HH: I’m pleased now to welcome, however, current Senator Ted Cruz from the great state of Texas. Senator Cruz, Happy New Year to you, great to have you.
TC: Hugh, my friend, it’s always great to join you.
HH: I want to start with the vote last week to cut the active duty military COLA. You voted against the bill. Did we break faith with America’s active duty retirees?
TC: Well, the Senate Democrats all stood united in cutting the retirement for our veterans. And strikingly, they didn’t do so as part of an overall reform. Federal civilian retirees didn’t have their retirements cut. So not only are we mistreating the men and women who have served in uniform and defended our nation, but we’re treating them unfairly compared to an assistant administrator at the EPA who the Democrats wanted to preserve that retirement, but not the men and women of our military.
HH: And so is there a consensus within the GOP caucus that this has got to be changed back?
TC: There is a strong consensus among Republicans that we need to take care of the men and women of the military, that it was wrong, it was wrong to cut it at least on the Senate side. And we introduced multiple amendments to do so. I introduced an amendment on the floor of the Senate last week that would have number one acknowledged that Obamacare isn’t working, and taking the funds that are going to Obamacare that are going right not to cancelling people’s health insurance and making it harder for them to see their doctor, and instead using that money to fund the retirement of veterans. And the Democrats blocked it.
HH: There’s a story today that CBO has produced a study that calls, that examines, it doesn’t call for, but it examines what would happen is working age military retirees were barred from TriCare Prime. Will you work to stop that from happening, which would be a second enormous breach of faith with the active duty military?
TC: Well, I haven’t seen the particular study that you’re referencing, so I certainly want to look at the study first before I comment on it. But I think we absolutely need to honor the commitments that we have made to the men and women who volunteered, who step forward to defend all of us and defend our rights.
HH: Senator Cruz, on this program on Monday, Charles Krauthammer called the agreement with Iran a catastrophe that was reminiscent of Munich. John Bolton said the same on Tuesday. Do you agree with their assessment?
TC: I think they’re exactly right. I think what we are doing with Iran is extraordinarily dangerous. We are allowing $7 billion or more dollars to go to Iran, and in exchange for that, Iran is not shutting down even a single centrifuge. They’re not handing over enriched uranium. We are essentially giving them the funds that may well enable them to develop a nuclear weapon. And what makes Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon such an existential danger is the very real possibility that if they have a weapon, they will use a weapon either against Israel, or against us. And in either circumstances, the consequences of being wrong could literally be hundreds of thousands of Americans or our allies killed because this administration is so desperate to cut a deal that they will loosen the sanctions before stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
HH: Now Senator Cruz, that’s what I thought you would say, and I’m glad to have that articulated. Now I want to go to the domestic side. A lot of talk of 2016 in the air because of Governor Christie’s troubles. First of all, are you impressed with how he’s answered the questions about Bridgegate?
TC: You know, I like Chris Christie. I think he’s brash. I am always happy when a Republican can get elected, particularly in a blue state. I think it is unfortunate that he’s found himself in this mess, and I hope he’s able to extricate himself and extricate himself quickly.
HH: Now do you believe that he’s going to be in the hunt in 2016?
TC: You know, 2016 is a long way away. And he’s got to make a decision if he’s going to run, and then the voters have to make a decision who they want to support.
HH: When are you going to make that decision about yourself?
TC: You know, I understand that everyone likes to focus on the election three years from now. You know, I’ll tell you my view as a voter. As a voter, I think it’s too soon to be worrying about that. But as a voter, the person for whom I intend to vote in the Republican primary is whoever is standing up and effectively leading, whoever is effectively fighting for free market principles, effectively fighting for the Constitution, whoever is making the case, because Hugh, I think you and I both agree, this is not a typical time in politics. It’s not a typical time in our nation. We’re at the edge of a precipice. And there is an urgency, and it is my hope that in the next year or two or three, we’ll see five or ten or fifteen leaders standing up and fighting for free market principles, fighting for the Constitution. I think that’s who the nominee is, whoever does that. And I hope everyone even remotely thinking about that does everything they can to lead the fight to pull this country back from that cliff.
HH: Now I’m going to ask former Secretary of Defense Gates in my interview with him specifically about you and the parallel with President Obama. He had only four years in the Senate before he became president, no executive experience, and whether or not that matters. What do you think the answer ought to be to that?
TC: Well, I have to admit, I don’t know. I don’t know Secretary Gates. I’ve never met him, so I don’t know what he’s going to say to that.
HH: No, but I mean, what do you think about the necessity of executive experience before being behind the biggest desk in the world?
TC: You know, in my view, what we need right now is principled leadership. Where we are today, I think, is very, very similar to the late 1970s, where in the late 1970s we had disastrous economic policies that produced economic stagnation, that produced malaise that had millions of people hurting, and we combined that with feckless foreign policies that made the world a much more dangerous place, and that jeopardized U.S. national security interests. And as you remember well, what we saw all across the country was a grassroots movement that became the Reagan revolution. And it was millions of men and women all over this country, and to them what mattered coming out of the 1970s and turning us around was that President Reagan, with the support and speaking for millions of Americans, was able to articulate clear, conservative principles that work, that get, bring back economic growth, that allows small businesses to prosper, that enable people to get jobs, and at the same time, that vigorously defend U.S. national security interests, to protect our interests and to stop a policy of appeasement and apology to enemies of the United States.
TC: That’s what we need again.
HH: Now we have one minute left, Senator Cruz, and I like to say, there’s only one Senator who’s argued nine cases before the Supreme Court. So I’d like to ask you, and that’s not because you’re lucky. Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood is about free exercise of religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It comes up for argument on March 25th. Are we going to win that? By we, I mean people who believe in religious liberty.
TC: I am very optimistic about that argument. I mean, as you know, Hugh, it’s always perilous to predict Supreme Court arguments, but I think the administration’s arguments are very weak for enforcing the contraceptive mandate and trying to use the power of the federal government to force private citizens, private companies to violate their religious belief. I also think the pattern of lawlessness that this administration has engaged in, selectively granting waivers to big business, to members of Congress, undermines their argument in this case, because as the Supreme Court said over and over again, if you grant waivers to one group, you can’t treat those with religious faith worse, and that’s exactly what the Obama administration is doing.
HH: I hope you are right. Senator Ted Cruz, always a great pleasure. Have a great 2014, we’ll talk again.
End of interview.