Watch Chris Matthews's epic smackdown of Ted Cruz in all its glory

The presidential contender couldn't weasel his way out of this one -- but he tried

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published July 9, 2015 4:50PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz sat for a 17 minute interview with MSNBC host Christ Matthews during the Wednesday edition of
"Hardball" to promote his new memoir.

When Matthews pushed Cruz on his radical idea to amend the Constitution to require Supreme Court justices to face judicial retention elections, the topic quickly turned to Cruz's work on George W. Bush's 2000 Florida recount effort:

MATTHEWS:  As you would say, it’s in the book.   I really think it’s important to read it. Now you’re for retention elections.  You’ve had to raise a ton of money to run for president, and you’re definitely in the running.  You’ll be in the debates and everything.  Should judges have to go out and raise $37 billion to run for reelection?  How can you put judges out there and make them politicians?

CRUZ:  Listen…

MATTHEWS:  They won’t be an independent judiciary.

CRUZ:  I am reluctant to call for retention elections.  It makes me sad.

MATTHEWS:  But you’ve done it!

CRUZ:  But I have done it because I believe that a majority of the justices are not honoring their judicial oaths.  And…

MATTHEWS:  Is that the solution, elections?

CRUZ:  Look, if unelected judges are going to seize every major policy issue of this country — you know, there was a time…

MATTHEWS:  They seized the presidency in 2000 and you did not complain!  The Supreme Court said no to the state of Florida.  You can’t recount!  Even though it’s a close election, you are not allowed to recount.  We’re giving this to our guy, 5 to 4 Republican vote in the Supreme Court.  If there was ever a case of partisanship or ideology getting out of hand, it was 2000, and you loved it!

In his new book, "A Time for Truth," Cruz wrote of the 2000 recount, "I was astonished that Al Gore had even decided to challenge the election in the courts.” He went on, “I thought it was a rather petulant display by Vice President Gore.”

Cruz attempted to push back on Matthews, asking "How many times did they count the ballots in Florida ... How many times did Bush win?"

Cruz's idea to amend the Constitution, following what he views as unfavorable Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality and Obamacare, was dismissed as preposterous by top conservative lawyer, Ted Olson: “A constitutional amendment to change Article III of the Constitution in this fashion has virtually no chance of succeeding … I would think that most graduates of the Harvard Law School know that.”

Watch the full interview via MSNBC:

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2000 Election Al Gore Chris Matthews George W. Bush Hardball With Chris Matthews Msnbc Ted Cruz Video