Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) addressed an enthusiastic audience on Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), laying out what sounded like a presidential campaign speech in all but name. Cruz challenged conservative activists to judge him and his potential 2016 competition by their actions, not just their words, and what they had actually done to fight for conservative causes.
Entering the stage to “Wave on Wave” by fellow Texan Pat Green, Cruz started with a few jokes. “So there’s not a single Democrat here? It’s almost like CPAC invited Benjamin Netanyahu,” he quipped, referencing the Israeli Prime Minister’s upcoming speech to Congress, which several Democrats have already announced they will boycott.
Regarding recent reports that the Clinton Foundation received substantial donations from foreign countries while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State: “We could have had Hillary here, but we couldn’t get a foreign nation to foot the bill.”
The CPAC attendees will “play a fundamental role” in choosing the Republican Party’s 2016 nominee, said Cruz. The crucial issue, however, is how to differentiate between candidates, because none of them are going to come to CPAC and declare themselves a moderate.
So how can we tell who is the real conservative, asked Cruz. He quoted a Bible verse, Matthew 7:16, “You shall know them by their fruits,” and said that the key was to “demand action, not talk.”
If you’ve really been a conservative, Cruz continued, you will have fought the fight and borne the scars. “We must ask, when have you stood up and fought?” However, just standing up against Democrats is not enough. “When have you been willing to stand against Republicans?” he asked. “When have you stood with the people?”
The Senator discussed this same point in more detail in an interview with Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle earlier in the day.
Regarding the political atmosphere in America today, Cruz said that the biggest divide was not between Democrats and Republicans, but “between career politicians in Washington and the American people,” a line which drew applause.
“I’m convinced that 2016 is going to be very much like 1980,” predicted Cruz, who then continued with several red-meat zingers at the conservative crowd. Obamacare was a “train wreck,” he said, “and that’s not really fair to train wrecks.”
Regarding the recent murders of dozens of Egyptian Christians by ISIS terrorists, Cruz said, “They were murdered for their Christian faith” and President Barack Obama needs to “stand up and defend them.”
Cruz closed his prepared remarks asking people to text “CONSTITUTION” to 33733. He then quoted his father, Rafael Cruz, who fled the communists in Cuba to come to America: “I saw freedom taken away once, and I’ll die before I let it happen again.”
Fox News’ Sean Hannity then came to the stage for a brief Q&A session. The first question was about the 21 hour filibuster Cruz held to strip funding from the Obamacare bill. Hannity mentioned some of the criticism thrown at Cruz from other Republicans: former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) had called him a bomb thrower, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) had made the infamous “wacko bird” comments, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) had called the filibuster “political hostage taking,” and so on. What do you say back to these critics, asked Hannity.
“The simple point is,” responded Cruz. “We shouldn’t be listening to Washington, we should be listening to the American people,” and the American people have been harmed by Obamacare, with millions losing their jobs, their doctor, their preferred insurance policies.
Cruz then mocked the pundits who had predicted his filibuster would guarantee a Democrat majority in 2014.
Instead, said Cruz, what happened was “we won the biggest tidal wave since the 1920s and we retired Harry Reid as Majority Leader.”
When asked why Republicans in Congress seemed to be caving on funding Obama’s executive amnesty orders, Cruz replied, “Because they’re not listening to you.” The politicians and the K Street lobbyists “love” amnesty, he explained. “They support the substantive policy…they fight back vigorously because they don’t want the power to be with the American people.”
Regarding the threat from the terror group ISIS, Cruz said, “we need a Commander-in-Chief who will actually stand up and defend the United States of America.”
Cruz sharply criticized what he called Obama’s “bizarre Orwellian double speak.” How can we fight “radical Islamic terrorism” with a President who cannot even say the words? Cruz also dismissed the administration’s recent suggestion that we fight ISIS by helping them fight jobs, as “utter and complete nonsense.”
“We kill the terrorist leaders before they kill us,” said Cruz, that is how we win.
Hannity then asked Cruz about the issue of his eligibility to run for President, apologizing for the question but noting that it was an issue that “liberal birthers” kept bringing up. “My mother was an American citizen, so federal law makes me an American citizen by birth,” and the Constitution requires a President to be a natural born citizen, said Cruz matter-of-factly.
Hannity then asked him what would be his top five priorities if he were President. Cruz’s answer:
- “Repeal every blasted word of Obamacare”;
- “Abolish the IRS…take all 125,000 IRS agents and put ’em on our Southern border”;
- Stop “out of control regulators” at the EPA and “alphabet soup” of other bureaucratic agencies;
- “Defend our Constitutional rights, all of them”; and
- “Restore America’s leadership in the world as a shining city on a hill.”
Hannity closed with a “lightning round,” asking for short responses.
Abortion: Cruz said we should defend life “from conception to natural death.”
Gay Marriage: “Marriage is a question for the states, and it is wrong for the federal government or unelected judges to tear down the laws” passed by states, said Cruz, taking a less hard-line stance and notably omitting the “marriage is between one man and one woman” definition favored by opponents to gay marriage.
Legalization of marijuana in Colorado: Cruz gave another states’ rights answer, praising the idea of the fifty states as the “laboratories of democracy,” and said this was a great example. “If citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road,” it was not his preference, but “that’s their prerogative.”
Hillary Clinton: One word response from Cruz, “Washington.”
Bill Clinton:”Youth outreach,” said Cruz, drawing hoots of laughter from the crowd. “What?” he asked in feigned ignorance.
Barack Obama – “lawless imperator,” said Cruz, showing his wonkish side. “Imperator” is a Latin term that was part of the titles used by Roman emperors.
For Hannity’s final question, he asked the Seantor, “Why does Ted Cruz love America?” Cruz said our country was the “greatest in the world” and a “haven for freedom,” unique from any other nation on earth.
“Brighter days are ahead,” Cruz said, promising his audience that they could achieve that together.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.