Ted Cruz calls Obama's Cuba decision a 'tragic mistake'

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 17, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome back to "Hannity." There is widespread criticism of the president and his attempt to reestablish a relationship with Cuba.  Here is Senator Bob Menendez of the great state of New Jersey. Here's what he said.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, D – N.J.: I think president's actions have created a challenge for us globally. There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States. It's a fallacy to believe that Cuba will reform because an American president opens his hands and the Castro brothers will suddenly unclench their fists.


HANNITY: All right, joining us now is Texas Senator Ted Cruz is with us. Senator, welcome to the program. What is your reaction? What message does this send to all of America's enemies about taking Americans?

SEN. TED CRUZ, R - TX: Well, Sean, it's great to join you this evening. This is yet another tragic mistake. It is the latest manifestation of the failures of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy.  After six years, we've seen a pattern now where our friends and allies, they no longer trust us, and our enemies, they no longer fear us. First it was Russia, then it's Iran, then it's Cuba. And consistently what President Obama has endeavored to do is to show weakness and appeasement towards our enemies. You know, right now, Cuba, an oppressive totalitarian dictatorship just 90 miles off our shore that is an avowed enemy of this country -- the Cuban regime was struggling and is dependent on Venezuela which is hurting because of plummeting oil prices, and right when the regime is struggling President Obama stepped in to throw an economic lifeline. And I think that presents a serious danger to our national security interests.

HANNITY: And at a time where we know that they were trying to give weaponry to North Korea not that long ago. So it's also a state sponsor of terror, is it not?

CRUZ: Absolutely. They have manifest hostility to America. They are close allies with North Korea, with Venezuela, with Iran. As you note, their arms trading with North Korea. And indeed, there is another component of this deal. Not only is it the sort of appeasement that we saw -- if you remember the beginning of Obama's presidency in 2009, one of the first things he did was cancel the anti-ballistic missile batteries that were scheduled to go into place in Poland and the Czech Republic. He did that in an effort to appease and Putin, and we've seen that appeasement didn't work as Putin has now invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation. And the weaker the president appears the more bellicose and aggressive Putin is.

Likewise in Iran, this Iran deal being negotiated. Iran was struggling under sanctions. They were on the point of collapse, and Obama, just like he's doing with Cuba, stepped in with a lifeline, relaxed sanctions, and is in the process of trying to negotiate a very, very bad deal. And here likewise with Cuba, not only is he throwing the oppressive dictators, the Castro brothers, a lifeline, but he's also doing something reminiscent of the Bowe Bergdahl deal where for Sergeant Bergdahl he released five senior Taliban terrorists. In this instance he's releasing three Cuban spies who were responsible for the murder of four American citizens for spying on U.S. military installations, including the southern command. And it's just dangerous and it's misguided.

HANNITY: And a convicted murder -- and a convicted murder. I asked Senator Rubio this earlier tonight. The president doesn't have to face the voters again. There's no more midterm elections for him. He's unencumbered in that way. How do you interpret what he's doing and the way he's acting? And then when confronted by you, you even get criticized by the Republican Party for saying, wait a minute, this is lawless and unconstitutional.

CRUZ: Sean, you are exactly right. The president's reaction, especially to this last election in Novermber, is that he's angry and defiant. He's angry at the American people for throwing the Democrats out of power, for retiring Harry Reid, and he is reacting with unilateral defiance of the voters and the American people.

And I will note, and this is something you said this earlier in the show, that his is also when his true beliefs come out. I'm reminded of something Reagan said about the far left. It's not what they don't know.  It's that so much of what they know just isn't so. We all knew leftists in college that had posters of Che Guevara on the wall because he was such a chic, good-looking leftist. Never mind that he was an oppressive, brutal murderer. They nonetheless glorified him. And unfortunately, the foreign policy views of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy is they do not understand the nature of our enemies, they do not understand that weakness is provocative. And the Castros are looking at the president demonstrate weakness to Putin, demonstrate weakness to Iran, and they're taking advantage of this to get an economic lifeline from the Obama administration.

HANNITY: How do you suggest and what would you advise your fellow Republicans in terms of how to deal with this, because the president even mentioned that there might be a component that Congress deals with here?  What do you suggest they do?

CRUZ: Well, I'm hopeful that we're going to see a strong and assertive Senate come January with new Republican leadership, that we're going to see Congress working to restore America's leadership in the world.  Leading from behind, the signature of President Obama's foreign policy, is a disaster. It doesn't work. And I'm hopeful that we will have real scrutiny to how this is undermining national security.

You know, Sean, it was disturbing watching President Obama address this where he talked about, for example, the Bay of Pigs invasion but made not a single reference to the Cuban missile crisis, one of the greatest national security threats to our country, and instead he followed the pattern, as did John Kerry, of just blaming America first.

HANNITY: A colonialist nation, yes.

Last question, it's a political one. There was the announcement of Jeb Bush, a lot of speculation you might get in this presidential race. Where are you in this process? When will you decide, do you know?

CRUZ: Well, look, I think these decisions will all be made in the next several months and the first half of next year. And I think Jeb Bush is a good man. I think he did a good job as governor in Florida. He's indicated he's thinking about this, he will have to make a decision in the next several months. And I think we will have a robust national discussion about the direction for the Republican Party and the direction for the country.

Sean, you and I have talked about before that I believe the only way we win in 2016 is if we follow Reagan's admonition, if we paint in bold colors and not pale pastels, that if we continue to run to the mushy middle that the same voters who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home again and we will not win.

We've got to make this next election a choice. And what I would encourage anyone thinking about running is stand up and lead, stand up and make the case that the Obama economy is a disaster, that ObamaCare is a train wreck, that we have to defend our constitutional rights, that we've got to stand up to lawlessness, that we need restore America's leadership in the world. And nothing would make me happier, Sean, if in six months or a year, we had a half dozen senators, governors standing arm-in-arm, united, leading, and saying there is a better way. We can get back to the principals this country was built on.

HANNITY: All right, Senator Ted Cruz, thank you for being with us tonight. We appreciate it.

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