Exclusive: Ted Cruz on announcing candidacy for president

Lawmaker provides insight into his decision on 'Hannity'


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 23, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to "Hannity." The road to 2016 has officially begun. Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced that he's running for the White House. He will join us exclusively for the entire hour.

Here's how it all went down earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join me in welcoming back to Liberty University Senator Ted Cruz.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TX, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is the time for truth! It is the time for liberty!


CRUZ: It is the time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States!


CRUZ: I am honored to stand with each and every one of you courageous conservatives as we come together to reclaim the promise of America, to reclaim the mandates, the hope and opportunity for our children and our children's children! We stand together for liberty!


CRUZ: I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America! And that is why today, I am announcing that I'm running for President of the United States.



HANNITY: Joining us now, the man himself, 2016 now official presidential candidate Texas senator Ted Cruz. Senator, good to see you.  Welcome aboard.

CRUZ: Sean, always great to join you.

HANNITY: All right, those kids are adorable.

CRUZ: Well, thankfully, they look just like their mother.

HANNITY: What -- interesting, no teleprompter, first out of the gate.  By design?

CRUZ: Well, certainly, it's time to get in there. And it's time to start making the case that we got to change what we're doing. You know, I think there is an urgency to what we're facing in politics that's unlike anything you or I have ever seen before. I think it's now or never. I don't think we've reached the point of no return yet, but we are close.  And I think if...

HANNITY: What is the point of no return?

CRUZ: Well, we've seen our national debt go from $10 trillion to $18 trillion. It's larger than the size of our whole economy. We're seeing our constitutional rights constantly under assault from the federal government. And we're seeing America recede from leadership in the world, and the world is melting down. I think if we have four or eight more years on this same path, we risk doing irreparable damage to this country.

HANNITY: I'm going to get into the specifics on the economy, on foreign policy. First, a couple of questions about Ted Cruz. You went through a little bit of your family history, your family life story. Try and sum that up -- very fascinating background. I didn't know a lot of the things you said today.

CRUZ: Well, it was great. My family was all there and able to join me. I shared my mom's story. You know, my mom grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. She grew up in an Irish-Italian working class family. Her mom, my grandmother, was the second youngest of 17 kids. I mentioned that my mom's uncle ran the numbers in Wilmington. I got to admit, my mother was a little horrified that I said that up there.

And my grandfather, my mother's father, was a tough man. He drank too much. And he didn't have very enlightened views. He didn't really think women should get an education. And my mother is very soft-spoken, but she's strong-willed and very bright. And she stood up to her dad. She battled her father.

HANNITY: Seventeen kids.

CRUZ: And -- well, that was her mother.

HANNITY: Her mother, right.

CRUZ: And she became -- my mom became the first person in her family ever to go to college. And she went to Rice, graduated in 1956 with a degree in math and went into computer programming at Shell, I mean, was shattering glass ceilings. And it's -- my mom is 80 this year, and she was there at the event. And she is a woman of strength and fortitude but also incredible compassion. She is a wonderful mom and an incredible grandmother to our two little girls.

HANNITY: And your dad fought Batista in Cuba, came here at 18.

CRUZ: He did. And one of the things I tried to do with the students at Liberty is try to help put them in his shoes -- that he was 14, 15 years old. He was a kid in high school in student council when the revolution began. And the revolution in Cuba -- it started in the student councils, in the high schools, in the colleges.

And you know, I sort of laughed. I was in student council growing up, but nobody would confuse our student council with revolutionaries. And my dad ended up -- when he was 17, Batista's police captured him and they threw him in prison and beat him halfway to death. And he fled Cuba. My grandfather told him, said, Look, they know who you are. They're just going to hunt you down and kill you.

And so he applied to three universities, applied to University of Miami, LSU and University of Texas. And UT let him in. So my dad -- my grandfather drove my father to the ferry boat. My father lay down on the floorboards in the bottom of the car to hide because Batista's police were keeping an eye on him. And he got on the ferry boat.

He had a passport. He'd gotten a legal student visa from the American consulate because he'd been admitted to UT, he could get a student visa.  And then they had a family friend who ended up. He needed a stamp from the Batista government to get out, and they weren't going to give it to him, and so a family friend ended up paying a bribe to the Cuban government authorities to get the Cuban stamp to let him out.

And he took a ferry boat to Key West and then got on a Greyhound bus and went all the way to Austin, and couldn't speak English, had a hundred dollars in his underwear.

HANNITY: It's a very similar story for a lot of families, my family, as well. There have been issues -- you were born in Calgary, in Canada.

CRUZ: Right.

HANNITY: Is there a birth certificate issue? I don't mean to -- know -- I did look at social media today, and it did come up for a number of times. I wanted to give you a chance to address it. I know you mentioned at CPAC.

CRUZ: Yes. Look, there's political chatter on it. The facts are clear. I was born in Calgary. My parents -- as a legal matter, my mother is an American citizen by birth. And it's been federal law for over two centuries that the child of an American citizen born abroad is a citizen by birth, a natural born citizen.


CRUZ: Which is what the Constitution requires to run. And several prior candidates have had this issue. John McCain was born in Panama.  George Romney, Mitt's dad, was born in Mexico when his parents were Mormon missionaries down there. And actually, Barry Goldwater -- a lot of people don't know this -- was born in Arizona before Arizona was a state.

And so as a legal matter, the issue is quite straightforward, that if you or I travel aboard and we have a child that's born abroad, and we're American citizens, that child is a natural born citizen.

HANNITY: Why does Ted Cruz -- why do you, Senator, want to be president? It's a big decision, a big impact on your family. and how would a Cruz presidency differ from an Obama presidency?

CRUZ: Well, our country is in crisis. And we were talking just a minute ago. We've got to change the direction that we're on. One of the things I talked about this morning in the announcement speech is so many Americans across this country feel that the promise of America is drifting away from them, is unattainable. that, you know, the miracle that was this nation, that our rights we understand they come from God and not government, that government is limited and that any one of us can come, like your family, like my family, with nothing and achieve anything.  That's slipping away.

HANNITY: You think that's slipping away. Here are the numbers -- 92 million Americans not in the labor force.

CRUZ: Yes.

HANNITY: Highest number since the '70s. Almost 50 million Americans on food stamps. Almost 50 now in poverty. Almost 20 million more than when President Obama took office. $18 trillion in debt, $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Those are real, real economic problems.

CRUZ: Yes.

HANNITY: Specifically, how do you bring a budget in balance? How do you fix this economy? How do you get those people back in the labor force?

CRUZ: Well, we can turn it around, and how you do it is all interconnected. My first and top priority is growth and jobs and opportunity. You know, if you look at the federal budget -- you're a numbers guy -- there is only one first order variable when it comes to the budget, and that is economic growth. Everything else is a second or third order variable. Everything else...

HANNITY: Even spending?

CRUZ: Even spending is a much smaller impact on the federal budget than growth. Historically in this country, we've averaged 3.3 percent growth a year since World War II. There have only been two four-year periods where growth has averaged less than 1 percent a year, 1978 to 1982 -- now, that was coming out of Jimmy Carter, same failed economic policies.  And then 2008 to 2012, where GDP growth averaged 0.9 percent a year.

If we can get back to historic levels of growth, 3, 4, 5 percent, suddenly, the federal budget picture transforms. Suddenly, we have the revenue to take care and support our troops and build our military to defend this nation. Suddenly, it becomes possible to step in and preserve and reform Social Security and Medicare. Suddenly, it becomes possible to turn the problems around.

HANNITY: The way government works, you have baseline budgeting, where there's built-in increases every year. We've had -- this president will accumulate as much, if not more, debt than every other president before him combined.

CRUZ: Yes.

HANNITY: That's unsustainable, right? So spending has to be a part of it. Do you cut back -- do you curb spending?

CRUZ: Absolutely, yes. You know, one of the things you have advocated is the penny plan. I think the penny plan has an awful lot of force to it. And I am an emphatic advocate of a balanced budget amendment, putting in the Constitution a strong balanced budget.

HANNITY: Every year, it must be in balance. With the penny plan, it would cut one penny out of every dollar every year for six years, and you would get without growth a balanced budget in six years. Would you support cutting a penny out of every dollar, defense, Social Security, Medicare?

CRUZ: You're going to be hard pressed to come up with a cost-cutting program that I'm not going to support. I do think the military -- we need to look at the growing national security threats and we need to make sure we take care of the men and women in the military and we provide what we need to protect this nation.

And also, if you look at the budget, you cannot bring the budget into control without taking on entitlement reform. Two thirds of the federal budget is entitlements. So if you don't talk about entitlements, you can't do it.

HANNITY: Entitlements. Means testing?

CRUZ: Absolutely.

HANNITY: Raise the age of eligibility?

CRUZ: Sure. Yes.

HANNITY: So somebody who paid in their whole life into Social Security, happens to have been successful, all that money that they were promised, No.

CRUZ: Well, look, I think any Social Security reform that you do, for those people who are seniors, for those people who are near retirement, we need to honor the commitments we've made to them.

HANNITY: You're talking about future generations.

CRUZ: You're talking about future generations, people my generation.  I'm 44. There are not a lot of people in my generation who think Social Security's going to be there for us.

HANNITY: I'm 53. I'm close to your generation, probably one step ahead.

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