Ted Cruz Ends Launch Day With A Game of Softball With Sean Hannity

Fox News welcomes Ted Cruz to 2016 with a faux-hostile interview.

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

To understate the matter, Sean Hannity is not the right's toughest interviewer. The host of an eponymous Fox News and radio show is to Republicans what a warm log cabin is to the weary traveler—a place for a respite and relief from the harsh elements outside. It was fitting, then, or perhaps just comforting, that Cruz ended his first day as a presidential candidate with a meandering, friendly Hannity chat. 

Hannity made no news during his interview, though he got Cruz to recommit to means testing and a raise in the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare. (Cruz has held that position since his first run for office.) Facing off with a conservative presidential candidate who starts with few structural advantages, Hannity spoke as if the only criticisms of Cruz were prima facie ridiculous. For example, he gave Cruz time to mock a New York Times piece about how unpopular he was among his party's elite. 

"This dovetails right out of healthcare," said Hannity. "And when you did your 21-, 22-hour filibuster, John McCain called you a wacko bird, and you were called a bomb thrower by Senator Rick Santorum."

This wasn't even true. McCain made the "wacko bird" comment about Cruz in March 2013, after he had joined Rand Paul's filibuster of the nominee to run the CIA. Santorum made the "bomb thrower" comment in January 2015, and not because he disagreed with Cruz's stances, but because he was contrasting Cruz's rhetoric with a lack of accomplishments. Cruz's epic speech against the funding of the Affordable Care Act—not a filibuster, technically—occurred in October 2013.

Luckily for Hannity, Cruz gave a newsy answer to his question. Had every Republican stood with him to defund the ACA, Cruz insisted that it "absolutely would have been successful."

"Now would we necessarily have succeeded in, at the time, defunding all of Obamacare?" Cruz added. "I don’t know. That was difficult—it would have taken a perfect storm. But I think at a minimum, we would have provided meaningful relief for millions of people being hurt by Obamacare."

Previously, Cruz had said the biggest mistake of the ACA fight "was that I and our allies did not spend enough time explaining the specific strategy to elite opinion makers." But Hannity didn't challenge the point, and let Cruz return to his familiar line that "Washington graybeards" predicted the shutdown would destroy the GOP's 2014 prospects and were proven wrong.

Later, Hannity got another chance to present Cruz with the words of "critics." His question got tangled up in the asking, starting as a list of attack lines, but ended with an assurance that Cruz would get predictable, false attacks.

I mentioned earlier some of your Republican critics. You know they're all – Jerry Brown over the weekend. You know all the things people have said. One thing I can guarantee you. Whoever is the Republican nominee is going to be labeled as racist, sexist, hates – wants to kill grandma, hates children, and you know the list of things. How, forgetting all these people, Jerry Brown – I don't think that bothers you. Or John McCain calling you a 'wacko bird.' But how do you deal with the Clinton machine and the predictable I guess narrative that has advanced every election cycle against any Republican or conservative? How do you handle that?

Cruz explained that the media tended to draw "two caricatures" of Republicans, as either "stupid or evil." When Hannity interjected to say that Cruz was, in fact, smart, the senator allowed that Democrats preferred to call him a third insult, "crazy."

"Well, you know who says nice things about you?" asked Hannity. "Alan Dershowitz. Austin Goolsbee said you were probably his most formidable debater that he ever had to go up against. So you have this history. So—but you've got this, we hear it's a coronation. Probably Hillary Clinton is going to be your opponent if you win this primary. They have a machine. They have a war room. What do you think of Hillary and how do you deal with her campaign?"

After miraculously following the question, Cruz suggested that "the way you deal with the war room and the media chatter is the same way Reagan did it. The media has always been a disaster."