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Republican Debate Transcript, Tampa, Florida, January 2012

Speakers: Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum

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This debate between Republican candidates was held in Tampa, Florida on January 23, 2012. It was sponsored by NBC News, the National Journal, and the Tampa Bay Times, and was moderated by NBC’s Brian Williams. Participants were Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. This transcript was provided by the Chicago Tribune.

MODERATOR BRIAN WILLIAMS:

Republican primary debate January 23, 2012 / Tampa, Florida

Source: WaPo, 1-23-12

Moderator

As for topics, it’s a wide-open evening, so let’s begin.

First of all, since we last gathered, three of you on stage have enjoyed victories, an unprecedented moment in the modern era, three separate candidates, three separate victories. Congratulations to you. In all three contests, the voters made it clear to pollsters and elsewhere that electability was a crucial element to them, a crucial argument this year.

And so, speaker Gingrich, on electability to begin with, your rival, your opponent on this stage, Governor Romney, was out today calling you erratic, a failed leader, and warning that your nomination for this party could perhaps result in what he called an “October surprise a day.” So given the fact that he went after you today on this topic of electability, your response tonight, Mr. Speaker?

Newt Gingrich

Well, in 1980, when Ronald Reagan started the year about 30 points behind Jimmy Carter and when the Republican establishment described his economic ideas as “voodoo economics,” Reagan just cheerfully went out and won the debate, won the nomination, and won the general election carrying more states than Herbert Hoover carried — than Roosevelt carried against Herbert Hoover.

I would suggest that a solid conservative who believes in economic growth through lower taxes and less regulation, who believes in an American energy program, who believes in a strong national defense, and who has the courage to stand up to the Washington establishment, may make the Washington establishment uncomfortable, but is also exactly the kind of bold, tough leader the American people want, they’re not sending somebody to Washington to manage the decay. They’re sending somebody to Washington to change it, and that requires somebody who’s prepared to be controversial when necessary.

Moderator

And about your problems, your departure from the speakership in the ’90s, what’s the case you make to the American people and voters in Republican primary contests about how you’ve changed, Mr. Speaker?

Newt Gingrich

Well, first of all, the case I make is that, when I was speaker, we had four consecutive balanced budgets, the only time in your lifetime, Brian, that we’ve had four consecutive balanced budgets. Most people think that’s good.

We were down to 4.2 percent unemployment; 11 million new jobs were created. Most people think that’s good. We reformed welfare. And two out of three people went to work or went to school. People think that’s good.

I left the speakership after the 1998 election because I took responsibility for the fact that our results weren’t as good as they should be. I think that’s what a leader should do. I took responsibility, and I didn’t want to stay around, as Nancy Pelosi has. I wanted to get out and do other things. I founded four small businesses. And I’m very comfortable that my four years as speaker, working with a Democratic president, achieved the kind of conservative values that most Republicans want to have in a president.

Moderator

Governor Romney, for his part, the speaker said about you that were dancing on eggs during this campaign, a good salesman with a weak product. And even Chris Christie, one of the most popular politicians in this country, speaking on your behalf, said this weekend your challenge is “going to be how to connect with people.”

Same question to you about electability.

Mitt Romney

Well, I think this is going to come down to a question of leadership. I think as you choose the president of the United States, you’re looking for a person who can lead this country in a very critical time, lead the free world, and the free world has to lead the entire world.

I think it’s about leadership, and the Speaker was given an opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994. And at the end of four years, he had to resign in disgrace.

Now, in the 1970s, he came to Washington. I went to work in my first job in the 1970s at the bottom level of a consulting firm. In the 1990s, he had to resign in disgrace from this job as Speaker.

I had the opportunity to go off and run the Olympic winter games. In the 15 years after he left the speakership, the Speaker has been working as an influence peddler in Washington. And during those 15 years, I helped turn around the Olympics, helped begin a very successful turnaround in the state of Massachusetts.

The Speaker — when I was fighting against cap and trade, the Speaker was sitting down with Nancy Pelosi on a sofa encouraging it. When I was fighting to say that the Paul Ryan plan to solve Medicare was bold and right, he was saying that it was right wing social engineering.

So we have very different perspectives on leadership, and the kind of leadership that our conservative movement needs not just to get elected, but to get the country right.

Moderator

Mr. Speaker?

Newt Gingrich

Well, look, I’m not going to spend the evening trying to chase Governor Romney’s misinformation. We’ll have a site at Newt.org by tomorrow morning. We’ll list everything — he just said at least four things that are false. I don’t want to waste the time on them. I think the American public deserve a discussion about how to beat Barack Obama, the American public deserves a discussion of what we would do about the economy. And I just think this is the worst kind of trivial politics.

I mean, he said at least four things that were false. We have an ad in which both John McCain and Mike Huckabee in 2007 and 2008 explain how much they think Governor Romney can’t tell the truth.

I just suggest people look at them. Don’t listen to me, don’t believe me. Just look at the ad with Mike Huckabee and Senator McCain and you will understand exactly what you just saw.

Moderator

Governor Romney, to your electability, let’s talk about the southern base of the GOP. Among those who describe themselves as very conservative, only one in five have gone your way.

How is that going to bode well for the longer campaign?

Mitt Romney

Had a great record, as you know, in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire voters overwhelmingly supported me. Actually, among Republicans in New Hampshire, I got the biggest support that we have seen among Republicans, even including Ronald Reagan, that far back. So I’m pleased I will be able to connect well with our Republican base.

But let’s go back to what the Speaker mentioned with regards to leadership, and that is — I mean, we don’t have to take my word for the facts. They’re accurate. I will point out that they are accurate. But the truth is that the members of his own team, his congressional team, after his four years of leadership, they moved to replace him. They also took a vote, and 88 percent of Republicans voted to reprimand the Speaker, and he did resign in disgrace after that.

This was the first time in American history that a Speaker of the House has resigned from the House. And so that was the judgment rendered by his own people as to his leadership.

Look, don’t forget at the end of the Speaker’s term as Speaker, his approval rating was down to 18 percent. We suffered historic losses after his four years in office.

And I’ll make this other point, which is we just learned today that his contract with Freddie Mac was provided by the lobbyists at Freddie Mac. I don’t think we can possibly retake the White House if the person who’s leading our party is the person who was working for the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac was paying Speaker Gingrich $1,600,000 at the same time Freddie Mac was costing the people of Florida millions upon millions of dollars.

Moderator

Do you realize last week, Governor, you said that — you complained that too much of your time on stage lately has been spent on negativity vis-a-vis the other candidates? You pledged to spend your time going after the incumbent president, yet here we are again.

Mitt Romney

I’ll tell you why, which is I learned something from that last contest in South Carolina, and that was I had incoming from all directions, was overwhelmed with a lot of attacks. And I’m not going to sit back and get attacked day in and day out without returning fire.

I would like not to have the kind of attacks that came against me. There were two ads run by Speaker Gingrich. Outside fact- checking groups said these ads were false, and yet they continue to run them, and one by his campaign, and one by a PAC, in his benefit. And I know he can’t control that, but those ads were pretty heavy on me. So I’m going to point out things I think people need to know.

It was Republicans who replaced him in the House, voted to reprimand him. And it was the head lobbyist of Freddie Mac with whom he had a contract at a time when Floridians were suffering as a result in part of Freddie Mac.

Moderator

Mr. Speaker, 30 seconds before I move on.

Newt Gingrich

Now, wait a second. I mean, he just went on and on and on, making a whole series of allegations. First of all, he may have been a good financier; he’s a terrible historian.

The fact is, the vote on the Ethics Committee was in January of 1997. I asked the Republicans to vote yes because we had to get it behind us. The Democrats had filed 84 ethics charges for a simple reason: We had taken control of the House after 40 years, and they were very bitter.

And the fact is, on every single ethics charge of substance that was dismissed in the end, the only thing we did wrong is we had one lawyer written by letters — I mean, written one letter, and the one letter was in error. I didn’t pay a fine. I paid the cost of going through the process of determining it was wrong.

I left two years later, and, frankly, we were right to get it behind us because the tax cut that led to economic growth, the four balanced budgets all came after that vote. So you have all this stuff just jumbled up. Apparently your consultants aren’t very good historians. What you ought to do is stop and look at the facts.

And the fact is, we won the House for the third time in 1998, but the margin wasn’t big enough. So I am the only speaker up to that point since the 1920s who had led the Republican Party to three consecutive victories. By the way, in 2006 when you chaired the Governors Association, we lost governorships. And in the four years that you were governor, we lost seats in the Massachusetts legislature. So I think as a party builder, the 20 years I spent building the House Republican Party stands pretty good as an example of leadership.

Moderator

Senator Santorum, you have labeled this choice as being between an erratic and a moderate. You come in here tonight with one victory in Iowa. Where is your path to the top here?

Rick Santorum

Well, I think if you’ve learned anything about this election, that any type of prediction is going to be wrong. The idea that this was a two-person race has been an idea that has been in fashion now for eight months, and it’s been wrong about eight times.

And so we’re looking at this race trying to paint a positive vision for our country. You ask my path to victory. My path to victory is to tell the people of Florida and tell the people of this country of someone who’s here that presents a very clear contrast with the president of the United States, someone that will make him the issue in this race, not the Republican candidate, someone who has a track record of being a strong conservative, someone who has a vision, a bold vision to reach out to the voters that I reached out and was successful in getting when I ran for the Senate in Pennsylvania twice, a state we haven’t won for the presidency since 1988. I won it twice, once in a year where George Bush lost the state by five and I won it by six.

How did I do it? I had plans out there that included everybody, plans like I have today, talking about manufacturing, talking about things that — that are touchstones with the Reagan Democrats that provided that 49-state win.

We talked about faith. We talked about family. We talked about jobs. We talked about limited government. And that message was one that connected in a state — well, just like Florida, that’s one of those key states that we’re going to win. And that sets me apart, really, from anybody else on this stage as someone who’s been victorious with a strong, principled conservative message.

Moderator

And yet, Senator, you are former Senator Santorum, having lost your home state by 18 points.

Rick Santorum

Yeah, well, if I was the only guy that lost an election that year in Pennsylvania, that would be maybe a big statement, but our gubernatorial candidate lost by more than I did. We lost five congressional seats. And it was an historic loss in our statehouse. It was a meltdown year. We lost 23 out of 33 senators.

And probably unlike a lot of other candidates, when you’re running in an election year that you know you’re running against a headwind, a lot of folks crouch down, they get out of the way of the wind and try to sneak in. I stood tall, stood for what I believed in, talked about issues like the threat of Iran on the horizon, talked about the need to reform Social Security and Medicare, talked about the issues that, well, now we’re all talking about today, as I did at a time when nobody wanted to hear that message.

I also was running with a president who was sitting at about 35 percent favorable, and I was standing by him and trying to reform Social Security, and trying to fight the war and win the war in Iraq, and I stand by that.

And one of the things I figured out when I was running in that tough election year, there’s one thing worse than losing an election, and that’s not standing for the principles that you hold.

Moderator

Congressman Paul, there is no denying you have an enthusiastic base support — base of support. We could hear them outside tonight. Yet there was that recent interview, you were asked if while campaigning you envision yourself in the Oval Office, and you said, “Not really, but I think it’s a possibility.”

So that begs the question about your path and when you will give an honest answer about perhaps your third-party plans going forward. Are you in this regardless of the outcome to your right (ph) here on this stage?

Ron Paul

Well, unlike others, maybe they sit around and daydream about being in the White House. I just don’t sit around daydreaming about it, but I’m in a race, I’m in a good race.

You talk about electability. Why don’t we take on the first three states and take everybody 30 years and under? I’m doing pretty darned well. I’m winning that vote.

But what about if you compare my name to Obama? I do quite well, if not better, than the rest.

So, to say that there has only been three races, and talk about not being electable, I think is a bit of a stretch. As a matter of fact, the delegates haven’t even been appointed in Iowa yet. I mean, quite frankly, we have a pretty good chance of getting a good sum of those because of the organization.

We only had a straw vote. I mean, this argument on who won, it was a straw vote. I mean, the delegates is what counts.

But I do want to address the earlier discussion that you had about 1997. I had been out of Congress for 12 years, and I went back in ’96 and arrived there in ’97. It was chaotic, let me tell you.

It was a mess, and it was a mess for 12 years. And Newt had a big job on his hands, but he really had to attack the conservatives. He did it boldly.

And quite frankly, I think the reason — he didn’t not run for Speaker, you know, two years later. He didn’t have the votes. That was what the problem was. So this idea that he voluntarily reneged and he was going to punish himself because we didn’t do well in the election, that’s just not the way it was.

Moderator

Let me come at it this way. If Newt Gingrich emerges from the GOP primary process as the nominee of the party, do you go your own way?

Ron Paul

Well, I have done a lot of that in my lifetime.

Moderator

I should be more specific. Will you run as a third- party candidate?

Ron Paul

I have no plans to do that, no intention. And when I have been pressed on it, and they asked me why, and I said, I don’t want to. But I haven’t been an absolutist. When I left Congress, I didn’t have plans on going back, but I did after 12 years. I went back to medicine. So, no, I don’t have any plans to do that. No.

Moderator

Would you support a Newt Gingrich as nominee of the GOP?

Ron Paul

Well, he keeps hinting about attacking the Fed, and he talks about gold. Now if I could just change him on foreign policy, we might be able to talk business.

(LAUGHTER)

Moderator

Speaker Gingrich, are you willing to adjust to pick up an endorsement from Texas?

Newt Gingrich

Well, I got one on Friday from Governor Perry, which I liked a lot as a starting point. So I like endorsements from Texas.

And Congressman Paul is right. There’s an area — I think what he has said about the Federal Reserve and what he has said about the importance of monetary policy, the proposal I’ve issued for a gold commission, which hearkens back to something that he and Jesse Helms helped develop, on which he served on in 1981, and the fact that we have people of the caliber of Lew Lehrman and Jim Grant, who have agreed they would chair such a commission, I think they’re areas we can work on.

There are places we disagree very deeply. Iran is a good example. But there are places — you know, you build a coalition by trying to find ways you can work together, and frankly we could work together a lot more than either one of us could work with Barack Obama.

Moderator

Governor Romney, a question you know is coming because of what you have set in motion for tomorrow when you release one year’s tax returns and your estimates for 2011. We know it’s not a matter of producing them. You said during the McCain vetting process you turned over 23 years which you had at the ready because, to quote you, you’re something of a packrat.

So, prior to tomorrow, can you tell us tonight what’s in there that’s going to get people talking? What’s in there that’s going to be controversial? What’s in there that you may find yourself defending?

Mitt Romney

No surprises, Brian. The most extensive disclosure that I made was the financial disclosure requirements under the law. We each had to do that, and I laid out what my assets are and where they are, and people have been looking at that. It’s very similar to what it was four years ago. And so my income tax will show that that’s where the profits and rewards came.

The real question is not so much my taxes, but the taxes of the American people. The real question people are going to ask is, who’s going to help the American people at a time when folks are having real tough times?

And that’s why I put forward a plan to eliminate the tax on savings for middle income Americans. Anyone making under $200,000 a year, I would eliminate the tax on interest, dividends and capital gains. People need help to be able to save their money.

I’ll also bring the corporate tax rate down to 25 percent as quickly as possible and then begin a process of reshaping the entire tax code. It’s far too complex, it’s far too intrusive, it’s far too great.

Mitt Romney

I would like to lower the rates, broaden the base, akin to what we saw in the Bowles-Simpson plan, which, by the way, the president commissioned and then simply brushed aside. We need to go back to that, get our rates down, and get a pro-growth tax policy in this country.

Moderator

So, across this country tomorrow, when people learn the details of the tax return you release — and, of course, you’ll be under pressure to release more years after that — nothing will stick out, nothing will emerge that will be talked about by this time tomorrow night?

Mitt Romney

Oh, I’m sure people will talk about it. I mean, you’ll see my income, how much taxes I’ve paid, how much I’ve paid to charity. You’ll see how complicated taxes can be. But — but I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more.

I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes. So I’ll — I’ll point out that that’s the case.

And will there will discussion? Sure. Will it be an article? Yeah. But is it entirely legal and fair? Absolutely. I’m proud of the fact that I pay a lot of taxes.

And the fact is, there are a lot of people in this country that pay a lot of taxes. I’d like to see our tax rate come down and focus on growing the country, getting people back to work. That’s our problem in this country right now. We’ve got a lot of people out of work. Let’s let them start paying taxes because they got jobs again.

Moderator

Speaker Gingrich, what will satisfy you?

Newt Gingrich

Well, first of all, he said the other day when he indicated he was going to release it, that was the right thing to do. It’s actually a tradition his father started in 1967. I think it’s the right thing to do.

The biggest thing I think will be — and I think you indicated the other day that you pay something like a 15 percent marginal rate. My position is not to attack him for paying a 15 percent marginal rate. I have in my tax proposal an alternative flat tax on the Hong Kong model, where you get to choose what you want, and our rate’s 15 percent. So I’m prepared to describe my 15 percent flat tax as the Mitt Romney flat tax. I’d like to bring everybody else down to Mitt’s rate, not try to bring him up to some other rate.

Moderator

And — yes, Governor?

(CROSSTALK)

Mitt Romney

Mr. Speaker, is the tax on capital gains also 15 percent or is it zero?

Newt Gingrich

Zero.

Mitt Romney

Well, under that — under that plan, I’d have paid no taxes in the last two years.

Newt Gingrich

Well, if that — and if you created enough jobs doing that — it was Alan Greenspan who first said the best rate, if you want to create jobs for capital gains, is zero. My number-one goal is to create a maximum number of jobs to put the American people back to work. It’s a straightforward argument.

Moderator

And, Governor, how about your father’s model of 12 years’ worth of returns?

Mitt Romney

You know, I agree with my dad on a lot of things, but we also disagree. And — and going out with 12 years of returns is not something I’m going to do. I’m putting out two years, which is more than anyone else on this stage. I think it’ll satisfy the interests of the American people to see that I pay my taxes, where I give my charitable contributions to, and I think that’s the right number.

Moderator

More broadly, Governor, just an aside, have you been surprised at the degree to which your wealth has become an issue? You spoke rather forcefully in South Carolina over the weekend on Saturday night about this, about the degree to which you’ve had to defend, as you put it, your success in business.

Mitt Romney

Yeah, I knew that was going to come from the Obama team. I understood that. We see that on the left. I was surprised to see people in the Republican Party pick up the weapons of the left and start using them to attack free enterprise. I think those weapons will be used against us. I think it’s very unfortunate.

I will not apologize for having been successful. I did not inherit what my wife and I have, nor did she. What we have — what — what I was able to build, I built the old-fashioned way, by earning it, by working hard. And I was proud of the fact that we helped create businesses that grew, that employed people.

And these are not just high-end financial jobs. We helped start Staples, for instance. It employs 90,000 people. These are middle- income people. There are entry-level jobs, too. I’m proud of the fact that we helped people around the country, Bright Horizons children centers, the Sports Authority, Steel Dynamics, a new steel company. These employ people, middle-income people.

And the nature of America is individuals pursuing their dreams don’t make everyone else poorer; they help make us all better off. And so I’m not going to apologize for success or apologize for free enterprise. I believe free enterprise is one of the things that — that we have to reinvigorate in this country if we want to get people working again.

Moderator

Senator Santorum, Governor Romney has said — and he said again tonight — he expected these attacks from the other side. He’s been taking fire as he would from the Democrats from the group on this stage. That means you. That includes you.

Mitt Romney

I didn’t mean to include…

Rick Santorum

No, I have — I have not. I have not fired at Governor Romney on — on — on his — his work at Bain Capital. In fact, I’ve been maybe unique in that regard that I haven’t.

I believe in capitalism. I believe in free markets. I believe Governor Romney can go out and — and earn whatever he can. And hopefully he creates jobs by earning that money and investing in companies.

My only question with Governor Romney is that, you know, to be a great defender of capitalism and talk about the importance of — of capitalism and free markets, and in the case of Bain, constructive capitalism and destructive capitalism.

Rick Santorum

My question to Governor Romney and to Speaker Gingrich, if you believe in capitalism that much, then why did you support the bailout of Wall Street, where you had an opportunity to allow destructive capitalism to work, to allow a failure of a — of a system that needed to fail because people did things that in capitalism pay — you pay a price?

And we should have allowed those financial institutions to go through the bankruptcy process, and we would have had resulted not what we are seeing here in Florida with this lengthy recession/depression of the housing market. You would have seen the effects of what Governor Romney advocated for and advocates today at Bain Capital, which is allowing companies that do not do their job, cannot be competitive, make mistakes, to fail and pay the price, instead of having government come in and prop them up.

Moderator

And Speaker Gingrich, just tonight, two hours ago, in fact, you released your ’06 contract with Freddie Mac. We alluded to this earlier.

Your company was paid $25,000 a month, $300,000 for the year. But it didn’t provide a further explanation of services for Freddie Mac.

Why one year’s worth? Governor Romney today used the expression “work product.” He wants to see your work product, and the word “lobbying” has been thrown around, and you strongly disagree with that.

Newt Gingrich

Well, first of all, if you read the contract — and we can go back and check the other years. We had to work through the process of getting an approval because it was a confidentiality agreement.

But if you read the contract which we have posted, and the Center for Health Transformation had to get permission to post, it says very clearly supposed to do consulting work. The governor did consulting work for years. I have never suggested his consulting work was lobbying.

So let me start right there. There is no place in the contract that provides for lobbying. I have never done any lobbying.

Congressman J.C. Watts, who for seven years was the head of the Freddie Mac Watch Committee, said flatly he has never been approached by me. The fact is that Congressman Rick Lazio, who is chairman of the Housing Subcommittee, said he has never been approached by me. And the only report in the newspaper was “The New York Times” in July of 2008, which said I told the House Republicans they should vote no, not give Freddie Mac any money, because it needed to be reformed. So there’s no —

(CROSSTALK)

Moderator

So you never peddled influence, as he described tonight?

Newt Gingrich

What?

Moderator

You never peddled influence, as Governor Romney accused you of tonight?

Newt Gingrich

You know, there is a point in the process where it gets unnecessarily personal and nasty. And that’s sad.

The fact is I have had a very long career of trying to represent the people of Georgia and, as Speaker, the people of the United States. I think it’s pretty clear to say that I have never, ever gone and done any lobbying.

In fact, we brought in an expert on lobbying law and trained all of our staff. And that expert is prepared to testify that he was brought in to say here is the bright line between what you can do as a citizen and what you do as a lobbyist. And we consistently, for 12 years, running four small businesses, stayed away from lobbying, precisely because I thought this kind of defamatory and factually false charge would be made.

Mitt Romney

Well, Mr. Speaker, you were — on this stage, at a prior debate, you said you were paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac for an historian — as an historian. They don’t pay people $25,000 a month for six years as historians. That adds up to about $1.6 million.

They weren’t hiring you as an historian. And this contract proves that you were not an historian. You were a consultant.

Newt Gingrich

I was a consultant.

Mitt Romney

It doesn’t say that you provided historical experience, it said that you were as a consultant. And you were hired by the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac, not the CEO, not the head of public affairs. By the chief lobbyist at Freddie Mac.

You also spoke publicly in favor of these GSEs, these government- sponsored entities, at a very time when Freddie Mac was getting America in a position where we would have had a massive housing collapse. You could have spoken out aggressively. You could have spoken out in a way to say these guys are wrong, this needs to end. But instead, you were being paid by them. You were making over $1 million at the same time people in Florida were being hurt by millions of dollars.

Newt Gingrich

Well, this is a good example. As a businessman, you know that the gross revenue of Bain wasn’t your personal income.

We had a company. The company had three offices. The company was being paid. My share annually was about $35,000 a year. And the fact is I offered strategic advice, largely based on my knowledge of history, including the history of Washington.

Government-sponsored enterprises include, for example, telephone cooperatives, rural electric cooperatives, federal credit unions. There are many different kinds of government-sponsored enterprises, and many of them have done very good things. And in the early years, before some people, particularly Jim Johnson and other Democrats, began to change the model you could make a pretty good argument that in the early years, those housing institutions were responsible for a lot of people getting a lot of good housing.

Mitt Romney

There’s no question about that, but we’re talking about one. We’re talking about Freddie Mac.

Newt Gingrich

Right.

Mitt Romney

And that one did a lot of bad for a lot of people. And you were working there making over $1 million for your entities —

(CROSSTALK)

Newt Gingrich

For the entities. As long as we agree, for the entities.

Mitt Romney

Owned by you. I don’t know whether 100 percent owned by you, but I presume. Owned by you, over $1.6 million. And you said it was $300,000. It was $1.6 million. That’s a difference.

Newt Gingrich

So, Mitt, what — Mitt, what’s the gross revenue of Bain in the years you were associated with it? What’s the gross revenue?

Mitt Romney

Very — very substantial. But I think it’s irrelevant compared to the fact…

Newt Gingrich

No.

Mitt Romney

… that you were working for Freddie Mac.

Newt Gingrich

Wait a second. Wait a second. Very substantial.

Mitt Romney

You were working for Freddie…

(CROSSTALK)

Newt Gingrich

Did Bain ever do any work with any company which did any work with the government, like Medicare…

Mitt Romney

We didn’t — we didn’t do — we didn’t…

Newt Gingrich

… Medicaid?

Mitt Romney

We didn’t do any work with the government. I didn’t have an office on K Street. I wasn’t a lobbyist. I didn’t — had never worked — I’ve never worked in Washington. You were working…

Newt Gingrich

So — so…

Mitt Romney

We have congressmen who also say that you came and lobbied them in favor…

Newt Gingrich

I didn’t lobby them.

Mitt Romney

You have congressmen who say…

(CROSSTALK)

Mitt Romney

… that you came and lobbied them with regards to Medicare Part D, at the same time…

Newt Gingrich

Now, wait. Whoa, whoa.

Mitt Romney

… your center was taking in contributions…

Newt Gingrich

You just jumped a long way over here, friend.

Mitt Romney

Well, another — another area of influence-peddling.

Newt Gingrich

No, not — now, let me be very clear, because I understand your technique, which you used on McCain, you used on Huckabee, you’ve used consistently, OK? It’s unfortunate, and it’s not going to work very well, because the American people see through it.

I have always publicly favored a stronger Medicare program. I wrote a book in 2002 called “Saving Lives and Saving Money.” I publicly favored Medicare Part D for a practical reason, and that reason is simple. The U.S. government was not prepared to give people anything — insulin, for example — but they would pay for kidney dialysis. They weren’t prepared to give people Lipitor, but they’d pay for open-heart surgery. That is a terrible way to run Medicare.

I am proud of the fact — and I’ll say this in Florida — I’m proud of the fact that I publicly, openly advocated Medicare Part D. It has saved lives. It’s run on a free enterprise model. It also included health savings accounts and it include Medicare alternatives, which gave people choices.

And I did it publicly, and it is not correct, Mitt — I’m just saying this flatly, because you’ve been walking around this state saying things that are untrue — it is not correct to describe public citizenship, having public advocacy as lobbying. Every citizen has the right to do that.

Mitt Romney

They sure do.

Newt Gingrich

And what I did on behalf of Medicare…

Mitt Romney

They sure do.

Newt Gingrich

… I did out in the open, publicly, and that is my right as a citizen.

Moderator

Gentlemen…

Mitt Romney

Here’s why it’s a problem, Mr. Speaker. Here’s why it’s a problem. And that is, if you’re getting paid by health companies, if your entities are getting paid by health companies that could benefit from a piece of legislation, and you then meet with Republican congressmen and encourage them to support that legislation, you can call it whatever you’d like. I call it influence-peddling.

It is not right. It is not right. You have a conflict. You are — you are being paid by companies at the same time you’re encouraging people to pass legislation which is in their favor.

Moderator

Governor…

Mitt Romney

This is — you spent now 15 years in Washington on K Street. And — and this is a real problem, if we’re going to nominate someone who not only had a record of — of great distress as the speaker, but that has worked for 15 years lobbying.

Moderator

Gentlemen, we’ve let this go because of the state of the race, and a certain amount of this conversation, I guess, had to happen. We — this also has to happen. We have to go to a break. We’ll come back. We’ll talk about foreclosure. We’ll talk about foreign policy. We’ll welcome in the other two gentlemen to this conversation when we continue from Tampa.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Moderator

Welcome back to what has already become an interesting night in Tampa, Florida. Gentlemen, welcome back to you.

And, Senator Santorum, let’s begin this segment with you. Since we’ve been nibbling around the edges of the foreclosure crisis, since, what, 40 percent of homeowners in this state are underwater, 53 percent of the homes in Tampa, Florida, are worth less today than before this crisis. Was it too easy? Did vehicles of the U.S. government make it too easy to own a home in America?

Rick Santorum

Well, the answer, unfortunately, is yes to that. And there were several of us in the United States Senate back in 2005 and 2006 who saw this on the horizon, who saw the problem with Freddie and Fannie, and tried to move forth with a bill — I was on the Banking Committee. We voted a bill out of committee to try to solve this problem, to constrain Fannie and Freddie, and there were a lot of people out there fighting that, including Harry Reid and his minions on the other side of the aisle.

I sent — I signed a letter, along with 24 other senators, that said, we either do something now, stop the filibuster of this bill, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, all of whom were in the Senate at the time. They were filibustering this bill to allow reform of Fannie and Freddie. And we said, if this doesn’t happen, if we don’t constrain these two behemoths from continuing to underwrite this subprime mortgage problem, then we’re going to have a collapse. Unfortunately, that proved — proved to be true.

The problem now is, what are you going to do about it? And what I’ve said is that, as you heard me say before, let capitalism work. Allow these — allow these banks to — to realize their losses. And create an opportunity for folks who have houses to realize their losses and at least help them out.

That’s why I proposed in my tax plan — and I talk about five areas where I allow deductions — well, one of them would be, be able to deduct losses from the sale of your home. Right now, you can’t do that. You have to pay gains, depending on the amount, but you can’t deduct the losses.

This is something I think is important temporarily to put in place to allow people the freedom to be able to go out and get out from underneath these houses that they’re holding onto and at least get some relief from the federal government for doing so.

Moderator

Congressman Paul, should that be any role for the government? Are those folks owed anything for being under?

Ron Paul

Well, the government owes them a free market and a sound monetary system, but they didn’t give it to them. They gave them a mess. They gave them a financial system that literally created this problem.

And it was compounded — first, the line of credit to the — to the Federal Reserve, it was excessive. Everybody now admits in Washington interest rates were kept too low, too long.

But not only that, in addition to that, it was an insult to injury, because they kept interest rates especially low with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and there was a line of credit there, and it was a guarantee. As a matter of fact, I had introduced legislation 10 years before the bubble burst to eliminate that line of credit. But then the Community Reinvestment Act added more fuel to it, you know, forcing banks to make loans that are risky loans.

So the whole bubble was easily seen. The consequences were anticipated. It was all government manufactured. But the question is, is what do you do after you come upon a mess that the government and the politicians created?

The best thing you can do is get out of the way, because you want the prices to come down so that people will start buying them again, but politicians can’t allow that to happen. Our policies in Washington still has been to try to stimulate houses and keep — keep prices up.

Ron Paul

But this whole thing about how we get involved in this low interest rate to stimulate the economy, almost everybody in Washington now in almost all spectrums of the economic sphere do not believe in wage and price controls, but they believe in controlling interest rates. That’s one-half of the whole economy, and here we have a bunch of guys getting in a room in secret, deciding what interest rates should be, and they create this mess. So, yes, we need to get out of the way, but instead the debt has to be liquidated.

The mortgage derivatives was a monster. A lot of people made a lot of money on that. But guess what? The Federal Reserve, to the tune of trillions and trillions of dollars, as well as TARP funds, were used to bail out the people that made all this money.

Guess what happened to the bad debt? It should have been wiped off the book. They should have gone bankrupt. It was dumped on the taxpayers, and the taxpayers still have it. And as long as you maintain that debt on the books, you’re not going to have growth.

This is why Japan hasn’t recovered. We’re in four years now, and it’s going to continue until we understand who creates the business cycle, how it happens, and what you have to do to get out of it.

Moderator

Gentlemen, 30 seconds, please, on this, starting with Governor Romney.

To help these homeowners or not?

Mitt Romney

To help them? Of course we help them.

Pam Mati (ph) here in Florida is cracking down on people who are committing fraud, number one. Number two, you have to get government out of the mess. Government has created the mess.

Number three, you’re going to have to help people see if they can’t get more flexibility from their banks. Right now, with Dodd- Frank, we made it harder for banks to renegotiate mortgages to help people get out.

And finally, you’ve got to get the economy going again with people having jobs. With Florida with 9.9 percent unemployment, and with 18 percent real unemployment in this state, and underemployment, you’re not going to get housing recovered unless you get jobs created again.

Moderator

Speaker?

Newt Gingrich

Well, I think, first of all, if you could repeal Dodd- Frank tomorrow morning, you would see the economy start to improve overnight. I mean, people don’t realize this bill is — a little bit of what Congressman Paul said.

The fact is Dodd-Frank has led the biggest banks to get bigger. It is crushing independent banks. It has an anti-housing bias. Federal regulators are slowing down and making it harder to make loans for housing, and it is crippling small business borrowing.

All those things are a function of a bill passed by the Democrats called Dodd-Frank. If they would repeal it tomorrow morning, you would have a better housing market the next day.

Moderator

Do you really think the financial system is overregulated? That’s the second mention of Dodd-Frank tonight.

Newt Gingrich

I really think that when — yes, of course it’s overregulated. When you put that much power in the Treasury under Geithner, you know, it’s an invitation to corruption.

When you have a bias in the bill which makes the big banks get bigger, exactly the opposite of what a rational policy would be, it’s a bad bill. When you have regulators walk in small local banks and say, do not loan money on housing, it’s a bad idea.

Moderator

Governor Romney, was it overregulated prior to the collapse?

Mitt Romney

It was poorly regulated. Markets have to have regulation to work. You can’t have everybody open a bank in their garage. You have to have regulation, but it’s got to be up to date.

And they didn’t have capital requirements put in place for the different classes of assets banks had. They also didn’t have regulation properly put in place for mortgage lenders. Derivatives weren’t being regulated.

You need to have regulation that’s up to date. They had old regulation, burdensome. Then they passed Dodd-Frank, which the Speaker is absolutely right. It has made it almost impossible for community banks.

I was with the head of one of the big banks in New York. He said they have hundreds of lawyers working on Dodd-Frank to implement it.

Community banks don’t have hundreds of lawyers. It’s just killing the residential home market and it’s got to be replaced.

Moderator

Governor Romney, let me ask you this. There was a lot of talk in the last presidential campaign about that 3:00 a.m. phone call. Let’s say President Romney gets that phone call, and it is to say that Fidel Castro has died. And there are credible people in the Pentagon who predict upwards of half a million Cubans may take that as a cue to come to the United States.

What do you do?

Mitt Romney

Well, first of all, you thank heavens that Fidel Castro has returned to his maker and will be sent to another land.

(APPLAUSE)

Mitt Romney

Now, number two, you work very aggressively with the new leadership in Cuba to try and move them towards a more open degree than they have had in the past.

We just had, with Wilman Villar, his life was just lost in a hunger strike fighting for democracy. This president has taken a very dangerous course with regards to Cuba saying we’re going to relax relations, we’re going to open up travel to Cuba.

This is the wrong time for that, with this kind of heroics going on. We want to stand with the people of Cuba that want freedom. We want to move that effort forward not by giving in and saying we lost, but by saying we will fight for democracy.

Moderator

Mr. Speaker, as a practical matter, along the Florida coast, though, you know the policy, so called wet foot/dry foot. What do you do if folks start arriving in the United States?

Newt Gingrich

Well, Brian, first of all, I guess the only thing I would suggest is I don’t think that Fidel is going to meet his maker. I think he’s going to go to the other place.

Second, I would suggest to you the policy of the United States should be aggressively to overthrow the regime and to do everything we can to support those Cubans who want freedom. You know, Obama is very infatuated with an Arab Spring. He doesn’t seem to be able to look 90 miles south of the United States to have a Cuban Spring.

So I would try to put in place a very aggressive policy of reaching out to every single Cuban who would like to be free, helping network them together, reaching out to the younger generation inside the dictatorship, and indicating they don’t have a future as a dictatorship because a Gingrich presidency will not tolerate four more years of this dictatorship.

Moderator

Overt and covert, are you talking about engaging the U.S. military?

Newt Gingrich

No, I’m talking about using every asset available to the United States, including appropriate covert operations, to maximize the distance, what Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher did to the Soviet empire, bring together every asset we have to minimize the survival of the dictatorship and to maximize the chance for freedom in Cuba.

Moderator

Congressman?

Ron Paul

I — I have a little bit of work to do yet on him on foreign policy.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

No, I would do pretty much the opposite. I don’t like the isolationism of not talking to people. I was drafted in 1962 at the height of the Cold War when the missiles were in Cuba. And the Cold War’s over.

And I think we propped up Castro for 40-some years because we put on these sanctions, and this — only used us as a scapegoat. He could always say, anything wrong, it’s the United States’ fault.

But I think it’s time — time to quit this isolation business of not talking to people. We talked to the Soviets. We talk to the Chinese. And we opened up trade, and we’re not killing each other now. We fought with the Vietnamese for a long time. We finally gave up, started talking to them, now we trade with them. I don’t know why — why the Cuban people should be so intimidating.

I — I don’t know where you get this assumption that all of a sudden all the Cubans would come up here. I would probably think they were going to celebrate and they’re going to have a lot more freedom if we would only open up our doors and say, we want to talk to you, and trade with you, and come visit. Sometimes they can’t even send packages down there.

I — I think we’re living in the dark ages when we can’t even talk to the Cuban people. I think it’s not 1962 anymore. And we don’t have to use force and intimidation and overthrow of a — in governments. I just don’t think that’s going to work.

Moderator

Senator Santorum, an admittedly…

(APPLAUSE)

Moderator

… cynical question. If there was a strong lobby of Chinese dissidents living in a state as politically important of — as Florida, do you think we’d have a trade policy with China that looks more like the trade policy with Cuba?

Rick Santorum

Not if they were not 90 miles off our shore. This is an important doctrine of the United States to make sure that our hemisphere and those who are close to us are — are folks that we can and should deal with.

And right now, we have and have had for 50 years a dictatorship in Cuba. We’ve had sanctions on them. They should continue. They should continue until the Castros are dead, and then we should make it very clear that if you want mountains of aid, if you want normal relationships, if you want to improve your economy, if you want to have the opportunity for freedom, that the United States stands ready now to embrace you now that you’ve gotten rid of these tyrants who — who have controlled you for these 50-plus years. That’s why the sanctions have to stay in place, because we need to have a — a very solid offer to come forward and help the Cuban people.

And you’re right, Ron. It’s not 1962. They’re now with the Cubans and the Venezuelans, the Nicaraguans. There is a growing network of folks now working with the jihadists, the Iranians, who are very, very excited about the opportunity to having platforms 90 miles off our coast, just like the Soviets were, very anxious to have platforms 90 miles off our coast, or in Venezuela, or in Nicaragua, and other places they could come across the southern border.

This is a serious threat. It’s a threat that I’ve been talking about for about six or seven years. And it’s one that’s not going to go away until we — we confront the threat and hopefully are able to convince the Cuban people that, through what Newt and others have suggested, to — to change their government at the appropriate time.

Moderator

Governor — Governor Romney, last night, the Abe Lincoln, U.S. aircraft carrier and a couple other attendant U.S. Navy vessels passed through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. If Iran was able to fulfill, carry out that threat to shut down the strait, would you consider that an act of war? What would you do about it as president?

Mitt Romney

Of — of course it’s an act of war. It is appropriate and — and essential for our military, for our Navy to — to maintain open seas. We have control of the commons, of space, air, and the seas. Our Navy has the capacity to do that — or did in the past.

Under this president and under prior presidents, we keep on shrinking our Navy. Our Navy is now smaller than any time since 1917. And — and — and the president is building roughly nine ships a year. We ought to raise that to 15 ships a year, not because we want to go to war with anyone, but because we don’t want anyone to take the — the — the hazard of going against us. We want them to see that we’re so strong they couldn’t possibly defeat us.

So we ought to have an aircraft carrier in the gulf, an aircraft carrier, and, of course, the task force with it in the Mediterranean. We want to show Iran, any action of that nature will be considered an act of war, an act of terror and — and America is going to be keep those sea lanes open.

Moderator

So, Speaker Gingrich if you accept that bedrock definition that it is an act of war, how do you gauge the appetite on the part of the American people after the better part of a decade of warfare, fighting dual wars overseas for something like that?

Newt Gingrich

The American people have no interest in going to war anywhere. We had no interest in going to war with the Japanese when they bombed Pearl Harbor. We had no interest in going to Afghanistan when Jihadist’s destroyed the World Trade Center. The fact is, we’ve historically been a country that would like peace, we’d like stability. But we also have a historic commitment to — to freedom of the sea. And I would say that the most dangerous thing, which by the way, Barack Obama just did, the — the Iranians are practicing closing the Straits of Hormuz, actively taunting us, so he cancels a military exercise with the Israelis so as not to be provocative?

Now, dictatorships respond to strength, they don’t respond to weakness and I think there’s a very grave danger that the Iranians think that in fact this president is so weak, they could close the Straits of Hormuz and not suffer substantial consequences.

Moderator

Governor Romney, how do you end a war in Afghanistan without talking to the Taliban?

Mitt Romney

By beating them. By standing behind our troops and making sure that — that we have transitioned to the Afghan military, a capacity for them to be successful in holding off the Taliban. Our — our mission there, is to be able to turn Afghanistan and it’s sovereignty over to a military of Afghan descent — Afghan people that can defend their sovereignty. And that is something which we can accomplish in the next couple of years.

This president, however, has done — made — made it very difficult for our troops to be able to be successful in that mission by, number one, announcing a withdrawal date for our troops, number two drawing down our surge troops faster than the time the commanders on the ground was necessary. You don’t draw them down during the middle of the fighting season. And finally, by not overseeing elections in Afghanistan to assure that the — the selection of their president was seen by the people as being legitimate. And he has failed in — in executing a policy in Afghanistan that would optimize our prospects of success.

(CROSSTALK)

Moderator

Go ahead. I was just going to ask, any appetite on this stage to negotiate with the Taliban? Congressman?

Ron Paul

No, but I wanted to get involved in the discussion.

Moderator

No, go ahead?

Ron Paul

Because the question was, you know, would you go to war? And Mitt said he would — he would go to war. But you have to think about the preliminary act that might cause them to want to close the Straits of Hormuz, and that’s the blockade. We’re blockading them. Can you imagine what we would do if somebody blockaded the Gulf of Mexico? That would be an act of war. So the act of war has already been committed and this is a retaliation.

But besides, there’s no interest whatsoever for Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz. I mean they need it as much as we do. I mean so you have to put that into perspective. But this whole idea that — that it’s — we — we have to go to war because we’ve already committed an act by blockading the country and I — I don’t see — I — I — and — and I think Newt is right. I think he’s wrong about World War II, I think the people were ready because we did it properly. We declared it and we won it quickly.

But, not the people are not ready. We don’t have any money. We have too many wars. We — the people want to come home and they certainly don’t want a hot war in Iran right now and I — I think that would be the most foolish thing in the world to do right now is take on Iran.

Moderator

Right now for us another break. I’ll welcome two colleagues out here to the stage when we continue from Tampa right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Moderator

And welcome back to Tampa.

I am happy to welcome two fellow journalists to this stage. Happy to be joined now by our partners in this debate. In fact, “The Tampa Bay Times” and “National Journal.”

Adam Smith is the longtime political editor at “The Tampa Bay Times,” covering national, state and local politics for more than a decade, one of the very best in the trade. And besides, a lot of people just thought a GOP debate should have Adam Smith present.

Beth Reinhard is a political correspondent for “National Journal.” She is a Florida native, was a veteran political reporter at “The Miami Herald” for 11 years.

But one piece of business, Senator Santorum, I had to go to a break. I didn’t get you in on what we’ll call the Iran round, because you’ve talked about this a lot. Specifically, as a last resort, as you said, taking out Iran’s nuclear program.

The problem with that, so many in the military tell you, is the target list. Where do you limit it — the air strikes that some estimate would begin at 30 to 60 days sustained, taking out air defenses, all of that familiar language the American people have just been through for a decade?

Rick Santorum

Well, the contrast for that is, what happens if Iran gets a nuclear weapon and the entire world changes? Iran is not just another country, or a little, small country, as President Obama said classically during the campaign. Obama’s Iran policy has been a colossal failure.

It’s been a failure because he’s not been true to the American public about the threat that Iran poses to the world. Not just to Israel, but to the world and to the United States.

The bottom line is the theocracy that runs Iran is the equivalent of having al Qaeda in charge of a country with huge oil reserves, gas reserves, and a nuclear weapon. That is something that no president could possibly allow to have happen under any circumstances.

And when you asked the question, Brian, are we at — is this is an act of war? Well, let’s look at the acts of war that Iran — they are — they are holding hostages, they are attacking our troops, their IEDs, the improvised explosive devices, that are killing our troops in Afghanistan, and killed them in Iraq, and maimed so many were produced, and people were trained and funded in Iran specifically to kill American troops.

You look at the ships that have been attacked by Iran, embassies were attacked by Iran. A — Iran has plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador here in this country. It is a long list of attacks of — of warlike behavior on the part of this regime. And to believe that if they have a nuclear weapon they’re somehow going to become into the community of nations is a reckless act on the part of a president. It would be reckless not to do something to stop them from getting this nuclear weapon.

Moderator

Senator, thank you. And to interests of local state politics, Beth Reinhard will take over the questioning.

Moderator

Senator Santorum, here in Florida, BP is still airing apologetic appeals on television, but there are proposals to expand offshore oil drilling. The state’s most optimistic estimates say more drilling would create 5,000 jobs, but an oil spill would threaten Florida’s tourism industry, which employs nearly 1 million people. Is that worth the risk?

Rick Santorum

What threatens the tourist industry in Florida, as we’ve seen, is a very bad economy, and a very bad economy that became a bad economy why? Because of a huge spike in oil prices in the summer of 2008. So energy is absolutely key to keep all of our country healthy, specifically Florida, which is a destination place. This is a — this is a place that relies upon people being able to travel and afford to be able to travel to come down here, relies upon an economy being strong.

I was at a manufacturer in Sarasota County today and was talking about them as a manufacturer and that, you know, the — the importance of manufacturing jobs, yes, even here in the state of Florida, and the price of energy for them to be able to be competitive.

It is absolutely essential that we have as much domestic supply of oil, that we build the Keystone pipeline, that we create the jobs that — that that would create, and provide oil from domestic sources. Pipelines that run on the floor of the sea or pipelines that come through America are the safest way to transport oil. It is tankers that are causing — that cause much more problems. Pipelines are the safe way. Building those rigs, piping that oil into — into — into our shore is the best way to create a good economy for the state of Florida.

Moderator

All of you favor making English the official language of the United States, which could mean that ballots and other government documents would not be available in Spanish. But, Speaker Gingrich, you’re sending out press releases in Spanish; Governor Romney, you’re advertising in Spanish. Why is it OK for you to court voters in Spanish, but not OK for the government to serve them in Spanish?

Speaker Gingrich?

Newt Gingrich

Well, first of all, you immediately jump down to a very important language, but not the only language. The challenge of the United States is simple. There are 86 languages in Miami Dade College, 86. There are over 200 languages spoken in Chicago.

Now, how do you unify the country? What — what is the common bond that enables people to be both citizens and to rise commercially and have a better life and a greater opportunity?

I think campaigning, historically, you’ve always been willing to go to people on their terms in their culture, whether it’s Greek Independence Day or something you did for the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. And I’m perfectly happy to be on Radio Mambi, and I’m perfectly happy to have a lot of support in the Hispanic community.

But as a country to unify ourselves in a future in which there may well be 300 or 400 languages spoken in the United States, I think it is essential to have a central language that we expect people to learn and to be able to communicate with each other in.

Moderator

So to be clear, you would only have ballots in English?

Newt Gingrich

I would have ballots in English. And I think you could have programs where virtually everybody would be able to read the ballots.

Moderator

Governor Romney, can you take that question?

Mitt Romney

I think Speaker Gingrich is right with regards to what he’s described. I’d note that in my state we had a tradition of teaching people in the language of their birth, and so we had in our school systems people being taught in a whole range of languages. And we had to have teachers that could teach in Cambodian, in Vietnamese, and other languages. And our kids were being taught in foreign languages in our own schools. And we found at the end of their education experience they couldn’t all speak English well. It made absolutely no sense.

And so we campaigned for English immersion in our schools and said kids coming in will have a transition period. Then we’re going to teach them in English.

Mitt Romney

Look, English is the language of this nation. People need to learn English to be able to be successful, to get great jobs. We don’t want to have people limited in their capacity to achieve the American dream because they don’t speak English. And so encouraging people through every means possible to learn the language of America is a good idea.

Recognize at the same time we want people coming here from other cultures that speak other languages. That strengthens America. It’s a great thing. But having them learn English is also a great thing for them and for their kids.

Moderator

Congressman Paul?

Ron Paul

Yes, my answer is similar, but a little bit different, because at the national level, obviously we have to have one language. I mean, we can’t have multiple languages. So, for legal reasons, we would have one language.

But our system really gives us a way to be more generous, because if Florida wanted to have some ballots in Spanish, I certainly wouldn’t support a federal law that would prohibit Florida from accommodating a city election or a local election or a state election. I think that’s the magnificence of our system, where you can solve some of these problems without dictating one answer for all states. But nationally, we should have one language.

Moderator

Speaker Gingrich, I want to move on to a slightly different topic, the Dream Act, which, as you know, would provide a pathway to citizenship for children who have been brought to the U.S. illegally if they attend college or enroll in the military.

Now, Governor Romney and Senator Santorum have both said they would veto this legislation. Would you do the same?

Newt Gingrich

No. I would work to get a signable version which would be the military component. I think any young person living in the United States who happened to have been brought here by their parents when they were young should have the same opportunity to join the American military and earn citizenship which they would have had from back home.

We have a clear provision that if you live in a foreign country, and you are prepared to join the American military, you can, in fact, earn the right to citizenship by serving the United States and taking real risk on behalf of the United States. That part of the Dream Act I would support. I would not support the part that simply says everybody who goes to college is automatically waived for having broken the law.

Moderator

The questioning continues.

Mitt Romney

I just doubt (ph) that’s the same position that I have, and that is that I would not sign the Dream Act as it currently exists, but I would sign the Dream Act if it were focused on military service.

Moderator

Thank you, Governor.

Questioning continues with Adam Smith.

Moderator

Let’s stay on immigration for a second.

Governor Romney, there is one thing I’m confused about. You say you don’t want to go and round up people and deport them, but you also say that they would have to go back to their home countries and then apply for citizenship. So, if you don’t deport them, how do you send them home?

Mitt Romney

Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here. And so we’re not going to round people up.

The way that we have in this society is to say, look, people who have come here legally would, under my plan, be given a transition period and the opportunity during that transition period to work here, but when that transition period was over, they would no longer have the documentation to allow them to work in this country. At that point, they can decide whether to remain or whether to return home and to apply for legal residency in the United States, get in line with everybody else. And I know people think but that’s not fair to those that have come here illegally.

Moderator

Isn’t that what we have now? If somebody doesn’t feel they have the opportunity in America, they can go back any time they want to.

Mitt Romney

Yes, we’d have a card that indicates who’s here illegally. And if people are not able to have a card, and have through an E-Verify system determine that they are here illegally, then they’re going to find they can’t get work here. And if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place where they can get work.

Ultimately, with this transition period in place, we would then allow people to get in line at home and to come back to this country after they have reached the front of the line. But I just don’t think it’s fair to the people who have loved ones waiting in line legally to come to America and say, guess what? We’re going to encourage a wave of illegal immigration by giving amnesty of some kind to those who have come here illegally.

Moderator

Senator Santorum, is self-deportation. Is that a valid concept?

Rick Santorum

Well, it’s happening now. I mean, people are going back now because they can’t find jobs because of the lack of employment opportunities.

The bottom line is, is that if you do enforce the law and say that people who are here illegally, who are doing illegal acts — and that is working, which you’re not allowed to do — and if you’re working, probably you’ve stolen someone’s Social Security number, which you are not allowed to do — and that’s another law that is broken — that we should enforce the law. It’s not someone who has come here illegally in the first place and they’ve only broken the law once. They continually break the law in this country, and I don’t think that’s not something that should be rewarded.

My father came to this country, my grandfather came to this country. He left my dad behind for five years. My dad was without a dad for almost the first five years of his life.

And there are millions of stories across America of people making sacrifices because America was worth it to do it the right way. You come to this country and the first thing you do is to respect our laws. If you want to be an American, you respect the laws of America, and you do so continually while you’re here.

We reward that kind of behavior. We don’t reward behavior where you don’t respect our laws in your initial act and then you continually break the laws in order to stay here.

Moderator

Speaker Gingrich, in Iowa you were a big supporter of ethanol subsidies. Here in Florida, sugar is a very important industry, and it’s subsidized, as well, with import restrictions, quotas. There’s a conservative movement to do away with these programs. In the case of sugar, critics say it — it adds billions of dollars to — to consumers’ grocery bills every year. What would you do about that?

Newt Gingrich

Well, I pretty enthusiastically early in my career kept trying to figure out how to get away from the sugar subsidy. And I found out one of — one of the fascinating things about America, which was that cane sugar hides behind beet sugar. And there are just too many beet sugar districts in the United States. It’s an amazing side story about how interest groups operate.

In an ideal world, you would have an open market. And that’s — I think that would be a better future and, frankly, one where cane sugar would still make a lot of money. But it’s very hard to imagine how you’re going to get there. I spent a lot of time trying to reform agriculture when I was speaker. And I would say it was one of the two or three hardest things to try to do because the — the capacity of the agricultural groups to defend themselves is pretty amazing.

Moderator

Governor Romney, you’re going some campaign support from sugar growers. It’s a very influential group in this state. What’s your view on the sugar subsidies?

Mitt Romney

Yeah, my view is, we ought to get rid of subsidies and let markets work properly. But let’s step back for a second, talk about what’s really going on in Florida right now. And you know, you both know what’s going on here.

I spent time this morning with — with eight different individuals, listening to them talk about their circumstances. There are a lot of people in Florida that are hurting. You got a lot of homes underwater. This president came into office saying he’d turn this economy around, and everything he has done has made it harder for the people of Florida.

We have 25 million Americans out of work. We have, in Florida, 9.9 percent unemployed. We have 18 percent of our people in this state that are underemployed. Home values, 40 percent are underwater.

This president has failed miserably the people of Florida. His plans for NASA, he has no plans for NASA. The space coast is — is struggling. This president has failed the people of Florida. We have to have a president who understands how to get an economy going again. He does not. He plays 90 rounds of golf when you have 25 million people out of work. He says gasoline prices doubled during his presidency. He says don’t build a Keystone pipeline.

We have $15 trillion of debt. We’re headed to a — to a Greece- type collapse, and he adds another trillion on top for Obamacare and for his stimulus plan that didn’t create private-sector jobs. This president has failed. And this economy needs a president who understands this economy.

Moderator

Congressman Paul, Florida’s Everglades provide one in three Floridians with their drinking water. It affects thousands of jobs. Right now, there’s a — there’s a joint federal-state program to save what’s left of the Everglades. Would you commit to continuing that federal financing of the Everglades preservation?

Ron Paul

Sure. I — I don’t see any reason to go after that. I would still look into the details on whether that could be a state issue or not.

But with all the wars going on, and the economy is in shambles, as it is, and the unemployment, to — to worry about dealing with that program, we could do it in a theoretical sense. But I would see no reason to, you know, complicate things. But I wouldn’t have any desire to interfere with that.

Moderator

At this point, we’ll take another break. We’ll return from Tampa with this line of questioning right after this.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Moderator

We are back from Tampa tonight. As the conversation continues, once again the questioning continues.

Adam Smith of “The Tampa Bay Times.”

Moderator

Thank you.

Senator Santorum, in 2005, Florida was in the middle of a huge national debate over Terri Schiavo, whether her feeding tube should be removed after the courts had ruled that she had been in a vegetative state for years. You were at the center, at the front of advocating congressional intervention to keep her alive. You even came down here, came to her bedside after a fund-raiser.

Why should the government have more say in medical decisions like that than a spouse?

Rick Santorum

Well, number one, I didn’t come to her bedside, but I did come down to Tampa. I was scheduled to come down anyway for that event, and it so happened that this situation was going on.

I did not call for congressional intervention. I called for a judicial hearing by an impartial judge at the federal level to review a case in which you had parents and a spouse on different sides of the issue.

And these were constituents of mine. The parents happen to live in Pennsylvania, and they came to me and made a very strong case that they would like to see some other pair of eyes, judicial eyes, look at it. And I agreed to advocate for those constituents because I believe that we should give respect and dignity for all human life, irrespective of their condition.

And if there was someone there that wanted to provide and take care of them, and they were willing to do so, I wanted to make sure that the judicial proceedings worked properly. And that’s what I did, and I would do it again.

Moderator

USE) SMITH: Do not resuscitate directives, do you think they’re immoral?

Rick Santorum

No, I don’t believe they’re immoral. I mean, I think that’s a decision that people should be able to make, and I have supported legislation in the past for them to make it.

Moderator

Speaker Gingrich, in that case the courts had ruled repeatedly. How does that square, the Terri Schiavo, action with your understanding of the Constitution and separation of powers?

Newt Gingrich

Well, look, I think that we go to extraordinary lengths, for example, for people who are on murderers row. They have extraordinary rights of appeal.

And you have here somebody who was in a coma, who had, on the one hand, her husband saying let her die and her parents saying let her live. Now, it strikes me that having a bias in favor of life, and at least going to a federal hearing, which would be automatic if it was a criminal on death row, that it’s not too much to say in some circumstances your rights as an American citizen ought to be respected. And there ought to be at least a judicial review of whether or not in that circumstance you should be allowed to die, which has nothing to do with whether or not you as a citizen have a right to have your own end-of-life prescription which is totally appropriate for you to do as a matter of your values in consultation with your doctor.

Moderator

Congressman Paul, you’re a doctor. What was your view of the Terri Schiavo case?

Ron Paul

I find it so unfortunate, so unusual, too. That situation doesn’t come up very often. It should teach us all a lesson to have living wills or a good conversation with a spouse. I would want my spouse to make the decision. And — but it’s better to have a living will.

But I don’t like going up the ladder. You know, we go to the federal courts, and the Congress, and on up. Yes, difficult decisions. Will it be perfect for everybody? No. But I would have preferred to see the decision made at the state level.

But I’ve been involved in medicine with things similar, but not quite as difficult as this. But usually, we deferred to the family. And it wasn’t made a big issue like this was. This was way out of proportion to what happens more routinely.

But I think it should urge us all to try to plan for this and make sure either that one individual that’s closest to you makes the decision or you sign a living will. And this would have solved the whole problem.

Moderator

Beth?

Moderator

Governor Romney, this is the state that put the first men on the moon. America right now has no way to put people into space except to hitch a ride with the Russians. Meanwhile, the Chinese are ramping up their space program. At a time when you all want to shrink federal spending, should space exploration be a priority?

Governor Romney?

Mitt Romney

It should certainly be a priority. What we have right now is a president who does not have a vision or a mission for NASA. And as a result of that, there are people on the space coast that are suffering. And Florida itself is — is suffering as a result.

So what’s the right way forward? Well, I happen to believe our space program is important not only for science, but also for commercial development and for military development. And I believe the right mission for — for NASA should be determined by a president together with a collection of people from those different areas, from NASA, from the Air Force space program, from our leading universities, and from commercial enterprises, bring them together, discuss a wide range of options for NASA, and then — and then have NASA not just funded by the federal government, but also by commercial enterprises. Have some of the research done in our universities.

Let’s have a collaborative effort with business, with — with government, with a military, as well as with our educational institutions. Have a mission, once again excite our young people about the potential of space and the commercial potential will pay for itself down the road.

This is a great opportunity. Florida has technology. The people here on the space coast have technology and vision and passion that America needs. And with a president that is actually willing to create a mission and a vision for — for NASA and for space, we can continue to lead the world.

Moderator

Speaker Gingrich, would you put more tax dollars into the space race and commit to putting an American on Mars, instead of relying on the private sector?

Newt Gingrich

Well, the two are not incompatible. For example, most of the great breakthroughs in aviation in the ’20s and ’30s were as a result of prizes. Lindbergh flew to Paris for a $25,000 prize. I would like to see vastly more of the money spent encouraging the private sector into very aggressive experimentation. And I’d like a leaner NASA.

I don’t think building a bigger bureaucracy and having a greater number of people sit in rooms and talk gets you there. But if we had a series of goals that we were prepared to offer prizes for, there’s every reason to believe you have a lot of folks in this country and around the world who would put up an amazing amount of money and would make the space coast literally hum with activity because they’d be drawn to achieve these prizes.

Going back to the moon permanently, getting to Mars as rapidly as possible, building a series of space stations and developing commercial space, there are a whole series of things you can do that could be dynamic that are more than just better government bureaucracy. They’re fundamentally leapfrogging into a world where you’re incentivizing people who are visionaries and people in the private sector to invest very large amounts of money in finding very romantic and exciting futures.

Moderator

Speaker Gingrich, I have another question for you on another topic. You’ve talked about the millions of jobs created by the Reagan tax cuts. If tax cuts create jobs, why didn’t the Bush tax cuts work?

Newt Gingrich

Well, the Bush tax cuts, I think in a period of great difficulty, with the attack of 9/11, actually stopped us from going into a much deeper slump. I think we would have been in much, much worse shape, and I think most economists agree, that in 2002 and ’03 and ’04 we’d have been in much worse shape without the Bush tax cuts.

But — but you have to also look at the regulatory burden. The reason I called for repealing Dodd-Frank and for repealing Obamacare and for repealing Sarbanes-Oxley is you now have these huge layers of paperwork and government intervention and bureaucratic micromanagement that are crippling the American system and are making it much harder for us to create the kind of jobs we’d want.

In North Dakota today, we have a boom in oil development, unemployment is down to 3.2 percent. They have had seven straight tax cuts at the state level because the oil was on private land.

If that oil had been on public land, the environmentalists and Barack Obama would have stopped its development, and North Dakota would be mired in 8 percent or 9 percent unemployment. So, get the regulations out of the way, get the tax incentives right, and you can get back to creating an amazing number of jobs very fast.

Moderator

To my fellow questioners, our panelists tonight, my thanks.

So ends this section of our conversation. The final bit of our debate from Tampa tonight coming up after this last break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Moderator

Welcome back to Tampa for this final section of our conversation tonight. We’re back down to the five of us here on stage. I thought we’d talk a little bit more big picture.

This has been called, in addition to this unprecedented primary contest the GOP is in the midst of, a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Governor Romney, the question is, about that soul, what have you done to further the cause of conservativism as a Republican leader?

Mitt Romney

Well, number one, I’ve raised a family. And I’ve — I’ve — with my wife, we’ve raised five wonderful sons, and we have 16 wonderful grandkids.

Number two, I’ve worked in the private sector. The idea that somehow everything important for conservativism or for America happens in government is simply wrong. I’ve been in the private sector. I worked in one business that was in trouble and helped turn it around. Another I started. And as part of that, we were able to create thousands and thousands of jobs.

And then I took an opportunity to become governor of a state that was slightly Democrat. About 85 percent of my legislature was Democrat. And I worked very hard to promote a conservative agenda. We cut taxes 19 times. We balanced the budget every year, put in place a rainy day fund of over $2 billion by the time I left. We were also successful in having English immersion in our schools, driving our schools to be number one in the nation.

That kind of conservative model in a state like Massachusetts was a model in many respects that other states could look at and say, “OK, conservative principles work.” We were able to reach across the aisle to fight for conservative principles, and now I’m taking that to a presidential campaign, wrote a book about those principles that lay out why I believe they’re right for America.

Moderator

Mr. Speaker, you’ve been talking a lot about conservative principles in this campaign so far. Is that enough for you? Is that good enough?

Newt Gingrich

Look, I don’t want to spend my time commenting on Mitt. I’d like to just tell you that I started — I went to a Goldwater organizing session in 1964. I met with Ronald Reagan for the first time in 1974. I worked with Jack Kemp and Art Laffer and others to develop supply-side economics in the late ’70s. I helped Governor Reagan become President Reagan. I helped pass the Reagan economic program when I worked with the National Security Council on issues involving the collapse of the Soviet empire.

I then came back, organized a group called GOPAC, spent 16 years building a majority in the House for the first time since 1954, the first re-elected majority since 1928, developed the Conservative Opportunity Society, talked about big ideas, big solutions.

So I think it’s fair to say I’ve spent most of my lifetime trying to develop a conservative movement across this country that relates directly to what we have to do. And I think only a genuine conservative who’s in a position to debate Obama and to show how wide the gap is between Obama’s policies and conservativism can, in fact, win, because he’s going to spend a billion dollars trying to smear whoever the nominee is. And we’d better be prepared to beat him in the debate and prove exactly how wrong his values are and how wrong his practices are.

Moderator

Which, Senator Santorum, gets us back to electability, the gap between the Republican Party and the president. Some of the newspaper headlines about this gathering we were going to have tonight, in Florida, Romney seeks to link Gingrich to foreclosure crisis. And here’s a second one: The verdict is in, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital problem is real.

What’s the net effect of all this, of the tax release tomorrow, of Freddie — the Freddie Mac release tonight on your party, say your candidacy, as you try to go forward?

Rick Santorum

Well, I would say that there are more fundamental issues than that, where there’s a gap and a problem with two of the gentlemen who are up here with me. And one is on the biggest issue that they — we have to deal with in this election, that’s — that’s crushing the economy, will crush it even further and crush freedom, and that’s Obamacare.

Governor Romney’s plan in Massachusetts was the basis for Obamacare. Speaker Gingrich for 20 years supported a federal individual mandate, something that Pam Bondi is now going to the Supreme Court saying is unconstitutional. Speaker Gingrich, for 20 years, up until last year supported an individual mandate, which is at the core of Obamacare.

If you look at cap-and-trade, Governor Romney was very proud to say that he was the first state in the country as governor to sign a cap on CO-2 emissions, the first state in the country to put a cap believing in — in global warming and criticized Republicans for not believing in it, as did, by the way, Speaker Gingrich, who was for a cap-and-trade program with incentives, business incentives, but was for the rubric of cap-and-trade, not specifically the cap-and-trade bill that was out there.

Again, huge, huge differences between my position and where President Obama is, but not so on two major issues. You go down and you look at the Wall Street bailouts, I said before, here’s one where you had folks who preach conservativism, private sector, and when push came to shove, they got pushed. They didn’t stand tall for the conservative principles that they argued that they were for. And as a result, we ended up with this bailout that has injected government into business like it had never been done before.

Rick Santorum

They rejected conservativism when it was hard to stand. It’s going to be hard to stand whoever this president is going to be elected. It’s going to be tough. There is going to be a mountain of problems. It’s going to be easy to be able to bail out and compromise your principles.

We have gentlemen here on the three issues that got the Tea Party started, that are the base of the conservative movement now in the Republican Party. And there is no difference between President Obama and these two gentlemen. And that’s why this election in Florida is so critical, that we have someone that actually can create a contrast between the president and the conservative point of view.

Moderator

Congressmen Paul, are the two men in the middle insufficiently conservative for you?

Ron Paul

Well, I think the problem is, is nobody has defined what being conservative means.

Moderator

Go ahead.

Ron Paul

And I think that is our problem.

Conservative means we have a smaller government and more liberty. And yet, if you ask, what have we done? I think we have lost our way.

Our rhetoric is still pretty good, but when we get in charge, we expand the government. You talk about Dodd-Frank, but we gave Sarbanes-Oxley. We gave debts as well, you know, when we’re in charge.

So, if it means limited government, you have to ask the basic question, what should the role of government be? The founders asked that question, had a revolution and wrote a Constitution. And they said the role of government ought to be to protect liberty.

It’s not to run a welfare state and not to be the policemen of the world. And so if you’re a conservative, how can you be conservative and cut food stamps, but you won’t cut spending overseas? There is not a nickel or a penny that anybody will cut on the conservative side, overseas spending. And we don’t have the money.

They are willing to start more wars. So, I say, if you’re conservative, you want small government across the board, especially in personal liberty. What’s wrong with having the government out of our personal lives? So, this is what — we have to decide what conservative means, what limited government means.

And I have a simple suggestion. We have a pretty good guide, and if we follow the Constitution, government would be very small and we would all be devoted conservatives.

Moderator

Governor Romney, again tonight, so called Romneycare and so-called Obamacare have been positioned very closely side by side by your opponent, the senator. And again, you have been called insufficiently conservative.

Mitt Romney

You know, I have a record. You can look at my record. I just described what I had accomplished in Massachusetts. It’s a conservative record.

Also, the fun of running against Ted Kennedy. What a great thrill that was. I didn’t beat him, but he had to take a mortgage out on his house to make sure that he could defeat me. I believe that the policies he put in place had hurt America and helped create a permanent underclass in this country.

My health care plan, by the way, is one that under our Constitution we’re allowed to have. The people in our state chose a plan which I think is working for our state.

At the time we crafted it, I was asked time and again, “Is this something that you would have the federal government do?” I said absolutely not.

I do not support a federal mandate. I do not support a federal one-size-fits-all plan. I believe in the Constitution. That’s why the attorney general here is saying absolutely not.

You can’t impose Obamacare on the states. What I will do if I’m president, I will repeal Obamacare and return to the states the authority and the rights the states have to craft their own programs to care for their own poor.

Moderator

Speaker Gingrich, I know none of you believe in polls, but as we came in here tonight, of the numbers in the known world, your numbers were on the rise. What scares you about the presidency if you made it to the job you want?

Newt Gingrich

I actually agree with what Rick Santorum said. I believe that whoever the next president is, if we’re going to get America back on the right track, is going to face enormous, difficult problems, some of which have been accurately diagnosed by Dr. Paul.

And the fact is that we have tremendous institutional biases against doing the right thing and against getting things done. And we have huge interest groups who would rather preside over the wreckage than lose their favored position by helping the country.

So I always tell audiences I never ask anyone to be for me. Because if they are for me, they vote yes and go home and say, I sure hope Newt does it. I ask people to be with me, because I think this will be a very hard, very difficult journey. And I find it a very humbling and a very sobering thought that one would have to try to get America back on the right track despite all of our elites and all of our entrenched bureaucracies.

Moderator

Governor Romney, you talk about restoring America’s greatness. Given that, in your view when was America last great?

Mitt Romney

America still is great, but we have a lot of people suffering. We have people that are underemployed that shouldn’t be, unemployed that shouldn’t be. Home values continue to go down. We have the median income in this country has declined 10 percent in the last four years.

We’re still a great nation, but a great nation doesn’t have so many people suffering. And I’m running in part because I have experience in how the economy works. And I want to use that experience to get people working again, to get our economy working again.

And the idea to get our economy working is not to have the government play a more intrusive role in how our economy works, but instead to do the seven things that always get an economy going: get taxes competitive, regulation as modest as possible and modernized, get ourselves energy independent, open up trade with other nations and crack down on cheaters, make sure we don’t have crony capitalism — that’s what we have going on right now — build human capital through education, and also finally balance the budget.

People will not invest in an economy and create new jobs if they think we’re going to hit a Greece-like wall. I will do those seven things and get America working again.

Moderator

I want to thank all of our candidates and our hosts, of course, here at the University of South Florida. We are obligated at this point to say, “Go Bulls.”

(APPLAUSE)

For our hosts here, for our viewers here on your NBC station, our coverage will continue. I’ll be back with you shortly. But for now, let’s go over to David Gregory to take a look at part of what transpired here on stage tonight with our thanks to you all. Thank you very much.

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Campaign Buzz September 7, 2011: Full Text Transcript Republican Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Library — Rick Perry & Mitt Romney Steal the Show

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney listened as Rick Perry, right, spoke Wednesday in his first Republican presidential debate. More Photos »

The Republican Debate at the Reagan Library

The following is a transcript of the 2012 Republican presidential debate on Sept. 7, 2011, in Simi Valley, Calif., as transcribed by Roll Call.

SPEAKERS: REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

HERMAN CAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

FORMER GOV. JON HUNTSMAN JR., R-UTAH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

BRIAN WILLIAMS, POLITICO

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO

JOSE DIAZ-BALART, MSNBC

WILLIAMS: Tonight, from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, in a place dedicated to the memory of this Republican icon, in the 100th year after his birth, we will hear from the eight candidates who would like to claim his legacy. They’re all here tonight ready to explain and defend their positions on job creation, on spending, debt, and taxes, on America’s costly dual wars, and the toxic gridlock that is Washington, D.C.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, the Republican candidates debate. Here now are Brian Williams and John Harris.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Good evening, and welcome.

Thank you especially for joining us here in this spectacular space, this spectacular presidential library, where we are all gathered under the wings of Air Force One. We’re going to get right to it tonight because we have a lot of candidates on stage, a lot of issues to talk about.

And for the next hour and 45 minutes, give or take, along with my colleague and friend, John Harris of the website Politico, we will be putting questions to the eight candidates on stage tonight. By agreement, they will have one minute to answer and then 30 seconds for follow-up or rebuttal, as they say, at the moderator’s discretion. There will be no opening or closing statements during this debate tonight. With that out of the way, we’re going to start with jobs and the economy. The numbers from our new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll this week are, candidly, jaw-dropping. The country thinks the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. A majority of people in this country now believe the Republican policies of the first eight years of the past decade are responsible for the economic mess we’re in. And we should quickly add, a majority also don’t believe the current Democratic president has set the right policies to fix the fix we’re in. Question is, really, who can?

Governor Perry, we’re going to begin with you. You’re the newcomer here on stage. You probably saw this coming a mile away. You have touted your state’s low taxes, the lack of regulation, tough tort reform as the recipe for job growth in the Lone Star State, but Texas ranks last among those who have completed high school, there are only eight other states with more living in poverty, no other state has more working at or below the minimum wage. So is that the kind of answer all Americans are looking for?

PERRY: Actually, what Americans are looking for is someone who can get this country working again. And we put the model in place in the state of Texas. When you look at what we have done over the last decade, we created 1 million jobs in the state of Texas. At the same time, America lost 2.5 million.

So I will suggest to you that Americans are focused on the right issue, and that is, who on this stage can get America working? Because we know for a fact the resident of the White House cannot.

WILLIAMS: But you know by now the counterargument to that is the number of low-wage jobs and the fact that unemployment is better in over half the states of the union than it is right now in Texas.

PERRY: Well, the first part of that comment is incorrect, because 95 percent of all the jobs that we’ve created have been above minimum wage.

So I’m proud of what we’ve done in the state of Texas. And for the White House or anyone else to be criticizing creation of jobs now in America, I think is a little bit hypocritical.

You want to create jobs in America? You free the American entrepreneur to do what he or she does, which is risk their capital, and I’ll guarantee you, the entrepreneur in America, the small businessman and woman, they’re looking for a president that will say we’re going to lower the tax burden on you and we’re going to lower the regulation impact on you, and free them to do what they do best: create jobs.

WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, over to you. You’ve opened the door on this topic, at least where Governor Perry’s concerned. Despite your own private-sector experience, as you know, Massachusetts ranked only 47th in job creation during your tenure as governor. As for your private-sector experience, as Governor Perry’s strategist recently put it, consisted of being, quote, “a buyout specialist.” Your response to that?

ROMNEY: Well, not terribly accurate, at least with regards to the latter. And our state — I’m happy to take a look at the Massachusetts record, because when I came in as governor, we were in a real freefall. We were losing jobs every month. We had a budget that was way out of balance.

So I came into office, we went to work as a team, and we were able to turn around the job losses. And at the end of four years, we had our unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent. That’s a record I think the president would like to see.

As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president has created in the entire country. The policies that will get us working again as a nation are policies I understand having worked in the private sector.

Look, if I had spent my whole life in government, I wouldn’t be running for president right now. My experience, having started enterprises, having helped other enterprises grow and thrive, is what gives me the experience to put together a plan to help restructure the basis of America’s economic foundation so we can create jobs again, good jobs, and compete with anyone in the world.

This country has a bright future. Our president doesn’t understand how the economy works. I do, because I’ve lived in it.

WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.

Let’s get a little more specific. Bain Capital, a company you helped to form, among other things, often buys up companies, strips them down, gets them ready, resells them at a net job loss to American workers.

ROMNEY: You know, that might be how some people would like to characterize what we did, but in fact, we started business at Bain Capital, and when we acquired businesses, in each case we tried to make them bigger, make them more successful and grow. The idea that somehow you can strip things down and it makes them more valuable is not a real effective investment strategy. We tried to make these businesses more successful.

By the way, they didn’t all work. But when it was all said and done, and we looked at the record we had during the years I was there, we added tens of thousands of jobs to he businesses we helped support. That experience, succeeding, failing, competing around the world, is what gives me the capacity to help get this economy going again. WILLIAMS: Time.

I mentioned one more reference to being a career politician. Is it a disqualification to be in government all your career?

ROMNEY: It’s a fine profession, and if someone were looking to say how can we restructure government, and which agency should report to which other agency, well, maybe that’s the best background. If you’re thinking about what it takes to reshape and update America’s economy, and to allow us to compete with China and other nations around the world, understanding how the economy works fundamentally is a credential I think is critical.

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a 30-second rebuttal.

You spent your career in that fine profession of elected office. Your reaction to that?

PERRY: Well, Governor Romney left the private sector, and he did a great job of creating jobs in the private sector all around the world. But the fact is, when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country. So the fact is, while he had a good private sector record, his public sector record did not match that. As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts.

WILLIAMS: Well, let’s widen this out and let’s bring in Mr. Cain on one side —

ROMNEY: Wait a second.

WILLIAMS: Go ahead. I’ll give you 30 seconds.

ROMNEY: Listen, wait a second.

WILLIAMS: We could do this all evening.

ROMNEY: States are different. Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right to work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground.

Those are wonderful things, but Governor Perry doesn’t believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, well, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Look, the reality is, there are differences. There are differences between states.

I came into a state that was in real trouble — a huge budget gap, losing jobs every month. We turned it around. Three out of four years, we had unemployment rate below the national average, we ended up with 4.7 percent unemployment rate. I’m proud of what we were able to do in a tough situation.

WILLIAMS: Time.

Governor Perry?

PERRY: I know back and forth — Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.

ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: That’s not correct.

ROMNEY: Yes, that is correct.

WILLIAMS: Nice to see everybody came prepared for tonight’s conversation.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: As I said, I’d like to bring in both wings here, figuratively, of course, Senator Santorum and Mr. Cain.

Let’s talk about this debate between public sector life’s work and private sector life’s work.

You’ve spent your life’s work, Mr. Cain, in the private sector.

And Senator Santorum, most of yours in the public sector.

Weigh in on what you’re hearing (ph).

SANTORUM: Yes, I think what people are looking for is someone to get something done. And that’s what I have a track record of doing in Washington, D.C., across the board. Not just on economics, but on moral cultural issues, on national security issues, national defense issues.

I’ve done things. We’ve brought Democrat and Republicans together.

SANTORUM: I’ve put forward a plan because I think it’s the best plan. But it’s also the best plan of anybody here that actually can pass the Senate, which is probably going to have to have Democratic votes. And what I focussed on was a sector of the economy that can get Democratic votes.

We cut the corporate tax from 35 percent to zero, because we want to build the great middle of America again, get those jobs that were shipped overseas by companies that were looking too make a profit because they couldn’t any longer do it here.375, and bring those jobs back to America.

We cut that corporate rate to zero. We’ve passed repatriation to get that resources that are seen overseas, $1.2 trillion, and we bring them back here.

We’ll create jobs, and I’ll get Democratic votes to pass it. We’ll bring things together, because those industrial state Democrats — and I know, because I’m from an industrial state — they will vote for this bill. You want to get something going, elect someone who knows how to get things done.

(UNKNOWN): Time, Senator.

Mr. Cain, same question.

CAIN: Let’s cut to the chase, this is what business people do and politicians don’t do. Here’s how I would fix this economy, first, eliminate the current tax code. It is a drain on entrepreneurs, it is the biggest barrier that’s holding this economy back, and what I would do is to propose a bold plan, which I have already released.

I call it my 9-9-9 economic growth plan. Throw out the current tax code, a 9 percent tax on corporate income, our 9 percent tax on personal income and a 9 percent national sales tax. If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent ought to be good enough for the federal government. This will replace all federal income taxes. It’ll replace all federal income taxes.

It will also replace the payroll tax, so everybody gets some skin in the game. And it replaces the capital gains tax.

This economy is on life support. We do not need a solution that just trims around the edges. This is a bold plan and a bold solution. Additionally, with something as simple as 9-9-9, it gives us a easy mechanism to go after — help those cities that are the most blighted in terms of empowerment zones, and we can modify that very easily versus the current code.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Cain, thank you.

Governor Huntsman, as you know, Governor Romney’s new economic plan calls for the U.S. government to officially label China a currency manipulator, But “The Wall Street Journal” editorial page says such a move would cause a trade war, perhaps.

You’re a former ambassador to China. You have served four U.S. presidents. In your view, what does Governor Romney not get about China?

HUNTSMAN: He doesn’t get the part that what will fix the U.S- China relationship, realistically, is fixing our core right here at home, because our core is weak, and it is broken, and we have no leverage at the negotiating table.

And I’d have to say, Mitt, now is not the time in a recession to enter a trade war. Ronald Reagan flew this plane. I was in China during the trip in 1984. He went on TV, he spoke to the Chinese people — I’d love to do that too, in Chinese itself — and he talked in optimistic, glowing terms.

And it reminds me about this, Ryan, we are the most blue sky, optimistic people on earth. We’re going to find solutions, and I have an offer for the two great governors over here.

And I hate to rain on the parade of the Lone Star governor, but as governor of Utah, we were the number one job creator in this country during my years of service. That was 5.9 percent when you were creating jobs at 4.9 percent.

And to my good friend, Mitt, 47 just ain’t going to cut it, my friend, not when you can be first. We’ve got to remember, that to beat President Obama, we have to have somebody who’s been in the private sector, understands the fragility of the free market system, has been a successful governor as it relates to job creation, and knows something about this world.

I’ve lived overseas four times, I’ve been an ambassador to my country three times, I think I understand that.

(UNKNOWN): Governor Huntsman, time.

Congresswoman Bachmann, over to you. Of all of you on this stage, you’ve been very vocal about wanting less regulation in American life. Which current federal regulations have been prohibitive or damaging in terms of your own small business?

BACHMANN: Well, I think without a doubt, there’s two that you look to. First of all are the new regulations that are just being put into place with ObamaCare. As I go across the country and speak to small business people, men and women, they tell me ObamaCare is leading them to not create jobs. I spent three weekends going to restaurants, and I talked to business owners, said I have 60 people on my payroll, I have to let 10 go. At the same time, a 17-year-old girl came in and said, I’d like a job application for the summer.

He said, I’m sorry, dear, I’m not hiring this summer, I’m actually letting people go. ObamaCare is killing jobs. We know that from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. But I know it first-hand from speaking to people.

We see it this summer. There are 47 percent of African-American youth that are currently without jobs, 36 percent of Hispanic youth. I’m a mom. I’ve raised five biological kids and 23 foster kids in my home. One thing I know is that kids need jobs. And ObamaCare is clearly leading to job-killing regulations, not job-creating regulations.

(UNKNOWN): (Inaudible), thank you.

Over to Congressman Paul, you’re known as the absolutist in the bunch, someone who has consistently opposed federal government from having any role — and I think by your definition — that isn’t explicitly laid out in the Constitution.

So this makes people curious: Is there a line with you? Where do you draw it? Does this include things like making cars safe, making medicine safe, air traffic control controlling the jets above our heads?

PAUL: I think in theory, if you understood the free market in a free society, you don’t need government to do that. We live in a society where we have been adapted to this, and you can’t just drop it all at once, but you can transition away from it.

On regulations, no, I don’t believe in any of these federal regulations, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in regulations. The regulation of the marketplace takes care of it. Just think if we had the regulations on the market that dealt with the bankruptcies? They’d have had to go bankrupt. We wouldn’t have been able to bail out the big banks and the big corporations and dump onto poor people.

So the market would dictate it. You can’t commit fraud. If you need detailed regulations, you can do it at the state level. But the federal government is not authorized to nitpick every little transaction. The way they use the interstate commerce clause is outrageous, as far as I’m concerned.

WILLIAMS: Well, 30 seconds more for devil’s advocate here, because would you then put it on the drug companies to say, “No, we’re bringing this to market, trust us, it’s a fantastic drug”? All the pilots in the sky, to add to their responsibilities, their own air traffic control, in an organic way?

PAUL: What I said is, theoretically, you could — it could be privatized, but who ends up doing the regulations on the drugs? They do as much harm as good. They don’t take good care of us. Who gets — who gets to write the regulations? The bureaucrats write the regulations, but who writes the laws? The lobbyists have control, so lobbyists from the drug industry has control of writing the regulations, so you turn it over to the bureaucracy.

But you would have private institutions that could become credible. And, I mean, do we need the federal government to tell us whether we buy a safe car? I say the consumers of America are smart enough to decide what kind of car they can buy and whether it’s safe or not, and they don’t need the federal government hounding them and putting so much regulations on that our car industry has gone overseas.

WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.

Over to Speaker Gingrich.

(APPLAUSE)

Mr. Speaker, as you remember, you wrote the foreword to Rick Perry’s most recent book called “Fed Up,” and you called him, quote, “uniquely qualified to explain what’s taking place with the economy.” Does that mean, in terms of job creation credentials, he has your proxy at a gathering like this?

GINGRICH: No, but it means that, if he wants to write another book, I’ll write another foreword.

(LAUGHTER)

As he himself — look, he’s said himself, that was an interesting book of ideas by somebody who’s not proposing a manifesto for president. And I think to go back and try to take that apart is silly.

But let me just use my time for a second, if I might, Brian. I served during the Reagan campaign with people like Jack Kemp and Art Laffer. We had an idea for job creation. I served as a freshman — or as a sophomore helping pass the Reagan’s jobs program. At newt.org, I put out last Friday the response to the Obama stagnation.

The fact is, if you took the peak of the Reagan unemployment, which he inherited from Carter, by last Friday, going month by month, under Ronald Reagan, we’d have 3,700,000 more Americans working.

When I was speaker, we added 11 million jobs, in a bipartisan effort, including welfare reform, the largest capital gains tax cut in history. We balanced the budget for four straight years.

The fact that President Obama doesn’t come to the Reagan Library to try to figure out how to create jobs, doesn’t talk to any of these three governors to learn how to create jobs, doesn’t talk to Herman Cain to learn how to create jobs tells you that this is a president so committed to class warfare and so committed to bureaucratic socialism that he can’t possibly be effective in jobs.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, thank you. (APPLAUSE)

The questioning — the questioning continues with John Harris.

HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you, Brian.

It didn’t take you folks long to mix it up on the question of jobs. I’d like to turn to another subject that’s been dominating this campaign. It’s health care. Governor Romney, four years ago on this same stage, you had this to say about your record in Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: … great opportunity for the entire country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Well, he had a lot more to say than that, didn’t he?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: I’m sorry. We had a little bit of a glitch right there, but, Governor, you said that what you did in Massachusetts was a great opportunity for the country. I’m going to get to you in just a minute.

What I’d first like to do is ask if anyone else on this stage agrees that the Massachusetts example was a great opportunity for the rest of the country.

(UNKNOWN): No.

(UNKNOWN): No.

PERRY: It was a great opportunity for us as a people to see what will not work, and that is an individual mandate in this country.

HARRIS: Got it. That actually, Governor Romney, leads to my question. I’ve heard you on this many times before. You said some things about the Massachusetts law worked; other things didn’t work as well. Let’s go to what Governor Perry mentioned, the individual mandate, the government saying that people have to buy health insurance. Was that one of the things that worked in Massachusetts?

ROMNEY: Let’s step back and make sure I make something very clear from the very outset. I understand health care pretty darn well, having been through what I went through as a governor. And one thing I’d do on day one if I’m elected president is direct my secretary of health and human services to put out an executive order granting a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states. It is bad law, it will not work, and I’ll get that done in day one.

(APPLAUSE) Now, number two, what we face in our state is different than what other states face. What we had is a lot of people who found that they could simply stop getting insurance, go to the hospital, and get free care paid for by the people, paid for by taxpayers. We were spending hundreds of millions of dollars in our state giving care to people who in some cases could afford to take care of themselves.

And we said, you know what? You’ve either got to get insurance, if you can afford it, or you’re going to have to help pay the cost of providing that care to your — to you. And that was the approach that we took.

It’s a model that lets other states take a look at it. Some parts of it have been copied by other states; some haven’t. One thing I know, and that is that what President Obama put in place is not going to work. It’s massively expensive. In our state, our plan covered 8 percent of the people, the uninsured.

HARRIS: Governor, time.

ROMNEY: His plan is taking over 100 percent of the people, and the American people don’t like it and should vote it down.

HARRIS: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Perry, you clearly don’t like the Massachusetts plan as an example for other states, but Massachusetts has nearly universal health insurance. It’s first in the country. In Texas, about a quarter of the people don’t have health insurance. That’s 50 out of 50, dead last. Sir, it’s pretty hard to defend dead last.

PERRY: Well, I’ll tell you what the people in the state of Texas don’t want: They don’t want a health care plan like what Governor Romney put in place in Massachusetts. What they would like to see is the federal government get out of their business.

For Medicaid, for instance — as a matter of fact, I bet Mitt and Jon would both agree — and I know Newt would, as well — Medicaid needs to be block-granted back to the states so that we can use the innovation in the states, come up with the best ways to deliver health care.

My wife is a nurse. And I’ll promise you, we understand that if we can get the federal government out of our business in the states when it comes to health care, we’ll come up with ways to deliver more health care to more people cheaper than what the federal government is mandating today with their strings attached, here’s how you do it, one-size-fits-all effort out of Washington, D.C.

That’s got to stop. And I’ll promise you: On day one, as the president of the United States, that executive order will be signed and Obamacare will be wiped out as much as it can be.

HARRIS: Governor, quick follow-up. Why are so many people in Texas uninsured? PERRY: Well, bottom line is that we would not have that many people uninsured in the state of Texas if you didn’t have the federal government. We’ve had requests in for years at the Health and Human Services agencies to have that type of flexibility where we could have menus, where we could have co-pays, and the federal government refuses to give us that flexibility.

We know for a fact that, given that freedom, the states can do a better job of delivering health care. And you’ll see substantially more people not just in Texas, but all across the country have access to better health care.

BACHMANN: John? John?

HARRIS: Thank you. Just one minute. I’d like to go to Governor Huntsman, if I could, because at the heart of this is this argument about the individual mandate. Is it ever appropriate for government at any level — federal or state — to force people to buy health insurance?

HUNTSMAN: Absolutely not. You know, at some point, we’re going to get around to talking about individual and personal responsibility. And I’m raising seven kids. I’ve got a couple of them here. The most important thing we can do in this health care debate — right, Rick — is talk about individual responsibility, personal responsibility.

But I’ve got another solution for you, with these two great governors over there, both of whom I like and admire. And I hate to tell you that the situation in Utah is pretty darn good, but I want to draw you to another example there. We embarked upon health care reform. We did better than Rick, in terms of covering the uninsured, and we don’t have a mandate. It allows the free market to create a marketplace of choices and options for people.

I believe that once Obamacare is repealed — and it will be — the question will then be, what do we do now? And I’m here to tell you that what we did in Utah is going to be a perfect example of what we do now.

We approach cost-cutting, cost overruns, harmonizing medical records, which doctors will tell you is a hugely consequential deal, and expanding the marketplace for choices and options for individuals to choose from, without a heavy-handed and expensive mandate that has caused…

HARRIS: Thank you.

HUNTSMAN: … for the average family in Massachusetts $2,500 bucks to go up.

HARRIS: Thanks. Thanks, Governor.

Congresswoman Bachmann, let’s turn to you. Is Governor Romney’s support of an individual mandate…

HARRIS: OK, Governor. Time.

Congresswoman Bachmann, why don’t we hear from you on that? It’s your plan.

BACHMANN: Energy is one of the greatest opportunities for job creation that we have in the United States. We just learned today that if the federal government would pull back on all of the regulatory restrictions on American energy production, we could see 1.2 million jobs created in the United States.

We could also see created over 50 percent more American energy production. And we could also see $800 billion more revenue coming into the United States government.

Don’t forget the day that President Obama took office, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. It’s entirely possible for us to get back to inexpensive energy.

The problem is, energy is too high. Let’s have a goal of bringing it down, because every time gasoline increases 10 cents a gallon, that’s $14 billion in economic activity that every American has taken out of their pockets. This is a great solution, and this is the place to start with American job creation.

(UNKNOWN): John?

HARRIS: Governor Huntsman, everybody would like $2 gas, but is it realistic for a president to promise that?

HUNTSMAN: Of course not. We live in — we live in the free- market economy. I’m not sure that dictating prices is going to get you anywhere.

But let’s face the reality of where we are. This is a perfect example of where presidential leadership matters. To have a president who would actually walk out from behind the TelePrompTer, get out of the way, speak from your heart and soul, just tell us about…

(APPLAUSE)

… just tell us about where you want this country to go, in terms of what we have in such great abundance, tell us where we think we can find that which we have and convert it into jobs and expanding our industrial base, and reminding the American people that they’re not paying $4 per gallon for gas. When you add up the cost of troop deployments, when you add up the cost of keeping the sea lanes open for the importation of imported oil, the bulk and distribution and terminaling costs (ph), it’s $13 a gallon, so says the Milken Institute. And I say the American people have had enough. We need a president who’s going to provide a little bit of leadership in getting us some direction and opening up the opportunities.

(UNKNOWN): We don’t…

HARRIS: Thank you. Congressman Paul, another question from a Politico reader. Do you advocate getting rid of the minimum wage? Would that create more jobs?

PAUL: Absolutely. And it would help the poor, the people who need a job. The minimum wage is a mandate. We’re against mandates, so why should we have it? No, it would be very beneficial.

But I was trying to get your attention a little while ago. There’s eight of us up here. I’m a physician, but you sure weren’t going to ask me any medical question. But I would like to address that just a little bit.

First off, you know, the governor of Texas criticized the governor of Massachusetts for Romneycare, but he wrote a really fancy letter supporting Hillarycare. So we probably ought to ask him about that.

But mandates, that’s what the whole society is about. That’s what we do all the time. That’s what government does: mandate, mandate, mandate. And what we — we talk so much about the Obama mandate, which is very important, but what about Medicare? Isn’t that a mandate? Everything we do is a mandate. So this is why you have to look at this at the cause of liberty. We don’t need the government running our lives.

And I — I do want to address the subject of $2 oil or gasoline, because I can do it much better than that. I can get you a gallon of gasoline for a dime.

HARRIS: Time. Time. Thank you, Congressman.

PAUL: Well, I’ve got to finish the sentence. You didn’t give me time before.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: These are rules that all of you agreed to that Brian…

ROMNEY: Let’s hear that.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Finish the sentence, or you’re all done?

PAUL: OK, I’m going to finish the sentence then. HARRIS: Quickly, please.

PAUL: OK, you can buy a gallon of gasoline today for a silver dime. A silver dime is worth $3.50. It’s all about inflation and too many regulations.

HARRIS: Good. Thank you, sir.

Now, Governor Perry, I saw you nod your head.

(APPLAUSE)

I saw you nod your head, Governor Perry, at the answer on the minimum wage that would create jobs. Do you agree with that?

PERRY: I actually was nodding my head when he said that I wrote a letter to Hillary and we were hoping…

(CROSSTALK)

PERRY: … that she would be able to come up with something that would not leave the agriculture men and women — because I was the agriculture commissioner at that particular point in time. We had no idea it was going to be the monstrosity that’s known as Hillarycare.

Speaking of letters, I was more interested in the one that you wrote to Ronald Reagan back and said I’m going to quit the party because of the things you believe in.

PAUL: Oh, I need an answer on that.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: You’ve got a 30-second rebuttal, Congressman.

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: I strongly supported Ronald Reagan. I was one of four in Texas — one of four members of Congress that supported Reagan in ’76. And I supported him all along, and I supported his — his — all his issues and all his programs.

But in the 1980s, we spent too much, we taxed too much, we built up our deficits, and it was a bad scene. Therefore, I support the message of Ronald Reagan. The message was great. But the consequence, we have to be honest with ourselves. It was not all that great. Huge deficits during the 1980s, and that is what my criticism was for, not for Ronald Reagan’s message. His message is a great message.

WILLIAMS: Funny thing about the mail. It kind of tends to live on forever.

To all of you, thank you. We’re going to hold in place, take a quick break. Our coverage of the debate from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: And we are back. Our live coverage continues of the GOP debate here tonight, Simi Valley, California, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, beneath the huge Air Force One Boeing 707.

I’m with John Harris of the website Politico, and we would be remiss, of course, any gathering in this space would, without a mention, perhaps a short tribute, to one of the most important people here tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS (voice-over): The legacy represented here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library is impressive: over 1 million photos, 60 million pages of documents, tens of thousands of audio and videotapes encompassing the life and work of the late president.

R. REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: But even this great place can’t evoke the full magnitude and spirit of Ronald Reagan’s life like his partner.

N. REAGAN: I was very blessed to find him.

WILLIAMS: Mrs. Reagan has always said her life started when she met Ronald Wilson Reagan. And from that point onward, they tackled everything together.

RONALD WILSON REAGAN, PRESIDENT Of THE UNITED STATES: I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear —

WILLIAMS: All along, Mrs. Reagan was his advisor and champion- in-chief. Their love for one another was an enduring image at the White House. That bond would sustain them through the unthinkable.

Though forever shaken, the work of the nation went on. Mrs. Reagan decided to dedicate herself to the Just Say No campaign.

N. REAGAN: If you’re ever offered drugs, please, please, just say no.

WILLIAMS: It was with great dignity and grace that President Reagan announced in 1994 he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

N. REAGAN: Each day brings another reminder of this very long good-bye.

WILLIAMS: Since saying farewell to her companion of over 50 years back in 2004, Mrs. Reagan has stayed active in public life, advocating for stem-cell research, and devoting herself to the celebration of her husband’s life and his lasting legacy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mrs. Nancy Reagan.

The questioning continues — John Harris.

HARRIS: Governor Perry, you said you wrote the book “Fed Up” to start a conversation. Congratulations. It’s certainly done that in recent weeks.

In the book, you call Social Security the best example of a program that “violently tossed aside any respect for states’ rights.” We understand your position that it’s got funding problems now. I’d like you to explain your view that Social Security was wrong right from the beginning.

PERRY: Well, I think any of us that want to go back and change 70 years of what’s been going on in this country is probably going to have a difficult time. And rather than spending a lot of time talking about what those folks were doing back in the ’30s and the ’40s, it’s a nice intellectual conversation, but the fact is we have got to be focussed on how we’re going to change this program.

And people who are on Social Security today, men and women who are receiving those benefits today, are individuals at my age that are in line pretty quick to get them, they don’t need to worry about anything. But I think the Republican candidates are talking about ways to transition this program, and it is a monstrous lie.

It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there. Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it’s not right.

HARRIS: OK. Thank you, sir.

Let me follow on that. You mentioned the phrase “Ponzi scheme.”

Just this morning, your former political adviser, Karl Rove, said that type of language could be “toxic,” as he put it, in a general election. Vice President Cheney gave an interview today to ABC News, when he said it’s not a Ponzi scheme, “It’s a program that a great many people depend on.”

My understanding is you’re standing by every word you’ve written in that book. Is that right?

PERRY: Yes, sir. You know, Karl has been over the top for a long time in some of his remarks. So I’m not responsible for Karl anymore. But the fact is —

HARRIS: Vice President Cheney though said it’s not a Ponzi scheme. You say it is.

PERRY: Absolutely. If Vice President Cheney or anyone else says that the program that we have in place today, and young people who are paying into that, expect that program to be sound, and for them to receive benefits when they research retirement age, that is just a lie. And I don’t care what anyone says. We know that, the American people know that, but more importantly, those 25-and-30-year-olds know that.

HARRIS: Governor, time. Thank you. Governor, time.

(APPLAUSE) HARRIS: Governor Romney, let’s be blunt. Let’s be blunt. Democrats are itching to use that kind of provocative language against Republicans, yet you acknowledge yourself that Social Security has funding problems.

How do you have a candid question about Social Security without scaring seniors?

ROMNEY: Well, the issue is not the funding of Social Security. We all agree and have for years that the funding program of Social Security is not working, and Congress has been raiding the dollars from Social Security to pay for annual government expenditures. That’s wrong. The funding, however, is not the issue.

The issue in the book “Fed Up,” Governor, is you say that by any measure, Social Security is a failure. You can’t say that to tens of millions of Americans who live on Social Security and those who have lived on it.

The governor says look, states ought to be able to opt out of Social Security. Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security.

We have always had, at the heart of our party, a recognition that we want to care for those in need, and our seniors have the need of Social Security. I will make sure that we keep the program and we make it financially secure. We save Social Security.

And under no circumstances would I ever say by any measure it’s a failure. It is working for millions of Americans, and I’ll keep it working for millions of Americans. And we’ve got to do that as a party.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Perry, a 30-second rebuttal. Governor Romney said Vice President Cheney is right and you’re wrong about Ponzi schemes.

PERRY: Well, here’s — again, we’re not trying to pick fights here.

HARRIS: Understood.

PERRY: We’re about fixing things. You can either have reasons or you can have results. And the American people expect us to put results in place.

You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme. It is. That is what it is. Americans know that, and regardless of what anyone says, oh, it’s not — and that’s provocative language — maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country and say things like, let’s get America working again and do whatever it takes to make that happen. (APPLAUSE)

CAIN: John, I think the American people would like to hear a solution.

HARRIS: OK.

CAIN: Do you want to hear some more rhetoric or do you want to hear a solution?

I happen to believe that yes, Social Security, it needs fixing, not continuing to talk about it. I believe in the Chilean model, where you give a personal retirement account option so we can move this society from an entitlement society to an empowerment society.

Chile had a broken system the way we did. Thirty years ago, a worker was paying 28 cents on a dollar into a broken system. They finally awakened and put in a system where the younger workers could have a choice. A novel idea.

Give them a choice with an account with their name on it, and over time we would eliminate the current broken system that we have. That is a solution to the problem. Rather than continuing to talk about how broken it is, let’s just fix it using the Chilean model.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: Thank you.

Congressman Paul, we’ve been talking just now about Governor Perry’s rhetoric, but let’s talk about his record.

Just this morning, your campaign put out a statement accusing him of pushing for bailout money, supporting welfare for illegal immigrants, and trying to forcibly vaccinate 12-year-old girls against sexually transmitted diseases.

He’s your home state governor. Is he less conservative than meets the eye?

PAUL: Much more so, yes.

Just take the HPV. Forcing 12-year-old girls to take an inoculation to prevent this sexually transmitted disease, this is not good medicine, I do not believe. I think it’s social misfit.

It’s not good social policy. And therefore, I think this is very bad to do this. But one of the worst parts about that was the way it was done.

You know, the governorship in Texas traditionally is supposed to be a weak governorship. I didn’t even know they could pass laws by writing an executive order. He did it with an executive order, passed it.

The state was furious, and the legislature, overwhelmingly, probably 90 percent — I don’t know exactly — overwhelmingly repealed this. But I think it’s the way it was passed, which was so bad.

I think it’s a bad piece of legislation. But I don’t like the idea of executive orders. I, as president, will not use the executive order to write laws.

HARRIS: Time. Thank you, Congressman.

Governor Perry, we’ll get to you.

But, Congresswoman Bachmann, this is an issue you have also talked about, HPV.

BACHMANN: Well, what I’m very concerned about is the issue of parental rights. I think when it comes to dealing with children, it’s the parents who need to make that decision. It is wrong for government, whether it’s state or federal government, to impose on parents what they must do to inoculate their children. This is very serious, and I think that it’s very important, again, that parents have the right.

Educational reform is another area. That’s where I cut my teeth in politics, was being involved in educational reform, because the problem you see is one of framing.

It’s the idea, should the federal government control these areas, or should parents and localities control these areas? We have the best results when we have the private sector and when we have the family involved. We have the worst results when the federal government gets involved, and especially by dictate to impose something like an inoculation on an innocent 12-year-old girl.

I would certainly oppose that.

HARRIS: Thank you.

Governor Perry, we’ve had candidates talking about you. Let’s hear from you.

PERRY: I kind of feel like the pinata here at the party, so…

HARRIS: Welcome.

PERRY: But here’s the facts of that issue. There was an opt-out in that piece of — it wasn’t legislation. It was an executive order.

I hate cancer. We passed a $3 billion cancer initiative that same legislative session of which we’re trying to find over the next 10 years cures to cancers. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV. We wanted to bring that to the attention of these thousands of — of — of — tens of thousands of young people in our state. We allowed for an opt-out.

I don’t know what’s more strong for parental rights than having that opt-out. There’s a long list of diseases that cost our state and cost our country. It was on that list.

Now, did we handle it right? Should we have talked to the legislature first before we did it? Probably so. But at the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: Senator Santorum, one final note on this book, “Fed Up.” Governor Perry says in his book that it was, quote, “unprincipled” for Republicans to vote in favor of creating the Department of Homeland Security. You were one of those Republicans who voted yes. Respond.

SANTORUM: We created the Department of Homeland Security because there was a complete mess in the internal — in protecting our country. We had all sorts of agencies that had conflicting authority. We had no information sharing that was going on. This was right after 9/11. We saw the problems created as a result of 9/11. And we put together a plan to try to make sure that there was better coordination.

I want to get back to this Gardasil issue. You know, we have — Governor Perry’s out there and — and claiming about state’s rights and state’s rights. How about parental rights being more important than state’s rights? How about having, instead of an opt-out, an opt- in?

If you really cared, you could make the case, instead of forcing me, as a parent — and I have seven children, too, the wide receivers here have — have — on the ends here have — have — have seven children each — but I am offended that — that the government would tell me — and by an executive order, without even going through the process of letting the people have any kind of input. I would expect this from President Obama; I would not expect this from someone who’s calling himself a conservative governor.

HARRIS: Time.

Governor Romney, you’ve been listening to this exchange. Who’s got the better end of it?

ROMNEY: You know, I believe in parental rights and parental responsibility for our kids. My guess is that Governor Perry would like to do it a different way second time through. We’ve each get — we’ve each taken a mulligan or two. And — and my guess is that that’s something you’d probably do a little differently the second time. He just said he’d rather do it through legislation second time through.

And I recognize he wanted very badly to provide better health care to his kids and to prevent the spread of cancer. I agree with — with those who said he went about it in the wrong way, but I think his heart was in the right place.

Right now, we have people who on this stage care very deeply about this country. We love America. America is in crisis. We have some differences between us, but we agree that this president’s got to go. This president is a nice guy. He doesn’t have a clue how to get this country working again. And — and…

(APPLAUSE) GINGRICH: Brian?

WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, 30 seconds. I have another line of questioning. Go ahead.

GINGRICH: Yeah, I just want to go back, frankly, to the homeland security question, because it’s important for us to confront this. I helped develop the model for homeland security. It hasn’t been executed well.

The fact is, we have enemies who want to use weapons against us that will lead to disasters on an enormous scale. And the original goal was to have a Homeland Security Department that could help us withstand up to three nuclear events in one morning.

And we need to understand, there are people out there who want to kill us. And if they have an ability to sneak in weapons of mass destruction, they’re going to use them. We need to overhaul and reform the department, but we need some capacity to respond to massive events that could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in one morning.

WILLIAMS: Congressman Paul, this same line. You want to demolish the TSA. What would exist in its place?

PAUL: With the airlines that are responsible for carrying their cargo and their passengers. I mean, why — why should we assume that a bureaucracy can do better? And look at the monstrosity we have at the airports. These TSA agents are abusive. Sometimes they’re accused of all kinds of sexual activities on the way they maul people at the airport. So the airlines could do that.

WILLIAMS: I’ll give them your best at LAX tonight.

PAUL: The — you know, I would — I would think the airlines should treat passengers as well as a company that hauls money around, and they — they protect their money. They have private guards. And — and they could do it.

Just remember, 9/11 came about because there was too much government. Government was more or less in charge. They told the pilots they couldn’t have guns, and they were told never to resist. They set up the stage for all this. So, no, private — private markets do a good job in protecting — much better than this bureaucracy called the TSA, let me tell you.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me ask you about something else. It’s related in a way, has to do with Mother Nature. Before the broadcast, Senator Santorum’s got flooding today in Pennsylvania, Governor Perry is just back from the wildfires, out east, a Category 1 laid waste to entire areas. There’s standing water tonight in Paterson, New Jersey, many of the towns around where I live, eight days without power. We had people eating in outdoor and public parks because the supermarkets were closed down.

The question is, federal aid, something like FEMA, if you object to what its become, how it’s run, your position is to — is to remove it, take it away, abolish it. What happens in its absence?

PAUL: Well, what happened before 1979? We didn’t have FEMA. And that — FEMA just conditioned people to build where they shouldn’t be building. We lose the market effect of that.

But, yeah, my position is, we should have never had it. There’s a much better way of doing it. I mean, this whole idea that the federal government can deal with weather and anything in the world, just got to throw a government there — FEMA’s broke. They’re $20 billion in debt.

But I’m not for saying tomorrow close it down. A lot of people pay the insurance. I work real hard to make it work, and I did that in my district, too.

But I’ll tell you how we should do it. We’re spending — believe it or not, this blew my mind when I read this — $20 billion a year for air conditioning in Afghanistan and Iraq in the tents over there and all the air conditioning. Cut that $20 billion out, bring in — take $10 off the debt, and put $10 into FEMA or whoever else needs it, child health care or whatever. But I’ll tell you what, if we did that and took the air conditioning out of the Green Zone, our troops would come home, and that would make me happy.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Mr. Cain, along these same lines, Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said that federal disaster aid — this has been a big discussion of late — shouldn’t be given out unless there are kind of concurrent spending cuts to offset the cost. Do you join in on that?

CAIN: I believe that there’s enough money to go around. And I believe that, yes, you can find the concurrent spending cuts in order to be able to do that. No, don’t eliminate FEMA. Let’s fix FEMA. Let’s fix Homeland Security.

There’s a responsible way for the federal government to do the things that it should do. Running organizations like the TSA, I would agree with Representative Paul, no. Having the federal government responsible for trying to micromanage Medicare, no, trying to micromanage education, no. The federal government is not good at micromanaging anything. This is why I believe in empowering the states to do more and limit what the federal government does with regard to those kinds of program.

WILLIAMS: Governor Huntsman, you know, the upside to this is, I guess, you could fly with your shoes on. The downside is, who does the job the next day?

HUNTSMAN: Let me just say, while this is an important discussion that we’re having, we’ve spent about 15 minutes now on homeland security. The greatest gift we could give this country on the 10th year anniversary, Rick, is a Homeland Security Department that really works, that doesn’t give people a sense when they walk through they’re going to get shaken down, a department that doesn’t make us all feel like there’s a fortress security mentality that is not American. And I’ve got to say there’s something wrong with that.

But I’m guessing there are a whole lot of people tuned in around this country who are saying, why are we spending all this time talking about the smaller issues? We’ve got 14 million people unemployed. We’ve got millions more in this country who are so dispirited they’ve quit looking. This is a human tragedy that we’re talking about, moms and dads and families that completely go without.

And all I would ask the people here and the people tuning in around this country, look at where we stand in terms of how we are going to get this country back on its feet.

And I just want to point out that we have offered — based on where I’ve been and what I have done — as governor of a state where we became number one in job creation, where we fixed the economy, made it the best economy for business in this entire country. We’ve got to get back on our feet.

This is a crisis situation. While all these other issues are important, let’s not lose sight, folks, of the bottom line here. We’ve got to get back in the game as a country. We’ve got to make this economy work.

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WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, you can’t have much of a workforce without a basis of education. As you know, your state ranks among the worst in the country in high school graduation rates, as we established, yet you recently signed a budget cut for millions in education funding. You pushed for greater cuts than were in the budget that the legislature passed. You’ve said that education is a top priority, but explain cutting it the way you did, please.

PERRY: Well, I think the reductions that we made were thoughtful reductions, and the fact of the matter is, Texas has made great progress in the 10 years that I’ve been governor, from the standpoint of our graduation rates now are up to 84 percent, higher than they’ve been during any period of time before that.

We’re seeing the type of commitment. Our 4th and 8th grader African-American and Hispanics on the NACH (ph) test, they were some of the highest in the country. We’re making progress. When you share the border with Mexico, and when you have as many individuals that we have coming into the state of Texas, we have a unique situation in our state.

But the fact is, I stand by a record from what we’ve done with the resources that we’ve had, and I think that the reductions that we put in place were absorbed by our schools, and we will continue to have one of the finest workforces made available. When Caterpillar and Toyota and eBay and Facebook move to your state, it’s not because you’ve got a workforce that’s not capable.

WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.

Speaker Gingrich, this reminds of “Race to the Top,” the Obama administration education program. You supported it, Governor Perry opted out, some people don’t like it. What did you like about it?

GINGRICH: I liked very much the fact that it talked about charter schools. It’s the one place I found to agree with President Obama. If every parent in America had a choice of the school their child went to, if that school had to report its scores, if there was a real opportunity, you’d have a dramatic improvement.

I visited schools where, three years earlier, there were fights, there were dropouts, there was no hope. They were taken over by a charter school in downtown Philadelphia, and all of a sudden the kids didn’t fight anymore, because they were disciplined. They were all asked every day, what college are you going to? Not are you going to go to college, what college are you going. And so I would — I am very much in favor of school choice.

My personal preference would be to have a Pell Grant for K-12 so that every parent could pick, with their child, any school they wanted to send them to, public or private, and enable them to have the choice.

I don’t think you’re ever going to reform the current bureaucracies. And the president, I thought, was showing some courage in taking on the teacher’s union to some extent and offering charter schools, and I wanted, frankly, to encourage more development towards choice.

WILLIAMS: I want to introduce another line of questioning by introducing yet another colleague of ours, Jose Diaz-Balart, from our sister network Telemundo.

Hey, my friend, how are you?

DIAZ-BALART: Good evening. Nice to see you all. Nice to see you all.

I want to talk about a subject that was very dear to the heart of President Reagan, which is immigration reform.

As you know, he was the last U.S. President to sign immigration reform in 1986. All of you, I think, have said that you don’t think immigration reform should be discussed until the border is secure.

And, Governor, I’d like to ask you, border state governor, what specifically, in your mind, would make the border secure?

PERRY: Well, the first thing you need to do is have boots on the ground. We’ve had a request in to this administration since June — or January of 2009 for 1,000 border patrol agents or National Guard troops, and working towards 3,000 border patrol. That’s just on the Texas border.

There’s another 50 percent more for the entire Mexican border. So you can secure the border, but it requires a commitment of the federal government of putting those boots on the ground, the aviation assets in the air.

We think predator drones could be flown, that real-time information coming down to the local and the state and the federal law enforcement. And you can secure the border. And at that particular point in time, then you can have an intellectually appropriate discussion about immigration reform.

For the President of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas, and say that the border is safer than it’s ever been, either he has some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country, or he was an abject liar to the American people. It is not safe on that border.

DIAZ-BALART: Governor, specifically, do you agree or disagree with some of the issues that the governor of Texas says, as far as what you would consider enough to be able to declare the border safe?

ROMNEY: Well, first, we ought to have a fence. Secondly…

DIAZ-BALART: The whole fence, 2,600 miles?

ROMNEY: Yes. We got to — we got to have a fence, or the technologically approved system to make sure that we know who’s coming into the country, number one.

Number two, we ought to have enough agents to secure that fence and to make sure that people are coming over are caught.

But the third thing, and I learned this when I was with border patrol agents in San Diego, and they said, look, they can always get a ladder to go over the fence. And people will always run to the country. The reason they come in such great numbers is because we’ve left the magnet on.

And I said, what do you mean, the magnet? And they said, when employers are willing to hire people who are here illegally, that’s a magnet, and it draws them in. And we went in and talked about sanctuary cities, giving tuition breaks to the kids of illegal aliens, employers that, employers that knowingly hire people who are here illegally. Those things also have to be stopped.

If we want to secure the border, we have to make sure we have a fence, technologically, determining where people are, enough agents to oversee it, and turn off that magnet. We can’t talk about amnesty, we cannot give amnesty to those who have come here illegally.

We’ve got 4.7 million people waiting in line legally. Let those people come in first, and those that are here illegally, they shouldn’t have a special deal.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: Speaker Gingrich, your perception on immigration reform? And you’ve been, I think, in some ways, a little different on your initial positions.

GINGRICH: I think we have to find a way to get to a country in which everybody who’s here is here legally. But you started by referencing President Reagan.

In 1986, I voted for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which in fact did grant some amnesty in return for promises. President Reagan wrote in his diary that year that he signed the act because we were going to control the border and we were going to have an employer program where it was a legal guest worker program. That’s in his diary.

I’m with President Reagan. We ought to control the border, we ought to have a legal guest worker program. We ought to outsource it, frankly, to American Express, Visa, and MasterCard, so there’s no counterfeiting, which there will be with the federal government. We should be very tough on employers once you have that legal program.

We should make English the official language of government. We should insist —

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: We should insist that first-generation immigrants who come here learn American history in order to become citizens. We should also insist that American children learn American history.

And then find a way to deal with folks who are already here, some of whom, frankly, have been here 25 years, are married with kids, live in our local neighborhood, go to our church. It’s got to be done in a much more humane way than thinking that to automatically deport millions of people.

HARRIS: Senator, your solution?

SANTORUM: Well, my solution is very similar to Newt Gingrich’s.

Look, I’m the son of an Italian immigrant. I think immigration is one of the great things that has made this country the dynamic country that it continues to be, people who are drawn because of the ideals of this country. And so we should not have a debate talking about how we don’t want people to come to this country, but we want them to come here like my grandfather and my father came here.

They made sacrifices. They came in the 1920s. There were no promises. There were no government benefits.

They came because they wanted to be free and they wanted to be good law-abiding citizens. So we have to have a program in place that sets that parameter that says, you’re going to come to this country, come here according to the rules. It’s a very good first step that the first thing you do here is a legal act, not an illegal act.

HARRIS: A quick follow-up, 30 seconds.

So there are 11 million people that — fait accompli. They’re here. What do you do with them if you are able to secure the border?

SANTORUM: Well, I think we can have the discussion, that whether what we do with people, how long they’ve been here, whether they had other types of records. But to have that discussion right now and pull the same trick that was pulled in 1986 — we said, well, we’ll promise to do this if you do that — no more. We are going to secure the border first, and that’s the most important thing to do, then we’ll have the discussion afterwards.

HARRIS: Congresswoman, you said the fence — that you believe the fence is fundamental as an integral part of controlling the border. Let’s say that in 2012 or 2013, there’s a fence, the border is secure, gasoline is $2 a gallon.

What do you do then with 11 million people, as the Speaker says, many of whom have U.S.-born children here? What do you do?

BACHMANN: Well, again, understand the context and the problem that we’re dealing with.

In Mexico right now, we’re dealing with narco terrorists. This is a very serious problem. To not build a border or a fence on every part of that border would be, in effect, to yield United States sovereignty not only to our nation anymore, but to yield it to another nation. That we cannot do.

One thing that the American people have said to me over and over again — and I was just last week down in Miami. I was visiting the Bay of Pigs Museum with Cuban-Americans. I was down at the Versailles Cafe. I met with a number of people, and it’s very interesting. The Hispanic-American community wants us to stop giving taxpayer- subsidized benefits to illegal aliens and benefits, and they want us to stop giving taxpayer-subsidized benefits to their children as well.

HARRIS: A quick 30-second rebuttal on the specific question.

The fence is built, the border is under control. What do you do with 11.5 million people who are here without documents and with U.S.- born children?

BACHMANN: Well, that’s right. And again, it is sequential, and it depends upon where they live, how long they have been here, if they have a criminal record. All of those things have to be taken into place.

But one thing that we do know, our immigration law worked beautifully back in the 1950s, up until the early 1960s, when people had to demonstrate that they had money in their pocket, they had no contagious diseases, they weren’t a felon. They had to agree to learn to speak the English language, they had to learn American history and the Constitution.

And the one thing they had to promise is that they would not become a burden on the American taxpayer. That’s what we have to enforce.

HARRIS: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Let’s make sure — let’s solve all of the problems. It’s not one problem.

I do believe we can secure the border with a combination of boots on the ground, technology, and a fence, but we’ve got three other problems. And to get to it, we’ve got to secure the border.

Secondly, let’s promote the path to citizenship that’s already there. We don’t need a new one, we just need to clean up the bureaucracy that’s slowing the process down and discouraging people.

The third thing we need to do, enforce the laws that are there, and the way we do it, empower the states. I believe that the people closest to the problem are the best ones to be able to solve that problem. Empower the states to do what the federal government hasn’t done, can’t do, and won’t do. This is how we solve the entire problem.

HARRIS: Thank you.

Governor?

HUNTSMAN: I would just have to say that I agree with so much of what has been said here today.

President Reagan, when he made his decision back in 1987, he saw this as a human issue. And I hope that all of us, as we deal with this immigration issue, will always see it as an issue that resolves around real human beings.

Yes, they came here in an illegal fashion. And yes, they should be punished in some form or fashion.

I have two daughters that came to this country, one from China, one from India, legally. I see this issue through their eyes.

We can find a solution. If President Reagan were here, he would speak to the American people and he would lay out in hopeful, optimistic terms how we can get there, remembering full well that we’re dealing with human beings here. We have to agree.

But let me just say one thing about legal immigration. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that our legal immigration system is broken. And if we want to do something about attracting brain power to this country, if we want to lift real estate values.

For example, why is it that Vancouver is the fastest-growing real estate market in the world today? They allow immigrants in legally, and it lifts all votes (ph). And we need to focus as much on legal immigration.

HARRIS: Congressman, your thoughts?

PAUL: Obviously, it’s a very big problem. I think we need to remove the incentive — easy road to citizenship. Nobody has mentioned the fact that they qualify for benefits as well, you know, the welfare benefits. We shouldn’t have to give — the state of Texas shouldn’t be forced to provide free health care and free education.

But there is a mess down there, and it’s a big mess. And it’s the drug war that’s going on there. And our drug laws are driving this. So now we’re killing thousands and thousands of people. That makes it much more complicated. But the people who want big fences and guns, sure, we can secure the borders — a barbed-wire fence with machine guns, that would do the trick.

I don’t believe that’s what America is all about. I just really don’t.

We can enforce our law. If we had a healthy economy, this wouldn’t be such a bad deal. People are worrying about jobs. But every time you think about this toughness on the border and I.D. cards and real ideas, think that it’s a penalty against the American people, too.

I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to lead (ph) with their capital. And there’s capital controls and there’s people control. So, every time you think of fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.

HARRIS: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: To my colleague, Jose Diaz-Balart. Thank you. Thank you very much.

HARRIS: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: This is — we’re going to take our final break now.

When we come back, the final portion of our debate from the Reagan Presidential Library, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: We are back. And as we said, this is the final portion of our debate. The campaigns have told us they wish not to have anything called anything close to a lightning round, but let’s just say we’d like the frequency and velocity of the questions to quicken in this segment. We’ll try to move it along and fit a lot in.

Starting with you, Governor Romney, are you a member of the Tea Party?

ROMNEY: I don’t think you carry cards in the Tea Party. I believe in a lot of what the Tea Party believes in. The Tea Party believes that government’s too big, taxing too much, and that we ought to get — get to the work of getting Americans to work.

So I put together a plan with a whole series of points of how we can get America’s economy going again. Tea Party people like that. So if the Tea Party is for keeping government small and spending down, and helping us create jobs, then, hey, I’m for the Tea Party.

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, you missed this at the last debate. At the previous debate, everyone on stage raised their hand to say they would — I want to get this exactly right — not have accepted a debt deal that included $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. We’ve been anxious to get you on the record now that you have jumped into this. Would you take that deal?

PERRY: I join my fellow participants here. What we should have been looking at is a way to get the spending under control and capping it, cutting it, and getting a balanced budget amendment. When you get a balanced budget amendment in Washington, D.C., you will finally start getting the snake’s head cut off. I mean, the fact of the matter is, until you get a balanced budget amendment — I don’t care whether Democrats or Republicans are going to be in control in Washington, D.C. — balanced budget amendment, and then the American people can go to sleep at night with a little more comfort that they’re going to wake up and not be broke in the morning.

WILLIAMS: Did anyone else who had their hand up at that last debate want to amend your comment or vote since then? Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: Well, I wanted to say is, there’s someone else who would join us in that agreement, and that would be Ronald Reagan, because Ronald Reagan made a deal where he took $3 in — in spending cuts for $1 in tax increases. And, in fact, what happened is that there ended up being $3 in tax increases and $1 in tax cuts.

That’s the problem with Washington, D.C. I’ve seen it all the time. That’s why I’ve been leading on this issue for the last five years and why we can’t trust the status quo in Washington, D.C.

We have to have a president with a core sense of conviction that’s going to fight on these issues and recognize. And so we would — we would welcome the former president to this club.

WILLIAMS: Governor Huntsman, you’ve said some interesting things about pledges. Everyone up here has taken a pledge not to raise taxes. Dangerous business to you?

HUNTSMAN: I’d love to get everybody to sign a pledge to take no pledges. I — I have a pledge to my wife, and I pledge allegiance to my country, but beyond that, no pledges. I think it diminishes the political discussion. I think it jeopardizes your ability to lead once you get there.

And I started when I approached, when I first ran for governor in 2004, as someone who wanted to pin me down on taxes, I said, no thanks, I’m not going to sign it. I didn’t raise taxes. We had historic tax cuts in our state. So look at somebody’s record. That’s always a pretty good indicator and barometer of where they’re likely to go.

WILLIAMS: I want to go back to your comments on 9/11 to ask kind of an obvious follow-up. Do you think we’re safer today?

HUNTSMAN: I think we’ve lost our confidence as a country. I think we have had our innocence shattered. I think, 10 years later, we look at the situation and we say, we have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. This is not about nation-building in Afghanistan. This is about nation-building at home.

Our core is broken. We are weak. We have got to strengthen ourselves. I say we’ve got to bring those troops home.

(APPLAUSE) In Afghanistan — in Afghanistan, the reality is it is an asymmetrical counterterror effort. We need intelligence. We need special forces. And we need some training on the ground.

But I think one way to commemorate our 10-year anniversary of 9/11, remembering the 3,000-plus people who died in New York and in Pennsylvania and in Washington, is to say it’s time for this country to set a goal for ourselves: We’re going to get our core fixed. We’re going to do some nation-building right here at home.

WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.

Governor Romney, would you agree that there’s a crisis of confidence in the United States right now?

ROMNEY: Oh, absolutely. People are convinced that we’re going to go into another recession. I sure hope we don’t. People are worried about whether they can make their bills at the end of the month. A lot of folks have stopped looking for work. People who have jobs are worried they might lose their jobs.

Look, we have — we have a crisis in confidence in part because we have an absence of leadership. We selected as a president a guy who had never worked in the private sector, a person who’d never been a leader, who’d never been able to get anything moving, and — and we said, let’s let this guy run the country, and he’s — he’s just over his head, and right now, he’s flailing about. We’ll see his plan tomorrow; it will be more like the plans in the past.

We need to have an individual lead this country who not only loves America, but has the experience to get us back on track of being competitive globally. That’s — I put together — I want to make it very clear — I put together an outline of what it takes to get America back on the right track. It’s a whole series of changes that have to occur, from energy policy, to tax policy, regulatory policy, changes in our trade policies.

We’ve got to change the way we’re — we’re structured economically if we want to get people back to work in this country and keep America as we’ve always been, this extraordinary job machine. We can be the best place in the world to be in the middle class again, with jobs plentiful for our kids and for each one of us that are looking for those jobs today. I know how to do that. And that’s why I’m in this race.

WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.

To John Harris.

HARRIS: Governor Perry, as we approach the 9/11 anniversary, I’d like to stick with national security for a moment. You recently said, quote, “I do not believe that America should fall subject to a foreign policy of military adventurism.” Looking back, do you think President George W. Bush was too quick to launch military intervention without thinking through the risks?

PERRY: I was making a comment about a philosophy; I don’t think America needs to be in the business of adventurism.

But let me just say something about the president of the United States. And I know he’s — he’s taken lots of slings and arrows here today. But one thing that I want to say that he did do that I agree with is that he maintained the — the chase and — and we took out a very bad man in the form of bin Laden, and I — and I tip my hat to him.

I give more props to those Navy SEALs that did the job, but — and the other thing this president’s done, he has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job. Keynesian policy and Keynesian theory is now done. We’ll never have to have that experiment on America again.

And I might add that he kept Gitmo open against the will of his base, and I’m glad he did that. America’s safer for it.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: Sir, just if I could quickly follow on that, you said you were making a philosophical comment, but it’s hard to understand philosophy without understanding specifics. Where are some of the places where you think we’ve seen military adventurism?

PERRY: As I said, that is — that was a philosophical statement that Americans don’t want to see their young men and women going into foreign countries without a clear reason that American interests are at stake. And they want to see not only a clear entrance; they want to see a clear exit strategy, as well.

We should never put our young men and women’s lives at risk when American interests are not clearly defined by the president of the United States, and that’s one of the problems this president is doing today.

HARRIS: Congresswoman Bachmann, on the same theme, you opposed the U.S. intervention in Libya. If President Obama had taken the same view, Gadhafi would, in all likelihood, still be in power today.

To be clear, are you advocating a shift away from the George W. Bush freedom agenda with its emphasis on removing dictators from power and promoting human rights?

BACHMANN: Well, I want to say, as devastating as our economy is with the policies of Barack Obama, I think that he has actually weakened us militarily and with the United States presence globally. We have, for many years, maintained global order in the world with our United States military. We have the finest military. But in this last debt ceiling debate, one of the alternatives that came forward that we’re going to be looking at with this new super committee of 12 different members of Congress is to see that our military could be hit with a huge reduction in resources.

The president has not done what he needs to do to keep the United States safe. If you look at the biggest issue in the Middle East, it’s a nuclear Iran, and the president has taken his eyes off that prize.

As a matter of fact, what he’s done is he’s said, in fact, to Israel that, they need to shrink back to their indefensible 1967 borders. I sit on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We deal with the nation’s classified secrets. And I firmly believe that the president of the United States has weakened us militarily and put us more at risk than at any time.

HARRIS: Congresswoman, time. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: I just want to follow up on that. The Arab Spring is a big, big issues in the world. And the question is, what role does the U.S. have, including militarily, to promote democracy and topple dictators? I didn’t hear your answer with respect to Libya.

BACHMANN: Well, I believe that it was wrong for the president to go into Libya. Number one, his own secretary of defense, Gates, said that there was no American vital interest in Libya. If there is no vital interest, that doesn’t even meet the threshold of the first test for military involvement.

The other thing is, we didn’t know who the rebel forces were in Libya. Take a look at where we’re at in Libya today.

Take a look at the oil revenues. We don’t know if they will get in the hands of people who will have designs on radical Islam and the implication of a global caliphate. These are very serious issues, and I think it was wrong for the president of the United States to go into Libya.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, your reaction to Congresswoman Bachmann’s stand on what we’re watching take place in Libya right up until tonight.

SANTORUM: Well, we’re in the Reagan Library, and I’m hearing from at least a couple of people on this panel a very isolationist view of where the Republican Party should be headed about pulling troops out with Governor Huntsman and with Ron Paul.

The bottom line is, Ronald Reagan was committed to America being a force for good around the world. We were a society that believed in ourselves and believed that we can spread our vision to the rest of the world and make this country a safer country as a result of it.

We didn’t have missions where we put exit strategies saying this date is when we’re going to leave. We didn’t say that we are the problem and the cause of the problems that confront us around the world.

We were — we are a source for good. We could have been a source for good from the very get-go in Libya, but this president was indecisive and confused from the very beginning. He only went along with the Libyan mission because the United Nations told him to, which is something that Ronald Reagan would have melted like the old Wicked Witch of the West before he would have allowed that to happen.

WILLIAMS: Senator, time.

SANTORUM: This is a very important issue for our party. Are we going to stand in the Reagan tradition, or are we going to go the isolationist view that some in this party are advocating?

WILLIAMS: Time.

HARRIS: Governor Huntsman, I’d like to get to you. I’ve got a question. Your chief political adviser has been quoted very prominently as describing the Republican Party as “a bunch of cranks,” and said your opponents on the stage “make a buffet of crazy and inane comments.” I’m sure that’s insulting to some of these people up here.

We’re now here face to face. Tell us which one of these people are saying crazy or inane things.

HUNTSMAN: Well, I’m sure you have John Weaver’s telephone number. You can go ahead and give him a call.

HARRIS: OK.

HUNTSMAN: But let me just say —

HARRIS: Well — hand on. Let’s follow up on that, because you speak for yourself.

You yourself have said the party is in danger of becoming anti- science. Who on this stage is anti-science?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I’m saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can’t run from science. We can’t run from mainstream conservative philosophy. We’ve got to win voters.

We’ve got to do what I did as governor, when I was re-elected. We reached out and we brought in independents. I got independents. I got conservative Democrats. If we’re going to win in 2012, we’ve got to make sure that we have somebody who can win based upon numbers of the math that will get us there. And by making comments that basically don’t reflect the reality of the situation, we turn people off.

Number two, we’ve got to have somebody who can lead. This president was successful in getting elected. He can’t lead this country. He can’t even lead his own party.

I’m here to tell you: I can get elected. I can bring the numbers together to make this successful in 2012. And I can lead based upon where I’ve been as governor.

HARRIS: Governor Perry — Governor Perry, Governor Huntsman were not specific about names, but the two of you do have a difference of opinion about climate change. Just recently in New Hampshire, you said that weekly and even daily scientists are coming forward to question the idea that human activity is behind climate change. Which scientists have you found most credible on this subject?

PERRY: Well, I do agree that there is — the science is — is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at — at — at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.

But the fact is, to put America’s economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country is not good economics and I will suggest to you is not necessarily good science. Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.

HARRIS: Just to follow up quickly. Tell us how you’ve done that.

(APPLAUSE)

Are there specific — specific scientists or specific theories that you’ve found especially compelling, as you…

(CROSSTALK)

PERRY: Let me tell you what I find compelling, is what we’ve done in the state of Texas, using our ability to regulate our clean air. We cleaned up our air in the state of Texas, more than any other state in the nation during the decade. Nitrous oxide levels, down by 57 percent. Ozone levels down by 27 percent.

That’s the way you need to do it, not by some scientist somewhere saying, “Here is what we think is happening out there.” The fact of the matter is, the science is not settled on whether or not the climate change is being impacted by man to the point where we’re going to put America’s economics in jeopardy.

WILLIAMS: Governor, time.

Congresswoman Bachmann, a question about energy, back to that subject for a moment. Were you quoted correctly — and do you stand by it — as wanting to drill in the Everglades in Florida?

BACHMANN: The question was asked of me about that. And what I said is we have American energy resources all across this nation. And, of course, we would do it responsibly. That was my response at the time.

And on this issue on human — human activity as being the cause of climate change, I think it’s important to note that the president recognized how devastating the EPA has been in their rulemaking, so much so that the president had to suspend current EPA rules that would have led to the shutting down of potentially 20 percent of all of America’s coal plants.

Coal is the source that brings 45 percent of America’s electricity. What we’re seeing is that a political agenda is being advanced instead of a scientific agenda. And this is leading to the — to massive numbers of jobs being lost.

The president told us he wanted to be like Spain when it came to green job creation, and yet Spain has one of the highest levels of unemployment. The president is bringing that here in the United States. And I think tomorrow night, when the nation tunes in to the president, I’m afraid that we won’t be seeing permanent solution. I’m afraid what we’ll be seeing are temporary gimmicks and more of the same that he’s given before.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, time.

Speaker Gingrich, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, will come to the end of his term in 2014. Would you reappoint Ben Bernanke?

GINGRICH: I would fire him tomorrow.

WILLIAMS: Why?

GINGRICH: I think he’s been the most inflationary, dangerous, and power-centered chairman of the Fed in the history of the Fed. I think the Fed should be audited. I think the amount of money that he has shifted around in secret, with no responsibility, no — no — no accountability, no transparency, is absolutely antithetical to a free society. And I think his policies have deepened the depression, lengthened the problems, increased the cost of gasoline, and been a disaster.

I want to take the rest of my time, Brian, to go back to a question you asked that was very important. We were asked the wrong question at the last debate. The question isn’t, would we favor a tax increase? The question is, how would we generate revenue?

There are three good ways. The Ronald Reagan technique put 3,700,000 more people back to work as of last Friday. You reduce government spending. You raise government revenues enormously. The committee of 12 ought to be looking at, how do you create more revenue, not how do you raise taxes.

Second, you go to energy, exactly as Michele Bachmann has said. You open up American energy, $500 billion a year here at home, enormous increase in federal revenue.

Third, we own — with all due respect, Governor — we own 69 percent of Alaska. That’s one-and-a-half Texases. Now, let’s set half of Texas — let’s set a half Texas aside for national parks. We could liberate an area the size of Texas for minerals and other development. That would raise even more revenue, not the normal Washington viewpoint.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, time. Governor Romney…

(APPLAUSE)

… you — you often here this figure, 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, and — and the promised effort underway soon, at least, in Washington to correct that. Isn’t some of this argument semantics? And won’t the effort to correct that be a de facto tax increase? ROMNEY: You know, I must admit, I have a bit of a hard time with the idea that there are people who don’t feel like they’re supporting our troops by contributing tax revenue through — through the income tax or through other tax vehicles.

I don’t want to raise taxes on the American people, but I think everybody ought to feel that they’re part of this effort and that they’re providing for our military, providing for our roads, providing for our schools. That ought to be part of what — what every American experiences.

But right now, the question is not the people at the — that are not paying taxes at the low end. The question is not the people who are very, very rich. The question is, how about middle-income Americans?

Who are the people most hurt by the Obama economy? And the answer is the middle class. The great majority of Americans are having a very, very difficult time. And our effort has to be to find ways to reduce to burden on those people.

And that’s why I’ve proposed that anybody who’s earning $200,000 a year and less ought to be able to save their money tax-free, no tax on interest, dividends, or capital gains. Let people save their money, invest in America, and not have to give more money to the government. The middle class needs our help.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Would Ben Bernanke have a job in your administration?

ROMNEY: No, I’d be looking for somebody new. I’m — I think Ben Bernanke has — has over-inflated the amount of currency that he’s created. QE2 did not work. It did not get Americans back to work. It did not get the economy going again. We’re still seeing declining numbers in prior quarter estimates as to what the — the growth would be. We’re growing now at 1 percent to 1.5 percent.

The plan I put forward just two days ago in Nevada will grow our economy at 4 percent per year for four years and add — add — 11.5 million jobs. That’s a very different approach than Ben Bernanke’s taken, and it’s a demonstrably different approach than Barack Obama has taken, and that’s in part because we have very different life experiences.

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you…

(APPLAUSE)

Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?

PERRY: No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which — when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that’s required.

But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.

WILLIAMS: What do you make of…

(APPLAUSE)

What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?

PERRY: I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of — of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens — and it’s a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don’t want you to commit those crimes against our citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.

HARRIS: Mr. Cain, Mr. Cain, I’d like to get you into this tax discussion we’ve had recently.

CAIN: Yes.

HARRIS: The General Electric Corporation last year — this is a prominent case — made $14.2 billion in profits worldwide, but paid no U.S. taxes. Perfectly legal, but does it strike you as fair?

CAIN: This is why I proposed my 9-9-9 plan. The government needs to get out of the business of picking winners and losers. The government needs to get out of the business of trying to figure out who gets a tax break here, who gets a tax break there.

When you go to 9-9-9, it levels the playing field for all businesses. What a novel idea. And the government won’t be in the business of trying to determine who’s going to be able to make more money and pay no taxes and vice versa.

Secondly, this recession is the worst recession since the Great Depression. If the recovery that this administration claims would just tie for last place, we would have another 6 million jobs. If it would tie for the recovery that took place in the ’80s under President Reagan, we’d have 12 million more jobs out there, which would be music to the ears of the 14 million people looking for jobs. The president simply does not understand that the business sector is the engine for economic growth.

WILLIAMS: Congressman Paul, a long time ago…

(APPLAUSE) A long time ago, a fellow Texan of yours, a young student teacher in Cotulla, Texas, was horrified to see young kids coming into the classroom hungry, some of them with distended bellies because of hunger. He made a vow that if he ever had anything to do about it, the government would provide meals, hot meals at best, in schools. The young student teacher, of course, was — later went on to be President Lyndon Johnson. Do you think that is any more — providing nutrition at schools for children — a role of the federal government?

PAUL: Well, I’m sure, when he did that, he did it with local government, and there’s no rules against that. That’d be fine. So that doesn’t imply that you want to endorse the entire welfare state. You imply (ph) I’d endorse all welfare (ph). Any time I challenge it, you’re going to challenge the whole welfare system.

No. It isn’t authorized in the Constitution for us to run a welfare state. And it doesn’t work. All it’s filled up with is mandates. And the mandates are what we’re objecting to. I want to repeal all the mandates.

But, yes, if there are poor people in Texas, we have a responsibility — I’d like to see it voluntary as possible — but under our Constitution, our states have that right — if they feel the obligation, they have a perfect right to.

So don’t always try to turn around and say that we who believe in liberty, we lack compassion, because we who believe in liberty and understand the market, we’re the only ones that really understand how people are taken care of, how they are fed, and how people have jobs. It’s the market. It’s never the government that does it.

So this whole idea that there’s something wrong with people who don’t lavish out free stuff from the federal government somehow aren’t compassionate enough. I resist those accusations.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.

Somewhat — somewhat hard to believe. The campaigns have notified us we’re actually a few minutes over the time we were allotted for tonight, and so our questioning will have to come to an end, with hearty thanks to so many people, most notably the candidates here on stage, but to the good folks here at the Reagan Library, the Reagan Foundation, notably, Mrs. Reagan.

To our partners in all of this, Politico, my partner in the questioning, John here, thank you very much. Terrific.

And thank you all for watching. Our coverage will continue. One of the few things you can count on, we’ll be back at this. There will be many more of these discussions. That wraps up our live coverage of this portion of the debate from Southern California.

(APPLAUSE)


 

Campaign Buzz September 7, 2011: Rick Perry & Mitt Romney Steal the Show & Vie for Winner of the Republican Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Library

CAMPAIGN 2012

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Monica Almeida/The New York Times
The candidates, in the final moment before the debate began.

IN FOCUS: GOP PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE AT REAGAN LIBRARY

Campaign Buzz September 7, 2011: Full Text Transcript Republican Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Library — Rick Perry & Mitt Romney Steal the Show — NYT, 9-7-11

Republican Debate Live Coverage ABC News, 9-7-11

Who won the Reagan debate? Politico Arena, 9-7-11

    • Republican Debate 2011: Reagan Library hosts GOP Presidential Candidates (Live Updates): The Republican Candidates Debate at the Reagan Library happens tonight at 8pm. Eight Presidential candidates will square off in a debate co-moderated by John F. Harris of POLITICO and Brian Williams of NBC News. We’ll be updating this page throughout the night with highlights from POLITICO’s coverage and around the web. Also check out our Burns and Haberman live blog and watch the debate livestream…. – Politico, 9-7-11
    • Live-Blogging the GOP Debate: Texas Gov. Rick Perry makes his debate debut tonight at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.
      The GOP presidential debate is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. EDT, and will be carried live on MSNBC. It will also air later on CNBC and Telemundo.
      All eyes are on the Texas governor, who quickly sprinted to the front of the field in just a few short weeks, to see how he answers difficult questions about his past and fends off attacks from his rivals for the nomination. Will the outspoken Texan offer up another of his over-the-top remarks — like calling Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke‘s monetary policy “treasonous” or Social Security “a Ponzi scheme”? Or will he wade into the night with a front-runner’s reserve?
      Likewise, will former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney go on the attack after losing his perch atop most national polls? And how will tea-party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann react now that she is no longer the flavor-of-the-month? And will Rep. Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum renew their spirited feud from the last debate?
      Sparks flew when Republicans gathered in Ames, Iowa, last month, but the race has fundamentally altered since Tim Pawlenty quit the field after a lackluster finish in the Iowa straw poll and Mr. Perry commandeered the spotlight…. – WSJ, 9-7-11

“We created more jobs in the last three months in Texas, than he created in four years in Massachusetts…..
Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.” — Rick Perry

“Gov. Perry doesn’t believe he created those things, if he tried to say that, well it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet….
As a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, governor.” — Mitt Romney

“I hate to rain on the parade of the Lone Star governor, but as governor of Utah we were the No. 1 job creator during my years of service.” — Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman

“It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there. Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it’s not right.” — — Rick Perry

“Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who’s committed to saving Social Security.” — Mitt Romney

“I kind of feel like the piñata here at the party.” — Rick Perry said midway through the debate

    • FACTBOX-Romney, Perry spar at Republican debate: Republican presidential hopeful Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney sparred over who did a better job at promoting employment in a testy exchange at a debate on Wednesday night.
      Since entering the race just weeks ago to unseat Democratic President Barack Obama, Perry has knocked Romney off his front-runner perch and is now leading in the polls…. – Reuters, 9-7-11
    • Governor Perry comes out swinging at debate: Texas Governor Rick Perry came out swinging in his national debut on Wednesday, all but calling President Barack Obama a liar, describing Social Security as a fraud and attacking his main Republican rival in the presidential race.
      Perry, a conservative Tea Party favorite and the Republican front-runner, traded barbs with closest competitor Mitt Romney over who has created more jobs.
      Their testy exchange in Perry’s first presidential debate was proof that the fight to determine the 2012 Republican challenger to Democrat Obama is becoming a two-man contest…. – Reuters, 9-7-11
    • Romney, Perry spar over jobs, Social Security: Eager to tangle, Republican presidential rivals Rick Perry and Mitt Romney sparred vigorously over job creation and Social Security Wednesday night in a lively campaign debate that marked a new turn in the race to pick a 2012 challenger to President Barack Obama…. – AP, 9-7-11
    • Romney and Perry Clash, Drawing Lines in G.O.P. Sand: The fight for the Republican presidential nomination began narrowing into an intense and ideological battle at a debate here Wednesday night, with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Mitt Romney sharply clashing over Social Security, health care and each other’s long-term prospect against President Obama.
      A series of spirited exchanges between the two men, which revealed differences in substance and style, offered the first extensive look into the months-long contest ahead that will offer Republican voters a starkly different choice. They traded attacks on each other’s job creation records and qualifications to be president, overshadowing their opponents in the crowded Republican field…. – NYT, 9-7-11
    • Panelists, GOP rivals target Perry from outset of debate: Texas Gov. Rick Perry got a rugged baptism to the Republican presidential race Wednesday as both his opponents and the panelists of a debate here pitched pointed questions to Perry about his 10-year record and views expressed in his 2010 book.
      Moderators and candidates gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library made up for lost time, delving into Perry’s “Texas Miracle,” record on the death penalty and skepticism about climate change. By the debate’s conclusion, the back and forth revealed what was turning into a two-candidate race between Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney…. – USA Today, 9-7-11
    • Front-runner Rick Perry plays the ‘piñata’ at GOP presidential debate: In his first presidential debate since entering the GOP field, Texas Gov. Rick Perry took most of the barbs from his fellow candidates on issues ranging from Social Security to jobs…. – CS Monitor, 9-7-11
    • Perry, Romney spar over job creation, Social Security: Debate newcomer Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clashed over their job creation records, health care and Social Security at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night. … – CNN, 9-7-11
    • Perry, Romney square off in Reagan Library debate: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, the two front-runners, spar over their job creation records. Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and other GOP candidates seem almost relegated to the sidelines. GOP presidential candidates debate at the Reagan Presidential Library…. – LAT, 9-7-11
    • Rick Perry shows aggressive style in his first GOP debate: Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a reputation for running aggressive campaigns designed to keep the focus on his opponents rather than himself. In his opening debate as a presidential candidate, he followed that script from start to finish.
      Midway through Wednesday’s forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Perry joked, “I kind of feel like a piñata here at the party.” It was an acknowledgement that as the new leader in the polls for the GOP nomination, Perry drew more attacks and more critical questions than any of the other candidates.
      But he did as much to stick his rivals as they did to him. He went after the other candidates with relish, whether in response to their criticisms or preemptively. He stood by some of his most controversial statements, including his view that Social Security is a “monstrosity.” At other times, he slipped past questions calling into question his record in Texas.
      Many of his exchanges were with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the erstwhile front-runner for the GOP nomination until Perry got into the race last month. That produced a Romney who was more animated than in the first three debates, creating the impression that, for now, the Perry vs. Romney dynamic is the dominant theme of the Republican nomination contest.
      Polls have shown that Perry and Romney are well ahead of any of the others in the race. But it took Wednesday’s debate — preceded by questions about Perry’s staying power and preparation for a national race, and about Romney’s ability to respond to a serious Republican rival — to demonstrate that both candidates are ready to battle it out for the foreseeable future…. – WaPo, 9-7-11
    • Perry clashes with Romney in debate: Gov. Rick Perry tangled often with his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination Wednesday, clashing with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over Social Security and jobs in Perry’s first presidential debate.
      As the newest entrant to the race and the person sitting atop national polls, Perry was the central character in Wednesday’s nationally televised debate from Ronald Reagan’s presidential library, the first of three such contests this month. Questioners and opponents repeatedly zeroed in on his Texas record, his book and some of the most provocative statements from his young candidacy…. – Austin American-Statesman, 9-7-11
    • Perry swings, Romney sings, as GOP frontrunners face off in first debate: Rick Perry proved one thing in his first debate appearance since joining the Republican presidential nomination race: He takes no guff.
      Despite the “Southern gentleman” veneer in which he occasionally couched his barbs, the Texas Governor shot at nearly anything that moved on stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
      He called Social Security, which remains a financial lifeline for millions of seniors, a “Ponzi scheme” and “monstrous lie” visited on younger Americans who will be left holding the bag.
      He called Karl Rove, the former George W. Bush adviser who had criticized some of Mr. Perry’s earlier comments as unpresidential, “over the top for a long time.”
      “Maybe it’s time to have provocative language in this country,” Mr. Perry retorted after Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Mr. Perry’s chief rival for the nomination, challenged him on his characterization of Social Security…. – Globe & Mail, 9-7-11
    • Reagan debate reactions come quickly on Twitter: If you’d kept up with Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate only by Twitter, you could have easily thought Mitt Romney and Rick Perry were the only candidates on stage and their other six rivals for the Republican presidential nomination had decided to stay home.
      The clash between the two over jobs that kicked off the NBC News/POLITICO debate was an instant Twitter hit, making the phrase “Romney and Perry” a top Twitter trend.
      But it didn’t take long for users to grow weary of the back-and-forth between the two rivals standing next to each other on the debate stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif…. – Politico, 9-7-11
    • GOP debate: Biggest winner, loser and missed opportunity: Biggest Missed Opportunity: Rick Perry. He needed to explain what he means when he calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Does he want to repeal it? Change it? We still don’t know. Biggest winner: Mitt Romney. Looked and sounded presidential. … – LAT, 9-7-11

PERRY: Well, Governor Romney left the private sector, and he did a great job of creating jobs in the private sector all around the world. But the fact is, when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country. So the fact is, while he had a good private-sector record, his public-sector record did not match that. As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts.

WILLIAMS: Well, let’s widen this out and let’s bring in Mr. (Herman) Cain on one side.

ROMNEY: Wait a second. … Listen, wait a second.

WILLIAMS: We could do this all evening.

ROMNEY: States are different. Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right-to-work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground.
Those are wonderful things, but Governor Perry doesn’t believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, well, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.

ROMNEY: Look, the reality is, there are differences. There are differences between states. I came into a state that was in real trouble — a huge budget gap, losing jobs every month. We turned it around. Three out of four years, we had unemployment rate below the national average, we ended up with 4.7 percent unemployment rate. I’m proud of what we were able to do in a tough situation.

PERRY: (Former Massachusetts Governor) Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.

ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.

PERRY: That’s not correct.

ROMNEY: Yes, that is correct.

Pool photo by Chris Carlson
Nancy Reagan, center, greeted the candidates, from left, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., before the debate at the Ronald Reagan Museum and Library.

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