U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) talked with Caffeinated Thoughts during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kickoff at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, IA on Saturday, April 25, 2015.  Cruz discussed education policy, the marriage debate, Loretta Lynch’s confirmation, but foreign policy made up the bulk of the interview.

You can watch the video here or below:

You can also read the transcript of the interview below:

Shane Vander Hart (SVH): I write a lot about Common Core and you mention Common Core a lot in a number of your speeches.  You talk a lot about Common Core, however with Common Core actually being decided at the state level, what is it that the federal government can do to address the problem?

Ted Cruz (TC): Well the federal government can stop mandating it and using Race to the Top funds to force states to adopt Common Core.  What the Obama administration is to use the coercive power of federal money to get states down this road, and they are also trying to intrude with federal oversight of substantive standards.  I think the federal government has no business whatsoever being involved in the curriculum that is taught in the schools.  We need to repeal Common Core, all together, I’m categorically opposed to it. 

I think that education should be at the state level, or even better, at the local level.  The advantage of having it at the state level is that it gives parents direct control over the education of our kids.  Education is too important to be governed by some distant bureaucrat in Washington – all of us as parents need to have direct input into what our kids are taught.

SVH: The Senate HELP Committee passed the ESEA reauthorization out, what is your position on that current bill?  Have you had a chance to read it?

TC:  You know it is coming out of committee so I’m studying the details of that particular bill.  I believe we should be reducing, or even better, eliminating the strings and mandates that are coming out of the federal government regarding education.  We should be expanding school choice.  We should be empowering parents and children to choose the best education for their families and I am a passionate advocate of school choice.  I think school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century, and every child has a right to a quality education regardless of race, ethnicity, wealth or zip code.  So I’ve filed legislation, along with Senator Mike Lee, to allow the federal money that is currently going to education to follow the child, to be portable with the child so you can expand options so kids can have better education and a greater hope and future.

SVH: So like an education savings account?

TC: Different from an education savings account, but I support that.  I support anything and everything that gives more choice to children and expands their options with education.

SVH: Congressman King filed a bill that would restrict the federal court’s jurisdiction over marriage or eliminate it all together, you advocated something similiar did you not?

TC: I filed a bill that would do the same thing so Steve King is a good friend, he and I agree on a great many issues, and this week I filed two pieces of legislation.  One was a constitutional amendment that would protect the authority of the states to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman which is what the law has been from the entire history of our country.  From the day the constitution was ratified, marriage has been a question for the states, and it is only in the last couple of years that you have seen the federal government and unelected federal judges launching an assault on marriage. 

The second piece of legislation I filed, that is very similar to Steve King’s legislation, is legislation that would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over lawsuits seeking to tear down traditional marriage.  The Constitution explicitly gives Congress the power to restrict the jurisdiction over the courts and that is what this legislation does.

SVH: Let’s talk about Iran, how would a President Cruz handle Iran?

TC: Well the current Iran deal that President Obama is negotiating is a terrible, terrible deal.  I think the single greatest national security threat facing America is the threat of a nuclear Iran, and this deal only accelerates Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.  Obama’s Iran deal allows Iran to keep thousands upon thousands centrifuges, to keep enriching uranium, to keep keep their ICBM program – which the only purpose of that program is to carry a nuclear weapon to the United States of America to attack us.  It doesn’t make any sense.

In the Senate, I intend to do everything possible to kill a bad Iranian deal, and if Senate Democrats keep doing what they have been doing, if they stand in party-line unison with the President to prevent the Senate from acting then that means the next president in January 2017 when he or she takes office is likely to receive a world with Iran on the cusp of having nuclear weapons.  And any President suitable to be commander-in-chief should be prepared on January 20th, 2017 repudiate a bad Iran deal that undermines American national security and to everything necessary to ensure under no circumstances whatsoever that Iran, a nation run by theocratic Islamic zealots who have pledged to annihilate Israel and who pledge death to America, under no circumstances should those religious zealots be allowed to have nuclear weapons that could murder millions of Americans or millions of our allies.

SVH: Is there a necessity where you would see putting boots back on the ground in that area, or increasing troop (numbers) in that region?

TC: Ideally we should respond to Iran using sanctions.  I have filed my own sanctions legislation.  It would immediately reimpose sanctions, it would strengthen those sanctions to make them even more crippling with oil prices having fallen the Iranian economy is hurting right now, and the Obama administration is trying to step in and give them billions upon billions of dollars as a lifeline.  We ought to be making it even more punishing, and then the legislation that I filed lays out a clear path for Iran to lift the sanctions.  Number one, they must dissemble all 19,000 centrifuges that they have.  Number two, they must hand over every pound of enriched uranium.  Number three, they must shut down their ICBM program, and number four, they must cease being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. 

You know what is ironic is that the weakness and appeasement of the Obama administration only increases the chances of military  conflict.  History teaches that, that weakness is provocative and it invites aggression by bad actors.  I believe in peace through strength, and it is worth noting that foreign policy is one of the issues that change most quickly.  In January 1981 this same nation, Iran, released our hostages the day after Ronald Reagan was sworn in, and it was because they understood there was a new commander-in-chief that was credible who meant what he said.  I am looking forward, if I’m fortunate enough to be elected President, in January 2017 bringing that same seriousness in purpose and credibility so Iran will know either shut down their nuclear program or we will shut it down for them.

SVH: What does that policy direction look like in terms of Russia, North Korea and China?

TC: With each of them, what we’ve seen over the last six years, is the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind.  It is a manifest disaster, it doesn’t work.  What we have seen right now is that our friends and allies they don’t trust us, and our enemies don’t fear us.  You know when I travel abroad, I was in Munich a few months ago for a defense conference with heads of state and defense ministers and foreign ministers from countries all over the world, our allies will pull you aside, they will grab you by the shoulder and look at you and say, ‘where is America?’

The world is more dangerous without America in it.  We need America back, there is a vacuum because the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has retreated from the world and projected weakness, and at the same time for the next twenty months I think we are in a state of nature.  I think it like Lord of the Flies where every bad actor is limited only by the limits of their own strength.  Is limited only by their ability to seize more land, to intimidate or oppress their neighbors because they have taken the measure of the man of President Obama as commander-in-chief, and they have determined zero credible threat from this president. 

That needs to change and when dealing with, for example Russia, that was the first part of your question – Putin is not a complicated guy.  Putin is basically a KGB thug.  He has stated candidly that he thinks the greatest geopolitical disaster of modern times is the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and accordingly he is trying to assemble as much of the Soviet Union as possible.  His aggression toward Ukraine is a direct consequence of President Obama’s weakness.

Now what should we have done differently?  Well, when the people of Ukraine were standing in the middle of Maidan Square, and I’ve been in the Maidan Square with a high school girl who had been protesting there who showed me the bullet marks where her friends, other teenagers, were gunned down by the army.  The President should have spoken out for freedom.  The words of the commander-in-chief have the power of the bully pulpit, and if Putin had acted, had gone in and invaded Ukraine, two things we should have done immediately… Number one, we should have immediate installed the anti-ballistic missile batteries that were scheduled to go into the Czech Republic and Poland.  President Obama and Hillary Clinton canceled that in 2009 in an effort to appease Putin, that appeasement didn’t work.  And secondly, Putin uses energy to blackmail Ukraine and much of Europe, at the time of the invasion there were 22 applications pending to export natural gas.  The President should have immediately approved every single one of them.  That would have helped the Ukraine and Europe stand free of Russia aggression.  It would have hit Putin where it counts in the pocketbook, and it would have produced jobs and economic growth back home.  That is an example of peace through strength of America leading again.  That’s not going to happen for the next twenty months, but I’m confident in January 2017 we are going to see a new President, and hopefully a President who restores America’s leadership in the world.

SVH: It looks like I have time for one last question.  You have been criticized by some for missing the Loretta Lynch confirmation vote.  You are not the only one who is going to have to deal with this on the campaign trail.  How are you going to balance your current role with running for President?

TC: With regard to Loretta Lynch, I have led the opposition to Loretta Lynch from day one.  The Senate Judiciary Committee I took the lead asking vigorous questions where she laid out her refusal to imposing any meaningful limits on President Obama’s authority, her refusal to acknowledge or follow the Constitution or rule of law.  I asked her if she would differ from Eric Holder, the most partisan Attorney General we have ever seen, she refused to describe any way she would differ from Holder.  I voted against her in committee.  I called publicly for Republican leadership to halt her confirmation.  Sadly Republican leadership could have stopped this confirmation.  I wrote an op/ed calling for it.  I went publicly over and over again calling for leadership not to confirm an Attorney General who tells the Senate that she will disregard the law and impose no limits on the President’s authority.  Then this week I flew back to Washington to vote against her on cloture.  Cloture was the vote that mattered.  It was the 60-vote threshold where if Republicans stood together she would not have been confirmed.  Unfortunately, Republican leadership made the decision that they wanted to allow her to be confirmed, and I gave a long and passionate on the Senate floor pointing out that there are a lot of people across the country frustrated. 

We worked very hard in 2014 to elect a new Republican majority, and this Republican majority in the Senate is confirming the exact same Attorney General that Harry Reid and the Democrats would have confirmed.  Now it is true, the final vote that was on the confirmation vote at the end of the day, I was not there because I had to fly back for a campaign event.  But the reality is that vote was a done deal.  The fight had been on the cloture vote, and there is no doubt to any observer that I had led the fight to stop her. 

And on the question on how you balance both, I have got a job to do in the Senate representing 27 million Texans, but I’ll tell you Texans are also calling on me to stand up and fight to turn this country around and I have to say the energy and enthusiasm we have seen in the month since we launched this campaign has been breathtaking.  We have seen tens of thousands of volunteers from all over the country going to TedCruz.org signing up to volunteer with the campaign.  In the first week of the campaign, we had over 51,000 contributions come online from all 50 states as people came to TedCruz.org, they gave over four million dollars, 95% of those contributions were $100 or less, and the reason is simple – people realize the path we are on is not working.  They want to change the direction of this country, and I think they want someone who is going to tell them the truth and do what he said he is going to do.

SVH: Great, thank you so much!

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