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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
Associated Press/Photo by Carolyn Kaster, File
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Helping lead the fight for liberty

Q&A | Sen. Ted Cruz talks on what drives him to battle both Democrats and the Republican establishment

Freshman U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has become a hero to both Tea Party and Christian conservatives with his uncompromising positions on both economic and social issues. As a former Texas solicitor general who has argued a dozen cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, he also knows how to make a short, sharp, compelling argument for his positions.

I spoke with Cruz in his apartment in a Houston high-rise that has a commanding view of the city and state he now represents in Washington.

When you were a child did you have any idea that you’d be running for political office? I can tell you that this has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. Several years ago, my wife Heidi and I were having dinner with a friend of ours and he asked me, “When did you first get interested in politics?” I scratched my head and said I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t. I said, “I’m not really sure why that is.” At that point Heidi started laughing at me. Sometimes your spouse can see some things that are blazingly obvious and yet you don’t see in yourself. She said, “No wonder. Think of the family environment you grew up in.”

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Tell me about that environment. My father is a pastor in south Dallas now. He was born in Cuba. He was raised in Cuba. When he was a teenager, he fought in the Cuban revolution and was thrown in prison and tortured. He almost got beaten to death at 17. He fled Cuba in 1957. He came to Texas and didn’t speak a word of English, and all he had was $100 sewn into his underwear. He got a job as a dishwasher earning 50 cents an hour, and he worked his way through the University of Texas. He and my mother owned a small business together.

So I grew up in Houston as the son of two small business owners. And I’ll tell you when I grew up as a kid my dad used to say to me: “When we faced oppression in Cuba, I had a place to go to. But what if we lose our freedom here, where do we go?” I’ve heard that ever since I was a kid. I think it is a tremendous blessing to be the child of an immigrant fleeing oppression because it makes you realize just how precious liberty is and how fragile it is. If you had done this interview back when I was 6 years old, I would have told you then that I wanted to be involved in public service fighting to preserve freedom. And I think it is the direct consequence of being the child of someone who fled oppression and saw freedom taken away. 

Are you comfortable being characterized as someone who is fighting not just liberal Democrats but also the establishment within the GOP? Absolutely. I think the tea party is the best thing to happen to politics in decades. It’s a spontaneous, organic movement from the people: Millions of Americans standing to support the Constitution, to defend free market principles, to save our country.

A big motivator for me wanting to run for office was a non-profit called the Free Enterprise Institute. They took high school students, and they had us study free market economics. We would read Milton Freidman, Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Bastiat. We wrote a 20-minute speech on free market economics and we would tour all around the state speaking on free market economics. And this was as a kid—13, 14, 15 years old. This group formed a spin off group called the Constitutional Corroborators. Five of us memorized a shortened, mnemonic form of the Constitution. We would all speak at a big Rotary Club or Kiwanis Club. And while you were sitting there eating lunch, five high school students would set up easels at the front of a room and we’d write out from memory the entire Constitution in shortened mnemonic form. And in four years of high school I gave about 80 speeches all over Texas on free market economics and the Constitution. It became what I wanted to do in life, was stand up and fight for liberty and free market.

Our country’s in crisis. We’re going broke. And it’s been career politicians from both parties that have gotten us into this mess. We have a $16 trillion debt. It’s larger than our GDP, and all over the country people are fed up with the same establishment, incumbent politicians and looking for new leaders who will stand and fight for liberty and to get back to the Constitution. 

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