NPR News Interview With Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Broadcast Plans, Interview Excerpts & Complete Transcript Available Below
In an interview with NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, Texas Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz weighed in on major political issues including the 2016 GOP primary candidates and the recent SCOTUS decisions.
Recorded on Sunday, June 28, at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York, the conversation is available in broadcast segments on on Morning Edition and All Things Considered today. NPR Political Reporter Jessica Taylor's analysis of Cruz's remarks can be found now at the NRP.org blog It's All Politics.
All audio excerpts from this interview must be credited to "NPR News." Broadcast outlets may use up to sixty (60) consecutive seconds of audio. Television usage of interview audio must include on-screen chyron to "NPR News" with NPR logo.
-EXCERPTS FROM NPR BROADCASTS-
When asked about same-sex marriage and defying Supreme Court: "The parties to a case cannot ignore a direct judicial order, but it does not mean that those who are not parties to a case are bound by a judicial order."
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He continued: "These judges and justices are disregarding their oaths."
Describing his reaction to the Supreme Court decisions of last week: "It is not healthy for our democracy when judges on our Supreme Court are violating their judicial oath. And in both the Obamacare decision and the marriage decision, the justices decided that they wanted to re-write federal law and re-write the constitution. That's not the way our Constitution operates, and, and it is a sad moment for the court when you have judges seizing authority that does not belong to them."
About the Supreme Court: "This week in response to both of these decisions, I have called for another constitutional amendment - this one that would make members of the Supreme Court subject to periodic judicial retention elections. As a very real check, 20 states have retention elections they've put in place, if judges overstep their bounds, violate the constitution, then the people have a check to remove them from office. I've called for that change. That is very much front and center something I intend to campaign on. And marriage and religious liberty are going to be integral, I believe, to motivating the American people to come out and vote for what's ultimately restoring our constitutional system."
He went on to say: "The court's views are radically out of step with public opinion."
And continued: "The Supreme Court follows the opinions of Manhattan and Washington DC, but it doesn't follow the opinions of America."
On other 2016 GOP primary candidates: "I think the question Republican primary voters should ask is, 'When have you stood up against the Washington cartel? When have you stood up against leaders in our own party?'"
-FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT-
SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, IS INTERVIEWED BY NPR NEWS HOST STEVE INSKEEP
JUNE 29, 2015
SPEAKERS: SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS,
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
STEVE INSKEEP, NPR ANCHOR
INSKEEP: Do you feel that this is a different country than it was a week ago?
CRUZ: Oh, we remain the same great country we always have been, but the Supreme Court decisions of last week, two in a row, did enormous damage to this country. It is not healthy for our democracy when judges on our Supreme Court are violating their judicial oath. And in both the Obamacare decision and the marriage decision, the justices decided that they wanted to rewrite federal law and rewrite the Constitution.
That's not the way our Constitution operates and it is a sad moment for the court when you have judges seizing authority that does not belong to them. The proper way to make policy decisions under our Constitution in America is for the people to do so through the democratic process. And last week, the justices short-circuited that.
INSKEEP: Did justices really rewrite the law here? I'm thinking of John Roberts's ruling, Chief Justice Roberts's ruling on the health care case, where he said there was this phrase which suggests that subsidies should not go to certain states, but other parts of the law and the broader context of the law, when you read the actual text, it makes sense. Isn't that within reason for him to say that?
CRUZ: It's not. And as you know from my book, I've known John Roberts for 20 years now. He's an extraordinarily talented lawyer. And he's someone who knows very well when he's changing the language of a statute. And what's sad on Obamacare, the court has done this twice in just a few years.
The first time, Chief Justice Roberts rewrote Obamacare and turned a penalty into a tax. The statute was very explicit that it was a penalty. And they magically pulled out an eraser and changed that to a tax. And indeed, you'll recall when Obamacare was being debated, the president of the United States, President Obama, told the American people it's not a tax. And yet John Roberts magically saved the statute by writing the word "tax" in.
Well, this last week, he did it once again. The statute says that the subsidies and the mandates and the taxes, all of them apply only if there is an exchange established by the state. And what Chief Justice Roberts did is took out an eraser, crossed out those words, and put in place defined an exchange established by the federal government as an exchange established by a state.
As Justice Scalia powerfully said in dissent, words have no meaning if the court can simply rewrite a statute because it wants to force this failed law on millions of Americans who are now paying illegal taxes because the court has become legislators.
INSKEEP: What does it say to you that both of these rulings that you so strongly disagree with came from a Supreme Court where most of the appointees were from Republican administrations?
CRUZ: Well, it underscores one of the points really at the heart of my book, which is that the problem we have is not Democrats versus Republicans. It is a Washington cartel. I've said many times the biggest divide we have politically is not between Republicans and Democrats. It's between career politicians in both parties and the American people.
And what we have seen in recent years in Washington is all three branches of government violating the law and violating the Constitution. Barack Obama is the most lawless president we've ever seen. The Supreme Court, egregiously this past week, is rewriting federal laws and rewriting the Constitution. And sadly, Congress acquiesces. And the entire point of the book, "A Time For Truth," is to tell the inside perspective of what's going on in the United States Senate; the fights.
And as you know, the opening chapter is entitled "Mendacity." And I'm not talking about Democrats when I say that. It is the mendacity of Republicans who join with Democrats. You know, Steve, you don't get an $18 trillion debt without a whole lot of bipartisan cooperation.
INSKEEP: You begin the book by accusing your fellow Republicans in the Senate of going along with a debt ceiling increase when you felt they should have fought it. You felt that they were going against their principles, and not just differing with you over tactics.
Just the other day, you predicted that in response to the Supreme Court rulings that your fellow Republicans, Republican Party leaders, would pretend to be incensed, but then do, quote, "absolutely nothing." What makes you think that your fellow Republican leaders are so cynical?
CRUZ: Because they agree with the rulings from last week, both the Obamacare ruling and the marriage ruling. This is why men and women across this country are so frustrated. I'll tell you, I just flew in from Iowa this morning. In Iowa, each town hall I ask people: How many people are frustrated with Republican leaders? Every hand goes up.
And it's because on election day, Republicans campaign saying they're opposed to Obamacare. They support marriage. They'll defend the rule of law. They'll defend the Constitution. And they get to Washington and they're part of the Washington cartel.
With respect to the Obamacare decision, a whole lot of Republicans in Washington are thrilled that they don't have to deal with the issue in Congress. And even better, they can blame the court for it. And with respect to marriage, you know, it's been stunning. Republican presidential candidate after Republican presidential candidate have put out statements that have said this is the law of the land; we must accept it and move on. Those are word for word the talking points of Barack Obama. And this is why so many men and women are frustrated.
What I've tried to do in politics is two very simple things: tell the truth and do what I said I would do. It says something about Washington, D.C. that those are considered radical acts.
INSKEEP: You have come from Iowa to New York City where today on this Sunday that we're talking, there was a giant gay pride parade. It was difficult for us to move through the streets there were so many people out and celebrating. Is it possible that this country has simply changed?
CRUZ: Well, look, this country is always changing. But — but my point about the Supreme Court is the Supreme Court didn't wait for the country to change. Five unelected lawyers overruled 320 million Americans. Justice Scalia in dissent said these five unelected lawyers in robes have become the rulers of 320 million Americans.
Steve, you may well on policy grounds agree with the Supreme Court's decision. If you had a referendum, you may well vote for gay marriage. Well, under our Constitution, there's a way to make policy changes. The proper way to make policy changes is for you to convince your fellow citizens that there is a better policy outcome than the current one. And then in state legislatures, for those state legislatures to vote that change.
From the beginning of our country, marriage has been a question for the state legislatures elected by the people. And what we're seeing with this Supreme Court is they're deciding their elite radical views trump the views of the American people.
INSKEEP: You were talking about whether to accept this decision or not. Let me ask a couple of questions about that. You made a statement about these two rulings, denouncing them both. And then saying that repealing Obamacare will be a central issue in the 2016 election.
INSKEEP: You didn't say that same-sex marriage would be. Is that a lost cause for your side?
CRUZ: Not remotely. And I said them both, so I addressed them one at a time. So my first comment on Obamacare is that the Supreme Court's decision has made 2016 a referendum on repealing every word of Obamacare. And that 2016 candidates who are not prepared to stand up and lead that fight should step aside.
But then I directly addressed the court's marriage decisions.
INSKEEP: Oh, you've criticized them, but you did not say that would be an issue in 2016.
CRUZ: I most assuredly have.
INSKEEP: OK. Please go on.
CRUZ: And so what I've said, number one, I've introduced a constitutional amendment to restore the authority of the states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Number two, I've introduced legislation in the United States Congress to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction for attacks on marriage. The Constitution explicitly gives Congress the authority to strip jurisdiction as a check and balance against judicial overreach.
But number three, this week in response to both of these decisions, I have called for another constitutional amendment, this one that would make members of the Supreme Court subject to periodic judicial retention elections as a very real check. Twenty states have retention elections they put in place if judges overstep their bounds, violate the Constitution, and the people have a check to remove them from office.
I've called for that change. That is very much front and center, something I intend to campaign on. And marriage and religious liberty are going to be integral, I believe, to motivating the American people to come out and vote for what's ultimately restoring our constitutional system.
INSKEEP: That is an interesting proposal, to have votes on whether to retain judges. And you're correct that many states do have some form of judicial elections. But I'm interested in this because the concern of conservatives seems to be that the court was following public opinion. Same-sex marriage, for example, is much more popular than it used to be.
How would having judicial elections make judges any less responsive to changes in public opinion?
CRUZ: Well, Steve, let me actually disagree with your premise. The court doesn't follow public opinion. The court's views are radically out of step with public opinion. Justice Scalia in his dissent, he powerfully pointed out these are nine lawyers. They all went to either Harvard or Yale law school. There is not one single evangelical Protestant on this court. These are all elites on the I-95/Acela corridor.
I agree that the Supreme Court follows the opinions of Manhattan and Washington, D.C., but it doesn't follow the opinions of America. There is a reason why this assault on marriage has occurred primarily in the courts of law and not at the ballot box: because when it goes to the ballot box, the American people vote no.
It's worth remembering just a few years ago, the Windsor decision from the Supreme Court. It struck down a referendum that the people of California — now, California is not a conservative state. It is not a red state. California's a bright, bright blue state. And yet when California put a referendum, just a few years ago, on about the ballot about whether marriage should remain the union of one man and one woman, a majority of Californians voted to preserve traditional marriage.
INSKEEP: But you don't think that that vote would — would be different today, given the change in polls in the last several years?
CRUZ: It may well, or it may not. That was just a few years ago.
One of the interesting things is — do you know some of the groups that voted most overwhelmingly for traditional marriage? They were African-Americans and Hispanics. As an Hispanic man, as the son of a Cuban immigrant, I can tell you in the Hispanic community, marriage and life and faith and values resonate powerfully.
And — and the suggestion you had that the court is following public opinion, you know what? If public opinion were already there...
INSKEEP: This is what a number of conservatives have said, but please go ahead.
CRUZ: The court follows elite opinion, not public opinion. And — and part of the problem that my book lays out is Democratic leaders in Congress and Republican leaders in Congress follow elite opinion as well. It's what I've called "the Washington cartel." It's all — it is career politicians in both parties. It is lobbyists and giant corporations.
And if you look at what's happened in the last decade, the rich have gotten richer. Today, the top 1 percent of our country earn a higher share of our income than any year since — since 1928. Giant corporations have gotten bigger.
Obamacare, under Obamacare, what's happened? The insurance companies are making historic levels of profits.
Dodd-Frank, Dodd-Frank was sold to the American people as stopping "too big to fail." What has happened? The big banks have gotten even bigger, and small banks and community banks go out of — out of business.
All of this is an example of the Washington, and these court decisions are one manifestation of that Washington elite forcing its radical views on — on what folks otherwise view as fly-over country.
If the values had changed so much, there would be no need for the court to act, because people would've acted democratically to change their marriage laws. That hadn't happened, which is why the court stepped in and thrown out the laws that the people did adopt.
INSKEEP: Justice Scalia, who, as you, right — you worked with when you were a Supreme Court clerk and who you clearly greatly respect, ended his dissent on same-sex marriage with a warning that the court depends on states and the executive branch, the president, to follow its rulings, to respect them, and he warned that the court was moving closer to proving its impotence.
As you know, there are some Republicans who have been talking in general terms of somehow defying the court's ruling.
Would you encourage state or federal officials who disagree with that ruling to ignore it or defy it in any way?
CRUZ: You know, you're right, that the final paragraph of Justice Scalia's dissent was an ominous paragraph. What Justice Scalia was saying was that these decisions are fundamentally illegitimate, that his colleagues on the court are not following their oaths.
Now, the way our constitutional system works, the courts that have the authority to decide cases and controversies between particular individuals. But there is no obligation on others in government to accept the court as the final arbiter of every constitutional question. Indeed, every officer takes an oath to uphold the Constitution.
And Steve, as you know, I — I don't — I don't say this lightly, and I don't suggest judicial retention elections lightly. I began my career as a law clerk on the United States Supreme Court.
One of the things that I talk about in considerable length in — in the book, "A Time for Truth," is my time clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court, getting to know the justices personally, seeing the decision making, what goes on behind closed doors.
Really, throughout the book, what I endeavor to do is shine a light on what happens at the court, both as a law clerk and then, for north a decade, as a litigator litigating and winning major cases in front of the Supreme Court over and over and over again.
And then I endeavor to do the same thing in the United States Senate, which is shine a light on what's happening behind closed doors in — in the back-door deal making that so many Americans understand is going on but they don't quite understand how or why, but they know that — that our elected leaders are lying to us.
INSKEEP: You write about the Supreme Court in a way that you clearly revere it...
INSKEEP: ... that shows that clearly revere it and that you're fascinated by it. You describe details like the breakfast habits of various Supreme Court justices who were there when you were there.
CRUZ: And for your listeners, what that particular anecdote is, is — is that David Souter would have, actually, for lunch every day yogurt.
And — and one of the nice traditions of the court, when you're clerking at the court, is each of the justices would have lunch with the justices for another — with the clerks for another justice. So you got to have lunch with each — each of the other justices.
And — and David Souter, a very ascetic New Hampshire man, would have yogurt each day for lunch, and then on the weekends, he'd put fruit in the yogurt. And — and I observe in the book, I said it struck me that presumably if he put — put fruit in on the weekend, he preferred it with fruit. And yet, nonetheless, he chose to deny himself the pleasure of strawberries or blueberries or whatever fruit he might prefer during the week.
INSKEEP: Which is a great story. But did I just understand you to suggest that state officials should feel no particular obligation to follow the court ruling if they feel it's illegitimate?
CRUZ: They should feel no obligation to agree that the court ruling is right or is consistent with the Constitution.
INSKEEP: But does that mean they can ignore?
CRUZ: They cannot ignore a direct judicial order. The parties to a case cannot ignore a direct judicial order. But it does not mean that those who are not parties to case are bound by a judicial order.
And that's what Justice Scalia was saying in his dissent, which is that the court depends upon the remainder of government trusting that it is faithfully applying the law and — and these judges and justices are disregarding their oaths.
This is — the entire premise of the decision on marriage was that in 1868, when the people of the United States ratified the 14th Amendment, that we were somehow silently and unawares striking down every marriage law across the country.
That's a preposterous notion. That is not law. That is not even dressed up as law.
Now listen, reasonable minds can disagree as a policy matter. Should gay marriage be allowed. I suspect you and I would disagree on that policy matter.
Part of the genius of our framers is they set up a system to resolve the policy matters, and that system is we can engage in the democratic process, you can make arguments in support of whatever forms of marriage you embrace and others can make other arguments and our elected officials decide.
What this decision is, and both of these decisions are, are decisions from the Washington elites that they know better than the American people, that it doesn't matter whether the American people agree with them or not, they're going to force their radical views on them, and that's — that's really unfortunate.
INSKEEP: I really want to get to other views in the — other issues in the book, but I feel it's important to clarify this one thing.
Did I understand you to say just now that as you read the law, as you read our system, this decision is not binding on the entire country, only to the specific states that were named in the — in the suit.
CRUZ: Article III of the Constitution gives the court the authority to resolve cases and controversies. Those cases and controversies, when they're resolved, when you're facing a judicial order, the parties to that suit are bound it. Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it.
Now, in subsequent litigation, other courts will follow the precedence of the court, but a judicial order only binds those to whom it is directed, those who are parties to the suit. That's the way our litigation system works.
Now, this is what Justice Scalia was talking about in his dissent, which is that it has been the case that on a great many issues, others have largely acquiesced, even if they were not parties to the case.
But there's no legal obligation to acquiesce to anything other than a court judgment. And I would note that the next major battlefield that is going to occur following this marriage decision is religious liberty.
And there are a number of pastors who are publicly saying that if the courts attempt to order them to violate their faith, that they will defy the orders of the court and go to prison for it. That shows just how far we've gotten from the Bill of Rights and our Constitution.
You know, I'll give you an example, Steve. Two weeks ago, I was in Iowa, and — and I met with a couple there named Dick and Betty Odegaard (ph). It's a delightful couple, an older couple, that a number of years back, they purchased an historic Lutheran church, and they began hosting weddings in the church.
And — and they started a small business that — that was their livelihood, where they would cater the weddings, and they set up a flower shop, and they would put on weddings. They did this for a number of years until two men came and wanted to have a gay wedding in their church.
Now, the Odegaards (ph) are devout Mennonites, and they explained to these two men that it was contrary to their faith. For them to host and celebrate a gay wedding would be contrary to their religious beliefs and faith.
The next day, they were sued. They were dragged out through prolonged litigation. They ended up paying $5,000 to settle the suit. And they also made a promise they would never again host another wedding.
When I met with the Odegaards (ph) two weeks ago, Dick and Betty were in tears. They are shutting down their business.
Now, one of the consequences of this, they have several employees, several employees who work in the catering business, in — in the flower shop®MD+IN¯®MDNM¯, they've all lost their jobs. And that was for following their faith and religious liberty.
And there is an intolerance in the left that seeks to force people of faith to knuckle under and embrace, and that's fundamentally wrong, Steve.
Society has no right to force a Jewish rabbi to perform a Christian wedding. Society has no right to force a Muslim imam to perform a Jewish wedding.
And under the Bill of Rights, under the First Amendment — we're a nation that was founded by people fleeing religious persecution. And it is fundamentally wrong.
But the next battleground will be efforts, litigation efforts, to persecute those, whether they are Christians or Jews or Muslims or Mormons or people of faith, who believe in a biblical definition of marriage, the union of one man and one woman — the next battle will be the litigation battles to persecute them, to find them.
And I believe — and — and you talked about 2016 — I believe 2016 will be a religious-liberty election, because I have spent almost my entire adult life fighting to defend the religious liberty of every American to follow his or her faith and live according to his conscience.
INSKEEP: You write in this book about your youth and describe being very unpopular in junior high school, which is surely something that millions of people could say of themselves.
But you go on to say that you decided to re-make yourself. What did you do?
CRUZ: Well, it was — it was an interesting background. I was growing up in Houston. In grade school and junior high, I was, I guess you would say, a geek. I was academically very good at school but was not a good athlete and was not popular in junior high. And then I spent a great deal of time thinking about, OK, what do the popular kids do that's different. And I began modifying my behavior to emulate — to try and be popular. And I enjoyed some modicum of success.
Now, some of it was nature and puberty, so between eighth and ninth, I grew, I think, six, seven inches. I got my braces off. I got contacts. I went to a dermatologist and my acne cleaned up. You know, things a lot of teenagers can relate to. And indeed, I...
INSKEEP: But you did more than that.
CRUZ: I even changed my name, which was an interesting thing. My full name is Rafael Edward Cruz, and in Spanish, the diminutive is ito. And so for a junior, you add ito and so the nickname for Rafael, you put ito and you get Rafaelito. And then typically you drop the Ra. And so my name from when I was — from birth until I was, I think, about 12 was Felito, Felito Cruz.
Now the problem with that is that it rhymes with every major corn chip on the market — Doritos, Tostitos, burritos, Cheetos, which sadly, young children were fond of pointing out. And my mother — I remember — my mom and I are very close. I remember my mom suggesting to me when I was, I think, 11 or 12, that if I wanted, I could change my name.
My middle name's Edward. We went through all the choices I could go by. I could go by Rafael or Ralph or Raff or Edward or Eddie or Ted. And just Ted sounded like me.
But you mention I also changed behavior. I did things like I hadn't participated in sports, I went out for all the sports teams, and I played football and basketball and soccer, and I was horrible because I hadn't played in elementary school or junior high. But I was at a small school, and so they would let anyone who want to play. And frankly, it was some simple things like just treating people nicely, which — some of that's maturity in life.
But it was an interesting transformation where, when I got to high school, I was elected class president two years in a row and was a leader in a lot of school activities. And one of the things I talk about in the book is having been, as a grade school kid and junior high kid unpopular and then having changed my behavior to become more popular, it taught me a lesson that popularity isn't the end-all, be-all. That what matters far more is that you stick to your principles, that you stand up and you live a life of integrity.
One of the problems in Washington — and this is something I talk about in great length in the book, "A Time for Truth" — is there are far too many politicians in Washington who desperately just want to get re-elected.
You know, there's an old joke that politics is Hollywood for ugly people. And that explains why, over and over again, they're afraid to stand up and lead because they don't want to lose their election and the money and power in Washington is what gets them re-elected.
I think we are at a time of crisis, which is why — I mean, the book is entitled "A Time for Truth." I think our nation faces enormous challenges, and we need leaders who are willing to tell the truth and do the right thing regardless of the consequences.
INSKEEP: You write that as a grown-up, you unlearned some of those lessons, particularly in the 2000 presidential campaign when you worked for George W. Bush.
INSKEEP: That you had been hoping for some senior position in the administration, you didn't get it because you feel that you annoyed a lot of people.
Have you ended up — have you ended up more like the kid you were at the beginning, when you were unpopular?
CRUZ: Well Steve, you're right that I described going to Bush campaign. So when I was in my late 20s, I left my job, packed up everything I owned and moved to Austin to join the 2000 Bush campaign. And I think the best part of the campaign was I met my wife, Heidi, who is my best friend in the world. She is incredible. She is beautiful, she's brilliant, she's the daughter of missionaries.
But I do describe how, on the campaign, I found myself slipping into old habits. And I had been very successful — I'd been very successful at school, I had gone to top schools, which no one in my family ever had. I had clerked on the Supreme Court, I had a successful law practice. And when I was on the Bush campaign, I was very cocky, and I paid a price for that.
I desperately wanted to have a senior position in the administration. But I had burned a lot of bridges on the campaign, and so that was not in the offing. And one of the things I describe in the book is how I went through a very difficult year the first year of the Bush administration, where I had worked incredibly hard.
But it's interesting. Heidi, I mentioned my wife. You know, a lot of times your spouse sees things about you that you don't necessarily see. Heidi is convinced that my personality changed in a very fundamental way in that period. And one of the things I describe in the book, I needed to get my teeth kicked in. I needed not to be as cocky as I had been on the campaign.
And I — and I mention in the book, you know, a terrific country song is "Some of God's Greatest Gifts are Unanswered Prayers." And I point out if I had gotten what I wanted, if I had gone to a senior White House position in the Bush administration, two things would have happened. Number one, I undoubtedly would have been ensnared in some of the many mistakes of the Bush administration, and I chronicle quite a few of those in the book where the administration deviated from the conservative principles that the president had campaigned on. But number two, if I had gotten that, I never would have been elected to the United States Senate.
You know, one of the great things about our democratic process, the way you get elected, particularly in a grassroots campaign like the one that I ran in Texas and the run — the one that I'm running now nationally is you go to hundreds of IHOPs and Denny's and VFW halls and you sit down and talk with people. And here's a real simple rule of thumb. If you're an arrogant little snot, you ain't going to win because the people you're talking to are the salt of the Earth. They're truck drivers, they're plumbers, they're schoolteachers, they're working men and women.
And what we saw when I ran for Senate in Texas, what we're seeing on the ground in Iowa, in New Hampshire and South Carolina is that old Reagan coalition coming together. People — we're seeing conservatives and libertarians and evangelicals and young people and Hispanics and African-Americans and Jewish voters and women and Reagan Democrats. And I think — as I point out in the book, I think God knew what he was doing when he allowed me to get my teeth kicked in on the Bush campaign and not achieve the success that I so badly wanted because I need to learn some lessons.
INSKEEP: Do you think you're less cocky now?
CRUZ: Absolutely. And it's interesting, because the attacks that are leveled in Washington, they go through almost an Alice in Wonderland, through the looking glass, inversion.
INSKEEP: You say you don't recognize yourself when people describe you as arrogant or whatever they may say?
CRUZ: Indeed, what they're doing often, is projecting their own conduct. So, the opening chapter of the book, which is entitled, "Mendacity," it describes the fight over the debt ceiling and it simple described what happened behind the closed doors.
So, it started with President Obama demanding what's called a clean debt ceiling, he wanted trillions more in debt, with more spending reforms whatsoever. Now, that was an audacious demand, but it wasn't surprising. I mean, we could have anticipated that's where the president would start. Although, when George W. Bush was president, he decried raising the debt ceiling and voted against it every time.
Even so, it wasn't shocking that when shoe was on the other foot, he wanted trillions more in debt with no spending reforms. What was shocking was what House Republican leadership did, House Republican leadership decided to join with 192 Democrats in passing a clean debt ceiling. They rolled over virtually, every Republican in the House.
And what was even more shocking was what happened in the Senate. So, the week the Senate took it up, every week the Senate is in session the Republicans have lunch together, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. That Tuesday lunch, it began. The ordinary rules of the Senate are in order to move to proceed to take up a debt ceiling, takes 60 votes. That's the way the Senate has operated for decades.
It's also true that any rule in the Senate can be changed by unanimous consent. But unanimous consent, as the name suggests, takes the affirmative agreement of all 100 senators.
That Tuesday lunch began with our leadership saying, "We're asking every Republican senator here, to affirmatively consent to lower the threshold for Harry Reid to take up the debt ceiling, from 60 votes to 50 votes. And we were told, everyone of you should agree for two reasons.
Number one, if we do this, it will happen, and hallelujah, hallelujah, that's what we want. We want trillions more in debt with no spending reforms, because we're scared of this issue. We don't want to have a political fight on this.
But number two, if we do this, the Democrats will have the votes to do it on their own, which means all of us Republicans can vote no. And we can go home and tell our constituents, we opposed the thing we just consented to allow happen.
Now, I was sitting there — to be honest, I hadn't gone to lunch intending to pick a fight, but as I listened to that, I was astonished and I raised my hand, and I said, "There's no universe in which I can consent to doing that. I spent two years campaigning across Texas, telling Texas, if you elect me, I'll fight with every breath in my body to stop the out of control spending and debt that are bankrupting our kids and grandkids."
If were to do that, I think it would be both dishonest and unfaithful to the men and women who elected me.
INSKEEP: Wouldn't they say, if they were sitting here, some of your fellow Republicans, you disagreed with them about tactics, and you responded that this tactical disagreement means that they're wrong on philosophy, and that they're wrong on strategy and that they're mendacious, as a matter of fact. Is that really fair?
CRUZ: It's not a question of tactics. It's, are you honoring the commitments you make to the men and women back home. And it is, for the next three days, the Republican senators yelled and screamed at me throughout the lunch. Now, I didn't raise my voice in response.
At one point, one of them said, "Why are you trying to throw five Republicans under the bus?" Because, to get to 60 votes, five Republicans would have to vote with the Democrats. I said, "Listen, I'm not trying to throw any Republicans under the bus. It's leadership that's asking you to jump under the bus. Everyone of you told your constituents the exact same thing that I did, all I'm asking you to do is actually do what you said you would do."
And one of the things I describe in the book, "A Time for Truth," is I describe the grassroots campaign that I was elected to the Senate against all odds. You know, some commentators suggest the odds are daunting in the presidential race. To be honest, in the Senate race, there wasn't practically a soul on Earth who thought we had a prayer. I started at two percent in the polls.
And it was a 50 million dollar primary where we outspent three to one. But what I described as a grassroots campaign across the state, young people, Hispanics, working men and women, they would grab me by the shoulder, and Steve, they'd say, "Ted, please don't go to Washington and become one of them."
The reason I objected to the debt ceiling is because I couldn't go back and look those men and women in the eyes if I had done that — if they had asked why did you agree to make it easier for Barack Obama and Harry Reid to add trillions in debt with no spending reforms? I couldn't answer them honestly, so I had to say, I object to that, because I'm going to honor the commitment.
INSKEEP: You write in this book quite frankly about your ambition as a young man. You applied to Harvard, you got into Harvard. You went beyond that, you tried to get on the Law Review, you were thinking about becoming a clerk on the Supreme Court. The Harvard Law Review can be a ticket that leads to that.
You even described trying to game out which lower court judge you'd like to be a clerk for, because that might be the right stepping stone to the Supreme Court.
You're now in a situation where you're trying to step up to a big job again. Can you game that out for us? You must have thought about this step by step by step in the same way. How do you get from where you are, six through seven through eighth in the polls, to the Republican nomination?
CRUZ: Well, there are two different things. There is principle, and then there are the particular campaign steps of building a campaign. I'm a big believer that good policy is good politics. And so, when it comes to making decisions on policy issues, what I endeavor to do is simply speak the truth.
One of the things in the book, "A Time for Truth," that I describe as the principles and values I believe in, have been consistent for four decades. That these are the exact same principles and values when I was a teenager traveling the state of Texas speaking about the Constitution and free market principles, it's the same principles I am speaking about today.
That these have been a live long commitment. And, you know, one of the things that's unfortunate in the world of media, is there is a tendency to look at everyone cynically. And I get it, listen, there's a lot to be cynical about in politics. And so, inevitably the explanation for any course of conduct, is so-and-so is being political.
It never occurs — you know, Occam's Razor says that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. It never occurs to the observers in the media that when I stood up and filibustered for 21 hours against Obamacare and fought with every breath in my body to stop that disastrous law, it was because I actually believe it is hurting millions of Americans, it has cost millions of Americans their jobs, it has forced them into part-time work, it has cost them their doctors, their health insurance, it has caused millions of people's premiums to skyrocket.
And so, in terms of the campaign, what I am endeavoring to do is simply speak the truth, speak common-sense values, free market principles and the Constitution. For every question, the Constitution is my touchstone.
Now, in terms of the tactics, the particular steps, sure. We are essentially replicating the very same tactics that we carried out successfully in the Senate campaign, which is a grassroots campaign traveling on the ground, building support from the people, one person after the other, after the other, uniting the disparate parts of the Reagan coalition.
I'll give you an example of how that's happening. We launched the campaign just a couple of months ago. In the couple of months since the campaign has been in existence over 100,000 people from all 50 states have gone to tedcruz.org, have contributed to the campaign, have signed up to volunteer, are supporting the campaign.
It is an incredible movement from the people, and I'll tell you, it's the exact same thing we saw in the Senate race. In the Senate race in Texas, all the lobbyists in the state were against us, just about all the elected officials were against us, just about all the corporations were against us, just about all the trade associations were against us.
My opponent was the sitting Lieutenant governor who controlled the state senate. So, if you had business in front of the legislature, you had to be against us. And yet, our support was a grassroots movement.
You know, one of the things I describe in the book, "A Time for Truth," is the model for our campaign was Barack Obama's 2008 primary victory over Hillary Clinton. Hillary, like my opponent in the Senate race, was this unstoppable primary juggernaut, with all the money and the bundlers and the infrastructure. And Obama ran a grassroots guerrilla campaign and circled her.
It was breath taking. I went and bought a copy of Barack Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, his book, "The Audacity to Win." Gave it to our senior team, said, "We are going to do exactly this and shamelessly emulate it." And we went from two percent, to not just winning, but winning the primary by 14 points, winning the general election by 16 points.
INSKEEP: Of course, you have to distinguish yourself from many, many other Republican candidates. When you suggest that Republican leaders will take these recent Supreme Court decisions, protest against them, but then do nothing, are you talking about Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, other people that you will have to beat to become the nominee?
CRUZ: You know, the nice thing is, when you describe a course of conduct, then others can choose if they want to follow that course of conduct or behave differently. I would be thrilled if all three of the individuals you listed and every other candidate, stood up and said, "We're going to fight."
Now, I'm not optimistic they'll do that, but I would be thrilled. And it's one of the ways to distinguish in this field, you know, in a Republican primary, every candidate always, always, always says he or she is super conservative. That's why primary voters are so cynical.
In the 2016 primary, you're going to have 15 candidates going, "I'm conservative! No, no, I'm conservative." And what we see is they go to Washington, and they don't do what they said they would do.
And so, what I've suggested to primary voters across the country is two things. Number one, rather than tell me, show me. If you say you oppose Obamacare, show me where you stood up and fought to stop it. If you say you oppose President Obama's unconstitutional executive amnesty, or you support free speech or religious liberty, you support the Second Amendment, or you support privacy or oppose Common Core, show me where you have stood and fought for those principles.
But a second point that I think is very important, it is very easy for Republicans politicians to stand up and say they oppose Barack Obama, that's not hard to do. I think the question that Republican primary voters should ask is, when have you stood up against the Washington cartel? When have you stood up against leaders in our own party?
And it's interesting. There are a couple of candidates who can say, well, I have taken on leaders in the Republican Party. From the left. So there's some candidates who can say, "I embraced amnesty."
And you know what, the reality is, if a Republican attacks Republicans from the left, the media, NPR, will lionize them. Any Republican attacking the Republican leadership from the left will be described as a wise, bipartisan statesmen.
But what I'm asking primary voters is, when have you ever stood with the people in the Constitution against the Washington cartel? And I think that is a real point of distinction in this field.
INSKEEP: I don't think you can find an example on NPR where NPR has editorially lionized a Republican for doing that specific thing, or anything else in particular.
CRUZ: We may have to agree to disagree on that.
INSKEEP: Can you name an example?
CRUZ: I don't have one handy.
INSKEEP: OK. One last question, and then I want to get some pictures. Are these your — are these your argument boots?
CRUZ: They are not, so I am wearing brown ostrich boots. My argument boots are black ostrich boots, so I usually wear those with a suit, but today I'm in jeans, and so, same basic style, but different pair of boots.
INSKEEP: Why don't you describe what your argument boots are?
CRUZ: So, it's a pair of boots, black ostrich Lucchese boots that, when I was the solicitor general of Texas, the chief lawyer for the state in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, that I wore for almost every argument that I did as solicitor general.
And I say almost, because there is a rather embarrassing exception, which is the first time I argued in front of the United States Supreme Court, which was October 7th, 2003, I was 32 years old at the time. I was preparing for the argument, my former boss and very close friend and mentor, Chief Justice Rehnquist, was presiding.
And Chief Justice Rehnquist was a real stickler for attire. He had more than once reprimanded counsel for attire — for example, if you wore a brown suit, you might get reprimanded. And as I was getting ready for my first argument, even though I was very close to the chief, I did not want to stand up on the podium and have the first words I heard be, "Uh, Counsel, that footwear is not appropriate for this courtroom."
So I describe in the book how, much to my chagrin, I lacked the courage of my convictions, I left my argument boots in the closet and I pulled out an old pair of wingtips that were covered in dust, shined them up and wore them for my first argument. And for my first several arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, I wore the wingtips.
Now, when Chief Justice Rehnquist passed away, I was a pallbearer at his funeral. Chief Justice Roberts was also a pallbearer at his funeral. And shortly thereafter, I was visiting with the new chief justice, Roberts, who I've known many, many years. And I guess I was feeling a little cheeky, because I asked him, I said, "Mr. Chief Justice, do you have a view on the appropriateness of boots as footwear at oral argument?"
And Chief Justice Roberts laughed, and he said, "Ted, if you're representing the state of Texas, they are not only appropriate, they are required." And ever since then, I wore my argument boots at every argument, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Now, there's an epilogue to that. I've also worn those argument boots every day on the floor of Senate. Sadly, with one exception, which is when I did the 21-hour filibuster on Obamacare.
And before I started that filibuster, my friend Rand Paul had given me some advice. He had done a very lengthy filibuster on drones that I had supported him in. And Rand had two bits of advice for the filibuster. He said number one, wear comfortable shoes, which he didn't do. He said his feet hurt for two weeks. And he said number two, drink very little water, because you're not allowed to leave the floor to go to the bathroom.
And so before the filibuster, again shamefully, I went and bought a pair of black tennis shoes, and midway through the filibuster, I admitted to C-SPAN and to 27 million Texans that I had again lacked the courage of my convictions, I wasn't wearing my arguments but instead black tennis shoes. But I can tell you, as my legs cramped up in the 18th and 19th and 20th hour, I sure was grateful for those tennis shoes.
INSKEEP: Senator Cruz, thanks very much.