Cruz: No U.S. boots on the ground against ISIS
February 8th, 2015
04:18 PM ET

Cruz: No U.S. boots on the ground against ISIS

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke to Dana Bash from the Munich Security Conference about the war on ISIS, violence in Ukraine, and his plans for 2016.

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Sen. Ted Cruz extended interview – Part 1

Sen. Ted Cruz extended interview – Part 2

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Cruz on fighting ISIS: “We met today with the president of Kurdistan. And the Kurds on the ground are fantastic fighters. The Peshmerga have been our allies. They have been our friends. And they're actually fighting every day to stop ISIS. Now, Dana, what makes no sense whatsoever is, the Obama administration is refusing to directly arm the Kurds. We need to arm the Kurds now because they are our boots on the ground. I don't believe it is necessary to put American boots on the ground if we are arming the Peshmerga. They're fighting there. Just today, they didn't ask us for boots on the ground, but what they did say is they need the weaponry to stand up and destroy ISIS. And the Peshmerga on the ground, combined with overwhelming American airpower, can take out ISIS. But we're not seeing leadership from the administration to get that done. Instead, they continue to send weaponry to Baghdad, who doesn't pass it onto the Peshmerga, and it doesn't get put to use effectively.”

Cruz on Department of Homeland Security funding: “the Democrats are working as a unit to filibuster funding for the Department of Homeland Security. And it's one of the patterns we've seen the last six years that's really unusual, is that Senate Democrats have consistently been unwilling to take on the president. It's part of why Harry Reid and the Democrats shut down the Senate. And I got to say it's unprecedented. I mean, look, Dana, if there's one thing that I think you would acknowledge I've been willing to do is take on my own party when my own party is not standing for the principles we're supposed to stand for. It is time to see some Senate Democrats willing to take on their own president but right now they're putting partisan politics ahead of principle and that's why they're filibustering the funding for Homeland Security. It's the wrong thing to be doing.”

Cruz on violence in the Ukraine: “what we're seeing is, when America doesn't lead, Europe can't be expected to step into the breach. What is missing from this is the president of the United States. And I have got to tell you, Dana, I'm part of a large bipartisan congressional delegation here. And it is striking that, across bipartisan lines, the delegation is united on the need for us to get serious and provide defensive arms to Ukraine.”

Full transcript:
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

Let's start with the fight over what to do about the Ukraine. The German chancellor, the French president have been trying to negotiate some kind of an agreement. And Angela Merkel of Germany has specifically said she does not think it is time to arm the Ukrainians yet.

Why do you think she's wrong?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Well, what she said at this conference is that she did not believe there was any prospect for Ukraine to be successful in defending itself against Russian aggression. I think that's mistaken. But, at the same time, I think Chancellor Merkel's position is not surprising, given where President Obama's position is.

What we're doing with regard to Ukraine and with regard to Russia makes no sense, and it isn't working. It is long past time for us to step forward and provide defensive weapons, so that the men and women of Ukraine can defend their nation.

They are our allies. In the Budapest memorandum, we committed ourselves to standing with Ukraine to defend themselves - to defend their territorial integrity.

BASH: You mentioned the fact that you think that the German chancellor is wrong. There seems to be a pretty significant rift here between - within the Western powers on how to deal with this.

Do you think that the U.S. should just arm the Ukraine over the objections of the Germans?

CRUZ: Well, look, there isn't a rift.

I mean, what we're seeing is, when America doesn't lead, Europe can't be expected to step into the breach. What is missing from this is the president of the United States. And I have got to tell you, Dana, I'm part of a large bipartisan congressional delegation here. And it is striking that, across bipartisan lines, the delegation is united on the need for us to get serious and provide defensive arms to Ukraine.

BASH: The president wasn't there speaking out this weekend, but the vice president gave a very strong speech. He even got applause from some of your fellow Republicans, the secretary of state as well, with a pretty robust message toward the Russians in defense of Ukraine.

Isn't that leadership?

CRUZ: Look, the vice president, I thought, gave an effective speech, but I have got to tell you, in the room, what everyone kept saying is, interesting speech. We have no confidence that President Obama is listening to the vice president.

Listen, what we needed here and what we have needed for six years is strong American leadership. The Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy has been consistently wrong. It's been wrong on Russia. It's been wrong on ISIS. It's been wrong on Iran. What we needed today with regard to Ukraine was presidential leadership that stood up and said, we're going to honor our treaty commitments. We're going to provide defensive weaponry for the Ukrainians who are fighting to defend their own nation, to stand up to Russian aggression. That's a message that would be heard by our allies.

But it's also a message that would be heard by our enemies, nations like Iran, who are looking at the weakness of this administration and viewing it as an invitation for them to move even faster towards acquiring nuclear weapons.

BASH: Senator, you mentioned ISIS. Let's turn to that.

Lindsey Graham, your colleague who's there with you in Munich, has called for 10,000 U.S. troops on the ground back in Iraq to confront ISIS. Is that a good idea?

CRUZ: Well, you know, we met today with the president of Kurdistan. And the Kurds on the ground are fantastic fighters.

The Peshmerga have been our allies. They have been our friends. And they're actually fighting every day to stop ISIS. Now, Dana, what makes no sense whatsoever is, the Obama administration is refusing to directly arm the Kurds. We need to arm the Kurds now because they are our boots on the ground.

I don't believe it is necessary to put American boots on the ground if we are arming the Peshmerga. They're fighting there. Just today, they didn't ask us for boots on the ground, but what they did say is they need the weaponry to stand up and destroy ISIS. And the Peshmerga on the ground, combined with overwhelming American airpower, can take out ISIS.

But we're not seeing leadership from the administration to get that done. Instead, they continue to send weaponry to Baghdad, who doesn't pass it onto the Peshmerga, and it doesn't get put to use effectively.

BASH: So, you're saying Lindsey Graham and even some in the Pentagon who apparently are considering about 10,000 U.S. troops on the ground, that would be a bad move?

CRUZ: In my view, American boots on the ground should always be the last step, and we need to exercise other steps before that.

We have the availability of overwhelming airpower, and we have boots on the ground that are ready and eager to fight the Peshmerga, and they lack sufficient tools and equipment to do so.

BASH: Senator, I want to turn to the plight of the U.S. aid worker Kayla Mueller, who is allegedly - according to ISIS, they say that she died at the hands of a Jordanian airstrike.

We don't know the - her fate. But, big picture, do you think it should be the position of the United States to negotiate in order to get aid workers or Americans who are hostages of groups like ISIS? Because, currently, it is not.

CRUZ: Well, look, the reports coming from the ground are murky right now. We don't know her fate. Certainly, our prayers are with her and her family. We hope these early reports that she was killed are inaccurate.

I don't think it is a wise policy to be negotiating with terrorists. The Obama administration has gone down that road. For example, in the negotiations for Sergeant Bergdahl, it released five senior Taliban terrorists. There are now multiple reports that one or more of them have returned to actively fighting against Americans, trying to - trying to kill Americans.

BASH: And...

CRUZ: It doesn't make sense to - to negotiate with terrorists.

BASH: And real quick, when I said negotiate, what I meant was, what they want is money. They want ransom. And it is the United States' policy not to do that.

Families are very frustrated, because they want to do whatever they can to get their kid back. As a parent, do you understand that?

CRUZ: Oh, look, of course we all understand the agony of the families.

But giving money to terrorists that are using rape as a weapon of war, that are crucifying Christians, that are crucifying and beheading children, giving money just buys additional arms for them to kidnap more Americans, for them to murder more. That doesn't make any sense. The answer is to have serious leadership to defeat them.

BASH: OK, Senator, we're going to take a quick break.

And when we come back, we are going to talk about politics back home. And, believe it or not, there is another potential shutdown of part of the government looming. Senator Cruz is part of this debate.

And we're going to talk about that after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: And we are back with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who is joining us from Munich where there is an international security conference going on.

Senator, I want to bring it back home to the stalemate in Congress over Homeland Security funding. The government again, that part of the government, runs out of money in just a few weeks. Republicans are looking at you and wondering what is your end game here because this is a strategy crafted by you, the idea of holding up funding for the Department of Homeland Security in order to try to stop the president and his executive order on immigration.

So what is your end game? CRUZ: Well, Dana, the premise of that question is not true, and it's frankly ridiculous. This is a strategy that came from Republican leadership. This is the cromnibus strategy.

If you'll recall I fought tooth and nail against cromnibus in December because I said in December this gives up our leverage and it puts us into effectively a boxed canyon. So I would say it's now up to leadership to lay out their strategy. I told them this was not a winning strategy and they went down this road anyway fighting tooth and nail.

But let me make a broader point. What we saw last week was stunning irresponsibility from the Senate Democrats. The Senate Democrats three times filibustered funding for the Department of Homeland Security. We have a bill on the floor to fund DHS.

BASH: Right.

CRUZ: And three times the Democrats stood together filibustered and said, we will not allow the Senate to take up this bill.

BASH: Senator –

CRUZ: At a time of growing national security threats across the world, that's irresponsible.

BASH: OK. Senator, with respect, it's not a ridiculous premise because what you wanted to do was hold up the entire government funding back in December and the cromnibus, we won't get too much in the weeds here, was a compromise to try to work around that. So, that's I think the reality of what's going on here.

On your point about the Democrats, yes, they are holding up the bill. They're not allowing debate, but in the reality that if there were a debate, this bill still wouldn't pass and, again, when I say this bill, it's funding the Department of Homeland Security but also stopping the president for his executive action on immigration.

The votes aren't there to pass that, right?

CRUZ: Well, Dana, number one, we need to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The Democrats need to stop holding national security hostage for partisan political objectives. What they're doing is wrong and irresponsible.

Number two, when it comes to amnesty, amnesty, the president's executive amnesty is wrong, it's illegal and it's unconstitutional. And you say it would necessarily get support in the Senate. Well, you know, it's interesting. We don't know that seven Democrats had publicly criticized it on the campaign trail. They told their constituents they didn't support the president ignoring federal law, ignoring the constitution and unilaterally and illegally granting amnesty to four to 5 million people here illegally.

I think we need to tee it up and give those Senate Democrats an opportunity to go on record to demonstrate... BASH: And Senator, are you talking to those Senate Democrats?

CRUZ: ...whether they were telling the truth when they were talking to the voters back home or whether they'll just stand with President Obama instead.

BASH: Have you been workings behind the scenes to try to get those Senate Democrats to buck their president, to vote with you all and pass a bill that stops his executive action?

CRUZ: You know, unfortunately right now, Dana, the Democrats are working as a unit to filibuster funding for the Department of Homeland Security. And it's one of the patterns we've seen the last six years that's really unusual, is that Senate Democrats have consistently been unwilling to take on the president. It's part of why Harry Reid and the Democrats shut down the Senate. And I got to say it's unprecedented.

I mean, look, Dana, if there's one thing that I think you would acknowledge I've been willing to do is take on my own party when my own party is not standing for the principles we're supposed to stand for. It is time to see some Senate Democrats willing to take on their own president but right now they're putting partisan politics ahead of principle and that's why they're filibustering the funding for Homeland Security. It's the wrong thing to be doing.

BASH: You are dead right. You have had your differences, it's an understatement, with your party. And there are some that we talk to who say, here we go again, Ted Cruz taking us into a fight that we can't win again.

What do you say to that?

CRUZ: Well, I think it's a good talking point for people who want to shift blame. Let's be clear, the cromnibus was leadership's plan. I said at the time it is a bad plan and it is a plan that is designed to lose.

BASH: I want to turn to 2016 politics before we go.

The former governor of your state, Rick Perry, gave an interview to "The Texas Tribune" and the "Washington Post," was asked about having you as a competitor potentially. And here's what he said.

"It's one of the selling points, if you will, to the American people as they decide who is going to follow Barack Obama. I think they're going to make a rather radical shift away from a young, untested United States senator whose policies have really failed."

Ouch. He's calling you the Republican Barack Obama.

CRUZ: Listen, I like Rick Perry. He was a good governor in the state of Texas. He's a friend of mine. People occasionally throw rocks in politics. That's his choice. I'm going say I think he did a good and effective job as governor of our state.

BASH: OK. Taking the high road there. Are you going to run for president, Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Dana, I'm looking at it very, very seriously. I think we're facing enormous challenges in this country.

The Obama economy has led to the lowest labor force participation since 1978. Ninety-two million Americans aren't working. Obamacare is a train wreck. We're seeing our constitutional rights under assault. And abroad the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy is an unmitigated disaster. Leading from behind doesn't work.

And I think this next election, 2016, is going to be a fundamental Fork in the road. And I believe the American people are looking for a new path. They want to get back to the free market principles and constitutional liberties that were part of the foundation of this country. And so it's something that I'm looking at very seriously. And I'll tell you, the support we're seeing both on the grassroots level and also among the donors has been extraordinary, really has been encouraging.

BASH: Wow, that certainly sounded like you've been practicing your stump speech in the mirror. Thank you so much, Senator Cruz. Appreciate your time.

CRUZ: Thank you, Dana.

###END###

 


Topics: Dana Bash • Iran • Iraq • ISIS • Russia • State of the Union • Ukraine
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