Full Text Political Transcripts December 23, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

Source: WH, 12-23-15

During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing.  Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.

In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL.

We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations.  As the old Christmas carol reminds us:

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

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Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 December 19, 2015: Third Democratic Debate in New Hampshire Transcript

ELECTION 2016

CampaignBuzz2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

Transcript: Read the Full Text of the Third Democratic Debate in New Hampshire

Source: Time, 12-19-15

Three candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination met to debate for the third time Saturday night.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley debated at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. The moderators were David Muir and Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

Here is a complete transcript of the debate.

ANNOUNCER: The race is tight, couldn’t be closer, between Hillary and Bernie right here in New Hampshire. And now, in just moments, with so much on the line, they face each other and the country, live from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Democratic debate.

Here again, David Muir and Martha Raddatz.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: And we do say good evening to you from New Hampshire tonight. Over the next two hours, we’re going to have a chance to take a measure of the candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee for president.

It, of course, is the most important thing we do as a democracy: Choosing a president, the individual who will lead us through peace and prosperity, through war and conflict.

RADDATZ: They have all answered many questions in the past few months, but much has changed in the world since they last debated five weeks ago. And this is the last debate of the year. In less than two months, voters in this state will go to the polls.

MUIR: So please welcome the candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, Secretary Hillary Clinton…

(APPLAUSE)

RADDATZ: Governor Martin O’Malley…

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: … and Senator Bernie Sanders.

(APPLAUSE)

RADDATZ: And good evening to you all. The rules for tonight are very basic and have been agreed to by all three campaigns in advance. Candidates can take up to a minute-and-a-half to respond directly to a question. For a rebuttal, for a follow-up, 45 seconds will be allowed. There are green, yellow, and red lights that each candidate will see to signal when time is running out and when they’re supposed to be finished with their answers.

MUIR: We will be tackling many critical issues right here tonight, and we begin with opening statements, in alphabetical order, and Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: Well, thank you. And I’m delighted to be here in New Hampshire for this debate.

You know, the American president has to both keep our families safe and make the economy grow in a way that helps everyone, not just those at the top. That’s the job. I have a strategy to combat and defeat ISIS without getting us involved in another ground war, and I have plans to raise incomes and deal with a lot of the problems that keep families up at night.

I’m very clear that we have a distinct difference between those of us on this stage tonight and all of our Republican counterparts. From my perspective, we have to prevent the Republicans from rolling back the progress that we’ve made. They would repeal the Affordable Care Act, not improve it. They would give more tax breaks to the super-wealthy and corporations, not to the middle class. And they would, despite all their tough talk about terrorism, continue to let people who are on the no-fly list buy guns.

So we have a lot of work to do in this campaign to make it clear where we stand in the Democratic Party, what we will do for our country, and I look forward to this evening’s discussion of real issues that face the American people.

Thank you.

RADDATZ: Thank you, Secretary Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

Governor O’Malley?

O’MALLEY: Martha, thank you. Tonight we have a different debate than the debates that we have been allowed to have so far, because tonight is different because of this reason, that in the course of this presidential campaign America has again been attacked by jihadi terrorists, American lives taken from us. So, yes, we must talk about our ideas to move our economy forward, but the first job of the president of the United States is to protect the people of the United States.

I visited with a number of our neighbors in Northern Virginia at a mosque last Friday. And as I looked out there at the eyes of our neighbors, I also looked in the eyes of veterans. I looked into the eyes of Boy Scouts. I looked into the eyes of moms and dads who would do anything in their power to protect our country’s values and our freedoms.

O’MALLEY: What our nation needs right now is to realize that, while we face a terrible danger, we also face a different sort of political danger. And that is the danger that democracies find themselves susceptible to when unscrupulous leaders try to turn us upon each other. What our country needs right now is new leadership that will bring us together around the values that unite us and the freedoms that we share as Americans.

We will rise to challenge of ISIL and we will rise together to the challenges that we face in our economy. But we will only do so if we hold true to the values and the freedoms that unite us, which means we must never surrender them to terrorists, must never surrender our Americans values to racist, must never surrender to the fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.

We are a better country than this. Our enduring symbol is not the barbed wire fence, it is the Statue of Liberty. And America’s best days are in front of us if we move forward together.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Senator Sanders.

SANDERS: Good evening.

I am running for president of the United States because it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. I’m running for president because our economy is rigged because working people are working longer hours for lower wages and almost all of new wealth and income being created is going to the top one percent. I’m running for president because I’m going to create an economy that works for working families not just billionaires.

I’m running for president because we have a campaign finance system which is corrupt, where billionaires are spending hundreds of millionaires of dollars to buy candidates who will represent their interests rather than the middle class and working families. I’m running because we need to address the planetary crisis of climate change and take on the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

I’m running for president because I want a new foreign policy; one that takes on Isis, one that destroys ISIS, but one that does not get us involved in perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East but rather works around a major coalition of wealthy and powerful nations supporting Muslim troops on the ground. That’s the kind of coalition we need and that’s the kind of coalition I will put together.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Senator Sanders thank you and thank you all.

We do have a lot of important issues to get here tonight and we want to address the controversy of the last 24 hours right off the top because we heard some of the most heated rhetoric of the campaign so far between two of the campaigns on this stage tonight.

Senator Sanders, you fired a campaign staffer you have sued the Democratic National Committee; all of this after your campaign acknowledge that some of your staffers quote, “irresponsibly accessed data from another campaign.” The Clinton campaign called this a very egregious breech of data of ethics and said, quote, “our data was stolen.”

Did they overstate this or were your staffers essentially stealing part of the Clinton playbook?

SANDERS: David, let me give you a little bit of background here.

The DNC has hired vendors. On two occasions, there were breeches in information two months ago. Our staff found information on our computers from the Clinton campaign. And when our staffers said, “whoa, what’s going here?” They went to the DNC quietly.

They went to the vendor and said, “hey, something is wrong,” and that was quietly dealt with. None of that information was looked at. Our staffer at that point did exactly the right thing.

A few days ago a similar incident happened. There was a breach because the DNC vendor screwed up, information came to our campaign. In this case, our staff did the wrong thing — they looked a that information. As soon as we learned that they looked at that information – we fired that person. We are now doing an independent internal investigation to see who else was involved.

Thirdly, what I have a really problem, and as you mentioned – this is a problem, I recognize it as a problem. But what the DNC did arbitrarily without discussing it with us is shut off our access to our information crippling our campaign. That is an egregious act. I’m glad that late last night, that was resolved.

SANDERS: Fourthly, I work — look forward to working with Secretary Clinton for an investigation, an independent investigation, about all of the breaches that have occurred from day one in this campaign, because I am not convinced that information from our campaign may not have ended up in her campaign. Don’t know that.

But we need an independent investigation, and I hope Secretary Clinton will agree with me for the need of that.

Last point. When we saw the breach two months, we didn’t go running to the media and make a big deal about it. And it bothers me very much that, rather than working on this issue to resolve it, it has become many press releases from the Clinton campaign later.

MUIR: But Senator, you do mention the DNC — the vender. But you said of your staff that they did the wrong thing.

SANDERS: Absolutely.

MUIR: So, does Secretary Clinton deserve an apology tonight?

SANDERS: Yes, I apologize.

MUIR: Secretary Clinton…

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: Not only — not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton — and I hope we can work together on an independent investigation from day one — I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the type of campaign that we run.

And if I find anybody else involved in this, they will also be fired.

MUIR: Secretary Clinton, he has apologized. How do your react?

CLINTON: I very much appreciate that comment, Bernie. It really is important that we go forward on this.

I know that you now have your data back, and that there has been an agreement for an independent inquiry into what did happen.

Obviously, we were distressed when we learned of it, because we have worked very hard — I said in the beginning of this campaign, we want to reach as many voters as possible, and we have tens of thousands of volunteers doing that, and entering data all the time to keep up with what people are telling us.

And so, now that, I think, you know, we have resolved your data, we have agreed on an independent inquiry, we should move on. Because I don’t think the American people are all that interested in this.

(APPLAUSE)

I think they’re more interested in what we have to say about all the big issues facing us.

O’MALLEY: Yeah, David, look, for crying out loud, our country has been attacked, we have pressing issues involving how we’re going to adapt to this changing era of warfare.

Our economy — people are working harder and being left behind. You want to know why things don’t get done in Washington? Because for the last 24 hours, with those issues being so urgent to people as they tune in tonight, wondering how they’re even be able to buy presents for their kids.

Instead, we’re listening to the bickering back and forth. Maybe that is normal politics in Washington, but that is not the politics of higher purpose that people expect from our party.

We need to address our security issues, we need to address the economic issues around the kitchen table. And if people want a more high-minded politics and want to move our country forward, go on to martinomalley.com and help my campaign move our country forward.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR (?): All three candidates are weighing in.

SANDERS: Let me agree with Governor O’Malley and let me agree with Secretary Clinton. You know, we had this incident before, Secretary, with your famous e-mails. Right?

And what I said and I think what Governor O’Malley is saying, and I hope you say, is when the middle class of this country is disappearing, when we have massive income and wealth inequality, when we’re the only major country on earth not guaranteeing health care to all people, all the issues that the governor talked about, the secretary talked about, those are the issues. Media notwithstanding.

Those are the issues that the American people want discussed. I hope those are the issues we’ll discuss.

MUIR: Good let’s move on — Senator Sanders, let’s move on right to some of those issues.

(APPLAUSE)

It is just six days before Christmas, as we all know in this country. It’s typically a joyful time, as it is this year, as well. But it’s also an anxious time. President Obama has acknowledged that what we saw in San Bernardino was an act of terrorism. But we remember the president said, right before Thanksgiving, there is no known specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland.

We now know that this couple had assembled an arsenal. They were not on law enforcement’s radar. They were completely undetected. So as we approach another holiday, with the president again saying, late this week, no credible threat, Secretary Clinton, how confident should the American people be, that there aren’t others like that couple right now in the U.S. going undetected?

And what would you do as president to find them?

CLINTON: Well, first, the most important job of being president is obviously to keep our country safe and to keep the families of America safe.

I have a plan that I’ve put forward to go after ISIS. Not to contain them, but to defeat them. And it has three parts. First, to go after them and deprive them of the territory they occupy now in both Syria and Iraq.

CLINTON: Secondly, to go after and dismantle their global network of terrorism. And thirdly, to do more to keep us safe. Under each of those three parts of my plan, I have very specific recommendations about what to do.

Obviously, in the first, we do have to have a — an American-led air campaign, we have to have Arab and Kurdish troops on the ground. Secondly, we’ve got to go after everything from North Africa to South Asia and beyond.

And then, most importantly, here at home, I think there are three things that we have to get right. We have to do the best possible job of sharing intelligence and information. That now includes the internet, because we have seen that ISIS is a very effective recruiter, propagandist and inciter and celebrator of violence.

That means we have to work more closely with our great tech companies. They can’t see the government as an adversary, we can’t see them as obstructionists. We’ve got to figure out how we can do more to understand who is saying what and what they’re planning.

And we must work more closely with Muslim-American communities. Just like Martin, I met with a group of Muslim-Americans this past week to hear from them about what they’re doing to try to stop radicalization. They will be our early warning signal. That’s why we need to work with them, not demonize them, as the Republicans have been doing.

O’MALLEY: David, I am the very first…

MUIR: (inaudible) thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

I am the very first post-9/11 mayor and the very first post-9/11 governor. I understand, from the ground up, that when attacks like San Bernardino happen, when attacks like the attacks of 9/11 happen, that when people call 911, the first people to show up are the local first responders.

Many of the things Secretary Clinton said are absolutely true, but they underscore a lack of investment that we have, as a nation, failed to make over these last 15 years in intelligence gathering, intelligence analysis, intelligence sharing. Not only in theater, in Syria and Iraq and other places where we embalk (ph) ourselves in toppling dictators without having any idea what comes next, but here in the homeland, as we protect people from this threat of the lone wolves and these changing tactics and strategies.

I believe that what’s happened here is that the president had us on the right course, but it’s a lack of battle tempo. We have to increase the battle tempo, we have to bring a modern way of getting things done and forcing the sharing of information and do a much better job of acting on it in order to prevent these sorts of attacks in the future.

MUIR: And we’re going to break down these issues tonight, but I do want to go to Senator Sanders because the concern going into Christmas is significant, as you know. A new ABC News poll shows 77 percent of Americans have little or no confidence in the government’s ability to prevent a lone wolf attack. How would you specifically find would-be terrorist who are going undetected?

SANDERS: I’m one of the 77 percent. I think this is a very difficult issue. Let me agree with much of what the secretary and the governor have said. Let me tell you what I think we have got to do. I think it’s a two-pronged issue.

Number one, our goal is to crush and destroy ISIS. What is the best way to do it? Well, I think there are some differences of opinion here, perhaps between the secretary and myself. I voted against the war in Iraq because I thought unilateral military action would not produce the results that were necessary and would lead to the kind of unraveling and instability that we saw in the Middle East.

I do not believe in unilateral American action. I believe in action in which we put together a strong coalition of forces, major powers and the Muslim nations. I think one of the heroes in a real quagmire out there, in a dangerous and difficult world, one of the heroes who we should recognize in the Middle East is King Abdullah II of Jordan. This small country has welcomed in many refugees.

And Abdullah said something recently, very important. He said, “Yes, international terrorism is by definition an international issue, but it is primarily an issue of the Muslim nations who are fighting for the soul of Islam. We the Muslims should lead the effort on the ground.” And I believe he is absolutely right.

MUIR: Senator, thank you.

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, you all emphasized gun control. But our latest poll shows that more Americans believe arming people, not stricter gun laws, is the best defense against terrorism. Are they wrong?

CLINTON: Well, I think you have to look at both the terrorism challenge that we face abroad and certainly at home and the role that guns play in delivering the violence that stalks us. Clearly, we have to have a very specific set of actions to take. You know, when Senator Sanders talks about a coalition, I agree with him about that. We’ve got to build a coalition abroad. We also have to build a coalition at home. Abroad, we need a coalition that is going to take on ISIS. I know how hard that is. I know it isn’t something you just hope people will do and I’ve worked on that…

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, can we stick to gun control?

CLINTON: Yes, I’m getting…

RADDATZ: Are they wrong?

CLINTON: … I’m getting to that. Because I think if you only think about the coalition abroad you’re missing the main point, which is we need a coalition here at home. Guns, in and of themselves, in my opinion, will not make Americans safer. We lose 33,000 people a year already to gun violence, arming more people to do what I think is not the appropriate response to terrorism.

I think what is…

(APPLAUSE)

Is creating much deeper, closer relations and, yes, coalitions within our own country. The first line of defense against radicalization is in Muslim-American community. People who we should be welcoming and working with.

I worry greatly that the rhetoric coming from the Republicans, particularly Donald Trump, is sending a message to Muslims here in the United States and literally around the world that there is a “clash of civilizations,” that there is some kind of Western plot or even “war against Islam,” which then I believe fans the flames of radicalization.

So guns have to be looked at as its own problem, but we also have to figure out how we’re going to deal with the radicalization here in the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: Senator Sanders — wait just a moment, please, Governor O’Malley.

Senator Sanders, we’ve seen those long lines of people buying guns in record numbers after the Paris attacks. Would you discourage people from buying a gun?

SANDERS: It’s a country in which people choose to buy guns. I think half of the — more than half of the people in my own state of Vermont, my guess here in New Hampshire, are gun owners. That’s the right of people.

But this is what I do believe. I believe that when we have some 300 million guns in this country, I believe that when we have seen these horrific mass killings, not only in San Bernardino, but in Colorado and movie theaters in Colorado, I think we have got to bring together the vast majority of the people who do in fact believe in sensible gun safety regulations.

For example, talking about polls, a poll recently came out, overwhelming majority of the American people say we should strengthen the instant background check. Who denies that it is crazy…

(APPLAUSE)

Who denies that it is crazy to allow people to own guns who are criminals or are mentally unstable? We’ve got to eliminate the gun show loophole. In my view, we have got to see that weapons designed by the military to kill people are not in the hands of civilians.

I think there is a consensus.

(APPLAUSE)

I think — I’m not going to say that everybody is in agreement. It’s a divided country on guns. But there is a broad consensus on sensible gun safety regulations that I, coming from a state that has virtually no gun control, will do my best to bring together.

O’MALLEY: Martha, if I may…

RADDATZ: Thank you, Senator Sanders.

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: I think we’re going to go on…

O’MALLEY: Excuse me, no.

MUIR: Governor, we have to abide the rules here, we’ll call on you here shortly, but…

O’MALLEY: I am the only person on this stage who has actually…

MUIR: But I do want pick up on something…

O’MALLEY: … passed comprehensive gun safety legislation with a ban on combat assault weapons, David.

And, look, there are profound differences…

(APPLAUSE)

O’MALLEY: Senator Sanders voted against the Brady Bill. Senator Sanders voted to give immunity to gun dealers. And Senator Sanders voted against even research dollars to look into this public health issue.

Secretary Clinton changes her position on this every election year, it seems, having one position in 2000 and then campaigning against President Obama and saying we don’t need federal standards.

Look, what we need on this issue is not more polls. We need more principle. When ISIL does training videos that say the easiest way to get a combat assault weapon in the United States of America is at a gun show, then we should all be waking up. We need comprehensive gun safety legislation and a ban on assault weapons.

RADDATZ: Governor, now — and let me stay with gun control for a minute, then. You talk about assault weapons. Even if you were able to ban the purchase of assault weapons tomorrow, Americans already own an estimated 7 to 10 million semi-automatic rifles.

Would you make it illegal to own those weapons, force people to turn them in? And if not, how would banning the sales really make a difference?

O’MALLEY: Because, Martha, it would prevent people like the guy that just got charged yesterday perhaps from being able to buy combat assault weapons. You know, we are the only nation, only developed nation on the planet…

RADDATZ: But, again, I’m not talking about buying. Would you have them confiscated? The ones that are already here?

O’MALLEY: No, Martha, I would not. And that’s not what we did in Maryland. But you know what we did in Maryland? We overcame the NRA’s objections. We overcame all of the crowds that were coming down there.

We did our own rallies. And at least if we enact these laws in a prospective way, we can address a major vulnerability in our country. ISIL videos, ISIL training videos are telling lone wolves the easiest way to buy a combat assault weapon in America is at a gun show.

And it’s because of the flip-flopping, political approach of Washington that both of my two colleagues on this stage have represented there for the last forty years.

SANDERS: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s calm down a little bit, Martin.

CLINTON: Yes, let’s tell the truth, Martin.

O’MALLEY: I am telling the truth.

SANDERS: First of all, let’s have some rules here, commentators.

MUIR: We will.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: All right.

MUIR: But let me just establish that for you, senator. Really quickly governor, we are going to call on you tonight and it’s very clear you have a lot to say but please wait until you’re called upon. And senator, he invoked your record and I’ll let you respond.

SANDERS: He sure did.

MUIR: I’ll let you respond.

CLINTON: He invoked mine as well.

MUIR: And you will get some to as well.

SANDERS: Sure did. All right. First off, we can do all the great speeches we want but you’re not going to succeed unless there is a consensus. In 1988, just to set the record straight governor, I ran for the U.S. House. We have one House member from Vermont, three candidates in the race. One candidate said, you know what, I don’t think it’s a great idea that we sell automatic weapons in this country that are used by the military to kill people very rapidly.

Gun people said, there were three candidates in the race, you vote for one of the others, but not Bernie Sanders. I lost that election by three percentage points. Quite likely, for that reason. So please, do not explain to me, coming from a state where democratic governors and republican governors have supported virtually no gun control.

(CROSSTALK)

Excuse me. Do not tell me that I have not shown courage in standing up to the gun people, in voting to ban assault weapons, voting for instant background checks, voting to end the gun show loop hole and now we’re in a position to create a consensus in America on gun safety.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Senator, thank you. I want to move on here. Secretary Clinton, you brought up Donald Trump a short time ago.

CLINTON: I do and this is an important issue and I know we’ll get to a lot of other critical ones as well. I actually agree with Governor O’Malley about the need for common sense gun safety measures. And I applaud his record in Maryland. I just wish he wouldn’t misrepresent mine. I have been for the Brady bill, I have been against assault weapons.

I have voted not to give gun makers and sellers immunity. And I also know that — and I’m glad to see this — Senator Sanders has really moved in face of the facts about what we’re confronting in our country. I know that he has said in the two previous that he wants to take on this immunity issue because we need to send a strong message to the gun manufacturers, to the sellers, to the gun lobby.

And I would hope, Senator Sanders, that you would join the Democrats who are trying to close the Charleston loophole, that you would sponsor or co-sponsor legislation to remove the absolute immunity. We need to move on this consensus that exists in the country. It’s no longer enough just to say the vast majority of Americans want common sense gun safety measures including gun owners.

We need, and only the three of us will do this, nobody on the Republican side will even admit there’s a problem. And in whatever way the three of us can we need to move this agenda forward and begin to deal with the gun lobby and the intimidation that they present.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Secretary Clinton, thank you. We’re going to move on from guns here and go back to something you mentioned a short time ago. You brought up Donald Trump first here this evening. We’ve now seen the polling done well after his proposed ban on Muslims coming to America. Thirty-six percent of Americans, more than a third, agree with him.

You have weighed in already on Donald Trump. You’ve weighed in on the proposed ban. But what would you say to the millions of Americans watching tonight who agree with him? Are they wrong?

CLINTON: Well I think a lot of people are understandably reacting out of fear and anxiety about what they’re seeing. First what they saw in Paris, now what they have seen in San Bernardino. And Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people and to make think there are easy answers to very complex questions.

So what I would say is, number one, we need to be united against the threats that we face. We need to have everybody in our country focused on watching what happens and reporting it if it’s suspicious, reporting what you hear. Making sure that Muslim Americans don’t feel left out or marginalized at the very moment when we need their help.

CLINTON: You know, I was a senator from New York after 9/11, and we spent countless hours trying to figure out how to protect the city and the state from perhaps additional attacks. One of the best things that was done, and George W. Bush did this and I give him credit, was to reach out to Muslim Americans and say, we’re in this together. You are not our adversary, you are our partner.

And we also need to make sure that the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don’t fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists. So I want to explain why this is not in America’s interest to react with this kind of fear and respond to this sort of bigotry.

MUIR: Secretary, thank you.

Senator Sanders, I did want to ask you about a neighbor in San Bernardino who reportedly witnessed packages being delivered to that couple’s home, that it set off red flags, but they didn’t report it because they were afraid to profile. What would you say to Americans afraid to profile? Is it ever acceptable?

SANDERS: Well, the answer is, obviously, if you see suspicious activity, you report it. That’s kind of a no-brainer. You know, somebody is loading guns and ammunition into a house, I think it’s a good idea to call 911. Do it.

(LAUGHTER)

MUIR: But I’m asking about — I’m asking about profiling. Because a lot of people are afraid of that.

SANDERS: But I want to talk — I want to talk about something else, because Secretary Clinton I think made some interesting and good points. What you have now is a very dangerous moment in American history.

The secretary is right: Our people are fearful. They are anxious on a number of levels. They are anxious about international terrorism and the possibility of another attack on America. We all understand that.

But you know what else they’re anxious about? They’re anxious about the fact that they are working incredibly long hours, they’re worried about their kids, and they’re seeing all the new income and wealth — virtually all of it — going to the top 1 percent. And they’re looking around them, and they’re looking at Washington, and they’re saying the rich are getting much richer, I’m getting poorer, what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do for my kids?

And somebody like a Trump comes along and says, “I know the answers. The answer is that all of the Mexicans, they’re criminals and rapists, we’ve got to hate the Mexicans. Those are your enemies. We hate all the Muslims, because all of the Muslims are terrorists. We’ve got to hate the Muslims.” Meanwhile, the rich get richer.

So what I say to those people who go to Donald Trump’s rallies, understand: He thinks a low minimum wage in America is a good idea. He thinks low wages are a good idea.

I believe we stand together to address the real issues facing this country, not allow them to divide us by race or where we come from. Let’s create an America that works for all of us, not the handful on top.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Senator, thank you.

RADDATZ: I want to move to another…

O’MALLEY: Martha, may I — Martha, may I…

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: No, no, not yet, Governor O’Malley.

O’MALLEY: Can I share this quick story?

RADDATZ: No, not yet, Governor O’Malley.

O’MALLEY: Oh. All right.

RADDATZ: I’ll come to you when we call on you. Thank you very much.

O’MALLEY: When you come back to me, I’ll share that story.

RADDATZ: You’ll be happy. I’ll let — I’ll let you talk then.

Secretary Clinton, I want to talk about a new terrorist tool used in the Paris attacks, encryption. FBI Director James Comey says terrorists can hold secret communications which law enforcement cannot get to, even with a court order.

You’ve talked a lot about bringing tech leaders and government officials together, but Apple CEO Tim Cook said removing encryption tools from our products altogether would only hurt law-abiding citizens who rely on us to protect their data. So would you force him to give law enforcement a key to encrypted technology by making it law? CLINTON: I would not want to go to that point. I would hope that, given the extraordinary capacities that the tech community has and the legitimate needs and questions from law enforcement, that there could be a Manhattan-like project, something that would bring the government and the tech communities together to see they’re not adversaries, they’ve got to be partners.

It doesn’t do anybody any good if terrorists can move toward encrypted communication that no law enforcement agency can break into before or after. There must be some way. I don’t know enough about the technology, Martha, to be able to say what it is, but I have a lot of confidence in our tech experts.

And maybe the back door is the wrong door, and I understand what Apple and others are saying about that. But I also understand, when a law enforcement official charged with the responsibility of preventing attacks — to go back to our early questions, how do we prevent attacks — well, if we can’t know what someone is planning, we are going to have to rely on the neighbor or, you know, the member of the mosque or the teacher, somebody to see something.

CLINTON: I just think there’s got to be a way, and I would hope that our tech companies would work with government to figure that out. Otherwise, law enforcement is blind — blind before, blind during, and, unfortunately, in many instances, blind after.

So we always have to balance liberty and security, privacy and safety, but I know that law enforcement needs the tools to keep us safe. And that’s what i hope, there can be some understanding and cooperation to achieve.

RADDATZ: And Governor O’Malley, where do you draw the line between national security and personal security?

O’MALLEY: I believe that we should never give up our privacy; never should give up our freedoms in exchange for a promise of security. We need to figure this out together. We need a collaborative approach. We need new leadership.

The way that things work in the modern era is actually to gather people around the table and figure these things out. The federal government should have to get warrants. That’s not some sort of passe you know, antique sort of principle that safeguards our freedoms.

But at the same time with new technologies I believe that the people creating these projects — I mean these products also have an obligation to come together with law enforcement to figure these things out; true to our American principles and values.

My friend Kashif, who is a doctor in Maryland; back to this issue of our danger as a democracy of turning against ourselves. He was putting his 10 and 12-year-old boys to bed the other night. And he is a proud American Muslim. And one of his little boys said to him, “Dad, what happens if Donald Trump wins and we have to move out of our homes?” These are very, very real issues. this is a clear and present danger in our politics within.

We need to speak to what unites us as a people; freedom of worship, freedom of religion, freedom of expression. And we should never be convinced to give up those freedoms in exchange for a promise of greater security; especially from someone as untried and as incompetent as Donald Trump.

RADDATZ: Thank you, Governor O’Malley.

MUIR: Martha, we’re going to turn now to refugees coming to America. And on the subject of refugees, more than half of all Americans now say they oppose taking in refugees from Syria and across the Middle East.

Secretary Clinton, you have said that it would undermine who we are as Americans, shutting our doors. But New Hampshire’s governor, where we are right here tonight, a democrat and a supporter of yours, is among more than 30 governors who are now concerned. Governor Maggie Hassan says, “we should halt acceptance of Syrian refugees until U.S. authorities can assure the vetting process, halt Syrian refugees.” Is she wrong?

CLINTON: Well, I agree that we have to have the toughest screening and vetting…

MUIR: But a halt?

CLINTON: I don’t think a halt is necessary. What we have to do is put all of our resources through the Department of Homeland Security, through the State Department, through our intelligence agencies, and we have to have an increased vetting and screening. Now, this takes, David, 18 months to 24 months, two years.

So I know it’s not going to happen overnight and everything that can be done should be done. But the process should move forward while we are also taking on ISIS, putting together the kind of strategy that I’ve advocated for, and making sure that the vetting and the screening is as tough as possible. Because I do believe that we have a history and a tradition, that is part of our values system and we don’t want to sacrifice our values.

We don’t want to make it seem as though we are turning into a nation of fear instead of a nation of resolve. So I want us to have a very tough screening process but I want that process to go forward. And if at the end of 18 months, 24 months there are people who have been cleared, and I would prioritize widows, and orphans, and the elderly, people who may have relatives, families, or have nowhere else to go. I would prioritize them.

And that would I think give the American public a bit more of a sense of security about who is being processed and who might end up coming as refugees.

MUIR: Governor O’Malley, obviously you were governor yourself at one time. What would you say to New Hampshire’s governor tonight? Is she wrong on this?

O’MALLEY: No, what I would say is this is look, I was the first of the three of us to call for America to accept the 65,000 refugees we were asked to accept. And if this humanitarian crisis increases, we should accept more.

MUIR: So the idea of a halt or a pause?

(APPLAUSE)

O’MALLEY: David, there are wider vulnerabilities than when it comes to refugees. I met recently with some members of the Chaldean Christian communities and the wait times are a year, 18 months, 24 months. There is a pretty excruciating process that refugees go through. We need to invest more in terms of the other sort of visas and the other sort of waivers.

O’MALLEY: What these Chaldean families told me was that their families in Syria, when ISIS moves into their town, they actually paint a red cross across the door and mark their homes for demolition, and that tells the family you’d better get out now. The sort of genocide and brutality that the victims are suffering, these are not the perpetrators.

We need to be the nation whose enduring symbol is the Statue of Liberty, and we need to act like the great country we are, according to our values.

MUIR: Governor, thank you.

RADDATZ: Senator Sanders — Senator Sanders, we’re going to move on. We’re going to move on.

SANDERS: Excuse me. May I have a chance to respond to this issue?

RADDATZ: We’re going to move on to the fight against ISIS. You’re the one who told us we have to follow the rules and break it off.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Yeah, but the rule includes equal — got it. All right.

(LAUGHTER)

RADDATZ: OK. Let’s keep going. Thank you.

SANDERS: All right. Let’s keep going. OK.

RADDATZ: Thank you. I do want to move to the fight against ISIS.

SANDERS: Yeah.

RADDATZ: For the people of New Hampshire, the brutality of ISIS is personal. James Foley grew up here. The first hostage, a journalist, brutally executed last year. You’ve all said ISIS is a ruthless enemy and must be stopped. Al Qaida as well.

Senator Sanders, you voted to send U.S. ground forces to fight in the coalition to help destroy Al Qaida in Afghanistan. Can you then explain you why don’t support sending U.S. combat troops to join a coalition to fight ISIS?

SANDERS: And I also voted and helped lead the effort against the war in Iraq, which will go down in history as one of the worst foreign blunders — foreign policy blunders in the history of our country.

I voted against the first Gulf War, which set the stage, I believe, for the second Iraq war. And what I believe right now, and I believe this is terribly important, is the United States of America cannot succeed, or be thought of as the policeman of the world, that when there’s an international crisis all over the world, in France and in the U.K. Or — hey, just call up the American military and the American taxpayers, they’re going to send the troops.

And if they have to be in the Middle East for 20 or 30 years no problem.

RADDATZ: But why Al Qaida, why not ISIS?

SANDERS: I have a problem with that, Martha. What I believe has got to happen is there must be an international coalition, including Russia, a well-coordinated effort.

But I agree, as I mentioned a moment ago, with King Abdullah. This is a war for the soul of Islam. The troops on the ground should not be American troops. They should be Muslim troops. I believe that countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have got to step up to the plate, have got to contribute the money that we need, and the troops that we need, to destroy ISIS with American support.

RADDATZ: The administration has tried that over and over again. If it doesn’t work and this threat is so great, what’s your plan B?

SANDERS: My plan is to make it work, to tell Saudi Arabia that instead of going to war in Yemen, they, one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, are going to have to go to war against ISIS.

To tell Qatar, that instead of spending $200 billion on the World Cup, maybe they should pay attention to ISIS, which is at their doorstep.

(APPLAUSE)

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, you too have ruled out a large U.S. combat force, yet you support sending in special operations forces to Syria, and sending those 100 to 200 troops to Iraq to do exploitation kill raids.

We’ve already lost one Delta Force member in a raid. It has looked very much to me like we’re already in ground combat on frequent trips I’ve made there.

So, are you fooling Americans when you say, we’re not putting American combat troops back into Syria or Iraq?

CLINTON: No. Not at all. I think that what we’re facing with ISIS is especially complicated. It was a different situation in Afghanistan. We were attacked from Afghanistan. Al Qaida was based in Afghanistan. We went after those who had attacked us.

What’s happening in Syria and Iraq is that, because of the failures in the region, including the failure of the prior government in Baghdad, led by Maliki, there has been a resurgence of Sunni activities, as exemplified by ISIS. And we have to support Sunni-Arab and Kurdish forces against ISIS, because I believe it would be not only a strategic mistake for the United States to put ground combat troops in, as opposed to special operators, as opposed to trainers, because that is exactly what ISIS wants.

They’ve advertised that. They want American troops back in the Middle East. They want American soldiers on the ground fighting them, giving them many more targets, and giving them a great recruiting opportunity.

CLINTON: So, I think it’s absolutely wrong policy for us to be even imagining we’re going end up putting tens of thousands of American troops into Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS.

And we do have to form a coalition. I know how hard that is. I have formed them. I put together a coalition, including Arabs, with respect to Libya and a coalition to put sanctions onto Iran. And you have to really work hard at it.

And the final thing I would say, bringing Donald Trump back into it, if you’re going to put together a coalition in the region to take on the threat of ISIS you don’t want to alienate the very countries and people you need to be part of the coalition. And so that is part of the reason why this is so difficult.

(APPLAUSE)

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, I want — I want to follow up on that. You do support sending special operations forces there. You support what the president has done already. One of the lessons people draw from Vietnam and war since is that a little force can turn into a little more and a little more. President Obama certainly didn’t expect to be sending 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan the first year of his presidency.

Are you prepared to run the risk of a bigger war to achieve your goals to destroy ISIS, or are you prepared to give up on those goals if it requires a larger force?

CLINTON: Well, I just think you’re asking a question with a false choice. I believe if we lead an air coalition, which we are now in the position of doing and intensify it, if we continue to build back up the Iraqi army, which has had some recent success in Ramadi, as you know, if we get back talking to the tribal sheiks in Anbar to try to rebuild those relationships, which were very successful, in going after Al Qaida in Iraq, if we get the Turks to pay more attention to ISIS than they’re paying to the Kurds, if we do put together the kind of coalition with the specific tasks that I am outlining, I think we can be successful in destroying ISIS.

So that’s what I’m focused on, that’s what I’ve outlined and that’s what I would do as president.

RADDATZ: Governor O’Malley.

(APPLAUSE) You’ve emphasized the need for more human intelligence on the ground. What is it our intelligence community is not doing now that needs to be done?

O’MALLEY: Well, we have invested nowhere near what we should be investing in human intelligence on the ground. And what I’m talking about is not only the covert CIA intelligence, I’m also talking about diplomatic intelligence. I mean, we’ve seen time and time again, especially in this very troubled region of nation-state failures, and then we have no idea who the next generation of leaders are that are coming forward.

So what I would say is not only do we need to be thinking in military terms, but we do our military a disservice when we don’t greatly dial up the investment that we are making in diplomacy and human intelligence and when we fail to dial up properly, the role of sustainable development in all of this. As president, I would make the administrator of USAID an actual cabinet member. We have to act in a much more whole of government approach, as General Dempsey said.

And I do believe, and I would disagree somewhat with one of my colleagues, this is a genocidal threat. They have now created a safe haven in the vacuum that we allowed to be partly and because of our blunders, to be created to be created in the areas of Syria and Iraq. We cannot allow safe havens, and as a leader of moral nations around this Earth, we need to come up with new alliances and new ways to prepare for these new sorts of threats, because Martha, this will not be the last region where nation-states fail.

And you’ve seen a little bit of this emerging in the — in the African Union and the things that they have done to better stabilize Somalia. We need to pay attention here in Central America as well. So this is the new type of threats that we’re facing and we need to lead as a nation in confronting it and putting together new alliances and new coalitions.

CLINTON: Well, I just want to quickly add…

RADDATZ: Thank you.

CLINTON: Martha, that — you know, one of the reasons why I have advocated for a no-fly zone is in order to create those safe refuges within Syria, to try to protect people on the ground both from Assad’s forces, who are continuing to drop barrel bombs, and from ISIS. And of course, it has to be de-conflicted with the Russians, who are also flying in that space.

I’m hoping that because of the very recent announcement of the agreement at the Security Council, which embodies actually an agreement that I negotiated back in Geneva in June of 2012, we’re going to get a diplomatic effort in Syria to begin to try to make a transition. A no-fly zone would prevent the outflow of refugees and give us a chance to have some safe spaces.

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, I’d like to go back to that if I could. ISIS doesn’t have aircraft, Al Qaida doesn’t have aircraft. So would you shoot down a Syrian military aircraft or a Russian airplane?

CLINTON: I do not think it would come to that. We are already de-conflicting air space. We know…

RADDATZ: But isn’t that a decision you should make now, whether…

CLINTON: No, I don’t think so. I am advocating…

RADDATZ: … if you’re advocating this?

CLINTON: I am advocating the no-fly zone both because I think it would help us on the ground to protect Syrians; I’m also advocating it because I think it gives us some leverage in our conversations with Russia.

Now that Russia has joined us in the Security Council, has adopted an agreement that we hashed out a long day in Geneva three years ago, now I think we can have those conversations. The no-fly zone, I would hope, would be also shared by Russia. If they will begin to turn their military attention away from going after the adversaries of Assad toward ISIS and put the Assad future on the political and diplomatic track, where it belongs.

(CROSSTALK)

MUIR: I want to take this to Senator — I’m going to take this to Senator Sanders next, because I think there…

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I have a difference of opinion with Secretary Clinton on this. Our differences are fairly deep on this issue. We disagreed on the war in Iraq. We both listened to the information from Bush and Cheney. I voted against the war.

But I think — and I say this with due respect — that I worry too much that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.

Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that destabilized the entire region. Yes, we could get rid of Gadhafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS. So I think, yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you’ve got to think about what happens the day after. And in my view, what we need to do is put together broad coalitions to understand that we’re not going to have a political vacuum filled by terrorists, that, in fact, we are going to move steadily — and maybe slowly — toward democratic societies, in terms of Assad, a terrible dictator. But I think in Syria the primary focus now must be on destroying ISIS and working over the years to get rid of Assad. That’s the secondary issue.

CLINTON: That is exactly…

MUIR: Senator, thank you.

CLINTON: That is exactly what I just said and what I just described.

MUIR: Yeah, but, Secretary Clinton — Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: And that is important, because now we have a U.N. Security Council that will enable us to do that. And, you know, with all due respect, Senator, you voted for regime change with respect to Libya. You joined the Senate in voting to get rid of Gadhafi, and you asked that there be a Security Council validation of that with a resolution.

All of these are very difficult issues. I know that; I’ve been dealing with them for a long time. And, of course, we have to continue to do what is necessary when someone like Gadhafi, a despot with American blood on his hands, is overturned. But I’ll tell you what would have happened, if we had not joined with our European partners and our Arab partners to assist the people in Libya, you would be looking at Syria. Now the Libyans are turning their attention to try to dislodge ISIS from its foothold and begin to try to move together to have a unified nation.

SANDERS: I was not the secretary of state…

MUIR: Senator Sanders, Senator Sanders, hold on. One moment, please. I’m going to ask the secretary here, because there does appear to be some daylight here between the policies, at least in respect to when you take out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Right now or do you wait? Do you tackle ISIS first?

You have said, Secretary Clinton, that you come to the conclusion that we have to proceed on both fronts at once. We heard from the senator just this week that we must put aside the issue of how quickly we get rid of Assad and come together with countries, including Russia and Iran, to destroy ISIS first. Is he wrong?

CLINTON: I think we’re missing the point here. We are doing both at the same time.

MUIR: But that’s what he’s saying, we should put that aside for now and go after ISIS. CLINTON: Well, I don’t agree with that, because we will not get the support on the ground in Syria to dislodge ISIS if the fighters there who are not associated with ISIS, but whose principal goal is getting rid of Assad, don’t believe there is a political, diplomatic channel that is ongoing. We now have that. We have the U.N. Security Council adopting a resolution that lays out a transition path. It’s very important we operate on both at the same time.

And let me just say a word about coalition-building, because I’ve heard Senator Sanders say this. I know how hard it is to build coalitions. I think it would be a grave mistake to ask for any more Iranian troops inside Syria. That is like asking the arsonist to come and pour more gas on the fire.

The Iranians getting more of a presence in Syria, linking with Hezbollah, their proxy in Lebanon, would threaten Israel and would make it more difficult for us to move on a path to have a transition that at some point would deal with Assad’s future.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I happen to think…

O’MALLEY: I’d like to offer a…

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: She says we have to proceed on both fronts at once.

SANDERS: Secretary Clinton is right. This is a complicated issue. I don’t think anyone has a magical solution.

But this is what I do believe. Yes, of course Assad is a terrible dictator. But I think we have got to get our foreign policies and priorities right. The immediate — it is not Assad who is attacking the United States. It is ISIS. And ISIS is attacking France and attacking Russian airliners.

The major priority, right now, in terms of our foreign and military policy should be the destruction of ISIS.

(APPLAUSE)

And I think — and I think we bring together that broad coalition, including Russia, to help us destroy ISIS. And work on a timetable to get rid of Assad, hopefully through Democratic elections. First priority, destroy ISIS.

MUIR: Senator sanders, thank you.

O’MALLEY: May I offer a different generation’s perspective on this?

MUIR: Governor O’Malley?

O’MALLEY: During the Cold War — during the Cold War, we got into a bad habit of always looking to see who was wearing the jersey of the communists, and who was wearing the U.S. jersey. We got into a bad habit of creating big bureaucracies, old methodologies, to undermine regimes that were not friendly to the United States. Look what we did in Iran with Mosaddegh. And look at the results that we’re still dealing with because of that. I would suggest to you that we need to leave the Cold War behind us, and we need to put together new alliances and new approaches to dealing with this, and we need to restrain ourselves.

I mean, I know Secretary Clinton was gleeful when Gadhafi was torn apart. And the world, no doubt is a better place without him. But look, we didn’t know what was happening next. And we fell into the same trap with Assad, saying — as if it’s our job to say, Assad must go.

We have a role to play in this world. But we need to leave the Cold War and that sort of antiquated thinking behind.

MUIR: But — you criticized — you criticized Secretary Clinton for what came next. What’s your proposal for what comes after Assad?

O’MALLEY: I believe that we need to focus on destroying ISIL. That is the clear and present danger. And I believe that we can springboard off of this new U.N. resolution, and we should create, as Secretary Clinton indicated, and I agree with that, that there should be a political process.

But we shouldn’t be the ones declaring that Assad must go. Where did it ever say in the Constitution, where is it written that it’s the job of the United States of America or its secretary of State to determine when dictators have to go?

We have a role to play in this world. But it is not the world — the role of traveling the world looking for new monsters to destroy.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: David…

CLINTON: Since he has been making all kinds of comments.

(LAUGHTER)

I think it’s fair to say, Assad has killed, by last count, about 250,000 Syrians. The reason we are in the mess we’re in, that ISIS has the territory it has, is because of Assad.

I advocated arming the moderate opposition back in the day when I was still secretary of State, because I worried we would end up exactly where we are now.

And so, when we look at these complex problems, I wish it could be either/or. I wish we could say yes, let’s go destroy ISIS and let’s let Assad continue to destroy Syria, which creates more terrorists, more extremists by the minute.

No. We now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS, which is a danger to us as well as the region… SANDERS (?): Secretary…

CLINTON: And we finally have a U.N. Security Council Resolution bringing the world together to go after a political transition in Syria.

SANDERS: Could I just say — just say this…

CLINTON: If the United States does not lead, there is not another leader. There is a vacuum.

SANDERS: Can I just say this…

CLINTON: And we have to lead, if we’re going to be successful.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Senator Sanders, please. Go ahead.

Senator Sanders, a last word on this.

SANDERS: Of course the United States must lead. But the United States is not the policeman of the world. The United States must not be involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East. The United States, at the same time, cannot successfully fight Assad and ISIS.

ISIS, now, is the major priority. Let’s get rid of Assad later. Let’s have a Democratic Syria. But the first task is to bring countries together to destroy ISIS.

MUIR: Senator Sanders, thank you. When we come back here tonight, the other major issues of this election: jobs, the economy, health care.

Which candidates will make the best case for the middle class, as our coverage of the Democratic debate, here in New Hampshire, continues right after this on ABC.

ANNOUNCER: ABC News coverage of the New Hampshire Democratic debate will continue in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MUIR: Welcome back tonight. As you can see, we have a packed audience here in New Hampshire and we’re going to continue. We’ve already had a spirited conversation here at the top of the broadcast about ISIS, about the concerns of terror here on the homefront and as we await Secretary Clinton backstage, we’re going to begin on the economy.

We want to turn to the American jobs, wages and raises in this country. And we believe Secretary Clinton will be coming around the corner any minute. But in the mean time we want to start with this eye-opening number. And Senator Sanders, this question goes to you first, anyway.

In 1995, the median American household income was $52,600 in today’s money. This year, it’s $53,600. That’s 20 more years on the job with just a 2 percent raise. In a similar time-frame, raises for CEOs went up more than 200 percent.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Sorry.

MUIR: We’re going to continue here, and Secretary, you’ll get a chance on this too.

But as I pointed out the CEO pay, 200 percent of their time — for that family of just 2 percent. You’ve all said, “you would raise the minimum wage.” But Senator Sanders what else – speak to that household tonight. 20 years, just a 2 percent raise, how as president would you get them a raise right away?

SANDERS: First of all, we recognize that we have a rigged economy, as you’ve indicated. Middle class in this country for the last 40 years has been disappearing; are we better of today then we were when Bush left office? Absolutely. But as you’ve indicated for millions of American workers, people in New Hampshire — all over America, they’re working longer hours for lower wages deeply worried about their kids. So what do we do?

First statement is, we tell the billionaire class, “they cannot have it all.” For a start, they’re going to start to pay their fair share of taxes. Second of all what we do, is you raise the minimum wage to living wage, 15 bucks an hour over the next several years. Next thing we do, pay equity for women workers. Women should not be making 79 cents on the dollar compared to that.

Next thing that we do, real unemployment — official unemployment, 5 percent, real employment 10 percent, youth unemployment, off the charts. We rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, our roads our bridges, our rail systems, we create 13 million jobs with a trillion-dollar investment.

Furthermore, in a competitive global economy, it is imperative that we have the best educated workforce in the world. That is why I’m going to have a tax on Wall Street speculation to make certain that public colleges and universities in America are tuition free.

MUIR: Senator Sanders, thank you.

Governor O’Malley, what would propose that would be different, how would you get the middle class a raise and without waiting another 20 years for another 2 percent.

O’MALLEY: Look these are the things that we did in own state through the recession. We actually passed a living wage. We raised the minimum wage. We actually raised it to the highest goals of any state in the nation also in minority and women participant goals because we understood that the way you reinvigorate and make fair market American capitalism work, is to make the choices and the investments that include more people more full in the economic success of your state.

All through the recession, we defended the highest median income in America and the second highest median income for African American families. How? By actually doing more for education. We increased education funding by 37 percent.

We were the only state in American that went four years in a row without a penny increase in college tuition. We invested more in our infrastructure and we squared our shoulders to the great business opportunity of this era and that is moving our economy to a 100 percent clean electric energy future. We created 2,000 new jobs in the solar industry and we fought every single day to adopt more inclusive economic practices.

O’MALLEY: So David, the conclusion of all of those things is this; they weren’t hopes, they weren’t dreams, they weren’t amorphous goals out there. We actually took action to do these things and as president, I have put forward 15 strategic goals that will make wages go up again for all American families. Universal national service is an option for every kid in America to cut youth employment.

And I’m the only candidate on this stage to put forward a new agenda for America’s cities so we can employ more people in the heart of great American cities and get them back to work.

MUIR: Governor, thank you. Secretary Clinton…

(APPLAUSE)

As you were walking in, I was talking about the median American household getting a two percent raise over the last 20 years, that CEO pay in that same time frame has gone up 200 percent. So for those families watching tonight, how do you get them a raise if you’re president?

CLINTON: Well, I’ve been talking to a lot of these families, and this is such an outrage, both because it’s bad for our economy, we’re a 70 percent consumption economy, people need to feel optimistic and confident, they need to believe their hard work is going to be rewarded, and it’s bad for our democracy. It’s absolutely the case that if people feel that the game is rigged, that has consequences.

I think it’s great standing up here with the senator and the governor talking about these issues, because you’re not going to hear anything like this from any of the Republicans who are running for president.

(APPLAUSE)

They don’t want to raise the minimum wage, they don’t want to do anything to increase incomes. At the center of my economic policy is raising incomes, because people haven’t been able to get ahead, and the cost of everything, from college tuition to prescription drugs, has gone up.

Of course we have to raise the minimum wage. Of course we have to do more to incentivize profit sharing, like we see with Market Basket right here in New Hampshire and New England, where all of the employees get a chance to share in the profits.

(APPLAUSE)

And we’ve got to do more on equal pay for equal work. That means pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so we have transparency about how much people are making. That’s the way to get women’s wages up, and that’s good for them and good for their families and good for our communities.

(APPLAUSE)

And there is a lot we can do in college affordability. I have debt-free tuition plans, free community college plans, getting student debt down. I also am very committed to getting the price of drugs down. And there’s a lot. You can go to my website…

MUIR: Secretary…

CLINTON: … hillaryclinton.com, and read about it. But I guess the final thing that — that I would say is this is the kind of debate we need to take to the Republicans in the fall.

MUIR: Secretary, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: This is the election…

MUIR: We’re going to — we’re going to…

CLINTON: … issues they have to respond to.

MUIR: And we’re going to talk about college education in a moment. But Secretary Clinton, I did want to ask you, the last time you ran for president, Fortune Magazine put you on its cover with the headline Business Loves Hillary, pointing out your support for many CEOs in corporate America. I’m curious, eight years later, should corporate America love Hillary Clinton?

CLINTON: Everybody should.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Look, I have said I want to be the president for the struggling, the striving and the successful. I want to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share, which they have not been doing. I want the Buffett Rule to be in effect, where millionaires have to pay 30 percent tax rates instead of 10 percent to nothing in some cases. I want to make sure we rein in the excessive use of political power to feather the nest and support the super wealthy.

But I also want to create jobs and I want to be a partner with the private sector. I’m particularly keen on creating jobs in small business. My dad was a small businessman, a really small business. I want to do more to help incentivize and create more small businesses. So if — if people who are in the private sector know what I stand for, it’s what I fought for as a senator, it’s what I will do as president, and they want to be part of once again building our economy so it works for everybody, more power to them, because they are the kind of business leaders who understand that if we don’t get the American economy moving and growing, we’re not going to recognize our country and we’re not going to give our kids the same opportunities that we had.

MUIR: Secretary, thank you. Senator Sanders…

(APPLAUSE)

I want to stay on this and ask you how big a role does corporate America play in a healthy economy and will corporate America love a President Sanders?

SANDERS: No, I think they won’t.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

So Hillary and I have a difference. The CEOs of large multinationals may like Hillary. They ain’t going to like me and Wall Street is going to like me even less.

(APPLAUSE)

And the reason for that is we’ve got to deal with the elephant in the room, which is the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street. When you have six financial institutions in this country that issue two-thirds of the credit cards and one-third of the mortgages, when three out of four of them are larger today than when we bailed them out because they are too big to fail, we’ve got to re- establish Glass-Steagall, we have got to break the large financial institutions up.

SANDERS: So I don’t think…

(APPLAUSE)

… having said that, I don’t think I’m going to get a whole lot of campaign contributions from Wall Street. I don’t have a super PAC. I don’t want campaign contributions from corporate America.

And let me be clear: While there are some great corporations creating jobs and trying to do the right thing, in my view — and I say this very seriously — the greed of the billionaire class, the greed of Wall Street is destroying this economy and is destroying the lives of millions of Americans. We need an economy that works for the middle class, not just a handful of billionaires, and I will fight and lead to make that happen.

MUIR: Senator, thank you. I want to…

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

MUIR: Governor, let me just ask you, though, because it is an important question, how important a role do you think corporate America plays in a healthy economy here in the U.S.?

O’MALLEY: Look, I look at our economy as an ecosystem. And the fact of the matter is that the more fully people participate, the more our workers earn, the more they will spend, the more our economy will grow. And most heads of businesses — large, medium and small — understand that.

But there is a better way forward than either of those offered by my two opponents here on this stage. We’re not going to fix what ails our economy, we’re not going to make wages go up for everyone by either trying to replace American capitalism with socialism — which, by the way, the rest of the world is moving away from — nor will we fix it by submitting to sort of Wall Street-directed crony capitalism.

And for my part, I have demonstrated the ability to have the backbone to take on Wall Street in ways that Secretary Clinton never, ever has. In fact, in the last debate, very shamefully, she tried to hide her cozy relationship with Wall Street big banks by invoking the attacks of 9/11.

I believe that the way forward for our country is to actually reinvigorate our antitrust department with the directive to promote fair competition. There’s mergers that are happening in every aspect of our country that is bad for competition and it’s bad for — for upward mobility of wages.

And the worst type of concentration, Secretary Clinton, is the concentration of the big banks, the big six banks that you went to and spoke to and told them, oh, you weren’t responsible for the crash, not by a long shot.

And that’s why today you still cannot support, as I do, breaking up the big banks and making sure that we pass a modern-day Glass- Steagall, like we had in late 1999, before it was repealed and led to the crash, where so many millions of families lost their jobs and their homes. And I was on the front lines of that, looking into the eyes of my neighbors…

CLINTON: OK…

MUIR: Governor O’Malley, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

MUIR: I do want to ask you, Secretary Clinton. Let me just ask you…

CLINTON: Let me respond…

MUIR: We did — we did — Secretary Clinton, let me just ask you…

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: Under the rules, I have been — I have been invoked, David, so let me respond very quickly. Number one…

MUIR: And in particular…

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: Number one, there are currently two hedge fund billionaires running ads against me here in New Hampshire. They started in Iowa. Now, you’d have to ask yourself, why are they running ads against me? And the answer is: Because they know I will go right after them, that I will not let their agenda be America’s agenda.

Secondly, I think it’s important to point out that about 3 percent of my donations come from people in the finance and investment world. You can go to opensecrets.org and check that. I have more donations from students and teachers than I do from people associated with Wall Street.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, number three — and let me say this — when Governor O’Malley was heading the Democratic Governors Association, he had no trouble at all going to Wall Street to raise money to run campaigns for Democratic governors. And he also had no trouble appointing an investment banker to be in charge of his consumer protection bureau when he was governor.

So, you know, again, the difference between us and the Republicans is night and day. And there is only one person on this stage who voted to take away authority from the SEC and the Commodities Future Trading Commission that they could no longer regulate what are called swaps and derivatives, which actually contributed to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and that was Senator Sanders.

So if we’re going to be talking like this, we can — and maybe we can score some political points — but the fact is: Every one of us stands for the kind of economy that will work better for every American. And if that means taking on Wall Street, I have a plan that is tough and comprehensive and praised by a lot of folks who say it goes further than what both Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley are proposing.

SANDERS: Let me just — let me just…

MUIR: Secretary Clinton, thank you.

SANDERS: Let me just jump in. My name was invoked.

MUIR: Senator?

SANDERS: So with that invocation, let me say a few words.

(LAUGHTER)

Secretary Clinton, I don’t have a super PAC. I don’t get any money from Wall Street. You have gotten a whole lot of money over the years from Wall Street. But most importantly, when you look at what happened in the 1990s, go to berniesanders.com. I’ll advertise my Web site as well.

(LAUGHTER)

And what you’ll find is that I led — helped lead the effort as a member of the House financial committee against Alan Greenspan, against a guy named Bill Clinton, maybe you know him, maybe you don’t.

(LAUGHTER)

Against the Republican leadership, who all thought it would be a great idea to merge investor banks and commercial banks and large insurance companies. What a brilliant idea that would be.

Go to YouTube. Find out what I said to Greenspan. At the end of the day, if Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, and the governor makes a good point about trade, anti-trade, anti-monopoly activities.

Wall Street today has too much political power. It has too much economic power. To get deregulated — listen to this, they spent $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions over a 10-year period.

MUIR: Senator Sanders…

SANDERS: Wall Street is a threat to the economy. They’ve got to be broken up.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Thank you, Senator. RADDATZ: And we’re going to move on to health care.

Secretary Clinton, the Department of Health and Human Services says more than 17 million Americans who are not insured now have health coverage because of Obamacare. But for Americans who already had health insurance the cost has gone up 27 percent in the last five years while deductibles are up 67 percent, health care costs are rising faster than many Americans can manage.

What’s broken in Obamacare that needs to be fixed right now? And what would you do to fix it?

CLINTON: Well, I would certainly build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act and work to fix some of the glitches that you just referenced.

Number one, we do have more people who have access to health care. We have ended the terrible situation that people with pre- existing conditions were faced with where they couldn’t find at any affordable price health care.

Women are not charged more than men any longer for our health insurance. And we keep young people on our policies until they turn 26.

(APPLAUSE)

Those are all really positive developments. But out-of-pocket costs have gone up too much and prescription drug costs have gone through the roof. And so what I have proposed, number one, is a $5,000 tax credit to help people who have very large out-of-pocket costs be able to afford those.

Number two, I want Medicare to be able to negotiate for lower drug prices just like they negotiate with other countries’ health systems.

(APPLAUSE)

We end up paying the highest prices in the world. And I want us to be absolutely clear about making sure the insurance companies in the private employer policy arena as well as in the Affordable Care exchanges are properly regulated so that we are not being gamed.

And I think that’s an important point to make because I’m going through and analyzing the points you were making, Martha. We don’t have enough competition and we don’t have enough oversight of what the insurance companies are charging everybody right now.

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: But you did say those were glitches.

CLINTON: Yes.

RADDATZ: Just glitches?

CLINTON: Well, they’re glitches because…

RADDATZ: Twenty-seven percent in the last five years, deductibles up 67 percent?

CLINTON: It is. Because part of this is the startup challenges that this system is facing. We have fought, as Democrats, for decades to get a health care plan. I know. I’ve got the scars to show from the effort back in the early ’90s.

We want to build on it and fix it. And I’m confident we can do that. And it will have effects in the private market. And one of the reasons in some states why the percentage cost has gone up so much is because governors there would not extend Medicaid.

And so people are still going to get health care, thankfully, in emergency rooms, in hospitals. Those costs are then added to the overall cost, which does increase the insurance premiums for people in the private system.

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: Senator Sanders, I want you to respond to what she was saying, but you’re instead calling for single-payer health care.

SANDERS: Yes, exactly, exactly.

RADDATZ: You note people won’t have to pay deductibles or premiums but they will have to pay new taxes. Can you tell us specifically how much people will be expected to pay?

SANDERS: Yes, well, roughly. Let me say this. As a member of the Health Education Committee that helped write the Affordable Care Act, much of what Secretary Clinton said about what we have done, among other things, ending the obscenity of this pre-existing situation is a step forward.

Seventeen more million more people have health care. It is a step forward. A step forward.

But this is what we also have to say. Not only are deductibles rising, 29 million Americans still have no health insurance and millions of people can’t afford to go to the doctor. Major crisis and primary health care. Here is the bottom line. Why is it that the United States of America today is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right?

Why is it…

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: Why is it that we are — why is it that we spend almost three times per capita as to what they spend in the U.K., 50 percent more than what they pay in France, countries that guarantee health care to all of their people and in many cases, have better health care outcomes. Bottom line.

This ties into campaign finance reform. The insurance companies, the drug companies are bribing the United States Congress. We need to pass a Medicare for all single payer system. It will lower the cost of health care for a middle-class family by thousands of dollars a year.

RADDATZ: Senator Sanders, you didn’t really tell us specifically how much people will be expected to pay…

SANDERS: But they will not be paying, Martha, any private insurance. So it’s unfair to say in total…

RADDATZ: But you can’t tell us this specifically, even if you were…

SANDERS: I can tell you that adding up the fact you’re not paying any private insurance, businesses are not paying any private insurance. The average middle-class family will be saving thousands of dollars a year. RADDATZ: OK. Let’s go to talk about the high cost of college education and for that we turn to the executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, right here at Saint Anselm college, Neil Levesque.

Neil?

LEVESQUE: Here to New Hampshire again. As you know, this auditorium is filled with many Saint Anselm college students. They know the outstanding student debt right now in America is $1.3 trillion. That private education costs have gone up in the last decade 26 percent, and 40 percent for public education.

So knowing that, we know you want to make public education more affordable but how do you really lower the cost? Senator Sanders, you mentioned a few minutes ago that you want free tuition for public colleges.

SANDERS: And universities.

LEVESQUE: How does that really lower the cost other than just shifting the cost to taxpayers?

SANDERS: Well, Neil, I think we’ve got to work on a two-pronged approach. And your point is absolutely well taken. The cost of college education is escalating a lot faster than the cost of inflation. There are a lot of factors involved in that.

And that is that we have some colleges and universities that are spending a huge amount of money on fancy dormitories and on giant football stadiums. Maybe we should focus on quality education with well-paid faculty members. But…

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: And I understand in many universities a heck of a lot of vice presidents who earn a big salary. But, bottom line is this is the year 2015. If we are going to be competitive in the global economy we need the best educated workforce.

It is insane to my mind, hundreds of thousands of young people today, bright qualified people, cannot go to college because they cannot afford — their families cannot afford to send them. Millions coming out of school as you indicated, deeply in debt. What do we do?

My proposal is to put a speculation tax on wall street, raise very substantial sums of money, not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free, but also substantially lower interest rates on student debt. You have families out there paying 6 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent on student debt, refinance their homes at 3 percent.

What sense is that? So I think we need radical changes in the funding of higher education. We should look at college today the way high school was looked at 60 years ago. All young people who have the ability should be able to get a college education. (APPLAUSE)

LEVESQUE: Governor O’Malley, how do you propose — Governor O’Malley, how do you propose lowering some of these costs associated with higher education?

O’MALLEY: Yes, this one falls under the category of, I have actually done this. As a governor we actually made the greater investments so that we could go four years in a row without a penny’s increase to college tuition.

My plan actually goes further than Senator Sanders because a big chunk of the cost is actually room and board and books and fees. So as a nation we need to increase what we invest in Pell grants. Yes, we need to make it easier for parents to refinance.

O’MALLEY: But states need to do more as well. And I propose a block grant program that will keep the states in the game as well. I believe that all of our kids should go into an income-based repayment plan.

I’m joined tonight by two daughters, Tara and Grace. My oldest daughter’s a teacher. Man (ph), their mother’s here as well. We were proud of them on graduation day, weren’t we, Katie? And we’re going to be proud every month for the rest of our lives.

I mean, we had to borrow so much money to send them to college and were not the only ones. There’re families all across America who aren’t able to contribute to our economy because of this crushing student loan. I also propose that we can pay for this with a tax on high volume trades and we need to because my dad came to college after World War II on a G.I. Bill.

But today, we’re the only nation on the planet that’s saddling our kids with a lifetime of bills. That’s a drag on the economy. It’s one of the key investments we need to make. I was flattered that Secretary Clinton two months later borrowed so many of my proposals to incorporate into hers. And in our party, unlike the Republican party, we actually believe that the more our people learn, the more they will earn and higher education should be a right for every kid.

MUIR: Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: Right.

MCELVEEN: Secretary Clinton, how does your plan differentiate from your opponents?

CLINTON: Well, I have what I call the new college compact. Because I think everybody has to have some skin in this game, you know.

Number one, States have been dis-investing in higher education. In fact, I think New Hampshire, in state tuition for public colleges and universities, is among the highest if not the highest in the country. So states over a period of decades have put their money elsewhere; into prisons, into highways, into things other than higher education. So under my compact, the federal government will match money that the states begin to put back in to the higher education system.

Secondly, I don’t believe in free tuition for everybody. I believe we should focus on middle-class families, working families, and poor kids who have the ambition and the talent to go to college and get ahead. So I have proposed debt free tuition, which I think is affordable and I would move a lot of the Pell Grant and other aid into the arena where it could be used for living expense. So I put all of this together, again, on my website and I’ve gotten such a good response.

But I want to quickly say, one of the areas that Senator Sanders touched on in talking about education and certainly talking about health care is his commitment to really changing the systems. Free college, a single payer system for health, and it’s been estimated were looking at 18 to $20 trillion, about a 40 percent in the federal budget.

And I have looked at his proposed plans for health care for example, and it really does transfer every bit of our health care system including private health care, to the states to have the states run. And I think we’ve got to be really thoughtful about how we’re going to afford what we proposed, which is why everything that I have proposed I will tell you exactly how I’m going to pay for it; including college.

MCELVEEN: Thank you Secretary Clinton, thank you.

SANDERS: May I respond to the critique on the …

MCELVEEN: Back to you David.

MUIR: We’re going to get right into this Senator but I want to ask about taxes next. This is included.

SANDERS: I would just…

MUIR: She was asking about that…

SANDERS: But Secretary Clinton is wrong.

As you know, because I know you know a lot about health care. You know that the United States per capita pays far and away more than other country. And it is unfair simply to say how much more the program will cost without making sure that people know that, we are doing away with cost of private insurance and that the middle class will be paying substantially less for health care on the single payer than on the Secretary’s Clinton proposal.

CLINTON: Well, the only thing – the only thing I can go on Senator Sanders…

MUIR: Are we back on health care – Secretary Clinton hold one moment. Senator Sanders…

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: Your proposal is to go and send the health care system to the state.

MUIR: Secretary Clinton, please.

CLINTON: And my analysis is, that you are going to get more taxes out of middle class families. I’m the only person…

MUIR: So let’s ask about it.

Secretary Clinton, let’s turn to the taxes.

CLINTON: … saying, no middle class tax raises. That’s off the table…

MUIR: This is where we are going next, we are going next to taxes here…

SANDERS: Now, this is getting to be fun.

MUIR: This is fun.

(APPLAUSE)

This is democracy at work.

Secretary Clinton, let me ask you about your tax plan because from the crushing cost of college education, the next question most families have; is will my taxes go up under the next president? You have said it’s your goal not to raise taxes on families making under $200,000 a year a goal. But can you say that’s a promise as you stand here tonight?

CLINTON: That is a pledge that I’m making. I made it when I ran in 2008.

MUIR: A promise?

CLINTON: Yes, and it was the same one that President Obama made. Because I don’t think we should be imposing new big programs that are going to raise middle class families’ taxes.

We just heard that most families haven’t had a wage increase since 2001. Since, you know, the end of the last Clinton administration when incomes did go up for everybody. And we’ve got to get back to where people can save money again, where they can invest in their families, and I don’t think a middle-class tax should be part of anybody’s plan right now.

SANDERS: Let me respond to…

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Secretary Clinton…

SANDERS: Let me respond to…

MUIR: Please.

SANDERS: Number one, most important economic reality of today is that over the last 30 years, there has been a transfer of trillions of dollars from the middle class to the top one-tenth of one percent who are seeing a doubling of the percentage of wealth that they own.

Now, when Secretary Clinton says, “I’m not going raise taxes on the middle class,” let me tell you what she is saying. She is disagreeing with FDR on Social Security, LBJ on Medicare and with the vast majority of progressive Democrats in the House and the Senate, who today are fighting to end the disgrace of the United States being the only major country on Earth that doesn’t provide paid family and medical leave.

What the legislation is is $1.61 a week. Now, you can say that’s a tax on the middle class. It will provide three months paid family and medical leave for the working families of this country. I think, Secretary Clinton, $1.61 a week is a pretty good invest.

MUIR: Senator, thank you. Let me bring in Governor O’Malley…

CLINTON: Senator, I have been — I have been fighting for paid…

MUIR: You’ve heard…

CLINTON: … family leave for a very long time…

MUIR: Secretary Clinton.

SANDERS: David, thank you.

CLINTON: I have a way to pay for it that actually makes the wealthiest pay for it…

SANDERS: Then (inaudible)…

CLINTON: … not everybody else.

SANDERS: Every (inaudible) Democrat and senator in support of this proposal introduced by your good friend and my good friend, Kirsten Gillibrand, Rosa DeLauro, got ears (ph) to legislation out there that will finally provide family and medical leave.

MUIR: Thank you. I want to bring in Governor O’Malley on this. We heard the promise from Secretary Clinton because people want to know about their taxes, will they go up. She has now promised here tonight not to raise them on families making $250,000 or less. Can you make that same promise if you’re elected?

O’MALLEY: No, I’ve never made a promise like that. But unlike either of these two fine people, I’ve actually balanced a budget every single year. I was one — I was the only — one of only seven states that had a AAA bond rating. By the time I left, the average tax burden on Maryland families was the same as when I started.

But I did pass a more progressive income tax and asked the highest-earning people to pay another 14 percent. David, look, this is the big — I agree, by the way, that we should have paid family leave. And I agree with Senator Sanders on that. And just like Social Security and unlike the Republicans, I think we should actually expand Social Security and increase average monthly benefits.

But look, there’s one big entitlement we can no longer afford as a country, and that is the entitlement that the super wealthy among us, those earning more than a million dollars, feel that they’re entitled to pay lower income tax rates and a far lower preferred income tax rate when it comes to capital gains.

If we were to raise the marginal rate to 45 percent for people earning more than a million dollars and if we tax capital gains essentially the same we do earnings from hard work and sweat and toil, you could generate $800 billion over the next ten years and that would do so much good for affordable college, debt-free college, cutting youth unemployment in half, investing in our cities again.

So the things I have done in office are the things that actually invest in growing our economy and making wages go up. That’s the issue that we need to tackle as Americans, and we can do it and we know how.

MUIR: Governor O’Malley, thank you. A spirited debate on taxes. And there will be more with the Democratic debate in New Hampshire, when we come back right here on ABC. More in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MUIR: Welcome back tonight to New Hampshire. The Democratic debate continues here on ABC.

And Secretary Clinton, we want to turn to race, now, in America. There is a real concern in this country from Black Lives Matter and from other community groups that we’re just now seeing, with smartphones and cell phones, what many have been dealing with for years when they come in contact with police.

But you also have many in law enforcement who now say there has been a so-called Ferguson effect, police holding back because they’re afraid of backlash.

MUIR: In fact, the FBI director is calling it a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement. So, if elected president, how would you bridge the divide between the two?

CLINTON: Well, David, I think this is one of the most important challenges facing not just our next president but our country. We have systemic racism and injustice and inequities in our country and in particular, in our justice system that must be addressed and must be ended.

I feel very strongly that we have to reform our criminal justice system and we have to find ways to try to bring law enforcement together again with the communities that they are sworn to protect. Trust has been totally lost in a lot of places.

At the same time, we know that in many parts of our country police officers are bridging those divides and they’re acting heroically. The young officer who was killed responding to the Planned Parenthood murders. The officer who told the victims of the San Bernardino killings that he would take a bullet before them.

So I think that we need to build on the work of the policing commissioner that President Obama impaneled. We need to get a bipartisan commitment to work together on this.

And we need to hear the voices of those men and women and boys and girls who feel like strangers in their own country and do whatever is necessary to not only deal with the immediate problems within the criminal justice system, but more opportunities, more jobs, better education so that we can begin to rebuild that very valuable asset known as trust.

MUIR: Secretary, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Governor O’Malley, how would you bridge the divide?

O’MALLEY: There is no issue in American public policy that I have worked on more day in and day out than this painful issue of policing, of law enforcement, criminal justice and race in America.

When I ran in 1999, David, for mayor of Baltimore, our city by that year had become the most addicted, violent, and abandoned in America. But we came together. I brought people together over some very deep racial divides. And we were able to put our city on the path for the biggest reduction in crime of any major city in America over the next ten years.

As governor, we continued to work together. We reduced violent crime to 30-year lows. But get this. We also reduced incarceration rates to 20-year lows. So it is possible actually, to find the things that actually work, that we did, increasing drug treatment, using big data to better protect the lives of young people, cut juvenile crime in half, and it’s also possible to improve how we police our police.

But there wasn’t a single day as mayor of Baltimore that I wasn’t asked whether I was delivering on the promise I made to police the police. We reported excessive force, discourtesy, use of lethal force. In fact, drove down to three of the four lowest years on record police use of lethal force.

As a nation, we have to embrace this moment and make our departments more open, more transparent, and more accountable. Just as we require every major department, every county to report its major crimes, we should require police departments to report their discourtesy, brutality, excessive force.

There’s so much work that can be done, so much we’ve learned to do better. We need to do it now as a nation. This is our time and our opportunity to do that.

MUIR: Governor, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: And Senator Sanders, when you hear the FBI director calling it a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement, does that concern you as well when you —

SANDERS: Well, this whole issue concerns me. And I agree with much of what the secretary and the governor have said. But let’s be clear. Today in America we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, 2.2 million people. Predominantly African-American and Hispanic.

We are spending $80 billion a year locking up our fellow Americans. I think, and this is not easy, but I think we need to make wage a major effort, to come together as a country and end institutional racism. We need major, major reforms of a very broken criminal justice system. Now, what does that mean?

Well, for a start it means that police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African-Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: It means that we have to rethink the so-called war on drugs which has destroyed the lives of millions of people, which is why I have taken marijuana out of the Controlled Substance Act. So that it will not be a federal crime.

SANDERS: That is why we need to make…

(APPLAUSE)

That is why we need to make police — and I speak as a former mayor. I was a mayor for eight years, worked very closely with a great police department. And what we did is try to move that department toward community policing, so that the police officers become part of the community and not, as we see, in some cities an oppressive force.

We need to make police departments look like the communities they serve in terms of diversity. We need to end minimal sentencing. We need, basically, to pledge that we’re going to invest in this country, in jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Senator, thank you. We want to turn now to an issue.

This next issue has destroyed so many families across the country, and in particular right here in New Hampshire, heroin. And there’s a stunning new figure out. A recent poll — 48 percent here, in this state alone, say they know someone who has abused heroin.

We’re going to turn tonight to Dan Tuohy of the New Hampshire Union Leader who has this question.

QUESTION: New Hampshire has been hard hit by the heroin epidemic, and we’re on track to have twice as many overdose deaths this year as in 2013.

What specifically would you do to address this crisis?

MUIR: Senator Sanders, I’m going to take this to you first because you’ve seen what’s happened with heroin right on the border in your own state.

SANDERS: Yes. Look, this is a tragedy for New Hampshire. It is a tragedy for my state of Vermont. It is a tragedy all over this country. The number of heroin deaths are growing very, very significantly.

What do we do? Well, for a start, this may seem like a radical idea, but I think we have got to tell the medical profession and doctors who are prescribing opiates and the pharmaceutical industry that they have got to start getting their act together, we cannot have this huge number of opiates out there throughout this country, where young people are taking them, getting hooked, and then going to heroin.

Second of all, and the reason I believe in a health care for all program, we need to understand that addiction is a disease, not a criminal activity.

(APPLAUSE)

And that means — and that means radically changing the way we deal with mental health and addiction issues. When somebody is addicted and seeking help, they should not have to wait three, four months in order to get that help. They should be able to walk in the door tomorrow and get a variety of treatments that work for them.

So those are some of the areas that I think we’ve got to move on.

MUIR: Senator, thank you. Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: You know, on my very first visit to New Hampshire in this campaign, I was in Keene, and I was asked what are you going to do about the heroin epidemic? And all over New Hampshire, I met grandmothers who are raising children because they lost the father or the mother to an overdose. I met young people who are desperately trying to get clean and have nowhere to go, because there are not enough facilities.

So this is a major epidemic, and it has hit New Hampshire and Vermont particularly hard. I’ve had had two town halls, one in Keene, one in Laconia, dedicated exclusively to talking about what we can do. And I’ve heard some great ideas about how law enforcement is changing its behavior, how the recovery community is reaching out.

And I was proud to get the endorsement of Mayor Walsh of Boston, who has made his struggle with alcoholism a real clarion call for action in this arena.

So, I’ve laid out a five-point plan about what we can do together. I would like the federal government to offer $10 billion over ten years to work with states, and I really applaud Governor Hassan for taking up this challenge and working with the legislature here to come up with a plan.

We need to do more on the prescribing end of it. There are too many opioids being prescribed, and that leads directly now to heroin addiction. And we need to change the way we do law enforcement, and of course, we need more programs and facilities, so when somebody is ready to get help, there’s a place for them to go.

And every law enforcement should carry the antidote to overdose, Naloxone, so that they can save lives that are on the brink of expiring.

MUIR: Secretary, thank you. O’MALLEY: And you know, I actually know a great deal about this issue. And I have a dear friend, played music with him for years, remember when his — when he came home with his baby girl, and now she’s no longer with us, because of addiction and overdose.

The last time in New Hampshire, I had to take a break shortly after landing and call home and comfort a friend whose mother had died of an overdose.

O’MALLEY: Drugs have taken far too many of our citizens. It’s a huge public health challenge. In our own city, I mentioned before, we had become the most addicted city in America.

But together, every single year, I expanded drug treatment funding within our city and then I expanded it in our state, and we were saving lives every single year doing the things that work, intervening earlier, understanding the continuum of care that’s required until we got hit like every other state in the state — in the United States, especially in New Hampshire and in the northeast with this opioid addiction, the over-prescribing.

I agree, we need better — we need to rein in the over- prescribing, but I have put forward on my — in my plan a $12 billion federal investment. We have to invest in the local partnerships, and the best place to intervene, the best indicator of when a person is actually on the verge of killing themselves because of an addiction, is at the hospital. That very first time they show up with a near miss, we should be intervening there. That’s what I said to my own public health people. What would we do if this were ebola? How would we act?

So many more Americans have been killed by the combination of heroin and these highly addictive pain pills, and yet, we refuse to act. There are thing that can be done. Go on to my website. My plan is there. It’s one of 15 strategic goals I’ve set out to make our country a better place by cutting these sort of deaths in half in the next five years.

MUIR: Governor O’Malley, thank you.

Martha?

(APPLAUSE)

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, I want to circle back to something that your opponents here have brought up. Libya is falling apart. The country is a haven for ISIS and jihadists with an estimated 2,000 ISIS fighters there today. You advocated for that 2011 intervention and called it smart power at its best. And yet, even President Obama said the U.S. should have done more to fill the leadership vacuum left behind. How much responsibility do you bear for the chaos that followed elections?

CLINTON: Well, first, let’s remember why we became part of a coalition to stop Gadhafi from committing massacres against his people. The United States was asked to support the Europeans and the Arab partners that we had and we did a lot of due diligence about whether we should or not, and eventually, yes, I recommended and the president decided that we would support the action to protect civilians on the ground and that led to the overthrow of Gadhafi.

I think that what Libya then did by having a full free election, which elected moderates, was an indication of their crying need and desire to get on the right path. Now, the whole region has been rendered unstable, in part because of the aftermath of the Arab Spring, in part because of the very effective outreach and propagandizing that ISIS and other terrorist groups do.

But what we’re seeing happening in Libya right now is that there has been a fragile agreement to put aside the differences that exist among Libyans themselves to try to dislodge ISIS from Sirte, the home town of Gadhafi, and to begin to try to create a national government.

You know, this is not easy work. We did a lot to help. We did as much as we could because the Libyans themselves had very strong feelings about what they wished to accept. But we’re always looking for ways about what more we can do to try to give people a chance to be successful.

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, I want to go back. That — government lacked institutions and experience. It had been a family business for 40 years. On the security side, we offered only a modest training effort and a very limited arms buy-back program. Let me ask you the question again. How much responsibility do you bear for the chaos that followed those elections?

CLINTON: Martha, we offered a lot more than they were willing to take. We offered a lot more. We also got rid of their chemical weapons, which was a big help, and we also went after a lot of the shoulder-fired missiles to round them up. You know, we can’t — if we’re not going to send American troops, which there was never any idea of doing that, then to try to send trainers, to try to send experts, is something we offered, Europeans offered, the U.N. offered, and there wasn’t a lot of responsiveness at first.

I think a lot of the Libyans who had been forced out of their country by Gadhafi who came back to try to be part of a new government, believed they knew what to do and it turned out that they were no match for some of the militaristic forces inside that country. But I’m not giving up on Libya and I don’t think anybody should. We’ve been at this a couple of years.

RADDATZ: But were mistakes made?

CLINTON: Well, there’s always a retrospective to say what mistakes were made. But I know that we offered a lot of help and I know it was difficult for the Libyans to accept help. What we could have done if they had said yes would have been a lot more than what we were able to have done.

SANDERS: But what…

RADDATZ: Senator Sanders.

SANDERS: Look, the secretary is right. This is a terribly complicated issue. There are no simple solutions. But where we have a disagreement is that I think if you look at the history of regime changes, you go back to Mossaddegh (ph) in Iran, you go back to Salvador Allende who we overthrew in Chile, you go back to overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, you go back to where we are today in Syria with a dictator named Assad.

The truth is it is relatively easy for a powerful nation like America to overthrow a dictator but it is very hard to predict the unintended consequences and the turmoil and the instability that follows after you overthrow that dictator.

So I think secretary Clinton and I have a fundamental disagreement. I’m not quite the fan of regime change that I believe she is.

O’MALLEY: Martha — I would just repeat that —

CLINTON: Well, I would just repeat that.

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: Wait a minute. I think it’s only fair to put on the record, Senator Sanders voted in the Senate for a resolution calling for ending the Gadhafi regime and asking that the U.N. be brought in, either a congressional vote or a U.N. Security Council vote. We got a U.N. Security council vote.

Now, I understand that this is very difficult. And I’m not standing here today and saying that Libya is as far along as Tunisia. We saw what happened in Egypt. I cautioned about a quick overthrow of Mubarak, and we now are back with basically an army dictatorship.

This is a part of the world where the United States has tried to play two different approaches. One, work with the tough men, the dictators, for our own benefit and promote democracy. That’s a hard road to walk. But I think it’s the right road for us to try to travel.

O’MALLEY: And Martha…

RADDATZ: Quick Governor O’Malley.

O’MALLEY: … and in this case, we probably let our lust for regime toppling get ahead of the practical considerations for stability in that region. And I believe that one of the big failings in that region is a lack of human intelligence. We have not made the investments that we need to make to understand and to have relationships with future leaders that are coming up.

That’s what Chris Stevens was trying to do. But without the tools, without the support that was needed to that. And now what we have is a whole stretch now, of the coast of Libya, 100 miles, 150 miles, that has now become potentially the next safe haven for ISIL. They go back and forth between Syria and this region. We have to stop contributing to the creation of vacuums that allow safe havens to develop.

RADDATZ: Thank you very much. Thank you. We’re going to move on here. Governor O’Malley, thank you very much for that. And we’re going to make a very sharp turn as we wrap things up here.

Secretary Clinton, first ladies, as you well know, have used their position to work on important causes like literacy and drug abuse. But they also supervise the menus, the flowers, the holiday ornaments and White House decor. I know you think you know where I’m going here.

You have said that Bill Clinton is a great host and loves giving tours but may opt out of picking flower arrangements if you’re elected. Bill Clinton aside, is it time to change the role of a president’s spouse?

CLINTON: Well, the role has been defined by each person who’s held it. And I am very grateful for all my predecessors and my successors because each of them not only did what she could to support her husband and our country but often chose to work on important issues that were of particular concern.

Obviously, Mrs. Obama has been a terrific leader when it comes to young people’s health, particularly nutrition and exercise. And I think has had a big impact. So whoever is part of the family of a president has an extraordinary privilege of not only having a front row seat on history but making her or maybe his contribution.

And with respect to my own husband, I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the china for state dinners and stuff like that. But I will certainly turn to him as prior presidents have for special missions, for advice, and in particular, how we’re going to get the economy working again for everybody, which he knows a little bit about.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: I do want to follow up here for each of you. And a similar line of questioning. Senator Sanders, your wife Jane shares an office at your campaign headquarters in Burlington. We’ve seen the pictures, the desks right next to each other. Would she have a desk close by in the west wing?

SANDERS: Given the fact that she’s a lot smarter than me, yes, she would.

(LAUGHTER)

And let me, by the way, take this moment to congratulate Hillary Clinton, who I thought not only did an outstanding job as our first lady, but redefined what that role could be.

So, I thank you very much for that.

(LAUGHTER)

My wife, Jane, has been — way back when before I knew her, a foster parent. Many, many kids came into her home and received the kind of love that they desperately needed. And she turned around many lives.

She is the best parent and grandmother that I know. She has devoted her life, when I was mayor of the city of Burlington, actually when I first met her, we started a youth office, which started a after-school programs for kids, started a child care center, started a youth newspaper. We got the kids involved in a whole lot of issues.

She led that effort. So I think, at a time when so many of our kids are desperately looking for constructive activity, where too many of our kids are hanging around on street corners, potentially getting into trouble, I think we need a forceful advocate for the children, for teenagers, for the little children, to deal with the dysfunctional child care system, and I think my wife would do a great job in helping me accomplish those goals.

MUIR: Senator, thank you.

Governor O’Malley — Governor O’Malley, you have talked about your wife, Katie, here tonight. She’s a district court judge. And the question for you is, would she have to give that up as first lady, or will she share an office in the west wing as well? O’MALLEY: Well, that would be totally up to her. I mean, Katie has never been a person who let her husband’s professional choices get in the way of following her dreams.

And I think she got that from her mother, actually.

(APPLAUSE)

The — and I readily admit that she is a far more accomplished lawyer than I was ever able to become, before I took my detour. She is a district court judge in Maryland. She puts in a full day there. We’ve raised four terrific kids. And yet, when she was first lady of the state, not only would she go to work every day and sit there through a lot of sad and gut-wrenching cases, but then she’d put in additional time being an advocate against domestic violence.

Maryland made great strides on that because of her advocacy, and her understanding of how the court process works. She was an advocate against bullying and implementing anti-bullying things. So Katie O’Malley will do whatever Katie O’Malley wants to do, regardless of her husband’s success in getting elected president.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Governor O’Malley, thank you, (inaudible).

O’MALLEY: Thank you.

MUIR: Governor, thank you. We’ll be back with much more from New Hampshire. The Democratic debate continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MUIR: Welcome back tonight. It’s been an evening of lively discussion among the candidates and it’s time for closing statements. We began in alphabetical order, so we’ll reverse the order at the end and begin with you, Senator Sanders.

SANDERS: Well, thank you very much for hosting this debate, and let me applaud my colleagues up here. Because I think frankly, maybe I’m wrong, but on our worst day, I think we have a lot more to offer the American people than the right wing’s extremists.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: My father came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket, which sparked my interest in the need for immigration reform because I know what it’s like to be the son of an immigrant.

We grew up in a three-and-a-half-room, rent controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York. My mother’s dream — and she died very young, but my mother’s dream for her whole life was to be able to get out of that rent-controlled apartment and own a home of her own. She never lived to see that.

SANDERS: But what my parents did accomplish is they were able to send both of their sons to college. We were the first in the family. So I know something about economic anxiety and living in a family does not have sufficient income.

And that is why I am pledged, if elected president of the United States, to bring about a political revolution where millions of people begin to stand up and finally say enough is enough, this great country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

RADDATZ: Governor O’Malley?

Martha, thank you. I want to thank all of the people who have tuned in tonight. I want to thank the great people of New Hampshire, where despite all of the cynicism about big money and big banks taking over our politics, here in New Hampshire, the individual matters.

You know, my wife Katie and I have four terrific kids, and like you, there’s probably nothing we wouldn’t do to give them a future that’s safer, that’s healthier, where they have more opportunity than our parents and grandparents gave to us. Tonight, what you listened to was a healthy exchange of ideas about how we’d do that, that which we have always proven, the capacity to do better than any nation in the world, to take actions that include more of our people more fully in the economic, social and political life of our country.

When you listened to the Republican debate the other night, you heard a lot of anger and you had a lot of fear. Well, they can have their anger and they can have their fear, but anger and fear never built America. We build our country by adopting wage and labor policies, including comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway of citizenship for all. We do it by investing in our country, by investing in infrastructure, by investing in the skills and the talents of our people with debt-free college, and we can do it again.

And we also create a better future for our kids when we square our shoulders to the great challenges of our times, whether it’s terror trying to undermine our values or Republican presidential candidates trying to get us to surrender our freedoms and our values in the face of this threat.

The other big challenge we have is climate change. The greatest business opportunity to come to the United States of America in 100 years. We need to embrace this. I have put forward a plan that does this, that moves us to 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050. Join this campaign for the future. New leadership is what our country needs to move us out of these divided and polarized times. Thank you.

MUIR: Governor, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: On January 20th, 2017, the next president of the United States will walk into the White House. If, heaven forbid, that next president is a Republican, I think it’s pretty clear we know what will happen. A lot of the rights that have been won over years, from women’s rights to voter rights to gay rights to worker rights, will be at risk.

Social Security, which Republicans call a Ponzi scheme, may face privatization. Our vets may see the V.A. hospital that needs to be improved and made better for them turned over to privatization. Planned Parenthood will be defunded. The list goes on because the differences are so stark.

You know, everybody says every election’s important, and there’s truth to that. This is a watershed election. I know how important it is that we have a Democrat succeed President Obama in the White House. And I will do all that I can in this campaign to reach out and explain what I stand for and what I will do as president.

You know, I became a grandmother 15 months ago, and so I spent a lot of time thinking about my granddaughter’s future. But as president, I will spend even more time thinking about the futures of all the kids and the grandchildren in this country because I want to make sure every single child has a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. If you will join me in this campaign, we will make that a mission. Thank you, good night and may the force be with you.

(APPLAUSE)

MUIR: Thank you to the candidates tonight. Thank you to the audience here in New Hampshire here at St. Anselm. And thank you to the audience at home. We wish all of you at home a happy and safe holiday week ahead and we wish all the candidates a happy and safe holiday with your families.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s end-of-year news conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Transcript: President Obama’s end-of-year news conference

Source: WaPo, 12-18-15

President Obama held his final news conference of the year before leaving for two weeks of vacation in his home state of Hawaii on Friday, fielding questions on terrorism and national security as he sought to highlight some of his domestic and foreign policy achievements over the past year.

Here is the full text of his remarks.

OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. Clearly, this is not the most important event that’s taking place in the White House today. There is a screening of Star Wars for Gold Star families and children coming up. So I’ll try to be relatively succinct. Let me say a few words about the year behind us and the year ahead and then I’ll take a few questions. As I look back on this year, the one thing I see is that so much of our steady persistent work over the years is paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways. Our early actions to rescue the economy set the stage for the longest streak of private sector job growth on record, with 13.7 million new jobs in that time. The unemployment rate has been cut in half, down to 5 percent. And most importantly, wages grew faster than at any time since the recovery began.

OBAMA: So over the course of this year, a lot of the decisions that we made early on have paid off. Years of steady implementation of the Affordable Care Act helped to drive the rate of the uninsured in America below 10 percent for 10 percent for the first time since records were kept on that. Health care prices have grown at their lowest level in five decades. Seventeen million more Americans have gained coverage, and we now know that 6 million people have signed up through healthcare.gov for coverage beginning on January, 1st — 600,000 on Tuesday alone.

New customers are up one-third over last year, and the more who sign up, the stronger the system becomes. And that’s good news for every American who no longer has to worry about being just one illness or accident away from financial hardship.

On climate, our early investment in clean energy ignited a clean energy industry boom. Our actions to help reduce our carbon emissions brought China to the table and last week in Paris nearly 200 nations forged a historic agreement that was only possible because of American leadership. Around the world, from reaching the deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, to re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, to concluding a landmark trade agreement that will make sure that American workers and American businesses are operating on a level playing field and that we, rather than China or other countries, are setting the rules for global trade. We have shone what is possible when America leads.

And after decades of dedicated advocacy, marriage equality became a reality in all 50 states.

So I just want to point out I said at the beginning of this year that interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter, and we are only halfway through.

I do want to thank Congress for ending the year on a high note. I got to sign an education bill that is going to fix some of the challenges that we had with No Child Left Behind, and promises to invest more in high-quality early childhood education.

OBAMA: We signed a transportation bill that, although not as robust as I think we need, still allows states and local governments to plan and actually get moving putting people back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges. We got Ex-Im Bank back to work supporting American exports.

And today they passed a bipartisan budget deal. I’m not wild about everything in it. I’m sure that’s true for everybody. But it is a budget that, as I insisted, invests in our military and our middle class without ideological provisions that would have weakened Wall Street reform or rules on big polluters. It’s part of an agreement that will permanently extend tax credits to 24 million working families. It includes some long-sought wins like strengthening America’s leadership at the IMF.
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And because it eliminates the possibility of a shutdown for the first nine months of next year, Congress and I have a long way to get important things done on behalf of the American people.

Now there’s still a lot of work to do. For example, there’s still a lot more that Congress can do to promote job growth and increase wages in this country. I still want to work with Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to reform our criminal justice system.

And earlier today I commuted the sentences of 95 men and women who had served their debt to society, and another step forward in upholding our ideals of justice and fairness.

And of course, our most important job is to keep Americans safe. I’ve had a lot to say about that this week, but let me reiterate. The United States continues to lead a global coalition in our mission to destroy ISIL. ISIL’s already lost about 40 percent of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq, and it’s losing territory in Syria.

As we keep up the pressure, our air campaign will continue to hit ISIL harder than ever, taking out their leaders, their commanders and their forces. We’re stepping up our support for partners on the ground as they push ISIL back. Our men and women in uniform are carrying out their mission with a trademark professionalism and courage. And this holiday season all of us are united in our gratitude for their service, and we are thankful to their families as well because they serve alongside those who are actually deployed.

Squeezing ISIL’s heart at its core in Syria and Iraq will make it harder for them to pump their terror and propaganda to the rest of the world. At the same time, as we know from San Bernardino, where I’ll visit with families later today, we have to remain vigilant here at home. Our counter-terrorism, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement communities are working 24/7 to protect our homeland. And all of us can do our part by staying vigilant, by saying something if we see something that is suspicious, by refusing to be terrorized, and staying united as one American family.

In short for all the very real progress America’s made over the past seven years, we still have some unfinished business. And I plan on doing everything I can with every minute of every day that I have left as president to deliver on behalf of the American people.

Since taking this office, I have never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now. And in 2016 I’m going to leave it out all on the field.

So with that, let me take some questions.

I’ll start with Roberta Ranton (ph) on Reuters.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you’re going to California today. And as you said earlier this week, you told the nation that there’s no specific or credible threat of a similar attack, but how is it really possible to know? I mean, aren’t similar plots going to be just as hard to detect beforehand? And some lawmakers are saying that your government should review the social media of all people applying for visas to come to this country. What do you think of that idea? Should that be mandatory?

OBAMA: Well, Roberta, you’re absolutely right that it is very difficult for us to detect lone wolf plots or plots involving a husband and wife, in this case, because despite the incredible vigilance of all of our law enforcement, homeland security, et cetera, it’s not that different from us trying to detect the next mass shooter. You don’t always see it. They’re not always communicating publicly, and if you’re not catching what they say publicly, then it becomes a challenge.

We are continuing to work at every level, to make sure that there’s no slip between information-sharing among agencies.

OBAMA: We’re continuing to strengthen our information sharing with foreign countries, and because in part of the tragedy in Paris, I think you’re seeing much greater cooperation from our European partners on these issues.

But this is a different kind of challenge than the sort that we had with an organization like Al Qaida, that involved highly trained operatives who were working as cells or as a network.

Here, essentially, you have ISIL trying to encourage or induce somebody who may be prey to this kind of propaganda, and it becomes more difficult to — to see.

It does mean that they are less likely to be able to carry out large, complex attacks, but as we saw in San Bernardino, obviously, you can still do enormous damage.

The issue of reviewing social media for those who are obtaining visas, I think, may have gotten garbled a little bit, because there may be — it’s important to distinguish between posts that are public — social media on a Facebook page — versus private communications through various social media or apps.

And our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are constantly monitoring public posts, and that is part of the visa review process, that — that people are investigating what individuals have said publicly, and questioned about any statements that they maybe made.

But if you have a private communication between two individuals, that’s harder to discern, by definition. And one of the things we’ll be doing is engaging with the high-tech community to find out how we can, in an appropriate way, do a better job, if we have a lead, to be able to track a suspected terrorist.

But we’re gonna have to recognize that no government is gonna have the capacity to read every single person’s texts or e-mails or social media. If — if it’s not posted publicly, then there are gonna be feasibility issues that are — that are probably insurmountable at some level.

And, you know, it raises questions about our values. I mean, keep in mind it was only a couple years ago where we were having a major debate about whether the government was becoming too much like Big Brother. And, overall, I think we have struck the right balance in protecting civil liberties and making sure that U.S. citizens’ privacy is preserved, that we are making sure that there’s oversight to what our intelligence agencies do.

But, you know, we’re going to have to continue to balance our needs for security with people’s legitimate concerns about privacy. And because the Internet is global and communications systems are global, you know, the values that we apply here often times are ones that folks who are trying to come into the country are also benefiting from, because they’re using the same technologies.

But this is precisely why we’re working very hard to bring law enforcement, intelligence and high-tech companies together, because we’re gonna have to really review what we can do, both technically as well as consistent with our laws and values, in order to try to discern more rapidly some of the potential threats that may be out there.

OK. David Jackson.

QUESTION: Mr. President, a Gitmo question. Congress has made it pretty clear that they are just (ph) not gonna let you transfer prisoners to the United States for trial. But some people think you already have the executive authority to transfer those prisoners and — and close Gitmo itself next year.

My question is, do you believe you have that authority, and are you willing to exercise it to close that (inaudible)?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, we have been working systematically, another example of persistence, in reducing the population. We have a review process for those who are eligible for transfer. We locate (ph), in countries that have accepted some of these detainees, they monitor them, and it’s been determined that they can be transferred.

And my expectation is, by the early (ph) — by early next year, we should have reduced that population below 100. And we will continue — continue to steadily chip away at the numbers in Guantanamo.

There’s gonna come to a point where we have an irreducible population — people who pose a significant threat, but for various reasons, it’s difficult for us to try them in an Article III court.

Some of those folks are going through the military commission process. But there’s going to be a challenge there. Now, at that stage, I’m presenting a plan to Congress about how we can close Guantanamo.

I’m not going to automatically assume that Congress says no. I’m not being coy, David. I think it’s fair to say that there’s gonna be significant resistance from some quarters, to that.

But I think we can make a very strong argument that it doesn’t make sense for us to be spending an extra $100 million, $200 million, $300 million, $500 million, $1 billion, to have a — a secure setting for 50, 60, 70 people.

And we will wait until Congress has said definitively no to a well thought out plan with numbers attached to it, before we say anything definitive about my executive authority here. I think it’s far preferable if I can get stuff done with Congress.

QUESTION: It’s an election year. You know they’re not gonna do it (ph). (inaudible) on your own?

OBAMA: David, as — as I said — you know, and I think you’ve seen me, on a whole bunch of issues, like immigration, I’m not gonna — I’m not gonna be forward-leaning on what I can do without Congress before I’ve tested what I can do with Congress.

And every once in a while, they’ll surprise you, and — and this may be one of those places, because we can make a really strong argument Guantanamo continues to be one of the key magnets for Jihadi recruitment. You know, to Roberta’s (ph) question earlier about how do they propagandize and convince somebody here in the United States, who may not have a criminal record or a history of terrorist activity, to start shooting, this is part of what they feed. This notion of a gross injustice, that America’s not living up to its professed ideals.

We know that. We see the — the Internet traffic. We see how Guantanamo has been used to create this mythology that America is at war with Islam. And — you know, for us to close it is part of our counterterrorism strategy that is supported by our military, our diplomatic and our intelligence teams.

So when you combine that with the fact that it’s really expensive, and that we are — you know, essentially, at this point, detaining a handful of people, and each person is costing several million dollars to detain, when there are more efficient ways of doing it, you know, I think we can make a strong argument.

I — I — I’m — but I’ll take — you know, I’ll take your point, that it’ll be an uphill battle. Every battle I’ve had with Congress over the last five years have been — has been uphill, and — but we keep on surprising you by actually getting some stuff done.

QUESTION: (inaudible) on an immigration bill (ph)?

OBAMA: Sometimes — sometimes that may prove necessary, but — you know, we try not to get out ahead of ourselves on that.

Julie Pace.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Wanted to ask you about the broader challenges in the Middle East.

OBAMA: Yeah.

QUESTION: Who (ph) of the Republicans who are running for president have argued that the Mid-East and the United States would be safer if you hadn’t (ph) had regime changes, places (ph) like Iraq, Libya, and Egypt.

And having gone through the experience of the Arab Spring and the aftermath, I wonder what you now see of (ph) the U.S. role in the Middle East in terms of trying to push dictators out of power.

Would you advise future presidents to call for authoritarian leaders to step down, as you did? And just specifically on Syria, at this point, is it your expectation that Bashar Assad’s presidency will outlast yours?

OBAMA: You know, there’s been a lot of revisionist history, sometimes by the same people, making different arguments depending on the situation. So maybe it’s useful just for us to go back over some of these issues.

We did not depose Hosni Mubarak. Millions of Egyptians did because of their dissatisfaction with the corruption and authoritarianism of the regime. We had a working relationship with Mubarak. We didn’t trigger the Arab Spring, and the notion that somehow the U.S. was in a position to pull the strings on a country that is the largest in the Arab world, I think is — is mistaken.

What is true is that at the point at which the choice becomes mowing down millions of people or trying to find some transition, we believed and I would still argue that it was more sensible for us to find a peaceful transition to the Egyptian situation.

With respect to Libya, Libya is sort of an alternative version of Syria in some ways, because by the time the international coalition interceded in Syria, chaos had already broken out. You already had the makings of a civil war. You had a dictator who was threatening and was in a position to carry out the wholesale slaughter of large numbers of people. And we worked under U.N. mandate with a coalition of folks in order to try to avert a big humanitarian catastrophe that would not have good for us.

Those who now argue in retrospect, we should have left Gadhafi in there, seem to forget that he had already lost legitimacy and control of his country and we could have — instead of what we have in Libya now, we could have had another Syria in Libya now. The — the problem with Libya was the fact that there was a failure on the part of the entire international community, and I think that the United States has some accountability for not moving swiftly enough and underestimating the need to rebuild government there quickly, and as a consequence, you now have a very bad situation.

As far as Syria goes, I think it is entirely right and proper for the United States of America to speak out on behalf of its (ph) values. And when you have an authoritarian leader that is killing hundreds of thousands of his own people, the notion that we would just stand by and say nothing is contrary to who we are, and that does not serve our interests, because at that point, us being in collusion with that kind of governance would make us even more of a target for terrorist activity, would…

QUESTION: Do you think that government (ph) can help try to stop (inaudible)?

OBAMA: But — but the reason that Assad has been a problem in Syria is because that is a majority Sunni country and he had lost the space that he had early on to execute an inclusive transition — peaceful transition. He chose instead to slaughter people and once that happened, the idea that a minority population there could somehow crush tens of millions of people who oppose him is not feasible. It’s not plausible. Even if you were being cold-eyed and hard-heartened about the human toll there, it just wouldn’t happen.

OBAMA: And as a consequence, our view has been that you cannot bring peace to Syria, you cannot get an end to the civil war unless you have a government that has — it is recognized as legitimate by a majority of that country. It will not happen, and this is the argument that I have had repeatedly with Mr. Putin. Dating five years ago, at which time his suggestion, as I gather some Republicans are now suggesting, was, “You know, Assad’s not so bad, let him just be as brutal and repressive as he can, but at least he’ll keep order.” I said, “Look. The problem is that the history of trying to keep order when a large majority of the country has turned against you is not good.”

And five years later, I was right. So we now have an opportunity — and John Kerry is meeting as we speak with Syria and Turkey and Iran and the Gulf countries and other parties who are interested, we now have an opportunity not to turn back the clock, it’s going to be difficult to completely overcome the devastation that’s happened in Syria already, but to find a political transition that maintains the Syrian state, that recognizes a bunch of stakeholders inside of Syria and hopefully to initiate a cease-fire that won’t be perfect, but allows all the parties to turn on what should be our number one focus, and that is destroying Daesh and its allies in the region.

And that is going to be a difficult process, it’s going to be a pain staking process, but there is no shortcut to that. And that’s not based on some idealism on my part, that’s our hard-headed calculation about what’s going to be required to get the job done.

QUESTION: Do you think that Assad, though, could remain in power a year from now?

OBAMA: I think that Assad is going to have to leave in order for the country to stop the bloodletting and for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a nonsectarian way. He has lost legitimacy in the eyes of a large majority of the country.

Now, is there a way of us constructing a bridge creating a political transition that allows those who are aligned with Assad right now, allows the Russians, allows the Iranians to ensure that their equities are respected and minorities, that minorities like the Alawites (ph) are not crushed or retribution is not the order of the day, I think that’s going to be very important as well.

And that’s what make this so difficult. You know, sadly, had Assad made a decision earlier that he was not more important personally than his entire country, that kind of political transition would have been much easier. It’s a lot harder now.

But John Kerry has been doing excellent work in moving that process forward and I do think that you’ve seen from the Russians a recognition that after a couple months, they’re not really moving the needle that much in this fight of sizable deployment inside of Syria. And of course, that’s what I suggested would happen, because there’s only so much bombing you can do when an entire country is outraged and believes that its ruler doesn’t represent them.

Sheryl (ph) Bowl (ph)?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to ask about the surprise (ph) in Congress. Specifically, what are your top legislative priorities for next year? And how has the new speaker, Paul Ryan, changed the dynamic with you and Capitol Hill? And can you be more ambitious next year doing things like maybe completing the Transatlantic Trade Partnership or even getting tax reform?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, it’s important to give some credit where credit is due. John Boehner did a favor to all of us, including now Speaker Ryan, by working with us to agree on a top line budget framework. That was the basis for subsequent negotiations. He was able to do that because he was going out the door, and was then given, I think, a little more room to maneuver than he previously had.

Having said that, I also want to give Speaker Ryan credit. I called both him and Mitch McConnell, as well as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for the orderly way in which they actually negotiated a budget, the way Congress is historically and typically supposed to work. I think (ph) we’ve gotten kind of used to last-minute crises and shutdown threats and so forth. And this — this is a messy process that doesn’t satisfy everybody completely, but it’s more typical of American democracy, and I think that Speaker Ryan deserves a role in that.

I will say that, in his interactions with me, he has been professional, he has reached out to tell me what he can do and what he cannot do. I think it’s a good working relationship.

We recognize that we disagree on a whole bunch of other stuff, and have fundamentally different visions for where we want to move the country, but, perhaps because even before he was elected he had worked on Capitol Hill, I think he is respectful of the process and respectful of how legislation works.

So kudos to him, as well as all the leaders and appropriators who were involved in this process. Now, just want to repeat, because sometimes we take for granted what’s happened.

I said early on in this process that I wasn’t going to sign a budget that — that did not relieve sequester, this artificial austerity that was making it difficult to invest in things like education and our military. And I said I would not accept a lot of ideological riders that were attached to a big budget deal.

And we met our goals. And because of some terrific negotiations by the Democrats up on Capitol Hill, and I think some pretty good work by our legislative staffs here, we’re gonna be able to fund environmental protection, we’re gonna be able to make sure that we’re investing in things like early childhood education and making college more affordable.

We’re going to be able to implement the clean power plant rule. We’re going to be able to continue to invest in clean energy that spurs on innovation. We’re going to be able to make sure that our military gets the equipment and the training that it needs to be effective in fighting ISIL and other threats around the world.

So it was a — it was a good win. And there are some things in there that I don’t like, but that’s the nature of legislation and — and compromise. And I think the system worked. That gives me some optimism that, next year, on a narrow set of issues, we can get some more work done.

As David said, it’s an election year, and obviously, a lot of the legislative process is going to be skewed by people looking over their shoulders, worrying about primaries, trying to position themselves relative to the presidential candidates. So that makes it harder.

But I think there are going to be a handful of areas where we can make real progress. One of them, you already mentioned, Trans-Pacific Partnership, which now has been out, Congress has had a chance to review, and it meets the bar that I set.

It is consistent with what I promised, which is the most pro- labor, pro-environment, progressive trade deal in history, that eliminates just about every tariff on American manufacturing goods in countries that up until this point have charged a tax, essentially, on anything that American workers and American businesses sell in these areas.

It brings those taxes down to zero on basically all of American manufactured products. A huge win for agriculture, because now — you know, the people of Japan are going to be in a better position to enjoy American beef and American pork, which, up until this point, even though we’re much more efficient producers, has have been tagged with a tax that makes — you know, our products uncompetitive in Japanese markets.

So this is a big deal, and I think Speaker Ryan would like to try to get it done. And there are both proponents and opponents of this in both Democratic and Republican parties, and so it’s gonna be an interesting situation where we’re going to have to stitch together the same kind of bipartisan effort, in order for us to get it done.

A second area that I think is possible is criminal justice reform. There has been sincere, serious negotiations and efforts by Democrats and Republicans to create a criminal justice system that is more fair, more even handed, more proportionate and is smarter about how we reduce crime. And I have really been impressed by the dedication of a core group of Democrats and Republicans. Some of them the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans coming together saying this is the right thing to do. We’ve got a good bill in the Senate that passed with bipartisan support out of committee. My hope is that that gets to the floor. And that we can pair it up with a good bill out of the House. And then this is an area where potentially can see us save money, reduce recidivism, you know, make sure people who make a mistake on nonviolent crimes have to pay the price. Have to serve time, but are released in a — in a reasonable fashion. That they have more support so they’re less likely to go back into the criminal system, subsequently.

And that’s an area where we may be able to make a big difference. So those are just two examples. We’ll keep on looking for a number of examples like that. And — and wherever there’s an opportunity, I’m going to take it.

Phillip Grub (ph). Phillip Grub (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned climate change already. And at the time of the signing of the deal in Paris you said it was potentially a turning point for the the world. But this was a deal that was — that is not a legally binding document and you bypassed Congress pretty much completely.

Are you worried at this point that a Republican president who might take over for you in the White House could stop the deal in its tracks entirely, and considering that possibility, are you more interested in campaigning for a Democrat nominee considering that danger?

OBAMA: I think it’s fair I was going to be campaigning for a Democratic nominee even without that danger. And I am very confident that we’re going to have a terrific Democratic nominee and — whose phone is that, guys? Come on, now. Somebody. You recognize your ring, don’t be embarrassed. Just turn it off. There you go. OK. Can I still here it?

All right, I think it’s off now.

I think we will have a strong Democratic nominee. I think that nominee will win. I think I will have a Democratic successor and I will campaign very hard to make that happy for a whole variety of reasons because they’re far more likely to share my fundamental vision about where America should go.

But having said that, what I think people should also feel good about is that the agreement struck in Paris, although not legally binding when it comes to the targets that had been set does create this architecture in which all around the world countries are saying this is where we’re going.

We’re going to be chasing after this clean energy future. This is how we’re going to meet our goals. We’re going to double down on solar power. We’re going to double down on wind power. We’re going to invest more heavily in biofuels. We’re going to figure out battery technologies.

And what you saw in this budget, which I think was really significant, was an extension of the solar tax credits and wind tax credits that we had helped to really boost early on in my administration and that it resulted in wind power increasing threefold, solar power increasing by twentyfold. Those tax credits are now going to be extended for five to seven years and as a consequence, that combination of market signals means that the private sector is going to start investing much more heavily. They know this is coming. And it’s not just coming here. It’s coming around the world.

You now have a global marketplace for clean energy that is stable and accelerating over the course of the next decade. That then creates a different dynamic that is independent of what Congress does, but also helps to shape what Congress does. Because the more people that are now getting jobs in solar installation and production, the more that you have companies who are seeing how American innovation can sell products in clean energy all across the Asia Pacific and in Europe and in Africa. Suddenly, there’s a big monetary incentive to getting this right.

And that’s been the history of environmental progress in this country and now we’ve exported it around the world. Every time we have made a decision, you know what, we’re going to have clean air. The predictions were, everything would fall apart. And low and behold, turns out that American innovation makes getting clean air a lot less expensive than people expected and it happens a lot faster than expected.

When we made a decision that we were going to double fuel efficiency standards on cars, everybody said, I’m just going to ruin the American auto industry. The American auto industry has been booming over the last couple years.

Acid rain. When George H.W. Bush instituted a system to charge for the emissions that were causing acid rain, everybody said, well you can’t do that, that’s going to ruin business and it turned out that it was smoother, faster, quicker, better.

And acid rain — folks who were born, I don’t know — some of you reporters are getting younger or I’m getting older, you may not remember it but that was a big deal and now most folks don’t even remember it anymore because it got solved. And there’s no reason why the same won’t happen here.

Now, do I think there’s going to be a lot of noise and campaigning next year about how we’re going to stop Paris in its tracks? There will probably be a lot of noise about that. Do I actually think two years from now, three years from now, even Republican members of Congress are going to look at it and say that’s a smart thing to do? I don’t think they will.

Keep in mind that right now the American Republican party is the only major party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate change. I mean, it’s an outlier. Many of the key signatories to this deal, the architects of this deal, come from center-right governments. Even the far right parties in many of these countries. They may not like immigrants for example, but they admit, yes, the science tells us that we have to do something about climate change. So my sense is that this is something that may be an advantage in terms of short-term politics in the Republican primary. It’s not something that is going to be a winner for Republicans long- term.

QUESTION: You mentioned American leadership. But is it embarrassing to you that the other party denies climate change?

OBAMA: No, because first of all, I’m not a member of that party. Second of all, it didn’t stop us from being the key leader in getting this done. I mean, this is something that I have been working on now for five, six years. When I went to Copenhagen, I essentially engaged in 24 hours of diplomacy to salvage from a pretty chaotic process, the basic principle that all countries had to participate.

We couldn’t have a rigid division between developed countries and developing countries when it came to solving this problem. That was the initial foundation for us. Then working with other countries, culminating in the joint announcement with China, bringing in India, bringing in Brazil and the other big, emerging countries, working with the Europeans in getting this done.

This would not have happened without American leadership. And by the way, the same is true for the Iran nuclear deal. The same is true for the Trans-Pacific partnership. The same is true for stamping out Ebola, something you guys may recall from last year, which was the potential end of the world.

You know, at each juncture, what we have said is that American strength and American exceptionalism is not just a matter of us bombing somebody. More often, it’s a matter of us convening, setting the agenda, pointing other nations in a direction that’s good for everybody and good for U.S. interests.

Engaging in painstaking diplomacy, leading by example and sometimes, the results don’t come overnight, they don’t come the following day, but they come. And this year, what you really saw was that steady, persistent leadership on many initiatives that I began when I first came into office.

Alright.

QUESTION: Mr. President?

OBAMA: I’ve got April Ryan (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to ask you something about criminal justice — on that subject and also something on Secretary Kerry (ph). Your administration contends (ph) the United States is five percent of the world population, but 25 percent of the global jail population. What legislation are you supporting that significantly cuts mass incarceration in this country? And going back to the Assad (ph) issue, does Assad have to go to defeat ISIS? OBAMA: Well, we’re going to defeat ISIS, and we’re going to do so by systemically squeezing them, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing, taking out their leadership, taking out their forces, taking out their infrastructure. We’re going to do so in partnership with forces on the ground that sometimes are spotty, sometimes need capacity building, need our assistance, need our training, but we’re seeing steadily progress in many of these areas. And so they’re going to be on the run.

Now, they are going to continue to be dangerous, so — so let me just be very clear, because whenever I say that we have made progress in squeezing the territory that they control or made real end roads against them, what people will say is, well, if something happens around the world, then obviously that must not be true.

But in any battle, in any fight, even as you make progress, there’s still dangers involved. And ISIL’s capacity both to infiltrate Western countries with people who have travel to Syria or travel to Iraq and the savviness of their social media, their ability to recruit disaffected individuals who may be French or British or even U.S. citizens, will continue to make them dangerous for some time. But — but — but we will systemically go after them.

Now, in order for us to stamp them out thoroughly, we have to eliminate lawless areas in which they cannot still roam. So we can — we can disable them, we can dismantle much of their infrastructure, greatly reduce the threat that they pose to the United States, our allies and our neighbors, but in the same way that Al Qaida is pinned down and has much more difficulty carrying out any significant attacks because of how we have systemically dismantled them, they still pose a threat.

There are still operatives who are interested in carrying out terrorist attacks because they still operate in areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan or more prominently right now in Yemen that are hard to reach. Our — our long-term goal has to be able to stabilize these areas so that they don’t have any safe haven, and in order for us to do that in Syria, there has to be an end to the civil war. There has to be an actual government that has a police capacity and a structure in these areas that currently aren’t governed.

And it is my firm belief and the belief of the experts in this administration that so long as Assad is there, we cannot achieve that kind of stability inside of Syria, and, you know, I — I think the history over the last several years indicates as much. So that’s going to continue to be a top priority for us, moving aggressively on the military track and not letting ISIL take a breath and pounding away at them with our special forces and our airstrikes and the training and advising of partners that can go after them. But we also have to keep very aggressive on this diplomatic track in order for us to bring countries together. All right?

Everybody? On criminal justice reform? I — I answered the question. I’m hopeful.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) OBAMA: Right. In April (ph), what I said was is that I strongly support the Senate legislation that’s already been put forward. I’m hopeful that the House can come up with legislation that follows the same principles, which is to make sure that we’re doing sentencing reform, but we’re also doing a better job in terms of reducing recidivism and providing support for ex-offenders. And if we can get those two bills together in a conference, then I’m somewhat optimistic that we’re gonna be able to make a difference.

Now keep in mind, April (ph), when you use the term mass incarceration, statistically the overwhelming majority of people who are incarcerated are in state prisons and state facilities for state crimes. We can only focus on federal law and federal crimes. And so there’s still going to be a large population of individuals who are incarcerated even for nonviolent drug crimes because this is a trend that started in the late ’80s and ’90s and accelerated at the state levels.

But if we can show at the federal level that we can be smart on crime, more cost effective, more just, more proportionate, then we can set a trend for other states to follow as well. And that’s our hope.

This is not going to be something that’s reversed overnight. So just to go back to my general principle, April (ph), it took 20 years for us to get to the point we are now. And only 20 years probably before we reverse — we reverse some of these major trends.

OK, everybody, I gotta get to Star Wars. Thank you. Thank you, guys.

Appreciate you. Thank you. Merry Christmas, everybody.

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 December 15, 2015: Fifth Republican Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada Transcript

ELECTION 2016

CampaignBuzz2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

Transcript: Fifth CNN Republican Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada

Source: Time, 12-15-15

Nine candidates for the Republican nomination faced off in Las Vegas Tuesday night for a primetime debate on CNN, moderated by Wolf Blitzer, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, and Salem Radio Network talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

Here’s a complete transcript of the event, courtesy of CNN.

BLITZER: Welcome to the CNN-Facebook Republican presidential debate here at the Venetian Las Vegas.

We have a very enthusiastic audience. Everyone is here. They’re looking forward to a serious and spirited discussion about the security of this nation.

I’m Wolf Blitzer, your moderator tonight. This debate is airing on CNN networks here in the United States and around the world, and on the Salem Radio Network. The nine leading candidates, they are here. Let’s welcome them right now.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

(APPLAUSE)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

(APPLAUSE)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

(APPLAUSE)

Businessman and real estate developer Donald Trump.

(APPLAUSE)

Retired neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

(APPLAUSE)

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

(APPLAUSE)

And Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome these Republican candidates for president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

This is the final Republican debate before the election year begins, and we’re taking a moment for the photographs of the candidates together on the stage. Now, everyone, please rise for the national anthem sung by Ayla Brown.

(NATIONAL ANTHEM)

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: I know everyone is eager to get started. So, candidates, please take your places while I explain the ground rules for tonight.

As moderator, I’ll guide the discussion, and I’ll be joined in the questioning by Salem Radio Network talk show host Hugh Hewitt and CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash. We also asked Republicans and independents nationwide to share their questions for the candidates. We teamed up with Facebook to send a campaign camper across the country over the past several weeks.

Thousands of people stepped inside and recorded their questions on video. Millions more have weighed in on Facebook. Candidates, I’ll try to make sure each of you gets your fair share of questions. You’ll have a minute and 15 seconds to answer and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. I’ll give you time to respond if you’re singled out for criticism.

Our viewers should know that we have timing lights that are visible to the candidates to warn them when their time is up. And as the candidates requested, a bell will sound like this. We know you are all eager to jump in and debate these important issues, so, please, wait until you’re called on.

These nine Republicans are positioned on stage based on their ranking in the recent polls, so let’s begin right now. I’d like to invite each candidate to introduce himself or herself to our audience. You’ll have one minute.

First to you, Senator Paul.

PAUL: The question is, how do we keep America safe from terrorism? Trump says we ought to close that Internet thing. The question really is, what does he mean by that? Like they do in North Korea? Like they do in China?

Rubio says we should collect all Americans’ records all of the time. The Constitution says otherwise. I think they’re both wrong. I think we defeat terrorism by showing them that we do not fear them. I think if we ban certain religions, if we censor the Internet, I think that at that point the terrorists will have won. Regime change hasn’t won. Toppling secular dictators in the Middle East has only led to chaos and the rise of radical Islam. I think if we want to defeat terrorism, I think if we truly are sincere about defeating terrorism, we need to quit arming the allies of ISIS. If we want to defeat terrorism, the boots on the ground — the boots on the ground need to be Arab boots on the ground.

As commander-in-chief, I will do whatever it takes to defend America. But in defending America, we cannot lose what America stands for. Today is the Bill of Rights’ anniversary. I hope we will remember that and cherish that in the fight on terrorism.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

(APPLAUSE)

Governor Kasich?

KASICH: Thank you, Wolf. Just last weekend, just last week, a friend asked one of my daughters, “Do you like politics?” And my daughter said, “No, I don’t. And the reason I don’t like it is because there’s too much fighting, too much yelling. It’s so loud, I don’t like it.” You know, I turned to my friend and I said, “You know, she’s really on to something.”

And when we think about our country and the big issues that we face in this country; creating jobs, making sure people can keep their jobs, the need for rising wages, whether our children when they graduate from college can find a job, protecting the homeland, destroying ISIS, rebuilding defense. These are all the things that we need to focus on but we’ll never get there if we’re divided. We’ll never get there if republicans and democrats just fight with one another.

Frankly, we are republicans and they’re democrats but before all of that, we’re Americans. And I believe we need to unify in so many ways to rebuild our country, to strengthen our country, to rebuild our defense, and for America to secure it’s place it world; for us, for our children, and for the next generation.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Christie?

CHRISTIE: Thank you Wolf.

America has been betrayed. We’ve been betrayed by the leadership that Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have provided to this country over the last number of years. Think about just what’s happened today. The second largest school district in America in Los Angeles closed based on a threat. Think about the effect that, that’s going to have on those children when they go back to school tomorrow wondering filled with anxiety to whether they’re really going to be safe.

Think about the mothers who will take those children tomorrow morning to the bus stop wondering whether their children will arrive back on that bus safe and sound. Think about the fathers of Los Angeles, who tomorrow will head off to work and wonder about the safety of their wives and their children.

What is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton done to this country? That the most basic responsibility of an administration is to protect the safety and security of the American people. I will tell you this, I’m a former federal prosecutor, I’ve fought terrorists and won and when we get back in the White House we will fight terrorists and win again and America will be safe.

(APPLAUSE) BLITZER: Ms. Fiorina?

FIORINA: Like all of you I’m angry. I’m angry at what’s happening to our nation. Citizens, it’s time to take our country back.

Bombastic insults wont take it back. Political rhetoric that promises a lot and delivers little, won’t take it back. All of our problems can be solved. All of our wounds can be healed by a tested leader who is willing to fight for the character of our nation.

I have been tested. I have beaten breast cancer. I have buried a child. I started as a secretary. I fought my way to the top of corporate America while being called every B word in the book. I fought my way into this election and on to this debate stage while all the political insiders and the pundits told, “it couldn’t be done.”

I’ve been told, “no,: all my life. And all my life, I’ve refused to accept no as an answer. Citizens, it is time to take our country back from the political class, from the media, from the liberal elite. It can be done, it must be done, join me and we will get it done.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Bush?

BUSH: Our freedom is under attack. Our economy is under water. The leading democrat is under investigation. And America is under the gun to lead the free world to protect our civilized way of life.

Serious times require strong leadership, that’s what at stake right now. Regarding national security, we need to restore the defense cuts of Barack Obama to rebuild our military, to destroy ISIS before it destroys us. Regarding economic security, we need to take power and money away from Washington D.C. and empower American families so that they can rise up again.

Look, America still is an exceptional country. We love to lead and we love to win. And we do it, when we take on any challenge and when we take – we support our friends.

As president, I will keep you and our country safe, secure, and free.

Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: Thank you Wolf.

It’s really amazing to be back in Las Vegas. I spent six years as a child growing not far from where we stand tonight. I use to sit on the porch of our home and listen to my grandfather tell stories as he smoked one of three daily cigars.

One of the things my grandfather instilled in me, was that I was really blessed because I was a citizen of the greatest country in the history of our mankind. But there have always been people in American politics that wanted America to be more like the rest of the world. And In 2008, one of them was elected president of this country and the result has been a disaster.

Today you have millions of Americans that feel left out and out of place in their own country, struggling to live paycheck to paycheck, called bigots because they hold on to traditional values.

And around the world, America’s influence has declined while this president has destroyed our military, our allies no longer trust us, and our adversaries no longer respect us. And that is why this election is so important.

That is why I’m running for president. And that’s why I’m going to ask you for your vote tonight. If you elect me president, we will have a president that believes America is the greatest country in the world and we will have a president that acts like it.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Cruz.

CRUZ: Thank you, Wolf.

America is at war. Our enemy is not violent extremism. It is not some unnamed malevolent force. It is radical Islamic terrorist. We have a president who is unwilling to utter its name. The men and women on this stage, every one of us, is better prepared to keep this nation safe than is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

We need a president who understands the first obligation of the commander-in-chief is to keep America safe. If I am elected president, we will hunt down and kill the terrorists. We will utterly destroy ISIS.

We will stop the terrorist attacks before they occur because we will not be prisoners to political correctness. Rather, we will speak the truth. Border security is national security and we will not be admitting jihadists as refugees.

We will keep America safe.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Dr. Carson.

CARSON: Thank you, Wolf.

Please join me for a moment of silence and remembrance of the San Bernardino victims. Thank you. You know, our country since its inception has been at war, every 15 or 20 years. But the war that we are fighting now against radical Islamist jihadists is one that we must win. Our very existence is dependent upon that.

You know, as a pediatric neurosurgeon, I frequently faced life and death situations, and had to come up with the right diagnosis, the right plan, and execute that plan frequently with other colleagues.

Right now, the United States of America is the patient. And the patient is in critical condition and will not be cured by political correctness and will not be cured by timidity.

And I am asking the Congress, which represents the people, to declare a war on ISIS so that we can begin the process of excising that cancer and begin the healing process, and bring peace, prosperity, and safety back to America.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Thank you.

I began this journey six months ago. My total focus was on building up our military, building up our strength, building up our borders, making sure that China, Japan, Mexico, both at the border and in trade, no longer takes advantage of our country.

Certainly would never have made that horrible, disgusting, absolutely incompetent deal with Iran where they get $150 billion. They’re a terrorist nation. But I began it talking about other things.

And those things are things that I’m very good at and maybe that’s why I’m center stage. People saw it. People liked it. People respected it.

A month ago things changed. Radical Islamic terrorism came into effect even more so than it has been in the past. People like what I say. People respect what I say. And we’ve opened up a very big discussion that needed to be opened up.

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you.

Since you last debated, Americans have witnessed terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. The FBI director says the country now faces the greatest terror threat since 9/11. You all have different approaches to keeping the country safe. And that will be the focus of tonight’s debate.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, as you mentioned in your opening statement, part of your strategy is to focus in on America’s borders. To keep the country safe, you say you want to temporarily ban non-American Muslims from coming to the United States; ban refugees fleeing ISIS from coming here; deport 11 million people; and wall off America’s southern border. Is the best way to make America great again to isolate it from much of the rest of the world?

TRUMP: We are not talking about isolation. We’re talking about security. We’re not talking about religion. We’re talking about security. Our country is out of control. People are pouring across the southern border. I will build a wall. It will be a great wall. People will not come in unless they come in legally. Drugs will not pour through that wall.

As far as other people like in the migration, where they’re going, tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them? I don’t think so, Wolf. They’re not coming to this country. And if I’m president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They’re going. They’re gone.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Bush, you called Mr. Trump “unhinged” when he proposed banning non-American Muslims from the United States. Why is that unhinged?

BUSH: Well, first of all, we need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate. That’s — that should be our objective. The refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS there, which means we need to have a no-fly zone, safe zones there for refugees and to build a military force.

We need to embed our forces — our troops inside the Iraqi military. We need to arm directly the Kurds. And all of that has to be done in concert with the Arab nations. And if we’re going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS?

The Kurds are the greatest fighting force and our strongest allies. They’re Muslim. Look, this is not a serious proposal. In fact, it will push the Muslim world, the Arab world away from us at a time when we need to reengage with them to be able to create a strategy to destroy ISIS.

So Donald, you know, is great at — at the one-liners, but he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Jeb doesn’t really believe I’m unhinged. He said that very simply because he has failed in this campaign. It’s been a total disaster. Nobody cares. And frankly, I’m the most solid person up here. I built a tremendous company and all I want to do is make America great again.

I don’t want our country to be taken away from us, and that’s what’s happening. The policies that we’ve suffered under other presidents have been a disaster for our country. We want to make America great again. And Jeb, in all fairness, he doesn’t believe that.

BUSH: Look, he mentioned me. I can bring — I can talk. This is — this is the problem. Banning all Muslims will make it harder for us to do exactly what we need to do, which is to destroy ISIS. We need a strategy. We need to get the lawyers off the back of the warfighters. Right now under President Obama, we’ve created this — this standard that is so high that it’s impossible to be successful in fighting ISIS.

We need to engage with the Arab world to make this happen. It is not a serious proposal to say that — to the people that you’re asking for their support that they can’t even come to the country to even engage in a dialogue with us. That’s not a serious proposal. We need a serious leader to deal with this. And I believe I’m that guy.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Rubio — I’m going to go to Senator Rubio and get his thoughts.

You have said banning Muslims is unconstitutional. But according to a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll, a majority of Republicans support Mr. Trump’s idea. Why are they wrong?

RUBIO: Well, I understand why they feel that way, because this president hasn’t kept us safe. The problem is we had an attack in San Bernardino. And we were paying attention to the most important issue we have faced in a decade since 9/11, and then all the talk was about this proposal, which isn’t going to happen.

But this is what’s important to do is we must deal frontally with this threat of radical Islamists, especially from ISIS. This is the most sophisticated terror group that has ever threatened the world or the United States of America. They are actively recruiting Americans. The attacker in San Bernardino was an American citizen, born and raised in this country. He was a health inspector; had a newborn child and left all that behind to kill 14 people.

We also understand that this is a group that’s growing in its governance of territory. It’s not just Iraq and Syria. They are now a predominant group in Libya. They are beginning to pop up in Afghanistan. They are increasingly involved now in attacks in Yemen. They have Jordan in their sights.

This group needs to be confronted with serious proposals. And this is a very significant threat we face. And the president has left us unsafe. He spoke the other night to the American people to reassure us. I wish he hadn’t spoken at all. He made things worse. Because what he basically said was we are going to keep doing what we’re doing now, and what we are doing now is not working.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Hugh Hewitt, you have a question.

HEWITT: Senator Cruz, you’ve said you disagree with Mr. Trump’s policy. I don’t want a cage match; you’ve tweeted you don’t want a cage match. But Republican primary voters deserve to know, with the kind of specificity and responsiveness you delivered in your nine Supreme Court arguments, how you disagree with Mr. Trump. Would you spell that out with us?

CRUZ: Well, listen, Hugh, everyone understands why Donald has suggested what he has. We’re looking at a president who’s engaged in this double-speak where he doesn’t call radical Islamic terrorism by its name. Indeed, he gives a speech after the San Bernardino attack where his approach is to try to go after the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens rather than to keep us safe.

And even worse, President Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing bringing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to this country when the head of the FBI has told Congress they cannot vet those refugees.

I understand why Donald made that proposal. I introduced legislation in the Senate that I believe is more narrowly focused at the actual threat, which is radical Islamic terrorism, and what my legislation would do is suspend all refugees for three years from countries where ISIS or Al Qaida control substantial territory.

HEWITT: So you’re saying you disagree because he’s too broad and you have a narrower focus? Why do you disagree with him?

CRUZ: Well, you know, I’m reminded of what FDR’s grandfather said. He said, “All horse-thieves are Democrats, but not all Democrats are horse-thieves.”

(LAUGHTER)

In this instance, there are millions of peaceful Muslims across the world, in countries like India, where there is not the problems we are seeing in nations that are controlled — have territory controlled by Al Qaida or ISIS, and we should direct at the problem, focus on the problem, and defeat radical Islamic terrorism. It’s not a war on a faith; it’s a war on a political and theocratic ideology that seeks to murder us.

HEWITT: Carly Fiorina… (APPLAUSE)

… this is the Christmas dinner debate. This will be the debate that Americans talk about at Christmas. And thus far, in the first 10 minutes, we haven’t heard a lot about Ronald Reagan’s city on a hill. We’ve heard a lot about keeping Americans out or keeping Americans safe and everyone else out. Is this what you want the party to stand for?

FIORINA: What I think we need to stand for are solutions. I offer myself as a leader to the people of this country because I think they’re looking for solutions, not lawyers arguing over laws or entertainers throwing out sound bites that draw media attention. We need to solve the problem.

To solve the problem, we need to do something here at home and something over there in their caliphate. We need to deny them territory.

But here at home, we need to do two fundamental things. Number one, we need to recognize that technology has moved on. The Patriot Act was signed in 2001, roughly. The iPhone was invented in 2007. The iPad was invented in 2011. Snapchat and Twitter, all the rest of it, have been around just for several years. Technology has moved on, and the terrorists have moved on with it.

Let me tell you a story. Soon after 9/11, I got a phone call from the NSA. They needed help. I gave them help. I stopped a truckload of equipment. I had it turned around. It was escorted by the NSA into headquarters. We need the private sector’s help, because government is not innovating. Technology is running ahead by leaps and bound. The private sector will help, just as I helped after 9/11. But they must be engaged, and they must be asked. I will ask them. I know them.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Christie, Americans are clearly more afraid today than at any time since 9/11. As you mentioned in your opening statement, today in Los Angeles, 650 schoolchildren didn’t go to — 650,000 schoolchildren didn’t go to school because of an e-mail threat, this two weeks after an attack killed 14 people in San Bernardino. Is this the new normal? And if so, what steps would you take as president of the United States to ensure that fear does not paralyze America?

CHRISTIE: Wolf, unfortunately, it’s the new normal under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The fact is that if you listen to Hillary Clinton the other day, what she said to the American people was, as regards to ISIS, my strategy would be just about the same as the president’s.

Just about the same as the president’s? We have people across this country who are scared to death. Because I could tell you this, as a former federal prosecutor, if a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, California, is now a target for terrorists, that means everywhere in America is a target for these terrorists.

Now, I spent seven years of my life in the immediate aftermath of September 11th doing this work, working with the Patriot Act, working with our law enforcement, working with the surveillance community to make sure that we keep America safe.

What we need to do, Wolf, is restore those tools that have been taken away by the president and others, restore those tools to the NSA and to our entire surveillance and law enforcement community.

We need a president who is going to understand what actionable intelligence looks like and act on it. And we need a president and a cabinet who understands that the first and most important priority of the president of the United States is to protect the safety and security of Americans.

As someone who has done it, I will make sure it gets done again.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you.

Governor Kasich, one of the killers in San Bernardino was an American who was not on anyone’s watch list. How are you going to find that radicalized person and stop another such attack?

KASICH: Well, first of all, Wolf, I said last February that we needed to have people on the ground, troops on the ground in a coalition similar to what we had in the first Gulf War.

I remember when the Egyptian ambassador to the United States stood in the Rose Garden and pledged Arab commitment to removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Before we came out here tonight, I am told that the Saudis have organized 34 countries who want to join in the battle against terrorism.

First and foremost, we need to go and destroy ISIS. And we need to do this with our Arab friends and our friends in Europe.

And when I see they have a climate conference over in Paris, they should have been talking about destroying ISIS because they are involved in virtually every country, you know, across this world.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, you destroy ISIS in a coalition. You get joint intelligence with our European friends. And then here at home, there are things called the Joint Terrorism Task Force, headed by the FBI, and made up of local law enforcement, including state police.

They need the tools. And the tools involve encryption where we cannot hear what they’re even planning. And when we see red flags, a father, a mother, a neighbor who says we have got a problem here, then we have to give law enforcement the ability to listen so they can disrupt these terrorist attacks before they occur.

We can do this, but we’ve got to get moving. Pay me now or pay me a lot more later. This is the direction we need to go.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you.

Dana Bash, you have the next question.

BASH: A crucial question is how to balance surveillance with privacy and keeping Americans safe.

Senator Cruz, you voted for a bill that President Obama signed into law just this past June that made it harder for the government to access Americans’ phone records. In light of the San Bernardino attack, was your vote a mistake?

CRUZ: Well, Dana, the premise of your question is not accurate. I’m very proud to have joined with conservatives in both the Senate and the House to reform how we target bad guys.

And what the USA Freedom Act did is it did two things. Number one, it ended the federal government’s bulk collection of phone metadata of millions of law-abiding citizens.

But number two in the second half of it that is critical. It strengthened the tools of national security and law enforcement to go after terrorists. It gave us greater tools and we are seeing those tools work right now in San Bernardino.

And in particular, what it did is the prior program only covered a relatively narrow slice of phone calls. When you had a terrorist, you could only search a relatively narrow slice of numbers, primarily land lines.

The USA Freedom Act expands that so now we have cell phones, now we have Internet phones, now we have the phones that terrorists are likely to use and the focus of law enforcement is on targeting the bad guys.

You know what the Obama administration keeps getting wrong is whenever anything bad happens they focus on law-abiding citizens instead of focusing on the bad guys.

We need to focus on radical Islamic terrorists and we need to stop them before they carry out acts of terror.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Thank you.

Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz is right there was bipartisan support for that. But you voted against it. So, is Senator Cruz wrong?

RUBIO: He is and so are those that voted for it. There were some that voted for it because they wanted to keep it alive and they were afraid the whole program would expire.

Here’s the world we live in. This is a radical jihadist group that is increasingly sophisticated in its ability, for example, to radicalize American citizens, in its inability to exploit loopholes in our legal immigration system, in its ability to capture and hold territory in the Middle East, as I outlined earlier, in multiple countries.

This is not just the most capable, it is the most sophisticated terror threat we have ever faced. We are now at a time when we need more tools, not less tools. And that took we lost, the metadata program, was a valuable tool that we no longer have at our disposal.

BASH: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Well, you know, I would note that Marco knows what he’s saying isn’t true. You know, Mark Levin wrote a column last week that says that the attack ads his Super PAC is running that are saying the same thing, that they are knowingly false and they are, in fact, Alinsky-like attacks like Barack Obama.

And the reason is simple. What he knows is that the old program covered 20 percent to 30 percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100 percent. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that’s the case.

RUBIO: Dana, may I interject here?

BASH: Senator — Senator — Senator Rubio, please respond.

RUBIO: Let me be very careful when answering this, because I don’t think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information. So let me just be very clear. There is nothing that we are allowed to do under this bill that we could not do before.

This bill did, however, take away a valuable tool that allowed the National Security Agency and other law — and other intelligence agencies to quickly and rapidly access phone records and match them up with other phone records to see who terrorists have been calling. Because I promise you, the next time there is attack on — an attack on this country, the first thing people are going to want to know is, why didn’t we know about it and why didn’t we stop it? And the answer better not be because we didn’t have access to records or information that would have allowed us to identify these killers before they attacked.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Senator Paul, Senator Paul, I know this is — this has been a very big issue for you. You hear many of your colleagues are calling for increased surveillance by law enforcement. You call that hogwash. Why is that hogwash?

PAUL: You know, I think Marco gets it completely wrong. We are not any safer through the bulk collection of all Americans’ records. In fact, I think we’re less safe. We get so distracted by all of the information, we’re not spending enough time getting specific immigration — specific information on terrorists.

The other thing is, is the one thing that might have stopped San Bernardino, that might have stopped 9/11 would have been stricter controls on those who came here. And Marco has opposed at every point increased security — border security for those who come to our country.

On his Gang of Eight bill, he would have liberalized immigration, but he did not — and he steadfastly opposed any new border security requirements for refugees or students.

Last week, I introduced another bill saying we need more security, we need more scrutiny. Once again, Marco opposed this. So Marco can’t have it both ways. He thinks he wants to be this, “Oh, I’m great and strong on national defense.” But he’s the weakest of all the candidates on immigration. He is the one for an open border that is leaving us defenseless. If we want to defend the country, we have to defend against who’s coming in, and Marco is — has more of an allegiance to Chuck Schumer and to the liberals than he does to conservative policy.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: I want to thank Rand for another 30 seconds, because, number one, what he’s pointing to is a bill last week that — amendment that he voted for that only 10 people voted for. You know why? Because it’s not focused on terrorists. It would have banned anyone from coming here. Someone from Taiwan would not have been able to come here as a tourist.

Number two, this program, this metadata program is actually more strict than what a regular law enforcement agency has now. If a regular law enforcement agency wants your phone records, all they have to do is issue a subpoena. But now the intelligence agency is not able to quickly gather records and look at them to see who these terrorists are calling. And the terrorists that attacked us in San Bernardino was an American citizen, born and raised in this country. And I bet you we wish we would have had access to five years of his records so we could see who he was working with…

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Governor Christie, Governor Christie…

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Governor Christie, I’ll come to you in a minute. Go ahead, Senator Paul.

PAUL: If I was mentioned in the question, can I respond? BASH: Go ahead, please.

PAUL: Marco still misunderstands the immigration issue. What I put forward was an amendment that would have temporarily halted immigration from high-risk terrorist countries, but would have started it up, but I wanted them to go through Global Entry, which is a program where we do background checks.

The thing is, is that every terrorist attack we’ve had since 9/11 has been legal immigration. Marco wants to expand that. I want more rules, more scrutiny, and to defend the country, you have to defend the border.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Senator, we’re going to talk about immigration in a while. But, Governor Christie, just listening to this…

RUBIO: Do I get another 30 seconds? He mentioned me.

BASH: Listening to this, you talked — you heard Senator Paul, Senator Cruz talk about how important it is to protect Americans’ privacy, even in a time of grave danger. Why — what’s wrong with that?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it’s like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who’ve never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position.

The fact is, for seven years, I had to make these decisions after 9/11, make a decision about how to proceed forward with an investigation or how to pull back, whether you use certain actionable intelligence or whether not to. And yet they continue to debate about this bill and in the subcommittee and what — nobody in America cares about that.

CHRISTIE: What they care about is, are we going to have a president who actually knows what they’re doing to make these decisions? And for the seven years afterwards, New Jersey was threatened like no other region in this country and what we did was we took action within the constitution to make sure that law enforcement had all the information they needed.

We prosecuted two of the biggest terrorism cases in the world and stopped Fort Dix from being attacked by six American radicalized Muslims from a Mosque in New Jersey because we worked with the Muslim American community to get intelligence and we used the Patriot Act to get other intelligence to make sure we did those cases. This is the difference between actually been a federal prosecutor, actually doing something, and not just spending your life as one of hundred debating it.

Let’s talk about how we do this, not about which bill, which one these guys like more. The American people don’t care about that.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Dr. Carson, you’re in favor of monitoring mosques and schools where there is anti-America sentiment, what do you consider anti- America?

CARSON: First of all, let me just complain a little bit. This is the first time I’ve spoken and several people have had multiple questions so please try to pay attention to that. Now, as far as monitoring is concerned, what my point is, we need to make sure that any place – I don’t care whether it’s a mosque, a school, a supermarket, a theater, you know it doesn’t matter. If there are a lot of people getting there and engaging in radicalizing activities then we need to be suspicious of it.

We have to get rid of all this PC stuff. And people are worried about if somebody’s going to say that I’m Islamophobic or what have you. This is craziness because we are at war. That’s why I asked congress, go ahead and declare the war .

We need to be on a war footing. We need to understand that our nation is in grave danger. You know, what the Muslim Brotherhood said in the explanatory memorandum that was discovered during the Holy Land Foundation Trial was that, “they will take advantage of our PC attitude to get us. :”

We have to be better than this. We have to be smarter than they are.

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, who was right in that little debate that we just heard between Senator Rubio and Senator Paul?

CARSON: I think you have to ask them about that. I don’t want to get in between them. Let them fight.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on a sec, we have a lot more to come and everybody’s going to have their full opportunity.

Governor Bush, six days after 9/11 your brother visited a mosque and said quote, “Islam is peace.” The conversation tonight is about banning Muslims and surveillance of mosques, are President Bush’s words still relevant in today’s Republican party?

BUSH: They are reverent if we want to destroy ISIS. If we want to destroy radical Islamic terrors, we can’t disassociate ourselves from peace loving Muslims. If we expect to do this on our own, we will fail but if we do it in unison with people who are also are at risk and threatened by Islamic Radical terrorism, we’ll be far more successful.

Look, the FBI has the tools necessary un-American activities in our country. It goes on, we shouldn’t even be talking about it, to be honest with you out in the public. Of course they have those capabilities and we should make sure that we give the FBI, the NSA, our intelligence communities, all the resources they need to keep us safe.

But the main thing we should be focused on is the strategy to destroy ISIS. And I laid out a plan that the Reagan Library before the tragedy of Paris, and before San Bernardino to do just that. It requires leadership, it’s not filing an amendment and call it a success.

It is developing a strategy, leading the world, funding it to make sure that we have a military that’s second to none, and doing the job and making sure that we destroy ISIS there. That’s how you keep America safe.

BLITZER: Ms. Fiorina, as you pointed out you were a CEO in Silicon Valley on 9/11. Companies there, they say they won’t help the FBI now crack encrypted communication from ISIS, should they be forced to.

FIORINA: You know, listening to this conversation, let me just say, we have a lot of argument about laws but none of it solves the problem. Let’s examine what happened, why did we miss the Tsarnaev brothers, why did we miss the San Bernardino couple? It wasn’t because we had stopped collected metadata it was because, I think, as someone who comes from the technology world, we were using the wrong algorithms.

This is a place where the private sector could be helpful because the government is woefully behind the technology curve. But secondly, the bureaucratic processes that have been in place since 9/11 are woefully inadequate as well. What do we now know? That DHS vets people by going into databases of known or suspected terrorists.

FIORINA: And yet, we also know that ISIS is recruiting who are not in those databases. So of course, we’re going to miss them. And then we now learn that DHS says, “No, we can’t check their social media.”

For heaven’s sakes, every parent in America is checking social media and every employer is as well, but our government can’t do it. The bureaucratic procedures are so far behind. Our government has become incompetent, unresponsive, corrupt. And that incompetence, ineptitude, lack of accountability is now dangerous.

It is why we need a different kind of leadership in the White House that understands how to get bureaucracies competent again.

BLITZER: But my question was: Should these Silicon Valley companies be forced to cooperate with the FBI?

FIORINA: They do not need to be forced. They need to be asked to bring the best and brightest, the most recent technology to the table. I was asked as a CEO. I complied happily. And they will as well. But they have not been asked. That’s why it cost billions of dollars to build an Obama website that failed because the private sector wasn’t asked.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, you recently suggested closing that Internet up, those were your words, as a way to stop ISIS from recruiting online. Are you referring to closing down actual portions of the Internet? Some say that would put the U.S. in line with China and North Korea.

TRUMP: Well, look, this is so easy to answer. ISIS is recruiting through the Internet. ISIS is using the Internet better than we are using the Internet, and it was our idea. What I wanted to do is I wanted to get our brilliant people from Silicon Valley and other places and figure out a way that ISIS cannot do what they’re doing.

You talk freedom of speech. You talk freedom of anything you want. I don’t want them using our Internet to take our young, impressionable youth and watching the media talking about how they’re masterminds — these are masterminds. They shouldn’t be using the word “mastermind.” These are thugs. These are terrible people in ISIS, not masterminds. And we have to change it from every standpoint. But we should be using our brilliant people, our most brilliant minds to figure a way that ISIS cannot use the Internet. And then on second, we should be able to penetrate the Internet and find out exactly where ISIS is and everything about ISIS. And we can do that if we use our good people.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Let me follow up, Mr. Trump.

So, are you open to closing parts of the Internet?

TRUMP: I would certainly be open to closing areas where we are at war with somebody. I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our Internet. Yes, sir, I am.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Governor Kasich, is shutting down any part of the Internet a good idea?

KASICH: No, I don’t think it is. And I want to go back to two other issues. One is the metadata. We know we have to hold this data for a longer period of time. And, you know, in a lot of ways, Chris is right. Look, what a president has to do is take a position. We don’t want to err on the side of having less. We want to err on the side of having more. That’s good for our families.

In addition to that, Wolf, there is a big problem. It’s called encryption. And the people in San Bernardino were communicating with people who the FBI had been watching. But because their phone was encrypted, because the intelligence officials could not see who they were talking to, it was lost.

We have to solve the encryption problem. It is not easy. A president of the United States, again, has to bring people together, have a position. We need to be able to penetrate these people when they are involved in these plots and these plans. And we have to give the local authorities the ability to penetrate to disrupt. That’s what we need to do. Encryption is a major problem, and Congress has got to deal with this and so does the president to keep us safe.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

The fight against radical Islamic terrorists and ISIS has been called the war of our time. So let’s talk about how each of you, as commander in chief, would fight this war and win it.

Senator Cruz, you have said you would, quote, “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” testing whether, quote, “sand can glow in the dark.” Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria where there are hundreds of thousands of civilians?

CRUZ: What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS. To put things in perspective, in the first Persian Gulf War, we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We carpet bombed them for 36 days, saturation bombing, after which our troops went in and in a day and a half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army.

Right now, Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. It is photo op foreign policy. We need to use overwhelming air power. We need to be arming the Kurds. We need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are.

And let me go back to the earlier discussion a minute ago. It’s not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks. It is political correctness. We didn’t monitor the Facebook posting of the female San Bernardino terrorist because the Obama DHS thought it would be inappropriate. She made a public call to jihad, and they didn’t target it.

The Tsarnaev brothers, the elder brother made a public call to jihad and the Obama administration didn’t target it. Nidal Hasan communicated with Anwar al-Awlaki, a known radical cleric, asked about waging jihad against his fellow soldiers. The problem is because of political correctness, the Obama administration, like a lot of folks here, want to search everyone’s cell phones and e-mails and not focus on the bad guys. And political correctness is killing people.

BLITZER: Thank you. To be clear, Senator Cruz, would you carpet bomb Raqqa, the ISIS capital, where there are a lot of civilians, yes or no?

CRUZ: You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops. You use air power directed — and you have embedded special forces to direction the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.

To make it — listen, ISIS is gaining strength because the perception is that they’re winning. And President Obama fuels that perception. That will change when militants across the globe see that when you join ISIS that you are giving up your life, you are signing your death warrant, and we need a president who is focused on defeating every single ISIS terrorist and protecting the homeland, which should be the first priority.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you, Senator.

Senator Rubio, you’ve been critical of Senator Cruz’s strategy. You say his voting record doesn’t match his rhetoric. Why?

RUBIO: Well, let me begin by saying that we have to understand who ISIS is. ISIS is a radical Sunni group. They cannot just be defeated through air strikes. Air strikes are a key component of defeating them, but they must be defeated on the ground by a ground force. And that ground force must be primarily made up of Sunni Arabs themselves, Sunni Arabs that reject them ideologically and confront them militarily.

We will have to embed additional American special operators alongside them to help them with training, to help them conduct special missions, and to help improve the air strikes. The air strikes are important, but we need to have an air force capable of it. And because of the budget cuts we are facing in this country, we are going to be left with the oldest and the smallest Air Force we have ever had. We have to reverse those cuts, in addition to the cuts to our Navy and in addition to the cuts to our Army, as well.

And beyond that, I would say we must win the information war against ISIS. Every war we have ever been involved in has had a propaganda informational aspect to it. ISIS is winning the propaganda war. They are recruiting people, including Americans, to join them, with the promise that they are joining this great apocalyptic movement that is going to defeat the West. We have to show what life is really like in ISIS territory, and we have to show them why ISIS is not invincible, by going out and conducting these attacks and publicizing them to those who they recruit.

BLITZER: Because I asked the question, Senator, because you said this. You said he, referring to Senator Cruz, voted against the Defense Authorization Act every year that it came up, and I assume that if he voted against it, he would veto it as president. That’s the bill that funds our troops.

RUBIO: That is accurate. Three times he voted against the Defense Authorization Act, which is a bill that funds the troops. It also, by the way, funds the Iron Dome and other important programs. And I have to assume that if you vote against it in the Senate, you would also veto it as president.

He has also supported, by the way, a budget that is called the containment budget. And it is a budget that would radically reduce the amount of money we spend on our military. You can’t carpet bomb ISIS if you don’t have planes and bombs to attack them with. And if we continue those cuts that we’re doing now, not to mention additional cuts, we are going to be left with the oldest and the smallest Air Force this country has ever had, and that leaves us less safe.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Well, you know, Marco has continued these attacks, and he knows they’re not true. Yes, it is true that I voted against the National Defense Authorization Act, because when I campaigned in Texas I told voters in Texas that I would oppose the federal government having the authority to detain U.S. citizens permanently with no due process. I have repeatedly supported an effort to take that out of that bill, and I honored that campaign commitment.

CRUZ: But more broadly, you know, the notion Marco is suggesting, that somehow — he also has tossed more than a few insults this direction — let’s be absolutely clear. ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism will face no more determined foe than I will be.

We will utterly destroy them by targeting the bad guys. And one of the problems with Marco’s foreign policy is he has far too often supported Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama undermining governments in the Middle East that have helped radical Islamic terrorists.

We need to focus on killing the bad guys, not getting stuck in Middle Eastern civil wars that don’t keep America safe.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: Yes, let me — three points of distinction. The first is, if you’re an American citizen and you decide to join up with ISIS, we’re not going to read you your Miranda rights. You’re going to be treated as an enemy combatant, a member of an army attacking this country.

(APPLAUSE)

Number two, we do need our defense capabilities. It is a fact that the cuts we are facing today and the cuts that Senator Cruz would have supported would leave us with an even smaller Air Force and a smaller Navy than the one we are going to be left with.

And the final point that I would make is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s strategy is to lead from behind. It sounds like what he is outlining is not to lead at all. We cannot continue to outsource foreign policy. We must lead. We are the most powerful nation in the world. We need to begin to act like it, again.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: We are going to have much more on this…

PAUL: Wolf…

BLITZER: We’re going to have much more on this. But I want to move now back to Mr. Trump.

PAUL: Wolf, this legislation…

BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. PAUL: This legislation on indefinite detention…

BLITZER: We have a lot…

PAUL: … I think deserves a little more attention.

BLITZER: We have a lot to discuss. I want to move to Mr. Trump right now. We have a question on this war against ISIS and how you would fight and win this war. Here’s the question from Facebook. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH JACOB, COLLEGE STUDENT: I’m Josh Jacob from Georgia Tech. Recently Donald Trump mentioned we must kill the families of ISIS members. However, this violates the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants in international law.

So my question is, how would intentionally killing innocent civilians set us apart from ISIS?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: We have to be much tougher. We have to be much stronger than we’ve been. We have people that know what is going on. You take a look at just the attack in California the other day. There were numerous people, including the mother, that knew what was going on.

They saw a pipe bomb sitting all over the floor. They saw ammunition all over the place. They knew exactly what was going on.

When you had the World Trade Center go, people were put into planes that were friends, family, girlfriends, and they were put into planes and they were sent back, for the most part, to Saudi Arabia.

They knew what was going on. They went home and they wanted to watch their boyfriends on television. I would be very, very firm with families. Frankly, that will make people think because they may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families’ lives.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Donald, this has got…

BLITZER: Governor Bush. Governor Bush.

BUSH: This is another example of the lack of seriousness. Look, this is — this is troubling because we’re at war. They’ve declared war on us and we need to have a serious strategy to destroy ISIS.

But the idea that that is a solution to this is just — is just crazy. It makes no sense to suggest this. Look, two months ago Donald Trump said that ISIS was not our fight. Just two months ago he said that Hillary Clinton would be a great negotiator with Iran. And he gets his foreign policy experience from the shows.

That is not a serious kind of candidate. We need someone that thinks this through. That can lead our country to safety and security.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Look, the problem is we need toughness. Honestly, I think Jeb is a very nice person. He’s a very nice person. But we need tough people. We need toughness. We need intelligence and we need tough.

Jeb said when they come across the southern border they come as an act of love.

BUSH: You said on September 30th that ISIS was not a factor.

TRUMP: Am I talking or are you talking, Jeb?

BUSH: I’m talking right now. I’m talking.

TRUMP: You can go back. You’re not talking. You interrupted me.

BUSH: September 30th you said…

TRUMP: Are you going to apologize, Jeb? No. Am I allowed to finish?

BLITZER: Just one at a time, go ahead…

TRUMP: Excuse me, am I allowed to finish?

BLITZER: Go ahead, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: So…

BUSH: A little of your own medicine there, Donald.

TRUMP: … again…

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Governor Bush, please.

TRUMP: I know you’re trying to build up your energy, Jeb, but it’s not working very well.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: One at a time.

TRUMP: Look, look, look. We need a toughness. We need strength. We’re not respected, you know, as a nation anymore. We don’t have that level of respect that we need. And if we don’t get it back fast, we’re just going to go weaker, weaker and just disintegrate.

We can’t allow that to happen. We need strength. We don’t have it. When Jeb comes out and he talks about the border, and I saw it and I was witness to it, and so was everyone else, and I was standing there, “they come across as an act of love,” he’s saying the same thing right now with radical Islam.

And we can’t have that in our country. It just won’t work. We need strength.

BLITZER: Governor Bush.

BUSH: Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That’s not going to happen.

(APPLAUSE)

And I do have the strength. Leadership, leadership is not about attacking people and disparaging people. Leadership is about creating a serious strategy to deal with the threat of our time.

BUSH: And I laid out that strategy before the attacks in Paris and before the attacks in San Bernardino. And it is the way forward. We need to increase our military spending. We need to deal with a no- fly zone in Syria, a safe zone. We need to focus on building a military that is second-to-none…

BLITZER: Thank you.

BUSH: … so that we can destroy Islamic terrorism.

TRUMP: With Jeb’s attitude, we will never be great again, that I can tell you. We will never be great again.

BLITZER: All right. Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash, Hugh, go ahead with the next question.

HEWITT: Dr. Carson…

(APPLAUSE)

… you mentioned in your opening remarks that you’re a pediatric neurologist surgeon…

CARSON: Neurosurgeon.

HEWITT: Neurosurgeon. And people admire and respect and are inspired by your life story, your kindness, your evangelical core support. We’re talking about ruthless things tonight — carpet bombing, toughness, war. And people wonder, could you do that? Could you order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands? Could you wage war as a commander-in-chief?

CARSON: Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them we’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor. They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.

Sometimes you — I sound like him.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, later on, you know, they really realize what’s going on. And by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by 1,000 pricks.

HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian? It’s like…

CARSON: You got it. You got it.

HEWITT: That is what war — can you be as ruthless as Churchill was in prosecuting the war against the Nazis?

CARSON: Ruthless is not necessarily the word I would use, but tough, resolute, understanding what the problems are, and understanding that the job of the president of the United States is to protect the people of this country and to do what is necessary in order to get it done.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Senator Paul, you said ISIS grew stronger because of the hawks in your party. Do you really think that Republicans have fueled the rise of ISIS?

PAUL: I think that by arming the allies of ISIS, the Islamic rebels against Assad, that we created a safe space or made that space bigger for ISIS to grow. I think those who have wanted regime change have made a mistake. When we toppled Gadhafi in Libya, I think that was a mistake. I think ISIS grew stronger, we had a failed state, and we were more at risk.

I’d like to also go back to, though, another question, which is, is Donald Trump a serious candidate? The reason I ask this is, if you’re going to close the Internet, realize, America, what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First amendment, OK? It’s no small feat.

If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there’s something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So, they can kill us, but we can’t kill them? That’s what you’re saying. And as far as the Internet is concerned, we’re not talking about closing the Internet. I’m talking about parts of Syria, parts of Iraq, where ISIS is, spotting it.

Now, you could close it. What I like even better than that is getting our smartest and getting our best to infiltrate their Internet, so that we know exactly where they’re going, exactly where they’re going to be. I like that better.

(APPLAUSE)

But we have to — who would be — I just can’t imagine somebody booing. These are people that want to kill us, folks, and you’re — you’re objecting to us infiltrating their conversations? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Senator Paul, Senator Paul, I want to go back to my initial question, which is you saying that ISIS grew stronger because of hawks in your party. And do you think your own party, the people who you’re describing, are responsible for the rise of ISIS?

PAUL: I think that if you believe in regime change, you’re mistaken. In 2013, we put 600 tons of weapons — us, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar — into the war against Assad. By pushing Assad back, we did create a safe space.

We had people coming to our Foreign Relations Committee and saying, “Oh, we need to arm the allies of Al Qaida.” They are still saying this. It is a crazy notion. This is the biggest debate we should be having tonight is is regime change a good idea; has it been a good idea.

There are still people — the majority on the stage, they want to topple Assad. And then there will be chaos, and I think ISIS will then be in charge of Syria.

BASH: Senator, we’re going to talk about regime change in a bit.

But Governor Kasich, would you like to respond to Senator Paul?

KASICH: Yeah, let me — let me just suggest to everybody, and I hear — last February, I said we needed to have people on the ground in a coalition with Europe and our allies. This is not going to get done just by working with the Sunnis. And it is not going to get done if we just embed a few people.

We have to go massively, like we did in the first Gulf War where we destroyed Saddam’s ability to take Kuwait. We need to have a coalition that will stand for nothing less than the total destruction of ISIS and we have to be the leader. We can’t wait for anybody else. I served on the Armed Services Committee for 18 years and we must lead, or the job won’t get done, unfortunately, for our country.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Senator Rubio? Let’s continue this conversation. This is a critically important issue.

FIORINA: I hope at some point you’re going to ask me my strategy.

BLITZER: We will get to — we have a lot of time, Ms. Fiorina.

I want to get to Senator Rubio right now. Let’s talk about, one of the aspects of your strategy, you say the only way to defeat ISIS is with ground forces made up primarily of Sunni-Arab forces. Those Arab nations, though, as you well know, they’ve conducted less than five percent of the airstrikes and actually none since August. What makes you think they are willing to fight on the ground if they’re not even willing to fight from the air?

RUBIO: Well, they most certainly will have to be worked on to provide more than what they are doing now. There’s no doubt about it. And there’s one — one major reason why they have not been willing to be a broader part of the coalition, and that is they have lost complete trust and confidence in this president. This president cut a deal with their moral enemy, the Shia, in Iran. And this is the reason why they no longer trust this president and are willing to work alongside them.

But they have as much invested in this as we do. In fact, more so, for it is the king of Saudi Arabia they want to behead first. It’s the king of Jordan that they want to dethrone. It’s the — they want to go into Egypt the way they’ve already gone into Libya.

And on another point that we need to talk about, Assad is one of the main reasons why ISIS even exists to begin with. Assad is a puppet of Iran. And he has been so brutal toward the Sunni within Syria that he created the space that led to the people of Syria themselves to stand up and try to overthrow him. That led to the chaos which allowed ISIS to come in and take advantage of that situation and grow more powerful.

And the fact that this president led from behind meant there were no alternative groups on the ground to be empowered, leaving ISIS with the prime operating space they needed to become the force they have now become.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. Stand by.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Ms. Fiorina, the former defense secretary, Bob Gates, says the chances of getting Sunni-Arab forces on the ground to get the job done, his words, “chances very remote.” What’s your strategy?

FIORINA: Well, first I’ll just point out that talking tough is not the same as being strong. And to wage war, we need a commander in chief who has made tough calls in tough times and stood up to be held accountable over and over, not first-term senators who’ve never made an executive decision in their life.

One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, is bring back the warrior class — Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know. Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear.

We must have Sunni-Arabs involved in this coalition. We must commit leadership, strength, support and resolve. I’ll just add that Margaret Thatcher once said, “If you want something talked about, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you.

Governor Christie, what’s your strategy?

CHRISTIE: Wolf, you sit up here and you listen to this stuff, and you think that so many of these people have had so much to do in this national debate, they talk like they were bystanders. You know, we talk about our military being degraded over time, and yet we’ve had folks on this stage who’ve been a part of Congress who have participated in sequester; who participated in the degrading of this military over time.

And that’s why I think people get so frustrated with Washington, D.C. now. That’s why they’re so angry with the — the electorate is so angry with everybody who is involved in government in Washington, D.C. Because if you listen to the folks up here, you think that they weren’t even there; they had nothing to do with this.

CHRISTIE: This is a difference between being a governor and being in a legislature. See, because when something doesn’t work in New Jersey, they look at me, say: “Why didn’t it get done? Why didn’t you do it?” You have to be responsible and accountable.

And so on ISIS, let’s be clear, the president needs to be a force that is trusted in the world. On this I agree with Marco. You know, this president is not trusted.

If you’re the King of Jordan, if you’re a part of the royal family in Saudi Arabia and he’s made this deal with Iran which gives them $150 billion to wage a war and try to extend their empire across the Middle East, why would you want to do it now?

But I will tell you this, when I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him, “You have a friend again sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,” he’ll change his mind.

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, what is your strategy?

CARSON: First of all, I’ve been talking about this for over a year. We have to destroy their caliphate because that gives them legitimacy to go ahead with the global Jihad. We have to take their energy because they are — ISIS is the richest terrorist organization there is. We have to take their oil, shut down all of the mechanisms whereby they can disperse money because they go after disaffected individuals from all over the place, and they’re able to pay them. That makes a difference.

As far as the command centers are concerned in Raqqa and to a lesser degree Mosul, cut those off. Do the same kind of thing that we did with Sinjar a few weeks ago, working with our embedded special forces with the Kurds, shut off the supply route, soften them up, then we go in with specials ops followed by our air force to take them over. Those are things that work.

But also, you know, this whole concept of boots on the ground, you know, we’ve got a phobia about boots on the ground. If our military experts say, we need boots on the ground, we should put boots on the ground and recognize that there will be boots on the ground and they’ll be over here, and they’ll be their boots if we don’t get out of there now.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Everyone stand by. We’re only just beginning. Coming up, which candidates on this stage tonight want to move foreign policy in a dramatically new direction?

We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN-Facebook Republican Presidential Debate here at the Venetian, Las Vegas.

The war against ISIS will pose many new challenges for the next commander-in-chief. The last two presidents pursued a Middle East policy that supported toppling dictators to try to promote democracy.

Senator Cruz, you have said the world would be safer today if Saddam Hussein were still in power in Iraq, Moammar Gadhafi ruled Libya, and Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt. So would it be your policy to preserve dictatorships, rather than promoting democracy in the Middle East?

CRUZ: Wolf, I believe in a America first foreign policy, that far too often President Obama and Hillary Clinton — and, unfortunately, more than a few Republicans — have gotten distracted from the central focus of keeping this country safe.

So let’s go back to the beginning of the Obama administration, when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama led NATO in toppling the government in Libya. They did it because they wanted to promote democracy. A number of Republicans supported them. The result of that — and we were told then that there were these moderate rebels that would take over. Well, the result is, Libya is now a terrorist war zone run by jihadists.

Move over to Egypt. Once again, the Obama administration, encouraged by Republicans, toppled Mubarak who had been a reliable ally of the United States, of Israel, and in its place, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood came in, a terrorist organization.

And we need to learn from history. These same leaders — Obama, Clinton, and far too many Republicans — want to topple Assad. Assad is a bad man. Gadhafi was a bad man. Mubarak had a terrible human rights record. But they were assisting us — at least Gadhafi and Mubarak — in fighting radical Islamic terrorists.

And if we topple Assad, the result will be ISIS will take over Syria, and it will worsen U.S. national security interests. And the approach, instead of being a Woodrow Wilson democracy promoter…

BLITZER: Thank you.

CRUZ: … we ought to hunt down our enemies and kill ISIS rather than creating opportunities for ISIS to take control of new countries.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Senator.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Rubio, you supported the removal of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. Now that country is in turmoil, as ISIS is clearly growing there. Senator Cruz says you haven’t learned your lesson. Do you have any regrets for supporting President Obama’s intervention in Libya?

RUBIO: To begin with, Moammar Gadhafi and the revolt against Gadhafi was not started by the United States. It was started by the Libyan people. And the reason why I argued we needed to get involved is because he was going to go one way or the other. And my argument then was proven true, and that is, the longer that civil war took, the more militias would be formed and the more unstable the country would be after the fact.

As far as Moammar Gadhafi is concerned, by the way, Moammar Gadhafi is the man that killed those Americans over Lockerbie, Scotland. Moammar Gadhafi is also the man that bombed that cafe in Berlin and killed those Marines. And you want to know why Moammar Gadhafi started cooperating on his nuclear program? Because we got rid of Saddam Hussein. And so he got scared that he would be next, and that’s why he started cooperating.

Look, we will have to work around the world with less than ideal governments. The government in Saudi Arabia is not a democracy, but we will have to work with them. The government in Jordan is not perfect, but we will have to work with them. But anti-American dictators like Assad, who help Hezbollah, who helped get those IEDs into Iraq, if they go, I will not shed a tear.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Well, it’s more than not shedding a tear. It’s actively getting involved to topple a government. And we keep hearing from President Obama and Hillary Clinton and Washington Republicans that they’re searching for these mythical moderate rebels. It’s like a purple unicorn. They never exist. These moderate rebels end up being jihadists.

And I’ll tell you whose view on Assad is the same as mine. It’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said Israel doesn’t have a dog in that fight because Assad is a puppet of Iran, a Shia radical Islamic terrorist, but at the same time, Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t want to see Syria governed by ISIS. And we need to focus on American interests, not on global aspirations…

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Standby. Everybody standby for a moment. Governor Kasich, go ahead.

KASICH: I don’t understand this thing about Assad. He has to go. Assad is aligned with Iran and Russia. The one thing we want to prevent is we want to prevent Iran being able to extend a Shia crescent all across the Middle East. Assad has got to go.

KASICH: And there are moderates there. There are moderates in Syria who we should be supporting. I do not support a civil war. I don’t want to be policeman of the world. But we can’t back off of this. And let me tell you, at the end, the Saudis have agreed to put together a coalition inside of Syria to stabilize that country.

BLITZER: Thank you.

KASICH: He must go. It will be a blow to Iran and Russia.

BLITZER: We’re going to talk about Assad in a moment.

Mr. Trump, are Americans safer with dictators running the world in the Middle East?

TRUMP: In my opinion, we’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.

We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to Middle East, we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory.

It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess. I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States, on our schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart.

(APPLAUSE)

FIORINA: That is exactly what President Obama said. I’m amazed to hear that from a republican presidential candidate. But let’s just start with, who got it wrong? Who really got it wrong?

Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong. Hitting the reset button with Vladimir Putin – recall that she called Bashar Al-Assad a positive reformer and then she opened an embassy and then later she said, over, and over, and over again, “Bashar Al-Assad must go.” Although she wasn’t prepared to do anything about it. Recall that Hillary Clinton was all for toppling Gadhafi then didn’t listen to her own people on the ground. And then of course, when she lied about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, she invited more terrorist attacks.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Well, there’s nothing to respond to. Well, people feel differently. I mean, the fact is Benghazi was a disaster because of Libya, everything just fell into place. It could not have been worse.

What do we have now? We have nothing. We’ve spent $3 trillion and probably much more – I have no idea what we’ve spent. Thousands and thousands of lives, we have nothing. Wounded warriors all over the place who I love, we have nothing for it.

And by the way – and Ben said incorrectly – and I’m not saying this as a knock – he’s one of finest men. You’re not going to find a finer men.

But I’ve been talking about oil for three years. I’ve been saying,, “take the oil, take the oil.” I didn’t say, “just bomb it,” I said,” take it and use it and distribute it so that the wounded warriors -” People, I’ve been saying this now for many years.

BLITZER: All right.

TRUMP: Now, all of a sudden everybody’s saying, “take the oil.” It wasn’t so fashionable to take the oil six months ago. I’ve been saying it for years.

BLITZER: Thank you.

FIORINA: We’ve mismanaged going into Iraq.

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, is the Middle East…

FIORINA: We’ve mismanaged going out of Iraq.

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, is the Middle East better off with dictators?

CARSON: No one is ever better off with dictators but there comes a time you know, when you’re on an airplane, they always say, “in case of an emergency oxygen masks will drop down. Put yours on first and then administer help to your neighbor.” We need oxygen right now.

And we need to start thinking about the needs of the American people before we go and solve everybody else’s problems. The fact of the matter is, is that the Middle East has been in turmoil for thousands of years. For us to think that we’re going to in there and fix that with a couple of little bombs and a few little decorations is relatively foolish.

FIORINA: We actually…

BLITZER: Governor Bush.

BUSH: I think we’re focusing a whole…

BLITZER: Hold on Governor Bush., here’s the question. You said, “getting rid of Saddam Hussein in your words was a pretty good deal.” In light of what has happened in Iraq, do you still feel that way?

BUSH: I do. I think the lesson’s learned are that we have to have to have a strategy to get and a strategy to get out. Which means, that you create a stable situation.

This president and this is what the focus ought to be, it’s not the differences between us, it’s Barack Obama does not believe America’s leadership in the world is a force for good. He does not believe that our strength is a place where security can take place. He leads from behind. He creates an environment that now we’re creating the most unstable situation we’ve had since the World War II era.

The focus ought to be on the single fact that Hillary Clinton wants to double down on a failed foreign policy and we need to be united to defeat that because we’re going to be in a place that is far less secure than it is today. Don’t you all agree?

BLITZER: Senator Paul, was getting rid of Saddam Hussein a pretty good deal?

PAUL: These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions, whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. I don’t think because I think the regime change was a bad idea it means that Hussein was necessarily a good idea.

There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want.

They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked.

Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism and yet they’re the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hugh Hewitt, go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hugh.

CRUZ: The question of whether we should toppling dictatorships is asking the wrong question. We should be defeating our enemies. So the problem with defeating…

BLITZER: Senator, Senator, we’re going to get to you. Wait your turn. We have two hours of debate. We’ll have plenty of time. Let Hugh ask his question.

CRUZ: Well, but let me explain, the focus should be…

BLITZER: Senator, please.

CRUZ: … on defeating our enemies. So, for example…

BLITZER: Senator… CRUZ: … a regime we should change is Iran…

BLITZER: You’ll have plenty of opportunity.

Hugh, go ahead.

CRUZ: … because Iran has declared war on us. But we shouldn’t be toppling regimes…

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: … that are fighting radical Islamic terrorists that are helping…

BLITZER: These are the rules all of you agreed to.

Hugh, go ahead with your question.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump, we are talking about the most important thing, that’s why it’s heated. And it’s, you are OK with Mr. Assad staying in power, but you are also in favor of winning.

If he stays in power, Iran is winning, Hezbollah is winning. Iran is winning in Yemen. They are winning everywhere. If they are winning how can we be winning?

TRUMP: I think Assad is a bad guy, a very bad guy, all right? Lots of people killed. I think we are backing people we have no idea who they are. The rebels, we call them the rebels, the patriotic rebels. We have no idea. A lot of people think, Hugh, that they are ISIS.

We have to do one thing at a time. We can’t be fighting ISIS and fighting Assad. Assad is fighting ISIS. He is fighting ISIS. Russia is fighting now ISIS. And Iran is fighting ISIS.

We have to do one thing at a time. We can’t go — and I watched Lindsey Graham, he said, I have been here for 10 years fighting. Well, he will be there with that thinking for another 50 years. He won’t be able to solve the problem.

We have to get rid of ISIS first. After we get rid of ISIS, we’ll start thinking about it. But we can’t be fighting Assad. And when you’re fighting Assad, you are fighting Russia, you’re fighting — you’re fighting a lot of different groups.

But we can’t be fighting everybody at one time.

HEWITT: Governor Christie, is he right? Because if we step back, Iran goes nuclear. Is Donald Trump right?

CHRISTIE: Well, I think we have to focus, Hugh, on exactly what the priorities are. And to me, what I’ve always said is that the president has set up an awful situation through his deal with Iran, because what his deal with Iran has done is empower them and enrich them. And that’s the way ISIS has been created and formed here. ISIS is created and formed because of the abuse that Assad and his Iranian sponsors have rained down on the Sunnis in Syria.

And so when we empower Iran, this is why this president — and when Hillary Clinton says her theory against ISIS will be just about the same as the president, then get ready for more unrest and more murder and more violence in the Middle East.

We need to focus our attention on Iran, because if you miss Iran, you are not going to get ISIS. The two are inextricably connected because one causes the other.

HEWITT: Senator Paul, let me ask you, you heard Governor Kasich say Assad must go. Do you agree?

PAUL: No, I think it’s a huge mistake. I think regime change in Syria, and this is what — I’ve been saying this for several years now. In 2013 when we first went in, I said, you are going to give arms to the allies of al Qaida, to radical jihadists? That’s crazy.

But the other thing I said is the great irony is you will be back fighting against your own weapons. Had Assad been bombed when he used chemical weapons two years ago, ISIS would be in charge of all of Syria now.

We have to have a more realistic foreign policy and not a utopian one where we say, oh, we’re going to spread freedom and democracy, and everybody in the Middle East is going to love us. They are not going to love us.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: The foreign policy, you have to know how to pick and choose. There’s no way, if Saddam had not had weapons of mass destruction, I would have gone, because I don’t believe that the U.S. should be involved directly in civil wars.

I opposed the U.S. involvement in Lebanon. We ended up having to withdraw our marines after our barracks were blown up.

There is a difference between Iraq, where you have Sunni, Shia, and Kurds put together after the First World War by the Western powers. It doesn’t work. It needs to break up into three parts.

KASICH: And for the Russians, frankly, it’s time that we punched the Russians in the nose. They’ve gotten away with too much in this world and we need to stand up against them, not just there, but also in Eastern Europe where they threaten some of our most precious allies.

BLITZER: Let’s continue with Russia right now. We have another question from Facebook. Listen and watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: My name is Ashley Tofil. Ms. Fiorina, in November, you said that you would not talk to Vladimir Putin after you were elected because you would be communicating from a position of weakness. Do you believe that it is feasible to not communicate with another world leader? And do you think that that also is a sign of weakness?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ms. Fiorina, as you know, U.S. and Russian warplanes are flying all over Syria right now. With so many lives on the line, is this a good time for the United States not to talk to Putin?

FIORINA: I didn’t say I would cut off all communication with Putin. What I said was as president of the United States, now is not the time to talk with him. Reagan walked away at Reykjavik. There is a time and a place for everything. There is a time and a place for talk. And there is a time and a place for action.

I know Vladimir Putin. He respects strength. He lied to our president’s face; didn’t both to tell him about warplanes and troops going into Syria. We need to speak to him from a position of strength. So as commander in chief, I will not speak to him until we’ve set up that no-fly zone; until we’ve gathered our Sunni-Arab allies and begun to deny ISIS territory; until I’ve called the supreme leader of Iran and told him new deal — new deal. We the United States of America are going to cut off the money flow, which we can do; which we don’t need anyone’s permission or collaboration to do.

And I will not speak to him personally until we’ve rebuilt the 6th Fleet a little bit right under his nose; rebuilt the missile defense program in Poland right under his nose; and conducted a few military exercises in the Baltic states.

And let us remember one other thing. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are responsible for the growth of ISIS because they precipitously withdrew from Iraq in 2011 against the advice of every single general and for political expediency. It’s not these people up here. It’s Hillary Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Ms. Fiorina.

Governor Christie, if the U.S. imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached, invaded that no-fly zone, would you be prepared to shoot down that Russian plane and risk war with Russia?

CHRISTIE: Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. A no-fly zone means a no-fly zone, Wolf. That’s what it means.

(APPLAUSE)

See, maybe — maybe because I’m from New Jersey, I just have this kind of plain language hangup. But I would make very clear — I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. In fact, I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. But I’d say to him, “Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.” And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Paul — Senator Paul, I want you to respond to what we just heard from Governor Christie. If there was a no-fly zone, you say that potentially could lead to World War III. Why?

PAUL: Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. You know, here’s…

(APPLAUSE)

… the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone who is so reckless as to stand on the stage and say, “Yes, I’m jumping up and down; I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.” Russia already flies in that airspace. It may not be something we’re in love with the fact that they’re there, but they were invited by Iraq and by Syria to fly in that airspace.

And so if we announce we’re going to have a no-fly zone, and others have said this. Hillary Clinton is also for it. It is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength, but we don’t need to confront Russia from a point of recklessness that would lead to war.

This is something — this type of judgment, you know, it’s having that kind of judgment; who you would appoint and how you’re going to conduct affairs, that is incredibly important.

I mean, I think when we think about the judgment of someone who might want World War III, we might think about someone who might shut down a bridge because they don’t like their friends; they don’t want to — you know, they want to (inaudible) a Democrat.

So I think we need to be very careful.

BLITZER: Governor Christie?

CHRISTIE: Well, Wolf, I’ll tell you what reckless is. What reckless is is calling Assad a reformer. What reckless is allowing Russia to come into Crimea and Ukraine. What reckless is is inviting Russia into Syria to team with Iran. That is reckless. And the reckless people are the folks in the White House right now. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the reckless people.

CHRISTIE: And if you think that a no-fly zone is a reckless policy, you’re welcome to your opinion. But how is it working so far? As we have 250,000 Syrians murdered, slaughtered; millions running around the world, running for their lives. It’s not working. We need to try something else. And that is not reckless.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right, let’s go back — Hugh and Dana?

HEWITT: Governor Bush, a commander-in-chief question. You’ve said that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be president because he’s not qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin. Why are you better qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin than Mr. Trump?

BUSH: Because I — first of all, I know what I don’t know. I know what I don’t know. I would seek out, as I have, the best advice that exists. I won’t get my information from the shows. I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning. I don’t know which one.

(LAUGHTER)

I will seek out the best advice, and I will create a strategy and I will persuade the American people what the role of America should be. I’ve laid out a policy of rebuilding our military.

All of the talk that we’re seeing here — most of which I agree on, frankly — requires a much stronger military. We now have a lack of readiness that is quite scary. We have planes that were — that Harry Truman inaugurated, the B-52. We have — the Navy has been gutted and decimated. The readiness of the Marines is way down.

If we’re serious about America’s leadership in the world, then we need to make sure that we have the back of the armed forces. The Armed Forces Radio is here listening to this today. I hope they know that if I’m president, I’ll be a commander-in-chief, not an agitator- in-chief or a divider-in-chief, that I will lead this country in a way that will create greater security and greater safety.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: I think it’s very sad that CNN leads Jeb Bush, Governor Bush, down a road by starting off virtually all the questions, “Mr. Trump this, Mister” — I think it’s very sad. And, frankly, I watched — I think it’s very sad. And, frankly, I watched the first debate, and the first long number of questions were, “Mr. Trump said this, Mr. Trump said that. Mr. Trump” — these poor guys — although, I must tell you, Santorum, good guy. Governor Huckabee, good guy. They were very nice, and I respect them greatly. But I thought it was very unfair that virtually the entire early portion of the debate was Trump this, Trump that, in order to get ratings, I guess. In order to get ratings, I guess.

HEWITT: But, Mr. Trump, it’s not CNN — I was on CNN last night…

TRUMP: I just think it’s very — excuse me.

HEWITT: … watching…

TRUMP: Excuse me. I think it’s very unprofessional.

HEWITT: But it wasn’t — it wasn’t CNN. It was me. I watched you last night for 16 minutes. It’s not CNN.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Well, I think it’s very unprofessional.

HEWITT: It’s not CNN. It’s America’s watching you.

TRUMP: OK, fine.

HEWITT: It’s America’s watching.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: So I was — I was — I was mentioned, so I can bring up something, I think, right? Look, the simple fact is, if you think this is tough you’re not being treated fairly…

TRUMP: This isn’t tough and easy. I wish it…

BUSH: … imagine what it’s going to be like dealing with Putin or dealing with President Xi.

TRUMP: I wish it was always this easy as you, Jeb.

BUSH: Or dealing with the Islamic terrorism that exists.

TRUMP: Oh, yeah.

BUSH: This is a tough business to run for president.

TRUMP: Oh, I know. You’re a tough guy, Jeb. I know.

BUSH: And it’s — and we need…

(LAUGHTER)

… to have a leader that is…

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: You’re tough.

BUSH: You’re never going to be president of the United States by insulting your way to the presidency.

TRUMP: Well, let’s see. I’m at 42, and you’re at 3. So, so far, I’m doing better.

BUSH: Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter.

TRUMP: So far, I’m doing better. You know, you started off over here, Jeb. You’re moving over further and further. Pretty soon you’re going to be off the end…

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: This doesn’t do a thing to solve the problems.

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: It doesn’t do a thing to solve the problems.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: One at a time. Hugh, go ahead.

KASICH: It sounds more and more what my daughter said that I said in the beginning, all the fighting and arguing is not advancing us.

FIORINA: It will not solve the problem.

KASICH: It is not the way we’re going to strengthen our country. We will strengthen our country when we come together.

(APPLAUSE)

And, look, you’ve got Rand Paul, you’ve got Ted Cruz, you’ve got Marco, you’ve got a lot of people on this stage that have studied these issues. You know what a leader does? A leader has a sound program, has a good policy, and then brings people together to solve problems.

(APPLAUSE)

Guess what? Both in Congress in balancing the budget and in Ohio fixing the economy — and, by the way, we talk about the fence. The first thing we better get going is strengthening our economy, because if we don’t have a strong economy, we can’t pay for all of this. And the world wants us to be able to function from strength, believe it or not. Get our economy going, get these people together in a room. We can fix this, ladies and gentlemen.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: We don’t have to fight all the time. It can be done, and we will be great…

HEWITT: Governor — thank you, Governor.

KASICH: … when we join together. Thank you, Hugh.

HEWITT: Dr. Carson, commander-in-chief question again. You’ve been the head of neurosurgery for a big hospital. You’re on a lot of boards of a lot of companies. You’ve traveled the world. You’re going traveling again next week. But does that prepare you to command troops from Djibouti to Japan, troops from Afghanistan to Iraq to be in charge of the men and women watching on Armed Services Network tonight?

CARSON: Well, you know, there’s a false narrative that only the political class has the wisdom and the ability to be commander-in- chief. But if you go back and you study the design of our country, it was really designed for the citizen statesman.

And we need to be talking about where does your experience come from? You know, and I’ve had a lot of experience building things, organizing things, you know, a national scholarship program.

One of the things that you’ll notice if you look through my life is that I don’t do a lot of talking. I do a lot of doing. And really, it says more about a person than how much they talk. And then some people say you’re weak because, you know, you’re not loud and you’re not boisterous and you’re not rude. But the fact of the matter is, look and see what I’ve done. And that speaks volumes about strength.

BASH: Thank you, Dr. Carson. We’ve been talking tonight about programs and policy proposals that you all have to keep Americans safe and it’s a big discussion on the campaign trail. Also about border security and immigration. So let’s talk about immigration.

Senator Rubio. You co-authored a bill with Democrats two years ago that allowed a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Do you still support that path to citizenship, which means giving those immigrants rights, like the right to vote?

RUBIO: Yeah. Immigration is not an issue that I read about in the newspaper or watch a documentary on PBS or CNN. It’s an issues I’ve lived around my whole life. My family are immigrants. My wife’s family are immigrants. All of my neighbors are immigrants.

I see every aspect of this problem. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And here’s what we learned in 2013. The American people don’t trust the Federal Government to enforce our immigration laws, and we will not be able to do anything on immigration until we first prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control. And we can do that. We know what it takes to do that.

It takes at least 20,000 more additional border agents. It takes completing those 700 miles of fencing. It takes a mandatory e-verify system and a mandatory entry/exit tracking system to prevent overstays. After we have done that, the second thing we have to do is reform and modernize the legal immigration system. And after we have done those two things, I think the American people are gonna be reasonable with what do you do with someone who has been in this country for 10 or 12 years who hasn’t otherwise violated our laws — because if they’re a criminal they can’t stay. They’ll have to undergo a background check, pay a fine, start paying taxes. And ultimately, they’ll given a work permit and that’s all they’re gonna be allowed to have for at least 10 years. But you can’t get to that third step until you have done the other two things, and that was the lesson we learned in 2013. There is no trust that the Federal Government will enforce the law. They will not support you until you see it done first.

BASH: Senator, you haven’t answered the question. You described a very long path but does that path end at citizenship?

RUBIO: But I’ve answered that question repeatedly. I am personally open — after all that has happened and after ten years in that probationary status where all they have is a permit, I personally am open to allowing people to apply for a green card.

That may not be a majority position in my party, but that’s down the road. You can’t even begin that process until you prove to people — not just pass a law that says you’re gonna bring illegal immigration under control. You’re gonna have to do it and prove to people that it’s working.

And that was the lesson of 2013. And it’s more true today, than it was then. After a migratory crisis on the border with minors coming over that you’re seeing start up again now, after all these executive orders the President has issued. More than ever we need to…

BASH: Thank you, senator.

RUBIO: … prove to people that illegal immigration is under control.

BASH: Thank you, senator. Senator Cruz.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Senator Cruz, on the campaign trail, Senator Rubio has said that his immigration plan is not that different from yours. Is that true?

CRUZ: Well, he — he has attempted to muddy the waters, but I think that anyone who watched the battle that we had. You know, there was a time for choosing as Reagan put it. Where there was a battle over amnesty and some chose, like Senator Rubio to stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and support a massive amnesty plan.

Others chose to stand with Jeff Sessions and Steve King and the American people and secure the border.

And let me mention, this issue is actually directly connected to what we’ve been talking about. Because the front line with ISIS isn’t just in Iraq and Syria, it’s in Kennedy Airport and the Rio Grande. Border security is national security. And, you know, one of the most troubling aspects of the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight Bill was that it gave President Obama blanket authority to admit refugees, including Syrian refugees without mandating any background checks whatsoever. Now we’ve seen what happened in San Bernardino. When you are letting people in, when the FBI can’t vet them, it puts American citizens at risk. And I tell you, if I’m elected president, we will secure the border. We will triple the border patrol. We will build a wall that works and I’ll get Donald Trump to pay for it.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Senator Rubio, please.

RUBIO: Yeah, a couple points. In 2013 we had never faced a crisis like the Syrian refugee crisis now. Up until that point, a refugee meant someone fleeing oppression, fleeing Communism like it is in my community.

As far as Ted’s record, I’m always puzzled by his attack on this issue. Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally. Ted Cruz supported a 500-percent increase in the number of H-1 visas, the guest workers that are allowed into this country, and Ted supports doubling the number of green cards.

So I think what’s important for us to understand and there is a way forward on this issue that we an bring our country together on. And while I’m president I will do it. And it will begin by bringing illegal immigration under control and proving to the American people.

BASH: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Look, I understand Marco wants to raise confusion, it is not accurate what he just said that I supported legalization. Indeed, I led the fight against his legalization and amnesty. And you know, there was one commentator that put it this way that, for Marco to suggest our record’s the same is like suggesting “the fireman and the arsonist because they are both at the scene of the fire.”

He was fighting to grant amnesty and not to secure the border, I was fighting to secure the border. And this also goes to trust, listening on to campaign trails. Candidates all the time make promises. You know, Marco said,” he learned that the American people didn’t trust the federal government.”

BASH: Senator Cruz?

RUBIO: No, no, give him time.

CRUZ: In Florida promising to…

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: Ted, do you…

CRUZ: go in the fight against amnesty…

RUBIO: Did Ted Cruz fight to support legalizing people that are in this country illegally?

CRUZ: He campaigned promising to lead the fight against amnesty.

FIORINA: Ladies and gentleman, this is why the American people are standing up.

BASH: Senator Cruz, can you answer that question please?

RUBIO: Does Ted Cruz rule out ever legalizing people that are in this country now?

BASH: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ; I have never supported a legalization…

RUBIO: Would you rule it out?

CRUZ : I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization. Let me tell you how you do this, what you do is you enforce the law…

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: This is why the nation is fed up…

BASH: One at a time please.

CRUZ: Watt you do is enforcement the law…

FIORINA: We have been talking about this…

BASH: Ms. Fiorina, please wait your turn, we’re going to get to you.

FIORINA: Sorry, but you haven’t gotten to me. This is why…

CRUZ: What you do…

BASH: Senator Cruz go ahead.

FIORINA: the people are fed up with the political class.

CRUZ: What you do is you enforce the law. I’ve laid out a very, very detailed immigration plan on my website, tedcruz.org. It’s 11 pages of existing federal law and in particular the question of what to do with people who are here now? You enforce the law.

That means you stop the Obama administration’s policy of releasing criminal illegal aliens. Do you know how many aliens Bill Clinton deported? 12 million. Do you know how many illegal aliens, George W. Bush deported? 10 million.

We can enforce the laws and if we secure the border, that solves the problem. And as president I will solve this problem and secure the border.

BASH: Mr. Trump, you like to say that you restarted this conversation in the campaign. TRUMP: I believe I did.

BASH: So who do you side with? Who do you side with in this, Senator Rubio or Senator Cruz?

TRUMP: I have a very hardline position, we have a country or we don’t have a country. People that have come into our country illegally, they have to go. They have to come back into through a legal process.

I want a strong border. I do want a wall. Walls do work, you just have to speak to the folks in Israel. Walls work if they’re properly constructed. I know how to build, believe me, I know how to build.

I feel a very, very strong bind, and really I’m bound to this country, we either have a border or we don’t. People can come into the country, we welcome people to come but they have to come in legally.

BASH: Thank you.

Governor Bush?

BUSH: Yes.

BASH: Listening to this, do you think this is the tone — this immigration debate that republicans need to take to win back Hispanics into our party especially states like where we are in Nevada that has a pretty Hispanic community?

BUSH: No it isn’t but it is an important subject to talk about for sure. And I think people have good ideas on this. Clearly, we need to secure the border. Coming here legally needs to be a lot easier than coming here illegally.

If you don’t have that, you don’t have the rule of law. We now have a national security consideration, public health issues, we have an epidemic of heroine overdoses in all places in this country because of the ease of bringing heroine in. We have to secure the border.

It is a serious undertaking and yes, we do need more fencing and we do need to use technology, and we do need more border control. And we need to have better cooperation by the way with local law enforcement. There are 800,000 cops on the beat, they ought to be trained to be the eyes and ears for law enforcement for the threat against terror as well as for immigration.

This is a serious challenge and if we can get it right, yes, we’ll start winning votes again. The real problem isn’t anybody on this stage, the real problem is Barack Obama has had six years to advocate a position to fix this and he’s done nothing. The congress has funded these programs of building more fencing and doing all this and he hasn’t done it.

He wants to maintain it as a wedge issue and so does Hillary Clinton. Republicans need to fix it and when we do, we’ll be better off.

BLITZER: Governor, thank you very much.

BLITZER: So, Dr. Carson, you recently visited a refugee camp in Jordan and you deemed it your words, “really quite nice.” Saying the people there didn’t want to come to the United States. Do you think these camps are a long-term solution of the problem of Syrian refugees?

CARSON: Well, it was very interesting having an opportunity to talk to the Syrians themselves. And I asked them: What do you want? What is your supreme desire? Their supreme desire was to be settled back in their own country. I said, “What can Americans and other countries do?” They said, “Support the efforts of those who are trying to provide safety for us, including the Jordanians.”

Of course, they had a brand new hospital, for instance, that was unstaffed because there wasn’t enough money to do it. But here’s what’s really neat. If you go into Hasakah province in northeast Syria, that’s an area that’s as big as Lebanon. It’s controlled by the Kurds, the Christians and the moderate Sunnis. And there are airstrips and hotels. You could settle a lot of people there.

All we would have to do is be willing to provide them with some weaponry, some defensive weaponry. And we seem to be afraid to give the Kurds weaponry. We like to send it for some strange reason through Baghdad, and then they only get a tenth of it.

And if we would support them, we’d have a perfect ideal there. We don’t need to set this up as we either take a bunch of refugees who will be infiltrated with terrorists, I guarantee you. For them not to be would be terrorist malpractice. And we need to — to choose the right choice, not these false choices.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, you oppose letting in Syrian refugees at this time into the United States. The U.S. has already accepted 2,000 Syrian refugees, including 13 living here in Las Vegas right now. Would you send them back? What would you do with these people?

PAUL: You know, I think we need to set the record straight on this, because I think Marco misspoke about the bill. On the Gang of Eight bill, there was no provisions really for extra scrutiny or safety for refugees. At the time the bill came up, two Iraqi refugees came to my home town, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Their fingerprints were on a bomb from Iraq. They were in the database, but we didn’t pick them up.

We relocated them here, put them in government housing, got them on food stamps. And we began providing for them, but we didn’t have adequate security. On the Gang of Eight bill, on Marco’s bill, we had an opportunity. There was a conservative consensus for an amendment I put forward called Trust, But Verify that would have strengthened border security on both refugees, students and those coming here. And Marco sided and I guess was more sympathetic to Chuck Schumer and to the president than he was to conservative principles.

But this goes directly to national defense. And if he wants to run as a national — national defense conservative, he’s got to explain why he hasn’t stepped up to support border security.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio?

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: Well, he’s just admitted — as he’s just admitted, the reason why those refugees were allowed in was because they messed up in how they used the actual database. They should have know. They didn’t because they didn’t run the actual law as it exists now. It didn’t work well.

As far as the refugees are concerned, it’s not that America doesn’t want to accept refugees, Wolf. It’s that we may not be able to, because this is an issue we have to be 100 percent right on. If we allow 9,999 Syrian refugees into the United States, and all of them are good people, but we allow one person in who’s an ISIS killer — we just get one person wrong, we’ve got a serious problem.

And there is not a single person in the national defense apparatus of this country that can guarantee you are going to be 100 percent right. And that’s why as president, I’ll take this very seriously.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, you didn’t answer the question about the 2,000 Syrian refugees who are already here in the United States. Will you send them back or let them stay?

PAUL: What my bill would do would be only for refugees going forward. So I haven’t taken a position on sending anyone home. But I have taken the position that we have a lot of problems here in our country. And that one of the things that we do — charity is about giving your own money. Charity isn’t giving someone else’s money. To put everyone in government housing and food stamps and bring them in from around the world I think is a mistake. To give of your own money, I’ve given to my church. My church has helped people that came from Bosnia. That’s a good thing.

But we shouldn’t have a program where we just say that we’re going to take care of the world’s refugees. Nobody in the Middle East is doing anything. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait — all the Gulf nations are doing nothing. They need to step up and take…

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: We have another — we have another question. We have another question from Facebook. Let’s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: My name is Carla Hernandez. I’m from the University of Texas at Austin. And my question is directed to all the candidates.

If the Bible clearly states that we need to embrace those in need and not fear, how can we justify not accepting refugees?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Governor Christie, you say there should be a pause in allowing new refugees to come into the United States, including orphans under the age of five. What do you say to Carla?

CHRISTIE: What I say to Carla is that the first job of the president of the United States is to protect your safety and your security and the security and safety of your family. And this debate stops with me in the discussions with the FBI director.

CHRISTIE: Now, listen, I’m a former federal prosecutor, I know Jim Comey. We’ve worked together. He was the U.S. attorney in Manhattan when I was a U.S. attorney in New Jersey.

And when Jim Comey gets up before Congress and says, we cannot effectively vet these people, for me as president, that’s the end of the conversation. We have to put America’s security first.

(APPLAUSE)

The American people — we on this stage need to open our ears. We need to open our ears. The American people are not whispering to us. They are screaming to us. And they’re screaming to us that it’s our job to actually make this government work.

It’s so dysfunctional under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It’s so ineffective. It’s so ineffectual that the American people say, we don’t trust them to do anything anymore. So I’m not going to let Syrian refugees, any Syrian refugees in this country.

And it was widows and orphans, by the way, and we now know from watching the San Bernardino attack that women can commit heinous, heinous acts against humanity just the same as men can do it.

And so I don’t back away from that position for a minute. When the FBI director tells me that he can vet those people, then we’ll consider it and not a moment before because your safety and security is what’s most important to me.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Kasich.

KASICH: You know, obviously, as president of the United States, we’ve got to keep the people safe. That’s first and foremost.

But as governor of Ohio, I have an obligation to keep the 11.5 million people in Ohio safe. And we have been very effective with our Joint Terrorism Task Force, being able to make busts.

In fact, we just made one three-four weeks ago against a person who was favorable to ISIS living in Akron.

But let me tell you what is interesting about the administration. We had Central American miners that were placed in Ohio, and we never knew a thing about it. We didn’t know where they were. And, in fact, we know now that some of them, there is a case going on where some of them may have been human-trafficked.

So when the administration tells me we have a great vetting process, the proof is in the pudding. They sent these miners to us. Our schools were disrupted. We didn’t know where they were. And bad things happened to them. And now they tell me that we ought to be able to admit these Syrian refugees.

So, Wolf, look, people have accused me at times of having too big of a heart. You know, that’s OK. But I have to also to say I must keep the people of my state safe. So we take a pause.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

There is much more coming up. We are only just beginning. Coming up, what other global hot spots await the next president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN-Facebook Republican Presidential Debate. We’re here at the Venetian Las Vegas. Tonight we have been focusing on the Middle East, but let’s turn to some other world threats that you will potentially face as Commander in Chief.

Ms. Fiorina, candidates here have called the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a maniac who is mentally unstable. Last week he said he now has a hydrogen bomb. If you were elected president, what would you do about Kim Jong-Un?

FIORINA: Well, first, Kim Jong-Un is a dangerous leader, without a doubt. And both Republican and Democrat administrations have been completely ineffective in dealing with him. So we must continue to isolate him. We will need China as part of that strategy.

China is a rising adversary. So one of the things we have to do if we want China’s support is to push back on China. They, too, recognize one thing — strength and their own economic interest.

I have done business in China for 25 years, so I know that in order to get China to cooperate with us, we must first actually retaliate against their cyber-attacks so they know we’re serious. We have to push back on their desire to control the trade route through the South China Sea through which flows $5 trillion worth of goods and services every year.

We cannot let them control the disputed islands, and we must work with the Australians, the South Koreans, the Japanese and the Filipinos to contain China. And then we must ask for their support and their help with North Korea. Because believe it or not, China is as concerned about Kim Jong-Un as we are.

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, what would you do about Kim Jong-Un?

CARSON: Well, I definitely believe that he is unstable, and I do, in fact, believe that China has a lot more influence with him than we do. But we also recognize that North Korea is in severe financial straits, and they have decided to use their resources to build their military, rather than to feed their people and to take care of the various humanitarian responsibilities that they have.

We can capitalize upon that. You know, we should use our economic power in lots of different ways. I think we can use that in order to keep Putin contained, because he is a one-horse show. Energy. And we have an abundance of energy, but we have archaic energy exportation rules. We need to get rid of those, allow ourselves to really make Europe dependent on us and other parts of the world dependent on us for energy. Put him back in his little box where he belongs.

And, you know, we need to be doing lots of other things with the resources that we have. So economic power works just as well as military power, perhaps even better. And speaking of that, our Military needs to be upgraded. You know, you look at things like our Ohio Class submarines, they’re 25 years old. Our minuteman 3 missiles — they are 34 years old. Our B-52 bombers — 50 years old. You know, if we don’t get the military right nothing else matters.

BLITZER: Thank you, Dr. Carson. Dana and Hugh you have questions as well.

BASH: Governor Christie, you’ve said if China launches a cyber- attack against the U.S. on your watch, “they’re going to see cyber- warfare like they have never seen before.” What exactly would that response look like?

CHRISTIE: Well, what it would like is, we have one of the great advantages of America being the open society that we are. It is, we are not hiding things from the American people, but China everyday is conducting business in a way that hides things from their people.

CHRISTIE: So if they want to come in and attack all the personnel records in the federal government, which they’ve done, and which — they now have my Social Security number and my fingerprints, as well as maybe some other folks’ who are on this stage.

The fact is, they need to be fought back on. And what we need to do is go at the things that they are most sensitive and most embarrassing to them; that they’re hiding; get that information and put it out in public. Let the Chinese people start to digest how corrupt the Chinese government is; how they steal from the Chinese people; and how they’re enriching oligarchs all throughout China.

They need to understand that. And we need to take those type of steps. This president has seen personnel records of people who have sacrificed for the American people and for the federal government stolen by the Chinese and he’s done nothing in return. This is why — this is what I said at the beginning that this administration, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton through their foreign policy, have betrayed the American people, because the weakness they’ve displayed has led to Putin’s incursions in the Middle East and in eastern Europe, and has led — has led to significant problems in the Middle East as well, and the death and murder of lots of folks.

BASH: Governor Bush, what you just heard from Governor Christie, are you concerned that that could really escalate with China, that they would retaliate? And, for example, as the NSA has said, attack the U.S. and maybe it’s power grid, which the Chinese have the capability to do?

BUSH: I completely agree with Chris. And this administration has been so lax. Think about it. Hillary Clinton is using a private server for — where classified information go by. This is a — this is a serious administration?

The president receives an inspector general’s report that the Office of Personnel Management could be hacked into; they had antiquated firewalls; 23 million files have been — are in the hands of the Chinese allegedly, including, by the way, members of the press, it turns out, last week. Maybe that’s the only part that’s good news, so that you guys can get a feel for what it’s like now to see this type of attack.

This is something — we have to have the best defensive capabilities. We need to coordinate all of our efforts with the private sector. We need to give them liability relief so that we can do that. And offensively, we need to have capabilities second to none. We need to create a situation where they know that there will be adverse impacts if they continue to do what they’re doing.

They’ll respect that. They’ll respect a United States that is serious about protecting our — our infrastructure. If we don’t do it, we’ll continue to see what’s — exactly what’s happening, not just from the Chinese, by the way. The Russians and rogue actors, including ISIS — this is a serious part of the 21st century security challenge that we face.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump…

(APPLAUSE)

… Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command, the control and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision.

What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible; who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I’m frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq because you’re going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly. And it was very important.

But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. Frankly, I would have said get out of Syria; get out — if we didn’t have the power of weaponry today. The power is so massive that we can’t just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn’t care. It was hand-to-hand combat.

The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.

HEWITT: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio after that and ask him.

TRUMP: I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.

HEWITT: Senator Rubio, do you have a response?

RUBIO: I do. First, let’s explain to people at home who the triad — what the triad is. Maybe a lot of people haven’t heard that terminology before. The triad is our ability of the United States to conduct nuclear attacks using airplanes, using missiles launched from silos or from the ground, and also from our nuclear subs’ ability to attack. And it’s important — all three of them are critical. It gives us the ability at deterrence.

Now, some have become more critical than others; for example, the submarines. And that’s the Ohio Class submarine that needs to be modernized. The air component also needs to be modernized. The B-52, as someone earlier pointed out, is an outdated model that was flown by the grandparents of people that are flying it now. And we need a serious modernization program as well on our silo-launched missiles. All three are critical for the defense of the country.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator Rubio.

Some of you on this stage have questioned whether your opponents have temperament, the right temperament, to be in control of the nuclear codes.

Dana, you have a question on this?

BASH: Mr. Trump, just this weekend you said Senator Cruz is not qualified to be president because he doesn’t have the right temperament and acted like a maniac when he arrived in the Senate. But last month you said you were open to naming Senator Cruz as your running mate.

TRUMP: I did.

BASH: So why would you be willing to put somebody who’s a maniac one heartbeat away from the presidency?

TRUMP: Let me just say that I have gotten to know him over the last three or four days. He has a wonderful temperament.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: He’s just fine. Don’t worry about it.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Okay.

Senator Cruz. Senator Cruz, you have not been willing to attack Mr. Trump in public.

TRUMP: You better not attack…

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: But you did question his judgment in having control of American’s nuclear arsenal during a private meeting with supporters. Why are you willing to say things about him in private and not in public?

CRUZ: Dana, what I said in private is exactly what I’ll say here, which is that the judgment that every voter is making of every one of us up here is who has the experience, who has the vision, who has the judgment to be commander in chief. That is the most important decision for the voters to make. That’s a standard I’m held to. And it’s a standard everyone else is held to.

And I will note, you know, in the whole course of this discussion about our foreign policy threats, it actually illustrates the need for clarity of focus.

You know, my daughters, Caroline and Catherine, came tonight. They’re 7 and 5. And you think about the Los Angeles schools canceling their schools today.

And every parent is wondering, how do we keep our kids safe? We need a commander in chief who does what Ronald Reagan did with communism, which is he set out a global strategy to defeat Soviet communism. And he directed all of his…

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: I’m answering the question, Dana.

He directed all of his forces to defeating communism.

One of the things we’ve seen here is how easy it is for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to get distracted from dealing with radical Islamic terrorism. They won’t even call it by its name.

We need a president who stands up, number one, and says, we will defeat ISIS. And number two, says the greatest national security threat facing America is a nuclear Iran.

BASH: Senator, senator, I just…

CRUZ: And we need to be focused on defeating…

BASH: Senator, a lot of people have seen…

CRUZ: … defeating radical Islamic terrorists.

BASH: … a lot of people have seen these comments you made in private. I just want to clarify what you’re saying right now is you do believe Mr. Trump has the judgment to be commander in chief?

CRUZ: What I’m saying, Dana, is that is a judgment for every voter to make. What I can tell you is all nine of the people here would make an infinitely better commander in chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, senator. Thank you.

CRUZ: And there is a real danger, Dana, when people get distracted.

I’m answering the question, Wolf.

CRUZ: There’s a real danger when people get distracted by peripheral issues. They get distracted by democracy building. They get distracted about military conflicts. We need to focus on defeating jihadism. ISIS and Iran have declared war on America, and we need a commander in chief who will do everything necessary to keep our children safe.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

CRUZ: And I will do everything necessary to keep our children safe.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

We’re a month and a half away now from the first real test who will be the Republican presidential nominee.

Hugh, you have a question?

HEWITT: My listeners tell me again and again they are worried that Hillary Clinton will win the White House because you’ll run as an independent. Are you ready to assure Republicans tonight that you will run as a Republican and abide by the decision of the Republicans?

TRUMP: I really am. I’ll be honest, I really am.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I mean, the people have been putting me…

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I really am.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Dr. Carson, last week…

TRUMP: Let me just. Can I just finish my…

HEWITT: Please.

TRUMP: I’ve gained great respect for the Republican leadership. I’ve gained great respect for many — and I’m going to even say — I mean, in different forms for the people on the dais, in different forms.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: In different forms.

But I have great respect for the people I have met through this process. I’ve never done this process before. I’ve never been a politician. I mean, for the last six months I’ve been a politician.

But I will tell you, I am totally committed to the Republican Party. I feel very honored to be the front runner.

(APPLAUSE) TRUMP: And I think I’ll do very well if I’m chosen. If I’m so fortunate to be chosen, I think I’ll do very well.

Polls have come out recently saying I would beat Hillary. I will do everything in my power to beat Hillary Clinton, I promise you.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Dr. Carson, Mr. Trump just committed to stay the distance regardless of the result. How about you?

CARSON: Well, you know, the statement that I made last week, that I would leave the party was contingent upon whether in fact the party acts like they have in the past with a lot of subterfuge and dishonesty, or like they’re going act now because I spike to Reince Priebus, and he assured me that the Washington Post writer had it all wrong, and that they’re not be engaging in anything to thwart the will of the people.

That’s why I got into this race, as a member of we the people, to try bring some honesty and integrity back to the process.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right. Candidates, we have more coming up. When we come back, everyone will have an opportunity to explain why this particular candidate, each of you on the stage, believes he or she should be the Republican presidential nominee.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now it’s time for the closing statements from the candidates. Each one has 30 seconds.

Senator Paul.

PAUL: The greatest threat to our national security is our debt. We borrow a million dollars a minute. And whose fault is it? Well, frankly, it’s both parties’ fault. You have those on the right who clamor and say, oh, we will spend anything on the military, and those on the left who say the same for domestic welfare.

But what most Americans don’t realize is there is an unholy alliance. They come together. There’s a secret handshake. We spend more money on everything. And we are not stronger nation if we go further into debt. We are not projecting power from bankruptcy court.

To me, there is no greater threat than our debt. I’m the only fiscal conservative on the stage because I’m willing to hold the line on all spending. I hope you will consider me in the election. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Kasich. KASICH: No Republican has ever been elected president of the United States without winning Ohio. Let me give you a little tip on how you win Ohio, it’s reform, it’s hope, it’s growth, it’s opportunity, and it’s security.

The people of Ohio are the people of America. The people of America are reflected in Ohio. Our message has to be big, and bold, and positive, and connect, not just with people’s heads but also connect with their hearts.

If we do it, we will beat Hillary Clinton, and we will run the White House, and we will strengthen and fix America, I promise you.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Christie.

CHRISTIE: On September 10th, 2001, I was named chief federal prosecutor in New Jersey and on September 11th, 2001, my wife and my brother who are in the audience tonight went through the World Trade Center and to their offices just blocks away from the Trade Center.

I lost touch with them for six hours that day and prayed that they were alive. Luckily, they were sent home. But many of our friends and others in our neighborhood lost their lives that day.

Terrorism — radical jihadist terrorism is not theoretical to me. It’s real. And for seven years, I spent my life protecting our country against another one of those attacks. You won’t have to worry when I’m President of the Untied States whether that can be done because I’ve already done it. I want the chance to do it again to protect you, your children and your families.

If you give me the chance and give me your vote I will protect America from the wars that are being brought to our door step.

BLITZER: Ms. Fiorina.

FIORINA: I too remember September 11th. I remember immediately putting into place security procedures all throughout our company that did business in 170 countries where we thought corporate interests would be attacked next. To take our country back, to keep our nation safe, we have to begin by beating Hillary Clinton.

We need to unify our party. We need to better than our government, which 75 percent of the American people now think is corrupt and incompetent. They’re right. We need to better than our politics. 80 percent think we have a professional/political class of both parties that cares more about its power, position and privilege than actually on getting anything done.

We need to unify our party, we need a real Conservative in the White House, and we need to beat Hillary Clinton to take our country back and keep our nation safe.

I can. I am. And together, if you join me, we will take our country back.

BLITZER: Governor Bush. BUSH: Ask yourself, which candidate will keep you and our country safer, stronger and freer?

Hillary Clinton has aligned herself with Barack Obama on ISIS, Iran and the economy. It’s an alliance doomed to fail. My proven record suggests that — my detailed plans will fortify our national and economic security. And my proven record as governor makes — will give you a sense that I don’t make false promises. I deliver real results.

For America to be safe and sound, I ask for you support. Thank you all very much.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: Thank you. As we near the end of this year, we enter one of the most important elections in a generation. For what’s at stake in this election is not simply what party’s going to be in charge. But our very identity as a people and as a nation. For over 200 years this has been a special country. A unique place where anyone from anywhere can achieve anything. But now millions of Americans feel like they’re being left behind. Insecure in their future and unsafe in the face of terrorism. This election is about electing a president that will restore our economic vibrancy so that the American dream can expand to reach more people and change more lives than ever before. And rebuild our Military and our intelligence programs so that we can remain the strongest nation on earth. Tonight I ask you for your vote.

If you do this, we will rebuild this country, and together we will usher in a new American century — the greatest era in the history of this great land.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz.

CRUZ: Judgment, strength, clarity and trust. Barack Obama has said he doesn’t believe in American leadership or America winning — he is wrong. America can win again and we will win again. Ronald Reagan reignited the American economy, rebuilt the Military, bankrupted the Soviet Union and defeated Soviet Communism. I will do the same thing.

Cutting taxes, cutting regulation, unleashing small businesses and rebuilding the Military to defeat radical Islamic terrorism — our strategy is simple. We win, they lose. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.

BLITZER: Dr. Carson.

CARSON: I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 58 different countries and I thank God everyday that I was born in this country. The most exceptional country that the world has ever known. And I want to make sure that we preserve that exceptionalism for the next generation. My mother told me if I work hard and I really believed in American principles and I believed in God, anything is possible. I believe that is true, and that’s why I’m not anxious to give away American values and principles for the sake of political correctness.

TRUMP: Our country doesn’t win anymore. We don’t win on trade. We don’t win on the military. We can’t defeat ISIS. We’re not taking care of our great people, the veterans. We’re not taking care of them.

We have to change our whole way, our health care system is a disaster. It’s going to implode in 2017, just like you’re sitting there. It doesn’t work. Nothing works in our country. If I’m elected president, we will win again. We will win a lot. And we’re going to have a great, great country, greater than ever before.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thanks to all the Republican presidential candidates. That does it for this Republican presidential debate.

On behalf of everyone at CNN, we want to thank the candidates, Facebook, the Republican National Committee, and the Venetian Las Vegas. My thanks also to Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash.

We especially want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, happy holidays, especially to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines protecting us around the world.

Anderson Cooper picks up our coverage of tonight’s debate right now — Anderson.

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 December 15, 2015: CNN Fifth Undercard Republican Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada Transcript

ELECTION 2016

CampaignBuzz2016

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2016

Transcript: CNN undercard GOP debate

Source: WaPo, 12-15-15

Participants

  • Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee
  • Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.)
  • Former New York governor George Pataki
  • Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum (Pa.).

We have posted the complete transcript below.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer introduced the candidates, and the debate was underway.

BLITZER: We know you’re all eager to jump in and debate these important issues, but please wait until you’re called on. Now that everyone is this place, it’s time for the candidates to introduce themselves to our audience. You’ll each have one minute.

Senator Graham, you’re first.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much.

I just returned from Iraq two weeks ago. It was my 36th trip to Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade. Toward the end, I met a very impressive Special Forces sergeant. It was his job to train Iraqi Kurdish commandos.

He was so proud of what he was doing and so proud of the people he was training. He was the replacement for Master Sergeant Wheeler, a Delta Force member who was killed two months ago in a raid against an ISIL prison to free prisoners.

As I departed, I told this young man, stay safe. He replied, sir, I will do my best to stay safe, but I came here to win. As commander-in-chief, I will do everything in my power to make sure that he can win. As president, we will win.

(APPLAUSE) BLITZER: Governor Pataki.

GEORGE PATAKI (R), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Wolf.

I want to speak to you this evening not as a Republican or a presidential candidate, but as an American. As we saw today in L.A., we are at a crisis in our country. Radical Islam poses a threat to our safety not just overseas, but literally in every community in America.

And yet at a time when we should be united, we have a president who has divided us, who refuses to call radical Islam what it is, let alone have a coherent strategy to defeat it.

The leading Democrat, Hillary Clinton, won’t call ISIS by its name, failed as secretary of state, and has continually lied to the American people.

On the other hand, the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, continually demonizes and demeans millions of Americans, and when confronted about it, laughs it off. Neither is fit to be president of the United States.

Our party, as Republicans, needs to nominate a strong leader who will unite us as Republicans, but more importantly, unite us as Americans, committed to destroying and defeating radical Islam, restoring our confidence in our safety right here, and our belief in freedom, and that the best of America is ahead of us.

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Santorum.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Wolf.

It’s great to be here in Las Vegas. And I just want to thank everybody for the opportunity to be here.

This is an important time in our country’s history. We have entered World War III. World War III has begun and we have a leader who refuses to identify it and be truthful to the American people to the stakes that are involved, in part, because his policies have led us here.

SANTORUM: His policy toward Iran lit the fuse of a nuclear Iran. Just a few weeks ago the International Atomic Agency reported that Iran has had a nuclear program, but they don’t know if it’s continuing because they refuse to share any information about the current status. And this President marches on, forgiving them hundreds of billions of dollars to allow them to not just reconstitute their robust nuclear program, pursue their missile program, but also to foment terror around the world. And then his policies in the Middle East with Iraq create ISIS. Ladies and gentlemen, we need a President who will be honest with you and identify these problems and defeat them. I hope you will give me the chance to do that. Thank you.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee.

GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) ARKANSAS: Wolf, I want to say thanks to you and CNN for giving us the opportunity especially to focus on national security issues at a time when Americans are not only angry — angry at their government that they feel like has failed them, been indifferent to them, cost them their livelihoods — but they’re in addition to angry, they’re just plain scared. They’re scared when they thing that they go to a Christmas party and get shot at by somebody who sat and had lunch with them an hour earlier. They’re scared when they realize that our government, who promises that it can vet people and is begging us to approve bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees into this country, can’t even catch somebody after a third background check, who had posted things on social media clearly indicating she wanted to kill Americans. And we couldn’t catch that. We’ve lost confidence in our government. And when Americans lose confidence in their government, we’re in a dangerous place. We’re in danger because we have an enemy that is out to kill us, and we have a government that we don’t trust any more. This election is about going back to having a government we can trust with leaders who have the courage and conviction to actually lead and not follow.

BLITZER: Let’s begin. The United States just suffered the worst terrorist attack since 9-11, the murder of 14 people by two terrorists, one of whom was an American citizen. In response, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump proposed a temporary ban on all Muslims coming into the United States until the government can figure out what is going on. Senator Graham, the polls show most Republicans do support Mr. Trump. What do you say to them?

GOV. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: You may think this makes us safe, but it doesn’t. The good news for everybody in this room is, after 36 trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, most people over there, Wolf, are not buying what ISIL’s selling. This is a religious war between radical Islam and the rest of the world. And there’s only one way you’re going to win this war. Help people in Islam who reject radical Islam to fight over there and destroy this ideology. Donald Trump has done the one single thing you cannot do. Declare war on Islam itself. ISIL would be dancing in the streets, they just believe in dancing. This is a coup for them, and to all of our Muslim friends throughout the world, like the King of Jordan and the President of Egypt, I am sorry. He does not represent us. If I am President, we will work together. People in the faith to all over the world destroy this radical ideology. Declaring war on the religion only helps ISIL.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, you say you’d rather lose the election without Trump than try to win with him. Does that mean you’ll be voting for the Democratic nominee if Donald Trump wins the presidential nomination?

GRAHAM: I will support the Republican nominee, whoever he or she may be. Like Bob Dole, I may sleep late that day if it’s Trump. But the bottom line, if it’s Trump, so be it. That’s who I’ll support. Please understand we’re in a war that we can’t afford to lose, and what he said about banning Muslims coming here to America has made us all less safe, and it’s the worst possible thing he could do in this war. He clearly doesn’t understand this war and how to win it. For God’s sakes, pick somebody who is worthy of the sacrifice of those who are fighting this war and who actually knows how to win, and I don’t believe that’s Mr. Trump, and I know it’s not Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: Governor Pataki, you mentioned Donald Trump in your opening statement. You’ve also suggested Mr. Trump’s plan is un- American and absurd. Why?

GEORGE PATAKI, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Absolutely. It’s one of many absurd things this President has said.

PATAKI: To target a religion and say that, regardless of whether you’re an American soldier who’s fought on our side or allies we have overseas, simply because of your religion we’re going to ban you is un-American, it is unconstitutional and it is wrong. And by the way, Wolf, now there was a group that tried to do that 150 to 160 years ago, they were called the Know-Nothing Party. They wanted to ban Catholics. They thought they were going to destroy America.

Well, Donald trump is the Know-Nothing candidate of the 21st century and cannot be our nominee.

By the way, though. I fault Hillary and Obama as well because by not distinguishing between Muslims and radicalized Jihadists, by refusing to acknowledge that it’s radical Muslim, radical Islamists who are carrying out these attacks against America — they let Americans who are confused and angry lump everyone together. We have to embrace the Muslims who embrace our freedom and living and safety. We have to destroy those who embrace Jihad and want to engage in violence against us here or abroad.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, you object to Mr. Trump’s proposals on the grounds that it’s unworkable. You’ve made religious liberty a hallmark of your career. Do you believe in religious liberty for Muslims as well as Christians?

SANTORUM: Of course I do. But what Donald Trump was saying was nothing against Muslims. His comment was against this administration who doesn’t have a policy to properly vet people coming into this country. Let’s just be honest about what’s — what’s being talked about here. And I know people will pile on because it makes sense to pile on, maybe from the polls. But he brings up a legitimate issue. The fact of the matter is not all Muslims are Jihadists and no one, including I suspect, Donald Trump would say that. But the reality is, all Jihadists are Muslims.

That’s a reality. And we have — we have to stop worrying about offending some people and start defending all Americans. Because we’re not right now.

BLITZER: Senator Graham.

Rick, please understand the only way we’re gonna win the war against radical Islam is for the world to unite. Very few fathers and mothers want to turn hair daughters and sons over to ISIL. If you spend any time in the region, you’d know that. Muslims have died by the thousands fighting this hateful ideology. You can say what you like, but when you utter the word I will ban all Americans, all Muslims from coming to America, how do you think the king of Jordan must feel to hear that? He is our friend, he is our ally. This is not the way to make America safe. This is the way to help our enemies. Stop this before it’s too late.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: I would agree — I would agree that Donald Trump’s proposal was not the right proposal. But he brings up a very important issue that I think we’ve been ignoring for far too long in this country. The reality is that, yes, we need to get reformist Muslims to join us. We need to get those who are being persecuted and killed within the Middle East to join us. But we also have to protect this country from those who want to harm us and we have to defeat those who are radicalized in the Middle East and wherever we find them around the world.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, you called Mr. Trump’s plan to ban Muslims impossible and unconstitutional. But what is your specific plan to prevent would-be Jihadists from carrying out attacks against Americans?

HUCKABEE: Well, let me begin by saying I’m not that afraid of Donald Trump. And, in the sense that I’d rather him be President than I had Hillary be president any day. And so if he becomes president, I think he will do a whole lot more to protect us than Hillary will. And a whole lot more than Barack Obama has done in his eight years.

So I want to make it very clear that when I was making that comment, I was simply speaking that I’m not sure that you can have a religious test per se. And it’s very impractical because if somebody comes to our borders and says I’d like to come in. They say are you a Muslim? Well, they’re — if they’re going to come in here to kill us, they’re not gonna say yeah, and I’m coming to kill you. They’re going to lie about it. Anybody that will kill you, for God’s sake, will lie to you.

So that’s why I say it’s impractical. But what he has done, and I don’t think a lot of people understand, he has touched a nerve because people are angry and afraid that we are facing an enemy that this administration refuses to acknowledge, refuses to want to go fight. And our only answer is to go after ISIS and to go after every form of radical Islam where they are, take them down, so they never get here and do what they did in San Bernardino again ever.

BLITZER: The terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have sparked a debate here in the United States about the balance between privacy and security. I want to bring in CNN’s Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt for more on this.

BASH: Senator Santorum, you want to give the intelligence community more power to collect American’s phone data. But the government had this ability until just days before the San Bernardino attack.

BASH: If it couldn’t prevent San Bernardino, why will it protect America?

SANTORUM: Just because it couldn’t have prevented San Bernardino doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have all tools available to us that doesn’t impinge upon people’s privacy. This sort of data collection is not collecting people’s phones calls, their voices; they’re not collecting information that’s personal. There’s no names attached to these numbers. They’re simply numbers and times and relationships that throughout algorithms that computer technology can be able to sort through relationship about what numbers are calling what numbers and be able to track those down to see if there’s any leakage’s between someone who’s potentially a terrorist.

That is to me just fundamental that we have to have this type of data to be able to not impinge upon people’s privacy. In fact, I would make the argument that the more data we can collect that’s anonymous that we can through, through using algorithms, the less we need to involve people in and imposing themselves in people’s privacy.

BASH: Senator Graham, when this program was exposed, you said, ” you have nothing to worry about if you’re not talking to terrorist.” Do you understand why though some Americans are concerned that the government is keeping tabs on them in any way?

GRAHAM: Well, here’s what I’m here to tell you, when I first started this process of running for president., I said, ” if you didn’t realize we need more America boots on the ground in Iraq and eventually in Syria as a part of the regional army – not ready to be commander in chief.” Like nobody said a word, now everybody’s on board except Senator Paul.

Senator Paul and Senator Cruz, are isolationists. They both want to restrict the ability of the NSA to do the following; find out if somebody overseas is calling into America and if somebody is on the other end of the phone, don’t you want to know who their talking to? IF a terrorist is calling into America and we can match up phone numbers we get a get a court order to find out what the content is.

We’re at war folks, they’re not trying to steal your car, they’re trying to kills us all. So yes, I would re-institute this program. There’s four things you need to understand about this war, it’s a religious war, them against the world, if you don’t fight them over there, they’re coming here. If you don’t hit them first, they’re going to hit us. If you’re not determined to fight it as a ware, you’re going to lose it. So if you’re worried about somebody having your phone in the government, don’t be. The only thing you need to worry about is if you’re talking to terrorist and a judge gives an order to listen to what you’re saying. That’s all you need to worry about.

BASH: Thank you.

Governor Huckabee, you said, “not one terrorist plot has been foiled by the NSA’s collection of American’s phone records. The director of the CIA says,. “not having these programs makes it ability to find terrorists, quote, “much more challenging.”” Are you taking a potential tool to fight terrorists?

HUCKABEE: No. I’m not taking it away, I just want to make sure that everything we use is going to be effective. We’re spending billions of dollars, let’s make sure it’s effective. Let’s use every tool, but let’s also check out the Facebook posts, let’s look at Twitter accounts.

My gosh, we were told we couldn’t do it because it might invade somebody’s privacy. This lady who came over here and shot up San Bernardino was posting things on Facebook, yet, we were restricted from looking. Every college kid who goes to a frat party gets drunk and puts his picture on Facebook is going to have a potential employer looking at that photo before he gets hired.

Why should we have more attention? I mean, for heaven’s sake, towards some college kid who wants to one day ten years from to get a job, then we’re going after who wants to come in with a semi automatic weapon or a pipe bomb and blow up a bunch of Americans. This is what I think a lot of Americans are frustrated with, it’s the duplicity of our policy that is illogical and irrational.

Our goal ought to be, “protect Americans and put Americans first not last,” which is what I think this administration has done.

BASH: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Look, I agree with Governor Huckabee, that we should in fact be looking at people’s social media posts. That’s just common sense.

But we’ve defunded and tied the hands behind the backs of our intelligence agencies because of political correctness. We’re not allowed to ask any questions or really pursue, whether there’s any mosque that they’re attending that could be spreading Jihadism, and we know that in this country there are Imams that are doing that. But we’re not allowed to ask those questions, we’re not allowed to pursue to those things because we have a president who denies the reality of the enemy we confront.

HEWITT: Wait, let’s pursue that in fact Governor Pataki?

PATAKI: Yes.

HEWITT: You called for following and finding those Imams who are preaching violence in mosques. How exactly would you do that and what Mosques would you shut down? How extensive of a surveillance program are you proposing?

PATAKI: You know, I think it’s very important that we do everything in our power to prevent radicalization of Americans right here. And it is happening, not just overseas, but it’s happening here from Mosques on social media.

PATAKI: And truth — interaction and community meetings.

New York police department had a very active group, aggressively monitoring and using intelligence to — in certain Muslim communities, consistent with our constitution, consistent of our civil rights, so they could have the intelligence as to where these sermons are being given, and who is being radicalized. And, they stopped and prevented dozens, and dozens of attacks in New York.

You know, I’m a great believer in the First Amendment, of Freedom of Speech. I wish we had more of it on our college campuses, but you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater. Calling on Americans to engage in violence against their fellow Americans in the name of jihad is crying fire in a crowded theater. It is not constitutionally protected speech, it should be shut down.

And, by the way, the two murders who went to Garland, Texas to massacre many Americans before the Texas police officer courageously killed them, had been radicalized here.

Getting to that metadata question, one of those terrorists, the day before the attacks, had sent…

[BELL RINGING]

…109 message to a known terrorist overseas. We could not read those messages, we can not read those today…

HEWITT: …Thank you, Governor…

PATAKI: …We have got to do far better.

HEWITT: Governor Huckabee…

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: …As Governor Pataki noted earlier, we have a history of religious intoleration in this country. About the American Muslims who would be subject to this kind of surveillance, does it violate their First Amendment rights?

HUCKABEE: No, it does not violate their First Amendment rights to have someone go and listen to the sermons. You can go to any church in America, it’s a public place, you can listen, and — you know, if you go to my church, you’ll probably get a real blessing. Heck, it’ll be a wonderful experience. You go to some people’s church, you may go to sleep, I don’t know what happens in every church, but, the point is that these are public places, and folks are invited to come.

So, if it’s a public place, and people are invited to come, how does it violate anybody’s First Amendment rights that somebody shows up because they might want to just listen in and see is there something that is a little nefarious? And, if there is, then you take the second step of getting a search warrant, you do whatever you have to do. That’s all protected under the constitution.

So, Huge, I hear people act like there’s something that is terrible about going and sitting in and listening to the sermons of a mosque. If Islam is as wonderful, and peaceful as its adherents say, shouldn’t they be begging us to all come in and listen to these peaceful sermons? Shouldn’t they be begging us all to come, and listen, and bring the FBI so we’d all want to convert to Islam?

HEWITT: Senator Santorum…

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: …I want to start then, not on the First Amendment, but on the Second Amendment. There is a terror watchlist. You can legally purchase a gun in the United States if you’re on that watchlist. Your old colleague, Peter King in the House, wants to change that law. Do you agree with him?

SANTORUM: I don’t. I don’t think we should be able to deny someone’s constitutional rights based on a list kept by the government that nobody knows how they get on it, or how they get off of it.

If you’re going to make that list public, if you’re going to put criteria out there as to how you’re going to get on it, if you’re going to deny someone’s constitutional right, than I think there has to be more transparency. Let’s just be honest, when someone applies for a gun, you do a background check. And, if you’re on the terrorist watch list, guess what very well may happen? You may get denied that.

That’s a discretion of the people — of the ATF in making that kind of decision. I want to leave that discretion — as long as this list is not well known, as long as it’s not transparent, we have to leave that discretion.

I want to make a comment about what Mike said, and George said, about mus — Islam.

The fact of the matter is, Islam is different. I know this is going to come as a shock to a lot of people, and I mean the sincerely. Islam is not just a religion. It is also a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, it is also a civil government, it is also a form of government. And, so, the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.

And, in fact, that political structure is what is the big problem. The imposition of Sharia law adherence to fundamental Islam as it was practiced in the Seventh Century…

HEWITT: Governor…

SANTORUM: …There has to be a line drawn.

HEWITT: Governor, back to you. Your response?

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: I don’t disagree. I don’t disagree with anything that the Senator just said because that’s exactly right. But, I just want to go back to the point that when people say we can’t go into the mosque, we can’t listen. That’s utter nonsense. Of course we can. And, if we can’t, if there’s something so secretive going on in there that somebody isn’t allowed to go and hear it, maybe we do need for sure to send somebody in there and gather the intelligence. And, that’s all to the world I’m saying, I think it stands to be true.

GRAHAM: Can I say something?

HEWITT: Senator Graham, are you trying to get in?

GRAHAM: Yeah. There are at least 3,500 American muslims serving in the armed forces. Thank you for your service.

(APPLAUSE)

You are not the enemy.

GRAHAM: Your religion is not the enemy. Let me make this real to you.

I was at the second presidential election in Afghanistan. The guy guarding me was an American Muslim sergeant in the Army who grew up in Kabul, left when he was — graduated high school, joined the U.S. Army, went back to his high school where they were doing polling, people voting, he took me there and cried like a baby. I cried like a baby.

He is the solution to this problem, folks. He is not the problem. Leave the faith alone. Go after the radicals that kill us all.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Pataki.

PATAKI: Yes, Wolf.

BLITZER: There are a lot of people who have been frustrated, especially Senator Graham, that law enforcement can’t tap into information on terrorist cell phones. Senator Graham has called on companies in Silicon Valley to change their business models.

As president of the United States, would you force these companies to change their models so the government can better monitor the traffic on these cell phones?

PATAKI: I would pass a law requiring them to do that. Let me just give you one example. I mentioned in Garland, Texas, where that murderer, that terrorist, the day before sent 109 messages overseas to a known terrorist.

But they were encrypted. So to this date we don’t know what that said. Companies are entitled to encrypt and protect their knowledge and their intelligence. But what we need is a back door for law enforcement to be able, when they can establish that that communication poses a risk to our safety and engages in terrorism, to get a court order and go in and access those communications.

Allow the companies to continue encryption, provide an entry way for law enforcement when they can prove to a court that there is a sufficient risk of an attack upon us that they have the right to look at those messages.

BLITZER: Senator Graham?

PATAKI: And just one more thing, Wolf. When that murderer came from Pakistan to San Bernardino and committed those atrocious crimes just a few weeks ago, she applied for a visa.

She had posted on social media jihadist messages. Because this administration is so politically correct, they have a rule that they cannot look at social media postings of people applying to come to the United States.

That is utterly absurd. One of the things we must do, the next president must do is get rid of that law and make sure we do everything in our power to find out if someone poses a threat to our existence here.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: Thank you. This is why I own a flip phone. You don’t have to worry about all of this stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM: The bottom line is, we’re at war. They’re trying to come here to kill us all and it’s up to the government to protect you within constitutional means. Any system that would allow a terrorist to communicate with somebody in our country and we can’t find out what they’re saying is stupid.

If I’m president of the United States, and you join ISIL, you are going to get killed or captured. And the last thing you are going to hear if I’m president is, you’ve got a right to remain silent.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Here is a question we have on the fight against ISIS from Facebook. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNAH DEBELLA, COLLEGE STUDENT: I’m Hannah DeBella. And I go to the University of Florida. People say that we’re fighting an ideological war with ISIS. If you’re president, how would you defeat them both militarily and ideologically, as well?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, how would you defeat ISIS ideologically?

HUCKABEE: The way we defeat them ideologically is that we remind people that what their intent is is to kill us, and that it is our intent to use every means possible to get to them before they get to us. We are pretending that this is a war that is not that significant. We have a president who called it the JV team, said we had contained it. Nine hours after he said we contained it, there was a massacre in Paris.

We’ve got to make it so untenable for somebody to join ISIS. Rather than making it so that teenagers from around the world want to go and be to be a part of this, we need to go after it with significant ground troops, air campaign.

The president boasted we had 9,000 flown sorties, air missions over 18 months. What he failed to tell the American people, we were flying 3,000 air missions per day during Desert Storm.

And the rules of engagement have got to be loosened, because we have to make sure that we are not just going over and setting off some fireworks. We have to kill some terrorists and kill every one of them we can to make it very clear that to take action or threaten action against the United States, and you’ve just signed your death warrant.

We’re coming to get you. And you won’t be coming to our shores. You’re going to be going to your funeral. That’s what we need to do to begin to defeat it ideologically.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, you have an aggressive military plan to try to defeat ISIS. The U.S. citizen who killed 14 people in San Bernardino was radicalized right here in the United States. As President, how would you defeat ISIS online?

GRAHAM: Well, what you want to do is you want to knock them off line. How about this idea? If you pledge allegiance to al-Baghdadi, you can’t get married in America? The bottom line is you have to go after them everywhere. The key to winning this war is to provide the capacity to those in the faith who reject the ideology. The key to fighting this war is to fight it in their backyard, not ours. Two years ago I came up with a plan that requires more American boots on the ground in Iraq. The first thing out of my mouth running for President was, if you don’t understand we need 10,000 troops in Iraq, rather than 3,500, you’re not ready. What would I do in Syria? I’d form a regional army of Arabs and Turkey. Ninety percent them, 10 percent us. Up to 10,000 U.S. forces to go in on the ground and destroy the caliphate and its roots. Take Raqqah away from ISIL, kill every one of these bastards we could find. Then I would stay. I would hold the hands of those who are willing to live in peace with us. I would build small school houses in remote regions of the world to give a young woman a voice about her children, something that will end radical Islam more than the bomb. I’m all in. Whatever it takes, as long as it takes. To the isolationists in our party, you’re no better than Obama. If you want to win this war, follow me. I am seeking victory, folks, not containment.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, following up on what we just heard from Senator Graham, at least one U.S. intelligence report from the White House has concluded that, in order to defeat ISIS and to stop its spread worldwide, you have to defeat it on the battlefield. You’ve called for more U.S. troops in Iraq, but you say that sending U.S. troops into Syria would be a mistake. How do you defeat ISIS with no U.S. ground troops in the country where ISIS is headquartered.

SANTORUM: Well, there’s all sorts of theological reasons why we may not want to go into Syria right now to take ISIS. But let me set that aside for a moment and say this. ISIS is a caliphate. They’ve established a caliphate, the first Sunni caliphate since 1924, when Ataturk disbanded the Ottoman Empire. They’ve established a caliphate and, under Islamic law, good Muslims who see them as a legitimate caliphate are required to follow them. That’s why we have people in this country who see them as a legitimate caliphate, which is the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, they are required under their law to follow them. How do we defeat their caliphate? Well, it’s very clear in Islamic law how you do so. You take their land. You have to take land back from the caliphate and in the Islamic world that delegitimizes, that delegitimizes the caliphate. It makes the caliphate unsuccessful. Therefore not blessed by Allah. Therefore, you should not follow it. We need to take back the land in Iraq and we need to use Sunni, not Shiites, not Iranian troops, not Shiite Iraqis, but Sunni Muslims in Iraq and the Kurds, the Peshmerga, and take back Iraqi land. I believe if we did that, you would see ISIS begin to collapse. And then we can look at other ways in which we’re going to deal with it. I have great hesitancy, based on ISIS’ desire to draw us into Syria, and a particular town in Syria, for their own, again, apocalyptic version, to go in with ground troops in Syria at this point.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, you’re shaking your head.

GRAHAM: Yeh, it’s just you’re not going to win that way, Rick. There’s nobody left in Syria to train. Between the Russians and Assad, they have killed all the people we trained, and our President sat on the sidelines and watched people get killed that we enticed into the fight. There is nobody left to train. I would get the Arabs who are threatened by ISIL just as much as we are, along with Turkey. We would use their armies. They have modern armies. Ninety percent them. But some of us have to go, folks. You’re not going to keep the war from here if some of us don’t go over there. Ninety percent them, 10 percent us, and we go in and destroy the caliphate. There must be American boots on the ground in Syria to win. If you don’t understand that, you’re not ready to be Commander in Chief.

SANTORUM: I would have no problem with Sy — with boots on the ground in Syria in a training capacity. I do not want American troops on the front line in Syria because I don’t believe that that would serve to the interest. Again, understanding what ISIS is preaching. You have to learn what they’re telling their people. They want to draw the United States, they want to draw the great Satan into Syria, into a particular town in Syria, because it, it’s consistent with their theology. And you say, well, this sounds like gobbledy gook. It’s what they believe. And if we don’t take seriously what they believe and how they’re able to attract people, then we’re going to make mistakes like invading Syria with a ground force and bringing them into the battle that they so deeply deserve and desire.

BLITZER: I’m going to bring Governor Pataki in a minute, but go ahead and respond, Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: Well, number one, dead men don’t preach anything.

GRAHAM: If you don’t understand we need a ground force to go into Syria, then you’re not ready to destroy ISIL. Rick, there’s nobody left to train inside of Syria. Let the Arabs fight this fight, pay for this war, but they need our help.

The difference between me and you and others is that I see you’ve got two choices. Fight them over there or they’re coming here. They’re planning another 9/11 as I speak. Paris was well planned. They wake up every day in Syria trying to find a way to hit us here. If I’m president, we’re going in with the Arabs in Turkey and we’re gonna destroy them before they hit us here. We’re running out of time, folks.

BLITZER: Governor Pataki, should the U.S. send ground troops into Syria?

PATAKI: Wolf, I think the answer is we have to send troops with allies and supporters. Wherever it is necessary to destroy the training centers, recruitment centers, planning hubs of ISIS.

Two points though. First of all today, Saudi Arabia announced a coalition of 34 states, mostly Arab, but other Muslim states to engage actively in a war against radical Islam. We have to work with them. Not just step back. Let them take the lead but work with them to destroy ISIS.

And the second point, Wolf, I want to make, is this is on the armed forces network. And thank you for doing that. Because I’m sure watching this debate this evening are some of our soldiers deployed all over the world. As the proud father of a son who was a Marine officer in Iraq and another son that was a 10th Mountain Division officer in Afghanistan, I know we produce no finer people than the men and women who put on their uniform to defend our freedom. They are watching overseas now.

God bless you. This isn’t about us. This is about you. Thank you for your service.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, you have not put a number of how many U.S. ground troops would be needed to combat ISIS. Is Senator Graham’s proposal sufficient?

HUCKABEE: Wolf, it may be sufficient, but rather than put a number — and I’m comfortable that we say 10,000, 20,000 — look, I think we make a mistake when we start telling the enemy what our limitations are. I think we make a huge mistake when we say we’re gonna do up to this. I think what we say is, we’re gonna do whatever it takes. If it’s 10,000, if it’s 100,000, if it’s 3,000 sorties a day, if it’s 5,000 sorties a day.

We never tell our enemy what our limitations are, what we are willing and what we’re unwilling to do. And that’s one of the mistakes I believe that we’re making militarily. But the biggest mistake we’ve made militarily is letting Barack Obama cut our defense forces by 25 percent and leaving us at the least prepared position we’ve been in since before World War II.

We have to get our Military rebuilt from the ground up. And all over America I hear young people say, would you tell me what you’re going to do? Would you give me free college? Will you make sure that I can have medical marijuana?

You know what we ought to tell young people? We aren’t going to give you anything. We’re give you the opportunity to get off your butt and go serve your country and secure your freedom. Because if you don’t, nobody else is.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, and I just want to remind our viewers, you want 10,000 U.S. ground troops in Iraq, and 10,000 in Syria?

GRAHAM: Yeah. I just don’t make this up, Wolf. I talk to people who are combat trained who have won in Iraq who I trust.

Here’s what I want to tell the Arab world and Turkey. We’re not going to send 100,000 troops. You’re going to do the fighting this time and we’re gonna help you. We paid for the last two wars, you’re gonna pay for this one.

And (inaudible), by the way, they get it because ISIL wants to cut their heads off, too. The point I’m trying to make is, there needs to be a ground component. We need to be smart, and we need to fight the war over there. And to the people in my party who believe you can withdraw from the battlefield like Senator Cruz and Paul and we be safe, you really don’t understand this war.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, you have said as president you would tell ISIS, and I’m quoting you now, “we will take you down and we’ll try to get it done in ten days.” Do you really think the U.S. can defeat ISIS in ten days?

HUCKABEE: I’d sure want them to think we would. And I’d want to make sure that we did everything we could. But we can’t do it with our current Military strength. We’ve got to build up and have the most robust, well trained, well equipped, well prepared and ample Military force in the history of the world because we’re not fighting just a known enemy in one place. We’re fighting people all over the world who can go anywhere.

And the reason I say that is because if we tried to win this war on the cheap or we try to do it with the, “light footprint,” we’re making a huge mistake.

When all of us were in grade school, one thing we all knew, the bully never picked on the kid except for the weak one.

HUCKABEE: He never picked on the kid he knew, he’d whip(ph) him. We need to make to sure that we have the kind of military that ISIS recognizes in every radical Islamist in the world recognizes, they may start but we by god will finish the fight. And it will be their rear ends on the ground, not ours when it’s all over whether it takes ten days, ten months, or ten eternities’ we’re going to win this fight and have to make sure they understand that.

BLITZER: Senator Samtorum?

SANTORUM: No look, I’m committed to whatever is necessary understanding the nature of the enemy. The enemy is a theocracy and their allure is their theocracy. It’s their doctrine and so we have to understand that doctrine. That’s why, I love the fact that people are angry and outraged in Washington and want someone new and fresh. But we need someone who understands and has knowledge and experience in these areas.

And I can see that you know, Senator Graham has that experience and we have a little difference of opinion. But frankly, it’s not that big of difference in our opinion, we both want to defeat ISIS. We have elements in our party that don’t and I will use whatever means necessary within the confines of not crossing a tripwire theologically that could turn on us.

BLITZER: Governor Pataki, you support ground troops – deploying grounds troops.

PATAKI: Yes.

BLITZER: The U.S. Army’s Former Cheif of Staff, General Raymond Odierno said that, and I’m quoting, “now ISIS is a ten to twenty year problem. How long would you be willing to commit U.S. forces to fight ISIS?”

PATAKI: You know, I don’t think it’s a function of years of going after ISIS. They are out in the open and in cities like, Mosul, where we know they have their centers. They have centers that we could bomb. And what we have to do though, is have a commitment from our government, not just for troops on the ground but to do whatever we can to help our allies on the grounds right now,.

The Kurds, the Peshmurga are fighting. If we don’t give them the equipment, the training, and the support they need because our government insists that it all go through Baghdad. Baghdad doesn’t want a strong independent Kurdish army. There are right now Sunni, Sheikh, and Tribes in the Anbar province, taking on ISIS. In fact, they’re in the process of reclaiming Ramadi, the provincial capital this week. They are on our side and they are Sunni, but we are not arming, supporting, training, and helping them as much as we can because all support goes through Baghdad and they don’t want a strong autonomous Sunni area.

We have to put our interests first. Not the interests of Baghdad or of Iran, we have to support those on the ground fighting on our side. Give them every bit of help that they want and to the extent that it’s necessary, for us to send in Special Ops to destroy those training centers, recruitment hubs, planning hubs, social media centers.

Do that. Destroy them. Protect our freedom and get out.

BLITZER: But how long would you be willing to commit U.S. troops to fight ISIS.

PATAKI: You know, I don’t want to see us occupy a country. I’ve been to Iraq a couple of times and Afghanistan. The first time I went, I had an uneasy feeling that when we went there we were liberators. But as we stayed ,we became occupiers.

I saw American troops move into some of Saddam’s old hideous marble palaces. And I thought that was exactly the wrong message. We do not have to occupy. We do not have to nation build and try to create a democracy where one hasn’t existed. WE have to destroy ISIS, protect our safety and our freedom here, and then get out.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, you called for U.S. ground troops as we know in Iraq and Syria.

GRAHAM: Two years ago.

BLITZER: As you know, there’s a growing ISIS presence right now in Libya.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: Are you ready to deploy U.S. troops to Libya to try to defeat ISIS there?

GRAHAM: I think we need to have a military strategy regarding Libya. They’ve just take over Gaddafi’s hometown called Sur(Ph). There’s about 2000 of them.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my 36 visits, you can’t deter these guys, they’re ready to die, bring on the virgins. Dying is first place in their world. What we have to do is work with others over time to destroy to ideology. We have to offer a hopeful life to compete with the glory of this.

Most young people folks want the same thing you do. They don’t want to live in the 11th century. So yes, you have to destroy the caliphate. I want to work with Arabs and Turkey to do it, but here’s the key is to not leave. If we left Germany and Japan only god knows what would’ve happened. If we have 10000 troops left in Iraq, there would be no ISIL and I hate what Obama did. He gave away everything we fought for and I hate what he did.

I begged him not to and I’ve been right more than I’ve been wrong.

BLITZER: Senator? Senator, are you ready to commit U.S. ground troops to Libya?

GRAHAM: I want to talk to General Keane first. I want to find out, what do we need militarily to keep them contained and eventually destroy them in Libya. They’re in nine countries.

GRAHAM: You want to deal with Libya, go to Iraq and Syria. You want to prevent another 9/11, take the caliphate headquarters away from ISIL. There is no other way to do it without a ground force going into Syria. We have to be part of that ground force, or another 9/11 is coming just as sure as I’m standing here. They’re planning it tonight.

The ISIL leadership wants to hurt you, and your family, and if I’m president, they will not get here ’cause we’re going to kill ’em over them.

BLITZER: Alright, gentleman, standby. The fight against ISIS clearly is sparking new tensions with another super power. How these candidates will handle Vladimir Putin, that’s next.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We’re live here at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Welcome back.

(APPLAUSE)

As the U.S. fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria continues, the question remains whether to take out the Syrian dictator, Bashar al Assad. That has become a major policy difference among the Republican candidates.

Governor Huckabee, you said the Middle East was more stable when Bashar al Assad was fully in control of Syria. The Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to keep him in power. As President of the United States, would you join with Putin to do the same thing?

HUCKABEE: Well, I want to be real clear, I don’t trust Putin, I don’t trust Assad. I’m not saying that I would endorse him for his reelection bid. The man is a tyrant, he’s killed lots of people, but he wasn’t killing Americans. And, the thing that I’m concerned about is that we have seen a complete destabilization, not only of Syria, but we’ve seen it in Yemen, that the President pronouncing great shape just before it collapsed.

HUCKABEE: Destabilization of Libya, destabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seems like wherever we try to pick a side under this administration, we always pick the wrong one. We picked the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

So all I’m saying is, let’s be careful to understand who it is that is our direct immediate threat. Do I think that we can hug Putin and have a wonderful relationship with the Russians and go off into the sunset like the end of “Casablanca”? No, I don’t.

But let me tell you what I think we ought to be doing. We ought to be challenging not only Russia but the Iranians and the Saudis on the point of energy. We ought to be drilling every bit of oil, getting all the coal out.

We need to be going after our natural gas and biofuels and become the energy exporter to the world, and take the weaponry out of the hands of the Russians, the Iranians, and the Saudis by taking their money away, and let America become the number one energy exporter to the entire world.

That enriches Americans and it destabilizes our enemies overseas.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: It is absolutely imperative that Bashar Assad go. The biggest mistake Obama made was drawing a red line. Assad crossed it. He is still standing.

If I’m president, Assad will not stand. He has murdered 240,000 of his own people. They’re not going to accept him as their leader. The war never ends if he stays in power. You’re giving Damascus to the Iranians.

He’s a puppet of the ayatollah, a proxy of Iran. He is the biggest benefactor of Hezbollah. Weapons flowing from Damascus to Lebanon will continue to flow if Assad stays. For our interests and the stability of the region, he must go.

And if I’m president, he will go. And the Syrians will pick their leader, not the ayatollah.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: Well, the only thing I disagree with is that I still believe if you take away their ability to fund their weaponry and fund their terrorism, they don’t have terrorism.

I still say we need to take an offensive approach by using our energy, the one weapon we have, we have hundreds of years of energy under our feet. The president thinks that climate change is the number one enemy.

I think people bombing us is a bigger enemy than the temperature change over several hundred years. So let’s get our energy. Let’s use that as an offensive weapon to change the dynamics of the entire globe, and especially change the dynamics of the Middle East.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: I’m going to get to the others in a moment. But you’re once again shaking your head, Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: Well, I agree with that. I would like to become — you know, I’d like to stop sending $350 billion overseas to buy oil from people who hate our guts, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you like to export natural gas to cut Putin’s legs out from under him?

I’m not afraid of a guy riding around on a horse without his shirt.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM: The guy has got a pair twos and we’ve got a full house, and he’s walking all over Obama.

Mike, the surge worked. It worked. George W. Bush made mistakes, but he did adjust. I blame Obama for ISIL, not Bush. I’m tired of beating on Bush. I miss George W. Bush. I wish he were president right now. We wouldn’t be in this mess.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GRAHAM: I’m tired of dictators walking all over us. I’m tired of siding with the Iranians and the Russians.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Governor Pataki.

PATAKI: Lindsey is looking back and defending President Bush, but I want to look forward.

This is about the next president of the United States. And you mentioned Libya and you mentioned Russia. And what they have in common, the disaster they have in common is Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state. Do you remember… GRAHAM: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

PATAKI Do you remember in Libya where it was Hillary Clinton who went and tried to convince and ultimately did convince Obama that the United States had to go in for humanitarian reasons to protect people from the dictator at the time, Gadhafi?

What has happened? We led from behind. We have chaos. We have ISIS controlling a major city. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of refugees. That’s Hillary’s policy in Libya.

And then Putin, the reset button, you remember who that was? That was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressing the reset button. We can be friends with Russia. Russia is not our friend. They’re friends with the Iranians.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

PATAKI: They are friends with Assad. They are friends with Hezbollah. We have got to stand up with them. And we have got to hold Hillary accountable for her failed time as secretary of state.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, you’ve suggested that there’s no good options for the United States in Syria. As commander-in-chief, would you be willing to let Russia take the lead in the fight against ISIS there?

SANTORUM: I don’t want Russia taking the lead anywhere, particularly working with Assad, because what that shows, and I think Lindsey is correct in this, is that, you know, we’ve abandoned that region, which we don’t want to do, number one.

Number two, the relationship between Iran and Damascus is one of the reasons that ISIS has the power they have.

SANTORUM: And the fact that we have a nuclear treaty with the Shiites in Iran, that we have now partnered with the Russians and appearing to allow Assad to stay, which is a satellite Alawites, very interrelated to the Shiites, this looks to ISIS — and what they’re selling is that we are now lining up with the Shiite world against the Sunni world.

Well the Shiite world is 15 percent of the Muslim world. The Sunni world is 85 percent. We’re — we’re picking the wrong horse here. Not only is the Iranian deal the greatest betrayal of this — of this country in the history of our country by signing that deal, but secondly, we have now lined up to empower ISIS by partnering with the Shiites. So the answer is this. The answer is we have to take them on in Iraq, defeat them in Iraq. Delegitimize their caliphate. Join with legitimate rebel forces which exist in Syria and begin to arm them and train them. But it’s a one-two step. The first step has to be Iraq.

BLITZER: We have a video question from Facebook. Let’s watch.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Adithya Sivakumar. I’m from Vanderbilt University. And I was wondering with U.S. designated state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and other traditional U.S. enemies fighting ISIL, do you think the United States should ally with these groups or continue with their own separate coalition?

BLITZER: Governor Pataki.

PATAKI: I’m not sure — ally with which groups? I didn’t quite catch that.

BLITZER: He says he was wondering with U.S. designated state sponsors of terrorism like Iran and other traditional U.S. enemies fighting ISIL, do you think the United States should ally with these specific groups?

PATAKI: Not at all. Iran is our enemy. They are the number one sponsor of state terror. The Iranian Deal is a disaster. And by the way, I don’t think the next president has to aggregate it. It was never ratified by the Iranians. They have tested long-range ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions. They have broken the agreement. It is void. They can never have a nuclear weapon and should not get relief.

With respect to the other groups, like Hezbollah, of course we should not work with them. I’ll tell you who we should work with in Syria. There are two groups. One are the PYD, the — the Kurds in Syria who led the defense of Kobani, and are in northern and eastern Syria and anti-ISIS and anti-Assad.

The second thing I’d do is three years ago, Turkey called for a no-fly zone along the Turkish border. Obama said no. We need to work with the Turks, create that no-fly zone so that Syrian refugees don’t have to flock to Europe or try to get to the United States. They will have a safe haven. Anti-Assad Syrians can group there, train, organize there and let them fight the fight to protect our allies.

BLITZER: Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash have questions.

Hugh go ahead.

HEWITT: Thank you, Wolf.

Governor Huckabee, ten minutes ago you blasted President Obama for destabilizing Iraq. You hit former Secretary of State Clinton for supporting the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt. But you have said recently you would sanction countries that don’t join the fight aggressively against ISIS. Having had an administration that has effectively undermined our friends and emboldened our foes, why would you start sanctioning those who are not yet on our side against ISIS?

HUCKABEE: Well what we have done, and we created an impossible atmosphere. This administration has put more pressure on Israel to stop building bedrooms in Judea and Samaria than they’ve put on Iranians to stop building a nuclear bomb. And I’m just simply pointing out the obvious, that we need to recognize who our friends are, who our enemies are…

HEWITT: Which country?

HUCKABEE: … but I’m convinced…

HEWITT: Which countries are those, governor, that you would sanction?

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, it would be the Iranians. I would have never entered into this deal. I don’t know why on God’s earth that the senators gave it so that it was easier for Obama to have the agreement than it would be to make it a treaty.

HEWITT: That’s an easy, give. Are you going to sanction any of our allies who say, no this isn’t our fight we’re gonna let you do this. Are you going to leave our allies alone? For example, Indonesia and Malaysia — other Muslim countries — will you leave them alone?

HUCKABEE: I would make sure that there was economic pressure put on them. Why not? Why should we fund every single battle against radical Islam? Why should we stand back and watch Israel get targeted, the United States get targeted and we watch with people with their hands in their pocket, and their hands in our pocket because we’re getting them a lot of money. And let’s say your hands can be in your pocket, you can stand still, but your hands aren’t going to be in our pockets anymore. We’re not going to give you another dime unless you engage the battle with us. We are not sending our sons and daughters, and grandsons and granddaughters to war to fight for your interest. You either get in with us or be on your own. But we’re not gonna fight the battle for you.

HEWITT: Senator Graham, I just named two Islamic countries…

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Senator Graham, I just named two Islamic countries that are allies that he suggested we sanction. Is that the appropriate approach to this war?

GRAHAM: No. What I would do is I would try to make friends throughout the world to destroy a common threat to the world. These people are religious Nazis. Most people in Islam don’t buy what they’re selling.

GRAHAM: I’ve told you a thousand times that I would partner with the Arabs in Turkey.

But, the reason they don’t partner with Obama is they just don’t trust him. Do you think they would trust me? I know them all. I’ve been working for a decade to figure out how to win this war.

To my good friend Ted Cruz, please ask him the following question, you say you would keep Assad in power, I will tell you that is the worst possible thing that could come out of an American leaders mouth. It would be disastrous. His favorite movie is, apparently, Princess Bride. Ted, getting in bed with Iran and Russia to save Assad is inconceivable.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Senator Santorum, let me ask you…

GRAHAM: Princess Buttercup would not like this.

(LAUGHTER)

HEWITT: Senator Santorum, let me ask you, the opposite of getting into bed is shooting down the prince’s plane. Senator Santorum has — Senator Graham has said he would shoot down Russian planes bombing Syrian fighters on our side. Would you shoot down a Russian plane bombing American allied fighters in Syria (ph)?

SANTORUM: Well, I would establish a no-fly zone. And, I think we just…

HEWITT: What — if they fly into it, would you shoot it down?

SANTORUM: Well — the first thing you have to do is establish a no-fly zone, and you don’t do that by just sort of declaring it. You work through the process of making sure you work with people who, hopefully, have the same objective that you do. And, if they don’t, then you establish the no-fly zone, and you take the consequences of whatever — who violates that law.

HEWITT: The consequences would be war with Russia. Would you risk…

SANTORUM: …I don’t think it’s a war with Russia anymore than Turkey went to war with Russia when Turkey shot down a plane…

HEWITT: Senator Graham, do you agree?

SANTORUM: These are — these are incidents not something that we’re threatening the motherland. This is a tactical decision within an area that we have an obligation for the refugees, for providing stability to the rebels, and an opportunity for the rebels to reconstitute. And, making sure that we stop the flow of refugees into Europe, and into the United States to establish a no-fly zone.

And, Russia either is going to comply with it or not, and if they don’t, I think it can be contained to that region.

HEWITT: OK, we know you agree, Senator Graham. How about you, Governor Pataki, would you shoot down Russian planes?

PATAKI: I could create…

GRAHAM: …I didn’t get to say yes. Yes.

PATAKI: I would create the no-fly zone, and let me tell you, something very simply. Putin is a bully, and the most important and effective thing you can do to a bully is punch him in the face. Create a no-fly zone.

If Russian planes violate that space, either us, or the Turks, should shoot them down to keep our word. And, I guarantee you that Putin would back off. Bullies, when you stand up to them, back down.

We have had, under Obama, and under Hillary as Secretary of State, nothing but weakness in the face of Russia, whether it was in the Crimea, whether it was in Ukraine, or now in the Middle East. I would give the Ukrainians lethal weapons so they could defend themselves. I would create the no-fly zone, and if Russian planes flew into it in violation of what we have declared, yes.

BASH: Senator — Senator Graham…

GRAHAM: Yeah, this is an important discussion. The American president is the strongest voice in the world — until Obama came along. Now, we’re just one of many. When you ask people to help you, when you entice Syrians to join your cause, to take down the dictator they hate to destroy ISIL which will attack our homeland, and you sit on the sidelines and watch the Russian president kill them, it makes it harder for us to get partners in the future.

The point I’m trying to make is we got to mean what we say…

(BELL RINGING)

…And, I am begging people to wake up to Syria. The next 9/11 is coming from Syria, it’s coming soon…

BASH: Senator Graham…

GRAHAM: …we’d better do something about it, and I have a plan.

BASH: Senator Graham, we’ve heard here tonight a lot about the fact that you want to send U.S. troops, ground troops, into Iraq, and Syria to defeat ISIS. Would you consider reinstating the draft in order to complete that mission?

GRAHAM: I don’t think it’s necessary. If you don’t want to be there, I don’t want you to be there. I just retired after 33 years in the Air Force, 140 days on the ground as an Air Force Reservist. To those who are watching, thank you for your service.

I’ve had a small walk in your shoes. We have the best military in the world. Obama has put it in a box. Let’s take it out of the box and use it before we get attacked here. We don’t need a draft, we need a commander in chief who knows what the hell they’re doing.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Governor Huckabee…

(APPLAUSE)

GRAHAM: And, I am that guy.

BASH: Governor Huckabee, would you reinstate the draft?

HUCKABEE: I wouldn’t reinstate a draft, but, I think it’s noteworthy that we are fighting all the battles we have with less than one percent of the American population.

HUCKABEE: We have the lowest level of percentage of population participating in the military than ever. And they’re over-deployed, they’re over used, especially among our reserves and Guard troops. Any governor will tell you.

BASH: So what would you do about it?

HUCKABEE: Well, I would say that, if you want a college education, let’s go back and reinstate the full-blown G.I. bill. You give something to your country; your country gives something back to you. We need to ask young people to step up and buy their own freedom because there’s not going to be enough people left at less than one percent. And as my good friend Ken Allard, former Dean of the War College, has often said, we’re fighting all the wars with other people’s kids. And that’s one of the things that’s making us much less safe, is because we don’t have enough Americans truly invested in the process of defeating our enemies. Therefore, I do think without a draft we do need to ask people to recognize we are at war.

GRAHAM: Can, can I…

BASH: Senator…

GRAHAM: This is important. We’re not fighting all the wars with our kids. If you’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan and you made any friends, you’ve lots of bunch. Thousands have died in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting.

BASH: Thank you, Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: Don’t belittle their sacrifice.

HUCKABEE: I’m not belittling their sacrifice, Lindsey, but I’m just making note that on the part of Americans we have sent National Guard troops over for an 18-month em — 18-month deployment. They come back for five, they go back for another 18. We’re wearing these guys out. They agreed to be citizen soldiers. We turned them into full time soldiers because we’ve not kept up the pace by recruiting enough people in the military to fully fill these forces, and that’s what we need to be doing.

BASH: Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: No.

BASH: Senator Graham, quick response. GRAHAM: To, to those the (well) times in the Army were a bigger problem than they are today. If you want to fix this, you get the Army to 500,000, not 420,000. You want to win this war, grow the Navy to 350 ships, not 275. Sequestration is Latin for doing really dumb things. We’re going to have the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Army since 1940. I was yelling and screaming don’t do sequestration. I was right. If I am President of the United States, Commander in Chief, we’re going to rebuild our military without a draft…

BASH: Thank you, Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: …and we’re going to go on the offense and they’re ready to go.

BASH: Thank you, Senator Graham.

GRAHAM: They are ready to go. They just need to be led.

BASH: Senator Santorum, earlier this month the Pentagon opened all U.S. military combat positions to women. You previously opposed allowing women in combat roles. As President, would you change the Pentagon’s new policy?

SANTORUM: I would use the studies that were done that were ignored by this military that there were certain positions that frankly were not suitable. And they pushed a political agenda above what is in the best interest of the safety, security, and effective of our, of our fighting units. So I would go back to using what we should be doing. Which is putting forth people on those front line positions who are best prepared to do the job, survive the job, and come back home safely.

BASH: So, just to be clear, you’re saying, yes, you would change the policy back?

SANTORUM: I would change the policy to reflect what is the best interest of the people that we’re asking. I’ve got a son who’s going, who’s going into the Air Force right now, and I, as a father, I want to make sure that, if he’s out there on the front line — and he may be a pilot flying an airplane — I want to make sure that the person who’s responsible for, for his wing has the ability to do the job they’re doing. And if they don’t have that ability to do the job, if we’re doing a social promotion as opposed to what’s best for the efficacy of our fighting force and for the survivability of our men and women, I’ll change that policy.

BASH: Governor Pataki, as you mentioned earlier, you have two sons who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Would you maintain this new policy as President, or do you agree with Senator Santorum.

PATAKI: No, I completely disagree with Rick. This is America. And we’ve made enormous progress. And I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman. I care if you’re good and capable of doing the job. If you can do the job — don’t lower standards, don’t lower the criteria — but if a woman is capable of doing these jobs, there is no reason why we should deny a patriot who wants to serve and help defend our country that right.

BASH: Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: So what you just said is you agree with me. Because that’s exactly what I said.

PATAKI: It’s not.

SANTORUM: I said if you can’t do the job, you shouldn’t be able to…you shouldn’t have the position.

PATAKI: No, you said you would reverse the policy which excluded women from those jobs whether or not they were able to do that. That is wrong.

SANTORUM: No, I did not say that, George. I mean, you may, you may have heard that, but I didn’t say that. What I said was, if they can in fact do the job that any, any other person can do, I will allow them to do so.

PATAKI: Ah.

SANTORUM: But if they cannot, I would reverse the policy. And what happened here is there were many studies done, particularly in the Marine Corps, which begged this President not to move forward with this because people are going to get killed as a result of it. The President went forward anyway.

SANTORUM: That is not looking out after the best interest of anybody, including women in that front-line position.

BASH: Now Governor Pataki, do you a final response?

PATAKI: Yes, I think what Rick said is very different from what he said initially which was that, “he would reverse the policy that gave woman not the right but the opportunity to serve in combat.” They can only do it if they’re fit and capable and meet the same standards as men. And so, to reverse that policy and deny a woman who is prepared to risk her life to defend our freedom and is capable of doing everything a man could do is not the right thing for America in the 21st century.

By the way, you see in Iraq, the Peshmerga, the Kurds ,many of their top fighters are women. This is the 21st century. We’re not radical Islam. We want to give women the opportunity to do whatever they are capable of achieving in this country.

BLITZER: Governor Pataki, let me stick with you.

Governor Pataki, a U.S. Army Sargent Bowe Bergdahl now facing a court marshall after leaving his base in Afghanistan, getting captured by the Taliban – Donald Trump, has called for his execution. The former house speak John Boehner says “he’s innocent until proven guilty.” Where do you stand?

PATAKI: Of course he’s innocent until proven guilty. I happen to believe he’s guilty. The military did a very clear and long study as to whether or not he deserted in the face of enemy and they are not court marshalling him. I don’t think he should executed. I do think he will have a fair military trial, not a civilian trial, at which time, assuming he’s found guilty as I think he would, he will be sentenced appropriately.

But there’s a bigger issue here, this administration has failed to protect us because they have treated radical Islamists as Americans who should be tried in civil court. That is ridiculous. They are enemy aliens engaged in terror against Americans. And by the way, the fact that this president is now threatening to close Guantanamo Bay when we know that time after time, terrorists he released are involved in a high level capacity helping ISIS and Al Queda, this is a disgrace.

Ask Hilary Clinton, would she keep Guantanamo Bay open so that Americans can be safe and terrorists kept from going back to the battlefield?

BLITZER: Senator Graham, where do you stand?

GRAHAM: Well I stand unique, having been a military lawyer for 33 years. I’ve been a defense attorney, a prosecutor, and a military judge. Mr. Trump, you don’t have to speak about everything, that’s not required.

(LAUGHTER)

I would make sure that everybody had a fair trial. Does that make sense to you?

(APPLAUSE)

We’re at war folks and this stuff has to stop. It’s bad for morale to hear somebody wanting to be Commander in Chief that would deny due process to somebody who’s been charged in the military. For God’s sakes Mr. Trump, you’re asking to be the Commander in Chief , the leader of the free world, up your game. As to women, if you want to kill terrorists, I’m your guy.

BLIZTER: Governor Huckabee? Governor Huckbee, ISIS demanded ransom before killing American hostages, James Foley and Kayla Mueller. Their families wanted to pay even though at the time the U.S. government discouraged them. Since then, U.S. policy has changed.

As president, would you support families of the approximately 30 Americans being held worldwide if they chose to pay ransom?

HUCKABEE: The horrors that those families have to go through, if that were my son, my daughter, I’d give my last drop of blood to get them back. You bet I would. Is it a good policy? No.

It’s a terrible policy because once we do it, we’re only going to invite more and more hostages, more and more ransoms, and the diasters gets even worse. But I don’t blame any of these families. You know who I blame? I blame a policy in our government that has made it so that families are so desperate that they’re willing to pay ransom to terrorists organizations because they don’t believe our government will fight the fight for them and they think they’re out there on their own.

My goodness people, this is America. When did we have to start telling people that you’ve got to bake your own bread in order to fight the battles? That’s what we have a government for, it’s what we pay taxes for. And I believe, those families ought to have a better expectation of what this government will do.

We should never has sat at the table with the Iranians as long Sayed Abadnini is sitting in an Iranian prison. As long as the Washington Post report is over there. Until the four hostages of America were on an airplane safely out of Tehran. We should’ve told them, ” we won’t even walk into the room with you much less sit down and negotiate with you.”

HUCKABEE: That’s what we ought to be doing.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Pataki, speaking of those four Americans being held in Iran right now. Iran has suggested they might be willing to have a prisoner swap, release Iranian prisoners held in the United States, in exchange for those four Americans.

Would you support that?

PATAKI: You know, again, it comes down to something that, as Mike said, breaks your heart. We clearly want to get them back. But the idea that by taking a journalist, for example, and holding him hostage in Iran, they’re going to be able to get some of their terrorist leaders back, is simply bad policy.

Israel has shown the way on this in rejecting hostage exchanges such as this and then not paying ransom.

But, by the way, Mike is absolutely right. We have to do more to protect our people overseas, but then we also have to do more to help our veterans when they come back here today.

We haven’t talked about that. But more talking about defeating terrorism, one of the things we have to do is give our veterans the support and help that they require. What has happened at the VA is a disgrace.

Give our veterans a medical card that they can use to get the best quality care anywhere, including outside of the VA system.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break, but, Governor, Israel has exchanged a lot of the prisoners it was holding for Israeli soldiers who were being held by Hamas, for example.

PATAKI: And that — but that was involved in combat, where they were actually involved in a war against each other and exchanged prisoners. We have not been in a war with Iran. They have taken civilians as hostages. It’s a totally different situation. And we cannot encourage them to do any more of that. BLITZER: Thank you. Let’s take another quick break. The scramble, the scramble to protect Americans after ISIS attacks from the inside, does the country need to tighten its borders to prevent another San Bernardino slaughter?

Where the candidates stand, that’s next.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the Republican Presidential Debate here at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Gentlemen, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, the Obama Administration policy of allowing Syrian refugees to come into the United States has come under fire.

Senator Santorum, you say accepting Syrian refugees is dangerous. You say it just takes one Jihadist to destroy the world.

Do you think there is any way to properly vet refugees coming into the United States?

SANTORUM: Of course there is a proper way to vet refugees coming into the United States. But not from the ISIS-controlled area or Syria. How can you do a background check? Where are you gonna go? Who are you going to call? Call Assad and say, hey, you know, tell me about this guy from Aleppo.

There’s no possibility in these — in these types of war-torn countries to adequately vet someone to allow them to come into this country. It’s impossible.

So you have a physical impossibility here. Secondly, we shouldn’t be taking people out of that region and move them here to the United States. And the reason we shouldn’t is very clear. If you talk to the clerical leaders and particularly those who are religious minorities, they don’t want their people to be relocated so they’re never gonna come back. And let me assure you, if they come to America, they’re not going to come back. They’re not gonna go back to those areas. So who stays? Those who cooperated with ISIS and maybe a few of the refugees who’s come back.

We need to have refugee camps in the region. We need to provide no-fly zones to make sure that don’t even need refugee camps so people can stay in the area. But the last thing we need to do is to relocate moderate Muslims, relocate minorities and Christians out of the region so they’re not going to return and reestablish a — a — a state that can be won, that can be cooperative for us and safe going forward.

BLITZER: Governor Pataki, you have said you wouldn’t accept a single Syrian refugee. What should become of them? PATAKI: You know, I think what I said earlier is that I would create a no-fly zone in Syria. Turkey just agreed to take 3 million more Syrian refugees. The EU just came up with a funding program to provide camps for Syrian refugees, but I would also create that no-fly zone where refugees can be there.

I have to say I agree with Rick, because this President is talking about taking 10,000 people from Syria, who we cannot vet. This administration, allegedly, vetted the woman who carried out the attacks in San Bernardino and never found out that she had a false address and was on social media talking about radical Jihad.

Coming from Syria, it’s impossible to do that check. And we know, by the way, that ISIS is using this refugee program to send terrorists to the West to engage in attacks. They have said that. That this is an opportunity for them to do that.

So, the answer is no. No Syrian refugees. Whether it’s the 10,000 Obama wants or the 60,000 that Hillary Clinton wants. Think about it, I was governor on September 11th. Those attacks were carried out by only 18 people. We take 60,000 Syrian refugees that we can’t vet. If one in 1,000, 1 in 1,000 is a terrorist, we would have 60 terrorists living amongst us looking to carry out attacks. We cannot let that happen.

BLITZER: Let’s go back to Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt for more questions. Dana?

BASH: Governor Huckabee, the U.S. has a program that allows visitors from America’s closest allies to travel to the U.S. without obtaining a visa. But new legislation in Congress says that privilege should not apply to those who have visited is hot spots like Iraq and Syria in the last five years. You say that legislation doesn’t go far enough. Why?

HUCKABEE: We just need to take a real pause and all the people that coming here and we don’t know who they are or what their affiliations are. What George just said is right. We can’t take the risk. And why should we take the risk?

And if it’s such a doggone good idea to bring people here that we really don’t know who they are and Obama thinks that we’re being un- Christian to not do it, I’ve got a suggestion. Let’s send the first wave of them to Chappaqua, Martha’s Vineyard and the upper east side of Manhattan and to the south lawn of the White House where we’ll set up a camp.

Let’s see how that works out. And if they behave wonderfully, that’s fine. I want to say, I don’t want someone lecturing me about what it means to be a Christian that I should invite a potential terrorist into my backyard. On one hand, the left says separation of church and state. Let’s not have any discussion of religion, and then the left wants to tell me what it means to be a Christian.

HUCKABEE: They need to figure out if they know more about being a Christian than I do, then tell me. They are no longer going to say separation of church and state, but, we have the most fundamental right above everything else — is not to protect the reputation of Islam. It is to protect Americans first and foremost. That is our job.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Senator Graham, in 2013 you were part of the leadership that pushed through immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate of the United States. It died in the House. Many accused you of amnesty, and may have undermined your ability to get your message out on the war.

Would you sign that bill again today? Would you — sponsor that bill again today?

GRAHAM: Well, the first thing I would do is make adjustments to reality. I want to look and see if this was a terrorist arranged marriage between the couple in California. The fact that they met online accidentally is almost zero. So, no, I would have a time-out on Syrian refugees because you’d be crazy if you didn’t after Paris.

But, I’ve been to the refugee camps in Turkey, and Jordan. Trust me with your Christian — and I’m a lousy Christian saved by grace, but — this is important. We’ve got to stop this war. Do you realize that there are more Syrian refugees in Lebanon going to school than Lebanese children? Do you realize if this war goes for another year the King of Jordan could fall?

Let’s have a no-fly zone.

HEWITT: But, Senator, I misunderstand, did you…

GRAHAM: I would — make changes to that bill in light of what I know today.

HEWITT: Senator Santorum, is that sufficient for you?

SANTORUM: Lindsay says this is a real war, until it comes to immigration. And, then, all of a sudden it’s not such a real war. The reality is that we’ve seen since the events of 9/11, the president talks about how he’s worried about discrimination and acts against Muslims. There’s four times as many acts of violence against Jews than there are against Muslims. I never hear the president talk about that.

(APPLAUSE)

The reality is that under this president, since 9/11, this anti- Muslim United States of America has doubled the rate of Muslim immigration. Since 9/11.

(BELL RINGING)

That’s what we’ve done. So, the idea that we have an immigration system that is working…

HEWITT: Thank you, Senator.

SANTORUM: Is not — and, I’m out of time.

HEWITT: Yep. Governor Huckabee, you have said that children of immigrants who came here illegally should not be punished by their parents actions. As president, would you continue President Obama’s policy, vis-a-vis, the Dreamers?

HUCKABEE: No, because he did it unconstitutionally. Twenty-three times he’s said he couldn’t do it, and then one day he woke up and he found he had a pen in one hand, and a phone in another, and wow. That Constitution didn’t mean much anymore.

Look, President’s can’t just do what they want to do. That’s the purpose of getting elected and working with other people who got elected, is that our system was designed to function with the power of persuasion, it’s really what you elect a president to do.

HEWITT: Senator…

HUCKABEE: …Let me finish, Hugh. You elect him to lead which means that if you think it’s a good idea to not punish the children for something their parents did, then you go to the members of Congress and you persuade them. And, you persuade the American people.

You don’t just jump up and shove it up the nostrils of Congress, and the American people because you think you have a superior intellect, and a superior will, and a superior theology than everybody else. Our system is not a system of tyranny. We don’t elect kings, we elect servants.

If I’m elected president, I don’t consider myself to be elected to be the king of the country, but the servant of the country to work with other people who are elected to get things done that need to be done.

HEWITT: Senator Santorum, you…

(APPLAUSE)

…Your position on that policy, assuming that it was passed constitutionally, would you allow this, would you support such an act?

SANTORUM: Here’s the problem. I was with, in fact, one my guests here today is the Sheriff in Cochise County, down on the border in Arizona. And, he talked with me last night when I was with him about all of the children coming across. All of the children, why?

Because we’ve created a magnet. These children are not coming over, and in great shape, not coming over — and not in harms way, and — going through difficult times. We’re attracting people.

He’s also the Sheriff that caught Syrian’s at the border. We have through the policies supported by almost everybody in this field…

(BELL RINGING)

…A policy that says amnesty. The world hears this, and knows that if they can come across this border, by and large, they’re going to be able to stay. That has to change.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. Gentlemen, standby, we are going to take another very quick break. Coming up, with America on edge, who has what it takes to be the next Commander in Chief? These candidates, they will make their case.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We’re live here at the Venetian Las Vegas.

Gentlemen, it’s time for your closing statements. Each candidate will have 30 seconds.

Senator graham, you’re first.

GRAHAM: The next president is going to be a war-time president, whether they like it or not. I’m ready for that job. Two years ago isolationism led by Senator Paul and Cruz was white hot in our party. Now it is in retreat because events have proven me more right than wrong and has proven them to be wrong.

In the first debate I called for American troops on the ground to protect our homeland. Nobody came forward. Now, most have. We’ve spent a lot of carnage to get them to where I have always been.

Make me president, I will keep you and your family safe.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Governor Pataki.

PATAKI: Thank you. This debate has been about terrorism and appropriately so. I’m proud to have been governor of New York on September 11th and have led our state through and during the aftermath of that horrible attack.

I vowed then that if I ever had the chance to lead this country, I would do everything in my power to make sure that Americans were safe. But I also saw a positive from that. New Yorkers and the American people came together and vowed that we weren’t just going to defend ourselves.

We were not going to live in fear. We were going to rise to new heights and celebrate our freedom.

Come to Lower Manhattan today. You will see a magnificent tribute to those who died, the memorial and the museum. You will also see a new tower soaring 1,776 feet tall, the Freedom Tower, a symbol of our freedom, a symbol of our belief that as a free people we can soar to new heights.

Give us the chance to unite Americans, not just Republicans. And this country’s future is unlimited.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: Barack Obama has not kept this country safe. Hillary Clinton will not keep this country safe. We need to nominate someone who America knows will keep this country safe.

Ten years ago I put the sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program. Before that, I gave speech after speech, including to President Bush, to identify the enemy and call these radical Islamists who they are.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week ISIS put out a fatwa on disabled children and killed dozens of them because of their disability. Now, I am the father of a disabled child. I know and have known the face of evil. And I, if you give me the opportunity, will defeat it. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Governor Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: The terrorists don’t win just because they kill us. The terrorists win when they make us change everything we do in our daily lives and alter our routines. And they’re doing that, from getting on a plane to going in a building.

And it is high time that we recognize that we have to take them out, not a little bit, but totally, because I want my grandkids to grow up not in fear, but in faith and in freedom.

And if you give me the opportunity to be president of the United States, I will fight for your grandkids as much as I will for mine.

Thank you and God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you. Thanks to all of the candidates for a very important discussion on critically important issues.

This debate night is just getting started here at the Venetian Las Vegas. The top nine candidates, they are standing by for their turn on this stage in just a little while. I’ll be back as the moderator.

Right now, let’s go to my colleague, Anderson Cooper.

(APPLAUSE)

Full Text Political Transcripts December 12, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Paris Climate Agreement

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

The President Delivers a Statement on the Paris Climate Agreement

Source: WH, 12-12-15

 

Full Text Political Transcripts December 9, 2015: President Barack Obama’s speech at Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment Abolition of Slavery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment

Source: WH, 12-9-15

U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C.

12:02 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free.”  That’s what President Lincoln once wrote. “Honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.  We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

Mr. Speaker, leaders and members of both parties, distinguished guests:  We gather here to commemorate a century and a half of freedom — not simply for former slaves, but for all of us.

Today, the issue of chattel slavery seems so simple, so obvious — it is wrong in every sense.  Stealing men, women, and children from their homelands.  Tearing husband from wife, parent from child; stripped and sold to the highest bidder; shackled in chains and bloodied with the whip.  It’s antithetical not only to our conception of human rights and dignity, but to our conception of ourselves — a people founded on the premise that all are created equal.

And, to many at the time, that judgment was clear as well.  Preachers, black and white, railed against this moral outrage from the pulpit.  Former slaves rattled the conscience of Americans in books, in pamphlets, and speeches.  Men and women organized anti-slavery conventions and fundraising drives.  Farmers and shopkeepers opened their barns, their homes, their cellars as waystations on an Underground Railroad, where African Americans often risked their own freedom to ensure the freedom of others.  And enslaved Americans, with no rights of their own, they ran north and kept the flame of freedom burning, passing it from one generation to the next, with their faith, and their dignity, and their song.

The reformers’ passion only drove the protectors of the status quo to dig in harder.  And for decades, America wrestled with the issue of slavery in a way that we have with no other, before or since.  It shaped our politics, and it nearly tore us asunder.  Tensions ran so high, so personal, that at one point, a lawmaker was beaten unconscious on the Senate floor.  Eventually, war broke out –- brother against brother, North against South.

At its heart, the question of slavery was never simply about civil rights.  It was about the meaning of America, the kind of country we wanted to be –- whether this nation might fulfill the call of its birth:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” that among those are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

President Lincoln understood that if we were ever to fully realize that founding promise, it meant not just signing an Emancipation Proclamation, not just winning a war.  It meant making the most powerful collective statement we can in our democracy:  etching our values into our Constitution.  He called it “a King’s cure for all the evils.”

A hundred and fifty years proved the cure to be necessary but not sufficient.  Progress proved halting, too often deferred.  Newly freed slaves may have been liberated by the letter of the law, but their daily lives told another tale.  They couldn’t vote.  They couldn’t fill most occupations.  They couldn’t protect themselves or their families from indignity or from violence.  And so abolitionists and freedmen and women and radical Republicans kept cajoling and kept rabble-rousing, and within a few years of the war’s end at Appomattox, we passed two more amendments guaranteeing voting rights, birthright citizenship, equal protection under the law.

And still, it wasn’t enough.  For another century, we saw segregation and Jim Crow make a mockery of these amendments.  And we saw justice turn a blind eye to mobs with nooses slung over trees.  We saw bullets and bombs terrorize generations.

And yet, through all this, the call to freedom survived.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”  And eventually, a new generation rose up to march and organize, and to stand up and to sit in with the moral force of nonviolence and the sweet sound of those same freedom songs that slaves had sung so long ago -– crying out not for special treatment, but for equal rights.  Calling out for basic justice promised to them almost a century before.

Like their abolitionist predecessors, they were plain, humble, ordinary people, armed with little but faith:  Faith in the Almighty.  Faith in each other.  And faith in America.  Hope in the face so often of all evidence to the contrary, that something better lay around the bend.

Because of them — maids and porters and students and farmers and priests and housewives — because of them, a Civil Rights law was passed, and the Voting Rights law was signed.  And doors of opportunity swung open, not just for the black porter, but also for the white chambermaid, and the immigrant dishwasher, so that their daughters and their sons might finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes.  Freedom for you and for me.  Freedom for all of us.

And that’s what we celebrate today.  The long arc of progress.  Progress that is never assured, never guaranteed, but always possible, always there to be earned -– no matter how stuck we might seem sometimes.  No matter how divided or despairing we may appear.  No matter what ugliness may bubble up.  Progress, so long as we’re willing to push for it; so long as we’re willing to reach for each other.

We would do a disservice to those warriors of justice — Tubman, and Douglass, and Lincoln, and King — were we to deny that the scars of our nation’s original sin are still with us today.  (Applause.)  We condemn ourselves to shackles once more if we fail to answer those who wonder if they’re truly equals in their communities, or in their justice systems, or in a job interview.  We betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back against bigotry in all its forms.  (Applause.)

But we betray our most noble past as well if we were to deny the possibility of movement, the possibility of progress; if we were to let cynicism consume us and fear overwhelm us.  If we lost hope.  For however slow, however incomplete, however harshly, loudly, rudely challenged at each point along our journey, in America, we can create the change that we seek.  (Applause.)  All it requires is that our generation be willing to do what those who came before us have done:  To rise above the cynicism and rise above the fear, to hold fast to our values, to see ourselves in each other, to cherish dignity and opportunity not just for our own children but for somebody else’s child.  (Applause.)  To remember that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others -– regardless of what they look like or where they come from or what their last name is or what faith they practice.  (Applause.)  To be honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.  To nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth.  To nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth.  That is our choice.  Today, we affirm hope.

Thank you.  God bless you.  May God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
12:16 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors Reception Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President to the 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees

Source: WH, 12-6-15 

East Room

5:15 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, have a seat, have a seat.  Have a seat and welcome to the White House.  This is a good-looking group.  (Laughter.)  President Kennedy once said, “There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts.”

I believe he was right.  Our achievements as a country and as a culture go hand-in-hand.  The oldest of the 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees was born over 90 years ago — you won’t be able to tell.  (Laughter.)  But when we look back on the last century, for all the challenges we faced, what we see is a time of extraordinary progress.  We won one World War, and then another.  We endured one depression, and prevented another.  And through it all, we created new medicines and technologies that changed the world for the better.  We welcomed new generations of striving immigrants that made our country stronger.  We worked together, and marched together, to open up new doors of opportunity for women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT Americans, Americans with disabilities -– achievements that made all of us more free.

Tonight, we honor five artists who helped tell the story of the first American century through music, theater, and film -– and by doing so, helped to shape it, helped to inspire it, helped to fortify our best instincts about ourselves.

(Baby makes noises.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  (Laughter.)  It includes your grandpa.  (Laughter.)

About 80 years ago, the ship carrying a young girl named Rosa Dolores Alverio — (applause) — from Puerto Rico — (applause) — came into New York City, steamed by the Statue of Liberty.  “Oh my goodness,” she thought, “a lady runs this country!”  (Laughter and applause.)  She wasn’t yet known by the stage name of Rita Moreno, but even then, she knew she wanted to be a star.  At age nine, she debuted as a dancer.  At 13, she set foot in a Broadway theatre for the first time in her life -– as a member of the cast.  At 30, she became the first Latina to win an Academy Award for her unforgettable performance as “Anita” in “West Side Story.”

(Baby makes noises.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, it was good, wasn’t it?  (Laughter.)

After more than seven decades on stage and screen, Rita’s one of just a handful of artists to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.  She’s got an “EGOT.”  (Applause.)  But being a pioneer is never easy.  For years, she was pigeonholed as what she called, “the house ethnic.”  She says she played all her parts with the same accent, because nobody “seemed to care.”  And when she pushed back against Hollywood typecasting, the roles dried up.  But Rita refused to sell herself short.  This is a woman who won the Tony for best supporting actress, then concluded her acceptance speech by reminding everyone, “I am a leading lady — I am not a supporting actress.”  (Laughter and applause.)

And she was right.  She was the leading lady of that show.  And she is still a leading lady of her era, a trailblazer with the courage to break through barriers and forge new paths.  Eight decades after Rita Moreno first laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty, she continues to personify its promise:  that here, in America, no matter what you look like or where you come from or what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

As a teenager in Tokyo, an aspiring classical pianist named Seiji Ozawa defied his mother’s orders and joined a rugby match.  Now, I have to say, looking at you Seiji, I’m not sure that was a good idea.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I don’t know much about rugby.  (Laughter.)  He broke two fingers, and that put an end to his piano-playing career –- but fortunately for the rest of us, it opened up the door to a career as a conductor.

Here, Michelle and my mother-in-law would like me to point out that defying one’s mother does not usually work out well.  (Laughter.)

But there are exceptions, and for Seiji, it did.  In 1960, when he was 25 years old, he landed at Logan Airport with only a few words of English and a sign that read, “Lennox, Mass.” But his work as a conductor spoke volumes.  Just a few weeks later, the New York Times pronounced him “a name to remember.”  He went on to become Leonard Bernstein’s assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic, and then led the Toronto and San Francisco Symphonies, all by the time he was 35.  It makes you feel kind of underachieving.  (Laughter.)  His conducting was somehow sensitive and intense, drawing the “lyric essence” of every note.  And with his mop haircut, and his turtlenecks, and his love beads, he almost looked like a Beatle.  (Laughter.)

And in 1973, Seiji found his musical home with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 29 years.  When he wasn’t cheering on his beloved Red Sox and Patriots, he was transfixing audiences with passionate, precise performances conducted entirely from memory, using his whole body -– elbows, fingers, knees, hair -– (laughter) — as a baton.  Seiji has dedicated his life to bridging East and West with classical music.  In his words, “Music is easier to understand than language — it can be understood right away.  Just like the sunset, which is beautiful wherever you watch it.”  (Applause.)

As a child in Harlem, Cicely Tyson sold shopping bags on the street corner to make — to help her family make ends meet.  After high school, she found work as a secretary — until one day she stood up and announced to everyone in the room, “[I am] sure that God did not put me on the face of this Earth to bang on a typewriter for the rest of my life!”  (Laughter and applause.)

Cicely was already displaying what you could call a flair for the dramatic.  (Laughter.)  And like all great actors, she never just plays a character -– she becomes one.  “I’m looking inside myself,” she once explained.  “Inside of me is where this character is coming from.”

It certainly took character to get where she is today.  As a black woman, Cicely wasn’t offered many roles with the pay and stature her tremendous talent should have commanded.  But that only steeled her resolve.  She once said, “When I became aware of the kind of ignorance that existed, I made a very conscious decision that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress — I had some very important things to say, and I would say them through my work.”

Cicely has been saying important things for nearly 60 years, from “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” to “Sounder,” to “The Trip to the Bountiful.”  And even now, eight shows a week, she walks onto a Broadway stage to beat James Earl Jones in hand after hand of rummy in “The Gin Game.”  (Laughter and applause.)  At 90 years old, she’s still delivering remarkable, heartfelt performances night after night after night -– just like God intended, and she sure does look good doing it every night.  (Applause.)  Cicely Tyson.  (Applause.)

At age 15, a young woman named Carol Klein formed a doo-wop group with her friends called “The Co-Sines” — Co-Sines — that’s a little math.  (Laughter.)  They did great with the hard-to-reach trigonometry demographic.  (Laughter and applause.)  Around the same time, Carol talked to a DJ, and asked him the best way to get in touch with record companies.  He told her a secret –- look them up in a phone book.  (Laughter.)  So Carol made some calls, landed a contract, and took on the stage name of Carole King.

It turned out to be a perfect choice -– because today, in the world of American music, Carole is royalty.  By the time she was 30, she’d teamed up with Gerry Goffin to write hits like “Up on the Roof” for The Drifters.  “One Fine Day” for The Chiffons.  “The Loco-Motion” for Little Eva.  And of course, “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)” – I think I just became the first President ever to say that.  (Laughter and applause.)  It sounded better when Aretha said it.  (Laughter and applause.)

And then finally, in the 1970s, Carole found the perfect voice for her songs, which was her own.  At one point, her solo album “Tapestry” — which, by the way, was one of the first albums I ever bought — was the highest-selling album of any genre in history.  It stayed on the charts for six years, full of songs you could not get out of your head -– songs about home, and friendship, and vulnerability; songs about just being human.  And that’s what makes Carole so special.  Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall — (laughter) — whether she’s fighting with passion for our environment or campaigning for the causes that she believes in; Carole is always that honest, unvarnished voice –- the friend who tells you again and again that you are beautiful — as beautiful as you feel.  (Applause.)

George Lucas recently shared one of his regrets. He told a reporter, “I never got the experience that everyone else got to have.  I never got to see ‘Star Wars.’”  (Laughter.)

Well, George, let me tell you -– you missed out.  It was really good. (Laughter.)  That movie was awesome.  (Laughter.)

As one wise Jedi Master might put it, “Changed nearly everything, George Lucas has.”  (Laughter.)  George was at the vanguard of the New Hollywood, blending genres and combining timeless themes with cutting-edge technology.  Without him, movies would not look as good or sound as good as they do today.  Spaceships might still fly around the screen with little strings attached to them.  (Laughter.)  The effects were only part, though, of what makes George special.  He created a mythology so compelling that in a 2001 census, the fourth-largest religion in the United Kingdom was “Jedi.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Think about how many children have been raised, at least in part, by George Lucas.  (Laughter.)  Think about how many young people searching for their place in the universe have thought to themselves, “If a kid from Tatooine moisture farm can go from bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16 to saving the galaxy, then maybe I can be something special too?”  (Laughter.)  How many engineers got their start arguing about the structural flaws in the Death Star?  How many philosophers got their start arguing about whether Han shot first?  (Laughter.)  How many bookish teenagers have taken solace in the fact that the most charismatic guy on the planet is an archeologist named Indiana Jones?  (Laughter.)

George, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they might even make a brand new “Star Wars” movie soon.  (Laughter.)  It’s very low-key, it’s not getting a lot of promotion.  (Laughter.)  But it’s also pretty remarkable that nearly 40 years after the first star destroyer crawled across the screen, we are still obsessed with George’s vision of a galaxy far, far away.  And we’ll be raising our children on his stories for a long, long time to come.  (Applause.)

Rita Moreno.  Seiji Ozawa.  Cicely Tyson.  Carole King.  George Lucas.  Each of these artists was born with something special to offer their country and the world.  Each of them found a way to enrich our lives with their lives’ work.  For all the joy and the pleasure, all the insight and the understanding that they have brought to us over the years, we want to thank them -– and we sure are proud to celebrate them as our 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

END
5:32 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Oval Office Address on Fighting ISIS Terrorism

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Address to the Nation by the President

Source: WH, 12-6-15

Oval Office

8:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  On Wednesday, 14 Americans were killed as they came together to celebrate the holidays.  They were taken from family and friends who loved them deeply. They were white and black; Latino and Asian; immigrants and American-born; moms and dads; daughters and sons.  Each of them served their fellow citizens and all of them were part of our American family.

Tonight, I want to talk with you about this tragedy, the broader threat of terrorism, and how we can keep our country safe.

The FBI is still gathering the facts about what happened in San Bernardino, but here is what we know.  The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their coworkers and his wife.  So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home.  But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.  They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs.  So this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people.

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.  In the process, we’ve hardened our defenses — from airports to financial centers, to other critical infrastructure.  Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted countless plots here and overseas, and worked around the clock to keep us safe.  Our military and counterterrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas — disrupting safe havens in several different countries, killing Osama bin Laden, and decimating al Qaeda’s leadership.

Over the last few years, however, the terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase.  As we’ve become better at preventing complex, multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turned to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society.  It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino.  And as groups like ISIL grew stronger amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and then Syria, and as the Internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers.

For seven years, I’ve confronted this evolving threat each morning in my intelligence briefing.  And since the day I took this office, I’ve authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because I know how real the danger is.  As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people.  As a father to two young daughters who are the most precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves with friends and coworkers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino.  I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris.  And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

Well, here’s what I want you to know:  The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.  We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.  Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values, or giving into fear.  That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for.  Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless, and by drawing upon every aspect of American power.

Here’s how.  First, our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary.  In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure.  And since the attacks in Paris, our closest allies — including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign, which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL.

Second, we will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens.  In both countries, we’re deploying Special Operations Forces who can accelerate that offensive.  We’ve stepped up this effort since the attacks in Paris, and we’ll continue to invest more in approaches that are working on the ground.

Third, we’re working with friends and allies to stop ISIL’s operations — to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters.  Since the attacks in Paris, we’ve surged intelligence-sharing with our European allies.  We’re working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria. And we are cooperating with Muslim-majority countries — and with our Muslim communities here at home — to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online.

Fourth, with American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process — and timeline — to pursue ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian war. Doing so will allow the Syrian people and every country, including our allies, but also countries like Russia, to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL — a group that threatens us all.

This is our strategy to destroy ISIL.  It is designed and supported by our military commanders and counterterrorism experts, together with 65 countries that have joined an American-led coalition.  And we constantly examine our strategy to determine when additional steps are needed to get the job done. That’s why I’ve ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review the visa *Waiver program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino originally came to this country.  And that’s why I will urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.

Now, here at home, we have to work together to address the challenge.  There are several steps that Congress should take right away.

To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.  What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?  This is a matter of national security.

We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino.  I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures.  But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies — no matter how effective they are — cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology.  What we can do — and must do — is make it harder for them to kill.

Next, we should put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa so that we can take a hard look at whether they’ve traveled to warzones.  And we’re working with members of both parties in Congress to do exactly that.

Finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists.  For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets.  I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united, and committed, to this fight.

My fellow Americans, these are the steps that we can take together to defeat the terrorist threat.  Let me now say a word about what we should not do.

We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria.  That’s what groups like ISIL want. They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield.  ISIL fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced in Iraq.  But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits.

The strategy that we are using now — airstrikes, Special Forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country — that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory.  And it won’t require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil.

Here’s what else we cannot do.  We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.  That, too, is what groups like ISIL want.  ISIL does not speak for Islam.  They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim.  If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities.  This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse.  Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination.  It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country.  It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.  Because when we travel down that road, we lose.  That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.  Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.  We have to remember that.

My fellow Americans, I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history.  We were founded upon a belief in human dignity — that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.

Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear; that we have always met challenges — whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks — by coming together around our common ideals as one nation, as one people.  So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt America will prevail.

Thank you.  God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

END
8:14 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Hanukkah

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Hanukkah

Source: WH, 12-6-15

Tonight, Jews in America, Israel, and around the world come together to light the first candle of the Festival of Lights. At its heart, Hanukkah is about the struggle for justice in the face of overwhelming obstacles. It’s a chance to reflect on the triumph of liberty over tyranny, the rejection of persecution, and on the miracles that can happen even in our darkest hours. It renews our commitment as Americans – as people who live by faith and conscience – to lead the way and act as unyielding advocates for the fundamental dignity of every human being.

During these eight days, let us be inspired by the light that can overcome darkness. As we recall the Maccabees’ struggle to free a people from oppression, let us rededicate ourselves to being the engine of the miracles we seek. May the lights of the menorah brighten your home and warm your heart, and from my family to yours, Chag Sameach.

College rankings 2016: McGill remains on top of Maclean’s University Rankings

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

College rankings 2016: McGill remains on top of Maclean’s University Rankings

December 6, 2015

College rankings guide 2016: Harvard again ARWU World Rankings’ best university

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

College rankings guide 2016: Harvard again ARWU World Rankings’ best university

December 6, 2015

College rankings guide 2016: Harvard still CWUR World Rankings’ top university

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

College rankings guide 2016: Harvard still CWUR World Rankings’ top university

December 6, 2015

College rankings guide 2016: MIT remains on top of QS World University Rankings

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

College rankings guide 2016: MIT remains on top of QS World University Rankings

December 5, 2015

College rankings 2016: Princeton Review names U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign top party school

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

College rankings 2016: Princeton Review names U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign top party school

December 5, 2015

College ranking 2016: Caltech still tops Times Higher Education’s World Ranking

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

College ranking 2016: Caltech still tops Times Higher Education’s World Ranking

December 5, 2015

College rankings 2016: Harvard again tops US News’ Best Global Universities

College rankings 2016: Harvard again tops US News’ Best Global Universities

December 5, 2015

College rankings 2016: Princeton and Williams still top US News’ Best Colleges

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

College rankings 2016: Princeton and Williams still top US News’ Best Colleges

December 5, 2015

 

College rankings guide 2016: Forbes names Pomona America’s top college

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

College rankings guide 2016: Forbes names Pomona America’s top college

December 5, 2015

Full Text Political Transcripts December 3, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Lighting of National Christmas Tree

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Lighting of National Christmas Tree

Source: WH, 12-3-15

Ellipse

6:06 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:   Merry Christmas everybody!  Thank you, Betty, for that introduction, for your extraordinary service as one of our park rangers, and for all of your –- and your great-grandmother’s -– contributions to this country.  Please give Betty a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I want tips from Betty on how I can look that good at 94.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank Betty’s boss, Jonathan Jarvis, and for everybody from the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation for everything that they do to protect and care for America’s great outdoors –- and for helping us “find our park” this year and every year.  And thank you to Reese Witherspoon and each of tonight’s outstanding performers.  (Applause.)

Now, this is, of course, the most wonderful time of the year.  But we would be remiss not to take a moment to remember our fellow Americans whose hearts are heavy tonight –- who grieve for loved ones, especially in San Bernardino, California.  Their loss is our loss, too, for we’re all one American family.  We look out for each other in good times, and in bad.  And they should know that all of us care about them this holiday season.  They’re in our thoughts, they’re in our prayers, and we send them our love.  (Applause.)

Now, this is the 93rd time Americans have gathered by the White House to light the National Christmas Tree.  And as always, this tree is not alone -– all across America, in living rooms, and offices, churches, and town squares, families and neighbors are gathering to decorate trees of their own and get into the holiday spirit.  It’s a chance to come together and to focus on what really matters –- the simple gifts of family and friends.  The wonder and hope in a child’s eye.  And, of course, the spirit of giving and compassion that can help all of us find new meaning in the world around us.
That’s the message of the child whose birth families like mine celebrate on Christmas -– a prince born in a stable who taught us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves; and that we are our brothers’ keeper and our sisters’ keepers; that we should feed the hungry, visit the sick, welcome the stranger.  These are the lessons of Jesus Christ.  But they’re also the bedrock values of all faiths –- values to be cherished and embraced not only during the holidays, but to be practiced in our daily lives.

So during this holiday season, let’s come together as brothers and sisters around the humanity that we share.  Let’s reach out to those who can use a hand.  Let’s summon the spirit of togetherness that’s always helped to kindle America’s shining example to the world.  And let’s keep in our prayers those Americans who protect that ideal, especially those stationed far from home during the holidays.  Our men and women in uniform and their families sacrifice so much for us.  And it’s because of them that we can celebrate freely, that we can worship as we please, that we can come together on a night like this -– strong, and united, and free.

So on behalf of Michelle, and Malia, and Sasha, and Grandma, and Bo and Sunny, happy holiday to all of you.  (Applause.)  May God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
6:11 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 2, 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Annual White House Holiday Decoration Press Preview

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by The First Lady at Annual Holiday Press Preview

Source: WH, 12-2-15

East Room

1:16 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Hi, everyone.  What’s going on?  You guys doing okay?  Hi to you guys, the grownups here, too.  (Laughter.)  Well, welcome to the White House.  (Applause.)  It’s the holiday time!

Let me start by thanking Cilicia for that wonderful introduction, as well as all the volunteers who have traveled from across the country — and we’ve got people who have come from around the world — to help us decorate the White House for the holidays.

I also want to say a special thank-you all of the servicemembers, our veterans, our wounded warriors who are here today, as well as our amazing military spouses and our fabulous military kids.  Do we have any military kids in the house?  (Applause.)  It is an important part of our White House holiday tradition to kick off the season by celebrating with our extraordinary military families.  And we do this because of everything that you all do every day to make our country great.

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in all the holiday whirlwind –- making the lists, and the errands, and the travel plans — that we sometimes forget what the holiday season is all about.  But sharing this special time with our military families reminds us that this season is about so much more.  It’s about giving more than we receive, right, guys?  (Laughter.)  It’s about serving others.  It’s about toys, too.  (Laughter.)  But it’s about finding ways to lift up our communities every day in every season.

And that’s what all of you all do for this country — whether you’re serving in uniform with multiple deployments under your belts, or serving without a uniform as a military spouse holding down a household while continuing your education or your career, or as a military kid adjusting to maybe your 7th or 8th new school.  You all represent the very best of us.  And then in the midst of all that you already have going on in your lives, you still find time to be leaders in your communities — volunteering with your congregations, or organizing the local food drive, or running the PTA meeting at night, coaching Little League on the weekends.

So many of you here today truly embody that commitment to service.  Just take Cilicia, for example, who, as you heard, is a proud military spouse living in Alexandria, Virginia.  Her husband is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, and like most military spouses, Cilicia has endured frequent moves.  In fact, she told us that their three-year-old son has already lived in three different states.

So it’s no wonder why Cilicia hardly has time to decorate her own house for the holidays, yet she still found time to be here with us to help decorate the White House.  And, as she put it — and these are her words — she said, “Diving right in to the holiday activities where we’re stationed helps make each new place feel like home.”

Or take Andrea Marks from Spotsylvania, Virginia.  Andrea, where are you?  Back there — hey, girl!  (Laughter.)  Andrea is a retired 30-year Army combat veteran.  And during her — yes.  (Applause.)  During her impressive career, she did five overseas tours.  She served as a Drill Sergeant, and was part of a command team that led a brigade in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And today, Andrea continues to serve.  She spends time with wounded warriors through Fort — through the USO with Fort Belvoir.  She volunteers with the Special Olympics.  And you see with her holiday hat on, she was also here helping to decorate the White House.  (Laughter.)  Looking quite festive.

And that kind of commitment to giving back, that’s what the holidays are really all about.  And that’s why — (baby cries) — and, yes, it’s about milk in a bottle, too.  (Laughter.)  But that’s one of the reasons why Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative that Cilicia talked about.  Because we want to make sure that we’re serving all of you — all our men and women in uniform, our veterans and our military families -– as well as you serve us.  And as we ring in another holiday season, we’re going to make sure that the over 68,000 visitors who will pass through these rooms over the coming weeks know about and honor your service and sacrifice.

This year’s holiday theme is “A Timeless Tradition.”  And as usual, we’ll be continuing our proud White House tradition of honoring military families with special decorations.  The very first thing visitors will see in the East Landing is a tree that pays tribute to our armed forces.  This tree is adorned with Gold Star ornaments that honor some of America’s greatest heroes — the men and women who gave their lives for our country.  Next to that tree is an iPad station that allows guests to tweet and email holiday wishes to our servicemembers.

And then there’s our amazing White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room that I just saw — pretty amazing — which is also dedicated to our military families.  This year’s tree stands over 18 feet tall.  I know, it’s big, it’s big.  (Laughter.)  And it’s covered from trunk to tip with messages from military families to their servicemembers stationed around the country and around the world.  And after the holidays, we’re going to be sending each family member their message as a special keepsake.

And as — much like these military decorations, the rest of our decorations celebrate proud American traditions and our singular American spirit.  In the East Colonnade, you’re going to see hundreds of messages from students from local schools sharing their dreams for the future, and you can read about their hopes and aspirations on these beautifully handcrafted snowflakes hanging from the ceilings.

And then in the White House Library, we’re honoring great American authors and thinkers with a holiday forest of novels and manuscripts trimmed with pages of text and inspirational quotes.  And then, kids — we’re going to see this soon — you don’t want to miss the State Dining Room, which features dozens of vintage nutcrackers — little-bitty Army nutcracker men right over there — and there’s a six-foot-tall Teddy Bear.  I haven’t seen that yet.  I can’t wait to see that.  (Laughter.)  And, of course, in the State Room, there’s the official White House gingerbread house which weighs 500 pounds.  It’s a big house.  It’s the White House.  (Laughter.)

We also have more than 70,000 ornaments here in this house, 62 trees — a lot of trees — as well as 56 snowmen and snowwomen in the garden representing every state and territory in the country.  And then we’ve got a dog display — (baby cries) — she is like, get me out of here, mom.  (Laughter.)  Take her to see the gingerbread house.  She can have whatever she wants there.  (Laughter.)

But, you guys, have you seen the dog display with Bo and Sunny?

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

MRS. OBAMA:  I haven’t seen that yet, either.  Well, Bo and his sister — there’s a tree with treats — with doggy treats and tennis ball ornaments.  And I think I’ve heard Bo and Sunny are pretty excited about that one, so we’ll have to — I’ll have to ask them what they think about it.

So it’s a great kickoff.  It’s a beautiful home.  Everything looks wonderful.  The volunteers have done a phenomenal job.  And, kids, you guys will be the first to see it.  So you have to let me know what you think, whether it passes muster, okay?

So I want to once again thank all the terrific volunteers for creating this winter wonderland of American traditions.  I also want to thank the brilliant designers who are the genius behind these magical displays — Bryan Rafanelli — I see you there, Bryan — and his team.  We also have designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon.  My dear friend Duro helped decorate some of the rooms this year.  And Carolina Herrera and her team also played a huge role this year.

So it’s time to have a little fun, but before we do that, I just want to say once again — I want to honor all of our military families here today and around the world.  Thank you, thank you for your outstanding service.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  Thank you to all the families for your sacrifice, for being so brave and good and kind.  It’s why you guys get to be here first.  And we wish you guys the happiest holiday.  And we wish everyone here in the country a happy holiday season.  Hopefully you guys get to come down and visit the White House.

But for now, we’ve got some business to take care of.  You guys want to follow me?  You guys ready?  We’re going to make some special surprises for your parents.  It may involve something you can eat.  We’re going to go see the big tree.  And maybe Bo and Sunny will come by for a visit, but we have to see.  They may be busy, but we’re going to see.  (Laughter.)

All right.  So anybody who is afraid of dogs, you tell me, okay?  But they’re pretty nice.  They’re bigger than they look on TV.  (Laughter.)  So you guys ready to go?  All right, we will take care of your children.  You guys sit here, relax.  Don’t break anything.  (Laughter.)

And happy holidays, everyone.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)

END
1:27 P.M. EST

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