Senator Ted Cruz joined me this morning to discuss Cancun, the “Tanden Standard,” and much more:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Ted Cruz. Hello, Senator. How are you?
TC: Hugh, I’m doing terrific. How are you doing?
HH: Great. Now Senator, in the list of inexplicable decisions, there is the Packers decision not to go for it on fourth down in the NFC Championship game, this year, and there’s your decision to go to Cancun. We’ll never get to the bottom of what happened in Green Bay, but what happened with the Cancun trip?
TC: Oh, look. It was dumb as hell. My kids wanted to get out of there. We had two days with no power, and so Heidi and I said yes, and we took them to the beach. And in hindsight, that was obviously a mistake. And ever since then, the media seems to be utterly fixated with it.
HH: So how have the people of Texas responded to it?
TC: Well, look. The people of Texas are focused on coming out of these storms which we have now, and now repairing and rebuilding. And you look at the storms we had last week, we had two winter storms, one after the other, hit Texas. And the combination of that caused the electrical grid to go down, caused essentially, then, to have to force a blackout to about four million Texans and cut off power, many for several days. I think a lot of Texans are really pissed about that, that Texas as the energy capital of the world, the idea that we couldn’t keep our lights on, that we couldn’t keep our power on, is frustrating. It’s infuriating, and I think where a lot of Texans are now is focused on making sure this doesn’t happen again. They’re also, you know, the number of Texans who had their pipes freeze and so had damage to their house, so they’re in the process of repairing and rebuilding, but the broader question of what happened structurally to cause the power to go out is an important debate, and one I’m very active in preventing this from occurring in the future.
HH: So Senator, you’ve said it’s dumb as hell. I am curious about one thing. Did either of you say, Mrs. Cruz or Senator Cruz to each other this would look bad? Did either of you ever bring up the idea that oh, gee, our constituents won’t like this?
TC: Look, it certainly occurred to me that it would look bad and people would criticize it. At the same time, I’m a dad. I mean, our girls are 10 and 12. I’m on the road nonstop, and what happened, where it came from is after two days with no power, we found out school was cancelled, and our daughter and one of her friends pitched to us and to the friend’s parents, listen, why are we staying here? Why don’t we go somewhere where there’s power and it’s not freezing? And we were sitting there with school having been cancelled, and we made the decision as parents. We were trying to be good parents, and we said okay, sure. And we checked, and the prices were really cheap, and so we, you know, the plane flights, the plane was largely empty, and so we did it. At the time, I was trying to take care of my family, take care of my kids, which is what Texans were doing all across the state. And you know, Hugh, one of the challenges of public life is that you have responsibility in public life, but you still continue to be a husband and continue to be a dad, and you juggle them both. And often, the kids end up on the losing end of that. The hardest part about being in the Senate is all of the time I spend away. I’m in Washington, D.C. today. Heidi and the kids are back in Texas. That happens a lot. And so when we had a window to take them, I made the decision to say yes, let’s do it. It was a mistake, and you know, as I said, even when I got in the plane and was leaving, I started having second thoughts almost immediately. And so I ended up flying back the next day and getting on the first flight I could get on. The new rules are you have to take a COVID test before you come back, so I had to wait to take a COVID test the next morning, and then I got on the next flight after that.
HH: Well, Senator Cruz, I’m sympathetic, because I’ve been double teamed by pre-teens myself. And there’s frankly, it’s like a force of nature. And so I’m sympathetic, but I don’t know that the Democrats will ever let you forget this, and I don’t think you care. But I want to transition to a different argument. I want to use this to leverage you a little bit. I have been making the argument that Neera Tanden ought to be forgiven. I’ve been making that argument for a lot of reasons, a Constitutional one, the OMB is close to the President, and he ought to be given deference. But also, a very practical one, which is that Twitter is a new world event. And if we erect a Tanden standard that mean tweets about senators takes you out, we’re going to wipe out thousands of would-be confirmees under the age of 40, maybe tens of thousands, because social media’s the wild west, and no one’s developed that. Any way that you can be persuaded to vote for Neera Tanden for the greater good?
TC: Well, you know, I will point out there is something a little different than just mean tweets in that you’re a Constitutional scholar, Hugh. We have a confirmation process when the president appoints and the Senate confirms. I will tell you from the dawn of time if you have someone that goes out of their way to attack and insult a bunch of senators, whether on Twitter or before Twitter, if you wrote it on parchment, I can promise you those senators who you’ve been attacking are not going to be all that eager to confirm you to a job. That’s just the reality of how the system works, and I don’t know Ms. Tanden, but she seems to have been unusually prolific in that she seemed to go out of her way to try to piss everybody off. And so at this point, Joe Manchin, a Democrat, has said he’s going to vote no. Mitt Romney said he’s going to vote no. Susan Collins has said she’s going to vote no. I’d say right now, it looks like the nomination is in trouble, and quite likely to go down.
HH: It would take a Ted Cruz, who’s under enormous public criticism right now for a boneheaded move to go to say Joe Manchin, let’s go out together and declare an amnesty for dumb tweets and dumb social media, and say from this point forward, people, be aware that we’re senators and we’re human, too. And if you tweet stuff about us, we’re going to remember when you want to be confirmed. But we’re going to declare an amnesty, because it would be good for the country. And I mean right now, you’re getting piled on, and I think it’s ridiculous. But it would be a good thing if we both sent up a flare that this stuff doesn’t fly going forward, but also absolved, and look, I’ve got more Neera Tanden scars, I’ve used the line 20 times, than the Zorro villains combined, because I have been on, I’ve been on sets with her, too, as well as gotten the incoming from Twitter. But she’s smart. She’s capable. She could run OMB, and that’s an extension, as you know Constitutionally, of the office of the President. He ought to get the most deference there and the least with the Attorney General. But I really do think Senator Manchin, you can’t cut the limb off from underneath him. He has to be part of this, too. But isn’t it about time that we all just kind of said everybody calm down, ollie, ollie in free, and we’ll start over?
TC: Well, you know, I’ll say a couple things. Number one, until the last couple of days, it looks like, it looks like Joe Biden was on a path to be the first president since Ronald Reagan to get every single one of his cabinet members confirmed. And I’ve got to say that’s pretty nuts. When we’ve got a 50-50 Senate, when the Democrats have the slimmest majority imaginable, that didn’t make any sense. And so I’ve been making the case to the conference for some time that I get that Republicans are unhappy about the result of last year’s election, but we’ve got to stand up and fight and find some backbone. And at least so far, that hasn’t happened. Now look, there are other nominees that are more extreme. Xavier Bacerra has been nominated…
TC: …to be secretary of Health and Human Services. He is a left-wing activist. And HHS, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Xavier Bacerra is not a doctor. He has no scientific experience, has no medical experience. He has no pharmaceutical experience. He has no experience with virology. And he’s a lawyer. And you know, I mean, it’s like, you know, you get sick. What do you do? You call a trial lawyer. I mean…
HH: And Senator Cruz, may I interrupt?
TC: if a Republican nominated…yeah.
HH: My I interrupt? He’s a bad lawyer.
HH: He advocated for government-enforced speech in women’s crisis pregnancy centers, which was patently unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court. So not only is he not a doctor, and he’s a lawyer, he’s a bad lawyer.
TC: He is a pro-abortion zealot who has demonstrated that he will use his official powers to target his political enemies, and he’s utterly unqualified for the job. If a Republican nominated someone with zero medical experience, zero pharmaceutical experience to lead HHS in the middle of a global pandemic, that Republican would be laughed out of the room. And at least right now, the Democrats seem hunky dory with, well, let’s put a trial lawyer there. You know, they talk about COVID, but they apparently are not remotely serious about putting leadership in place to actually fight the pandemic.
HH: So Senator Cruz, my argument would be that you go see Joe Manchin and say Senator, I appreciate you being a judge of bipartisanship and partisanship. Why don’t you join me in opposing Bacerra, and let’s let Neera Tanden through, because mean tweets is not a reason to turn down a nominee, and utter incompetence and ideological extremism on a matter of divisiveness in the United States is. And isn’t Joe Manchin allegedly pro-life?
TC: I don’t think he claims that he is. If he does, I don’t know about it, but I don’t think he says that he is.
HH: Well, he’s just pro-free speech, and I mean, Bacerra was Mr. Anti-Free Speech. But I would make that deal in a heartbeat, Senator. If I go back, because I know we’re running out of time on the Tanden matter. I am, you know, Ric Grenell got confirmed. He’s a friend of mine and I advocated…
TC: I’ll tell you what, Hugh. If you can deliver Manchin’s vote on Bacerra, I’d be willing to vote for Tanden for that.
HH: Well, he doesn’t talk to me. He talks to you, but you ought to go talk to him about that. Now I want to go back to the $1.9 trillion while we have a chance. This is a nightmare bill.
HH: This is so inflationary. Will Joe Manchin join you in scaling this back, because it is, it’s a disaster for the economy. And no less a person than Larry Summer has said so, former president of Harvard.
TC: Larry Summers.
HH: Yeah, yeah. So are we going to pare that down to a normal number?
TC: In anything resembling a world of sanity, the answer would be yes. Unfortunately, we are in a world where the Democrats have control of both houses. The chances of the House doing that, I think, are zero. I think Pelosi will crack the whip, and everyone will fall in line. In the Senate, we’re 50-50. And so this, like so many other things for the next two years, comes down to Joe Manchin. Listen, I’ve served with Joe for eight years. He’s a very nice guy. He’s passable. Everyone likes Joe. It’s hard not to like Joe. His history in the Senate is that his rhetoric is quite moderate, and yet in the time I’ve served in the Senate, I cannot think of a single time he has stood up to Chuck Schumer on any issue of consequence when it made a difference. In other words, the sort of joke among Republicans is that Manchin will sometimes vote with us when it’s not the deciding vote, but at least if past is prologue, he hasn’t done so when it is the deciding vote. I hope that changes. I would love to see Joe press back on Schumer and Pelosi and Biden, but the, I don’t know if Schumer has thumbscrews or a medieval rack in his office, but at least in the past, Democratic senators have been unwilling to cross Schumer, and they enforce strict party discipline. The Republicans, look, I’m going to vote no on this monstrosity, but if they hold their 50 Democrats and Kamala Harris, they will get it through. And I’ll point out, they’re also abusing the parliamentary rules and trying to ram through entirely different provisions that had nothing to do with COVID. A whole lot of this bill has zero to do with COVID. This is all about paying off left-wing special interests. This is about paying off teachers’ union bosses. This is about paying off their buddies in blue states that have dug themselves a debt hole. And one of the consequences, they’re trying to push through a $15 dollar minimum wage as part of this, which if that happens, the projections are 1.4 million Americans will lose their jobs. So the early legacy of the Biden administration, on day one, he destroyed 11,000 jobs with the Keystone Pipeline, destroyed 8,000 union jobs. And on month two, if they do this, they’re going to destroy another 1.4 million jobs, predominantly low income, young people, especially African-Americans and Hispanics who tend to be in the jobs that are vulnerable to being destroyed by the policies they’re pushing forward.
HH: All right, last question for you, Senator Cruz. I hope you’re successful in that. Will you commit to me to talk to at least some Republicans, and maybe the conference about what the Tanden rule will do not in theory, but in reality to future nominees when the next Republican president comes along? Mitch McConnell’s autobiography’s called The Long Game. This is the worst example of not playing the long game I’ve seen in a long time, because friends like Josh Holmes and friends in media who want to come in and are young, I’m not young. I’m 65. They’re never going to get through if this rule goes into place, like the nanny rule took out so many people for years. Will you talk to people about the long game here?
TC: Well, look, I’ve got to say this. Apparently, Neera Tanden has lots of friends throughout the legal world, because you’re the second person in 12 hours who’s been leaning on me. The other was a Democrat who’s a close friend who sent me a note last night. I don’t know Ms. Tanden.
HH: She’s not a friend of mine, Senator. I’ve only met her on green rooms and on Twitter. She’s not a friend. I’m worried about other people down the line.
TC: You know, I will say this is not a new standard and that you can point back to, I can think of at least one example recently, which is my very good friend, Ken Cuccinelli, who was put forward to be deputy secretary of Homeland Security.
TC: And Ken is a fantastic guy. He’s a strong conservative. But Ken previously led the Senate Conservatives Fund, which among other things, tried to primary Senate Republicans, went after Mitch McConnell directly, and the Senate wouldn’t confirm him. He was a Republican nominee in a Republican Senate, and senators reacted exactly the same way, which is they said we don’t like people who have attacked us, and so we’re not going to vote for them. And that, I would have loved to see Ken confirmed. He did a fantastic job. He was put in an acting capacity. But he didn’t get confirmed because of his prior criticism of senators. And I’d be willing to bet if you went back to the Washington administration, you would find that blasting senators is a bad way to get the job.
HH: There are others, but this rule will take out thousands of people on social media. I just ask that you consider it. You’re a smart guy. Senator Cruz, great to talk to you. I’ve got to go talk to John Moorlach. God bless you and good luck.
TC: Take care. Thank you. Bye bye.
End of interview.