Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) responds to President Obama’s appointment of veteran Washington operative Ron Klain and demands the President lead the country by banning flights and securing the border. Senator Cruz asserts that supporting the Kurdish Peshmerga is essential to defeating ISIS and expresses his confidence in Republicans achieving a majority in both chambers of Congress.
Cruz on the Obama Administration’s response to Ebola: “The biggest mistake that continues to be made is now, more than two weeks into this we continue to allow open commercial air flights from countries that have been stricken by Ebola. That doesn’t make any sense, we have upwards of 150 people a day coming from countries with live, active Ebola outbreaks.”
Cruz on the appointment of Ron Klain: “we should be less concerned about giving the public the feeling that the government is on top of this and more concerned about the government actually being on top of it. And this is a manifestation. We don’t need another White House political operative, which is what Mr. Klain has been.”
Cruz on his support of the Kurdish Peshmerga: “the Obama administration keeps focusing on Syrian rebels, many of whom have far too close ties to radical Islamic terrorists for it to make any sense for us to be supporting them. The Kurds are allies and they are boots on the ground. And when we work with them in concert, they’re ready to fight on the front line, along with serious airpower.”
Cruz on Republican success in the 2014 midterm elections: “I think it is far more likely than not that we will retake the Senate and retire Harry Reid.”
A full transcript of the interview is available after the jump.
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CROWLEY: Joining me now is Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas. Senator, one of the many things that we have learned over the course of the past several weeks is that public health is largely in the state and local purview. So, looking back over what has occurred in Dallas, when you see what the governor has — what steps he’s taken, what steps Texas public health has taken, and what steps the hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian, has taken, what do you think went wrong in there?
CRUZ: Well, look, there were, no doubts, mistakes that were made up and down the line at the level of the hospital, at the level of the health officials implementing the protocols.
But I will tell you the biggest mistake that continues to be made is now, more than two weeks into this, we continue to allow open commercial air flights from countries that have been stricken by Ebola. That doesn’t make any sense.
We have got upwards of 150 people a day coming from countries with live, active Ebola outbreaks. For over two weeks, I have been calling on the administration to take the commonsense stand of suspending commercial air travel out of these countries until we get the air travel under control. And — and — and, for whatever reason, the Obama White House doesn’t want to do so.
CROWLEY: What mistakes were made at the hospital level? What mistakes were made by Texas public health officials?
CRUZ: Candy, the first mistake that was made was allowing Thomas Duncan to get on an airplane and fly to the United States.
CROWLEY: I understand.
CRUZ: If he hadn’t flown to the United States, none of the other mistakes would have happened.
Look, obviously, this hospital, when Mr. Duncan came in the first time with fever symptoms, they shouldn’t have sent him home. They should have responded more quickly. But the mistakes continued up and down the line.
When Mr. Duncan came in again, he was allowed, post-developing symptoms, to be around his family, to potentially transmitting the disease there. When he came into the hospital, we know that the protocols that were supposed to be in place somehow were not followed, because at least two different nurses now have contracted the Ebola virus from Mr. Duncan, despite the protocols.
We also know that that second nurse was allowed, after contracting Ebola, to board a commercial airliner flight — flight. And she was told by the CDC — she wasn’t told, don’t get on the flight. The CDC gave her the green light to do that. That was a serious mistake.
CRUZ: Throughout this process, there have been mistakes. And — and — and, listen, dealing with a virus with an epidemic is — is a learning process. It’s obviously a learning process with — with very high stakes. And so we can’t afford mistakes. But — but I am hopeful that the health professionals — you know, the doctors and nurses and CDC officials who are risking their lives are — are brave, courageous professionals.
And I’m hopeful we will continue to improve our response. But — but…
CRUZ: … the best thing to do is to minimize the initial contact with Ebola.
And I — I have to say, Candy, it was over two weeks ago that I sent a letter to the FAA asking what they were doing to protect U.S. citizens to — to stop commercial air travel out of these countries to protect the pilots, the flight attendants and the fellow passengers.
It’s now been over two weeks. The FAA has not responded to those questions. And we have now seen both Democrats and Republicans coming together saying, listen, this is a basic, commonsense step. While there is an active epidemic raging, we should not be having commercial airline flights with up to 150 people a day coming to the U.S.
CRUZ: For whatever reason, Candy, the Obama White House is digging in and not listening to the voices of common sense coming from both sides of the aisle.
CROWLEY: Well, perhaps it is because the voices in the medical community, particularly Dr. Frieden has been one of them out there saying that this would be counterproductive.
I want to play you a little bit of what Dr. Frieden had to say about a travel ban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Right now, we know who’s coming in. If we try to eliminate travel, the possibility that some will travel over land, will come from other places, and we don’t know that they’re coming in will mean that we won’t be able to do multiple things.
We won’t be able to check them for fever when they leave. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they arrive. We won’t be able, as we do currently, to take a detailed history to see if they were exposed when they arrive.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: So, if you will, just respond to that and his concern, listen, you know, we won’t be able to track these people because they will come in, in other places, and we won’t know that they’re entering the U.S.
CRUZ: Well, you know, Candy, the administration has given two arguments against a flight ban, neither of which makes sense.
The first one, they say, is they are putting screening in place, the argument you just played, that they have got screening in place in — in five airports, and then that that should be our line of defense.
Now, I would note that they’re — they have omitted airports like DFW, where Mr. Duncan came. But — but, more importantly, the screens only work if a passenger is demonstrating symptoms. Ebola, unfortunately, has up to a 21-day incubation period, where the — where the patient has no demonstrated symptoms and walks right through the screenings.
Mr. Duncan, the one patient we know who did come from to — from Liberia to America, would have traveled right through the screenings. The screening would not have stopped him because he was not presenting symptoms at that time.
I — I — let me ask you a couple things as regard to Mr. Duncan. He did indeed come to the U.S. from Liberia, but he went from Liberia, to Brussels, to Dulles International in Virginia, to Dallas-Fort Worth. So, how does a ban on air travel stop Mr. Duncan?
CRUZ: Because the visa he had coming in was a travel visa from Liberia. We should stop issuing travel visas from Liberia, which, interestingly enough, the neighboring countries in Africa have done.
What we need from the president is serious leadership to protect the American people. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We should be protecting citizens of this country.
But, again, the — the experts are telling the president — the president is not a doctor. And if you were president, and NIH or the CDC were saying, hey, you know, this will only make it worse, a travel ban, a flight ban, will only make it worse, what we have in place is better, you would overrule the doctors and the experts?
CRUZ: But, Candy — hey, Candy, the doctors and the experts that are saying this are working for the administration and repeating the administration talking points.
And their arguments don’t make sense. .
CRUZ: The arguments they’re giving don’t make sense. And — and what is unfortunate is watching the Obama administration treat this as — as yet another political issue, rather than as a public health crisis, for the same reason you have seen virtually no attention from the administration on the need to secure the southern border.
Now, that is notwithstanding the fact that General John Kelly, the commander of the Southern Command, just a week ago said if Ebola is transmitted to Central or South America, we will see a mass migration, the like of which we have never seen. And the administration, unfortunately, is not acting to protect our southern borders or to restrict commercial airline flights from places with an active outbreak.
And — and that just doesn’t make sense.
CROWLEY: And when you say — just again, I want to put a period on this — when you say banning flights, you mean withholding visas from those who want to travel to the U.S. coming from these three affected countries, correct?
CRUZ: Right. Absolutely.
CRUZ: We should not be allowing non-U.S. citizens traveling from these countries to fly into the United States right now, temporarily.
Look, we get the outbreak under control, it’s a different story.
CRUZ: But when you have an active and growing epidemic, the first thing you want to do is contain it.
CROWLEY: You know, one of the things that has been brought up, of course — and, now, this has now entered the political arena, and the Democrats are charging you all with making politics of it, and vice versa.
So, the — the fact of the matter is that one of the things that’s brought up is, we haven’t had a surgeon general, who is the — kind of the nation’s leading public health official, at least the voice of it, for a year. Some Democrats and some Republicans had opposed the particular surgeon general the president had nominated. Do you think it would have helped, A, if NIH and CDC had had a little more money, and, B, had there been a surgeon general in place to kind of calm what has become the fear of Ebola?
CRUZ: Look — look, of course we should have a surgeon general in place. And we don’t have one because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti- gun activist.
CROWLEY: And a doctor.
CRUZ: And that individual didn’t have the votes in the Senate. He is a doctor. But where he’s made his name is…
CROWLEY: Yes, but that’s a health professional.
CRUZ: … as a crusader against Second Amendment rights.
And, as a consequence, he didn’t have the votes among Republicans or Democrats. And so was it a mistake for the president to nominate an extreme partisan on an issue that is — that is not connected to public health? Yes, that was a mistake.
He should have nominated a respected health care professional who could actually get the votes in a Senate controlled by Democrats. You know, Candy, it speaks volumes that Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats wouldn’t confirm this surgeon general. It shows just how extreme the nominee was.
CROWLEY: And the funding, Senator, funding for CDC?
CRUZ: Look, the funding issues…
CROWLEY: As you know, it’s been cut in particular by the sequestration, which cut across the board.
CRUZ: Look, we can debate appropriate funding — funding levels. We have seen funding for public health increase over the last decade significantly. We need to devote whatever resources are needed to contain this Ebola outbreak.
CROWLEY: What do you think about — and I think I can probably guess this — but the president has put Ron Klain in charge of sort of keeping control of both the U.S. activities abroad in the three affected West African nations, as well as what goes on here with the CDC and NIH and various hospitals?
CRUZ: Well, look, Candy, I think it’s a great example. Mr. Klain is not a doctor. He’s not a health care professional. He doesn’t have background in these issues. But what he is, is a political operative.
CROWLEY: But there are lots of those, Senator. There are lots of doctors kind of on this, aren’t there? Doesn’t this need…
CRUZ: Yes, but — but… CROWLEY: I mean, Republicans have been saying, who’s in charge? Who’s in charge?
Didn’t this need someone who had organizational skills, which the White House says Ron Klain has, to kind of give the public the feeling that the government is on top of this?
CRUZ: Candy, we should be less concerned about giving the public the feeling that the government is on top of this and more concerned about the government actually being on top of it.
And this is a manifestation. We don’t need another White House political operative, which is what Mr. Klain has been. What we need is presidential leadership. The person who needs to be on top of this is the president of the United States, standing up and leading and treating it as a public health emergency.
Two weeks ago, the president should have stood up and suspended flights from these countries. Two weeks ago, the president should have stood up and put additional resources — resources on our borders.
CRUZ: Two weeks ago, the president should have demonstrated real leadership to protect American citizens.
And, for whatever reason, he isn’t doing so. And I will tell you, I would welcome his leadership today. We need a commander in chief who fulfills his constitutional obligations…
CRUZ: … not just another White House political operative trying — trying to spin reporters.
CROWLEY: I — I want to take a quick break here, Senator.
And when we come back, I have one more Ebola question. And, believe it or not, it’s about Cuba.
We will be right back.
CROWLEY: Rejoining me now, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas.
Senator, former Cuban President Fidel Castro is quoted in a local Cuban paper as saying that he is only too happy to join the United States after the plea from John Kerry for other countries to step up and help fight Ebola. He said that Cuba will be sending 460 doctors and nurses.
What do you make of that?
CRUZ: Well, look, the — Fidel Castro and Raul Castro, they never miss a chance to push propaganda.
You know, what I can tell is, the Castro brothers have put in place a brutal regime that oppresses their citizens, that murders their citizens, that tortures and imprisons their citizens. And the Castros are never shy to jump up and engage in some propaganda to criticize the United States.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you about the U.S.-led air assault against ISIS. There have been some successes, from what we’re learning. There have been some setbacks.
In the end, you have talked — you — you made a quote, a famous quote recently, we ought to bomb them, meaning ISIS, back to the Stone Age.
It does not appear that bombing alone is going to make that happen, that ISIS will not disappear with a U.S.-led air assault. That being the case, where do you see the role, if any, of U.S. military personnel?
CRUZ: Well, unfortunately, the approach of the Obama administration to ISIS has been fundamentally unserious.
We have dropped a bomb here, a missile there, but it has really been a photo op foreign policy. What we need is a concentrated, directive military objective to take ISIS out. Now, what does that entail? Number one, it entails a far more vigorous air campaign than we’re seeing.
You know, we’re dropping a fraction of the ordnance that we have in other campaigns such as Afghanistan. But, number two, we have…
CROWLEY: But should it eventually — do you think it will involve U.S. troops?
CRUZ: Well, it involves U.S. troops now. There are over 1,500 that are on the ground right now. And…
CROWLEY: And what I’m getting at, I guess, is if the air assault won’t work, Senator, where do you stand on the idea of putting perhaps more U.S. personnel in there as advisers or those who scope out places for the air assaults to target?
CRUZ: Well, Candy, that’s what I’m trying to answer by saying we have a tremendous asset on the ground right now, which is the Kurds.
The Peshmerga have been strong allies of the U.S. They are effective fighters. And they desperately need weaponry and assistance. And, for whatever reason, the Obama administration, number one, has been delaying aiding the Peshmerga, has been running it all through Baghdad, instead of aiding them directly, has been blocking them from selling oil, which doesn’t make sense any — either.
And, at the same time, the Obama administration keeps focusing on Syrian rebels, many of whom have far too close ties to radical Islamic terrorists for it to make any sense for us to be supporting them.
The Kurds are allies and they are boots on the ground. And when we work with them in concert, they’re ready to fight on the front line, along with serious airpower. That’s what we ought to be doing. And if it were a military objective to take ISIS out, I think that’s what we would be doing.
CROWLEY: Well, certainly, the president has — has said it’s his objective. Obviously, you disagree with the way he’s going about it.
But I cannot ignore, in these last couple of minutes, the fact that we are very close to a midterm election, which could or could not see Republicans taking control of the U.S. Senate. Give me your best estimate. I know you have been out there campaigning and raising money for various U.S. Senate candidates on the Republican side.
What do you think the Senate will look like come January?
CRUZ: Well, Candy, I have been on the road nonstop traveling the country, campaigning to retake the Senate, to retire Harry Reid. I believe we’re on the cusp of an election that’s going to do just that.
CROWLEY: You think it’s certain?
CRUZ: Republicans need six — nothing is certain in politics, but I think it is far more likely than not that we will retake the Senate and retire Harry Reid.
CROWLEY: The president is quite likely to put up his nomination for attorney general during that lame-duck session of Congress, before the midterms — sorry — after the midterms and before the new Senate is sworn in. Not much Republicans can do about that, given the new rules in the Senate. But would you object to that?
Under no circumstances should a partisan attorney general be rammed through in a lame-duck session with a bunch of senators who have just…
CROWLEY: Well, we don’t know who it would be.
CRUZ: Well, we should not be confirming an attorney general during a lame-duck session with a bunch of senators who have just been voted out of office.
The confirmation should occur in January or in February, when we have the new Senate, where every senator will be accountable to the voter. I don’t think we should meet for a lame-duck at all, because lame-ducks are really where Washington imposes its agenda, instead of listening to the American people.
I think everyone in office should be accountable to the American people, and we should wait until January, where every elected member of Congress still has to face the voters in an election.
CROWLEY: I’m not sure that’s going to happen, Senator. But it will be an interesting time post-election.
And just finally, when do you think you will make a decision about running for president?
CRUZ: Well, look, I think we will see the field begin to form next year, some time between January and June. It’s likely to be a crowded field.
There are a lot of good people looking at it. But, you know, at the same time, I think the stakes are incredibly high. I mean, there is such a palpable desire to change the direction you’re — we’re on.
CROWLEY: We have got to leave it there, Senator. But I’m going to guess that your answer to that was some time between January and June. So, we will look for your decision.
Thank you so much for joining us, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
CRUZ: Thank you, Candy.