Sen. Ted Cruz sounds off on President Obama's 'political' ISIS strategy

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," October 8, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Exactly four weeks ago, President Obama was laying out his strategy to take on the terror army known as ISIS in a prime-time speech during this broadcast. And almost immediately after, one man was suggesting that the commander in chief's plan would not work.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I thought the remarks tonight continued the President's approach to this crisis, which is that they were fundamentally unserious.


KELLY: Joining me now Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, good to see you tonight. Fundamentally unserious you said then. And tonight I ask you in the wake of what we've just heard from these administration officials, whether we are setting ourselves up to lose this war already?

CRUZ: Well, Megyn, I'm sorry to tell you that they remain unserious. I wish that were not the case. I mean, it has gotten to the point now that you have President Obama's own former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta having no choice but to call the president out. You've even got Jimmy Carter now calling President Obama out for his lack of seriousness in focusing on defending the national security interests of this country.

Unfortunately, what we have seen in six years of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy has been a foreign policy that seems to focus on photo-ops, on press releases, but not on concrete military objectives that are tied to our national security. Our objective here should be to take ISIS out, but instead, this seems to be a campaign driven by political operatives and political mandates in the White House rather than clear military objectives --

KELLY: He says, it is. Let me jump in. The president says, it is a plan to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS. He came out today and said the solution is to stay the course. It will be a difficult mission. It won't be solved overnight. But once again over the objections of the generals he will not offer ground troops. And we heard this from the Pentagon on whether the air strikes can get it done.

Listen to Admiral Kirby today.


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Kobani could be taken.  We recognize that. Air power's not alone going to be enough to save that city.

We don't have a force inside Syria that we can cooperate with and work with.

We all need to prepare ourselves for the reality that other towns and villages and perhaps Kobani will be taken by ISIL.


KELLY: What do you make of that?

CRUZ: Well, you know, a month ago President Obama analogized his strategy to what we've pursued in Somalia and Yemen, two countries where we've had a failed strategy that isn't working. And sadly it continues to be of that piece. A couple of weeks ago, the Senate Armed Services Committee had a hearing where I asked the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Dempsey, I said if the objective were to destroy ISIS within 90 days, what would be required militarily to do that? He said it's impossible to do. I said, OK, if that timeframe is not reasonable, then you tell me in your military judgment what would be required to destroy -- not to weaken and contain ISIS, but to destroy them? And his response sadly reflected the approach of the Obama White House. He said it cannot be accomplished militarily. Instead the answer is we have to change the conditions on the ground so people are not receptive to radicalism.

I mean, that is completely missing the objective of protecting this country from violent terrorists who want to kill us.

KELLY: I have to ask you tonight because there is breaking news on another front that you've been very outspoken on. And of course you're a senator from the good state of Texas. And the country has suffered its first death on U.S. soil of an Ebola victim, a man from Liberia who came here without announcing that he'd been exposed to it. And that man has now died in Dallas tonight from this virus. The administration is stepping up screening at five airports for Ebola. It's requiring temperatures be taken in certain instances. But it will not ban air travel. Your thoughts?

CRUZ: Well, like every American I'm deeply concerned about this. Our prayers are obviously with the thousands of people in West Africa who've been afflicted with this terrible disease. But the top concern of the U.S. government should be protecting the American people.

Today I visited Fort Hood where hundreds of soldiers are preparing to deploy to West Africa.  And there's a great deal of concern there among their families understandably.

I also met with major hospital leaders at one of the larger hospitals systems in Texas. And the health professionals in Texas are preparing to deal with the potential of Ebola here. But the first line of defense should be to prevent that terrible virus from coming here.

We know that that first line of defense has already failed at least once because we know that this individual came, landed in Texas and there are concerns that he may have infected others. We don't know for sure right now.

And so last week I raised questions. I asked the administrator of the FAA what steps they're taking and in particular why they have not stopped commercial air travel from nations that are stricken with widespread outbreaks of Ebola.

KELLY: Right.

CRUZ: You know, the CDC is estimating there could be upwards of a million people afflicted with this terrible virus by January of next year. And our priorities should be protecting the American people and preventing Ebola from coming here.

KELLY: Senator, thank you for being here.

CRUZ: Thank you. And I'll note, Megyn, a year ago and a day on your first show I was with you then and it's good to be with you on your first show in your second year. Congratulations for a tremendous year on the air.

KELLY: Thank you so much, sir. That was no accident. We love having you here. All the best.

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