary of State Clinton is in a position to argue anything about the Court given her fecklessness with regard to classified data?
TC: Well, look, my assumption is that her recommendation to Obama and the Supreme Court nomination, that she email it to him. And you know, listen, she is going to be partisan and political. That’s what Clintons do. It is in their nature. It’s like the frog and the scorpion. Why did the scorpion stab the frog? Because it is his nature. Hillary and Obama are going to be nothing but partisans and political. We’ve seen for seven years the consequences of putting rabid ideology and partisan politics ahead of the American people, and I think people are tired of it. Stop playing games. If Hillary wants to put a left wing justice on the Court, she needs to make that case to the American people and defend her radical vision of the Constitution.
HH: Should she be asked, Senator Cruz, whether she would re-nominate President Obama’s nominee?
TC: I think that’s a perfectly fair question. To be honest, though, I think there’s a real possibility that Hillary Clinton would nominate Barack Obama, that that, she suggested that as a possibility. And heck, you know, that, we ought to have that discussion, and it ought to be the American people that make that judgment, particularly the stakes of a five justice liberal majority. You know, some of the examples I gave about tearing down Ten Commandments monuments. That’s not picked at random. When I was solicitor general of Texas, we defended the Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol grounds in Texas. We went to the Supreme Court, and we won, 5-4. There were four dissenters. One more liberal, and Ten Commandments monuments are torn down across this country. The example about veterans memorials is interesting. Some lefties online and on Twitter had been working themselves into a lather that I suggested somehow that a liberal justice would result in veterans memorials coming down. That’s not a hypothetical. When I was in private practice, I represented over 3 million veterans pro bono, for free, defending the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial, a lone, white, Latin cross erected over 70 years ago to honor the men and women who gave their lives in World War I. And we went to the Supreme Court, and we won, 5-4. There were four votes to tear that veterans memorial, and to tear down any memorial that has any religious symbol. And so the stakes, Hugh, in this election, are number one, if Hillary Clinton is elected or Bernie Sanders is elected, we will see that fifth liberal justice. But number two, every bit as grave, if we nominate a Republican who is not committed to defending the Constitution, we’ll see the same outcome. Listen, Donald Trump is someone who I like personally. He’s a tremendous entertainer. He’s engaged in a lot of personal attacks, and I have not responded in kind. But it is absolutely clear that if Donald Trump ever became president, he would not fight for conservative justices. He would end up nominating liberals. Now how do we know that? We know that because for the first 60 years of his life, he described himself as very, very pro-choice, as supporting partial birth abortion. Even today as a candidate for president, he supports taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. And indeed, Saturday at the debate, he gave an impassioned defense of Planned Parenthood, how he thinks they do wonderful things. You know what? I don’t think the nation’s largest abortionist does wonderful things. We also know it, because Donald suggested that his sister, who is an appellate judge appointed by Bill Clinton, who is a hard core abortion rights extremist, she struck down a prohibition on partial birth abortion, because she said it was irrational to ban partial birth abortion. Donald Trump said that that radical pro-abortion extremist, his sister, would make a terrific Supreme Court justice. And we know it, finally, Hugh, because Donald, for 40 years, has been supporting liberal politicians. He supported Jimmy Carter against Ronald Reagan. He supported Hillary Clinton. He supported Chuck Schumer. He supported Harry Reid. He supported John Kerry against George W. Bush. Anybody who cares about conservative Supreme Court justices would not have supported liberal politicians like Jimmy Carter and John Kerry and Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid. And so if Donald Trump is the president, we will see that fifth liberal, and we will see our fundamental rights taken away. We will see, if Donald Trump is president, the 2nd Amendment effectively written out of the Constitution.
HH: Now Senator Cruz, you were kind at the beginning to suggest I knew Justice Scalia well. I actually only served a few weeks in his chambers when my judge was ill on the D.C. Circuit long ago and far away, and I did not know him the way you knew him, and did not keep up the friendship. I just knew him as a clerk for a short period of time. But you did know him very well. Would he object to our having this argument so quickly? Because I am afraid the left wants to shut down the argument in order to flood the zone with misinformation and propaganda about the stakes here. And part of that argument is it is disrespectful to the legacy of a lion of the Court, perhaps as Judge Mike McConnell said yesterday, the greatest writer in the Court’s history, as well as being a great originalist, that it’s disrespectful to him.
HH: How do you respond to that argument?
TC: Listen, Justice Scalia was a man of incredible principle. And he cared deeply about honoring the Constitution. The greatest respect we could show to him is to defend his legacy of honoring the Constitution, and to ensure that his replacement is selected by the next president. To allow this president to undo three decades of faithful and dedicated work by Justice Scalia would be the greatest disservice, the greatest disrespect we could possibly pay to him. And of that, I have no doubt.
HH: Now in the weeds just very quickly, because Donald Trump has responded to each of your charges, and you have responded to him. He’s responded that he was joking about his sister, and he’s, but he threatened to sue over your eligibility. Now I am on the record as saying I believe you are completely eligible, you are a natural born citizen. People know that. That’s my Constitutional view. It’s always been my view. But I do believe he might have standing to bring that lawsuit as a competitor of yours. Would you, do you agree with me on the standing issue? And would you welcome him filing that suit?
TC: Listen, Donald has been litigious for many, many years. He uses lawsuits to try to intimidate people and attack people. If he wants to file a frivolous lawsuit, he can file a frivolous lawsuit. But there’s a pattern to what Donald does. It’s a very odd pattern, Hugh. Both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, when you point to something about their record, when you point to what they have said and done in the past, rather than defend their record, they simply scream liar, liar, liar. And so Donald’s reaction to each of the points of his record that I bring up is simply to engage in personal insults and attacks, and scream liar and threaten a lawsuit. You know, I have not responded in kind. I have no intention in getting in a mud fight with Donald Trump or Marco Rubio or anyone else. I’m going to stay focused on the issues of substance, because I think the people of South Carolina and the people of the country deserve a campaign focused on issues of substance and policy. But it is a very odd pattern that when you point out Donald Trump and Marco Rubio’s record, and this is records that they have, you know, objectively on live television, their positions, they just scream liar. You know, we saw a great illustration of that Saturday night at the debate when I pointed out that Donald Trump still to this day supported taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. He began bellowing liar, liar, liar. He said when did I support that? I said well, when we were having the fight over defunding Planned Parenthood, when I was leading that fight, he publicly came out against it, and you said on national television that you think Planned Parenthood does wonderful things. And his response standing there on the stage is he said well, I do think Planned Parenthood does wonderful things. I mean, it was an odd, it was almost out of the Twilight Zone that the thing he just had accused me of lying about, standing on that stage, he embraces and demonstrates it’s true. So they can do what they want to try to distract from issues of substance. But I’m not going to respond in kind. I’m going to focus on the issues that I think matter to the American people.
HH: But yes or no, Senator, do you think he has standing?
TC: Look, that question would surely be litigated if he filed that lawsuit. I think the lawsuit would be frivolous, and he’s not going to prevail. But sadly, whether a lawsuit is frivolous or not has not historically dissuaded Donald Trump from hiring plaintiffs lawyers to go to court.
HH: All right, I want to close by calling everyone’s attention to your rebuilding America’s military address today. You called for an increase in the Army to 525,000. You pointed to a security deficit, which is very dangerous. You demanded a minimum of 1,500 tactical fighters, 12 carrier groups, at least 350 surface ships for the United States Navy, for the Ohio Class replacement to go forward, for the long range bomber to go forward, for close cooperation with the Israelis on Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow II and III for a new generation of missile defense in the United States. It’s eloquent, it’s at length. It is as expensive as hell.
HH: So how do you pay for this?
TC: Well, look, we have seen how to solve this problem before. In 1981, Ronald Reagan came into office, and he faced a military just like we face today, where Jimmy Carter had dramatically undermined and weakened the military, and weakened our readiness. And what Reagan did is he started by passing tax reform and regulatory reform. That unleashed the engine of the American free enterprise system. We saw booming economic growth, small businesses growing billions, getting jobs, salaries going up. That generated trillions of dollars of new government revenue. And that new revenue paid for Reagan to rebuild the military, which in turn enabled us to bankrupt the Soviet Union and win the Cold War, and tear the Berlin Wall to the ground. I intend to do the exact same thing with regard to radical Islamic terrorists. I intend to start with tax reform and regulatory reform, to repeal every word of Obamacare, and to pass a simple flat tax and abolish the IRS. That will unleash booming economic growth. That growth in turn will generate the revenue needed to rebuild the military, and that military rebuilds, and with a commander-in-chief that is standing with our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines, that military in turn will defeat radical Islamic terrorism and keep this country safe.
HH: One last minute, Senator Cruz. I want to return to the Supreme Court. Do you expect the Republicans will hold strong? Are you absolutely confident there will not be a confirmation, even if there is a hearing, but there will not be a vote, and there will not be a confirmation by this president of the replacement for Justice Scalia?
TC: Well, listen, I would say my approach to that is reminiscent of Reagan’s approach to the Soviets – trust, but verify. I am gratified that in the hours after I called for this vacancy to be filled by the next president of the United States, whoever he or she is, that the other Republican candidates for president echo that call, and that Republican leadership explicitly agreed with it and embraced that call. I hope that Republican leadership maintains that position, maintains that stand. I am happy to sing their praises for taking a strong, principled stance and not allowing any confirmation until after the election, until after the new president is sworn in. But every one of us, both presidential candidates and the American people, need to hold Republican leadership accountable, and hold all of us accountable, that we honor the promises and commitments we make. And there is no promise or commitment more fundamental than the promise to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. That is in the oath of the president, prescribed in the text of the Constitution. It is an oath I take deeply and personally, and it is an obligation that we need to hold Republican leadership to continue to fulfill.
HH: Senator Ted Cruz, thank you for so much time today, and we’ll see you in Houston on the debate stage, and Miami on the debate stage on the 25th and on March 10th. Thank you, Senator.
TC: Thank you, Hugh, I look forward to it. God bless, and anyone wanting to learn more, go to www.tedcruz.org, www.tedcruz.org. Join us, contribute. As long as conservatives stand together, we’re going to win, and we’re going to turn the country around.
HH: Thank you, Senator.
End of interview.