TAMPA, Fla. — At the end of a hallway inside the convention center at the Republican National Convention last week, rising Republican star Ted Cruz took a seat in a folding chair and answered eight questions from The Daily Caller.
Cruz, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Texas, criticized the media for failing to highlight his party’s Hispanic and other minority convention speakers, discussed which government agencies he’d like to see eliminated, and revealed what he thinks about party-watchers who see him as a future presidential contender.
Here’s that conversation with Cruz with minor edits for length and clarity:
TheDC: Who particularly impressed you as a convention speaker here in Tampa?
Cruz: I think Ann Romney on Tuesday was the rock star of the night, and I think the task she had before her was humanizing Mitt Romney. A lot of people understand his extraordinary business career, his very successful tenure and leadership. But she had a critical task of helping voters relate to him as a man and husband and father. And I think she did really a beautiful job portraying who he is.
TheDC: I want to ask you about your style because when I talked to people after your convention speech, many remarked how you didn’t use a podium like nearly everyone else and how you looked almost like a televangelist. Why is this?
Cruz: It was something we asked for. I’ve never been a fan of podiums. I find when you talk directly to people without a podium in the way and you have an opportunity just to visit with them, you can connect with them in a far more effective manner.
TheDC: In terms of your speech itself, how much say does the Romney campaign and convention organizers have in determining what you can and can’t say?
Cruz: You know, every convention insists on reviewing the speeches that are being given and this is no different. But that being said, they allowed a tremendous amount of leeway. So the remarks I gave were the remarks we had written. And their edits were very, very mild.
TheDC: I have a media question for you. Chris Matthews at MSNBC, for example, loves to paint Republicans as the party of old, white men but his cable network didn’t broadcast the speeches made by you and other minority leaders within the party. Do you think the media is doing this intentionally because it doesn’t fit its narrative about the Republican Party?
Cruz: I think the mainstream media has a story they want to tell. And facts that get in the way — that are inconvenient — they do their best to ignore. I don’t think it was accidental that MSNBC chose not to cover so many of those speakers on the first night because it conflicts with the story they’re trying to tell.
You have to remember, Chris Matthews is a man who confessed on air that Barack Obama sent a tingle up his leg. And so for that network to pretend to have journalistic objectivity, we have reason to doubt that. Their selective coverage — I don’t know anyone who was surprised.
And let me say a broader thing. I think it was a mistake on the part of all of the networks not to cover this convention adequately. The four major networks decided they’d cover three hours. In this entire convention, an hour a night and that was it. Because they presume themselves the arbiters of what the American people can hear and what they can’t hear. And the explanation the journalists give is “well, there’s no news being made. There’s not a floor flight. There’s nothing we think is interesting. It’s just a press conference.”
And my view is we have a presidential election every four years. I’m perfectly fine with a press conference with each party having the opportunity to tell the American people, “here’s what we stand for, this is what we believe.” Not through the media filter, not through the yabbering of various pundits, but directly.
And the problem is the media doesn’t like that. Because it takes them out of the equation. And they behave as if they want to control the discussion and not actually leave the decision making up to the voters.
TheDC: On some issues, in terms of dream legislation, if you could snap your fingers and tomorrow see three pieces of legislation passed, what would they be?
Cruz: My first priority in the U.S. Senate will be to help lead the fight to repeal every single word of Obamacare. And that, come January, is going to be an epic battle. That’s not going to be easy to accomplish. My second priority will be to lead the effort to bring people together to dramatically shrink the size, power and spending of the federal government. And a critical element of that, and what I would list as third, is to help lead the effort to pass a strong balanced budget amendment, so that the constitution can serve actually as Thomas Jefferson put it: as chains to bind the mischief of government.
TheDC: How do you come down on eliminating specific federal cabinet agencies and departments? Do you have specific ones you’d like to see thrown out?
Cruz: I am all for it. We’re in a crisis. Our national debt is larger than our gross domestic product. We are barreling down the road to where Greece and Italy and much of Europe find themselves. And we need serious leadership to stop it. I think we should shrink the size and power of the federal government by every and any means possible. What does that mean?
That means eliminating unnecessary or unconstitutional agencies. The first agency I would eliminate would be the U.S. Department of Education. I think education is far too important to be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington. I think it should be at the state level, or even better, at the local level where parents have direct influence over the education of our kids.
I would eliminate the U.S. Department of Commerce. I would eliminate the U.S. Department of Energy. I would eliminate the National Endowment of the Arts. I think the arts are terrific. But I see no reason why unelected bureaucrats spend your and mine tax dollars on arts they happen to like.
And the agency I’d most like to eliminate is the IRS through fundamental tax reform.
TheDC: On that topic, Mitt Romney says a Romney administration would explore cuts to agencies and departments but he’s wary of getting very specific about which ones before Election Day because politically it’s best to get into office before doing that. Is that smart or do you wish he’d get more specific?
Cruz: I think the Romney campaign is doing an excellent job of focusing on economic and fiscal issues. Indeed that’s the reason I was so thrilled that Gov. Romney picked Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee. Because the most direct consequence of picking Paul Ryan is it ensures the conversation for the next two months will be on fiscal and economic issues. And if we’re discussing the grave fiscal and economic challenges facing this country, if we’re discussing Barack Obama’s abysmal economic record, then I believe Republicans win in November.
TheDC: You’re a rising star and some have even mentioned that it could be you here being nominated for president by Republicans one day. What do you say when people say that?
Cruz: Look, my focus is on Election Day 68 days from today. And I’m spending every day between now and Election Day, 18 hours a day, crisscrossing the state of Texas, attempting to make my case to the voters of Texas that they should entrust me with the responsibility of representing our great state in the United States Senate and helping lead the effort to pull our nation back from the abyss.