2012 Presidential Elections Results

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

ELECTION 2012

        Electoral Popular
Political Party Presidential Nom. VP Nom. # % # %
Democratic Barack Obama Joseph Biden 303 0.0 0  
Republican Mitt Romney Paul Ryan 206 0.0 0  

2012 Electoral College Map

Obama / BidenRomney / Ryan Barack Obama Mitt Romney
BARACK OBAMA 
Democrat
MITT ROMNEY
Republican
STATE TOTAL VOTES Votes % EV Votes % EV
Alabama TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 9
Alaska TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 3
Arizona TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 11
Arkansas TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 6
California TBD TBD TBD 55 TBD TBD
Colorado TBD TBD TBD 9 TBD TBD
Connecticut TBD TBD TBD 7 TBD TBD
Delaware TBD TBD TBD 3 TBD TBD
Dist. of Col. TBD TBD TBD 3 TBD TBD
Florida TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD
Georgia TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 16
Hawaii TBD TBD TBD 4 TBD TBD
Idaho TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 4
Illinois TBD TBD TBD 20 TBD TBD
Indiana TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 11
Iowa TBD TBD TBD 6 TBD TBD
Kansas TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 6
Kentucky TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 8
Louisiana TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 8
Maine TBD TBD TBD 4 TBD TBD
Maryland TBD TBD TBD 10 TBD TBD
Massachusetts TBD TBD TBD 11 TBD TBD
Michigan TBD TBD TBD 16 TBD TBD
Minnesota TBD TBD TBD 10 TBD TBD
Mississippi TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 6
Missouri TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 10
Montana TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 3
Nebraska TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 5
Nevada TBD TBD TBD 6 TBD TBD
New Hampshire TBD TBD TBD 4 TBD TBD
New Jersey TBD TBD TBD 14 TBD TBD
New Mexico TBD TBD TBD 5 TBD TBD
New York TBD TBD TBD 29 TBD TBD
North Carolina TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 15
North Dakota TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 3
Ohio TBD TBD TBD 18 TBD TBD
Oklahoma TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 7
Oregon TBD TBD TBD 7 TBD TBD
Pennsylvania TBD TBD TBD 20 TBD TBD
Rhode Island TBD TBD TBD 4 TBD TBD
South Carolina TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 9
South Dakota TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 3
Tennessee TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 11
Texas TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 38
Utah TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 6
Vermont TBD TBD TBD 3 TBD TBD
Virginia TBD TBD TBD 13 TBD TBD
Washington TBD TBD TBD 12 TBD TBD
West Virginia TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 5
Wisconsin TBD TBD TBD 10 TBD TBD
Wyoming TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD 3
Totals TBD TBD TBD 303 TBD TBD 206

November 7, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Victory Speech After Being Re-elected on Election Night

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

ELECTION 2012

Remarks by the President on Election Night

McCormick Place
Chicago, Illinois

12:38 A.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT:  Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.  (Applause.)

It moves forward because of you.  It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression; the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope — the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together, as one nation, and as one people.  (Applause.)

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people,  reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.  (Applause.)

I want to thank every American who participated in this election.  (Applause.)  Whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time — (applause) — by the way, we have to fix that.  (Applause.)  Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone — (applause) — whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard, and you made a difference.  (Applause.)

I just spoke with Governor Romney, and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign.  (Applause.)  We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply, and we care so strongly about its future.  From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service, and that is a legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.  (Applause.)

In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.  (Applause.)

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America’s happy warrior — (applause) — the best Vice President anybody could ever hope for — Joe Biden.  (Applause.)

And I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago.  (Applause.)  Let me say this publicly — Michelle, I have never loved you more.  I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation’s First Lady.  (Applause.)  Sasha and Malia,  before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom.  (Applause.)    And I’m so proud of you guys.  But I will say that for now, one dog is probably enough.  (Laughter.)

To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics — (applause) — the best.  The best ever.  (Applause.) Some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.  But all of you are family.  No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together, and you will have the lifelong appreciation of a grateful President.  Thank you for believing all the way, through every hill, through every valley. (Applause.)  You lifted me up the whole way.  And I will always be grateful for everything that you’ve done and all the incredible work that you put in.  (Applause.)

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly.  And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics who tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos, or the domain of special interests.  But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies, and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym, or saw folks working late at a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you’ll discover something else.

You’ll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organizer who’s worked his way through college, and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity.  (Applause.)  You’ll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who’s going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift.  (Applause.)  You’ll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse who’s working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job, or a roof over their head when they come home.  (Applause.)

That’s why we do this.  That’s what politics can be.  That’s why elections matter.  It’s not small; it’s big.  It’s important.

Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated.  We have our own opinions.  Each of us has deeply held beliefs.  And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy.  That won’t change after tonight — and it shouldn’t.  These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.  (Applause.)

But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.  We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers — (applause) — a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt; that isn’t weakened by inequality; that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.  (Applause.)

We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world; a nation that is defended by the strongest military on Earth and the best troops this world has ever known — (applause) — but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.

We believe in a generous America; in a compassionate America; in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag.  (Applause.)  To the young boy on the South Side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner.  (Applause.)  To the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a President.  That’s the future we hope for.  That’s the vision we share.  That’s where we need to go.  Forward.  (Applause.)  That’s where we need to go.

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there.  As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts.  It’s not always a straight line.  It’s not always a smooth path.  By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, or solve all our problems, or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus, and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.  But that common bond is where we must begin.

Our economy is recovering.  A decade of war is ending.  A long campaign is now over.  (Applause.)  And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you.  I have learned from you.  And you’ve made me a better President.  With your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do, and the future that lies ahead.  (Applause.)

Tonight, you voted for action, not politics as usual.  (Applause.)  You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.  And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together:  reducing our deficit;  reforming our tax code; fixing our immigration system; freeing ourselves from foreign oil.  We’ve got more work to do.  (Applause.)

But that doesn’t mean your work is done.  The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote.  America has never been about what can be done for us.  It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.  (Applause.)  That’s the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich.  We have the most powerful military in history, but that’s not what makes us strong.  Our university,  culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth — the belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations; that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for comes with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism.  That’s what makes America great.  (Applause.)

I am hopeful tonight because I have seen this spirit at work in America.  I’ve seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors, and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job.

I’ve seen it in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, and in those SEALs who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them, watching their back.  (Applause.)

I’ve seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm.  (Applause.)

And I saw it just the other day in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his eight-year-old daughter, whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything, had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care.  (Applause.)  I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father, but meet this incredible daughter of his.  And when he spoke to the crowd, listening to that father’s story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes, because we knew that little girl could be our own.  And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright.

That’s who we are.  That’s the country I’m so proud to lead as your President.  (Applause.)  And tonight, despite all the hardship we’ve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I’ve never been more hopeful about our future.  (Applause.)  I have never been more hopeful about America.  And I ask you to sustain that hope.

I’m not talking about blind optimism — the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path.  I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.  I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us, so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.  (Applause.)

America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made, and continue to fight for new jobs, and new opportunity, and new security for the middle class.  I believe we can keep the promise of our founding — the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or where you love — it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white, or Hispanic or Asian, or Native American, or young or old, or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight — you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.  (Applause.)

I believe we can seize this future together — because we are not as divided as our politics suggest; we’re not as cynical as the pundits believe; we are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions; and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states.  We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.  (Applause.)  And together, with your help, and God’s grace, we will continue our journey forward, and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

Thank you, America.  God bless you.  God bless these United States.  (Applause.)

END
12:58 A.M. CST

October 22, 2012: Third Presidential Debate at Lynn University Boca Raton, Florida Transcript

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

2012 PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES

Presidential Debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida
October 22, 2012

BOB SCHIEFFER, MODERATOR: Good evening from the campus of Lynn University here in Boca Raton, Florida. This is the fourth and last debate of the 2012 campaign, brought to you by the Commission on Presidential Debates. This one is on foreign policy. I’m Bob Schieffer of CBS News.

The questions are mine and I have not shared them with the candidates or their aides. The audience has taken a vow of silence — no applause, no reaction of any kind — except right now, when we welcome President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. (Applause.)

Gentlemen, your campaigns have agreed to certain rules, and they are simple. They’ve asked me to divide the evening into segments. I’ll pose a question at the beginning of each segment. You will each have two minutes to respond, and then we will have a general discussion until we move to the next segment.

Tonight’s debate, as both of you know, comes on the 50th anniversary of the night that President Kennedy told the world that the Soviet Union had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, perhaps the closest we’ve ever come to nuclear war. And it is a sobering reminder that every President faces at some point an unexpected threat to our national security from abroad.

So let’s begin.

The first segment is the challenge of a changing Middle East and the new face of terrorism. I’m going to put this into two segments, so you’ll have two topic questions within this one segment on the subject. The first question — and it concerns Libya.

The controversy over what happened there continues. Four Americans are dead, including an American Ambassador. Questions remain of what happened: What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure? Was there an attempt to mislead people about what really happened?

Governor Romney, you said this was an example of an American policy in the Middle East that is unraveling before our very eyes. I’d like to hear each of you give your thoughts on that. Governor Romney, you won the toss — you go first.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Thank you, Bob. And thank you for agreeing to moderate this debate this evening. Thank you to Lynn University for welcoming us here. And, Mr. President, it’s good to be with you again. We were together at a humorous event a little earlier, and it’s nice to maybe be funny this time — not on purpose. We’ll see what happens.

This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world, and to America in particular, which is to see a complete change in the structure and the environment in the Middle East. With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation, an opportunity for greater participation on the part of women in public life and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead we’ve seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events.

Of course, we see in Syria, 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in Libya, an attack, apparently by — I think we know now — by terrorists of some kind against our people there, four people dead. Our hearts and minds go to them.

Mali has been taken over — the northern part of Mali by al Qaeda-type individuals. We have in Egypt a Muslim Brotherhood president. And so what we’re seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal of the kind of hopes we had for that region. Of course, the greatest threat of all is Iran, four years closer to a nuclear weapon.

And we’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the President has done — I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al Qaeda. But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical, violent extremism, which is — it’s certainly not on the run. It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries. And it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, my first job as Commander-in-Chief, Bob, is to keep the American people safe. And that’s what we’ve done over the last four years. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11. And as a consequence, al Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated.

In addition, we’re now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way, making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security. And that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats. Now, with respect to Libya, as I indicated in the last debate, when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, number one, we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harm’s way; number two, that we would investigate exactly what happened; and number three, most importantly, that we would go after those who killed Americans and we would bring them to justice. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

But I think it’s important to step back and think about what happened in Libya. Now, keep in mind that I and Americans took leadership in organizing an international coalition that made sure that we were able to — without putting troops on the ground, at the cost of less than what we spent in two weeks in Iraq — liberate a country that had been under the yoke of dictatorship for 40 years, got rid of a despot who had killed Americans. And, as a consequence, despite this tragedy, you had tens of thousands of Libyans, after the events in Benghazi, marching and saying, “America is our friend. We stand with them.” Now, that represents the opportunity we have to take advantage of.

And, Governor Romney, I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after al Qaeda, but I have to tell you that your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map, and is not designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, my strategy is pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to kill them, to take them out of the picture. But my strategy is broader than that. That’s important, of course. But the key that we’re going to have to pursue is a pathway to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own. We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan. That’s not the right course for us.

The right course for us is to make sure that we go after the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and these jihadists, but also help the Muslim world. And how do we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the world reject these terrorists. And the answer they came up with was this: One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment — and that of our friends — we should coordinate it to make sure that we push back and give them more economic development. Number two, better education. Number three, gender equality. Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies.

But what’s been happening over the last couple of years is as we’ve watched this tumult in the Middle East, this rising tide of chaos occur, you see al Qaeda rushing in. You see other jihadist groups rushing in. And they’re throughout many nations in the Middle East.

It’s wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress, despite this terrible tragedy. But next door, of course, we have Egypt — Libya is 6 million population, Egypt 80 million population. We want to make sure that we’re seeing progress throughout the Middle East, with Mali now having North Mali taken over by al Qaeda; with Syria having Assad continuing to kill — to murder his own people. This is a region in tumult. And of course, Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon — we’ve got real problems in the region.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let’s give the President a chance.

THE PRESIDENT: Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that al Qaeda is a threat, because a few months ago, when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia — not al Qaeda — you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.

But, Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s, and the economic policies of the 1920s.

You say that you’re not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq, but just a few weeks ago you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. And the challenge we have — I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong. You said we should have gone into Iraq, despite the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction. You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day.

You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia, despite the fact that 71 senators — Democrats and Republicans — voted for it. You’ve said that, first, we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan; then you said we should; now you say maybe, or it depends — which means not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing and sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies.

So what we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map. And unfortunately, that’s the kinds of opinions that you’ve offered throughout this campaign, and it is not a recipe for American strength or keeping America safe over the long term.

MR. SCHIEFFER: I’m going to add a couple of minutes here to give you a chance to respond.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, of course, I don’t concur with what the President said about my own record and the things that I’ve said. They don’t happen to be accurate.

But I can say this — that we’re talking about the Middle East and how to help the Middle East reject the kind of terrorism we’re seeing and the rising tide of tumult and confusion. And attacking me is not an agenda. Attacking me is not talking about how we’re going to deal with the challenges that exist in the Middle East and take advantage of the opportunity there and stem the tide of this violence.

But I’ll respond to a couple of the things you mentioned. First of all, Russia I indicated is a geopolitical foe, not a –

THE PRESIDENT: Number one geopolitical –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Excuse me. It’s a geopolitical foe, and I said in the same — in the same paragraph I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin. And I’m certainly not going to say to him, I’ll give you more flexibility after the election. After the election, he’ll get more backbone.

Number two, with regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should have been a status of forces agreement. Did you –

THE PRESIDENT: That’s not true.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Oh, you didn’t — you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?

THE PRESIDENT: No, what I — what I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’m sorry. You actually — there was an effort on the part of the President –

THE PRESIDENT: You are –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — to have a Status of Forces Agreement –

THE PRESIDENT: He was –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: And I concurred in that and said that we should have some number of troops that stayed on. That was something I concurred with –

THE PRESIDENT: Governor –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — your posture. That was my posture as well. You thought it should have been 5,000 troops.

THE PRESIDENT: Governor –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I thought it should have been more troops. But you know what, the answer was –

THE PRESIDENT: This is just a few weeks ago.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — we got no troops through whatsoever.

THE PRESIDENT: This is just a few weeks ago that you indicated that we should still have troops in Iraq.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: No, I didn’t. I’m sorry, that’s –

THE PRESIDENT: You made a major speech.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I indicated that you — I indicated that you failed to put in place a status of forces agreement –

THE PRESIDENT: Governor –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — at the end of the conflict that existed in Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT: Governor, here’s one thing –

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let him answer, please.

THE PRESIDENT: Here’s one thing I’ve learned as Commander-in-Chief. You’ve got to be clear both to our allies and our enemies about where you stand and what you mean. Now, you just gave a speech a few weeks ago in which you said we should still have troops in Iraq. That is not a recipe for making sure that we are taking advantage of the opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Middle East.

Now, it is absolutely true that we cannot just beat these challenges militarily. And so what I’ve done, throughout my presidency and will continue to do, is, number one, make sure that these countries are supporting our counterterrorism efforts.

Number two, make sure that they are standing by our interests in Israel’s security — because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region.

Number three, we do have to make sure that we’re protecting religious minorities and women because these countries can’t develop unless all the population — not just half of it — is developing.

Number four, we do have to develop their economic capabilities. But number five, the other thing that we have to do is recognize that we can’t continue to do nation-building in these regions — part of American leadership is making sure that we’re doing nation-building here at home. That will help us maintain the kind of American leadership that we need.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me interject the second topic question in this segment about the Middle East and so on. And that is — you both mentioned — alluded to this, and that is Syria.

The war in Syria has now spilled over into Lebanon. We have, what, more than a hundred people that were killed there in a bomb. There were demonstrations there, eight people dead. Mr. President, it’s been more than a year since you saw — you told Assad he had to go. Since then, 30,000 Syrians have died. We’ve had 300,000 refugees. The war goes on; he’s still there. Should we reassess our policy and see if we can find a better way to influence events there, or is that even possible? And you go first, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: What we’ve done is organize the international community, saying Assad has to go. We’ve mobilized sanctions against that government. We have made sure that they are isolated. We have provided humanitarian assistance, and we are helping the opposition organize. And we’re particularly interested in making sure that we’re mobilizing the moderate forces inside of Syria.

But ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future. And so everything we’re doing, we’re doing in consultation with our partners in the region — including Israel, which obviously has a huge interest in seeing what happens in Syria; coordinating with Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this.

Now, what we’re seeing taking place in Syria is heartbreaking. And that’s why we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are helping the opposition. But we also have to recognize that for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step. And we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping, that we’re not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or our allies in the region.

And I am confident that Assad’s days are numbered. But what we can’t do is to simply suggest that, as Governor Romney at times has suggested, that giving heavy weapons, for example, to the Syrian opposition is a simple proposition that would lead us to be safer over the long term.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, let’s step back and talk about what’s happening in Syria and how important it is. First of all, 30,000 people being killed by their government is a humanitarian disaster. Secondly, Syria is an opportunity for us because Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, particularly right now, Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea. It’s the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally, Israel. And so seeing Syria remove Assad is a very high priority for us. Number two, seeing a replacement government being responsible people is critical for us.

And finally, we don’t want to have military involvement there. We don’t want to get drawn in to a military conflict. And so the right course for us is working through our partners and with our own resources to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them, bring them together in a form of, not government, a form of council that can take the lead in Syria, and then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves.

We do need to make sure that they don’t have arms that get into the wrong hands, that those arms could be used to hurt us down the road. We need to make sure as well that we coordinate this effort with our allies, and particularly with Israel. But the Saudis and the Qatari and the Turks are all very concerned about this. They’re willing to work with us. We need to have a very effective leadership effort in Syria, making sure that the insurgents there are armed and that the insurgents that become armed are people who will be the responsible parties.

Recognize — I believe that Assad must go. I believe he will go. But I believe we want to make sure that we have the relationships of friendship with the people that take his place, such that in the years to come, we see Syria as a friend and Syria as a responsible party in the Middle East.

This is a critical opportunity for America. And what I’m afraid of is we’ve watched over the past year or so, first the President saying, well, we’ll let the U.N. deal with it and Assad — excuse me — Kofi Annan came in and said we’re going to try — have a ceasefire. That didn’t work. Then it looked to the Russians and said, let’s see if you can do something. We should be playing the leadership role there — not on the ground with military, but play the leadership role.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

THE PRESIDENT: We are playing the leadership role. We organized the Friends of Syria. We are mobilizing humanitarian support and support for the opposition. And we are making sure that those we help are those who will be friends of ours in the long term and friends of our allies in the region over the long term.

But going back to Libya, because this is an example of how we make choices — when we went into Libya, and we were able to immediately stop the massacre there because of the unique circumstances and the coalition that we had helped to organize, we also had to make sure that Muammar Qaddafi didn’t stay there.

And to the Governor’s credit, you supported us going into Libya and the coalition that we organized. But when it came time to making sure that Qaddafi did not stay in power, that he was captured, Governor, your suggestion was that this was mission creep, that this was mission muddle.

Imagine if we had pulled out at that point. Muammar Qaddafi had more American blood on his hands than any individual other than Osama bin Laden, and so we were going to make sure that we finished the job. That’s part of the reason why the Libyans stand with us. But we did so in a careful, thoughtful way, making certain that we knew who we were dealing with; that those forces of moderation on the ground were ones that we could work with. And we have to take the same kind of steady, thoughtful leadership when it comes to Syria. That’s exactly what we’re doing.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor, can I just ask you, would you go beyond what the administration would do? Like, for example, would you put in no-fly zones over Syria?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I don’t want to have our military involved in Syria. I don’t think there’s a necessity to put our military in Syria at this stage. I don’t anticipate that in the future. As I indicated, our objectives are to replace Assad and to have in place a new government which is friendly to us — a responsible government, if possible. And I want to make sure they get armed and they have the arms necessary to defend themselves, but also to remove Assad.

But I do not want to see a military involvement on the part of our troops. And this isn’t going to be necessary. We have — with our partners in the region, we have sufficient resources to support those groups.

But, look, this has been going on for a year. This is a time — this should have been a time for American leadership. We should have taken a leading role — not militarily, but a leading role organizationally, governmentally — to bring together the parties there, to find responsible parties.

As you hear from intelligence sources even today, the insurgents are highly disparate; they haven’t come together; they haven’t formed a unity group, a council of some kind. That needs to happen. America can help that happen. And we need to make sure they have the arms they need to carry out the very important role, which is getting rid of Assad.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Can we get a quick response, Mr. President? Because I want to ask about Egypt.

THE PRESIDENT: I’ll be very quick. What you just heard Governor Romney said is he doesn’t have different ideas, and that’s because we’re doing exactly what we should be doing to try to promote a moderate Syrian leadership and an effective transition so that we get Assad out. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown. That’s the kind of leadership we’ll continue to show.

MR. SCHIEFFER: May I ask you, during the Egyptian turmoil, there came a point when you said it was time for President Mubarak to go.

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Some in your administration thought perhaps we should have waited a while on that. Do you have any regrets about that?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t, because I think that America has to stand with democracy. The notion that we would have tanks run over those young people who were in Tahrir Square — that is not the kind of American leadership that John F. Kennedy talked about 50 years ago.

But what I’ve also said is that now that you have a democratically elected government in Egypt, they have to make sure that they take responsibility for protecting religious minorities — and we have put significant pressure on them to make sure they’re doing that; to recognize the rights of women, which is critical throughout the region. These countries can’t develop if young women are not given the kind of education that they need. They have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us, because not only is Israel’s security at stake, but our security is at stake if that unravels.

They have to make sure that they’re cooperating with us when it comes to counterterrorism. And we will help them with respect to developing their own economy — because ultimately, what’s going to make the Egyptian revolution successful for the people of Egypt but also for the world is if those young people who gathered there are seeing opportunities. Their aspirations are similar to young people’s here. They want jobs. They want to be able to make sure their kids are going to a good school. They want to make sure that they have a roof over their heads and that they have the prospects of a better life in the future.

And so one of the things that we’ve been doing is, for example, organizing entrepreneurship conferences with these Egyptians to give them a sense of how they can start rebuilding their economy in a way that’s non-corrupt, that’s transparent.

But what is also important for us to understand is, is that for America to be successful in this region, there are some things that we’re going to have to do here at home as well. One of the challenges over the last decade is we’ve done experiments in nation-building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and we’ve neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system. And it’s very hard for us to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do here.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney, I’m going to hear your response to that. But I would just ask you, would you have stuck with Mubarak?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: No. I believe, as the President indicated, and said at the time that I supported his action there. I felt that — I wish we would have had a better vision of the future. I wish that, looking back at the beginning of the President’s term and even further back than that, that we would have recognized that there was a growing energy and passion for freedom in that part of the world, and that we would have worked more aggressively with our friend and with other friends in the region to have them make the transition towards a more representative form of government, such that it didn’t explode in the way it did.

But once it exploded, I felt the same as the President did, which is these freedom voices in the streets of Egypt were the people who were speaking of our principles. And President Mubarak had done things which were unimaginable, and the idea of him crushing his people was not something that we could possibly support.

Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the Middle East and even more broadly — because our purpose is to make sure the world is more — is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they’re going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war. That’s our purpose. And the mantle of leadership for promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America. We didn’t ask for it, but it’s an honor that we have it. But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong, and that begins with a strong economy here at home. And unfortunately, the economy is not stronger.

When the President of Iraq — excuse me, of Iran, Ahmadinejad, says that our debt makes us not a great country, that’s a frightening thing. The former chief of — the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that — Admiral Mullen — said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face.

We have weakened our economy. We need a strong economy. We need to have, as well, a strong military. Our military is second to none in the world. We’re blessed with terrific soldiers and extraordinary technology and intelligence. But the idea of a trillion dollars in cuts through sequestration and budget cuts to the military would change that.

We need to have strong allies. Our association and connection with our allies is essential to America’s strength. We’re the great nation that has allies — 42 allies and friends around the world. And finally we have to stand by our principles.

And if we’re strong in each of those things, American influence will grow. But, unfortunately, in nowhere in the world is America’s influence greater today than it was four years ago.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: And that’s because we’ve become weaker –

THE PRESIDENT: Bob, I think –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — on each of those four dimensions.

MR. SCHIEFFER: You’re going to get a chance to respond to that because that’s a perfect segue into our next segment, and that is what is America’s role in the world. And that is the question: What do each of you see as our role in the world? And I believe, Governor Romney, it’s your turn to go first.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, I absolutely believe that America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful, and those principles include human rights, human dignity, free enterprise, freedom of expression, elections — because when there are elections, people tend to vote for peace. They don’t vote for war. So we want to promote those principles around the world.

We recognize that there are places of conflict in the world. We want to end those conflicts to the extent humanly possible. But in order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong. America must lead. And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home. You can’t have 23 million people struggling to get a job. You can’t have an economy that over the last three years keeps slowing down in its growth rate. You can’t have kids coming out of college, half of whom can’t find a job today, or a job that’s commensurate with their college degree. We have to get our economy going.

And our military — we’ve got to strengthen our military long term. We don’t know what the world is going to throw at us down the road. We make decisions today in a military that will confront challenges we can’t imagine. In the 2000 debates, there was no mention of terrorism, for instance. And a year later, 9/11 happened. So we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty, and that means a strong military. I will not cut our military budget.

We have to also stand by our allies. I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate. I think also that pulling our missile defense program out of Poland in the way we did was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the relationship in some ways that existed between us.

And then of course, with regards to standing for our principles, when the students took the streets in Tehran, and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred. For the President to be silent, I thought was an enormous mistake. We have to stand for our principles, stand for our allies, stand for a strong military and stand for a stronger economy.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: America remains the one indispensible nation, and the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office. Because we ended the war in Iraq, we were able to refocus our attention on not only the terrorist threat, but also beginning a transition process in Afghanistan.

It also allowed us to refocus on alliances and relationships that had been neglected for a decade. And, Governor Romney, our alliances have never been stronger — in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel, where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat.

But what we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America. And that’s what my plan does — making sure that we’re bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that we’re creating jobs here, as we’ve done with the auto industry — not rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas; making sure that we’ve got the best education system in the world, including retraining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

Doing everything we can to control our own energy. We’ve cut our oil imports to the lowest level in two decades because we’ve developed oil and natural gas, but we also have to develop clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut our exports in half by 2020. That’s the kind of leadership that we need to show.

And we’ve got to make sure that we reduce our deficit. Unfortunately, Governor Romney’s plan doesn’t do it. We’ve got to do it in a responsible way by cutting out spending we don’t need, but also by asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more. That way we can invest in the research and technology that’s always kept us at the cutting edge.

Now, Governor Romney has taken a different approach throughout this campaign. Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies. He’s praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who shows great wisdom and judgment. And taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st century.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney, wrong and reckless policies?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’ve got the policy for a future, an agenda for the future. And when it comes to our economy here at home, I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs and rising take-home pay. And what we’ve seen over the last four years is something I don’t want to see over the next four years.

The President said by now we’d be at 5.4 percent unemployment. We’re 9 million jobs short of that. I will get America working again and see rising take-home pay again, and I’ll do it with five simple steps.

Number one, we are going to have North American energy independence. We’re going to do it by taking full advantage of oil, coal, gas, nuclear, and our renewables. Number two, we’re going to increase our trade. Trade grows about 12 percent per year. It doubles about every five or so years. We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America.

The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America’s economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We’re all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us — time zone, language opportunities.

Number three, we’re going to have to have training programs that work for our workers and schools that finally put the parents and the teachers and the kids first, and the teachers unions are going to have to go behind.

And then we’re going to have to get to a balanced budget. We can’t expect entrepreneurs and businesses, large and small, to take their life savings or their company’s money and invest in America if they think we’re headed to the road to Greece. And that’s where we’re going right now unless we finally get off this spending and borrowing binge. And I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget.

And finally, number five, we’ve got to champion small business. Small businesses are where jobs come from. Two-thirds of our jobs come from small businesses. New business formation is down at the lowest level in 30 years under this administration. I want to bring it back and get back good jobs and rising take-home pay.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let’s talk about what we need to compete. First of all, Governor Romney talks about small businesses, but, Governor, when you were in Massachusetts, small businesses development ranked about 48th, I think, out of 50 states in Massachusetts because the policies that you’re promoting actually don’t help small businesses. And the way you define small businesses include folks at the very top — they include you and me. That’s not the kind of small business promotion we need.

But let’s take an example that we know is going to make a difference in the 21st century, and that’s our education policy. We didn’t have a lot of chance to talk about this in the last debate. Under my leadership, what we’ve done is reformed education, working with governors — 46 states. We’ve seen progress and gains in schools that were having a terrible time, and they’re starting to finally make progress. And what I now want to do is to hire more teachers, especially in math and science, because we know that we’ve fallen behind when it comes to math and science. And those teachers can make a difference.

Now, Governor Romney, when you were asked by teachers whether or not this would help the economy grow, you said this isn’t going to help the economy grow. When you were asked about reduced class sizes, you said class sizes don’t make a difference. But I tell you, if you talk to teachers, they will tell you it does make a difference. And if we’ve got math teachers who are able to provide the kind of support that they need for our kids, that’s what’s going to determine whether or not the new businesses are created here. Companies are going to locate here depending on whether we’ve got the most highly skilled workforce.

And the kinds of budget proposals that you’ve put forward, when we don’t ask either you or me to pay a dime more in terms of reducing the deficit, but instead we slash support for education, that’s undermining our long-term competitiveness. That is not good for America’s position in the world — and the world notices.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me get back to foreign policy.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, look –

MR. SCHIEFFER: Can I just get back to –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, I need to speak a moment if you’ll let me, Bob –

MR. SCHIEFFER: Okay.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — just about education, because I’m so proud of the state that I had the chance to be governor of. We have, every two years, tests that look at how well our kids are doing. Fourth-graders and eighth-graders are tested in English and math. While I was governor, I was proud that our fourth-graders came out number one of all 50 states in English and then also in math, and our eighth-graders number one in English and also in math. First time one state had been number one in all four measures.

How did we do that? Well, Republicans and Democrats came together on a bipartisan basis to put in place education principles that focused on having great teachers in the classroom, and that was –

THE PRESIDENT: Ten years earlier, Governor.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — and that was what allowed us to become the number-one state in the nation.

THE PRESIDENT: But that was 10 years before you took office.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: And this is — and we were –

MR. SCHIEFFER: Gentlemen.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Absolutely –

THE PRESIDENT: And then you cut education spending when you came into office.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: The first — and we kept our schools number one in the nation. They’re still number one today.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: And the principles that we put in place — we also gave kids not just a graduation exam that determined whether they were up to the skills needed to be able to compete, but also if they graduated in the top quarter of their class they got a four-year, tuition-free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.

THE PRESIDENT: That happened before you came into office, though.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: That was actually mine. Actually, Mr. President, you’ve got that fact wrong.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just — I want to try to shift it, because we have heard some of this in the other debates. Governor, you say you want a bigger military, you want a bigger Navy. You don’t want to cut defense spending. What I want to ask you — we’re talking about financial problems in this country — where are you going to get the money?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, let’s come back and talk about the military, but all the way through. First of all, I’m going through from the very beginning — we’re going to cut about 5 percent of the discretionary budget, excluding military. That’s number one, all right? And that’s –

MR. SCHIEFFER: But can you do this without driving us deeper into debt?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: The good news is — I’ll be happy to have you take a look. Come on our website; you’ll look at how we get to a balanced budget within 8 to 10 years. We do it by getting — by reducing spending in a whole series of programs. By the way, number one I get rid of is Obamacare. There are a number of things that sound good, but, frankly, we just can’t afford them, and that one doesn’t sound good and it’s not affordable. So I get rid of that one from day one. To the extent humanly possible, we get that out. We take program after program that we don’t absolutely have to have and we get rid of them.

Number two, we take some programs that we are going to keep, like Medicaid, which is a program for the poor — we take that health care program for the poor and we give it to the states to run because states run these programs more efficiently. As a governor, I thought, please, give me this program. I can run this more efficiently than the federal government.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Can he do that?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: And states, by the way, are proving it. States like Arizona, Rhode Island have taken these Medicaid dollars, have shown they can run these programs more cost-effectively. And so I want to do those two things. It gets us to a balanced budget within 8 to 10 years.

THE PRESIDENT: Bob –

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Let’s get back to the military, though.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out about.

THE PRESIDENT: He should have answered the first question.

Look, Governor Romney has called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he’s going to pay for by closing deductions. Now, the math doesn’t work, but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it. He then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military is not asking for.

Now, keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year that I’ve been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined — China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it — next 10. And what I did was work with our Joint Chiefs of Staff to think about what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe, and that’s the budget that we’ve put forward.

But what you can’t do is spend $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military is not asking for; $5 trillion on tax cuts. You say that you’re going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions without naming what those loopholes and deductions are, and then somehow you’re also going to deal with the deficit that we’ve already got. The math simply doesn’t work.

But when it comes to our military, what we have to think about is not just budgets. We’ve got think about capabilities. We need to be thinking about cybersecurity. We need to be thinking about space. That’s exactly what our budget does, but it’s driven by strategy. It’s not driven by politics. It’s not driven by members of Congress and what they would like to see. It’s driven by what are we going to need to keep the American people safe. That’s exactly what our budget does.

And it also then allows us to reduce our deficit, which is a significant national security concern, because we’ve got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so that we can project military power overseas.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Bob, I’m pleased that I’ve balanced budgets. I was in the world of business for 25 years. You didn’t balance your budget, you went out of business. I went to the Olympics that was out of balance, and we got it on balance and made a success there. I had the chance to be governor of our state; four years in a row, Democrats and Republicans came together to balance the budget. We cut taxes 19 times, balanced our budget.

The President hasn’t balanced a budget yet. I expect to have the opportunity to do so myself. I’m going to be able to balance the budget.

Let’s talk about military spending, and that’s this — our Navy –

MR. SCHIEFFER: Thirty seconds.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Our Navy is old — excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission; we’re now down to 285. We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy.

Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947. We’ve changed for the first time since FDR — since FDR, we had the — we’ve always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we’re changing to one conflict.

Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the President of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people. And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts the President has, as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure –

THE PRESIDENT: Bob, I just need to comment on this. First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed. It’s something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen. The budget that we’re talking about is not reducing our military spending, it’s maintaining it.

But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships; it’s what are our capabilities.

And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home. And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you’re putting forward, because it just doesn’t work. And we visited the website quite a bit and it still doesn’t work.

MR. SCHIEFFER: A lot to cover. I’d like to move to the next segment: Red lines — Israel and Iran. Would either of you — and you’ll have two minutes — and, President Obama, you have the first go at this one. Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States — which, of course, is the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan. And if you made such a declaration, would not that deter Iran? It’s certainly deterred the Soviet Union for a long, long time when we made that promise to our allies.

Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, Israel is a true friend; it is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I’ve made that clear throughout my presidency.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So you’re saying we’ve already made that declaration?

THE PRESIDENT: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history. In fact, this week, we’ll be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history — this very week.

But to the issue of Iran, as long as I’m President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office. We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in shambles.

And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security and it’s a threat to Israel’s national security. We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that’s unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.

So the work that we’ve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice: They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program, or they will have to face a united world and a United States President — me — who said we’re not going to take any options off the table.

The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that during the course of this campaign, he’s often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake, because when I’ve sent young men and women into harm’s way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Two minutes.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I want to underscore the same point the President made, which is that if I’m President of the United States — when I’m President of the United States, we will stand with Israel. And if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily. That’s number one.

Number two, with regards to Iran and the threat of Iran — there’s no question but that a nuclear Iran, a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable to America. It presents a threat not only to our friends, but ultimately a threat to us to have Iran have nuclear material, nuclear weapons that could be used against us or used to be threatening to us.

It’s also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran, and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful and diplomatic means. And crippling sanctions are something I called for five years ago — when I was in Israel speaking at the Herzliya conference, I laid out seven steps. Crippling sanctions were number one and they do work. You’re seeing it right now in the economy. It’s absolutely the right thing to do to have crippling sanctions. I’d have put them in place earlier, but it’s good that we have them.

Number two, something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil can’t come into our ports. I imagine the EU would agree with us as well. Not only ships couldn’t, I’d say companies that are moving their oil can’t; people who are trading in their oil can’t. I would tighten those sanctions further.

Secondly, I’d take on diplomatic isolation efforts. I’d make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the genocide convention. His words amount to genocide in citation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world — the same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa. We need to increase pressure time and time again on Iran because anything other than a solution to this which says — which stops this nuclear folly of theirs is unacceptable to America.

And of course, a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only — only consider if all of the other avenues had been tried to their full extent.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask both of you, there are — as you know, there are reports that Iran and the United States as part of an international group have agreed in principle to talks about Iran’s nuclear program. What is the deal — if there are such talks, what is the deal that you would accept?

Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, those are reports in the newspaper. They are not true. But our goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place — because they have the opportunity to reenter the community of nations. And we would welcome that.

There are people in Iran who have the same aspirations as people all around the world for a better life. And we hope that their leadership takes the right decision. But the deal we’ll accept is they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.

And I’m glad that Governor Romney agrees with the steps that we’re taking. There have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign where it sounded like you thought that you’d do the same things we did, but you’d say them louder and somehow that would make a difference. And it turns out that the work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking. It’s meticulous.

We started from the day we got into office. And the reason it was so important — and this is a testament to how we’ve restored American credibility and strength around the world — is we had to make sure that all the countries participated, even countries like Russia and China, because if it’s just us that are imposing sanctions, we’ve had sanctions in place for a long time. It’s because we got everybody to agree that Iran is seeing so much pressure. And we’ve got to maintain that pressure.

There is a deal to be had, and that is that they abide by the rules that have already been established; they convince the international community they are not pursuing a nuclear program; there are inspections that are very intrusive, but over time what they can do is regain credibility.

In the meantime, though, we’re not going to let up the pressure until we have clear evidence that that takes place.

And one last thing, just to make this point — the clock is ticking. We’re not going to allow Iran to perpetually engage in negotiations that lead nowhere. And I’ve been very clear to them. Because of the intelligence coordination that we do with a range of countries, including Israel, we have a sense of when they would get breakout capacity, which means that we would not be able to intervene in time to stop their nuclear program. And that clock is ticking.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

THE PRESIDENT: And we’re going to make sure that if they do not meet the demands of the international community, then we are going to take all options necessary to make sure they don’t have a nuclear weapon.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we’ve had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be. I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength.

And I say that because from the very beginning, the President, in his campaign some four years ago, said he’d meet with all the world’s worst actors in his first year. He’d sit down with Chavez and Kim Jong-il, with Castro and with President Ahmadinejad of Iran. And I think they looked and thought, well, that’s an unusual honor to receive from the President of the United States.

And then the President began what I’ve called an apology tour of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness. Then when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution, holding signs saying, is America with us, the President was silent. I think they noticed that as well. And I think that when the President said he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel, that they noticed that as well.

All of these things suggested, I think, to the Iranian mullahs that, hey, we can keep on pushing along here, we can keep talks going on, we’re just going to keep on spinning centrifuges. Now there are some 10,000 centrifuges spinning uranium, preparing to create a nuclear threat to the United States and to the world. That’s unacceptable for us.

And it’s essential for a President to show strength from the very beginning, to make it very clear what is acceptable and not acceptable. And an Iranian nuclear program is not acceptable to us. They must not develop nuclear capability. And the way to make sure they understand that is by having from the very beginning the tightest sanctions possible. They need to be tightened. Our diplomatic isolation needs to be tougher. We need to indict Ahmadinejad. We need to put the pressure on them as hard as we possibly can, because if we do that, we won’t have to take the military action.

THE PRESIDENT: Bob, let me just respond. Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact-checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.

And when it comes to tightening sanctions, look, as I said before, we’ve put in the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever. And the fact is, while we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective, you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector. So I’ll let the American people decide, judge who is going to be more effective and more credible when it comes to imposing crippling sanctions.

And with respect to our attitude about the Iranian Revolution, I was very clear about the murderous activities that had taken place and that was contrary to international law and everything that civilized people stand for. And so the strength that we have shown in Iran is shown by the fact that we’ve been able to mobilize the world.

When I came into office, the world was divided; Iran was resurgent. Iran is at its weakest point economically, strategically, militarily, than in many years. And we are going to continue to keep the pressure on to make sure that they do not get a nuclear weapon. That’s in America’s national interest, and that will be the case so long as I’m President.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran. We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran. And we should not have wasted these four years to the extent they’ve continued to be able to spin these centrifuges and get that much closer. That’s number one.

Number two, Mr. President, the reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq, and — and, by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations. And, by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America has dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictator.

THE PRESIDENT: Bob, let me respond. If we’re going to talk about trips that we’ve taken — when I was a candidate for office, the first trip I took was to visit our troops. And when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.

And then I went down to the border town of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms, and I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids — which is why, as President, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles. So that’s how I’ve used my travels, when I traveled to Israel and when I traveled to the region.

And the central question at this point is going to be who’s going to be credible to all parties involved. And they can look at my track record — whether it’s Iran’s sanctions, whether it’s dealing with counterterrorism, whether it’s supporting democracy, whether it’s supporting women’s rights, whether it’s supporting religious minorities — and they can say that the President of the United States and the United States of America has stood on the right side of history. And that kind of credibility is precisely why we’ve been able to show leadership on a wide range of issues facing the world right now.

MR. SCHIEFFER: What if the Prime Minister of Israel called you on the phone and said, “Our bombers are on the way. We’re going to bomb Iran” — what do you say?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Bob, let’s not go into hypotheticals of that nature. Our relationship with Israel, my relationship with the Prime Minister of Israel is such that we would not get a call saying our bombers are on the way or their fighters are on the way. This is the kind of thing that would have been discussed and thoroughly evaluated well before that kind of last minute –

MR. SCHIEFFER: So you’re saying –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’m just saying that’s just not –

MR. SCHIEFFER: Okay, well, let’s see what –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Let’s come back to what the President was speaking about, which is what’s happening in the world, and the President’s statement that things are going so well. Look, I look at what’s happening around the world and I see Iran four years closer to a bomb. I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult. I see jihadists continuing to spread — whether they’re rising or just about the same level, hard to precisely measure but it’s clear they’re there. They’re very strong. I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead. Assad is still in power. I see our trade deficit with China larger than it’s — growing larger every year, as a matter of fact. I look around the world and I don’t feel that — you see North Korea continuing to export their nuclear technology. Russia has said they’re not going to follow Nunn-Lugar anymore. They’re — back away from a nuclear proliferation treaty that we had with them.

I look around the world — I don’t see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding — in part because of the failure of the President to deal with our economic challenges at home; in part because of our withdrawal from our commitment to our military in the way I think it ought to be; in part because of the turmoil with Israel. I mean, the President received a letter from 38 Democrat senators saying that tensions with Israel were a real problem. They asked him, please repair the tension — Democrat senators — please repair the damage in his own party.

THE PRESIDENT: All right, Governor, the problem is, is that on a whole range of issues — whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran — you’ve been all over the map. I mean, I’m pleased that you now are endorsing our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear program.

But just a few years ago, you said that’s something you’d never do. In the same way that you initially opposed a timetable in Afghanistan; now you’re for it, although it depends. In the same way that you say you would have ended the war in Iraq, but recently gave a speech saying that we should have 20,000 more folks in there. The same way that you said that it was mission creep to go after Qaddafi.

When it comes to going after Osama bin Laden, you said, well, any President would make that call. But when you were a candidate in 2008 — as I was — and I said if I got bin Laden in our sights, I would take that shot, you said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man. You said we should ask Pakistan for permission. And if we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten it [him]. And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him.

After we killed bin Laden, I was at Ground Zero for a memorial and talked to a young woman who was four years old when 9/11 happened. And the last conversation she had with her father was him calling from the Twin Towers, saying, “Peyton, I love you, and I will always watch over you.” And for the next decade she was haunted by that conversation. And she said to me, “By finally getting bin Laden, that brought some closure to me.” And when we do things like that, when we bring those who have harmed us to justice, that sends a message to the world, and it tells Peyton that we did not forget her father.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

THE PRESIDENT: And I make that point because that’s the kind of clarity of leadership — and those decisions are not always popular. Those decisions generally are not poll-tested. And even some in my own party, including my current Vice President, had the same critique as you did. But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I make those decisions.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, let’s go and that leads us — this takes us right to the next segment, Governor, America’s longest war, Afghanistan and Pakistan –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Bob –

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor, you get to go first here.

MR. SCHIEFFER: You can’t — okay, but you can’t have the President just lay out a whole series of items without giving me a chance to respond.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, with respect, sir, you had laid out quite a program there.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, that’s probably true. (Laughter.)

MR. SCHIEFFER: And we’ll give you — we’ll give you –

THE PRESIDENT: We’ll agree –

MR. SCHIEFFER: We’ll catch up. The United States is scheduled to turn over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan government in 2014. At that point we will withdraw our combat troops, leave a smaller force of Americans — if I understand our policy — in Afghanistan for training purposes. It seems to me the key question here is what do you do if the deadline arrives and it is obvious the Afghans are unable to handle their security? Do we still leave? And I believe, Governor Romney, you go first.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And when I’m President, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The commanders and the generals there are on track to do so. We’ve seen progress over the last several years. The surge has been successful, and the training program is proceeding apace. There are a large number of Afghan security forces — 350,000 — that are ready to step in to provide security, and we’re going to be able to make that transition by the end of 2014. So our troops will come home at that point.

I can tell you at the same time that we will make sure that we look at what’s happening in Pakistan and recognize that what’s happening in Pakistan is going to have a major impact on the success in Afghanistan. And I say that because I know a lot of people just feel like we should brush our hands and walk away — and I don’t mean you, Mr. President — but some people in our nation feel that Pakistan isn’t being nice to us and that we should just walk away from them.

Pakistan is important to the region, to the world, and to us, because Pakistan has a hundred nuclear warheads, and they’re rushing to build a lot more. They’ll have more than Great Britain sometime in the relatively near future. They also have the Haqqani Network and the Taliban existent within their country.

And so a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state, would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and to us. And so we’re going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a more stable government and rebuild a relationship with us. And that means that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met. So for me, I look at this as both a need to help move Pakistan in the right direction and also to get Afghanistan to be ready, and they will be ready by the end of 2014.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: When I came into office, we were still bogged down in Iraq, and Afghanistan had been drifting for a decade. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on Afghanistan. And we did deliver a surge of troops. That was facilitated in part because we had ended the war in Iraq. And we are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that got us there in the first place.

Part of what had happened is we had forgotten why we had gone. We went because there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths. And so we decimated al Qaeda’s core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We then started to build up Afghan forces, and we’re now in a position where we can transition out, because there’s no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country.

That transition has to take place in a responsible fashion. We’ve been there a long time, but we’ve got to make sure that we and our coalition partners are pulling out responsibly and giving Afghans the capabilities that they need.

But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources to, for example, put Americans back to work — especially our veterans — rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools; making sure that our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury; making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place.

I was having lunch with some — a veteran in Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances. When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what we’ve said is let’s change those certifications. The First Lady has done great work with an organization called Joining Forces, putting our veterans back to work. And as a consequence, veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than the general population; it was higher when I came into office.

So those are the kinds of things that we can now do because we’re making that transition in Afghanistan.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, let me go to Governor Romney, because you talked about Pakistan and what needs to be done there. General Allen, our commander in Afghanistan, says that Americans continue to die at the hands of groups who are supported by Pakistan. We know that Pakistan has arrested the doctor who helped us catch Obama — bin Laden. It still provides safe haven for terrorists. Yet we continue to give Pakistan billions of dollars. Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: No, it’s not time to divorce a nation on Earth that has 100 nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point; a nation that has serious threats from terrorist groups within its nation — as I indicated before, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network. It’s a nation that’s not like others and it does not have a civilian leadership that is calling the shots there. You’ve got the ISI, their intelligence organization, that’s probably the most powerful of three branches there. Then you have the military and then you have the civilian government.

This is a nation which, if it falls apart, if it becomes a failed state, there are nuclear weapons there, and you’ve got terrorists there who could grab their hands onto those nuclear weapons. This is an important part of the world for us. Pakistan is technically an ally, and they’re not acting very much like an ally right now, but we have some work to do.

And I don’t blame the administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained. We had to go into Pakistan. We had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden. That was the right thing to do. And that upset them, but there was obviously a great deal of anger even before that. But we’re going to have to work with the people in Pakistan to try and help them move to a more responsible course than the one that they’re on.

It’s important for them. It’s important for the nuclear weapons. It’s important for the success of Afghanistan, because inside Pakistan you have a large — Pashtuns that are Taliban. They’re going to come rushing back in to Afghanistan when we go, and that’s one of the reasons the Afghan security forces have so much work to do to be able to fight against that.

But it’s important for us to recognize that we can’t just walk away from Pakistan. But we do need to make sure that as we send support for them, that this is tied to them making progress on matters that would lead them to becoming a civil society.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, Governor — because we know President Obama’s position on this — what is your position on the use of drones?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely, and feel the President was right to up the usage of that technology, and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.

Let me also note that, as I said earlier, we’re going to have to do more than just going after leaders and killing bad guys, important as that is. We’re also going to have to have a far more effective and comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism. We haven’t done that yet.

We talk a lot about these things, but you look at the record — you look at the record of the last four years and say, is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is al Qaeda on the run, on its heels? No. Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven’t had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we need to have. And I’m convinced that with strong leadership and an effort to build a strategy based upon helping these nations reject extremism, we can see the kind of peace and prosperity the world demands.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind, our strategy wasn’t just going after bin Laden. We’ve created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism — in Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan. And what we’ve also done is engage these governments in the kind of reforms that are actually going to make a difference in people’s lives day to day — to make sure that their governments aren’t corrupt; to make sure that they are treating women with the kind of respect and dignity that every nation that succeeds has shown; and to make sure that they’ve got a free market system that works. So across the board, we are engaging them in building capacity in these countries, and we’ve stood on the side of democracy.

One thing I think Americans should be proud of — when Tunisians began to protest, this nation — me, my administration — stood with them earlier than just about any other country. In Egypt, we stood on the side of democracy. In Libya, we stood on the side of the people. And as a consequence, there’s no doubt that attitudes about Americans have changed.

But there are always going to be elements in these countries that potentially threaten the United States, and we want to shrink those groups and those networks, and we can do that. But we’re always also going to have to maintain vigilance when it comes to terrorist activities. The truth, though, is that al Qaeda is much weaker than it was when I came into office, and they don’t have the same capacities to attack the U.S. homeland and our allies as they did four years ago.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let’s go to the next segment, because it’s a very important one. It is the rise of China and future challenges for America. I want to just begin this by asking both of you — and, Mr. President, you go first this time — what do you believe is the greatest future threat to the national security of this country?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it will continue to be terrorist networks. We have to remain vigilant, as I just said. But with respect to China, China is both an adversary but also a potential partner in the international community if it’s following the rules. So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.

Now, I know Americans had seen jobs being shipped overseas, businesses and workers not getting a level playing field when it came to trade. And that’s the reason why I set up a trade task force to go after cheaters when it came to international trade. That’s the reason why we have brought more cases against China for violating trade rules than the other — the previous administration had done in two terms. And we’ve won just about every case that we filed, that has been decided.

In fact, just recently, steel workers in Ohio and throughout the Midwest, Pennsylvania, are in a position now to sell steel to China because we won that case. We had a tire case in which they were flooding us with cheap domestic tires — or cheap Chinese tires — and we put a stop to it and, as a consequence, saved jobs throughout America.

I have to say that Governor Romney criticized me for being too tough in that tire case; said this wouldn’t be good for American workers and that it would protectionist. But I tell you, those workers don’t feel that way. They feel as if they had finally an administration who was going to take this issue seriously.

Over the long term, in order for us to compete with China, we’ve also got to make sure, though, that we’re taking care of business here at home. If we don’t have the best education system in the world, if we don’t continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to create great businesses here in the United States, that’s how we lose the competition. And unfortunately, Governor Romney’s budget and his proposals would not allow us to make those investments.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Governor.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, first of all, it’s not government that makes business successful. It’s not government investments that make businesses grow and hire people. Let me also note that the greatest threat that the world faces, the greatest national security threat is a nuclear Iran.

Let’s talk about China. China has an interest that’s very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world. They don’t want war. They don’t want to see protectionism. They don’t want to see the world break out into various form of chaos, because they have to manufacture goods and put people to work. They have about 20,000 — 20 million, rather, people coming out of the farms every year, coming into the cities, needing jobs. So they want the economy to work and the world to be free and open. And so we can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape, or form. We can work with them. We can collaborate with them if they’re willing to be responsible.

Now, they look at us and say, is it a good idea to be with America? How strong are we going to be? How strong is our economy? They look at the fact that we owe them a trillion dollars and owe other people $16 trillion in total, including them. They look at our decision to cut back on our military capabilities — a trillion dollars. The Secretary of Defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. It’s not my term. It’s the President’s own Secretary of Defense called them devastating. They look at America’s commitments around the world and they see what’s happening, and they say, well, okay, is America going to be strong? And the answer is, yes, if I’m President, America will be very strong.

We’ll also make sure that we have trade relations with China that work for us. I’ve watched year in and year out as companies have shut down and people have lost their jobs because China has not played by the same rules, in part by holding down artificially the value of their currency; it holds down the prices of their goods. It means our goods aren’t as competitive, and we lose jobs. That’s got to end. They’re making some progress. They need to make more. That’s why on day one I will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs.

They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods. They have to understand we want to trade with them, we want a world that’s stable, we like free enterprise, but you’ve got to play by the rules.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Governor, let me just ask you, if you declare them a currency manipulator on day one, some people say you’re just going to start a trade war with China on day one. Is that — isn’t there a risk that that could happen?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, they sell us about this much stuff every year, and we sell them about this much stuff every year. So it’s pretty clear who doesn’t want a trade war. And there’s one going on right now which we don’t know about — it’s a silent one, and they’re winning. We have enormous trade imbalance with China. And it’s worse this year than last year. And it’s worst last year than the year before.

And so we have to understand that we can’t just surrender and lose jobs year in and year out. We have to say to our friends in China, look, you guys are playing aggressively, we understand it, but this can’t keep on going. You can’t keep on holding down the value of your currency, stealing our intellectual property, counterfeiting our products, selling them around the world — even into the United States.

I was with one company that makes valves in process industries. And they said, look, we were having some valves coming in that were broken and we had to repair them under warranty. And we looked them up, and they had our serial number on them, and then we noticed that there was more than one with that same serial number. There were counterfeit products being made overseas with the same serial number as a U.S. company, the same packaging. These were being sold into our market and around the world as if they were made by the U.S. competitor. This can’t go on. I want a great relationship with China. China can be our partner, but that doesn’t mean they can just roll all over us and steal our jobs on an unfair basis.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Governor Romney is right, you are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas. And that’s your right. I mean, that’s how our free market works. But I’ve made a different bet on American workers.

If we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China. If we take your advice with respect to how we change our tax code so that companies that are in profits overseas don’t pay U.S. taxes compared to companies here that are paying taxes, that’s estimated to create 800,000 jobs. The problem is they won’t be here; they’ll be in places like China.

And if we’re not making investments in education and basic research, which is not something that the private sector is doing at a sufficient pace right now and has never done, then we will lose the lead in things like clean energy technology.

Now, with respect to what we’ve done with China already, U.S. exports have doubled since I came into office to China. And, actually, currencies are at their most advantageous point for U.S. exporters since 1993. We absolutely have to make more progress, and that’s why we’re going to keep on pressing.

And when it comes to our military and Chinese security, part of the reason that we were able to pivot to the Asia Pacific region after having ended the war in Iraq and transitioning out of Afghanistan is precisely because this is going to be a massive growth area in the future.

And we believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power, that we are going to have a presence there. We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through, that commerce continues. And we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in the region. That’s the kind of leadership that we’ll continue to show.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I just want to take one of those points. Again, attacking me is not talking about an agenda for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country. But the President mentioned the auto industry and that somehow I would be in favor of jobs being elsewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars, and I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry.

My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first checks. I disagreed with that. I said they need — these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy. And in that process, they can get government help and government guarantees, but they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess cost and the debt burden that they’d built up. And fortunately, the President –

THE PRESIDENT: Governor Romney, that’s not what you said.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Fortunately, the President — you can take a look at the op-ed. You can take a look at the op-ed.

THE PRESIDENT: Governor Romney, you did not say that you would provide governor help.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: You know, I’m still speaking. I said that we would provide guarantees, and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy. Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet. And the idea that has been suggested, that I would liquidate the industry — of course not, of course not.

THE PRESIDENT: Let’s check the record.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: That’s the height of silliness. I have never said I would –

THE PRESIDENT: Let’s check the record.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — liquidate the industry. I want to keep the industry going and thriving.

THE PRESIDENT: Governor, the people of Detroit don’t forget.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: And that’s why I have the kind of commitment to make sure that our industries in this country can compete and be successful. We in this country can compete successfully with anyone in the world, and we’re going to. We’re going to have to have a President, however, that doesn’t think that somehow the government investing in car companies like Tessella and Fisker, making electric battery cars — this is not research, Mr. President. These are the government investing in companies, investing in Solyndra. This is a company — this isn’t basic research. I want to invest in research. Research is great. Providing funding to universities and think tanks — great. But investing in companies — absolutely not. That’s the wrong way to go.

THE PRESIDENT: Governor, the fact of the matter is –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’m still speaking. So I want to make sure that we make America more competitive and that we do those things that make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses to grow. But your investing in companies doesn’t do that. In fact, it makes it less likely for them to come here, because the private sector is not going to invest in a solar company –

THE PRESIDENT: Governor, I’m happy to respond. You’ve held the floor for a while.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: — if you’re investing government money in someone else’s.

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance to the U.S. auto companies even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn’t true. They would have gone through –

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: You’re wrong. You’re wrong, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I am not wrong.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: You’re wrong.

THE PRESIDENT: I am not wrong.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: People can look it up — you’re right.

THE PRESIDENT: People will look it up.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Good.

THE PRESIDENT: But more importantly, it is true that in order for us to be competitive, we’re going to have to make some smart choices right now. Cutting our education budget — that’s not a smart choice. That will not help us compete with China. Cutting our investments in research and technology — that’s not a smart choice. That will not help us compete with China. Bringing down our deficit by adding $7 trillion of tax cuts and military spending that our military is not asking for, before we even get to the debt that we currently have — that is not going to make us more competitive.

Those are the kinds of choices that the American people face right now. Having a tax code that rewards companies that are shipping jobs overseas instead of companies that are investing here in the United States — that will not make us more competitive. And the one thing that I’m absolutely clear about is that after a decade in which we saw a drift, jobs being shipped overseas, nobody championing American workers and American businesses, we’ve now begun to make some real progress. What we can’t do is go back to the same policies that got us into such difficulty in the first place. And that’s why we have to move forward and not go back.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I couldn’t agree more about going forward, but I certainly don’t want to go back to the policies of the last four years. The policies of the last four years has seen incomes in America decline every year for middle-income families, now down $4,300 during your term. Twenty-three million Americans still struggling to find a good job.

When you came to office, 32 million people on food stamps; today, 47 million people on food stamps. When you came to office, just over $10 trillion in debt; now $16 trillion in debt. It hasn’t worked. You said by now we’d be at 5.4 percent unemployment. We’re 9 million jobs short of that. I’ve met some of those people. I met them in Appleton, Wisconsin. I met a young woman in Philadelphia who’s coming out of college, can’t find work. Ann was with someone just the other day that was just weeping about not being able to get work. It’s just a tragedy in a nation so prosperous as ours that these last four years have been so hard.

And that’s why it’s so critical that we make America once again the most attractive place in the world to start businesses, to build jobs, to grow the economy. And that’s not going to happen by just hiring teachers.

Look, I’d love to — I love teachers, and I’m happy to have states and communities that want to hire teachers do that. By the way, I don’t like to have the federal government start pushing its way deeper and deeper into our schools; let the states and localities do that. I was a governor — the federal government didn’t hire our teachers.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: But I love teachers, but I want to get our private sector growing, and I know how to do it.

MR. SCHIEFFER: I think we all love teachers. (Laughter.)

Gentlemen, thank you so much for a very vigorous debate. We have come to the end. It is time for closing statements. I believe you’re first, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Bob, Governor Romney, and to Lynn University.

You’ve now heard three debates, months of campaigning and way too many TV commercials. (Laughter.) And now you’ve got a choice. Over the last four years, we’ve made real progress digging our way out of policies that gave us two prolonged wars, record deficits, and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

And Governor Romney wants to take us back to those policies — a foreign policy that’s wrong and reckless; economic policies that won’t create jobs, won’t reduce our deficit, but will make sure that folks at the very top don’t have to play by the same rules that you do. And I’ve got a different vision for America.

I want to build on our strengths. And I’ve put forward a plan to make sure that we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to our shores by rewarding companies and small businesses that are investing here, not overseas. I want to make sure we’ve got the best education system in the world, and we’re retaining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

I want to control our own energy by developing oil and natural gas, but also the energy sources of the future. Yes, I want to reduce our deficit by cutting spending that we don’t need, but also by asking the wealthy to do a little bit more so that we can invest in things like research and technology that are the key to a 21st-century economy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will maintain the strongest military in the world, keep faith with our troops, and go after those who would do us harm. But after a decade of war, I think we all recognize we’ve got to do some nation-building here at home rebuilding our roads, our bridges, and especially caring for our veterans who sacrificed so much for our freedom.

We’ve been through tough times, but we always bounce back because of our character, because we pull together. And if I have the privilege of being your President for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your voices, I will fight for your families, and I will work every single day to make sure that America continues to be the greatest nation on Earth. Thank you.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Thank you. Bob, Mr. President, folks at Lynn University, good to be with you. I’m optimistic about the future. I’m excited about our prospects as a nation. I want to see peace. I want to see growing peace in this country. It’s our objective. We have an opportunity to have real leadership. America is going to have that kind of leadership and continue to promote principles of peace that will make the world a safer place, and make people in this country more confident that their future is secure.

I also to want to make sure that we get this economy going. And there are two very different paths the country can take. One is a path represented by the President, which, at the end of four years, would mean we’d have $20 trillion in debt, heading towards Greece. I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget.

The President’s path will mean continuing declining in take-home pay. I want to make sure our take-home pay turns around and starts to grow. The President’s path means 20 million people out of work, struggling for a good job. I’ll get people back to work with 12 million new jobs.

I’m going to make sure that we get people off of food stamps, not by cutting the program, but by getting them good jobs. America is going to come back, and for that to happen, we’re going to have to have a President who can work across the aisle.

I was in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat. I learned how to get along on the other side of the aisle. We’ve got to do that in Washington. Washington is broken. I know what it takes to get this country back, and we’ll work with good Democrats and good Republicans to do that.

This nation is the hope of the Earth. We’ve been blessed by having a nation that’s free and prosperous thanks to the contributions of the Greatest Generation. They’ve held a torch for the world to see, a torch of freedom and hope and opportunity. Now it’s our turn to take that torch. I’m convinced we’ll do it.

We need strong leadership. I’d like to be that leader with your support. I’ll work with you. I’ll lead you in an open and honest way. And I ask for your vote. I’d like to be the next President of the United States to support and help this great nation, and to make sure that we all together maintain America as the hope of the Earth. Thank you so much.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Gentlemen, thank you both so much. That brings an end to this year’s debates. And we want to thank Lynn University and its students for having us. As I always do at the end of these debates, I leave you with the words of my mom, who said, go vote. (Laughter.) It makes you feel big and strong. Good night.

October 16, 2012: Second Presidential Debate at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York Transcript

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

2012 PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES

Presidential Debate in Hempstead, New York
October 16, 2012

Candy Crowley. Good evening from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. I’m Candy Crowley from CNN “State of the Union.”We are here for the second Presidential Debate, a town hall sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Gallup organization chose 82 uncommitted voters from the New York area. Their questions will drive the night. My goal is to give the conversation direction and to ensure questions get answered.

The questions are known to me and my team only. Neither the commission, nor the candidates have seen them. I hope to get to as many questions as possible, and because I am the optimistic sort, I’m sure the candidates will oblige by keeping their answers concise and on point.

Each candidate has as much as 2 minutes to respond to a common question, and there will be a 2-minute follow-up. The audience here in the hall has agreed to be polite and attentive; no cheering, no booing, or outbursts of any sort.

We will set aside that agreement just this once to welcome President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us here tonight. We have a lot of folks who have been waiting all day to talk to you, so I want to get right to it.

Governor Romney, as you know, you won the coin toss, so the first question will go to you. And I want to turn to a first-time voter, Jeremy Epstein, who has a question for you.

Education/College Affordability/Job Creation and Growth

Q. Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors, and others is that when I graduate, I’ll have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly, my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

Republican Presidential Nominee W. Mitt Romney. Thank you, Jeremy. I appreciate your question. And thank you for being here this evening. And to all of those from Nassau County here that have come, thank you for your time. Thank you to Hofstra University and to Candy Crowley for organizing and leading this event.

Thank you, Mr. President, also for being part of this debate.

Your question is one that’s being asked by college kids all over this country. I was in Pennsylvania with someone who had just graduated. This was in Philadelphia, and she said: “I’ve got my degree, I can’t find a job. I’ve got three part-time jobs; they’re just barely enough to pay for my food and pay for an apartment. I can’t begin to pay back my student loans.”

So what we have to do is two things. We have to make sure that we make it easier for kids to afford college and also make sure that when they get out of college there’s a job. When I was Governor of Massachusetts, to get a high school degree you had to pass an exam. If you graduated in the top quarter of your class, we gave you a John and Abigail Adams Scholarship: 4 years tuition free to the college of your choice in Massachusetts; it’s a public institution.

I want to make sure we keep our Pell grant program growing. We’re also going to have our loan program so that people are able to afford school. But the key thing is to make sure you can get a job when you get out of school. And what’s happened over the last 4 years has been very, very hard for America’s young people.

I want you to be able to get a job. I know what it takes to get this economy going. With half of college kids graduating this year without a college—excuse me—without a job and without a college-level job, that’s just unacceptable. And likewise, you got more and more debt on your back. So more debt and less jobs. I’m going to change that. I know what it takes to create good jobs again. I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve.

And kids across this country are going to recognize we’re bringing back an economy. It’s not going to be like the last 4 years. The middle class has been crushed over the last 4 years, and jobs have been too scarce. I know what it takes to bring them back, and I’m going to do that and make sure when you graduate—when do you graduate?

Q. 2014.

Gov. Romney. 2014. When you come out in 2014, I presume I’m going to be President; I’m going to make sure you get a job. Thanks, Jeremy.

Q. Thank you.

Gov. Romney. Yes, you bet.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President.

Job Creation and Growth/Education/Domestic Energy Sources/Deficit and National Debt

The President. Jeremy, first of all, your future is bright. And the fact that you’re making an investment in higher education is critical not just to you, but to the entire Nation. Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country, but not just jobs, good-paying jobs, ones that can support a family.

And what I want to do is build on the 5 million jobs that we’ve created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone. And there are a bunch of things that we can do to make sure your future is bright.

Number one: I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. When Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt, I said, we’re going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry, and it’s come surging back. I want to do that in industries not just in Detroit, but all across the country. And that means we change our Tax Code so we’re giving incentives to companies that are investing here in the United States and creating jobs here. It also means we’re helping them and small businesses to export all around the world to new markets.

Number two: We’ve got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world. And the fact that you’re going to college is great, but I want everybody to get a great education. And we’ve worked hard to make sure that student loans are available for folks like you. But I also want to make sure that community colleges are offering slots for workers to get retrained for the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs of the future.

Number three: We’ve got to control our own energy. Not only oil and natural gas, which we’ve been investing in, but also we’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy sources of the future, not just thinking about next year, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now. That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy-efficient cars.

We’ve got to reduce our deficit, but we’ve got to do it in a balanced way, asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more along with cuts so that we can invest in education like yours. And let’s take the money that we’ve been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America: roads, bridges, schools. We do those things, not only is your future going to be bright, but America’s future is going to be bright as well.

Job Losses/Job Creation and Growth/Automobile Industry

Ms. Crowley. Let me ask you for a more immediate answer, beginning with Mr. Romney. Just quickly, what can you do? We’re looking at a situation where 40 percent of the unemployed have been unemployed for 6 months or more. They don’t have the 2 years that Jeremy has. What about those long-term unemployed who need a job right now?

Gov. Romney. Well, what you’re seeing in this country is 23 million people struggling to find a job and a lot of them, as you say, Candy, have been out of work for a long, long, long time. The President’s policies have been exercised over the last 4 years, and they haven’t put Americans back to work. We have fewer people working today than we had when the President took office. If the—the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when he took office; it’s 7.8 percent now. But if you calculated that unemployment rate taking back the people who dropped out of the workforce, it would be 10.7 percent.

We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work. That’s why I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in 4 years and rising take-home pay. It’s going to help Jeremy get a job when he comes out of school. It’s going to help people across the country that are unemployed right now.

And one thing that the President said, which I want to make sure that we understand: He said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt. And that’s right. My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy’s and Continental Airlines and come out stronger. And I know he keeps saying, you wanted to take Detroit bankrupt. Well, the President took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did.

And I think it’s important to know that that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet so they could start hiring more people. That was precisely what I recommended and ultimately what happened.

Automobile Industry/Governor Romney’s Economic Platform

Ms. Crowley. Let me give the President a chance. Go ahead.

The President. Candy, what Governor Romney said just isn’t true. He wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open, and we would have lost a million jobs. And that—don’t take my word for it. Take the executives at GM and Chrysler, some of whom are Republicans, may even support Governor Romney, but they’ll tell you his prescription wasn’t going to work.

And Governor Romney says he’s got a five-point plan. Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector. That’s been his philosophy as Governor. That’s been his philosophy as a Presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money.

That’s exactly the philosophy that we’ve seen in place for the last decade. That’s what’s been squeezing middle class families. And we have fought back for 4 years to get out of that mess. The last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, the next question is going to be for you here. And Mr. Romney—Governor Romney, there’ll be plenty of chances here to go on, but I want to——

Gov. Romney. That Detroit answer——

Ms. Crowley. ——we have all these folks—I will let you absolutely——

Gov. Romney. ——that Detroit answer and the rest of the answer, way off the mark.

Ms. Crowley. Okay. We’ll—you certainly will have lots of time here coming up, because I want to move you on to something that’s sort of connected to cars here and go over—and we want to get a question from Phillip Tricolla.

Domestic Energy Sources/Alternative Energy Sources

Q. Your Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his Department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?

The President. The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been President. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.

But what I’ve also said is we can’t just produce traditional sources of energy. We’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we’ve doubled clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels.

And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and a hundred years’ worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas. And we can do it in an environmentally sound way.

But we’ve also got to continue to figure out how we have efficient energy, because ultimately, that’s how we’re going to reduce demand and that’s what’s going to keep gas prices lower.

Now, Governor Romney will say he’s got an all-of-the-above plan. But basically, his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies. So he’s got the oil and gas part, but he doesn’t have the clean energy part.

And if we’re only thinking about tomorrow or the next day, and not thinking about 10 years from now, we’re not going to control our own economic future. Because China, Germany, they’re making these investments. And I’m not going to cede those jobs of the future to those countries. I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States. That’s going to help Jeremy get a job. It’s also going to make sure that you’re not paying as much for gas.

Oil and Gas Production on Public Land/Domestic Energy Sources

Ms. Crowley. Governor, on the subject of gas prices?

Gov. Romney. Well, let’s look at the President’s policies, all right, as opposed to the rhetoric, because we’ve had 4 years of policies being played out. And the President’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on Federal land.

As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on Federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent. Why? Because the President cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on Federal lands and in Federal waters. So where did the increase come from? Well, a lot of it came from the Bakken range in North Dakota. What was his participation there? The administration brought a criminal action against the people drilling up there for oil, this massive new resource we have. And what was the cause? Twenty or 25 birds were killed, and they brought out a Migratory Bird Act to go after them on a criminal basis.

Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables. I believe very much in our renewable capabilities; ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix. But what we don’t need is to have the President keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal, and gas. This has not been Mr. Oil or Mr. Gas or Mr. Coal. Talk to the people that are working in those industries.

I was in coal country. People grab my arms and say, please save my job. The head of the EPA said you can’t build a coal plant. He’ll virtually—it’s virtually impossible given our regulations. When the President ran for office, he said, if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you’ll go bankrupt. That’s not the right course for America. Let’s take advantage of the energy resources we have as well as the energy sources for the future. And if we do that, if we do what I’m planning on doing, which is getting us energy independent—North America energy independence within 8 years—you’re going to see manufacturing jobs come back, because our energy is low cost. They’re already beginning to come back, because of our abundant energy.

I’ll get America and North America energy independent. I’ll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses. We’re going to bring that pipeline in from Canada. How in the world the President said no to that pipeline I will never know. This is about bringing good jobs back for the middle class of America, and that’s what I’m going to do.

Oil and Gas Production on Public Land/Domestic Energy Sources

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, let me just see if I can move you to the gist of this question, which is, are we looking at the new normal? I can tell you that tomorrow morning a lot of people in Hempstead will wake up and fill up and they will find that the price of gas is over $4 a gallon. Is it within the purview of the Government to bring those prices down, or are we looking at the new normal?

The President. Candy, there’s no doubt that world demand has gone up. But our production is going up. And we’re using oil more efficiently. And very little of what Governor Romney just said is true.

We’ve opened up public lands. We’re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration, and my—the previous President was an oil man. And natural gas isn’t just appearing magically; we’re encouraging it and working with the industry.

And when I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, when—Governor, when you were Governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, “This plant kills,” and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly, you’re a big champion of coal.

So what I’ve tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil. Same thing with natural gas.

And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years. Oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and most importantly, we’re also starting to build cars that are more efficient. And that’s creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported because that’s the demand around the world, and it also means that it will save money in your pocketbook. That’s the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next 4 years.

Oil and Gas Production on Public Land/Gasoline Prices

Gov. Romney. But that’s not what you’ve done in the last 4 years. That’s the problem.

The President. Sure it is.

Mr. Romney. In the last 4 years, you cut permits and licenses on Federal land and Federal waters in half.

The President. Not true, Governor Romney.

Gov. Romney. So how much did you cut it by?

The President. It’s not true.

Gov. Romney. By how much did you cut them by then?

The President. Governor, we have actually produced more oil on——

Gov. Romney. No, no, how much did you cut licenses and permits——

The President. Governor——

Gov. Romney. ——on Federal land and Federal waters?

The President. Governor Romney, here’s what we did: There were a whole bunch of oil companies——

Gov. Romney. No, I had a question——

The President. No, you——

Gov. Romney. ——and the question was how much did you cut them by? How much did you cut them by?

The President. You want me to answer a question. I’m happy to answer the question.

Gov. Romney. All right, and it is?

The President. Here’s what happened: You had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren’t using. So what we said was, you can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s most profitable for you. These are public lands, so if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it.

Gov. Romney. Okay, now, that’s——

The President. And so what we did was take away those leases, and we are now reletting them so that we can actually make a profit.

Gov. Romney. And production on private—on Government lands——

The President. And production is up.

Gov. Romney. ——is down.

The President. No it isn’t.

Gov. Romney. Production on Government land of oil is down 14 percent——

The President. Governor——

Gov. Romney. ——and production of gas is down 9 percent.

The President. ——what you’re saying is just not true. It’s just not true.

Gov. Romney. It’s absolutely true. Look, there’s no question but that the people recognize that we have not produced more oil and gas——

The President. I’ll give you your time. Go ahead.

Gov. Romney. ——on Federal lands and in Federal waters. And coal? Coal production is not up; coal jobs are not up. I was just at a coal facility where some 1,200 people lost their jobs.

The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.

The President. Well, Governor, if you’re——

Gov. Romney. And the answer is, I don’t believe people think that’s the case because I——

The President. ——if you’re asking me a question, I’m going to answer it.

Gov. Romney. That wasn’t a question.

The President. Okay. Go ahead.

Gov. Romney. That was a statement. I don’t think the American people believe that. I will fight for oil, coal, and natural gas. And the proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you’re paying at the pump. If you’re paying less than you paid a year or 2 ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you’re paying more.

When the President took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about a buck-eighty-six a gallon. Now it’s 4 bucks a gallon. The price of electricity is up. If the President’s energy policies are working, you’re going to see the cost of energy come down.

I will fight to create more energy in this country to get America energy secure, and part of that is bringing in a pipeline of oil from Canada, taking advantage of the oil and coal we have here, drilling offshore in Alaska, drilling offshore in Virginia, where the people want it.

Ms. Crowley. Let me give——

Gov. Romney. Those things will get us the energy we need.

Gasoline Prices/Oil and Gas Production/Alternative Energy Sources

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, could you address—because we did finally get to gas prices here—could you address what the Governor said, which is if your energy policy was working, the price of gasoline would not be $4 a gallon here. Is that true?

The President. Well, think about what the Governor just said. He said, when I took office the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse. Because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney is now promoting.

So it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices, because with his policies we might be back in that same mess. [Laughter]

What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong and at the same time produce energy. And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about—we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire Earth once. So I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production. What I’m not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation.

So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says these are imaginary jobs, when you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican Senator in that—in Iowa is all for it, providing tax credits to help this work. And Governor Romney says, I’m opposed, I’d get rid of it.

That’s not an energy strategy for the future. And we need to win that future.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President——

The President. And I intend to win it as President of the United States.

Ms. Crowley. I got to move you along.

Gov. Romney. No, he got the first——

Ms. Crowley. And the next question is for you.

Gov. Romney. He actually got the first question, so I get the last question—last answer on that one.

Ms. Crowley. Actually, in the follow-up it doesn’t quite work like that. [Laughter]

Gov. Romney. Actually——

Ms. Crowley. But I’m going to give you a chance here. I promise you, I’m going to. And the next question is for you, so if you want to continue on. But I don’t want to leave all these guys sitting here, so——

Gov. Romney. Candy, I don’t have a policy of stopping wind jobs in Iowa. And they’re not phantom jobs, they’re real jobs.

Ms. Crowley. Okay.

Gov. Romney. I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa and across our country. I appreciate the jobs in coal and oil and gas. I’m going to make sure——

Ms. Crowley. And you’re—okay. Thank you, Governor.

Gov. Romney. ——that taking advantage of our energy resources will bring back manufacturing to America. We’re going to get through a very aggressive energy policy—3½ million more jobs in this country. It’s critical to our future.

The President. Candy, it’s okay, I’m used to being interrupted.

Ms. Crowley. We’re going to move you along to taxes.

The President. We——

Ms. Crowley. All right, we’re going to move you both along to taxes over here and all these folks that have been waiting. Governor, this question is for you. It comes from Mary Polono—Polano, sorry.

Gov. Romney. Hi, Mary.

Tax Rates and Deductions

Q. Governor Romney, you have stated that if you’re elected President you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue. Concerning these various deductions—the mortgage deduction, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit, and also the—oh, what’s that other credit? [Laughter] I forgot.

The President. You’re doing great.

Q. Oh, I remember—the education credits, which are important to me because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?

Gov. Romney. Thank you very much. And let me tell you, you’re absolutely right about part of that, which is I want to bring the rates down. I want to simplify the Tax Code, and I want to get middle income taxpayers to have lower taxes. And the reason I want middle income taxpayers to have lower taxes is because middle income taxpayers have been buried over the past 4 years.

You’ve seen, as middle income people in this country, incomes go down $4,300 a family, even as gasoline prices have gone up $2,000. Health insurance premiums up $2,500. Food prices up. Utility prices up. The middle income families in America have been crushed over the last 4 years, so I want to get some relief to middle income families. That’s part one.

Now, how about deductions? Because I’m going to bring rates down across the board for everybody, but I’m going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits, particularly for people at the high end, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they’re paying now.

The top 5 percent of the taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the Nation collects. So that will stay the same.

Middle income people are going to get a tax break. And so in terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be to say everybody gets—I’ll pick a number—$25,000 of deductions and credits, and you can decide which ones to use. Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit, and so forth, you can use those as part of—fill in that bucket, if you will, of deductions. But your rate comes down, and the burden also comes down on you for one more reason, and that is, every middle income taxpayer no longer will pay any tax on interest, dividends, or capital gains; no tax on your savings.

That makes life a lot easier. If you’re getting interest from a bank, if you’re getting a statement from a mutual fund, or any other kind of investments you have, you don’t have to worry about filing taxes on that because there will be no taxes for anybody making $200,000 a year and less on your interest, dividends, and capital gains.

Why am I lowering taxes on the middle class? Because under the last 4 years, they’ve been buried, and I want to help people in the middle class. And I will not—I will not under any circumstances reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest income taxpayers. And I will not under any circumstances increase taxes on the middle class.

The President’s spending, the President’s borrowing will cause this Nation to have to raise taxes on the American people, not just at the high end. A recent study has shown that people in the middle class will see $4,000 a year higher taxes as a result of the spending and borrowing of this administration. I will not let that happen. I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget, and I’m going to reduce the tax burden on middle income families. And what’s that going to do? It’s going to help those families, and it’s going to create incentives to start growing jobs again in this country.

Ms. Crowley. Thanks, Governor.

Gov. Romney. Thank you.

Tax Rates/Governor Romney’s Economic Platform

The President. My philosophy on taxes has been simple, and that is, I want to give middle class families and folks who are striving to get into the middle class some relief, because they have been hit hard, over the last decade, over the last 15, over the last 20 years.

So 4 years ago, I stood on a stage just like this one—actually, it was a town hall—and I said, I would cut taxes for middle class families, and that’s what I’ve done, by $3,600. I said I would cut taxes for small businesses, who are the drivers and engines of growth, and we’ve cut them 18 times. And I want to continue those tax cuts for middle class families and for small businesses.

But what I’ve also said is if we’re serious about reducing the deficit, if this is genuinely a moral obligation to the next generation, then in addition to some tough spending cuts, we’ve also got to make sure that the wealthy do a little bit more.

So what I’ve said is your first $250,000 worth of income, no change. And that means 98 percent of American families, 97 percent of small businesses, they will not see a tax increase. I’m ready to sign that bill right now. The only reason it’s not happening is because Governor Romney’s allies in Congress have held the 98 percent hostage, because they want tax breaks for the top 2 percent.

But what I’ve also said is for above $250,000, we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was President. We created 23 million new jobs. That’s part of what took us from deficits to surplus. It will be good for our economy, and it will be good for job creation.

Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy. He was on “60 Minutes” just 2 weeks ago and he was asked, is it fair for somebody like you making $20 million a year to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or bus driver, somebody making $50,000 a year. And he said, yes, I think that’s fair. Not only that, he said, I think that’s what grows the economy.

Well, I fundamentally disagree with that. I think what grows the economy is when you get that tax credit that we put in place for your kids going to college. I think that grows the economy. I think what grows the economy is when we make sure small businesses are getting a tax credit for hiring veterans who fought for our country. That grows our economy.

So we just have a different theory. And when Governor Romney stands here, after a year of campaigning, when during a Republican primary, he stood on stage and said, I’m going to give tax cuts—he didn’t say tax rate cuts, he said tax cuts—to everybody, including the top 1 percent, you should believe him, because that’s been his history. And that’s exactly the kind of top-down economics that is not going to work if we want a strong middle class and an economy that’s thriving for everybody.

Ms. Crowley. Governor Romney, I’m sure you’ve got a reply there. [Laughter]

Tax Rates/Job Creation and Growth

Gov. Romney. You’re absolutely right. You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I’m not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle income people.

And why do I want to bring rates down and at the same time lower exemptions and deductions, particularly for people at the high end? Because if you bring rates down, it makes it easier for small business to keep more of their capital and hire people. And for me, this is about jobs. I want to get America’s economy going again. Fifty-four percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals. So when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people.

For me, I look at what’s happened in the last 4 years and say this has been a disappointment. We can do better than this. We don’t have to settle for—how many months?—43 months with unemployment above 8 percent, 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job right now. There are 3½ million more women living in poverty today than when the President took office. We don’t have to live like this.

We can get this economy going again. My five-point plan does it. Energy independence for North America in 5 years; opening up more trade, particularly in Latin America; cracking down on China when they cheat; getting us to a balanced budget; fixing our training programs for our workers; and, finally, championing small business.

I want to help small businesses grow and thrive. I know how to make that happen. I spent my life in the private sector. I know why jobs come and why they go. And they’re going now because of the policies of this administration.

Ms. Crowley. Governor, let me ask the President something about what you just said. The Governor says that he is not going to allow the top 5 percent—I believe is what he said—to have a tax cut, that it will all even out, that what he wants to do is give that tax cut to the middle class. Settled?

Budgetary Effects of Tax Cuts

The President. No, it’s not settled. Look, the cost of lowering rates for everybody across the board 20 percent, along with what he also wants to do in terms of eliminating the estate tax, along what he wants to do in terms of corporate changes in the Tax Code, it costs about $5 trillion.

Governor Romney then also wants to spend $2 trillion on additional military programs, even though the military is not asking for them. That’s $7 trillion. He also wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. That’s another trillion dollars. That’s $8 trillion.

Now, what he says is he’s going to make sure that this doesn’t add to the deficit and he’s going to cut middle class taxes. But when he’s asked how are you going to do it, which deductions, which loopholes are you going to close, he can’t tell you. The fact that he only has to pay 14 percent on his taxes when a lot of you are paying much higher, he’s already taken that off the board. Capital gains are going to continue to be at a low rate, so we’re not going to get money that way.

We haven’t heard from the Governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that.

Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend 7 or $8 trillion and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal.

And neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up. And what’s at stake here is one of two things. Either, Candy, this blows up the deficit, because keep in mind, this is just to pay for the additional spending that he’s talking about—7, $8 trillion—that’s before we even get to the deficit we already have.

Or alternatively, it’s got to be paid for not only by closing deductions for wealthy individuals—that will pay for about 4 percent reduction in tax rates—you’re going to be paying for it. You’ll lose some deductions. And you can’t buy this sales pitch. Nobody who’s looked at it that’s serious actually believes it adds up.

Gender Discrimination/Wage Equality/Education

Q. In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

The President. Well, Catherine, this is a great question. And I was raised by a single mom who had to put herself through school while looking after two kids. And she worked hard every day and made a lot of sacrifices to make sure we got everything we needed.

My grandmother, she started off as a secretary in a bank. She never got a college education even though she was smart as a whip. And she worked her way up to become a vice president at a local bank, but she hit the glass ceiling. She trained people who would end up becoming her bosses during the course of her career. She didn’t complain. That’s not what you did in that generation.

And this is one of the reasons why one of the first—the first bill I signed was something called the Lilly Ledbetter bill, and this is named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less, and the Supreme Court said that she couldn’t bring suit because she should have found out about it earlier, when she had no way of finding out about it. So we fixed that.

And that’s an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue; this is a middle class issue. And that’s why we’ve got to fight for it.

It also means that we’ve got to make sure that young people like yourself are able to afford a college education. Earlier, Governor Romney talked about—he wants to make Pell grants and other education accessible for young people. Well, the truth of the matter is, is that that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve expanded Pell grants for millions of people, including millions of young women all across the country. We did it by taking $60 billion that was going to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, and we said, let’s just cut out the middleman. Let’s give the money directly to students. And as a consequence, we’ve seen millions of young people be able to afford college, and that’s going to make sure that young women are going to be able to compete in that marketplace.

But we’ve got to enforce the laws, which is what we are doing. And we’ve also got to make sure that in every walk of life, we do not tolerate discrimination. That’s been one of the hallmarks of my administration. I’m going to continue to push on this issue for the next 4 years.

Ms. Crowley. Governor Romney, pay equity for women.

Gender Discrimination/Wage Equality/National Economy

Gov. Romney. Thank you, an important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as Governor of my State, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I went to my staff, and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are all men? And they said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. And I said, well, gosh, can’t we find some women that are also qualified? And so we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women.

I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 States and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other State in America.

Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognize that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night; I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers, they’re going to be anxious to hire women.

In the last 4 years, women have lost 580,000 jobs. That’s the net of what’s happened in the last 4 years. We’re still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 3½ million women more now in poverty than 4 years ago.

What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.

This is what I’ve done. It’s what I look forward to doing. And I know what it takes to make an economy work. And I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy. An economy with 50 percent of kids graduating from college that can’t find a job, or a college-level job, that’s not what we have to have.

Ms. Crowley. Governor——

Gov. Romney. I’m going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.

Wage Discrimination/Contraception and Family Planning/Women’s Health Issues

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, why don’t you get in on this quickly, please?

The President. Catherine, I just want to point out that when Governor Romney’s campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it, he said, I’ll get back to you. And that’s not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy.

Now, there are some other issues that have a bearing on how women succeed in the workplace, for example, their health care. A major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making. I think that’s a mistake.

In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who’s insured, because this is not just a health issue, it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket.

Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that, in fact, employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need.

When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country, and it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work.

When we talk about child care and the credits that we’re providing, that makes a difference in terms of whether they can go out there and earn a living for their family.

These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues. And one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same, fair deal as men are.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President——

The President. And I’ve got two daughters and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody’s sons have. That’s a part of what I’m fighting for as President of the United States.

Ms. Crowley. I want to move us along here to Susan Katz who has a question. And, Governor, it’s for you.

Contraception and Family Planning/Administration of Former President George W. Bush/Energy/Trade/Federal Budget/Small Business Promotion Efforts

Q. Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last 4 years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush? And how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?

Gov. Romney. Great. Thank you. And I appreciate that question. I just want to make sure that—I think I was supposed to get that last answer, but I want to point out that I don’t believe——

The President. I don’t think so, Candy. I want to make sure our timekeepers are working here.

Gov. Romney. The time——

Ms. Crowley. The timekeepers are all working.

The President. All right.

Ms. Crowley. And let me tell you that the last part, it’s for the two of you to talk to one another, and it isn’t quite as ordered as you think. But go ahead and use this 2 minutes any way you’d like to, the question is on the floor.

Gov. Romney. I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. And the President’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.

The President. Governor, that’s not true.

Gov. Romney. Let me come back and answer your question. President Bush and I are different people, and these are different times. And that’s why my five-point plan is so different than what he would have done.

I mean, for instance, we can now, by virtue of new technology, actually get all the energy we need in North America without having to go to the Arabs or the Venezuelans or anyone else. That wasn’t true in his time. That’s why my policy starts with a very robust policy to get all that energy in North America, become energy secure.

Number two, trade: I’ll crack down on China. President Bush didn’t. I’m also going to dramatically expand trade in Latin America. It’s been growing about 12 percent per year over a long period of time. I want to add more free trade agreements so we’ll have more trade.

Number three, I’m going to get us to a balanced budget. President Bush didn’t. President Obama was right: He said that that was outrageous to have deficits as high as half a trillion dollars under the Bush years. He was right. But then he put in place deficits twice that size for every one of his 4 years, and his forecast for the next 4 years is more deficits almost that large. So that’s the next area I’m different than President Bush.

And then let’s take the last one, championing small business. Our party has been focused on big business too long. I came through small business. I understand how hard it is to start a small business. That’s why everything I’ll do is designed to help small businesses grow and add jobs. I want to keep their taxes down, on small business. I want regulators to see their job as encouraging small enterprise, not crushing it.

And the thing I find most troubling about Obamacare—well, it’s a long list—but one of the things I find most troubling is that when you go out and talk to small businesses and ask them what they think about it, they tell you it keeps them from hiring more people.

My priority is jobs. I know how to make that happen. And President Bush had a very different path for a very different time. My path is designed in getting small businesses to grow and hire people.

Ms. Crowley. Thanks, Governor.

Mr. President.

Job Creation and Growth/Governor Romney’s Economic and Social Platforms

The President. Well, first of all, I think it’s important to tell you that we did come in during some tough times. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when I started. But we have been digging our way out of policies that were misplaced and focused on the top doing very well and middle class folks not doing well. And we’ve seen 30 consecutive—31 consecutive months of job growth, 5.2 million new jobs created. And the plans that I talked about will create even more.

But when Governor Romney says that he has a very different economic plan, the centerpiece of his economic plan are tax cuts. That’s what took us from surplus to deficit. When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China and is currently investing in countries—in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks.

That’s—Governor, you’re the last person who is going to get tough on China.

And what we’ve done when it comes to trade is not only sign three trade deals to open up new markets, but we’ve also set up a task force for trade that goes after anybody who is taking advantage of American workers or businesses and not creating a level playing field. We’ve brought twice as many cases against unfair trading practices than the previous administration, and we’ve won every single one that’s been decided.

When I said that we had to make sure that China was not flooding our domestic market with cheap tires, Governor Romney said I was being protectionist, that it wouldn’t be helpful to American workers. Well, in fact, we saved a thousand jobs. And that’s the kind of tough trade actions that are required.

But the last point I want to make is this: There are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform; he didn’t call for self-deportation. George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.

So there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy. And I think that’s a mistake. That’s not how we’re going to move our economy forward.

Ms. Crowley. I want to move you both along to the next question because it’s in the same wheelhouse so you will be able to respond. But the President does get this question. I want to call on Michael Jones.

The President’s Accomplishments/Governor Romney’s Economic and Social Platforms

Q. Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.

The President. Well, we’ve gone through a tough 4 years, there’s no doubt about it. But 4 years ago, I told the American people and I told you I would cut taxes for middle class families, and I did. I told you I’d cut taxes for small businesses, and I have. I said that I’d end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said we’d refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have gone after Al Qaida’s leadership like never before, and Usama bin Laden is dead.

I said that we would put in place health care reform to make sure that insurance companies can’t jerk you around and if you don’t have health insurance, that you’d have a chance to get affordable insurance, and I have.

I committed that I would rein in the excesses of Wall Street, and we passed the toughest Wall Street reforms since the 1930s.

We’ve created 5 million jobs—gone from 800,000 jobs a month being lost—and we are making progress. We saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse.

Now, does that mean you’re not struggling? Absolutely not. A lot of us are. And that’s why the plan that I’ve put forward for manufacturing and education and reducing our deficit in a sensible way, using the savings from ending wars to rebuild America and putting people back to work, making sure that we are controlling our own energy, but not just the energy of today, but also the energy of the future—all those things will make a difference.

So the point is the commitments I’ve made I’ve kept. And those that I haven’t been able to keep, it’s not for lack of trying, and we’re going to get it done in a second term. But you should pay attention to this campaign, because Governor Romney has made some commitments as well, and I suspect he’ll keep those too. When Members of the Republican Congress say, we’re going to sign a no-tax pledge so that we don’t ask a dime from millionaires and billionaires to reduce our deficit so we can still invest in education and helping kids go to college, he said, me too.

When they said, we’re going to cut Planned Parenthood funding, he said, me too. When they said, we’re going to repeal Obamacare—the first thing I’m going to do, despite the fact that it’s the same health care plan that he passed in Massachusetts and is working well—he said, me too.

That is not the kind of leadership that you need, but you should expect that those are promises he’s going to keep.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, let me let——

The President. And the choice in this election is going to be whose promises are going to be more likely to help you in your life, make sure your kids can go to college, make sure that you are getting a good-paying job, making sure that Medicare and Social Security will be there for you.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, thank you.

Governor.

Economic Concerns/Unemployment Rate

Gov. Romney. I think you know better. I think you know that these last 4 years haven’t been so good as the President just described and that you don’t feel like you’re confident that the next 4 years are going to be much better either. I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last 4 years. We just can’t afford 4 more years like the last 4 years.

He said that by now we’d have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work. I wasn’t the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the President’s plan; didn’t get there.

He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security, because he pointed out they’re on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He’d get that done. He hasn’t even made a proposal on either one. He said in his first year he’d put out an immigration plan that would deal with our immigration challenges; didn’t even file it.

This is a President who has not been able to do what he said he’d do. He said that he’d cut in half the deficit. He hasn’t done that either; in fact, he doubled it. He said that by now middle income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It’s gone up by 2,500 a year. And if Obamacare is passed—or implemented, it’s already been passed—if it’s implemented fully, it will be another 2,500 on top.

The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a President who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again. He keeps saying, look, I’ve created 5 million jobs. That’s after losing 5 million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country. The unemployment, the number of people who are still looking for work, is still 23 million Americans. There are more people in poverty: one out of six people in poverty.

How about food stamps? When he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Today, 47 million people are on food stamps. How about the growth of the economy? It’s growing more slowly this year than last year and more slowly last year than the year before.

The President wants to do well, I understand. But the policies he’s put in place, from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank to his tax policies to his regulatory policies, these policies combined have not let this economy take off and grow like it could have. You might say, well, you got an example of when it worked better? Yes. In the Reagan recession, where unemployment hit 10.8 percent, between that period—the end of that recession and the equivalent period of time to today, Ronald Reagan’s recovery created twice as many jobs as this President’s recovery.

Five million jobs doesn’t even keep up with our population growth. And the only reason the unemployment rate seems a little lower today is because of all the people that have dropped out of the workforce.

The President has tried, but his policies haven’t worked. He’s great as a speaker and describing his plans and his vision. That’s wonderful, except we have a record to look at. And that record shows, he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need. Median incomes down $4,300 a family and 23 million Americans out of work, that’s what this election is about. It’s about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future and assure our kids the kind of hope and optimism they deserve.

Ms. Crowley. Governor, I want to move you along. Don’t go away, and we’ll have plenty of time to respond. We are quite aware of the clock for both of you. But I want to bring in a different subject here. Mr. President, I’ll be right back with you. Lorraine Osario has a question for you about a topic we have not heard.

The President. This is for Governor Romney?

Ms. Crowley. Yes, this is for Governor Romney, and we’ll be right with you, Mr. President. Thanks.

Gov. Romney. Is it Lorena?

Q. Lorraine.

Gov. Romney. Lorraine.

Q. Lorraine. Yes. How are you doing? President.

Gov. Romney. Good, thanks.

Immigration Reform/Illegal Immigration

Q. President. Romney: What do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green card that are currently living here as productive members of society?

Gov. Romney. Thank you, Lorraine. Did I get that right? Good. Thank you for question. And let me step back and tell you what I’d like to do with our immigration policy broadly and include an answer to your question.

First of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of American parents; Ann’s dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American. We welcome legal immigrants into this country.

I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined. I want it to be clearer. I don’t think you have to—shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also think that we should give visas to people—green cards, rather, to people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math, get a green card stapled to their diploma; come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure that our legal system works.

Number two, we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who’ve come here illegally. What I will do is I’ll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so. I won’t put in place magnets for people coming here illegally. So for instance, I would not give driver’s licenses to those that have come here illegally, as the President would.

The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids I think should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States. And military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.

Now, when the President ran for office, he said that he’d put in place in his first year a piece of legislation—he’d file a bill in his first year—that would reform our immigration system—protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration. He didn’t do it. He had a Democrat House and Democrat Senate, supermajority in both Houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come here legally and for those that are here illegally today? That’s a question I think the President will have a chance to answer to answer right now.

Immigration Reform/Illegal Immigration

The President. Good, I look forward to it. Was it Lorena? Lorraine. We are a nation of immigrants. I mean, we’re just a few miles away from Ellis Island. We all understand what this country has become because talent from all around the world wants to come here: people who are willing to take risks; people who want to build on their dreams and make sure their kids have even bigger dreams than they have.

But we’re also a nation of laws. So what I’ve said is, we need to fix a broken immigration system. And I’ve done everything that I can on my own and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fixed the system.

First thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler, and cheaper for people who are waiting in line, obeying the law, to make sure that they can come here and contribute to our country. And that’s good for our economic growth. They’ll start new businesses. They’ll make things happen that create jobs here in the United States.

Number two, we do have to deal with our border, so we’ve put more Border Patrol on than any time in history, and the flow of undocumented workers across the border is actually lower than it’s been in 40 years.

What I’ve also said is, if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gangbangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that’s what we’ve done.

And what I’ve also said is, for young people who come here, brought here oftentimes by their parents, have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag, think of this as their country, understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers, then we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship. And that’s what I’ve done administratively.

Now, Governor Romney just said that he wants to help those young people too. But during the Republican primary he said, I will veto the “DREAM Act” that would allow these young people to have access. His main strategy during the Republican primary was to say, we’re going to encourage self-deportation: making life so miserable on folks that they’ll leave.

He called the Arizona law a model for the Nation. Part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected, maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers. And you know what? If my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they’re not a citizen, I don’t want to empower somebody like that.

So we can fix this system in a comprehensive way. And when Governor Romney says the challenge is, well, Obama didn’t try, that’s not true. I sat down with Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of my term, and I said, let’s fix this system, including Senators previously who had supported it on the Republican side. But it’s very hard for Republicans in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform if their standard bearer has said that, this is not something I’m interested in supporting.

Ms. Crowley. Let me get the Governor in here, Mr. President. Let’s speak to, if you could, Governor——

Gov. Romney. Let’s——

Ms. Crowley. ——the idea of self-deportation.

Arizona’s Illegal Immigrant Enforcement Legislation/Immigration Reform/Investment in Foreign Firms

Gov. Romney. No, let me go back and speak to the points that the President made, and let’s get them correct. I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the Nation in that aspect. I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law, which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that that was a model for the Nation. That’s number one.

Number two, I asked the President a question, I think, Hispanics and immigrants all over the nation have asked. He was asked this on Univision the other day. Why, when you said you’d file legislation in your first year, didn’t you do it? And he didn’t answer. He doesn’t answer that question. He said the standard bearer wasn’t for it. I’m glad you thought I was a standard bearer 4 years ago, but I wasn’t. Four years ago, you said in your first year, you would file legislation. In his first year, I was just getting—licking my wounds from having been beaten by John McCain, all right. I was not the standard bearer. My view is that this President should have honored his promise to do as he said.

Now, let me mention one other thing, and that is self-deportation says, let people make their own choice. What I was saying is we’re not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the Nation. Instead, let people make their own choice. And if they find that they can’t get the benefits here that they want and they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make a decision to go a place where they have better opportunities.

But I’m not in favor of rounding up people and taking them out of this country. I am in favor, as the President has said—and I agree with him—which is that if people have committed crimes, we’ve got to get them out of this country.

Let me mention something else the President said. It was a moment ago, and I didn’t get a chance to—when he was describing Chinese investments and so forth——

The President. Candy, hold on a second. At some point, we’ll pick that up.

Gov. Romney. Mr. President, I’m still speaking.

Ms. Crowley. I’m sorry——

Gov. Romney. Mr. President, why don’t you let me finish——

The President. Governor Romney, I’m used to being interrupted. I need to make sure——

Gov. Romney. I’m going to continue. I’m going to continue. The President made——

Ms. Crowley. Go ahead and finish, Governor Romney. Governor Romney, if you could make it short. See all these people, they’ve been waiting for you. Could you make it short and then——

Gov. Romney. Yes, just going to make a point. Any investments I have over the last 8 years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in Chinese companies.

Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

The President. Candy——

Gov. Romney. Have you looked at your pension?

The President. Candy, I’ve got to say, I mean——

Gov. Romney. Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

The President. You know, I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it doesn’t take as long. [Laughter]

Gov. Romney. Let me give you some advice.

The President. I don’t check it that often.

Gov. Romney. Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies. You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Cayman’s trust.

Ms. Crowley. We are sort of way off topic here, Governor Romney.

The President. All right. Candy, we’re a little off topic here.

Ms. Crowley. We are completely off immigration.

The President. Come on. I thought we were talking about immigration.

Ms. Crowley. And we’ve—quickly, Mr. President——

The President. I do want to make sure——

Ms. Crowley. If I could have you sit down, Governor Romney. Thank you.

Arizona’s Illegal Immigrant Enforcement Legislation/Immigration Reform

The President. I do want to make sure that we just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn’t referring to Arizona as a model for the Nation. His top adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it. Not E-Verify, the whole thing. That’s his policy. And it’s a bad policy. And it won’t help us grow.

Look, when we think about immigration, we have to understand, there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise. And they provide us energy, and they provide us innovation. And they start companies like Intel and Google, and we want to encourage that.

Now, we’ve got to make sure that we do it in a smart way, in a comprehensive way, and we make the legal system better. But when we make this into a divisive political issue and when we don’t have bipartisan support—I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get comprehensive immigration reform done, and we can’t——

Gov. Romney. I’ll get it done.

The President. We can’t——

Gov. Romney. I’ll get it done the first year

The President. We can’twe have not seen Republicans serious about this issue at all.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, let me move you on here, please. Mr. President——

The President. And it’s time for them to get serious on it.

Ms. Crowley. Don’t go away, though.

The President. This used to be a bipartisan issue.

Ms. Crowley. Right. Don’t go away, because——

The President. I’m here. [Laughter]

Ms. Crowley. ——I want you to talk to Kerry Ladka, who has a—wants to switch a topic for us.

The President. Okay. Hi, Kara.

Q. Good evening, Mr. President.

The President. I’m sorry, what’s your name?

Q. It’s Kerry. Kerry Ladka.

The President. Great to see you here.

Attack on U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya/Terrorism

Q. This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

The President. Well, let me, first of all, talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren’t just representatives of the United States, they’re my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm’s way. I know these folks, and I know their families. So nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am.

So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and procedures not just in Libya, but in every Embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this, and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my Presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.

Now, Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points. And that’s not how a Commander in Chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.

And people—not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made, but when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya—in Iraq, and I did. I said that we’d go after Al Qaida and bin Laden, we have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That’s what I’m doing.

And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable—and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home—you know that I mean what I say.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, I’ve got to move us along.

Governor.

Attack on U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya/National Security

Gov. Romney. Thank you, Kerry, for your question. It’s an important one, and I think the President just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk, and he takes responsibility for that—for the failure in providing those security resources. And those terrible things may well happen from time to time. I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. And today there’s a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We think of their families and care for them deeply.

There were other issues associated with this tragedy. There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or actually whether it was a terrorist attack. And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack. And it took a long time for that to be told to the American people.

Whether there was some misleading or, instead, whether we just didn’t know what happened, I think you have to ask yourself, why didn’t we know 5 days later when the Ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration? How could we have not known?

But I find more troubling than this that on the day following the assassination of the United States Ambassador—the first time that’s happened since 1979—when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn’t know what happened, that the President, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, another political event. I think these actions taken by a President and a leader have symbolic significance and perhaps even material significance in that you’d hope that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We’ve read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear, this was not a demonstration, this was an attack by terrorists.

And this calls into question the President’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and Israel. The President said that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel. We have Iran 4 years closer to a nuclear bomb.

Syria: Syria is not just the tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategically significant player for America. The President’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour, and pursue a strategy of leading from behind. And this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.

Ms. Crowley. Because we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the Governor just quickly. Your Secretary of State, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your Secretary of State, as far as what went on here?

Attack on U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya

The President. Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job, but she works for me. I’m the President, and I’m always responsible. And that’s why nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror, and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then, a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team—whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team—would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as President. That’s not what I do as Commander in Chief.

Ms. Crowley. Governor, if you want to reply just quickly to this please.

Attack on U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya/The President’s Remarks of September 12, 2012

Gov. Romney. Yes, I certainly do. I certainly do. I think it’s interesting the President just said something, which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

The President. That’s what I said.

Gov. Romney. You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration?

The President. Please proceed.

Gov. Romney. Is that what you’re saying?

The President. Please proceed, Governor.

Gov. Romney. I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the President 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

The President. Get the transcript.

Ms. Crowley. He did, in fact, sir. So let me—call it an act of terror in the Rose Garden. He used the word——

The President. Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

Ms. Crowley. He did call it an act of terror. It did, as well, take 2 weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

Gov. Romney. The administration indicated that this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.

Ms. Crowley. They did.

Gov. Romney. It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest—am I incorrect in that regard? On Sunday, the—your Secretary——

The President. Candy?

Gov. Romney. ——excuse me, the Ambassador to the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how this was a spontaneous reaction.

The President. Candy, I’m happy to have a longer conversation about foreign policy.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, let me—I know you—absolutely. But I want to move you on.

The President. Okay, I’m happy to do that too.

Ms. Crowley. And also, people can go to the transcripts and——

The President. I just want to make sure that——

Ms. Crowley. ——figure out what was said and when.

The President. ——all these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.

Ms. Crowley. Because what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there for a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot both over the Internet and from this crowd.

Second Amendment Rights/Gun Control/Reducing Community Violence

Q. President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

The President. We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.

But there have been too many instances during the course of my Presidency where I’ve had to comfort families who have lost somebody, most recently, out in Aurora. Just a couple of weeks ago—actually probably about a month—I saw a mother who I had met at the bedside of her son who had been shot in that theater. And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some time, and we said a prayer. And remarkably, about 2 months later, this young man and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable, good as new. But there were a lot of families who didn’t have that good fortune and whose sons or daughters or husbands didn’t survive.

So my belief is that, A, we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.

But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because, frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence, and they’re not using AK-47s, they’re using cheap handguns.

And so what can we do to intervene, to make sure that young people have opportunity? That our schools are working? That if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control.

And so what I want is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.

Ms. Crowley. Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.

Gun Control/Reducing Community Violence/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Fast and Furious Program

Gov. Romney. Yes, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.

What I believe is, we have to do, as the President mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have. And you ask, how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the Nation in my State, and I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll give people the hope and opportunity they deserve and perhaps less violence from that.

But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the benefit of having two parents in the home—and that’s not always possible, a lot of great single moms, single dads—but gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great idea, because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system.

The greatest failure we’ve had with regards to gun violence in some respects is what is known as Fast and Furious, which was a program under this administration. And how it worked exactly, I think we don’t know precisely, but where thousands of automatic and AK-47-type weapons were given to people that ultimately gave them to drug lords; they used those weapons against their own citizens and killed Americans with them. And this was a program of the Government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can’t imagine. But it’s one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which has occurred during this administration, which I think the American people would like to understand fully.

It’s been investigated to a degree, but the administration has carried out executive privilege to prevent all the information from coming out. I’d like to understand, who it was that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence. Thousands of guns going to Mexico——

The President. Candy.

Gov. Romney. ——drug lords——

Gun Control/Bipartisanship

Ms. Crowley. Governor, Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were banned and are no longer banned. I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. Obviously, with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that? Given the kind of violence that we see, sometimes with these mass killings, why is that, that you’ve changed your mind?

Gov. Romney. Well, Candy, actually, in my State, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it’s referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted. There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that hadn’t previously been available and so forth. So it was a mutually agreed-upon piece of legislation.

That’s what we need more of, Candy. What we have right now in Washington is a place that’s gridlocked.

Ms. Crowley. So if I could—if you could get people to agree to it, you’d be for it?

The President. Candy.

Gov. Romney. We haven’t had the leadership in Washington to work at a bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my State and bring these two together.

The President. Candy.

Ms. Crowley. Go ahead, Mr. President.

Gun Control/Reducing Community Violence

The President. First of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. So that’s on the record.

But I think that one area we agree on is the importance of parents and the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they’re less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts. We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed—and we’ve got to make sure that they don’t get weapons—but we can make a difference in terms of ensuring that every young person in America, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance to succeed.

And, Candy, we haven’t had a chance to talk about education much, but I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we’ve put in place, working with 46 Governors around the country, are seeing schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to succeed; we’re starting to see gains in math and science.

When it comes to community colleges, we are setting up programs, including with Nassau Community College, to retrain workers, including young people who may have dropped out of school, but now are getting another chance, training them for the jobs that exist right now. And in fact, employers are looking for skilled workers, and so we’re matching them up, giving them access to higher education. As I said, we have made sure that millions of young people are able to get an education that they weren’t able to get before. Now——

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, I have to move you along here.

The President. But——

Ms. Crowley. You said you wanted to hear this question, so we need to do it here.

The President. Just one second——

Ms. Crowley. One——

The President. ——because this is important. This is part of the choice in this election. When Governor Romney was asked whether teachers—hiring more teachers was important to growing our economy, Governor Romney said that doesn’t grow our economy. When he was asked, is—was class size——

Ms. Crowley. The question, of course, Mr. President, was guns here, so I need to move us along.

The President. I understand.

Ms. Crowley. The question was guns, so let me bring in another——

The President. But this will make a difference in terms of whether or not we can move this economy forward for these young people——

Ms. Crowley. I understand.

The President. ——and reduce our violence.

Ms. Crowley. Okay. Thank you so much.

I want to ask Carol Goldberg to stand up because she gets to a question that both these men have been passionate about. It’s for Governor Romney.

Global Competitiveness/Chinese Monetary Policy

Q. The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?

Gov. Romney. Boy, great question, an important question, because you’re absolutely right. The place where we’ve seen manufacturing go has been China. China is now the largest manufacturer in the world, used to be the United States of America. A lot of good people have lost jobs. A half a million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last 4 years; that’s total over the last 4 years. One of the reasons for that is that people think it’s more attractive in some cases to go offshore than to stay here. We have made it less attractive for enterprises to stay here than to go offshore from time to time.

What I will do as President is make sure it’s more attractive to come to America again. This is the way we’re going to create jobs in this country. It’s not by trickle-down government, saying we’re going to take more money from people and hire more government workers, raise more taxes, put in place more regulations. Trickle-down government has never worked here, has never worked anywhere.

I want to make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for small business, for big business, to invest and grow in America. Now, we’re going to have to make sure that as we trade with other nations that they play by the rules, and China hasn’t. One of the reasons—or one of the ways they don’t play by the rules is artificially holding down the value of their currency. Because if they put their currency down low, that means their prices on their goods are low, and that makes them advantageous in the marketplace. We lose sales, and manufacturers here in the U.S. making the same products can’t compete.

China has been a currency manipulator for years and years and years. And the President has a regular opportunity to label them as a currency manipulator, but refuses to do so. On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me as President to be able to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers.

So we’re going to make sure that people we trade with around the world play by the rules. But let me not just stop there. Don’t forget: What’s key to bringing back jobs here is not just finding someone else to punish—and I’m going to be strict with people who we trade with to make sure they follow the law and play by the rules—but it’s also to make America the most attractive place in the world for businesses of all kinds. That’s why I want to bring down the tax rates on small employers, big employers, so they want to be here.

Canada’s tax rate on companies is now 15 percent. Ours is 35 percent. So if you’re starting a business, where would you rather start it? We have to be competitive if we’re going to create more jobs here. Regulations have quadrupled; the rate of regulations quadrupled under this President. I’ve talked to small businesses across the country. They say, we feel like we’re under attack from our own Government. I want to make sure that regulators see their job as encouraging small business, not crushing it. And there’s no question, but that Obamacare has been an extraordinary deterrent to enterprises of all kinds hiring people.

My priority is making sure that we get more people hired. If we have more people hired, if we get back manufacturing jobs, if we get back all kinds of jobs into this country, then you’re going to see rising incomes again. The reason incomes are down is because unemployment is so high. I know what it takes to get this to happen. And my plan will do that. And one part of it is to make sure that we keep China playing by the rules. Thank you.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, 2 minutes here because we are then going to go to our last question.

Corporate Tax Reform/Global Competitiveness

The President. We need to create jobs here. And both Governor Romney and I agree actually that we should lower our corporate tax rate. It’s too high. But there’s a difference in terms of how we would do it. I want to close loopholes that allow companies to deduct expenses when they move to China that allow them to profit offshore and not have to get taxed, so they have tax advantages offshore. All those changes in our Tax Code would make a difference.

Now, Governor Romney actually wants to expand those tax breaks. One of his big ideas when it comes to corporate tax reform would be to say if you invest overseas, you make profits overseas, you don’t have to pay U.S. taxes. But of course, if you’re a small business or a mom-and-pop business or a big business starting up here, you’ve got to pay even the reduced rate that Governor Romney is talking about. And it’s estimated that that will create 800,000 new jobs; the problem is they’ll be in China or India or Germany. That’s not the way we’re going to create jobs here.

The way we’re going to create jobs here is not just to change our Tax Code, but also to double our exports. And we are on pace to double our exports, one of the commitments I made when I was President. That’s creating tens of thousands of jobs all across the country. That’s why we’ve kept on pushing trade deals, but trade deals that make sure that American workers and American businesses are getting a good deal.

Now, Governor Romney talked about China. As I already indicated, in the private sector, Governor Romney’s company invested in what were called “pioneers of outsourcing.” That’s not my phrase. That’s what reporters called it. And as far as currency manipulation, the currency has actually gone up 11 percent since I’ve been President because we have pushed them hard. And we’ve put unprecedented trade pressure on China. That’s why exports have significantly increased under my Presidency. That’s going to help to create jobs here.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, we have a really short time for a quick discussion here. iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China. One of the major reasons is labor is so much cheaper here. How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?

Chinese Monetary Policy/Global Competitiveness

Gov. Romney. The answer is very straightforward: We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China has been cheating over the years: one, by holding down the value of their currency; number two, by stealing our intellectual property, our designs, our patents, our technology. There’s even an Apple store in China that’s a counterfeit Apple store selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis. That’s number one.

Number two, we have to make America the most attractive place for entrepreneurs, for people who want to expand a business. That’s what brings jobs in. The President’s characterization of my tax plan is——

The President. How much time you got, Candy?

Gov. Romney. ——is completely——

Ms. Crowley. Let me go to the——

Gov. Romney.——is completely false. Let me tell you.

Ms. Crowley. Let me go to the President here because we really are——

The President. All right, I’m——

Ms. Crowley. ——because we really are running out of time. And the question is, can we ever get—we can’t get wages like that. It can’t be sustained here.

Manufacturing Industry/Global Competitiveness

The President. Candy, there are some jobs that are not going to come back because they’re low-wage, low-skill jobs. I want high-wage, high-skill jobs. That’s why we have to emphasize manufacturing. That’s why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing. That’s why we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the best science and research in the world.

And when we talk about deficits, if we’re adding to our deficit for tax cuts for folks who don’t need them and we’re cutting investments in research and science that will create the next Apple, create the next new innovation that will sell products around the world, we will lose that race. If we’re not training engineers to make sure that they are equipped here in this country, then companies won’t come here. Those investments are what’s going to help to make sure that we continue to lead this world economy not just next year, but 10 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now.

Ms. Crowley. Thanks, Mr. President.

Gov. Romney. Government does not create jobs.

Ms. Crowley. Governor Romney.

Gov. Romney. Government does not create jobs.

Ms. Crowley. Governor Romney, I want to introduce you to Barry Green because he’s going to have the last question to you first.

Gov. Romney. Barry? Oh, there’s Barry. Hi, Barry.

2012 Presidential Election/Perception of Candidates

Q. Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. Each of you, what do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

Gov. Romney. Thank you, and that’s an opportunity for me, and I appreciate it. In the nature of a campaign, it seems that some campaigns are focused on attacking a person rather than prescribing their own future and the things they’d like to do. In the course of that, I think the President’s campaign has tried to characterize me as someone who’s very different than who I am.

I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids. I understand what it takes to make a bright and prosperous future for America again. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I’m a guy who wants to help, with the experience I have, the American people.

My passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God and I believe we’re all children of the same God. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years. I’ve sat across the table from people who were out of work and worked with them to try and find new work or to help them through tough times.

I went to the Olympics when they were in trouble to try and get them on track. And as Governor of my State, I was able to get 100 percent of my people insured, all my kids, about 98 percent of the adults; was able also to get our schools ranked number one in the Nation so 100 percent of our kids would have a bright opportunity for a future.

I understand that I can get this country on track again. We don’t have to settle for what we’re going through. We don’t have to settle for gasoline at $4. We don’t have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level. We don’t have to settle for 47 million people on food stamps. We don’t have to settle for 50 percent of kids coming out of college not able to get work. We don’t have to settle for 23 million people struggling to find a good job.

If I become President, I’ll get America working again. I will get us on track to a balanced budget. The President hasn’t. I will. I’ll make sure we can reform Medicare and Social Security to preserve them for coming generations. The President said he would. He didn’t.

Ms. Crowley. Governor.

Gov. Romney. I’ll get our incomes up. And by the way, I’ve done these things. I served as Governor and showed I could get them done.

Ms. Crowley. Mr. President, last 2 minutes belong to you.

The President. Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last 4 years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That’s not what I believe.

I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy is grown. That’s how we built the world’s greatest middle class. And that is part of what’s at stake in this election. There’s a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward.

I believe Governor Romney is a good man, loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said, behind closed doors, that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims, who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about: folks on Social Security who have worked all their lives; veterans who have sacrificed for this country; students who are out there trying to, hopefully, advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams; soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now; people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 4 years, because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

And when my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a GI Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout, that was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote, and that’s why I’m asking for another 4 years.

Ms. Crowley. President Obama, Governor Romney, thank you for being here tonight.

On that note, we have come to an end of this town hall debate. Our thanks to the participants for their time and to the people of Hofstra University for their hospitality.

The next and final debate takes place Monday night at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Don’t forget to watch. Election Day is 3 weeks from today. Don’t forget to vote. Goodnight.


NOTE: The debate began at 9 p.m. in the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex Debate Hall at Hofstra University. In his remarks, the President referred to Lilly Ledbetter, former employee, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsden, AL; Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, immigration policy adviser to Gov. Romney; U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, Sean P. Smith, Foreign Service officer, and Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods, security officers, Department of State, who were killed in an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11; U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice; and Amee Gharbi, mother of Yousef Gharbi, who sustained a gunshot to the head in the July 20 shootings at the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora, CO. The President also referred to his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng. Gov. Romney referred to Beth Myers, who served as chief of staff during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts; and 2008 Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John S. McCain III. Gov. Romney also referred to his wife Ann L. Romney.

October 11, 2012: Vice Presidential Debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky Transcript

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

2012 PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES

Vice Presidential Debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky

October 11, 2012

MARTHA RADDATZ, MODERATOR:Good evening, and welcome to the first and only vice presidential debate of 2012, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. I’m Martha Raddatz of ABC News, and I am honored to moderate this debate between two men who have dedicated much of their lives to public service.

Tonight’s debate is divided between domestic and foreign policy issues. And I’m going to move back and forth between foreign and domestic, since that is what a vice president or president would have to do. We will have nine different segments. At the beginning of each segment, I will ask both candidates a question, and they will each have two minutes to answer. Then I will encourage a discussion between the candidates with follow-up questions.

By coin toss, it has been determined that Vice President Biden will be first to answer the opening question. We have a wonderful audience here at Centre College tonight. You will no doubt hear their enthusiasm at the end of the debate — and right now, as we welcome Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan. [applause]

OK, you got your little wave to the families in. It’s great. Good evening, gentlemen. It really is an honor to be here with both of you.

I would like to begin with Libya. On a rather somber note, one month ago tonight, on the anniversary of 9/11, Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans were killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi. The State Department has now made clear, there were no protesters there.

RADDATZ: it was a pre-planned assault by heavily armed men. Wasn’t this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden?

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: What is was, it was a tragedy, Martha. It — Chris Stevens was one of our best. We lost three other brave Americans.

I can make absolutely two commitments to you and all the American people tonight. One, we will find and bring to justice the men who did this. And secondly, we will get to the bottom of it, and whatever — wherever the facts lead us, wherever they lead us, we will make clear to the American public, because whatever mistakes were made will not be made again.

When you’re looking at a president, Martha, it seems to me that you should take a look at his most important responsibility. That’s caring for the national security of the country. And the best way to do that is take a look at how he’s handled the issues of the day.

On Iraq, the president said he would end the war. Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake, we should have left 30,000 — he ended it. Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake, we should have left 30,000 troops there.

With regard to Afghanistan, he said he will end the war in 2014. Governor Romney said we should not set a date, number one. And number two, with regard to 2014, it depends.

When it came to Osama bin Laden, the president the first day in office, I was sitting with him in the Oval Office, he called in the CIA and signed an order saying, “My highest priority is to get bin Laden.”

Prior to the election, prior to the — him being sworn in, Governor Romney was asked the question about how he would proceed. He said, “I wouldn’t move heaven and earth to get bin Laden.” He didn’t understand it was more than about taking a murderer off the battlefield. It was about restoring America’s heart and letting terrorists around the world know, if you do harm to America, we will track you to the gates of hell if need be.

And lastly, the president of the United States has — has led with a steady hand and clear vision. Governor Romney, the opposite. The last thing we need now is another war.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: We mourn the loss of these four Americans who were murdered.

RYAN: When you take a look at what has happened just in the last few weeks, they sent the U.N. ambassador out to say that this was because of a protest and a YouTube video. It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack.

He went to the U.N. and in his speech at the U.N. he said six times — he talked about the YouTube video.

Look, if we’re hit by terrorists we’re going to call it for what it is, a terrorist attack. Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn’t we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi, a place where we knew that there was an Al Qaida cell with arms?

This is becoming more troubling by the day. They first blamed the YouTube video. Now they’re trying to blame the Romney-Ryan ticket for making this an issue.

With respect to Iraq, we had the same position before the withdrawal, which was we agreed with the Obama administration. Let’s have a status of forces agreement to make sure that we secure our gains. The vice president was put in charge of those negotiations by President Obama and they failed to get the agreement. We don’t have a status of forces agreement because they failed to get one. That’s what we are talking about.

Now, when it comes to our veterans, we owe them a great debt of gratitude for what they’ve done for us, including your son Beau. But we also want to make sure that we don’t lose the things we fought so hard to get.

Now, with respect to Afghanistan, the 2014 deadline, we agree with a 2014 transition. But what we also want it do is make sure that we’re not projecting weakness abroad, and that’s what’s happening here.

RYAN: This Benghazi issue would be a tragedy in and of itself, but unfortunately it’s indicative of a broader problem. And that is what we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy, which is making the [inaudible] more chaotic us less safe.

RADDATZ: I just want to you about right in the middle of the crisis. Governor Romney, and you’re talking about this again tonight, talked about the weakness; talked about apologies from the Obama administration. Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?

RYAN: On that same day, the Obama administration had the exact same position. Let’s recall that they disavowed their own statement that they had put out earlier in the day in Cairo. So we had the same position, but we will — it’s never too early to speak out for our values.

We should have spoken out right away when the green revolution was up and starting; when the mullahs in Iran were attacking their people. We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer when he was turning his Russian-provided guns on his own people. We should always stand up for peace, for democracy, for individual rights.

And we should not be imposing these devastating defense cuts, because what that does when we equivocate on our values, when we show that we’re cutting down on defense, it makes us more weak. It projects weakness. And when we look weak, our adversaries are much more willing to test us. They’re more brazen in their attacks, and are allies are less willing to…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.

RADDATZ: And why is that so?

BIDEN: Because not a single thing he said is accurate. First of all…

RADDATZ: Be specific.

BIDEN: I will be very specific. Number one, the — this lecture on embassy security — the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece.

Number two, Governor Romney, before he knew the facts, before he even knew that our ambassador was killed, he was out making a political statement which was panned by the media around the world. And this talk about this — this weakness. I — I don’t understand what my friend’s talking about here.

We — this is a president who’s gone out and done everything he has said he was going to do. This is a guy who’s repaired our alliances so the rest of the world follows us again. This is the guy who brought the entire world, including Russia and China, to bring about the most devastating — most devastating — the most devastating efforts on Iran to make sure that they in fact stop [inaudible].

Look, I — I just — I mean, these guys bet against America all the time.

RADDATZ: Can we talk — let me go back to Libya.

BIDEN: Yeah, sure.

RADDATZ: What were you first told about the attack? Why — why were people talking about protests? When people in the consulate first saw armed men attacking with guns, there were no protesters. Why did that go on [inaudible]?

BIDEN: Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment. That’s why there’s also an investigation headed by Tom Pickering, a leading diplomat from the Reagan years, who is doing an investigation as to whether or not there are any lapses, what the lapses were, so that they will never happen again.

RADDATZ: And they wanted more security there.

BIDEN: Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.

That’s why I said we will get to the bottom of this. You know, usually when there’s a crisis, we pull together. We pull together as a nation. But as I said, even before we knew what happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference — was holding a press conference. That’s not presidential leadership.

RADDATZ: Mr. Ryan, I want to ask you about — the Romney campaign talks a lot about no apologies. He has a book called called “No Apologies.” Should the U.S. have apologized for Americans burning Korans in Afghanistan? Should the U.S. apologize for U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses?

RYAN: Oh, gosh, yes. Urinating on Taliban corpses? What we should not apologize for…

RADDATZ: Burning Korans, immediately?

RYAN: What — what we should not be apologizing for are standing up for our values. What we should not be doing is saying to the Egyptian people, while Mubarak is cracking down on them, that he’s a good guy and, in the next week, say he ought to go.

What we should not be doing is rejecting claims for — for calls for more security in our barracks, in our Marine — we need Marines in Benghazi when the commander on the ground says we need more forces for security. There were requests for extra security; those requests were not honored.

Look, this was the anniversary of 9/11. It was Libya, a country we knew we had Al Qaida cells there, as we know Al Qaida and its affiliates are on the rise in Northern Africa. And we did not give our ambassador in Benghazi a Marine detachment?

Of course there’s an investigation, so we can make sure that this never happens again, but when it comes to speaking up for our values, we should not apologize for those. Here’s the problem. Look at all the various issues out there, and it’s unraveling before our eyes. The vice president talks about sanctions on Iran. They got — we’ve had four…

RADDATZ: Let’s move to Iran. I’d actually like to move to Iran, because there’s really no bigger national security…

RYAN: Absolutely.

RADDATZ: … this country is facing. Both President Obama and Governor Romney have said they will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, even if that means military action. Last week, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates said a strike on Iran’s facilities would not work and, quote, “could prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations.” Can the two of you be absolutely clear and specific to the American people how effective would a military strike be? Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. Now, let’s take a look at where we’ve gone — come from. When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material — nuclear material to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.

We’ve had four different sanctions, the U.N. on Iran, three from the Bush administration, one here. And the only reason we got it is because Russia watered it down and prevented the — the sanctions from hitting the central bank.

Mitt Romney proposed these sanctions in 2007. In Congress, I’ve been fighting for these sanctions since 2009. The administration was blocking us every step of the way. Only because we had strong bipartisan support for these tough sanctions were we able to overrule their objections and put them in spite of the administration.

Imagine what would have happened if we had these sanctions in place earlier. You think Iran’s not brazen? Look at what they’re doing. They’re stepping up their terrorist attacks. They tried a terrorist attack in the United States last year when they tried to blow up the Saudi ambassador at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.

And talk about credibility? When this administration says that all options are on the table, they send out senior administration officials that send all these mixed signals.

And so, in order to solve this peacefully — which is everybody’s goal — you have to have the ayatollahs change their minds. Look at where they are. They’re moving faster toward a nuclear weapon. It’s because this administration has no credibility on this issue. It’s because this administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop us for putting the tough sanctions in place.

Now we have them in place because of Congress. They say the military option’s on the table, but it’s not being viewed as credible. And the key is to do this peacefully, is to make sure that we have credibility. Under a Romney administration, we will have credibility on this issue.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: It’s incredible. Look, imagine had we let the Republican Congress work out the sanctions. You think there’s any possibility the entire world would have joined us, Russia and China, all of our allies? These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period. Period.

When Governor Romney’s asked about it, he said, “We gotta keep these sanctions.” When he said, “Well, you’re talking about doing more,” what are you — you’re going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?

RYAN: We want to prevent war.

BIDEN: And the interesting thing is, how are they going to prevent war? How are they going to prevent war if they say there’s nothing more that we — that they say we should do than what we’ve already done, number one.

And number two, with regard to the ability of the United States to take action militarily, it is — it is not in my purview to talk about classified information. But we feel quite confident we could deal a serious blow to the Iranians.

But number two, the Iranians are — the Israelis and the United States, our military and intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place in terms of how close — how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon. They are a good way away. There is no difference between our view and theirs.

When my friend talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up, then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know — we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon.

So all this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk, what are they talking about? Are you talking about, to be more credible — what more can the president do, stand before the United Nations, tell the whole world, directly communicate to the ayatollah, we will not let them acquire a nuclear weapon, period, unless he’s talking about going to war.

RYAN: Martha? Let’s…

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: Let’s look at this from the view of the ayatollahs. What do they see? They see this administration trying to water down sanctions in Congress for over two years. They’re moving faster toward a nuclear weapon. They’re spinning the centrifuges faster.

They see us saying when we come into the administration, when they’re sworn in, we need more space with our ally, Israel. They see President Obama in New York City the same day Bibi Netanyahu is and he, instead of meeting with him, goes on a — on a daily talk show.

They see, when we say that these options are on the table, the secretary of defense walked them back.

They are not changing their mind. That’s what we have to do, is change their mind so they stop pursuing nuclear weapons, and they’re going faster.

RADDATZ: How do you do it so quickly? Look, you — you both saw Benjamin Netanyahu hold up that picture of a bomb with a red line and talking about the red line being in spring. So can you solve this, if the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, can you solve this in two months before spring and avoid nuclear — nuclear…[crosstalk]

RYAN: We can debate a time line. We can debate the time line, whether there’s — it’s that short a time or longer. I agree that it’s probably longer.

Number two, it’s all about…[crosstalk]

RADDATZ: You don’t agree with that bomb and whether the Israelis…[crosstalk]

RYAN: I don’t want to go into classified stuff. But we both agree that to do this peacefully you’ve got to get them to change their minds. They’re not changing their minds. And look at what this administration…

RADDATZ: But what — what do…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: Let me tell you what the ayatollah sees.

RYAN: You have to have credibility.

BIDEN: The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil. He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into freefall. And he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon.

Now, with regard to Bibi, who’s been my friend 39 years, the president has met with Bibi a dozen times. He’s spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he’s spoken to anybody. The idea that we’re not — I was in a, just before he went to the U.N., I was in a conference call with the — with the president, with him talking to Bibi for well over an hour, in — in — in stark relief and detail of what was going on.

This is a bunch of stuff. Look, here’s the deal.

RADDATZ: What does that mean, a bunch of stuff?

BIDEN: Well, it means it’s simply inaccurate.

RYAN: It’s Irish.

BIDEN: It — it is. [laughter]

We Irish call it malarkey.

RADDATZ: Thanks for the translation. OK. [crosstalk]

BIDEN: We Irish call it malarkey. But last thing. The secretary of defense has made it absolutely clear, we didn’t walk anything back. We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon. What Bibi held up there was when they get to the point where they can enrich uranium enough to put into a weapon. They don’t have a weapon to put it into.

Let’s all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office. It is totally isolated.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

BIDEN: I don’t know what world this guy’s living in.

RYAN: Thank heavens we had these sanctions in place. It’s in spite of their opposition.

BIDEN: Oh, god.

RYAN: They’ve given 20 waivers to this sanction. And all I have to point to are the results. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapon. I think that case speaks for itself.

RADDATZ: Can you tell the American people…

BIDEN: By the way, they… [crosstalk]

RADDATZ: What’s worse, another war in the Middle East…

BIDEN: … they are not four years closer to a nuclear weapon.

RYAN: Of course they are.

BIDEN: They’re — they’re closer to being able to get enough fissile material to put in a weapon if they had a weapon.

RADDATZ: You are acting a little bit like they don’t want one.

BIDEN: Oh, I didn’t say — no, I’m not saying that. But facts matter, Martha. You’re a foreign policy expert. Facts matter. All this loose talk about them, “All they have to do is get to enrich uranium in a certain amount and they have a weapon,” not true. Not true.

They are more — and if we ever have to take action, unlike when we took office, we will have the world behind us, and that matters. That matters.

RADDATZ: What about Bob Gates’ statement? Let me read that again, “could prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations.”

BIDEN: He is right. It could prove catastrophic, if we didn’t do it with precision.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: And what it does is it undermines our credibility by backing up the point when we make it that all options are on the table. That’s the point. The ayatollahs see these kinds of statements and they think, “I’m going to get a nuclear weapon.”

When — when we see the kind of equivocation that took place because this administration wanted a precondition policy, so when the Green Revolution started up, they were silent for nine days. When they see us putting — when they see us putting daylight between ourselves and our allies in Israel, that gives them encouragement. When they see Russia watering down any further sanctions, the only reason we got a U.N. sanction is because Russia watered it down and prevented these central bank sanctions in the first place. So when they see this kind of activity, they are encouraged to continue, and that’s the problem.

BIDEN: Martha, let me tell you what Russia…[crosstalk]

RADDATZ: Well, let me ask you what’s worse, war in the Middle East, another war in the Middle East, or a nuclear-armed Iran?

RYAN: I’ll tell you what’s worse. I’ll tell you what’s worse.

RADDATZ: Quickly.

RYAN: A nuclear-armed Iran which triggers a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. This is the world’s largest sponsor of — of terrorism. They’ve dedicated themselves…[crosstalk]… to wiping an entire country off the map. They call us the Great Satan. And if they get nuclear weapons, other people in the neighborhood will pursue their nuclear weapons, as well.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

RYAN: We can’t live with that.

BIDEN: War should always be the absolute last resort. That’s why these crippling sanctions, which Bibi Netanyahu says we should continue, which — if I’m not mistaken — Governor Romney says we — we should continue. I may be mistaken. He changes his mind so often, I could be wrong.

But the fact of the matter is, he says they’re working. And the fact is that they are being crippled by them. And we’ve made it clear, big nations can’t bluff. This president doesn’t bluff.

RADDATZ: Gentlemen, I want to bring the conversation to a different kind of national security issue, the state of our economy. The number-one issue here at home is jobs. The percentage of unemployed just fell below 8 percent for the first time in 43 months. The Obama administration had projected that it would fall below 6 percent now after the addition of close to a trillion dollars in stimulus money.

So will both of you level with the American people: Can you get unemployment to under 6 percent and how long will it take?

BIDEN: I don’t know how long it will take. We can and we will get it under 6 percent. Let’s look at — let’s take a look at the facts. Let’s look at where we were when we came to office. The economy was in free fall. We had — the great recession hit; 9 million people lost their job; $1.7 — $1.6 trillion in wealth lost in equity in your homes, in retirement accounts for the middle class.

We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that — when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, “No, let Detroit go bankrupt.” We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, “No, let foreclosures hit the bottom.”

But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend recently in a speech in Washington said “30 percent of the American people are takers.”

These people are my mom and dad — the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, “not paying any tax.”

I’ve had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent — it’s about time they take some responsibility here. And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we’re going to level the playing field; we’re going to give you a fair shot again; we are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street, making sure that we continue to hemorrhage these tax cuts for the super wealthy.

They’re pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families. And they’re holding hostage the middle class tax cut because they say we won’t pass — we won’t continue the middle class tax cut unless you give the tax cut for the super wealthy.

It’s about time they take some responsibility.

RADDATZ: Mr. Ryan?

RYAN: Joe and I are from similar towns. He’s from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I’m from Janesville, Wisconsin. You know what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today?

BIDEN: I sure do.

RYAN: It’s 10 percent.

BIDEN: Yeah.

RYAN: You know what it was the day you guys came in — 8.5 percent.

BIDEN: Yeah.

RYAN: That’s how it’s going all around America.

Look…

BIDEN: You don’t read the statistics. That’s not how it’s going. It’s going down.

RADDATZ: [inaudible] two-minute answer [inaudible]

RYAN: Look, did they come in and inherit a tough situation? Absolutely. But we’re going in the wrong direction. Look at where we are. The economy is barely limping along. It’s growing a 1.3 percent. That’s slower than it grew last year and last year was slower than the year before.

Job growth in September was slower than it was in August, and August was slower than it was in July. We’re heading in the wrong direction; 23 million Americans are struggling for work today; 15 percent of Americans are living in poverty today. This is not what a real recovery looks like. We need real reforms for real recovery and that’s exactly what Mitt Romney and I are proposing. It’s a five-point plan. Get America energy independent in North America by the end of the decade. Help people who are hurting get the skills they need to get the jobs they want. Get this deficit and debt under control to prevent a debt crisis.

Make trade work for America so we can make more things in America and sell them overseas, and champion small businesses. Don’t raise taxes on small businesses because they’re our job creators.

RYAN: He talks about Detroit. Mitt Romney’s a car guy. They keep misquoting him, but let me tell you about the Mitt Romney I know. This is a guy who I was talking to a family in Northborough, Massachusetts the other day, Sheryl and Mark Nixon. Their kids were hit in a car crash, four of them. Two of them, Rob and Reed, were paralyzed. The Romneys didn’t know them. They went to the same church; they never met before.

Mitt asked if he could come over on Christmas. He brought his boys, his wife, and gifts. Later on, he said, “I know you’re struggling, Mark. Don’t worry about their college. I’ll pay for it.”

When Mark told me this story, because, you know what, Mitt Romney doesn’t tell these stories. The Nixons told this story. When he told me this story, he said it wasn’t the help, the cash help. It’s that he gave his time, and he has consistently.

This is a man who gave 30 percent of his income to charity, more than the two of us combined. Mitt Romney’s a good man. He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country. And with respect to that quote, I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way. [laughter]

BIDEN: But I always say what I mean. And so does Romney.

RYAN: We want everybody to succeed. We want to get people out of poverty, in the middle class, onto a life of self-sufficiently. We believe in opportunity and upward mobility. That’s what we’re going to push for in a Romney administration.

RADDATZ: Vice president? I have a feeling you have a few things to say here.

BIDEN: The idea — if you heard that — that little soliloquy on 47 percent and you think he just made a mistake, then I think you’re — I — I think — I got a bridge to sell you.

Look, I don’t doubt his personal generosity. And I understand what it’s like. When I was a little younger than the congressman, my wife was in an accident, killed my daughter and my wife, and my two sons survived. I have sat in the homes of many people who’ve gone through what I get through, because the one thing you can give people solace is to know if they know you’ve been through it, that they can make it. So I don’t doubt his personal commitment to individuals. But you know what? I know he had no commitment to the automobile industry. He just — he said, let it go bankrupt, period. Let it drop out. All this talk — we saved a million jobs. Two hundred thousand people are working today.

And I’ve never met two guys who’re more down on America across the board. We’re told everything’s going bad. There are 5.2 million new jobs, private-sector jobs. We need more, but 5.2 million — if they’d get out of the way, if they’d get out of the way and let us pass the tax cut for the middle class, make it permanent, if they get out of the way and pass the — pass the jobs bill, if they get out of the way and let us allow 14 million people who are struggling to stay in their homes because their mortgages are upside down, but they never missed a mortgage payment, just get out of the way.

Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility.

And, by the way, they talk about this Great Recession if it fell out of the sky, like, “Oh, my goodness, where did it come from?” It came from this man voting to put two wars on a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion-dollar tax cut for the very wealthy. I was there. I voted against them. I said, no, we can’t afford that.

And now, all of a sudden, these guys are so seized with the concern about the debt that they created.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: Let’s not forget that they came in with one-party control. When Barack Obama was elected, his party controlled everything. They had the ability to do everything of their choosing. And look at where we are right now.

They passed the stimulus. The idea that we could borrow $831 billion, spend it on all of these special interest groups, and that it would work out just fine, that unemployment would never get to 8 percent — it went up above 8 percent for 43 months. They said that, right now, if we just passed this stimulus, the economy would grow at 4 percent. It’s growing at 1.3.

RADDATZ: When could you get it below 6 percent?

RYAN: That’s what our entire premise of our pro-growth plan for a stronger middle class is all about: getting the economy growing at 4 percent, creating 12 million jobs over the next four years.

Look at just the $90 billion in stimulus. The vice president was in charge of overseeing this. $90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups. There are just at the Department of Energy over 100 criminal investigations that have been launched into just how stimulus…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: Martha…

RADDATZ: Go ahead. Go ahead.

BIDEN: Martha, look. His colleague…

RYAN: Crony capitalism and corporate welfare.

BIDEN: … runs an investigative committee, spent months and months and months going into this.

RYAN: This is the — this is the inspector general.

BIDEN: Months and months. They found no evidence of cronyism.

And I love my friend here. I — I’m not allowed to show letters but go on our website, he sent me two letters saying, “By the way, can you send me some stimulus money for companies here in the state of Wisconsin?” We sent millions of dollars. You know…[crosstalk]

RADDATZ: You did ask for stimulus money, correct?

BIDEN: Sure he did. By the way…

RYAN: On two occasions we — we — we advocated for constituents who were applying for grants. That’s what we do. We do that for all constituents who are…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: I love that. I love that. This was such a bad program and he writes me a letter saying — writes the Department of Energy a letter saying, “The reason we need this stimulus, it will create growth and jobs.” His words. And now he’s sitting here looking at me.

And by the way, that program, again, investigated. What the Congress said was it was a model. Less than four-tenths of 1 percent waste or fraud in the program.

And all this talk about cronyism. They investigated and investigated, did not find one single piece of evidence. I wish he would just tell — be a little more candid.

RYAN: Was it a good idea to spend taxpayer dollars on electric cars in Finland, or on windmills in China?

BIDEN: Look…

RYAN: Was it a good idea to borrow all this money from countries like China and spend it on all these various different interest groups?

BIDEN: Let me tell you what was a good idea. It was a good idea, Moody’s and others said that this was exactly what we needed to stop this from going off the cliff. It set the conditions to be able to grow again. We have, in fact, 4 percent of those green jobs didn’t go under — went under, didn’t work. It’s a better batting average than investment bankers have. They have about a 40 percent…

RYAN: Where are the 5 million green jobs that were being…

RADDATZ: I want to move on here to Medicare and entitlements. I think we’ve gone over this quite enough.

BIDEN: By the way, any letter you send me, I’ll entertain.

RYAN: I appreciate that, Joe. [laughter]

RADDATZ: Let’s talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process.

Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive?

Mr. Ryan?

RYAN: Absolutely. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts.

Look, when I look at these programs, we’ve all had tragedies in our lives. I think about what they’ve done for my own family. My mom and I had my grandmother move in with us who was facing Alzheimer’s. Medicare was there for here, just like it’s there for my mom right now who is a Florida senior.

After my dad died, my mom and I got Social Security survivors benefits, helped me pay for college, it helped her go back to college in her 50s where she started a small business because of the new skills she got. She paid all of her taxes on the promise that these programs would be there for her.

We will honor this promise. And the best way to do it is reform it for my generation.

You see, if you reform these programs for my generation, people 54 and below, you can guarantee they don’t change for people in or near retirement, which is precisely what Mitt Romney and I are proposing.

Look what — look what Obamacare does. Obamacare takes $716 billion from Medicare to spend on Obamacare. Even their own chief actuary at Medicare backs this up. He says you can’t spend the same dollar twice. You can’t claim that this money goes to Medicare and Obamacare.

RYAN: And then they put this new Obamacare board in charge of cutting Medicare each and every year in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors.

This board, by the way, it’s 15 people, the president’s supposed to appoint them next year. And not one of them even has to have medical training.

And Social Security? If we don’t shore up Social Security, when we run out of the IOUs, when the program goes bankrupt, a 25 percent across-the-board benefit cut kicks in on current seniors in the middle of their retirement. We’re going to stop that from happening.

They haven’t put a credible solution on the table. He’ll tell you about vouchers. He’ll say all these things to try and scare people. Here’s what we’re saying: give younger people, when they become Medicare eligible, guaranteed coverage options that you can’t be denied, including traditional Medicare. Choose your plan, and then Medicare subsidizes your premiums, not as much for the wealthy people, more coverage for middle-income people, and total out-of-pocket coverage for the poor and the sick.

Choice and competition. We would rather have 50 million future seniors determine how their Medicare is delivered to them instead of 15 bureaucrats deciding what, if, when, where they get it.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden, two minutes.

BIDEN: You know, I heard that death panel argument from Sarah Palin. It seems every vice presidential debate I hear this kind of stuff about panels.

But let’s talk about Medicare. What we did is, we saved $716 billion and put it back, applied it to Medicare. We cut the cost of Medicare. We stopped overpaying insurance companies, doctors and hospitals. The AMA supported what we did. AARP endorsed what we did. And it extends the life of Medicare to 2024. They want to wipe this all out.

It also gave more benefits. Any senior out there, ask yourself: Do you have more benefits today? You do. If you’re near the donut hole, you have $800 — $600 more to help your prescription drug costs. You get wellness visits without co-pays. They wipe all of this out, and Medicare goes — becomes insolvent in 2016, number one.

Number two, “guaranteed benefit”? It’s a voucher. When they first proposed — when the congressman had his first voucher program, the CBO said it would cost $6,400 a year, Martha, more for every senior, 55 and below, when they got there. He knew that, yet he got all the guys in Congress and women in the Republican Party to vote for it. Governor Romney, knowing that, said, I would sign it, were I there.

Who you believe, the AMA, me, a guy who’s fought his whole life for this, or somebody who would actually put in motion a plan that knowingly cut — added $6,400 a year more to the cost of Medicare?

Now they got a new plan: “Trust me, it’s not going to cost you any more.” Folks, follow your instincts on this one.

And with regard to Social Security, we will not — we will not privatize it. If we had listened to Romney, Governor Romney, and the congressman during the Bush years, imagine where all those seniors would be now if their money had been in the market.

Their ideas are old and their ideas are bad, and they eliminate the guarantee of Medicare.

RYAN: Here’s the problem. They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a piggybank for Obamacare. Their own actuary from the administration came to Congress and said one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business as a result of this.

BIDEN: That’s not what they said.

RYAN: 7.4 million seniors are projected to lose their current Medicare Advantage coverage they have. That’s a $3,200 benefit cut.

BIDEN: That didn’t happen.

RYAN: What we’re saying…

BIDEN: More people signed up.

RYAN: These are from your own actuaries.

BIDEN: More — more — more people signed up for Medicare Advantage after the change.

RYAN: What — there’s…

BIDEN: Nobody is…[crosstalk]

RYAN: Mr. Vice President, I know…

BIDEN: No, this is…[crosstalk]

RYAN: Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don’t keep interrupting each other.

BIDEN: Well, don’t take all the four minutes then.

RYAN: Let me just — let me just say this. We are not — we’re saying don’t change benefits for people 55 and above. They already organized their retirement around these promises. [crosstalk]… programs for those of us.

RADDATZ: But let — let me ask you this. What — what is your specific plan for seniors who really can’t afford to make up the difference in the value of what you call a premium support plan and others call a voucher?

RYAN: Hundred percent coverage…

RADDATZ: And what…[crosstalk]

RYAN: That’s what we’re saying. So we’re saying…

RADDATZ: How do you make that up?

RYAN: … income adjusts [inaudible] these premium support payments by taking down the subsidies for wealthy people.

Look, this is a plan — by the way, that $6,400 number, it was misleading then, it’s totally inaccurate now. This is a plan that’s bipartisan. It’s a plan I put together with a prominent Democrat senator from Oregon.

BIDEN: There’s not one Democrat who endorses it.

RYAN: It’s a plan…

BIDEN: Not one Democrat who [inaudible].

RYAN: Our partner is a Democrat from Oregon.

BIDEN: And he said he does no longer support [inaudible].

RYAN: We — we — we put it — we put it together with the former Clinton budget director.

BIDEN: Who disavows it.

RYAN: This idea — this idea came from the Clinton commission to save Medicare chaired by Senator John Breaux.

Here’s the point, Martha.

BIDEN: Which was rejected.

RYAN: If we don’t — if we don’t fix this problem pretty soon then current seniors get cut. Here’s the problem: 10,000 people are retiring every single day in America today and they will for 20 years. That’s not a political thing, that’s a math thing.

BIDEN: Martha, if we just did one thing, if we just — if they just allowed Medicare to bargain for the cost of drugs like Medicaid can, that would save $156 billion right off the bat.

RYAN: And it would deny seniors choices.

BIDEN: All — all — all…

RYAN: It has a restricted…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: Seniors are not denied.

RYAN: Absolutely.

BIDEN: They are not denied.

Look, folks, all you seniors out there, have you been denied choices? Have you lost Medicare Advantage.

RYAN: Because it’s working well right now. [crosstalk]

BIDEN: Because we’ve changed the law.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden, let me ask you, if it could help solve the problem, why not very slowly raise the Medicare eligibility age by two years, as Congressman Ryan suggests?

BIDEN: Look, I was there when we did that with Social Security in 1983. I was one of eight people sitting in the room that included Tip O’Neill negotiating with President Reagan. We all got together and everybody said, as long as everybody’s in the deal, everybody’s in the deal, and everybody is making some sacrifice, we can find a way.

We made the system solvent to 2033. We will not, though, be part of any voucher plan eliminating — the voucher says, “Mom, when you’re — when you’re 65, go out there, shop for the best insurance you can get. You’re out of Medicare.” You can buy back in if you want with this voucher, which will not keep pace — will not keep pace with health care costs. Because if it did keep pace with health care costs, there would be no savings. That’s why they go the voucher. They — we will be no part of a voucher program or the privatization of Social Security.

RYAN: A voucher is you go to your mailbox, get a check, and buy something. Nobody’s proposing that. Barack Obama four years ago running for president said if you don’t have any fresh ideas, use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a good record to run on, paint your opponent as someone people should run from. [crosstalk] Make a big election about small ideas.

RADDATZ: You were one of the few lawmakers to stand with President Bush when he was seeking to partially privatize Social Security.

RYAN: For younger people. What we said then, and what I’ve always agreed is let younger Americans have a voluntary choice of making their money work faster for them within the Social Security system.

BIDEN: You saw how well that worked.

RYAN: That’s not what Mitt Romney’s proposing. What we’re saying is no changes for anybody 55 and above.

BIDEN: What Mitt Romney is proposing…

RYAN: And then the kinds of changes we’re talking about for younger people like myself is don’t increase the benefits for wealthy people as fast as everybody else. Slowly raise the retirement age over time.

BIDEN: Martha…

RYAN: It wouldn’t get to the age of 70 until the year 2103 according to the actuaries.

Now, here’s…[crosstalk]

RADDATZ: Quickly, Vice President?

BIDEN: Quickly. The bottom line here is that all the studies show that if we went with Social Security proposal made by Mitt Romney, if you’re 40 — in your 40s now you will pay $2,600 a year — you get $2,600 a year less in Social Security. If you’re in your 20s now, you get $4,700 [inaudible] less.

The idea of changing, and change being in this case to cut the benefits for people without taking other action you could do to make it work is absolutely the wrong way.

These — look, these guys haven’t been big on Medicare from the beginning. Their party’s not been big on Medicare from the beginning. And they’ve always been about Social Security as little as you can do.

Look, folks, use your common sense. Who do you trust on this — a man who introduced a bill that would raise it 40 — $6,400 a year; knowing it and passing it, and Romney saying he’d sign it, or me and the president?

RYAN: That statistic was completely misleading. But more importantly…

BIDEN: That’s — there are the facts right…[crosstalk]

RYAN: This is what politicians do when they don’t have a record to run on: try to scare people from voting for you. If you don’t get ahead of this problem, it’s going to…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: Medicare beneficiaries — there are more beneficiaries…[crosstalk]

RADDATZ: We’re going to — we’re going to move…[crosstalk]… very simple question…[crosstalk]

RYAN: We’re not going to run away. Medicare and Social Security did so much for my own family. We are not going to jeopardize this program, but we have to save it…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: You are jeopardizing this program. You’re changing the program from a guaranteed benefit to premium support. Whatever you call it, the bottom line is people are going to have to pay more money out of their pocket and the families I know and the families I come from, they don’t have the money to pay more out…[crosstalk]

RYAN: That’s why we’re saying more for lower income people and less for higher income people.

RADDATZ: Gentlemen, I would like to move on to a very simple question for both of you, and something tells me I won’t get a very simple answer, but let me ask you this.

BIDEN: I gave you a simple answer. He’s raising the cost of Medicare.

RADDATZ: OK, on to taxes. If your ticket is elected, who will pay more in taxes? Who will pay less? And we’re starting with Vice President Biden for two minutes.

BIDEN: The middle class will pay less and people making $1 million or more will begin to contribute slightly more. Let me give you one concrete example. The continuation of the Bush tax cuts — we are arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. Of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, $800 million — billion of that goes to people making a minimum of $1 million.

We see no justification in these economic times for those, and they’re patriotic Americans. They’re not asking for this continued tax cut. They’re not suggesting it, but my friends are insisting on it; 120,000 families by continuing that tax cut will get an additional $500 billion in tax relief in the next 10 years and their income is an average of $8 million.

We want to extend permanently the middle-class tax cut for — permanently, from the Bush middle-class tax cut. These guys won’t allow us to. You know what they’re saying? We say “let’s have a vote — let’s have a vote on the middle-class tax cut and let’s have a vote on the upper tax cut; let’s go ahead and vote on it.”

They’re saying no. They’re holding hostage the middle class tax cut to the super wealthy. And on top of that, they’ve got another tax cut coming that’s $5 trillion that all of the studies point out will in fact give another $250 million — yeah, $250,000 a year to those 120,000 families and raise taxes for people who are middle income with a child by $2,000 a year.

This is unconscionable. There is no need for this. The middle class got knocked on their heels. The great recession crushed them. They need some help now. The last people who need help are 120,000 families for another — another $500 billion tax cut over the next 10 years.

RADDATZ: Congressman?

RYAN: Our entire premise of these tax reform plans is to grow the economy and create jobs. It’s a plan that’s estimated to create 7 million jobs. Now, we think that government taking 28 percent of a family and business’s income is enough. President Obama thinks that the government ought to be able to take as much as 44.8 percent of a small business’s income.

Look, if you taxed every person and successful business making over $250,000 at 100 percent, it would only run the government for 98 days. If everybody who paid income taxes last year, including successful small businesses, doubled their income taxes this year, we’d still have a $300 billion deficit. You see? There aren’t enough rich people and small businesses to tax to pay for all their spending.

And so the next time you hear them say, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll get a few wealthy people to pay their fair share,” watch out, middle class, the tax bill’s coming to you.

That’s why we’re saying we need fundamental tax reform. Let’s take a look at it this way. Eight out of 10 businesses, they file their taxes as individuals, not as corporations. And where I come from, overseas, which is Lake Superior, the Canadians, they dropped their tax rates to 15 percent. The average tax rate on businesses in the industrialized world is 25 percent, and the president wants the top effective tax rate on successful small businesses to go above 40 percent.

Two-thirds of our jobs come from small businesses. This one tax would actually tax about 53 percent of small-business income. It’s expected to cost us 710,000 jobs. And you know what? It doesn’t even pay for 10 percent of their proposed deficit spending increases.

What we are saying is, lower tax rates across the board and close loopholes, primarily to the higher-income people. We have three bottom lines: Don’t raise the deficit, don’t raise taxes on the middle class, and don’t lower the share of income that is borne by the high-income earners.

He’ll keep saying this $5 trillion plan, I suppose. It’s been discredited by six other studies. And even their own deputy campaign manager acknowledged that it wasn’t correct.

RADDATZ: Well, let’s talk about this 20 percent. You have refused — and, again — to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics? Or are you still working on it, and that’s why you won’t tell voters?

RYAN: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements. You see, I understand the…

RADDATZ: Do you have the specifics? Do you have the…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: That would — that would be a first for the Republican Congress.

RADDATZ: Do you know exactly what you’re doing?

RYAN: Look — look at what Mitt Romney — look at what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did. They worked together out of a framework to lower tax rates and broaden the base, and they worked together to fix that.

What we’re saying is, here’s our framework. Lower tax rates 20 percent. We raised about $1.2 trillion through income taxes. We forego about $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions. And so what we’re saying is, deny those loopholes and deductions to higher-income taxpayers so that more of their income is taxed, which has a broader base of taxation…

BIDEN: Can I translate?

RYAN: … so we can lower tax rates across the board. Now, here’s why I’m saying this. What we’re saying is, here’s the framework…

BIDEN: I hope I’m going to get time to respond to this.

RADDATZ: You’ll get time.

RYAN: We want to work with Congress — we want to work with the Congress on how best to achieve this. That means successful. Look…

RADDATZ: No specifics, again.

RYAN: Mitt — what we’re saying is, lower tax rates 20 percent, start with the wealthy, work with Congress to do it…

RADDATZ: And you guarantee this math will add up?

RYAN: Absolutely. Six studies have guaranteed — six studies have verified that this math adds up. But here’s…

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: Look…[crosstalk]… let me translate. Let me have a chance to translate.

RYAN: I’ll come back in a second, then, right?

BIDEN: First of all, I was there when Ronald Reagan tax breaks — he gave specifics of what he was going to cut, number one, in terms of tax expenditures. Number two, 97 percent of the small businesses in America pay less — make less than $250,000. Let me tell you who some of those other small businesses are: hedge funds that make $600 million, $800 million a year. That’s — that’s what they count as small businesses, because they’re pass- through.

Let’s look at how sincere they are. Ronald — I mean, excuse me, Governor Romney on “60 Minutes” — I guess it was about 10 days ago — was asked, “Governor, you pay 14 percent on $20 million. Someone making $50,000 pays more than that. Do you think that’s fair?” He said, “Oh, yes, that’s fair. That’s fair.”

This is — and they’re going to talk — you think these guys are going to go out there and cut those loopholes? The loophole — the biggest loophole they take advantage of is the carried interest loophole and — and capital gains loophole. They exempt that.

Now, there’s not enough — the reason why the AEI study, the American Enterprise Institute study, the Tax Policy Center study, the reason they all say it’s going — taxes go up on the middle class, the only way you can find $5 trillion in loopholes is cut the mortgage deduction for middle-class people, cut the health care deduction, middle-class people, take away their ability to get a tax break to send their kids to college. That’s why they arrive at it.

RADDATZ: Is he wrong about that?

RYAN: He is wrong about that. They’re…

BIDEN: How’s that?

RYAN: You can — you can cut tax rates by 20 percent and still preserve these important preferences for middle-class taxpayers…

BIDEN: Not mathematically possible.

RYAN: It is mathematically possible. It’s been done before. It’s precisely what we’re proposing.

BIDEN: It has never been done before.

RYAN: It’s been done a couple of times, actually.

BIDEN: It has never been done before.

RYAN: Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan…

BIDEN: Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy? [laughter]

RYAN: Ronald Reagan — Republicans and Democrats…

BIDEN: This is amazing.

RYAN: Republican and Democrats have worked together on this.

BIDEN: That’s right.

RYAN: You know, I understand you guys aren’t used to doing bipartisan deals…

BIDEN: But we told each other what we’re going to do.

RYAN: Republicans and Democrats…

BIDEN: When we did it Reagan, we said, here — here are the things we’re going to cut. [crosstalk] That’s what we said.

RYAN: We said here’s the framework, let’s work together to fill in the details. That’s exactly…

BIDEN: Fill in the detail.

RYAN: That’s how you get things done. You work with Congress — look, let me say it this way. [crosstalk]

BIDEN: That’s coming from a Republican Congress working bipartisanly, 7 percent rating? Come on.

RYAN: Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, where 87 percent of the legislators he served, which were Democrats. He didn’t demonize them. He didn’t demagogue them. He met with those party leaders every week. He reached across the aisle. He didn’t compromise principles.

BIDEN: And you saw what happened.

RYAN: He found common ground — and he balanced the budget…

BIDEN: You saw — if he did such a great job…

RADDATZ: Mr. Vice President…[crosstalk]

RYAN: … four times without raising taxes…

BIDEN: Why isn’t he even contesting Massachusetts? [crosstalk]

RADDATZ: Mr. Vice President, what would you suggest — what would you suggest beyond raising taxes on the wealthy, that would substantially reduce the long-term deficit?

BIDEN: Just let the taxes expire like they’re supposed to on those millionaires. We don’t — we can’t afford $800 billion going to people making a minimum of $1 million. They do not need it, Martha. Those 120,000 families make $8 million a year. Middle-class people need the help. Why does my friend cut out the tuition tax credit for them? Why does he go after the childcare…

RADDATZ: Can you declare anything off-limits?

BIDEN: Why do they do that?

RADDATZ: Can you declare anything off-limits?

RYAN: Yeah, we’re saying close loopholes…

RADDATZ: Home mortgage deduction?

RYAN: … on high-interest people.

RADDATZ: Home mortgage deduction?

RYAN: For higher-income people. Here…

BIDEN: Can you guarantee that no one making less than $100,000 will have a mortgage — their mortgage deduction impacted? Guarantee?

RYAN: This taxes a million small businesses. He keeps trying to make you think that it’s just some movie star or hedge fund guy or an actor…

BIDEN: Ninety-seven percent of the small businesses make less than $250,000 a year, would not be affected.

RYAN: Joe, you know it hits a million — this taxes a million people, a million small businesses.

BIDEN: Does it tax 97 percent of the American businesses?

RYAN: It taxes a million small businesses…

BIDEN: Small businesses?

RYAN: … who are our greatest job creators.

BIDEN: I wish I’d get — the “greatest job creators” are the hedge fund guys.

RADDATZ: And you’re — and you’re going to increase the defense budget.

RYAN: Think about it this way.

RADDATZ: And you’re going to increase the defense budget.

RYAN: No, we’re not just going to cut the defense budget like they’re — they’re proposing…

BIDEN: They’re going to increase it $2 billion.

RYAN: That’s not…[crosstalk] We’re talking about…

RADDATZ: So no massive defense increases?

RYAN: No, we’re saying don’t — OK, you want to get into defense now?

RADDATZ: Yes, I do. I do, because that’s another math question.

RYAN: So — right, OK.

RADDATZ: How do you do that?

RYAN: So they proposed a $478 billion cut to defense to begin with. Now we have another $500 billion cut to defense that’s lurking on the horizon. They insisted upon that cut being involved in the debt negotiations, and so we have a $1 trillion cut…

RADDATZ: Let’s put the automatic defense cuts aside, OK?

RYAN: Right, OK.

RADDATZ: Let’s put those aside. No one wants that.

BIDEN: I’d like to go back to that.

RADDATZ: But I want to know how you do the math and have this increase in defense spending?

BIDEN: Two trillion dollars.

RYAN: You don’t cut defense by a trillion dollars. That’s what we’re talking about.

RADDATZ: And what — what national security issues justify an increase?

BIDEN: Who’s cutting it by $1 trillion?

RYAN: We’re going to cut 80,000 soldiers, 20,000 Marines, 120 cargo planes. We’re going to push the Joint Strike Fighter out…

RADDATZ: Drawing down in one war and one war…

RYAN: If these cuts go through, our Navy will be the smallest — the smallest it has been since before World War I.

This invites weakness. Look, do we believe in peace through strength? You bet we do. And that means you don’t impose these devastating cuts on our military.

So we’re saying don’t cut the military by a trillion dollars. Not increase it by a trillion, don’t cut it by a trillion dollars.

RADDATZ: Quickly, Vice President Biden on this. I want to move on.

BIDEN: Look, we don’t cut it. And I might add, this so-called — I know we don’t want to use the fancy word “sequester,” this automatic cut — that was part of a debt deal that they asked for.

And let me tell you what my friend said at a press conference announcing his support of the deal. He said, and I’m paraphrase, We’ve been looking for this moment for a long time.

RYAN: Can I tell you what that meant? [crosstalk] We’ve been looking for bipartisanship for a long time.

BIDEN: And so the bipartisanship is what he voted for, the automatic cuts in defense if they didn’t act.

And beyond that, they asked for another — look, the military says we need a smaller, leaner Army, we need more special forces, we need — we don’t need more M1 tanks, what we need is more UAVs.

RADDATZ: Some of the military. [crosstalk]

BIDEN: Not some of the military. That was the decision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended to us and agreed to by the president. That is a fact.

RADDATZ: Who answers to a civilian leader.

BIDEN: They made the recommendation first.

RADDATZ: OK. Let’s move on to Afghanistan.

RYAN: Can I get into that for a second?

RADDATZ: I’d like to move on to Afghanistan please. And that’s one of the biggest expenditures this country has made, in dollars, and more importantly in lives.

We just passed the sad milestone of losing 2,000 U.S. troops there in this war. More than 50 of them were killed this year by the very Afghan forces we are trying to help.

Now, we’ve reached the recruiting goal for Afghan forces, we’ve degraded Al Qaida. So tell me, why not leave now? What more can we really accomplish? Is it worth more American lives?

RYAN: We don’t want to lose the gains we’ve gotten. We want to make sure that the Taliban does not come back in and give Al Qaida a safe haven.

We agree with the administration on their 2014 transition.

Look, when I think about Afghanistan, I think about the incredible job that our troops have done. You’ve been there more than the two of us combined. First time I was there in 2002, it was amazing to me what they were facing. When I went to the Ahgandah [ph] Valley in Kandahar before the surge, I sat down with a young private in the 82nd from the Monamanee [ph] Indian reservation who would tell me what he did every day, and I was in awe. And to see what they had in front of them.

And then to go back there in December, to go throughout Helmand with the Marines, to see what they had accomplished, it’s nothing short of amazing.

What we don’t want to do is lose the gains we’ve gotten. Now, we’ve disagreed from time to time on a few issues. We would have more likely taken into accounts the recommendations from our commanders, General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, on troop levels throughout this year’s fighting season. We’ve been skeptical about negotiations with the Taliban, especially while they’re shooting at us.

But we want to see the 2014 transition be successful, and that means we want to make sure our commanders have what they need to make sure that it is successful so that this does not once again become a launching pad for terrorists.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: Martha, let’s keep our eye on the ball. The reason — I’ve been in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq 20 times. I’ve been up in the Konar [ph] Valley. I’ve been throughout that whole country, mostly in a helicopter, and sometimes in a vehicle.

The fact is, we went there for one reason: to get those people who killed Americans, Al Qaida. We’ve decimated Al Qaida central. We have eliminated Osama bin Laden. That was our purpose.

And, in fact, in the meantime, what we said we would do, we would help train the Afghan military. It’s their responsibility to take over their own security. That’s why with 49 of our allies in Afghanistan, we’ve agreed on a gradual drawdown so we’re out of there by the year 20 — in the year 2014.

My friend and the governor say it’s based on conditions, which means it depends. It does not depend for us. It is the responsibility of the Afghans to take care of their own security. We have trained over 315,000, mostly without incident. There have been more than two dozen cases of green-on-blue where Americans have been killed. If we do not — if the measures the military has taken do not take hold, we will not go on joint patrols. We will not train in the field. We’ll only train in the — in the Army bases that exist there.

But we are leaving. We are leaving in 2014. Period. And in the process, we’re going to be saving over the next 10 years another $800 billion. We’ve been in this war for over a decade. The primary objective is almost completed. Now, all we’re doing is putting the Kabul government in a position to be able to maintain their own security.

It’s their responsibility, not America’s.

RADDATZ: What — what conditions could justify staying, Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: We don’t want to stay. We want — look, one of my best friends in Janesville, a reservist, is at a forward-operating base in eastern Afghanistan right now. Our wives are best friends. Our daughters are best friends. I want — I want him and all of our troops to come home as soon and safely as possible.

We want to make sure that 2014 is successful. That’s why we want to make sure that we give our commanders what they say they need to make it successful. We don’t want to extend beyond 2014. That’s the point we’re making. You know, if it was just this, I’d feel like we would — we would be able to call this a success, but it’s not. What we are witnessing as we turn on our television screens these days is the absolute unraveling of the Obama foreign policy. Problems are growing at home, but — problems are growing abroad, but jobs aren’t growing here at home.

RADDATZ: Let me go back to this. He says we’re absolutely leaving in 2014. You’re saying that’s not an absolute, but you won’t talk about what conditions would justify…[crosstalk]

RYAN: Do you know why we say that?

BIDEN: I’d like to know…[crosstalk]

RYAN: Because we don’t want to broadcast to our enemies “put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back.” We want to make sure…[crosstalk]

RADDATZ: But you agree with the timeline.

RYAN: We do agree — we do agree with the timeline and the transition, but what we — what any administration will do in 2013 is assess the situation to see how best to complete this timeline. What we do not want to do…

BIDEN: We will leave in 2014.

RYAN: … what we don’t want to do is give our allies reason to trust us less and our enemies more — we don’t want to embolden our enemies to hold and wait out for us and then take over…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: Martha, that’s a bizarre statement.

RYAN: That’s why we want to make sure — no, that’s why we want to make sure that…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: Forty-nine of our allies — hear me — 49 of our allies signed on to this position.

RYAN: And we’re reading that they want to…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: Forty-nine — 49 of our allies said “out in 2014.” It’s the responsibility of the Afghans. We have other responsibilities… [crosstalk]

RADDATZ: Do you really think that this timeline…[crosstalk]

RYAN: Which is — which is…[crosstalk]

RADDATZ: We have — we have soldiers and Marines. We have Afghan forces murdering our forces over there. The Taliban is, do you think, taking advantage of this timeline?

BIDEN: Look, the Taliban — what we’ve found out, and we — you saw it in Iraq, Martha, unless you set a timeline, Baghdad, in the case of Iraq, and — and Kabul, in the case of Afghanistan will not step up. They’re happy to let us continue to do the job; international security forces to do the job.

The only way they step up is to say, “Fellas, we’re leaving; we’ve trained you; step up, step up.”

RADDATZ: Let me go back.

BIDEN: That’s the only way it works.

RADDATZ: Let me go back to the — the surge troops that we put in there. And — and you brought this up, Congressman Ryan. I have talked to a lot of troops. I’ve talked to senior offices who were concerned that the surge troops were pulled out during the fighting season, and some of them saw that as a political — as a political move. So can you tell me, Vice President Biden, what was the military reason for bringing those surge troops home…

BIDEN: The military reason…

RADDATZ: … before the fighting had ended?

BIDEN: … was bringing — by the way, when the president announced the surge, you’ll remember, Martha, he said the surge will be out by the end of the summer. The military said the surge will be out. Nothing political about this.

Before the surge occurred — so you be a little straight with me here, too — before the surge occurred, we said they’ll be out by the end of the summer. That’s what the military said. The reason for that is…

RADDATZ: The military follows orders. I mean, there — trust me. There are people who were concerned about pulling out on the fighting season.

BIDEN: Sure. There are people that are concerned, but not the Joint Chiefs. That was their recommendation in the Oval Office to the president of the United States of America. I sat there. I’m sure you’ll find someone who disagrees with the Pentagon. I’m positive you’ll find that within the military. But that’s not the case here.

And, secondly, the reason why the military said that is, you cannot wait and have a cliff. It takes — you know — months and months and months to draw down forces.

RYAN: Let me…[crosstalk] Let me try and illustrate the issue here, because I think this — it can get a little confusing. We’ve all met with General Allen and General Scaparrotti in Afghanistan to talk about fighting seasons.

Here’s the way it works. The mountain passes fill in with snow. The Taliban and the terrorists and the Haqqani and the Quetta Shura come over from Pakistan to fight our men and women. When it fills in with snow, they can’t do it. That’s what we call fighting seasons. In the warm months, fighting gets really high. In the winter, it goes down.

And so when Admiral Mullen and General Petraeus came to Congress and said, if you pull these people out before the fighting season is end, it puts people more at risk. That’s the problem.

Yes, we drew 22,000 troops down last month, but the remaining troops that are there, who still have the same mission to prosecute counterinsurgency, are doing it with fewer people. That makes them less safe.

BIDEN: Fighting season…

RYAN: We’re sending fewer people out in all of these hotspots to do the same job that they were supposed to do a month ago.

BIDEN: Because we turned it over…

RYAN: But we took 22,000 people out…

BIDEN: … we turned it over to the Afghan troops we trained. No one got pulled out that didn’t get filled in by trained Afghan personnel. And he’s — he’s conflating two issues. The fighting season that Petraeus was talking about and former — and Admiral Mullen was the fighting season this spring. That’s what he was talking about. We did not — we did not pull them out.

RYAN: The calendar works the same every year.

BIDEN: It does work the same every year. But we’re not staying there…

RYAN: Spring, summer, fall. It’s warm, or it’s not. They’re still fighting us. They’re still coming over the passes. They’re still coming into Zabul, to Kunar, to all of these areas, but we are sending fewer people to the front to fight them. And that’s…[crosstalk]

BIDEN: That’s right, because that’s the Afghan responsibility. We’ve trained them.

RYAN: Not in the east.

RADDATZ: Let’s move — let’s move to another war.

BIDEN: Not in the east?

RYAN: R.C. East — R.C. East…

BIDEN: R.C. East is the most dangerous place in the world.

RYAN: That’s right. That’s why we don’t want to send fewer people to the…

BIDEN: That’s — that’s why we should send Americans in to do the job, instead of the — you’d rather Americans be going in doing the job instead of the trainees?

RYAN: No. We are already sending Americans to do the job, but fewer of them. That’s the whole problem.

BIDEN: That’s right. We’re sending in more Afghans to do the job, Afghans to do the job.

RADDATZ: Let’s move to another war, the civil war in Syria, where there are estimates that more — estimates that more than 25,000, 30,000 people have now been killed. In March of last year, President Obama explained the military action taken in Libya by saying it was in the national interest to go in and prevent further massacres from occurring there. So why doesn’t the same logic apply in Syria? Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: Different country. It’s a different country. It is five times as large geographically, it has one-fifth the population, that is Libya, one-fifth the population, five times as large geographically.

It’s in a part of the world where they’re not going to see whatever would come from that war. It seep into a regional war.

You’re in a country that is heavily populated in the midst of the most dangerous area in the world. And, in fact, if in fact it blows up and the wrong people gain control, it’s going to have impact on the entire region causing potentially regional wars.

We are working hand and glove with the Turks, with the Jordanians, with the Saudis, and with all the people in the region attempting to identify the people who deserve the help so that when Assad goes — and he will go — there will be a legitimate government that follows on, not an Al Qaida-sponsored government that follows on.

And all this loose talk of my friend, Governor Romney, and the congressman, about how we’re going to do, we could do so much more in there, what more would they do other than put American boots on the ground?

The last thing America needs is to get in another ground war in the Middle East, requiring tens of thousands, if not well over 100,000 American forces. That — they are the facts. They are the facts.

Now, every time the governor is asked about this, he doesn’t say anything. He — he goes up with a whole lot of verbiage, but when he gets pressed he says, no, he would not do anything different than we are doing now.

Are they proposing putting American troops on the ground? Putting American aircraft in the airspace? Is that what they’re proposing? If they do, they should speak up and say so, but that’s not what they’re saying.

We are doing it exactly like we need to do to identify those forces who, in fact, will provide for a stable government and not cause a regional Sunni-Shia war when Bassad — when Bashar Assad falls.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: Nobody is proposing to send troops to Syria. American troops.

Now, let me say it this way. How would we do things differently? We wouldn’t refer to Bashar Assad as a reformer when he’s killing his own civilians with his Russian-provided weapons. We wouldn’t be outsourcing our foreign policy to the United Nations giving Vladimir Putin veto power over our efforts to try and deal with this issue. He’s vetoed three of them.

Hillary Clinton went to Russia to try and convince them not to do so. They thwarted her efforts. She said they were on the wrong side of history. She was right about that. This is just one more example of how the Russia reset’s not working.

And so where are we? After international pressure mounted, the President Obama said Bashar Assad should go. It’s been over a year. The man has slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people. And more foreign fighters are spilling into this country.

So the longer this has gone on, the more people, groups like Al Qaida are going in. We could have more easily identified the free Syrian army, the freedom fighters, working with our allies, the Turks, the Qataris, the Saudis, had we had a better plan in place to begin with working through our allies. But, no, we waited for Kofi Annan to try and come up with an agreement through the U.N. That bought Bashar Assad time.

We gave Russia veto power over our efforts through the U.N. And meanwhile about 30,000 Syrians are dead.

BIDEN: What would my friend do differently? If you notice, he never answers the question.

RYAN: No, I would — I — we would not be going through the U.N. in all of these things.

BIDEN: Let me — you don’t go through the U.N. We are in the process now — and have been for months — in making sure that help, humanitarian aid, as well as other aid and training is getting to those forces that we believe, the Turks believe, the Jordanians believe, the Saudis believe are the free forces inside of Syria. That is underway.

Our allies were all on the same page, NATO, as well as our Arab allies, in terms of trying to get a settlement. That was their idea. We’re the ones that said, “Enough.” With regard to the reset not working, the fact of the matter is that Russia has a different interest in Syria than we do, and that’s not in our interest.

RADDATZ: What happens if Assad does not fall, Congressman Ryan? What happens to the region? What happens if he hangs on? What happens if he does?

RYAN: Then Iran keeps their greatest ally in the region. He’s a sponsor of terrorism. He’ll probably continue slaughtering his people. We and the world community will lose our credibility on this. Look, he mentioned the reset…

RADDATZ: So what would Romney-Ryan do about that credibility?

RYAN: Well, we agree with the same red line, actually, they do on chemical weapons, but not putting American troops in, other than to secure those chemical weapons. They’re right about that.

But what we should have done earlier is work with those freedom fighters, those dissidents in Syria. We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer. And…

RADDATZ: What’s your criteria…[crosstalk]

RYAN: … we should not have — we should not have waited to Russia…

RADDATZ: What’s your criteria…[crosstalk]

RYAN: … should not have waited for Russia to give us the green light at the U.N. to do something about it.

BIDEN: Russia…

RYAN: They’re — they’re still arming the man. Iran is flying flights over Iraq…

BIDEN: And the opposition is being armed.

RYAN: … to help Bashar Assad. And, by the way, if we had the status-of-forces agreement that the vice president said he would bet his vice presidency on in Iraq, we probably would have been able to prevent that. But he failed to achieve that, as well, again.

RADDATZ: Let me ask you a quick question.

BIDEN: I don’t…

RADDATZ: What’s your criteria for intervention?

BIDEN: Yeah.

RYAN: In Syria?

RADDATZ: Worldwide.

RYAN: What is in the national interests of the American people.

RADDATZ: How about humanitarian interests?

RYAN: What is in the national security of the American people. It’s got to be in the strategic national interests of our country.

RADDATZ: No humanitarian?

RYAN: Each situation will — will come up with its own set of circumstances, but putting American troops on the ground? That’s got to be within the national security interests of the American people.

RADDATZ: I want to — we’re — we’re almost out of time here.

RYAN: That means like embargoes and sanctions and overflights, those are things that don’t put American troops on the ground. But if you’re talking about putting American troops on the ground, only in our national security interests.

RADDATZ: I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.

Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country…

RYAN: Sure.

RADDATZ: … please talk personally about this, if you could.

Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life.

Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.” Now I believe that life begins at conception.

That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties. And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they wanted it to be safe, legal and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding. Taxpayer funding in Obamacare, taxpayer funding with foreign aid. The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized and wouldn’t second guess their one child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That to me is pretty extreme.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call a [inaudible] doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman. I — I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that. With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

That is a fact. Now with regard to the way in which the — we differ, my friend says that he — well I guess he accepts Governor Romney’s position now, because in the past he has argued that there was — there’s rape and forcible rape. He’s argued that in the case of rape or incest, it was still — it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion. I just fundamentally disagree with my friend.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan.

RYAN: All I’m saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

Now, I’ve got to take issue with the Catholic church and religious liberty.

BIDEN: You have on the issue…

[crosstalk]

RYAN: … why would they keep — why would they keep suing you? It’s a distinction without a difference.

RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

RYAN: We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.

BIDEN: The court — the next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That’s how close Roe v. Wade is. Just ask yourself, with Robert Bork being the chief adviser on the court for — for Mr. Romney, who do you think he’s likely to appoint? Do you think he’s likely to appoint someone like Scalia or someone else on the court far right that would outlaw [inaudible] — outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen.

I guarantee you, that will not happen. We picked two people. We pick people who are open-minded. They’ve been good justices. So keep an eye on the Supreme Court…

RYAN: Was there a litmus test on them?

BIDEN: There was no litmus test. We picked people who had an open mind; did not come with an agenda.

RADDATZ: I’m — I’m going to move on to this closing question because we are running out of time.

Certainly [inaudible] and you’ve said it here tonight, that the two of you respect our troops enormously. Your son has served and perhaps someday your children will serve as well.

I recently spoke to a highly decorated soldier who said that this presidential campaign has left him dismayed. He told me, quote, “the ads are so negative and they are all tearing down each other rather than building up the country.”

What would you say to that American hero about this campaign? And at the end of the day, are you ever embarrassed by the tone?

Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: I would say to him the same thing I say to my son who did serve a year in Iraq, that we only have one truly sacred obligation as a government. That’s to equip those we send into harm’s way and care for those who come home. That’s the only sacred obligation we have. Everything else falls behind that.

I would also tell him that the fact that he, this decorated soldier you talked about, fought for his country, that that should be honored. He should not be thrown into a category of a 47 percent who don’t pay their taxes while he was out there fighting and not having to pay taxes, and somehow not taking responsibility.

I would also tell him that there are things that have occurred in this campaign and occur in every campaign that I’m sure both of us regret anyone having said, particularly in these — these special new groups that can go out there, raise all the money they want, not have to identify themselves, who say the most scurrilous things about the other candidate. It’s — it’s an abomination.

But the bottom line here is I’d ask that hero you referenced to take a look at whether or not Governor Romney or President Obama has the conviction to help lift up the middle class, restore them to where they were before this great recession hit and they got wiped out. Or whether or not he’s going to continue to focus on taking care of only the very wealthy, not asking them to make — pay any part of the deal to bring — bring back the middle class and the economy of this country.

I’d ask him to take a look at whether the president of the United States has acted wisely in the use of force and whether or not the slipshod comments being made by my — my — or by Governor Romney serve — serve our interests very well.

But there are things that have been said in campaigns that I — I find not very appealing.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: First of all, I’d thank him to his service to our country.

Second of all, I’d say we are not going to impose these devastating cuts on our military which compromises their mission and their safety.

And then I would say, you have a president who ran for president four years ago promising hope and change, who has now turned his campaign into attack, blame and defame.

You see, if you don’t have a good record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone to run from. That was what President Obama said in 2008. It’s what he’s doing right now.

Look at all the string of broken promises. If you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Try telling that to the 20 million people who are projected to lose their health insurance if Obamacare goes through or the 7-point million — 7.4 million seniors who are going to lose it.

Or remember when he said this: I guarantee if you make less than $250,000, your taxes won’t go up. Of the 21 tax increases in Obamacare, 12 of them hit the middle class.

Or remember when he said health insurance premiums will go down $2,500 per family, per year? They’ve gone up $3,000, and they’re expected to go up another $2,400.

Or remember when he said, “I promise by the end of my first term I’ll cut the deficit in half in four years”? We’ve had four budgets, four trillion-dollar deficits.

A debt crisis is coming. We can’t keep spending and borrowing like this. We can’t keep spending money we don’t have.

Leaders run to problem to fix problems. President Obama has not even put a credible plan on the table in any of his four years to deal with this debt crisis. I passed two budgets to deal with this. Mitt Romney’s put ideas on the table.

We’ve got to tackle this debt crisis before it tackles us. The president likes to say he has a plan. He gave a speech. We asked his budget office, “Can we see the plan?” They sent us to the press secretary. He gave us a copy of the speech. We asked the Congressional Budget Office, “Tell us what President Obama’s plan is to prevent a debt crisis.” They said, “It’s a speech, we can’t estimate speeches.”

You see, that’s what we get in this administration — speeches — but we’re not getting leadership.

Mitt Romney is uniquely qualified to fix these problems. His lifetime of experience, his proven track record of bipartisanship.

And what do we have from the president? He broke his big promise to bring people together to solve the country’s biggest problems.

And what I would tell him is we don’t have to settle for this.

BIDEN: Martha?

RYAN: We can do better than this.

BIDEN: I hope I’ll get equal time.

RADDATZ: You will get just a few minutes here. A few seconds, really.

BIDEN: The two budgets the congressman introduced have eviscerated all the things that the middle class cares about. It is [inaudible] he will knock 19 million people off of Medicare. It will kick 200,000 children off of early education. It will eliminate the tax credit people have to be able to send their children to college. It cuts education by $450 billion.

It does — it does virtually nothing except continue to increase the tax cuts for the very wealthy. And, you know, we’ve had enough of this.

The idea that he’s so concerned about these deficits, I’ve pointed out he voted to put two wars on a credit card. He did…

RADDATZ: We’re going to — we’re going to the closing statements in a minute. [crosstalk] You’re going to have your closing statement.

RYAN: Not raising taxes is not cutting taxes. And by the way, our budget…

BIDEN: We have not raised…[crosstalk]

RYAN: … by 3 percent a year instead of 4.5 percent like they propose. Not spending more money as much as they say is not a spending cut.

RADDATZ: Let me — let me calm down things here just for a minute. And I want to talk to you very briefly before we go to closing statements about your own personal character. If you are elected, what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?

RYAN: Honesty, no one else could? There are plenty of fine people who could lead this country. But what you need are people who, when they say they’re going to do something, they go do it. What you need are, when people see problems, they offer solutions to fix those problems. We’re not getting that.

Look, we can grow this economy faster. That’s what our five- point plan for a stronger middle class is all about. It’s about getting 12 million jobs, higher take-home pay, getting people out of poverty into the middle class. That means going with proven, pro- growth policies that we know works to get people back to work. Putting ideas on the table, working with Democrats — that actually works sometimes — and then…[crosstalk]

RADDATZ: Vice President, can we get to that — to that issue of what you could bring as a man, a human being? And I really — I’m going to keep you to about 15 seconds here.

BIDEN: Well, he gets 40, I get 15, that’s OK.

RADDATZ: He didn’t have 40. He didn’t have 40.

BIDEN: That’s all right.

Let me tell you. I — my — my record stands for itself. I never say anything I don’t mean. Everybody knows, whatever I say, I do. And my whole life has been devoted to leveling the playing field for middle-class people, giving them an even break, treating Main Street and Wall Street the same, hold them to the same responsibility.

Look at my record. It’s been all about the middle class. They’re the people who grow this country. We think you grow this country from the middle out, not from the top down.

RADDATZ: OK, we now turn to the candidates for their closing statements. Thank you, gentlemen. And that coin toss, again, has Vice President Biden starting with the closing statement.

BIDEN: Well, let — let me say at the outset that I want to thank you, Martha, for doing this, and Centre College. The fact is that we’re in a situation where we inherited a god-awful circumstance. People are in real trouble. We acted to move to bring relief to the people who need the most help now.

And — and in the process, we — in case you haven’t noticed, we have strong disagreements, but I — you probably detected my frustration with their attitude about the American people. My friend says that 30 percent of the American people are takers. Romney points out 47 percent of the people won’t take responsibility.

He’s talking about my mother and father. He’s talking about the places I grew up in, my neighbors in Scranton and Claymont, and he’s talking about — he’s talking about the people that have built this country. All they’re looking for, Martha, all they’re looking for is an even shot. Whenever you give them the shot, they’ve done it. They’ve done it. Whenever you’ve leveled the playing field, they’ve been able to move. And they want a little bit of peace of mind.

And the president and I are not going to rest until that playing field is leveled, they, in fact, have a clear shot, and they have peace of mind, until they can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, “Honey, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK.” That’s what this is all about.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: I want to thank you, as well, Martha, Danville, Kentucky, Centre College, and I want to thank you, Joe. It’s been an honor to engage in this critical debate.

We face a very big choice. What kind of country are we going to be? What kind of country are we going to give our kids? President Obama, he had his chance. He made his choices. His economic agenda, more spending, more borrowing, higher taxes, a government takeover of health care. It’s not working. It’s failed to create the jobs we need.

Twenty-three million Americans are struggling for work today. Fifteen percent of Americans are in poverty. This is not what a real recovery looks like. You deserve better. Mitt Romney and I want to earn your support. We’re offering real reforms for a real recovery for every American.

Mitt Romney — his experience, his ideas, his solutions — is uniquely qualified to get this job done. At a time when we have a jobs crisis in America, wouldn’t it be nice to have a job-creator in the White House?

The choice is clear: a stagnant economy that promotes more government dependency or a dynamic, growing economy that promotes opportunity and jobs. Mitt Romney and I will not duck the tough issues, and we will not blame others for the next four years. We will take responsibility. And we will not try to replace our founding principles. We will reapply our founding principles.

The choice is clear, and the choice rests with you. And we ask you for your vote. Thank you.

RADDATZ: And thank you both again. Thank you very much.

BIDEN: Thank you.

RADDATZ: This concludes the vice presidential debate. Please tune in next Tuesday for the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York. I’m Martha Raddatz of ABC News. I do hope all of you go to the polls. Have a good evening. [applause]

October 3, 2012: First Presidential Debate at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado Transcript

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

2012 PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES

Presidential Debate at the University of Denver
October 3, 2012

JIM LEHRER: Good evening from the Magness Arena at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado.I’m Jim Lehrer of the PBS NewsHour, and I welcome you to the first of the 2012presidential debates between President Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee,and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee.

This debate and the next three — two presidential, one vice- presidential– are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Tonight’s 90 minutes will be about domestic issues, and will follow a formatdesigned by the commission. There will be six roughly 15-minute segments, withtwo-minute answers for the first question, then open discussion for theremainder of each segment.

Thousands of people offered suggestions on segment subjects of questions viathe Internet and other means, but I made the final selections, and for therecord, they were not submitted for approval to thecommission or the candidates.

The segments, as I announced in advance, will be three on the economy andone each on health care, the role of government, and governing, with anemphasis throughout on differences, specifics and choices. Both candidates willalso have two-minute closing statements.

The audience here in the hall has promised to remain silent. No cheers,applause, boos, hisses — among other noisy distracting things — so we may allconcentrate on what the candidates have to say. There is a noise exceptionright now, though, as we welcome President Obama and Governor Romney. (Cheers,applause.)

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Let’s start the economy, segment one. And let’s begin with jobs. What arethe major differences between the two of you about how you would go aboutcreating new jobs? You have two minutes — each of you havetwo minutes to start. The coin toss has determined, Mr. President, you go first.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, thank you very much, Jim, forthis opportunity. I want to thank Governor Romney and the University of Denverfor your hospitality.

There are a lot of points that I want to make tonight, but the mostimportant one is that 20 years ago I became the luckiest man on earth becauseMichelle Obama agreed to marry me. (Laughter.) And soI just want to wish, Sweetie, you happy anniversary and let you know that ayear from now, we will not be celebrating it in front of 40 million people. (Laughter.)

You know, four years ago we went through the worst financial crisis sincethe Great Depression. Millions of jobs were lost. The auto industry was on thebrink of collapse. The financial system had frozen up. And because of theresilience and the determination of the American people, we’ve begun to fightour way back.

Over the last 30 months, we’ve seen 5 million jobs in the private sectorcreated. The auto industry has come roaring back and housing has begun to rise.But we all know that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. And so the questionhere tonight is not where we’ve been but where we’re going. Governor Romney hasa perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed towards the wealthy, and rollback regulations that we’ll be better off.

I’ve got a different view. I think we’ve got to invest in education andtraining. I think it’s important for us to develop new sources of energy herein America, that we change our tax code to make sure that we’re helping smallbusinesses and companies that are investing here in the United States, that wetake some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuildAmerica and that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to makethese critical investments.

Now, it ultimately is going to be up to the voters, to you, which path weshould take. Are we going to double down on the top-down economic policies thathelped to get us into this mess, or do we embrace a new economic patriotismthat says, America does best when the middle class does best? And I’m lookingforward to having that debate.

MR. LEHRER: Governor Romney, two minutes.

MR. ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim. It’s an honor to be here withyou, and I appreciate the chance to be with the president. I am pleased to beat the University of Denver, appreciatetheir welcome and also the presidential commission on these debates.

And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on youranniversary. I’m sure this was the most romantic place you could imaginehere — here with me, so I — (laughter) — congratulations.

This is obviously a very tender topic. I’ve had the occasion over the lastcouple of years of meeting people across the country. I was in Dayton, Ohio,and a woman grabbed my arm, and she said, I’ve beenout of work since May. Can you help me?

Ann yesterday was a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a babyin her arms and said, Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years,part-time jobs. He’s lost his most recent job, and we’ve now just lost ourhome. Can you help us?

And the answer is yes, we can help, but it’s going to take a different path,not the one we’ve been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down,cut taxes for the rich. That’s not what I’m going to do.

My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North Americanenergy independent. That creates about four million jobs. Number two, open upmore trade, particularly in Latin America;crack down on Chinaif and when they cheat. Number three, make sure ourpeople have the skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world.We’re far away from that now. Number four, get us to abalanced budget. Number five, champion small business.

It’s small business that creates the jobs in America. And over the last fouryears small-business people have decided that America may not be the place toopen a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low. Iknow what it takes to get small business growing again, to hire people.

Now, I’m concerned that the path that we’re on has just been unsuccessful.The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four yearsago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more –if you will, trickle-down government would work. That’s not the right answerfor America.I’ll restore the vitality that gets America working again.

Thank you.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, please respond directly to whatthe governor just said about trickle-down — his trickle-down approach. He’s –as he said yours is.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me talk specifically about whatI think we need to do.

First, we’ve got to improve our education system. And we’ve made enormousprogress drawing on ideas both from Democrats and Republicans that are alreadystarting to show gains in some of the toughest-to- deal-with schools. We’ve gota program called Race to the Top that has prompted reforms in 46 states aroundthe country, raising standards, improving how we train teachers. So now I wantto hire another hundred thousand new math and science teachers and create 2million more slots in our community colleges so that people can get trained forthe jobs that are out there right now. And I want to make sure that we keeptuition low for our young people.

When it comes to our tax code, Governor Romney and I both agree that ourcorporate tax rate is too high. So I want to lower it, particularly formanufacturing, taking it down to 25 percent. But I also want to close thoseloopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobsoverseas. I want to provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here inthe United States.

On energy, Governor Romney and I, we both agree that we’ve got to boostAmerican energy production.

And oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years.But I also believe that we’ve got to look at the energy source of the future,like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments.

So, all of this is possible. Now, in order for us to do it, we do have toclose our deficit, and one of the things I’m sure we’ll be discussing tonightis, how do we deal with our tax code, and how do we make sure that we arereducing spending in a responsible way, but also how do we have enough revenueto make those investments? And this is where there’s a difference becauseGovernor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut, on topof the extension of the Bush tax cuts, so that’s another $2 trillion, and $2trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for.That’s $8 trillion. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit and make theinvestments that we need to make without dumping those costs on themiddle-class Americans I think is one of the central questions of thiscampaign.

MR. LEHRER: Both of you have spoken about a lot ofdifferent things, and we’re going to try to get through them in as specific away as we possibly can.

But first, Governor Romney, do you have a question that you’d like to askthe president directly about something he just said?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, sure. I’d like to clear up the record andgo through it piece by piece. First of all, I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut.I don’t have a tax cut of a scale that you’re talking about. My view is that weought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I’m not going toreduce the share of taxes paid by high- income people. High-income people aredoing just fine in this economy. They’ll do fine whether you’re president or Iam.

The people who are having the hard time right now are middle- incomeAmericans. Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have beenburied. They’re — they’re just being crushed. Middle-income Americans haveseen their income come down by $4,300. This is a — this is a tax in and ofitself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing. The same time,gasoline prices have doubled under the president, electric rates are up, foodprices are up, health care costs have gone up by$2,500 a family.

Middle-income families are being crushed. And so the question is how to getthem going again, and I’ve described it. It’s energyand trade, the right kind of training programs, balancing our budget andhelping small business. Those are the — the cornerstones of my plan.

But the president mentioned a couple of other ideas, and I’ll just note:first, education. I agree, education is key,particularly the future of our economy. But our training programs right now, wegot 47 of them housed in the federal government, reporting to eight differentagencies. Overhead is overwhelming. We got to get those dollars back to thestates and go to the workers so they can create their own pathways to gettingthe training they need for jobs that will really help them.

The second area: taxation. We agree; we ought to bring the tax rates down,and I do, both for corporations and for individuals. But in order for us not tolose revenue, have the government run out of money, I also lower deductions andcredits and exemptions so that we keep taking in the same money when you alsoaccount for growth.

The third area: energy. Energy is critical, and the president pointed outcorrectly that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up. Butnot due to his policies. In spite of his policies.Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened onprivate land, not on government land. On government land, your administrationhas cut the number of permits and license in half. If I’m president, I’lldouble them. And also get the — the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that pipeline in fromCanada.

And by the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we continue to burnclean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’sgetting crushed by your policies. I want to get America and North America energy independent, so we can create those jobs.

And finally, with regards to that tax cut, look, I’m not looking to cutmassive taxes and to reduce the — the revenues going to the government. My –my number one principle is there’ll be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.

I want to underline that — no tax cut that adds to the deficit. But I dowant to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans. And I — andto do that that also means that I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-incomeAmericans. So any — any language to the contrary is simply not accurate.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think — let’s talk about taxesbecause I think it’s instructive. Now, four years ago when I stood on thisstage I said that I would cut taxes for middle-class families. And that’sexactly what I did. We cut taxes for middle-class families by about $3,600. Andthe reason is because I believe we do best when the middle class is doing well.

And by giving them those tax cuts, they had a little more money in theirpocket and so maybe they can buy a new car. They are certainly in a betterposition to weather the extraordinary recession that we went through. They canbuy a computer for their kid who’s going off to college, which means they’respending more money, businesses have more customers, businessesmake more profits and then hire more workers.

Now, Governor Romney’s proposal that he has been promoting for 18 monthscalls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of $2 trillion of additional spendingfor our military. And he is saying that he is going to pay for it by closingloopholes and deductions. The problem is that he’s been asked a — over ahundred times how you would close those deductions and loopholes and he hasn’tbeen able to identify them.

But I’m going to make an important point here, Jim.

MR. LEHRER: All right.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: When you add up all the loopholes anddeductions that upper income individuals can — are currently taking advantageof — if you take those all away — you don’t come close to paying for $5trillion in tax cuts and $2 trillion in additional military spending. Andthat’s why independent studies looking at this said the only way to meetGovernor Romney’s pledge of not reducing the deficit — or — or — or notadding to the deficit, is by burdening middle-class families.

The average middle-class family with children would pay about $2,000 more.Now, that’s not my analysis; that’s the analysis of economists who have lookedat this. And — and that kind of top — top-down economics, where folks at thetop are doing well so the average person making 3 million bucks is getting a$250,000 tax break while middle- class families are burdened further, that’snot what I believe is a recipe for economic growth.

MR. LEHRER: All right. What is the difference?

MR. ROMNEY: Well –

MR. LEHRER: Let’s just stay on taxes for –

MR. ROMNEY: But I — but I — right, right.

MR. LEHRER: OK. Yeah, just — let’s just stay on taxes fora moment.

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah. Well, but — but –

MR. LEHRER: What is the difference?

MR. ROMNEY: — virtually every — virtually everything hejust said about my tax plan is inaccurate.

MR. LEHRER: All right, go –

MR. ROMNEY: So — so if — if the tax plan he describedwere a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. I’m not lookingfor a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cutthat adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist can say MittRomney’s tax plan adds 5 trillion (dollars) if I say I will not add to thedeficit with my tax plan.

Number two, I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I– I know that you and your running mate keep saying that, and I know it’s apopular things to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, Igot five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, butjust keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it — (scatteredlaughter) — but that — that is not the case, all right? I will not reduce thetaxes paid by high-income Americans.

And number three, I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes onmiddle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families. Now, youcite a study. There are six other studies that looked at the study you describeand say it’s completely wrong. I saw a study that came out today that saidyou’re going to raise taxes by 3(,000 dollars) to$4,000 on — on middle-income families. There are all these studies out there.

But let’s get to the bottom line. That is, I want to bring down rates. Iwant to bring down the rates down, at the same time lower deductions andexemptions and credits and so forth so we keep getting the revenue we need.

And you think, well, then why lower the rates? And the reason is becausesmall business pays that individual rate. Fifty-four percent of America’sworkers work in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate but atthe individual tax rate. And if we lower that rate, they will be able to hiremore people.

For me, this is about jobs.

MR. LEHRER: All right. That’s where we started.

MR. ROMNEY: This is about getting jobs for the Americanpeople.

MR. LEHRER: Yeah.

Do you challenge what the governor just said about his own plan?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, for 18 months he’s been running onthis tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he’s saying that hisbig, bold idea is “never mind.” And the fact is that if you are lowering therates the way you describe, Governor, then it is not possible to come up withenough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals toavoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It’s — it’s math. It’s arithmetic.

Now, Governor Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouragingsmall-business growth. So at the same time that my tax plan has already loweredtaxes for 98 percent of families, I also lowered taxes for small businesses 18times. And what I want to do is continue the tax rates — the tax cuts that weput into place for small businesses and families.

But I have said that for incomes over $250,000 a year that we should go backto the rates that we had when Bill Clinton was president, when we created 23million new jobs, went from deficit to surplus and created a whole lot ofmillionaires to boot.

And the reason this is important is because by doing that, we can not onlyreduce the deficit, we can not only encourage job growth through smallbusinesses, but we’re also able to make the investments that are necessary ineducation or in energy.

And we do have a difference, though, when it comes to definitions of smallbusiness. Now, under — under my plan, 97 percent of small businesses would notsee their income taxes go up. Governor Romney says, well, those top 3 percent,they’re the job creators. They’d be burdened.

But under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch ofmillionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a smallbusiness. And I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as smallanything, but — but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re gettingbusiness income. And that kind of approach, I believe, will not grow oureconomy because the only way to pay for it without either burdening the middle classor blowing up our deficit is to make drastic cuts in things like education,making sure that we are continuing to invest in basic science and research, allthe things that are helping America grow. And I think that would be a mistake.

MR. LEHRER: All right.

MR. ROMNEY: Jim, let me just come back on that — on thatpoint.

MR. LEHRER: Just for the — just for the record –

MR. ROMNEY: These small businesses we’re talking about –

MR. LEHRER: Excuse me. Just so everybody understands –

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah.

MR. LEHRER: — we’re way over our first 15 minutes.

MR. ROMNEY: It’s fun, isn’t it?

MR. LEHRER: It’s OK. It’s great.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s OK.

MR. LEHRER: No problem. No, you don’t have — you don’thave a problem, I don’t have a problem, because we’re still on the economy, butwe’re going to come back to taxes and we’re going to move on to the deficit anda lot of other things, too.

OK, but go ahead, sir.

MR. ROMNEY: You bet.

Well, President, you’re — Mr. President, you’re absolutely right, which isthat with regards to 97 percent of the businesses are not — not taxed at the35 percent tax rate, they’re taxed at a lower rate. But those businesses thatare in the last 3 percent of businesses happen to employ half — half — of allof the people who work in small business. Those are the businesses that employone quarter of all the workers in America. And your plan is take their tax ratefrom 35 percent to 40 percent.

Now, I talked to a guy who has a very small business. He’s in the electronicsbusiness in — in St. Louis. He has four employees.

He said he and his son calculated how much they pay in taxes. Federal incometax, federal payroll tax, state income tax, state sales tax, state propertytax, gasoline tax — it added up to well over 50 percent of what they earned.

And your plan is to take the tax rate on successful small businesses from 35percent to 40 percent. The National Federation of Independent Businesses hassaid that will cost 700,000 jobs. I don’t want to cost jobs. My priority isjobs. And so what I do is I bring down the tax rates, lower deductions andexemptions — the same idea behind Bowles-Simpson, by the way. Get the ratesdown, lower deductions and exemptions to create more jobs, because there’snothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more peopleworking, earning more money, paying — (chuckles) — more taxes. That’s by farthe most effective and efficient way to get this budget balanced.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, I — you may want to move on to anothertopic, but I would just say this to the American people. If you believe that wecan cut taxes by $5 trillion and add $2 trillion in additional spending thatthe military is not asking for — $7 trillion, just to give you a sense, over10 years that’s more than our entire defense budget — and you think that byclosing loopholes and deductions for the well-to-do, somehow you will not endup picking up the tab, then Governor Romney’s plan may work for you.

But I think math, common sense and our history shows us that’s not a recipefor job growth.

Look, we’ve tried this — we’ve tried both approaches. The approach thatGovernor Romney’s talking about is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001and 2003. And we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years. We ended upmoving from surplus to deficits. And it all culminated in the worst financialcrisis since the Great Depression.

Bill Clinton tried the approach that I’m talking about. We created 23million new jobs. We went from deficit to surplus, and businesses did verywell.

So in some ways, we’ve got some data on which approach is more likely tocreate jobs and opportunity for Americans, and I believe that the economy worksbest when middle-class families are getting tax breaks so that they’ve got somemoney in their pockets and those of us who have done extraordinarily wellbecause of this magnificent country that we live in, that we can afford to do alittle bit more to make sure we’re not blowing up the deficit.

MR. LEHRER: OK. (Inaudible) –

MR. ROMNEY: Jim, the president began this segment, so Ithink I get the last word, so I’m going to take it. Allright? (Chuckles.)

MR. LEHRER: Well, you’re going to get the first word in thenext segment.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, but — but he gets the first word of thatsegment. I get the last word of that segment, I hope. Let me just make thiscomment.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Chuckles.) He can — you can have it. Hecan –

MR. ROMNEY: First of all –

MR. LEHRER: That’s not how it works.

MR. ROMNEY: Let me — let me repeat — let me repeat what Isaid — (inaudible). I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not myplan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit.That’s point one. So you may keep referring to it as a $5 trillion tax cut, butthat’s not my plan.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: OK.

MR. ROMNEY: Number two, let’s look at history. My plan isnot like anything that’s been tried before. My plan is to bring down rates butalso bring down deductions and exemptions and credits at the same time so therevenue stays in, but that we bring down rates to get more people working. Mypriority is putting people back to work in America. They’re suffering in thiscountry. And we talk about evidence — look at the evidence of the last fouryears. It’s absolutely extraordinary. We’ve got 23 million people out of workor stop looking for work in this country.

MR. LEHRER: All right.

MR. ROMNEY: It’s just — it’s — we’ve got — we got –when the president took office, 32 million people on food stamps; 47 million onfood stamps today. Economic growth this year slower than lastyear, and last year slower than the year before. Going forward with thestatus quo is not going to cut it for the American people who are strugglingtoday.

MR. LEHRER: All right. Let’s talk — we’re still on theeconomy. This is, theoretically now, a second segment still on the economy, andspecifically on what do about the federal deficit, the federal debt. And thequestion — you each have two minutes on this — and, Governor Romney you gofirst because the president went first on segment one. And the question isthis: What are the differences between the two of you as to how you would goabout tackling the deficit problem in this country?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, good. I’m glad you raised that. And it’sa — it’s a critical issue. I think it’s not just an economic issue. I thinkit’s a moral issue. I think it’s, frankly, not moral for my generation to keepspending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to bepassed on to the next generation. And they’re going to be paying the interestand the principle all their lives. And the amount of debt we’re adding, at atrillion a year, is simply not moral.

So how do we deal with it? Well, mathematically there are — there are threeways that you can cut a deficit. One, of course, is to raise taxes. Number twois to cut spending. And number three is to grow the economy because if morepeople work in a growing economy they’re paying taxes and you can get the jobdone that way.

The presidents would — president would prefer raising taxes. I understand.The problem with raising taxes is that it slows down the rate of growth and youcould never quite get the job done. I want to lower spending and encourageeconomic growth at the same time.

What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminateall programs by this test — if they don’t pass it: Is the program so criticalit’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get ridof it. “Obamacare” is on my list. I apologize, Mr. President. I use that termwith all respect.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I like it.

MR. ROMNEY: Good. OK, good. (Laughter.)So I’ll get rid of that. I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS.I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually likeyou too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money onthings to borrow money from China to pay for it. That’s number one.

Number two, I’ll take programs that are currently good programs but I thinkcould be run more efficiently at the state level and send them to state.

Number three, I’ll make government more efficient, and to cut back thenumber of employees, combine some agencies and departments. My cutbacks will bedone through attrition, by the way.

This is the approach we have to take to get America to a balanced budget.The president said he’d cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it. Trillion-dollar deficits for the last four years. Thepresident’s put it in place as much public debt — almost as much debt held byby the public as all prior presidents combined.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. President. twominutes.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: When I walked in the Oval Office, I hadmore than a trillion dollar deficit greeting me, and we know where it camefrom. Two wars that were paid for on a credit card.Two tax cuts that were not paid for, and a whole bunch of programs that werenot paid for. And then a massive economic crisis.

And despite that, what we’ve said is, yes, we had to take some initialemergency measures to make sure we didn’t slip into a Great Depression. Butwhat we’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we are cutting out those thingsthat are not helping us grow.

So, 77 government programs — everything from aircrafts that the Air Forcehad ordered but weren’t working very well. Eighteen government– 18 government programs for education that were well- intentioned but weren’thelping kids learn. We went after medical fraud in Medicare and Medicaid veryaggressively — more aggressively than ever before, and have saved tens ofbillions of dollars. Fifty billion dollars of waste taken outof the system.

And I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut a trillion dollars out ofour discretionary domestic budget. That’s the largest cut in the discretionarydomestic budget since Dwight Eisenhower.

Now, we all know that we’ve got to do more. And so I’ve put forward aspecific $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan.

It’s on a website. You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make andwhat revenue we raise.

And the way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for a dollar ofadditional revenue, paid for, as I indicated earlier, by asking those of us whohave done very well in this country to contribute a little bit more to reducethe deficit.

And Governor Romney earlier mentioned the Bowles-Simpson commission. Well,that’s how the commission — bipartisan commission that talked about how weshould move forward suggested we have to do it — in a balanced way with somerevenue and some spending cuts. And this is a major difference that GovernorRomney and I have.

Let — let me just finish this point because you’re looking for contrast.You know, when Governor Romney stood on a stage with other Republicancandidates for the nomination, and he was asked, would you take $10 of spendingcuts for just $1 of revenue, and he said no. Now, if you take such anunbalanced approach, then that means you are going to be gutting ourinvestments in schools and education. It means that — Governor Romney talkedabout Medicaid and how we could send it back to the states, but effectivelythis means a 30 percent cut in the primary program we help for seniors who arein nursing homes, for kids who are with disabilities –

MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, I’m sorry –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And that is not a right strategy for us tomove forward.

MR. LEHRER: Way over the two minutes.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Sorry.

MR. LEHRER: Governor, what about Simpson-Bowles. Will yousupport Simpson-Bowles?

MR. ROMNEY: Simpson-Bowles, the president should havegrabbed that.

MR. LEHRER: No, I mean do you support Simpson-Bowles?

MR. ROMNEY: I have my own plan. It’s not the same asSimpson- Bowles. But in my view, the president should have grabbed it. If youwanted to make some adjustments to it, take it, go to Congress, fight for it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s what we’ve done, made someadjustments to it; and we’re putting it forward before Congress right now, a $4trillion plan, (a balanced ?) –

MR. ROMNEY: But you’ve been — but you’ve been presidentfour years. You’ve been president four years. You said you’d cut the deficit inhalf. It’s now four years later. We still have trillion- dollar deficits.

The CBO says we’ll have a trillion-dollar deficit each of the next fouryears. If you’re re-elected, we’ll get to a trillion-dollar debt. You have saidbefore you’d cut the deficit in half. And this four — I love this idea of 4trillion (dollars) in cuts. You’ve found $4 trillion of ways to reduce or toget closer to a balanced budget, except we still show trillion dollar deficitsevery year. That doesn’t get the job done.

Let me come back and say, why is that I don’t want to raise taxes? Why don’tI want to raise taxes on people? And actually, you said it back in 2010. Yousaid, look, I’m going to extend the tax policies that we have. Now, I’m notgoing to raise taxes on anyone because when the economy’s growing slow likethis, when we’re in recession you shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone.

Well, the economy is still growing slow. As a matter of fact, it’s growingmuch more slowly now than when you made that statement. And so if you believethe same thing, you just don’t want to raise taxes on people. And the realityis it’s not just wealthy people — you mentioned Donald Trump — it’s not justDonald Trump you’re taxing; it’s all those businesses that employ one-quarterof the workers in America. These small businesses that aretaxed as individuals. You raise taxes and you kill jobs. That’s why theNational Federation of Independent Businesses said your plan will kill 700,000jobs. I don’t want to kill jobs in this environment.

Let me make one more point. And that’s — and that –

MR. LEHRER: Let’s let him answer the taxes thing for amoment, OK?

MR. ROMNEY: OK.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, we’ve had this discussion before.

MR. LEHRER: No, about the idea that in order to reduce thedeficit there has to be revenue in addition to cuts.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There has to be revenue in addition tocuts. Now, Governor Romney has ruled out revenue. He’s — he’s ruled outrevenue.

MR. LEHRER: That’s true, right?

MR. ROMNEY: Absolutely.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: OK, so –

MR. LEHRER: Completely?

MR. ROMNEY: I — look, the revenue I get is by more peopleworking, getting higher pay, paying more taxes. That’s how we get growth andhow we balance the budget. But the idea of taxing people more, putting morepeople out of work — you’ll never get there. You never balance the budget byraising taxes.

Spain — Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government. We’renow spending 42 percent of our economy on government.

I don’t want to go down the path to Spain. I want to go down the path ofgrowth that puts Americans to work, with more money coming in because they’reworking.

MR. LEHRER: Yeah.

But Mr. President, you’re saying in order to get it — the job done, it’sgot to be balanced. You’ve got to have –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: If we’re serious, we’ve got to take abalanced, responsible approach. And by the way, this is not just when it comesto individual taxes.

Let’s talk about corporate taxes. Now, I’ve identified areas where we can,right away, make a change that I believe would actually help the economy. The– the oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically,they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to,they don’t get. Now, does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra moneywhen they’re making money every time you go to the pump? Why wouldn’t we wantto eliminate that?

Why wouldn’t we eliminate tax breaks for corporate jets? My attitude is ifyou got a corporate jet, you can probably afford to pay full freight, not get aspecial break for it.

When it comes to corporate taxes, Governor Romney has said he wants to, in arevenue-neutral way, close loopholes, deductions — he hasn’t identified whichones they are — but thereby bring down the corporate rate. Well, I want to dothe same thing, but I’ve actually identified how we can do that.

And part of the way to do it is to not give tax breaks to companies that areshipping jobs overseas. Right now you can actually take a deduction for movinga plant overseas. I think most Americans would say that doesn’t make sense. Andall that raises revenue.

And so if we take a balanced approach, what that then allows us to do isalso to help young people, the way we already have during my administration,make sure that they can afford to go to college. It means that the teacher thatI met in Las Vegas, wonderful young lady, who describes to me — she’s got 42kids in her class.

The first two weeks, she’s got them — some of them sitting on the flooruntil finally they get reassigned. They’re using textbooks that are 10 yearsold. That is not a recipe for growth; that’s not how America was built.

And so budgets reflect choices. Ultimately we’re going to have to make somedecisions. And if we’re asking for no revenue, then that means that we’ve gotto get rid of a whole bunch of stuff, and the magnitude of the tax cuts thatyou’re talking about, Governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship forpeople, but more importantly, would not help us grow.

As I indicated before, when you talk about shifting Medicaid to states,we’re talking about potentially a — a 30 — a 30 percent cut in Medicaid overtime. Now, you know, that may not seem like a big deal when it just is — youknow, numbers on a sheet of paper, but if we’re talking about a family who’sgot an autistic kid and is depending on that Medicaid, that’s a big problem.And governors are creative. There’s no doubt about it. But they’re not creativeenough to make up for 30 percent of revenue on something like Medicaid. Whatends up happening is some people end up not getting help.

MR. ROMNEY: Jim, let’s — we — we’ve gone on a lot oftopics there, and — so I’ve got to take — it’s going to take a minute to gofrom Medicaid to schools to –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Inaudible.)

MR. LEHRER: Come back to Medicaid, here, yeah, yeah, right.

MR. ROMNEY: — oil to tax breaks and companies overseas. Solet’s go through them one by one. First of all, the Department of Energy hassaid the tax break for oil companies is $2.8 billion a year. And it’s actuallyan accounting treatment, as you know, that’s been in place for a hundred years.Now –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It’s time to end it.

MR. ROMNEY: And — and in one year, you provided $90billion in breaks to the green energy world. Now, I like green energy as well,but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives, and you sayExxon and Mobil — actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies,to drilling operators and so forth.

But you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent,why, that $2.8 billion is on the table. Of course it’s on the table. That’sprobably not going to survive, you get that rate downto 25 percent.

But — but don’t forget, you put $90 billion — like 50 years worth ofbreaks — into solar and wind, to — to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla andEner1. I mean, I — I had a friend who said, you don’t just pick the winnersand losers; you pick the losers. All right? So — sothis is not — this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want toget America energy-secure.

The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for getting a plantoverseas. Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’retalking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant.

MR. LEHRER: Let’s –

MR. ROMNEY: But the — the idea that you get a break forshipping jobs overseas is simply not the case.

MR. LEHRER: Let’s have –

MR. ROMNEY: What we do have right now is a setting –

MR. LEHRER: Excuse me.

MR. ROMNEY: — where I’d like to bring money from overseasback to this country.

And finally, Medicaid to states, I’m not quite sure where that came in,except this, which is, I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go tostates and say to a state, you’re going to get what you got last year plusinflation — inflation — plus 1 percent. And then you’re going to manage yourcare for your poor in the way you think best.

And I remember as a governor, when this idea was floated by Tommy Thompson,the governors, Republican and Democrats, said, please let us do that. We cancare for our own poor in so much better and more effective a way than havingthe federal government tell us how to care for our poor.

So let states — one of the magnificent things about this country is thewhole idea that states are the laboratories of democracy. Don’t have the federalgovernment tell everybody what kind of training programs they have to have andwhat kind of Medicaid they have to have. Let states do this.

And by the way, if a states get — gets in trouble,why, we could step in and see if we could find a way to help them. But –

MR. LEHRER: Let’s go.

MR. ROMNEY: But — but the right — the right approach isone which relies on the brilliance –

MR. LEHRER: Two seconds.

MR. ROMNEY: — of our people and states, not the federalgovernment.

MR. LEHRER: Two seconds and we’re going on, still on theeconomy on another — but another part of it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: OK.

MR. LEHRER: All right? All right, this is this is segmentthree, the economy, entitlements.

First answer goes to you. It’s two minutes. Mr.President, do you see a major difference between the two of you on SocialSecurity?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, Isuspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. SocialSecurity is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it wasby Ronald Reagan and Speaker — Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is –the basic structure is sound. But — but I want to talk about the values behindSocial Security and Medicare and then talk about Medicare, because that’s thebig driver –

MR. LEHRER: Sure — it — you bet.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: — of our deficits right now.

You know, my grandmother, some of you know, helped to raise me. Mygrandparents did. My grandfather died awhile back. My grandmother died threedays before I was elected president. And she was fiercely independent. Sheworked her way up, only had a high school education, startedas a secretary, ended up being the vice president of a local bank. And sheended up living alone by choice. And the reason she could be independent wasbecause of Social Security and Medicare. She had worked all her life, put inthis money and understood that there was a basic guarantee, a floor under whichshe could not go.

And that’s the perspective I bring when I think about what’s calledentitlements. You know, the name itself implies some sense of dependency on thepart of these folks. These are folks who’ve worked hard, like my grandmother.And there are millions of people out there who are counting on this.

So my approach is to say, how do we strengthen the system over the longterm? And in Medicare, what we did was we said, we aregoing to have to bring down the costs if we’re going to deal with our long-term deficits, but to do that, let’s look where some of the money is going.Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars we were able to save from theMedicare program by no longer overpaying insurance companies, by making surethat we weren’t overpaying providers.

And using that money, we were actually able to lower prescription drug costsfor seniors by an average of $600, and we were also able to make a — make asignificant dent in providing them the kind of preventive care that willultimately save money through the — throughout the system.

So the way for us to deal with Medicare in particular is to lower healthcare costs. But when it comes to Social Security, as I said, you don’t need amajor structural change in order to make sure that Social Security is there forthe future.

MR. LEHRER: We’ll follow up on this.

First, Governor Romney, you have two minutes on Social Security andentitlements.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, Jim, our seniors depend on theseprograms. And I know any time we talk about entitlements, people becomeconcerned that something’s going to happen that’s going to change their lifefor the worst, and the answer is, neither the president nor I are proposing anychanges for any current retirees or near retirees, either to Social Security orMedicare. So if you’re 60 or around 60 or older, you don’tneed to listen any further.

But for younger people, we need to talk about what changes are going to beoccurring.

Oh, I just thought about one, and that is in fact I was wrong when I saidthe president isn’t proposing any changes for current retirees. In fact, he ison Medicare. On Social Security, he’s not.

But on Medicare, for current retirees he’s cutting $716 billion from theprogram. Now, he says by not overpaying hospitals and providers, actually justgoing to them and saying we’re going to reduce the rates you get paid acrossthe board, everybody’s going to get a lower rate. That’s not just going afterplaces where there’s abuse, that’s saying we’re cutting the rates. Some 15percent of hospitals and nursing homes say they won’t take anymore Medicarepatients under that scenario.

We also have 50 percent of doctors who say they won’t take more Medicarepatients. This — we have 4 million people on Medicare Advantage that will loseMedicare Advantage because of those $716 billion in cuts. I can’t understandhow you can cut Medicare $716 billion for current recipients of Medicare.

Now, you point out, well, we’re putting some back; we’re going to give abetter prescription program. That’s one — that’s $1 for every 15 (dollars)you’ve cut. They’re smart enough to know that’s not a good trade.

I want to take that $716 billion you’ve cut and put it back into Medicare.By the way, we can include a prescription program if we need to improve it, butthe idea of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to be able to balance theadditional cost of “Obamacare” is, in my opinion, a mistake. And with regardsto young people coming along, I’ve got proposals to make sure Medicare andSocial Security are there for them without any question.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: First of all, I think it’s important forGovernor Romney to present this plan that he says will only affect folks in thefuture. And the essence of the plan is that he would turn Medicare into avoucher program. It’s called premium support, but it’s understood to be a voucherprogram. His running mate –

MR. LEHRER: And you — and you don’t support that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don’t. And — and let me explain why.

MR. ROMNEY: Again, that’s for future people –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I understand.

MR. ROMNEY: — right, not for current retirees.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: For — for — so if you’re — if you –you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this — this will affectyou. The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your runningmate, is that we would give a voucher to seniors, and they could go out in theprivate marketplace and buy their own health insurance. The problem is thatbecause the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with health care inflation, itwas estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year.

Now, in fairness, what Governor Romney has now said is he’ll maintaintraditional Medicare alongside it. But there’s still a problem, because whathappens is those insurance companies are pretty clever at figuring out who arethe younger and healthier seniors.

They recruit them leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare. And everyhealth care economist who looks at it says over time what’ll happen is thetraditional Medicare system will collapse. And then what you’ve got is folkslike my grandmother at the mercy of the private insurance system, precisely atthe time when they are most in need of decent health care.

So I don’t think vouchers are the right way to go. And this is not my own –only my opinion. AARP thinks that the — the savings that we obtained fromMedicare bolster the system, lengthen the Medicare trust fund by 8 years.Benefits were not affected at all and ironically if you repeal “Obamacare” –and I have become fond of this term, “Obamacare” — (laughter) — if you repealit, what happens is those seniors right away are going to be paying $600 morein prescription care. They’re now going to have to be paying copays for basiccheck-ups that can keep them healthier.

And the primary beneficiary of that repeal areinsurance companies that are estimated to gain billions of dollars back whenthey aren’t making seniors any healthier. And I — I don’t think that’s rightapproach when it comes to making sure that Medicare is stronger over the longterm.

MR. LEHRER: We’ll talk about — specifically about healthcare in a moment, but what is — do you support the voucher system, Governor?

MR. ROMNEY: What I support is no change for currentretirees and near-retirees to Medicare and the president supports taking $716billion out of that program.

MR. LEHRER: What about the vouchers?

MR. ROMNEY: So that’s — that’s number one.

MR. LEHRER: OK. All right.

MR. ROMNEY: Number two is for people coming along that areyoung. What I’d do to make sure that we can keep Medicare in place for them isto allow them either to choose the current Medicare program or a private plan– their choice. They get to — and they’ll have at least two plans that willbe entirely at no cost to them. So they don’t have to pay additional money, no additional$6,000. That’s not going to happen.

They’ll have at least two plans.

And by the way, if the government can be as efficient as the private sectorand offer premiums that are as low as the private sector, people will be happyto get traditional Medicare, or they’ll be able to get a private plan. I knowmy own view is I’d rather have a private plan. I — I’d just as soon not havethe government telling me what kind of health care I get. I’d rather be able tohave an insurance company. If I don’t like them, I can get rid of them and finda different insurance company. But people will make their own choice.

The other thing we have to do to save Medicare, we have to have the benefitshigh for those that are low-income, but for higher-income people, we’re goingto have to lower some of the benefits. We have to make sure this program isthere for the long term. That’s the plan that I’ve put forward.

And by the way, the idea came not even from Paul Ryan or — or SenatorWyden, who’s a co-author of the bill with — with Paul Ryan in the Senate, butalso it came from Bill Clinton’s — Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. This is anidea that’s been around a long time, which is saying, hey,let’s see if we can’t get competition into the Medicare world so that peoplecan get the choice of different plans at lower cost, better quality. I believein competition.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, if I — if I can just respond veryquickly, first of all, every study has shown that Medicare has loweradministrative cost than private insurance does, which is why seniors aregenerally pretty happy with it. And private insurers have to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that; that’s what they do. And so you’vegot higher administrative costs, plus profit on top of that, and if you are goingto save any money through what Governor Romney’s proposing, what has to happenis is that the money has to come from somewhere.

And when you move to a voucher system, you are putting seniors at the mercyof those insurance companies. And over time, if traditional Medicare hasdecayed or fallen apart, then they’re stuck. And this is the reason why AARPhas said that your plan would weaken Medicare substantially, and that’s whythey were supportive of the approach that we took.

One last point I want to make. We do have to lower the cost of health care.Not just in Medicare and –

MR. LEHRER: We’ll talk about that in a minute.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: — but — but overall.

MR. LEHRER: Go. OK.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And so –

MR. ROMNEY: That’s — that’s a big topic. Could we — couldwe stay on Medicare?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Is that a — is that a separate topic? I’msorry.

MR. LEHRER: Yeah, we’re going to — yeah. I want to get toit, but all I want to do is very quickly –

MR. ROMNEY: Let’s get back to Medicare.

MR. LEHRER: — before we leave the economy –

MR. ROMNEY: Let’s get back to Medicare.

MR. LEHRER: No, no, no, no –

MR. ROMNEY: The president said that the government canprovide the service at lower –

MR. LEHRER: No.

MR. ROMNEY: — cost and without a profit.

MR. LEHRER: All right.

MR. ROMNEY: If that’s the case, then it will always be thebest product that people can purchase. But my experience –

MR. LEHRER: Wait a minute, Governor.

MR. ROMNEY: My experience is the private sector typicallyis able to provide a better product at a lower cost.

MR. LEHRER: Can we — can the two of you agree that thevoters have a choice, a clear choice between the two of you –

MR. ROMNEY: Absolutely.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes.

MR. LEHRER: — on Medicare?

MR. ROMNEY: Absolutely.

MR. LEHRER: All right. So, to finish quickly, briefly, onthe economy, what is your view about the level of federal regulation of theeconomy right now? Is there too much, and in your case, Mr. President, is there– should there be more? Beginning with you — this is not a new two-minutesegment — to start, and we’ll go for a few minutes and then we’re going to goto health care. OK?

MR. ROMNEY: Regulation is essential. You can’t have a freemarket work if you don’t have regulation. As a business person, I had to have– I needed to know the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn’t havepeople opening up banks in their — in their garage and making loans. I mean,you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every freeeconomy has good regulation.

At the same time, regulation can become excessive.

MR. LEHRER: Is it excessive now, do you think?

MR. ROMNEY: In some places, yes, in other places, no.

MR. LEHRER: Like where?

MR. ROMNEY: It can become out of date. And what’s happenedin — with some of the legislation that’s been passed during the president’sterm, you’ve seen regulation become excessive and it’s hurt the — it’s hurtthe economy. Let me give you an example. Dodd- Frank was passed, and it includeswithin it a number of provisions that I think have some unintended consequencesthat are harmful to the economy. One is it designates a number of banks as toobig to fail, and they’re effectively guaranteed by the federal government.

This is the biggest kiss that’s been given to — to New York banks I’ve everseen. This is an enormous boon for them. There’s been — 122 community andsmall banks have closed since Dodd-Frank. So there’s one example.

Here’s another. In Dodd-Frank, it says that –

MR. LEHRER: You want to repeal Dodd-Frank?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, I would repeal it and replace it. You –we’re not going to get rid of all regulation. You have to have regulation. And there’s some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense inthe world. You need transparency, you need to haveleverage limits for institutes –

MR. LEHRER: Well, here’s a specific — let’s — excuse me–

MR. ROMNEY: Let me mention the other one. Let’s talk the –

MR. LEHRER: No, no, let’s do — right now, let’s not. Let’slet him respond.

MR. ROMNEY: OK.

MR. LEHRER: Let’s let him respond to this specific onDodd-Frank and what the governor just said.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think this is a great example. Thereason we have been in such a enormous economic crisiswas prompted by reckless behavior across the board. Now, it wasn’t just on WallStreet. You had — loan officers were — they were giving loans and mortgagesthat really shouldn’t have been given, because they’re — the folks didn’tqualify. You had people who were borrowing money to buy a house that theycouldn’t afford. You had credit agencies that were stamping these as A-1 (ph)great investments when they weren’t. But you also had banks making moneyhand-over-fist, churning out products that the bankers themselves didn’t evenunderstand in order to make big profits, but knowing that it made the entiresystem vulnerable.

So what did we do? We stepped in and had the toughest reforms on Wall Streetsince the 1930s. We said you’ve got — banks, you’ve got to raise your capitalrequirements. You can’t engage in some of this risky behavior that is puttingMain Street at risk. We’re going to make sure that you’ve got to have a livingwill, so — so we can know how you’re going to wind things down if you make abad bet so we don’t have other taxpayer bailouts.

In the meantime, by the way, we also made sure that all the help that weprovided those banks was paid back, every single dime, with interest.

Now, Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and, you know,I appreciate, and it appears we’ve got some agreement that a marketplace towork has to have some regulation, but in the past, Governor Romney has said hejust wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, roll it back. And so the question is doesanybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too muchoversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do,then Governor Romney is your candidate. But that’s not what I believe.

MR. ROMNEY: (Inaudible) — sorry, Jim. That — that’s justnot — that’s just not the facts. Look, we have to have regulation of WallStreet.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah.

MR. ROMNEY: That — that’s why I’d have regulation. But Iwouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check.That’s one of the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank. It wasn’t thoughtthrough properly. We need to get rid of that provision, because it’s killingregional and small banks. They’re getting hurt.

Let me mention another regulation of Dodd-Frank. You say we were givingmortgages to people who weren’t qualified. That’s exactly right. It’s one ofthe reasons for the great financial calamity we had. And so Dodd-Frankcorrectly says we need to –

MR. LEHRER: All right.

MR. ROMNEY: — have qualified mortgages, and if you give amortgage that’s not qualified, there are big penalties. Exceptthey didn’t ever go on to define what a qualified mortgage was.

MR. LEHRER: All right.

MR. ROMNEY: It’s been two years. We don’t know what aqualified mortgage is yet. So banks are reluctant to make loans, mortgages. Tryand get a mortgage these days. It’s hurt the housing market –

MR. LEHRER: All right –

MR. ROMNEY: — because Dodd-Frank didn’t anticipate puttingin place the kinds of regulations you have to have. It’s not that Dodd- Frankalways was wrong with too much regulation. Sometimes they didn’t come out witha clear regulation.

MR. LEHRER: OK.

MR. ROMNEY: I will make sure we don’t hurt the functioningof our — of our marketplace and our businesses, because I want to bring backhousing and get good jobs.

MR. LEHRER: All right, I think we have another cleardifference between the two of you. Now let’s move to health care, where I knowthere is a clear difference — (laughter) — and that has to do with theAffordable Care Act, “Obamacare.”

And it’s a two-minute new segment, and it’s — that means two minutes each.And you go first, Governor Romney. You wanted repeal. You want the AffordableCare Act repealed. Why?

MR. ROMNEY: I sure do. Well, in part, it comes, again, frommy experience. I was in New Hampshire. A woman came to me, and she said, look,I can’t afford insurance for myself or my son. I met a couple in Appleton,Wisconsin, and they said, we’re thinking of dropping our insurance; we can’tafford it. And the number of small businesses I’vegone to that are saying they’re dropping insurance because they can’t afford it– the cost of health care is just prohibitive. And — and we’ve got to dealwith cost.

And unfortunately, when — when you look at “Obamacare,” the CongressionalBudget Office has said it will cost $2,500 a year more than traditionalinsurance. So it’s adding to cost. And as a matter of fact, when the presidentran for office, he said that by this year he would have brought down the costof insurance for each family by $2,500 a family. Instead, it’s gone up by thatamount. So it’s expensive. Expensive things hurt families. Sothat’s one reason I don’t want it.

Second reason, it cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it. I want toput that money back in Medicare for our seniors.

Number three, it puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tellpeople, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have. I don’t like thatidea.

Fourth, there was a survey done of small businesses across the country. Itsaid, what’s been the effect of “Obamacare” on your hiring plans? Andthree-quarters of them said, it makes us less likelyto hire people. I just don’t know how the president could have come intooffice, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economiccrisis at the — at the kitchen table and spent his energy and passion for twoyears fighting for “Obamacare” instead of fighting for jobs for the Americanpeople.

It has killed jobs. And the best course for health care is to do what we didin my state, craft a plan at the state level that fits the needs of the state.And then let’s focus on getting the costs down for people rather than raisingit with the $2,500 additional premium.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, the argument against repeal.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, four years ago when I was runningfor office I was traveling around and having those same conversations thatGovernor Romney talks about. And it wasn’t just that small businesses wereseeing costs skyrocket and they couldn’t get affordable coverage even if theywanted to provide it to their employees; it wasn’t just that this was thebiggest driver of our federal deficit, our overall health care costs. But itwas families who were worried about going bankrupt if they got sick — millionsof families, all across the country.

If they had a pre-existing condition they might not be able to get coverageat all. If they did have coverage, insurance companies might impose anarbitrary limit. And so as a consequence, they’re paying their premiums,somebody gets really sick, lo and behold they don’t have enough money to paythe bills because the insurance companies say that they’ve hit the limit. So wedid work on this alongside working on jobs, because this is part of making surethat middle-class families are secure in this country.

And let me tell you exactly what “Obamacare” did. Number one, if you’ve gothealth insurance it doesn’t mean a government takeover. You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor. But it does sayinsurance companies can’t jerk you around. They can’t impose arbitrary lifetimelimits. They have to let you keep your kid on their insurance — your insurance plan till you’re 26 years old. And it also saysthat they’re — you’re going to have to get rebates if insurance companies arespending more on administrative costs and profits than they are on actual care.

Number two, if you don’t have health insurance, we’re essentially setting upa group plan that allows you to benefit from group rates that are typically 18percent lower than if you’re out there trying to get insurance on theindividual market.

Now, the last point I’d make before –

MR. LEHRER: Two minutes –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: — before –

MR. LEHRER: Two minutes is up, sir.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I — I think I’ve — I had fiveseconds before you interrupted me — was — (laughter) — that the irony isthat we’ve seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because GovernorRomney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what isessentially the identical model. And as a consequence, people are coveredthere. It hasn’t destroyed jobs. And as a consequence, we now have a system inwhich we have the opportunity to start bringing down cost, as opposed to just–

MR. LEHRER: Your five –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: — leaving millions of people out in thecold.

MR. LEHRER: Your five seconds went away a long time ago. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That –

MR. LEHRER: All right, Governor. Governor, tell the — tellthe president directly why you think what he just said is wrong about“Obamacare.”

MR. ROMNEY: Well, I did with my first statement.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You did.

MR. ROMNEY: But I’ll go on.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please elaborate.

MR. ROMNEY: I’ll elaborate.

Exactly right.

First of all, I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the factthat in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and worktogether. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a singleRepublican vote. As a matter of fact, when Massachusetts did something quiteextraordinary, elected a Republican senator to stop “Obamacare,” you pushed itthrough anyway. So entirely on a partisan basis, instead of bringing Americatogether and having a discussion on this important topic, you pushed throughsomething that you and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid thought was the best answerand drove it through.

What we did, in a legislature 87 percent Democrat, we worked together. Twohundred legislators in my legislature — only two voted against the plan by thetime we were finished.

What were some differences?

We didn’t raise taxes. You’ve raised them by a trillion dollars under“Obamacare.” We didn’t cut Medicare. Of course, we don’t have Medicare, but wedidn’t cut Medicare by $716 billion. We didn’t put in place a board that cantell people ultimately what treatments they’re going to receive.

We didn’t — we didn’t also do something that I think a number of peopleacross this country recognize, which is put — put people in a position wherethey’re going to lose the insurance they had and they wanted. Right now, theCBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as “Obamacare” goesinto effect next year. And likewise, a study by McKinsey & Company ofAmerican businesses said 30 percent of them are anticipating dropping peoplefrom coverage. So for those reasons, for the tax, for Medicare, for this boardand for people losing their insurance, this is why the American people don’twant — don’t want “Obamacare.” It’s why Republicans said, do not do this.

And the Republicans had a — had a plan. They put a plan out. They put out aplan, a bipartisan plan. It was swept aside. I think something this big, thisimportant has to be done in a bipartisan basis. And we have to have a presidentwho can reach across the aisle and fashion important legislation with the inputfrom both parties.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor Romney said this has to be doneon a bipartisan basis. This was a bipartisan idea. In fact, it was a Republicanidea.

And Governor Romney, at the beginning of this debate, wrote and said, whatwe did in Massachusetts could be a model for the nation. And I agree that theDemocratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice toRepublicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is,we used the same advisers, and they say it’s the same plan.

It — when Governor Romney talks about this board, for example — unelectedboard that we’ve created — what this is, is a group of health care experts,doctors, et cetera, to figure out how can we reduce the cost of care in thesystem overall, because the — there are two ways of dealing with our healthcare crisis.

One is to simply leave a whole bunch of people uninsured and let them fendfor themselves, to let businesses figure out how longthey can continue to pay premiums until finally they just give up and theirworkers are no longer getting insured, and that’s been the trend line. Or,alternatively, we can figure out how do we make thecost of care more effective. And there are ways of doing it.

So at — at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in theworld, they actually provide great care cheaper than average. And the reasonthey do is because they do some smart things. They — they say, if a patient’scoming in, let’s get all the doctors together at once, do one test instead ofhaving the patient run around with 10 tests. Let’s make sure that we’reproviding preventive care so we’re catching the onset of something likediabetes. Let’s — let’s pay providers on the basis of performance as opposedto on the basis of how many procedures they’ve — they’ve engaged in. Now, sowhat this board does is basically identifies best practices and says, let’s usethe purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize allthese good things that we do.

And the fact of the matter is that when “Obamacare” is fully implemented,we’re going to be in a position to show that costs are going down. And over thelast two years, health care premiums have gone up, it’s true, but they’ve goneup slower than any time in the last 50 years. So we’re already beginning to seeprogress. In the meantime, folks out there with insurance, you’re alreadygetting a rebate.

Let me make one last point. Governor Romney says we should replace it. I’mjust going to repeal it, but we can replace it with something. But the problemis he hasn’t described what exactly we’d replace it with other than sayingwe’re going to leave it to the states.

But the fact of the matter is that some of the prescriptions that he’soffered, like letting you buy insurance across state lines, there’s noindication that that somehow is going to help somebody who’s got a pre-existingcondition be able to finally buy insurance. In fact, it’s estimated that byrepealing “Obamacare,” you’re looking at 50 million people losing healthinsurance at a time when it’s vitally important.

MR. LEHRER: Let’s let the governor explain what you woulddo if “Obamacare” is repealed. How would you replace it? What do you have inmind?

MR. ROMNEY: Let — well, actually — actually it’s — it’s– it’s a lengthy description, but number one, pre-existing conditions arecovered under my plan. Number two, young people areable to stay on their family plan. That’s already offered in the privatemarketplace; you don’t have — have the government mandate that for that tooccur.

But let’s come back to something the president — I agree on, which is the– the key task we have in health care is to get the costs down so it’s moreaffordable for families, and — and then he has as a model for doing that aboard of people at the government, an unelected board, appointed board, who aregoing to decide what kind of treatment you ought to have.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, it isn’t.

MR. ROMNEY: In my opinion, the government is not effectivein — in bringing down the cost of almost anything. As a matter of fact, freepeople and free enterprises trying to find ways to do things better are able tobe more effective in bringing down the costs than the government will ever be.Your example of the Cleveland clinic is my case in point, along with severalothers I could describe. This is the private market. These are small — theseare enterprises competing with each other, learning how to do better and betterjobs.

I used to consult to businesses — excuse me, to hospitals and to healthcare providers. I was astonished at the creativity and innovation that existsin the American people. In order to bring the cost of health care down, we don’tneed to have a — an — a board of 15 people telling us what kinds oftreatments we should have. We instead need to put insurance plans, providers,hospitals, doctors on targets such that they have an incentive, as you say,performance pay, for doing an excellent job, for keeping costs down, and that’shappening.

Intermountain Health Care does it superbly well.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: They do.

MR. ROMNEY: Mayo Clinic is doing it superbly well,Cleveland Clinic, others. But the right answer is not to have the federalgovernment take over health care and start mandating to the providers acrossAmerica, telling a patient and a doctor what kind of treatment they can have.That’s the wrong way to go. The private market and individual responsibilityalways work best.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let me just point out, first of all, thisboard that we’re talking about can’t make decisions about what treatments aregiven. That’s explicitly prohibited in the law.

But let’s go back to what Governor Romney indicated,that under his plan he would be able to cover people with pre-existingconditions. Well, actually, Governor, that isn’t what your plan does. What yourplan does is to duplicate what’s already the law, which says if you are out ofhealth insurance for three months then you can end up getting continuouscoverage and an insurance company can’t deny you if you’ve — if it’s beenunder 90 days.

But that’s already the law. And that doesn’t help the millions of people outthere with pre-existing conditions. There’s a reason why Governor Romney set upthe plan that he did in Massachusetts. It wasn’t a government takeover ofhealth care. It was the largest expansion of private insurance. But what itdoes say is that insurers, you’ve got to take everybody. Now, that also means thatyou’ve got more customers.

But when Governor Romney says that he’ll replace it with something but can’tdetail how it will be in fact replaced, and the reason he set up the system hedid in Massachusetts is because there isn’t a better way of dealing with thepre-existing conditions problem, it — it just reminds me of — you know, hesays that he’s going to close deductions and loopholes for his tax plan.

That’s how it’s going to be paid for. But we don’t know the details. He saysthat he’s going to replace Dodd-Frank, Wall Street reform. But we don’t knowexactly which ones. He won’t tell us. He now says hes going to replace“Obamacare” and assure that all the good things that are in it are going to bein there and you don’t have to worry.

And at some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves, isthe reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secretbecause they’re too good? Is — is it because that somehow middle-classfamilies are going to benefit too much from them? No, the — the reason isbecause when we reform Wall Street, when we tackle the problem of pre-existingconditions, then, you know, these are tough problems, and we’ve got to makechoices. And the choices we’ve made have been ones that ultimately arebenefiting middle-class families all across the country.

MR. LEHRER: All right, we’re going to move to a –

MR. ROMNEY: No, I — I have to respond to that –

MR. LEHRER: No, but –

MR. ROMNEY: — which is — which is my experience as agovernor is if I come in and — and lay down a piece of legislation and sayit’s my way or the highway, I don’t get a lot done.What I do is the same way that Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan worked togethersome years ago. When Ronald Reagan ran for office, he laid out the principlesthat he was going to foster. He said he was going to lower tax rates. He saidhe was going to broaden the base. You’ve said the same thing: You’re going tosimplify the tax code, broaden the base. Those are my principles.

I want to bring down the tax burden on middle-income families. And I’m goingto work together with Congress to say, OK, what are the various ways we couldbring down deductions, for instance? One way, for instance, would be to have asingle number. Make up a number — 25,000 (dollars), $50,000. Anybody can havedeductions up to that amount. And then that number disappears for high-incomepeople. That’s one way one could do it. One could follow Bowles-Simpson as amodel and take deduction by deduction and make differences that way.

There are alternatives to accomplish the objective I have, which is to bringdown rates, broaden the base, simplify the code and create incentives forgrowth.

And with regards to health care, you had remarkable details with regards tomy pre-existing condition plan. You obviously studied up on — on my plan. Infact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions.That’s part of my health care plan. And what we did in Massachusetts is a modelfor the nation, state by state. And I said that at that time. The federalgovernment taking over health care for the entire nation and whisking aside the10th Amendment, which gives states the rights for these kinds of things, is notthe course for America to have a stronger, more vibrant economy.

MR. LEHRER: That is a terrific segueto our next segment, and is the role of government. And let’s see, role ofgovernment and it is — you are first on this, Mr. President. The question isthis. Do you believe — both of you — but you have the first two minutes onthis, Mr. President — do you believe there’s a fundamental difference betweenthe two of you as to how you view the mission of the federal government?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I definitely think there aredifferences.

MR. LEHRER: And — yeah.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The first role of the federal governmentis to keep the American people safe. That’s its most basic function. And ascommander in chief, that is something that I’ve worked on and thought aboutevery single day that I’ve been in the Oval Office.

But I also believe that government has the capacity — the federalgovernment has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders ofopportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed.Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system, and freedom, and thefact that people can go out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions.

But as Abraham Lincoln understood, there are also some things we do bettertogether.

So in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, let’s help tofinance the Transcontinental Railroad. Let’s start the National Academy ofSciences. Let’s start land grant colleges, because we want to give thesegateways of opportunity for all Americans, because if all Americans are gettingopportunity, we’re all going to be better off. That doesn’t restrict people’sfreedom; that enhances it.

And so what I’ve tried to do as president is to apply those same principles.And when it comes to education, what I’ve said is we’ve got to reform schoolsthat are not working. We use something called Race to the Top. Wasn’t atop-down approach, Governor. What we’ve said is tostates, we’ll give you more money if you initiate reforms. And as aconsequence, you had 46 states around the country whohave made a real difference.

But what I’ve also said is let’s hire another hundred thousand math andscience teachers to make sure we maintain our technological lead and our peopleare skilled and able to succeed. And hard-pressed states right now can’t all dothat. In fact, we’ve seen layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers over thelast several years, and Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. Ido, because I think that that is the kind of investment where the federalgovernment can help. It can’t do it all, but it can make a difference, and as aconsequence, we’ll have a better-trained workforce, and that will create jobs,because companies want to locate in places where we’ve got a skilled workforce.

MR. LEHRER: Two minutes, Governor, on the role ofgovernment, your view.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, first, I love great schools.Massachusetts, our schools are ranked number one of all 50 states. And the keyto great schools: great teachers. So I reject the idea that I don’t believe ingreat teachers or more teachers. Every school district, every state should makethat decision on their own.

The role of government — look behind us: the Constitution and theDeclaration of Independence.

The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of thosedocuments. First, life and liberty. We have aresponsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that meansthe military, second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. Ibelieve in maintaining the strength of America’s military.

Second, in that line that says, we are endowed by our Creator with ourrights — I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance andfreedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by ourCreator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as,one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care forthemselves are cared by — by one another.

We’re a nation that believes we’re all children of the same God. And we carefor those that have difficulties — those that are elderly and have problemsand challenges, those that disabled, we care for them. And we look fordiscovery and innovation, all these thing desired outof the American heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens.

But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue theirdreams, and not to have the government substituteitself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is,in my view, a — a trickle-down government approach which has governmentthinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. Andit’s not working.

And the proof of that is 23 million people out ofwork. The proof of that is one out of six people inpoverty. The proof of that is we’ve gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47million on food stamps. The proof of that is that 50 percent of collegegraduates this year can’t find work.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Inaudible) –

MR. ROMNEY: We know that the path we’re taking is notworking. It’s time for a new path.

MR. LEHRER: All right, let’s go through some specifics interms of what — how each of you views the role of government. How do –education. Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve thequality of public education in America?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, the primary responsibility for educationis — is of course at the state and local level. But the federal governmentalso can play a very important role. And I — and I agree with Secretary ArneDuncan. He’s — there’s some ideas he’s put forward on Race to the Top — notall of them but some of them I agree with, and congratulate him for pursuingthat. The federal government can get local and — and state schools to do abetter job.

My own view, by the way, is I’ve added to that. I happen to believe — Iwant the kids that are getting federal dollars from IDEA or — or Title I –these are disabled kids or — or poor kids or — or lower-income kids, rather.I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice. So all federalfunds, instead of going to the — to the state or to the school district, I’dhave go — if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the childdecide where to send their — their — their student.

MR. LEHRER: How do you see the federal government’sresponsibility to — as I say, to improve the quality of public education inthis country?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, as I’ve indicated, I think that ithas a significant role to play. Through our Race to the Top program, we’veworked with Republican and Democratic governors to initiate major reforms, andthey’re having an impact right now.

MR. LEHRER: Do you think you have a difference with yourviews and those of Governor Romney on — about education and the federalgovernment?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, this iswhere budgets matter because budgets reflect choices. So when Governor Romneyindicates that he wants to cut taxes and potentially benefit folks like me andhim, and to pay for it, we’re having to initiatesignificant cuts in federal support for education, that makes a difference.

You know, his running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward a budget thatreflects many of the principles that Governor Romney’s talked about. And itwasn’t very detailed. This seems to be a trend. But — but what it did do is to– if you extrapolated how much money we’re talking about, you’d look atcutting the education budget by up to 20 percent.

When it comes to community colleges, we are seeing great work done out thereall over the country because we have the opportunity to train people for jobsthat exist right now. And one of the things I suspect Governor Romney and Iprobably agree on is getting businesses to work with community colleges so thatthey’re setting up their training programs –

MR. LEHRER: Do you agree, Governor?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let — let — let me just finish thepoint.

MR. ROMNEY: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I suspect it’ll be a small agreement.

MR. ROMNEY: It’s going over well in my state, by the way,yeah.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The — where their partnering so that –they’re designing training programs, and people who are going through them knowthat there’s a job waiting for them if they complete them. That makes a bigdifference. But that requires some federal support.

Let me just say one final example. When it comes to making collegeaffordable — whether it’s two-year or four-year — one of the things that Idid as president was we were sending $60 billion to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, even though the loans were guaranteed. Sothere was no risk for the banks or the lenders but they were taking billionsout of the system.

And we said, why not cut out the middle man? And as a consequence, whatwe’ve been able to do is to provide millions more studentsassistance, lower or keep low interest rates on student loans. And this is anexample of where our priorities make a difference. Governor Romney, I genuinelybelieve, cares about education. But when he tells a student that, you know, youshould borrow money from your parents to go to college, you know, thatindicates the degree to which, you know, there may not be as much of a focus onthe fact that folks like myself, folks like Michelle, kids probably who attendUniversity of Denver just don’t have that option.

And for us to be able to make sure that they’ve got that opportunity andthey can walk through that door, that is vitally important — not just to thosekids. It’s how we’re going to grow this economy over the long term.

MR. LEHRER: We’re running out of time.

MR. ROMNEY: Jim, Jim –

MR. LEHRER: I’m certainly going give you a chance torespond to that. Yes, sir, Governor.

MR. ROMNEY: Mr. — Mr. President, you’re entitled, as thepresident, to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your ownfacts — (laughter) — all right? I’m — I’m not going to cut educationfunding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding and grants that go topeople going to college. I’m planning on continuing to grow, so I’m notplanning on making changes there.

But you make a very good point, which is that the — the place you put yourmoney makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is. You put $90billion into — into green jobs. And — and I — look, I’m all in favor ofgreen energy. Ninety billion (dollars) — that — that would have — that wouldhave hired 2 million teachers. Ninety billion dollars.And these businesses — many of them have gone out of business. I think abouthalf of them, of the ones have been invested in,they’ve gone out of business. A number of them happened to be owned by — bypeople who were contributors to your campaigns.

Look, the right course for — for America’s government — we were talkingabout the role of government — is not to become the economic player pickingwinners and losers, telling people what kind of health treatment they canreceive, taking over the health care system that — that has existed in thiscountry for — for a long, long time and has produced the best health recordsin the world. The right answer for government is to say, how do we make theprivate sector become more efficient and more effective?

How do we get schools to be more competitive? Let’s grade them. I propose wegrade our schools so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing, sothey can take their child to a — to a school that’s being more successful. Idon’t — I don’t want to cut our commitment to education; I wanted to make itmore effective and efficient.

And by the way, I’ve had that experience. I don’t just talk about it. I’vebeen there. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation. This isnot because I didn’t have commitment to education. It’s because I care abouteducation for all of our kids.

MR. LEHRER: All right, gentlemen, look –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, I — (inaudible) –

MR. LEHRER: Excuse me, one sec — excuse, me sir. (Laughter.) We’ve got — we’ve got — barely have threeminutes left. I’m not going to grade the two of you and say you’ve — youranswers have been too long or I’ve done a poor job –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’ve done a great job, Jim.

MR. LEHRER: Oh, well, no. But the fact is, government –the role of government and governing, we’ve lost a (pod ?), in other words, sowe only have three minutes left in the — in the debate before we go to yourclosing statements. And so I want to ask finally here — and remember, we’vegot three minutes total time here.

And the question is this: Many of the legislative functions of the federalgovernment right now are in a state of paralysis as a result of partisangridlock. If elected in your case, if re-elected in your case, what would youdo about that?

Governor?

MR. ROMNEY: Jim, I had the great experience — it didn’tseem like it at the time — of being elected in a state where my legislaturewas 87 percent Democrat, and that meant I figured outfrom day one I had to get along and I had to work across the aisle to getanything done. We drove our schools to be number one in the nation. We cuttaxes 19 times.

MR. LEHRER: Well, what would you do as president?

MR. ROMNEY: We — as president, I will sit down on day one– actually the day after I get elected, I’ll sit down with leaders — theDemocratic leaders as well as Republican leaders and — as we did in my state.We met every Monday for a couple hours, talked about the issues and thechallenges in the — in the — in our state, in that case. We have to work on acollaborative basis — not because we’re going to compromise our principle(s),but because there’s common ground.

And the challenges America faces right now — look, the reason I’m in thisrace is there are people that are really hurting today in this country, and weface — this deficit could crush the future generations. What’s happening inthe Middle East? There are developments around the world that are of realconcern. And Republicans and Democrats both love America, but we need to haveleadership — leadership in Washington that will actually bring people togetherand get the job done and could not care less if it’s a Republican or aDemocrat. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think GovernorRomney’s going to have a busy first day, because he’s also going to repeal“Obamacare,” which will not be very popular among Democrats as you’re sittingdown with them.

(Laughter.)

But look, my philosophy has been I will take ideas from anybody, Democrat orRepublican, as long as they’re advancing the cause of making middle-classfamilies stronger and giving ladders of opportunity into the middle class.That’s how we cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses. That’show we cut a trillion dollars of spending that wasn’t advancing that cause.That’s how we signed three trade deals into law that are helping us to doubleour exports and sell more American products around the world. That’s how werepealed “don’t ask, don’t tell.” That’s how we ended the war in Iraq, as Ipromised, and that’s how we’re going to wind down the war in Afghanistan.That’s how we went after al-Qaida and bin Laden.

So we’ve — we’ve seen progress even under Republican control of the Houseor Representatives. But ultimately, part of being principled, part of being a leaderis, A, being able to describe exactly what it is thatyou intend to do, not just saying, I’ll sit down, but you have to have a plan.

Number two, what’s important is occasionally you’ve got to say now to — to– to folks both in your own party and in the other party. And you know, yes,have we had some fights between me and the Republicans when they fought backagainst us, reining in the excesses of Wall Street? Absolutely,because that was a fight that needed to be had. When — when we werefighting about whether or not we were going to make sure that Americans hadmore security with their health insurance and they said no, yes, that was afight that we needed to have. And so part of leadership and governing is bothsaying what it is that you are for, but also being willing to say no to somethings.

And I’ve got to tell you, Governor Romney, when it comes to his own partyduring the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to sayno to some of the more extreme parts of his party.

MR. LEHRER: That brings us to closing statements. There wasa coin toss. Governor Romney, you won the toss, and you elected to go last.

So you have a closing two minutes, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jim, I want to thank you and I wantto thank Governor Romney, because I think this was a terrific debate and I verymuch appreciate it.

And I want to thank the University of Denver.

You know, four years ago we were going through a major crisis, and yet myfaith and confidence in the American future is undiminished. And the reason isbecause of its people. Because of the woman I met in North Carolina who decidedat 55 to go back to school because she wanted to inspire her daughter, and nowhas a new job from that new training that she’s gotten. Because of the companyin Minnesota who was willing to give up salaries and perks for their executivesto make sure that they didn’t lay off workers during a recession. The autoworkers that you meet in Toledo or Detroit take such pride in building the bestcars in the world — not just because of a paycheck, but because it gives themthat sense of pride, that they’re helping to build America.

And so the question now is, how do we build on those strengths? Andeverything that I’ve tried to do and everything that I’m now proposing for thenext four years in terms of improving our education system, or developingAmerican energy, or making sure that we’re closing loopholes for companies thatare shipping jobs overseas and focusing on small businesses and companies thatare creating jobs here in the United States, or — or closing our deficit in aresponsible, balanced way that allows us to invest in our future — all thosethings are designed to make sure that the American people, their genius, theirgrit, their determination is — is channeled, and — and — and they have anopportunity to succeed.

And everybody’s getting a fair shot and everybody’s getting a fair share.Everybody’s doing a fair share and everybody’s playing by the same rules.

You know, four years ago I said that I’m not a perfect man and I wouldn’t bea perfect president. And that’s probably a promise that Governor Romney thinksI’ve kept. But I also promised that I’d fight every single day on behalf of theAmerican people and the middle class and all those who are striving to get inthe middle class.

I’ve kept that promise and if you’ll vote for me, then I promise I’ll fightjust as hard in a second term.

MR. LEHRER: Governor Romney, your two-minute closing.

MR. ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim and Mr. President. And thank youfor tuning in this evening. This is a — this is an important election. And I’mconcerned about America. I’m concerned about the direction America has beentaking over the last four years. I know this is bigger than election about thetwo of us as individuals. It’s bigger than our respective parties. It’s anelection about the course of America — what kind of America do you want tohave for yourself and for your children.

And there really are two very different paths that we began speaking aboutthis evening. And over the course of this month we’re going to have two morepresidential debates and vice presidential debate. We’ll talk about those twopaths. But they lead in very different directions. And it’s not just looking toour words that you have to take in evidence of where they go; you can look atthe record.

There’s no question in my mind that if the president were to be re-electedyou’ll continue to see a middle-class squeeze with incomes going down andprices going up. I’ll get incomes up again. You’ll see chronic unemployment.We’ve had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent. If I’mpresident, I will create — help create 12 million new jobs in this countrywith rising incomes.

If the president’s re-elected, “Obamacare” will be fully installed. In myview, that’s going to mean a whole different way of life for people who countedon the insurance plan they had in the past. Many will lose it. You’re going tosee health premiums go up by some $2,500 per — per family. If I’m elected, wewon’t have “Obamacare.” We’ll put in place the kind of principles that I put inplace in my own state and allow each state to craft their own programs to getpeople insured. And we’ll focus on getting the cost of health care down.

If the president were to be re-elected, you’re going to see a $716 billioncut to Medicare. You’ll have 4 million people who will lose Medicare advantage.You’ll have hospitals and providers that’ll no longer accept Medicare patients.

I’ll restore that $716 billion to Medicare.

And finally, military. If the president’sre-elected, you’ll see dramatic cuts to our military. The secretary of defensehas said these would be even devastating. I will not cut our commitment to ourmilitary. I will keep Americastrong and get America’smiddle class working again.

Thank you, Jim.

MR. LEHRER: Thank you, Governor.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The next debate will be the vice presidential event on Thursday, October11th at Center College in Danville, Kentucky.For now, from the University of Denver, I’m JimLehrer. Thank you, and good night. (Cheers, applause.)

September 6, 2012: Barack Obama’s Speech Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina Transcript

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

2012 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION

Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina
September 6, 2012

The First Lady.Thank you so much. Tonight I am so thrilled and so honored and so proud to introduce the love of my life, the father of our two girls, and the President of the United States of America: Barack Obama.

The President. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

Michelle, I love you so much. A few nights ago, everybody was reminded just what a lucky man I am. Malia and Sasha, we are so proud of you. And yes, you do have to go to school in the morning. [Laughter]

And, Joe Biden, thank you for being the very best Vice President I could have ever hoped for and being a strong and loyal friend.

Madam Chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for President of the United States.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

Now, the first time I addressed this convention in 2004, I was a younger man, a Senate candidate from Illinois who spoke about hope, not blind optimism, not wishful thinking, but hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, that dogged faith in the future which has pushed this Nation forward, even when the odds are great, even when the road is long.

Eight years later, that hope has been tested by the cost of war, by one of the worst economic crises in history, and by political gridlock that’s left us wondering whether it’s still even possible to tackle the challenges of our time.

I know campaigns can seem small, even silly sometimes. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. The truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. And if you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I. [Laughter]

But when all is said and done—when you pick up that ballot to vote—you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington on jobs, the economy, taxes and deficits, energy, education, war and peace, decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and on our children’s lives for decades to come.

And on every issue, the choice you face won’t just be between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.

Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known, the values my grandfather defended as a soldier in Patton’s army, the values that drove my grandmother to work on a bomber assembly line while he was gone.

They knew they were part of something larger: a nation that triumphed over fascism and depression; a nation where the most innovative businesses turned out the world’s best products. And everyone shared in that pride and success, from the corner office to the factory floor.

My grandparents were given the chance to go to college, buy their own home, and fulfill the basic bargain at the heart of America’s story: the promise that hard work will pay off, that responsibility will be rewarded, that everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, DC.

And I ran for President because I saw that basic bargain slipping away. I began my career helping people in the shadow of a shuttered steel mill at a time when too many good jobs were starting to move overseas. And by 2008, we had seen nearly a decade in which families struggled with costs that kept rising, but paychecks that didn’t: folks racking up more and more debt just to make the mortgage or pay tuition, put gas in the car or food on the table. And when the house of cards collapsed in the great recession, millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, a tragedy from which we’re still fighting to recover.

Now, our friends down in Tampa at the Republican Convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America. But they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescriptions they’ve had for the last 30 years: Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning.

Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it: middle class families, small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China.

After all we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand or the laid-off construction worker keep his home.

We have been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We are moving forward, America.

Now, I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth.

And the truth is it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort and shared responsibility and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And by the way, those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another Government program or dictate from Washington.

But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future.

I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country—goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit—real, achievable plans that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That’s what we can do in the next 4 years, and that is why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. We can choose a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs. After a decade that was defined by what we bought and borrowed, we’re getting back to basics and doing what America has always done best: We are making things again.

I’ve met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared they’d never build another American car. And today, they can’t build them fast enough, because we reinvented a dying auto industry that’s back on the top of the world.

I’ve worked with business leaders who are bringing jobs back to America, not because our workers make less pay, but because we make better products. Because we work harder and smarter than anyone else.

I’ve signed trade agreements that are helping our companies sell more goods to millions of new customers, goods that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.

Audience members. U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

The President. And after a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last 2½ years.

And now you have a choice: We can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here in the United States of America. We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports, and if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next 4 years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future.

You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. We have doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by 1 million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.

So now you have a choice: between a strategy that reverses this progress or one that builds on it. We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last 3 years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan or endanger our coastlines or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers. We’re offering a better path.

We’re offering a better path, where we—a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.

And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.

You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. It was the gateway for most of you. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle class life.

For the first time in a generation, nearly every State has answered our call to raise their standards for teaching and learning. Some of the worst schools in the country have made real gains in math and reading. Millions of students are paying less for college today because we finally took on a system that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on banks and lenders.

And now you have a choice: We can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money. No company should have to look for workers overseas because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here at home. That’s not our future. [Applause] That is not our future.

And government has a role in this. But teachers must inspire; principals must lead; parents must instill a thirst for learning. And, students, you’ve got to do the work. And together, I promise you, we can out-educate and out-compete any nation on Earth.

So help me. Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers within 10 years and improve early childhood education. Help give 2 million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next 10 years. We can meet that goal together. You can choose that future for America. That’s our future.

In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven. Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And we have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over.

A new tower rises above the New York skyline, Al Qaida is on the path to defeat, and Usama bin Laden is dead.

Audience members. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

The President. Tonight we pay tribute to the Americans who still serve in harm’s way. We are forever in debt to a generation whose sacrifice has made this country safer and more respected. We will never forget you. And so long as I’m Commander in Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known. When you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us, because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads or the care that they need when they come home.

Around the world, we’ve strengthened old alliances and forged new coalitions to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. We’ve reasserted our power across the Pacific and stood up to China on behalf of our workers. From Burma to Libya to South Sudan, we have advanced the rights and dignity of all human beings: men and women, Christians and Muslims and Jews.

But for all the progress that we’ve made, challenges remain. Terrorist plots must be disrupted. Europe’s crisis must be contained. Our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace. The Iranian Government must face a world that stays united against its nuclear ambitions. The historic change sweeping across the Arab world must be defined not by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists, but by the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people who are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate here today.

So now we have a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.

After all, you don’t call Russia our number-one enemy—not Al Qaida, Russia—unless you’re still stuck in a cold war mind warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.

My opponent said that it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq. And he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. Well, I have, and I will.

And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I will use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and schools and runways. Because after two wars that have cost us thousands of live and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.

You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class. Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficit by $4 trillion. And last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut a billion [trillion]* dollars in spending—because those of us who believe Government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it so that it’s leaner and more efficient and more responsive to the American people.

I want to reform the Tax Code so that it’s simple, fair, and asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000, the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was President; the same rate we had when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest surplus in history, and a whole lot of millionaires to boot.

Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. I want to get this done, and we can get it done. But when Governor Romney and his friends in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficits by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy, well, what did Bill Clinton call it: “you do the arithmetic.” You do the math.

I refuse to go along with that and as long as I’m President, I never will. I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut.

I refuse to ask students to pay more for college or kick children out of Head Start programs, to eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor and elderly or disabled, all so those with the most can pay less. I’m not going along with that.

And I will never—I will never—turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity that they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more.

And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it, not by turning it over to Wall Street.

This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we’ve been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and borrow money from your parents. [Laughter]

You know what, that’s not who we are. That’s not what this country’s about. As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain, inalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility, and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success; we have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity that the world’s ever known.

But we also believe in something called citizenship. Citizenship: a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.

We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better. We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy. We believe the little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs or the scientist who cures cancer or the President of the United States, and it is in our power to give her that chance.

We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we certainly don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think that government can solve all of our problems, but we don’t think that government is the source of all of our problems, any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.

Because, America, we understand that this democracy is ours. We, the people, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together, that a freedom which asks only “what’s in it for me,” a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism is unworthy of our founding ideals and those who died in their defense.

As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us; it’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.

So you see, the election 4 years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change. You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who will get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that.

You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible.

You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home; why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: “Welcome home.” [Applause] “Welcome home.” You did that. [Applause] You did that. You did that.

If you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: the lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are trying to make it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should be making for themselves.

Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.

I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed, and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President.

And that means I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return. I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs.

If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them. [Laughter] And while I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”

But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naive about the magnitude of our challenges. I’m hopeful because of you.

The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter, she gives me hope.

The autoworker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife, he gives me hope.

The family business in Warroad, Minnesota, that didn’t lay off a single one of their 4,000 employees when the recession hit, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owner gave up some perks and some pay because they understood that their biggest asset was the community and the workers who had helped build that business—they give me hope.

I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee. Six months ago, we would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iraq, tall and 20 pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face, sturdy on his new leg. And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled, he gives me hope. He gives me hope.

I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a “future filled with hope.”

And if you share that faith with me—if you share that hope with me—I ask you tonight for your vote. If you reject the notion that this Nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. If you reject the notion that our Government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.

If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape, that new energy can power our future, that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.

America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless these United States.


NOTE: The President spoke at 10:24 p.m. at the Time Warner Cable Arena. In his remarks, he referred to Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz, chair, Democratic National Committee; and Republican Presidential nominee W. Mitt Romney and Vice Presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan.

* White House correction.

August 30, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Speech Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida Transcript

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

2012 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION

Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida
August 30, 2012

Mr. Chairman, delegates. I accept your nomination for President of the United States of America.

I do so with humility, deeply moved by the trust you have placed in me. It is a great honor. It is an even greater responsibility.

Tonight I am asking you to join me to walk together to a better future. By my side, I have chosen a man with a big heart from a small town. He represents the best of America, a man who will always make us proud – my friend and America’s next Vice President, Paul Ryan.

In the days ahead, you will get to know Paul and Janna better. But last night America got to see what I saw in Paul Ryan – a strong and caring leader who is down to earth and confident in the challenge this moment demands.

I love the way he lights up around his kids and how he’s not embarrassed to show the world how much he loves his mom.

But Paul, I still like the playlist on my iPod better than yours.

Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president. That president was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections. We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than what divides us.

When that hard fought election was over, when the yard signs came down and the television commercials finally came off the air, Americans were eager to go back to work, to live our lives the way Americans always have – optimistic and positive and confident in the future.

That very optimism is uniquely American.

It is what brought us to America. We are a nation of immigrants. We are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life, the driven ones, the ones who woke up at night hearing that voice telling them that life in that place called America could be better.

They came not just in pursuit of the riches of this world but for the richness of this life.

Freedom.

Freedom of religion.

Freedom to speak their mind.

Freedom to build a life.

And yes, freedom to build a business. With their own hands.

This is the essence of the American experience.

We Americans have always felt a special kinship with the future.

When every new wave of immigrants looked up and saw the Statue of Liberty, or knelt down and kissed the shores of freedom just ninety miles from Castro’s tyranny, these new Americans surely had many questions. But none doubted that here in America they could build a better life, that in America their children would be more blessed than they.

But today, four years from the excitement of the last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future.

It is not what we were promised.

Every family in America wanted this to be a time when they could get ahead a little more, put aside a little more for college, do more for their elderly mom who’s living alone now or give a little more to their church or charity.

Every small business wanted these to be their best years ever, when they could hire more, do more for those who had stuck with them through the hard times, open a new store or sponsor that Little League team.

Every new college graduate thought they’d have a good job by now, a place of their own, and that they could start paying back some of their loans and build for the future.

This is when our nation was supposed to start paying down the national debt and rolling back those massive deficits.

This was the hope and change America voted for.

It’s not just what we wanted. It’s not just what we expected.

It’s what Americans deserved.

You deserved it because during these years, you worked harder than ever before. You deserved it because when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out movie nights and put in longer hours. Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits, you took two jobs at 9 bucks an hour and fewer benefits. You did it because your family depended on you. You did it because you’re an American and you don’t quit. You did it because it was what you had to do.

But driving home late from that second job, or standing there watching the gas pump hit 50 dollars and still going, when the realtor told you that to sell your house you’d have to take a big loss, in those moments you knew that this just wasn’t right.

But what could you do? Except work harder, do with less, try to stay optimistic. Hug your kids a little longer; maybe spend a little more time praying that tomorrow would be a better day.

I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn’t something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we CAN do something. With your help we will do something.

Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, “I’m an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better! My children deserve better! My family deserves better. My country deserves better!”

So here we stand. Americans have a choice. A decision.

To make that choice, you need to know more about me and about where I will lead our country.

I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country, a classic baby boomer. It was a time when Americans were returning from war and eager to work. To be an American was to assume that all things were possible. When President Kennedy challenged Americans to go to the moon, the question wasn’t whether we’d get there, it was only when we’d get there.

The soles of Neil Armstrong’s boots on the moon made permanent impressions on OUR souls and in our national psyche. Ann and I watched those steps together on her parent’s sofa. Like all Americans we went to bed that night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world.

God bless Neil Armstrong.

Tonight that American flag is still there on the moon. And I don’t doubt for a second that Neil Armstrong’s spirit is still with us: that unique blend of optimism, humility and the utter confidence that when the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American.

That’s how I was brought up.

My dad had been born in Mexico and his family had to leave during the Mexican revolution. I grew up with stories of his family being fed by the US Government as war refugees. My dad never made it through college and apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter. And he had big dreams. He convinced my mom, a beautiful young actress, to give up Hollywood to marry him. He moved to Detroit, led a great automobile company and became Governor of the Great State of Michigan.

We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan; that might have seemed unusual or out of place but I really don’t remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to.

My mom and dad gave their kids the greatest gift of all – the gift of unconditional love. They cared deeply about who we would BE, and much less about what we would DO.

Unconditional love is a gift that Ann and I have tried to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren. All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers. If every child could drift to sleep feeling wrapped in the love of their family – and God’s love — this world would be a far more gentle and better place.

Mom and Dad were married 64 years. And if you wondered what their secret was, you could have asked the local florist – because every day Dad gave Mom a rose, which he put on her bedside table. That’s how she found out what happened on the day my father died – she went looking for him because that morning, there was no rose.

My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, “Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?”

I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

As Governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman Lt. Governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.

I grew up in Detroit in love with cars and wanted to be a car guy, like my dad. But by the time I was out of school, I realized that I had to go out on my own, that if I stayed around Michigan in the same business, I’d never really know if I was getting a break because of my dad. I wanted to go someplace new and prove myself.

Those weren’t the easiest of days – too many long hours and weekends working, five young sons who seemed to have this need to re-enact a different world war every night. But if you ask Ann and I what we’d give, to break up just one more fight between the boys, or wake up in the morning and discover a pile of kids asleep in our room. Well, every mom and dad knows the answer to that.

Those days were toughest on Ann, of course. She was heroic. Five boys, with our families a long way away. I had to travel a lot for my job then and I’d call and try to offer support. But every mom knows that doesn’t help get the homework done or the kids out the door to school.

I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. And I knew without question, that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine. And as America saw Tuesday night, Ann would have succeeded at anything she wanted to.

Like a lot of families in a new place with no family, we found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church. When we were new to the community it was welcoming and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved to town or just joined our church. We had remarkably vibrant and diverse congregants from all walks of life and many who were new to America. We prayed together, our kids played together and we always stood ready to help each other out in different ways.

And that’s how it is in America. We look to our communities, our faiths, our families for our joy, our support, in good times and bad. It is both how we live our lives and why we live our lives. The strength and power and goodness of America has always been based on the strength and power and goodness of our communities, our families, our faiths.

That is the bedrock of what makes America, America. In our best days, we can feel the vibrancy of America’s communities, large and small.

It’s when we see that new business opening up downtown. It’s when we go to work in the morning and see everybody else on our block doing the same.

It’s when our son or daughter calls from college to talk about which job offer they should take….and you try not to choke up when you hear that the one they like is not far from home.

It’s that good feeling when you have more time to volunteer to coach your kid’s soccer team, or help out on school trips.

But for too many Americans, these good days are harder to come by. How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?

Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.

The President hasn’t disappointed you because he wanted to. The President has disappointed America because he hasn’t led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.

I learned the real lessons about how America works from experience.

When I was 37, I helped start a small company. My partners and I had been working for a company that was in the business of helping other businesses.

So some of us had this idea that if we really believed our advice was helping companies, we should invest in companies. We should bet on ourselves and on our advice.

So we started a new business called Bain Capital. The only problem was, while WE believed in ourselves, nobody else did. We were young and had never done this before and we almost didn’t get off the ground. In those days, sometimes I wondered if I had made a really big mistake. I had thought about asking my church’s pension fund to invest, but I didn’t. I figured it was bad enough that I might lose my investors’ money, but I didn’t want to go to hell too. Shows what I know. Another of my partners got the Episcopal Church pension fund to invest. Today there are a lot of happy retired priests who should thank him.

That business we started with 10 people has now grown into a great American success story. Some of the companies we helped start are names you know. An office supply company called Staples – where I’m pleased to see the Obama campaign has been shopping; The Sports Authority, which became a favorite of my sons. We started an early childhood learning center called Bright Horizons that First Lady Michelle Obama rightly praised. At a time when nobody thought we’d ever see a new steel mill built in America, we took a chance and built one in a corn field in Indiana. Today Steel Dynamics is one of the largest steel producers in the United States.

These are American success stories. And yet the centerpiece of the President’s entire re-election campaign is attacking success. Is it any wonder that someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression? In America, we celebrate success, we don’t apologize for it.

We weren’t always successful at Bain. But no one ever is in the real world of business.

That’s what this President doesn’t seem to understand. Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving. It is about dreams. Usually, it doesn’t work out exactly as you might have imagined. Steve Jobs was fired at Apple. He came back and changed the world.

It’s the genius of the American free enterprise system – to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that is dedicated to creating tomorrow’s prosperity rather than trying to redistribute today’s.

That is why every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: “you are better off today than you were four years ago.”

Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president.

This president can ask us to be patient.

This president can tell us it was someone else’s fault.

This president can tell us that the next four years he’ll get it right.

But this president cannot tell us that YOU are better off today than when he took office.

America has been patient. Americans have supported this president in good faith.

But today, the time has come to turn the page.

Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us.

To put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations.

To forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be.

Now is the time to restore the Promise of America. Many Americans have given up on this president but they haven’t ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America.

What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound. It doesn’t take a special government commission to tell us what America needs.

What America needs is jobs.

Lots of jobs.

In the richest country in the history of the world, this Obama economy has crushed the middle class. Family income has fallen by $4,000, but health insurance premiums are higher, food prices are higher, utility bills are higher, and gasoline prices have doubled. Today more Americans wake up in poverty than ever before. Nearly one out of six Americans is living in poverty. Look around you. These are not strangers. These are our brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans.

His policies have not helped create jobs, they have depressed them. And this I can tell you about where President Obama would take America:

His plan to raise taxes on small business won’t add jobs, it will eliminate them;

His assault on coal and gas and oil will send energy and manufacturing jobs to China;

His trillion dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk;

His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation – and jobs – in medicine.

And his trillion-dollar deficits will slow our economy, restrain employment, and cause wages to stall.

To the majority of Americans who now believe that the future will not be better than the past, I can guarantee you this: if Barack Obama is re-elected, you will be right.

I am running for president to help create a better future. A future where everyone who wants a job can find one. Where no senior fears for the security of their retirement. An America where every parent knows that their child will get an education that leads them to a good job and a bright horizon.

And unlike the President, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs. It has 5 steps.

First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.

Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.

Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.

Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.

And fifth, we will champion SMALL businesses, America’s engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. And it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Today, women are more likely than men to start a business. They need a president who respects and understands what they do.

And let me make this very clear – unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.

As president, I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion.

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.

I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators.

Every American was relieved the day President Obama gave the order, and Seal Team Six took out Osama bin Laden. But on another front, every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat.

In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning.

President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba. He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.

We will honor America’s democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world. This is the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency we will return to it once again.

You might have asked yourself if these last years are really the America we want, the America won for us by the greatest generation.

Does the America we want borrow a trillion dollars from China? No.

Does it fail to find the jobs that are needed for 23 million people and for half the kids graduating from college? No.

Are its schools lagging behind the rest of the developed world? No.

And does the America we want succumb to resentment and division? We know the answer.

The America we all know has been a story of the many becoming one, uniting to preserve liberty, uniting to build the greatest economy in the world, uniting to save the world from unspeakable darkness.

Everywhere I go in America, there are monuments that list those who have given their lives for America. There is no mention of their race, their party affiliation, or what they did for a living. They lived and died under a single flag, fighting for a single purpose. They pledged allegiance to the UNITED States of America.

That America, that united America, can unleash an economy that will put Americans back to work, that will once again lead the world with innovation and productivity, and that will restore every father and mother’s confidence that their children’s future is brighter even than the past.

That America, that united America, will preserve a military that is so strong, no nation would ever dare to test it.

That America, that united America, will uphold the constellation of rights that were endowed by our Creator, and codified in our Constitution.

That united America will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly, and will give a helping hand to those in need.

That America is the best within each of us. That America we want for our children.

If I am elected President of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future. That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it, our nation depends upon it, the peace and freedom of the world require it. And with your help we will deliver it. Let us begin that future together tonight.

February 22. 2012: CNN / Arizona Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Mesa, Arizona February 22, 2012

PARTICIPANTS:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)

MODERATOR:
John King (CNN)

KING: Gentlemen, I want to ask you to take your seats. I’ll take a moment now to explain to you how our debate will work.

I’ll question the candidates, as well as we’ll also take some questions from members of our audience. I’ll follow up and guide tonight’s discussion.

Candidates, we’re going to try to make sure each of you get your fair amount of questions. And you’ll have a minute to answer and 30 seconds for rebuttal and follow-ups. And if you’re singled out for a particular criticism, I’ll make sure you get a chance to respond.

Now we’re going to have each of the candidates introduce themselves. And so we have more time to debate tonight, we’re going to ask them to keep it short.

Here’s an example. I’m John King from CNN. I’m honored to be your moderator tonight and I’m thrilled to be in a state that reminds us baseball season is just around the corner. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, we begin with you, sir.

PAUL: I’m Congressman Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas.

I am the defender of the Constitution. I’m the champion of liberty. This shows the roadmap to peace and prosperity. [applause]

SANTORUM: I’m Rick Santorum.

And we have a lot of troubles around the world, as you see, the Middle East in flames, and what’s going on in this country with gas prices and the economy. And I’m here to talk about a positive solutions that confront this country that include everybody from the bottom up. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney.

And there was a time in this country when you knew that if you worked hard and went to school, and if you learned the values of America in your home, that you could count on having a secure future and a prosperous life. That was an American promise and it’s been broken by this president.

I want to restore America’s promise, and I’m going to do that — [applause]That’s good enough. As George Costanza would say, when they’re applauding, stop. Right?

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich.

And I’ve developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again and so every American can look forward to $2.50 a gallon gasoline. [applause]

KING: Gentlemen, it’s good to see you again.

Let’s get started on the important issues with a question from our audience.

Sir, please tell us who you are and state your question.

UNKNOWN: My name is Gilbert Fidler from Gilbert, Arizona, and I’d like to ask this question to all the candidates if I could.

Since the first time in 65 years our national debt exceeds our gross national product, what are you going to do to bring down the debt?

KING: Thank you, sir.

Senator Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Gilbert.

I put together a specific plan that cuts $5 trillion over five years, that spends less money each year for the next four years that I’ll be president of the United States. So it’s not inflation- adjusted, it’s not baseline-budgeting. We’re actually going to shrink the actual size of the federal budget, and we’re going to do so by dealing with the real problem.

And here’s where I differentiate myself from everybody else, including, obviously, the president. I actually have experience on tackling the toughest problems that we have in this country, and that’s the growth of entitlement spending.

Obviously, the first thing we need to do is repeal Obamacare. That’s the one entitlement that we can get rid of. [applause]

And that’s a couple trillion dollars in spending over the next 10 years. But there’s bigger issues.

When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It’s now 60 percent of the budget.

Some people have suggested that defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It’s now 17 percent. If you think defense spending is the problem, then you need a remedial math class to go back to.

Defense spending will not be cut under my administration, but we will go after all of the means-tested entitlement programs — Medicaid, food stamps, all of those programs — and do what we did with welfare.

We cut the welfare — we cut spending on welfare, froze it and then we block granted it to the states and gave them the flexibility to run that program they way they saw fit with two provisos. Number one, there would be a time limit on welfare and a work requirement. We were going to say that poverty is not a disability. That these programs need to be transitional in nature. We need to do the same thing with Medicaid. We need to do the same thing with — with food stamps. All of the other means tests of entitlement programs.

And unlike the Paul Ryan plan — I see I’m out of time, but unlike the Paul Ryan plan, we also will deal with Medicare and Social Security, not 10 years from now. But we need to start dealing with it now because our country is facing fiscal bankruptcy.

KING: Governor Romney, I’m wondering if that answer satisfied you? Just in recent days you said this, quote, “If you want a fiscal conservative, you can’t vote for Rick Santorum because he’s not.” Did he answer your questions there?

ROMNEY: Well I’m looking at his historic record, which voting for raising the debt ceiling five different times without voting for compensating cuts. Voting to keep in place Davis-Bacon, which cost about $100 billion over — over 10 years. A whole series of votes. Voting to fund Planned Parenthood, to expand the Department of Education. During his term in the Senate, spending grew by some 80 percent of the federal government. But I — but I want to respond to Gilbert’s question, which I think is a critical one.

And that is as you — as you look at this country, I’m a guy who has lived in the world of business. If you don’t balance your budget in business, you go out of business. So I’ve lived balancing budgets. I also served in the Olympics, balanced a budget there. And — and served in the states. And all four years I was governor, we balanced the budget. Here’s what I’d do at the federal level, I would divide all of the programs into three major places for opportunity to reduce costs.

Number one, I’m going to go through every single program and ask if we can afford it. And if not, I’m going to say, is this program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’m going to get rid of it. Number two, I’m going to take programs…[applause]…I’m going to take programs that are important, but that could be better run at the state level and send them back to the states as a block grant and that included Medicaid and — and housing vouchers and food stamps. These programs for the poor, to be run more efficiently and can be run with less fraud and abuse at the state level. And then finally number three, with what’s left of government, I’m going to cut the employment by 10 percent. And I’m going to link the pay of government workers with the pay in the private sector. Government servants shouldn’t get paid more than the people who are paying taxes. [applause]

KING: Senator, the governor singled you out. Take a few seconds. [applause]

SANTORUM: Well, the governor talks about raising the debt ceiling. There was a debt ceiling vote this summer and the governor was asked the question whether he would have voted to raise the debt ceiling ultimately and he said, yes. Because government has to pay their bills. We can’t default ultimately. What happened the — the 12 years I was in the United States Senate, we went from the debt to GDP ratio, which is now over 100 percent. When I came to the Senate it was 68 percent of GDP. When I left the Senate it was 64 percent of GDP.

So government as a size of the economy went down when I was in the United States Senate. Sure I had some votes. Look, I think we’ve all had votes that I look back on I — I wish I wouldn’t have voted — No Child Left Behind, you’re right, it lead to education spending. That’s why I’ve said that we need to cut and eliminate No Child Left Behind and — and education funding from the federal government, move it back to the local level where it belongs where parents and local communities can deal with that.

But if you look at my record on spending, on taking on entitlements, never having voted for an appropriation bill increase. You look at — at my record of never having raised taxes. Governor Romney raised $700 million in taxes and fees in Massachusetts. I never voted to raise taxes. Governor Romney even today suggested raising taxes on the top 1 percent, adopting the Occupy Wall Street rhetoric. I’m not going to adopt that rhetoric. I’m going to represent 100 percent of Americans. We’re not raising taxes on anybody. [applause]

KING: Governor, please quickly I want to bring the congressman and the speaker into the conversation, but respond.

ROMNEY: There were so many misrepresentations there, it’s going to take me a little while. Number one, I said today that we’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent. So that’s number one. Number two, I said yes we should increase the debt ceiling in this last vote, but only if we have a cut, cap and balance provision put in place. Only in that case. And, therefore, I did not agree with the deal that was done in Washington. That was the wrong way to go.

And finally, Senator during your term in Congress, the years you’ve been there, government has doubled in size. You voted to raise the debt ceiling five times without compensating cuts in spending. In my view, we should not raise the debt ceiling again until we get compensating cuts in spending. A cut, cap and balance approach must be taken. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker…[applause]

Mr. Speaker, join the conversation. Address Gilbert’s question and if you so choose, address some criticism you’ve received on this issue from this state’s senior Senator campaigning for governor Romney. He questioned your credentials on fiscal conservatism. He said when you were the speaker, earmarking became an art.

GINGRICH: Well when I was speaker, as I’m sure he remembers, we balanced the budget for four consecutive years, the only time in his lifetime. So I think that’s a good place to start with Gilbert’s question. We’re meeting tonight on the 280th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. You go back and look at the founding fathers, they’d have had very clear messages. Hamilton would have said you have to have jobs and economic growth to get back to a balanced budget. You’re never going to balance the budget on the back of a highly unemployed country. And so I would be committed, first of all, to a program of jobs and economic growth.

Second, the energy issue is enormous. The leading developer of North Dakota oil estimated recently that, if we would open up federal land and open up offshore, you would have $16 trillion to $18 trillion — not billion — trillion dollars in royalties to the federal government in the next generation, an enormous flow which would drive down prices to $2.50 a gallon, would help us balance the budget and would create millions of jobs.

Finally, I agree generally with the need to reform government. I think that, if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws, go to a modern management system, we could save a minimum of $500 billion a year with a better system. And if we then applied the tenth amendment, as Governor Rick Perry has agreed to head up a project on, I think we can return to the states an enormous share of the power that’s currently in Washington, D.C. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, you’ve questioned the conservative — fiscal conservative credentials of all these gentlemen but particularly this week Senator Santorum. You have a new television ad that labels him a fake. Why?

PAUL: Because he’s a fake. [laughter] [applause] [booing] [applause]

SANTORUM: I’m real, John. I’m real.

PAUL: Congratulations.

SANTORUM: Thank you. [laughter]

PAUL: No. I find it really fascinating that, when people are running for office, they’re really fiscally conservative. When they’re in office, they do something different. And then when they explain themselves, they say, “Oh, I want to repeal that.”

So the senator voted for No Child Left Behind, but now — he voted for it, but now he’s running on the effort to get rid of it. So I think the record is so bad, you know, with the politicians.

And, you know, nobody accuses me of not having voted for too much. They’re always accusing me for not voting for enough. And I’ve been running in office, in office off and on for a good many years, and over all those years, I’ve never voted for a budget deficit. I never voted to increase the national debt.

As a matter of fact, there’s only one appropriation bill I voted for, and that was for veterans. I assumed, from the 1970s on, that we were embarking on a very dangerous path, and we’re involved in that danger right now.

So this idea of being fiscally conservative now that we’re running for office and we’re going to repeal something that we did before, I mean, this — it loses credibility is what our problem is. So… [applause] And — and the one thing that I think should annoy all Americans is the voting for foreign aid? I mean, just think there are foreign aid packages that are huge, and when the member votes for it, they don’t say, well, this money is going to A, B, C, because I love that country, but it’s the principle of the way the government works. You vote for foreign aid because, for some weird reason, it’s supposed to be good for America, but then it goes and helps all our enemies. That’s what I disapprove of. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, respond quickly.

SANTORUM: Ron, The Weekly Standard just did a review, looking at the National Taxpayers Union, I think, Citizens Against Government Waste, and they measured me up against the other 50 senators who were serving when I did and they said that I was the most fiscally conservative senator in the Congress in the — in the 12 years that I was there.

My — my ratings with the National Taxpayers Union were As or Bs. They were very high from the Citizens Against Government Waste. I got a hero award.

I was a leader, as you know, on taking on tough issues, which is the entitlement programs, not just welfare reform, but I also worked on Medicare reform and Medicaid reform and also was a leader on trying to deal with Social Security.

And I did that not representing one of the most conservative districts in the state of Texas but in the state of Pennsylvania, with the second largest per capita population of seniors in the country.

And I can tell you those seniors really cared about Social Security. Why? Because all my rich seniors moved to Florida and Arizona. And…[laughter]… and what’s left — what’s left in Pennsylvania is folks who relied on Social Security. And I was out there as a Republican senator, a conservative voting record, over a 90 percent conservative voting record from the American Conservative Union.

By the way, Ron, you ranked 145th in the bottom half of Republicans this year in a conservative voting record from that same organization.

We had a strong record in a tough state to be a conservative. If I can stand up in the state of Pennsylvania, which hasn’t elected a Republican president since 1988, and have a strong principled voting record on issues that were tough in my state, senior issues, imagine now, as president of the United States, with a Tea Party movement and a conservative — a riled-up conservative base, what we can accomplish in Washington, D.C. [applause]

KING: Congressman, quickly.

PAUL: You know, that’s always a cop-out when you compare yourself to the other members of Congress. The American people are sick and tired of the members of Congress. They get about a 9 percent rating. [applause]

But this whole thing about comparison of conservative votes, I think you make a very important point. I don’t rate what, at the top. If it’s spending or on taxes I’m at the very top because I vote for the least amount of spending and the least amount of taxes, which means that some of the conservative ratings — you have to realize sometimes conservatives want to spend money, too.

When it comes to overseas spending, you vote for the foreign aid. Conservatives are quite pleased with spending money overseas. But if you’re a strict fiscal conservative and a constitutionalist you don’t vote for that kind of stuff and so you can’t just go by the ratings.

KING: As you can see, this is a — it’s an important issue to the people in the audience. I think it’s one of the reasons this race has been so volatile. Voters are looking and they say which of these candidates can I trust? And each of you are trying to make your case to them.

As you try to do so, Governor Romney, you said recently that as governor you’re a severely conservative governor of Massachusetts. What did you mean by that?

ROMNEY: Well, severe, strict. I was, without question, a conservative governor in my state. We balanced the budget all four years I was in office. We cut taxes 19 times.

I enabled our state police to enforce illegal immigration laws so that people could be taken out of our state that were illegally. We drove our schools to have —[applause]— campaigned for and fought for English immersion in our school, and had that successfully implemented. My policies in Massachusetts were to — were conservative, and in a state, as Rick indicated, a state that was a relatively liberal state, I stood up and said I would stand on the side of life when the legislature passed a bill saying that life would not be defined not at conception but later.

I said no. When there was an effort to put in place embryo farming and cloning, I vetoed that. When the Catholic Church was attacked, saying, look we’re not going to allow you to continue to place children in homes where there’s a preference for a man and a woman being the mom and dad, I worked with the Catholic Church to put legislation in place to protect their right to exercise their religious conscience.

I have through my record as a governor demonstrated that kind of conservative belief. But also, look a step back and look at my record running the Olympics. Balanced the budget there, made it successful with the help of a terrific team.

Then look back into the business. You can’t be, I don’t believe, anything but a fiscal conservative and run a business, because if you don’t balance your budget, you go out of business.

KING: Mr. Speaker, as you know, often when deficit reduction —[applause]— when deficit reduction and economic growth are priorities at the same time, some people see a collision. Some people see a conflict. You’ve outlined your views on taxes. Governor Romney today outlined a tax plan that would cut the — put the top rate at 28 percent, eliminate capital gain taxes for incomes below $200,000, cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

Is that the right approach? And is it consistent — and it’s a tough one sometimes — with spurring economic growth at a time this state and other states are looking for jobs? But as you have Gilbert’s question, also looking to make sure the next president works on the deficit?

GINGRICH: Well, look, first of all, I think that Governor Romney today moved in the right direction, and I think that that’s a serious step towards trying to find — closer to supply side. I wouldn’t agree with him on capping capital gains cuts at $200,000, because I think that’s, frankly, economically destructive, and I don’t believe in class warfare.

And that’s a number below Obama’s class warfare number. So we can argue later about capital gains cuts.

But I think there’s a different question. Everybody talks about managing the current government. The current government is a disaster. I mean, we don’t — you know —[applause]— this is — it is — the reason I started with the idea that came out of Strong America Now to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws and go to a modern management system, is you change everything.

And the fact is, if we’re serious — and, in a funny kind of way, Ron and I are closer on the scale of change. We’d approach it slightly different, but I think you’ve got to start and say what would a modern system be like?

And a modern system would be — just take control of the border. It is utterly stupid to say that the United States government can’t control the border. It’s a failure of will, it’s a failure of enforcement. [applause]

So let me just take that one example. Let’s assume you could, tomorrow morning, have a president who wanted to work with your governor, that instead of suing Arizona, helped Arizona, who actually worked with Arizona. Now —[applause]— what’s the fiscal reality three years from now in your emergency rooms, in your schools, in your prisons, of controlling the border? It’s a lot less expensive. You just took a major step towards a less expensive future. So I think it is possible to modernize the federal government and cut taxes and develop energy simultaneously. And the three lead you to Gilbert’s concern. Let’s get back to a balanced budget. [applause]

KING: The Speaker raises an important point about looking forward, and I hope we spend most of the night doing that. But as you know, there’s a lot of anger in the base of the party about some of the things that have happened in the past, and the Tea Party, especially.

Now, earmarks, the pork barrel spending, it’s a tiny slice of the budget. I think we all know that. But if you talk to a Tea Party activist, they think — an example, a gateway to corruption.

Senator, you have said there are good earmarks and bad earmarks. And you have talked about your earmarks in the past. Any that you specifically regret? And why have you criticized — why do you think the money that went to Governor Romney for security at the Olympics, why was that a bad earmark?

SANTORUM: I didn’t suggest it was a bad earmark. I voted for it and about half the money — a little over half the money that went to the Salt Lake games.

But Governor Romney asked for that earmark. That’s really the point here. He’s out there on television ads right now, unfortunately, attacking me for saying that I’m this great earmarker, when he not only asked for earmarks for the Salt Lake Olympics in the order of tens of millions of dollars, sought those earmarks and used them, and he did as the governor of Massachusetts, $300 million or $400 million. He said, I would be foolish if I didn’t go out and try to get federal dollars.

So the idea that somehow earmarks during the time that I was in Congress were this thing that drove up spending in Washington, D.C., if you actually look at it, as I said before, as a percentage of GDP, actually the deficits — the debt went down. What happened is there was abuse.

When abuse happened, I said we should stop the earmarking process. But I did say there were good earmarks and bad earmarks.

We wouldn’t have the V-22 Osprey, which was the most essential air platform for our Marines in particular in the war against the radical Islamists. We wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for an earmark. That program would have been killed under George Bush 41. Dick Cheney, the Defense Department, wanted to kill that program, and many of us, including myself, stood up and made sure that was there.

Congress has a role to play when it comes to appropriating money, and sometimes the president and the administration doesn’t get it right. What happened was an abuse of the process.

When that abuse occurred, I stepped forward, as Jim DeMint did, who, by the way, was an earmarker, as almost everybody else in Congress was. Why? Because Congress has a role of allocating resources when they think the administration has it wrong.

I defended that at the time. I’m proud I defended it at the time, because I think they did make mistakes. I do believe there was abuse, and I said we should stop it, and as president I would oppose earmarks.

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: I didn’t follow all of that, but I can tell you this — I would put a ban on earmarks. I think it opens the door to excessive spending, spending on projects that don’t need to be done.

I think there are a lot of projects that have been voted for. You voted to the “Bridge to Nowhere.” I think these earmarks, we’ve had it with them.

SANTORUM: Yes.

ROMNEY: If Congress wants to vote in favor of a bill, they should take that bill, bring it forward with committees, have people say — vote it up or down on the floor of the House or the Senate, have the president say yes or no, and move forward. But the earmark process is broken. There are thousands and thousands of earmarks, money being used inappropriately.

And I’ll tell you this — he mentioned coming to the Olympics, coming to the United States Congress, asking for support. No question about it. That’s the nature of what it is when you lead an organization or a state.

You come to Congress and you say, these are the things we need. In the history of the Olympic movement, the federal government has always provided the transportation and security. So we came to the federal government asking for help on transportation and security.

I was fighting for those things. Our games were successful. But while I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

KING: Quickly. [applause]

SANTORUM: It’s really interesting, Governor, because the process you just described of an open process where members of Congress put forth their suggestions on how to spend money, have them voted on individually, is exactly how the process worked. So what you just suggested as to how earmarks should work in the future is exactly how they worked in the past. So I suspect you would have supported earmarks if you were in the United States Senate.

ROMNEY: I’m sorry. The 6,000 earmarks that were put in place under the Speaker’s term, for instance, were oftentimes tagged on to other bills —[booing]

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be critical.

That was the process. There were thousands — I mean, we’ve had thousands and thousands of earmarks. They are typically tagged on to — bundled on to other bills.

OK. Go ahead, Mr. Speaker. Go ahead.

SANTORUM: Wait a second. You’re entitled to your opinions, Mitt. You’re not entitled to —

ROMNEY: I’ve heard that line before. I’ve heard that before, yes.

SANTORUM: — misrepresent the facts, and you’re misrepresenting the facts. You don’t know what you’re taking about.

What happened in the earmark process — what happens in the earmark process was that members of Congress would ask, formally, publicly request these things, put them on paper, and have them allocated, and have them voted on a committee, have them voted on, on the floor of the Senate.

Congressman Paul — Congressman…

ROMNEY: Attached to a bill? Attached to a bill?

SANTORUM: As part of the bill. Congressman Paul…

ROMNEY: And the president can’t veto it?

SANTORUM: He can veto the bill.

ROMNEY: The whole bill, but he can’t veto the earmark?

SANTORUM: Well, we tried to do that, by the way. I supported a line-item veto.

ROMNEY: That’s what I support. That’s what I support. [applause]

SANTORUM: Hold on. Hold on.

Mitt, I agree with you. I support — I support the line-item veto. I voted for a line-item veto so we could do just that. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court struck it down. I would like to go back, as president, again, and give the president the authority to line-item veto.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is were they transparent? And the bottom line was, when I was in the United States Senate, there was transparency, and Congressman Paul, who is one of the most prolific earmarkers in the Congress today, is — would tell you…

And I’m not — I’m not criticizing; I’m just saying that’s a fact, that…[laughter]… that he — he…[applause] [booing]

ROMNEY: I think you need a chance to say a word. [crosstalk] [laughter]

KING: Mr. Speaker, you were referenced by the governor, you first, then Congressman Paul.

Don’t worry. We’ll get to you, Congressman. I promise. [booing]

GINGRICH: Now, look, let me just say flatly all of you need to think about this because this is one of those easy demagogic fights that gets you into a lot of trouble. If you have Barack Obama as president and you have a Republican House, you may want the House imposing certain things on the president.

Now, when I was speaker, for example…[applause]… and we had a liberal Democrat in the White House — I actually want to reinforce what the governor said. I helped the Atlanta Olympics get the support they needed from the U.S. government to be successful. I thought it was totally appropriate to help the Atlanta Olympics. And I actually went to — to your former governor and sat down with the people originally planning the Winter Olympics and said, look, this is what we did; this is what you need to do.

I think it was totally appropriate for you to ask for what you got. I just think it’s, kind of, silly for you to then turn around and run an ad attacking somebody else for getting what you got and then claiming what you got wasn’t what they got because what you got was right and what they got was wrong. [laughter] [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, answer Senator Santorum, please, sir.

PAUL: I followed that and I…[laughter]

You know, there’s reason for the confusion, because…[laughter]… because it’s all Congress’s fault. They’re all messed up and they don’t know what they’re doing in Congress is the real reason. [applause]

But this whole idea of earmarking — earmarking is designating how the money’s spent. What a lot of people don’t understand is if — if the Congress doesn’t say the way the money should be spent, it goes to the executive branch, and that’s the bad part. If you were actually cutting, it would make a difference. But you don’t want to give more power to the executive branch.

Even if I’m president, I don’t want more power over that — over that funding. That should be with the people and — and with the Congress. But earmarking — the reason we get into trouble is — is the irresponsibility of Congress.

Take your highway funds. We’re supposed to pay a user fee. If we pay our gasoline tax, we should get our fair share back. But what do they do? They take the highway funds and other of these trust funds and they spend this money overseas in these wars that we shouldn’t be fighting. And then when the highways need building, then you have to go and fight the political system and know who to deal with and maneuver and try to get some of your money back.

But if you say you’re against — against the earmarking and fuss and fume over, the answer is vote against the bill. That is what I do. I argue for the case of the responsibility being on the Congress, but it’s the responsibility of us who believe in fiscal conservatism to vote against the bill. We need to vote against the spending is what we need to do. [applause]

KING: Let’s take another important economic question. This one comes to us from CNNPolitics.com, and you can see it in the audience up on the board here.

“Why was George W. Bush wrong in his efforts to save the auto industry and why was Barack Obama wrong to continue the effort?”

Senator Santorum, I want to go to you first with this question. You, like your friends on the stage tonight, opposed the auto bailout. Michigan votes on Tuesday, along with Arizona. We assume folks are watching there tonight. Address your answer to an auto worker who may believe strongly that he or she has that job tonight because of the help — the bailout?

SANTORUM: I would just say to them that I in principle oppose government coming in and bailing out a sector of the economy or an industry with government dollars and — and with government manipulation of that market, which is exactly what happened twice, in 2008 and 2009.

The first time it happened was the Wall Street bailout. On principle, I opposed the Wall Street bailout, even though I understand people — reasonable people could disagree. I felt that having the government come in in such a major way and have a huge influence over the direction of that industry, that that would be damaging to what I believe is the best way to resolve these types of problems, which lets the market work, constructive capitalism, as Governor Romney was talking about in his days at Bain Capital, and destructive capitalism.

And that means pain. I understand that. But it also means limited government and allowing markets to work because we believe they’re more efficient over time. I held the same consistent position when it came to the auto bailouts. I can say that with respect to Governor Romney, that was not the case. He supported the folks on Wall Street and bailed out Wall Street, was all for it. And then when it came to the auto workers, the folks in Detroit, he said, no. That to me is not a consistent, principled position. I had one. I believe in markets, not just when they’re convenient for me.

KING: Governor? [applause]

ROMNEY: Nice — nice try, but now let’s look at the facts. All right, first of all — first of all let’s go back to the auto industry and — and go back to 2000, I think it was 2008, President Bush was still in office and the three chief executive officers of the three major auto companies got in their private planes and flew to Washington and said, please write us a check. I think they wanted $50 billion. And I wrote an Op-Ed in the paper and I said, absolutely not. Do not write a check for $50 billion.

These companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy, just like airlines have, just like other industries have. Go through a managed bankruptcy…[applause]…and — and if they go through that managed bankruptcy and shed the excessive cost that’s been put on them by the UAW and by their own mismanagement, then if they need help coming out of bankruptcy, the government can provided guarantees and get them back on their feet. No way would we allow the auto industry in America to totally implode and disappear. That was my view. Go through bankruptcy. When that happens, then the market can help lift them out. With regards to — to TARP it’s very simple, or — or the Wall Street. Look, I don’t want to save any Wall Street Banks.

I just don’t want [sic] make sure we lose all of our banks. And like — like President Bush at the time, I was concerned that if we didn’t do something, there were some pretty high risks that not just Wall Street banks, but all banks would collapse. And like many other people — many other economists, they were concerned that our entire currency system would go down. My view is this, we have to have industries that get in trouble, go through bankruptcy. Now, Senator you voted in favor of the bail out of the airline industry after 9/11.

I think that was the right thing to do. It was an emergency. You also voted for the bail out of the steel industry. I don’t think I agree with that one, but I do believe that the right course for the auto industry was to go through a managed bankruptcy process and then to get help getting out.

KING: Governor let me ask you…[applause]…you — you mentioned — you mentioned President Bush’s position on the Wall Street bail out. If you talk to people in the Bush administration at the time, they say they would have preferred the structured bankruptcy route that you talked about, but that there was no private capital available. That nobody would give the auto companies money and that their choice they say at the time, was to either give the government money or have them liquidate.

ROMNEY: Yeah, it was really interesting. Because, you know, I wrote my piece and I said look, these companies need to go through managed bankruptcy. And the head of the UAW said, we can’t go through managed bankruptcy. The industry will disappear if that happens. And the politicians, Barack Obama’s people, oh no, we can’t go through managed bankruptcy. Six months they wrote, I think it was $17 billion in checks to the auto companies. Then they finally realized I was right. They finally put them through managed bankruptcy. That was the time they needed the help to get out of managed bankruptcy.

Those monies they put in beforehand were — it was wasted money. And number two, because they put that money in, the president gave the companies to the UAW, they were part of the reason the companies were in trouble. Giving these companies to the UAW was wrong. [applause] [crosstalk]

KING: Mr. Speaker — one second. [applause] [crosstalk] [applause]

SANTORUM: As — as Governor Romney well knows, that the American government shut down the airline industry after 9/11. And the government by it’s action stopped the airline industry from functioning and yes, as a result of government action, which I thought it was appropriate for government since we shut down the industry…[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: I agree with you.

SANTORUM: …after the events of 9/11.

ROMNEY: I agree.

SANTORUM: But government didn’t shut down the banks. They didn’t shut down the financial service industry. So when you compare those, it’s not apples to apples, Mitt and that’s not a fair comparison.

KING: Mr. Speaker, come in on the conversation. It’s a tough one. It’s a tough one. It’s a major American industry, in a time of trouble.

GINGRICH: That’s not a tough…[crosstalk]

KING: That’s not tough, you say.

GINGRICH: It’s not tough. First of all, there’s a huge amount of the American auto industry that was just fine. BMW in South Carolina was terrific. Mercedes in Alabama was doing just fine. Honda in Ohio was just fine. So the — Toyota was just fine. What we have is the United Auto Workers and a management system that had grown very, I think incapable of tough decisions because they were used to selling out to the United Auto Workers. And so they came in and said, oh we can’t change. And this president on behalf of the United Auto Workers said, you’re exactly right.

Now, the fact is, Chrysler is now Fiat. So when we talk about saving the American auto industry, let’s be clear what they were doing. I think that they would have been much better off to have gone through a managed bankruptcy, I agree with Governor Romney. I think it would have happened. I think what would have happened is the UAW would have lost all of their advantages and the result was, what you had I thought was an unprecedented violation of 200 years of bankruptcy law by Barack Obama to pay off the UAW at the expense of every bondholder. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, as you join the conversation, the criticism of President Obama here, but I also want you to address the state’s current Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who supports Mitt Romney, but that’s irrelevant to this point. He says, “The bailout actually was something that really worked.”

Is that Republican governor wrong?

PAUL: Well, you know, it’s interesting when they argue that case.

First, I don’t like the idea that you have good bailouts and bad bailouts. If bailouts are bad, they’re bad, and we shouldn’t be doing it.

But this argument about maybe one that works, you know, well, now that the bankruptcy or the bailing out of GM worked, I said that’s sort of like if a criminal goes out and robs a bank, and he’s successful, therefore you endorse what he did, because he’s successful. But you have to rob people, you have to distort the law.

The government is supposed to protect contracts. They’re not supposed to regulate contracts and they’re not supposed to undermine contracts. And that’s what we’ve been doing. [applause]

In the housing bubble, we undermined contracts. And this is what we’re doing here. So you want to respect the contracts.

A lot of people will accuse me of advocating a free market, that there’s no regulations. Actually, the regulations are tougher, because you have to go through bankruptcy and you have to face up to this.

And it isn’t like General Motors would be destroyed. Newt made that point there, that there were good parts of General Motors. But politicians can’t figure this out. Then they serve the special interests, and then you have labor fighting big business.

I opt for the free market in defense of liberty. That’s what we need in this country. [applause]

KING: All right.

We’re off to a good start, Gentlemen. We’re going to take our first break of the evening.

In a moment, our Republican presidential debate here in Arizona continues. A lot more ground to cover, including two issues that are dominating the discussion here in Arizona in recent days, immigration and faith.

[commercial break]

KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Arts Center and the Arizona Republican Presidential debate. Let’s get right back to questioning the four contenders for the Republican nomination. We take a question now from cnnpolitics.com. You can see it up on the screen here.

Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why? As you can see — it’s a — it’s a very popular question in the audience, as we can see. Look, we’re not going to spend a ton of time on this but it is — please.

GINGRICH: Can I just make a point?

KING: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys are giving you some feedback here, John.

KING: I see that. I see that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they’re making it very clear.

GINGRICH: No, I think — look, I think there’s — I want to make two — I want to make two quick point, John.

The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate. [applause]

KING: Sure is.

GINGRICH: But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. OK? So let’s be clear here. [applause]

If we’re going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion. It is not the Republicans.

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: John, what’s happened — and you recall back in the debate that we had George Stephanopoulos talking out about birth control, we wondered why in the world did contraception — and it’s like, why is he going there? Well, we found out when Barack Obama continued his attack on religious conscience.

I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama. Most recently, of course —[applause]— most recently requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable.

And he retried to retreat from that but he retreated in a way that was not appropriate, because these insurance companies now have to provide these same things and obviously the Catholic Church will end up paying for them.

But don’t forget the decision just before this, where he said the government — not a church, but the government should have the right to determine who a church’s ministers are for the purposes of determining whether they’re exempt from EEOC or from workforce laws or labor laws.

He said the government should make that choice. That went all the way to the Supreme Court. There are a few liberals on the Supreme Court. They voted 9-0 against President Obama. His position —[applause]— his position — his position on religious tolerance, on religious conscience is clear, and it’s one of the reasons the people in this country are saying we want to have a president who will stand up and fight for the rights under our Constitution, our first right, which is for freedom of religion.

KING: So let’s focus the time — let’s focus the time we spend on this on the role of the president and your personal views and question the role of government.

And Senator Santorum, this has come up — yes, it has come up because of the president’s decision in the campaign. It’s also come up because of some of the things you have said on the campaign trail. When you were campaigning in Iowa, you told an evangelical blog, if elected, you will talk about what, quote, “no president has talked about before — the dangers of contraception.” Why?

SANTORUM: What I was talking about is we have a society — Charles Murray just wrote a book about this and it’s on the front page of “The New York Times” two days ago, which is the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock in America, teens who are sexually active.

What we’re seeing is a problem in our culture with respect to children being raised by children, children being raised out of wedlock, and the impact on society economically, the impact on society with respect to drug use and all — a host of other things when children have children.

And so, yes, I was talking about these very serious issues. And, in fact, as I mentioned before, two days ago on the front page of “The New York Times”, they’re talking about the same thing. The bottom line is we have a problem in this country, and the family is fracturing.

Over 40 percent of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it’s so much harder to succeed economically? It’s five times the rate of poverty in single-parent households than it is in two-parent homes. We can have limited government, lower tax — we hear this all the time, cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything’s not going to be fine.

There are bigger problems at stake in America. And someone has got to go out there — I will — and talk about the things.

And you know what? Here’s the difference.

The left gets all upset. “Oh, look at him talking about these things.” You know, here’s the difference between me and the left, and they don’t get this. Just because I’m talking about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it.

That’s what they do. That’s not what we do. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: As an OB doctor, I’ve dealt with birth control pills and contraception for a long time. This is a consequences of the fact the government has control of medical care and medical insurance, and then we fight over how we dictate how this should be distributed, sort of like in schools. Once the government takes over the schools, especially at the federal level, then there’s no right position, and you have to argue which prayer, are you allowed to pray, and you get into all the details.

The problem is the government is getting involved in things they shouldn’t be involved in, especially at the federal level. [applause]

But sort of along the line of the pills creating immorality, I don’t see it that way. I think the immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pills. So you don’t blame the pills.

I think it’s sort of like the argument — conservatives use the argument all the time about guns. Guns don’t kill, criminals kill. [applause]

So, in a way, it’s the morality of society that we have to deal with. The pill is there and, you know, it contributes, maybe, but the pills can’t be blamed for the immorality of our society. [applause]

KING: Governor, please.

ROMNEY: John, you know, I think as Rick has just said, this isn’t an argument about contraceptives, this is a discussion about, are we going to have a nation which preserves the foundation of the nation, which is the family, or are we not? And Rick is absolutely right.

When you have 40 percent of kids being born out of wedlock, and among certain ethnic groups the vast majority being born out of wedlock, you ask yourself, how are we going to have a society in the future? Because these kids are raised in poverty in many cases, they’re in abusive settings. The likelihood of them being able to finish high school or college drops dramatically in single-family homes. And we haven’t been willing to talk about this. And when we have programs that say we’re going to teach abstinence in schools, the liberals go crazy and try and stop us from doing that. We have to have a president who’s willing to say that the best opportunity an individual can give to their unborn child is an opportunity to be born in a home with a mother and a father. And I think —[applause]

KING: It’s an issue on which all of you have criticism on the Obama administration, it’s an issue on which some of you have also criticized each other.

Governor Romney, both Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich have said during your tenure as governor, you required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

And Mr. Speaker, you compared the president to President Obama, saying he infringed on Catholics’ rights.

Governor, did you do that?

ROMNEY: No, absolutely not. Of course not.

There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their report. There was no such requirement.

Likewise, in Massachusetts health care bill, there’s a provision in Massachusetts general laws that says people don’t have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings. Churches also don’t have to provide that to entities which are either the church themselves or entities they control. So we have provisions that make sure that something of that nature does not occur.

That’s why when I worked closely with the leaders of the Catholic Church, I met with the cardinal a number of times, and with his emissaries. We talked about the issues we were concerned about.

We battled, for instance, to help the Catholic Church stay in the adoption business. The amazing thing was that while the Catholic Church was responsible for half the adoptions in my state — half the adoptions — they had to get out of that business because the legislature wouldn’t support me and give them an exemption from having to place children in homes where there was a mom and a dad on a preferential basis.

Absolutely extraordinary. We have to have individuals that will stand up for religious conscience, and I did and I will again as president. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, the reports we got were quite clear that the public health department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a morning-after abortion pill, and that the governor’s office issued explicit instructions saying that they believed it wasn’t possible under Massachusetts law to give them that waiver. Now, that was the newspaper reports that came out. That’s something that both Senator Santorum and I have raised before. But I want to go a step further, because this makes a point that Ron Paul has been making for a generation and that people need to take very seriously.

When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move towards tyranny, because the government has the power of force. [applause]

You inevitably — and I think this is true whether it’s Romneycare or Obamacare or any other government centralized system — you inevitably move towards the coercion of the state and the state saying, “If you don’t do what we, the politicians, have defined, you will be punished either financially or you will be punished in some other way like going to jail.”

And that’s why we are, I think, at an enormous crossroads in this country. And I think the fact is, for almost all of us who have been at this for any length of time, we’re now looking at an abyss that forces you to change what you may once have thought — and I suspect all four of us are much more worried today about the power of the state than we would have been — with the possible exception of Congressman Paul — than we would have been at any point in the last 25 years.

PAUL: John…[applause]

KING: Congressman, please.

PAUL: … have a quick follow-up? [applause]

You know, we talk about the morning-after pill. Actually, the morning-after pill is nothing more than a birth control pill, so if birth control pills are on the market, the morning-after pill — so if you’re going to legalize birth control pills, you really — you can’t separate the two. They’re all basically the same, hormonally.

But once again, the question is, if you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator has, you voted for birth control pills. And you literally, because funds are fungible, you literally vote for abortions because Planned Parenthood gets the money — “Oh, I’ll buy birth control pills,” but then they have the money left over to do the abortion.

So that’s why you have to have a pretty strong resistance of voting for these bunches of bills put together. Planned Parenthood should get nothing, let alone designate how they spend. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum? [applause]

SANTORUM: As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding, but it’s included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including…[booing]… the funding for the National Institutes of Health, the funding for Health and Human Services and a whole bunch of other departments. It’s a multi-billion-dollar bill.

What I did, because Title X was always pushed through, I did something that no one else did. Congressman Paul didn’t. I said, well, if you’re going to have Title X funding, then we’re going to create something called Title XX, which is going to provide funding for abstinence-based programs, so at least we’ll have an opportunity to provide programs that actually work in — in keeping children from being sexually active instead of facilitating children from being sexually active. And I pushed Title XX to — to accomplish that goal.

So while, yes, I — I admit I voted for large appropriation bills and there were things in there I didn’t like, things in there I did, but when it came to this issue, I proactively stepped forward and said that we need to do something at least to counterbalance it, A; B, I would say that I’ve always been very public that, as president of the United States, I will defund Planned Parenthood; I will not sign any appropriation bill that funds Planned Parenthood. [applause] [crosstalk]

KING: Senator [sic], go ahead.

PAUL: John, this demonstrates the problem that I’m talking about. There’s always an excuse to do this. Now…[applause]… Title XX — I don’t know whether you inferred that I would support Title XX for abstinence. No, it would cost money as a program. It’s not a program of the federal government to get involved in our lives this way. If you want laws like that, maybe the state, but…[applause]… the federal government shouldn’t even be having — spending money on abstinence. That’s way too much more. I don’t see that in the Constitution any… [crosstalk]

ROMNEY: Just a — just a brief comment. Senator, I just saw a YouTube clip of you being interviewed where you said that you personally opposed contraceptives but that you — you said that you voted for Title X. You… [crosstalk]

But you used that as an argument, saying this is something I did proactively. You didn’t say this is something I was opposed to; it wasn’t something I would have done. You said this — you said this in a positive light, “I voted for Title X.” [laughter]

SANTORUM: I think it’s — I think I was making it clear that, while I have a personal more objection to it; even though I don’t support it, that I voted for bills that included it. And I made it very clear in subsequent interviews that I don’t — I don’t support that…[booing]… I’ve never supported it, and — and have — and on an individual basis have voted against it. That’s why I proposed Title XX to counterbalance it.

So I — you know, Governor Romney, I can just say that — that, you know, we were talking about this issue before of, you know, religious conscience and protections. But this is — the whole reason this issue is alive is because of the bill that you drafted in Massachusetts, Romneycare, which was the model for Obamacare and the government takeover of health care. [booing]

ROMNEY: Wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second.

SANTORUM: And there was a study…

ROMNEY: Wait a second.

SANTORUM: There was a study that just came out about 10 days ago, two weeks ago, that listed 15 ways in which Romneycare was the model for Obamacare, everything from individual mandates, everything from — from fines. Yours is different. You required businesses over 10 employees; Barack — President Obama’s is over 50 employees.

But there — there’s a — and even the drafter of your bill, when they were working on Obama’s bill, said in fact it was the model. So here we have, as Newt said, the real fundamental issue here is government coercion and government coercion when you give governments the right to be able to take your responsibility to provide for your own health and — and — and care, and give it to the government.

That’s what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts. It would be a very — very, let say it would be a difficult task for someone who had the model for Obama Care, which is the biggest issue in this race of government in control of your lives, to be the nominee of our party. It would take that issue completely off… [crosstalk]

KING: Governor — Governor, take 30 seconds to respond and then I want to move the conversation on.

ROMNEY: Much longer than 30 seconds.

KING: I hope not.

ROMNEY: That’s a — that’s a long — that’s a long — that’s a long answer. First of all, let’s not forget that four years ago, well after Romney Care was put in place, four years ago, you not only endorsed me, you and Laura Ingram, and said and this is the guy who is really conservative and we can trust him. Let’s not forget you said, that number one. [applause]

Number two…[applause]…number two, under the tenth amendment, states have the right to do things that they think are in their best interest. I know you — you agree with that. But let’s — let’s point this out, our bill was 70 pages. His bill is 2700 pages. There’s a lot in that 2,700 pages I don’t agree with and let me tell you, if I’m president of the United States, I will repeal Obama Care for a lot of reasons. One, I don’t want to spend another trillion dollars. We don’t have that kind of money, it’s the wrong way to go. Number two, I don’t believe the federal government should cut Medicare by some $500 billion.

Number three, I don’t think the federal government should raise taxes by $500 billion and, therefore, I will repeat Obama Care. And let me — let me — let me mention one more — the reason we have Obama Care — the reason we have Obama Care is because the Senator you supported over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, the pro- choice Senator of Pennsylvania that you supported and endorsed in a race over Pat Toomey, he voted for Obama Care. If you had not supported him, if we had said, no to Arlen Specter, we would not have Obama Care. So don’t look at me. Take a look in the mirror. [applause]

KING: Senator please, quickly? [applause]

SANTORUM: So, okay Governor, let’s — let’s get this straight. First off number one, you funded Romney Care through federal tax dollars through Medicaid. I know it well, it’s called disproportionate share provider tax. About $400 million that you got from the federal taxpayers to underwrite Romney Care to make sure you didn’t have to raise taxes right away. But of course you had to. Ask your governor, of the $8 billion of tax increases he had to put in place.

Yes governor, you balanced the budget for four years. You have a constitutional requirement to balance the budget for four years. No great shakes. I’m all for — I’d like to see it federally. But don’t go around bragging about something you have to do. Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years, does that make him qualified to be president of the United States? I don’t think so. [applause]

The bottom line is, what you did was you used federal dollars to fund the government takeover of health care in Massachusetts, used it as — and — and Barack Obama…[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: …Arlen Specter.

SANTORUM: Well, I’ll get to that in a minute. [applause] But — and then Barack Obama used it as a model for taking over this health care system in America. Why I supported Arlen Specter, number one because — because Arlen Specter was a — a Senator who was going to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at a time when the most important issue that was coming up in the next session of Congress was two to three Supreme Court nominees that were going to be available. And one, and maybe two of them, or maybe all three were going to be out of the conservative block. And Arlen Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we had a conversation.

He asked me to support him. I said will you support the president’s nominees? We had a 51/49 majority in the Senate. He said I’ll support the president’s nominees as chairman. Every nominee Arlen Specter supported from the time he — he took on Judge Forks and saved Justice Thomas. Every nominee he supported, passed. Why? Because it gave Democrats cover to vote for it and it gave Republican moderates cover to vote for it. [crosstalk]

And just — no because he wouldn’t have been able to give the moderate Republicans and the conservative Democrats the — the leeway to then support that nominee, which is exactly what Arlen Specter did. He defended Roberts, defended Alito. We have a 5/4 majority on the court that struck down that case that you just talked about and is there as a guardian of liberty. And I did the right thing for our country. [crosstalk] [applause]

ROMNEY: …Arlen Specter…[crosstalk] [applause]…supporting Arlen Specter — supporting Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey, that was a — that was a very tortuous route…[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: Just about as tortuous as…[crosstalk]

KING: Let’s move the conversation along — let’s move the conversation along and take a question from a voter down here in our audience. All right, Sir identify yourself and ask your question please?

QUESTION: Gentleman my name is Jerry Lott and I’m from Key Man, Arizona. It seems that Arizona has come under federal attack just for wanting to secure its southern border. What will you and your administrations do to fix the situation? To secure our border and to protect the American people? [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul, I want to go to you first on this one. You’re from a border state. As you answer Gary’s question, a recent federal analysis says the cost of secure fencing, which they have a good deal of the border along this state, would cost about $3 million per mile. Is that a good investment? Money well spent?

PAUL: Probably not, but we can do a better job, and the best way to do it is forget about the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and deal with our borders, put our resources on this border. This is what we need. But we need to change the rules. We reward illegal immigration. They get benefits, Texas hospitals, and, you know, schools are going bankrupt.

The restraints on the states, and Obama’s restraints on the states to deal with it. Why is it if an illegal comes across the border and they go on private property, why isn’t that trespassing? And why don’t you have the right to stop it? So but there should be no mandates from the federal government about what you must do under the 9th and 10th. There would be essentially none.

But the federal government does have a responsibility for these borders. And I just hate to see all these resources — I think that we should have much more immigration service on the border to make it easier — it’s hard to even get to visit this country. We’re losing a lot of visitors and workers that could come to this country because we have an inefficient immigration service.

And then that invites the illegal. We have to deal — we can’t endorse the illegal, but the program today endorses the illegal problems. And a weak economy is always detrimental, too, because of the welfare state. We have welfare at home and some jobs go begging, we have jobs going begging in this country in the midst of the recession, has to do with the economy.

You can’t ignore the economy. But also the welfare state, allowing immigrants to come over and then get the benefits — if you subsidize something, you get more of. So there’s a lot we can do and should do and certainly this president is not doing a very good job. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, the fence has been a point of contention in the race. And one of your high-profile supporters, a gentleman who’s been up here during this campaign, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, is here tonight. He said this: if you build a 30-foot wall from El Paso to Brownsville, the 35-foot ladder business gets really good.

You signed a pledge to construct a double fence. Why is Governor Perry wrong?

GINGRICH: He’s not wrong. They’d have to have two 35-foot ladders because it’s a double fence. [laughter]

Look, the fact is I helped Duncan Hunter pass the first fence bill in San Diego when I was Speaker of the House. San Diego and Tijuana are the most densely populated border. It turned out it worked. It worked dramatically. Duncan and I would be glad to testify. He’s former chairman of the national — of the Defense Committee — how much it worked.

However, it stopped. It stopped in part because there was a wetlands. It turned out none of the illegal immigrants cared about wetlands policy. Then you had to go and build around the wetlands, which we did. The further we have gone with the fence, the fewer the people have broken into California.

Now, the thing that’s fascinating, though, John, is you quoted a government study of how much it would cost. That’s my earlier point. If you modernize the federal government so it’s competent, you could probably do it for 10 percent of the cost of that study.

The fact is —[applause]— what I would do, I would — I have — I have a commitment at newt.org, I would — to finish the job by January 1, 2014, I would initiate a bill that would waive all federal regulations, requirement and studies.

I would ask Governor Brewer here, I would ask Governor Martinez, Governor Brown, and Governor Perry to become the co-leaders in their state. We would apply as many resources as are needed to be done by January 1 of 2014, including, if necessary — there are 23,000 Department of Homeland Security personnel in the D.C. area.

I’m prepared to move up to half of them to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This is a doable thing. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney, the border security is part of the equation, what to do about whether it’s 8 million or 11 million illegal immigrants in the country now is another part of the equation. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s with us tonight from Maricopa County — he’s in the audience — he told me —[applause]— he told me this week here in Mesa — these are his words — “it’s called political garbage, if you will, to not arrest illegals already in this country.”

You’ve talked to the governor about self-deportation, if businesses do their job, asking for the right documents, the people will leave. What about arresting? Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here that says — that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e- verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who’s here legally and who’s not here legally.

And as a result of e-verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn’t doing. [applause]

And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. I’ll also complete the fence. I’ll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers, and to check E- Verify. And if an employer hires someone that has not gone through E- Verify, they’re going to get sanctioned just like they do for not paying their taxes.

You do that, and just as Arizona is finding out, you can stop illegal immigration. It’s time we finally did it. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, we had the conversation about the border and the fence. Governor Romney talks about E-Verify, making sure business is doing their part of the equation.

What about the individual? You said in our last debate employers should be sanctioned, as Governor Romney just said, if they hire illegal immigrants. About a quarter of all workers in private households are undocumented.

What about the homeowner who hires somebody as a household cleaning worker, as a nanny, perhaps? Does that person — if you’re going to be consistent, have enforcement across the board, should that person be sanctioned?

SANTORUM: I’m not going to require homeowners to do E-Verify. I think that’s one step too far. But I think what we need to do is to give law enforcement the opportunity to do what they’re doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government, which is to allow folks to enforce the law here in this country, to allow people who are breaking the law or suspicious of breaking the law to be able to be detained and deported if they’re found here in this country illegally, as well as those who are trying to seek employment.

This is enforcing not just upon the employer, but on those who are here illegally and trying to do things that are against the law, like seeking employment here.

KING: It’s a tough policy question, obviously, and this state has been part of the driving force. It also becomes — especially for four gentlemen who would like to be the next president of the United States, it’s a difficult political question in the sense that the Latino population is the fastest-growing demographic in our country.

And some Republicans — some Republicans — Marco Rubio, for example, the senator from Florida that all of you have complimented, said — could be a leading force in your administration if you’re elected — he said this recently. He says he worries that some of the rhetoric used by Republican politicians on this issue has been harsh, intolerable, inexcusable.

Mr. Speaker, is he right?

GINGRICH: I don’t know who he’s referring to, so I’m not going to comment in general on a statement. Is there somebody somewhere who’s done that? Sure.

Was it also intolerable for President Obama to go to El Paso and make a totally demagogic speech in which he fundamentally — no. [applause]

The great failure here — I voted in 1986 for the bill which was supposed to solve all this, which Ronald Reagan solved — signed. And in Reagan’s diary, he says, I signed this bill because we have to get control of the border and we have to have an employer-sanctioned program with a guest worker program.

Now, all of us who voted for that bill got shortchanged on everything we were supposed to get. President Bush couldn’t get it through. President Obama can’t get it through.

I believe you cannot pass a single large comprehensive bill, the 2,700-page kind of bill you described. I think you’ve got to go one step at a time.

The first step is to control the border. I don’t believe anybody who’s here illegally — and I talked last night, for example, with folks who are of Hispanic background from Nogales who are in the import-export business dealing with Mexico every day. They don’t want a border that’s closed, they want a border that’s controlled, that has easy access for legality and impossible access for illegality. And that’s the model that I think you can talk about in my community of any ethnic background in this country. [applause]

KING: All right, Gentlemen. We’re going to take another quick break.

Our Arizona Republican presidential debate will continue in a moment, but here’s a question. One of these men could be president just 11 months from now. How would they deal with threats from Iran and North Korea? Plus, a great question sent to us at CNNPolitics.com. Define yourself using one word, Gentlemen, and one word only.

Can the candidates keep it that short? Stick around and find out.

[commercial break]

KING: That was a good exercise. Let’s move our conversation now —

UNKNOWN: It is.

KING: Let’s move our conversation now to the important responsibilities one of you gentlemen could have in just 11 months as the commander-in-chief of the United States.

And Governor Romney, I want to ask you first, 11 months from now, if you’re successful, you would be our commander-in-chief. The Pentagon recently announced plans to open up 14,000 new jobs to women, putting them closer and close to the front lines of combat. Senator Santorum says he sees a lot of things wrong with this.

What do you think?

ROMNEY: I would look to the people who are serving in the military to give the best assessment of where women can serve. We’ve had over 100 women lose their lives in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was with Governor Bob McDonnell. His daughter has served as a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He said that she doesn’t get emotional when she faces risk, he’s the one that gets emotional as she faces that kind of risk. And I believe women have the capacity to serve in our military in positions of significance and responsibility, as we do throughout our society. [applause]

I do think that the key decisions that are being made by this administration, by President Obama, however, related to our military are seriously awry. This is a president who is shrinking our Navy, shrinking our Air Force, wants to shrink our active-duty personnel by 50,000 to 100,000, is cutting our military budget by roughly a trillion dollars.

The world is more dangerous. It is not safer.

North Korea is going through transition. The Arab Spring has become the Arab Winter.

Syria is in flux. And, of course, Pakistan, with 100 nuclear weapons or more, represents a potential threat. Northern Mexico is a real danger area.

I mean, looking around the world, you have Hezbollah in Latin America and Mexico. I mean, we face a very dangerous world. The right course is to add ships to our Navy, to modernize and add aircraft to our Air Force, to add 100,000 troops to our active-duty personnel, and to strengthen America’s military. [applause]

KING: I want to get to some of those hotspots Governor Romney just mentioned, but Speaker Gingrich, on the question of a more prominent role for women, good idea or bad idea?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think it’s a misleading question in the modern era. You live in a world of total warfare. Anybody serving our country in uniform virtually anywhere in the world could be in danger at virtually any minute. A truck driver can get blown up by a bomb as readily as the infantrymen.

So I would say that you ought to ask the combat leaders what they think is an appropriate step, as opposed to the social engineers of the Obama administration. [applause]

But everybody needs to understand — and by the way, we live in an age when we have to genuinely worry about nuclear weapons going off in our own cities. So everybody who serves in the fire department, in the police department, not just the first responders, but our National Guard, whoever is going to respond, all of us are more at risk today, men and women, boys and girls, than at any time in the history of this country. And we need to understand that’s the context in which we’re going to have to move forward in understanding the nature of modern combat.

I think this is a very sober period, and I believe this is the most dangerous president on national security grounds in American history. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: The problem is the character of our wars. And I don’t like to think of people in groups. Individuals have rights, not groups. You don’t have women’s rights or men’s rights.

And we still have draft legislation. What I fear is the draft coming back because we’re getting way over-involved. And the draft — we keep registering our 18-year-olds. So when the draft comes, we’re going to be registering young women, and because of this they’re going to be equal.

Now, the wars we fight aren’t defensive wars, they’re offensive wars. We’re involved in way too much.

They’re undeclared, they’re not declared by the Congress, and so we’re in wars that shouldn’t be involved. So I don’t want even the men to be over there. I don’t want women being killed, but I don’t want the men being killed in these wars. [applause]

But because now we have accepted now for 10 years that we’re allowed to start war, we call pre-emptive war, preventive war. Well, that’s an aggressive war.

I believe in the Christian just war theory that you have to morally justify the wars in defense. Now, if we’re defending our country — and we need to defend, believe me — with men and women will be in combat and defending our country, and that’s the way it should be. But when it’s an offensive war, going where we shouldn’t be, that’s quite a bit different. So it’s the foreign policy that needs to be examined.

KING: Senator?

SANTORUM: I actually agree with the comments made by the two gentlemen to my left, that there are different roles of women in combat. They are on the front line right now. Their combat zone is, as Newt said, everywhere, unfortunately, in that environment.

My concern that I expressed, I didn’t say it was wrong. I said I had concerns about certain roles with respect to — and particularly in infantry.

I still have those concerns, but I would defer to at least hearing the recommendations of those involved. But I think we have civilian control of the military, and these are things that should be decided not just by the generals, but we should not have social engineering, as I think we’ve seen from this president. We should have sober minds looking at what is in fact the best proper — proper roles for everybody in combat.

KING: Let’s continue the conversation about the commander in chief question. We have a question from our audience, Sir?

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Ken Taylor from Wickenberg, Arizona and my question to all the candidates is, how do you plan on dealing with the growing nuclear threat in Iran?

KING: It’s a pressing question at the moment. Mr. Speaker, let’s go to you first on this one. I want to ask you in the context of the president’s and this country’s highest ranking military officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey told CNN this last week, quote, “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and would not achieve Israel’s long term objectives.” If you win this election, General Dempsey would still be — would then be your chairman of the joint chiefs.

If the prime minister of Israel called you, said he wanted to go forward and questioned, Sir do you agree — Mr. President do you agree with your chairman of the joint chiefs? Would you say, yes, Mr. Prime Minister, please stand down? Or would you give Israel the green light?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all this is two different questions. General Dempsey went on to say that he thought Iran was a rational actor. I can’t imagine why he would say that. And I just cannot imagine why he would have said it. The fact is, this is a dictator, Ahmadinejad, who has said he doesn’t believe the Holocaust existed. This is a dictator who said he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. This is a dictator who said he wants to drive the United States out of the Middle East. I’m inclined to believe dictators. Now I — I think that it’s dangerous not to. [applause]

If — if an Israeli prime minister, haunted by the history of the Holocaust, recognizing that three nuclear weapons is a holocaust in Israel, if an Israeli prime minister calls me and says, I believe in the defense of my country. This goes back to a point that Congressman Paul raised that we probably disagree on. I do believe there are moments when you preempt. If you think a madman is about to have nuclear weapons and you think that madman is going to use those nuclear weapons, then you have an absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons. [applause]

KING: But often…[applause] The American people often don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world until they have to, but this is an issue, this confrontation with Iran that is partly responsible for what we have seen daily at the gas pump. Prices going up and going up and going up. So I want — Governor Romney come into the conversation, we’ll continue it with everyone at the table. As we have this showdown, confrontation, call it what you will with Iran. Should our leadership, including the current president of the United States and the four gentleman here with me tonight, be prepared to look the American people in the eye and say — and I want to hear everybody’s plans, over the long run I think I can bring down the price of gasoline, or I can’t if that’s your plan.

But at the moment, we need to have a conversation about how as long as this continues, the prices are likely to keep going up.

ROMNEY: Look, the — the price of gasoline pales in comparison to the idea of Ahmadinejad with nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah and Hamas and that they can bring into Latin America and potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here. I mean — or — or more sophisticated bombs here, this — we simply cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry. And — and — and this president has a lot of failures. It’s hard — it’s hard to think of — economically his failures, his — his policies in a whole host of areas have been troubling.

But nothing in my view is as serious a failure as his failure to deal with Iran appropriately. This president — this president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not. He decided to give Russia — he decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective, removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe and got nothing in return. He could have gotten crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not. When dissident voices took to the street in Iran to protest a stolen election there, instead of standing with them, he bowed to the election. This is a president…[applause]…who has made it clear through his administration in almost every communication we’ve had so far, that he does not want Israel to take action. That he opposes military action. This is a president who should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They’re not just on the table. They are in our hand. We must now allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If they do, the world changes. America will be at risk. And some day, nuclear weaponry will be used. If I am president, that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama, it will happen. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum, please? [applause]

SANTORUM: I agree with Governor Romney’s comment. I think they are absolutely right on and well spoken.

I would say that if you’re looking for a president to be elected in this country that will send that very clear message to Iran as to the seriousness of the American public to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon, there would be no better candidate than me because I have been on the trail of Iran and trying to advocate for stopping them getting a nuclear weapon for about eight years now.

I was the author of a bill back in 2008 that talked about sanctions on a nuclear program that our intelligence community said didn’t exist and had the President of the United States, president bush oppose me for two years.

And, by the way, so did Joe Biden on the floor of the Senate, and Barack Obama. I always say if you want to know what foreign policy position to take, find out what Joe Biden’s position is and take the opposite opinion and you’ll be right 100 percent of the time.

But they opposed me. He actively opposed me. We did pass that bill eventually at the end of 2006, and it was to fund the pro- democracy movement, $100 million a year. Here’s what I said — we need to get this — these pro-American Iranians who are there, who want freedom, want democracy, and want somebody to help them and support them.

Well, we put — we put some money out there and guess what? Barack Obama cut it when he came into office. And when the Green Revolution rose, the pro-democracy prose, we had nothing. We had no connection, no correlation and we did absolutely nothing to help them.

In the meantime, when the radicals in Egypt and the radicals in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood, when they rise against either a feckless leader or a friend of ours in Egypt, the president is more than happy to help them out.

When they’re going up against a dangerous theocratic regime that wants to wipe out the state of Israel, that wants to dominate the radical Islamic world and take on the great Satan, the United States, we do nothing. That is a president that must go. And you want a leader who will take them on? I’ll do that.

KING: Congressman Paul, all three of your rivals here make a passionate case that — all three of them make a passionate case that this is a vital U.S. national security interest. But you disagree.

PAUL: I disagree because we don’t know if they have a weapon. As a matter of fact, there’s no evidence that they have it. There is no evidence.

Israel claims they do not have it and our government doesn’t. I don’t want them to get a weapon. But I think what we’re doing is encouraging them to have a weapon because they feel threatened. If you look at a map of — if you look at a map of Iran, we have 45 bases around their country, plus our submarines.

The Iranians can’t possibly attack anybody. And we’re worrying about the possibility of one nuclear weapon. Now, just think about the Cold War. The Soviets had 30,000 of them. And we talked to them. The Soviets killed 100 million people and the Chinese, and we worked our way out of it.

And if you want to worry about nuclear weapons, worry about the nuclear weapons that were left over from the Soviet Union. They’re still floating around. They don’t have them all detailed. So we’re ready to go to war. I say going to war rapidly like this is risky and it’s reckless.

Now, if they are so determined to go to war, the only thing I plead with you for, if this is the case, is do it properly. Ask the people and ask the Congress for a declaration of war. This is war and people are going to die. And you have got to get a declaration of war.

And just to go and start fighting — but the sanctions are already backfiring. And all that we do is literally doing the opposite. When we’ve been — were attacked, we all came together. When we attacked the — when we — when we put them under attack, they get together and it neutralizes that. They rally around their leaders.

So what we’re doing is literally enhancing their power. Think of the sanctions we dealt with Castro. Fifty years and Castro is still there. It doesn’t work. So I would say a different approach. We need to at least — we talked — we talked to the Soviets during the Cuban crisis. We at least can talk to somebody who does not — we do not have proof that he has a weapon. Why go to war so carelessly?

KING: Let’s stay on this theme. We have a question from cnnpolitics.com, a question — you can see it up on the screen here. In regards to Syria, should the United States intervene and should we arm the rebellion?

Senator Santorum, let me start with you on this one. The American people have watched these videos that started months ago and has accelerated in recent days. What is the role for the United States today?

SANTORUM: Syria is a puppet state of Iran. They are a threat not just to Israel, but they have been a complete destabilizing force within Lebanon, which is another problem for Israel and Hezbollah. They are a country that we can do no worse than the leadership in Syria today, which is not the case, and some of the other countries that we readily got ourselves involved in.

So it’s sort of remarkable to me we would have — here again, it’s — I think it’s the timidness of this president in dealing with the Iranian threat, because Syria and Iran is an axis. And the president — while he couldn’t reach out deliberately to Iran but did reach out immediately to Syria and established an embassy there. And the only reason he removed that embassy was because it was threatened of being — of being overtaken, not because he was objecting to what was going on in Syria.

This president has — has obviously a very big problem in standing up to the Iranians in any form. If this would have been any other country, given what was going on and the mass murders that we’re seeing there, this president would have quickly and — joined the international community, which is calling for his ouster and the stop of this, but he’s not. He’s not. Because he’s afraid to stand up to Iran.

He opposed the sanctions in Iran against the — against the central banks until his own party finally said, “You’re killing us. Please support these sanctions.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president who isn’t going to stop them. He isn’t going to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon. We need a new president or we are going to have a cataclysmic situation with a — a power that is the most prolific proliferator of terror in the world that will be able to do so with impunity because they will have a nuclear weapon to protect — protect them for whatever they do. It has to be stopped, and this president is not in a position to do that.

KING: And the question of Syria…[applause]… Mr. Speaker, then Governor Romney, if you were president today, what would you do differently from this president tomorrow?

GINGRICH: Well, the first thing I’d do, across the board for the entire region, is create a very dramatic American energy policy of opening up federal lands and opening up offshore drilling, replacing the EPA. [applause]

We — the Iranians have been practicing closing the Straits of Hormuz, which has one out of every five barrels of oil in the world going through it. We have enough energy in the United States that we would be the largest producer of oil in the world by the end of this decade. We would be capable of saying to the Middle East, “We frankly don’t care what you do. The Chinese have a big problem because you ain’t going to have any oil.” [applause] But we would not have to be directly engaged. That’s a very different question.

But, first of all, you’ve got to set the stage, I think, here to not be afraid of what might happen in the region.

Second, we clearly should have our allies — this is an old- fashioned word — we have have our allies covertly helping destroy the Assad regime. There are plenty of Arab-speaking groups that would be quite happy. There are lots of weapons available in the Middle East.

And I agree with — with Senator Santorum’s point. This is an administration which, as long as you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe.

You know, the only people you’ve got to worry about is if you’re an American ally. [applause]

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: I agree with both these gentlemen. It’s very interesting that you’re seeing, on the Republican platform, a very strong commitment to say we’re going to say no to Iran. It’s unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

And — and Rick is absolutely right. Syria is their key ally. It’s their only ally in the Arab world. It is also their route to the sea. Syria provides a — a shadow over Lebanon. Syria is providing the armament of Hezbollah in Lebanon that, of course, threatens Israel, our friend and ally.

We have very bad news that’s come from the Middle East over the past several months, a lot of it in part because of the feckless leadership of our president.

But one little piece of good news, and that is the key ally of Iran, Syria, is — has a leader that’s in real trouble. And we ought to grab a hold of that like it’s the best thing we’ve ever seen.

There’s things that are — we’re having a hard time getting our hands around, like, what’s happening in Egypt. But in Syria, with Assad in trouble, we need to communicate to the Alawites, his friends, his ethnic group, to say, look, you have a future if you’ll abandon that guy Assad.

We need to work with — with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to say, you guys provide the kind of weaponry that’s needed to help the rebels inside Syria. This is a critical time for us.

If we can turn Syria and Lebanon away from Iran, we finally have the capacity to get Iran to pull back. And we could, at that point, with crippling sanctions and a very clear statement that military action is an action that will be taken if they pursue nuclear weaponry, that could change the course of world history.

KING: Let’s try to get another question. [applause]

PAUL: John?

KING: Congressman, quickly, please?

PAUL: No, I get a minute to go quickly. [applause]

You know, I — I’ve tried the moral argument. I’ve tried the constitutional argument on these issues. And they don’t — they don’t go so well. But there — there’s an economic argument, as well.

As a matter of fact, Al Qaida has had a plan to bog us down in the Middle East and bankrupt this country. That’s exactly what they’re doing. We’ve spent $4 trillion of debt in the last 10 years being bogged down in the Middle East.

The neoconservatives who now want us to be in Syria, want us to go to Iran, have another war, and we don’t have the money. We’re already — today gasoline hit $6 a gallon in Florida. And we don’t have the money.

So I don’t believe I’m going to get the conversion on the moral and the constitutional arguments in the near future. But I’ll tell you what, I’m going to win this argument for economic reasons. Just remember, when the Soviets left, they left not because we had to fight them. They left because they bankrupted this country and we better wake up, because that is what we’re doing here. We’re destroying our currency and we have a financial crisis on our hands. [applause]

KING: Let’s take another question from our audience, please.

Identify yourself and ask your question.

UNKNOWN: I’m Marsha Crossen from Scottsdale, Arizona.

What is your stand on education reform and the No Child Left Behind Act?

KING: This came up a bit earlier in the debate. Some of you mentioned it in a general way.

Senator Santorum, to you first. Specifically, what do you do about No Child Left Behind today if you’re president?

SANTORUM: Well, you know what? I supported No Child Left Behind. I supported it. It was the principal priority of President Bush to try to take on a failing education system and try to impose some sort of testing regime that would be able to quantify how well we’re doing with respect to education. I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. [booing]

You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something. And in this case, you know, I thought testing was — and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea.

What was a bad idea was all the money that was put out there, and that, in fact, was a huge problem. I admit the mistake and I will not make that mistake again. You have someone who is committed.

Look, I’m a home schooling father of seven. I know the importance of customized education for our children. I know the importance of parental control of education. [applause]

I know the importance of local control of education. And having gone through that experience of the federal government involvement, not only do I believe the federal government should get out of the education business, I think the state government should start to get out of the education business and put it back to the state — to the local and into the community. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney, when you were governor, you had to deal with this law. So weigh in. And as you do, it’s designed, like it or not, to help the public school system, which has struggled. Senator Santorum, just the other day, called public schools in this country factories.

ROMNEY: Well, I’m not going to comment on that unless you’d like to.

With regards to your question, I came into a state where Republicans and Democrats had worked to — before I got there to make some very important changes. They said that they were going to test our kids every year.

They said to graduate from high school, you’re going to have to pass an exam in English and math. I was the first governor that had to enforce that provision.

There were a lot of people that said, oh, no, no, no. Let people graduate even if they can’t pass that exam. I enforced it. We fought it. It was hard to do.

We added more school choice. My legislature tried to say no more charter schools. I vetoed that, we overturned that.

With school choice, testing our kids, giving our best teachers opportunities for advancement, these kinds of principles drove our schools to be pretty successful. As a matter of fact, there are four measures on which the federal government looks at schools state by state, and my state’s number one of all 50 stays in all four of those measures, fourth-and-eighth-graders in English and math. Those principles, testing our kids, excellent curriculum, superb teachers, and school choice, those are the answers to help our schools.

And with regards to No Child Left Behind, the right answer there — President Bush stood up and said, you know what? The teachers unions don’t want school choice, I want school choice to see who’s succeeding and failing.

He was right to fight for that. There are things that should be changed in the law, but we have to stand up to the federal teachers unions and put the kids first and the unions behind. [applause]

KING: Mr. Speaker, on that point, this is a conversation about what is the proper role of the federal government in the education issue? To the point the governor just raised about teachers unions, you have complimented President Obama to a degree on that issue, saying he had some courage to stand up to the teachers union. You went on tour with Al Sharpton and this president’s education secretary in support of the multibillion-dollar Race to the Top program that essentially — I think they used stimulus money for it, but incentives to states, to schools that perform, and that enact reforms.

GINGRICH: What we did is we went around, including Tucson, in this state, and we talked about the importance of charter schools, which was the one area where I thought the president did in fact show some courage, being willing to go into Philadelphia or into Baltimore or in a variety of places and advocate — we were in Montgomery, Alabama, for example — and say charter schools are an important step in the right direction.

There are two things wrong with the president’s approach. And the reason I would, frankly, dramatically shrink the Federal Department of Education down to doing nothing but research, return all the power under the Tenth Amendment back to the states.

And I agree with Rick’s point. I would urge the states, then, to return most of that power back to the local communities, and I’d urge the local communities the turn most of the power back to the parents. And I think the fact is — [applause]

We have bought — we bought over the last 50 years three huge mistakes. We bought the mistake that the teachers unions actually cared about the kids. It’s increasingly clear they care about protecting bad teachers.

And if you look at L.A. Unified, it is almost criminal what we do to the poorest children in America, entrapping them into places. No Nation Left Behind said if a foreign power did this to our children, we’d declare it an act of war because they’re doing so much damage. The second thing we bought into was the — the whole school of education theory that you don’t have to learn, you have to learn about how you would learn.

So when you finish learning about how you would learn, you have self esteem because you’re told you have self esteem, even if you can’t read the words self esteem. And the…[applause]…and the third thing we bought, which Rick eluded to, which is really important. We bought this notion that you could have Carnegie units and you could have state standards and you could have a curriculum everybody — every child is unique. Every teach is unique. Teaching is a missionary vocation. When you bureaucratize it, you kill it. We need a fundamental re-thinking from the ground up. [applause]

KING: Congressman Paul? [applause]

PAUL: Newt — Newt’s going in the right direction, but not far enough. [laughter]

The Constitution is very, very clear. There is no authority for the federal government to be involved in education. [applause]

There’s no — no prohibition in the Constitution for the states to be involved in education. That’s not a bad position and we can sort things out. But once — once again the Senators for — was for No Child Left Behind, but now he’s running for president, now he’s running to repeal No Child Left Behind once again. But — and he calls it a team sport. He has to go along to get along and that’s the way the team plays. But that’s what the problem is with Washington. That’s what’s been going on for so long. [applause]

So, I don’t accept that form of government. I understand it. That is the way it works. You were with the majority. You were the Whip and you organized and got these votes all passed. But I think the obligation of all of us should be the oath of office. We should take — and it shouldn’t be the oath to the party. I’m sorry about that, but it isn’t the oath to the party, it’s the oath to our office. [applause]

To obey the law and the law is the Constitution. [applause]

KING: Gentleman, thank you. One more break. When we come back, the final question of what could be the final Republican debate.

[commercial break]

KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Art Center, our Arizona Republican presidential debate, the four contenders on stage tonight.

Gentlemen, our time is short, so one last question.

Nine states have voted so far. We talked a bit earlier about the volatility in the race. The people of Arizona vote Tuesday. Michigan, on Tuesday. Wyoming and Washington State, then Super Tuesday, beyond that. Fourteen states over the next 10 days or so.

Republican voters are clearly having a hard time.

I want to close with this question: Help the voters who still have questions about you. What is the biggest misconception about you in the public debate right now?

Congressman Paul, we’ll start with you, sir.

PAUL: I would say the perpetuation of the myth by the media that I can’t win. [applause]

And the total ignoring some statistics that show it to be the opposite. Just recently, there was a poll in Iowa, and it matched all the four of us up against Obama. And guess what? I did the very best. [applause]

So I would say that is been the biggest myth. But let me tell you, though, public perception is one thing, but when you go around and talk to the American people and we have our rallies, that misconception isn’t there. And I think that’s the biggest misconception that I have to deal with.

KING: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: I think that the fact is that the American public are really desperate to find somebody who can solve real problems. I think that’s why it’s been going up and down and why you have got all sorts of different folks as front-runners.

And all I can say is that my background of having actually worked with President Reagan, then having been Speaker, if there was one thing I wish the American people could know about me, it would be the amount of work it took to get to welfare reform, a balanced budget, a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, and that you’ve got to have somebody who can actually get it done in Washington, not just describe it on the campaign trail. [applause]

KING: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: We’ve got to restore America’s promise in this country where people know that with hard work and education, that they’re going to be secure and prosperous and that their kids will have a brighter future than they’ve had. For that to happen, we’re going to have to have dramatic fundamental change in Washington, D.C., we’re going to have to create more jobs, have less debt, and shrink the size of the government.

I’m the only person in this race —

KING: Is there a misconception about you? The question is a misconception.

ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions want, I get to give the answers I want. Fair enough? [applause]

And I believe that there’s a whole question about, what do we need as the person that should be president? What is their position on this issue? Who can be the toughest going after Obama?

What we really need, in my opinion, is to say who can lead the country through the kind of fundamental change we have in front of us? And we have people here who all different backgrounds.

I spent 25 years in the private sector. I worked in business. I worked in helping turn around the Olympics. I worked in helping lead a state.

I believe that kind of background and skill is what is essential to restore the American promise. If people think there’s something else in my background that that is more important, they don’t want to vote for me, that’s their right, but I believe I have the passion, the commitment and the skill to turn America around, and I believe that’s what’s needed. [applause]

KING: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I think the thing I hear I have heard from the very beginning, can you defeat Barack Obama? And if you want to look at the people on the stage, we’re going to be running against the president who is going to have the national media behind him, he’s going to have more money, a lot more money, because he isn’t having to spend a penny in the primary. So he’s going to outspend whoever it is. He’s going to have the national media on his side.

Maybe you want a candidate who is not going to be able to win an election by beating the tar out of his opponent, spending four or five to one in order to win an election in a state, but actually can run a campaign based on issues and ideas and a vision that’s positive for America, to be able to be outspent and yet cut through because you have a strong vision, you have principles and convictions that is going to convince the American public that you’re on their side in making a big difference in our country and keeping us safe and prosperous.

So we’re looking for someone — I think people, they’re looking for someone who can do a lot with a little — run a campaign on a shoestring and win a bunch of states and rise in the polls. You’re looking for someone who can take what’s going on in Washington and look at what went on in my campaign and see someone who can do a lot with a little.

That’s what we need in Washington, not just after the election, but we’re going to need to have that before the election, and I’m the best person, from a state which is a key swing state, from a region of the country which is going to decide this election, right across the Rust Belt of America. We’ve got the programs; we’ve got the plan, and we can win and defeat Barack Obama and govern this country conservatively. [applause]

KING: Gentlemen, I want to thank you. I want to thank all of our candidates tonight. We also want to thank our partner tonight, the Republican Party of Arizona, and we’d like to thank our hosts here at the Mesa Arts Center, a beautiful venue here.

January 26, 2012: CNN / Republican Party of Florida Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Jacksonville, Florida January 26, 2012

PARTICIPANTS:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATOR:
Wolf Blitzer (CNN)

BLITZER: Candidates, please take your podiums while I tell you more about how this debate will work tonight.

I’ll be the moderator. And as I mentioned, our partners from the Republican Party of Florida and the Hispanic Leadership Network will also ask questions. I’ll follow up and try to guide the discussion.

Candidates, I’ll try to make sure each of you gets your fair share of questions. You’ll have one minute to answer, 30 seconds for follow ups and rebuttals. And I’ll certainly make sure you get time to respond if you’re singled out for criticism.

Now let’s have the candidates introduce themselves to Florida voters.

Please keep it short. Here is an example: I’m Wolf Blitzer and I’m thrilled to be here on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Senator Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: I’m Rick Santorum, and I’m thrilled to be here on the campus of North Florida. [laughter] [applause]

And I’m especially thrilled because I’m here with a North Florida resident who lives right down the beach from Jacksonville, my mom, who is 93 years old, who is with me here tonight. [applause]

I better just stop right there.

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich, from the neighboring state of Georgia. I’m delighted to be in Jacksonville, which will be the site of the next nuclear aircraft carrier battle group. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney, and I’m pleased to be here with my wife and my oldest son Tagg Romney. We’re the parents of five sons, five daughters-in-law, 16 grandkids. And it’s great to be back in Jacksonville.

Thank you. [applause]

PAUL: I’m Ron Paul. I’m a congressman from Texas, 12 terms.

I am the champion of a sound monetary system, a gold standard, as it is under the Constitution, and a foreign policy based on strength which rejects the notion that we should be the policemen of the world and that we should be a nation builder. [applause]

BLITZER: All right. Let’s start with a question from the audience.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello.

Can you tell me what specific actions you’ll take to address the costly consequences of illegal immigration while preserving the rights of those who seek to immigrate legally?

BLITZER: All right.

Senator Santorum, let’s take that question. But also, in the course of that question, express your opinion on what we heard from Governor Romney, that self-deportation, or illegal immigrants leaving the country voluntarily, is a possible solution.

SANTORUM: Well, the possible solution is — I actually agree with Governor Romney. The bottom line is that we need to enforce the laws in this country.

We are a country of laws. People come to this country. My grandfather came to this country because he wanted to come to a country that respected him. And a country that respects you is a country that lives by the laws that they have. And the first act when they come to this country, is to disobey a law, it’s not a particularly welcome way to enter this country. What I’ve said is from the very beginning, that we — we have to have a country that not only do you respect the law when you come here, but you respect the law when you stay here.

And people who have come to this country illegally have broken the law repeatedly. If you’re here, unless you’re here on a trust fund, you’ve been working illegally. You’ve probably stolen someone’s Social Security number, illegally. And so it’s not just one thing that you’ve done wrong, you’ve done a lot of things wrong. And as a result of that, I believe that people should no — should not be able to stay here.

And so I think we need to enforce the law at the border, secure the border. Secondly, we need to have employer enforcement, which means E-verify and then we need to have not only employers sanctioned, but we have to have people who are found who are working here illegally, they need to be deported. That is again the principle of having a rule of law and living by it. I am very much in favor of immigration. I’m not someone — my dad came to this country and I’m someone who believes that — that we need immigration. We are not replacing ourselves.

We have — we need not only immigration for — to keep our population going, but we need immigration because immigrants bring a vitality and a love of this country that is — infuses this country with — with great energy. And so, I support legal immigration, but we need to enforce the law and in fact, if you don’t create an opportunity for people to work, they will leave because they can’t afford to stay here.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, you’ve suggested that self- deportation as advocated by Governor Romney is in your words, “An Obama level fantasy.” Why?

GINGRICH: Well look, I think that first of all, you should control the border, which I have pledged to do by January 1, 2014. You should fix legal immigration in terms of visas so people can come and go easily — more easily than doing it illegally. You should also make deportation easier so when you deport people who shouldn’t be here. The 13 gang members, for example. It should be very quick and very clear.

You should have a guest worker program, probably run by American Express, Visa or MasterCard so they minimize fraud, which the federal government won’t do. And you should have much stronger employer penalties at that point because you can validate it. I actually agree that self-deportation will occur if you’re single. If you’ve only been here a short time. And there are millions of people who faced with that, would go back home, file for a guest worker program and might or might not come back.

The one group I singled out, were people who have been here a very long time who are married, who may well have children and grandchildren. And I would just suggest that grandmothers or grandfathers aren’t likely to self-deport. And then you’ve got a question. I — I offered a proposal, a citizen panel to review whether or not somebody who had been here a very long time, who had family and who had an American family willing to sponsor them, should be allowed to get residency, but not citizenship so that they would be able to stay within the law, but would not have any chance of becoming a citizen, unless they went back home. I don’t think grandmothers and grandfathers will self-deport.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, the few times and I think it was only once, that they experimented with self-deportation, only a handful of individuals voluntarily left. What makes you think that — that program could work?

ROMNEY: Well, you’ve just heard the last two speakers also indicate that they support the concept of self-deportation. It’s very simply this, which is for those who come into the country legally, they would be given an identification card that points out they’re able to work here and then you have an E-verify system that’s effective and efficient so that employers can determine who is legally here and if employers hire someone without a card, or without checking to see if it’s been counterfeited, then those employers would be severely sanctioned.

If you do that, people who have come here illegally won’t be able to find work. And over time, those people would tend to leave the country, or self-deport. I don’t think anyone is interested in going around and rounding up people around the country and deporting 11 million Americans — or, excuse me 11 million illegal immigrants into America. Now, let’s look at — and — and I know people said, but isn’t that unfair to those 11 million that are here and have lived their lives here and perhaps raised children here? But I think it’s important to remember, that there are three groups of people that are of concern to us.

One are those that have come here illegally, 11 million. The second is the group of people who are brought over by coyotes and who are in many cases abused by virtue of coming into this country illegally. And the third, are the four to five million people who are waiting at home in their own nations trying to get here legally. They have family members here asking them to come here. Grandparents and uncles and aunts. Those are the people we have a responsibility for. And the second group as well, those that are abused. We — we’re concerned about them.

Let’s focus our attention on how to make legal immigration work and stop illegal immigration.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Paul — sorry, excuse me, Congressman Paul you’re from Texas. The state with the longest border with Mexico. Is this a viable option, what we just heard?

PAUL: Well, I’d talk about it, but I don’t see it as being very practical. I think it’s a much bigger problem.

You can’t deal with immigration without dealing with the economy. The weaker the economy, the more resentment there is when illegals come in. If you have a healthy, vibrant economy, it’s not a problem; we’re usually looking for workers.

Even under today’s circumstances, a lot of businesses are looking for workers and they don’t have them. They’re not as well-trained here.

But also, the way we’re handling our borders is actually hurting our economy because the businesspeople — you know, visitors have a hard time coming in. I mean, we don’t have a well-managed border. So I think we need more resources and I think most of the other candidates would agree we need more resources. But where are the resources going to come from?

I have a suggestion. I think we spend way too much time worrying about the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Use some of those resources on our own border. [applause]

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, you had an ad, but you pulled it this week, in which you described Governor Romney as the most anti- immigrant candidate. Why did you do that?

GINGRICH: Why did we describe him that way?

Because, in the original conversations about deportation, the position I took, which he attacked pretty ferociously, was that grandmothers and grandfathers aren’t going to be successfully deported. We’re not — we as a nation are not going to walk into some family — and by the way, they’re going to end up in a church, which will declare them a sanctuary. We’re not going to walk in there and grab a grandmother out and then kick them out.

We’re not going — and I think you have to be realistic in your indignation. I want to control the border. I want English to be the official language of government. I want us to have a lot of changes. [applause]

I am prepared to be very tough and very bold, but I’m also prepared to be realistic, because I’ve actually had to pass legislation in Washington and I don’t believe an unrealistic promise is going to get through, but I do believe, if there’s some level of humanity for people who have been here a long time, we can pass legislation that will decisively reduce illegality, decisively control the border and will once again mean the people who are in America are here legally.

BLITZER: I just want to make sure I understand. Is he still the most anti-immigrant candidate?

GINGRICH: I think, of the four of us, yes.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Governor.

ROMNEY: That’s simply unexcusable. That’s inexcusable. And, actually, Senator Marco Rubio came to my defense and said that ad was inexcusable and inflammatory and inappropriate.

Mr. Speaker, I’m not anti-immigrant. My father was born in Mexico. My wife’s father was born in Wales. They came to this country. The idea that I’m anti-immigrant is repulsive.

Don’t use a term like that. You can say we disagree on certain policies, but to say that enforcing the U.S. law to protect our borders, to welcome people here legally, to expand legal immigration, as I have proved, that that’s somehow anti anti-immigrant is simply the kind of over-the-top rhetoric that has characterized American politics too long.

And I’m glad that Marco Rubio called you out on it. I’m glad you withdrew it. I think you should apologize for it, and I think you should recognize that having differences of opinions on issues does not justify labeling people with highly charged epithets.

GINGRICH: I’ll tell you what…[applause]

I’ll give you an opportunity to self-describe. You tell me what language you would use to describe somebody who thinks that deporting a grandmother or a grandfather from their family — just tell me the language. I’m perfectly happy for you to explain what language you’d use.

ROMNEY: Mr. Speaker, I think I described following the law as it exists in this country, which is to say, I’m not going around and rounding people up and deporting them.

What I said was, people who come here legally get a work permit. People who do not come here legally do not get a work permit. Those who don’t get work will tend, over time, to self-deport.

I’m not going to go find grandmothers and take them out of their homes and deport them. Those are your words, not my words. And to use that rhetoric suggests to people that somehow, if you’re not willing to keep people here who violated the law, that you’re anti- immigrant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am pro-immigrant. I want people to come to America with skill and vitality and vibrance. I want them to come legally. There are grandmothers that live on the other side of the border that are waiting to come here legally. I want them to come here, too, not just those that are already here. [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, so we have gone — we’ve gone from your Washington attack when I first proposed this and you said it was outrageous; it would be a magnet to you’re accepting the fact that, you know, a family is going to take care of their grandmother or their grandfather.

The idea that you are going to push them out in some form by simply saying they can’t go get a job — I think the grandmother is still going to be here. All I want to do is to allow the grandmother to be here legally with some rights to have residency but not citizenship, so that he or she can finish their life with dignity within the law. [applause]

ROMNEY: You know, our problem is not 11 million grandmothers. Our problem is — all right. [applause]

Our problem is 11 million people getting jobs that many Americans, legal immigrants, would like to have. It’s school kids in schools that districts are having a hard time paying for. It’s people getting free health care because we are required under the law to provide that health care.

And the real concern is the people who want to come here legally. Let’s let legal immigrants come here. Let’s stop illegal immigration. [applause]

BLITZER: The rhetoric on immigration, Governor, has been intense, as you well know, as all four of you know, and anyone who watches television knows. You had an ad running saying that Speaker Gingrich called Spanish “the language of the ghetto.”

What do you mean by that?

ROMNEY: I haven’t seen the ad, so I’m sorry. I don’t get to see all the TV ads. Did he say that?

BLITZER: Did you say that?

GINGRICH: No. What I said was, we want everybody to learn English because we don’t — and I didn’t use the word “Spanish.” We do not want anyone trapped in a situation where they cannot get a commercial job, they cannot rise, and virtually every parent of every ethnic group — and by the way, they are 94 languages spoken at the Miami-Dade College — 94 languages. And that’s why I think English should be the official language of government, and that’s why I think every young American should learn English.

And my point was, no one should be trapped in a linguistics situation where they can’t go out and get a job and they can’t go out and work. So I would say as much as Governor Romney doesn’t particularly like my use of language, I found his use of language and his deliberate distortion equally offensive. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’d like — I doubt that’s my ad, but we’ll take a look and find out. There are a bunch of ads out there that are being organized by other people.

But I think our position on English in our schools and in our nation is the same, which I believe English should be the official language of the United States, as it is. I also believe that in our schools, we should teach kids in English.

So, when I was governor, I fought for — actually, before I was governor, I fought for, during my election and thereafter, a program to have English immersion in our schools so our kids could learn in English. I think we agree on this, which is, you know what? Kids in this country should learn English so they can have all the jobs and all the opportunity of people who are here.

BLITZER: I want to bring Congressman Paul and Senator Santorum into this. But let’s take this question from Miami.

CNN en Espanol’s Juan Carlos Lopez has a guest there.

LOPEZ: Hola, Wolf.

We’re at the viewing party for the Hispanic Leadership Network, and it really is a party. They are holding their yearly conference, a meeting of Hispanic Republican leaders. And I’m joined by Raquel Rodriguez. She’s an attorney in Miami. She practices business and international law, and she has a question for the candidates.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, good evening.

The U.S. has been largely away in its foreign and trade policy with Latin America. In the meantime, Iran and China have been increasing their influence over an involvement in Latin America through the leftist and left-leaning governments.

What would each of you do as president to more deeply engage in Latin America and, importantly, to support the governments and the political parties that support democracy and free markets?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Well, I think free trade is the answer. Free trade is an answer to a lot of conflicts around the world, so I’m always promoting free trade. And you might add Cuba, too. I think we would be a lot better off with Cuba, trading with Cuba. [applause]

So, I think the more you can do to promote this free trade, the better off we’ll be. But as far as us having an obligation, a military or a financial obligation to go down and dictate to them what government they should have, I don’t like that idea.

I would work with the people and encourage free trade, and try to set a standard here where countries in Central America or South America or any place in the world would want to emulate us and set the standards that we have. Unfortunately, sometimes we slip up on our standards and we go around the world and we try to force ourselves on others.

I don’t think the nations in South America and Central America necessarily want us to come down there and dictate which government they should have. And yet, I believe with friendship and trade, you can have a lot of influence, and I strongly believe that it’s time we have friendship and trade with Cuba. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, are you with Congressman Paul?

SANTORUM: No, I’m not with Congressman Paul and I’m not with Barack Obama on this issue.

Our policy in Central and South America under this administration has been abysmal. The way we have treated, in particular, countries like Honduras, Honduras, which stood up for the rule of law, which threw out a would-be dictator who was using the Chavez playbook from Venezuela in order to try to run for re-election in Honduras, and the United States government, instead of standing behind the — the people in the parliament, the people in the Supreme Court, who tried to enforce the constitution of Honduras — instead of siding with them, the Democrats, President Obama sided with two other people in South America — excuse me — Central America and South America. Chavez and Castro and Obama sided against the people of Honduras.

This is a consistent policy of siding with the leftists, siding with the Marxists, siding with those who don’t support democracy, not standing up for our friends in Colombia, not standing up for our friends who want to engage and support America, who want to be great trading partners and great allies for our country, to be able to form that kind of bond that is so essential in our own hemisphere.

The European Union understood how important it was for diverse people to be able to come together in an economic unit. We only — not only have to come together as an economic unit, but the threat of terrorism, the threat of Iran now in Venezuela and in other places, and Cuba and in Nicaragua, the threat of radical Islam growing in that region — is it important for — it’s absolutely important for us to have a president who understands that threat and understands the solution is closer ties. I will visit that area of the world, repeatedly, to solidify those ties when I become president.

BLITZER: Let me let Congressman Paul…[applause]… quickly respond. [applause]

PAUL: The — the senator mentioned standing up for some of these nations, but he doesn’t define it, but standing up for nations like this usually means that we impose ourselves, go and pick the dictators, undermine certain governments, also sending them a lot of money.

It doesn’t work. Most of the time, this backfires. They resent us. We can achieve what he wants in a much different way than us using the bully attitude that you will do it our way. This is the…[applause]

This is not a benefit to us. And besides, where do you get the troops and where are you going to get the money? Because you’re talking about force. And I — I know of a much better way than using force to get along with people.

SANTORUM: I don’t know where…[applause]

I don’t know what answer Congressman Paul was listening to. He obviously wasn’t listening to my answer. [applause]

What I talked about is building strong economic relationships, strong national security relationships. No one’s talking about force. Nobody’s talking about going into Cuba or going into Venezuela. It’s talking about the other countries in the region, which are being influenced greatly by those countries, that are tending and moving toward those militant socialists, instead of the United States.

Why? Because we’ve ignored them. You’ve got a president of the United States that held a Colombian free trade agreement — Colombia, who’s out there on the front lines, working with us against the narco- terrorists, standing up to Chavez in South America. And what did we do?

For political — domestic political purposes, the president of the United States sided with organized labor and the environmental groups and held Colombia hanging out to dry for three years. We cannot do that to our friends in South America. [applause]

BLITZER: All right, we’re going to — we’re going to come back to this. [applause]

We’re going to come back to Cuba, as well. But stand by for that.

We did double-check, just now, Governor, that ad that we talked about, where I quoted you as saying that Speaker Gingrich called Spanish “the language of the ghetto” — we just double-checked. It was one of your ads. It’s running here in Florida in — on the radio. And at the end you say, “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this ad.”

So it is — it is here. [booing]

ROMNEY: Let me ask — let me ask a question.

Let me ask the speaker a question. Did you say what the ad says or not? I don’t know.

GINGRICH: It’s taken totally out of context.

ROMNEY: Oh, OK, he said it.

GINGRICH: I did not — no. I did not say it about Spanish. I said, in general, about all languages. We are better for children to learn English in general, period. [applause]

ROMNEY: Let’s take a look at what he said. [applause]

BLITZER: All right. We have a very important subject, housing. Not only here in Florida, foreclosures really, really bad, but all over the country. And a lot of people are wondering if the federal government contributed to the housing collapse in recent years.

We got a question that came in to us and — let me put it up there and I’ll read it to you. “How would you phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Does the private mortgage industry need additional regulation?” — that from William Schmidt.

Let me start with Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: Well, I think you know that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were a big part of why we have the housing crisis in the nation that we have. And we’ve had this discussion before.

Speaker Gingrich was hired by Freddie Mac to promote them, to — to influence other people throughout Washington, encouraging them to — not to dismantle these two entities. I think that was an enormous mistake. I think, instead, we should have had a whistle-blower and not horn-tooter.

He should have stood up and said, look, these things are a disaster; this is a crisis. He should have been anxiously telling the American people that these entities were causing a housing bubble that would cause a collapse that we’ve seen here in Florida and around the country. And are they a problem today? Absolutely. They’re offering mortgages, again to people who can’t possibly repay them. We’re creating another housing bubble, which will hurt the American people.

The right course for our — for our housing industry is to get people back to work so they can buy homes again. We have 9.9 percent unemployment in Florida. It’s unthinkable, 18 percent real unemployment here. Get people back to work. We’ll get people into homes. Get the foreclosures out of the system. Let people get into homes, rent properties if necessary and get America’s housing industry growing again.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Let me start by saying, Florida is one of the two or three most hard hit states on foreclosures. How many of you know somebody who has had a house foreclosed? Just raise your hand. Raise your hand. [applause]

Okay. The governor has cheerfully — the governor has cheerfully attacking me inaccurately and he knows it. The contracts we released from Freddie Mac said I would do no consulting, wrote in, no — I mean no lobbying, none. But this is a more interesting story. We began digging in after Monday night because frankly I’d had about enough of this. We discovered to our shock, Governor Romney owns shares of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Governor Romney made a million dollars off of selling some of that. Governor Romney owns share — has an investment in Goldman Sachs, which is today foreclosing on Floridians.

So maybe Governor Romney in the spirit of openness should tell us how much money he’s made off of how many households that have been foreclosed by his investments? And let’s be clear about that. [applause]

ROMNEY: First of all, my investments are not made by me. My investments for the last 10 years have been in a blind trust, managed by a trustee. Secondly, the investments that they’ve made, we’ve learned about this as we made our financial disclosure, have been in mutual funds and bonds. I don’t own stock in either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. There are bonds that the investor has held through mutual funds. And Mr. Speaker, I know that sounds like an enormous revelation, but have you checked your own investments? You also have investments through mutual funds that also invest in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [applause]

Let me — let me — I’ve got more time. Let me — let me — let me just — let me just continue. There’s a big difference between buying like U.S. savings bonds and getting a return. That’s a — that’s not taking money out of the United States, that’s loaning money to the United States. And what my trustee did, is he loaned money to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and — and they got paid interest of course, just like if you buy U.S. savings bonds. But what the speaker did, was to work as a spokesman to promote Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. To protect them from those people that wanted to take them down.

He got paid $1.6 million to do that. He said his first contract indicated there would be no lobbying. But his second contract didn’t have that prescription taken out of it. And so you have to ask yourself why is that? What he was doing was clearly promoting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in this case Freddie Mac to the tune of $1.6 million. That is one of the reasons we’re in the trouble we’re in.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, you’ll notice that the governor wasn’t aware of the ad he was running. He’s not aware of the investments that were being made in his name.

ROMNEY: Of course, I can’t it’s a blind trust.

[crosstalk]

GINGRICH: …compare my investments with his is like comparing a tiny mouse with a giant elephant. The fact — the fact is…[applause]…that there is a very substantial question. You didn’t give any instructions to — to say, gee, let’s not do this or let’s not do that? You’re very quick to draw the widest possible exaggeration. The fact is, the only time I ever spoke to the Congress about this issue was in July of 2008. The New York Times reported it. I told the Republicans in the House, vote no. Do not give them any money. They need to be reformed. And in answer to the question earlier, I would break each of them up into five or six separate units.

And over a five year period, I would wean them from all federal sponsorship because we need to get away from this gigantic systems.

BLITZER: Let me bring Congressman Paul, then Senator Santorum. [applause]

A follow up question to you both specifically. It seems they both acknowledge they both made money from Fannie and Freddie. Should they return that money?

PAUL: That — that subject really doesn’t interest me a whole lot. [applause]

But the question does. The — the question is, what are we going to do about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It should have been auctioned off right after the crash came. It would have been cleansed by now. [applause]

It should have been sold. [applause]

But maybe it’s my physician background, but I think an ounce of prevention is what we ought to talk about so we can quit doing this. But we know how the bubble came about. It was excessive credit, interest rates held too low, too long, the Federal Reserve responsible for that.

Community Reinvestment Act, which is Affirmative Action telling banks they have to make these risky loans. And at the same time, there was a line of credit which allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to, you know, make more money. And it was — it was assumed that they would always be protected.

Now, you can’t argue. I’ve talked a long time about cutting off that credit from the Fed. I was trying to prevent this stuff. [applause]

Also, I opposed the Community Reinvestment Act, as well as I had legislation in 10 years before the bust came to remove that line of credit to the Treasury.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, I would just say, in answer to the question, that as I mentioned last debate, in 2006, I went out and authored a letter with 24 other senators asking for major reform of Freddie and Fannie, warning of a meltdown and a bubble in the housing market. I stood out, I stood tall, and tried to get a reform, and we couldn’t do it. The reform we’d need is to gradually decrease the amount of mortgage that can be financed by Freddie — or underwritten by Freddie and Fannie over time, keep reducing that until we get rid of Fannie and Freddie.

The bigger issue here is, these two gentlemen, who are out distracting from the most important issues we have been playing petty personal politics, can we set aside that Newt was a member of Congress and used the skills that he developed as a member of Congress to go out and advise companies — and that’s not the worst thing in the world — and that Mitt Romney is a wealthy guy because worked hard and he’s going out and working hard? And you guys should that alone and focus on the issues. [applause]

BLITZER: We’re going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to discuss. Coming up, the debate questions go to space, the final frontier.

Stay with us.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: We’re continuing the debate here in Jacksonville, Florida.

Let’s get to the issue of transparency, because voters out there, they want to know as much about you four gentlemen as possible before they vote.

Tax returns — let me bring this to Speaker Gingrich.

Earlier this week, you said Governor Romney, after he released his taxes, you said that you were satisfied with the level of transparency of his personal finances when it comes to this. And I just want to reiterate and ask you, are you satisfied right now with the level of transparency as far as his personal finances?

GINGRICH: Wolf, you and I have a great relationship, it goes back a long way. I’m with him. This is a nonsense question. [applause]

Look, how about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening, we’ll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?

BLITZER: But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that, “He lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts.” I didn’t say that. You did.

GINGRICH: I did. And I’m perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show. But this is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.

BLITZER: But if you make a serious accusation against Governor Romney like that, you need to explain that.

GINGRICH: I simply suggested — [booing]

You want to try again? I mean –

ROMNEY: Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here? [applause]

GINGRICH: OK. All right.

Given that standard, Mitt, I did say I thought it was unusual. And I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account. I’d be glad for you to explain that sort of thing.

ROMNEY: OK. I will. I will. I’ll say it again.

I have a trustee that manages my investments in a blind trust. That was so that I would avoid any conflicts of interest. That trustee indicated last week, when he was asked about this, he said that he wanted to diversify the investments that I had. And for awhile he had money in a Swiss account, reported in the U.S., full taxes paid on it, U.S. taxes.

There’s nothing wrong with that. And I know that there may be some who try to make a deal of that, as you have publicly. But look, I think it’s important for people to make sure that we don’t castigate individuals who have been successful and try and, by innuendo, suggest there’s something wrong with being successful and having investments and having a return on those investments.

Speaker, you’ve indicated that somehow I don’t earn that money. I have earned the money that I have. I didn’t inherit it.

I take risks. I make investments. Those investments lead to jobs being created in America.

I’m proud of being successful. I’m proud of being in the free enterprise system that creates jobs for other people. I’m not going to run from that.

I’m proud of the taxes I pay. My taxes, plus my charitable contributions, this year, 2011, will be about 40 percent.

So, look, let’s put behind this idea of attacking me because of my investments or my money, and let’s get Republicans to say, you know what? What you’ve accomplished in your life shouldn’t be seen as a detriment, it should be seen as an asset to help America. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, I’m ready to move on, if you are.

GINGRICH: What?

BLITZER: I said I’m ready to move on to the next subject if you are.

GINGRICH: I’m happy to. I’m happy to simply say, you know, it would be nice if you had the same standard for other people that you would like applied to you and didn’t enter into personal attacks about personal activities about which you are factually wrong. So I would be glad to have a truce with you, but it’s a two-way truce. [booing] [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m happy on any occasion to describe the things that I believe with regards to the Speaker’s background. We’ll probably get a chance to do that as time goes on.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, explain why you think the money that he made over these many years, recent years, under your tax — hold on. Mr. Speaker, under your tax plan — we’re talking about taxes right now. This is substance. Under your proposed tax plan, he would pay zero taxes. Explain that.

GINGRICH: Well, it would depend on whether the particular kind of payments he made were counted under that plan as capital gains or whether they were counted as regular income. But even as regular income, he would pay about the same. And I’ve said this.

This is where I’m the opposite of Obama. I believe we need to have somebody who fights for hardworking taxpayers.

My interest is in reducing everybody’s tax here to 15 percent, not trying to raise his to the Obama level. So I proposed an alternative flat tax — [applause]

You know, I have proposed an alternative flat tax that people could fill out where you could either keep the current system — this is what they do in Hong Kong — keep the current system with all of its deductions and all its paperwork, or you’d have a single page — I earned this amount, I have this number of dependents, here is 15 percent. My goal is to shrink the government to fit the revenue, not to raise the revenue to catch up with the government.

And I’d be happy…[applause]

Let me just say, I’d — I would be happy to have the Mitt Romney flat tax for every American to pay at that rate, and I haven’t complained about the rate he pays.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, most of the polls, almost all of the polls, want the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes in order to balance the budget. Why are they wrong, in your opinion?

SANTORUM: Because we need to have as much money funneling through this economy as possible. And the people who make those investments are people who have resources and wealth, and we want them to deploy that wealth in the most productive way possible.

And when you increase tax rates and you make things much more expensive to do — in other words, the rate of return is not as profitable, then they tend to do things like investing in — in nontaxable instruments and other things that don’t employ people.

And so what I believe is we need to reduce taxes. I don’t — look, I’m honest. I don’t reduce the higher — top rate as much as these other folks do. I take the Reagan approach. Ronald Reagan had a 28 percent top rate. If it was good enough for Ronald Reagan, it’s good enough for me. And that’s what we put the top rate as. [applause]

And — and we have a bottom rate of 10 percent. I believe in a differential. I don’t believe in a flat tax. I believe in a simplified tax code with five deductions and — and focus on simplify, creating two rates.

I disagree with Newt also on this. I don’t believe in a zero capital gains tax rate. I don’t think you need to get to zero to make sure that there’s an efficient deployment of capital and investment.

I think, if you get to zero, then, in fact, guys like Mitt Romney, who, again, I give him — I wish I made as much money as Mitt Romney, but…[applause]

But — you know, but he wouldn’t probably pay much at all in taxes. And I think that, as long as the tax is not one that deters a proper investment to be able to deploy capital and to get jobs created, then lower rates are better than zero when it comes to the issue of capital gains.

BLITZER: Are you with Ronald Reagan as far as the tax rates, as Senator Santorum has suggested, Congressman Paul?

PAUL: No, he taxed too much. My goal is to get rid of the 16th amendment. And the only way you can do that…[applause]

The only way you can do that is not run a welfare system and a warfare system in policing the world.

But I do want to address this subject about taxing the rich. That is not a solution. But I understand and really empathize with the people who talk about the 99 percent and the 1 percent.

Because there’s a characteristic about what happens when you destroy a currency. There is a transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. And this has been going on for 40 years. So the middle class is shrinking. They are getting poorer and they’re losing their jobs and they’re losing their houses. But Wall Street isn’t getting poorer. And they are the ones who are getting the bailout.

So we have to address the bailout and the system that favors a certain group over another group. If you don’t have sound money and if you have a welfare state, no matter whether the welfare state is designed to help the poor, you know, the welfare system helps the wealthy.

And there has been this transfer of wealth. So, if we could stop all of these transfers to the wealthy class, but the solution isn’t to tax the wealthy. If you give an honest product and customers buy that product, you deserve to keep that money and earn that money. But there’s a big difference between those who earn money and those who rip us off through the government and the monetary system. [applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you’re a physician. You’re 76 years old. You would be the oldest president of the United States if you were elected. Are you prepared to release your medical records so voters out there know what your health is? [laughter]

PAUL: Oh, obviously, because it’s about one page, if even that long. But…[laughter]

But I’m willing to…[applause]

I’m willing to challenge any of these gentlemen up here to a 25- mile bike ride any time of the day in the heat of Texas. [applause]

And, you know — you know, that subject has come up and sometimes in fun but sometimes not in fun. But, you know, there are laws against age discrimination, so if you push this too much, you better be careful. [applause]

BLITZER: I raise the question because you remember, four years ago, the same question came up with John McCain and he released his records, finally. I remember our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent hours reviewing those records.

So let me go down and ask all of you. Are you ready to release your medical records?

ROMNEY: Happy to do so.

GINGRICH: I’m happy to. And I also want to attest I’m confident that Dr. Paul is quite ready to serve if he’s elected. Watching him campaign, he’s in great shape. [laughter] [applause]

BLITZER: All right, we have another question from the audience. I’ll look forward to seeing your medical records. [laughter]

Go ahead.

Let’s take a question right now. Please introduce yourself, as well.

QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Matthew Bathel. My question is, what would your plan be for the future of manned space flight and the future of NASA?

BLITZER: All right, let me go to Governor Romney on this one. An important issue, especially here in Florida where a lot of people have lost their jobs as a result of the decline of the space program. Yesterday Speaker Gingrich outlined a — a pretty long plan on what to do about it and he said that by the end of his second term, if he were elected president, there would be a permanent base on the moon. Good idea?

ROMNEY: That’s an enormous expense. And right now I want to be spending money here. Of course the space coast has been badly hurt and I believe in a very vibrant and strong space program. To define the mission for our space program, I’d like to bring in the — the top professors that relate to space areas and physics, the top people from industry. Because I want to make sure what we’re doing in space translates into commercial products. I want to bring in our top military experts on space needs.

And — and finally of course, the — the people from — the administration if I had an administration. I’d like to come together and talk about different options and the cost. I’d like corporate America as well as the defense network and others that could come together in a — in a part — in, if you will, a partnership basis to create a plan that will keep our space program thriving and growing. I — I believe in a manned space program. I’d like to see whether they believe in the same thing.

I’m not — I’m not looking for a — a colony on the moon. I think the cost of that would be in the hundreds of billions, if not trillions. I’d rather be rebuilding housing here in the U.S.

BLITZER: We have a question. I want to speaker to weigh in as well. [applause]

This question is related from — we got it from Twitter. Speaker Gingrich, how do you plan to create a base on the moon while keeping taxes down in eight years? [laughter]

GINGRICH: I think, look it’s a great question. You start with the question, do you really believe NASA in it’s current form is the most effective way of leveraging investment in space? We now have a bureaucracy sitting there, which has managed to mismanage the program so well that in fact we have no lift vehicle. So you almost have to wonder, what does the Washington office of NASA do? Does it sit around and think space? [laughter]

Does it contemplate that some day we could have a rocket? My point in the speech I made yesterday, which is on CSPAN and I’d love to have all of you look at it. It’s based on having looked at space issues since the late 1950’s when missiles and rockets was a separate magazine. And working with NASA and others. I believe by the use of prizes, by the use of incentives, by opening up the space port so that it’s available on a ready basis for commercial fight, by using commonsense for example the Atlas-V could easily be fixed into a man capable vehicle so you didn’t have to rely on — on a Russian launch or a Chinese launch.

There are many things you can do to leverage accelerating the development of space. Lindbergh flew to Paris for a $25,000.00 prize. If we had a handful of serious prizes, you’d see an extraordinary number of people out there trying to get to the moon first in order to have billed (ph) that. And I’d like to have an American on the moon before the Chinese get there.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum? [applause]

SANTORUM: I — I believe America’s a frontier nation and obviously the frontier that — that we’re talking about is — is the next one, which is space. And that we need to inspire. One of the big problems we have in our country today is that young people are not getting involved in math and science and not dreaming big dreams. So NASA or the space program where space is important, NASA is one component that — our — our space defense is another area. I think both of — both of which are very, very important. I agree that we need to bring good minds in the private sector much more involved in NASA than the government bureaucracy that we have. But let’s just be honest, we run a $1.2 trillion deficit right now. We’re — we’re borrowing 40-cents of every dollar. And to go out there and promise new programs and big ideas, that’s a great thing to maybe get votes, but it’s not a responsible thing when you have to go out and say that we have to start cutting programs, not talking about how to — how to — how to grow them.

We’re going to cut programs. We’re going to spend — under my administration, we’re going to spend less money every year — every year. Year, to year, to year the federal government amount of spending will go down for four years until we get a balanced budget. And you can’t do that by — by — by grand schemes. Whether it’s the space program or frankly whether it’s the Speaker’s Social Security program, which will create a brand-new Social Security entitlement. Those are things that sound good and maybe make big promises to people, but we’ve got to be responsible in the way we allocate our resources.

BLITZER: We’re going to get to that in a moment, but…[applause]

Congressman Paul, Texas, the space program very important there as well. Where do you stand on this?

PAUL: Well, I don’t think we should go to the moon. I think we maybe should send some politicians up there. [applause]

But I went — I went into the Air Force in 1962 and studied aerospace medicine. Actually had a daydream about maybe becoming the first physician to go into space. That — that didn’t occur, but I see space — the amount of money we spend on space, the only part that I would vote for is for national defense purposes. Not to explore the moon and go to Mars. I think that’s fantastic. That’s — I love those ideas. But I also don’t like the idea of building government business partnerships. If we had a healthy economy and had more Bill Gateses and more Warren Buffetts, the money would be there. It should be privatized, and the people who work in the industry, if you had that, there would be jobs in aerospace.

And I just think that we don’t need a bigger, a newer program, when you think of the people — I mean, health care or something else deserves a lot more priority than going to the moon. So, I would be very reluctant, but space technology should be followed up to some degree for national defense purposes, but not just for the fun of it and, you know, for — you know, for scientific –

BLITZER: We’re going to leave this subject, but before we do, I want Speaker Gingrich to clarify what you said yesterday in that major speech you delivered on space. You said that you would support a lunar colony or a lunar base, and that if 13,000 Americans were living there, they would be able to apply for U.S. statehood from the moon.

GINGRICH: I was meeting Rick’s desire for grandiose ideas. But –

BLITZER: That’s a pretty grandiose idea.

GINGRICH: But let me make just two points about this.

It is really important to go back and look at what John F. Kennedy said in May of 1961 when he said, “We will go to the moon in this decade.” No American had orbited the Earth. The technology didn’t exist.

And a generation of young people went into science and engineering and technology, and they were tremendously excited. And they had a future.

I actually agree with Dr. Paul. The program I envision would probably end up being 90 percent private sector, but it would be based on a desire to change the government rules and change the government regulations, to get NASA out of the business of trying to run rockets, and to create a system where it’s easy for private sector people to be engaged.

I want to see us move from one launch occasionally to six or seven launches a day because so many private enterprises walk up and say, we’re prepared to go do it. But I’ll tell you, I do not want to be the country that having gotten to the moon first, turned around and said, it doesn’t really matter, let the Chinese dominate space, what do we care? I think that is a path of national decline, and I am for America being a great country, not a country in decline. [applause]

BLITZER: We’re going to move on, but go ahead, Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, “You’re fired.”

The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea, but it’s not a good idea. And we have seen in politics — we’ve seen politicians — and Newt, you’ve been part of this — go from state to state and promise exactly what that state wants to hear. The Speaker comes here to Florida, wants to spend untold amount of money having a colony on the moon. I know it’s very exciting on the Space Coast.

In South Carolina, it was a new interstate highway, and dredging the port in Charleston. In New Hampshire, it was burying a power line coming in from Canada and building a new VHA hospital in New Hampshire so that people don’t have to go to Boston.

Look, this idea of going state to state and promising what people want to hear, promising billions, hundreds of billions of dollars to make people happy, that’s what got us into the trouble we’re in now. We’ve got to say no to this kind of spending. [applause]

GINGRICH: I want to make two points.

First, I thought we were a country where one of the purposes of candidates going around was to actually learn about the states they campaigned in and actually be responsive to the needs of the states they campaign in. For example, the port of Jacksonville is going to have to be expanded because the Panama Canal is being widened, and I think that’s useful thing for a president to know. I think it’s important for presidents to know about local things.

Second — and at the other end of the state, the Everglades Restoration Project has to be completed, and it’s the federal government which has failed.

But, second, in response to what Rick said, when we balanced the budget with the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, and ultimately had four consecutive balanced budgets, we doubled the size of the National Institutes of Health because we set priorities. It is possible to do the right things in the right order to make this a bigger, richer, more exciting country.

You don’t just have to be cheap everywhere. You can actually have priorities to get things done. [applause]

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to move on.

But go ahead, Ron Paul.

PAUL: I want to make a quick comment, because Newt’s mentioned this quite a few times about balancing the budget for four times. I went back and looked at the record.

The budget was — the national debt during those four years actually went up about a trillion dollars. What he’s talking about is, he doesn’t count the money he takes out of Social Security.

So, Reagan nor you had a truly balanced budget because the national debt goes up, and that’s what we pay the interest on. So I think you’ve stretched that a little bit more than you should have. [applause]

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond. And then Senator Santorum.

GINGRICH: No, I…

BLITZER: You want to respond to Congressman Paul?

GINGRICH: No, I would just say — I would just say, under the system that was used, we were $405 billion [inaudible]…[booing]

I agree with Ron — but let me finish. I actually agree with you, and I propose that we take Social Security off budget so no president can ever again get threaten, as Obama did in August, that he would not send the check out, and you could set Social Security back up as a free-standing trust fund. It does have enough money and you could in fact pay the checks without regard to politics in Washington.

BLITZER: Go ahead, quickly. [applause]

SANTORUM: Well, look, we just listened to the president of the United States the other night completely ignore the biggest problem facing this country when it comes to our financial health. We’ve been downgraded as a — as a — as a country and the president of the United States completely ignored any of the heavy work, the hard work in being honest with the American public about what we have to do to get our fiscal house in order.

And I think that’s the point I would make here. Going around and promising a whole bunch of new ideas and new projects and big ideas — that was fine. And maybe we need it; we can do that. I supported the doubling of the National Institutes of Health. But we didn’t have a $1.2 trillion deficit. We didn’t — we weren’t at over — we are now going to reach $16 trillion, which is more than our whole GDP. We were not in that situation 20, 15 years ago.

We are in a different world. We need leaders who are going to be honest with the people of this country, of the problems we have, and have bold solutions to make that happen. I’ll do that.

BLITZER: Let’s continue on this subject. [applause]

But let’s take a question from the audience.

Go ahead. Stand up and please introduce yourself.

QUESTION: My name is Lynn Frazier and I live here in Jacksonville. And for the Republican presidential candidates, my question is, I’m currently unemployed and I found myself unemployed for the first time in 10 years and unable to afford health care benefits.

What type of hope can you promise me and others in my position? [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s ask Congressman Paul.

PAUL: Well, it’s a tragedy because this is a consequence of the government being involved in medicine since 1965.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have a whole lot, but my dad had a small insurance, but medical care costs weren’t that much. And you should have an opportunity — medical care insurance should be given to you as an individual, so if you’re employed or not employed, you have — you just take care of that and you keep it up. When you lose a job, sometimes you lose your insurance.

But the cost is so high. When you pump money into something, like housing, cost — prices go up. If you pump money into education, the cost of education goes up. When the government gets involved in medicine, you don’t get better care; you get — cost goes up and it distorts the economy and leads to a crisis.

But your medical care should go with you. You should get total deduction on it. It would be so much less expensive. It doesn’t solve every single problem, but you’re — you’re suffering from the consequence of way too much government and the cost going up because government has inflated the cost and we have a government-created recession, and that is a consequence of the business cycle.

BLITZER: Speaker — Speaker Gingrich, what should Lynn do? [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, look, the first — she actually put her finger on two different problems. The largest challenge of this country is to get the economy growing so she can have a job so it’s easy for her to have insurance.

We — we need — and the president did nothing about this the other night. In fact, his proposal on taxes would make the economy worse.

We need to have a program which would start with, frankly, repealing Obamacare, repealing Dodd-Frank, repealing Sarbanes-Oxley. [applause]

And we need to give her a chance at a job.

Second, we need real health reform, not the Obama style, but we need health reform that allows her to buy in. And Dr. Paul is right. She ought to get the same tax break whether she buys personally or whether she buys through a economy.

She should also be able to buy into an association so that she’s buying with lots of other people so it’s not single insurance, which is the most expensive kind.

But you combine those two, reforming the insurance system and getting the economy growing again so people are back at work, you cure an awful lot of America’s problems with those two steps, and you put her back in a position where she’s in charge of her life; she’s not dependent on Barack Obama to take care of her. [applause]

BLITZER: That plan work for you, Governor?

ROMNEY: Actually, what both these gentlemen said is pretty much spot-on. And I’d — and I’ll add a couple of things.

One, I want to underscore something both of them said, and that is, right now in America, if you have insurance, you most likely got it through your employer. And the reason is, your employer gets a deduction for you when they buy the insurance for you.

That means that, if you change jobs, you’ve got to get a new insurance company, most likely. And if you become unemployed, you lose your insurance.

That doesn’t make sense. And if an individual wants to own their own insurance, they’re not part of a big group, and so as a result they get a very high rate.

What we should do is allow individuals to own their own insurance and have the same tax treatment as companies get. You do that and people like this young woman would be able to own her insurance. The rates would be substantial lower for her buying it individually than if she had to buy it individually today.

Secondly, getting people to work. This president has failed the American people.

He got up there and gave a speech last night. It was like Groundhog Day all over again. He said the same things and the same results we’re seeing today. People are not working. [applause]

And we know what it takes to put people back to work. He said some of those things last night — lowering corporate taxes, lowering regulations, opening up all of the above in energy, cracking down on China. He just doesn’t do any of those things, and if I’m president, I will do those things and I’ll get you back to work.

Thank you. [applause]

SANTORUM: All three of these folks sound great and I agree with them. I would just add that health savings account, which I introduced 20 years ago with John Kasich, is really the fundamental reform of getting consumers back involved in the health care system.

The problem with the answers from Congressman Gingrich and Governor Romney is that, well, they didn’t always say what they’re saying. Governor Romney was the author of Romneycare, which is a top- down government-run health care system which, read an article today, has 15 different items directly in common with Obamacare, everything from the increase in the Medicaid program, not just that government is going to mandate you buy something that’s a condition of breathing, mandate that you buy an insurance policy, something that Governor Romney agreed to at the state level, something Congressman Gingrich for 20 years advocated, that the federal government can force each and every person to enter into a private contract. Something that everyone now, at least up on this stage, says is radically unconstitutional, Congressman Gingrich supported for 20 years.

Governor Romney supported it in the state, a state that is a — pretty much a model for what Obamacare is going to look like — the highest health care costs in the country, 27 percent above the average, average waiting time — 94 percent of the people in Massachusetts are now insured, but there was just a survey that came out and said one in four don’t get the care they need because of the high cost. So, you have a card, you’re covered, but you can’t get care.

This is the top-down model that both of these gentlemen say they’re now against, but they’ve been for, and it does not provide the contrast we need with Barack Obama if we’re going to take on that most important issue. We cannot give the issue of health care away in this election. It is too foundational for us to win this election.

BLITZER: A quick rebuttal from Speaker Gingrich and then Governor Romney. [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, in my case, I think Rick is lumping us together rather more than is accurate.

If you go to healthtransformation.net, I founded the Center for Health Transformation. I wrote a book in 2002 called “Saving Lives and Saving Money.” It calls for you and your doctor and your pharmacist and your hospital have a relationship. I believe in something like patient power.

I didn’t advocate federal mandates. I talked about it at a state level, finding a way — which included an escape clause that people didn’t have to buy it — finding a way to try to have people have insurance, particularly for wealthy people who are simply free-riding on local hospitals. But the fact is, it was a personal system, dramatically different than either Romneycare or the version Rick just discussed.

BLITZER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: The system that we put in place in our state was something we worked out with the labor community, the health care community, business, and the citizens of the nation. We came together, it was voted by a 200-person legislature. Only two voted no.

Our system has a lot of flaws, a lot of things I’d do differently. It has a lot of benefits. The people of the state like it by about three to one.

We consider it very different than Obamacare. If I were president, day one I will take action to repeal Obamacare. It’s bad medicine. It’s bad economy. I’ll repeal it. [applause]

And I believe the people — I believe the people of each state should be able to craft programs that they feel are best for their people. I think ours is working pretty well. If I were governor, it would work a heck of a lot better.

BLITZER: All right.

And very quickly, go ahead.

SANTORUM: What Governor Romney just said is that government-run top-down medicine is working pretty well in Massachusetts and he supports it. Now, think about what that means –

ROMNEY: That’s not what I said.

SANTORUM: — going up against Barack Obama, who you are going to claim, well, top-down government-run medicine on the federal level doesn’t work and we should repeal it. And he’s going to say, wait a minute, Governor. You just said that top-down government-run medicine in Massachusetts works well.

Folks, we can’t give this issue away in this election. It is about fundamental freedom. Whether the United States government or even a state government — you have Amendment 1 here offered by Scott Pleitgen, who, by the way, endorsed me today, and it’s going to be on your ballot as to whether there should be a government mandate here in Florida.

According to Governor Romney, that’s OK. If the state does it, that’s OK. If the state wants to enforce it, that’s OK. Those are not the clear contrasts we need if we’re going to defeat Barack Obama and a –

BLITZER: Let’s go to Miami. [applause]

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: Very quickly.

ROMNEY: Rick, I make enough mistakes in what I say, not for you to add more mistakes to what I say. I didn’t say I’m in favor of top- down government-run health care, 92 percent of the people in my state had insurance before our plan went in place. And nothing changes for them. They own the same private insurance they had before.

And for the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There’s no government plan.

And if you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn’t have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility.

Either get the insurance or help pay for your care. And that was the conclusion that we reached.

SANTORUM: Does everybody in Massachusetts have a requirement to buy health care?

ROMNEY: Everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the cost of providing them free care. Because the idea of people getting something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is something that we decided in our state was not a good idea.

SANTORUM: So, in Massachusetts…[applause]

Just so I understand this, in Massachusetts, everybody is mandated as a condition of breathing in Massachusetts, to buy health insurance, and if you don’t, and if you don’t, you have to pay a fine.

What has happened in Massachusetts is that people are now paying the fine because health insurance is so expensive. And you have a pre-existing condition clause in yours, just like Barack Obama.

So what is happening in Massachusetts, the people that Governor Romney said he wanted to go after, the people that were free-riding, free ridership has gone up five-fold in Massachusetts. Five times the rate it was before. Why? Because…

ROMNEY: That’s total, complete…

SANTORUM: I’ll be happy to give you the study. Five times the rate it has gone up. Why? Because people are ready to pay a cheaper fine and then be able to sign up to insurance, which are now guaranteed under “Romney-care,” than pay high cost insurance, which is what has happened as a result of “Romney-care.”

ROMNEY: First of all, it’s not worth getting angry about. Secondly, the…[applause]

Secondly, 98 percent of the people have insurance. And so the idea that more people are free-riding the system is simply impossible. Half of those people got insurance on their own. Others got help in buying the insurance.

Look, I know you don’t like the plan that we had. I don’t like the Obama plan. His plan cuts Medicare by $500 billion. We didn’t, of course, touch anything like that. He raises taxes by $500 billion. We didn’t do that.

He wasn’t interested in the 8 percent of the people that were uninsured. He was concerned about the 100 percent of the people of the country. “Obama-care” takes over health care for the American people.

If I’m president of the United States, I will stop it. And in debating Barack Obama, I will be able to show that I have passion and concern for the people in this country that need health care, like this young woman who asked the question.

But I will be able to point out that what he did was wrong. It was bad medicine, it’s bad for the economy, and I will repeal it. [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s move on, let’s move on.

SANTORUM: Wolf, what Governor Romney said is just factually incorrect. Your mandate is no different than Barack Obama’s mandate. It is the same mandate. He takes over… [applause]

BLITZER: All right. All right.

SANTORUM: You take over 100 percent, just like he takes over 100 percent, requires the mandate. The same fines that you put in place in Massachusetts are fines that he puts in place in the federal level. Same programs.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, who is right?

PAUL: I think they’re all wrong. [laughter] [applause]

I think this — this is a typical result of when you get government involved, because all you are arguing about is which form of government you want. They have way too much confidence in government sorting this out.

So, I would say there’s a much better way. And that is allow the people to make their decisions and not get the government involved. You know, it has only been…[applause]

When I started medicine, there was no Medicare or Medicaid. And nobody was out in the streets without it. Now, now people are suffering, all the complaints going on. So the government isn’t our solution.

So, I’m not too happy with this type of debate, trying to blame one versus the other, so, but — most likely we’re going to continue to have this problem unless we straighten out the economy. And that means…

BLITZER: I’ll give you 30 seconds, Mr. Speaker.

PAUL: … cut the spending. And they talk about these new programs and all, but how many of the other candidates are willing to cut anything? I’m willing to cut $1 trillion out of the first year. [applause]

BLITZER: All right.

GINGRICH: Well, I just want to say that I actually think if you look at what Ron Paul’s background is as a doctor, and you look at medicine in the early ’60s, and you look at how communities solved problems, it was a fundamentally more flexible and less expensive system.

And there’s a lot to be said for rethinking from the ground up, the entire approach to health care.

BLITZER: Let’s go to Miami. We have another question. [applause]

CNN Espanol’s Juan Carlos Lopez is standing by. Go ahead?

LOPEZ: Yes, Wolf, our question now comes from Jennifer Coryn she is a — the Executive Director of the Hispanic Leadership Network, our cosponsor and she is the spouse of a Marine Corps Gunnery Sargent and I believe, Jennifer, your question has to do with the future?

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much and good evening. We have many qualified, Hispanic leaders. Which of our Hispanic leaders would you consider to serve in your cabinet?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM:: Well, I mean I hate to throw one to Florida, but obviously your Senator Marco Rubio is a pretty impressive guy. [applause]

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: I think that there are a number, and I think for example of — of when you think cabinet, I think for example of Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico. You know, at the cabinet level I think of somebody like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I actually thought about Marco Rubio on a slightly more dignified and central role, then being in the cabinet, but that’s another conversation. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor?

ROMNEY: We — we are blessed — we’re blessed to have an enormous number of highly qualified Hispanic-Americans in the Republican Party and leadership right now. Brian Sandoval, the governor of — of Nevada. You mentioned Susana Martinez in New Mexico. I — both of the Diaz-Belart brothers, one retired from Congress, the other currently there. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mel Martinez is back in the private sector. Who knows, he could be pulled back. Of course, Senator Marco Rubio a — a terrific Hispanic- American. I — I’m sure I’m missing many, many others, but we have a — a remarkable — Carlos Gutierrez, formerly secretary of Commerce.

These individuals can for membership in our — in our cabinet, I believe. And — and potentially as the — as the speaker indicates, other positions as well.

PAUL: I — I — I don’t have one particular name that I’m going to bring up, but my litmus test would be to get individuals, Hispanic or otherwise to understand monetary policy and understand the system. But also the Hispanic community is especially attuned to the foreign policy of non-intervention. They — they are more opposed to war than other communities, so I would think there’s plenty in the Hispanic community that could give me good advice and an understanding of why a non-intervention foreign policy is very attractive to the Hispanic people.

BLITZER: All right, gentleman stand by. Much more to discuss. I want to take a short break. We have many more topics to include — including this, we’ll get into this a little bit, what would your wife — why would your wife make the best first lady. I’ll ask these four candidates. Stay with us. [applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: I’m Wolf Blitzer.

We’re here in Jacksonville for CNN’s Florida Republican presidential debate. Many of you are watching online, commenting on Twitter, Facebook, at CNN.com. We have many more questions for the candidates, including one that hits close to home.

Stand by to find out why each man on this stage thinks his wife would be the best first lady.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Want to get right back to the rest of the debate, but first, on a lighter subject, I want to ask each of these gentlemen why they think their wife would make a great first lady.

Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Well, she’s been my wife for 54 years. And we’re going to have an anniversary on February 1st.

BLITZER: Congratulations.

PAUL: So — but she’s the mother of five of our children, and she’s a grandmother of 18 grandchildren, does an excellent job. And she’s also the author of a very famous cookbook, “The Ron Paul Cookbook.”

BLITZER: Governor?

ROMNEY: I’ve got to take a little bit more time, a little more seriousness.

My — nothing wrong with what you said — I’m sorry.

My wife is also a mom, as I pointed out early on, but in some respects, she is a real champion and a fighter. She was diagnosed in 1998 with Multiple Sclerosis, and more recently with breast cancer. She has battled both successfully. And as first lady, she will be able to reach out to people who are also struggling and suffering and will be someone who shows compassion and care.

And she’s also had a passion all of her adult life on helping people in troubled situations, young women in particular, understand the importance of getting married before they have babies and encouraging people to create families to raise kids in. [applause]

GINGRICH: Let me say, first of all, having gotten to know them, I think all three of the wives represented here would be terrific first ladies. Callista and I have gotten to know all three of them, and we think they’d be fabulous people. So I would rather just to talk about why I like Callista, and why I’d like her to be first lady, but she’s not necessarily in any way better. These are wonderful people, and they would be wonderful first ladies.

But Callista brings a couple of things. One is a tremendous artistic focus. She’s done a video in music education, why it really matters. She’s a pianist by background, plays the French horn in a community band, sings in the choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She really cares about the arts and would bring a really strong feeling for music education and for art, and why it matters to people as part of their education.

She’s also very patriotic about American exceptionalism. She’s had a best-selling “New York Times” book, children’s book, and has really reached out to young people to get them to understand America.

And she’s helped produce and host seven movies now, so she would bring an entire, I think, artistic flavor.

But — and I, obviously, would be thrilled to be able to hang out with her at the White House. So it would be good.

BLITZER: And I suspect you would be.

Unfortunately, Senator Santorum, your wife is not here tonight.

SANTORUM: Yeah, she’s not. She’s — she’s doing what she does incredibly well, which is to be a mother to our seven children. And she is — she’s my hero. She’s someone who has been, you know, well- educated. She was a neo-natal intensive care nurse for nine years at one of the most advanced nurseries in the — in the country.

She went on to, because she saw all these ethical challenges there, so she went on and got a law degree so she could — she could deal with those in the — in the legal world.

And then when she got married, she gave that up; she walked away and walked into something that she felt called to do, which was to be a mom and to be a wife.

And we’ve — we’ve had eight children. We are blessed to be raising seven. We’ve been through a lot together, losing a child, having a child with a disability that we have now, our little Bella.

And the — the amount of love for these special kids is just palpable in her.

She wrote a book about our son that we lost called “Letters to Gabriel,” about that ordeal that we went through. That book, that little book has saved countless — I don’t — we know of at least hundreds of lives that were saved because people read that book and realized that the child they we’re carrying had the dignity to be love and nurtured irrespective of what malady may have — may have befallen that baby in the womb. And so many children were born and are alive today because of that book.

She’s also written a book on manners. That’s something that I — I — we have seven children, so we know that kids are not born good. And…[laughter]… and so manners is very important in our house. And she wrote a storybook because there were all sorts of how-to books on manners but there was no storybook, teaching manners through, well, how Christ taught us, through stories. And — and that’s what she did. And that book has hopefully somewhat civilized some children around this country. [laughter]

BLITZER: Very nice.

All right, let’s get back to the debate — the debate now. [applause]

Governor Romney, you criticized Speaker Gingrich for not being as close to Ronald Reagan as he says he was. When you ran for the Senate, you said you were, quote, “You weren’t trying to return to Reagan-Bush.”

So the question is, do you think you can claim the Reagan mantle more than Speaker Gingrich?

ROMNEY: Oh, of course not. No, I — I was — at the time Ronald Reagan was — was president, I was just getting started. I went through school, came out of school, got my first job, worked my way up in a consulting company, and then, after awhile, started a business of my own. I was looking at politics from afar and learning as time went on.

I didn’t get involved in politics early in my life. I instead spent my time building a business. And then later, as my business had been successful and we’d been involved in some turnaround situations, some businesses in trouble that we were able to help — not all worked out as we’d hoped, but a number did — I got asked to go off and help get the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 on track and put aside my business and went — went to Utah. And it was perhaps the greatest professional experience of my life, going there and spending three years helping getting those games on track.

I — I happen to believe the Olympics is one of the great showcases of the — of the human spirit that exists in the media world. And it was very successful. And then — and then, after that, I was asked by some friends to come back and run for governor, did that. And that’s when I became terribly politically involved.

And in that involvement, I learned a lot of lessons. Being governor taught me a lot of things. I became more conservative, by the way, as I was governor, and found the importance of lowering taxes, making it easier for businesses to grow, the importance of driving schools to be the best in the country. Those are the things I did.

And so I’m not suggesting — the speaker was a congressman at the time Ronald Reagan was president, so he — he, of course, was closer to the Ronald Reagan era than I.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, you’ve heard the criticism lately that you weren’t necessarily as close to the president as you suggest?

GINGRICH: Well, it’s increasingly interesting to watch the Romney attack machine coordinate things. And all of a sudden, today, there are like four different articles by four different people that randomly show up.

The fact is, I’m thrilled that Michael Reagan has endorsed me and will be campaigning with me here in Florida. I remember very fondly, in 1995, when we were at the Goldwater Institute and Nancy Reagan said, you know, “Barry gave Ronnie the torch, and now Ronny’s passing the torch to Newt and his team in Congress. So I think it’s reasonable to say, and I think the governor said it fairly, I am vastly closer to Reagan. In that period the governor was an independent business person. In ’92 he was donating to the Democrats for Congress and voted for Paul Tsongas in the Democratic primary. In ’94 running against Teddy Kennedy, he said flatly, I don’t want to go back to the Reagan-Bush era, I was an independent.

So there’s a pretty wide gap. Now, he’s more mature. He’s more conservative, I accept that. I think it’s a good thing. But those of us who were in the trenches fighting in the ’80’s, it would be nice to be recognized for what we actually did and not to have orchestrated attacks to try to distort the history of that period.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, you can respond please. [applause]

ROMNEY: Just a — just a short clarification. I — I’ve never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot. And — and in my state of Massachusetts, you could register as an independent and go vote in which — either primary happens to be very interesting. And any chance I got to vote against Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy, I took. And so I — I’m…[applause]…I have voted — I have always voted for a Republican any time there was a Republican on the ballot. With regards to the Speaker’s involvement in the Reagan years, he can speak for himself. The Reagan Diaries and the other histories that were written at that time can lay that out as well. I — I — I think, I think what he said speaks for itself and I’m proud of the things I was able to accomplish.

BLITZER: Let’s take another question from the audience. Go ahead. Please stand up and give us your name?

QUESTION: Hi, my name is George Miatus, I live here in Jacksonville and when I was 3-years-old I was very blessed that my parents brought me here from Cuba. They brought me here so that I could be raised in freedom and in liberty. President Obama has recently announced that he is liberalizing trade and travel policies. What would be your position as president toward the island of Cuba?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I would oppose it. I’ve been 100 percent in support of the Cuban people and their right to have a free Cuba and the United States should stand on the side of the Cuban people against these despots who are not just reigning terror, continuing reign of terror in Cuba. But now have their — their — their puppet, Chavez in — in Venezuela and Noriega and Morales and it keeps — it keeps like a cancer growing. So the idea that a president of the United States would take the heart of the cancer that is in Central and South America, and begin to reward behavior that has spread this cancer because of our dilly-dallying and our inattentiveness to the problems in Central and South America.

Now, we’re going to reward the secret police. We’re going to [inaudible] president of Venezuela as they are in Cuba. We’re going to reward this type of thuggery, this type of Marxism in our region. We’re going to reward a country that is now working with these other countries to harbor and bring in Iran and the terrorist — the Jihadist’s who want to set up missile sites and to set up training camps. And so we’re going to reward this behavior by opening up and liberalizing. This is the exact wrong message at the exact wrong time.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul…[applause]…you said the U.S. should talk to everyone. Imagine you’re in the Oval Office, you speak to Raul Castro. What would you say to him?

PAUL: Well, I’d ask him what he called about, you know? [laughter]

What was the purpose of his call? No, I would ask him what can — what can we do to improve relations? Because I wouldn’t see them as likely to attack us. When I was drafted in October of ’62, that was a different world. I mean there were nuclear weapons in Cuba. That was a different story. But — but today to — not to talk to them and take the call and see what you can work out, helps — helps Castro. It hurts the people, the dissidents, the people who want to overthrow him have always had to be, you know, nationalistic and unified behind the leader.

So as well intended as these sanctions are, they almost inevitably backfire and they help the dictators and hurt the people. [applause]

So it’s time to change. The Cold — the Cold War — the Cold War is over. They’re not going to invade us and I just think that a better relationship and trade relationship, so many people — I think — I’ve noticed already since I’ve been talking about this issue the last four of five years, I think the people have changed their mind. It’s very — the American people are getting much more open. Not nearly as frightened. And people — I don’t think they see a Jihadist under the bed every night…[laughter]…and we have to worry about that. I think there’s — I — I worry about overreaction, over concern and lack of ability to talk to them when they call you.

BLITZER: I want both of you to weigh in, Governor Romney first?

ROMNEY: Two — two major flaws with President Obama’s foreign policy.

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: Well what about Ron Paul’s policy?

ROMNEY: Well, I’m talking about President Obama right now. We can get back to Ron Paul in a moment. [applause]

First of all, I think the president has largely ignored Latin America, Cuba in particular, Venezuela, and other nations. I think we have to change that dramatically.

I think we have to have economic initiatives to build trade throughout Latin America, particularly with Colombia and Panama, now part of free trade agreements. I want more of that throughout Latin America. But that’s the first flaw, ignoring Latin America.

And number two is reaching out with accommodations to some of the world’s worst actors, whether it was Putin in Russia, giving him what he wanted, or Castro, saying we’re going to let you have remittances coming from the U.S. to fund your future, or relaxed trade restrictions. Throughout the world, with Ahmadinejad opening an open hand, tyrants look for weakness to take advantage. That’s the wrong course.

The right course for Cuba is to continue to honor Helms-Burton. And if I’m president of the United States, I will use every resource we have, short of invasion and military action, Congressman Paul. I’ll use every resource we can to make sure that when Fidel Castro finally leaves this planet, that we are able to help the people of Cuba enjoy freedom.

They want it. It’s a God-given right. And it is our responsibility to help share the gift of freedom with people throughout the world that are seeking it. [applause]

BLITZER: Are you open — Mr. Speaker, are you open to improving relations with Cuba?

GINGRICH: Well, let me start with where the governor correctly pointed out. I was very proud as Speaker to be able to make sure that the Helms-Burton Act passed, and I’m delighted that Congressman Dan Burton is here tonight and is campaigning with me, because it was a very important step towards isolating the Castro regime.

I think it’s amazing that Barack Obama is worried about an Arab Spring, he’s worried about Tunisia, he’s worried about Libya, he’s worried about Egypt, he’s worried about Syria, and he cannot bring himself to look south and imagine a Cuban Spring. And I would argue that we should have, as a stated explicit policy, that we want to facilitate the transition from the dictatorship to freedom. We want to bring together every non-military asset we have, exactly as President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher and Pope John Paul II did in Poland and in Eastern Europe.

They broke up the Soviet empire without a general war by using a wide range of things, one of which is just psychological, saying to the next generation of people in Cuba, the dictatorship is not going to survive. You need to bet to moving to freedom in order to have prosperity in Cuba, and we will help you get to that freedom. [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s take another question from the audience.

Please give us your name and tell us where you are from.

UNKNOWN: Abraham Hassel from Jacksonville, Florida.

How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people? As a Palestinian-American Republican, I’m here to tell you we do exist.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s ask Governor Romney, first of all.

What would you say to Abraham?

ROMNEY: Well, the reason that there’s not peace between the Palestinians and Israel is because there is — in the leadership of the Palestinian people are Hamas and others who think like Hamas, who have as their intent the elimination of Israel. And whether it’s in school books that teach how to kill Jews, or whether it’s in the political discourse that is spoken either from Fatah or from Hamas, there is a belief that the Jewish people do not have a right to have a Jewish state.

There are some people who say, should we have a two-state solution? And the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution. It’s the Palestinians who don’t want a two-state solution. They want to eliminate the state of Israel.

And I believe America must say — and the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say, we stand with our friend Israel. We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel. We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally, Israel.

This president went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements. He said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip. This president threw — [applause]

I think he threw Israel under the bus with regards to defining the ’67 borders as a starting point of negotiations. I think he disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I think he has time and time again shown distance from Israel, and that has created, in my view, a greater sense of aggression on the part of the Palestinians. I will stand with our friend, Israel.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. [applause]

Speaker Gingrich, you got into a little hot water when you said the Palestinians were an invented people.

GINGRICH: It was technically an invention of the late 1970s, and it was clearly so. Prior to that, they were Arabs. Many of them were either Syrian, Lebanese, or Egyptian, or Jordanian.

There are a couple of simple things here. There were 11 rockets fired into Israel in November. Now, imagine in Duvall County that 11 rockets hit from your neighbor. How many of you would be for a peace process and how many of you would say, you know, that looks like an act of war.

You have leadership unequivocally, and Governor Romney is exactly right, the leadership of Hamas says, not a single Jew will remain. We aren’t having a peace negotiation then. This is war by another form.

My goal for the Palestinian people would be to live in peace, to live in prosperity, to have the dignity of a state, to have freedom. and they can achieve it any morning they are prepared to say Israel has a right to exist, we give up the right to return, and we recognize that we’re going to live side-by-side, now let’s work together to create mutual prosperity.

And you could in five years dramatically improve the quality of life of every Palestinian. But the political leadership would never tolerate that. And that’s why we’re in a continuous state of war where Obama undermines the Israelis.

On the first day that I’m president, if I do become president, I will sign an executive order directing the State Department to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to send the signal we’re with Israel. [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s go to Miami. Let’s take another question from Miami. Juan Carlos, go ahead?

LOPEZ: Thank you, Wolf. I’m joined now by Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder. She is the CEO and founder of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce in Florida. She is based out of Tampa.

And I’m pretty sure, Elizabeth, your question has to do with the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

CUEVAS-NEUNDER: [speaking in Spanish]. Good evening. [speaking in Spanish]. I am bilingual, proud of it. My question to the candidates, we have 4 million Puerto Ricans in the United States, voters, 3.8 in Puerto Rico.

We have been treated as second class citizen and just now our governor’s name was not mentioned as a V.P. possibility, a great governor. My question to you is, where do you stand for Puerto Rico to become a state? And secondly, how do you — where do you stand on domestic trade between Florida and Puerto Rico, between Tampa Bay and Ponce ports which have been neglected? Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Santorum, let’s throw that question to you. The question about, do you support Puerto Rico potentially as the 51st state?

SANTORUM: Well, first, I will give a shout-out to Governor Luis Fortuno, who is a good friend of mine, and someone — I know him and his family, we have known each other for many years, we actually used to go to church together.

And so I spoke to Luis this week. And I’ve been to Puerto Rico many times. And actually, when I was a United States senator, we did a lot of work with Puerto Rico. Because of my relationship with many friends down there, I was made aware of problems, for example, in the Medicaid program.

We went down and we actually passed things to help with reimbursement rates, which were deplorably low in Puerto Rico. We also worked on hurricane relief and a whole lost of other things as a result of my relationship with many Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania, and developed those relationships on the island.

I believe that — I believe in self-determination. That, you know, the Puerto Rican people should have the opportunity to be able to be able to speak on this. I have supported that. I don’t take a position one way or the other on statehood, commonwealth, independence, that’s for the people of Puerto Rico to decide.

But I also supported a lot of things to help the Puerto Rican economy. Puerto Ricans are United States citizens, and the poverty, the unemployment rates simply are — are simply not something that we as Americans should allow to occur in our country.

And we need to make sure that there are pro-growth, supply side economics to make sure that Puerto Rico can be successful as an economy on that island, and I believe they can. And under my administration, that’s something that I would work towards.

BLITZER: I’ll take that as a maybe. Statehood, not statehood.

SANTORUM: No, I take no position on that. That’s — I would — I’ve supported, you know, the opportunity for them to make that decision.

BLITZER: Let’s take another question from the audience here. Go ahead, please. What is your name?

SUZANNE BASS: Suzanne Bass, I’m an attorney in Jacksonville. Welcome to the great city of Jacksonville.

My question, how would your religious beliefs, if you’re elected, impact the decisions that you make in the office of the presidency?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Well, my religious beliefs wouldn’t affect it. My religious beliefs affect my character in the way I treat people and the way I live. The only thing it would affect…[applause]

The only thing that would affect me in the way I operate as a president or a congressman is my oath of office and my promises that I’ve made to the people.

BLITZER: Governor?

ROMNEY: Ron Paul makes very good point. I concur with that. I would also seek the guidance of — of providence in making critical decisions.

And of course, ours is a nation which is based upon Judeo- Christian values and ethics. Our law is based upon those values and ethics. And in some cases, our law doesn’t encompass — encompass all of the issues that we face around the world.

The conviction that the founders, when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, were writing a document that was not just temporary and not just for one small locale but really something which described the relationship between God and man — that’s something which I think a president would carry in his heart.

So when they said, for instance, that the creator had “endowed us with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I would seek to assure that those principles and values remain in America and that we help share them with other people in the world, not by conquering them, but by helping them through our trade, through our various forms of soft power, to help bring people the joy and — and — and opportunity that exists in this great land.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker? [applause]

GINGRICH: I would say that there are three ways in which religion would affect me.

The first is, I agree with Governor Romney. I think anyone who is president is faced with decisions so enormous that they should go to God. They should seek guidance. Because these are decisions beyond the ability of mere mortals to truly decide without some sense of what it is we should be doing.

I would say, second, that we have a real obligation to recognize that, if you’re truly faithful, it’s not just an hour on Sundays or Saturdays or Fridays. It’s in fact something that should suffuse your life, to be a part of who you are. And in that sense, it is inextricably tied in with how you behave.

But I would say, third, one of the reasons I am running is there has been an increasingly aggressive war against religion and in particular against Christianity in this country, largely by…[applause]… largely by a secular elite and the academic news media and judicial areas. And I frankly believe it’s important to have some leadership that stands up and says, enough; we are truly guaranteed the right of religious freedom, not religious suppression by the state. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator?

SANTORUM: Faith is a very, very important part of my life, but it’s a very, very important part of this country. The foundational documents of our country — everybody talks about the Constitution, very, very important. But the Constitution is the “how” of America. It’s the operator’s manual.

The “why” of America, who we are as a people, is in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”

The Constitution is there to do one thing: protect God-given rights. That’s what makes America different than every other country in the world. No other country in the world has its rights — rights based in God-given rights, not government-given rights.

And so when you say, well, faith has nothing to do with it, faith has everything to do with it. If rights come…[applause]

If our president believes that rights come to us from the state, everything government gives you, it can take away. The role of the government is to protect rights that cannot be taken away.

And so the answer to that question is, I believe in faith and reason and approaching the problems of this country but understand where those rights come from, who we are as Americans and the foundational principles by which we have changed the world.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. [applause]

We have one more break to take, but we have a lot more to discuss. Don’t go too far away. Coming up, the final debate question before Florida votes. [applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: All right. We’re in the last few minutes of the last question to these four presidential candidates before the Florida primary on Tuesday in this debate format. Here is the question, and it involves the president of the United States. I want you to tell voters who are watching or are here on this campus right now why you are the one person on this stage that is most likely to beat Barack Obama.

Congressman?

PAUL: Well, you know, so far, we have some pretty good evidence that I’ll do quite well and have a better chance than the rest to beat him, because if you do a national poll, I do very, very well against Obama. But one of the reasons is, is that the freedom message in the Constitution is very appealing to everybody in all political beliefs because it includes free markets, which conservatives endorse, but it also protects civil liberties, the way people run their lives.

If it is a God-given life, and it’s your life, you should have the right to run your life as you so choose as long as you don’t harm other people. This means a lot more tolerance that some would like to give. So that brings people in who are concerned about civil liberties, and all of a sudden, my position undermines Obama completely and totally because the foreign policy is different.

He promises to end the wars, but the wars expand. A constitutional foreign policy will end the wars. And if you want somebody to talk about peace and prosperity, it has to be somebody who understands money and a foreign policy and free markets. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Romney, why are you the one person on this stage most likely to beat President Obama?

ROMNEY: The people of America recognize that this is a critical time. This is not just an average election.

This is a time where we’re going to decide whether America will remain the great hope of the 21st century, whether this will be an American century, or, instead, whether we’ll continue to go down a path to become more and more like Europe, a social welfare state. That’s where we’re headed.

Our economy is becoming weaker. The foundation of our future economy is being eroded. Government has become too large. We’re headed in a very dangerous direction.

I believe to get America back on track, we’re going to have to have dramatic, fundamental, extraordinary change in Washington to be able to allow our private sector to once again reemerge competitively, to scale back the size of government and to maintain our strength abroad in our military capacities.

I believe that, to change Washington in such a dramatic way, you cannot do it by people who have been there their entire careers.

I believe, if you just elect the same people to change chairs in Washington, not much happen. I think, if you want to change Washington, you’re going to have to bring someone in who has been on the outside.

I have lived in the private sector. I know how it works. I’ve competed with businesses around the world. I know how to win.

I know what it takes to keep America strong. I know how to work in government. I’ve had experience for — four years, rather, working as the governor of Massachusetts.

I will use the experience of my life to get America right. And I will be able to convince the American people that someone with my experience is very different than Barack Obama. And that experience is how I’ll beat him. [applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker…[applause]… why are you the one person on this stage most likely to beat President Obama?

GINGRICH: You know, I have participated in the two largest Republican sweeps in modern time, 1980, in the Reagan campaign, and 1994, with the Contract with America, which had the largest one-party increase in American history, 9 million extra votes.

I believe that what we need this fall is a big-choice election that goes to the heart of who we are. I’m running more than anything for my two grandchildren, Maggie and Robert. I’d like them to be able to look back 50 years from now and say that what we did, what we the American people did, the choice we made in 2012 to unleash the American people, to rebuild our country based on the core values, to pose for the American people a simple choice: Do you want freedom and independence and a paycheck and a job, or do you want dependence and big government and food stamps and a lack of future?

And I believe, if we have a big election with truly historic big choices, that we can defeat Barack Obama by a huge margin. But it won’t be by running just as a Republican. It will be an American campaign open to every American who prefers a paycheck to food stamps, who prefers the Declaration of Independence to Saul Alinsky and who prefers a strong national security to trying to appease our enemies. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator? [applause]

I’ll repeat the question for you. Why do you think you’re the best, most qualified person on this stage to beat President Obama?

SANTORUM: I agree with the previous two speakers that this is a big election. This is an election about fundamental freedom. It’s about who America is going to be. Are we a country that’s going to be built great from the bottom up, as our founders intended, or from the top down?

I just think I’m a lot better than the previous two speakers to be able to make that case to the American people. I’m not for a top- down government-run health care system. I wasn’t for the Wall Street bailouts like these two gentlemen were.

Governor Romney talks about the private sector and how he’s going to bring private sector. When the private sector was in trouble, he voted for government to come in and take over the private sector and be able to — and to bail them out.

Cap-and-trade — both of them bought into the global warming hoax, bought into the cap-and-trade, top-down control of our energy and manufacturing sector.

If you look at President Obama’s speech the other night, what did he lead with? He lead with manufacturing. He led with manufacturing why? Because the base of his party, the ones that are always the ones — not the base — the swing vote in his party, the ones that Ronald Reagan was able to get — we call them Reagan Democrats up in Pennsylvania. Those are the blue-collar working people of America who know that this president has left them behind. He has a plan for them, and it’s more dependency, not work, not opportunity.

So he went out and tried to make a play for manufacturing. That’s been the center point of my campaign. The center point of my campaign is to be able to win the industrial heartland, get those Reagan Democrats back, talking about manufacturing, talking about building that ladder of success all the way down so people can climb all the way up.

That’s why I’m the best person to be able to go out and win the states that are necessary to win this presidency and govern with the mandate that Newt just talked about.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. [applause]

And thank you to the four presidential candidates. [applause]

I also want to thank our partners in this debate, the Republican Party of Florida, the Hispanic Leadership Network. Thank you very much to them. [applause]

We’d also like to thank our hosts here on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

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