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We return now to the 2016 campaign, and our continuing conversations with the still-expanding universe of presidential candidates.
That includes Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who jumped in the race first, and is now among its top Republican money-raisers. He's the author of a new memoir, "A Time for Truth." And he's running.
I sat down with him earlier today.
Mr. Senator, thank you for joining us.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Presidential Candidate: Well, thank you, Gwen. It's good to be with you.
So, you write in your book that you want to paint in bold colors. That's the kind of presidency you imagine, the kind of Washington you imagine.
Has that worked for you in the Senate? And how would it work as president?
SEN. TED CRUZ:
Well, as you know, that's a reference to what Ronald Reagan explained in terms of, number one, how we win, but, number two, how we turn the country around.
And he said, we have to paint in bold colors and not pale pastels. And I think that is clearly needed. People are tired of politicians who say one thing and do another. And what I have tried to do in the Senate has really been very simple. It's been two things. Tell the truth and do what I said I would do.
You are not known as being an accommodationist.
And, in fact, you write in your book and you say at every opportunity, almost everybody else in Washington is. You describe the Washington cartel. Does that include people like Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, who come in for a little criticism in this book?
Well, you know, it's interesting you say an accommodationist.
One of the areas that gets repeated a lot in the media is on compromise, that any conservative likes to be caricatured as you will never compromise.
I will tell you, someone who has never said that is me.
The day I was I elected, I said, listen, I will happily compromise with anyone, Republican, Democrat, independent, libertarian. I have joked I will compromise with Martians if they're willing to shrink the size and power of the federal government, if they're willing to promote economic growth, if they're willing to expand individual liberty.
What Washington gets wrong far too often is that too many people compromise going backwards. They compromise in a way that's worse than the status quo, that digs the hole deeper, that makes it worse.
Let's talk about compromise in a broader sense.
Yesterday, as you know, there was an Iran nuclear deal cut. Scott Walker, one of your competitors, who you welcomed to the race, said that he — the first thing he would do as president is roll that back.
What's the first thing you would do as president?
This deal is a catastrophic deal. It is an historic mistake and it endangers United States national security and it endangers the lives of millions of Americans and millions of our allies.
So, any president worth his salt should repudiate this deal in the very first days of his or her presidency. But I don't think it is a reasonable middle ground to do, as the Obama administration is trying to do, to allow them, in fact, to accelerate Iran's developing nuclear weapons.
This is a deal that is profoundly dangerous to our national security.
I would like to bring you back to 2016 for a moment.
You are on your way to New York later today…
… as we speak here this morning, to meet with Donald Trump, one of your competitors. Do you think that he can be president?
Well, listen, I like Donald Trump, and I think he's bold. I think he's brash. I'm glad he's in the race.
Does that mean that you agree with his policy prescriptions?
Well, we need to wait and see what his policy prescriptions are.
I mean, we need — one of the aspects of politics is that you have to actually look at someone's record, not just what they say on the campaign. It's interesting. There are a lot of what I call campaign conservatives, who, when they campaign, become conservatives, and, yet, when they're in office, they don't govern as conservatives.
But I have to ask you, is Donald Trump a conservative?
Well, we will give him the opportunity to lay out his record and lay out of his views.
But what I am not going to do is join with the Washington cartel in smacking him. Trump is focusing on illegal immigration. He is focusing on sanctuary cities. And just about all of the other candidates have vocally and vigorously embraced amnesty for years.
And, Gwen, the reason they embrace amnesty is the Washington cartel supports amnesty. You know who's losing? The Ohio steelworker is losing. The single mom who is waiting tables is losing. The legal immigrant, like my dad who washed dishes making 50 cents an hour, they're the ones losing.
You talk a lot about your dad, a Cuban-American. You are Cuban-American.
Bobby Jindal, who we talked to on the program yesterday, says this hyphenated American thing is nonsense, even though Marco Rubio and you both identify that way. How — let's talk about heritage a little bit. How important is that in this race?
Well, look, our heritage is integral to who all of us are.
I mean, we are all the product of our family journey. It's one of the things I try to do in the book "A Time for Truth" is lay out my family journey going back generations, going back to my great-grandfather coming to Cuba, dying in the worldwide influenza epidemic, to my grandfather growing up on a sugarcane plantation, basically in indentured servitude, and then going — when he was a teenager, a bus came by in Cuba, offered everyone $5 and a sandwich to go to a political rally.
At what point do you become just an American and not a Cuban-American? And that's Bobby Jindal's point.
Oh, I'm emphatically an American. But I'm also a Cuban, Irish, Italian man. My mom is Irish and Italian. That's a big part of who I am.
Every one of us, we're the product — one of the things I try to describe in the book are the journeys.
I do want to ask you a question about something you reference in your book, in which you say that one of your favorite country western songs is, "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."
What are your unanswered prayers?
One of the things that I describe is the time I spent on the presidential campaign of George W. Bush.
I was a young man. I was in my 20s. I had enjoyed a lot of success, and I was too cocky for my own good. And I burned some bridges on that campaign. And I had desperately wanted to go into the administration and to have a senior position in the White House.
I wanted to be the young idealistic staffer in the Oval Office saying, Mr. President, do the right thing, stand by principle.
And yet that didn't happen. I didn't get that. And that was my fault it didn't happen. I had burned the bridges.
What lessons have you learned about burning bridges since then?
When I referenced the country western song, it's because, in hindsight, my wife, Heidi, says that that experience, she thinks, changed my personality in a very real sense, that I needed to get my teeth kicked in, that I needed to learn humility voluntarily, or involuntarily, as is usually the case.
And the point I make is, if I had gotten what my hopes and dreams were at that point, if I had gotten that senior position, there's no chance on earth I would be serving in the Senate right now. If I had gone to the White House, it would have done what it does to so many other young staffers. They become convinced they're terribly, terribly important. But now you're ready?
And I will tell you, the reason I'm running, this country is in crisis. Growing up in our house, there was always an urgency to politics. It wasn't pick up the newspaper, turn on the NewsHour, oh, that's interesting, that's what's happening.
It was having principled men and women in office is how you save yourself from tyranny. It was an appreciation. I remember, when I was 9 and 10 years old, cheering the Ronald Reagan campaign, watching those debates as a kid. And it was about, can we get back to principles of liberty that enable people like my dad to start with nothing and achieve anything?
And I think we're at a similar crisis point. The Obama-Clinton foreign policy is a manifest disaster. The world is literally on fire.
And you're the man to put out the fire?
The American people are the only force strong enough to put out the fire.
The biggest divide we have got politically, it is not between Republicans and Democrats. It's between career politicians in Washington in both parties and the American people. Well, we are going to watch this debate play out all year long and part of next year as well.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, thank you for joining us.
Thank you, Gwen.
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