OTR Interviews

Sen. Ted Cruz: Pres. Obama has been 'fundamentally unserious' about ISIS from the beginning, operates 'photo-op foreign policy'

Texas senator on president's plan for combating ISIS, why he should seek Congressional approval for any declaration of war with ISIS, and the State Department's bizarre ISIS video


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 8, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: You have to see this. The State Department producing a graphic video showing barbaric acts by that horrible, evil ISIS. Why did the State Department do that? Well, they say to scare Americans from joining ISIS. But critics say it looks more like an ISIS recruitment video. More on that in a minute.

But first, after weeks of blistering criticism, President Obama finally getting ready to face Americans to tell us how he plans to combat ISIS. The president will address the nation on Wednesday.

Senator Ted Cruz joins us. Good evening, sir.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Greta, good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: A bit of the plan has somehow leaked out from the White House. Your thoughts on what the president is going to say and do?

CRUZ: Unfortunately, from the beginning of this, we have seen President Obama being fundamentally unserious. He dismissed ISIS at the outset as the junior varsity. That turned out to be very wrong. Then, last week, he told us they had no strategy, to the surprise of nobody.


CRUZ: Well, and for dealing with ISIS. And he hasn't had a strategy for dealing with ISIS. And at this point, we have seen ISIS declare war on the United States. They are crucifying Christians. They are beheading children. They have beheaded two American journalists. And they have done so on the world stage, pledging an intent to take jihad to America.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. To get ISIS, most people say you have to go to the root, which would be Syria. You are opposed to boots on the ground, right?

CRUZ: My view is we need to set the objective of taking ISIS out. And --


VAN SUSTEREN: Assuming we set the objective, we don't want ISIS. Secretary of Defense Hagel has been scary the way he has warned everybody. Assuming he wants that, boots on the ground or not?

CRUZ: We can do this predominantly through a concentrated air campaign. ISIS right now, they are diffuse. They are covering too much territory. They are 10,000 to 15,000 people on the ground. And -- but what we can't do is simply lob a missile, drop a bomb. If you look and see Obama/Clinton foreign policy, it's been a photo-op foreign policy. It hasn't been focused on a concrete military objective tied to U.S. national security. In this instance, what our focus should be is taking ISIS out so that they cannot project terror and murder Americans.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think of the State Department's video? Is that a recruitment video or is that going to scare the Americans not to be a member of ISIS? Where did we get that money?

CRUZ: I just thought it was bizarre. It was a strange thing to put out. And I think it's a manifestation of what I talked about a second ago, which is a photo-op foreign policy or a press-release foreign policy. The focus of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy from day one has not been protecting vital national security interests of the United States. Instead, it's been making a statement. And it's been putting out a tweet. It's been fundamentally unserious. And that is part of what has made the world so dangerous.

VAN SUSTEREN: Talking about danger, one of the things many Americans worry about is people coming to the United States, Americans leaving, joining ISIS and coming back. You have a bill to deal with Americans. What is the bill?

CRUZ: That's exactly right. It's legislation that I introduced today. There are over 100 Americans who have gone and are fighting alongside ISIS. The legislation that I introduced today in the Senate amends existing law to provide that taking up arms and fighting alongside ISIS constitutes a renunciation of the United States citizenship, so that we can't have people who have joined the terrorists using U.S. passports to come back and commit acts of terror here at home.

And, you know, Greta, it's my hope that we will see bipartisan cooperation passing this legislation. We have had some indications from some Senate Democrats, interest that they may be interest in working together on this. And I hope we see both the Senate and the House leave politics at the water's edge and say let's all come together when it comes to protecting American citizens from radical Islamic terrorists bent on murdering Americans here at home.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think you'll get some help on the House side. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann will join us soon and she similarly has something she wants to do in the House on that.

Let me go back to what President Obama intends to say on Wednesday. Does he have to go to Congress to take any more military action?

CRUZ: Absolutely, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why? Under the War Powers Act, doesn't he have some time to act unilaterally?

CRUZ: But the Constitution is the fundamental law of the land. As you know, the Constitution gives Congress the authority to declare war and it gives the president the authority to be commander-in- chief. The distinction between the two, the president has inherent Constitutional authority to respond to an imminent threat. If there is a clear and present danger to our national security, the president can respond to protect America. But in this instance, the president has said that he doesn't see the urgency or imminence. He is talking about potentially prolonged military conflict that could last months or years, in which case, he has a constitutional obligation to go to Congress and seek authorization.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you say authorization, are you asking -- are you saying we should declare war on ISIS? We're going to do the constitutional way. Maybe we should do it. We'll declare war on ISIS. There should be a vote on the Hill on a declaration of war against ISIS. Is that what you are seeking?

CRUZ: A congressional authorization for the use of force is functionally the equivalent. What the Constitution --


VAN SUSTEREN: Why not just do it then?

CRUZ: The valve of his having to come to Congress -- and he stated yesterday on TV brazenly that he doesn't intend to go to Congress. But the value of doing it, aside from honoring the Constitution, it forces the president to articulate a clear military objective that is tied to national security. There is value in the president coming before Congress, coming before the American people, and saying, here specifically is what we intend to accomplish, here is how we intend to accomplish it. That avoids the photo-op foreign policy that we have seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Frankly, it gives him political cover if everything goes belly up on this. He should say, we are all in this together, including Capitol Hill.

CRUZ: Well, and I believe Congress would authorize military force if he lays out a credible, serious plan to complete the military objective of taking ISIS out. When terrorists declare war on America and behead American journalists, and critically, in seizing Iraq, they are taking control of substantial portions of a nation state with billions of dollars of oil revenue, the level of danger has become an order of magnitude greater. Because those resources give them the ability to project terror and to murder Americans, and we have got a moment right now, when they are vulnerable, when they haven't consolidated power, where if we don't act now, we are tragically -- I think the odds are far too high we will see another horrific act of terror here on the American homeland.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you. Nice to see you, sir.

CRUZ: Always a pleasure.