Cruz defends flipped vote, 'New York values'

Story highlights

  • Ted Cruz deflected criticism over his bashing of "New York values"
  • Cruz defended his votes against defense funding bills on "Fox News Sunday"

(CNN)Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is now solidly within the top tier of Republican presidential candidates -- and with that status, he's facing harsher scrutiny.

Cruz was grilled by "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace over his votes on defense funding and crop insurance, as well as his comments on "carpet-bombing" ISIS and his bashing of "New York values."
Here are the highlights from the interview:

On "New York values"

Cruz didn't back off his critique of Donald Trump as someone with "New York values," noting the reaction that phrase has caused among East Coast media as Wallace showed front pages of the New York Post and New York Daily News that blasted the Texas senator.
"It is amusing seeing the media elite in New York and D.C. run around with their hair on fire wondering, 'What on earth are New York values?' " Cruz said. "I'll tell you and the rest of the country, people understand exactly what that is. In South Carolina when I was there, the people there certainly understand it."
Cruz also said it's "curious now that (Trump) displayed such outrage" over his shot at "New York values," since Trump himself cited his New Yorker status when outlining moderate views on abortion and other topics in a 1999 interview.
"He explained in his views that he was pro-choice, he supported partial birth abortion, open to gay marriage, and his explanation for all that, he said, 'I'm a New Yorker, I'm from Manhattan,' " Cruz said. "Those are the views of New York. Those are what New York values are, they're not Iowa values, but that's 'New York values.' So, that was Donald's explanation of what New York values are. It's how he articulated it."

On his crop insurance vote

Cruz has taken heat for flipping his vote on the Senate floor on a crop insurance program. Initially he'd voted against it -- and then, before the 15-minute vote window closed, he switched and voted for the bill.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts has explained that he approached Cruz on the Senate floor and warned him that opposing the crop insurance program would hurt him in the Iowa caucuses.
But Cruz said he'd always intended to support it -- he'd just misunderstood the order of votes that day, and thought he was opposing the Export-Import Bank.
"I didn't change my mind. And we said that immediately," Cruz said. "This is one of the sort of political games people play, where we said immediately, look, it was a mistake on our part, we understood the order of the votes. And when we realized it, we corrected it and voted the way I always intended to."

On fighting ISIS

Wallace grilled Cruz on how he'd "carpet-bomb" ISIS, noting that it's unlike the Persian Gulf war, when the Iraqi military was "massed by itself in the Kuwaiti desert."
Wallace also read Cruz a statement from Bob Scales, former head of the Army War College, saying, "Carpet-bombing, that's just another one of those phrases that people with no military experience throw around."
Cruz responded by pressing the Persian Gulf comparison. He said that in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, the Air Force had 8,000 planes -- double today's 4,000. He said the amount of Navy ships has decreased from 529 to 272. And he said the United States was launching 1,100 air strikes per day, compared to 15 to 30 now.
"So, we're not taking out the oil fields. We're not taking out, for example, we saw a recent report about jihadist university, where they're training jihadists. Why isn't that building rubble?" Cruz said. "We're not using overwhelming airpower."

On votes against defense funding bills

Cruz has been hammered in recent weeks by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio over his votes against bills authorizing funding for the Defense Department.
He said Sunday that he opposed those bills because they didn't include language prohibiting the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.
"Honoring a promise I made to the men and women who elected me is my first obligation," he said. "It's what I've done every day in the Senate, is do what I said I would do."