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Cruz: Dem's Arguments Against an Ebola Flight Ban Don’t Make Sense

Our friend Senator Ted Cruz is leading on the Ebola crisis and said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union program with Candy Crowley that implementing flight bans from Ebola-stricken countries in order to prevent more cases from coming into the U.S. is extremely important. He also discussed the appointment of an Ebola czar and the mission against ISIS.

The interview may be viewed at: http://www.cruz.senate.gov/?p=video&id=1813

Ted CruzRegarding flight bans, the Senator said, “The doctors and experts that are saying [a flight ban is counter-productive] are repeating the administration talking points. Their arguments don’t make sense. The first argument about the screens doesn't make sense because they don't work during the 21-day incubation period and the second argument they make is they say a travel ban would prevent health care relief workers from arriving in West Africa.

“No one is talking about banning flights into West Africa. And health care workers should of course be allowed to go in there and we can send them in on charter flights or military C-130 aircraft with appropriate safety precautions. That's very different from saying commercial airliners should fly day after day after day with hundreds of passengers connecting with thousands of passengers coming all throughout the country.”

Regarding President Obama’s appointment of an Ebola czar, the Senator said, “We should be less concerned about giving the public the feeling that the government is on top of this and more concerned about the government actually being on top of it. We don't need another White House political operative, which is what Mr. Klain has been. What we need is presidential leadership.”

Regarding the administration’s military campaign against ISIS, the Senator said, “The approach of the Obama administration to ISIS has been fundamentally unserious. We have dropped a bomb here, a missile there but it has been a photo-op foreign policy. What we need is a concentrated directive military objective to take ISIS out. Number one, it entails a far more vigorous air campaign than we're seeing.”

Regarding ground troops, the Senator continued, “We have a tremendous asset on the ground right now, the Kurds. The Peshmerga have been strong allies of the U.S., they are effective fighters and desperately need weaponry and assistance. For whatever reason, the Obama Administration has been delaying aiding the Peshmergas and blocking them from selling oil. And at the same time, the Obama Administration keeps focusing on Syrian rebels, many of whom have far too close ties to radical Islamic terrorists to make any sense for us to be supporting them. The Kurds are allies and they are boots on the ground. And when we work with them in concert, they're ready to fight on the front line along with serious air power. That's what we ought to be doing. If it were a military objective to take ISIS out, I think that's what we would be doing.”

Below is full rush transcript of the interview:

CANDY CROWLEY: Joining me now is Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas. Senator, one of the many things that we have learned over the course of the past several weeks is that public health is largely the state and local purview. Looking back over what has occurred in Dallas, when you see what the Governor -- what steps he's taken, what steps Texas public health has taken and what steps the hospital, Texas health Presbyterian has taken, what do you think went wrong in there?

SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, look, there were no doubts mistakes were made up and down the line at the level of the hospital, at the level of the health officials implementing the protocols. But I'll tell you the biggest mistake that continues to be made is now more than two weeks into this, we continue to allow open commercial air flights from countries that have been stricken by Ebola.

That doesn't make any sense.

We have upwards of 150 people a day coming from countries with live, active Ebola outbreaks. For over two weeks I've been calling on the administration to take the common sense stand of suspending commercial air travel out of these countries until we get the air travel under control and for whatever reason, the Obama White House doesn't want to do so.

CROWLEY: What mistakes were made at the hospital level? What mistakes were made by Texas public health officials?

SEN. CRUZ:  Candy, the first mistake that was made was allowing Thomas Duncan to get on an airplane and fly to the United States.

CROWLEY:  Understand.

SEN. CRUZ:  If he hadn't flown to the United States, none of the other mistakes would have happened. Obviously this hospital when Mr. Duncan came in the first time with fever symptoms, they shouldn't have sent him home. They should have responded more quickly.

The mistakes continued up and down the line. When he came in again he was allowed to be around his family, potentially transmitting the disease. When he came into the hospital, the protocols that were supposed to be in place were not followed.

At least two different nurses have contracted the Ebola virus from Mr. Duncan, despite the protocols. We also know that second nurse was allowed, after contracting Ebola, to board a commercial airliner flight. She was told the CDC -- she wasn't told don't get on the flight. The CDC gave her the green light to do that. That was a serious mistake.

CROWLEY:  Right.

SEN. CRUZ:  Throughout this process there have been mistakes. Dealing with a virus with an epidemic is a learning process. It’s a learning process with high stakes. We can't afford mistakes.

But I am hopeful that the health professionals, you know, the doctors and nurses and CDC officials who are risking their lives are brave, courageous professionals. I’m hopeful we'll continue to improve our response. But the best thing to do is to minimize the initial contact with Ebola.

I have to say, Candy, it was over two weeks ago that I sent a letter to the FAA asking what they were doing to protect U.S. citizens to stop commercial air travel out of these countries to protect the pilots, the flight attendants and the fellow passengers. It’s now been over two weeks.

The FAA has not responded to those questions and we've now seen both Democrats and Republicans coming together saying, listen, this is a basic common sense step. While there is an active epidemic raging we should not be having commercial airline flights with up to 150 people a day coming to the U.S. for whatever reason, Candy, the Obama White House is digging in and not listening to the voices of common sense coming from both sides of the aisle.

CROWLEY:  Well, perhaps it is because the voices in the medical community, particularly Dr. Friedan, has been one of them out there saying that this would be counterproductive. I want to play you a little bit of what Dr. Friedan had to say about a travel ban.

SEN. CRUZ:  Sure.

DR. FRIEDEN:  Right now, we know who's coming in. If we try to eliminate travel, the possibility that some will travel over land will come from other places and we don't know that they're coming in will mean that we won't be able to do multiple things. We won't be able to check them for fever when they leave. We won't be able to check them for fever when they arrive. We won't be able to take a detailed history to see if they've been exposed when they arrive.

CROWLEY:  His concern, we won't be able to just respond to that. Track these people because they will come in in other places and we won't know they're entering the U.S.

SEN. CRUZ:  Well, Candy, the administration is given two arguments against a flight ban, neither of which makes sense.

The first one they say, they have screening in place in five airports and then that should be our line of defense. Now, I would note they have omitted airports like DFW where Mr. Duncan came. More importantly, the screens only work if a passenger is demonstrating symptoms. Ebola unfortunately has up to a 21-day incubation period where the patient has no demonstrated symptoms and walks right through the screenings.

Mr. Duncan, the one patient we know who did come from Liberia to America would have traveled right through the screenings. The screening would not have stopped him because he was not presenting symptoms at that time.

CROWLEY:  Let me ask you a couple things with regard to Mr. Duncan. Did he indeed come to the U.S. from Liberia but he went from Liberia to Brussels to Dulles international in Virginia to Dallas-Ft. Worth. How does a ban on air travel stop Mr. Duncan?

SEN. CRUZ:  Because the visa he had coming in was a travel visa from Liberia. We should stop issuing travel visas from Liberia. Which interestingly enough, the neighboring countries in Africa have done.

What we need from the president is serious leadership to protect the American people. Shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We should be protecting citizens of this country.

CROWLEY:  Understood. But, again, the experts are telling the president -- the president is not a doctor. And if you were president, and NIK or the CDC were saying, hey, you know, this will only make it worse. A travel ban, a flight ban, will only make it worse, what we have in place is better, you would overrule the doctors and the experts?

SEN. CRUZ:  Their arguments -- Candy, the doctors and experts that are saying this are working for the administration and repeating the administration talking points. And their arguments don't make sense.

The first argument about the screens doesn't make sense because they don't work during the 21-day incubation period and the second argument they make is they say a travel ban would prevent health care relief workers from arriving in West Africa. No one is talking about banning flights into West Africa.

And health care workers should of course physicians and nurses be allowed to go in there and we can send them in on charter flights or military C-130 aircraft with appropriate safety precautions.

That's very different from saying commercial airliners should fly day after day after day with hundreds of passengers connecting with thousands of passengers coming all throughout the country. The arguments they're giving don't make sense. And what is unfortunate is watching the Obama administration treat this as yet another political issue rather than as a public health crisis, for the same reason, you've seen virtually no attention from the administration on the need to secure the southern border.

Now, that is notwithstanding the fact that General John Kelly, the commander of the Southern Command just a week ago said if Ebola is transmitted to central or south America we will see a mass migration, the like of which we have never seen and the administration unfortunately is not acting to protect our southern borders. Or to restrict commercial airline flights from places with an active outbreak.

And that just doesn't make sense.

CROWLEY:  And when you say, just -- again, I want to put a period on this, when you say banning flights, you mean withholding visas from those who want to travel to the U.S. coming from these three affected countries, correct?

SEN. CRUZ:   Absolutely. We should not allow non U.S. citizens coming from these countries coming into the United States. We get the outbreak under control, it's a different story. When you have an active and growing epidemic, the first thing you want to do is contain it.

CROWLEY:  One of the things that has been brought up, of course, now this is now entered the political arena and the Democrats are charging you all with making politics of it and vice versa. So the fact of the matter is, one of the things that's brought up is we haven't had a Surgeon General who is the nation's leading public health official at least the voice of it, for a year.

Some Democrats and some Republicans had opposed the particular surgeon general, the president had nominated. Do you think it would have helped, "a," if NIH and CDC had a little more money and "b," had there been a surgeon general in place to calm what has become the fear of Ebola?

SEN. CRUZ:  Look, of course we should have a Surgeon General in place and we don't have one because president Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist --

CROWLEY:  And a doctor.

SEN. CRUZ:  That individual didn't have the votes in the senate. He is a doctor.

CROWLEY:  That's a health professional.

SEN. CRUZ:  He's a crusader against Second Amendment rights. As a consequence he didn't have the votes among Republicans or Democrats. Was it a mistake for the president to nominate an extreme partisan on an issue that is not connected to public health?

Yes, that was a mistake.

He should have nominated a respected health care professional who could actually get the votes in a senate controlled by Democrats. Candy, it speaks volumes that Harry Reid and the senate Democrats wouldn't confirm this Surgeon General. It shows just how extreme the nominee was.

CROWLEY:  And the funding, Senator? Funding for CDC. It’s been cut, in particular, by the sequestration that cut across the board.

SEN. CRUZ:  Look, we can debate appropriate funding levels. We have seen funding for public health increase over the last decade significantly. We need to devote whatever resources are needed to contain this Ebola outbreak.

CROWLEY:  What do you think about -- I think I can probably guess this, but the president has put Ron Klain in charge of sort of keeping control of both the U.S. activities abroad in the three affected west African nations as well as what goes on here with the CDC and NIH and various hospitals.

SEN. CRUZ:  Look, Candy, I think it's a great example. Mr. Klain is not a doctor or a health care professional. He doesn't have backgrounds in those issues.

CROWLEY:  There are lots of those, Senator; there are lots of doctors on this. Republicans have been saying who's in charge? Who’s in charge? Doesn’t this need someone who has organizational skills which the White House says Ron Klain has, to give the public the feeling that the government is on top of this?

SEN. CRUZ:  Candy, we should be less concerned about giving the public the feeling that the government is on top of this and more concerned about the government actually being on top of it. And this is a manifestation.

We don't need another White House political operative which is what Mr. Klain has been. What we need is presidential leadership. The person that needs to be on top of this is the President of the United States, standing up and leading it and treating it as a public health emergency. Two weeks ago the president should have stood up and suspended flights from these countries. Two weeks ago the president should have put additional resources on our borders.

CROWLEY:  Gotcha.

SEN. CRUZ:  Two weeks ago the president should have demonstrated real leadership to protect American citizens. For whatever reason he isn't doing so. I would welcome his leadership today. We need a Commander in Chief who fulfills his constitutional obligations, not just another White House political operative trying to spin reporters.

CROWLEY: I want to take a quick break here, Senator. When we come back, I have one more Ebola question and believe it or not, it's about Cuba. We’ll be right back.

CROWLEY:  Joining me now, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is quoted as saying he is only too happy to join the United States after the plea from other countries to step up and help fight Ebola. He said that Cuba will be sending 460 doctors and nurses. What do you make of that?

SEN. CRUZ:  Well, look, Fidel Castro and Raul Castro, they never miss a chance to push propaganda. The Castro brothers have had put in place a brutal regime that oppresses their citizens, that murders their citizens, that tortures and imprisons their citizens. And the Castros are never shy to jump up and engage in some propaganda to criticize the United States.

CROWLEY:  I want to ask you about the U.S.-led air assault against ISIS. There have been some successes from what we're learning. There have been some setbacks. In the end you have talked -- you made a famous quote recently, we ought to bomb them, meaning ISIS, back to the Stone Age. It does not appear that bombing alone will make that happen, that ISIS will not disappear with a U.S.-led air assault. That being the case, where do you see, if any, of U.S. military personnel?

SEN. CRUZ:  Unfortunately, the approach of the Obama administration to ISIS has been fundamentally unserious. We have dropped a bomb here, a missile there but it has been a photo-op foreign policy. What we need is a concentrated directive military objective to take ISIS out.

What does that entail? Number one it entails a far more vigorous air campaign than we're seeing. We're driving a fraction of the ordnance that we have in other campaigns such as Afghanistan.

CROWLEY:  Should it eventually, do you think it should involve U.S troops?

SEN. CRUZ:  It involves U.S troops now. There are over 1,500 on the ground right now.

CROWLEY:  What I'm getting at is the air assault won't work, Senator, where do you stand on the idea of putting perhaps more U.S personnel in there as advisers or those who scope out places like the air assaults to target?

SEN. CRUZ:  Well, Candy, that's what I'm trying to answer by saying we have a tremendous asset on the ground right now, the Kurds. The Peshmerga have been strong allies of the U.S., they are effective fighters and desperately need weaponry and assistance. For whatever reason, the Obama administration has been, number one, delaying, aiding the Peshmergas.

They've been blocking them from selling oil which doesn't make sense either. And at the same time, the Obama administration keeps focusing on Syrian rebels, many of whom have far too close ties to radical Islamic terrorists to make any sense for us to be supporting them. The Kurds are allies and they are boots on the ground. And when we work with them in concert, they're ready to fight on the front line along with serious air power. That’s what we ought to be doing. If it were a military objective to take ISIS out, I think that's what we would be doing.

CROWLEY:  Certainly the president has said it's his objective, obviously. You disagree with the way he's going about it. We are close to a midterm election which could or could not see Republicans taking control of the U.S. senate.

Give me your best estimate; I know you've been out there campaigning and raising money for various U.S. Senate candidates on the Republican side. What do you think the senate will look like come January?

SEN. CRUZ:  Well, Candy, I’ve been on the road nonstop traveling the country, campaigning to retake the senate, retire Harry Reid. I believe we're on the cusp of an election to do just that.

CROWLEY:  Do you think it's certain?

SEN. CRUZ:  Nothing is certain in politics but I think it is far more likely than not that we'll retake the senate and retire Harry Reid.

CROWLEY: The president is quite likely to put up his nomination for Attorney General during that lame duck session of Congress before the midterms -- sorry, after the midterms and before the new senate is sworn in. Not much Republicans can do about that given the new rules in the senate. Would you object to that?

SEN. CRUZ:  Absolutely. Under no circumstances should a partisan Attorney General be rammed through in a lame duck session.

CROWLEY:  We don't know who it would be.

SEN. CRUZ:  Well, we should not be confirming an Attorney General during a lame duck session with a bunch of senators who have just been voted out of office. The confirmation should occur in January or February when you have the new senate where every senator will be accountable to the voter.

I don't think we should meet for a lame duck at all. Lame ducks are where Washington imposes its agenda instead of listening to the American people. I think everyone in office should be accountable to the American people and we should wait ‘til January where every elected member of Congress still has to face the voters in an election.

CROWLEY:  I’m not sure that's going to happen, Senator. But it will be an interesting time post-election. Just finally, when do you think you will make a decision about running for president?

SEN. CRUZ:  Well, look, I think we will see the field begin to form next year sometime between January and June. It’s likely to be a crowded field. There are a lot of good people looking at it. You know, at the same time, I think the stakes are incredibly high. I mean, there are such palpable desires to change the direction we're on.

CROWLEY:  We have to leave it there. I guess your answer is sometime between January and June. We’ll look for your decision. Thank you so much for joining us, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

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