Chris Wallace asked some very tough questions of Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz yesterday. And Cruz all but stormed off the set.
Every one of Wallace’s questions was challenging. Wallace began by asking, “If you don't win in the south on Super Tuesday, aren't you in big trouble?” and “Question, isn't Donald Trump beating you, Senator, at your own game?”
Then Wallace turned the screw considerably harder by holding up Cruz’ flip-flop about Supreme Court Justice John Roberts (transcripts below from FoxNews.com):
WALLACE: I want to pick up on this question of the Supreme Court, because one of your big issues, one of your pitches to voters is you say that you are a consistent conservative and that you would appoint a strong conservative to the court to replace -- succeed Justice Antonin Scalia. You also say that George W. Bush made a mistake when he named John Roberts to the court back in 2005.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: I wouldn't have nominated John Roberts. Indeed, Governor Bush pointed out why. It wasn't that the President Bush wanted to appoint a liberal to the court. It’s that it was the easier choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But, Senator, that's not what you said when, in fact, Roberts was nominated to the court back in 2005. I want to put up an article, a big article you wrote with the title "The Right Stuff". This is in 2005. Roberts nominated into the court.
You wrote, "John Roberts should be a quick confirm. As a jurist, Judge Roberts' approach will be of that his entire career, carefully, faithfully applying the Constitution and legal precedent."
This was a long article, sir, that you wrote for The National Review and you certainly seemed at the time -- I know you said you wouldn't have nominated him -- but you seemed to be an enthusiastic supporter of John Roberts.
Cruz began to squirm.
CRUZ: Well, Chris, it's true. Once George W. Bush nominated him, I supported the Republican president in his nomination. That was a mistake. In hindsight that was a mistake.
But let’s be absolutely clear. I would have nominated Mike Luttig, who was my former boss on the Court of Appeals. He was a proven conservative who had decades on the court defending conservative principles. And the difference was too many Republican presidents aren't willing to spend the capital to nominate and confirm a principled conservative.
I have spent my entire life fighting to defend the constitution and bill of rights and when it comes to the Supreme Court, I will invest every bit of political capital to ensure that the Bill of Rights is there for the next generation.
Wallace turned the screw again:
WALLACE: But, sir, when you said when you wrote in that article that John Roberts would "carefully and faithfully apply the Constitution and legal precedent," I mean, it sounds like you're falling in line with George Bush's nomination. You didn't have to write that article. You did.
So Cruz lashed out at Wallace:
CRUZ: It is correct. I supported the Republican nominee.
But, you know, it's interesting, Chris. I notice you didn't ask Donald Trump about his saying his sister who is a liberal radical pro-abortion Clinton appointee would make a phenomenal Supreme Court justice.
When it comes to Supreme Court justices, Donald has told nuts last debate he's going to cut deals.
Let me give you another example. We saw in the last debate on immigration, when I was leading the fight against the Rubio-Schumer "gang of eight" amnesty bill and together with millions of Americans we defeated amnesty, Donald was funding the gang of eight. He gave over $50,000 to five members of the "gang of eight".
If you spent –
But Wallace did not let up:
WALLACE: Didn't he also give money you to, sir?
CRUZ: -- supporting open border Democrats --
WALLACE: Sir, didn’t he also give money to you?
CRUZ: -- you cannot claim that you’re tough on illegal immigration.
WALLACE: Didn't he also give money to you?
CRUZ: (AUDIO GAP) to my leadership PAC which he tosses around like candy.
But, listen, he supported open border Democrats for decades. He supported Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan. He supported John Kerry over George W. Bush. He’s contributed to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer.
This is a man -- anyone who supports radical liberals like those does not care about conservative Supreme Court justices --
Wallace wasn’t done yet:
WALLACE: Senator, I’ve got one more question for you.
Your campaign has been involved in a series of incidents that are people are calling dirty tricks. I want to put up a list to them.
…Question, do you take personal responsibility -- this is your campaign except for the super PAC -- do you take personal responsibility for this series of incidents? What does it say about the culture of the campaign you're running?
Cruz began accusing Wallace of acting on behalf of Donald Trump and things got really nasty and contentious:
CRUZ: Chris, every accusation you raised there is incorrect. I appreciate your reading the Donald Trump attack file on that.
WALLACE: Come on, sir.
WALLACE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, sir. You personally -- you personally apologized to Ben Carson on a debate stage.
CRUZ: Chris, please don’t interrupt me.
WALLACE: You fired your communications director.
CRUZ: Chris, please don’t interrupt me.
WALLACE: Don't say this is an oppo file on our part, sir.
CRUZ: Chris, please don't interrupt me. Our campaign from the beginning --
WALLACE: Well, I mean, please don't say -- please accuse me of something I didn't do.
CRUZ: Go ahead, Chris. Let me know whether I’m allowed to answer.
WALLACE: Well, don't accuse me of something I didn't do. Two of those things you apologized for one and fired your communications director. Don't say this is the oppo file.
CRUZ: Chris, our campaign from the beginning has been the highest level of integrity when others have engaged in personal attacks and insults. We don't respond in kind.
And, you know, what’s striking, you just had Donald Trump on the air. You didn't ask about the fact that he sent out a fabricated quote from Tom Coburn impugning my integrity. Tom Coburn, Senator Coburn came out and said it was an utter fabrication and yet Donald continued repeating what he knew to be false.
You didn't ask Donald Trump about the robocalls that went out from a white supremacist group supporting Donald Trump telling people do not vote for a Cuban, vote for Donald Trump.
You know, when it comes to telling the truth and not telling the truth, you didn't ask Donald Trump about the fact that in the last debate I asked him true or false, you support socialized medicine, the government paying for your health care. He said false and it's directly contrary to what he said for 20 years on the record.
Listen, Chris, the facts matter. I understand that --
WALLACE: Senator --
CRUZ: -- there are folks that don't want to focus on the facts. But, listen, the voters care about the truth. They care about Donald Trump's record of giving --
WALLACE: Senator Cruz, we're flat out of time.
First of all, I don't think anybody is going to think I did an easy interview with Donald Trump. I asked him about plenty of things.
If you want to ask him those questions, guess what? You'll get the opportunity at the Fox debate on Thursday.
Before you get carried away with thinking that Wallace has developed some real journalistic independence, remember that the GOP establishment would like the party to unite around Marco Rubio. Wallace’s later interview with Rubio was not exactly a cakewalk but it was nowhere near as exacting.
One of Wallace’s toughest questions was about Rubio’s finances:
WALLACE: The facts are, you used a Republican Party credit card to charge personal expenses. You faced foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And last year you cashed out a $68,000 retirement fund.
Senator, if Trump’s history is fair game, isn't yours?
In reality, this question was little more than an opening for Rubio to provide his stock answer and then attack Trump. Which is exactly what he did:
RUBIO: Yes. And mine has been examined. The thing about the Republican Party is false. I've paid American Express directly for all of that. But this is what's true, I did not inherit millions of dollars from my father. I had to -- I've earned everything I've had in life. I've had to work hard for it. I'm not a rich person. I'm not poor, but I'm not rich, and that's fine. This is a great country because I live a life much better than my parents did.
Donald, on the other hand, has lived a pampered life. He inherited millions of dollars from his father. There's nothing wrong with that. But he portrays himself as this great businessman. If he had taken that money that he inherited and put it into an index fund on the stock market, he'd have more money than Warren Buffet does right now.
But, he, instead, did all these risky ventures and he's lost a bunch of money. And every time he lost money, subcontractors and the little guy got hit hard by it. Donald Trump has a history of business failures. Four companies into bankruptcy, which he denied to you, Chris, at the first debate, if you recall. But now he's portraying himself as this great leader that's going to turn the American economy around? If Donald Trump is president, he's not going to make America great. He's going to make America broke, like he did those four companies.
Wallace moved on without challenging Rubio to explain how, for example, he “double-billed state taxpayers and the Republican Party of Florida for eight plane tickets when he was speaker of the Florida House.” Wallace also failed to point out that cashing out his retirement fund cost Rubio thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. More importantly, Wallace ducked the real question which is, why should taxpayers trust Rubio with America’s finances when he can’t seem to handle his own very well?
As The Washington Post pointed out, while Megyn Kelly’s rematch with Donald Trump at the Fox News debate Thursday night will be the “main event,” a worthy undercard could be Ted Cruz vs. Chris Wallace, who is also moderating.
Watch Wallace and Cruz go at it below, from the February 28 Fox News Sunday.
Fox News and the GOP establishment know that Ted Cruz is effectively done as a candidate and they want him out the race as soon as possible. With this interview, they’ve all but told him GET OUT. Cruz would do well to think back to how this worked with Newt Gingrich in 2012. During the identical situation, Gingrich was essentially told to withdraw his campaign, but he refused to listen. (And he sparred with Wallace at the debates too). The result was that Gingrich not only was humiliated in losing his presidential bid, but also wound up losing his lucrative Fox News commentator position. For two years after the 2012 race, he was working at CNN, since Fox News was giving him a time out as punishment. Gingrich is back on the air on Fox News these days as some kind of “elder statesman” since they know he can never run for anything again, but his luster is long gone.
With Cruz, it’s been obvious from the beginning that his true plan was to get his own lucrative media contract. He knew he’d never actually win the GOP nomination, but the race could raise his profile and convince the Fox News guys to give him his own weekly platform – say in Mike Huckabee’s old timeslot. (Which would also tie in to the fact that he and Huckabee hate each other) But he didn’t count on a few factors. He didn’t count on Huckabee surrendering quickly and staying in Fox News’ good graces, which effectively means he’s likely to return to their airwaves in late summer or early fall. He didn’t count on the open dislike of him by most GOP members. He didn’t count on his own ego getting blown up in this situation so that he seems to have, like Gingrich in 2012, momentarily lost his perspective. The end of his campaign will still be the same – humiliation and defeat. But he won’t be getting the reward he thought he had coming. Instead, he’ll likely wind up begging for a position at Glenn Beck’s little operation in Texas – at least until that one inevitably collapses in a few years.
I’m not sure what we’ll see on Thursday, given that the result of Super Tuesday will be another narrowing of the race. There is no longer any doubt that Donald Trump will pretty much dominate the Super Tuesday GOP voting, which will confirm the end of the other campaigns. If Rubio pulls a strong enough 2nd place showing in enough states, he’ll be able to continue. Carson is almost certainly finished – his only purpose now is to gum up enough Cruz voters to make sure he can’t get above 3rd place anywhere but Texas. Cruz may still win Texas, but if Trump continues to gain ground on him along with Trubio, Cruz won’t get nearly the delegates he’d need from there – he’ll have to share most of them with the others and thus not get any closer. I also expect Kasich to need to concede after Tuesday, but he may choose to hang on until Ohio and drop out after that. With Cruz, it will simply be a question of whether he can accept losing right now or not. His appearance at a debate on Thursday will either be a serious tantrum for him (or possibly a situation where he’s just sidelined and begging for attention like Carson was last week), or it may be a non-issue due to his having been forced to give up the day before.