Senator Ted Cruz joined me to open Friday’s show:
HH: What a debate last night, and I’m so pleased to open today’s show with United States Senator Ted Cruz. I feel like sending him a Kevlar vest. I gave him the bronze in the debate last night. Senator Cruz, how are you?
TC: Hugh, I’m doing terrific, it’s great to be with you.
HH: Let’s begin with a non-debate subject. It is reported this afternoon that there are 22 emails on Hillary Clinton’s account marked top secret. Darrell Issa has said the FBI has enough evidence to indict her now, but that James Comey is being constrained. What do you make of this?
TC: Look, it is deeply concerning, and it is yet another indication that under Barack Obama, this Department of Justice has been partisan and political. At this point, from what’s publicly known, it appears that Secretary Clinton’s conduct was far more serious than that of General Petraeus. And yet, this Justice Department prosecuted a war hero, and now, even today, is trying to strip one or two stars from General Petraeus after a lifetime of honorable service defending this nation. And yet, in one of the saddest things, if you talk to any reporter who covers Washington, D.C., and you ask the question will Hillary Clinton be indicted, inevitably the answer is well, it depends on what the Obama White House wants. If they decide they want rid of her, then she will be indicted, and if they don’t, she won’t. And you can appreciate as an alumnus of the Department of Justice just how heartbreaking it is that there is an acceptance that the enforcement of criminal justice is decided not by the laws of this country, but by some political hack in the West Wing of the White House. That is not how our Constitution is meant to operate.
HH: If pressure from FBI Director Comey and professionals at Justice oblige her indictment, can she run for president? I mean, Constitutionally, she can, that’s not a disqualifier. But as a matter of practical politics, Ted Cruz, do you think Hillary Clinton can run if she is indicted?
TC: If she is indicted, it is difficult to see how she could successfully run for president. Listen, I would put nothing past the gall and audacity of the Clintons to try. But even the Democratic Party, I would find it hard to believe that they would be eager to nominate someone who is under indictment and could well face felony incarceration. If she is indicted, we’re not talking about speeding tickets. We’re not talking about, you know, taking the mattress tags off the mattress. We are talking about serious offenses for which the Obama Justice Department threw the book at General Petraeus. And justice needs to be enforced fairly and impartially.
HH: All right, second question, you had two doctors on the stage last night. This did not come up, even though it is front page news. The Zika virus is the subject of a high profile gathering in Switzerland on Monday. It is spreading with great rapidity throughout Brazil, and it presents a case study of how people react to new threats. As president of the United States, what would you be doing now with a potentially dangerous virus that may have caused 4,000 birth defects in Brazil, year to year increase? That’s a lot. What would you be doing?
TC: Well, listen, we need to increase our public health approach on at least two fronts. One is with respect to the threats of bioterrorism and threats of an epidemic outbreak. You know, I recall when we had multiple Ebola cases in the state of Texas, I spent considerable time meeting with hospital officials, meeting with public health officials in the state of Texas, and it was deeply dismaying that we are not yet prepared to deal with a major outbreak, that a given hospital, even some of the state of the art hospitals, I asked how many patients would you be prepared to keep in isolation, and the best answers I would get were five or six. And if you see a true epidemic outbreak, that is not sufficient, particularly given the rise of radical Islamic terrorism, where they’re looking for asymmetric ways to direct force and cause murder and mayhem. We need to significantly improve our ability to deal with threats of bioterrorism. Secondly, setting aside bad actors and just looking to acts of nature, we need, I believe, to focus far more resources on medical cures to deal with new diseases and old diseases. You know, several months ago, I chaired a hearing in the Senate. I’m the chairman of the Science and Space Subcommittee in the Senate Commerce Committee, and it was a hearing on cures for diseases. It was directed at four of the most costly diseases – cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, and I believe often the federal government is penny wise and pound foolish that we should devote far more resources to cures that could save millions of lives and trillions of dollars. And indeed, one of the ways to facilitate cures is lifting the regulatory barriers to developing new cures. And so I have introduced FDA reform legislation to dramatically accelerate the approval of new drugs, new medical devices, so that we can use American ingenuity to cure these horrible diseases before yet more lives are lost.
HH: All right, Senator, let’s switch now to the debate. I’m sure you’ve been talking about it all day. First of all, I wrote a piece for CNN which is posted over at CNN Opinion. I gave Rubio the gold, Christie the silver and you the bronze. I said you opened very strong, and you closed very strong, but in between, you got pummeled. That’s why you need the Kevlar vest. And it seemed to me like a hit job, a make good from Fox News executives to try and get back in the graces of Donald Trump by taking it out on you. What did it feel like at the center of the stage?
TC: Oh, listen, there was no doubt there were a lot of shots directed at my attention, but that goes with the territory of surging in the polls and getting more and more support. You know, six weeks ago, every Republican was attacking Donald Trump. Now, they’re all attacking me. And then that starts to indicate that maybe something has changed fundamentally in the race. I think last night was a very important night for the debate. I think it was a serious mistake for Donald Trump not to be there. I think every one of us owes to the voters, to the men and women of Iowa the respect to show up and answer the hard questions. This is a job interview. And you know, if I was coming in for a job interview with you, and I called and told you, Hugh, I’m not willing to show up to the job interview, you wouldn’t hire me. You’d say you’re fired. And yet, that’s essentially what Donald told the men and women of Iowa, that his time, he was not willing to show up and answer their questions. I think that damaged him significantly. But I also think last night provided real clarity, provided clarity in particularly on two fronts. Number one, the most important determination any voter is making is who’s best prepared to be commander-in-chief, who has the clarity of vision, the experience, the judgment, the temperament, the strength of resolve to keep this country safe, to identify our enemies and defeat our enemies. And I think last night gave some real clarity in that resolve. But number two, by far, the most important exchange of the night was the exchange over immigration with Marco Rubio and me and Jeb Bush, where it became abundantly clear that Marco has made promises to the men and women who elected him. He had promised the men and women of Florida if you elect me, I will lead the fight against amnesty. I made the identical promise to the men and women of Texas. We both arrived in the Senate. He chose to violate that promise, and not only not to fight against amnesty, but to join with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and lead the fight for amnesty. In contrast, I chose to honor my commitment to stand with Jeff Sessions and Iowa’s own Steve King and lead the fight against amnesty, and we defeated it. And the reason that exchange, Hugh, I think, was so important, is the number one issue in this election is trust. People are tired of getting burned, tired of politicians who say one thing and do another. And last night, it became very evident that Marco Rubio had made repeatedly an explicit promise to the voters, and then he had deliberately and willfully broken that promise. And given that, it is awfully hard for the voters to trust that he will honor additional promises he’s making on the campaign trail today.
HH: I was on with Charlie Rose Wednesday night, and asked about you and Donald Trump by Charlie, and I said I’d seen the movie, The Revenant, and Cruz-Trump reminded me of the bear and Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m not sure who’s the bear, and I’m not sure who Leonardo is.
HH: But how long is this going to go on?
TC: Look, that is going to be up to the voters, and Donald each day seems to be getting more and more dismayed, more and more rattled, and he responds by just launching personal insults and attacks. And so a month ago, Donald loved me and I was his friend. And now, every day, I wake up and look on Twitter to see what new insult has been tossed my direction. Hugh, he’s entitled to do that. I am not going to respond in kind. In fact, to the contrary, I will sing Donald’s praises. I like Donald, I’m glad he’s in this race. I think he’s bold and brash. I think he’s energized a lot of the people in the political process who hadn’t been engaged before. And so I am not going to insult Donald. I do think the voters are making a determination of who has been a consistent conservative, who has a proven record standing with the American people, leading the fight against Obamacare, leading the fight against amnesty, leading the fight to defend religious liberty, and leading the fight to defend the 2nd Amendment. And the reason that so many conservatives are coalescing behind our campaign is because I have been a consistent conservative, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, a fiscal conservative, a social conservative, and a national security conservative. And we cannot get burned again. The stakes are too high. We can’t get it wrong. One of the consequences, Hugh, as you know, of getting it wrong would be that we would lose the Supreme Court for a generation and see our Constitutional rights fundamentally stripped away. I will not allow that to happen. And conservatives uniting behind our campaign, particularly Monday night, 75 hours from today, will decide whether to support a consistent conservative or another candidate. And I believe they’re going to come with us.
HH: Let me turn to the four Supreme Court justices who will be, on the date of the inauguration of the next president, 83, 80, 80 and 78.
HH: Ted Cruz, that is a huge opportunity, Senator, and you know what that opportunity is. Who will run our judicial selection process?
TC: Well, listen, my attorney general will play a lead role in this. But when it comes to selecting Supreme Court justices, I intend to be actively and personally involved. And you understand what has happened over the decades. The Democrats, when it comes to the Supreme Court, are almost 100%. Virtually every nominee they put on the Court votes with them every single time. Republicans, we bat about .500. About half our nominees are principled judicial conservatives, but the other half are absolute disasters – Earl Warren, Bill Brennan, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe V. Wade. Every one of those was a Republican appointee. And the reason that keeps happening is that Republican presidents don’t want to spend the political capital on getting confirmed a judicial conservative, so they go with the stealth candidate. They go with the easy candidate with no paper trail. And every time we do that, we get burned. If we get this wrong, we will lose our religious liberty. We will lose our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. We will lose school choice programs that we struck down all over this country. We will see veterans memorials torn down all over this country that have crosses or stars of David. We will lose our sovereignty as the Court gives authority away to the United Nations and the World Court. And I have spent my entire adult life fighting judicial activism, fighting to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I clerked on the U.S. Supreme court for Chief Justice William Rehnquist. I’ve argued nine cases before the Court defending Constitutional principles. There is nobody else on that stage who has the experience or the demonstrated commitment to fighting for the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And Hugh, I give you and your listeners my word that as president, every person I nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court will be a principled Constitutional conservative, will follow the law and be faithful to the Constitution, rather than imposing his or her policy preferences from the bench.
HH: Two more areas, Senator Cruz. I know you are busy out there on the trail. The first one has to do with the appeal of Donald Trump, which I’ve put down to his executive experience and getting things done. When you see buildings with his name on them, he’s gotten things built. He’s run things. He has executive experience. There’s no denying that. How do you match that when you’re a litigator and a solicitor general of Texas and a Senator?
TC: Well, listen, Donald is pitching the reason that people should support him is that he’s a deal maker. And indeed, we’re seeing something really remarkable happening, Hugh, which is the Washington establishment is abandoning Marco Rubio, because I think they’ve determined that he cannot win, and they’re flocking to Donald Trump. And the reason they’re giving, you know, we saw both Bob Dole and Trent Lott come out and say Donald is someone we can work with. He’ll cut a deal. He’s someone who will continue the gravy train, continue what’s going on in Washington. And even Donald, when he was explaining why he thinks people should support him over me, Donald was saying Ted won’t go along to get along. He won’t cut a deal, and I, Donald Trump, will go to Washington and cut a deal with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. In fact, Harry Reid just this week was asked who do you want the Republicans to nominate, and he said Donald Trump. I know him well. I’ve made lots of deals with him. Now I’ve got to tell you, as I’ve traveled the country and campaigned, I have literally not met a single Republican who says the problem with Republican leadership in Washington is they don’t make enough deals with the Democrats. People are frustrated out of their mind, because Republican leadership keeps surrendering over and over again, giving in to Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. So if you want someone to make deals with Harry Reid and keep Obamacare intact and expand it to be socialized medicine, which is what Donald Trump supports, then he’s your guy. If you want someone to cut deals with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to put in place amnesty, if you want someone to keep the spending and the cronyism and the corporate welfare, then he may well be your guy. But if you want someone who is willing to stand up to the Washington cartel, to take on not just Democrats, but leaders in our own party, and instead stand resolutely with the American people and with the Constitution. That is the basis of our entire campaign, and it’s why so many conservatives here in Iowa and nationally are unifying behind our campaign.
HH: And a last question, the number 272 came up last night. That’s the number of ships currently at sea in the United States Navy. A lot of them aren’t at sea. They’re in repairs, etc.
HH: And I’m telegraphing. I’ve got two more of these debates, and I want to talk about the number of aircraft carriers that we’ve got and the number of submarines being built. What’s your vision for the Navy, Ted Cruz? Have you laid it out, yet? Ship counts and carrier groups, etc?
TC: Look, it needs to be dramatically larger. It needs to be whatever size is necessary to defend this nation. It needs to be driven by our national security interests. And I don’t think it should be politicians picking a number out of the sky. It needs to be driven by the expert judgment of our admirals, of our generals, of our senior leadership in the military, and you need a commander-in-chief who drives that assessment? What are the threats facing this country? And what is the level of Navy, what is the level of Air Force, what is the level of Army and Marines? We need to keep this country safe. It needs to be dramatically rebuilt, because it has been so badly weakened. And as you know, we’ve faced these circumstances before. In 1981, when Reagan came into the White House, Jimmy Carter had similarly presided over a dramatic weakening of our military. And what Reagan did is through tax reform and regulatory reform, he unleashed the American economy, unleashed the engine of American free enterprise. It produced extraordinary economic growth, trillions of dollars of economic growth. And that revenue in turn funded rebuilding the military, which in turn enabled us to win the Cold War, to bankrupt the Soviet Union, and tear down the Berlin Wall. Hugh, I intend to do the exact same thing with radical Islamic terrorism – pass tax reform and regulatory reform, a simple flat tax, and repeal every word of Obamacare, which will cause economic growth to explode, small businesses to explode, generate trillions in additional growth, and using that revenue, we will rebuild our Navy, rebuild our Air Force, rebuild our ability to defend ourselves. But the specific numbers needs to be driven not by the politicians, but by expert military judgment and counsel.
HH: Senator Cruz, thanks for your time. Just a fair warning, when we come around in February or March, I may ask for the number of carrier groups, and I hope you’ve talked to some of those generals and Navy admirals by then. But Senator, good luck. I know you’re ahead, and I know you’re working around the clock until they actually caucus.
TC: Well, I thank you, Hugh, and I will say we are finishing up our bus tour in the state of Iowa on Monday. We will complete the full Grassley, having been to all 99 counties, and I encourage everyone in Iowa come out and caucus Monday night. If we stand together, if you bring your friends and family, if conservatives unite, we’re going to win.
HH: Senator Cruz, thank you.
End of interview.