December 15, 2011: FOX News / Iowa Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Sioux City, Iowa December 15, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:

Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);

Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);

Representative Ron Paul (TX);

Governor Rick Perry (TX);

Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and

Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)

MODERATOR:

Bret Baier (Fox News)

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich, since our last debate, your position in this race has changed dramatically. You are now physically at the center of the stage, which means you’re at the top of the polls, yet many Republicans seem conflicted about you. They say that you’re smart, that you’re a big thinker. At the same time, many of those same Republicans worry deeply about your electability in a general election, saying perhaps Governor Romney is a safer bet.

Can you put to rest once and for all the persistent doubts that you are, indeed, the right candidate on this stage to go up and beat President Obama?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, let me just say to you and to all of our viewers, Merry Christmas. This is a great time for us to be here. And I hope that everybody across the country has a very joyous Christmas season.

I’ve been around long enough that I remember at this exact time in 1979 when Ronald Reagan was running 30 points behind Bill Clinton — behind Jimmy Carter. And if people had said, “Gosh, electability is the number-one issue,” they wouldn’t have nominated him.

What they said was: He believes what he’s talking about. He has big solutions. He can get the economy growing. He understands foreign policy, and he’s the person I want to have debate Jimmy Carter. He carried more states against Carter than FDR carried against Herbert Hoover in 1932.

I believe I can debate Barack Obama, and I think in seven three- hour debates, Barack Obama will not have a leg to stand on in trying to defend a record that is terrible and an ideology that is radical.

MODERATOR: Mr. Speaker, Governor Romney…[applause]

Governor Romney just yesterday said you’re an unreliable conservative. Now, obviously, he’s your opponent. He’s your opponent. But even Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said today he respects you greatly, but he openly questioned whether you had the discipline and focus to be president.

GINGRICH: Well, those are two different questions. The first — let me take them one by one, very quickly. I have a 90 percent American Conservative Union voting record for 20 years. I balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in debt. Pretty conservative. The first wealth entitlement reform of your lifetime, in fact, the only major entitlement reform until now was welfare. Two out of three people went back to work or went to school. Pretty conservative. First tax cut in 16 years, largest capital gains tax cut in American history, unemployment came down to 4.2 percent. Pretty conservative.

I think on the conservative thing, it’s sort of laughable to suggest that somebody who campaigned with Ronald Reagan and with Jack Kemp and has had a 30-year record of conservatism, is somehow not a conservative?

MODERATOR: And what about the concerns from Iowa governor Branstad?

GINGRICH: I think people have to watch my career and decide. I spent 16 years working to create the first Republican majority in 40 years. I spent years helping create the first balanced budgets. I am the longest serving teacher in the senior military, 23 years teaching one and two-star generals and admirals the art of war. I think it’s fair to say that my commitment to disciplined, systematic work is — is fairly obvious. You know, people just have to decide.

Part of the difference is, I do change things when conditions change. And part of the difference is I strive for very large changes and I’m prepared to really try to lead the American people to get this country back on the right track. And that’s a very large change.

MODERATOR: Now to my colleague, Megyn Kelly.

MODERATOR: A similar question to you, Congressman Paul. You have some bold ideas. Some very fervent supporters and probably the most organized ground campaign here in Iowa. But there are many Republicans inside and outside of this state who openly doubt whether you can be elected president. How can you convince them otherwise? And if you don’t wind up winning this nomination, will you pledge here tonight that you will support the ultimate nominee?

PAUL: Well, you know, fortunately for the Republican party this year, probably every — anybody up here could probably beat Obama, so. [laughter] [applause]

PAUL: So the challenge isn’t all that great on how we’re going to beat Obama. I think he’s beating himself. I think really the question is, is what do we have to offer? And I have something different to offer. I emphasize civil liberties. I emphasize a pro-American foreign policy, which is a lot different than policemen of the world. I emphasize, you know, monetary policy and these things that the other candidates don’t — don’t talk about. But I think the important thing is the philosophy I’m talking about is the Constitution and freedom.

And that brings people together. It brings independents into the fold and it brings Democrats over on some of these issues. So, therefore, I see this philosophy as being very electable, because it’s an America philosophy. It’s the rule of law. And it — it means that, you know, we ought to balance the budget. It opens up the door for saying — supporting my willingness to cut $1 trillion out of the budget the first year. [applause]

MODERATOR: Senator Santorum, no one has spent more time in Iowa than you. You have visited every county in the state. And yet while we have seen no fewer than four Republican candidates surge in the polls, sometimes in extraordinary ways, so far your campaign and you have failed to catch fire with the voters. Why?

SANTORUM: Well I’m counting on the people of Iowa to catch fire for me. That’s — that’s what this plan was all about from day one, is to go to all 99 counties and do already almost 350 town hall meetings here in Iowa. We’re organizing. We have a very clear message. That’s the thing that’s going to pay off for us in the end. And we present a clear contrast that really nobody else in this race does.

We present the contrast of someone who’s been a strong conviction conservative. You know where I stand. You can trust me because I’ve been there and I’ve done it. And I did it as a leader. When I was in the leadership, if you were a conservative and you had an issue that you wanted to get voted on or you wanted to get done in the United States Senate, you came to Rick Santorum. Because I was the guy fighting for the conservative cause when it was popular, and when it was unpopular.

The speaker had a conservative revolution against him when he was the speaker of the House. I had conservatives knocking down my door because I was the effective advocate for the principles that they believed in. That’s the contrast. We have — we need someone who’s strong in their political and personal life to go out and contrast themselves with the president and make him the issue in this campaign. And that’s why Iowans are beginning to respond. They like the accountability. They like the fact that I’ve been there and — and met with them and believe in them to lead this country.

MODERATOR: Chris Wallace? [applause]

MODERATOR: Thank you Brett. Governor Romney, I want to follow up on Brett’s line of questioning to the speaker. Because many of our viewers tell us that they are supporting Newt Gingrich because they think that he will be tougher than you in taking the fight to Barack Obama in next fall’s debates. Why would you be able to make the Republican case against the president more effectively than the speaker?

ROMNEY: Well lets step back and talk about what’s really happening in the country. What we’re finding across America is a lot of people are really hurting. 25 million people out of work, stopped looking for work or in part-time work that need full-time jobs. A lot of people in the middle-class who have seen incomes go down as the cost of their living has gone up and up and up. The American people care very deeply about having a president who’d get America right again.

And all of us on this stage have spoken over the last several debates about the fact that government doesn’t create jobs, but the private sector does. I spent my life, my career in the private sector. I understand, by the way from my successes and failures what it’s going to take to put Americans back to work with high-paying jobs.

I can debate President Obama based upon that understanding. And I’ll have credibility on the economy when he doesn’t. My successes include some businesses that were successful, like Staples and Bright Horizons Children’s Centers, and a steel mill in the middle of Indiana, some things I learned from.

And, by the way, some failures. I remember when founders of Jet Blue came to me and said, invest in us. I said, well, that will never work. Got it wrong. Now one of my favorite airlines.

I know what it takes to get this economy going. The president doesn’t. The proof is in his record. It’s terrible. My record shows that I can get America working again. [applause]

MODERATOR: Congresswoman Bachmann, no one questions your conservative credentials, but what about your appeal to independents who are so crucial in a general election? If you are fortunate enough to become the Republican nominee, how would you counter the efforts by the Barack Obama campaign to paint you as too conservative to moderate voters?

BACHMANN: Well, it’s very clear in the last five years I have won four elections as the first Republican woman ever to win out of the state of Minnesota. And I did that by attracting not only Republicans but also independents and Democrats as well.

Because people wanted to know, who could they trust? They knew that in me they may not always agree with me but they knew that I was a woman who said what she meant and meant what she said. And they respected that level of authenticity and sincerity.

And They also knew that I was an action person. That I wasn’t just going to sit on my hands. I was going to work and serve them. And that is what I’ve done. I have worked very hard in the United States Congress in the brief time that I have been there.

I’m 55 years old. I spent 50 years as a real person. And now five years going toe-to-toe with Barack Obama, taking him on, on every issue from Dodd-Frank to cap and trade to illegal immigration to “Obama-care.” And I will do that as president of the United States. That is my proven track record. [applause]

MODERATOR: Neil Cavuto?

MODERATOR: Thank you, Bret. Governor Perry, by your own admission, you are not a great debater. You have said as much, and downplayed debating skills in general. But if you were to become your party’s nominee, you would be going up against an accomplished debater in Barack Obama.

There are many in this audience tonight, sir, who fear that possibility. And don’t think you are up to the fight. Allay them of their concerns.

PERRY: Well, I want to share something with you. That as each one of these debates — I’m kind of getting where I like these debates. As a matter of fact, I hope Obama and I debate a lot. And I’ll get there early. And we will get it on and we will talk about our differences, which are great.

I’ll talk about what we have done in the state of Texas. I’ll talk about passing a balanced budget amendment to the United States Congress. I’ll talk about having the type of part-time Congress that I think Americans are ready for.

And, you know, there are a lot of people out there — I understand it, you know, there are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a very good NFL quarterback. There are people that stood up and said, well, he doesn’t have the right throwing mechanisms, or he doesn’t — you know, he is not playing the game right.

And, you know, he won two national championships. And that looked pretty good. We’re the national champions in job creation back in Texas. And so — but am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you, I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa Caucuses. [applause]

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman, your campaign has been praised by moderates but many question your ability to galvanize Republicans, and energize the conservative base of the party. They are especially leery of your refusal to sign on to a no-tax-hike pledge. How can you reassure them tonight?

HUNTSMAN: I think people, Neil, are coming around to finding that I am the consistent conservative in this race. They are coming around to find that I am not going to pander. I am not going to contort myself into a pretzel to please any audience I’m in front of. And I’m not going to sign those silly pledges.

And you know what else? I’m not going to show up at a Donald Trump debate. [laughter] [applause]

HUNTSMAN: This nation has been downgraded. This nation is on the cusp of the third government shutdown. We have been kicked around as people. We are getting screwed as Americans. And I’m here to tell you, we are going to lead charge in doing what must be done in addressing the two deficits we have.

We have an economic deficit in this country, and is it going to shipwreck the next generation unless we can deal with it. And we have a trust deficit. People in this country don’t trust the institutions of power anymore.

We need to go to Congress and we need to say, you need term limits. We need to go to Congress and say, we need to close that revolving door that allows members of Congress to file on out and lobby.

And we need to go to Wall Street and say, no trust there either, because we have banks that are “too big to fail.” And I’m telling you, Neil, I’m the person who is going to leave the charge on all of the above and fix the economic deficit, but I’m going fix this country’s trust deficit, because we’re too good as people to be in the hole we’re in and we deserve better. [applause]

MODERATOR: As Governor Huntsman just mentioned, there is a real drama playing out real-time in Washington right now with the threat of yet another government shutdown, the possibility that millions of Americans could see their payroll taxes go up. If you’re president, as is the case now, and you are at lagerheads with one chamber of congress, how would you handle this situation?

30 seconds down the line. Start with Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: Well, you do what leaders do. They go out and try to bring people together. They tell a narrative and remind Americans who we are and how we solve our problems. This country is a great country because we believe in free people.

In 2008, the American public were convinced by Barack Obama that they needed someone to believe in, that they could believe in. We now understand that what we need is some president who believes in them. That is the narrative. Go out and motivate the American public, have them talk to their representatives in Washington to pass solutions that believe in bottom up, how we built America, free markets, free people.

MODERATOR: Governor perry?

PERRY: After three years, you would think this president could learn how to work in Washington, D.C. If there has ever been a greater example of on-the-job training, this is it. Couldn’t have been at a worst time for America.

We need a president who has that governing, executive experience, someone who understands how to work with both sides of the aisle. Frankly, we should never have gotten this point at all.

The idea that he walked away from the work at hand and we had a supercommittee, that was put in place, that was going to fail on its face, that is the type of leadership that this president has been an absolute failure at and the type that I have been working at as the governor of Texas for the last 11 years.

MODERATOR: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Bret, this is a question that ought to take longer than 30 seconds, even 60 seconds. This is the question of the presidency. What is leadership?

I had the disadvantage of some respects of becoming governor and a state with a legislature 85 percent Democrat. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. To get anything done, I had to learn how to get respect of the speaker of the house and the senate president and Democratic leaders. I found a way to do that, to find common ground from time to time. And when crisis arose, we were able to work together. That is what has to happen.

There are Democrats who love America as Republicans do, but we need to have a leader in the White House, that knows how to lead. I have had four leadership experiences in my life where I have lead enterprises. I want to use that experience to get America right again. And I will do it as president.

MODERATOR: We will have many more questions about gridlock in Washington and this topic overall. But Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: I want to start by reinforcing what Governor Romney just said. Leadership is the key. When you have a Sal Alinsky radical who is a campaigner in chief who doesn’t do the job of president, because he’s too busy trying to run for re-election, the constitution can’t work. I helped Ronald Reagan when Tip O’Neil was speaker to get enough votes to pass the Reagan program despite a Democratic majority.

As speaker, one reason some people aren’t happy with my leadership I worked things out with Bill Clinton to get welfare reform, a tax cut and four balanced budgets signed in a way that required bipartisanship, because you couldn’t get anything done otherwise. So leadership matters immensely in getting this done.

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: The main problem we have is the government is too big and the debt is too big and you have to cut spending so you have to get people to come together. They have been coming together to increase spending for decades. We have to get them to come together to do the opposite.

But there are two factions up there, one wants welfare and the other want warfare around the world and policing the world. So you go to people who like warfare you say give me half of the cuts that have to be in the welfare. Go to welfare people and say give me the cuts to cut the oversea warfare spending and bring people together and live up to what they say.

MODERATOR: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: As president of the United States I would have called all 535 members of congress to come sit down in Washington last summer looking at the debt ceiling crisis. And what I would have done is said there are three principles we are going to follow, because the first one needs to be no new taxes. We’re taxed enough already.

The second principle needed to be that government can’t spend any more money than what it is taking in.

And the third principle had to be that we were going to follow the constitution of the United States. What that would have meant we would have looked at $15 trillion debt in the eye and said we are not going to add one more cent to it. We are going to prioritize our spending. And we’re going to put the reform in these long-term programs now, not wait eight months or five months. We are going to reform right now.

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman.

HUNTSMAN: Leadership is action, not words. And I learned a very important lesson about this when I ran for governor in 2004. I promised the people of my state as governor that we would create the finest state in America for business. I ran on a flat-tax proposal. It took us two years; we got it delivered.

Flat — I hear a lot of people talking about tax reform and a flat — we actually got one done. The finest business in the United States, we delivered to our people. Health care reform without a mandate. The list went on and on and on.

I ran for re-election. I got almost 80 percent of the vote, not because I’m a great politician, but I learned some lessons in leadership, that people want to be told where you can take them, and then they want you to deliver.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We have many more interesting questions coming up. We have a new feature for you tonight, as well. How well are the candidates answering the questions? We’re asking you to weigh in on Twitter. Tweet the candidate’s last name and the hash-tag #answer if you think they’re tackling the question or the hash-tag #dodge if you think they’re avoiding the question. Then you can go to foxnews.com/debate to see those results.

Now, during the break, you can head there and check it out. And if you have a suggested question or a follow-up to something you’ve heard, tweet @bretbaier. We’ll be using some of those suggested questions tonight.

MODERATOR: After the break, the candidates on the increasingly sharp tone of this campaign, the economy, and a topic that has not been raised in any of the debates so far. Stay with us.

[commercial break]

[begin video clip]

STRAWN: Good evening from Sioux City in northwest Iowa. I’m Matt Strawn, chairman of the Iowa GOP. Four years after repelling Barack Obama to the White House, Iowa has seen a surge of new Republican voters as Iowa Republicans have posted 33 straight months of voter registration gains. And as those Republicans prepare to vote in just 19 days, we understand the responsibility that comes with the privilege of being first in the nation.

And because the fight to reclaim the White House extends far beyond Iowa’s borders, we want you to be the first to know. So text “Iowa” to 91919 to know the results and other updates. Thank you and now let’s return to the final debate before the January 3 Iowa Caucus.

[end video clip]

MODERATOR: Thank you Mr. Chairman and welcome back to Sioux City Iowa and the Republican presidential debate. For the next round of questions, I turn to my colleague, Chris Wallace.

MODERATOR: Thanks Brett. Candidates, I’m going to call this section, for lack of a better word, D.C. Culture. Governor Romney, I’m going to begin with you. Speaker Gingrich says that you should give back the millions of dollars you made, in his words, “bankrupting companies and laying off employees.” You respond that he has, in your words, “an extraordinary lack of understanding of how the economy works.”

But his comments dovetail with arguments you hear from Democrats that your belief in, what’s called, the creative destruction of capitalism, shows a hardheartedness. What do you think of what Speaker Gingrich had to say about you? And are you vulnerable to that kind of attack?

ROMNEY: I think it’s a great opportunity for us. Because I think the president is going to level the same attack. He’s going to go after me and say, you know, you — in businesses that you’ve invested in, they didn’t all succeed. Some failed. Some laid people off. And he’ll be absolutely right. But if you look at all the businesses we invested in, over 100 different businesses, they added tens of thousands of jobs.

In — in the real world that the president has not lived in, I — I actually think he doesn’t understand that not every business succeeds. That not every entrepreneur is lucky enough to do as well as the entrepreneurs that I described at Bright Horizons and Staples and that steel company and many, many others. I myself have had the chance of leading four different organizations. Each of those was highly successful, in part because of hard work and in part because of good luck.

In the real world, some things don’t make it. And I believe I’ve learned from my successes and my failures. The president I’ll look at and say, Mr. President, how — how did you do when you were running General Motors as the president, took it over? Gee, you closed down factories. You closed down dealerships. And he’ll say, well I did that to save the business. Same thing with us, Mr. President. We did our very best to make those businesses succeed. I’m — I’m pleased that they did and I’ve learned the lessons of how the economy works.

This president doesn’t know how the economy works. I believe to create jobs, it helps to have created jobs.

MODERATOR: Thank you. [applause]

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich, on the Freddie Mac website in 19 — in rather 2007 you said this, I like the GSE, or government sponsored enterprise like Freddy Mac model, making home ownership more affordable is a policy goal that I believe conservatives should embrace. Now in an earlier debate, a recent debate, you said that politicians like Barney Frank, who in your words, profited from the environment that led to the financial meltdown, should go to jail.

Now that it turns out that you were on the Freddie Mac payroll to the tune of more than $1.6 million, how do you answer critics who say that you’re being hypocritical.

GINGRICH: I think pretty straightforward. Barney Frank was in public office with direct power over Freddie Mac. He exploited that power just as Chris Dodd was in public office when he got special bargains from Countrywide, a firm that went broke. They were using power. I was a private citizen, engaged in a business like any other business. Now, if you read the whole thing that they posted, I said they need more regulations and I want to go back to my point about helping people buy houses.

I worked for years with Habitat for Humanity. I think it’s a good conservative principle to try to find ways to help families that are right at the margin learn how to budget, learn how to take care of a house, learn how to buy a house. And I — I’m not going to step back from the idea that in fact we should have as a goal, helping as many Americans as possible be capable of buying homes. And when you look for example at electric membership co-ops, and you look at credit unions, there are a lot of government sponsored enterprises that are awfully important and do an awfully good job.

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul you are — and having been in this town for what 48 hours now, you are all over Iowa TV these days with a negative ad about Speaker Gingrich. You accuse him of selling access and playing the corrupt revolving door game. What about the explanation that you just heard, that he’s in the private sector and this is free enterprise?

PAUL: Well he has a different definition of the private sector than I have. Because it’s a GSE, government sponsored enterprise. That’s completely different. It’s — it’s a government agency. They get the money and the sponsorship. They get mixed up. It’s — it’s the worst kind of economy.

You know, pure private enterprise, more closely probably to what Governor Romney is involved with, but if it’s government-sponsored, it’s a mixture of business and government. It’s very, very dangerous. Some people say, if it goes to extreme, it becomes fascism, because big business and big government get together.

So, yes, they get money. And I was talking about that for a long time, the line of credit, the excessive credit from the Federal Reserve, the Community Reinvestment Act for 10 years or so. The Austrian economists knew there was a bubble. And at this time, nobody was listening or doing anything in the Congress.

And then to go to work for them and get money from them, it literally is — it’s literally coming from the taxpayer. They went broke. We had to bail them out. So indirectly, that was money that he ended up getting. They’re still getting money from a government- sponsored enterprise. It’s not a free-market enterprise.

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich, 30 seconds to respond?

GINGRICH: Well, let me just go back to what I said a minute ago. The term government-sponsored enterprise has a very wide range of things that do a great deal of good. Go across this state and talk to people in the electric membership co-ops. Go across this state and talk to people in the credit unions. There are a lot of very good institutions that are government-sponsored.

And, frankly, the idea that anything which in any way has ever touched government could raise questions about doctors dealing with Medicare and Medicaid and a whole range of other government activities. There are many things governments do. I did no lobbying of any kind for any organization. And that was — that was a key part of every agreement we had.

MODERATOR: Well, let me pick up with that with you, Congresswoman Bachmann, because you accused Speaker Gingrich of peddling his influence with congressional Republicans to help the companies that paid him tens of millions of dollars since he’s left office. Given his denial over time and again tonight that he’s — denies ever having lobbied, what is your evidence, hard evidence that he engaged in influence-peddling?

BACHMANN: Well, it’s the fact that — that we know that he cashed paychecks from Freddie Mac. That’s the best evidence that you can have, over $1.6 million. And, frankly, I am shocked listening to the former speaker of the House, because he’s defending the continuing practice of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

There’s a big difference between a credit union and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And they were the epicenter of the mortgage financial meltdown. I was trying to see these two entities put into bankruptcy, because they, frankly, need to go away, when the speaker had his hand out and he was taking $1.6 million to influence senior Republicans to keep the scam going in Washington, D.C. That’s absolutely wrong. We can’t have as our nominee for the Republican Party someone who continues to stand for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. They need to be shut down, not built up. [applause]

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Well, the easiest answer is, that’s just not true. What she just said is factually not true. I never lobbied under any circumstance. I never went in and suggested in any way that we do this.

In fact, I tried to help defeat the housing act when the Democrats were in charge of the House. And if you go back and talk to former Congressman Rick Lazio, he’ll tell you, when we were passing housing reform while I was speaker, I never at any time tried to slow down the reform effort. In fact, I helped him pass the reform bill. And I think some of those people ought to have facts before they make wild allegations.

BACHMANN: Let me — let me…

MODERATOR: Yes, go ahead. Congresswoman?

BACHMANN: Well, after the debates that we had last week, PolitiFact came out and said that everything that I said was true. And the evidence is that Speaker Gingrich took $1.6 million. You don’t need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence-peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., to get them to do your bidding.

And the bidding was to keep this grandiose scam of Freddie Mac going. That’s — that is something that our nominee can’t stand for. We have to shut down these government enterprises. And we’ve got to end them. And I think that’s shocking that he’s saying that.

GINGRICH: And let me just say two things…

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich, quickly. [applause]

GINGRICH: OK, I want to say two things. First, my policy is to break up both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is not anything like what she just described.

Second, I want to state unequivocally, for every person watching tonight, I have never once changed my positions because of any kind of payment. Because I — the truth is, I was a national figure who was doing just fine, doing a whole variety of things, including writing best-selling books, making speeches. And the fact is, I only chose to work with people whose values I shared and having people have a chance to buy a house is a value I believe still is important in America.

MODERATOR: Now to Neil Cavuto with questions about the economy.

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich, not to make you a target, but you…

GINGRICH: It goes with being right here.

MODERATOR: You just responded this morning, sir, tweeted originally and with follow-up statements as a major break through of this plan on the part of Republican congressman Paul Ryan working with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to find a sort of updated way to keep Medicare solvent. This would involve a choice, those who like the program as it is can stick with it. They will be a private option, et cetera.

But earlier on, this might have confused Congressman Ryan and others for whom you had said was the initial Medicare fix that it was right wing social engineering. Later on you backed off that comment, said there was much you could find in Mr. Ryan’s plan to like.

Can you blame Governor Romney for saying you have a consistency problem on this issue?

GINGRICH: I’m not in the business of blaming Governor Romney. I’m in the business to try and understand what we can do as a policy. If you go back and look at the “Meet the Press” quote I didn’t want reference him. And I’ll come back and say it again, a free society should make very big decisions with the support of the people.

Now you can earn that support. You can win a communications argument. Reagan was very, very good at that. But the only point I was making on “Meet the Press” is when you are going to have a major change, you have to communicate with the American people in order to ensure that they are for you.

Now Governor Romney came up, frankly, with a very good variation on the Ryan plan which allowed the maintenance of the current system. Paul has adopted that. And I think did a very brave act by Senator Ron Wyden, you now have a Democrat willing to co-sponsor the bill. I’ve endorsed the concept today. I think it is a big step forward. And I think Governor Romney deserves some of the credit for having helped figure out a way to make this thing workable.

So, I think it’s a nice thing to actually have a bipartisan plan in Washington that we could actually look at in a positive way and hope would help save Medicare.

MODERATOR: Governor Romney do you want to respond to that compliment?

ROMNEY: Yeah. Thank you.

Yeah, I hope people understand just how big today is for this country. We all understand that the spending crisis is extraordinary with $15 trillion now in debt, with the president that’s racked up as much debt as all the other presidents combined.

But there is another problem we have, which is our national balance sheet. Which are the obligations that we have made, that we have no funding behind. And it adds up to $62 trillion.

And today Republicans and Democrats came together with Senator Wyden and Congressman Paul Ryan to say we have a solution to remove that $62 trillion. This is a big day for our kids and grand kids. It’s an enormous achievement. It means we finally have the prospect of dealing with somebody which has the potential of crushing our future generations and a good Democrat and a good Republican came together.

This is the impact of people on both sides of the aisle that care about America at a critical time. And I applaud him. It’s good news.

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul, as you have been warning, we are on the brink of another government shutdown because of the spending that you call out of control. But haven’t you contributed to that spending problem yourself, sir, supporting over the years earmarks that have benefited your district and your state?

Back in 2009, you explained this by saying if I can give my district any money back, I encourage that. I don’t think that the federal government should be doing it but if they are going to allot the money, I have a responsibility to represent my people.

Isn’t that what they call a mixed message, congressman?

PAUL: Well, it’s a mixed question is the problem, because the real message is you should include in your question also you have never voted once for an earmark.

No, it’s a principle that I deal with, because if the government takes money from you and you fill out your tax form, you take your deductions. I look at that the same way in our communities. They take our money, they take our highway funds. and we have every right to apply for them to come back.

As a matter of fact, it’s a bigger principle for me than that. I think this whole thing is out of control on the earmarks, because I think the congress has an obligation to earmark every penny, not to deliver that power to the executive branch. What happens when you don’t vote for the earmarks it goes in to the slush fund, the executive branch spends the money then you have to grovel to the executive branch and beg and plead and say oh, please return my highway funds to me.

So if this whole principle of budgeting that is messed up, but I never vote, I never voted for an earmark. But I do argue the case for my — the people I represent to try to get their money back if at all possible.

MODERATOR: But isn’t that the same thing of having your cake and eating it too? You can complain about earmarks but then if there are provisions there that help your district or your state that’s different? If 434 other members felt the same way, how would we ever fix the problem?

PAUL: Yes, but you’re missing the point. I don’t complain about earmarks, because it is the principle of the Congress meeting their obligation. But if everybody did what I did, there would be no earmarks. The budget would be balanced and we’d be cutting about 80 percent of the spending. So that would be the solution. [applause]

PAUL: But you also want to protect the process. You want to emphasize the responsibility of the Congress, and not delivering more power to the president. I would be a different kind of president. I wouldn’t be looking for more power.

Everybody wants to be a powerful executive and run things. I, as the president, wouldn’t want to run the world. I don’t want to police individual activities and their lifestyle. And I don’t want to run the economy.

So that is an entirely different philosophy, but it’s very, very much in our tradition and in a tradition of our Constitution. [applause]

MODERATOR: Governor Perry, you said the only way to stop our spending problem is to get Congress to stop spending. Quoting you, sir, you said: “I vetoed 82 bills in my first year as governor of Texas. I have a record of keeping spending under control.”

But as Texas agriculture commissioner, you oversaw a loan guarantee program that, as The Austin American-Statesman reported at the time, had so many defaults that the state had to stop guaranteeing bank loans to start-ups in the agribusiness, and eventually bailed out the program with the tax-payer money.

So aren’t you guilty of the same behavior you rail against as a presidential candidate?

PERRY: Well, two things. Number one, don’t believe everything you read in The Austin American-Statesman. And the second side of it is, we had that program put in place and the state did not bail out, those programs worked as they were supposed to work. Just like in any bank or any business, you are going to have some that fail.

But I want to go back and talk about just a second the issue of where we had a big back-and-forth about whether Newt was involved in untoward activity or not. And I’ll be real honest with you, the issue we ought to be talking about on this stage is how you really overhaul Washington, D.C.

And the idea that you can’t tell the difference between lobbying and consulting, the idea that we have Congress staying there as many days as they do and the salary that they have, that is the reason I have called for a part-time Congress.

Cut their pay in half. Cut their time in Washington in half. Cut their staff in half. Send them home. Let them get a job like everybody else back home has and live within the laws of which they passed. [applause]

PERRY: We do that and you pass a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution, and the conversations that we’ve been having up here will be minor.

MODERATOR: By the way, Governor, they worked 151 days last year. How much more would constitute part-time?

PERRY: I would suggest to you maybe 140 days every other year like we do in Texas. [laughter] [applause]

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman, as you’re probable familiar, sir, the Chinese have just left huge tariffs of up to 22 percent on imports of some American sport utility vehicles, larger American cars.

Now as a former ambassador to China and one who has argued for an adult conversation with Beijing, how would you respond to what some are calling a childish move on the part of a country that routinely flouts international trade rules?

HUNTSMAN: Well, it’s a large and complicated relationship. It’s part trade, it’s part North Korea, it’s part Iran, part Pakistan, part Burma, part South China Sea, party military-to-military engagement. You move one end of the relationship, it impacts the other.

The best thing to do, invite a few dissidents who are seeking freedom and want to expand democracy in China to the United States embassy, the kind of thing that I used to do. That is what matters to the Chinese people who are looking for change and looking for reform these days.

That is the kind of thing that over time is going to create enough swell of change and reform in that country that is going to make the U.S.-China relationship successful longer term.

Because eventually, we need more than just a transactional relationship. We need shared values infused into this relationship. Let’s face it, the 21st Century will only have two relationships that matter: the United States and China.

For that to succeed, we need shared values. That is democracy. That is human rights. That is recognition of the role of the Internet in society. That is greater tolerance toward religion, and so much more.

As president of the United States, I would drive that home. And I would make it a relationship that worked.

MODERATOR: Senator Santorum, right now American companies have trillions parked overseas because of the very high tax rates here. Would you support a tax holiday to bring that money back, but only under, as some Democrats have suggested, the condition that these companies hire workers with that money?

SANTORUM: Yes, what I proposed in the “Made in the USA” plan is that if money has been made overseas, that it can come back at 5.5 percent rate, which is what we did back in 2004, and it did cause a lot of money to come back. But I put a special rate, zero, if they bring it back and invest it in plant and equipment in America.

We need to rebuild the manufacturing base of this country. When I traveled around to all of these counties in Iowa, I went to a lot of small towns, like Sidney and Hamburg down in Fremont County, and I was in — the other day in Newton, where they’ve lost jobs to overseas. Why? Because we’re not competitive.

We need to have our capital be competitive and — and come here free so they can invest it. We need to cut the corporate tax on manufacturers to zero. Why? Because there’s a 20 percent cost differential between America and our nine top trading partners. And we — and that’s excluding labor costs.

We need to get our taxes down. We need to repeal regulations. I promise to repeal every single Obamacare regulation. Every single Obama regulation that cost businesses over $100 million, I can repeal it. I can’t repeal laws, but as a president, you can repeal — excuse me, regulations. And I will repeal every single one of them so business can get going in this country. [applause]

MODERATOR: Thank you, Neil.

This question is from Twitter. And it is for you, Governor Romney. @LeonJamesPage tweets, “Over the next 10 years, in what sector or industries will most of the new jobs be created?”

ROMNEY: The great thing is, the free market will decide that. Government won’t. And we have in a president someone who, again, doesn’t understand how the economy works and thinks that, as a government, he can choose, for instance, which energy sector is going to be successful. So he invests as a venture capitalist in certain car companies that have electric battery power, not understanding that perhaps Toyota and G.M. could do a better job than Tesla and Fisker.

The president decides to go into Solyndra because he thinks that solar power is going to be the future. Look, let markets determine what the future course of our economy will be.

What do I happen to think will be the future? I think manufacturing is going to come back. I think manufacturing, for some of the reasons Rick just indicated, it’s going to come back to the U.S. I also think, of course, that high-tech is going to be an extraordinarily source — extraordinary source of growth for a long time in this country.

And energy. We have extraordinary energy resources in this country. Opening those up — our president holds them off, doesn’t give them the permits to start drilling and getting the natural gas and oil — those are some of the areas that are extraordinarily powerful. This economy has every potential to continue to lead the world. Our president thinks America is in decline. It is if he’s president. It’s not if I’m president. This is going to be an American century. [applause]

MODERATOR: Thank you, Governor Romney.

Now to Megyn Kelly with the next round of questions. And this is a new topic, the judiciary.

MODERATOR: This is something we have heard pressure little about in this election, but something that’s an important issue for a lot of voters.

Speaker Gingrich, let me start with you. You have proposed a plan to subpoena judges to testify before Congress about controversial decisions that they make. In certain cases, you advocate impeaching judges or abolishing courts altogether. Two conservative former attorneys general have criticized your plan, saying it alters the checks and balances of the three branches of government. And they used words like “dangerous,” “outrageous,” and “totally irresponsible.” Are they wrong?

GINGRICH: Well, the first half is right. It alters the balance, because the courts have become grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful, and I think, frankly, arrogant in their misreading of the American people. [applause]

There’s an entire paper at newt.org — I’ve been working on this project since 2002, when the Ninth Circuit Court said that “one nation under God” is unconstitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance. And I decided, if you had judges who were so radically anti-American that they thought “one nation under God” was wrong, they shouldn’t be on the court. Now, we have… [applause]

I taught a short course in this at the University of Georgia Law School. I testified in front of sitting Supreme Court justices at Georgetown Law School. And I warned them: You keep attacking the core base of American exceptionalism, and you are going to find an uprising against you which will rebalance the judiciary.

We have a balance of three branches. We do not have a judicial dictatorship in this country. And that’s what the Federalist papers promised us. And I would — just like Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and FDR — I would be prepared to take on the judiciary if, in fact, it did not restrict itself in what it was doing.

MODERATOR: What of the former attorney general? [applause]

These are conservative former attorneys generals who have criticized the plan, as I say, dangerous, ridiculous, outrageous, totally irresponsible.

GINGRICH: Sure. I’d ask, first of all, have they studied Jefferson, who in 1802 abolished 18 out of 35 federal judges? Eighteen out of 35 were abolished.

MODERATOR: Something that was highly criticized.

GINGRICH: Not by anybody in power in 1802. [laughter] [applause]

Jefferson himself was asked, is the Supreme Court supreme? And he said, that is absurd. That would be an oligarchy. Lincoln repudiates the Dred Scott decision in his first inaugural address in 1861 and says, no nine people can make law in this country. That would be the end of our freedom. So I would suggest to you, actually as a historian, I may understand this better than lawyers. And as lawyers those two attorneys general are behaving exactly like law schools, which have overly empowered lawyers to think that they can dictate to the rest of us. [applause]

MODERATOR: Congresswoman Bachmann. [applause]

MODERATOR: You heard Speaker Gingrich — you heard Speaker Gingrich reference the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and that is one of the courts that he has suggested abolishing. It is a left-leaning court and as he points out, as he has done before, he believes it’s an activist court because in part it was the court that — that issued a ruling striking down “under God” in the pledge years ago. A decision that was reversed by the Supreme Court leader.

Do you agree that the Ninth Circuit should be abolished? And if so, what would then happen if a Democratic president came into office and we had a democratically controlled Congress that later took aim at the right-leaning federal courts. Where would it end?

BACHMANN: Well where it needs to end is under the Constitution of the United States. That’s the real issue. Are the courts following the Constitution or aren’t they following the Constitution? It isn’t just Congress that gets it wrong, it’s the courts that get it wrong as well.

MODERATOR: But what do you do about it?

BACHMANN: Well what we need to do about it is have the — both the president and the United States Congress take their authority back and I would agree with Newt Gingrich that I think that the Congress and the president of the United States have failed to take their authority. Because now we’ve gotten to the point where we think the final arbitrator of law is the court system. It isn’t. The intention of the founders was that the courts would be the least powerful system of government.

And if we give to the courts, the right to make law, then the people will have lost their representation. They need to hold onto their representation. That’s why I commend Iowans, because they chose not to retain three judges that decided that marriage would be… [applause]

BACHMANN: …and Iowans decided to take their Constitution back. That’s what the American people need to do, take the Constitution back and as president of the United States, I would only appoint judges to the Supreme Court who believe in the original intent of the Constitution.

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul let me ask you, do you believe in — in what the two candidates have said? That it would potentially be OK to abolish courts like the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals entirely, or judges, impeach them if Congress and the president don’t decide — decide they don’t like their rulings?

PAUL: Well the Congress can get rid of these courts. If — if a judge misbehaves and is unethical and gets into trouble, the proper procedure is impeachment. But to subpoena judges before the Congress, I’d really question that. And if you get too careless about abolishing courts, that could open up a can of worms. Because it — you — there — there could be retaliation. So it should be a more serious — yes we get very frustrated with this. But the whole thing is, if you just say, well we’re going to — OK there are 10 courts, lets get rid of three this year because they ruled a — a way we didn’t like.

That — that to me is, I think opening up a can of worms for us and it would lead to trouble. But I really, really question this idea that the — the Congress could subpoena judges and bring them before us. That’s a real affront to the separation of the powers.

MODERATOR: Governor Romney, many people believe that the way to reign in, so-called activist judges is to be careful in appointing or nominating the judges in the first place. As governor of Massachusetts, you passed over Republicans for three quarters of the judicial vacancies you faced, instead nominating Democrats or Independents. With that track record, why should Republicans believe that you will appoint conservatives to the bench if you become president?

ROMNEY: Well I have to let you know that in Massachusetts, I actually don’t get to appoint the judges. I get to nominate them. They go before something known as the Governor’s Council. It consists of, I believe, seven members, all of whom are elected Democrats. And so to be able to get my appointments through, I had to have people of both parties. And the people I put forward, all were individuals who I vetted very carefully to make sure they would follow the rule of law.

These were largely people going into criminal courts. I chose overwhelmingly people who had been prosecutors in their prior experience. And so we had that kind of justice. Now, let — let me note that the key thing I think the president is going to do, is going to be with the longest legacy. It’s going to be appointing Supreme Court and justices throughout the judicial system. As many as half the justices in the next four years are going to be appointed by the next president.

This is a critical time to choose someone who believes in conservative principles. Now I — I don’t believe that it makes a lot of sense to have Congress overseeing justices. The — the — the only group that has less credibility than justices perhaps is Congress. So lets not have them be in charge of overseeing the — the justices. [applause]

ROMNEY: However — however, we don’t call it we the judges. We call it we, the people. And we do have the ability to remove justices that need to be impeached. We also have the ability to pass new amendments if we think a justice is taken the nation in the wrong direction. And where a statute has been misinterpreted, congress can write a statute that clarifies that point. We have ability to rein in excessive judges.

MODERATOR: All right. And I just want to go quickly down the line. With just a name, favorite Supreme Court justice. Senator Santorum — current.

SANTORUM: I have to say of these folks over here have been talking about taking on the courts. I have done it. I actually campaigned in Iowa against those justices and I was the only one on this panel that did it, number one.

Number two, when the partial birth abortion status struck down by the Supreme Court, George Bush got elected we actually went back and I worked with Henry Hyde and we passed another bill, told the Supreme Court they were wrong. Passed it, George Bush signed it and it was overturned.

We can talk about reform and doing something to confront the courts, or you can actually go out and make it happen. I made it happen. And it’s tops.

MODERATOR: And quickly down the line, favorite current Supreme Court justice.

PERRY: I’ll be as quickly as I can, but when I talk about overhauling Washington, D.C., one of the things I talk about besides a part-time congress is no longer having lifetime terms for the federal bench. I think that is one of the ways that you keep these unaccountable legislators from rogues to try to dictate to the rest of us. And I would say, you know, you pick Alito, Roberts, Thomas, pick one.

MODERATOR: All right. Would you pick one, please.

ROMNEY: Yes. Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Scalia.

MODERATOR: All right. Speaker Gingrich.

GINGRICH: I think that is a pretty darned good list. And I would sign up for those guys. Scalia is probably the most intellectual of the four. They’re all four terrific judges.

I mean, if we had nine judges as good as those four we would be happy with the Supreme Court.

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: From my point they’re all good and they’re all bad, because our country a long time ago split freedom up to two pieces — personal liberty and economic liberty. And the judges, as is congress and as is nation, think it’s two issues. It’s but one issue. So therefore, congress is on this issue as well as our judges.

MODERATOR: Last chance to say a name.

PAUL: No, I’m not going to — all of them are good and all of them are bad. How is that?

MODERATOR: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: Well, I do think that there are good justices. And I would put Antonin Scalia at the top of the list. I would also include Clarence Thomas and John Roberts and Alito. I think they are all marvelous. It could be easy to pick any one of them.

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: One of the reasons I’m optimistic about the future of this country is because we have rule of law. Let’s face it. One of the great things that this country has that very few other countries have. So the Judiciary is critically important.

It’s also important to note that governors actually some experience appointing judges. You got to make those hard decisions. And as I reflect on those who today serve I’ve got to say Justice Roberts and Justice Alito fit the bill very, very nicely.

MODERATOR: Thank you, all.

MODERATOR: That was a valiant effort.

MODERATOR: I tried. I tried.

MODERATOR: Coming up, there is a lot of ground to cover in this next hour. The threat from Iran and other foreign policy hot spots, up- and-down oil prices, immigration and border issues, and controversial social issues. Stay with us. Remember, tweet @bretbaier with a question or followup. We’ll be right back.

[commercial break]

MODERATOR: Welcome back to Sioux City, Iowa, and the Republican presidential debate. [applause]

Fired-up crowd, they’re ready for hour number two. And we begin hour number two with an important topic, foreign policy.

Congressman Paul, many Middle East experts now say Iran may be less than one year away from getting a nuclear weapon. Now, judging from your past statements, even if you had solid intelligence that Iran, in fact, was going to get a nuclear weapon, President Paul would remove the U.S. sanctions on Iran, included those added by the Obama administration. So, to be clear, GOP nominee Paul would be running left of President Obama on the issue of Iran?

PAUL: But I’d be running with the American people, because it would be a much better policy. For you to say that there is some scientific evidence and some people arguing that maybe in a year they might have a weapon, there’s a lot more saying they don’t have it.

There’s no U.N. evidence of that happening. Clapper at the — in our national security department, he says there is no evidence. It’s no different than it was in 2003. You know what I really fear about what’s happening here? It’s another Iraq coming. There’s war propaganda going on. [applause]

And we’re arguing — to me, the greatest danger is that we will have a president that will overreact and we will soon bomb Iran. And the sentiment is very mixed. It’s — it’s very mixed even in Israel. You know, there — the — a head of the security for Israel, who just recently retired, said that it wouldn’t make sense to do this, to take — to take them out, because they might be having a weapon. So I would say that the greatest danger is overreacting. There is no evidence that they have it. And it would make more sense — if we lived through the Cold War, which we did, with 30,000 missiles pointed at us, we ought to really sit back and think and not jump the gun and believe that we are going to be attacked. That’s how we got into that useless war in Iraq and lost so much in Iraq. [applause]

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul, the — the question was based on the premise that you had solid intelligence, you actually had solid intelligence as President Paul, and yet you still at that point would — would pull back U.S. sanctions and again, as a GOP nominee, would be running left of President Obama on this issue?

PAUL: Yes. All we’re doing is promoting their desire to have it. Ehud Barak, the defense minister for Israel, said that — that, if he were in — in Iran, he would probably want a nuclear weapon, too, because they’re surrounded, for geopolitical reasons. So that’s an understanding.

So the fact that they are surrounded, they have a desire. And how do we treat people when they have a nuclear weapon? With a lot more respect. What did we do with Libya? We talked to them. We talked them out of their nuclear weapon. And then we killed them.

So, it makes more sense to work with people. And the whole thing is that nuclear weapons are loaded over there. Pakistan, India, Israel has 300 of them. We have our ships there. We’ve got to get it in a proper context. We don’t need another war. [cheering and applause]

MODERATOR: Understood. And you make that point quite a lot. I’m going to — I’ll try one more time. Iran is reportedly running exercises on closing the Strait of Hormuz, a key passage, as you know, for global trade. Now what should the U.S. response be if Iran were to take that dramatic step?

PAUL: This is — the plans are on the book. All they talk about is, when are we, the West, going to bomb Iran? So why wouldn’t they talk about — they don’t have a weapon, they don’t have a nuclear weapon, why wouldn’t they try to send out some information there and say, you know, if you come and bomb us, we might close the Straits of Hormuz down.

So already the president, and I think he is wisely backing off on the sanctions, because it’s going to be an economic calamity if you take all the oil out of Europe. So I think that makes sense.

He knows these sanctions are overreaching. Sanctions are an act of war when you prevent goods and services from going into a country. We need to approach this a little differently. We have 12,000 diplomats in our services. We ought to use a little bit of diplomacy once in a while. [applause]

MODERATOR: OK. Just a reminder again, that little friendly beep is when you wrap up. Senator Santorum, you have a very different thought about the threat from Iran. For several years, according to the U.S. military leaders, Iran has provided training, funding, and lethal arms to jihadists killing American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are those acts of war?

SANTORUM: They have been continually. They just tried to plan an attack here in this country, killing the Saudi ambassador. They have been at war with us since 1979. The IEDs that have killed so many soldiers, they are manufactured in Iran.

This is — Iran is not any other country. It is a country that is ruled by the equivalent of al Qaeda on top of this country. They are a radical theocracy. The principle virtue of the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to President Ahmadinejad, is not freedom, opportunity, it’s martyrdom.

The idea, Ron, that mutual assured destruction, like the policy during the Cold War with the Soviet Union would work on Iran when their principle virtue is martyrdom, is — mutual assured destruction with respect to Iran would not be any kind of, you know, idea of preventing a war. It would be an inducement to a war.

This is what their objective is. Their objective is to in fact create a calamity. This is what their theology teaches. They believe that it is their mission to take on the West. They don’t hate us because of what we do or the policies we have. They hate us because of who we are and what we believe in.

And we need to make sure that they do not have a nuclear weapon. And we should be working with the state of Israel right now. We should use covert activity. And we should be planning a strike against their facilities and say, if you do not open up those facilities and not close them down, we will close them down for you. [cheering and applause]

MODERATOR: Governor Romney, this week President Obama said the U.S. asked Iran to give our downed high-tech drone back. As you know, the Iranians have it on display. They claim they are extracting data from it and they have no intention of giving it back.

Yesterday you called the president’s response, quote, “extraordinarily weak and timid.” Now in your book you write, quote, “weakness invites challenges, acts of intimidation, acts of aggression, and sometimes war.”

So in this case, are President Obama’s actions inviting war?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Does timidity and weakness invite aggression on the part of other people? Absolutely. A strong America, a strong America is the best ally peace has ever known. This is a president with — the spy drone being brought down, he says pretty please? A foreign policy based on pretty please? You have got to be kidding.

This is a president who fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century. Perhaps it’s going to be the Chinese century. He is wrong. It has to be the American century. America has to lead the free world. [applause]

ROMNEY: And the free world has to lead the entire world. The right course under President Obama’s plans is to shrink our military, thinking somehow if we appease or accommodate the tyrants of the world, that the world will be safer. He’s wrong.

The right course for America is to strengthen our economy, our values, our families, and our military. We need to rebuild our Navy and go from nine ships a year to 15. We need to modernize our Air Force. We need 100,000 new additional troops in our military. We need to take care of our veterans in the way they deserve.

It is time for us to recognize once again a strong military does not create war. A strong America prevents people from trying to test us around the world. [applause]

MODERATOR: Congresswoman Bachmann, today is the official end of the U.S. military operations in Iraq, and there is real concern, as you know, about growing Iranian influence inside Iraq. Also, the deputy prime minister there has expressed concerns about the country possibly slipping into civil war. Are there any circumstances as president where you would send U.S. troops back in to Iraq?

BACHMANN: Well, I think clearly the biggest mistake that President Obama has made — and there are many when it comes to foreign policy — has been the decision that he made regarding Iraq. He was essentially given on a silver platter victory in Iraq, and he’s choosing intentionally to lose the peace.

And we all know what’s going to happen. We know that Iran is going to be the hegemon and try to come into Iraq and have the dominant influence. And then Iraq will essentially have dominance from the Persian Gulf all the way to the Mediterranean through its ally, Syria.

And with all due respect to Ron Paul, I think I have never heard a more dangerous answer for American security than the one that we just heard from Ron Paul. And I’ll tell you the reason why. [applause]

And the reason — the reason — the reason why I would say that is because we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally, Israel, off the face of the map, and they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America.

Look no further than the Iranian constitution, which states unequivocally that their admission — their mission is to extend jihad across the world and eventually to set up a worldwide caliphate. We would be fools and knaves to ignore their purpose and their plan. [applause]

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Obviously, I would like to see a lot less nuclear weapons. I — I don’t want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I would like to reduce them, because there would be less chance of war.

But to declare war on 1.2 billion Muslims and say all Muslims are the same, this is dangerous talk. Yeah, there are some radicals, but they don’t come here to kill us because we’re free and prosperous. Do they go to Switzerland and Sweden? I mean, that’s absurd.

If you think that is the reason, we have no chance of winning this. They come here and explicitly explain it to us. The CIA has explained it to us. It said they come here and they want to do us harm because we’re bombing them.

What is the whole world about the drone being in Iran? And we’re begging and pleading, and how are we going to start a war to get this drone back? Why were we flying the drone over Iran? Why do we have to bomb so many countries? Why are we in — have 900 bases, 130 countries, and we’re totally bankrupt? How are you going to rebuild the military when we have no money? How are we going to take care of the people? [applause]

So I think — I think this wild goal to have another war in the name of defense is the dangerous thing. The danger is really us overreacting. And we need a strong national defense. And we need to only go to war with a declaration of war, and just carelessly flouting it and starting these wars so often.

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich, is Congressman Paul…

[crosstalk]

BACHMANN: And the point would be — can I respond to that? Can I…

MODERATOR: Go ahead.

BACHMANN: Can I respond? And the problem would be the greatest under-reaction in world history if we have an avowed madman who uses that nuclear weapon to wipe nations off the face of the Earth. And we have an IAEA report that just recently came out that said, literally, Iran is within just months of being able to obtain that weapon. Nothing could be more dangerous than the comments that we just heard.

[crosstalk]

MODERATOR: All right, 30 seconds, Dr. Paul.

PAUL: There is no U.N. report that said that. It’s totally wrong on what — what you just said.

BACHMANN: It’s an IAEA report.

PAUL: That — that is not — that is not true. They — they produced information that led you to believe that, but they have no evidence. There’s no — been no enrichment of these bombs.

BACHMANN: And if we agree with that…[booing]… if we agree with that, the United States’ people could be at risk of our national security.

PAUL: OK. She took my time, so I’d like — I’d like to finish. If she thinks we live in a dangerous world, she ought to think back when I was drafted in the 1962 with nuclear missiles in Cuba. And Kennedy calls Khrushchev and talks to them, and talks them out of this so we don’t have a nuclear exchange.

And you’re trying to dramatize this, that we have to go and — and treat Iran like we’ve treated Iraq and kill a million Iraqis, and 8,000-some Americans have died since we’ve gone to war. You cannot solve these problems with war. You can solve the problems if we follow our constitution and go to war only when we declare the war, win them and get them over with instead of this endless fighting and this endless attitude that we have enemy all around the world.

BACHMANN: But as president, I stand on the side of…

MODERATOR: Thank you — we have been liberal with our friendly ding.

Mr. Speaker, you have been openly critical of the United Nations. For example on the topic of Palestinian efforts for statehood at the U.S. you said, quote, “we don’t need to fund a corrupt institution to beat up on our allies.”

In a Gingrich administration would the United States leave the UN?

GINGRICH: No, but we would dramatically reduce our reliance on it. And we’d confront certain realities. People talk about a peace process. 11 missiles were fired in Israel last month, last month. Over 200 missiles fired at Israel this year. You think if we had 11 missiles fired in the United States we — well, this president anyway would say gee, maybe we could communicate and you would like us more.

But I don’t think there is — you know, I think most of us, most Americans would say you know if you are firing missiles at me, that may not be a good gesture. OK? The United Nations camps that we have helped fund have been training grounds for terrorism.

As Congressman Bachmann pointed out the last time we debated, she was over there with textbooks that are clearly teaching terrorism that are indirectly funded by the United States through the UN.

We have no obligation to lie and every obligation to tell the truth about how bad the UN bureaucracy is and why it ought to be fixed or we ought to radically cut what we’re paying.

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman, do you agree?

HUNTSMAN: I think the United Nations serves a useful purpose in the area of peacekeeping and some humanitarian work. Beyond that, I hate the anti-Americanism. I hate the anti-Israel sentiment.

But let me tell you what this nation needs and what it is going to get under a Huntsman administration. It needs a new foreign policy. We need to update it a little bit. We are still trapped a little bit in the Cold War, George Tenet mind set.

I want to make sure that first and foremost we have a foreign policy, and a the national security strategy that recognizes that we have to fix our core here at home. We are weak. This economy is broken. When we are strong, we project values of goodness that transform and change people like no military can — liberty, democracy, human rights and free markets.

We have got to fix this core first and foremost if we are going to be effective overseas. And that is what i want to focus on.

Second of all, I want to make sure that…

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman, that is the time.

HUNTSMAN: Let me just get the second point.

Second of all, I want a foreign policy — I want a foreign policy that is driven by economics first. Let me just tell you, its used to break my heart sitting in embassy in Beijing the second largest embassy in the world looking at Afghanistan with 100,000 troops. We are securing the place, the Chinese go in and they win the mining concession. There is something wrong with that picture.

We need to change the way we’re doing business.

MODERATOR: OK. Two dings in that one.

Governor Perry, given the grim details of the recent United Nations report on the Syrian regime killing and torturing its own people, thousands of people said to be killed at the hands of the Assad regime. At what point should the U.S. consider military intervention there?

PERRY: Well, I have already called for a overfly zone — no fly zone over Syria already. They are Iran’s partner. They are attached at the hip. And we have to stand firm with our ally in that region, Israel. There needs to be no space between the United States and Israel. And this administration has absolutely bungled.

It is the most muddled foreign policy that I can ever remember in my lifetime whether it was in ’09 when we had the opportunity either covertly, overtly or other ways of helping the Iranian citizens as they were trying to overthrow that repressive regime, whether it was working with Mubarak, and trying to have a moderate to come in and replace him, whether it was leading from behind, as we have seen in Libya, and now we have seen this president, as Mitt and Newt have both talked about, asking the Iranians to give us back that drone.

What we should have done is one of two things — we either destroy it or we retrieve it. He took a third route, which was the worst and the weakest, and that is to do nothing.

MODERATOR: Now to my colleague Neil Cavuto — Neil?

MODERATOR: Candidates, I want to move on if we can to energy issues. And Speaker Gingrich, I would like to begin with you. As you know, the president, sir, has rejected any efforts to tie a payroll tax cut extension with the Keystone pipeline and to reopen it and to explore reopening it as well.

He says that any other way to connect the two would be akin to adding an extraneous issue. Given his opposition and — and the likelihood that the Keystone issue could be up in the air for a year or more, how do you recommend Republicans deal with this to force the issue?

GINGRICH: You know, Neil, I sometimes get accused of using language that’s too strong, so I’ve been standing here editing. [laughter]

I’m very concerned about not appearing to be zany. And…[laughter]

But — but I want to paint a picture for all of us. The Iranians are practicing closing the Straits of Hormuz. The Canadian prime minister has already said to the American president, if you don’t want to build this pipeline to bring — create 20,000 American jobs and bring oil through the United States to the largest refinery complex in the world, Houston, I want to put it straight west in Canada to Vancouver and ship the oil direct to China, so you’ll lose the jobs, you’ll lose the throughput, you’ll lose 30 or 40 years of work in Houston.

And the president of the United States cannot figure out that it is — I’m using mild words here — utterly irrational to say, I’m now going to veto a middle-class tax cut to protect left-wing environmental extremists in San Francisco, so that we’re going to kill American jobs, weaken American energy, make us more vulnerable to the Iranians, and do so in a way that makes no sense to any normal, rational American. [applause]

MODERATOR: No offense, sir, but you didn’t answer my question. [laughter]

What would — what would you do to try to move on this within a year?

GINGRICH: What — what should the congressional Republicans do? They should attach it to the middle-class tax cut, send it to president, force him to veto it, send it a second time. We had to send welfare reform to Bill Clinton three times. He vetoed it twice. By the third time, the popular outrage was so angry, 92 percent of the country wanted to have welfare reform, he decided to sign it. It happened to be an election year.

I’d say to the president, you want to look like you are totally out of touch with the American people? Be my guest, but I’m not backing down when we’re right and you are totally wrong. [applause]

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman, on the same issue [inaubible] the delay, as you’ve pointed out, stands to threaten thousands of jobs, in a recent speech, you said potentially up to 100,000 jobs. But the president’s supporters say a rushed decision could cost the environment a great deal more. What I’d like to ask you, Governor, is there any condition under which a President Huntsman would say the need to protect our land trumps the need to provide more jobs?

HUNTSMAN: It’s always going to be a balancing act. We’ve got land that everybody respects and appreciates, but the job we’ve got to undertake as American people is to fuel our future.

We have no choice. I mean, our economy has hit the wall. I want to get rid of that heroin-like addiction we have based on imported oil. Three hundred billion dollars transfers every year from this country to a lot of unpredictable and relationships that are no more than transactional.

In order to get to where this country needs to be, we need a relationship with Canada from which we can draw raw materials. But I also want to make sure that I’m able as president to disrupt the oil monopoly. There’s a one-product monopoly in terms of product distribution in this country. If we’re going to achieve real energy independence, we’re going to have to be able to draw from a multiplicity of products like natural gas.

We wake up to the reality [inaubible] in this country that we have more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil, I say, how stupid are we? When are we going to get with the picture and start converting to transportation, converting to manufacturing, converting to electricity and power generation? It is completely within our grasp.

It’s going to require a president who understands that — that delicate balance and who’s going to be able to go out with an aggressive plan toward energy independence — independence that gets it done for this country. [applause]

MODERATOR: Congresswoman Bachmann, you — you were very critical, Congresswoman, of the extended shutdown after the BP oil spill that I believe lasted upwards of five, six months, in terms of a moratorium. I was wondering, though, Congresswoman, if you were president and there were such a disaster again, what would be an acceptable period for oil drilling to cease, for you to get to the bottom of a problem?

BACHMANN: Well, what we needed to do was find out what the true cause of the problem was. And the Obama administration wasn’t willing to have a true and thoughtful investigation to get to the bottom of it.

President Obama jumped to conclusions, and he put a moratorium on accessing American oil in the Gulf region that actually hurt the economy more than the original disaster. But I wanted to add something on Keystone. Keystone is extremely important, the pipeline.

This pipeline is one that would have brought at least 20,000 jobs, at least $6.5 billion worth of economic activity. And if I was president of the United States, I wouldn’t have taken the decision that President Obama did. His entire calculus was based upon his reelection effort. Because quite frankly, the radical environmentalists said to President Obama, you pass Keystone, we’re not going to do your volunteer door-to-door work.

That’s what Barack Obama has done to this country. He’s put his reelection over adding jobs and making the United States energy independent. I would have made the decision as president of the United States, we would put Keystone online immediately. [applause]

MODERATOR: Governor Perry, you — you have railed against the special treatment of Ford and Solyndra as have the other candidates here tonight. And particularly the tax code incentives for green technologies and allowances that have been made for this industry. But it’s nexus, governor you have afforded the same attention to the oil industry. Back in 2003, you signed a bill that reduced the tax paid by some natural gas companies that have helped them reap since, better than $7 billion in tax savings. So I — I guess what I’m saying is, are you guilty of the same behavior as governor, favoring an industry, that you claim this president has, favoring the green industry?

PERRY: Today is the 220th anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights. And one of those, the Tenth Amendment, I like a lot. And the reason is because that’s how our founding fathers saw this country set up. Where we had these laboratories of innovation. It — it should be in the purview and the decision making process of a state. If they want to put tax policies in place that helps make them be more competitive.

PERRY: We did it not only for the oil and gas industry, but we also did it for the alternative industry — alternative energy industry. And the wind industry. They came in droves, made Texas the number one wind energy producing state in the nation. But government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers from Washington, D.C. That’s the difference. If in the states — I’ll promise you Terry Branstad in this state, he knows how to put tax policy, regulatory policy in place to make his state be more competitive. And you need 50 states out there competing with each other and Washington out of their hair. [applause]

MODERATOR: Thank you Neil. And a reminder, go to Foxnews.com/debate to see how well the candidates are answering the questions with your votes. Coming up, we’ll ask about border issues, immigration and a topic that got a lot of attention on Twitter, plus some controversial social issues as well. Stay tuned. [applause]

[commercial break]

MODERATOR: Welcome back to Sioux City, Iowa. And our Republican presidential debate here in northwestern Iowa.

These people tend to like it I think so far. I think they do. You have to next round of questions on board issues and immigration.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Bret.

The question is for you, Governor Perry. This topic received traffic on Twitter. You have joined the 57 House Republicans who have called for the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, to resign in the wake of the failed federal gun tracking program Operation Fast and Furious.

So far, there is no clear proof that Mr. Holder knew about the controversial aspects of this operation. And he points out that he actually helped stop it when it came to his attention. Are you and other Republicans politicizing this issue as General Holder claims?

PERRY: If I’m the president of the United States, and I find out that there is an operation like Fast and Furious and my attorney general didn’t know about it, I would have him resign immediately. You cannot, the president of the United States comes to El Paso, Texas, earlier this year and proclaims that the border of Texas and Mexico, the U.S. border with Mexico is safer than it’s ever been.

Well, let me tell you, I’ve been dealing with this issue for 11 years. I’ve sent Texas Ranger recon teams there. Our law enforcement men and women face fire from across the border or in the U.S. side from these drug cartels. It is not safe there. Our country is at jeopardy.

If we are going to be able to defend America, from Iran, from Hezbollah, from Hamas, that are using Mexico as a border, as a way to penetrate in the southern part of the United States. Venezuela has the largest Iranian embassy in the world there. We know what is going on. It is time for this country to have a real conversation about a Monroe Doctrine again like we did against the Cubans in the 60s.

MODERATOR: Senator Santorum, what say you to the attorney general’s claim that the Republicans are politicizing this issue?

SANTORUM: I would agree with Governor Perry that if he was the attorney general under me, I would have him — I would fire him. I wouldn’t have him resign, I’d fire him. This is something he should have been aware of, something that should have been stopped, it shouldn’t have started in the first place.

I think Governor Perry is also right. And this is something I’ve been saying now for many years, which is we need to pay much more attention to what is going on in our own hemisphere, not only do they have the largest embassy in Venezuela, there are flights from Tehran, from Damascus to Caracas. And those flights stop at a military base before they come into the civilian base.

There are training camps, jihaddist training camps in Central and South America. They’re working with the drug cartels. And they are planning assaults on the United States. That is what we know is going on right now. And we are doing — this president has ignored that threat. Has insulted our allies like Honduras and Colombia, deliberately. Has embraced — as he has the other scoundrels in the Middle East, has embraced Chavez and Ortega and others in Central and South America, not promoting our values and interests.

We need a brand new initiative, an initiative that says that we will promote our values in this region and we will stop the spread of terrorism in Central and South America. [cheering and applause]

MODERATOR: Governor Romney, last week you said that the 11 million illegal immigrants now in this country must return to their countries of origin before they can apply for legal status.

You also said that we are not going to go around and round up the 11 million. Why would these illegal immigrants voluntarily leave America just to apply for a chance at legal status, especially when they have your assurance that if they stay put we are not going to round them up?

ROMNEY: Let me tell you how that works. We are going to have an identification card for people who come here legally. The last campaign, actually, Rudy Giuliani talked about this time and time again.

We would have a card, a little plastic card, bio-information on it. Individuals who come here legally have that card. And when they apply for a job, they are able to show that to the employer. The employer must then check it with E-Verify or a similar system.

Newt Gingrich points out, let Federal Express — or not Federal Express, American Express or MasterCard or Visa process that, immediately determine if the card is valid or not.

So people come here legally, they’ve got that card. If employers hire people without that card, the employer gets sanctioned just like they do for not paying taxes. Very serious sanctions.

So you say to people who are here illegally today, you are not going to be able to work here unless you register, unless — and we will give you transition period of time, and then ultimately you have got to go home, apply for permanent residency here or citizenship, if you want to try and do that, but get in line behind everyone else.

My view is, people who have come here illegally, we welcome you to apply but you must get at the back of the line, because there are millions of people who are in line right now that want to come here legally. I want those to come here legally. Those that are here illegally have to get in line with everybody else. [applause]

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich, is that realistic?

GINGRICH: Well, let me start and say that Congressman Steve King has just introduced the IDEA act, which would in fact reinforce this model. Because it would take away all tax deductibility for anyone who is employed illegally, and once you have something like E-Verify effectively working, you really build a big sanction.

We disagree some on what you do with very, very long-term people here. I think somebody who has been here 25 years and has family here and has local family supporting them ought to have some kind of civilian certification.

But let me say on this whole issue of immigration. On day one, I would drop all the lawsuits against Arizona, South Carolina, and Alabama. It is wrong for the government. [cheering and applause]

GINGRICH: I would propose — I would propose cutting off all federal aid to any sanctuary city that deliberately violated federal law. [cheering and applause]

GINGRICH: And I would begin the process of completing control of the border by January 1st, 2014. Those steps would begin to fundamentally change the entire way of behavior towards getting control of legality in the United States. [applause]

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman, a recent FOX News poll showed that 66 percent of voters believe that the government should allow a pass to citizenship for the illegal immigrants who are already here in this country.

Nearly three-quarters of Latinos agree. Given these majorities and given the growing importance of the Latino vote in the general election, does the Republican presidential candidate need to take a more moderate approach on this issue if he hopes to defeat President Obama?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think the Republican candidate has to speak based on our values, the values of the Republican Party. Limited government, pro-growth, these are the things that the Hispanic and the Latino populations are going to be looking for.

You don’t need to pander. You just need to be — we need to be who we are. But in terms of immigration, and illegal immigration, this president has so screwed up this economy, nobody is coming anymore. There is nothing to come for. I mean, there’s not a problem today. Just take a look at the numbers coming across.

I mean, the numbers, it was posted the other day, lowest in four decades. So I say, you know, we have got to secure the border, of course. We have got to deal with the 11, 12 million people who are here.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that legal immigration is an engine of growth for this country. Half of the Fortune 500 companies in this country today were founded by immigrants.

We have lost probably — well, our market share of travel and tourism has gone from 7 percent to 12 percent because our visa system is so screwed up in this nation. So you’ve got to look at the Department of Homeland Security.

You’ve got to completely remake the way that people are moving back and forth, our H1-B visa system, how we are dealing with the movement of people, how we are dealing with immigration. This is an economic development opportunity and we are missing it. [applause]

MODERATOR: Chris Wallace has the next round of questions.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Bret. Governor Romney, you have changed your position in the last 10 years on abortion, on gay rights, on guns. You say keeping an open mind is a strength, but some of your critics say that every one of these moves has been to your political advantage. When you were running in Massachusetts, you took liberal positions. Running now as president, you take more conservative positions. Is that principle or is it just politics?

ROMNEY: Well, I’ll begin by taking exception with your list there. I did change my…

MODERATOR: Which — which one?

ROMNEY: Gay rights.

MODERATOR: Well…

ROMNEY: I’m firmly in support of people not being discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation. At the same time, I oppose same-sex marriage. That’s been my position from the beginning.

With regards to abortion, I changed my mind. With regards to abortion, I had the experience of coming in to office, running for governor, saying, you know, I’m going to keep the laws as they exist in the state. And they were pro-choice laws, so effectively I was pro-choice.

Then I had a bill come to my desk that didn’t just keep the laws as they were, but would have created new embryos for the purpose of destroying them. I studied it in some depth and concluded I simply could not sign on to take human life. I vetoed that bill. [applause]

I went to the — to the Boston Globe. I described for them why I am pro-life. Every decision I took as governor was taken on the side of life. I am firmly pro-life.

I’ve learned over time, like Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and others, my experience in life over, what, 19 — 17, 18, 19 years has told me that sometimes I was wrong. Where I was wrong, I’ve tried to correct myself.

MODERATOR: If I may just pick up, you say the one issue which I was wrong on was gay rights. Correct, sir?

ROMNEY: Mm-hmm. What was the — what was the — I don’t recall the whole list, but I…

[crosstalk]

MODERATOR: It was abortion, gay rights, and guns.

ROMNEY: You know, I’ve always supported the Second Amendment. And — and we had a piece of legislation that came to our desk that would have — that provided an assault weapon ban. The gun lobby favored it because it also did things that the gun lobby wanted. Working with them, we decided to sign the bill. So you can say, well, I’ve changed my position on that, but I’ve been pro-gun and continue to be pro-gun.

MODERATOR: If I may, sir, in 1994, when you were running for the Senate, you wrote a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans in which you said, “I am more convinced than ever before that, as we seek full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent,” who was Ted Kennedy.

In 1994, you also said you supported not only an assault weapons ban, but also a five-day waiting period. And in 2002, when you were running as governor, you said that you supported the tough gun control laws in Massachusetts. And then as you say in 2004, you also signed an assault weapons ban.

So you are still more of a champion of gay rights than Ted Kennedy was?

ROMNEY: I think — I think — I think you just said exactly what I said, which is this.

MODERATOR: I…

ROMNEY: Let me — let me go back and say that. I do not believe in discriminating against people based upon their sexual orientation. There are some people that do. I had a member of my administration, my cabinet who was — who was gay. I didn’t ask justices that I was looking to appoint — rather, people who are applicants for jobs — what their sexual orientation was.

I believe as a Republican, I had the potential to fight for antidiscrimination in a way that would be even better than Senator Kennedy, as a Democrat, was expected to do so.

At the same time, Chris, in 1994 — and throughout my career — I’ve said I oppose same-sex marriage. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. My view is — let me tell you — protects — protect the sanctity of marriage, protect the sanctity of life. That’s my view. I’ve had it for many years.

Thank you. [applause]

MODERATOR: Senator Santorum, you have campaigned on social issues as much or perhaps more than any other candidate on this stage. Are you persuaded that Governor Romney has made these changes or what he says in some cases are not changes, based on principle and not political expedience?

SANTORUM: Governor Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, was faced with a Supreme Court decision that said that same-sex — that traditional marriage was unconstitutional. In that court decision, the court said that they did not have the power to change the law in Massachusetts and rule same-sex marriage legal. Why? Because in the Massachusetts constitution, it states specifically that only the governor and the legislature can change marriage laws.

Governor Romney — the court then gave the legislature a certain amount of time to change the law. They did not. So Governor Romney was faced with a choice: Go along with the court, or go along with the constitution and the statute. He chose the court and ordered people to issue gay marriage licenses, and went beyond that. He personally as governor issued gay marriage licenses. I don’t think that is an accurate representation of his position of saying tolerance versus substantively changes in the laws.

I’ve had a strong, consistent track record of standing up for the values of this country, not discriminating. It had a no- discrimination policy in my office. But we’re not talking about discrimination. We’re talking about changing the basic values of our country.

MODERATOR: Governor Romney, 30 seconds to respond, sir. [applause]

ROMNEY: That is a very novel understanding of what our Supreme Court of Massachusetts did. I think everybody in Massachusetts and the legal profession in Massachusetts and my legal counsel indicated that the Supreme Court of Massachusetts determined that under our constitution, same-sex marriage was required. And the idea that somehow that was up to me to make a choice as to whether we had it or not is a little unusual. We got together with our legislature and I fought leading an effort to put in place a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts to overturn the court’s decision to make marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.

This is something I battled in the year I had after their decision. I fought it every way I possibly could. I went to Washington, testifying in favor of a federal amendment to define marriage as a relationship between man and a woman.

Let me tell you, I want to make it very clear, I have been a champion of protecting traditional marriage that continues to be my view. If I somehow missed somewhere I’m happy to get corrected. But that is something I feel very deeply.

MODERATOR: All right. Congresswoman Bachmann, you say that Speaker Gingrich has a, quote, “inconsistent record on life” and you singled out comments he made recently that life begins with the implantation of a fertilized egg, not at conception. What is your concern?

BACHMANN: Well, my concern is the fact that the Republican Party can’t get the issue of life wrong. This is a basic part of our party. Just last night we gathered in Des Moines to talk about this issue, because it’s that crucial to our party. And one of the concerns that I had is that when Speaker Gingrich was Speaker of the House he had an opportunity to de-fund Planned Parenthood. And he chose not to take it. That is a big issue.

And also I think even more troubling when he was in Washington, D.C., he made an affirmative statement that he would not only support but he would campaign for Republicans who are in support of the barbaric procedure known as partial birth abortion. I could never do that.

And as a matter of fact, George Wilt asked the question of Speaker Gingrich. he said this: he said, “is it a virtue to tolerate infanticide?” This is a seminal issue and something we can’t get wrong. As president of the United States, I will be 100 percent pro- life from conception until natural death.

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Sometimes Congressman Bachmann doesn’t get her facts very accurate. I had ad 98.5 percent right to life voting record in 20 years. The only …

MODERATOR: Go ahead. I’m…

GINGRICH: The only difference was that they didn’t like the initial welfare reform bill, which every other conservative group had said had nothing in it on abortion. Period. That’s the only one in 20 years.

I believe that life begins at conception. The conversation we’re having which is an ABC interview, I was frankly thinking about proposing a commission to look at fertility, because I think there is a challenge with what happens to embryos, who I think should be regarded as life because by definition they have been conceived. I am against any kind of experimentation on embryos. And I think my position on life actually has been very clear and very consistent.

MODERATOR: Let me just ask you — no. I want to ask you a direct question, if I may, speaker. That was your rebuttal to Congresswoman Bachmann.

BACHMANN: Can I rebuttal, because have a rebuttal for getting my facts wrong?

MODERATOR: Absolutely, congresswoman.

BACHMANN: Because this isn’t just once, I think it’s outrageous to continue to say over and over through the debate that I don’t have my facts right. When as a matter of fact, I do. I’m a serious candidate for president of the United States. And my facts are accurate.

Speaker Gingrich said that he would actively support and campaign for Republicans who got behind the barbaric practice of partial birth abortions. This is not a small issue. This is a big issue.

I think George Will was right when he asked that question. What virtue is there in tolerating infanticide?

MODERATOR: We are way over time. So I’m just going to ask you for 30 seconds to respond on the that specific issue.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, what I said on that particular issue is I wouldn’t go out and try to purge Republicans. Now, I don’t see how you are going to govern the country if you are going to run around and decide who you are going to purge. The fact is, twice when I was speaker we moved the end of partial-birth abortion. Clinton vetoed it. We worked very hard. And Rick Santorum has been a leader on this issue.

I have consistently opposed partial birth abortion. I, in fact, would like to see us go much further than that and eliminate abortion as a choice. And I said as president I would de-fund Planned Parenthood and shift the money to pay for adoption services to give young women a choice of life rather than death.

MODERATOR: Thank you, speaker.

GINGRICH: Thank you, Chris. Candidates, Ronald Reagan famously espoused his 11th Commandment: Thou shall not…

PROTESTER: [off-mike]

MODERATOR: I’m sorry. Thank you. Thank you very much.

PROTESTER: [off-mike]

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Well — well, let me just finish this question. We’re running out of time.

Ronald Reagan famously espoused the 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican. Yet to varying degrees, during this campaign, you’ve all broken that one way or another, broken that vow. So I guess the question is, how do you balance on the one hand trying to win the nomination with on the other hand not weakening the eventual nominee to the point where he or she is less electable than President Obama?

Down the row, Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: We have a responsibility to vet the candidates. That’s what — look, I’ve been at 350 town hall meetings. I’ve been kicked pretty hard by a lot of Iowans about the positions I hold, and that’s what — that’s the process. The process is, let’s find out who can stand up. Let’s find out who has the best record, who’s the most — who’s the person that can have that — the consistency of — of going out there and finding for the principles that we believe in.

Because I — let me assure you, the other side’s going to kick very, very hard, and we have to have someone who can stand up for it, fight, and holds those convictions deep so they can fight the good fight in the fall and win this presidency.

MODERATOR: Governor Perry?

PERRY: Yeah, there’s a — there’s an — as a matter of fact, I think that was the Republican chairman, not Ronald Reagan, that actually said that.

MODERATOR: Well, he espoused it. That’s what I said.

PERRY: Right, indeed he did. But there’s an NFL player — his name doesn’t come to mind — but he said, if you don’t get your tail kicked every now and then, you’re not playing at a high enough level. And I just want to give all of you all credit for letting me play at a high enough level and for training me the way that you have. [laughter]

MODERATOR: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Yeah, we can handle it. And — and there’s nothing — there’s nothing that’s been said by — by these folks on this stage about me that I’m not going to hear 100 times from — from President Obama. He’s going to have a — what, $1 billion to go after me or whoever our nominee is? We’re — we’re going to give each other what we need to for people to understand who we are.

But let’s not forget this. Let’s every day remember that, time and time again, this — it’s President Obama we’ve got to be talking about. He has unveiled himself as a president that’s not — not the right person to lead this country. [applause]

MODERATOR: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it’s pretty clear, if you look at my ads, if you look at my website, if you look at what — how I’ve operated in the debates, that while I reserve the right to correct attacks against my — against me, overall I’ve tried very hard to talk about very big solutions to be — to go to the American people with the communication about, what do we need to do?

And I’ve said consistently, these are all friends of mine. Any of these folks would be better than Barack Obama in the White House. Any of them would be great in the next administration. [applause]

Our only opponent is Barack Obama. And we need to come out of this process remembering: Beating him is what we collectively have to do. [applause]

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: You know, the media has a responsibility and we have a responsibility, and I think exposing our opponents to what they believe in and their flip-flop, I think the reason maybe that we had to do more this year is maybe the media is messing up and they haven’t asked enough questions, that we have to fill in and ask these questions and get this information out.

So, no, I think it’s a responsibility on us. I think there should be lines drawn. I think there are some things below the belt. I don’t think — but I don’t like the demagoguing, the distortion, and taking things out of context. I don’t like that. But when they disagree on an issue, important issues, then we should expose it.

MODERATOR: Congresswoman Bachmann? [applause]

BACHMANN: Ronald Reagan also brought clarity to the — his opponents that he had in his primaries, as well. And he famously asked the question, in 1980, are we better off today than we were four years under Jimmy Carter? And I think the republic is in far worse shape today under Barack Obama’s leadership.

That’s what we’re exposing now. Who will be — who will continue that legacy of Ronald Reagan? And who will take Barack Obama on toe to toe and hold him accountable? And I think that I’ll be the best one to do that on the stage.

MODERATOR: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: I actually worked for Ronald Reagan. And I think he would have been the first to stand up and say: Debate is good. It must be respectful, and it must be rigorous.

A rigorous debate will lead to greater trust. And the one thing this nation needs desperately today is heightened trust, in our institutions, in our tax code, in our wars abroad, in Congress, toward Wall Street.

And I’m here to tell you that this kind of debate over time is going to elevate the trust level in whomever makes it out as the nominee. That will allow us to beat Barack Obama.

Thank you. [applause]

MODERATOR: Well, that is it for our debate tonight. Thank you all very much. Our thanks to the candidates, their staffs, the Iowa Republican Party, and to all the great people here in Sioux City, and, of course, in Iowa. They could not have been more hospitable.

December 10, 2011: ABC News / WOI-DT / Des Moines Register / Iowa Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Des Moines, Iowa December 10, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATORS:
Diane Sawyer (ABC News);
George Stephanopoulos (ABC News)

SAWYER: And a good evening to all of you welcome to Iowa, welcome to Drake University as the presidential voting draws near, the time is coming. And the political team of ABC News has been out in force throughout this state. And we just wanna say to the people of Iowa, we are endlessly struck by how seriously you take your role as first in line for the vote.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Every four years first.

SAWYER: That is true. And it’s 24 days now and counting until the voting begins in the caucuses. And– and it’s at the time for closing arguments, so let us introduce the presidential candidates from the Republican party for the United States of America here at the debate tonight.

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts [applause], former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of Georgia [applause], Texas Congressman Ron Paul, [applause] and Congresswoman from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann. [applause] Thank you all.

Before we begin if we can just one note, because George and I have been talking and all of us have been talking to many of you about what it takes to run for the presidency in this country right now. And we are talking about the determination, the physical stamina, the road you travel, the miles you travel and the sacrifices your families make as you do it. So we thought maybe at the end of this year– the– the end of this road does approach, we could all just salute your commitment to the presidential race and to democracy in this country. We salute you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The rules of the debate are pretty straightforward, the candidates have negotiated them, agreed to them. They’re gonna forgo opening statements and then they will give, they’ve agreed, one minute responses to questions from Diane and me, 30 seconds for rebuttal to those. And we wanna show everybody at home that the candidates can see as well, this clock right here. And we’ll shift from green to yellow to red over the course of the allotted time.

The audience here at Drake was chosen by the Iowa Republican Party, and all of you at home can follow on ABCNews.com and Yahoo.com. You can even join the discussion by downloading Yahoo’s Enter Now app on your iPhone, and with that you can actually pitch in with opinions during this debate.

SAWYER: So it is time to begin. And people are telling us that they do feel it’s time to choose. And the number one issue on which they’re going to choose, jobs in America. And we would like to hear from all of you in this opening round. And the question is this: what is your distinguishing idea, distinguishing, from all of the others on this stage, about how to create jobs in this create, how to bring jobs back from overseas. And if you will, how many jobs do you think you can create and how long will that take? And Speaker Gingrich, will you lead us off?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that there’s a clear record, I worked with Ronald Reagan in the early ’80s and his recovery program translated into today’s population of about 25 million new jobs in a seven-year period. As Speaker of the House, I worked with– President Clinton and he followed with a very similar plan.

And we ended up with about 11 million new jobs in a four-year period. Went down to 4.2% unemployment. Starts very simply, taxes, lower taxes, less regulation, an American energy plan, and actually be positive with our people to create jobs. The opposite of the Obama plan, which is higher taxes, more regulation, no American energy, and attack people who create jobs with class warfare.

So I think there are a number of steps you can take. I would start with zero capital gains, hundreds of billions of dollars would pour into the country, I’d go to 12.5% corporate tax rate, that would bring in at least $700 billion in repatriated money back from overseas. I would then go to 100% expensing for all new equipment– abolish the [unintelligible] news– write it off in one year, and I’d abolish the death tax penalty. Those steps would begin to dramatically create jobs.

SAWYER: And I want to turn to Governor Romney, if I can. Because you’ve given a number and you’ve given a time frame, 11.5 million jobs in four years, aiming for six percent– unemployment rate at the end of the first time. What is the distinguishing idea to do that?

ROMNEY: Well, having spent my life in the private sector, I understand where jobs are created. They’re not created in government, they’re not created in Washington. They’re created on Main Streets and streets all over America. And to help make America the most attractive place in the world for investment, for new enterprise, for entrepreneurs and for job growth, there’s seven things you have to do. There’s not just one, there’s seven.

One, make sure that our employer tax rates are competitive with other nations. They’re not now. We’re the highest in the world. Number two, get regulators and regulations to recognize their job is not to burden the– the private enterprise system, but to encourage it. Number three, to have trade policies that make sense for America, not just for the people with whom we trade.

This president has not done that. And China, that’s been cheating, has to be cracked down on. Number four, we have to have energy policies that take advantage of our extraordinary energy resources. Number five, the rule of law, and the Boeing– effort on the part of the N.L.R.B. violated that. Number six, grade institutions to create human capital, and number seven, finally a government that doesn’t spend more money than it takes in.

SAWYER: And Congressman Paul, a number as a time frame and an idea.

PAUL: My — approach is slightly different. Where I think all for less taxes and less regulations, we recognize this. But I emphasize the fact that you have to know why we have a recession, and why we have unemployment before you can solve the problem. And the re– the financial bubbles are created by excessive credit and stimulation by the Federal Reserve. And then you have bubbles and you have to have a correction.

The– this stimulus creates es– excessive debt and malinvestment. As long as you don’t correct that and you maintain the debt and the malinvestment, you can’t get back to economic growth again. Unfortunately, so far what we have done, is we have not liquidated the debt, we have dumped the debt on the American people through TARP funding and– and as well as the Federal Reserve.

So the debt is dumped on the people. And what did we do? We bailed out the people that were benefiting during the formation of the bubble. So as long as we do that, we’re not gonna have economic growth. We– you did the same thing in the Depression, the Japanese are doing it right now, so it’s time we liquidate the debt and look at monetary policy. And then, of course, lower taxes. And I would like to– do in the first year, cut $1 trillion, ’cause that is the culprit, big spending and big government.

SAWYER: I wanna come back to those of you with another direct question of whether there is a number of jobs that can be created and a time frame you can tell the American people you can do it in. But I want to turn to Governor Perry for your distinguishing idea.

PERRY: Yeah, the distinguishing mark is– a tax policy that puts a flat tax in place of– 20%. And you– as they’ve said, you get rid of the regulatory burden that’s killing people. And I have a record of doing that as the governor of the state of Texas over the last 11 years. We created over a million jobs in that state while America lost over two million jobs.

So there’s a very clear blueprint of how to make this work. But I wanna talk about one other issue, and– and Congressman Paul touched on it. And it’s this idea, I can– I can on a map diagram the problem that we’ve got in America today. And it d– it’s this direct line between Washington D.C. and Wall Street. And it’s the corruption that’s gone on. It’s the idea of TARP. It’s the idea of $7.7 trillion that we didn’t even know was being put into these peoples and these banks.

That’s what Americans are really upset with. And it’s gonna take an outsider who can come in to put in the model of taxes and regulation. And– and be able to balance that budget by the year 2020 with 18% of G.D.P. That’s what the American people want, and an outsider like Rick Perry is gonna do that.

SAWYER: All right, Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: Well– one of our former competitors was Herman Cain and he always reminded us of the 9-9-9 plan. And what I would like to do is have the Win-Win-Win plan. And the way that we can do that is first addressing the tax code. I’m a former federal tax lawyer. And that literally, we will create millions of dollars if we abolish the tax code and embrace a pro-growth policy not only by lowering the rates for businesses, but by individuals as well.

And making it a tax code that applies fairly and the same to all Americans. That’s very important. And something else I wanna do with my tax code policy is make sure that everyone pays something. Because today, 47% of the American people pay nothing in federal income tax. Everyone benefits by the country, they need to pay. But also, one of my “Win” points is with American energy production.

If we legalize American energy, we’ll create 1.4 million jobs in just a few years’ time. And here’s something we– else that we can do under the “Win” plan. We can cut government bureaucracy, which is ObamaCare. N.F.I.B. tells us, that’s the small business agency, that we will lose 1.6 million jobs over five years if we keep ObamaCare. I wanna– I am committed to repealing ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, cutting out the E.P.A., and we’ll save millions of jobs if we do that.

SAWYER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, I was just down in Fremont County, which is down in the far southwest corner of the state, and they just lost about, a couple hundred jobs at a ConAgra plant down there. And Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds understand, that’s why they asked us to have a forum here in Pella a few weeks ago on manufacturing.

They understand that the heartland of America is suffering because the manufacturing economy of this country continues to go down. We used to have 21% of people employed in this country in manufacturing, it’s now nine. And it hurts disproportionately small town and rural America. So what I learned from traveling around Iowa is we had to get a plan together that’ll revitalized manufacturing.

So I took the corporate tax, not the 12%. I zeroed it out for all manufacturers. We want manufacture, we want “Made in the U.S.A.” to be the moniker under my administration. We want an administra– we want– to put a platform together that’s gonna repeal regulations that are crushing our– our b– manufacturers and businesses. I’ll repeal, one thing a president can do, he can’t pass a law, but he can repeal regulations.

And Barack Obama has given us– a bevy of regulations that need to be repealed, starting with a lot of our energy regulations that driving up our energy costs. That’s another part of d– of the plan, is to– to make sure we have lower electricity rates, that we have oil and gas drilling going on here, so manufacturing can afford to be here. You put together that plan, we will get– not only revitalize the economy, we’ll– we’ll take care of an area of the ec– of this country that has suffered in– in recent times. And that’s rural and small-town America.

SAWYER: I just wanna point out, I think that Governor Romney is the only one who actually gave a four-year, first-term number, which was again, 11.5 million jobs. Wondered if anyone else wanted to come in with a four-year, first-term promise for the American people.

SANTORUM: I’m not–

MALE VOICE #2: Well–

SANTORUM: –I– I– I– I’m not gonna make a promise, because I don’t believe you s– I don’t believe that government can sit there and– and– and from the top down dictate how many jobs are here. What we can do is we can create an atmosphere for businesses to thrive. And we know what that means. Less regulation, where– a regulation that works for– for– for businesses, taxation that makes us competitive, a litigation environment that makes us competitive.

You create the platform. You create the– you create that petri dish, you’ll get lots of things growing there. And I don’t need– some government bean counter to tell us we’ve got a right– right program to be able to c– create jobs in this country.

SAWYER: I wanna move on if I can, to another question which represents some of the urgent and tough choices presidents have to make, because this one is coming up soon, December 31st. And it is the payroll tax cut. And as we know, the payroll tax cut, which funds the Social Security– fund in this country is part of the argument, part of the debate, part of the consideration about the economy in this country right now.

And– by some estimates, if this tax cut expires on December 31st, it could add as much as $1,000 to the tax burden of American working families. And I know you are divided down the middle, if I can turn to you, Congresswoman Bachmann, and we know that you are a tax attorney, and– you’re familiar with these issues. Should this tax cut go?

BACHMANN: Well, I– this tax shouldn’t– cut shouldn’t have been put in the first place, the payroll tax extension, because last December, I fought against this. And I encouraged my colleagues not to go down this road. This is President Obama’s plan, a temporary gimmick, not permanent solution. That’s what the business community is looking for.

That’s where real jobs will be created. The reason why this is so detrimental to the economy as well is that this blew a hole, in other words, it took away $111 billion away from the Social Security Trust Fund. This is a very real issue for senior citizens, because we have to pay the Social Security checks that are going out.

I’m completely different from b– Barack Obama on this issue. I don’t agree with Barack Obama. We have candidates on this stage that are standing with Barack Obama on this issue. But this year alone, it– this will also cost the Social Security Trust Fund another $112 billion. And we don’t have enough money this year in the Social Security Trust Fund to put out those checks.

Which means, we have to go to the General Treasury to get the money. And trust me, when you open the door to the General Treasury, the only thing that comes out are moths and feathers. There’s nothing in there. So we have to recognize, we can’t spend money that we don’t have. And that’s what Barack Obama’s trying to do. Temporary gimmicks, not permanent solutions–

SAWYER: But [unintelligible] is a decision that does have to be made in three weeks. And Governor Romney, you have said it’s a “temporary Band-Aid,” but you have indicated that you are in favor of keeping it. So how do you differ from Congresswoman Bachmann? Is it worth it?

ROMNEY: Well, I don’t wanna raise taxes on people– particularly people in the middle class that are suffering right now under the Obama economy. It’s a temporary tax– cut, and it’ll help people in a d– very difficult time. But– but let’s– let’s recognize, this is just a Band-Aid.

The extraordinary thing is, we have a president who’s been in office three years with a fiscal crisis and a jobs crisis. The– these unemployment numbers we’re seeing, they’re not just statistics, they’re real people. They’re young people that can’t start their lives, can’t go to college, they’re people in their 50s that ex– expected to be in their big earning years, and they’re not gonna be able to– to have the– the kind of future they hope for.

And– and this is a president who has not, at this stage, put forward a plan to get this economy going again. All he does is talk about little Band-Aids here and there throwing gasoline on a fire, on a few embers. The right thing to do is to talk about how he’s gonna make America competitive again. I spoke with businesspeople all over the country and have been one myself for 25 years.

People aren’t investing in America because this president has made America a less attractive place for investing and hiring than other places in the world. That’s got to change. And it’s a shame that we’ve got a president who thinks that being hands-on in the economy means working on his golf cred. You know, the– the– the right course for America is to have a president who understands the economy and will make that his– his focus and put in place a plan to get this economy going.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanna grab that– this conversation, but– but very quickly, I believe Speaker Gingrich is also for extending the payroll taxes and so is Congressman Paul, Governor Perry, I believe you’re against it– some are so tur–

PERRY: Very much so.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, you’re the only one I– what is your position on it?

PERRY: Is there a Social Security Trust Fund and– or not? And is the Social Security system gonna be funded by payroll taxes or not? And the President of the United States runs around and talks about how Republicans don’t care about Social Security and how they’re gonna– they’re gonna rip apart the Social Security system, and he’s the one defunding the Social Security system.

We’re either gonna have a serious debate on how to fix Social Security, and we’re not gonna do it by taking resources away from Social Security to pay benefits. So I’m– I’m all for tax cuts, I– I mean, I’ll welcome the president to sit down with– Republicans in Congress to work on a tax cut that’s gonna create growth in the economy. But to– to take the Social Security Trust Fund that is– that is so sacrosanct to the Democrats when it comes for election time.

And then to use that as a tax and then try to beat up Republicans for– for not supporting the tax cut is– is absurd. You either care about Social Security and you wanna fund it, or you don’t.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So it’s very divided. Three and three, Congressman Paul, 30 seconds rebuttal, Senate–

PAUL: Well– well I want to– extend the tax cut, because if you don’t, you raise the taxes. But I wanna pay for it. And it’s not that difficult. In my proposal, in my budget, I wanna cut hundreds of billions of dollars from overseas. The trust fund is gone. But how are we gonna restore it? We have to quit the spending. We have to quit this being the policemen of the world.

We don’t need another war in Syria and another war in Iran. Just get rid of the embassy in Baghdad. We’re pretending we’re comin’ home from Baghdad. We built an embassy there that cost a billion dollars and we’re putting 17,000 contractors in there, pretending our troops are coming home. I could save–

STEPHANOPOULOS: [unintelligible]

PAUL: –and we don’t have to raise taxes on Social Security– on the– on the– on the– on the tax– [overtalk]

STEPHANOPOULOS: As I said, I do wanna broaden this out, and all of you have been debating for the past several months– two big questions for this nomination fight. Who has the most consistent conservative candidate among you, and which of you is best able to defeat President Obama? And Governor Romney, Speaker Gingrich crystallized his argument a couple of weeks ago. He said, and I quote, “I’m a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney, and a lot more electable than anyone else.” [laugh] I know you don’t agree with that thought. [laugh]

ROMNEY: Well, of course I don’t agree with that. [laughter] I don’t think most people agree with that. Speaker Gingrich has been in government for a long time and we can look at his record, we can look at my record. But really, this is more about– about us talking about what we believe. And w– and whether we can lead the country at a time when– when we need to restore the kind of values that make America the greatest nation on Earth.

We have in Washington a president who believes in a fundamental transformation of America into an entitlement society. Where the government takes for some from some and gives to everybody else. And the only people that do real well in that setting are the people in the government. This nation was founded on the principle of being a merit society, where education, hard work, risk taking, have lifted certain individual, and they have helped lift– lift the entire nation.

That’s what’s going on today. And the reason I oughta be the nominee of our party is I believe I can take that message to our president and to the American people. And they’ll say, “Mitt Romney understands the economy ’cause he’s lived in it.” I understand a merit-based society, I believe in the principles that made America the greatest nation on Earth. And Speaker Gingrich and I have a lot of places where we disagree, we’ll talk about those–

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why don’t you name them?

ROMNEY: What, places where we disagree? Let’s see– we can start with– with his idea to– to have– a lunar colony that would mine– minerals from the– from the moon, I’m not in favor of spendin’ that kinda money– to do that. [laughter] He said that he would– he would like to– eliminate in some cases the child labor laws so that kids could clean schools. I don’t agree with that– that idea.

His plan in capital gains, to remove capital gains for people– at the very highest level of income is different than mine. I’d– I’d– eliminate capital gains, interest, and dividends for people in middle income. So– we have differences of viewpoint on– on some issues. But– but the real difference, I believe, is our backgrounds. I spent my life in the private sector.

I– I understand how the economy works. And I believe that for Americans to– to say goodbye to President Obama and elect a Republican, they need to have confidence that the person they’re electing knows how to make this economy work again and create jobs for the American middle class.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your response?

GINGRICH: Just a second. You had four allegations, do I get four responses?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Take your time. [laughter]

GINGRICH: Okay. Let’s start with the last one, let– let’s be candid. The only reason you didn’t become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994. [laughter]

ROMNEY: Now– now wait a second, that– [audience booing] I mean you’ll– Okay, go ahead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: –you’ll get another response, go ahead.

ROMNEY: Okay. [laugh]

GINGRICH: Do I– do I get to– continue–

ROMNEY: Please, please.

GINGRICH: No, and I’m just saying, I’ve– I looked at it, I thought, you know, I’m a citizen, I’ve served the country in many ways, you’re a citizen, you served the country in many ways. But it’s a bit much, you’da been a 17-year career politician by now, if you’d won. That’s– that’s all I’m saying on that one.

Now number two, I’m proud of trying to find things that give young people a reason to study science and math and technology and telling them that some day in their lifetime, they could dream of going to the moon, they could dream of going to Mars. I grew up in a generation where the space program was real, where it was important, and where frankly it is tragic that NASA has been so bureaucratized, aims at you– Iowa– Iowa State’s a perfect example.

Iowa State’s doing brilliant things, attracting brilliant students. I wanna give them places to go and things to do. And I’m happy to defend the idea that America should be in space and should be there in an aggressive, entrepreneurial way. Third, as to schools, I think virtually every person up here worked at a young age. What I suggested was, kids oughta be allowed to work part-time in school, particularly in the poorest neighborhoods, both because they could use the money.

If you take one-half of the New York janitors who are unionized and paid more than the teachers, an entry-level janitor gets paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. You take half of those janitors, you could give virtually– you could give lots of poor kids a work experience in the cafeteria and the school library and– and front office, and a lot of different things.

I’ll stand by the idea, young people oughta learn how to work. Middle class kids do it routinely. We should give poor kids the same chance to pursue happiness. Finally [applause] on– finally on capital gains taxes I asked you about this at Dartmouth. I’m astonished, you’re a businessman. You wanna create jobs. A $200,000 cap on or capital gains tax cut is lower than Obama.

Now you know if you really wanna create jobs, you wanna– you wanna encourage the people who make more than $200,000 who actually have capital to invest the capital in the U.S. I’ll stick with zero capital gains will create vastly more jobs than your proposal– [overtalk]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney, your response, then I wanna bring in the others.

ROMNEY: Yeah, yeah. My proposal actually does create 11.5 million jobs, and it does so by a higher– a G.D.P. growth rate than we’ve seen over these last Obama years. And– and in my view, the place that we could spend our precious tax dollars for a tax cut is on the middle class, that’s been most hurt by the Obama economy. That’s where I wanna eliminate taxes on interest dividends and capital gains.

And with regards to the idea that if I’da beaten Ted Kennedy I coulda been a career politician, that’s probably true. If I would’ve been able to get in the NFL liked I hope when I was a kid, why, I woulda been a football star all my life too, [laughter] but– but I– but I– [applause] I spent– I spent my life in the private sector. Losing to pl– Teddy Kennedy was probably the best thing I coulda done for– for preparing me for the job I’m seeking, because it– it put me back in the private sector. I worked in the private sector, I learned lessons that are desperately needed in Washington.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanna bring–

ROMNEY: We don’t need– we don’t need folks who are lifetime– lifetime Washington people to– to– to get this country out of the mess it’s in. We need people from outside Washington, outside K Street. And by the way, one more thing, to have kids work in the– in the library and to– and to help out in school and to clean the blackboards does not require changing our– our– our child labor laws in this country. We of course should encourage more kids to– [overtalk]

STEPHANOPOULOS: We will– we will come back to that, I wanna bring Congressman Paul in on this, because– Congressman, you’ve been running ads that are quite tough–

PAUL: Quite what?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Quite tough on Speaker Gingrich here in Iowa this week, accusing him of quote, and this is a quote from your ad, “serial hypocrisy.” Why do you think Speaker Gingrich is a hypocrite?

PAUL: Well, he’s been on different positions, you know, on so many issues. You know, single payer– he’s taken some positions that are not conservative. He– he supported the TARP funds. And– the other– really annoy– should’ve [laugh] annoyed a lot of people, he received a lot of money from Freddie Mac. Now, Freddie Mac is essentially a government organization.

While he was earning a lot of money from Freddie Mac, I was fighting over a decade to try to explain to people where the housing bubble was coming from. So Freddie Mac is bailed out by the tax payers. So in a way, Newt, I think you probably [laugh] got some of our tax payer’s money. They g– they got taxed, and they got money on, and they’re still getting bailed out.

But– you’re a spokesman for ’em and you received money for ’em, so I think– I think this is– something that– the people oughta know about. But there’s been many positions, and you have admitted many of the positions where you have changed positions. But– you know, if you were lookin’ for a consistent position, you know, I– I think there’s gonna be a little bit of trouble anybody competing with me on consistency. [laughter] [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, as you say in your own, normally in your own speeches, the housing bubble came from the Federal Reserve inflating the money supply. Now, that’s the core of the housing bubble and I happen to be with you on auditing the Fed and on fund– and frankly on firing Bernanke. Second, I was never a spokesman for any agency, I never did any lobbying for any agency. I offered strategic advice. I was in the private sector. And I was doing things [laughter] in the private sector.

PAUL: Oh come– okay, okay. [laughter] [applause]

[overtalk]

PAUL: –private sector. [laugh]

GINGRICH: And– and when you’re in the private sector, and you have a company and you offer advice like McKinsey does, like a bunch of other companies do, you’re allowed to charge money for it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: All right–

GINGRICH: Ca– ca– it’s called free enterprise.

PAUL: It’s the tax payer’s money though, we had to bail these people out–

GINGRICH: Well I was– I’m not for bailing them out, in fact, I’m for breaking them up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring Congresswoman Bachmann in on this, because you make similar accusations against Speaker Gingrich. You called him a “poster boy of crony capitalism.” Did he answer your concerns?

BACHMANN: Well, when you’re talking about taking over $100 million, and when your office is on the Rodeo Drive of Washington D.C., which is K Street, and you’re taking money to influence the outcome of legislation in Washington, that’s the epitome of the establishment, that’s the epitome of a consummate insider. But your question was, who’s the proven con– constitutional conservative in this race, and that would be me.

I’m 55 years old, I’ve spent 50 years in the real world as a private business woman living real life and– and building a real business. But you have to take a look at the candidates that– that are on the stage. You started out with Mitt Romney with Newt Gan– Gingrich, asking them about whether or not they’re the conservative in this race.

But you have to take a look. You– when you look at Newt Gingrich, for 20 years, he’s been advocating for the individual mandate in healthcare. That’s– that’s longer than Barack Obama. Or if you look at Mitt Romney as the governor of Massachusetts, he’s the only governor that put into place socialized medicine. No other governor did. Our nominee has to stand on a stage and debate Barack Obama and be completely different.

I led 40,000 Americans to Washington D.C., to the Capitol, to fight ObamaCare. I didn’t advocate for it. If you look at– at– at Newt/Romney, they were for ObamaCare principles. If you look at Newt/Romney, they were for cap and trade. If you look at Newt/Romney, they were for the illegal immigration problem. And if you look at [laugh] Newt/Romney, they were for the $700 billion bailout. And you just heard Newt/Romney is also with Obama on the issue of the payroll extension.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay.

BACHMANN: So if you want a difference, Michele Bachmann is the proven conservative. It’s not Newt/Romney.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You threw– you threw a lot out there. [applause] So let’s get both– both of them a chance to respond, Speaker Gingrich, you go first, because you were in there twice– also on r– on– Romney, and then–

GINGRICH: Okay– those four points–

STEPHANOPOULOS: –Senator Romney, right go ahead.

GINGRICH: Well, Michele, you know, a lot of what you say just isn’t true, period. I have never– I have– I oppose cap and trade, I testified against it, the same day that Al Gore testified for it. I helped defeat it in the Senate through American solutions. It is simply untrue. I fought against ObamaCare at every step of the way. I did it with– the Center for Health Transformation was actively opposed, we actively campaigned against it.

You know, I think it’s important for you, and the– this is fair game, and everybody gets to– to– to pick fights. It’s important that you be accurate when you say these things. Those are not true. And most of the money I made, frankly, I made in ways that are totally– had nothing to do with anything you’ve described. I did no lobbying, no representation. And frankly, my– my speech– my– my speech money and other things I did, they had nothing to do with that.

It was a lot larger source of income. So, you know, I’ve had 24 books and I’ve had 13 New York Times best-sellers. Now– that was not people who wanted influence running around buying my books. I know that doesn’t fit your model, it happens to be true.

BACHMANN: Can I respond? [applause]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thirty seconds, then Governor Romney.

BACHMANN: Well you’d have to go back to 1993 when Newt first advocated for the individual mandate in healthcare, and as recently as May of this year, he was still advocating for the individual mandate in healthcare. And Governor Romney sent his team to the White House to meet with President Obama to teach them how to spread the RomneyCare model across the nation. That’s why I say, Newt/Romney, you’ve got to have our nominee as someone who is a stark, distinct difference with President Obama.

Who can go toe to toe and hold him accountable. President Obama knows me in Washington D.C. I’ve taken him on on issue after issue. Our nominee has to be willing to not agree with Barack Obama the– on these issues, but stand 180° opposite of all the candidates on this stage I’ve been fighting President Obama for every year that I’ve been there, and I’ve taken him on. And I will take him on in the debate and defeat him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney. [applause]

ROMNEY: I know Newt Gingrich. And Newt Gingrich is a friend of mine. But, he and I are not clones, I promise. [laugh] That– that is not the case. So this Newt Gingrich thing, we gotta get that out of our mind altogether– Newt and Romney thing, sorry. Let– let me say this about– about health care. One, I didn’t send a team of anybody to meet with Barack Obama. I wish he’d have given me a call. I wish when he was putting together his health care plan, he’d have had the courtesy and– and perhaps the judgment to say, “Let me– let me talk to a governor. Let’s talk to somebody who’s dealt with a real problem that– that understands this topic,” and get on the phone.

I’d have said [background voice], “Mr. President, you’re going down a very, very bad path. Do not continue going down that path because what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna raise taxes on the American people. You’re gonna cut Medicare. Let’s not forget, only one president has ever cut Medicare for seniors in this country, and it’s Barack Obama. We’re gonna remind him of that time and time again.

And finally, the plan we put in place in Massachusetts, it deals with the 8% of our people who didn’t have insurance. The 92% of people who did have insurance, nothing changes for them. If I’m President of the United States, we’re gonna get rid of ObamaCare and return, under our constitution, the 10th Amendment, the responsibility and care of health care to the people in the states.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanna bring Governor Perry– [applause] you’ve heard this argument, I wonder which side you come down on.

PERRY: Yeah, well, I– I’m– I’m stunned, ’cause– the fact of the matter is, you know, Michele kinda hit the nail on the head when we talked about the individual mandate. Both of these gentlemen have been for the– individual mandate. And I’m even more stunned, Mitt, that you said you wished you could’ve talked to Obama and said– “You’re goin’ down the wrong path,” because that is exactly the path that you’ve taken Massachusetts. The Beacon Hill study itself said that there’s been 18,000 jobs lost because of that individual mandate.

The study continued to say that there’ve been over $8 billion of additional cost. I wish you coulda had the conversation with the people of Massachusetts a long time before that phone call would’ve been with– the– President Obama, ’cause the fact of the matter is, you’re for individual mandate. And you can get up and stand– up and talk about, you know, “I’m against it now. And I’m gonna– rescind ObamaCare. I’m gonna repeal ObamaCare.” But the record is very clear. You and Newt were for individual mandates. And that is the problem. And the question is then, “Who can stand on the stage, look Obama in the eye, and say, ‘ObamaCare is an abomination for this country,’?” And I’m gonna do that. And I can take that fight to him and win that fight.

SAWYER: Governor Romney, [inaudible]. [applause]

ROMNEY: A good deal of what you said was right. Some was wrong. Speaker Gingrich said that he was for a federal individual mandate. That’s something I’ve always opposed. What we did in our state was designed by the people in our state for the needs of our state. You believe in the 10th Amendment. I believe in the 10th Amendment. The people of Massachusetts favor our plan three to one. They don’t like it, they can get rid of it. That’s the great thing about a democracy, where individuals under the 10th Amendment have the power to craft their own solutions.

By the way, the– the problem with President Obama’s plan is it does three things we didn’t in my opinion, among others. I understand we disagree on this. But among others, one, it raises taxes by $500 billion. We didn’t raise taxes. Two, it cuts Medicare by $500 billion. We didn’t do that, either. And three, it doesn’t just deal with the people that don’t have insurance. It’s a 2,000-page bill that takes over health care for all the American people. It is wrong for health care. It’s wrong for the American people. It’s unconstitutional. And I’m absolutely adamantly opposed to ObamaCare.

And if I’m the President of the United States, I will return to the people and the states the power they have under the constitution and they can craft the solutions they think are best for them. And my view– you had a mandate in your state. You mandate that girls at 12 years old had to get a vaccination for– for a sexually-transmitted disease. So it’s not like we have this big difference on mandates. We had different things we mandated over. I– I wanted to give people health insurance. You want to get young girls– a vaccine. There are differences.

SAWYER: Governor, if we could ask Speaker Gingrich to respond.

GINGRICH: Yeah, I– I just wanna make one point that’s historical. In 1993, in fighting HillaryCare, virtually every conservative saw the mandate as a less-dangerous future than what Hillary was trying to do. The Heritage Foundation was a major advocate of it. After HillaryCare disappeared it became more and more obvious that mandates have all sorts of problems built into them. People gradually tried to find other techniques. I frankly was floundering, trying to find a way to make sure that people who could afford it were paying their hospital bills while still leaving an out so libertarians to not buy insurance. And that’s what we’re wrestling with. It’s now clear that the mandate, I think, is clearly unconstitutional. But, it started as a conservative effort to stop HillaryCare in the 1990s.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Perry.

PERRY: I’m– I’m– I’m listenin’ to you, Mitt, and I’m hearin’ you say all the right things. But I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts which should be the model for the country. And I know it came out of– of the– the reprint of the book. But, you know, I’m just sayin’, you were for individual mandates, my friend.

ROMNEY: You know what? You’ve raised that before, Rick. And– you’re simply wrong.

PERRY: It– it– it was true then. [chuckle] It’s true now.

ROMNEY: That– now, this– Rick, I’ll– I’ll tell you what. [chuckle] 10,000 bucks– [applause] $10,000 bet?

PERRY: I’m not in the bettin’ business, but, okay.

ROMNEY: Oh, I– I’ll–

PERRY: I’ll show you the– I’ll– I’ll– I’ll show you the book.

ROMNEY: I wrote– I’ve got the book. And–

PERRY: And we’ll show– [laugh]

ROMNEY: And I– and I– and I wrote the book. And I haven’t– and chapter seven is a section called The Massachusetts Model. And I say as close as I can quote, I say, “In my view, each state should be able to– to fashion their own program for the specific needs of their distinct citizens.” And then I go on to talk about the states being the laboratories of democracy. And we could learn from one another. I have not said, in that book, first edition or the latest edition, anything about our plan being a national mo– model imposed on the nation.

The right course for America, and I said this durin’ the debates the last time around, I’ll say it now and time again, is to let individual states– this is a remarkable nation. This idea of federalism is so extraordinary. Let states craft their own solutions. Don’t have ObamaCare put on us by the federal government.

BACHMANN: George and Diane–

[overtalk]

BACHMANN: George and Diane, can I just say something? This is such an important issue. We have one shot to get rid of ObamaCare, that’s it. It is 2012. Do we honestly believe that two men who’ve just stood on this stage and defended RomneyCare when it was put in place in Massachusetts and the individual mandate when he proposed it in 1993, are they honestly going to get rid of it in 2012?

ROMNEY & GINGRICH: Yes.

BACHMANN: This is going to be a very– [laugh] but, I don’t think so. [cheering] It’s gonna be a very heavy lift.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I gotta get Senator Santorum in here.

BACHMANN: It’s gonna be a very heavy lift.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator.

SANTORUM: This is not about what you say at a debate or what you say in a campaign when you’re talking to audiences that you wanna get– that you– that you know what you wanna hear. Back in 1994 when they would– I was running for the United States Senate and I did not support an individual mandate and I was a conservative, I supported something called Medical Savings Accounts that I drafted with John Kasich when I was in the House because I believe in bottom-up solving the problems in America, not top-down government solutions.

That’s what I learned– I actually learned it, some of it, in listening to some of your GOPAC tapes. But, you’ve strayed on that issue, as you have on others. The record is important. But what the question was about a consistent conservative, well, you can’t talk about whether someone’s consistent unless you look at their record. And I’d agree with Michele. I mean, I think Michele has been consistent in– as– as a consistent conservative. But, she’s been fighting and losing. I fought and won. I was in the United States Senate and I fought and– and passed Welfare Reform. It– I was the principal author when I was in the United States House and was– and– and managed the bill on the floor of the United States Senate.

I was the– leader on– on pro-life issues and pro-family issues. And I fought those issues and endured tough debates and won. I went out and fought on na– national security issues, conservative things like putting sanctions on Iran. And again, the consistent track record of being there in good times and in bad, and I think you heard the difference– you’re not gonna hear them talk about all the positions I took and flip-flopped on. I was there. I led. And I won.

And if you’re lookin’ for someone who can be a consistent conservative, and there’s others on this platform, but who can lead the fight, win the issues, and plus, win in states that are important for us to win elections like Pennsylvania and–

STEPHANOPOULOS: I– I– I’m tryin’ to be– we’ve tried to– I’ll– I’ll– I’ll risk using the word, we’ve tried to be liberal with the time. But, the time [laugh]– [unintelligible]close as we can. We– and we are running up against a commercial break, but it did invoke you kinda swimming backwards, so 30 seconds to respond.

BACHMANN: Well, you know, I think the important thing to know is that you fight and that you lead. And I led when I– I was– when I was in the United States Congress, we were in the minority. Nancy Pelosi wasn’t interested in my pro– pro– pro– growth policy on health care. But, I didn’t sit on my hands. I saw what was happening to this country. Our country was going to lose because of socialized medicine.

And so I did everything I could, including bringing and leading 40,000 people to the Capitol to get the attention of the– of the Congress to get rid of ObamaCare. As President of the United States, my proven consistent record will be that I will take on every special interest. I will take on K Street. And I will pre-lobby. And I’ll make sure that I help elect 13 more Republican U.S. Senators so we have 60 senators in the Senate, a full complement in the House. And I won’t rest until we repeal ObamaCare. You can take it to the bank.

SANTORUM: But, if I can– if I can res– if I can respond to that, because she referenced that– she referenced there are differences between the two of us, I was in the minority in the House of Representatives, too. And along with Jim Nussle from here in Iowa, I– we formed a– a group called the Gang of Seven and we won. We exposed the House banking scandal. We overturned a huge scandal. We– we sent the– eventually sent the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski ended up in jail, because, no, we didn’t just fight. But we fight and we figured out a way to win, even in the minority.

SAWYER: And we wanna thank all of you. And again, these are the rules that you set up. We wanna be fair. And we wanna hear everything you have to say. These issues are so important. But, it really does help if you stick to the rules that were agreed on. And we appreciate that. And if– we could, when we come back, we’re gonna tackle some other very big issues, immigration, big questions about foreign policy, and also one about states and family values. And that will be when we come back. [music]

ANNOUNCER: You’re watching live ABC News coverage of the Iowa Republican Party debate. [music]

[commercial break]

ROMNEY: [music] The real difference, I believe, is our backgrounds. I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how the economy works. And I believe that for Americans to– to say goodbye to President Obama and elect a Republican, they need to have confidence that the person they’re electing knows how to make this economy work again and create jobs for the American middle class.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your response?

GINGRICH: Just a second. We had four allegations. Do I get four responses?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Take your time. [chuckle]

GINGRICH: Okay. Let’s– let’s start with the last one. Let’s be candid. The only reason you didn’t become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994. [boos]

ROMNEY: Now– now wait a second, now wait a second. That’s– that was– that was–

STEPHANOPOULOS: That was– you’ll– you’ll get another response, go ahead.

GINGRICH: Do– do I get to go ahead and continue?

ROMNEY: Please, please.

GINGRICH: No, and I’m just saying–

BACHMANN: You want a difference, Michele Bachmann is a proven conservative. It’s not Newt Romney.

MALE VOICE: You threw– you threw a lot out there. [applause]

ANNOUNCER: Back live from Des Moines, Iowa [inaudible].

ANNOUNCER: Live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, once again, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We are back. It has been a rocking debate so far. And we want to get to another issue that you all talked about extensively in this campaign, and that is values, family, and faith. Governor Romney and Governor Perry, you both made it a feature of ads you ran in Iowa this week, which leads to this question from our partners at the Des Moines Register. And we’re gonna show it up on the screen. “Should voters consider marital fidelity in making their choices for president?” And– and Governor Perry, in South Carolina this week you said this is an important issue. Why?

PERRY: Well– it– I said that– not only did I make a vow to my wife, but I made a vow to God. And– that’s pretty heavy liftin’ in my book. When I make a vow to God– then– I would suggest to you that’s– even stronger than a handshake in Texas. [applause]

STEPHANOPOULOS: The question is– is about its relevance to the presidential race. So, let me just follow up quickly. Do you think a candidate who breaks his marital vows is more likely to break faith with voters?

PERRY: Well, you know, I– I think the voters are wise enough to figure that one out. I’ve always kind of been of the opinion that– if you cheat on your wife, you’ll cheat on your business partner. So– I think that– issue of fidelity is– important. I mean, it’s– it– it’s a characteristic of which people look at– individuals, whether it’s in their business lives or whether it’s in their personal lives, or whether it’s pickin’ someone that– served– in public office for them.

Individuals who have been– fidelit– in– in fidelity with– with their spouse– I think that sends a very powerful message. If you will cheat on your wife, if you will cheat on your spouse, then why wouldn’t you cheat on your business partner or why wouldn’t you cheat on anybody for that matter?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Santorum, you ran this week, last Sunday, and you– summed up your position of character counts. You said this is relevant as well.

SANTORUM: I– I think character issues do count. And I think– all– all of– all of your record– personal as well as political record is there– for the public to look at. I would not say it’s a disqualifier. I wouldn’t go that far. I think people make mistakes and– you are held accountable to those mistakes and– the public can listen to– the circumstances and– and make their decision.

But certainly, it’s a factor. And it– and it should be a factor. You’re electing a leader. You’re electing someone that trust is everything, and particularly in this election. This election, the people of this– of Iowa– I hear this all the time. Who can we trust? And I– I go out and talk about my record. I talk about the fact that I’ve been married 21 years and have seven children.

I talk about the fact that I’m– I have a record of consistent– and– and conservative politics. I talk about– you know, my past. I think that’s important, and for the people to go and determine whether they’re trustworthy enough to earn their support.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Paul, what’s your view on this?

PAUL: You know, I think character is, obviously– very important. I– I don’t think it should be necessary to have to talk about it. I think it should show through in the way we live. And I think it should show through in– in a marriage. And I happen to have been married for 54 years and family person. But, I don’t think we should have to talk about it. But, you know what? [unintelligible] is– every bit as important. It– if your marriage vows are important, what about our oath of office? That’s what really gets to me.

That’s where you’re really on the line as a public figure. And that’s where I think a lot of people come up real short. Because there’s many times that I have been forced to Congress because I take my oath very seriously. I am up sometimes, believe it or not, voting all by myself [chuckle] thinking that, “Why aren’t there people paying att– why don’t they read Article One, Section Eight?” You know, if– if we took that oath of office seriously in Washington, we’d get rid of 80% of the government.

The budget would be balanced. We’d have sound money. And we would have prosperity. And we wouldn’t be the policemen of the world. We wouldn’t have a Federal Reserve System, and we wouldn’t be invading the privacy of every single individual in this country with bills like the Patriot Act. We’d have a free society and a prosperous society. [applause]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney, you– you chose to make your family and your faith– the feature of your first ad here in Iowa this week. Why?

ROMNEY: Well, actually– the president, President Obama’s PAC– came out with an ad attacking me– and said that I’m– I’m not a person of core values, I’m not– I don’t have a core. And we said– you know in my prior campaigns I’ve come out with ads that show who I am and why I’ve gotten in this race. And that relates to my family and my kids. I’m really concerned about America. I think the issue people have to concentrate on is– is, “Who can lead America to a place where we– we don’t become a Greece or an Italy?”

Because, frankly, that’s the path we’re on. That’s where we’re going. Who can make sure that America’s values, our merit-based society, continues to be the– the hallmark of what allows our economy to create jobs? Who can make sure that it’s good to be middle class in America again? Who can make sure that America is the job-creating engine it once w– once was? Who can make sure that the kids going to school know that when they get outta school, they’re gonna have a job waiting for them that meets the– the– the kinda skills that they’ve created?

I– I believe I’m that person. And– and part of my motivation for doing those things is I love this country, I love the values of this country, a– and I wanna make sure that– that my kids and my grandkids, and I have quite a few of them, 16, that they have an America that’s as prosperous as the America that I’ve enjoyed and just as free.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanna get– Congressman– Congresswoman Bachmann and then Speaker Gingrich, you wrap this up.

BACHMANN: Well, the founders spoke about this. And the question was asked, “What is it that we need to have in the president?” And they wrote in the Federalist Papers. They didn’t look at wealth. They didn’t look at education. They didn’t look at position. They looked at just one issue. And it was, “What’s the measure of a man? Or, what’s the measure of a woman, in our case, for being the next president of the United States. Will they keep their word? Will they be a man or woman of integrity?” That’s what they cared about.

That was more important than anything else. And I think– here in Iowa, that’s what I’ve seen. That is also what people care about. Who are you, really? What is your center? What’s your core? What’s your world view? What drives you? And so people want to know, “What’s your faith?” I’m– I’m a Christian. I’m– I’m unashamed and unapologetic about that. I have a strong faith. I made a proclamation of my faith in Christ when I was 16. And I don’t mind if people ask me those questions or ask me about my husband or our family. I’m happy to talk about that, because after all, people need to take the measure of the man or the measure of the woman when they make that decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker Gingrich, what do voters need to know about this issue from your perspective?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think it is a real issue. And people have to look at the person whom they’re gonna loan the presidency. And they have the– they have the right to ask every single question. They have to have a feeling that this is a person that they can trust with the level of power we give to the presidency. And I think it’s a very, very important issue. And I think people have to render judgment. In my case, I’ve said up-front openly I’ve made mistakes at times. I’ve had to go to God for forgiveness. I’ve had to seek reconciliation. But I’m also a 68-year-old grandfather. And I think people have to measure who I am now and whether I’m a person they can trust. And all I can tell you is that, you know, I am– delighted at the way people have been willing to look at who I am, to look at what my record has been, and the amount of support we’re getting from the American people and from all across the State of Iowa, the number of people who have supported– the candidacy of real change and a record of real change.

SAWYER: And I’d like to turn now, if we can, to the issue of immigration. And so many people talk about it in their living room, talk about it around their dinner tables at night– if I can. And can we just do one thing for the interest of time? Can we stipulate that every single person on this stage tonight has said the number one thing to do is secure the borders, secure the borders, secure the borders, secure the borders. You may have slightly different prescriptions to do it. But, we stipulate that, that that’s what you all want to do first.

I’d like to turn, now, the question, the 11 million undocumented people in this country. And Speaker Gingrich, I’m gonna come back to you because you have talked about citizen review boards to review individual cases, that treated them in individual basis. You– you’ve– you mentioned the fact that someone who’s been here 25 years, served the community, should get special consideration under this board. How many years is the threshold for your– is it five years– has served the community under the criteria that you’ve set out before, five years also a candidate?

GINGRICH: I think, first of all, that anybody you would apply to a– the citizen review board idea came out of a selective service model. It was used as draft boards in World War II. We relied on the local citizens to render judgment about who oughta be deferred, who oughta be drafted. Did they have local knowledge? That’s the starting point.

Second, I started wi– with– with cases that I think are very hard to– to argue about. Someone who’s been here 25 years, somebody who has been a good local citizen, may well belong to your church, has children and grandchildren in the United States, and I will just say flatly, I do not believe the people of the United States are gonna send the police in to rip that kinda person out and ship them outta this country, particularly because those are precisely the people that end up in churches as sanctuaries.

And I think we oughta be honest about that. I think most of the workers who are here who have no ties to us should go home immediately. I think we should make deportation dramatically easier. This is, I think frankly we oughta make English the official language of government. And we oughta have an effective guest worker program with very severe penalties for those employers who hire people illegally.

SAWYER: But, the Pew Center for Hispanic Center, as you know, has said that maybe 3.5 million people could come under the criteria that you laid out.

GINGRICH: I– I don’t think there’s 3.5 million people who’ve been here 25 years.

SAWYER: But they’re talking about people who have been here 15 years. 15 years.

GINGRICH: Well, I wasn’t. They were. You used a number that doesn’t relate to my proposal.

SAWYER: But, under the criteria that you have set out, do you have a threshold on the number of people you would consider before the review board?

GINGRICH: Well, I– that’s why you have the citizen review panel. The per– the person has to have been here 25 years, have genuine ties to the community, be a good citizen, and have an American family sponsor them. And they still don’t get citizenship. This is not amnesty. They get residency. And they pay a penalty in order to get residency.

SAWYER: Okay, I’m gonna turn it to k– to Governor Romney because we heard Speaker Gingrich say we’re not gonna round people up and deport them. And I think at one point– you said something similar in a meeting at Bloomberg that– that they’re not going to be tracking everybody down and moving them out. And yet, to our colleague David Muir– wanna try to clarify something. You said, “You seem to indicate that people should go back home to their country.” And in some cases it may mean as much as five years if they get at the back of the line or more. Are you saying– how many people should be sent back home to their countries? Should they be tracked down to establish who they are, sent back home to their country?

ROMNEY: I– I believe that any time that we start talking about a– a form of amnesty, whether it’s technically amnesty or not, when we start talking about how people have been able to come here and stay illegally for some period of time, that they’re gonna be able to stay here permanently and become a permanent resident of the United States with– with rights to our education system, our health care system, and so forth, we will then create another magnet that draws people into our country illegally.

So, the right course for us is to, once again, talk about what you described. Secure the border. Once we do that, we can start talking about the 11 million or whatever number that may be that are in the country illegally. My own view is those 11– 11 million people should register the fact that they’re here in the country. They should be given some transition period of time to allow them to– settle their affairs and then return home and get in the– in line at the back of the line with everybody else that wants to come here.

Don’t forget, when we talk about– about– the difficulty of people going home, there are millions of people who– many of whom have relatives here in this country who are in line, who want to come here. I want to bring people into this country who have skill, experience, family here who want to draw them in. I do not want to do something. I do not want to do something which encourages another wave of illegal immigration. So, from my view– viewpoint, the key– the key measure is this: No favoritism for permanent residency or citizenship for those that have come here illegally.

SAWYER: So, you’ve said all 11 million. If I could Governor Perry– there is a case or there are a number of these cases of– of people who have signed up for the military, the U.S. military, who have been undocumented but nonetheless go and sign up. What should happen with them?

PERRY: Well, let me– address the issue that you asked from the start, and obviously securing that border is the– is the key. And any of these conversations that we’re having now are nothing more than intellectual– discussions until you secure that border.

But if this country would simply enforce the laws that are already on the book, you think about all of the laws that we have that are already out there, laws that clearly saw– that– that, “Here are punishments,” and, “Here’s what will happen.” If this country would simply enforce the laws that we have on the book– I will tell you one thing: As the president of the United States, you will not see me sending my Justice Department to sue states like Arizona that are havin’ to sovereign rights, I think, put in jeopardy by our Justice Department.

You will not see a catch and release program like this administration has today th– where people who are caught who are illegally in this country, and because they haven’t been caught in a violent situation, they’re released. Released into the general population. That’s the problem that we’ve got in this country.

I would suggest to you we spend time with the laws that we’ve got on the book being enforced, we’ll have a substantial smaller number of people of which we’re gonna have to make decisions about at that particular point in time. And then we can have a legitimate conversation about immigration reform.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanna change subjects now because– [applause] foreign policy was– Speaker Gingrich caused something of a stir overnight in the Middle East with comments he made in interview with the Jewish channel in which he called the Palestinians an invented people. And– I just wondered– G– Congressman Paul, if I can start with you: Do you agree with that characterization, that the Palestinians are an invented people?

PAUL: N– no, I don’t agree with that. And that’s just stirrin’ up trouble. And I– I believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy. I don’t think we should get in the middle of these squabbles. But to go out of our way and say that so-and-so is not a real people? Technically and historically, yes– you know, under the Ottoman Empire, the Palestinians didn’t have a state, but neither did Israel have a state then too.

But this is how we get involved in so many messes. And I think it just fails on the side of– practicing a little bit of diplomacy, getting ourselves [laugh] into trouble mentioning things that are unnecessary. The people in those regions should be dealing with these problems; we shouldn’t be dealing with these things.

But– historically, it– it– you know, under the Ottoman Empire, that i– that is– technically– correct. But to make these decisions in deciding what the settlement’s going to be should be the people that are involved. This idea that we can be the policemen of the world and settle all these disputes, I mean, soon we’ll have to quit because we’re flat out broke. But we– we cannot continue to get into these issues like this and– and– and– and getting ourselves into more trouble.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker Gingrich, as I’ve said, this has caused quite a reaction in– in the Middle East. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Sa– Saeb Erekat, said, “Mark my words: These statements of Gingrich will be the ammunition and weapons of the bin Ladens and the extremists for a long, long time.”

GINGRICH: How would he know the difference? Look from historic, George, simply. Is– is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes. Are we in a situation where every day, rockets are fired into Israel while the United States, the current administration, tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process?

Hamas does not admit the– the right of Israel to exist, and says publicly, “Not a single Jew will remain.” The Palestinian Authority ambassador to India said last month, “There is no difference between Fatah and Hamas. We both agree Israel has no right to exist.”

Somebody oughta have the courage to tell the truth: These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, “If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?” We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s fundamentally– time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, “Enough lying about the Middle East.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney, [applause] you just heard the Speaker say he was just telling the truth. Do you take any issue with that characterization of the Palestinians as an invented people?

ROMNEY: I– I happen to agree with– with most of what the speaker said, except by going down and saying the Palestinians are an invented people. That I think was a mistake on the speaker’s part. I– I think– you– you– I think the speaker would probably suggest that as well. I– I don’t think we want to–

GINGRICH: [unintelligible]

ROMNEY: Maybe not. I– [laughter] I think we’re very wise to stand with our friends, Israel, and not get out ahead of them. This president decided he was gonna try and negotiate for Israel by sayin’, “Let’s go back to the ’67 borders.” That’s not what Israel wanted to h– hear.

They– Israel does not want us to make it more difficult for them to sit down with the Palestinians. Ultimately, the Palestinians and the Israelis are gonna have to agree on how they’re gonna settle the– the differences between them. And the United States–

ROMNEY: –and the– and the United States of America should not jump ahead of Bibi Netanyahu and say something that makes it more difficult for him to– to do his job. My view is this: We stand with the Israeli people. We link arms with them. If we disagree with them, like this president has time and time again, we don’t do it in public like he’s done it, we do it in private.

And we let the Israeli leadership describe what they believe the right course is going forward. We don’t negotiate for the Israeli people. We stand with the Israeli people, stand with our friends, and make it very clear: We are gonna t– we’re gonna tell the truth, but we’re not gonna throw incendiary words into a– a place which is– a boiling pot when our friends the Israelis would probably say, “What in the world are you doin’?”

STEPHANOPOULOS: So there you have it, Mr. Speaker. He says this is gonna make life more difficult for the Israelis.

GINGRICH: The Israelis are getting rocketed every day. The– we’re not making life more difficult. The Obama administration’s making life more difficult. The fact is, the Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story. Somebody oughta have the courage to go all the way back to the 1921 League of Nations mandate for a Jewish homeland, point out the context in which Israel came into existence, and “Palestinian” did not become a common term until after 1977. This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage. And we refuse to tell the truth when the other side lies. And you’re not gonna win the long run if you’re afraid to stand firm and stand for the truth.

ROMNEY: Of course you s– of course you stand firm, and stand for the truth. But you don’t speak for Israel.

GINGRICH: I didn’t.

ROMNEY: If– if– if– if Bibi Netanyahu wants to say what you said, let him say it. But our ally, b– the– the people of Israel, should be able to take their own positions and not have us negotiate for them.

SAWYER: I want to turn, if I can, to–

GINGRICH: But can– can I just say one last thing? Because I didn’t speak for the people of Israel. I spoke as a historian who’s looked at the world stage for a very long time. I’ve known Bibi since 1984. I feel quite confident an amazing number of Israelis found it nice to have an American tell the truth about the war they are in the middle of and the casualties they’re taking and the people who surround them who say, “You do not have the right to exist, and we want to destroy you.”

ROMNEY: I– I’ve known– I’ve– [applause] I’ve also known Bibi Netanyahu for a long time. We worked together at– at Boston Consulting Group. And the last thing Bibi Netanyahu needs to have is not just a person who’s an historian, but somebody who is also running for president of the United States, stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in– in his neighborhood.

SAWYER: Congresswoman–

ROMNEY: And I’m president of the United States, I will exercise sobriety, care, stability. And make sure that in a setting like this, anything I say that can affect a place with– with rockets going in, with people dying, I don’t do anything that would harm that– that process.

And therefore, before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, “Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do? Let’s work together, because we’re partners.” I’m not a bomb thrower, rhetorically or literally.

SAWYER: Under the rules, we need– your response. [applause]

GINGRICH: I think sometimes it is helpful to have a president of the United States with the courage to tell the truth, just as was Ronald Reagan who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the Soviet Union an evil empire and who overruled his entire State Department in order to say, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Reagan believed the power of truth restated the world and reframed the world. I am a Reaganite, I’m proud to be a Reaganite. I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion sometimes with the timid.

ROMNEY: I think it’s important [applause]–

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who’s got the better of this argument, Congresswoman Bachmann? Who’s got the better of this argument?

BACHMANN: Who has the better of this argument?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. [laughter]

BACHMANN: In 1974, I went to Israel for the first time and I worked on a kibbutz for the summer. And I saw a brand new nation that had begun in 1948 and was making its way into the modernization that we know today. They’re a first world nation. I was able to return as a member of Congress multiple times, and I also met with Fayad in Ramallah in the very room that Arafat used as his conference room. When I was in there, I– I had asked Fayad about the issue that we were very concerned about, and that’s how the Palestinians teach their children to hate the Jews and call them pigs and swine and descendants from Hades.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, but do you think–

BACHMANN: And I– and let me finish–

[overtalk]

BACHMANN: And I have asked him about this very important issues, because how do you find peace when you continue to teach your children hatred? And asked Fayad about this issue, and he said, “Oh, tha– we don’t do that anymore. Our textbooks aren’t filled with that.”

And I said, “Oh really?” I pulled out a manila envelope that I’d brought with me, and I pulled out the pages that I’d photocopied out of current books that were being used that clearly showed that. And he said, “Oh, but these are old textbooks.” And he said– I said, “Really? Well, then why don’t you send me the new textbooks that no longer say that and compare them with the old?” And I checked my mailbox today; he still hasn’t me those textbooks. That’s what needs to change.

SAWYER: Senator Santorum, let me put to you George’s question. Who’s got the better of the argument?

SANTORUM: Well, I– I think you have to speak the truth– but you have to do so with prudence. I mean, it’s– it’s a combination. Th– and, you know, I– I– I sat there and I listened to both of ’em; I thought they both had– made excellent points.

But we’re in a real-life situation. This isn’t an academic exercise. We’ve got– we have a– we have an ally, and the policy of this country should be to stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally. And– we– we didn’t have an ally in the Soviet Union. The only allies we had were sitting in gulags, and they desperately needed to hear the truth. And Ronald Reagan provided that truth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So– so do we–

SANTORUM: Here, we have–

[overtalk]

STEPHANOPOULOS: –with prudence, would that be saying Palestinians are invented or not?

SANTORUM: If I can finish my s– comment, I’ll get to that, George. [laughter] That– that we– we have an ally here that we have to work closely with. And I think Mitt’s point was– was the correct one. We need to be working with the Israelis to find out, you know what? Is this a wise thing for us to do, to step forward and to engage this issue? Maybe it is.

My guess is, at this point in time, it’s not. Not that we shouldn’t tell the truth, but we should be talking to our allies. It’s their fight. We are to be their ally, we’re to be– supporting them. And I’m– I– I’ve been out here very publicly– that the Israelis have the right to determine what happens in their land. And all of Israel, including the quote– you know, West Bank, is Israeli land. And we need to work with them as to the solution that works best for our ally.

SAWYER: Governor Perry, close this–

PERRY: Let me–

SAWYER: –please.

PERRY: –just say that I think this is a minor issue– that the media is blowing– way out of proportion. We have a president of the United States who has put the most muddled foreign policy in place that is causing the problems in the Middle East. Whether it goes back to two thousand and– and– nine when we had an opportunity to impact Iran, whether it has been the way that– he stood back in Egypt and did not try to negotiate people who would come in that w– could work with us, and now we have radical Islamists as the head of Egypt, whether it was leading from the rear, if you will, in– in Libya.

The idea that this president now, with Iran getting one of our predator drones in their possession, and he had two opportunities– well, he didn’t have two opportunities, he had two choices– actually, he had three. And he chose the worst.

And those two opportunities he had was to either retrieve that drone, or to destroy it, and he did the worst of the three and he did absolutely nothing. And the Russians and the Chinese will have our highly technical equipment now. This president is the problem, not something that Newt Gingrich said. [applause]

SAWYER: We have to take a break right now, and I just want to say that we have a partner in all of this, which of course is Yahoo. I want to put up a question which we want to address when we come back about the struggles of the middle class in this country. And we have a question on Yahoo about the last time those of you had a personal financial strain that forced you to cut back on a necessity, as so many people in the middle class say they do. What were the consequences you fa– you faced, and will you weigh in on that? And that’s when we come back.

[commercial break] [music]

ANNOUNCER: Live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, once again, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos.

SAWYER: And we welcome all of you back and, again, we thank the Republican candidates for president of the United States for debating here tonight. I’m gonna return to the Yahoo question, which brings the struggles of the middle class down to something personal for everyone who is behind a podium up there.

And here’s what it said: “Many of us are forced to make cuts to continue necessities such as mortgage payments, groceries, transportation to work, and health care.” And then the question continues, they want to know, “When is the last time you had a personal financial strain that forced you, not only to give up a luxury, but also to cut back on necessity? And what were the consequences you faced?” This is from Andrew in Texas. And I’d like to start, Governor Perry, with you.

PERRY: Well, obviously– growin’ up where I grew up– there were some people that probably said– as a matter of fact, I was on– radio station here, WHO– yesterday and– and talked about my upbringing. And– growin’ up in a house that didn’t have– running water until I was five or six years old and– and my mother– sewin’ my own clothes for me till I went off to college.

And– the idea that– luxury really wasn’t in my lexicon. But as I grew and as I– went off and flew in the United States Air Force and I came back home, and as a 27-year-old boy– well, I was a m– grown man by then– but I didn’t have anything– I– my social security– has a zero in 1978. So I’m sure I was givin’ up some things that other people would consider to be luxuries.

But the fact is– I’ve never had a time in my life when I felt like that I gave anything up that I didn’t have everything I needed. And– I know there are people that are– that are suffering in America today, and that’s the reason we need to get this country back working and having people so that they can have a job. And the policies that I’ve laid out, and the record that I’ve had in the State of Texas for the last decade, clearly gives that record to the people of this country.

SAWYER: Again, we just want to remind you that, when the red comes up, you– the rules that were agreed on here. I’ll do the two governors; Governor Romney grew up in very different circumstances. What about this question?

ROMNEY: I didn’t grow up poor. And if somebody is looking for someone who’s grown up with that background, I’m– I’m not the person. But I– but I grew up with a dad who’d been poor, and my dad wanted to make sure I understood the lessons of hard work. And my mom and dad wanted to make sure that I understood the principles that made America the greatest nation on earth.

And so they made sure we had jobs as we were growing up. They made sure we didn’t spend money foolishly. And they made sure that I had– a care and concern for other people. I was able to serve my church overseas, and to– to meet people there that had very difficult circumstances in their life. I also spent time in this country, serving as a pastor in my– in my church, and again, having the occasion to work with people that were really struggling. I saw marriages under great stress.

You see, when– when people lose jobs, marriages get strained, people’s health gets affected– people become depressed. And– and I’m in this race, not– not because I grew up without means, but because I understand what it takes to get America working again. And I love this country enormously and understand the principles and understand the specifics that it takes to get America creating jobs again. That’s why I’m in the race.

SAWYER: And Congressman Paul, what does this question evoke? How much does it matter to have personal experience?

PAUL: Well– I feel very fortunate because– although I was raised in– in a system that– in a family that was rather poor, but we– [laugh] I didn’t even know it. You know, it was durin’ the Depression and World War II, and we didn’t have very much, and I worked my way through college, and that was a natural instinct because that’s what you were supposed to do. But– I– I– I finally– did a little bit better in medical school because I had my wife work our way through cool– [laugh] medical school. [laughter] So that worked out a little bit better.

But middle class is suffering, but not only because we bale out the rich and dump on the poor and they lose their jobs and they lose their houses, but there’s a characteristic about monetary policy. When a country destroys its currency, it transfers wealth from the middle class to the wealthy, and this is what you’re seeing today: the elimination of the middle class. And going to get a lot worse unless we address the subject overspending, over-borrowing, and printing too much money, and understanding the business cycle.

SAWYER: Senator Santorum. [applause]

SANTORUM: I c– I can say that I grew up in a very modest home and was very blessed to have– all my basic needs met. And one of the most basic needs and the most important one that I’ve learned was that I was blessed to have a mother and a father. That was the most important gift that I was given, that I had two parents who were together, who loved me, who supported me and made me feel safe. And made the– the– the little things that no one would consider luxuries today feel like luxuries because I had that sense of security.

Unfortunately, America, we see the family continuing to break down. And with that, the economic status of those families. Single-parent households in America now have poverty levels approaching 40%. So– you not only have the lack of security and stability in so many cases, because moms are doin’ heroic work tryin’ to hold things together, but it’s hard.

And so what we can do as a federal government, we can do more importantly as the leader of this country, to try to promote this institution of marriage. Try to promote the family and try to nurture this environment that we have to– to make sure that families are elevated and supported and fathers and mothers are there to take care of their families and– and– and– and be there for their children. That’s the most important luxury, is a mom and a dad.

SAWYER: And Congresswoman Bachmann, someone said recently that troubled banks got a bailout, troubled homeowners got evicted. Your response on this question and the struggle for the middle class.

BACHMANN: Well, I opposed the $700 bailout for Wall Street because Wall Street rolled the dice and they made some very foolish decisions. They were only too happy to pocket profits when times were good, but when times went south and things got sour then they decided to socialize their losses. And the– American taxpayer was only too good to bail them out.

There’s people on this stage that– supported that bailout; I didn’t. Behind closed doors, I took on the Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson; I took on my own president because I knew this was going to be a very bad deal.

You’d asked the question about luxuries and where we come from. I was born here in Iowa to a middle-class family, but my family went through a tragedy that millions of families go through: My folks got divorced. And when it happened, my mom found herself a single mom who’d been a full-time homemaker, she had four kids. We went to below poverty overnight. And when I was 13, I had to start getting a job to help out the family.

I know what the– it’s like for single moms to struggle. And throughout most of our marriage, we’re still coupon clippers today. We still go to consignment stores today. We get what that feels like. And I think it’s important for the next president of the United States to be in touch with what real people struggle with across the country, and I have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker Gingrich? [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, let me say first of all, the– that– when I was young, we lived– in an apartment above a gas station on the square in Holmestown, Pennsylvania. I had relatives who were steel workers, others who were delivery men, some who worked in department stores. My dad was in the Army and we’d moved around, and he lived on the pay of a junior officer. By the time– it was fairly frugal, but you– you didn’t feel desperate.

Today, I’ve had several relatives in the last three years who’ve been out of work, who’ve had to go through very difficult times. My wife Callista runs Gingrich Productions as a company. It’s a very small company, does basically movies and books and things like that. We have to meet a payroll. We have to find markets. We have to find– you know– d– well, do– do everything that small businesses go through. And I know how difficult this economy is at a practical level if you’re a small business.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanna stick with Yahoo because as you– we said at the start, we’re getting real-time feedback from our Yahoo audience. Over 12,000 people have already weighed in on Yahoo and ABCNews.com. An– and this is directed at– at Speaker Gingrich and– and– and Governor Romney, because more than 72% say right now they want to hear more from you about your past support for health care mandates.

That’s something that they’re still not fully satisfied with what they’ve heard from you. And– and Speaker Gingrich– I mean, Governor Romney, let me begin with you because– you were clear. You’ve said you’ve always been against a federal mandate; you supported it in the State of Massachusetts. Where there has been some ambiguity, at least in the past, is whether you think that other states should try the mandate. Back in 2007, you said that you thought it would be good for most states to try it; now you say you wouldn’t encourage other states to try. Can you explain that?

ROMNEY: States can do whatever the heck they want to do; that’s the great thing about– [applause] about our system. I– I think there’s a good deal that we did that people can look at and find as a model, that could–

STEPHANOPOULOS: The mandate?

ROMNEY: –help other state– if some– if they want to, sure. They could try what they think is best. I– that’s– it’s up to other states to try what works for them. Some will like that; some will think it’s a terrible idea. We had this idea of exchanges where people could buy insurance– from companies, private companies– we have no government insurance, by the way, in our state. It’s all– other than the federal Medicare/Medic– Medicaid programs. It’s all private pay. So people can learn from one another.

But– but my– [laugh] my plan– was designed for our state, and other states should have the right to create plans that work for them. And if they come up with something better than we did, then we can learn from them. But the idea of a federal government or a federal mandate, as you see with Obamacare, flies in the face of the Constitution, violates the tenth amendment. I think the Supreme Court will strike it down. If they don’t, I will.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker Gingrich– Congresswoman Bachmann pointed out that as– as late as May of this year, you supported some form of the mandate when everyone else had– had come out against it. What finally tipped you over and convinced you that it was unconstitutional?

GINGRICH: Well, I think first of all for the federal government to do it is unconstitutional because it means the Congress– the Congress, which could compel you to purchase this item, could compel you to purchase any item. And so the question of freedom would be d– would be missed. And any majority could then decide to make you do virtually anything. I think that’s part of why you’re seeing a dramatic shift back towards limiting the federal government and towards imposing the tenth amendment as a very serious barrier.

I– I’ve been working on health issues since 1974. And I’ve been t– and– and I tried to find a way to break out of where we are, because the fact is the whole third-party payment model, whether public or private, has grown more and more expensive, more and more difficult to sustain. And helped found the Center for Health Transformation that– for that reason, wrote a book called Saving Lives and Saving Money back in 2002.

We need to fundamentally rethink the entire health system to move back towards a doctor-patient relationship, and back toward something like what Rick Santorum talked about with health savings accounts where people are directly engaged in their own health and in taking care of themselves to a much greater degree than they are in the current insurance system.

SAWYER: If I can switch to this question, and– and it is about health care, because a number of people– in fact, I was just at a pharmacy here– I– have a cough. But I was [laugh] at the pharmacy here in Iowa, and the pharmacists were talking about a big– driver of health care costs. And they specifically mentioned habits, unhealthy habits that we all need to learn to be better on at a young age. They talked about obesity, they talked about exercise. If I can ask you, Congressman Paul: Anything government should do on these fronts?

PAUL: On– on medical? Or?

SAWYER: On these fronts, specifically, of healthy behavior at very young– ages for– it’s–

PAUL: No, essentially not, but they have to be– a referee. If people are doing things that hurt other people, yes. But if you embark on instituting a society where government protects you from yourself, you’re in big trouble, and that’s what they’re doing. [applause]

I think– I think what we’ve had here is a demonstration of– why should we have a candidate that’s gonna have to explain themselves? 70% of the people want further explanations on what your positions are. So I think that it is endless. But you talk about the– the Obamacare using force, but that’s all government is, is force.

I mean, do you have a choice about paying Medicare taxes? So there’s not a whole of different– you’re forced to buy insurance. That’s one step further. But you have to stop with force. Once government uses force to mold behavior or mold the economy, they’ve overstepped the bounds and they’ve violated the whole concept of our revolution and our Constitution. [applause]

STEPHANOPOULOS: We– we are running short on time. I just want to ask quickly, does anyone disagree with the first part of Congressman Paul’s answer there, where he said the government really shouldn’t be getting involved in these broader issues of behavior?

PERRY: Listen, I happen to think that the states– that’s their call, not the federal government. The states should be able to make decisions on whether they– Terry, you probably have some programs here– in Iowa to get–

MALE VOICE: [unintelligible]

PERRY: There you go. [laughter] [applause] So– it– it– it should be their call. But listen, this goes back, and– and– and Congressman Paul and I, you know, we disagree from time to time. But the real issues that we have in this country are that people are sick of Washington, D.C. They’re sick of the money that they’re seeing spent, they’re sick of the fraud and the corruption that they’re seeing.

They’re sick of seeing their– their kids’ futures mortgaged because we’ve got a Washington, D.C., that is out of touch with the country. It’s the reason, when I talk about my overhauling Washington plan, and I’ve gotten a pretty good response across the country when I talk about goin’ to a part-time Congress. Cut their pay in half, let ’em spend half the time in Washington, D.C. Send ’em back home to have a regular job like the rest of the people in their districts, and work under the laws that they pass. That I will suggest to you, along with a balanced budget amendment to the United States Congress, will go a long way toward stoppin’ a lot of the nonsense that we’re seeing comin’ out of Washington–

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, it was Governor–

PERRY: –D.C.

STEPHANOPOULOS: –Branstad who said this is the– healthiest–

BACHMANN: Healthiest–

STEPHANOPOULOS: –state in the nation, and we will return to the healthiest state in the nation in just a minute.

ANNOUNCER: [music] You’re watching live ABC News coverage of the Iowa Republican Party debate.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Once again, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos.

SAWYER: And George and I were just talking about the fact, the question we get so often is, why can’t people who disagree show respect for each other, and can we all work together, even people who disagree, to move the country forward? And so–

STEPHANOPOULOS: So we’re– in form of closing, still we just want each of you, you’re running against each other. But in these last few minutes, and just think of a minute where we will not run over to commercial, [laugh] tell us the one thing you’ve learned from someone else, one of your challengers, on stage. Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, I’ll– I’ll go back to– you know, the comment I made earlier. I mean, I– when I was first running for office– you know, Newt Gingrich was the guy that– who’s– who’s tapes I’ve listened to as a young man– and tryin’ to– at 30 years old, deciding to run for Congress. He laid out– a vision for conservative governance that– that I– adopted and– and ran with in a very, very tough Congressional district outside of suburban Pittsburgh, so tough that no one gave me a chance of winnin’ it.

Fact, election night the Wall Street Journal called the Republican National Committee to find out the name of the guy that won. And they didn’t even know my name at the RNC. [laughter] That’s a true story. And– and you don’t get a lotta true stories. But that’s a true story. And– and so, you know– I– I came out of the blue as a conservative.

Think that’s, again, the– the thing that distinguishes me. I– I’ve run as a conservative in a 60% Democratic district and won in a 70% Democratic district and won in the State of Pennsylvania with almost a million more Republicans than Democrats and won. I defeated an incumbent and– and won again. And– in a year that George Bush lost the election by five, I won by six. And– and I stuck by the conservative principles that Newt outlined in the– in the late ’80s. And– and it’s always served me well. I’ve been a consistent conservative.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Perry?

PERRY: I’d say– Congressman Paul got me really intrigued with the whole– the federal reserve. And I’ve spent a substantial amount of time reading about and Currency Wars, the book by James Rickards that– but Congressman Paul is– is– is the individual in the stage that got me most interested in– in a subject that I found to be quite interesting and at the root of a lotta the problems that we have. And I thank you for that. But the one thing that I found– outside of– of these fine– individuals on this stage is that the people of this country, the people of this country really want to get America back on track.

And Ri– Congressman Keane, whether it’s somebody like you and– and your Idea Act that– that we talked about the other day– there are really good men and women in this country that wanna get this country back headed down a track. And they understand, Michele, just as you’ve said, that this election is about the future of this country. One of the most important elections, if not the most important election, and we gotta get it right.

SAWYER: Over to you, Governor Romney. [applause]

ROMNEY: I– I always find– the principle of leadership to be most interesting. And– and as I look at the people on this stage, each exhibits different qualities of leadership. And they’ve each exercised leadership in different ways. Wha– one of the about Ron Paul that always– amazes me is when I come to a debate like this, the only signs I see are the Ron Paul people out there– [laughter] in freezing. [applause]

In freezing temperatures, they’re always there. He ignites an enthusiasm with a number of people. That’s very exciting to watch. In choosing a president, it– it’s the qualities of leadership that are gonna make the difference. Because our positions on issues are– are– are important, of course.

And I happen to think I’ve got the right positions on issues, of course. Or I wouldn’t have ’em. But– but fundamentally– we know that down the road what’s gonna de– determine who is a great president or not is– is their qualities of leadership in getting America back on track. And– and– and I believe– right now– and just as– as Governor Perry just said, this is the time for real leadership because this country is going in a very dangerous direction. This is a time where America has got to return to principles that will keep us the hope of the earth and– and the shining city on the hill. That light from that shining city has dimmed over the last three years. And I will help restore it. [applause]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mister speaker.

GINGRICH: Well, I– I wanna say two people, one on the stage and one not. Governor Terry Branstad is my role model. Get outta politics for a while doin’ something else, be involved in health care, [laughter] come back when you’re clearly too old, too experienced, too tied to the past, win the governorship decisively, do a great job. [cheers] [applause]

And the– the other– I just wanna say two other people very briefly. Rick Perry got me engaged about three years ago on this whole tenth amendment in a big, serious way. And I think that he is– he h– he has helped ignite a fire that is gonna change America. And Rick Santorum’s consistency and courage on Iran has been a hallmark of why, if we do survive, it will be in part because of people like Rick who’ve had the courage to te– tell the truth about the Iranians for a long time. [applause]

PAUL: Well, I have learned that you should never give up on your opposition. Because if you’re persistent, [laugh] and you present your case, they will come your way. So Rick, I appreciate it. [laughter] Rick, I appreciate it. [unintelligible] appreciate it. You’re open to the federal reserve. That’s wonderful. But I– I work from the assumption that freedom brings people together.

And if you understand freedom, it’s based on tolerance and nonviolence. So if it’s tolerance, it should be bringing all kinds of people together and that’s following our Constitution. And we shouldn’t be fighting among ourselves. Because we shouldn’t be fighting in Washington if we all take the same oath of office. Where does the fight come from? Somebody is messin’ up somewhere. [laughter] So– so I say that with persistence, I think that we can all prevail and come up with the right answers. [applause]

BACHMANN: Well, I would agree with everything that’s been said here tonight. But I would also add again, someone that I mentioned a little bit earlier and that was Herman Cain. Herman Cain, I think when he brought up the 999 plan, and that you can’t have a debate without saying “999” in the debate, I think one thing that he showed us is the power of being very plain spoken.

And also reducing something to a very simple level so people get it. And people were very excited about that plan. Because they could understand what that meant. And I think that’s a challenge for every one of us; ’cause a lotta times, you can end up sounding and talking like a big bureaucrat in Washington. People don’t want that. They don’t want Washington. They want outside of Washington. And rightfully so. That’s why I think in this race, I’m– I’m the proven consistent conservative and I’m gonna go with win-win-win rather than 999.

SAWYER: Well again, we are at the end of the [applause] time agreed upon by all of you, the candidates. And we thank you so much and we thank the people of Iowa, 24 days the voting begins.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the time for us. We’re gonna be back with our political team for their independent analysis. We’re hearing lots of opinions on Yahoo and Twitter and Facebook. We’ll get to that in just a minute. [music]

November 22, 2011: CNN / Heritage Foundation / American Enterprise Institute Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Washington, DC November 22, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Newt Gingrich (UT);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor  Ron Paul (TX);
Former Governor  Ron Paul (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATOR:
Wolf Blitzer (CNN)

BLITZER: From Constitution Hall in the nation’s capital, this is the Republican presidential debate.

[applause]

BLITZER: Every U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge has been inside this historic hall, just steps away from the White House.

Tonight, the eight Republican candidates are here with their ultimate goal in sight.

I’m Wolf Blitzer.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Tonight’s debate is airing on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol and the American Forces Network. We want to thank our co- sponsors, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Members of these distinguished conservative think tanks, they are here in our audience and some of them will have a chance to question the candidates. They’ll add their knowledge and insights to our discussion, making this unlike any debate so far in this presidential campaign.

Viewers also can take part in our debate by sending us your questions online, on Twitter. Make sure to include the hash tag, cnndebate; on Facebook at Facebook.com/cnnpolitics; and, of course, on CNNPolitics.com.

It’s time now to meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders.

Joining us onstage, the former U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.

Thank you. [applause]

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

BACHMANN: Good to see you, Wolf. [applause]

BLITZER: The former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

[applause]

BLITZER: The former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain. [applause]

The former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney…[applause]

Texas governor, Rick Perry…[applause]

Texas congressman, Ron Paul…[applause] [inaudible] from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. [applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates for President of the United States. [applause]

Now, please rise for our National Anthem. Please rise. The National Anthem performed by Mauricio Perez, from the Tony Award winning musical, “Jersey Boys,” now playing at the National Theater here in Washington, D.C. [applause] [national anthem] [applause]

BLITZER: Mauricio Perez, thank you.

Candidates, please take your — to your podiums while I tell you a little bit more about how this debate will work. I’ll be the moderator and as I mentioned, our partners from the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute will ask questions as well.

I’ll follow up. I’ll 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 make sure you get time to respond if — if you’re singled out for criticism.

This year more than ever we’ve seen how events beyond our borders directly affect America, including perhaps the biggest national security issue right now, the economy.

Candidates, tonight Republican voters are here. They are watching around the country to decide if you have what it takes to be the next commander in chief, to shape foreign policy, to protect this great nation.

On some of these issues you will agree. On some you’ll disagree. But by the end of the night, voters should have a better understanding of how you would lead the nation in times of crisis.

Now, let’s have the candidates introduce themselves to our audience, but we’ll keep it very brief. Here’s an example of what I’m looking for.

I’m Wolf Blitzer and yes, that’s my real name. I’ll be your moderator this evening and I’m happy to welcome each one of you to our debate.

Rick Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: Well, I am Rick Santorum. And it’s great to be here and I want to thank AEI and Heritage [inaudible]. … One constitutional responsibility of the federal government and that is national security. And I think we can all agree that if you like what Barack Obama has done to our economy, you’ll love what he’s done to our national security.

PAUL: I’m Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas. I am pleased to be here at the debate because this is a very important debate. I am convinced that needless and unnecessary wars are a great detriment. They undermine our prosperity and our liberties. They add to our deficits and they consume our welfare. We should take a careful look at our foreign policy.

PERRY: I’m Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, and I want to take a moment and introduce you, the beautiful first lady of the state of Texas, Anita. Thank you for being here with me, 29 years of wedded bliss and 45 years ago we had our first date. So I’m a blessed man in many ways to represent a great state, and we’re here to ask you for your support, your blessings and your vote.

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name. And…[laughter]… I’m a husband, a father, a grandfather of 16. I love this country very much. I spent my life in the private sector. And as I’ve watched the direction this president has taken our country, both domestically and internationally, I’m afraid that he’s taking us on a perilous course. I want to keep America strong and free, and if I’m president, I’ll use every ounce of my energy to do just that. [applause]

CAIN: I am businessman Herman Cain. I’m delighted to be here to discuss one of the most critical issues we face because, as a result of this administration, our national security has indeed been downgraded. [applause]

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich. My father spent 27 years in the infantry. And as a result of that, in the fall of 1958, I decided that national survival was worth the study of a lifetime. I’ve worked with both Heritage and the American Enterprise Institute for over 30 years. I can’t imagine any two institutions better to partner with CNN on the most important single topic, the survival of the United States. [applause]

BACHMANN: My name is Michele Bachmann. I’m a proud member of the United States Congress. I’m privileged to serve on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. My father honorably served in the United States Air Force, my stepfather in the United States Army and my brother in the United States Navy.

I think for every one of us who are here on this stage tonight, I think we all want to send our very best Happy Thanksgiving greetings to all of our men and women in uniform who are serving us overseas, here in the United States and also to their families. Happy Thanksgiving. We appreciate, we love you and we want to get you home as soon as we can. [applause]

HUNTSMAN: My name is Jon Huntsman. I believe this week, in particular, that there is still much to be grateful for in this, the greatest nation that ever was. I’m here with my wife of 28 years, Mary Kay, who is fortuitously sitting in the New Hampshire box up here. We are the wife — or we are the parents of seven kids, two in the United States Navy.

Twice elected governor of the great state of Utah, I’ve lived overseas four times, three times as a United States ambassador. I am honored and privileged to be here. Wolf, CNN, Heritage, AEI, thank you one and all for making tonight possible.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. And let’s get right to the questions.

[applause]

BLITZER: Our leadoff question is from the honorable Ed Meese, the former attorney general of the United States, who is representing the Heritage Foundation.

ED MEESE, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: At least 42 terrorist attacks aimed at the United States have been thwarted since 9/11. Tools like the Patriot Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorists.

Shouldn’t we have a long range extension of the investigative powers contained in that act so that our law enforcement officers can have the tools that they need?

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, only this weekend there was an alleged terror plot uncovered in New York City. What do you think?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that Attorney General Meese has raised a key point, and the key distinction for the American people to recognize is the difference between national security requirements and criminal law requirements.

I think it’s desperately important that we preserve your right to be innocent until proven guilty, if it’s a matter of criminal law. But if you’re trying to find somebody who may have a nuclear weapon that they are trying to bring into an American city, I think you want to use every tool that you can possibly use to gather the intelligence.

The Patriot Act has clearly been a key part of that. And I think looking at it carefully and extending it and building an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives. This is not going to end in the short run. And we need to be prepared to protect ourselves from those who, if they could, would not just kill us individually, but would take out entire cities.

BLITZER: So, Speaker, just to clarify, you wouldn’t change the Patriot Act?

GINGRICH: No, I would not change it. I’m not aware of any specific change it needs. And I’d look at strengthening it, because I think the dangers are literally that great. And again, I’ve spent years studying this stuff. You start thinking about one nuclear weapon in one American city and the scale of loss of life and you ask yourself, what should the president be capable of doing to stop that?

And you come up with a very different answer. Again, very sharp division. Criminal law, the government should be frankly on defense and you’re innocent until proven guilty. National security, the government should have many more tools in order to save our lives.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, I suspect you disagree.

PAUL: I do.

BLITZER: Tell us why.

PAUL: I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty. I’m concerned, as everybody is, about the terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh was a vicious terrorist. He was arrested. Terrorism is still on the books, internationally and nationally, it’s a crime and we should deal with it.

We dealt with it rather well with Timothy McVeigh. But why I really fear it is we have drifted into a condition that we were warned against because our early founders were very clear. They said, don’t be willing to sacrifice liberty for security.

Today it seems too easy that our government and our congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights. [applause]

BLITZER: I want to bring others in, but do you want to respond, Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Yes. Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point.

[applause]

GINGRICH: Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.

[applause]

PAUL: This is like saying that we need a policeman in every house, a camera in every house because we want to prevent child- beating and wife-beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms. And we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don’t do it so carelessly. [applause]

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, let me bring you into this conversation. Are you with Congressman Paul or Speaker Gingrich or do you have your own view?

BACHMANN: Well, I’m with the American people, with the Constitution, and with the job of the commander-in-chief as the number one duty of the president of the United States.

We have to realize we’re in a very different war, with very different techniques that are used for that war, and very different bad actors than we’ve had before in the terrorists and their motivations are very different.

We can’t forget that technology is completely different. When we were looking at prior laws, phones were wired in to walls. That’s not how it works any more. Today we deal with wireless functions. And we have to completely change the way that we go about investigating.

This is one thing we know about Barack Obama. He has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He has outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists.

When the bomber — or the attempted bomber over Detroit, the underwear bomber was intercepted, he was given Miranda warnings within 45 minutes. He was not an American citizen. We don’t give Miranda warnings to terrorists, and we don’t read them their rights. They don’t have any. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, where do you stand on the Patriot Act? Do you believe it’s un-American, as Congressman Paul has suggested?

HUNTSMAN: I think we have to be very careful in protecting our individual liberties. We forget sometimes that we have a name brand in this world. And I have seen it shine living overseas. And when our light shines based on the values that we live up to and represent, it moves people, it moves countries, it moves events like nothing else can.

We are a nation of values. And forever, like what we’re trying to do in this debate tonight, we’ll try to find that balancing act between our individual liberties and security. But we also have to remember as we’re talking about security, I see Tom Ridge in the audience here, a great former secretary of Homeland Security. He will tell you, he will tell you that we cannot secure the homeland out of Washington, D.C., itself. We’ve got to make sure that we have partnerships with governors and mayors, that this is a national effort.

No longer can we compartmentalize intelligence. Those are the old days. Today we’ve got to share. We’ve got to make sure that we are prepared as a people, we are prepared not only as a federal government, but we’re prepared as well as a local government in a collaborative and sharing kind of relationship.

BLITZER: I’m going to give everyone a chance to respond, but let me get this one question from CNN Politics, that came to cnnpolitics.com, and then we’ll bring in the rest of you.

This was the question: “TSA pat-downs: violation of civil liberty or a necessity to ensure national security?”

Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Well, we can do a lot better than the TSA system. It’s going to get get better over time. We can use better technology. We can also identify people who are lower risk and allow them to go through the process more quickly than the current process.

But let’s come back to the issue that seems to be so confusing here.

And that is Congressman Paul talked about crime. Newt Gingrich was right. There are different categories here. There’s crime and there are rights that are afforded to American citizens under our Constitution and those that are accused of crime. Then there’s war. And the tool of war being used today in America and around the world is terror. There’s a different body of law that relates to war.

And for those that understand the difference between the two, they recognize that we need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that, as president of the United States, you can fulfill your first responsibility, which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign.

And that means, yes, we’ll use the Constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes, but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds, we will use instead a very different form of law, which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.

that we need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that as president of the United States you can fulfill your first responsibility which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign. That means yes we’ll use the constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds we will use instead a very different form of law which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.

BLITZER: Governor Perry…[applause]… you proposed legislation that would criminalize these TSA pat-downs under certain circumstances.

PERRY: Right.

BLITZER: Explain what you have in mind.

PERRY: Well, here’s what I would do with the TSA; I would privatize it as soon as I could and get rid of those unions. [applause]

It’s working in Denver. They have a program where they’re privatizing it. And the airlines and other private-sector groups work together to do the security in our airports. And it makes abundant good sense.

And I agree with most of my colleagues here on the stage when we talk about the Patriot Act. And we need to keep it in place. We need to have — strengthen it if that’s what’s required, to update it with new technologies as they come along, Newt.

But here’s the other issue that I think we’ve really failed at, and that is in our ability to collect intelligence around the world. And this administration in particular has been an absolute failure when it comes to expending the dollars and supporting the CIA and the military intelligence around the world, to be able to draw in that intelligence that is going to truly be able to allow us to keep the next terrorist attack from happening on American soil.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, under certain circumstances in the past, you’ve supported profiling. Is that correct?

SANTORUM: I have.

BLITZER: What do you have in mind?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, I think TSA is a good example of that. We should be trying to find the bomber, not the bomb. Other countries have done it. Israel is probably the best example of that.

But to put this enormous expense on the federal government, to put the enormous expense on the traveling public for — for pat-downs and other intrusions, I think, is too much money. I agree with Governor Perry; I actually voted when I — when this bill came up, I voted to allow for privatization. I was not for this being a government function. I thought it could be a private function.

But the issue of the Patriot Act is — is a little different. We are at war. The last time we had a — we had a threat at home like this — obviously, it was much more of a threat at home — was during the Civil War.

And, of course, Abraham Lincoln ran right over civil rights. Why? Because we had a present domestic threat. In the previous wars that we’ve had, we haven’t had this type of threat that we have here in the homeland. And we have to deal with it differently.

I disagree with Governor Huntsman. He made some good points. And we have had the debate. It’s been an open debate. It’s really shown the values of our country, that we can engage in this open debate and balance those interests, and I think we have done so appropriately.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, is it ethnic profiling, religious profiling? Who would be profiled?

SANTORUM: Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at — I mean, obviously, it was — obviously, Muslims would be — would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are — the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we’ve — by and large, as well as younger males.

I mean, these are things that — not exclusively — but these are things that you profile to — to find your best — the most likely candidate.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: That’s digging a… [applause] That’s digging a hole for ourselves. What if they look like Timothy McVeigh? You know, he was a pretty tough criminal.

I think we’re using too much carelessness in the use of words that we’re at war. I don’t remember voting on — on a declared — declaration of war. Oh, we’re against terrorism. [applause]

And terrorism is a tactic. It isn’t a person. It isn’t a people. So this is a very careless use of words. What about this? Sacrifice liberties because there are terrorists? You’re the judge and the jury? No, they’re suspects.

And they have changed the — in the — in DOD budget they have changed the wording on the definition of al-Qaeda and Taliban. It’s anybody associated with organizations, which means almost anybody can be loosely associated so that makes all Americans vulnerable.

And now we know that American citizens are vulnerable to assassination.

So I would be very cautious about protecting the rule of law. It will be a sacrifice that you’ll be sorry for. [applause]

BLITZER: Herman Cain, let’s bring you into this conversation. Are you with Senator Santorum when he says that there should be religious profiling, that Muslims in particular should get extra screening when they go — go through airports?

CAIN: I believe we can do a whole lot better with TSA. And I called it, targeted identification.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

CAIN: We can do — we can do — targeted identification. If you take a look at the people who are trying to kill us, it would be easy to figure out exactly what that identification profile looks like.

But I want — but I want to make sure that I get to the Patriot Act. So I believe we can do a whole better. The answer, I believe, also may be privatization.

Now, relative to the Patriot Act, if there are some areas of the Patriot Act that we need to refine, I’m all for that. But I do not believe we ought to throw out the baby with the bathwater for the following reason. The terrorists have one objective that some people don’t seem to get. They want to kill all of us.

So we should use every mean possible to kill them first or identify them first — first. [applause]

BLITZER: Now, just to be precise, Mr. Cain. I just want to — I’ll give you a chance. Is it OK for Muslim Americans to get more intensive pat downs or security when they go through airports than Christian Americans or Jewish Americans?

CAIN: No, Blitz. That’s oversimplifying it. I happen to believe that if — if you allow our intelligence agencies to do their job they can come up with an approach — I’m sorry, Blitz, I meant Wolf, OK? [laughter] [applause]

This was — since we on a — since we on a blitz debate, I apologize. Wolf, what I’m saying is let’s ask the professionals to give us an approach of how we can increase the identification of people that might be a danger to civilians as well as a danger to this nation.

BLITZER: Thank you, Cain. [laughter] [applause] All right. Go ahead. We have another question. Please give us your name and the organization you represent.

QUESTION: I’m Fred Kagan, resident scholar and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

And my question is, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden was obviously an important success in the struggle against al-Qaeda, although it also drove U.S. relations with Pakistan into a new low.

Do you think that an expanded drone campaign in Pakistan would be sufficient to defeat al-Qaeda and to secure our interests in Pakistan?

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Let me just say that as we talk about foreign policy, let’s be reminded that in order to have an effective foreign policy we need a Washington that works.

Today we have a president who can’t lead. We have a Congress that can’t even figure out how to balance our budget. They need term limits, by the way. We’ve gotta get our house in order if we… [applause] Thank you. We’ve gotta get our house in order if we’re gonna expect to get anything done overseas because when our light shines we can influence the rest of the world.

Pakistan is a concern. That’s the country that ought to keep everybody up at night. You have not President Zardari in charge but General Kayani over the military, which also is responsible for ISI.

You’ve got the youngest demographic of the 160 million people in Pakistan. You’ve got a Midrasha movement. You’ve got over 100 nuclear weapons. You’ve got trouble on the border.

You’ve got a nation-state that is a candidate for failure. And I say it’s a haven for bad behavior. It’s a haven — it’s — it’s a haven for training the people who seek to do us harm. And an expanded drone program is something that would serve our national interest.

I think it must be done. And I think it must be consistent with recognizing the reality on the ground of what we need out of Afghanistan — we don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

We don’t need to nation-build in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built.

BLITZER: We’re gonna get to Afghanistan.

HUNTSMAN: But we need something. We need something in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, we’ll be bringing you in. You’re a member…

HUNTSMAN: We need Special Forces and drones.

BLITZER: All right. You’re a member of the Intelligence Committee. Do you think, as Governor Perry has said, that Pakistan should no longer receive U.S. aid because they’ve shown they’re not a good friend, ally of the United States?

BACHMANN: Pakistan has been the epicenter of dealing with terrorism. They are, as Governor Huntsman said, there are al-Qaeda training grounds there. There’s also the Haqqani network that can be trained there as well.

And they also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites. This is more than an existential threat. We have to take this very seriously.

The United States has to be engaged. It is complicated. We have to recognize that the Chinese are doing everything that they can to be an influential party in Pakistan. We don’t want to lose influence.

I’m answering your question. You asked me about the money that the United States gives to Pakistan. This is a — this is a dual answer. A nation that lies, that does everything possibly that you could imagine wrong, at the same time they do share intelligence data with us regarding Al Qaida.

We need to demand more. The money that we are sending right now is primarily intelligence money to Pakistan. It is helping the United States. Whatever our action is, it must ultimately be about helping the United States and our sovereignty…

BLITZER: So…

BACHMANN: … our safety and our security.

BLITZER: … you would continue that aid to Pakistan?

BACHMANN: I — at this point I would continue that aid, but I do think that the Obama policy of keeping your fingers crossed is not working in Pakistan,. And I also think that Pakistan is a nation, that it’s kind of like too nuclear to fail. And so we’ve got to make sure that we take that threat very seriously.

BLITZER: Governor Perry?

PERRY: I understand where she’s coming from, but the bottom line is that they’ve showed us time after time that they can’t be trusted. And until Pakistan clearly shows that they have America’s best interests in mind, I would not send them one penny, period.

I think it is important for us to send the message to those across the world that, if you are not going to be an ally of the United States, do not expect a dime of our citizens’ money to be coming into your country. That is the way we change foreign policy. Now, if we want to engage these countries with our abilities and our companies that go in, and help to economically build these countries up, rather than just writing a blank check to them, then we can have that conversation, because I think that is a change in foreign policy that would be adequate and appropriate and a positive move for us.

But to write a check to countries that are clearly not representing American interests is nonsensical.

BLITZER: You want to respond, Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: Well, I — with all due respect to the governor, I think that’s highly naive, because, again, we have to recognize what’s happening on the ground. These are nuclear weapons all across this nation. And, potentially, Al Qaida could get hold of these weapons.

These weapons could find their way out of — out of Pakistan, into New York City or into Washington, D.C., and a nuclear weapon could be set off in this city. That’s how serious this is. We have to maintain an American presence.

They certainly aren’t looking out for the best interests of the United States. I wouldn’t expect them to. But at the same time, we have to have our interests, which is national security, represented. The best way we can do that with an uneven actor state is to have some sort of presence there.

BLITZER: I just want to give Governor Perry the chance to respond.

She just said your views are highly naive.

PERRY: And I — absolutely we need to be engaged in that part of the world. I never said for us not to be engaged. I just said we need to quit writing blank checks to these countries, and then letting them decide how these dollars are going to be spent.

We’ve got Afghanistan and India working in concert right now to leverage Pakistan. I think if we would create a trade zone in that part of the world, where you have all of those countries working together, that may be the answer to getting Pakistan to understand that they have to work with all of the countries in that region.

BLITZER: All right, I want to move on.

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: I want to move on, but you’ll have a chance — you’ll have a chance to respond…

BACHMANN: If I can just — Wolf, if I could just…

BLITZER: Very quickly.

BACHMANN: … clarify, we’re not writing just blank checks. We’re also exchanging intelligence information. So we aren’t writing blank checks in that region.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another question from the audience.

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: Israel Ortega with the Heritage Foundation.

Is the money that we’ve drawn back from U.S. troops in Afghanistan really worth the risk of allowing Taliban to expand territories, and Al Qaida to grow safe sanctuaries?

BLITZER: Governor Romney, $2 billion a week the United States is spending right now in Afghanistan, $2 billion, more than $100 billion a year. And U.S. troops are supposed to stay for another three years at least, till the end of 2014. Is that money well spent?

ROMNEY: We spent about $450 billion so far, 1,700 or so service men and women have lost their lives there, and many tens of thousands have been wounded. Our effort there is to keep Afghanistan from becoming a launching point for terror against the United States. We can’t just write off a major part of the world.

Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world. We can’t just say goodbye to all of — of what’s going on in that part of the world.

Instead, we want to draw them toward modernity. And for that to happen, we don’t want to literally pull up stakes and run out of town after the extraordinary investment that we’ve made. And that means we should have a gradual transition of handing off to the Afghan security forces the responsibility for their own country.

And for the region, what happened in Indonesia back in the 1960s, where — where we helped Indonesia move toward modernity with new leadership. We — we brought them in the technology that allowed them to trade in the world.

We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st century — or the 20th century, for that matter, so that they — they can engage throughout the world with trade and with modernity.

Right now, American approval level in — in Pakistan is 12 percent. We’re not doing a very good job with this huge investment we make of $4.5 billion a year. We can do a lot better directing that to encourage people to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities the West and freedom represent for their people.

BLITZER: Now, Governor Huntsman, do you agree with Governor Romney that the U.S. has to stay in Afghanistan at these levels?

HUNTSMAN: No, I — I totally disagree. I think we need to square with the American people about what we’ve achieved. We need an honest conversation in this country about the sacrifices that have been made over nearly 10 years. We have — we have dismantled the Taliban. We’ve run them out of Kabul. We’ve had free elections in 2004. We’ve killed Osama bin Laden. We’ve upended, dismantled al Qaeda. We have achieved some very important goals for the United States of America.

Now, the fact that we have 100,000 troops nation-building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built, when, on the ground, we do need intelligence gathering, no doubt about that. We need a strong Special Forces presence. We need a drone presence. And we need some ongoing training of the Afghan National Army.

But we haven’t done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is in Afghanistan. And I think the American people are getting very tired about where we find ourselves today. [applause]

BLITZER: Let me let Governor Romney respond.

ROMNEY: Well, let me respond.

Are you suggesting, Governor, that we just take all our troops out next week or what — what’s your proposal?

HUNTSMAN: Did you hear what I just said?

I said we should draw down from 100,000. We don’t need 100,000 troops. We don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan… [crosstalk] …many of whom can’t even cross the wire. We need a presence on the ground that is more akin to 10,000 or 15,000. That will serve our interests in terms of intelligence gathering and Special Forces response capability. And we need to prepare for a world, not just in South Asia, but, indeed, in every corner of the world in which counter-terror — counter-terrorism is going to be in front of us for as far as the eye can see into the 21st century.

ROMNEY: And the — and the commanders on the ground feel that we should bring down our surge troops by December of 2012 and bring down all of our troops, other than, perhaps, 10,000 or so, by the end of — of 2014.

The decision to pull our troops out before that, they believe, would put at risk the extraordinary investment of treasure and blood which has been sacrificed by the American military.

I stand with the commanders in this regard and have no information that suggests that pulling our troops out faster than that would do anything but put at — at great peril the extraordinary sacrifice that’s been made. This is not time for America to cut and run. We have been in for 10 years. We are winding down. The Afghan troops are picking up the capacity to secure their country. And the mission is pretty straightforward, and that is to allow the Afghan people to have a sovereign nation not taken over by the Taliban.

BLITZER: Let me bring the speaker in. What do you say…

GINGRICH: I would…

BLITZER: — pull out?

HUNTSMAN: Just — just one point.

BLITZER: You want — oh, go ahead.

HUNTSMAN: Yes, just about the generals on the ground. And listen, I think it’s important for the American people to know we have achieved some very important objectives in raising standards in Afghanistan and helping to build civil society.

But at the end of the day, the president of the United States is commander-in-chief, commander-in-chief. Of course you’re going to listen to the generals. But…[applause]…I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967 and we heard a certain course of action in South Asia that didn’t serve our interests very well.

The president is the commander-in-chief and ought to be informed by a lot of different voices, including of those of his generals on the ground.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich? [applause]

GINGRICH: It’s…

ROMNEY: Look, I’ve got a good — he gets a response, I get a response.

BLITZER: All right.

ROMNEY: Of course the commander-in-chief makes — make the final decision.

PAUL: How about the rest of us?

ROMNEY: Of course the final — look…

PAUL: How about us who haven’t had a response?

BLITZER: [inaudible] got a chance.

ROMNEY: Of course the commander-in-chiefs makes the — makes the final decision. But the commander-in-chief makes that decision based upon the input of people closest to the ground. And — and we — we’ve both been to Afghanistan. I’ve been to Afghanistan. The people I speak with there say we have a very good prospect of the people in Afghanistan being able to secure the peace and their sovereignty from the Taliban, but that if we pull out on a precipitous basis, as Governor Huntsman suggests, that we could well see that nation and Pakistan get pulled into terror and become another launching point to go after America. That’s a mistake. That’s why you listen and then make your decision.

BLITZER: Speaker? [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, Wolf, I’m a little confused about exactly what we’re currently debating, because I think — I think we tend to get down to these narrow questions that — that, in a sense, don’t get at the — at the core issues.

The very first question I thought about Pakistan is the one that should be the starting point.

The gentleman said that when we went in and killed bin Laden, that we drove U.S.-Pakistan — did I have — is this like a 30-second response?

BLITZER: Go ahead.

GINGRICH: I mean, I’m happy to play by the rules, I just want to know what they are. But I think this is the heart of the American dilemma. We were told, a perfectly natural Washington assumption that our killing bin Laden in Pakistan drove U.S.-Pakistan relations to a new low.

To which my answer is, well, it should have because we should be furious. [applause]

GINGRICH: Now, and that’s where this has got to start. You want to keep American troops in Afghanistan, you accept hot pursuit, you say no sanctuaries, you change the rules of engagement, you put the military in charge of the military side, you overhaul the State Department and AID so they get the job done, and you do it for real and you do it intensely, and you tell the Pakistanis, help us or get out of the way, but don’t complain if we kill people you’re not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them. [applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I agree with Ron Paul. We are not fighting a war on terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic. We’re fighting a war against radical Islam. And what radical Islam is telling — all of the radical Islamist leaders are saying is that just wait America out, America is weak, they will not stand for the fight, they cannot maintain this, they’ll set time limits, politics will interfere, and we will tell the people in Afghanistan, we will tell the people in Iraq and other places that we will be the strong horse in the region.

And President Obama, by making political decision after political decision about timelines and constraints on rules of engagement, has validated everything these radical Islamists are saying.

So the answer to you, Jon, is that you’re doing exactly — Governor Huntsman, is that you’re doing exactly what all of the radical leaders are saying that America will do, that we are not in this to win, we are going to play politics with this, and then we will find this problem in Afghanistan on our shores in a very short order.

BLITZER: We are going to come to Congressman Cain [sic] in a moment. But just hold your horses for a second because we’re going to take a quick break. Much more coming up. The former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff calls this the number one threat to America’s national security. The candidates will answer that question on this topic, coming up next.

We want you to send us your questions for the candidates. Go to cnnpolitics.com or facebook.com/cnnpolitics or on twitter use #cnndebate. Our coverage of this historic debate at Constitution Hall in Washington continues in a moment.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to historic Constitution Hall here in the nation’s capital. [applause]

We’re continuing the CNN national security debate. Let’s go right to the audience. We have a question from the audience. [applause]

Go ahead with your question.

Hello?

No question from the audience.

Yes, we do. We do have a question from the audience. [laughter]

We were waiting for you. [laughter]

QUESTION: I’m Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation.

BLITZER: Thank you.

QUESTION: If Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack or support it otherwise?

BLITZER: All right. We’ve got the question. Let me ask Herman Cain first. Did you get the question?

CAIN: I didn’t quite get the question.

BLITZER: If — the specific question is, if Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack or support it otherwise?

CAIN: I would first make sure that they had a credible plan for success, clarity of mission and clarity of success.

Remember, when you talk about attacking Iran, it is a very mountainous region. The latest reports say that there may be 40 different locations, and I would want to make sure that we had a good idea from intelligence sources where these are located.

And if Israel had a credible plan that it appeared as if they could succeed, I would support Israel, yes. And in some instances, depending upon how strong the plan is, we would join with Israel for that, if it was clear what the mission was and it was clear what the definition of victory was. [applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, would you support Israel and help Israel in such an attack?

PAUL: No, I wouldn’t do that. [laughter]

But there would be good reasons because I don’t expect it to happen. Because, you know, the Mossad leader that just retired said it would be the stupidest thing to do in the world. And it’s a big argument over in Israel. They’re not about to do this.

They’ve just polled 40 major experts on foreign policy here by the National Journal. Not one of them said there should be a unilateral attack on — on the sites in — in Iran.

So that’s not going to happen. And if it did — you’re supposing that if it did, why does Israel need our help? We need to get out of their way. I mean, we interfere with them. We interfere with them…[laughter]… when they deal with their borders. When they want to have peace treaties, we tell them what they can do because we buy their allegiance and they sacrifice their sovereignty to us. And then they decide they want to bomb something, that’s their business, but they should, you know, suffer the consequences. When they bombed the Iraqi missile site, nuclear site, back in the ’80s, I was one of the few in Congress that said it’s none of our business and Israel should take care of themselves. Israel has 200, 300 nuclear missiles. And they can take care of themselves. Why should we commit — we don’t even have a treaty with Israel. Why do we have this automatic commitment that we’re going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel? So I think they’re quite capable of taking care of themselves.

I think we do detriment — just think of all the money we gave to Egypt over 30 or 40 years. Now, look, we were buying friendship. Now there’s a civil war, they’re less friendly to Israel.

The whole thing is going to backfire once we go bankrupt and we remove our troops, so I think we should be very cautious in our willingness to go to war and send troops without a proper declaration by the U.S. Congress.

BLITZER: Let me let Herman Cain respond. [applause]

CAIN: Thank you.

I stated if the mission and the plan were clear, that it could succeed, but I pointed out that that is highly unlikely, given the terrain, the mountainous terrain in Iran.

But here’s the other reason that we should help Israel in an initiative live that. Back to Afghanistan: if we pull out of Afghanistan too soon, Iran is going to help to fulfill that power vacuum in Afghanistan. And so it is in our best interests, the United States of America, to prevent them from being able to help fill that power vacuum in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Let’s stay on this subject. And I want all of you to weigh in. We have another question.

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: Good evening. I’m Danielle Pletka; I’m the Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Yesterday the United States and the U.K. slapped new sanctions on Iran. But we haven’t bought oil directly from Iran in over 30 years. We’ve had targeted sanctions on Iran for more than half that time.

Nonetheless, Iran is probably less than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon. Do you believe that there is any set of sanctions that could be put in place that would stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

BLITZER: Let’s go to Governor Perry. What do you think?

PERRY: Absolutely. We need to sanction the Iranian Central Bank. That would be one of the most powerful ways to impact that. As a matter of fact, Congressman Paul, that is what we need to do before we ever start having any conversations about a military strike, is to use every sanction that we have. And when you sanction the Iranian Central Bank, that will shut down that economy. At that particular point in time, they truly have to deal with the United States. And it’s one of the reasons that I call for the — there is an area over there, of all of them working together — and I’m talking about Syria — and bringing them into the mix as well.

As I called for, one of the options is to have a no-fly zone over Syria at the same time you’re putting those types of sanctions against Iran. And in that moment, they will understand that America is serious. This President refuses to do that, and it’s another show of lack of leadership from the President of the United States.

BLITZER: The argument, Speaker Gingrich — and I know you’ve studied this, and I want you to weigh in — on the sanctioning of the Iranian Central Bank, because if you do that, for all practical purposes, it cuts off Iranian oil exports, 4 million barrels a day.

The Europeans get a lot of that oil. They think their economy, if the price of gasoline skyrocketed, which it would, would be disastrous. That’s why the pressure is on the U.S. to not impose those sanctions. What say you?

GINGRICH: Well, I say you — the question you just asked is perfect, because the fact is we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil.

Now that’s how we won World War II. [applause]

GINGRICH: So, I think you put your finger, Wolf, on the — on the — you know, we all get sucked into these tactical discussions. We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with minimum use of force. We need a strategy, as Rick Santorum was saying, of being honest about radical Islam and designing a strategy to defeat it wherever it happens to exist.

We need a strategy in central Asia that recognizes that, frankly, if you’re Pashtun, you don’t care whether you’re in Pakistan or Afghanistan, because you have the same tribal relationships. So we need to be much more strategic and less tactical in our discussion.

But if we were serious, we could break the Iranian regime, I think, within a year, starting candidly with cutting off the gasoline supply to Iran, and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they have.

BLITZER: But sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank now, is that a good idea or a bad idea?

GINGRICH: I think it’s a good idea if you’re serious about stopping them having nuclear — I mean, I think replacing the regime before they get a nuclear weapon without a war beats replacing the regime with war, which beats allowing them to have a nuclear weapon. Those are your three choices.

BLITZER: I want Congresswoman Bachmann to weigh in. Go ahead. [applause]

BACHMANN: I agree with all of that. And energy independence is something that President Obama certainly has avoided.

BLITZER: But that’s going to take many years.

BACHMANN: It — it will but the president — almost every decision that the president has made since he came in has been one to put the United States in a position of unilateral disarmament including the most recent decision he made to cancel the Keystone Pipeline.

That would have not only created jobs but it would have helped us in energy independence.

But I want to go back to something. That’s the fact why is it that we’re talking about Israel having to make a strike against Iran? It’s because Iran has announced they plan to strike Israel.

They’ve stated, as recently as August just before President Ahmadinejad came to — to the U.N. General Assembly. He said that he wanted to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth.

He has said that if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He will use it against the United States of America.

This isn’t just an idle threat. This is a reality. And that’s why President Obama has — has failed the American people because for two and a half years he gave the Iran the luxury of time.

He met with them with no preconditions. It’s the doctrine of appeasement. He has changed the course of history because at the time when we needed a leader most, we didn’t have one.

That’s what I’ll do differently as President of the United States. I’ll lead. [applause]

BLITZER: Thank you. All right. I — I — I want to — I want to — we’re gonna continue this but we have another question from Paul Wolfowitz. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Paul Wolfowitz. I’m a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and my question is about development assistance.

Under George W. Bush, who was a conservative Republican, the United States spent billions of dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa and elsewhere and set up the Millennium Challenge Corporation to encourage governments of poor countries to pursue policies that promote economic growth and job creation.

Do you believe those are still wise expenditures? Or do you think we can no longer afford them?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, as the author of the Global Fund Bill and the Millennium Challenge in the United States Senate and someone who worked with the president on PEPFAR to deal with the issue of AIDS in Africa, I believe it’s absolutely essential.

Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to — to get — to get a foothold.

We’re seeing it already. But the work that we’ve done in stabilizing that area, while humanitarian in nature, was absolutely essential for our national security.

And I hear people up here talking abut zeroing out foreign aid and humanitarian aid in particular. I think that’s absolutely the wrong course.

You want to — you want to spend more money on the military, zero out all the things we do to develop relationships around the world and we will spend a lot more money on the military.

It’s important for us to use all the assets we have. Promote our values. America is that shining city on the hill. It is — it is the city that comes to the aid of those in trouble in America — in the world.

We have done more good for America in Africa and in the third world by the things that we’ve done. And we have saved money and saved military deployments by wisely spending that money not on our enemies but on folks who can and will be our friends. [applause]

BLITZER: Herman Cain?

CAIN: Here again…

BLITZER: All right, here’s the question. Can the United States afford to continue that kind of foreign assistance to Africa for AIDS, malaria — could run into the billions of dollars? CAIN: It depends upon priorities. Secondly, it depends upon looking at the program and asking the question, has that aid been successful.

In other words, let’s look at the whole problem. It may be worthwhile to continue. It may not. I would like to see the results.

Just like every program we have here domestically, what have the results been. Then we make a decision about how we prioritize.

Ron Paul?

PAUL: I — I think the aid is all worthless. It doesn’t do any good for most of the people. You take money from poor people in this country and you end up giving it to rich people in poor countries.

And they’re used as weapons of war so you accomplish nothing. We should export some, maybe some principles about free markets and sound money and maybe they could produce some of their — their own wealth.

But this whole idea of — of talking about the endless wars and the endless foreign aid, it seems like nobody cares about the budget. I mean, we — we’re in big trouble and — and — and nobody wants to cut anything.

So if you’re gonna keep sending foreign aid overseas and these endless wars that you don’t have to declare and — and go into Libya without even consulting with the Congress, the biggest threat — the biggest threat to our national security is our financial condition.

And this is just aggravating it. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Congressman Paul, what they’re doing is cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget. They’re cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget, which just happens to equal the trillion dollars we’re putting into “Obama-care.”

And so what you have is a president that has a priority of spending us into bankruptcy, but he’s not just spending us into bankruptcy, he’s spending the money foolishly.

We need to protect America and protect our troops and our military and stop the idea of “Obama-care.” That’s the best way to save money, not the military. [applause]

BLITZER: Hold on one second because Ron Paul wants to respond to that point.

PAUL: Well, they’re not cutting anything out of anything. All this talk is just talk. [applause]

Believe me. They’re cutting — they’re nibbling away at baseline budgeting, and its automatic increases. There’s nothing cut against the military. And the people on the Hill are nearly hysterical because they’re not going — the budget isn’t going up as rapidly as they want it to. It’s a road to disaster. We had better wake up. [applause]

ROMNEY: OK. Let’s just talk about what they’re cutting with the first $350 billion, not the next 600 which is coming down the road. The first $350 billion, what do they cut? They stopped the F-22. They delayed aircraft carriers. They stopped the Navy cruiser system. They said long range Air Force bombers aren’t going to be built. They’re trying to cut our troops by 50,000. The list goes on.

They’re cutting programs that are cutting the capacity of America to defend itself. Look, let’s stand back for a moment, because we’ve been talking about Israel and Iran. What we’re talking about here is a failure on the part of the president to lead with strength.

And that’s why we have discussions about whether Israel should have to step in to stop the nuclear program, whether Iran is going to become nuclear. We have a president who pursued an agenda of saying we’re going to be friendly to our foes and we’re going to be disrespectful to our friends.

The right course in America is to stand up to Iran with crippling sanctions, indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Geneva — or the Genocide Convention, put in place the kind of crippling sanctions that stop their economy. I know it’s going to make gasoline more expensive. There’s no price which is worth an Iranian nuclear weapon.

And the right course for Israel is to show that we care about Israel, that they are our friend, we’ll stick with them. If I’m president of the United States, my first trip — my first foreign trip will be to Israel to show the world we care about that country and that region. [applause]

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to stay on this subject.

Go ahead.

ALISON ACOSTA FRASER, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA OFFICE OF STATE FINANCE: Hi, my name is Alison Acosta Fraser, and I’m the director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. And my question is this, the next president will have to make some very, very tough choices in order to solve the nation’s spending and debt crisis. Would you be willing to say that our national security is so paramount that cuts to the defense budget are unacceptable?

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich.

GINGRICH: No. I helped found the Military Reform Caucus in 1981 at the beginning of the Reagan buildup because it’s clear that there are some things you can do in defense that are less expensive.

It’s clear, if it takes 15 to 20 years to build a weapons system at a time when Apple changes technology every nine months, there’s something profoundly wrong with this system. So I’m not going to tell you automatically I’m going to say yes. [applause]

GINGRICH: But let me make a deeper point. There’s a core thing that’s wrong with this whole city. You said earlier that it would take too long to open up American oil. We defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in three years and eight months because we thought we were serious.

If we were serious, we would open up enough oil fields in the next year that the price of oil worldwide would collapse. Now, that’s what we would do if we were a serious country. If we were serious… [applause]

One last thing, if we were serious, we would apply Strong America Now’s model of Lean Six Sigma, we would save $500 billion a year by having an efficient effective federal government. We would open up federal lands, increasing dramatically both jobs and the amount of revenue of the federal government.

There are lots of things you can do if you decide break out of the current mindless bureaucracy of this city and just get the job done, including, by the way, making the Millennium Challenge work and doing it in a way that we actually help people even more effectively and at a much lower cost by having public/private partnerships.

BLITZER: I’m going to bring Governor Huntsman in, but very quickly, Mr. Speaker, would you, if you were president of the United States, bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power?

GINGRICH: Only as a last recourse and only as a step towards replacing the regime. No bombing campaign which leaves the regime in charge is going to accomplish very much in the long run. You have to seriously talk about regime replacement, not just attacking them.

But I will also say — this is, I guess, where I disagree with my good friend Ron Paul. If my choice was to collaborate with the Israelis on a conventional campaign or force them to use their nuclear weapons, it will be an extraordinarily dangerous world if out of a sense of being abandoned they went nuclear and used multiple nuclear weapons in Iran. That would be a future none of us would want to live through. [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, where do you stand on defense cuts?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let’s face the economic reality. Let’s face the deficit reality we have as a country. We have an economic deficit. And I’d argue that 70 percent debt-to-GDP is a national security problem because, at some point, you just don’t grow any more, when your debt becomes that.

I mean, look at Japan. They’re in their third decade of lost growth. Look at Greece. Look at Italy. So I’d say, aside from that, we’ve got another deficit in this country. It’s called the trust deficit.

People have lost trust in their institutions of power in America. They don’t trust Congress. They don’t trust the executive branch. They don’t trust Wall Street. The list goes on. We’ve got to fix both those deficits.

As it relates to defense spending, let’s be realistic about this. We can’t have an intellectually honest conversation about where we go with debt and spending with sacred cows. Everything’s got to be on the table. The Defense Department’s got to be on the table, for haven’t sake. But we need to have a Defense Department and a budget for the Defense Department. If we can’t find some savings in the $650 billion budget, we’re not looking closely enough.

But we need spending for the Department of Defense that follows a strategy. And that strategy needs to follow how we best protect the American people now that we’re in the second decade of the 21st century.

And I believe our national security strategy and our foreign policy increasingly needs to follow, number one, economic policy.

It used to break my heart sitting in Beijing, the second largest embassy in the world, looking at neighboring Afghanistan. We’d have 100,000 troops there. The Chinese would move in and take the mining concession. And I’d say there’s something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

When are we going to get with the program and determine that foreign policy will be driven by economics, that which plays right back to strengthening our core…[applause]… and creates jobs here on the home front.

And, second of all, let’s face the reality that we have a counterterror threat for as far as the eye can see.

Professor Wolfowitz was just up here. I know he’s done a lot of work on — for as far as the eye can see, and that means not only in Afghanistan but every corner of the world. We’ve got to prepare for the reality that counterterrorism is here to stay. We need friends and allies who are in this fight with us. We need special forces response capability. We need defense spending that will match the realities of where we find ourselves.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. [applause]

Let me bring in Governor Perry into this conversation.

As you know, the so-called supercommittee failed. And as a result, unless Congress takes action next year — in an election year, that would be difficult — there’s not going to be any change in that automatic trigger as it’s called. That sequestration, $1.2 trillion cut, including $600 billion in defense, will go into effect.

Here’s the question. If you were president of the United States, would you compromise with Democrats in Congress in order to avoid that Washington gridlock that, if you believe the polls, the American people hate?

PERRY: I don’t think anybody is particularly surprised that a supercommittee failed. It was a super-failure. And I think we expected that. We had a president of the United States who is not a leader. He pitched this over to them and said, here, you all figure this out.

I’ve signed six balanced budgets as the head of the state of Texas. I worked with those legislators on a daily basis, or my staff.

This president has been an absolute failure when it came to this budget process. And the idea — it was almost reprehensible to me. I’ve worn the uniform of this country. I’ve been the commander in chief of the 20-plus-thousand National Guard troops that we have in Texas, Dr. Paul.

But it was reprehensible, for me, for this president to stand in front of Americans and to say that that half a trillion dollars, $500 million-plus is not going to be on the table and we’re just going to have to work our way through it, putting young men and women’s life in jeopardy.

And I will tell you, as a commander in chief, as an American citizen, that is totally and absolutely irresponsible. Even his own secretary of defense said it was irresponsible. As a matter of fact, if Leon Panetta is an honorable man, he should resign in protest.

BLITZER: Here’s the question, though. Would you compromise — all of you have said you wouldn’t accept any tax increases at all, even if there were 10 — 10 times as many spending cuts. So would you just let the gridlock continue, Governor Perry, or would you compromise under those circumstances?

PERRY: Listen, I’ve had to work with Democrats for the 10 years that I’ve been the governor of the state of Texas.

So the idea that you can’t sit down and work with people on both sides of the aisle, but just to, you know, throw us into — into that briar patch at this particular point in time and say, what would you do — we would never have gotten into that situation if I were the president of the United States. I’d have been there working day in and day out so that we had a budget that not only — I’ve laid out a clear plan to — flat tax of 20 percent; cut the spending; and put a 20 percent corporate tax rate in. And, as a matter of fact, they ought to make the legislature, the Congress, part-time, and that would make as big an impact in this city as anything I can think of.

BLITZER: Let me bring Senator Santorum into this, because I covered Ronald Reagan’s presidency. And, as you know — and I’ll read a quote. He wrote in his autobiography this: “If you got 75 of 80 percent of what you were asking for, I say you take it and fight for the rest later.”

If you got 75 percent or 80 percent of what you wanted, would you make a deal with Democrats, increase some taxes in order to move on and fight the next battle the next day?

SANTORUM: It all depends on what the 75 percent and 85 percent is. If the — if the things that you have to give up make what you’re trying to accomplish harder to do — in other words, reduce the deficit, what the Republicans — why the Republicans are drawing a line in the sand, rightfully so, it’s because what they’re — what the Democrats are attempting to do is increase taxes, which will slow down to the — this economy, which will increase the deficit, reduce tax revenues, ultimately, and — and increase government payments.

So you don’t work against yourself. You — you won’t — you — you take ideas from the other side that you may not find particularly valuable, like spending cuts that you may not want. There are spending cuts that I would like to, you know, I mean there’s things that it mentioned before, that I would stand — stand firm on.

But in a compromise, yes, you do give up some things that you think maybe are critical spending. But you don’t undermine the ability of this con — economy to grow because of politics. This president has poisoned the well. He’s campaigned all over this country, trying to divide group from group in order to — to — to win, you know, to — to position himself to win this election and rally his troops. And what he’s done is poisoned the well here in Congress.

I’ve worked together, I’ve got a long track record of bipartisan accomplishments where I kept to the principles. I use welfare reform as an example. Welfare reform, I stuck to my principles. We cut the welfare budget. We had — we had time limits. We block granted to the states and we put a work requirement.

Did I compromise on things?

Yes. I compromised on some — on some child care. I compromised on — on some transportation.

So I got 75 percent. But it 100 percent changed the welfare system because we…

BLITZER: Thank you.

SANTORUM: — stuck to our principles.

BLITZER: Let — but let’s stay on this subject, because I know many of you want to weigh in. [applause]

We have another question.

ALEX BRILL: My name is Alex Brill and I’m a research fellow in the economics department at the American Enterprise Institute. Even if the super committee hadn’t failed, the savings that they would have proposed would have been a drop in the bucket relative to the $11 trillion deficit our country may face in the subsequent decade. In the decades after that, without entitlement reform, we’ll borrow even more.

To strengthen our economy, to strengthen our country, what entitlement reform proposals would you make to address our long-term structural deficit?

BLITZER: Good question.

Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: It’s a great question and it raises the — the core issue of really large scale change.

Yesterday in Manchester, I outlined a Social Security reform plan based on Chile and based on Galveston, Texas. In Chile, people who have now have the right to a personal Social Security savings account, for 30 years, the government of Chile has promised that if you don’t have as much savings as you would get from Social Security, the government would make up the difference.

In 30 years time, they’ve paid zero dollars, even after ’07 and ’08 and ’09, people slid from three times as much to one-and-a-half times as much, but they didn’t go below the Social Security amount. The result is in Chile, for example, 72 percent — they have 72 percent of the GDP in savings. It has — it has increased the economy, increased the growth of jobs, increased the amount of wealth and it dramatically solves Social Security without a payment cut and without having to hurt anybody.

So I think you can have a series of entitlement reforms that, frankly, make most of this problem go away without going through the kind of austerity and pain that this city likes.

BLITZER: Let’s talk about that, Congresswoman Bachmann.

Social Security, Medicare, health care — what would you cut first?

What would you tackle if you were president of the United States?

BACHMANN: Let me answer that in the context of the super committee, because I was involved in the middle of that fight as a member of Congress this summer. And my voice said this. I said it’s time for us to draw a line in the sand. We have sufficient revenues coming in to pay the interest on the debt.

But the real issue was, were we going to give Congress another $2.4 billion in borrowing authority?

In other words, another blank check to the president. Because, again, consider the context. A little of four years ago, we were just over $8 trillion in debt. We are now $15 trillion in debt in just over four years. Now we’re talking about — if the gentleman is correct — adding another $11 trillion in debt over 10 years, or potentially $8.5 trillion, according to the super committee.

All that they were asked to do is cut back on $1.2 trillion of that increase in debt. We aren’t even talking about the central issue, which is balancing the budget. We need to balance the budget and then chip away at the debt. This isn’t Monopoly money.

Because what we need to recognize is that when we are sending interest money over to China, with whom we are highly in hock, we’re not just sending our money. We’re sending our power.

What will happen is that our national security and our military will decrease and our money will increase China’s military. So think about that.

Our money will be used to grow China’s military at the expense of the United States military. That should give every American pause.

BLITZER: All right. I want everybody to stand by and all of you are going to weigh in. We’ve got a lot more to discuss, important issues that we’re talking about. Collect your thoughts for a moment.

More tough questions for the candidates including their plans for protecting the border, reducing illegal immigration — we’re live from Constitution Hall here in Washington, D.C. This is the CNN Republican National Security Debate. [applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN National Security Debate.

The next President of the United States will certainly have to tackle conflicts in the Middle East. You’re looking at these live pictures coming in from Cairo’s Tahrir Square right now, the middle of the night in Egypt.

Thousands of Egyptians are again protesting their government as the Arab Spring continues into the winter months.

The candidates will weigh in on this and much, much more. We’re being seen live, around the world right now. Remember, you can send in your questions and comments at cnnpolitics.com; at Twitter, remember hash tag #cnndebate.

The Republican National Security Debate — we’ll be right back.

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the historic Constitution Hall here in Washington, D.C. We’re at the CNN Republican National Security Debate. Let’s go right to the audience. We have a question. Please, give us your name and your organization.

TRULUCK: Thank you. My name is Phil Truluck. I’m executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Heritage Foundation. And I’d like to thank all the candidates for joining us tonight. I know some of you may want to be in other places, but we appreciate you being here and sharing your views with us.

Let’s — I’d like to turn it back a little bit, a little closer to home, and talk about what’s going on on the borders, our southern border. As all of you know, the drug-related crimes and violence are getting heavier and heavier in that area.

First, do you consider that to be a national interest threat? And, secondly, what could we be doing with the Mexican government to help stop these drug cartels?

BLITZER: Let’s go to Governor Perry. You represent the state with the longest border with Mexico right now. What do you think you should do, if you were President of the United States, as far as using the United States military?

PERRY: Well, let me kind of broaden it out. I think it’s time for a 21st century Monroe Doctrine. When you think about what we put in place in the — in the 1820s, and then we used it again in the 1960s with the Soviet Union. We’re seeing countries start to come in and infiltrate. We know that Hamas and Hezbollah are working in Mexico, as well as Iran, with their ploy to come into the United States.

We know that Hugo Chavez and the Iranian government has one of the largest — I think their largest embassy in the world is in Venezuela. So the idea that we need to have border security with the United States and Mexico is paramount to the entire western hemisphere.

So putting that secure border in place with strategic fencing, with the boots on the ground, with the aviation assets, and then working with Mexico in particular, whether it’s putting sanctions against the banks, whether it’s working with them on security with Mexico, all of those together can make that country substantially more secure and our borders secure.

As the President of the United States, I will promise you one thing, that within 12 months of the inaugural, that border will be shut down, and it will be secure. [applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you’re from Texas. Do you agree with your governor?

PAUL: Not entirely. [laughter]

No, the drug was mentioned. I think that’s another war we ought to cancel, because it’s… [applause]… to nobody’s benefit. And that’s where the violence is coming from. But, yes, we do have a national responsibility for our borders. What I’m, sort of, tired of is all the money spent and lives lost worrying about the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan and forgetting about our borders between the United States and Mexico. We should think more about, you know, what we do at home.

We need better immigration services, obviously. But, you know, if you subsidize something or give people incentives, you get more of it. So if you give easy road to citizenship, you’re going to have more illegals. If you have a weak economy, which is understandable and we should have prevented, that’s understandable.

But giving — mandating to the states and to Texas that we have to provide free medical care and free education, that’s a great burden. It’s a great burden to California and all the border states.

So I would say eliminate all these benefits and talk about eliminating the welfare state because it’s detrimental not only to here but the people that come because that’s the incentive to bring their families with them.

BLITZER: But I just want you to clarify. When you say cancel the war on drugs, does that mean legalize all these drugs?

PAUL: I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure. [applause]

You can — you can at least let sick people have marijuana because it’s helpful, but compassionate conservatives say, well, we can’t do this; we’re going to put people who are sick and dying with cancer and they’re being helped with marijuana, if they have multiple sclerosis — the federal government’s going in there and overriding state laws and putting people like that in prison.

Why don’t we handle the drugs like we handle alcohol? Alcohol is a deadly drug. What about — the real deadly drugs are the prescription drugs. They kill a lot more people than the illegal drugs.

So the drug war is out of control. I fear the drug war because it undermines our civil liberties. It magnifies our problems on the borders. We spend — like, over the last 40 years, $1 trillion on this war. And believe me, the kids can still get the drugs. It just hasn’t worked.

BLITZER: Herman Cain, let me let you…[applause]… weigh in.

CAIN: Yes. Allow me to answer the gentleman’s question. The answer is yes. An insecure border is a national security threat for the following reasons.

Number one, we know that terrorists have come into this country by way of Mexico. Secondly, 40 percent of the people in Mexico, according to a survey, already believe that their country is a failed state. Thirdly, the number of people killed in Mexico last year equals the number of people killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

So yes, so let’s solve the whole problem. Number one, secure the border for real. Number two, enforce the laws that are already there. We don’t need new laws. Number three, promote the current path to citizenship. Clean up the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. so people can come through the front door instead of sneaking in the side door. And, number four, to deal with the illegals that are already here, empower the states to do what the federal government is not capable of doing. [applause]

BLITZER: Let’s stay on this subject. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: I have a question about high-skilled immigration. We hear a lot about low-skilled immigration, so I want to ask you about high-skilled immigration.

What would you do to ensure that the United States is as welcoming as possible to the world’s skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, as the son of a legal immigrant to this country, I strongly believe in legal immigration and believe we are that shining city on the hill, that our future — if you look at all of the jobs that are being created in our economy today, a huge percentage of them come from the legal immigrants of this county — country who have innovated, who created great products, who created great companies and employed lots of people.

That’s one of the reasons that — that I put together my economic plan, was to take all that great innovation that’s coming as a result, in part, of legal immigration and make sure that those products that are being created are actually made here in America.

That’s part of the problem that — you know, Reaganomics was criticized as trickle-down. Problem is, we’re not seeing that money trickle down to the blue-collar workers in America. And that’s why I put forth a four-point economic plan to revitalize manufacturing that begins with zeroing out the corporate tax for manufacturers; also, regulatory reform, repatriation of profits, if invested in this country, to pay no taxes; and finally, energy policy that will explode the energy industry in this country.

We do those things, we’ll not only have the innovation, which I support, coming from legal — legal immigrants, but we’ll have that money trickle down to blue-collar workers and we can see that income mobility that a lot of people are right in that is not happening in America.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, let me let you broaden out this conversation. Back in the ’80s — and you remember this well. I was covering you then. Ronald Reagan and you — you voted for legislation that had a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as you well remember. There were, what, maybe 12 million, 10 million — 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States right now.

Some called it amnesty then; they still call it amnesty now. What would you do if you were President of the United States, with these millions of illegal immigrants, many of whom have been in this country for a long time?

GINGRICH: Let me start and just say I think that we ought to have an H-1 visa that goes with every graduate degree in math, science and engineering so that people stay here. [applause]

You know, about five blocks down the street, you’ll see a statue of Einstein. Einstein came here as an immigrant. So let’s be clear how much the United States has drawn upon the world to be richer, better and more inclusive.

I did vote for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. Ronald Reagan, in his diary, says he signed it — and we were supposed to have 300,000 people get amnesty. There were 3 million. But he signed it because we were going to get two things in return. We were going to get control of the border and we were going to get a guest worker program with employer enforcement.

We got neither. So I think you’ve got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach that starts with controlling the border, as the governor said. I believe ultimately you have to find some system — once you’ve put every piece in place, which includes the guest worker program, you need something like a World War II Selective Service Board that, frankly, reviews the people who are here.

If you’re here — if you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. period. If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.

The Creeble Foundation is a very good red card program that says you get to be legal, but you don’t get a pass to citizenship. And so there’s a way to ultimately end up with a country where there’s no more illegality, but you haven’t automatically given amnesty to anyone.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you agree with the speaker?

BACHMANN: Well, I don’t agree that you would make 11 million workers legal, because that, in effect, is amnesty. And I also don’t agree that you would give the DREAM Act on a federal level. And those are two things that I believe that the speaker had been for, and he can speak for himself.

But those are two areas that I don’t agree with. What I do think, though, is what Steve — what Steve Jobs said to President Obama. He had said to President Obama that he had to move a great deal of his operation over to China because he couldn’t find 30,000 engineers to be able to do the work that needed to be done.

That’s what we want to do. We do want to have people. And I agree with the speaker, people like chemists and engineers, and people who are highly skilled.

We think about the United States and what’s in the best interests of the United States. If we can utilize these workers, like Steve jobs wanted to, then we need to offer those visas. That will help the United States. But I don’t agree that we should make 11 million workers who are here illegally legal.

BLITZER: Let me let the speaker respond to that.

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, two things, first of all, in the DREAM Act, the one part that I like is the one which allows people who came here with their parents to join the U.S. military, which they could have done if they were back home, and if they serve on it with the U.S. military to acquire citizenship, which is something any foreigner can do.

And I don’t see any reason to punish somebody who came here at three years of age, but who wants to serve the United States of America. I specifically did not say we’d make the 11 million people legal.

I do suggest if you go back to your district, and you find people who have been here 25 years and have two generations of family and have been paying taxes and are in a local church, as somebody who believes strongly in family, you’ll have a hard time explaining why that particular subset is being broken up and forced to leave, given the fact that they’ve been law-abiding citizens for 25 years.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you want to respond? [applause]

BACHMANN: If I understood correctly, I think the speaker just said that that would make 11 people — 11 million people who are here illegally now legal. That’s really the issue that we’re dealing with. And also, it would be the DREAM Act, the federal DREAM Act, which would offer taxpayer-subsidized benefits to illegal aliens. We need to move away from magnets, not offer more.

BLITZER: Let’s broaden it out.

Governor Romney, where do you stand? Are you with the speaker, that some of those illegal immigrants — I think — he didn’t say all — some of them, if they have roots, they belong to a church, for example, should be allowed to stay in this country? ROMNEY: Look, amnesty is a magnet. What when we have had in the past, programs that have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that’s going to only encourage more people to come here illegally.

The right course for our immigration system is to say we welcome people who want to come here legally. We’re going to have a system that makes that easier and more transparent. But to make sure we’re able to bring in the best and brightest — and, by the way, I agree with the speaker in terms of — I’d staple a green card to the diploma of anybody who’s got a degree of math, science, a Masters degree, Ph.D.

We want those brains in our country. But in order to bring people in legally we’ve got to stop illegal immigration. That means turning off the magnets of amnesty, in-state tuition for illegal aliens, employers that knowingly hire people that have come here illegally.

We welcome legal immigration. This is a party, this is a party that loves legal immigration. But we have to stop illegal immigration for all the reasons the questioner raised, which is, it is bringing in people who in some cases can be terrorists, in other cases they become burdens on our society.

And we have to finally have immigration laws that protect our border, secure the border, turn off the magnets, and make sure we have people come to this country legally to build our economy.

BLITZER: Just to precise, and I’ll give Speaker Gingrich a chance to respond. Are you saying that what he’s proposing, giving amnesty in effect, or allowing some of these illegal immigrants to stay, is a magnet that would entice others to come to this country illegally?

ROMNEY: There’s no question. But to say that we’re going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you’re all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing.

People respond to incentives. And if you can become a permanent resident of the United States by coming here illegally, you’ll do so. What I want to do is bring people into this country legally, particularly those that have education and skill that allows us to compete globally. [applause]

GINGRICH: I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families, and expel them.

I do believe if you’ve been here recently and have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border. I do believe we should have very severe penalties for employers, but I would urge all of you to look at the Krieble Foundation Plan.

I don’t see how the — the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, are you with the speaker or with the governor, Governor Romney? [applause]

PERRY: Here we go again, Mitt. You and I standing by each other again and you used the words about the magnets. And that’s one of the things that we obviously have to do is to stop those magnets for individuals to come in here.

But the real issue is securing that border. And this conversation is not ever going to end until we get the border secure. But I do think that there is a way. That after we secure that border that you can have a process in place for individual who are law- abiding citizens who have done only one thing, as Newt says, 25 years ago or whatever that period of time was, that you can put something in place that basically continues to keep those families together.

But the idea that we’re having this long and lengthy conversation here, until we have a secure border is just an intellectual exercise. You’ve got to secure the border first. And I know how to do that. I’ve been dealing with it for 10 years.

And we have to put the boots on the ground and the aviation assets in place, and secure that border once and for all, and be committed to it.

BLITZER: Let me let Governor Romney respond.

ROMNEY: Yes, I don’t disagree with what Governor Perry indicated. Certainly we have to secure the border. And we talk about people who have been here 25 years, that is the extreme exception…

BLITZER: You would let them stay.

ROMNEY: … not the rule.

BLITZER: You would let them stay?

ROMNEY: I’m not going to start drawing lines here about who gets to stay and who get to go. The principle is that we are not going to have an amnesty system that says that people who come here illegally get to stay for the rest of their life in this country legally.

The answer is we’re going to have a system that gives people who come legally a card that identifies them as coming here legally. Employers are going to be expected to inspect that card, see if they’re here legally. On that basis we’re going to be able to bring you to this country.

The number of people that we need to power our industries, whether that’s agriculture or high tech, we welcome people in here with visa programs. We have a whole series of legal programs. But the idea of focusing a Republican debate on amnesty and who we’re going to give it to, is a huge mistake.

Secure our border, protect legal immigration, and return to a system that follows the law.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another…[applause]… quick break because we have a lot more to — I want to bring everybody into this conversation. We’re also going to broaden the conversation and go to the Middle East and see what’s going on in the so-called Arab Spring.

Don’t forget, Twitter — you can weigh in on what’s going on, #CNNdebate. Also, go to Facebook, CNNpolitics.com. Much more from historic Constitution Hall, here in the nation’s capital, right after this.

[commercial break]

[applause]

BLITZER: All right. Welcome back to the CNN Republican national security debate. Let’s go right to the audience.

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: I’m David Addington. I’m a vice president with the Heritage Foundation. [applause]

Serious violence has erupted in Syria between the repressive al- Assad regime and some elements of the people of Syria. Syria borders a major ally of the United States, NATO ally, Turkey, and three other friendly countries, Israel, Jordan and Iraq.

In your view, what are the interests of the United States in this region and what would you do to protect them?

BLITZER: Herman Cain, you may not know this, but today Governor Perry called for a no-fly zone, for the U.S. to participate in a no- fly zone over Syria. Would you go that far? Would you support that?

CAIN: No, I would not. I would work with our allies in the region to put pressure to be able to try and get our allies and other nations to stop buying oil from Syria. That would be one thing that I would do, but I would not support a no-fly zone.

The most effective tools that we have in any of these situations are a strong military, which it is getting weaker, unfortunately, and our own economic strength.

This whole discussion tonight about cutting and compromise, we didn’t spend enough time talking about the other part of the problem — growing this economy, because this administration has failed dismally at growing this economy. We can cut until the cows come home but it still would not solve the problem until we have effective economic growth.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, why would you support a no-fly zone over Syria?

PERRY: Obviously, that’s one of a multitude of — of sanctions and actions that I think work very well from the standpoint of being able to pressure that regime, overt, covert, economic sanctions.

I mean I think there are a number of ways. But when you put the no-fly zone above Syria, it obviously gives those dissidents and gives the military the opportunity to maybe disband, that want to get out of the situation that they’re in in Syria, as well.

So I think if we’re serious about Iran — and that’s what we’re really talking about here. We’re talking about Syria is a partner with Iran in exporting terrorism all across that part of the world and — and around the globe.

So if we’re serious about Iran, then we have to be serious about Syria, as well.

So I think a no-fly zone is an option of one of a multitude of options that we should be using. And we should put them in place if we’re serious about Iran not getting the nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, let me bring you into this conversation.

We just got a question from Twitter. I’ll read it to you.

“So many people view the Arab spring as a good thing. Given the recent violence in Egypt, do you worry this can go bad?”

And we’ve got some live pictures we’re going to show our viewers out there of Tahrir Square in Cairo right now. Thousands of people are protesting the military regime in Egypt right now.

What do you say to this person who sent this — this — this Twitter message to us?

HUNTSMAN: His — history will tell. We missed the Persian spring. The president failed on that front. We go into Libya, where, to my mind, we don’t have any definable American interests. We’ve got Syria now on the horizon, where we do have American interests. It’s called Israel. We’re a friend and ally. They’re a friend and ally. And we need to remind the world what it means to be a friend and ally of the United States.

And we have nuclearization in Iran. Centrifuges spinning. At some point, they’re going to have enough in the way of fissile material out of which to make a weapon. That’s a certainty.

We had a discussion earlier tonight about sanctions. Everybody commented on sanctions. Sanctions aren’t going to work, I hate to break it to you. They’re not going to work because the Chinese aren’t going to play ball and the Russians aren’t going to play ball.

And I believe Iran has already — the mullahs have already decided they want to go nuclear.

Why?

They have looked at North Korea. They’ve got a weapon. Nobody touches them. They like at Libya. Libya gave up their weapon in exchange for friendship with the world. Look where they are.

So I say let’s let history be our guide. We saw the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1919. We saw the region transform and make itself into something different. We saw changes in 1947.

I think we do our national interests a disservice by jumping in too soon and taking up sides with people we don’t fully understand, Islamist groups, pan-Arab groups.

Our interest in the Middle East is Israel. And our interest is to ensure that Israel — that Iran does not go nuclear.

BLITZER: All right, let’s stay in the region.

We have another question from the audience.

KATHERINE ZIMMERMAN: I’m Katherine Zimmerman from the American Enterprise Institute Political Press Project.

The United States adopted a policy of disengagement with Somalia after its retreat following Black Hawk down.

Today, an al Qaeda affiliate, Al Shabab, controls significant territory in that country.

What can the United States do to prevent Al Shabab from posing the same threat that al Qaeda did from Afghanistan 10 years ago?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: You’re talking about al Qaeda, correct?

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

PAUL: You have to understand who the al Qaeda really is. The — the al Qaeda responds in a very deliberate fashion. As a matter of fact, Paul Wolfowitz explained it very clearly after 9/11.

He said that al Qaeda is inspired by the fact that we had bases in Saudi Arabia. So if you want to inspire al Qaeda, just meddle in — in that region. That will inspire the al Qaeda. As a matter of fact, he went on to say that that was a good reason for us to remove the base that we had had in 15 years in — in Saudi Arabia and that we should have done that.

So there is a response. Al Qaeda responds to that and they — they are quite annoyed with us. So if you drop — if you have a no- fly zone over Syria, that’s an act of war.

What if we had China put a no-fly zone over our territory? I don’t think — I don’t think we would like that.

And I think we should practice a policy of good will to other people. What about saying that we don’t do anything to any other country that we don’t have them do to us? When we have a no-fly zone over Iraq, it was for — meant to be regime change. And evidently, some want to have regime change.

What is our business? Why should we spend more money and more lives to get involved in another war? That’s an — that is the internal affairs of the other nations and we don’t want — we don’t need another nation to start nation building. We have way too many already. So this is just looking for more trouble. I would say why don’t we mind our own business? [applause]

BLITZER: Governor Romney, where do you stand?

ROMNEY: Wolf, that is a foreign policy. It’s different than President Obama’s, but similar in some respects. President Obama’s foreign policy is one of saying, first of all, America’s just another nation with a flag.

I believe America is an exceptional and unique nation. President Obama feels that we’re going to be a nation which has multipolar balancing militaries. I believe that American military superiority is the right course. President Obama says that we have people throughout the world with common interests. I just don’t agree with him. I think there are people in the world that want to oppress other people, that are evil.

President Obama seems to think that we’re going to have a global century, an Asian century. I believe we have to have an American century, where America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.

President Obama apologizes for America. It is time for us to be strong as a nation. And if we are strong, with a military and economy that are so strong, no one in the world will try and attempt to threaten us or to attack our friends.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, are you with Governor Perry…[applause]… on declaring a no-fly zone over Syria?

ROMNEY: No, this is not — this is not the time for a no-fly zone over Syria. This is the time for us to use not only sanctions, but covert actions within Syria to get regime change there. There are people in the military that are shifting over, that are — that are becoming part of the rebel effort.

We should support those efforts. We need to meet with the Alawites to make sure they understand that they have a future after Assad, that they don’t have to link with him. He’s getting pressure now from both Turkey as well as Saudi Arabia. They’re coming and putting pressure on him. The Arab League is putting pressure on him.

We — that’s the right way to go. And by the way, they have 5,000 tanks in Syria. A no-fly zone wouldn’t be the right military action. Maybe a no-drive zone. I mean, this is — this is a nation — this is a nation which is not bombing its people, at this point, and the right course is not military.

BLITZER: We’re ready to wrap it up. But let me have Governor Perry react.

PERRY: Yes, as I said, I said the no-fly zone is one of the options that we have. But I think you need to leave it on the table to make sure, because this is not just about Syria. This is about Iran, and those two, as a partnership and exporting terrorism around the world. And if we’re going to be serious about saving Israel, we better get serious about Syria and Iran, and we better get serious right now.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another question from the audience. This is last question. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Mark Teese and I’m a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute. And my question has to do with the unexpected. During the 200 Presidential debates, Governor George W. Bush was never asked about the threat from Al Qaida, yet the battle with Al Qaida dominated his presidency. What national security issue do you worry about that nobody is asking about, either here or in any of the debates so far?

BLITZER: All right. Let’s go down the line and start with Senator Santorum. Give us a quick answer. What do you think?

SANTORUM: Well, I’ve spent a lot of time and concern — and Rick mentioned this earlier — about what’s going on in Central and South America. I’m very concerned about the militant socialists and there — and the radical Islamists joining together, bonding together.

I’m concerned about the spread of socialism and that this administration, with — time after time, whether it was the delay in moving forward on Colombia’s free trade agreement, whether it was turning our back to the Hondurans and standing up for democracy and the — and the rule of law.

And we took the side with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro for a corrupt President. We’ve sent all the wrong signals to Central and South America.

BLITZER: Thank you.

SANTORUM: You know, maybe the first trip I would take to Israel, but my second trip, and third and fourth, would be into Central and South America. We need to build a solid hemisphere and those people — and the people in south of our border need to know that we are going to…

BLITZER: All right.

SANTORUM: … solidarity with them and build strong alliances.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

I want to do this quickly, if we can, because we don’t have a lot of time.

Congressman?

PAUL: I worry most about overreaction on our part, getting involved in another war when we don’t need to, when we have been attacked, and our national security has not been at threat. And I worry a lot about people never have come around to understanding who the Taliban is and why they are motivated.

Taliban doesn’t mean they want to come here and kill us. The Taliban means they want to kill us over there because all they want to do is get people who occupy their country out of their country, just like we would if anybody tried to occupy us.

BLITZER: Governor Perry? [applause]

PERRY: I think, obviously, the big issue out there, and we’ve talked about it before, but I happen to think it’s China and how we’re — we’re going to deal with China.

And Communist China — when I think back about Ronald Reagan, and he said that the Soviet Union was destined for the ash heap of history, and he was correct, and I happen to think that Communist China is destined for the ash heap of history because they are not a country of virtues.

When you have 35,000 forced abortions a day in that country; when you have the cybersecurity that the PLA has been involved with, those are great and — and major issues, both morally and security-wise that we’ve got to deal with now.

BLITZER: All right. We’ve got to keep it brief. But, go ahead…[applause]… Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: Rick, in my view, is right with regards to long-term security interests, and that’s — and that’s China, although that’s very much on our agenda.

Immediately, the most significant threat is, of course, Iran becoming nuclear.

But I happen to think Senator Santorum is right with regards to the issue that doesn’t get enough attention. That’s the one that may come up that we haven’t thought about, which is Latin America. Because, in fact, Congressman, we have been attacked. We were attacked on 9/11. There have been dozens of attacks that have been thwarted by our — by our security forces. And we have, right now, Hezbollah, which is working throughout Latin America, in Venezuela, in Mexico, throughout Latin America, which poses a very significant and imminent threat to the United States of America.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. Mr. Cain? [applause]

CAIN: Having been — having been a ballistics analyst and a computer scientist early in my career, cyber attacks: that’s something that we do not talk enough about, and I happen to believe that that is a national security area that we do need to be concerned about.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich? [applause]

GINGRICH: I — I helped create the Hart-Rudman Commission with President Clinton, and they came back after three years and said the greatest threat to the United States was the weapon of mass destruction in an American city, probably from a terrorist. That was before 9/11.

That’s one of the three great threats. The second is an electromagnetic pulse attack which would literally destroy the country’s capacity to function.

And the third, as Herman just said, is a cyber attack. All three of those are outside the current capacity of our system to deal with.

BLITZER: Thank you. Congresswoman?

BACHMANN: Well, I would agree with what my colleagues said up here on the stage. And also, we need to remember, we won the peace in Iraq. And now President Obama is intentionally choosing to give that peace away.

This is a significant issue because we’re taking the terrorist threat away from the Middle East, bringing it to the United States.

We talked about Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab is real. In my home state of Minnesota, we’ve just had two convictions of two women that are financing terror with Al-Shabaab. This threat, I believe, now is in the United States and now the threat has come home and that’s what we have to deal with.

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: I guess I could say China because I know a little bit about the subject matter, but they’re in for real trouble ahead.

So I have to say that our biggest problem is right here at home. And you can see it on every street corner. It’s called joblessness. It’s called lack of opportunity. It’s called debt, that has become a national security problem in this country. And it’s also called a trust deficit, a Congress that nobody believes in anymore, an executive branch that has no leadership, institutions of power that we no longer believe in.

How can we have any effect on foreign policy abroad when we are so weak at home? We have no choice. We’ve got to get on our feet here domestically.

BLITZER: Thank you to…[applause]… all of you. And thanks to all of you as well. We have to leave it right there. We want to thank our partners, the American Enterprise Institute. We want to thank the Heritage Foundation. Thanks very much for watching. I’m Wolf Blitzer here at Constitution Hall. [applause]

November 12, 2011: CBS / National Journal / South Carolina Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina November 12, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)

MODERATORS:
Major Garrett (National Journal);
Scott Pelley (CBS News)

PELLEY: Good evening from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I’m Scott Pelley with CBS News along with my colleague Major Garrett of National Journal. In just under a year now, Americans will go to the polls to choose a president. Tonight, CBS News and National Journal are pleased to bring you a discussion of the issues by the Republican candidates for their party’s nomination.

The focus will be foreign policy and national security, the president’s role as commander in chief. Consider this, the 9/11 attacks came in the eighth month of a new presidency, the Bay of Pigs in the 13th week, and the Civil War on the 40th day of a new presidency. Reminders from history that a president must be prepared to deal with a crisis from day one.

The ground rules for tonight’s debate are simple. A candidate who is asked a question will have one minute to respond and then at a discretion of the moderators, there can be a 30-second follow-up or a 30-second rebuttle from another candidate. The debate will run a total of 90 minutes. The first hour will be broadcast right here on the CBS television network, the entire 90 minutes will be streamed on CBSNews.com and NationalJournal.com. And we invite you to submit questions during the debate to either w– website. Joining me now in asking the questions, Major Garrett.

GARRETT: Scott, thank you very much. One more piece of housekeeping. Let’s introduce the candidates. Former Utah Governor, Jon Huntsman. Representing the 6th District of Minnesota, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Representing the 14th District of Texas, Congressman Ron Paul.

From Atlanta, Georgia, businessman Herman Cain. Former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. Former House speaker, Newt Gingrich. Current Texas governor, Rick Perry. [cheering] And former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum. Mr. Cain, I’d like to begin this evening with you, sir.

CAIN: Yes.

GARRETT: This week, a U.N. nuclear watchdog agency provided additional credible evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. If you were president right now, what would you do specifically that this administration is not doing to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?

CAIN: The first thing that I would do is to assist the opposition movement in Iran, that’s tryin’ to overthrow the regime. Our enemies are not the people of Iran, it’s the regime. And a regime change is what they are trying to achieve. Secondly, we need to put economic pressure on Iran, by way of our own energy independence strategy. By having our own energy independence strategy, we will impact the price of oil in the world markets, because Iran uses oil not only as a– means of currency, but they use it as a weapon.

One of the reasons that they are able to afford that nuclear weapons program, is because of oil. Secondly, we would then work to increase sanctions on Iran, along with our friends and our allies. So whereas we will not be– so that’s why I do believe that they have a nuclear weapons program and they are closer to having nuclear weapon, stopping them– the only we can stop them is through economic means.

GARRETT: A quick follow up, Mr. Cain. You say assisting the opposition, would you entertain military assistance and opposition?

CAIN: I would not entertain– military opposition. I’m talkin’ about to help the opposition movement within the country. And then there’s one other thing that we could do. We could deploy our ballistic missile defense capable warships strategically in that part of the world. We have the biggest fleet of those warships in the world. And we could use them strategically in the event that they were able to fire a ballistic missile.

PELLEY: Governor Romney, would it be worth goin’ to war to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?

ROMNEY: Well, let’s– let’s start back from there and let’s talk about where we are. This is, of course, President Obama’s greatest failing, from a foreign policy standpoint, which is he recognized the gravest threat that America and the world faces– and faced was a nuclear Iran and he did not do what was necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly. What he should have done is speak out when dissidents took the streets and say, “America is with you.” And work on a covert basis to encourage the dissidents.

Number two, he should have put– put in place crippling sanctions against Iran. But instead of getting Russia, for instance, to– what– what he gave in our– our missile defense system to agree to– to stand with those crippling sanctions, he gave Russia what they wanted, their number one foreign policy objective, and got nothing in return.

PELLEY: Governor, on the question. We’re gonna adherer to time, very quickly. But let me–

ROMNEY: I get 60 seconds.

PELLEY: Yes, sir, and that was–

ROMNEY: That was 30.

PELLEY: The– the 60–

ROMNEY: Sorry, it started at yellow, so I– I have much more time to go.

PELLEY: You– you know what, Governor? I stand corrected. You are right. Please continue.

ROMNEY: Fin– finally, the president should have built credible– threat of military action, and made it very clear that the United States of America is willing, in the final analysis, if necessary, to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. Look, one thing you can know– and that is if we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you’d like me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.

PELLEY: But sir, let me– you just described where we are today, and that’s what you’re going to have to deal with if you become president. How do you prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon? Is it worth going to war to prevent that?

ROMNEY: Well, it’s worth putting in place crippling sanctions. It’s worth working with the insurgents in the company to encourage regime change in the country. And if all else fails, if after all of the work we’ve done, there’s nothing else we can do beside mil– take military action, then of course you take military action. It is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. This term “unacceptable” has been applied by several presidents over history, and our current president has made it very clear that he’s not willing to do those things necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly. I will take a different course. I will make sure that the sanctions, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure, and support of insurgents within the country help them become dissuaded to get away from their nuclear ambition. And finally–

PELLEY: This time, it is time.

ROMNEY: Yeah, and finally, have to– have to have military presence there.

PELLEY: –30 seconds, though, on the follow ups. We’re gonna try to adhere to the time.

GARRETT: Mr. Speaker, is this the right way to look at this question, war or not war? Or do you see other options, diplomatically, or other non-war means that the United States has in its possession to deal with Iran that it has not employed?

GINGRICH: Well, let me start and say that both the answers you just got are superior to the current administration. And– you know, there are a number of ways to be smart about– Iran and relatively few ways to be dumb. And the administration skipped all the ways to be smart.

GARRETT: Could you tell us the smart ways, Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Sure. First of all, as maximum covert operations– to block and disrupt the Iranian program– in– including– taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems. All of it covertly, all of it deniable. Second, [laughing] maximum– maximum coordination with the Israelis– in a way which allows them to maximize their impact in Iran. Third, absolute strategic program comparable to what President Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher did in the Soviet Union, of every possible aspect short of war of breaking the regime and bringing it down. And I agree entirely with Governor Romney, if in the end, despite all of those things– the dictatorship persists, you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon.

PELLEY: Congressman Paul, let me follow up with you for just 30 seconds. Is it worth going to war to prevent a nuclear weapon in Iran?

PAUL: No, it isn’t worthwhile. The only way you would do that is– you would have to go through Congress. We– we as commander in chief aren’t making the decision to go to war. You know, the old-fashioned way, the Constitution, you go to the Congress and find out if our national security is threatened. And– I’m afraid what’s going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq.

And, you know, they didn’t have nuc– weapons of mass destruction. And it was orchestrated and it was– to me, a tragedy of what’s happened these past– last ten years, the death and destruction, $4 billion– $4 trillion in debt. So no, it’s not worthwhile goin’ to war. If you do, you get a declaration of war and you fight it and you win it and get it over with.

PELLEY: Thank you, Congressman. Governor Perry, what’s your appraisal of the combat situation on the ground in Afghanistan today and what would you change?

PERRY: Let me answer– the previous question very quickly for– if I– if I may.

PELLEY: Governor, I’d like to move on, could you give us a sense of your –of your appraisal of the combat situation?

PERRY: –I have a minute. And I can do both in one minute, I’ll promise you.

PELLEY: There– there you go.

PERRY: And the issue that has not been raised is that this country can sanction the Iranian Central Bank right now and shut down that country’s economy. And that’s what this president needs to do and the American people need to stand up and force him to make that stand today. Now let me address this issue of Afghanistan and how we deal with it. The mission must be completed there. The idea that we will have wasted our treasure and the lives of young Americans to not secure Afghanistan is not appropriate.

But the idea that we would give a timetable to our enemy is irresponsible from a military standpoint, it’s irresponsible from the lives of our young men and women. And it is irresponsible leadership of this president to give a timetable to pull out of any country that we’re in conflict with.

PELLEY: But Governor, if I can just follow up for 30 seconds. The question was, “What’s your appraisal of the combat situation on the ground there, and what would you change as commander in chief?”

PERRY: Well, obviously, we’re discussing with our commanders on the field– about what’s going on in– Afghanistan. I think we’re makin’ progress there. The issue is training up the Afghan security forces so that we’re comfortable that they can– protect that citizenry and continue to take the war to the terrorists that are using Afghanistan and Pakistan, I might add. It is a very complex part of the world. But I think that our military is doin’ the best job that they can– considering– the lack of support that they’re getting from this administration– telegraphing to the enemy when we’re gonna pull out.

GARRETT: Senator Santorum, I know you want to jump in on Iran. I’ll give you that opportunity in just a second. So let me merge two things if I could, just one second. The Taliban said earlier this summer quote, “The Afghans have an endless stamina for a long war.” If you were commander in chief, would you have endless stamina for victory in Afghanistan? And would you, this evening, define victory in Afghanistan for the American people? And please weigh in, I know you do want to, on Iran.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much, Major, I appreciate that. Victory against– the Taliban in Afghanistan is the– Taliban is a neutered force. They are no longer a security threat– to the– to the– Afghan people or to– to our country. That would be victory. It doesn’t mean wipe them out, we can’t wipe them out, but they’re no longer a security threat.

The bigger issue– and I know there’s those of us at the end, who don’t get a lot of questions. And so I– I– this was the– this is the most important national security issue that we’re gonna be dealin’ with here in this– in this year. And that’s the issue of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. I think everyone should have the opportunity to answer that question. Particularly me. I’ve been working on Iran since back in 2004. And I proposed exactly the things that Herman and– and Mitt Romney suggested, which was to give money to the– to the– to the rebel forces there to– to help the pro-democracy movement and to put tough sanctions in place.

I was opposed by President Bush. And yet, we were able to overcome that and pass the Iran Freedom and Support Act. I was able to get that done. And then President Bush didn’t provide money for the pro-democracy movement. And President Obama cut that money. What we– we have a situation that’s different. I disagree with Newt. [inaudible]…more sanctions and– and– and providing, you know, more support for the pro-democracy movement isn’t gonna be enough, in time. Read the I.A.E.A. report.

PELLEY: Senator, I’m sorry.

SANTORUM: They are… [inaudible].

PELLEY: That’s time. I’m sorry. We’re gonna try to adhere to time and be fair to everyone in the– application of that rule.

SANTORUM: I understand. Just let me finish my final comment. My final comment is we should be working with Israel right now to do what they did in Syria, what they did in Iraq, which is take out that nuclear capability before the next explosion we hear in Iran is a nuclear one and then the world changes.

PELLEY: That is time. Thank you. Representative Bachmann, do you think the 30,000 surge troops in Afghanistan have made a difference, and if so, where?

BACHMANN: They absolutely have, but it’s unfortunate, the request was made for 40,000 troops. President Obama dithered for approximately two months, when he should have given the full complement of 40,000 troops. When he gave 30,000 troops to the effort in Afghanistan, that meant that a decision had to be made. With 40,000 troops, they could have conducted the war going into the southern province in– in Helmand and also going into the eastern province and dealing with the problem all at once and coming to victory that much sooner and bringing our troops home.

When 30,000 troops were given, then our troops did the very best that they could by going into the south and dealing in the Helmand Province. We actually have seen improvement down by Kandahar. That’s a very good thing. And that’s because of the brave actions by our men and women in that area. However, we have to recognize, now President Obama has made a very fatal decision in Afghanistan. He’s made the decision that by next September, our troops will be withdrawn. If that is the case, how do we expect any of our allies to continue to work to– with us? How can we even begin to seek the peace with the Hikani Network that are in the eastern regions. It’s–

Various: Thank you. Thank you.

PELLEY: Thank you, Congress– Congresswoman Bach– Bachmann, thank you very much. Let me come over to you, Governor Huntsman. And– and ask you, we are seeing spikes in casualties in Afghanistan, in new places. Can you explain to me what’s happening there and how you would change that as commander in chief?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think the– spikes obviously are driven by– lack of security, proper security, in certain parts of the country, which could plague us for a very, very long time to come. I take a different approach on Afghanistan. I say it’s time to come home. I say this– I say this nation has achieved its key objectives in Afghanistan. We’ve had free elections in 2004. We’ve uprooted the Taliban. We’ve dismantled Al Qaeda. We have killed Osama bin Laden. I say this nation’s future is not Afghanistan. This nation’s future is not Iraq. This nation’s future is how prepared we are to meet the 21st Century competitive challenges. That’s economic and that’s education. And that’s gonna play out over the Asia-Pacific region. And we’re either prepared for that reality or we’re not. I don’t want to be nation building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built.

PELLEY: Make sure I understand. Bring all the troops home today?

HUNTSMAN: Here’s what I would keep behind, because we still have work to do. We don’t need 100,000 troops nation building, many of whom can’t cross the wire. I think we need a component that gathers tactical intelligence. We need enhanced special forces, response capability for rapid response. And we need some ongoing commitment to train the local Afghan National Army. That’s not 100,000 troops. That’s well south of that. We are fighting an asymmetric threat, a counterterror threat. Not only there, but in Waziristan and every other corner of the world. And we need to prepare for that as a reality of our 21st Century foreign policy.

PELLEY: And that’s time. Thank you, sir.

GARRETT: Governor Romney, a much smaller footprint in Afghanistan? Do you support that? And secondarily, sir, is it time or would it ever be time for the United States to negotiate with the Taliban?

ROMNEY: We don’t negotiate with terrorists. I do not negotiate with the Taliban. That’s something for the Afghans to decide how they’re gonna– pursue their course in the future. With regards to our footprint in Afghanistan, the right course is for us to do our very best to secure the victories that have been so hard won by the soldiers, the men and women of– of our– fighting forces who have been in Afghanistan.

The commanders on the field feel that we can take out 30,000 to 40,000 troops sometime by the end of next year. The commander in chief, perhaps looking at the calendar of the election, decided to bring them home in September, instead, in the middle of the fighting season. Our commanders said that puts our troops at risk, at danger, “Please don’t pull ’em out there,” they said.

But he said, “No, I’m gonna get ’em out early.” I think that was a mistake. Our surge troops should have been withdrawn by December of next year, not by December. And the timetable, by the end of 2014, is the right timetable for us to be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, other than a small footprint of support forces.

PELLEY: Mr. Speaker, how do you achieve peace in Afghanistan if you don’t negotiate with the Taliban?

GINGRICH: I don’t think you do.

PELLEY: Would you agree that the Taliban–

GINGRICH: Look, I– I think this is so much bigger and deeper a problem than we’ve talked about as a country that we– we don’t have a clue how hard this is gonna be. First of all, the Taliban survives for the ex– the very same reason that historically we said guerillas always survive, which is they have a sanctuary. The sanctuary’s Pakistan. You’re never gonna stop the Taliban as long as they can sort of hide. And you– and you have proof every week in new bombings and new killings and new training. So I think this has to be a much larger strategic discussion that starts with, frankly, Pakistan on the one end and Iran on the other, because I– Afghanistan is in between the two countries and is the least important of the three countries.

GARRETT: Related to that, Mr. Cain, I’d like to pick up on a point that Speaker Gingrich just made. You have said about foreign policy, “America needs to be clear about who its friends are and who its foes are.” So this evening, sir, Pakistan, friend or foe?

CAIN: We don’t know. Because Pakistan– it’s not clear, because Pakistan is where Osama bin Laden was found and eliminated. Secondly, Pakistanis have a conversation with President Karzai from Afghanistan and they– and President Karzai has said that if the United States gets into a dispute with Pakistan, then Afghanistan’s gonna side with Pakistan. There is a lot of clarity missing, like Speaker Gingrich says, in this whole region. And they are all interrelated. So there isn’t a clear answer as to whether or not Pakistan is a friend or foe. That relationship must be reevaluated.

GARRETT: If you were president, sir, and your national security council asked you what questions you would want answered to find out a better answer to this very question, what would you tell ’em?

CAIN: I would ask them what commitment is Pakistan willing to make to assure the United States of America that they are a friend or of– or a foe. And be specific about that. Will they make commitments relative to the commitment of their military, if we have to make commitments? Are they willing to come to some regional– agreement about what we need to do? We need a regional strategy in that area of the world, such that all of our allies, wor– we work together in order to come up with those things that would be mutually beneficial to everyone. Those are the questions that need to be asked.

PELLEY: Governor Perry, why is Pakistan playing a double game, saying that it supports the United States one moment and then supporting terrorists who are killing American troops the next? What’s going on there?

PERRY: Listen, I– I think we’re havin’– an interesting conversation here, but the deeper one– that the speaker makes a reference to is the whole issue of– of foreign aid. And we need a president of the United States working with a Congress that sends a clear message to every country. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s Pakistan or whether it’s Afghanistan or whether it’s India.

The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is gonna start at zero dollars. Zero dollars. And then we’ll have a conversation. Then we’ll have a conversation in this country about whether or not a penny of our taxpayer dollar needs to go into those countries. And Pakistan is clearly sending us messages, Mitt. It’s clearly sending us messages that they– they don’t deserve our foreign aid that we’re getting, because they’re not bein’ honest with us. American soldiers’ lives are being put at jeopardy because of that country and the decisions that they’re make–and it’s time for us as a country to say no to foreign aid to countries that don’t support the United States of America.

PELLEY: That’s time, Governor. Governor, let me give you 30 seconds in the follow up to go back to the question, “Why is Pakistan playing this double game?” Help us understand-

PERRY: Look, they’ve been doing this–

PELLEY: –what’s going on there.

PERRY: They’ve been doing this for years. Their political people are not who are in charge of that country. It’s the military. It’s the secret service. That’s who’s running that country. And I don’t trust ’em. And we need to send clear messages. We need to do foreign aid completely different. I’m tellin’ you, no dollar’s goin’ into those countries. As a matter of fact, if they want any American aid, any country, unless we say differently, the American manufacturing, big companies, small companies, going in to help create economic–

PELLEY: And that’s–

PERRY: –impacts in those countries–

PELLEY: –time, Governor. Thank you.

PERRY: –rather than just dollars flowin’ into some administration.

PELLEY: Thank you very much.

GARRETT: Congresswoman Bachmann, you serve on the Intelligence Committee. I’d like to get your assessment of what you think is happening in Pakistan, especially with the Hikani Network. And you know from sitting on that committee that those in the diplomatic corps in this country and even the intelligence community believe that there is a tangible benefit, at times, to properly appri– apply foreign aid from this country. So I want to know if you agree with the governor on that question, starting at zero. And also your assessment of the intelligence situation in Pakistan, and what we should do about it.

BACHMANN: Pakistan is a very difficult area, because they have been housing terrorists and terrorists have been training there. Al Qaeda, as well as Hikani, as well as other militias dealing with terrorist organizations. But I would not agree with that assessment to pull all foreign aid from Pakistan. I would reduce foreign aid to many, many countries. But there’s a problem, because Pakistan has a nuclear weapon. We have more– people affiliated with Al Qaeda closer to that nuclear bomb than in any nation. This is an extremely important issue.

And I think it underscores exactly why the next commander in chief has to understand from day one the intricacies that are happening in the Middle East. This is a very dangerous time. If you look at Iran and if you look at Pakistan and if you look at– at the– the links with Syria, because Iran is working through proxies like Syria, through Hezbollah, through Hamas. It seems that the table is being set for worldwide nuclear war against Israel. And if there’s anything that we know, President Obama has been more than willing to stand with Occupy Wall Street, but he hasn’t been willing to stand with Israel. Israel looks at President Obama and they do not see a friend.

GARRETT: Congresswoman, thank you. Speaker Gingrich, you presided– as speaker over several foreign aid budgets for the United States. And I remember covering in 1995 the intervention on behalf of the Mexican peso. You have seen, at times, the proper role of the United States through foreign aid and other interventions. I want to know if you agree with– Governor Perry about starting at zero?

GINGRICH: I’m absolute– I mean, what he said made absolutely perfect sense. Why would you start every year– and consider the alternative. You’re giving some country $7 billion a year. So you start off– or– or in the case of Egypt, $3 billion a year. So you start off every year and say, “Here’s your $3 billion, now I’ll start thinking”? You ought to start off at zero and say, “Explain to me why I should give you a penny.”

And let me tell you, the fact that the Pakistanis– he didn’t think about this. The Pakistanis hid Bin Laden for at least six years in a military city within a mile of their national defense university? And then they got mad at the people who turned him over to us? And we think those are the acts of allies? I think that’s a pretty good idea to start at zero and sometimes stay there.

GARRETT: Just a quick follow up, Mr. Speaker. Since you’ve entered– since you mentioned Egypt, Mr. Speaker, I just want to know, if you were president, if the aid that we currently provide on an annualized basis to Egypt would be completely rethought and possibly eliminated, if you were president?

GINGRICH: It would certain– it would certainly be completely rethought. And candidly, the degree to which the Arab Spring may become an anti-Christian spring is something which bothers me a great deal. And I would certainly have the State Department intervening on behalf of the…[inaudible]…Christians, who are being persecuted under the new system, having their churches burned, having people killed. And I’d be pretty insistent that we are not gonna be supportive of a regime, which is explicitly hostile to– to religions other than Islam.

PELLEY: Senator Santorum– if a Pakistani nuclear weapon goes missing, what do you do?

SANTORUM: Well, let me just stop back and– and– and say I disagree with a lot of what was said up here. Pakistan must be a friend of the United States for the reason that Michele outlined. Pakistan is a nuclear power. And there are people in this– in that country that if they gain control of that country will create a situation equal to the situation that is now percolating in Iran.

So we can’t be indecisive about whether Pakistan is our friend. They must be our friend. And we much mut– we must engaged them as friends, get over the difficulties we have, as we did with Saudi Arabia, with– with respect to the events of 9/11. We– they– the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. And we said, “What– you know what? It’s important for us to maintain that relationship, in spite of those difficulties.”

And it’s important for us, with a nuclear power, with a very vast number of people in Pakistan, who are radicalizing, that we keep a solid and stable relationship and work through our difficulties. It is that important, and we must maintain that relationship.

PELLEY: But the Pakistanis back a terrorist network, the Hikani Network, that laid siege to the NATO headquarters and the U.S. embassy in Kabul for 20 hours, a few weeks ago.

SANTORUM: And the Pakistanis–

PELLEY: How do you make friends out of Pakistan?

SANTORUM: A lot of the Pakistanis and most of the government would say they don’t back the Hikani Network and the Hikani Network causes as much trouble in Pakistan as it has caused us in– in Afghanistan. We need to work with the elements of Pakistan, and there are elements in the government of Pakistan and the military.

We need to continue those joint exercises. We need to continue the– the aid relationship. And of course, we all know the aid relationship, when it comes to military aid, is all spent in the United States. So it’s not giving money away, it’s– it’s– it’s sending military hardware, which creates jobs in this country, to those countries, creating nexus and relationships and dependency on our weapon systems that’s important for those future relationships.

PELLEY: Senator, we’ll have to leave it right there. We will have more of the Republican Commander in Chief Debate in just a moment.

[commercial break]

PELLEY: Welcome back to Spartanburg, South Carolina and the Republican commander in chief debate. I’m Scott Pelley with CBS News along with Major Garrett of National Journal.

GARRETT: Thanks again, Scott. Mis– Mr. Speaker, you said yesterday that Governor Romney is a competent manager. But you said you were unsure if he was really capable of changing Washington. You said you were the change agent. Based on the arc of this campaign and perhaps what you’ve heard tonight, would you care to evaluate Governor Romney’s ability to think outside the box and change United States national security or foreign policy perspectives.

GINGRICH: No.

GARRETT: You said so last night. Then what was the point, sir? Then what was the point, sir, of bringing it up yesterday on a national radio show?

GINGRICH: I brought it up yesterday ’cause I was on a national radio show. I think he brings up things when he’s on national radio shows. We’re here tonight talking to the American people about why every single one of us is better than Barack Obama. And that’s the topic [inaudible].

GARRETT: But, Mr. Speaker. If you– if you would like to–

GINGRICH: By– and by the way, compared– let me just say, compared to this administration, talking about a friend who’s a great business manager as a good manager is an enormous improvement over Barack Obama.

GARRETT: Then, Mr. Speaker, I well remember you talking as Speaker about the necessary– or the necessity of leaders to think outside the box.

GINGRICH: Yes.

GARRETT: If you were president, how would you think outside the box about some of the issues we’ve discussed here tonight?

GINGRICH: Well, in a number of ways. As I said earlier, I would– I would explicitly adopt the Reagan/John Paul II/ Thatcher strategy towards Iran. I would do the same thing towards North Korea. I would adopt a very strong policy towards the United Nations of– dramatically taken on its– its absurdities. I would explicitly repudiate what Obama’s done on Agenda 21 as the kind of interference from the United Nations that’s wrong.

There are a number of other areas. I would also, frankly, apply– Lean Six Sigma to the Pentagon to liberate the money to rebuild the na– we’re– we– we– we need a capital investment program. And this administration is shrinking the Navy to a point where it’s going to be incapable of its doing its job worldwide. So there are a number of places I would be thinking outside the box.

PELLEY: And that’s time, Mr. Speaker. Thank you very much. Mr. Cain, you’ve often said that you’ll listen to your generals for their advice before making decisions as commander in chief. How will you know when you should overrule your generals?

CAIN: The approach to makin’ a critical decision, first make sure that you surround yourself with the right people. And I feel that I’ll be able to make that assessment when we put together the cabinet and all of the people from the military, etcetera. You will know you’re makin’ the right decision when you consider all the facts and ask them for alternatives. It is up to the commander in chief to make that judgment call based upon all the facts.

And because I’ll have mult– a multiple group of people offering different recommendations, this gives me the best opportunity to select the one that makes the most amount of sense. But ultimately, it’s up to the commander in chief to make that decision.

GARRETT: Senator Santorum, this is really a question about how you build a leadership model. How, sir, would you decide when it was necessary for you as commander in chief to overrule the advice you get from either your civilian advisors or your military advisors?

SANTORUM: Well, I’ll come into– to the office of the presidency with a very clear agenda. And we’ll– I’ll get people together that will share my point of view. When I was in the United States Senate, I didn’t hire people who didn’t share how I approach the problem. That’s what the people of this country are electing. They’re electing someone who’s gonna be very crystal clear. And as you heard from my first two answers, I don’t mince words. I say exactly what I believe.

And then I follow through and do what I say. I did that when I was in public life before, even though I represented a state that wasn’t particularly conservative state. I followed through and did that. And I will surround myself with people who will execute what I promise the American public to do. And then we will go about the process of doing it.

PELLEY: You mentioned your agenda. If you could prioritize one or two points, maybe more if you’d like, what your key agenda is on national security.

SANTORUM: Well, obviously, the– the issue we were talking about before which is, number one, Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. And we will go about whatever it takes to make sure that happens. I hope, I hope that some of the things that I’ve talked about here and– and Newt’s– thing that I– I’ve been talking about for a while, which is covert activity.

You know, there have been scientists turning up dead in Russia and in– in Iran. There have been computer viruses. There have been problems at their facility. I hope that the United States has been involved with that. I hope that we have been doing everything we can covertly to make sure that that program doesn’t– proceed forward. And if we’re lucky enough, and I’m not sure we will be, that if– un– no action is taken and we still don’t have a nuclear Iran, that would be my laser beam focus, to make sure that would not happen.

PELLEY: And that’s time, Senator. Thank you very much. Governor Perry, you advocate the elimination of the Department of Energy. If you eliminate the Department of Energy–

PERRY: Glad you remembered it.

PELLEY: I’ve had some time to think about it, sir.

PERRY: Me too.

PELLEY: If you eliminate the Department of Energy, what do you do with the nuclear weapons?

PERRY: Well, there are plenty of places in our government that can have oversight on our– our nuclear energy. But let me back over to– the question that you’ve asked before this about what is the most important thing from a strategic standpoint, commander in chief. For ten years, I have been the commander in chief of over 20,000-plus individuals in the State of Texas as we’ve dealt with a host of either natural disasters or having deployments– into the combat zone. So, if there’s someone on this stage who has had that hands-on commander in chief experience, it is me, as the governor of the State of Texas.

I’ve ha– dealt with generals. I have individuals at the Department of Defense who have been at the highest levels both on the civilian side and on the military side that will help me make decisions about those issues that we face as a country. So, I feel very comfortable from day one of surrounding myself with individuals who have extraordinary backgrounds in national defense and will be able to put this country on a track that Americans will feel we know that we’re gonna be secure.

PELLEY: And that’s time, sir.

PERRY: Including the southern border of this country with Mexico.

PELLEY: And that’s time, thank you.

GARRETT: I don’t need to tell the people on this stage that presidential politics is interactive business. And, of course, this debate is interactive as well. And we have an email question I’m happy to say, emailed into the National Journal. And it comes from Stephen Schafroth of Odell’s, Oregon. And I’d like to address this question to Mr. Cain. Stephen writes, “I served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. I believe that torture is always wrong in all cases. What is your stance on torture?”

CAIN: I believe that following the procedures that have been established by our military, I do not agree with torture, period. However, I will trust the judgment of our military leaders to determine what is torture and what is not torture. That is the critical consideration.

GARRETT: Mr. Cain, of course you’re familiar with the long-running debate we’ve had about whether waterboarding constitutes torture or is an enhanced interrogation tech– technique. In the last campaign, Republican nominee John McCain and Barack Obama agreed that it was torture and should not be allowed legally and that the Army Field Manual should be the methodology used to interrogate enemy combatants. Do you agree with that or do you disagree, sir?

CAIN: I agree that it was an enhanced interrogation technique.

GARRETT: And then you would support it at present. You would return to that policy.

CAIN: Yes, I would return to that policy. I don’t see it as torture. I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.

GARRETT: Congressman– congresswoman Bachmann, your opinion on this question that our emailer asked.

BACHMANN: If I were president, I would be willing to use waterboarding. I think it was very effective. It gained information for our country. And I– and I also would like to say that today, under Barack Obama, he is allowing the A.C.L.U. to run the C.I.A. You need to understand that today– today we– it– when we– when we interdict a terrorist on the battlefield, we have no jail for them.

We have nowhere to take them. We have no C.I.A. interrogations anymore. It is as though we have decided we want to lose in the War on Terror under President Obama. That’s not my strategy. My strategy will be that the United States will be victorious in the War on Terror.

GARRETT: Congressman Paul, my spidey sense tells me we have a debate about to get launched here. I know you have an opinion you’d like to weigh in.

PAUL: Yes. Tor– torture is illegal. And– by our laws. It’s illegal by international laws.

GARRETT: How do you– how do you define torture, sir?

PAUL: Well, waterboarding is torture. And– and many other– it’s ill– it’s illegal under international law and under our law. It’s also immoral. The– and it’s also very impractical. There’s no evidence that you really get reliable evidence. Why would you accept the position of torturing 100 people because you know one person might have information? And that’s what you do when you accept the principal of a– of– of– of torture. I think it’s– I think it’s uncivilized and prac– and has no practical advantages and is really un-American to accept on principal that we will torture people that we capture.

GARRETT: And that’s time, thank–

BACHMANN: Major– Major, I have to bring it up. I have to say–

PELLEY: Give– you know, let’s– let’s allow–

BACHMANN: I– I– I have– I have to say something on this, Major.

PELLEY: –let’s– I’m sorry, Congresswoman, just a moment if you would, please.

BACHMANN: I– I– I–

PELLEY: Let’s give– let’s give– Governor Huntsman an opportunity to take 30 seconds on that question.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you. Gets a little lonely over here in Siberia.

SANTORUM: Tell me about it.

HUNTSMAN: First of all, let me thank the sailor on the ship. I have two boys in the United States Navy. And all they wanna do is go on to fight, protect, and defend the great freedoms that we share in this country. This country has values. We have a name brand in the world. I’ve lived overseas four times. I’ve been an ambassador for my country three times. I’ve lived overseas and done business.

We diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project which include liberty, democracy, human rights, and open markets when we torture. We should not torture. Waterboarding is torture. We dilute ourselves down like a whole lot of other countries. And we lose that ability to project values that a lot of people in corners of this world are still relying on the United States to stand up for them.

PELLEY: And that is time. Thank you, sir. Governor Romney. Governor Romney, recently President Obama ordered the death of an American citizen who was suspected of terrorist activity overseas. Is it appropriate for the American president on the president’s say-so alone to order the death of an American citizen suspected of terrorism?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. In this case, this is an individual who had aligned himself with a– with a group that had declared war on the United States of America. And– and if there’s someone that’s gonna– join with a group like Al-Qaeda that declares war on America and we’re in a– in a– a war with that entity, then of course anyone who was bearing arms for that entity is fair game for the United States of America. Let me go back– let me go back and just– and just talk for a moment about the issue that the issue that a number of people have spoken about which is their definition of how their foreign policy might be different than this president.

My foreign policy’s pretty straightforward. I would be guided by an overwhelming conviction that this century must be an American century where America has the strongest values, the strongest economy, and the strongest military. An American century means the century where America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.

We have a president right now who thinks America’s just another nation. America is an exceptional nation. We have a president who thinks that the way to conduct foreign policy is through his personal affects on other people. I’m– I believe the way to conduct foreign policy is with American strength. Everything I do will make America stronger. And I will stand and use whatever means necessary within the law to make sure that we protect America’s citizens and Americans’ rights.

PELLEY: And– and that’s time, Governor. Lady– ladies and gentlemen, — ladies and gentlemen, the applause are lovely. But we will not have doing. Thank you very much. We’ll have– we’ll have courtesy for all of the candidates on the stage. Speaker Gingrich, if I could just ask you the same question, as President of the United States, would you sign that death warrant for an American citizen overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect?

GINGRICH: Well, he’s not a terrorist suspect. He’s a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans.

PELLEY: Not– not found guilty by a court, sir.

GINGRICH: He was found guilty by a panel that looked at it and reported to the president.

PELLEY: Well, that’s ex-judicial. That’s– it’s not–

GINGRICH: Let me– let me– let me tell you a story– let me just tell you this.

PELLEY: –the rule of law.

GINGRICH: It is the rule of law. That is explicitly false. It is the rule of law.

PELLEY: No.

GINGRICH: If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties of the United States. You cannot go to court. Let me be– let me be very clear about this. There are two levels. There’s a huge gap here that– that frankly far too many people get confused over. Civil defense, criminal defense, is a function of being within the American law. Waging war on the United States is outside criminal law. It is an act of war and should be dealt with as an act of war. And the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are trying to kill you.

Male Voice: Well said. Well said.

GARRETT: Governor Perry, if you’ll indulge, then, sir, I’d like to change the subject a little bit to China. According to U.S. officials, China is using cyber-attacks to steal billions of dollars of intellectual property that is critical to this nation’s economic success. Are we, sir, engaged in financial warfare with China?

PERRY: Listen, there are some people who have made the statement that– the 21st century is gonna be the– the century of China and that, you know, we’ve had our time in the sunshine. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that at all. As a matter of fact, you think back to the 1980s and we faced a similar type of– of a situation with– with Russia.

And Ronald Reagan said that Russia would end up on the ash heap of history. And he was right. Mitt, I happen to think that the communist Chinese government will end up on the ash heap of history if they do not change their virtues. It is important for a country to have virtues, virtues of honest.

And this whole issue of allowing cyber security to go on, we need to use all of our resources– the private sector working along with our government, to really b– standing up the cyber command in 2010 was a good start on that. But fighting this cyber war, I would suggest, is one of the great issues that will face the next President of the United States. And we must went–

PELLEY: Governor, thank you, that’s time. Governor Romney, I wonder, how would you manage China to avoid a 21st century Cold War?

ROMNEY: Well, China has an interest in trade. China wants to– as they have 20 million people coming out of the farms and coming into the cities every year, they want to be able to put them to work. They wanna have access to global markets. And so we have right now sumthin’ they need very badly, which is access to our market and our friends around the world, have that same– power over China. We– to make sure that we let them understand that in order for them to continue to have free and open access to the thing they want so badly, our markets, they have to play by the rules.

They can’t hack into our computer systems and steal from our government. They can’t steal from corporations. They can’t take patents and designs, intellectual property, and– and– and– and duplicate them– and duplicate them and counterfeit them and sell them around the world. And they also can’t manipulate their currency in such a way as to make their prices well below what they otherwise would be.

We have to have China understand that like everybody else on the world stage, they have to play by the rules. And if they do, we’ll have open trade with them and work with them. And they should in every way want to collaborate with us and not become a belligerent nation economically or militarily. But if you just continue to sit back and let them run over us– the policies of Barack Obama in China have allowed China to continue to expand their– their– entry into our computer systems, their entry–

PELLEY: And–

ROMNEY: –stealing our intellectual property.

PELLEY: That’s time, Governor, but I’ll–

ROMNEY: And of course, their mil– their military capacity.

PELLEY: That’s time, Governor. But I would like to ask you a follow-up on that point. You– you talked about all the things that China should be doing. How do you affect that as commander in chief? How do you make China do these things?

ROMNEY: Well number one, on day one, it’s acknowledging something which everyone knows, they’re a currency manipulator. And on that basis, we also go before the W.T.– the W.T.O. and bring an action against them as a currency manipulator. And that allows us to apply, selectively, tariffs where we believe they are stealing our intellectual property, hacking into our computers, or artificially lowering their prices and killing American jobs. We can’t just sit back and let China run all over us. People say, “Well, you’ll start a trade war.” There’s one goin’ on right now, folks. They’re stealing our jobs. And we’re gonna stand up to China.

GARRETT: Governor Huntsman, Governor Romney just said we’re in the middle of a war that’s– we’re not even declared or we’re not even aware of. And Governor Perry said China will end up on the ash heap of history. You’ve been in China. You were the ambassador for our nation there under President Obama. What’s your reaction?

HUNTSMAN: Well, the re– reality’s a little different as it usually is when you’re on the ground. And I’ve tried to figure this out for 30 years of my career. First of all, I don’t think, Mitt, you can take– China to the W.T.O. on currency-related issues. Second, I– I don’t know that this country needs a trade war with China. Who does it hurt? Our small businesses in South Carolina, our exporters– our agriculture producers.

We don’t need that at a time when China is about to embark on a generational position. So what should we be doing? We should be reaching out to our allies and constituencies within China. They’re called the young people. They’re called the internet generation. There are 500 million internet users in China.

PELLEY: And Governor, we’re going to have to–

HUNTSMAN: And 80 million bloggers. And they are bringing about change, the likes of which is gonna take China down.

PELLEY: We’re gonna have to leave it there, Governor.

HUNTSMAN: While we have an opportunity to go up and win back our economic–

PELLEY: Governor–

HUNTSMAN: –manufacturing muscles. That’s all I wanna do as president.

PELLEY: That’s time. I thank you very much. We will be back with the Republican commander in chief debate from Wofford College in just a moment.

[pause]

PELLEY: Welcome back to South Carolina and the Republican commander in chief debate. Governor Perry, we just got a– question via Twitter from Barbara McMann. And Barbara asked this question of you. “Does Governor Perry’s Foreign Aid Starts at Zero include Israel?”

Rick Perry: Well, as Governor Perry– would tweet back to her that– absolutely. Every country would start at zero. Obviously, Israel is a special ally. And my bet is that we would be funding them– at some substantial level. But it makes sense for everyone to come in at zero and make your case. As a matter of fact, we oughta try that– doin’ that with some of those agencies that I was tryin’ to think the name of the other night.

Starting at zero, zero-based budgeting, and Newt will share with you, is we’ve gotta go there. And everyone has to come in and make your case. It’s what the American people are doin’. There’s somebody at home sittin’ watchin’ T.V. tonight, lookin’ for a job. And they’re havin’ to budget. Why in the world would our federal government get a pass on sending our tax dollars to any country–

PELLEY: And, Governor, I have to s–

PERRY: –without havin’ an answer? Why?

PELLEY: We’re gonna have to leave it right there. I thank you very much. That brings us to the end of the first hour of the debate. Some CBS stations will be leaving us. But you can continue to follow the debate online on CBSNews.com and NationalJournal.com. And you can submit questions for the candidates at either of those sites. Most of our stations in South Carolina and on the west coast will continue to broadcast the debate. When we return, we will take questions from South Carolina’s two senators, s– United States Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Jim DeMint. With thanks to the candidates, thanks to Wofford College, thanks to the G.O.P. and South Carolina, I’m Scott Pelley with Major Garrett.

PELLEY: Good evening from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This is the Republican Commander in Chief debate. I’m Scott Pelley with CBS News, along with Major Garrett of National Journal. This is the final half hour of this 90 minute Republican debate. The focus tonight: National security and foreign affairs.

And in this half hour, we’ll include your questions. You may submit them on-line at CBSNews.com and NationalJournal.com. And we will have the questions of South Carolina senators Lindsey Graham and Jim Demint. So let’s continue.

GARRETT: Indeed, Scott. We have a question from Josh Cooper from Woodsboro, Massachusetts. Congresswoman Bachmann, he writes in as this debate was going on. Quote: “Almost half of the federal budget goes to military-related expenditures. Should we increase spending, especially in a debt crisis?

BACHMANN: Well– the military is also able to– to have expenditures reduced, as well. And I think probably the best place is in the area of how we finance procurements. Today, we have a situation where we reward those who are designing and– and– and– making our weaponry, based upon the length of time that they take it– to produce it. We don’t do that anywhere else.

So rather than having a cost plus fee, we need to have a fixed cost system. We’ll save money. And also, tri-care could use reform, as well. Those are two areas where we’d yield significant savings. That– but we cannot do is cut back on the efforts regarding our troops and making sure they’re fully resourced.

GARRETT: A quick follow-up, Congresswoman. Can you name a weapon system that you think should be ended for fiscal reasons? And when you talk about tri-care, that’s the military medical system. What do you mean when you say, “Reform,” does that mean cuts in benefits?

BACHMANN: No. I think that we need to have modernization. That’s what the biggest problem is right now with– with Social Security, with Medicare, with Medicaid. We’re continuing to abide by the models that we had when they were first originated. There’s very few businesses that maintain their similar business practices 45 years after inception or 75 years after inception. We have to modernize.

But we also know what the future is in health care, don’t we? It is Obama Care. And quite likely, Tri-care, Medicare, all of these will collapse under President Obama, and everyone will be put into Obama Care. No one want to be– in Obama Care.

PELLEY: And that’s time–

BACHMANN: That’s why it’s Commander in Chief.

PELLEY: –Congresswoman.

BACHMANN: I’ll repeal Obama Care.

PELLEY: Thank you very much. Mr. Cain — Mr. Cain, would you describe what you think is happening in the Arab Spring? And how, as president, can you affect that to make it work for the United States and not against us?

CAIN: What’s happening in the Arab– Spring, you have to look at Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and all of the revolutions that are going on, and how this administration has mishandled them. As a result, they have gotten totally out of hand. Our relationship with Egypt may not survive.

Because when this president backed the opposition, it turned out that opposition was more of the Muslim Brotherhood, which could end up with a majority of control of this new government. This president has already said that the president of Yemen should go. He is our friend. He has been helping us to fight al-Qaeda. This president has been on the wrong side in nearly every situation in the Arab world, which has basically done nothing except to put that entire thing at risk.

PELLEY: And that’s time, sir, thank you.

GARRETT: Mr. Speaker, at least 3,500 civilians have been slaughtered in Syria. Today, the Arab League voted to suspect Syria. If the opposition, and you were commander in chief, requested military assistance, covert smuggling, or a no-fly zone, would you authorize either or both?

GINGRICH: With first of all, I think that it’s a good thing today that the Arab League suspended Syria. I think this administration should have been much more aggressive against Assad. It’s ironic to me that Mubarrak, who had been our ally for years, who had done everything he could to help the United States, who had helped us in the Iraq campaigns, who had done literally we had requested of him, he was dumped overnight by this administration in a way that signaled everybody in the world, “Don’t rely on the United States, because they’ll abandon you in a heartbeat if they feel like it.”

Assad, who is our enemy, and is an ally and– of– of– of Iran, has had amazingly soft treatment by our State Department, as though they are afraid to make him feel bad. I would actively– approve– taking those steps would which– defeat his regime, which would probably be mostly covert. I don’t– I don’t think you need a no-fly zone. I think there are a number of steps you could take. And I think he would fall very rapidly.

If– the– if the United States and Europe communicated clearly that Assad was going to go, I think you would find Europe– there’s a very tiny faction. And I think you would find him likely to be replaced very rapidly.

GARRETT: Congressman Paul, covert operations in Syria?

PAUL: I think–

GARRETT: A green light for you?

PAUL: I think it would– be a mistake. I think the Syrians oughta deal with their country. I think we should have dealt–

GARRETT: But what about the– what about the 3,500 dead?

PAUL: Well, there– there’s been a lot of people killed throughout the world in the last century. You know, the Soviets and the Chinese killed hundreds of millions. But we didn’t feel compelled morally to try to stop it. No. It’s a tragedy. And it would be nice if they would accept different views.

But for us to get in the middle of that and prop up the different dictatorships, this is why we get into this trouble. It’s overthrowin’ dictatorships that we have supported that causes so much of this problem. So to get further involved, you– want to have self determination. We don’t need to lose anymore troops. You get in there with covert operations. And you have troops involved. And–

GARRETT: Thank you, Congressman.

PAUL: It’s– very costly.

PELLEY: Thank you, Congressman.

PAUL: It’s not a good idea.

PELLEY: Governor Romney– Governor Romney, if I may ask you a 30 second follow-up to that. Is it time for the Assad dictatorship to end? Would you use mili– tel– military force to do that?

ROMNEY: Of course it’s time for the Assad dictatorship to end. And we should use covert activity, as Speaker Gingrich has just indicated. Look– the– the reason I disagree with Ron Paul on this is– that you have, in Syria, a nation which is an ally, the only Arab ally, of Iran. It is arming Hezbollah. It represents a– an access– of– of great significance to Iran. And as a result, because of our concern about Iran, and their effort to become the Hageman in the Middle East, it is important for– for us as a nation to stand up and to help those efforts to– to replace A– Assad. And that means helping Turkey and– and– Saudi Arabia, who are putting pressure on him, as well as covert activity of our own.

PELLEY: Governor, thank you very much. Now, as a unusual feature of this particular debate, we have with us tonight the two United States senators from South Carolina, who have questions for the Republican candidates. And they will ask the question, but the moderators will direct the question to the appropriate candidates. And we’re going to start with the senior senator, Lindsay Graham. Senator Graham, thank you for being with us here tonight.

Senator Lindsay Graham: Thank you. A comment first. Thank you all for running for president. I’m proud of each and every one of you. Thank you very much. Three-part question. I hope I can remember all three parts. Within days of taking office, President Obama, by executive order, stopped the CIA from using classified enhanced interrogation techniques that are not water-boarding. There’s a presumption that every person at Gitmo, under the Obama administration, should go into civilian court, not military commission. And the Obama administration recently said that any future captors in the war on terror would not go to Gitmo. Would you continue these policies? If you would change them, why?

PELLEY: And Mr. Cain, that first question will go to you.

CAIN: I absolutely would reverse all three of those policies. I’d keep Gitmo– Gitmo open. I would definitely allow the military to use enhanced interrogation techniques, because they’re terrorists. They are terrorists. Pampering terrorists isn’t something that we ought to do. So I anybody would reverse all three of those things that you indicated.

PELLEY: Senator Santorum, you have one minute on the same question.

SANTORUM: Oh, I would agree with– with– with– with– Herman Cain. The– Gitmo is– is essential to– to leave open. We have to use enhanced interrogation techniques, all enhanced inger– interrogation techniques. It has been proven to be successful in gathering information. It was critl– critical for us– in the– in the war against terror. And we need to continue that– that operation.

And using civilian courts– is a– is– is one of the worst ideas I have ever heard. The– civilian courts are given to people who have rights under our constitution. People who have attacked our country and are foreign combatants ha– do not have those rights. Our country stands for freedom. Our country stands for all of those proper ideals.

But when– and we– and we stand with the Geneva Convention. But when people fight outside of those con– there’s a convention there for a reason. It’s to get people to play by the rules. And when they don’t play by the rules, they should not given– be given the benefit of those that do. And that’s why we have Gitmo and these techniques.

PELLEY: Congressman Paul, one minute to you, sir.

PAUL: I think that– this is a mess. It’s a mess because we have a bad foreign policy. We’re pretending we’re at war. We haven’t declared the war, but we’re at war against a tactic. And therefore– there’s no limits to it. So we create these monstrosities. And we do think outside the law. We come up with assassination, allowing the president to decide who’s going to be assassinated?

And– lo and behold, three Americans now have been on the list. They’ve been assassinated. But they don’t talk about the second one, because the second one happened to be a 16 year old son of Awlaki. So what are we doing here to accept this idea that our president, and this lawlessness, to pursue? And that– we some day will be subject to those same courts.

So no, you don’t. You want to live within– in the law and obey the law. Because– otherwise, it’s going to be very bad for all– all of us. And– this whole idea that– now we can be assassinated by somebody that we don’t even like to run our medical care, and giving this power to the president to be the prosecutor, the executor, the judge and the jury, we better look at that carefully before you automatically endorse something like that.

PELLEY: Congressman, thank you very much.

BACHMANN: Could I– could interject something?

PELLEY: Governor, I’m– I’m–

BACHMANN: Can I interject and say something?

PELLEY: I’m sorry, there– there’s a– there’s actually a system at work here with regard to the Senator’s question. So if I may, Governor Perry, you have one minute for Senator Graham’s question.

PERRY: Yeah. Let me just address Congressman Paul. And I– Congressman, I– I respect that you wore the uniform of our country. But– in 1972, I volunteered to serve the United States Air Force. And the idea that we have our young men and women in combat today, Senator, where there are people who would kill them in a heartbeat, under any circumstance, use any technique that they can, for us not to have the ability to try to extract information from them, to save our young people’s lives, is a travesty. This is war. That’s what happens in war. And I am for using the techniques, not torture, but using those techniques that we know will extract the information to save young American lives. And I will be for it until I die.

PELLEY: Thank you, Governor. Representative Bach– Bachmann, let me give you 30 seconds to pick up on that.

BACHMANN: Thank you. Yeah, I– I’d like to respond to Ron Paul and his comments. Because the people that the president of the United States gave orders to kill include Osama bin Laden. Now I think all of us can agree this is a good idea for the president of United States to make this decision. Ron Paul doesn’t think so.

But this is a very good idea for the president. After all, Osama bin Laden had no problem ordering the destruction of the wor– of the– of the Twin Towers or of the Pentagon. That resulted in over 3,000 lives. As well– Awlaki, who we also killed, he has been the chief recruiter of terrorists, including Major Hassan at Fort Hood, including the underwear bomber over Detroit, and including the Times Square bomber. These were very good decisions that were made to take them out.

GARRETT: Congresswoman, thank you. I know, Ron Paul, you want to jump in.

PAUL: Yes.

GARRETT: Please.

PAUL: I voted for the authority to go after bin Laden. I was upset because it took ten years because we– we were diverted from– going after him and doing the job. But that’s a lot different than assassinating American citizens. I mean he– he wasn’t a citizen.

But I do wanna remind you that over 300 individuals were tried in civilian courts here that were charged with terrorism here. Most of ’em are in jail. And I don’t think we should give up so easily on our rule of law.

PELLEY: Congressman Paul, thank you very much.

GARRETT: It’s time to call on Senator Jim Demint from South Carolina. Sir, you have a question, and I will direct it to the four who were not called on the first time. So Senator, please.

Jim Demint: Thank you. And thank you all for being in South Carolina tonight. Federal spending and debt are not only our greatest economic problems, they’re our largest national security problem. Yet the president and the Congress continue to spend and borrow at record levels. Just adjusting the spending on existing federal programs will not solve the problem. What federal functions will you eliminate or return to the states in order to balance our budget?

GARRETT: Governor Romney, to you, sir.

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Right now, we’re spending about 25 percent of the economy at the federal level. And that has to be brought down to a cap of 20 percent. I’ll get that done within my first term, if I’m lucky enough to get elected. How do you do that?

One, it’s eliminating programs. A lot of programs we like, but we simply can’t afford. The first we will eliminate, however, we’re happy to get rid of. That’s Obama Care. And that’ll save us $95 billion a year by my fourth year.

Other programs we like: the Endowment for the– for Humanities, the National Endowment for– for the Arts– Public Broadcasting. These are wonderful– features that we– we have of the government. But we simply can’t go out and borrow money from China to pay for them. They’re not that essential.

In terms of returning programs to the states: Medicaid, a program for the poor, should be returned to the states. Let the states manage it. And if we grow it, at inflation plus one percent, we’ll save $100 billion a year by returning that to the states. And finally, we have to make the federal government more productive. It is just way too over– over-burdened with– with excessive personnel. I’ll reduce the personnel by at least ten percent, and link the pay of federal employees with the pay in the private sector. We should not pay government workers more than the people–

GARRETT: Governor Romney, that’s time.

ROMNEY: –of America were paying for it.

GARRETT: Governor Romney, that’s time. Governor Huntsman, please– address Senator Demint’s question, if you would, sir.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you, Senator Demint. It’s an honor to be with you in your state– as– as it is– many other great leaders of South Carolina. I think it’s absolutely appropriate that– Admiral Mullen would say that our most significant national security threat is right here at home. And it’s our debt. I completely buy into that.

And if we’re gonna get this nation moving in the right direction, we need to recognize that debt, as 70 percent of our GDP and moving up, becomes a national security problem. You look where Japan is, well over 100 percent debt to GDP. Greece, 170 percent– to GDP. Italy, 120 percent.

So you get a sense of where our tomorrow is if we don’t tackle the debt and spending. My speech was a very short one on debt and spending. It’s three words: The Ryan Plan. I think The Ryan Plan sets out a template that puts– everything on the table. Medicaid– like– Governor Romney, I’d send back to the states. Education, I wanna move closer to the states. You move education closer to the decision makers, the school boards, the families, you’re a whole lot better off.

And I think there are some economic development functions, as well, legitimately that you can move closer to the state. But we’ve got to get our spending closer to 19 percent– of our GDP as opposed to this unsustainable 24, 25 percent.

GARRETT: Governor Huntsman, thank you very much.

HUNTSMAN: But we shipwreck the next generation.

GARRETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please direct Senator Demint’s question?

GINGRICH: Sure. I think actually, Senator, that there are four interlocking national security problems. Debt and the deficit’s one. Energy is a second one. Manufacturing is a third one. And science and technology’s a fourth. And you need to have solutions that fit all four.

I mean the thing that most worries me about this super committee is that they– they– they fail to understand that innovation and growth have to be at the heart of what we’re doing. Example: we should have a training requirement for all unemployment compensation so nobody gets money for doing nothing. Now, that saves money, but it simultaneously enhances the human capital of the United States and makes us more competitive in dealing with China.

We should be opening up offshore so that folks are able to– deal directly with, for example, $29 billion of natural gas here. In that process, you take some of the royalties and modernizes the Charleston Port, which you need for jobs here. I’m just trying to walk you through a way of thinking.

I helped balance the budget for four consecutive years. I’m not very concerned, if we’re serious, what you wanna do is fundamentally reform and overhaul the federal government, fundamentally. While, at the same time, accelerating economic growth to bring unemployment down to four percent. That combination gets you back to a balanced budget.

GARRETT: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. Congresswoman Bachmann, please address Senator Demint’s question, what programs would you cut, how would you bring it down, the debt?

BACHMANN: I wanna thank you for as– asking that question, because that really is the number one issue that’s facing the country. We are in a terrible debt spiral, so much so that, just in the month of October, we just added another $203 billion in debt. And when you consider the last time that Republicans controlled the budget, it was nin– 2007, and the debt was $160 billion for the year. This was $203 billion just for the month of October.

For every man, woman and child in the United States, that means each one of us just took on another $650 in debt just for the month of October. That’s the velocity that we’re growing this debt. So what would I cut? I think, really, what I would wanna do is be able to go back and take a look at Lyndon Baines Johnson’s The Great Society.

The Great Society has not worked, and it’s put us into the modern welfare state. If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps. If you look at China, they’re in a very different situ– they save for their own retirement security. They don’t have pay FDC. They don’t have the modern welfare state. And China’s growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with The Great Society, and they’d be gone.

PELLEY: Thank you, Congresswoman. Thank you very much. Mr. Cain– U.S. forces are coming under attack daily now from the enemy crossing over the border from Pakistan. As president, as commander in chief, would you order U.S. forces into Pakistan to clear out those safe havens of the enemy?

CAIN: That is a decision that I would make after consulting with the commanders on the ground, our intelligence sources, after having discussions with Pakistan, discussions with Afghanistan. And here’s why. We pointed out earlier that it is unclear as to where we stand with Pakistan. It is unclear where we stand with Afghanistan.

We have our young men and women dying over there. And for that president to say that they would side with Pakistan, that is a problem. This is why we have to tread lightly and get all the information. Because Pakistan is one of the nine nations that has a nuclear weapon. So before I say we would do that, there’s a lot of information that would need to be gathered.

PELLEY: Well, we’ve been at war in Afghanistan for ten years, of course. And– what is it about it that’s unclear to you at this point? 30 seconds.

CAIN: Well, what’s unclear is, when the president approved the surge, and then prematurely start pullin’ troops back, that wasn’t a good strategy. Victory is not clearly defined. As president, I will make sure that the mission is clear, and the definition of victory’s clear. And that simply does not exist right now.

PELLEY: Governor Romney, would you send American troops across the border into Pakistan to clear out those save havens? American men and women are coming under fire from those locations every single day.

ROMNEY: The right way to deal with– Pakistan is to recognize that Pakistan is not a country like other countries, with a strong political center that you can go to and say, “Gee, can we come here? Will you take care of this problem?” This is, instead, a– nation which is close to being a failed state. I hope it doesn’t reach that point, but it’s a very fragile nation.

It really has four centers of power: the ISI, which is their– their intelligence services, the military, separate group. You have the political structure, and of course, the fundamentalists. And so we have to work with our friends in that country to get them to do some of the things we can’t do ourselves.

Bringing our troops into Pakistan and announcing at a stage like this that, as president, we would throw American troops into Pakistan, could be highly incendiary in a setting like that. Right now, they’re comfortable with our using drones to go after the people that are– that are representing a gr– the greatest threat.

PELLEY: We have time, governor. But are the Pakistanis–comfortable with our using drones?

ROMNEY: We have agreement with the people that we need to have agreement with to be able to use drones to strike at the people that represent a threat. And one of the things we have to do with our foreign aid commitments, the ongoing foreign aid commitments, I agree with Governor Perry. You start everything at zero.

But one of the things we have to do is have understanding with the various power bases within the country that they’re gonna have to allow us, or they themselves go after the Taliban and Haqqani net– network to make sure they do not destabilize Afghanistan, particularly as we’re pulling our troops out.

GARRETT: Senator Santorum, this week, National Journal and The Atlantic magazine reported that, for various reasons, some related to paranoia in Pakistan about what United States might do, they are moving operational nuclear weapons in that country, unguarded, in trucks. If you were commander in chief, and intelligence came to you that one of those nuclear weapons was lost or possibly in the hands of terrorists, how would you respond?

SANTORUM: Well, you’d have to respond with working with the Pakistani government and those who would fee they’re– as much threatened by that as– as we are. And– Mitt is absolutely right– there are v– various elements within the country– that are very hard to– to– to deal with. You have a radical element.

I would hope– that we’re talking about a situation where the military is– is– is– is somehow in control of that, and that we would have an element of the military that would be a problem. I would work with the military, I’d work with ISI, and get to– where we could secure that weapons. Obviously would not– you have to take some action. But it would depend on the circumstances. It’s sort of a hypothetical. Without having the knowledge of how it happened, it would hard to be answer the question.

GARRETT: That article also made clear that special operations forces are being trained for this very eventuality. Is that something you would consider as commander in chief, deploying special forces to isolated, find that nuclear weapon, and, if necessary, take it over?

SANTORUM: I would be working with the intelligence community within Pakistan. Again, it’s a compromised community. I understand there– there are relationship with ISI, with the Haqqani Network. Again, depending on the circumstances that we’re dealing with here– it– you would hope you would be able to work with the– with the intelligence community and work, if necessary, in support– in a support nature, whether it’s– with– human intelligence or– or– other types of surveillance, and potentially with the special forces– on the ground.

But again, this is clear. This is not one– you don’t cowboy this one. You don’t fly in to Afghanistan– I mean excuse me, to Pakistan and try to interdict a nuclear weapon. You’ve gotta work with the people in the– in power in the government to– to make sure that that accomplish–

GARRETT: Speaker Gingrich, 30 seconds, your thoughts on this scenario?

GINGRICH: Well, look. This is a good example of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into since the Church Committee so-called reforms in 1970s. We don’t have a reliable intelligence service. We don’t have independent intelligence in places like Pakistan. We rely on our supposed friends for intelligence. They may or may not be our friends. And the amount of information we might or might not have might or might not be reliable.

This is a very good example of scenarios people oughta look at seriously and say, “We had better overhaul everything from rules of engagement to how we run the intelligence community, because we– are in a very dangerous world.”

PELLEY: Governor Huntsman– as we sit here, there is a crisis in Europe over debt, particularly in Italy and in Greece. And there is the threat of contagion onto Wall Street and U.S. banks. How do you prevent the Euro crisis from becoming a problem in the United States?

HUNTSMAN: The– lemme just– on Pakistan for one second. Because it’s pretty clear. There’s one man in charge in Pakistan. I’ve negotiated with the Pakistanis before, both in government and in business. They’re a tough bunch. General Giani’s in charge. He’s head of the military, which is head of I– ISI. It isn’t President Zardari, make no mistake about that. And I’d say you don’t have a choice.

Then I would pick up the phone and call Special Operations Command in Tampa and say, “I’ve got a job for SEAL– SEAL team number six. Prepare to move.” You don’t have a choice. When you have a loose nuke, you have no choice. And we have to take charge. That’s called leadership, and that’s what I would do as president.

With– with respect to Europe, we have two problems. One, Europe is our second largest export market. $240 billion we export to Europe every year, second only to Canada, $250 billion a year. As– if Europe goes down, as a metastases spreads, they’re gonna buy less. And we’re gonna lose jobs unless we can find other markets– as those exports begin to diminish. That’s gonna be problem number one, and we need to prepare for that.

Number two, it’s gonna spread throughout the banking system to the point where it’s gonna hit us and the United States. And with banks that are too big to fail in this country, we’re in deep trouble.

PELLEY: And– and that–

HUNTSMAN: Deep trouble.

PELLEY: –is time. Thank you very much. We just have time for a quick follow-up on– on that same question. Let me come to Governor Perry. How do you prevent the European crisis from become a problem on Wall Street?

PERRY: Well, the French and the Germans have the economic wherewithal to deal with this. They have the economy. You– when you think about the Euro and when it was established, it was done to be a competitor to the American dollar. They knew what they were doing. And now they find themselves with their overspending and– and– the sovereign debt being built up. And–

PELLEY: Governor, I’m sorry, but it’s the tyranny of the clock. We are all out of time. This is Scott Pelley with Major Garrett at the Republican–

UNKNOWN: We’ll allow the French and the Germans–

PELLEY: –debates. Thank you for joining us. Great to be with you.

November 9, 2011: CNBC / Michigan Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Rochester, Michigan November 9, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)

MODERATORS:
Maria Bartiromo (CNBC);
John Harwood (CNBC)

BARTIROMO: And good evening, everyone. I’m Maria Bartiromo.

HARWOOD: I’m John Hardwood.

And welcome to CNBC’s Republican Presidential Debate. [applause]

CNBC’s “Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate” Live from Oakland University in Rochester, MI …

BARTIROMO: Tonight, we are here in the great state of Michigan for a debate that will focus almost exclusively on the economy and how to fix the financial problems of our country.

On the stage tonight from left to right: Senator Rick Santorum. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. [applause]

Speaker Newt Gingrich. [applause]

Governor Mitt Romney. [applause]

Mr. Herman Cain. [applause]

Governor Rick Perry. [applause]

Congressman Ron Paul. [applause]

And Governor Jon Huntsman. [applause]

HARWOOD: The candidates will have 60 seconds to respond to questions, 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. Those will be at the discretion of the moderators.

We also want you, the candidates, to help us out a little bit, by answering the questions as directly and specifically as you can. I know you want to. You have proven that. But just in case you get off topic, maybe by accident, we may have to interrupt you.

BARTIROMO: Throughout the evening tonight we will be joined by an all-star lineup of the smartest people on CNBC.

First up tonight, Jim Cramer, the host of “Mad Money.”

Jim, welcome.

CRAMER: Thank you, Maria. [applause]

HARWOOD: And we also want to hear your voice. Go to our Web site, Debate.CNBC.com, and tweet us at CNBCDebate.

All night we’ll be showing your tweets on the bottom of the screen, so all of the candidates will have even more of a motive to impress.

BARTIROMO: In the interest of time, the candidates have agreed to forego opening and closing statements tonight. So let’s get started.

And we begin with you, Mr. Cain. I want to begin with what we saw today, another rough day for our money, for our 401(k)s. Once again, we were all impacted by the news that the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 400 points today. The reason, Italy is on the brink of financial disaster.

It is the world’s seventh largest economy. As president, what will you do to make sure that their problems do not take down the U.S. Financial system? It is the world’s seventh largest economy.

As president, what will you do to make sure their problems do not take down the U.S. financial system?

CAIN: Let’s start with two things. First, we must grow this economy. We have the biggest economy in the world. And as long as we are stagnant in terms of growth in GDP, we impact the rest of the world. We must do that.

But we’re not going to be able to do that until we put some fuel in the engine that drives economic growth, which is the business sector. This administration has done nothing but put stuff in the caboose, and it’s not moving this economy. We must grow this economy, number one.

Number two, we must assure that our currency is sound. Just like a dollar must be dollar when we wake up in the morning, just like 60 minutes is in an hour, a dollar must be a dollar. If we are growing this economy the way it has the ability to do and at the same time we are cutting spending seriously, we will have things moving in the right direction in order to be able to survive these kind of ripple effects.

BARTIROMO: So, to be clear, focus on the domestic economy, allow Italy to fail?

CAIN: Focus on the domestic economy or we will fail, so, yes, focus on the domestic economy first. There’s not a lot that the United States can directly do for Italy right now, because they have — they’re really way beyond the point of return that we — we as the United States can save them.

BARTIROMO: Governor Romney, should we allow Italy to fail? Should we have a stake in what’s going on in the eurozone right now?

ROMNEY: Well, Europe is able to take care of their own problems. We don’t want to step in and try and bail out their banks and bail out their governments. They have the capacity to deal with that themselves. They’re a very large economy.

And there will be, I’m sure, cries if Italy does default, if Italy does get in trouble. And we don’t know that’ll happen, but if they get to a point where they’re in crisis and banks throughout Europe that hold a lot of Italy debt will — will then face crisis and there will have to be some kind of effort to try and uphold their financial system.

There will be some who say here that banks in the U.S. that have Italian debt, that we ought to help those, as well. My view is no, no, no. We do not need to step in to bail out banks either in Europe or banks here in the U.S. that may have Italian debt. The right answer is for us… [applause]

BARTIROMO: But — but the U.S. does contribute to the International Monetary Fund, and the IMF has given $150 billion to the eurozone. Are you saying the U.S. should stop contributing to the IMF?

ROMNEY: I’m happy to continue to participate in world efforts like the World Bank and the IMF, but I’m not happy to have the United States government put in place a TARP-like program to try and save U.S. banks that have Italian debt, foreign banks doing business in the U.S. that have Italian debt, or European debt. We’re just — banks there.

There’s going to be an effort to try and draw us in and talk about how we need to help — help Italy and help Europe. Europe is able to help Europe. We have to focus on getting our own economy in order and making sure we never reach the kind of problem Italy is having.

If we stay on the course we’re on, with the level of borrowing this administration is carrying out, if we don’t get serious about cutting and capping our spending and balancing our — our budget, you’re going to find America in the same position Italy is in four or five years from now, and that is unacceptable. We’ve got to fix our — our deficit here.

CRAMER: Congressman Paul… [applause] [inaudible] to say, and I really get that. But I’m on the frontlines of the stock market. We were down 400 points today. We’re not going to be done going down if this keeps going on, if Italy keeps — the rates keep going up. Surely you must recognize that this is a moment-to-moment situation for people who have 401(k)s and IRAs on the line and you wouldn’t just let it fail, just go away and take our banking system with it?

PAUL: No, you have to let it — you have to let it liquidate. We’ve had — we took 40 years to build up this worldwide debt. We’re in a debt crisis never seen before in our history. The sovereign debt of this world is equal to the GDP, as ours is in this country. If you prop it up, you’ll do exactly what we did in the depression, prolong the agony. If you do — if you prop it up, you do what Japan has done for 20 years.

So, yes, you want to liquidate the debt. The debt is unsustainable. And this bubble was predictable, because 40 years ago we had no restraints whatsoever on the monetary authorities, and we piled debt on debt, we pyramided debt, we had no restraints on the spending. And if you keep bailing people out and prop it up, you just prolong the agony, as we’re doing in the housing bubble.

PAUL: Right now, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are demanding more money because we don’t allow the market to determine what these mortgages are worth. If you don’t liquidate this and clear the market, believe me, you’re going to perpetuate this for a decade or two more, and that is very, very dangerous.

CRAMER: Governor… [applause] [inaudible] Italy’s too big to fail. It’s great. I’d love it if we were independent. It would be terrific to say, “It’s your fault. It’s your fault. It’s your problem.” But if this goes, the world banking system could shut down. Doesn’t that involve our banks, too?

HUNTSMAN: So we wake up this morning, and we find that the yield curve with respect to Italy is up, and prices are down. So if you want a window into what this country is going to look like in the future if we don’t get on top of our debt, you are seeing it playing out in Europe right now.

You are seeing the metastasy (ph) effect of the banking sector. And what does it mean here? What am I most concerned about, Jim? I’m concerned that it impacts us in way that moves into our banking sector where we have got a huge problem called “too big to fail” in this country.

We have six banks in this country that combined have assets worth 66 percent of our nation’s GDP, $9.4 trillion. These institutions get hit. They have an implied bailout by the taxpayers in this country, and that means that we are setting ourselves up for disaster again.

Jim, as long as we have banks that are “too big to fail” in this country, we are going to catch the contagion and it’s going to hurt us. We have got to get back to a day and age where we have properly sized banks and financial institutions.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Romney, I want to switch… [applause]

HARWOOD: … to the bailout drama that we lived through in this country, and no state understands it better than the state of Michigan. I’m going to talk a little bit about your record on that. Four years ago when you were running for the Republican nomination and the auto industry was suffering, you said, where is Washington? After the election, when the Bush administration was considering financial assistance for the automakers, you said, no, let the Detroit go bankrupt.

Now that the companies are profitable again, after a bailout supported by your Republican governor here in Michigan, you said, well, actually, President Obama implemented my plan all along — or he gravitated to my plan.

With a record like that of seeming to be on all sides of the issue, why should Republicans be confident in the steadiness of your economic leadership?

ROMNEY: John, I care about this state and about auto industry like — I guess like no one else on this stage having been born and raised here and watched my parents make their life here. I was here in the 1950s and 1960s when Detroit and Michigan was the pride of the nation.

I have seen this industry and I’ve seen this state go through tough times. And my view some years ago was that the federal government, by putting in place CAFE requirements that helped foreign automobiles gain market share in the U.S., was hurting Detroit. And so I said, where is Washington? They are not doing the job they ought to be doing.

My view with regards to the bailout was that whether it was by President Bush or by President Obama, it was the wrong way to go. I said from the very beginning they should go through a managed bankruptcy process, a private bankruptcy process.

We have capital markets and bankruptcy, it works in the U.S. The idea of billions of dollars being wasted initially then finally they adopted the managed bankruptcy, I was among others that said we ought to do that.

And then after that, they gave the company to the UAW. They gave General Motors to the UAW and they gave Chrysler to Fiat. My plan, we would have had a private sector bailout with the private sector restructuring and bankruptcy with the private sector guiding the direction as opposed to what we had with government playing its heavy hand.

HARWOOD: Governor, let me follow up, because… [applause]

HARWOOD: … the auto bailout is part of a larger issue facing your candidacy, as you know. Your opponents have said you switched positions on many issues. It is an issue of character, not personal, but political, you seemed to encapsulate it in the last debate when you said, “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake.”

What can you say to Republicans to persuade them that the things you say in the campaign are rooted in something deeper than the fact that you are running for office?

ROMNEY: John, I think people know me pretty well, particularly in this state, in the state of Massachusetts, New Hampshire that’s close by, Utah, where I served in the Olympics. I think people understand that I’m a man of steadiness and constancy.

I don’t think you are going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do. I have been married to the same woman for 25 — excuse me, I will get in trouble, for 42 years. [laughter]

ROMNEY: I have been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years. And I left that to go off and help save the Olympic Games. I think it is outrageous the Obama campaign continues to push this idea, when you have in the Obama administration the most political presidency we have seen in modern history.

They are actually deciding when to pull out of Afghanistan based on politics. Let me tell you this, if I’m president of the United States, I will be true to my family, to my faith, and to our country, and I will never apologize for the United States of America. That’s my belief. [cheering and applause]

HARWOOD: Governor Perry, I want to ask you about this, because you have raised this issue yourself about Governor Romney. And you are running as a politician with strong convictions.

HARWOOD: From the flip side, Ronald Reagan raised taxes when the deficit got too big, George W. Bush supported TARP and the auto bailout when he thought we might face a great depression — second great depression. Does that — examples like that tell you that good, effective leaders need to show the kind of flexibility that Governor Romney has shown on some issues?

PERRY: The next president of the United States needs to send a powerful message not just to the people of this country, but around the world, that America is going to be America again, that we are not going to pick winners and losers from Washington, D.C., that we are going to trust the capital markets and the private sector to make the decisions, and let the consumers pick winners and losers. And it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s Wall Street or whether it’s some corporate entity or whether it’s some European country. If you are too big to fail, you are too big. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Speaker Gingrich, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has called unemployment in this country a national crisis due to the amount of days people are out — months that people are out of work and the number of people out of work. Many of you have come up with tax reform plans. Why is tax reform the path to job creation? And if it’s not the only path, what else can you implement to get people back to work?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think Ben Bernanke is a large part of the problem and ought to be fired as rapidly as possible. [applause] I think the Federal Reserve ought to be audited and we should have all the decision documents for 2008, ’09 and ’10 so we can understand who he bailed out, why he bailed them out, who he did not bail out, and why he did not bail them out. [applause] So, I’m glad that Ben Bernanke recognizes some of the wreckage his policies have led to.

The reason we follow — I think most of us are for tax policies that lead to jobs is because we have had two cycles in my lifetime, Ronald Reagan, and the Contract with America, both of which had the same policy: lower taxes, less regulation, more American energy, and have faith in the American job creator as distinct from the Saul Alinsky radicalism of higher taxes, bigger bureaucracy with more regulations, no American energy, as the president announced again today in his decision on offshore, and finally class warfare.

So I would say that all of us on the stage represent a dramatically greater likelihood of getting to a paycheck and leaving behind food stamps than does Barack Obama. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Congresswoman Bachmann, same question to you. How can you create jobs as quickly as possible?

BACHMANN: Well, I think one thing that we know is that taxes lead to jobs leaving the country. All you need to know is that we have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world.

And if you go back to 1981, and you look around the world, we had a lot of high corporate tax countries. It was 47 percent on average on a lot of countries across the world.

But if you look today in the United States, we have an effective rate if you average in state taxes, with federal taxes, of about 40 percent. But the world took a clue, because capital is mobile, and capital went to places where corporate tax rates went to 25 percent and falling.

We’re still stuck in a 1986 era of about a 40 percent tax rate. We have to lower the tax rate because it’s a cost of doing business, but we have to do so much more than that.

Our biggest problem right now is our regulatory burden. The biggest regulatory problem we have is Obamacare and Dodd/Frank. I will repeal those bills. I have written those bills to repeal those bills that have got to go. But beyond that — [applause]

BACHMANN: But beyond that, we have to legalize American energy. And here is something else that we have to do that will help the economy. We have to build the fence on America’s southern border and get a grip on dealing with our immigration problem.

BARTIROMO: OK. [applause]

HARWOOD: Senator Santorum, you proposed a zero tax on manufacturing businesses.

SANTORUM: I have.

HARWOOD: I understand the sentiment behind that. And the state of Michigan has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the last few decades. Isn’t that the kind of distortion in the tax code that people want to get away from in order to get rates down: flatter, simpler, fairer?

SANTORUM: I think getting the rate down to zero is down — is pretty far down. That’s good.

HARWOOD: But it’s down for the manufacturing industry, as opposed to people doing other things. Isn’t that picking winners and losers?

SANTORUM: It’s down for a sector of the economy, not picking an individual winner or loser. It’s down for an entire sector of the economy that we are getting our hat handed to us by losing jobs.

We see that here in Michigan, we see it across this country. And the reason is government has made us uncompetitive.

We need to compete on taxes. We need to compete on regulations. We need to repeal Obamacare. We need to — I’ve said I’m going the repeal every single Obama-era regulation that cost businesses over $100 million. Repeal them all. We’ll — we’ll send a very clear message out to manufactures in this country and all over the world that America will compete.

Some have suggested we need to go into a trade war with China and have tariffs. That just taxes you. I don’t want to tax you. I want to create an atmosphere where businesses and manufacturers can be profitable. We’ll lower taxes, repatriating funds, 0 percent tax if you repatriate those funds and invest them in plant and equipment.

And then, of course, an energy policy that everyone on this stage is going to agree with that says, we are going to produce energy in this country. I’m different than many of them, that I’m going to cut all the subsidies out and let the market work, as opposed to creating incentives for different — different forms of energy that the government supports. [applause]

BARTIROMO: You have all said that — that you will repeal the president’s health care legislation. We will get into that, because we want to know, then what? What is the plan once you repeal Obamacare?

But, first, Mr. Cain, the American people want jobs, but they also want leadership. They want character in a president. In recent days, we have learned that four different women have accused you of inappropriate behavior. Here we’re focusing on character and on judgment. [booing]

You’ve been a CEO.

CAIN: Yes.

BARTIROMO: You know that shareholders are reluctant to hire a CEO where there are character issues. Why should the American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?

CAIN: The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations. That’s… [applause] And I value my character and my integrity more than anything else. And for every — one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably — there are thousands who would say none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain.

You’re right. This country’s looking for leadership. And this is why a lot of people, despite what has happened over the last nine days, are still very enthusiastic behind my candidacy. Over the last nine days… [applause] Over the last nine days, the voters have voted with their dollars, and they are saying they don’t care about the character assassination. They care about leadership and getting this economy growing and all of the other problems we face. [applause]

HARWOOD: Governor Romney, when you were at Bain Capital, you purchased a lot of companies. You could fire the CEO and the management team or you could keep them. Would you keep a CEO — are you persuaded by what Mr. Cain has said? Would you keep him on if you bought his company? [booing]

ROMNEY: Look, look, Herman Cain is the person to respond to these questions. He just did. The people in this room and across the country can make their own assessment. I’m not… [crosstalk] [applause]

HARWOOD: Governor Huntsman, let me switch back to the economy. The… [applause] Many Republicans have criticized the Occupy Wall Street movement, but we had an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll this week that showed a large proportion of the American people — 76 percent — said they believe there’s something wrong with our economy that tilts toward the wealthy at the expense of others. Do you consider something wrong with the structure of our economy in the income inequality that it produces? Is that something government should do something about? And if so, what?

HUNTSMAN: Let me just say that I want to be the president of the 99 percent. I also want to be the president of the 1 percent. This nation is divided, and it’s painful, and it is unnatural for the most optimistic, blue-sky people this world has ever known. We are problem-solvers.

When I hear out the people who are part of the Wall Street protests, I say, thank goodness we have the ability to speak out. I might not agree with everything they say. I don’t like the anti- capitalism messages. But I do agree that this country is never again going to bail out corporations. I do agree… [applause] Thank you. I do agree that we have blown through trillions and trillions of dollars with nothing to show on the balance sheet but debt, and no uplift in our ability to compete, and no addressing our level of unemployment.

HUNTSMAN: And I do agree that we have institutions, banks that are too big to fail in this country. And until we address that problem — we can fix taxes. We can fix the regulatory environment. We can move toward energy independence. So long as we have instant banks (ph) that are too big to fail, we are setting ourselves up for long-term disaster and failure.

HARWOOD: So, Governor, you agree with Governor Romney that the bailout that Governor Snyder supports in Michigan was a mistake?

HUNTSMAN: The bailout here in the auto sector, $68 billion worth, we are going to end up footing a bill — Governor Snyder knows that — of probably $15 billion when all is said and done. I don’t think that’s a good use of taxpayer money.

Instead, there ought to be some way of taking the auto sector through some sort of reorganization, get them back on their feet. The people in this country are sick and tired of seeing taxpayer dollars go toward bailouts, and we’re not going to have it anymore in this country. [applause]

CRAMER: Governor Romney, do you believe public companies have any social responsibility to create jobs, or do you believe, as Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, the most important, most influential conservative economist of the 20th century held, that corporations should exist solely to create maximum profit for their shareholders?

ROMNEY: This is a wonderful philosophical debate. But you know what? We don’t have to decide between the two, because they go together.

Our Democratic friends think when a corporation is profitable, that’s a bad thing. I remember asking someone, “Where do you think profits go? When you hear that a company is profitable, where do you think it goes?” And they said, “Well, to pay the executives their big bonuses.”

I said, “No, actually, none of it goes to pay the executives. Profit is what is left over after they have all been paid.”

What happens with profit is that you can grow the business. You can expand it. You have working capital and you hire people.

The right thing for America is to have profitable enterprises that can hire people. I want to make American businesses successful and thrive.

What we have in Washington today is a president and an administration that doesn’t like business, that somehow thinks they want jobs, but they don’t like businesses. Look, I want to see our businesses thrive and grow and expand and be profitable. I want to see more — [applause]

CRAMER: Governor Perry, 30 seconds to you.

Do you think that companies can both be profitable and be able to create jobs? Do you think it’s a dichotomy? Do you think they can do it?

PERRY: There better be. And that’s the reason the tax plan that I laid out, a 20 percent flat tax on the personal side and a 20 percent corporate tax rate, that will get people working in this country. We need to go out there and stick a big old flag in the middle of America that says “Open for business again.” [applause]

CRAMER: Mr. Speaker, how about to you, can corporations do both?

GINGRICH: Sure. Look, obviously, corporations can and should do both. And what is amazing to me is the inability of much of our academic world and much of our news media and most of the people on Occupy Wall Street to have a clue about history. [applause] In this town, Henry Ford started as an Edison Electric supervisor who went home at night and built his first car in the garage. Now, was he in the 99 percent or the one percent?

Bill Gates drops out of college to found Microsoft. Is he in the one percent or the 99 percent?

Historically, this is the richest country in the history of the world because corporations succeed in creating both profits and jobs, and it’s sad that the news media doesn’t report accurately how the economy works. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Mr. Speaker — I’m sorry, but what is the media reporting inaccurately about the economy?

GINGRICH: What?

BARTIROMO: What is the media reporting inaccurately about the economy? [laughter]

GINGRICH: I love humor disguised as a question. That’s terrific.

I have yet to hear a single reporter ask a single Occupy Wall Street person a single rational question about the economy that would lead them to say, for example, “Who is going to pay for the park you are occupying if there are no businesses making a profit?” [applause]

CRAMER: Senator Santorum, I want to talk about a high-quality problem our country has.

I just came back from North Dakota. We have made the largest oil discovery in a generation there. Not only is it a — the find a big step toward creating energy independence, it stands to create as many as 300,000 jobs. But what the guys tell me up there is that they can’t handle the rush without federal help.

Would you favor incentives, incentives to get workers and businesses to where the jobs are to support this boom?

SANTORUM: No, because we have done it in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has Marcellus Shale. It took a while for us to ramp up, but we’re drilling 3,000 to 4,000 wells.

The price of natural gas, because of Marcellus Shale, which is the second largest natural gas find in the world, has gone from $12 to $3.65. And we let the marketplace work. So, no, we didn’t have the federal government come in and bail us out.

I want to make the point about manufacturing jobs again, because if you’re — if you’re talking about creating jobs that trickle down, I agree with Newt. We have folks who have innovators. But he always — he talked about innovators that — that created jobs for blue- collar workers. The unemployment rate among non-college-educated is well into the double digits in America. It’s 4 percent or 5 percent for people who have college degrees.

The reason I put forth this manufacturing plan is not just so we can say “Made Here in America,” that we can create opportunities for everyone in America, including those that don’t have that college skill set, people who built this country, like my grandfather, who was a coal miner. So — so that is a very important part that Republicans, unfortunately, are not talking about.

We need to talk about income mobility. We need to talk about people at the bottom of the — of the income scale being able to get necessary skills and rise so they can support themselves and a family. And that’s what manufacturing does, and that’s why I’m laser-beam focused on it. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Let’s get back to tax reform. Mr. Cain, let’s talk fairness in taxation. Ever since this country started taxing income 100 years ago, our system charges those people who make more money a higher rate than those people who make less money. Governor Perry has said he doesn’t believe in that approach, and your 9-9-9 plan suggests you don’t, either.

Why now, when the higher income group is doing better than the rest of America, is the time to switch to the same rate for all of us?

CAIN: My proposal is the only one that solves the problem by throwing out the current tax code, which has been a mess for decades, and we need to put in something different that I proposed, 9-9-9. It satisfies five simple criteria. It is simple. The complexity costs us $430 billion a year. It is transparent. People know what it is. There are thousands of hidden sneak-a-taxes in the current tax code. That’s why I want to throw it out.

It is fair. The reason it’s fair is because of the definition in Webster which says everybody gets treated the same. All businesses get treated the same, not having Washington, D.C., pick winners and losers. This is why I have proposed a bold plan of 9-9-9, 9 percent business flat tax, 9 percent tax on personal income, and a 9 percent national sales tax. It treats everybody the same. And it will boost this economy.

BARTIROMO: How do you ensure that, when the government needs more revenue, that the sales tax doesn’t go up and that plan doesn’t turn in 19-19-19?

CAIN: Tax codes do not raise taxes. Politicians do. [applause]

And as long as [inaudible] the people will hold the politicians’ feet to the fire. It’s not the code that raises taxes. It’s the politicians, because the code — because the approach, 9-9-9, would be very visible, the American people are going to hold the rates at 9.

HARWOOD: Governor Romney, Mr. Cain’s got a flat tax. Rick Perry’s got a flat tax. Congresswoman Bachmann is talking about a flat tax. You don’t have a flat tax. You’re proposing to preserve the Bush-era tax rates. What is wrong with the idea that we should go to one rate? Why do you believe in a progressive tax system?

ROMNEY: Well, I would like to see our tax rates flatter. I’d like to see our code simpler. I’d like to see the special breaks that we have in the code taken out. That’s one of the reasons why I take the corporate rate from 35 down to 25, is to take out some of the special deals that are there.

With regards to our tax code, what I want to do is to take our precious dollars as a nation and focus them on the people in this country that have been hurt the most, and that’s the middle class. The Obama economy has really crushed middle-income Americans.

This president has failed us so badly, we have 26 million people out of work, working part-time jobs that need full-time work, or stopped looking for work altogether. Median incomes have dropped 10 percent in the last three years. At the same time, gasoline prices are up, food prices are up, health care costs are up.

And so what I want to do is help the people who’ve been hurt the most, and that’s the middle class. So what I do is focus a substantial tax break on middle-income Americans. Ultimately, I’d love to see — see us come up with a plan that simplifies the code and lowers rates for everybody. But right now, let’s get the job done first that has to be done immediately. Let’s lower the tax rates on middle-income Americans.

HARWOOD: Congresswoman Bachmann, Governor Romney is accepting the premises of the Democratic argument that you have to have a fair approach to taxation that preserves different rates for different people. Why is he wrong?

BACHMANN: Well, I would say President Obama is the one that’s wrong, because President Obama’s plan for job creation has absolutely nothing to do with the true people who know how to create jobs. He should really be going to job-creators if he wants to know how to create jobs. Instead, he continues to go to a General Axelrod in Chicago to look for his orders to figure out how to deal with the economy. That won’t work.

We know what needs to be done. We have a real problem. When you have 53 percent of Americans paying federal income taxes, but you have 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes, you have a real problem.

And that’s why in my tax plan, I have everyone paying something because everyone benefits by this magnificent country. So even if it means paying the price of two Happy Meals a year, like $10, everyone can afford to pay at least that.

And what it does is create a mentality in the United States that says that freedom is free. But freedom isn’t free. We all benefit. We all need to sacrifice. Everybody has to be a part of this tax code.

BARTIROMO: Congressman Ron Paul… [applause]

BARTIROMO: … you have said you want to close down agencies. Tell us about your tax plan as well as closing agencies — federal agencies. Where do those jobs go?

PAUL: Well, eventually they go into the private sector. Then don’t all leave immediately when the plan goes into effect. But what my plan does is it addresses taxes in a little different way.

We are talking about the tax code. But that’s the consequence, that’s the symptom. The disease is spending. Every time you spend, spending is a tax. We tax the people, we borrow, and then we print the money and the prices go up, and that is a tax.

So you have to address the subject of spending. That is the tax. That is the reason I go after the spending. I propose in the first year cut $1 trillion out of the budget in five departments. [cheering and applause]

PAUL: Now the other thing is that you must do if you want to get the economy going and going again is you have to get rid of price- fixing. And the most significant price-fixing that goes on, that gave us the bubble, destroyed the economy, and is preventing this from coming out, is the price-fixing of the Federal Reserve, manipulating interest rates way below market rates.

You have to have the market determine interest rates if you want a healthy, viable economy.

BARTIROMO: So you think the economy would be stronger if interest rates were higher right now?

PAUL: You would have more incentive. You would take care of the elderly. They get cheated. They get nothing for their CDs. Why cheat them and give the banks loans at zero percent? And then they loan it back to the government at 3 percent. They are ripping us off at the expense of those on fixed incomes and retirees.

BARTIROMO: Even though higher interest rates would make it much more expensive to borrow, mortgages.

PAUL: But you want is the market to determine this. Whoever thought that one person, the Federal Reserve Board chairman, knows what the money supply should be? Just in the past six months, M1 has gone up at the rate of 30 percent. That spells inflation. That spells lower standard of living and higher prices and watch out. They are coming. [cheering and applause]

BARTIROMO: We are just getting started tonight. When we return, how will the candidates breathe new life into the lifeless housing market?

HARWOOD: Plus, the view of the economy from the corner office.

[begin video clip]

UNKNOWN: I think we are in serious trouble. Business people are struggling.

UNKNOWN: The problems in the economy didn’t arrive in 20 minutes and they won’t be resolved in 20 minutes.

UNKNOWN: The most important economic issue of concern to me is lack of leadership in government, and the lack of any focus on building confidence both with consumers and the business community.

[end video clip]

HARWOOD: So how are the candidates going to turn things around? CNBC’s “Republican Presidential Debate” will be right back. Stay with us.

[cheering and applause]

[commercial break]

BARTIROMO: Welcome back to be CNBC’s Republican Presidential Debate.

With us for this portion of the program, CNBC’s senior economic reporter, Steve Liesman.

Welcome, Steve.

LIESMAN: Great to be here, Maria. Thank you.

BARTIROMO: Most economists agree that there can be no economic recovery without a recovery in housing. American families have lost some $7 trillion in home value in the last five years. Right now, four million people are behind on their mortgage or in foreclosure, 25 percent of homeowners owe more to the banks than their house is actually worth.

Governor Romney has said that the government should let the foreclosure process play out so that the housing market can recover and the free markets can work.

Speaker Gingrich, is Governor Romney right?

GINGRICH: We, he’s certainly right in the sense that you want to get through to the real value of the houses as fast as you can, because they’re not going to rise in value as long as you stay trapped, as Japan has done now for 20 years. But I think there are two specific steps you have got to understand in terms of housing.

To pick up on something Congresswoman Bachmann said, if the Republican House next week would repeal Dodd/Frank, and allow us to put pressure on the Senate to repeal Dodd/Frank, you would see the housing market start to improve overnight. Dodd/Frank kills small banks, it kills small business. The federal regulators are anti- housing loan, and it has maximized the pain level.

You could also change some of the rules so it would be easier to do a short sale where the house is worth less than mortgage than it is to do a foreclosure. Today, the banks are actually profiting more by foreclosing than encouraging short sales.

But in the long run, you want the housing market to come back? The economy has to come back.

When you are at four percent unemployment, you suddenly have a dramatic increase in demand for housing. When you’re at nine percent- plus unemployment, it’s hard to get the housing market to come back.

BARTIROMO: Governor Romney, respond in 30 seconds. Not one of your 59 points in your economic plan mentions or addresses housing. Can you tell us why?

ROMNEY: Yes, because it’s not a housing plan. It’s a jobs plan. And the right way to get — [applause] The best thing you can do for housing is to get the economy going, get people working again, seeing incomes, instead of going down, incomes coming up so people can afford to buy homes. The things the Speaker just indicated are excellent ideas as well. You have to let the market work and get people in the homes again, and the best way for that to happen is to allow this economy to reboot.

What we know won’t work is what this president has done, which is to try and hold off the foreclosure process, the normal market process, to put money into a stimulus that failed, and to put in place a whole series of policies from Obamacare to Dodd/Frank that it made it hard for this economy to get going. You want to get America’s economy going? We know how to do it. Just do almost the exact opposite of what President Obama has done. [applause]

LIESMAN: Governor Romney, we have created 2.7 million jobs since February, 2010. Over that period of time, the housing market has continued to decline. We are at 2003 price levels now.

If we keep going the way we are going, in four or five years, we’ll be at 1999 price levels. The $7 trillion figure that Maria mentioned could almost double.

Are you willing to let that happen in America?

ROMNEY: And exactly what would you do instead? Would you decide to have…

LIESMAN: I’m asking you.

ROMNEY: … well, to have the federal government go out and buy all the homes in America? That’s not going to happen in this country. Markets work. When you have government play its heavy hand, markets blow up and people get hurt.

And the reason we have the housing crises we have is that the federal government played too heavy a role in our markets. The federal government came in with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd told banks they had to give loans to people who couldn’t afford to pay them back. [applause]

And so — and so our friends — our friends in Washington today, they say, oh, if we’ve got a problem in housing, let’s let government play a bigger role. That’s the wrong way to go. Let markets work. Help people get back to work. Let them buy homes. You’ll see home prices come back up if we allow this market to work. [applause]

LIESMAN: But, Governor — Governor Perry, every quarter I get to report the GDP figures, and it’s a negative number for housing, and we’ve lost some 2 million construction jobs. Housing creates jobs, as well, doesn’t it?

PERRY: Not a negative number in Texas. And one of the reasons is because we have put policies into place that follow my plan to get America back working again.

LIESMAN: OK, so translate that plan to America.

PERRY: When — when you look at what I’ve laid out, whether it — the energy side and getting the energy industry going — and Rick Santorum is absolutely correct on that, is let’s get our energy industry freed up, federal lands, federal waters, pull back all of those regulations. Everybody on this stage understands it’s the regulatory world that is killing America. [applause]

The tax side of it, yeah. Have a flat tax. Have a corporate flat tax in there, as well. But the real issue facing America are regulations. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s the EPA or whether it’s the federal banking — the Dodd-Frank or Obamacare. That’s what’s killing America.

And the next president of the United States has to have the courage to go forward, pull back every regulation, since 2008, audit them for one thing: Is it creating jobs, or is it killing jobs? And if that regulation is killing jobs, do away with it. [applause]

HARWOOD: Congresswoman Bachmann, in one of the last debates, you were asked what you would do about foreclosures, and you told moms to hang on. But your advice, as your colleagues have mentioned, was let the economy recover. So you agree with Governor Romney that the way to fix the housing market is to let the foreclosure process proceed more rapidly?

BACHMANN: Well, what I agree with is that we have got to stop what we’re doing now. When we had the financial meltdown, 50 percent of the homes are being financed by Fannie and Freddie. Today it’s 90 percent of the homes. In other words, the government is the backer of the homes.

Well, let’s take a look, an analysis of what a great, brilliant job Freddie and Fannie are doing. They just applied this week for another $7 billion bailout because they’re failing. The other one applied for a $6 billion bailout because they’re failing.

But what did they do? They just gave bonuses of almost $13 million to 10 top executives. This is the epicenter of capital — crony capitalism. That’s what’s wrong with Washington, D.C.

For these geniuses to give 10 of their top executives bonuses at $12 million and then have the guts to come to the American people and say, “Give us another $13 billion to bail us out just for the quarter,” that’s lunacy. We need to put them back into bankruptcy and get them out of business. They’re destroying the housing market. [applause]

HARWOOD: Since — since you mentioned Fannie and Freddie, Speaker Gingrich, 30 seconds to you, your firm was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac in 2006. What did you do for that money?

GINGRICH: Were you asking me?

HARWOOD: Yes.

GINGRICH: I offer them advice on precisely what they didn’t do. [laughter]

Look — look, this is not — this is not…

HARWOOD: Were you not trying to help Freddie Mac fend off the effort by the Bush administration… [crosstalk]

GINGRICH: No. No, I do — I have never…

HARWOOD: … and the — to curb Freddie Mac.

GINGRICH: I have — I assume I get a second question. I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice.

And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, “We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that’s what the government wants us to do,” as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.

GINGRICH: It turned out, unfortunately, I was right and the people who were doing exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann talked about were wrong. And I think it’s a good case for breaking up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and getting much smaller institutions back into the private sector to be competitive and to be responsible for their behavior. [applause]

LIESMAN: Mr. Cain, government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as Congresswoman Bachmann said, now underwrite or guarantee 90 percent of the home financing in this country. What would you do with these — with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Would you shut them down even though it could mean higher interest rates for America? Does it make it even harder than it is right now for Americans to get home loans?

CAIN: You don’t start there. You start with fixing the real problem, which is growing this economy, which is why I have put a bold solution on the table, 9-9-9.

Secondly, then you get the regulators off of the backs of the banks like someone mentioned. Get the regulators out of the way, such that the small banks and the medium-sized banks aren’t being forced out of the business.

They would then be in a better position, and they might develop a desire in order to help homeowners reset their mortgages if they were able to see, number three, some certainty. Uncertainty is what’s killing this economy. And until we throw out the tax code, and put in something bold, get government out of the way by reducing the regulatory environment, we are going to still have our housing problem.

LIESMAN: I’m sorry, Mr. Cain, but you would come into office and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be there. The question was, what would you do with them?

CAIN: OK. After I did those three things that I outlined, then deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

You don’t start solving a problem right in the middle of it. So we’ve got to do that first.

I would also turn those GSEs into private entities. The government does not need to be in that business. I would find a way to unwind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, such that the marketplace can determine the future of the housing market. [applause]

HARWOOD: Governor Huntsman, I want to go back to the issue that you raised before about too big to fail. If anything, that problem has gotten worse since the financial crisis than before. The 10 biggest bank holding companies in this country now hold nearly 90 percent of all the assets in the banking system, up from 75 percent in 2006.

So, what would you do? Would you break up the banks to remove the risk, or diminish the risk for American taxpayers?

HUNTSMAN: Let me just say, on the housing discussion here, lost in all of this debate is the fact that there are people tuning in tonight who are upside down in terms of the financing of their homes. They are feeling real pain. People who probably heard today that they lost a job.

These issues are very real. They are complicated. For us to say that there is an easy solution to housing, that’s just not right, and that’s not fair. The economy does have to recover in order for the housing market to pick up its slack and for us to get on to housing starts, which ought to be 15 percent of our nation’s GDP, and today it’s two percent.

With respect to the banks that are too big to fail, you know today we’ve got, as I mentioned earlier, six institutions that are equal to 60, 65 percent of our GDP, $9.4 trillion. They have an implied guarantee by the taxpayers that they will be protected. That’s not fair, that’s not right for the taxpayers.

HARWOOD: So you break them up?

HUNTSMAN: I say we need to right-size them. I say, in the 1990s, you had Goldman Sachs, for example. That was $200 billion in size. By 2008, it had grown to $1.1 trillion in size. Was that good for the people of this country, or —

HARWOOD: Well, how would you accomplish that? How would you right-size that? [crosstalk]

HUNTSMAN: I think we ought to set up some sort of fund. I think we ought to charge some sort of fee from the banks that mitigates the risk that otherwise the taxpayers are carrying. There has got to be something that takes the risk from the taxpayers off the table so that these institutions don’t go forward with this implied assumption that we’re going to bail them out at the end of the day. That’s not right, and it’s not fair for the taxpayers of this country.

BARTIROMO: Let’s stay on regulation for a moment. You have all said that you will repeal President Obama’s health care legislation.

Down the line, 30 seconds, if you repeal Obamacare, what’s the answer?

Jon Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: I would say — and I would meet with the 50 governors of this country, and I would say, I did health care reform in my state, it took us three years to get it done. We delivered an insurance connector that was not a costly mandate.

You can sit down with the 50 governors and you can address cost containment. This is a $3 trillion industry, half of which any expert will tell you is totally nonsense and superfluous spending.

How do you get costs out of the system? How do you empower patients to better understand what they are getting when they go into the doctor’s office?

Number two, we need to do a better job in harmonizing medical records so that we can pull up on a consistent basis the most efficacious course of treatment for patients.

HUNTSMAN: And third, we need to close the gap on the uninsured without a costly mandate, letting the free market work and bringing people together with truly affordable insurance.

BARTIROMO: That’s time.

We want to get each of your comments on what the plan is.

Ron Paul?

PAUL: We need to get the government out of the business, and we do need to have the right to opt out of “Obama-care.” But we ought to have the right to opt out of everything. And the answer to it is turn it back over to the patient and the doctor relationship with medical savings accounts.

So I would say that we have had too much government. I have been in medicine, it has gone downhill. Quality has gone down. Prices have skyrocketed because of the inflation. So you need to get a market force in there, a medical savings account.

But this mess has been created — it’s a bipartisan mess. So it has been there for a while. So what we need is the doctor-patient relationship and medical savings account where you can deduct it from your taxes and get a major medical policy. Prices then would come down.

BARTIROMO: Thirty seconds, Governor Perry?

PERRY: Obviously on the Medicare side, you have to have an insurance type of a program where people have options of which — give them a menu of options of which they can choose from. I think you have to have the doctors and the hospitals and the other health care providers being given incentives on health care rather than “sick care.”

And then on Medicaid, it is really pretty simple, just like Jon and Mitt both know, you send it back to the states and let the states figure out how to make Medicaid work, because I will guarantee you we will do it safely, we will do it appropriately, and we will save a ton of money. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Mr. Cain. CAIN: The legislation has already been written. H.R. 3000. In the previous Congress it was H.R. 3400. And what that does — it has already been written. We didn’t hear about it in the previous Congress because “Princess Nancy” sent to it committee and it stayed there. It never came out. [laughter]

CAIN: H.R. 3000 allows the decisions to be with the doctors and the patients, not with the bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. The legislation has already been written. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Health care in 30 seconds is a little tough. But let me try. Number one, you return to the states the responsibility for caring for their own uninsured. And you send the Medicaid money back to the states so they can craft their own programs. That’s number one.

Number two, you let individuals purchase their own insurance. Not just getting it through their company. But buy it on their own if they want to, and no longer discriminate against individuals who want to buy their insurance.

Number three, you do exactly what Ron Paul said. I don’t always say that. But I have got to say it right now. [laughter]

ROMNEY: And that is, you have to get health care to start working more like a market. And for that to happen, people have to have a stake in what the cost and the quality as well as of their health care. And so health savings account, or something called co- insurance, that’s the way to help make that happen.

And finally, our malpractice system in this country is nuts. We have got to take that over and make sure we don’t burden our system with it. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, I just want point out, my colleagues have done a terrific job of answering an absurd question. To say in 30 seconds…

BARTIROMO: You have said you want to repeal “Obama-care,” correct?

GINGRICH: I did. Let me finish, if I may. To say in 30 seconds what you would do with 18 percent of the economy, life and death for the American people, a topic I’ve worked on since 1974, about which I wrote about called “Saving Lives and Saving Money” in 2002, and for which I founded the Center for Health Transformation, is the perfect case of why I’m going to challenge the president to seven Lincoln- Douglas style three-hour debates with a timekeeper and no moderator, at least two of which ought to be on health care so you can have a serious discussion over a several-hour period that affects the lives of every person in this country.

BARTIROMO: Would you would like to try to explain… [applause] Would you like to — would you like to try to explain in simple speak to the American people what you would do after you repeal the president’s health care legislation?

GINGRICH: In 30 seconds?

BARTIROMO: Take the time you need, sir. Take the time you need.

GINGRICH: I can’t take what I need. These guys will gang up on me… [crosstalk]

BARTIROMO: Do you want the answer the question tonight on health care or no? [crosstalk] Do you want to try to answer the question tonight, Speaker?

GINGRICH: Let me just say it very straight. One, you go back to a doctor-patient relationship and you involve the family in those periods where the patient by themselves can’t make key decisions. But you re-localize it.

Two, as several people said, including Governor Perry, you put Medicaid back at the state level and allow the states to really experiment because it’s clear we don’t know what we are doing nationally.

Three, you focus very intensely on a brand-new program on brain science because the fact is the largest single out-year set of costs we are faced with are Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, mental health, and things which come directly from the brain.

GINGRICH: And I am for fixing our health rather than fixing our health bureaucracy because the iron lung is the perfect model of saving people so you don’t need to pay for federal program of iron lung centers because the polio vaccine eliminated the problem. That’s a very short [inaudible]. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Congresswoman.

BACHMANN: The main problem with health care in the United States today is the issue of cost. It’s just too expensive. And President Obama said that’s what he would solve in Obamacare, we’d all save $2,500 a year in our premiums.

Well, we have Obamacare, but we didn’t have the savings. So what I would do to replace it is to allow every American to buy any health insurance policy they want anywhere in the United States, without any federal minimum mandate. Today there’s an insurance monopoly in every state in the country. I would end that monopoly and let any American go anywhere they want. That’s the free market.

Number two, I would allow every American to pay for that insurance policy — their deductible, their co-pay, their pharmaceuticals, whatever it is that’s medical-related — with their own tax-free money.

And then, finally, I’d have true medical malpractice liability reform. If you do that, it’s very simple. People own their own insurance policies, and you drive the costs down, because what we have to get rid of is government bureaucracy in health care. That’s all we bought in Obamacare, was a huge bureaucracy. That has to go away. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Senator?

SANTORUM: This is, I think, the difference between me and a lot of the candidates here. I heard a lot of responses, but I haven’t — I haven’t seen a lot of consistency in some of — some of those responses on the last few questions.

When it comes to health care, back in 1992, I introduced the first health savings account bill that everybody up here said was the basis for consumer-driven health care. I was leading on that before anyone else was even talking about it. Secondly, I was someone who proposed a block grant for Medicaid way back in 1998 with Phil Gramm, again, leading on this issue. Same thing, reforming the Medicare program back in the 1990s, again, I led on these issues.

I was always for having the government out of the health care business and for a bottom-up, consumer-driven health care, which is different than Governor Romney and some of the other people on this panel.

Number two — and I didn’t get a chance to answer any of the housing questions. I was on the banking housing committee in — in the United States Senate. I was one of 24 people who wrote a letter to Harry Reid saying, please let us bring up this housing legislation, which I voted for in the committee, that would have put curbs on Fannie and Freddie. I — I was out there before this bubble burst saying this was a problem. I — I was in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the other day, and I had one of a — a home-builder, who was a head of the association, came up to me and said, Rick, I’m here to apologize. We came here to push you so you would oppose, you know, putting caps on Fannie and Freddie. You were right; we were wrong.

Time and time again, Wall Street, the Wall Street bailout, five of the eight people on this panel supported the Wall Street bailout. I didn’t. I know that we saw problems best from the bottom up, not the top down and government intervention in the marketplace.

BARTIROMO: Governor Romney, you have 30 seconds to respond.

ROMNEY: That’s — that’s fine. I believe very deeply in the functioning of markets. The work I’ve done in health care, actually worked as a consultant to the health care industry, to hospitals and various health institutions. I had the occasion of actually acquiring and trying to build health care businesses. I know something about it, and I believe markets work.

And what’s wrong with our health care system in America is that government is playing too heavy a role. We need to get our markets to work by having the consumer, the patient have a stake in what the cost and quality is of health care, give them the transparency they need to know where the opportunities are for lower cost and better quality, to make sure that the providers offer them the broadest array of options that they could have.

And once we have that happening, you’ll see us — 18 percent of our GDP is spent on health care. The next highest nation in the world is 12 percent. It’s a huge difference. We have to get the market…

BARTIROMO: Time.

ROMNEY: … to work to make sure that we get the kind of quality and value that America deserves.

HARWOOD: But, Governor, let me ask you about health care, because Congressman Paul said, put it back to the doctor and the patient. You said a few moments ago that you thought states should have the responsibility for insuring the uninsured. And, of course, in Massachusetts, you enacted an individual mandate and subsidies to have people who didn’t have insurance get it. So you think there’s a pretty large role for government in this area.

ROMNEY: Well, I think that people — that people have a responsibility to receive their own care, and the doctor-patient relationship is, of course, where that — where that exists — where that exists.

HARWOOD: But the government has the responsibility to force them?

ROMNEY: I — I didn’t know whether Ron Paul was saying we’re going to — he’s going to get rid of Medicaid. I would not get rid of Medicaid. It’s a health program for the poor.

What I said was I would take the Medicaid dollars that are currently spent by the federal government, return them to the states so that states can craft their own programs to care for their own poor, rather than having the federal government mandate a one-size- fits-all plan in the entire — entire nation. Obamacare is wrong. I’ll repeal it. I’ll get it done. [applause]

UNKNOWN: John?

HARWOOD: Congressman?

PAUL: My plan of cutting the budget by a trillion dollars does deal with Medicaid. And that is that it preserves it, and there is a transition period, with the goal that eventually we would hope to move that back into the economy. But right now, it would be too much to do it in one year.

You know, finding a trillion dollars was a job and a half, and getting rid of five departments.

So, yes, my budget takes into consideration health care for the elderly, health care on Medicaid, as well as child health care. At the same time, we deal with the bailouts, the banks, and all the benefits that they get from the financial system, because what we’re facing today is the crisis in this housing crisis.

If I could just have one second on that.

We face a housing crisis once again because it’s price-fixing. They’re fixing the prices of these mortgages too high, and this is why nobody will buy them.

This is why you have to get rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sell all of that into the marketplace. And the reason they do this is to prop up the banks, because the banks have invested in Europe, they’ve invested in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and these credit defaults swaps.

They’re in big trouble, and that is why they’re getting bailed out. And that’s why they are not allowing these mortgages to go down, and that is why we will most likely bail out Europe, which will be a real tragedy. [applause]

HARWOOD: Congressman, thank you for that. It’s time for a quick break.

LIESMAN: Hold it, John. I wanted to give them 15 seconds each to solve the deficit problem. [laughter]

BARTIROMO: We’ll come back to the deficit.

HARWOOD: When we return, balancing the budget, cutting the deficit, making college education more affordable.

BARTIROMO: Plus, a little lesson on Social Security.

You’re watching CNBC’s “Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate.” [applause]

[commercial break]

[begin video clip]

NARRATOR: Next, we tackle the issues of Social Security, a spiraling deficit, and so much more, when “Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate” continues in 90 seconds.

[commercial break]

HARWOOD: And welcome back. Joining us for this portion of the debate, Rick Santelli, CNBC’s on-air editor… [applause] … and Sharon Epperson, our personal finance correspondent.

Now, we’ll get to them in a moment, but, first, Senator Santorum, you were known as a tough partisan fighter in the Senate, but look where partisan fighting got us this summer, gridlock and a debt-rating downgrade. The American people don’t much like it, and neither does Doug Oberhelman, the CEO of Caterpillar. Let’s take a listen.

[begin video clip]

OBERHELMAN: Most people think our politicians are not helping the country get back on its feet. The last two presidents made promises to work across party lines, and both failed. How will you put our country ahead of your political party and solve the issues that are so critical for Americans? Be specific, please. These are promises.

[end video clip]

HARWOOD: And, Senator, let me ask you about — to set up that question. If everyone on this stage rules out any tax increases, even at a 10-to-1 ratio of spending cuts, as you have done, what could you possibly offer Democrats to get them to go along and compromise with you on the things that Republicans want?

SANTORUM: You create — you create a platform that they can buy into, because they see advantages of your — of your plan. For example, one of the reasons that I — I’ve put forward this manufacturing plan is because folks here in Michigan, Democrats and Republicans will vote for it.

I was at the New Hampshire House of Representatives the other day and spoke to a bipartisan group, talked about the — the tax plan, not just the manufacturing, but the broad-based plan that I have. And I had two Democratic House members go over to — to my chairman, Dan Tamburello, and said, hey, I want him to come to my district and talk about this. We can support it.

So when you put together a plan — look, if the Republican Party is just about keeping the top rate, you know, lower or cutting taxes, we’re not going to be reaching people. We’ve got to look at plans that bring people together. That’s why I focused on this sector. I understand, John, that the Wall Street Journal won’t like that I’m picking one sector over another. I don’t care.

What I need to do is bring America together, find a plan that can work, that can be implemented right away. It may not be the boldest plan in the world, but it’s one that will work. It’ll put people back to work. It will give the ability of people to rise in our society. It’s help with the jobs out in rural America, where the manufacturing loss has been the greatest and the employment rate is the highest.

You put a plan like that together, you’ll get Democrats and Republicans, and we’ll create jobs in the country, and we’ll get things done.

HARWOOD: Governor Romney, you’ve shown that you can work with Democrats. When you were governor, of course, you collaborated with Ted Kennedy on the health care plan that you enacted. You raised fees to balance the budget, and you used that as an argument to get the credit rating of your state upgraded. Independent voters might like that. Should Republican primary voters be nervous about it?

ROMNEY: Thanks for reminding everybody. [laughter]

You know, what I found is, in a state like mine where there are a few Democrats in the legislature — 85 percent of my legislature was Democrat — to get anything done — I was always in an away game, if you will. And to get something done, I had to see if there were Democrats who cared more about the state than they cared about their re-election or their party, and there were.

And right now, America faces a crisis. I think people on both sides of the aisle recognize that this is no longer a time just for worrying about the next election. This is a time to worry about America.

GINGRICH: You deal with Social Security as a free-standing issue. And the fact is, if you allow younger Americans to have the choice to go to a Galveston or Chilean-style personal Social Security savings account, the long-term effect on Social Security is scored by the Social Security actuary as absolutely stabilizing the system and taking care of it.

The key is there is $2.4 trillion in Social Security which should be off budget, and no president of the United States should ever again say because of some political fight in Washington, I may not be able to send you your check. That money is sitting there. That money is available. And the country ought to pay the debt it owes the people who put the money in there. [applause]

HARWOOD: Governor Romney, if I could follow up, Speaker Gingrich just said he is not prepared to raise taxes on the American people in the middle of a slow economy like this. That’s what would happen if the payroll tax cut is not extended.

Do you agree with him, and would you also support, when it comes down to it, an extension of the payroll tax cut?

ROMNEY: I don’t want to raise taxes on people in the middle of a recession. Of course not.

HARWOOD: So you’re for it?

ROMNEY: And that’s one of the reasons why we fought so hard to make sure the Bush tax cuts weren’t taken away by President Obama.

But, look, this issue of deficits and spending is not about just dollars and cents. It’s a moral issue. It’s a moral imperative.

We can’t continue to pass on massive debts to the next generation. We can’t continue to put at risk the greatest nation in the history of the Earth because of the profligate spending that’s going on in Washington, D.C.

HARWOOD: But to clarify, you agree with President Obama the payroll tax cut should be expanded?

ROMNEY: I want to keep our taxes down. I don’t want to raise any taxes anywhere. Let me tell you, I’m not looking to raise taxes. What I’m looking to do is to cut spending. And that’s why this last week I put out a plan that dramatically cuts spending in Washington, that gets us to a 20 percent cap, and makes sure that we have a balanced budget thereafter. And how do I do it? I have three major steps.

Number one, cut programs. Get rid of programs we don’t have to have like Obamacare.

Take a lot of programs that we have at the state level, number two — excuse me, at the federal level — and send them back to the states where they can be better run with less fraud and abuse.

And number three, finally, bring some productivity and management expertise to the federal government. I would cut the workforce by 10 percent and — I want to say one more, and that is this — I want to make sure we link the compensation of our federal bureaucrats to that which exists in the private sector. People who are public servants shouldn’t get more money than the taxpayers that they’re serving. [applause]

HARWOOD: Does any candidate on this stage disagree? Does any candidate disagree and oppose an extension of the payroll tax cut?

BACHMANN: Say that again.

HARWOOD: Does any candidate disagree with the Speaker and Governor Romney and oppose the extension of the payroll tax cut?

UNKNOWN: Yes.

HARWOOD: You oppose it?

BACHMANN: I do. I opposed it when it was first proposed, because I knew that it would blow a hole of $111 billion in the Social Security trust fund.

President Obama clearly did this for political reasons. That’s why he did it. And so I had made that warning then, because we actually have already run Social Security in the red. We aren’t just about to, we already have, six years ahead of time.

Now, consider the context. We have baby boomers in their peak earning years. This is when money should be flooding into the Social Security trust fund. Instead, we’re already in the red.

When we talked this evening about how much trouble we are in with spending, we are in a tremendous amount of trouble with spending. Just consider we pay a lot of taxes in this country, $2.2 trillion is what we send into Washington. The problem is, we spent at the government level $3.7 trillion. Your started out tonight talking — [crosstalk]

HARWOOD: Out of time, Congresswoman. Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Thank you. It’s getting a little lonely over here.

SANTELLI: Our federal government still owns 500 million shares of GM stocks, guarantees trillions — trillions with a “T” — dollars of mortgages. They are basically the lender doing 90 percent of all the mortgage origination right now. And you consider the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve has purchased $2.62 trillion — again, with a “T” — of treasury securities, agency securities, and mortgage securities.

If you were president, how would your administration and would your administration reverse these obligations?

HUNTSMAN: I would clean up the balance sheet. And let me tell you what I worry about as much as anything else.

We talk about failed leadership. We certainly have failed leadership.

President Obama had two years to get this economy going and to move us toward an environment that speaks to job growth, and he’s failed miserably. But along with that, we have a real trust crisis in this country.

Between the American people and our institutions of power, Congress, the executive branch, Wall Street as well, there is no trust. We are running on empty. And when a democracy begins to run on empty because of government holdings and bailouts and being involved in ways that are absolutely inappropriate, based on constitutional and where we should be, that results in a diminution of trust by the American people. We’ve got to raise that trust.

So let me just tell you what I think needs to be done, in terms of bringing our economy up. We’ve heard about all these great tax plans. I think I’m the only one on this stage who’s actually delivered a flat tax. And I did that as governor of my state.

I put forward a proposal that I think is right for this country and getting it back on its feet. The Wall Street Journal has come out — the most respected editorial page economically, maybe in the entire world — has come out and endorsed my plan, said it’s the very best of the bunch.

And it very simply calls out just as I did as governor. So I’m not sitting here talking about academic theory. I stand here as a practitioner. I’ve done it before. I want to phase out the loopholes and the deductions on the individual side, phase out corporate welfare and subsidies on the corporate side, and lower the rates, make us more competitive. That’s the kind of work that is realistic. It can get done in Congress and fire the engines of growth that are so desperately needed to boost trust in this country.

UNKNOWN: Sharon Epperson?

EPPERSON: I want to turn the attention to why we’re here on this campus and what many students are very interested in, and that is the fact that, Congressman Paul, right now, we are looking at student loan debt that is near $1 trillion. Americans owe more on student loans right now than credit cards, and the average debt for a college senior right now is over $25,000. It’s obviously a very hot topic right here on this campus and with students across the country. Just listen to what they have to say.

[begin video clip]

UNKNOWN: Tuition rates have increased roughly three times that of inflation over the last three decades.

UNKNOWN: More students have to take out loans or forego college.

UNKNOWN: My generation is graduating with student debt levels at an unprecedented level.

[end video clip]

EPPERSON: So, Congressman Paul, you’ve already talked about the fact that you want to get rid of the Department of Education. You’ve said that you want to get rid of federal student loans. So how would you make college more accessible, more affordable for these students and students around the country?

PAUL: Well, I think you proved that the policy of student loans is a total failure. I mean, a trillion dollars of debt? [applause]

And it’s going to be dumped on the taxpayer? And what have they gotten? A poorer education and costs that have skyrocketed because of inflation, and they don’t have jobs. There’s nothing more dramatically failing than — than that program.

So, no, there’s no authority in the Constitution for the federal government to be dealing with education. We should get rid of the loan programs. We should get rid of the Department of Education and give tax credits, if you have to, to help people.

But the inflation is the big problem. It’s three times the rate that the government admits that inflation is, and that is natural and normal. When governments inflate the currency, it goes in the areas that the government gets involved in, housing, high prices, stock market, skyrocketing prices, medical care, skyrocketing, education…

EPPERSON: But how do they pay for it? How do they now pay for college, if they’re not…

PAUL: The way — the way you pay for cellphones and computers. [applause]

You have the marketplace there. There’s competition. Quality goes up. The price goes down. Can you imagine what it would have been like if the Department of Homeland Security was in charge of finding one person or one company to make the cellphones? I mean, it would have been a total disaster. So when the government gets involved in the delivery of any service — whether it’s education, medical care, or housing — they cause higher prices, lower quality, create bubbles, and they give us this mess that we’re in. That’s why we have to eventually get our — we have to wise up.

And look at where the bubbles come from. It’s from the Federal Reserve. And we should start by auditing the Fed, and then we should end the Fed. [applause]

EPPERSON: Thank you, Congressman.

Speaker Gingrich, Congressman Paul just talked about a bubble. And there are many that are concerned that, unlike other types of debt, student loan debt does not have the same type of consumer protections. It cannot be wiped out in bankruptcy by law. There’s really little way to refinance it. Are you worried about student loan debt becoming the next government bailout?

GINGRICH: You know, this is a good place to talk about the scale of change we’re about to live through. We’re at the end of the welfare state era of dependency, debt, distortion, and dishonesty.

The student loan program began when Lyndon Johnson announced it, I think, with a $15 million program. It’s an absurdity. What does it do? It expands the ability of students to stay in college longer because they don’t see the cost. It actually means they take fewer hours per semester on average. It takes longer for them to get through school. It allows them to tolerate tuitions going up absurdly. By 2014, there will be one administrator for every teacher on college campuses in the United States.

Now, let me give you a contrast that’s very startling. The College of the Ozarks is a work-study college. You cannot apply to it unless you need student aid, and they have no student aid.

You have to work 20 hours a week during the year to pay tuition and books. You work 40 hours a week during the summer to pay for room and board. Ninety-two percent of the students graduate owing no debt, the eight percent who owe debt owe $5,000 because they bought a car.

Now, that is a model so different, it will be culture shock for the students of America to learn we actually expect them to go to class, study, get out quickly, charge as little as possible, and emerge debt free by doing the right things for four years. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Governor Perry, name the top programs that you would cut in terms of long-term deficit reduction. Include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense spending in the order you see fit.

PERRY: Well, every one of those — and by the way, that was the Department of Energy I was reaching for a while ago. [applause] So here what’s we have to look at as Americans. And it’s the entitlement programs that are eating up this huge amount of money that’s out there.

And it’s also the spending, Congressman Paul. And when you look at Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and those unfunded liabilities, I think are over $115 trillion just in those three programs. Those are the places where you go where you have to make the really hard decisions in this country.

BARTIROMO: So what is your order? And you didn’t mention defense spend.

PERRY: Well, obviously, Social Security is one of those where we either can go to a blended type of a program where we blend price and wages, and come up with a program, and can save billions of dollars there. But the people who are on Social Security, they need to understand something today. It’s going to be there for them.

Those that are working their way towards Social Security, we’ve made a pledge to them. Those individuals are going to have those dollars there for them.

But the young people out there, who is going to stand up for the young people in this country, those that are at the workforce today, and stand up and say, we are going to transform this program so it’s going to be there for you? I will do that. I will stand up for the young people in this country and put a program into place that will be there for them.

HARWOOD: Speaking of young people, a quick answer. Do you agree with Congressman Paul that we should kill the federal student loan program?

PERRY: I happen to think there are a substantial number of ways. As a matter of fact, I’ve called for a $10,000 graduate program —

HARWOOD: But would you kill the federal student loan program?

PERRY: I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of paying for programs and building up huge debt out there. I think we need to look at, how do you —

HARWOOD: So get rid of it?

PERRY: — force these universities to be efficient? And one of the ways is that the governors who appoint the trustees, they step in and they basically say, listen, you are going to have graduation rates that are moving upwards, you’re going to have tuition that is moving down. You have to have control over those boards of regents, of that’s how you do that, or the legislature has to have control.

But the bottom line is, we have to put powerful economic forces into place. And one of those is using our technology —

HARWOOD: Thank you, Governor.

PERRY: — to be able to let our kids have the opportunity to get an education through long distance learning, for instance.

BARTIROMO: That’s time.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Governor.

BARTIROMO: We’re going to take one more quick break. When we return, final questions to the candidates.

HARWOOD: Our CNBC’s Republican Presidential Debate will be right back. [applause]

[commercial break]

BARTIROMO: Welcome back to CNBC’s “Republican Presidential Debate.”

HARWOOD: Mr. Cain, let me ask you a question, under a Republican governor, the state of California hired a company in China to build major portions in the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, creating thousands of jobs in China. And California did that because it was cheaper. Is that smart, purchasing by government in a global economy, or is there something wrong with that?

CAIN: There’s something wrong that, which is why I have proposed a bold plan, 999… [laughter] … and allow me to explain how on the 999 that that company would be more inclined to keep the business here. On the first 9, you take sales minus purchases, net exports, and capital, it levels the playing field between goods produced here in the United States and the rest of the world.

It makes the United States much more competitive and businesses won’t be tempted to build overseas and send jobs overseas. The tax code is what sends jobs overseas. The tax code is what caused them to buy the articles from the Chinese. It starts with replacing the tax code.

HARWOOD: Governor Romney, was it a mistake for Governor Schwarzenegger to hire the firm in China to build portions of that bridge?

ROMNEY: Well, that’s a — a long answer to that, because what China is doing is not playing fairly by the rules that exist in our — in the WTO and the world. China is, on almost every dimension, cheating. And we’ve got to recognize that. It is good for America… [applause]

ROMNEY: It is good for America to have free trade. It is good for us to be able to send our goods and services around the word and vice versa.

HARWOOD: So a good decision to build the bridge over there?

ROMNEY: That is normally a good thing. But China is playing by different rules. One, they are stealing intellectual property. Number two, they’re hacking into our computer systems, both government and corporate. And they are stealing, by virtue of that as well, from us.

And finally, they are manipulating their currency, and by doing so, holding down the price of Chinese goods, and making sure their products are artificially low-priced. It’s predatory pricing, it’s killing jobs in America.

If I’m president of the United States, I’m making it very clear, I love free trade. I want to open markets to free trade. But I will crack down on cheaters like China. They simply cannot continue to steal our jobs. [applause]

BARTIROMO: But how do you crack down? How do you crack down, Governor? Are you talking about new tariffs? How are you cracking down?

ROMNEY: I’m sorry, pardon?

BARTIROMO: How would you crack down on China?

ROMNEY: Well, number one, I would do something this president should have done a long time ago, which is to label China a currency manipulator. And then I would bring in action at the WTO level, charging them with being a currency manipulator.

Number three, where they have stolen intellectual property, where they have hacked into computers, and where their artificial pricing is causing their goods to have predatory levels of pricing, I would apply, if necessary, tariffs to make sure that they understand we are willing to play at a level playing field.

We want — we have to have free trade. That’s essential for the functioning of a strong economy. But we cannot allow one nation to continue to flaunt the rules and kill our jobs by allowing them continue as they have. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Speaker, in addition to that, so many companies — multinational companies, want to try to get a foothold in China and sell to the billion-and-a-half people there. They can only do joint ventures. They’re not getting a fair shake in terms of selling to that 1.5 billion person population. How would you move the needle?

GINGRICH: Well, there are two things here. And let me say in advance that I would yield in part to Governor Huntsman, because he speaks fluent Chinese, he has worked in China, and he’s been the ambassador. And I’d be curious to get his reaction.

But there are two different parts here. The problem with building the bridge is simple. What — what is it about American regulations, American taxation, American labor cost and attitudes that makes it cheaper to go to China than to go to the United States? Now, we… [applause] … first of all, you’ve got to decide, how are we going to be more competitive and how are we going to be the lowest cost? And there’s a new Boston consultant (ph) that says, by 2015, South Carolina and Alabama will be cheaper than the Chinese coastal provinces to manufacturing.

Second, in terms of dealing with China strategically, I think we’re going to have to find ways to dramatically raise the pain level for the Chinese cheating, both in the hacking side, but also on the stealing and intellectual property side. And I don’t think anybody today has a particularly good strategy for doing that.

BARTIROMO: Time. Thirty seconds. Jon Huntsman, you were the ambassador to China, 30 seconds to respond.

HUNTSMAN: Thirty seconds? For Heaven’s sake. Let me just say that we’ve had a 40-year relationship with China. It’s a — it’s a troublesome and problematic relationship, very, very complicated.

But the bottom line is, I mean, you can give applause lines and you can kind of pander here and there. You start a trade war if you start slapping tariffs randomly on Chinese products based upon currency manipulation. That’s not a good idea.

But longer term, we’re just going to have to keep doing business the way we’ve always done, is sit down, you find solutions to the problems, and you move forward. It isn’t easy. It isn’t glamorous. It’s grinding it out the way we’ve done for 40 years. And for 40 more years, we’re going to have to do it the same way.

HARWOOD: Are you saying Governor Romney’s pandering?

HUNTSMAN: I’m saying that you can throw out applause lines and you can say that you’re going to slap on tariffs. You know, that doesn’t work… [crosstalk]

HARWOOD: But you’re suggesting it. He’s standing right here. Would you say that he’s pandering on this issue?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I’ve said it before. I think that — that that policy is one of simply pandering, just throwing a tariff on for the sake of an artificially valued currency, which is, in fact, the case.

But here’s what they do in response. They say, you have an artificially valued currency, too, with those quantitative easing programs. You, too, are manipulating you’re — and we’re going to slap something on your products. And before long, you have a trade war.

But let me tell you longer… [applause]

HARWOOD: Governor Romney, are you pandering?

ROMNEY: Look, I’ve been in business all my life, 25 years. I consulted to businesses around the world. I’ve been in business where we competed around the world. I understand free trade; I like free trade. I know that America can compete with anyone in the world. Newt is right about — about our capacity to manufacture and compete heads-on versus the Chinese.

But I’ve also seen predatory pricing. I’ve seen people price their goods at an artificial level for an extended period of time, such that they can drive other people out of business. And then when the other people are out of business, they can raise their prices. That’s what China’s doing, by holding down the value of their currency.

Let the currencies float. If the U.S. currency, for instance, is being inflated, let it float. Let us float. Let us have a market mechanism determine the value of our respective currencies, as opposed to the Chinese government continuing to put an advantage to their — their producers. This — this is no longer a time for us just to sit back and say we’re going to let them steal our jobs.

BARTIROMO: Congresswoman Bachmann, weigh in here. How do you open the markets in China for American companies?

BACHMANN: Well, the Chinese have been bad actors. Recently we found out that they dumped counterfeit computer chips here in the United States. We’re using some of those counterfeit computer chips in the Pentagon in some of our weapons systems. This has national security implications.

We also found out that the Chinese just finished building 3,000 miles of underground tunnels where they are housing some nuclear weapons. There’s some very real consequences to the United States overspending to such an extent that we’re in hock to them over a trillion dollars.

We’ve sent so much interest money over to the Chinese to pay our debts off that we effectively built their aircraft carrier. And by 2015, we will be sending so much interest money over, we will be paying for the entire People’s Liberation Army of China, the number- one employer of the — of the world.

What we need to do is stop enriching China with our money. And we do that by stop borrowing from them, by stop spending money that we don’t have. [applause]

CRAMER: Mr. Cain, I want to go to you with this question. This does not lend itself to 9-9-9 or any other number.

CAIN: Sorry, I didn’t hear the first part.

CRAMER: This question does not lend itself to 9-9-9 or any other thing. This is our final word, OK? And it comes from our viewers. And it is all about restoring trust and faith in our markets and in our way of life. I’m going to be quoting Joanne Kornbly (ph). She e- mails us.

She says, “Our stock market has turned into a casino with high- frequency computerized trading comprising 70 percent of all transactions and hedge fund speculation resulting in market swings. Before privatizing Social Security, how would you make the stock market safer for individual investors?

And Mr. Cain, just simple, how do we restore faith in the markets for the little guy?

CAIN: The first thing we do is restore faith in business by providing certainty so businesses can grow. A lot of the volatility is being driven by uncertainty.

Businesses are uncertain about what the health care rules are going to be, they don’t know what the tax rules are going to be. All of the uncertainty has this economy stagnated.

So, the way you restore that, grow this economy. That’s job one.

Many of the things we talked about up here today starts with growing the economy. And that’s why we have got to use a bold plan — I won’t mention it — in order to grow the economy. [laughter]

CRAMER: When the economy was going great, sir, there was no trust. When the economy was going great, people were getting ripped off and there was insider trading. When the economy was going great, people were getting hurt in the stock market.

Forget the economy. Talk about the way the market is regulated.

CAIN: Jim, I feel your pain. Look, here is what I’m saying.

CRAMER: How about the 90 million people that got — [crosstalk]

CAIN: Jim, you’ve got to provide certainty in this environment so businesses will grow. They have been in a mode of survive. They need to be in a mode of growth. That’s where we have got to do first.

And I agree with some of the others who have said we have got to repeal Dodd/Frank. There’s three big things wrong with Dodd/Frank, which is why it needs to be a top priority to repeal.

Number one, it doesn’t provide oversight for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And we all agree that that was a catalyst for the meltdown in 2008.

The two other biggest problems with Dodd/Frank, Dodd and Frank. [applause]

BARTIROMO: Governor Perry, same question to you. The same question to you and Congressman Ron Paul.

How do you restore faith in the public markets?

PERRY: Well, we have the regulations in place, and we had the regulations in place well before the meltdowns occurred. We have a culture in Washington, D.C., where these corporate lobbyists have these cozy relationships with the people that they are regulating. And we have to have leadership in this country that not only recognizes that, but demands that those individuals who are working for us are in those agencies, whether it’s in the stock market or whether it’s Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

And when there are individuals who are breaking the laws, who are pushing the bounds, that there are clear efforts that are made to take those people either out of those jobs or prosecute them for criminality. One of the two, that has to happen.

And you can pass legislation like you said until the world looks level. But you have got to have men and women who are committed to the laws of this country and a president that will push his administration to make sure that they’re done.

HARWOOD: Congressman Paul, Governor Perry was just talking about the culture of Washington. His critics in the state of Texas — you’re a congressman from Texas — say crony capitalism is what he practices as governor. Are they right?

PAUL: I haven’t analyzed it enough to call him a crony or not. So, no, I don’t know the details of that. But there is a lot of crony capitalism going on in this country.

And that has to be distinguished from real capitalism, because this occupation stuff on Wall Street, if you’re going after crony capitalism, I’m all for it. And those are the people who benefit from contracts from government, benefits from the Federal Reserve, benefits from all of the bailouts. They don’t deserve compassion, they deserve taxation, or they don’t — they deserve to have all their benefits removed. But crony capitalism isn’t when somebody makes money and they produce a product. That is very important. We have to distinguish the two.

And unfortunately, I think some people mix that. But this, to me, is so vital, that we recognize what crony — what capitalism is versus crony capitalism. And believe me, when you have an inflationary environment, and all this speculation, and all the bailouts due to monetary system, believe me, you get a majority of crony capitalism, and that’s why we’re facing this crisis today.

BARTIROMO: We want to thank all of you tonight. That is all the time we have for CNBC’s Republican Presidential Debate.

We thank all the candidates for being here tonight and spending the time and putting their plans forward.

We hope you now have a better understanding of where each of them stand on the economy, jobs, and your money.

HARWOOD: We would also like to thank our partners, the Michigan Republican Party, and all of the Grizzlies of Oakland University. [applause]

October 18, 2011: CNN /  Western Republican Leadership Conference Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada October 18, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)

MODERATOR:
Anderson Cooper (CNN)

COOPER: I want to ask the candidates to please take your podiums. While the candidates are taking their podiums, I just want to tell you a little bit more about how tonight’s debate is going to work. I’ll be the moderator. I’ll ask questions on a wide range of issues. And I’ll work to make sure that each candidate is getting his or her fair share of questions.

Also, Western voters right here in the hall will be asking questions, as well, and viewers watching at home can participate, also. We’re accepting questions for the candidates on Twitter. If you send a question for the candidates on Twitter, make sure to include the hash tag #cnndebate, on Facebook at facebook.com/cnnpolitics, and on cnnpolitics.com.

Now, each candidate will have about one minute to answer the questions and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. I’ll make sure candidates get time to respond if they’re singled out for criticism. There are no buzzers. There’s no bells. I’ll just politely inform the candidates when they need to wrap things up.

We want everyone watching to emerge from this debate more informed about the candidates, more able to judge who should be the next president of the United States.

Now that everyone is in place, it’s time for the candidates to introduce themselves to our audience. All the candidates are going to keep it short. Here’s an example. I’m Anderson Cooper. I’m usually anchoring “AC 360” on CNN, but I’m honored to be here in Las Vegas at the Western Republican Presidential Debate. That will be my introduction. [applause]

So, Senator Santorum, you’re first. Let’s start with you.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Anderson. I’m Rick Santorum. My wife, Karen, and I are the parents of seven children. And my little girl, Isabella, 3 years old, had some surgery today. She’s doing fine. But I just wanted to send to her a little “I love you” and I will take the red eye home to be with you tomorrow and make sure that you’re feeling fine. [applause]

PAUL: I’m Congressman Ron Paul from Texas. I’m the champion of liberty. I am the only one that has offered a balanced budget in — in a sincere method. And also, I present the case for a free society as being the best defense for peace and prosperity. [applause]

CAIN: I am businessman Herman Cain. I’ve been married to my wife, Gloria, for 43 years. And I’m a 42-year businessman, which means I solve problems for a living. [applause]

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney. I was a businessman for 25 years. Then I had the fun of getting the chance to help run the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City next door. And then I had the fun also of being governor of Massachusetts. I also solve problems, sometimes for a living, sometimes for other people to make things better. And I hope to be your president. Thank you. [applause]

PERRY: Good evening. I’m Texas Governor Rick Perry, a proven job-creator and a man who is about economic growth, an authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience. [applause]

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich. And unlike President Obama, I’m glad to be in Las Vegas. I think it’s a great place to have a convention. [applause]

And — and when I am president, we’re going to replace class warfare with cooperation so all Americans can get off food stamps and onto paychecks. [applause]

BACHMANN: Hi, my name is Michele Bachmann. I am thrilled to be able to be with you tonight in Las Vegas. And this is one night when I hope what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. [applause]

COOPER: All right. Let’s — time to begin. We’ll begin with actually a question in the hall.

QUESTION: This is for all candidates. What’s your position on replacing the federal income tax with a federal sales tax?

COOPER: I’ll direct that to Congresswoman Bachmann. You’ve been very critical of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, which calls for a 9 percent sales tax, a 9 percent income tax, and 9 percent corporate tax. In fact, you’ve said it would destroy the economy. Why?

BACHMANN: Well, I am a former federal tax litigation attorney. And also, my husband and I are job-creators.

One thing I know about Congress, being a member of Congress for five years, is that any time you give the Congress a brand-new tax, it doesn’t go away. When we got the income tax in 1913, the top rate was 7 percent. By 1980, the top rate was 70 percent. If we give Congress a 9 percent sales tax, how long will it take a liberal president and a liberal Congress to run that up to maybe 90 percent? Who knows?

What I do know is that we also have to be concerned about the hidden tax of the value-added tax, because at every step and stage of production, you’d be taxing that item 9 percent on the profit. That’s the worry.

In my plan — again, that’s a tax plan, it’s not a jobs plan — my plan for economic recovery is real jobs right now. I have a tax plan. I have a jobs plan. I have an energy plan and a plan to really turn this country around and create millions of high-paying jobs.

COOPER: Mr. Cain, a lot of prominent conservatives now are coming forward saying that your 9-9-9 plan would actually raise taxes on middle-class voters, on lower-income voters.

CAIN: The thing that I would encourage people to do before they engage in this knee-jerk reaction is read our analysis. It is available at hermancain.com. It was performed by Fiscal Associates. And all of the claims that are made against it, it is a jobs plan, it is revenue-neutral, it does not raise taxes on those that are making the least. All of those are simply not true.

The reason that my plan — the reason that our plan is being attacked so much is because lobbyists, accountants, politicians, they don’t want to throw out the current tax code and put in something that’s simple and fair. They want to continue to be able to manipulate the American people with a 10-million-word mess.

Let’s throw out the 10-million-word mess and put in our plan, which will liberate the American workers and liberate American businesses. [applause]

COOPER: Senator Santorum, will his plan raise taxes?

SANTORUM: Herman’s well-meaning, and I love his boldness, and it’s great. But the fact of the matter is, I mean, reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more taxes under his plan. That’s the analysis. And it makes sense, because when — when you don’t provide a standard deduction, when you don’t provide anything for low-income individuals, and you have a sales tax and an income tax and, as Michele said, a value-added tax, which is really what his corporate tax is, we’re talking about major increases in taxes on people.

He also doesn’t have anything that takes care of the families. I mean, you have — you have a situation where, under Herman’s plan, a single person pays as much in taxes as a — as a man and a woman raising three children. Ever since we’ve had the income tax in America, we’ve always taken advantage of the fact that we want to encourage people to — to have children and not have to pay more already to raise children, but also pay that additional taxes — we gave some breaks for families. He doesn’t do that in this bill.

And we’re going to — we’ve seen that happen in Europe. And what happened? Boom, birth rates went into — into the basement. It’s a bad tax for — again, it’s bold. I give him credit for — for starting a debate, but it’s not good for families, and it’s not good for low-income… [crosstalk]

COOPER: I’m going to give you 30 seconds to respond. That 84 percent figure comes from the Tax Policy Center.

CAIN: That simply is not true. I invite people to look at our analysis, which we make available.

Secondly, the — the point that he makes about is a value-added tax — I’m sorry, Representative Bachmann — it’s not a value-added tax. It’s a single tax.

And I invite every American to do their own math, because most of these are knee-jerk reactions. And we do provide a provision, if you read the analysis, something we call opportunity zones that will, in fact, address the issue of those making the least.

COOPER: I want to bring in Congresswoman Bachmann since she was referenced by you.

BACHMANN: But Anderson, how do you not have a value-added tax? Because at every level of production you have a profit, and that profit gets taxed, because you produce one portion at one level, and then you take it to the next supplier or vendor at the next level, and you have an exchange. That is a taxable event.

And ultimately, that becomes a value-added tax. It’s a hidden tax. And any time the federal government needs revenue, they dial up the rate and the American people think that it’s — that it is the vendor that creates the tax, but it’s the government that creates the tax. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Perry, in your state, you have a 6.25 percent sales tax. Would taxpayers pay more under the 9-9-9 plan?

PERRY: No.

Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don’t need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out. Go to New Hampshire, where they don’t have a sales tax, and you’re fixing to give them one.

They’re not interested in 9-9-9. What they’re interested in is flatter and fairer. At the end of the week, I’m going to be laying out a plan that clearly — I’ll bump plans with you, brother, and we’ll see who has the best idea about how you get this country working again.

And one of the ways, right here in Nevada you’ve got 8-plus percent. You want nine cents on top of that, and nine cents on a new home — or 9 percent on a new home, 9 percent on your Social Security, 9 percent more?

I don’t think so, Herman. It’s not going to fly.

COOPER: Mr. Cain, 30 seconds. [applause]

CAIN: This is an example of mixing apples and oranges. The state tax is an apple. We are replacing the current tax code with oranges. So it’s not correct to mix apples and oranges.

Secondly, it is not a value-added tax. If you take most of the products — take a loaf of bread. It does have five taxes in it right now. What the 9 percent does is that we take out those five invisible taxes and replace it with one visible 9 percent.

So you’re absolutely wrong. It’s not a value-added tax.

Now one other quick thing.

COOPER: Your time’s up, I’m sorry.

CAIN: This whole thing about —

COOPER: You’ll have another 30 seconds. Trust me, they’re going to go —

CAIN: Tonight?

COOPER: Yes, I guarantee it. In about a minute.

Congressman Paul, you called his plan dangerous today.

PAUL: Oh, it is, because it raises revenues, and the worst part about it, it’s regressive. A lot of people aren’t paying any taxes, and I like that. I don’t think that we should even things up by raising taxes.

So it is a regressive tax. So it’s very, very dangerous. And it will raise more revenues.

But the gentlemen asked the question — he didn’t even ask what we’re talking about. He asked the question, what are you going to replace the income tax with? And I say nothing. That’s what we should replace it with. [applause]

PAUL: But I do want to make a point that spending is a tax. As soon as the governments spend money, eventually it’s a tax. Sometimes we put a direct tax on the people. Sometimes we borrow the money. And sometimes we print the money.

And then when prices go up, like today, the wholesale price index went up 7 percent rate, and if you look at the free market, prices are going up 9 and 10 percent. So that is the tax.

So, spending is the tax. That is the reason I offered the program, to cut $1 trillion out of the first year budget that I offer. [applause]

COOPER: Mr. Cain, in 30 seconds?

CAIN: Once again, unfortunately, none of my distinguished colleagues who have attacked me up here tonight understand the plan. They’re wrong about it being a value-added tax.

We simply remove the hidden taxes that are in goods and services with our plan and replace it with a single rate 9 percent. I invite every family to do your own calculations with that arithmetic.

COOPER: Governor Romney, you have your only 59-point plan. In the last debate, Mr. Cain suggested it was too complicated. Is simpler better?

ROMNEY: Oftentimes simpler is better. And I know we’re not supposed the ask each other questions, but if you permit.

Herman, are you saying that the state sales tax will also go away?

CAIN: No, that’s an apple.

ROMNEY: OK.

CAIN: We’re replacing a bunch of oranges.

ROMNEY: OK.

So, then Governor Perry was right that —

CAIN: No, he wasn’t. He was mixing apples and oranges.

ROMNEY: Well, but will the people in Nevada not have to pay Nevada sales tax and in addition pay the 9 percent tax? CAIN: Governor Romney, you’re doing the same thing that they’re doing. You’re mixing apples and oranges. You’re going to pay —

ROMNEY: I’m —

CAIN: No, no, no, no. You’re going to pay the state sales tax, no matter what.

ROMNEY: Right.

CAIN: Whether you throw out the existing code and you put in our plan, you’re still going to pay that. That’s apples and oranges.

ROMNEY: Fine. And I’m going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it because I’ve got to pay both taxes, and the people in Nevada don’t want to pay both taxes. [cheering and applause]

ROMNEY: Now let me make this comment. Let’s just step back here. We’ve got a lot of people in America that are out of work. We’ve got a lot of people in this state, 13.4 percent of the people in this state out of work. We’ve got home prices going down. We’ve got to talk about how to get America growing again, how to start adding jobs, raising incomes, and tax is part of it.

I want to reduce taxes on our employers to make it easier to invest in America. I want to reduce taxes on middle income families. I like your chutzpah on this, Herman, but I have to tell you, the analysis I did, person by person, return by return, is that middle income people see higher taxes under your plan.

If it’s lower for the middle class, that’s great. But that’s not what I saw. I have to tell you, I want to get our burden down on our employers, on our people. I want to make sure our regulations work to encourage the private sector as opposed to putting a damper on it.

I want to get trade, opening up new markets for America. I want to also find a way to get our energy resources — and they’re all over the world, are all over this country, used for us. This is time to get America growing again. And that’s what this campaign ought to be about.

COOPER: Thank you, Governor.

Mr. Speaker… [cheering and applause]

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, you have said in recent days that Mr. Cain’s 999 plan would be a harder sell than he lets on. How so?

GINGRICH: Well, you just watched it. [laughter]

GINGRICH: I mean, look, there are — first of all, I think that Herman Cain deserves a lot of credit. He has had the courage to go out and take a specific very big idea at the right level. [applause]

GINGRICH: And he has us at least talking about something that matters as opposed to the junk that all too often is masquerading as politics in this country. So I think that’s important.

There are two parts to this. The first is, if you take his plan, and I think it’s in the interest of the whole country to have serious people take his plan and go through it step by step. There are much more complexities than Herman lets on. OK. I mean, 999, when you get into details like you pay it on a new product, you don’t pay it on an old product, et cetera, there’s a lot more detail here than he lets on.

Second, I favor very narrow, focused tax cuts such as zero capital gains, 100 percent expensing, because I think, as Governor Romney said, jobs are the number one challenge of the next two or three years. Get something you can do very fast. Change on this scale takes years to think through if you’re going to do it right.

COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you said in the last debate that everyone should pay something. Does that mean that you would raise taxes on the 47 percent of Americans who currently don’t pay taxes?

BACHMANN: I believe absolutely every American benefits by this magnificent country. Absolutely every American should pay something, even if it’s a dollar. [cheering and applause]

BACHMANN: Everyone needs to pay something in this country. That’s why with my tax plan, I take a page out of not theory but what’s provable and what works. What is provable and what works was the economic miracle that was wrought by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. That’s the plan that I look at.

I also want to completely abolish the tax code. I want to flatten the tax for all of Americans, simplify that tax for all of Americans. And that creates job growth, which is exactly what we need to have.

Because to be able to fuel the fire for this economy, again, it is the tax code, but it doesn’t end with the tax code. It’s the regulatory burden that costs us $1.8 trillion every year, but it’s more than that cost. It’s jobs that are lost.

So we need to repeal “Obama-care,” repeal the jobs and housing destruction act known as Dodd-Frank. President Obama’s plan has been a plan for destruction of this economy and failure.

COOPER: Thank you.

BACHMANN: I plan to change that with real jobs right now at michelebachmann.com. [applause]

COOPER: We’ve been talking about Herman Cain’s plan. Let’s talk about Governor Romney’s plan.

Governor Perry, you have said that Governor Romney was an abject failure at creating jobs when he was governor of Massachusetts. If you’ve read his 59-point plan, has it changed your mind?

PERRY: Well, here’s the nine that we need to get focused on. And it’s not 999, it’s not 59. It’s that 9 percent unemployment in this country. And that’s where we’ve got to get focused in America, is how to create an environment where the men and women get back to work.

It’s the reason I laid out a plan, Newt, this last week to get this energy that’s under our feet. We’ve got 300 years of resources right under our feet in this country. Yet we’ve got an administration that is blockading our ability to bring that to the surface, whether it’s our petroleum, our natural gas, or our coal. And 1.2 million jobs could be put to work.

Americans who are sitting out there listening to this conversation tonight, somebody wants someone on this stage to say: Listen, we got an idea here how to get you to work and take care of your family and have the dignity of a job. And that’s exactly what I did with my plan, laid it out where Americans understand we don’t have to wait on OPEC anymore. We don’t have to let them hold us hostage. America’s got the energy. Let’s have American energy independence. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Romney, does Governor Perry have the answer?

ROMNEY: Well, he’s absolutely right about — about getting energy independence and taking advantage of our natural resources here. We’re an energy-rich nation that’s acting like an energy-poor nation. And that’s something I’ve been talking about for some time, as the governor has. He’s absolutely right.

But there are also a lot of good jobs we need in manufacturing, and high-tech jobs, and good service jobs, technology of all kinds. America produces an economy that’s very, very broad. And that’s why our policy to get America the most attractive place in the world for investment and — and job growth encompasses more than just energy. It includes that, but also tax policy, regulatory policy, trade policy, education, training and balancing the federal budget, and that starts with repealing Obamacare, which is a huge burden on this economy. [applause]

COOPER: Senator Santorum, does Mitt Romney have the answers for jobs? SANTORUM: I agree with — with all of what Governor Romney and both — and Governor Perry said. I would add the fact that — that I’ve put forward the plan that’s going to allow for income mobility. That’s a new term, but I’ve been using it for a long time, which is people at the bottom part of the income scale being able to rise in society.

Believe it or not, studies have been done that show that in Western Europe, people at the lower parts of the income scale actually have a better mobility going up the ladder now than in America. And I believe that’s because we’ve lost our manufacturing base. No more stamp “Made in America” is really hurting people in the middle.

And that’s why I focus all of the real big changes in the tax code at manufacturing. I cut the corporate rate for manufacturing to zero, repeal all regulations affecting manufacturers that cost over $100 million and replace them with something that’s friendlier, they can work with. We repatriate $1.2 trillion that manufacturers made overseas and allow them to bring it back here, if they invest in plants and equipment. They can do it without having to pay any — any excise tax.

The final point I would make to Governor Romney, you just don’t have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing Obamacare. You are — you are — your plan was the basis for Obamacare. Your consultants helped Obama craft Obamacare. And to say that you’re going to repeal it, you just — you have no track record on that that — that we can trust you that you’re going to do that.

COOPER: Governor Romney, 30 seconds. [applause]

SANTORUM: You don’t.

ROMNEY: You know, this I think is either our eighth or ninth debate. And each chance I’ve — I’ve had to talk about Obamacare, I’ve made it very clear, and also in my book. And at the time, by the way, I crafted the plan, in the last campaign, I was asked, is this something that you would have the whole nation do? And I said, no, this is something that was crafted for Massachusetts. It would be wrong to adopt this as a nation.

SANTORUM: That’s not what you said.

ROMNEY: You’re — you’re shaking — you’re shaking your head.

SANTORUM: Governor, no, that’s not what you said.

ROMNEY: That happens — to happens to be…

[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: It was in your book that it should be for everybody.

ROMNEY: Guys… PERRY: You took it out of your book.

SANTORUM: You took it out of your book.

ROMNEY: Hey, his turn. His turn, OK, and mine.

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: I’ll tell you what? Why don’t you let me speak?

[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: You’re allowed — you’re allowed to change — you’re allowed to change…

ROMNEY: Rick, you had your chance. Let me speak.

SANTORUM: You can’t change the facts.

ROMNEY: Rick, you had your chance. Let me speak.

SANTORUM: You’re out of time. You’re out of time.

COOPER: He ate into your time. [booing]

Rick…

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: I haven’t had a chance to respond yet, because you were interrupting the entire time I was trying to speak.

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: Let me make it very clear.

COOPER: I’ll give another 20 seconds.

ROMNEY: And — look — look, we’ll let everybody take a look at the fact checks. I was interviewed by Dan Balz. I was in interviews in this debate stage with you four years ago. I was asked about the Massachusetts plan, was it something I’d impose on the nation? And the answer is absolutely not.

It was something crafted for a state. And I’ve said time and again, Obamacare is bad news. It’s unconstitutional. It costs way too much money, a trillion dollars. And if I’m president of the United States, I will repeal it for the American people. [applause]

COOPER: All right. Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Mitt, the governor of Massachusetts just is coming forward saying we have to pick up the job left undone by Romneycare, which is doing something about cutting health care costs.

What you did is exactly what Barack Obama did: focused on the wrong problem. Herman always says you’ve got to find the right problem. Well, the right problem is health care costs. What you did with a top-down, government-run program was focus on the problem of health care access. You expanded the pool of insurance without controlling costs. You’ve blown a hole in the budget up there. And you authored in Obamacare, which is going to blow a hole in the budget of this country.

COOPER: Governor Romney, I’m going to give you 30 seconds.

ROMNEY: I’m — I’m sorry, Rick, that you find so much to dislike in my plan, but I’ll tell you, the people in Massachusetts like it by about a 3-1 margin.

And we dealt with a challenge that we had, a lot of people that were expecting government to pay their way. And we said, you know what? If people have the capacity to care for themselves and pay their own way, they should.

Now, I can tell you this, it’s absolutely right that there’s a lot that needs to be done. And I didn’t get the job done in Massachusetts in getting the health care costs down in this country. It’s something I think we have got to do at the national level. I intend to do that.

But one thing is for sure. What Obama has done is imposed on the nation a plan that will not work, that must be repealed. And when it comes to knowledge about health care and how to get our health care system working, I may not be a doctor like this one right over here, but I sure understand how to bring the cost of health care down and how to also make sure that we have a system that works for the American people.

SANTORUM: It didn’t do it. It didn’t do it.

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, you’ve also been very critical of Mitt Romney’s plan not only on Obamacare, but his plan to lower the capital gains tax only on those earning under $200,000.

GINGRICH: I want to say on health for a minute — OK, let’s just focus. “The Boston Herald” today reported that the state of Massachusetts is fining a local small business $3,000 because their $750-a-month insurance plan is inadequate, according to the bureaucrats in Boston.

Now, there’s a fundamental difference between trying to solve the problems of this country from the top down and trying to create environments in which doctors and patients and families solve the problem from the bottom up.

And candidly, Mitt, your plan ultimately, philosophically, it’s not Obamacare, and that’s not a fair charge. But your plan essentially is one more big government, bureaucratic, high-cost system, which candidly could not have been done by any other state because no other state had a Medicare program as lavish as yours, and no other state got as much money from the federal government under the Bush administration for this experiment. So there’s a lot as big government behind Romneycare. Not as much as Obamacare, but a heck of a lot more than your campaign is admitting. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Romney, 30 seconds.

ROMNEY: Actually, Newt, we got the idea of an individual mandate from you.

GINGRICH: That’s not true. You got it from the Heritage Foundation.

ROMNEY: Yes, we got it from you, and you got it from the Heritage Foundation and from you.

GINGRICH: Wait a second. What you just said is not true. You did not get that from me. You got it from the Heritage Foundation.

ROMNEY: And you never supported them?

GINGRICH: I agree with them, but I’m just saying, what you said to this audience just now plain wasn’t true. [crosstalk]

ROMNEY: OK. Let me ask, have you supported in the past an individual mandate?

GINGRICH: I absolutely did with the Heritage Foundation against Hillarycare.

ROMNEY: You did support an individual mandate?

ROMNEY: Oh, OK. That’s what I’m saying. We got the idea from you and the Heritage Foundation.

GINGRICH: OK. A little broader.

ROMNEY: OK.

BACHMANN: Anderson?

COOPER: He still has time. Let him finish.

ROMNEY: I get a little time here.

Number two, we don’t have a government insurance plan. What we do is rely on private insurers, and people — 93 percent of our people who are already insured, nothing changed. For the people who didn’t have insurance, they get private insurance, not government insurance.

And the best way to make markets work is for people to be able to buy their own products from private enterprises. What we did was right for our state, according to the people in our state. And the great thing about a state solution to a state issue is, if people don’t like it, they could change it.

Now, there are a lot of things.

BACHMANN: Anderson?

COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann.

BACHMANN: Anderson, I think it has to be stated that Obamacare is so flat-out unpopular, that even the Obama administration chose to reject part of Obamacare last Friday, when they tried to throw out the CLASS Act, which is the long-term care function.

Secretary Sebelius, who is the head of Health and Human Services, reported that the government can’t even afford that part and has to throw it out. And now the administration is arguing with itself.

When even the Obama administration wants to repeal this bill, I think we’re going to win this thing. We’re going to repeal it! And I will! [applause]

COOPER: We’ve got to take a quick break. We will continue this discussion on the other side.

We have a long way to go. We’ll be right back.

[commercial break]

COOPER: And welcome back to the continuing debate. We got a Twitter question. We ended talking about medicine, Obamacare. We actually have a Twitter question about it. It was a question left at CNN debate.

If Obama’s health plan is bad for the U.S., what is the alternative, and how will you implement it?

Congressman Paul, is there any aspect of Obamacare that you would like to keep, whether it’s keeping kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 or no pre-existing conditions?

PAUL: Really not, because he’s just adding on more government. There’s been a lot of discussion about medicine, but it seems to be talking about which kind of government management is best. Our problem is we have too much. We’ve had it for 30, 40 years. We have Medicare. We have prescription drug programs. We have Medicaid.

And what we need — I mean, there’s a pretty good support up here for getting rid of Obamacare, because it’s a Democratic proposal, and we want to opt out. I think we’d all agree on this.

But if you want better competition and better health care, you should allow the American people to opt out of government medicine. And… [applause]

And the way to do this is to not de-emphasize the medical savings account, but let people opt out, pay their bills, get back to the doctor-patient relationship. There is inflation worked into it. When a government gets involved in an industry, prices always go up. We have tort laws to deal with. And we need more competition in medicine.

But the most important thing is letting the people have control of their money and getting it out of the hands of the third party. As soon as you go to the government, the lobbyists line up, the drug companies line up, these insurance companies line up. And even with Obamacare, the industries, the corporations get behind it and affect the outcome, and already insurance premiums are going up. [applause]

COOPER: Herman Cain, same question. Is there any aspect of so- called Obamacare that — that you would keep?

CAIN: No. I think we all agree that Obamacare must be repealed because it is a disaster. And the more we learn about it and the more time goes along, the more we see. We’re all in agreement with that.

But here’s where I would start in answering that question. It’s called H.R. 3400. This was introduced back in 2009, but you didn’t hear a lot of talk about it. Instead of government being imposed on — on our system, it imposes — it basically passes market-centered, market-driven, patient-centered sort of reforms to allow association health plans, to allow loser pay laws, to allow insurance products to be sold across state lines, and a whole list of other things. So that’s a great place to start.

It allows the patient and the doctors to make the decisions, not a bureaucrat. I’d start with HR-3400. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Perry, in the last debate, Governor Romney pointed out that Texas has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the country, over one million kids. You did not get an opportunity to respond to that. What do you say? How do you explain that?

PERRY: Well, we’ve got one of the finest health care systems in the world in Texas. As a matter of fact, the Houston, Texas, Medical Center, there’s more doctors and nurses that go to work there every morning than any other place in America. But the idea that you can’t have access to health care, some of the finest health care in the world — but we have a 1,200-mile border with Mexico, and the fact is we have a huge number of illegals that are coming into this country.

And they’re coming into this country because the federal government has failed to secure that border. But they’re coming here because there is a magnet. And the magnet is called jobs. And those people that hire illegals ought to be penalized.

And Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year. And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you’re strong on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy. [laughter]

COOPER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Rick, I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life. And so I’m afraid — I’m looking forward to finding your facts on that, because that just doesn’t —

PERRY: Well, I’ll tell you what the facts are.

ROMNEY: Rick, again — Rick, I’m speaking.

PERRY: You had the — your newspaper — the newspaper —

ROMNEY: I’m speaking. I’m speaking. I’m speaking. [crosstalk]

ROMNEY: You get 30 seconds. This is the way the rules work here, is that I get 60 seconds and then you get 30 second to respond. Right?

Anderson?

PERRY: And they want to hear you say that you knew you had illegals working at your —

ROMNEY: Would you please wait? Are you just going to keep talking?

PERRY: Yes, sir.

ROMNEY: Would you let me finish with what I have to say? [booing]

ROMNEY: Look, Rick —

COOPER: I thought Republicans follow the rules.

ROMNEY: This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick, and I understand that. And so you’re going to get testy. [applause]

ROMNEY: But let’s let — I’ll tell you what, let me take my time, and then you can take your time. All right?

PERRY: Great. Have at it.

ROMNEY: All right.

My time is this, which is I have in my state — when I was governor, I took the action of empowering our state police to enforce immigration laws. When you were governor, you said, I don’t want to build a fence. You put in place a magnet.

You talked about magnets. You put in place a magnet to draw illegals into the state, which was giving $100,000 of tuition credit to illegals that come into this country, and then you have states — the big states of illegal immigrants are California and Florida. Over the last 10 years, they’ve had no increase in illegal immigration.

Texas has had 60 percent increase in illegal immigrants in Texas. If there’s someone who has a record as governor with regards to illegal immigration that doesn’t stand up to muster, it’s you, not me. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Perry, you have 30 seconds.

PERRY: You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property. And the newspaper came to you and brought it to your attention, and you still, a year later, had those individuals working for you.

The idea that you can sit here and talk about any of us having an immigration issue is beyond me. I’ve got a strong policy. I’ve always been against amnesty. You, on the other hand, were for amnesty.

COOPER: I’ve got 30 seconds, then we’ve got move on to another immigration question.

ROMNEY: OK.

You wrote an op-ed in the newspaper saying you were open to amnesty. That’s number one.

Number two, we hired a lawn company to mow our lawn, and they had illegal immigrants that were working there. And when that was pointed out to us, we let them go. And we went to them and said —

PERRY: A year later?

ROMNEY: You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking. And I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you have got to let both people speak. So first, let me speak. [applause]

ROMNEY: So we went to the company and we said, look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals. It turns out that once question, they hired someone who had falsified their documents, had documents, and therefore we fired them. And let me tell you, it is hard in this country as an individual homeowner to know if people who are contractors working at your home, if they have hired people that are illegal. If I’m president, we’ll put in an E-Verify system, which you have opposed —

COOPER: Out of time.

ROMNEY: — to make sure that we can find out who’s here illegally and not, and crack down on people who come here illegally.

COOPER: All right. We’re going to stay on the topic of immigration. [applause]

COOPER: We’re going to stay on the topic of immigration. Everyone is going to get a chance to weigh in.

This is a question that was left at CNNPolitics.com. “As president, will you order completion of the physical border fence along the entire border between the U.S. and Mexico?” That’s from Marilyn L.

Herman Cain, let me start with you. Obviously, over the weekend, you got a lot of headlines by saying you would have an electrified fence. You then later said it was — you then later said it was a joke. And then last night, you said, “It might be electrified. I’m not walking away from that. I just don’t want to offend anyone.” [laughter]

So… [applause]

So would you build an entire fence along the entire border, and would you have it be electrified? [laughter]

CAIN: Allow me to give a serious answer. Yes, I believe we should secure the border for real, and it would be a combination of a fence, technology, as well as possibly boots on the ground for some of the more dangerous areas. I don’t apologize at all for wanting to protect the American citizens and to protect our agents on the border, no. [applause]

Secondly, the second thing that I would do — see, I believe in let’s solve the whole problem. We must shut the back door so people can come in the front door. Secondly, promote the existing path to citizenship by cleaning up the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

Thirdly, enforce the laws — the immigration laws that are already on the books. [applause]

And here’s another one of these bold ideas by the non-politician up here. Empower the states to do what the federal government is not doing in terms of enforcing those laws. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Perry, you have — you have the — your state has the longest border with Mexico. Is it possible — to the question — is it possible to build a fence, an — across the entire border?

PERRY: Sure. You can — you can build a fence, but it takes anywhere between 10 and 15 years and $30 billion. There’s a better way, and that’s to build a virtual defense zone, if you will, along that border, which — not unlike what Herman’s talking about, and you can do it with strategic fencing in the obvious places where it matters.

But the way you really stop the activities along that border that are illegal, whether it’s the drug cartels or whether it’s bringing in illegal weapons or whether it’s illegal immigrants that are coming in, is to put boots on the ground.

I will tell you, Herman, you put a lot of boots on the ground. You use Predator drones that are being trained right up here at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada to use that real-time information to give those boots on the ground that information, and they can instantly move to those areas. And that is the way to shut that border down, to secure that border, and really make America safe from individuals, like those Iranians that are using the drug cartels to penetrate this country.

COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, do you agree with Governor Perry? [applause]

BACHMANN: Well, I think the person who really has a problem with illegal immigration in the country is President Obama. It’s his uncle and his aunt who are illegal aliens… [applause] … who’ve been allowed to stay in this country, despite the fact that they’re illegal.

This last Saturday, I was the very first candidate that signed a pledge that said that, by a date certain, I will build a double-walled fence with — with an area of security neutrality in between. I will build that, because this is what we know. This is an economics issue and a jobs issue. Every year…

COOPER: You’re saying you would build a fence along the entire border? BACHMANN: I will build it on the entire border, and I’ll tell you why. Every year, it costs this country $113 billion in the costs that we put out to pay for illegal aliens. It costs the state and local government of that amount $82 billion. For every household of an American citizen, it costs us $1,000 a year. We are robbing the household of Americans who can’t afford that.

I will build the fence. I will enforce English as the official language of the United States government. [applause]

And every — every person who comes into this country will have to agree that they will not receive taxpayer-subsidized benefits of any American citizen…

COOPER: Time.

BACHMANN: Thank you.

COOPER: Governor Perry, does that — can you actually — does that make sense? She says she can build the — the fence along the entire border.

PERRY: As I said, you can build that fence, but by the time that fence gets built…

COOPER: She’s also talking about your taxpayer-subsidized benefits.

PERRY: But my — my point is that, by the time that fence gets built, there is a lot better way than to stand here and to — to play to some group of people somewhere and say, “We’re going to build a fence,” and then wipe our hands of it.

I’ve been dealing with this border for 10 years as the governor. And the reason that we have this issue is because the federal government has failed miserably to defend and secure that border.

BACHMANN: Which is why we build…

[crosstalk]

PERRY: You know, for someone that’s been in the United States Congress to — to lecture me on the issues that are going on, on that border is not right. Let me tell you, we’ve had to deal with that issue in the state of Texas. We’ve had to deal with the impact on our state. And I put $400 million on that border of Texas, taxpayers’ money, Texas Ranger recon teams there.

We know how to secure the border. I shared with you earlier how to do it. You put the boots on the ground, the aviation assets in the air, and you secure that border.

COOPER: Governor…

BACHMANN: Anderson, can I respond?

COOPER: He wasn’t talking about you directly.

BACHMANN: No, he did respond.

ROMNEY: Let’s step back. I think it’s important for us as Republicans on this stage to say something which hasn’t been said. And that is I think every single person here loves legal immigration. We respect people who come here legally.

[cheering and applause]

ROMNEY: And the reason we’re so animated about stopping illegal immigration is there are 4.5 million people who want to come here who are in line legally, we want that to happen in an orderly and legal process.

And in terms of how to secure the border, it’s really not that hard. You have a fence, you have enough Border Patrol agents to oversee the fence, and you turn off the magnets. And that’s employers that hire people who they know are here illegally.

That’s why you have an E-Verify system so they can know that. And, number two, you turn off the magnets like tuition breaks or other breaks that draw people into this country illegally. It is not that hard. We have to have the political will to get the job done.

And, Governor Perry, you say you have got the experience. It’s a bit like saying that, you know, the college coach that has lost 40 games in a row has the experience to go to the NFL.

But the truth is, California — I’ll say it again, California and Florida have both had no increase in illegal immigration and yours is up 60 percent…

COOPER: Time.

ROMNEY: … over the last 10 years.

COOPER: Governor Perry, 30 seconds to respond.

PERRY: Well, the bottom line is that we have a federal government that has failed. There is a clear problem here. And he hit the nail on the head a while ago. He said there was a magnet of people that will hire illegals. And you are number one on that list, sir.

And people need to understand that. You’re one of the problems, Mitt.

COOPER: I think we’ve been down that road.

ROMNEY: Yes…

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: We’ve been down that road sufficiently. It sounds like the audience agrees with me.

COOPER: We are continuing on immigration. We have a question in the audience.

[cheering and applause]

ROBERT ZAVALA, LAS VEGAS RESIDENT: Good evening. Thank you for the opportunity to ask my question. We have 50 million Latinos and not all of us are illegal. What is the message from you guys to our Latino community?

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich? President Obama got I think 67 percent of the Latino vote last time around.

GINGRICH: Look, I think that there’s a very clear message to Americans of all backgrounds. Latinos, Korean-Americans, Vietnamese- Americans, there are hundreds of different groups who come to America.

As Governor Romney said, I think anybody who understands America has to be proud of our record as the country which has been the most open in history to legal immigration.

But the truth is most Latinos in the United States aren’t immigrants. Most Latinos in the United States now have been born in the United States. And the fact is they want virtually exactly what everyone else wants.

They want an economy that is growing. They want a job that has take home pay. They want access to health insurance that they can afford. They want a chance to get educated that is actually useful and worthwhile. They want to be able to know that their family is going to grow up in safety. And they want to have a chance that their country is going to work to give their children and their grandchildren a better future.

I think we have to have the same message for every American of every ethnic background that we want to make America work again. And you’ll know it’s working because you will have a job and you’ll have a chance to take care of your family.

[cheering and applause]

COOPER: Congressman Paul, there’s some Latino voters who believe that some of these strong anti-immigration laws — anti-illegal immigration laws are actually anti-Latino laws. What do you say to them?

PAUL: Well, I think some people do believe that. I think a fence is symbolic of that. And I can understand why somebody might look at that. But when we approach this immigration problem, we should look at the incentives and that — or the mandates from the federal government saying that you must educate, you must give them free education.

You have to remove these incentives. But I don’t think the answer is a fence whatsoever. But in order to attract Latino votes, I think, you know, too long this country has always put people in groups. They penalize people because they’re in groups, and then they reward people because they’re in groups.

But following up on what Newt was saying, we need a healthy economy, we wouldn’t be talking about this. We need to se everybody as an individual. And to me, seeing everybody as an individual means their liberties are protected as individuals and they’re treated that way and they’re never penalized that way.

So if you have a free and prosperous society, all of a sudden this group mentality melts away. As long as there’s no abuse — one place where there’s still a lot of discrimination in this country is in our court systems. And I think the minorities come up with a short hand in our court system.

COOPER: Herman Cain, the 14th Amendment allows that anybody born in the United States is an American citizen. Should that change?

CAIN: I want to go back and answer this question first, OK? And that is, my message to Latinos, blacks, whites, and all Americans is that we must first start with significantly boosting this economy, which is on life support.

This is why I have put forth a very bold plan, and I’m not afraid to try and sell it to the American people. I’m not afraid to fight for it when I become president of the United States of America. So that’s my message.

If we have this economy growing, people will be able to take care of their families and go after their American dream. And until we boost this economy, all of us are going to suffer for a long time.

COOPER: Then let me ask the question of Governor Perry.

Governor Perry, the 14th Amendment allows anybody. A child of illegal immigrants who is born here is automatically an American citizen. Should that change?

PERRY: Well, let me address Herman’s issue that he just talked about.

COOPER: Actually, I’d rather you answer that question.

PERRY: I understand that. You get to ask the questions, I get to answer like I want to. And Herman talked about —

COOPER: That’s actually a response, that’s not an answer, but go ahead.

PERRY: — the issue of how we get this country back working. And truly, the plan that I laid out last week, where we talk about the energy industry and this treasure trove that we have under this country, and we need to recognize that the administration that we have today is blocking mining that could be going on in the state of Nevada. I talked to Brian Sandoval before I came in here today. You have an administration that is killing jobs because they want to move us to a green energy. You have a secretary of energy who has basically said he wants to see gas prices up close to the European model. The president himself said electricity rates are necessarily going to skyrocket.

That’s what we’ve got to stop. That’s the reason we got to have a president of the United States that understands that if you get Americans working, and it addresses these issues that we have in this country, then the fastest way to do it is open up these federal —

COOPER: Time.

PERRY: — plants, to pull back those regulations, and get America working again.

COOPER: Time.

[commercial break]

COOPER: To the question on the 14th Amendment, do you support repealing the 14th Amendment?

PERRY: No.

COOPER: No, you do not?

PERRY: I do not.

COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, do you support it?

BACHMANN: I think there’s a very real issue with magnets in this country. And I think the issue that you’re referring to is the issue of anchor babies. And that’s an issue that — I was just in Arizona this last weekend, and the state is very concerned, because when someone comes illegally across the border, specifically for the purpose of utilizing American resources for having a baby here, then all of the welfare benefits then attach to that baby.

This is an issue that we don’t have to deal with the Constitution. This is an issue that we can deal with legislatively. And there are a lot of Americans that would like us to deal with this issue of anchor babies legislatively. [applause]

COOPER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I’d like to address the issue that the gentleman brought up, which is, what are we going to say to the Latino community? And not one person mentioned the issue of family, faith, marriage.

This is a community that is a faith-filled community, that family is at the center of that community. I disagree in some respects with Congressman Paul, who says the country is founded on the individual.

The basic building block of a society is not an individual. It’s the family. That’s the basic unit of society. [applause]

SANTORUM: And the Latino community understands that. They understand the importance of faith and marriage. They understand that bond that builds that solid foundation, and that inculcation of faith and religious freedom. And I think the Latino community knows that’s at stake in this country.

There’s a lot going on right now that’s eroding our religious freedom, that’s eroding the traditional values of marriage and family. And there’s one candidate up here who consistently sounds that theme.

Look, I’m for jobs, too. I have got an economic plan, and I agree with everything that’s been said. But we keep running roughshod over the fact that family in America and faith in America is being crushed by the courts and our government, and someone has stand up and fight for those institutions. [applause]

COOPER: Time.

Congressman Paul, you were referenced directly. Thirty seconds.

PAUL: Well, I would like to explain that rights don’t come in bunches. Rights come as individuals, they come from a God, and they come as each individual has a right to life and liberty.

But I might add about the border control and the Latino vote, is we lack resources there. I think we should have more border guards on it, a more orderly transition, and run it much better. But where are our resources?

You know, we worry more about the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need to bring the guard units home and the units back here so we can have more personnel on our border. [applause]

COOPER: We have a question in the audience.

QUESTION: My question for you is, do you support opening the national nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain?

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, we’ll start with you.

[crosstalk]

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.

GINGRICH: Look, we — we worked on this when I was speaker. I think that it has to be looked at scientifically. But I think at some point we have to find a safe method of taking care of nuclear waste. And today, because this has been caught up in a political fight, we have small units of nuclear waste all over this country in a way that is vastly more dangerous to the United States than finding a method of keeping it in a very, very deep place that would be able to sustain 10,000 or 20,000 and 30,000 years of geological safety.

COOPER: Is Yucca Mountain that place?

GINGRICH: I’m not a scientist. I mean, Yucca Mountain certainly was picked by the scientific community as one of the safest places in the United States. It has always had very deep opposition here in Nevada. And, frankly…

COOPER: You were for opening it in Congress, right?

GINGRICH: Huh?

COOPER: When you were in the Congress, you were…

[crosstalk]

GINGRICH: When I was in Congress, frankly, I worked with the Nevada delegation to make sure that there was time for scientific studies. But we have to find some method of finding a very geologically stable place, and most geologists believe that, in fact, Yucca Mountain is that.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you oppose this?

PAUL: Yes. Yes, I’ve — I’ve opposed this. We’ve had votes in the Congress. There was a time when I voted with two other individuals, the two congressmen from Nevada. And I approach it from a state’s rights position. What right does 49 states have to punish one state and say, “We’re going to put our garbage in your state”? I think that’s wrong.

But I think it’s very serious. I think it’s very serious. But quite frankly, the government shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing any form of energy. And nuclear energy, I think, is a good source of energy, but they still get subsidies. Then they assume this responsibility. Then we as politicians and the bureaucrats get involved in this. And then we get involved with which state’s going to get stuck with the garbage.

So I would say, the more the free market handles this and the more you deal with property rights and no subsidies to any form of energy, the easier this problem would be solved.

COOPER: Governor Romney, where do you stand on this? [applause]

ROMNEY: Congressman Paul was right on that. [applause]

I don’t always agree with him, but I do on that. The — the idea that 49 states can tell Nevada, “We want to give you our nuclear waste,” doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think the people of Nevada ought to have the final say as to whether they want that, and my guess is that for them to say yes to something like that, someone’s going to have to offer them a pretty good deal, as opposed to having the federal government jam it down their throat. [applause]

And by the way, if — if Nevada says, “Look, we don’t want it,” then let other states make bids and say, hey, look, we’ll take it. Here’s a geological site that we’ve evaluated. Here’s the compensation we want for taking it. We want you electric companies around the country that are using nuclear fuel to compensate us a certain amount per kilowatt hour, a certain amount per ton of this stuff that comes.

Let — let the free market work. And on that basis, the places that are geologically safe, according to science, and where the people say the deal’s a good one will decide where we put this stuff. That’s the right course for America. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Perry?

PERRY: You know, from time to time, Mitt and I don’t agree. But on this one, he’s hit it, the nail, right on the head. And I’ll just add that when you think about France, who gets over 70 percent of their energy from nuclear power, the idea that they deal with this issue, that their glassification, and that the innovation — and, Congressman Paul, you’re correct when it comes to allowing the states to compete with each other. That is the answer to this.

We need to have a — a — a discussion in — in this country about our 10th Amendment and the appropriateness of it, as it’s been eroded by Washington, D.C., for all these many years, whether it’s health care, whether it’s education, or whether it’s dealing with energy. We don’t need to be subsidizing energy in any form or fashion, allow the states to make the decision. And some state out there will see the economic issue, and they will have it in their state.

COOPER: We’re going to move on to an issue very important here in the state of Nevada and throughout the West. We have a question from the hall.

QUESTION: Yeah, my question is, those of us who own property here in Nevada have been devastated by the real estate bubble. What would you do as president to help fix the overall problem of real estate and foreclosures in America?

COOPER: Senator Santorum, Nevada has the highest rate of foreclosure. SANTORUM: Yeah, I mean, it’s — it’s a situation right now where obviously the market’s in — has been decimated. And so now you’re looking at, how do you repair it? The problem is — in the first place, is that several people up here, the, quote, “businesspeople,” supported the TARP, supported the bailout. Governors Perry, Romney…

PERRY: Wrong.

SANTORUM: No, you wrote a letter on the day of the vote — you wrote a letter on the day of the vote, Governor, saying to vote for the plan. That’s what you — I mean, that — the letter’s been…

PERRY: No, I didn’t.

SANTORUM: Yes, you did, Governor. You sent…

COOPER: You’ll have a chance to respond. Let him finish.

SANTORUM: Joe Manchin signed it with you. So you — you supported it. Governor Romney and Herman Cain all supported the — the TARP program, which started this ball…

CAIN: Not all of it. [laughter]

SANTORUM: I mean, I — I mean, you guys complain about Governor Romney flip-flopping. I mean, look at what’s going on here. I mean, the — the bottom line is, you all supported it, you all started this ball rolling, where the government injected itself in trying to make — trying to fix the market with the government top-down trying to do it, and managed decline. And what happened was, people who did things that were wrong invested in things, took risks, were bailed out, and the folks who acted responsibly are now getting hurt because their houses have gone down in value. We need to let the market work, and that’s what hasn’t been happening so far.

COOPER: I’m going to allow each of the three of you to respond.

Governor Perry, you have 30 seconds.

PERRY: The fact is, Rick just has that wrong. We wrote a letter to Congress asking them to act. What we meant by acting was, cut the regulations, cut the taxation burden, not passing TARP.

There is clearly a letter out of our office that says that, Rick. I’ll get you a copy of it so you’ll understand it.

SANTORUM: Hold on. I need to respond to that.

He sent a letter the day of the vote on the floor of the House saying, pass the economic plan. There was only one plan, and that was the plan that was voted on the floor. It was TARP.

You sent a letter on that day saying, vote for that plan. Now, you can send a letter later saying I didn’t mean it, but when you said it, it was the only plan that was in play, and that was the TARP plan.

COOPER: Governor Perry — do you want to respond, Governor Perry?

PERRY: I’m just telling you I know what we sent, I know what the intention was. You can read it any way you want, but the fact of the matter, I wasn’t for TARP, and have talked about it for years since then.

COOPER: Governor Romney, 30 seconds.

ROMNEY: There’s an effort on the part of people in Washington to think somehow they know better than markets, how to rebalance America’s economy. And the idea of the federal government running around and saying, hey, we’re going to give you some money for trading in your old car, or we’re going to give you a few thousand bucks for buying a new house, or we’re going to keep banks from foreclosing if you can’t make your payments, these kind of actions on the part of government haven’t worked.

The right course is to let markets work. And in order to get markets to work and to help people, the best we can do is to get the economy going. And that’s why the fundamental restructuring I’ve described is so essential to help homeowners and people across this country. [applause]

COOPER: Mr. Cain, I want you to be able to respond. Thirty seconds.

CAIN: I have said before that we were in a crisis at the end of 2008 with this potential financial meltdown. I supported the concept of TARP, but then, when this administration used discretion and did a whole lot of things that the American people didn’t like, I was then against it. So yes, and I’m owning up to that.

Now, getting back to the gentleman’s question in terms of what we need to do, we need to get government out of the way. It starts with making sure that we can boost this economy and then reform Dodd-Frank and reform a lot of these other regulations that have gotten in the way —

COOPER: Time.

CAIN: — and let the market do it just like Mitt has talked about.

COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, does the federal government have a role in keeping people in their homes, saving people from foreclosure, in the state of Nevada?

BACHMANN: That was the question that was initially asked. And what I want to say is this — every day I’m out somewhere in the United States of America, and most of the time I’m talking to moms across this country. When you talk about housing, when you talk about foreclosures, you’re talking about women who are at the end of their rope because they’re losing their nest for their children and for their family. And there are women right now all across this country and moms across this country whose husbands, through no fault of their own, are losing their job, and they can’t keep that house. And there are women who are losing that house.

I’m a mom. I talk to these moms.

I just want to say one thing to moms all across America tonight. This is a real issue. It’s got to be solved.

President Obama has failed you on this issue of housing and foreclosures. I will not fail you on this issue. I will turn this country around.

We will turn the economy around. We will create jobs. That’s how you hold on to your house.

Hold on, moms out there. It’s not too late.

COOPER: We have another question. This one is a Twitter question.

“How do you explain the Occupy Wall Street movement happening across the country? And how does it relate with your message?”

Herman Cain, I’ve got to ask you, you said, — two weeks ago, you said, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job, and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

That was two weeks ago. The movement has grown. Do you still say that? [applause]

CAIN: Yes, I do still say that. And here’s why. [applause]

CAIN: I still stand by my statement, and here’s why.

They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they’re directing their anger at the wrong place. Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars that didn’t do any good. Wall Street isn’t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration. [applause]

So I do stand by them.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you’ve been — Congressman Paul, you’ve been critical of Governor Romney for — for holding fundraisers with — with Wall Streeters. Do you think he understands what the protest is about? Do you understand?

PAUL: Well, I think Mr. Cain has blamed the victims. There’s a lot of people that are victims of this business cycle. We can’t blame the victims.

But we also have to point — I’d go to Washington as well as Wall Street, but I’d go over to the Federal Reserve. [applause]

They — they create the financial bubbles. And you have to understand that you can’t solve these problems if you don’t know where these bubbles come from.

But then, when the bailout came and supported by both parties, you have to realize, oh, wait, Republicans were still in charge. So the bailouts came from both parties. Guess who they bailed out? The big corporations of people who were ripping off the people in the derivatives market. And they said, oh, the world’s going to come to an end unless we bail out all the banks. So the banks were involved, and the Federal Reserve was involved.

But who got stuck? The middle class got stuck. They got stuck. They lost their jobs, and they lost their houses. If you had to give money out, you should have given it to people who were losing their mortgages, not to the banks. [applause]

COOPER: Mr. Cain, do you want to respond? He referenced you. So if you want to respond, you have 30 seconds.

CAIN: All I want to say is that representative Paul is partly right, but he’s mixing problems here. It’s more than one problem. Look, the people — the banks — yes, the banks and the businesses on Wall Street, yes, the way that was administered was not right.

But my point is this: What are the people who are protesting want from bankers on Wall Street, to come downstairs and write them a check? This is what we don’t understand. Take — go and get to the source of the problem, is all I’m saying.

COOPER: I’ve got to give you 30 seconds.

CAIN: And that’s the White House.

COOPER: And then we’ll go to Governor Romney.

PAUL: Yes, the argument is it’s — the program was OK, but it was mismanaged. But I work on the assumption that government’s not very capable of managing almost anything… [applause] … so you shouldn’t put that much trust in the government. You have — you have to trust the marketplace. And when the government gets involved, they have to deal with fraud. And how many people have gone to jail either in the government, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, that participated in this? And nobody suffers the consequences. All these investigations, and yet the people who lose their jobs and lose their houses, it’s their fault, according — that’s why they’re on Wall Street. And we can’t blame them. We have to blame the business cycle…

COOPER: Time.

PAUL: … and the economic policies that led to this disaster. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Romney, you — you originally called the protests “dangerous.” You said it was class warfare. You recently sounded more sympathetic. Where do you stand now? What is your message to those people protesting?

ROMNEY: Look, we can spend our time talking about what happened three years ago and what the cause was of our collapse. But let’s talk about what’s happened over the last three years. We’ve had a president responsible for this economy for the last three years, and he’s failed us.

He’s failed us in part because he has no idea how the private sector works or how to create jobs. On every single issue, he’s made it harder for our economy to reboot. And as a result, we have 25 million Americans out of work or stopped looking for work or in part- time work and can’t get full-time employed. Home values going down. You have median income in America that in the last three years has dropped by 10 percent.

Americans are hurting across this country, and the president’s out there campaigning. Why isn’t he governing? He doesn’t — he doesn’t have a jobs plan even now. This — this is a critical time for America. [applause]

And I — and I can tell you that this is time to have someone who understands how the economy works, who can get America working again. Instead of dividing and blaming, as this president is, let’s grow America again and have jobs that are the envy of the world. And I know how to do it.

COOPER: We’ve got to take a quick break. We’re going to continue on the other side. We’ll be right back.

[commercial break]

COOPER: I’m Anderson Cooper, the western Republican presidential debate, live from the Venetian in Las Vegas. As you watch the debate tonight, send us your comments and questions for the candidates on Twitter. Use the hashtag #CNNDebate. Also contact us on Facebook and cnn.com.

When we come back, the right to bears and should a candidate’s faith matter? We’ll be right back.

[commercial break]

COOPER: And welcome back to the CNN GOP debate live from the Venetian in Las Vegas. Let’s continue. We’ve got an e-mail question that was left at cnnpolitics.com. This is from a Mike Richards who says: “With the controversy surrounding Robert Jeffress, is it acceptable to let the issue of a candidate’s faith shape the debate?”

Senator Santorum, this is in reference to a Baptist pastor who, at the Values Voter Summit, after introducing Governor Rick Perry, said of — said that “Mitt Romney is not a Christian,” and that “Mormonism is a cult.” Those were his words.

Should… [booing]

COOPER: Should voters pay attention to a candidate’s religion?

SANTORUM: I think they should pay attention to the candidate’s values, what the candidate stands for. [cheering and applause]

SANTORUM: That’s what is at play. And the person’s faith — and you look at that faith and what the faith teaches with respect to morals and values that are reflected in that person’s belief structure. So that’s — those are important things.

I — I’m a Catholic. Catholic has social teachings. Catholic has teachings as to what’s right and what’s wrong. And those are legitimate things for voters to look at, to say if you’re a faithful Catholic, which I try to be — fall short all the time, but I try to be — and — and it’s a legitimate thing to look at as to what the tenets and teachings of that faith are with respect to how you live your life and — and how you would govern this country.

With respect to what is the road to salvation, that’s a whole different story. That’s not applicable to what — what the role is of being the president or a senator or any other job. [applause]

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, you agree with that?

GINGRICH: Well, I think if the question is, does faith matter? Absolutely. How can you have a country which is founded on truths which begins we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights? How can you have the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which says religion, morality and knowledge being important, education matters. That’s the order: religion, morality and knowledge.

Now, I happen to think that none of us should rush in judgment of others in the way in which they approach God. And I think that all of us up here I believe would agree. [applause]

But I think all of us would also agree that there’s a very central part of your faith in how you approach public life. And I, frankly, would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments, because then I’d wonder, where’s your judgment — how can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don’t pray? [applause]

Who you pray to, how you pray, how you come close to God is between you and God. But the notion that you’re endowed by your creator sets a certain boundary on what we mean by America.

COOPER: Governor Perry, Mitt Romney asked you to repudiate the comments of that pastor who introduced you on that stage. He didn’t make the comments on the stage; he made them afterward in an interview. Will you repudiate those comments?

ROMNEY: Well, our faith — I can no more remove my faith than I can that I’m the son of a tenant farmer. I mean, the issue, are we going to be individuals who stand by our faith? I have said I didn’t agree with that individual’s statement. And our founding fathers truly understood and had an understanding of — of freedom of religion.

And this country is based on, as — as Newt talked about, these values that are so important as we go forward. And the idea that we should not have our freedom of — of religion to be taken away by any means, but we also are a country that is free to express our opinions. That individual expressed an opinion. I didn’t agree with it, Mitt, and I said so. But the fact is, Americans understand faith. And what they’ve lost faith in is the current resident of the White House. [applause]

COOPER: Time.

Governor Romney, is that — is that acceptable to you?

ROMNEY: You know, with — with regards to the disparaging comments about my faith, I’ve heard worse, so I’m not going to lose sleep over that. [laughter]

What I actually found was most troubling in what the reverend said in the introduction was he said, in choosing our nominee, we should inspect his religion. And someone who is a good moral person is not someone who we should select; instead, we should choose someone who subscribes to our religious belief.

That — that idea that we should choose people based upon their religion for public office is what I find to be most troubling, because the founders of this country went to great length to make sure — and even put it in the Constitution — that we would not choose people who represent us in government based upon their religion, that this would be a nation that recognized and respected other faiths, where there’s a plurality of faiths, where there was tolerance for other people and faiths. That’s bedrock principle.

And it was that principle, Governor, that I wanted you to be able to, no, no, that’s wrong, Reverend Jeffress. Instead of saying as you did, “Boy, that introduction knocked the ball out of the park,” I’d have said, “Reverend Jeffress, you got that wrong. We should select people not based upon their faith.” Even though — and I don’t suggest you distance yourself from your faith any more than I would. But the concept that we select people based on the church or the synagogue they go to, I think, is a very dangerous and — and enormous departure from the principles of our — of our Constitution. [applause]

COOPER: Would you still like him to say that?

UNKNOWN: I’m sorry?

COOPER: Would — would you still like the governor to say that? Or was that something you wanted him to…

ROMNEY: I’ll let him — that’s his choice.

COOPER: Do you want to respond to that, Governor Perry?

PERRY: I have. I said I did not agree with the — Pastor Jeffress’s remarks. I don’t agree with them. I — I can’t apologize any more than that.

ROMNEY: That’s fine.

COOPER: We’ve got a question from the audience.

QUESTION: Currently, there’s a deficit reduction measure to cut defense spending by $500 billion. Would you support such a reduction in defense spending? And if elected president, how will you provide a strong national defense?

COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, should defense be cut?

BACHMANN: Well, $500 billion is the amount that the questioner had mentioned. And don’t forget, this was an historic week when it came to American foreign policy.

We saw potentially an international assassination attempt from Iran on American soil. That says something about Iran, that they disrespect the United States so much, that they would attempt some sort of heinous act like that.

Then, we saw the president of the United States engage American troops in a fourth conflict in a foreign land. This is historic.

Then, on Sunday, we heard the reports that now that — in Iraq, the 5,000 troops that were going to be left there won’t even be granted immunity by Iraq. This is how disrespected the United States is in the world today, and it’s because of President Obama’s failed policies.

He’s taken his eyes off the number one issue in the world. That’s an Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. That makes all of us in much danger.

COOPER: Time.

BACHMANN: And the president of Iran is a genocidal maniac. We need to stand up against Iran. [applause]

COOPER: Congresswoman —

BACHMANN: And as president of the United States, I will. We will be respected again in the world.

COOPER: The question though was about budget cuts. And is everything on the table in terms of cutting the budget?

BACHMANN: Absolutely everything.

COOPER: So defense spending would be on the table, should be?

BACHMANN: Defense spending is on the table, but again, Anderson, now with the president, he put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa. We already were stretched too thin, and he put our Special Operations Forces in Africa.

COOPER: I just want to make sure. OK. It’s on the table.

BACHMANN: It’s on the table, but we cannot cut it by $500 billion. We can’t do that to tour brave men and women who are on the ground fighting for us.

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: I mean, if you want to understand how totally broken Washington is, look at this entire model of the super committee, which has now got a magic number to achieve. And if it doesn’t achieve the magic number, then we’ll all have to shoot ourselves in the head so that when they come back with a really dumb idea to merely cut off our right leg, we’ll all be grateful that they’re only semi-stupid instead of being totally stupid. [applause]

GINGRICH: Now, the idea that you have a bunch of historically illiterate politicians who have no sophistication about national security trying to make a numerical decision about the size of the defense budget tells you everything you need to know about the bankruptcy of the current elite in this country in both parties. The fact is, we ought to first figure out what threaten us, we ought to figure out what strategies will respond to that. We should figure out what structures we need for those strategies. We should then cost them.

I helped found the Military Reform Caucus. I’m a hawk, but I’m a cheap hawk. But the fact is, to say I’m going to put the security of the United States up against some arbitrary budget number is suicidally stupid.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you’ve proposed — [applause]

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you just proposed eliminating the Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior, Housing and Urban Development. You say it will save a trillion dollars in one year. [applause]

COOPER: You’re proposing a 15 percent cut to the Defense Department. Can you guarantee national security will not be hurt by that?

PAUL: I think it would be enhanced. I don’t want to cut any defense. And you have to get it straight. There’s a lot of money spent in the military budget that doesn’t do any good for our defense.

How does it help us to keep troops in Korea all these years? We’re broke. We have to borrow this money.

Why are we in Japan? Why do we subsidize Germany, and they subsidize their socialized system over there? Because we pay for it. We’re broke.

And this whole thing that this can’t be on the table, I’ll tell you what, this debt bubble is the thing you better really worry about, because it’s imploding on us right now. It’s worldwide.

We are no more removed from this than man the man on the moon. It’s going to get much worse.

And to cut military spending is a wise thing to do. We would be safer if we weren’t in so many places.

We have an empire. We can’t afford it. The empires always bring great nations down. We spread ourselves too thinly around the world. This is what’s happened throughout history, and we’re doing it to ourselves.

The most recent empire to fail was an empire that went into, of all places, Afghanistan…

COOPER: Time.

PAUL: … they went broke. So where are we? In Afghanistan. I say it’s time to come home. [cheering and applause]

COOPER: It’s time.

We have a Twitter question. Given that Israel has just negotiated with Palestine for a soldier, would any of you negotiate for a hostage?

Herman Cain, let me ask this to you. A few hours ago you were asked by Wolf Blitzer, if al Qaeda had an American soldier in captivity, and they demanded the release of everyone at Guantanamo Bay, would you release them? And you said, quote: “I can see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer. Can you explain?

CAIN: The rest of the statement was quite simply, you would have to consider the entire situation. But let me say this first, I would have a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists. We have to lay that principle down first.

Now being that you have to look at each individual situation and consider all the facts. The point that I made about this particular situation is that I’m sure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to consider a lot of things before he made that.

So on the surface, I don’t think we can say he did the right thing or not. A responsible decision-maker would have considered everything.

COOPER: But you’re saying you could — I mean, in your words, you’ve said that I could see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer. Isn’t that negotiating with, in this case, al Qaeda?

CAIN: I don’t recall him saying that it was al Qaeda-related.

COOPER: Yes, he did. He said…

CAIN: Well, I don’t really — my policy will be we cannot negotiate with terrorists. That’s where we have to start as a fundamental principle.

COOPER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Oh, absolutely not. I mean, you can’t negotiate with terrorists, period.

To address Congressman Paul’s answer and the other answer on military spending, I would absolutely not cut one penny out of military spending. The first order of the federal government, the only thing the federal government can do that no other level of government can do is protect us. It is the first duty of the president of the United States is to protect us. [applause]

SANTORUM: And we should have the resources — we should have all the resources in place to make sure that we can defend our borders, that we can make sure that when we engage in foreign countries, we do so to succeed.

That has been the problem in this administration. We’ve had political objectives instead of objectives for success. And that’s why we haven’t succeeded. And as Michele said and correctly said, the central threat right now is Iran.

The disrespect, yes, but it’s more than that. They sent a message. The two countries that they went after was the leader of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, and the leader of the, quote, “secular world,” the United States.

This was a call by Iran to say we are the ones who are going to be the supreme leader of the Islamic world…

COOPER: Time.

SANTORUM: … and we are going to be the supreme leader of the secular world. And that’s why they attacked here. And, by the way, they did it in coordination…

COOPER: Time.

SANTORUM: … with Central and South Americans, which I have been talking about and writing about and talking about for 10 years.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you were referenced in that answer, 30 seconds.

PAUL: Well, I think we’re on economic suicide if we’re not even willing to look at some of these overseas expenditures, 150 bases — 900 bases, 150 different countries. We have enough weapons to blow up the world about 20-25 times. We have more weapons than all the other countries put together essentially.

And we want to spend more and more, and you can’t cut a penny? I mean, this is why we’re at an impasse. I want to hear somebody up here willing to cut something. Something real. [cheering and applause]

PAUL: This budget is in bad shape and the financial calamity is going to be much worse than anybody ever invading this country. Which country — are they going to invade this country? They can’t even shoot a missile at us.

COOPER: We have a question in the hall that gets to your question. The question in the hall on foreign aid? Yes, ma’am.

VICKI O’KEEFE, BOULDER CITY, NEVADA: The American people are suffering in our country right now. Why do we continue to send foreign aid to other countries when we need all the help we can get for ourselves?

COOPER: Governor Perry, what about that? I mean… [applause]

PERRY: Absolutely. I think it’s time for this country to have a very real debate about foreign aid. Clearly there are places. As a matter of fact, I think it’s time for us to have a very serious discussion about defunding the United Nations. [cheering and applause]

PERRY: When you think about — when you think about the Palestinian Authority circumventing those Oslo Accords and going to New York to try to create the conflict and to have themselves approved as a state without going through the proper channels is a travesty.

And I think it’s time not only to have that entire debate about all of our foreign aid, but in particular the U.N. Why are we funding that organization? [cheering and applause]

COOPER: Governor Romney, should foreign aid be eliminated?

ROMNEY: Foreign aid has several elements. One of those elements is defense, is to make sure that we are able to have the defense resources we want in certain places of the world. That probably ought to fall under the Department of Defense budget rather than a foreign aid budget.

Part of it is humanitarian aid around the world. I happen to think it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are — and think of that borrowed money on today.

And finally there’s a portion of our foreign aid that allows us to carry out our activities in the world such as what’s happening in Pakistan where we’re taking — we’re supplying our troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan.

But let me tell you: We’re spending more on foreign aid than we ought to be spending. And Congressman Paul asked, is there a place we can cut the budget? Let me tell you where we cut the budget. Discretionary accounts you bring back to 2008 level. We get rid of Obamacare. Number three, we take Medicaid, turn it back to the states, grow it at only 1 percent to 2 percent per year. Number three, we cut — number four, rather, we cut federal employment by at least 10 percent through attrition. And finally, we say to federal employees: You’re not going to make more money than the people in the private sector who are paying for you. We link their compensation. [applause]

COOPER: Time.

Congressman Paul?

PAUL: On foreign aid, that should be the easiest thing to cut. It’s not authorized in the Constitution that we can take money from you and give it to particular countries around the world. To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries. And it becomes weapons of war. Essentially, no well — no matter how well-motivated it is…

COOPER: Congressman Paul, would you cut aid to Israel?

PAUL: I would cut all foreign aid. I would treat everybody equally and fairly. And I don’t think aid to Israel actually helps them. I think it teaches them to be dependent. We’re on a bankruptcy course.

And — and look at what’s the result of all that foreign aid we gave to Egypt? I mean, their — their dictator that we pumped up, we spent all these billions of dollars, and now there’s a more hostile regime in Egypt. And that’s what’s happening all around Israel. That foreign aid makes Israel dependent on us. It softens them for their own economy. And they should have their sovereignty back. They should be able to deal with their neighbors…

COOPER: Time. Congresswoman Bachmann…

PAUL: … at their own will. [applause]

COOPER: Should we cut foreign aid to Israel?

BACHMANN: No, we should not be cutting foreign aid to Israel. Israel is our greatest ally. The biggest problem is the fact… [applause] … that the president — the biggest problem with this administration in foreign policy is that President Obama is the first president since Israel declared her sovereignty put daylight between the United States and Israel. That heavily contributed to the current hostilities that we see in the Middle East region.

Cutting back on foreign aid is one thing. Being reimbursed by nations that we have liberated is another. We should look to Iraq and Libya to reimburse us for part of what we have done to liberate these nations. [applause]

Now, I need to add something on this issue of negotiating for hostages. This is a very serious issue. For any candidate to say that they would release the prisoners at Guantanamo in exchange for a hostage would be absolutely contrary to the historical nature of the United States and what we do in our policy. That’s naive; we cannot do that. The United States has done well because we have an absolute policy: We don’t negotiate.

COOPER: Herman Cain, I’ve got to give you 30 seconds, because she was referring to — basically saying you were naive or if — if that’s what you were suggesting. CAIN: No, I — I said that I believe in the philosophy of we don’t negotiate with terrorists. I think — I didn’t say — I would never agree to letting hostages in Guantanamo Bay go. No, that wasn’t — that wasn’t the intent at all.

But let me go back to this, if I could, very quickly in the time that I have left, the question that you asked about, foreign aid. My approach is an extension of the Reagan approach: Peace through strength, which is peace through strength and clarity. If we clarify who our friends are, clarify who our enemies are, and stop giving money to our enemies, then we ought to continue to give money to our friends, like Israel.

COOPER: You have 30 seconds, Congressman Paul, and then we’ve got to go.

PAUL: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to make a statement. I want to ask a question. Are you all willing to condemn Ronald Reagan for exchanging weapons for hostages out of Iran? We all know that was done.

SANTORUM: That’s not — Iran was a sovereign country. It was not a terrorist organization, number one.

PAUL: Oh, they were our good friends back then, huh?

SANTORUM: They’re not our good friends. They’re — they’re — they’re a sovereign country, just like the — the Palestinian Authority is not the good friends of Israel.

PAUL: He negotiated for hostages.

SANTORUM: There’s — there’s a role — we negotiated with hostages [inaudible] the Soviet Union. We’ve negotiated with hostages, depending on the scale. But there’s a difference between releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in response to a terrorist demand…

PAUL: But they’re all suspects. They’re not terrorists. You haven’t convicted them of anything.

SANTORUM: Then — then — then negotiating with other countries, where we may have an interest, and that is certainly a proper role for the United States, too.

COOPER: We’ve got to take a quick break. I do want to give Speaker Gingrich 30 seconds, and then…

GINGRICH: Just very straightforward. Callista and I did a film on Ronald Reagan. There’s a very painful moment in the film when he looks in the camera and says, “I didn’t think we did this. I’m against doing it. I went back and looked. The truth is, we did. It was an enormous mistake.”

And he thought the Iranian deals with a terrible mistake.

COOPER: We’re going to take a short break. Our debate though continues on the other side of the break, so stay tuned.

When we return, which candidate has the best chance to beat Barack Obama, and should it matter in your vote?

Stay with us. [applause]

[commercial break]

COOPER: And welcome back. The GOP debate is under way.

Let’s talk about probably the most important issue to everybody on this stage, and probably just about everybody in this room, which is, who can beat President Barack Obama in this next election?

In today’s new CNN/ORC poll, 41 percent of Republican voters think that Governor Romney has the best chance of beating the president. [applause]

COOPER: To Senator Santorum, you got one percent. Why shouldn’t Republican voters go with the candidate they feel that can best beat President Obama?

SANTORUM: Well, the Pew poll last week asked how many people in this country can name any of us? And less than 50 percent could come up with even one. So, the idea that this has any relevance to people who aren’t paying close attention to this debate is, in fact, irrelevant. What’s relevant is to look at the track record.

No one in this field has won a swing state. Pennsylvania is a swing state. We win Pennsylvania, we win the election. The Republicans nominate it.

I’ve won it twice. I defeated a Democratic incumbent, winning it the first time, and I won the state of Pennsylvania, the only senator to win a state who was a conservative that George Bush lost. Bush lost it by 5, I won it by 6.

So, you have someone who is defeated and been matched up against three Democratic incumbents. I’m 3-0.

Nobody in this field has won a major race against a Democratic incumbent except me. No one has won a swing state except me as a conservative.

I didn’t run as a Democrat in Texas when it was popular, won and win there. I didn’t run as a liberal in 1994. I ran in 1994, the same year Mitt did in Massachusetts. He ran as a liberal, to the left of Kennedy, and lost. I ran as a conservative against James Carville and Paul Begala, and I won.

In 2002, he ran as a moderate. He ran as a moderate in — in Massachusetts. I ran for re-election having sponsored and passed welfare reform, having authored the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

COOPER: Time.

SANTORUM: I was a — a moral conservative, I was a foreign policy conservative…

COOPER: Time, Senator.

SANTORUM: … I was a fiscal conservative, and I got elected in a state that hasn’t elected a president since 1988 as a Republican.

COOPER: Thank you.

Governor Romney, I’ve got to give you 30 seconds, since he referenced you.

ROMNEY: I think the people of America are looking for someone who can beat President Obama and can get the country on the right track. And I believe that they’ve recognized that if they elect someone who’s spent their life in politics that they’re not going to be able to post up well against President Obama and convince the American people of the truth of the — of the principles that we believe in.

I believe that, having spent my life in the private sector, having actually created jobs is what allows me to have the kind of support that’s going to allow me to replace President Obama and get the country on the right track again. That, for me, is a distinguishing feature that’s going to get me elected as the president of the United States.

COOPER: Governor… [applause]

Governor Perry, was he referring to you?

PERRY: If you want to know how someone’s going to act in the future, look how they act in the past. I mean, so, Mitt, while you were the governor of Massachusetts in that period of time, you were 47th in the nation in job creation. During that same period of time, we created 20 times more jobs. As a matter of fact, you’d created 40,000 jobs total in your four years. Last two months, we created more jobs than that in Texas.

What we need is someone who will draw a bright contrast between themselves and President Obama. And let me tell you one thing: I will draw that bright contrast.

COOPER: I’ve got to give you 30 seconds. Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Yeah. With regards to track record in the past, Governor, you were the chairman of Al Gore’s campaign, all right? [laughter] And there was a fellow — there was a fellow Texan named George Bush running. So if we’re looking at the past, I think we know where you were.

Secondly, our unemployment rate I got down to 4.7 percent, pretty darn good. I think a lot of people would be happy to have 4.7 percent. And with regards… [applause]

With regards to the — to the record — to the record in Texas, you probably also ought to tell people that if you look over the last several years, 40 percent, almost half the jobs created in Texas were created for illegal aliens, illegal immigrants.

PERRY: That is an absolute falsehood on its face, Mitt.

COOPER: You have 30 seconds, Governor Perry.

ROMNEY: It’s actually — it’s actually…

PERRY: That is — that is absolutely incorrect, sir.

ROMNEY: Well, take a look at the study.

PERRY: There’s a third — there’s been a third party take a look at that study, and it is absolutely incorrect. The fact is, Texas has led the nation in job creation. eBay and Facebook and Caterpillar didn’t come there because there weren’t jobs and there wasn’t an environment to be created.

That’s what Americans are looking for. They’re looking for somebody that they trust, that knows has the executive governing experience. I’ve got it. You failed as the governor of Massachusetts.

COOPER: I’ve got to give Governor Romney 30 seconds. He said you failed. [booing]

ROMNEY: I’m very proud of the fact — actually, during the four years we were both governors, my unemployment rate in Massachusetts was lower than your unemployment rate in Texas. That’s number one.

Number two, getting it down to 4.7, I’m pretty happy with. We worked very hard to balance our budget, did every year, put in place a rainy-day fund of $2 billion by the time I was finished.

And I’ll tell you this, the American people would be happy for an individual who can lead the country who’s actually created jobs, not just watching them get created by others, but someone who knows how the economy works because he’s been in it. I have. I’ve created jobs. I’ll use that skill to get America working again. That’s what we want. [applause]

COOPER: Herman Cain, you’re — Herman Cain, you’re tied with Governor Romney in some of the polls for the top leadership position right now. Is a — are they the ones — are either Governor Perry or Governor Romney, are they the ones who should be president?

CAIN: No, I should be president.

COOPER: Well, obviously. [applause]

CAIN: Governor Romney has a very distinguished career, and I would agree with much of what he has said. And there’s one difference between the two of us in terms of our experience. With all due respect, his business executive experience has been more Wall Street- oriented; mine has been more Main Street.

I have managed small companies. I’ve actually had to clean the parking lot. I’ve worked with groups of businesses, et cetera.

And as far as contrasting me with President Obama, if I am fortunate enough to become the Republican nominee, it’s going to be the problem-solver who fixes stuff versus the president who hasn’t fixed anything in this country. [applause]

COOPER: Governor Romney, you’ve got 30 seconds.

ROMNEY: I — I appreciate that. And probably the fact that we’re doing as well as we are is we both have a private-sector background. That probably helps.

But I just want to set the record state on my record — record straight on my record. I’ve been chief executive officer four times, once for a start-up and three times for turnarounds. One was a financial services company. That was the start-up. A — a consulting company, that’s a mainstream business. The Olympics, that’s certainly mainstream. And, of course, the state of Massachusetts. In all those settings, I’ve learned how to create jobs.

COOPER: Your campaigns are telling us we have to end. It’s time…

[crosstalk]

BACHMANN: Oh, no, no, no…

GINGRICH: Wait a second.

COOPER: Sorry.

BACHMANN: Anderson, Anderson, that is…

COOPER: It’s your campaigns. I’m…

BACHMANN: Anderson…

[crosstalk]

COOPER: If you want to defy your campaigns, go ahead. Congresswoman Bachmann, 30 seconds.

BACHMANN: Anderson — Anderson, the good news is, the cake is baked. Barack Obama will be a one-term president; there’s no question about that. [applause]

Now the question is, we need to listen to Ronald Reagan who said no pastels, bold colors. I am the most different candidate from Barack Obama than anyone on this stage.

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich?

BACHMANN: We can’t settle in this race.

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Let me — let me just point out for a second that maximizing bickering is probably not the road to the White House. [applause]

And the — the technique you’ve used maximizes going back and forth over and over again.

I just want to say two things. I think that I would be the strongest candidate because of sheer substance, if you go to newt.org and look at the 21st Century Contract with America. As the nominee, I will challenge Obama to meet the Lincoln-Douglas standard of seven three-hour debate, no time — no moderator, only a timekeeper. I believe we can defeat him decisively to a point where we re-establish a conservative America on our values. And I think that is a key part of thinking about next year.

COOPER: We’d love to host those on CNN.

I want to thank all the candidates, the GOP candidates tonight. [applause]

[crosstalk]

COOPER: I want to thank all the candidates for a spirited debate on the stage. We also want to thank our co-sponsors, the Western Republican Leadership Conference, our host, the Sands Convention Center at the Venetian. Our coverage of “America’s Choice 2012” continues right now here on CNN.

October 11, 2011: Bloomberg / WBIN-TV / Washington Post Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Hanover, New Hampshire October 11, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)

MODERATORS:
Charlie Rose (PBS);
Karen Tumulty (Washington Post);
Juliana Goldman (Bloomberg TV)

ROSE: I’m Charlie Rose. Welcome to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, this great college established in 1769 in a state that often plays a crucial role in picking presidents. Tonight, it is the site of an important Republican presidential debate brought to you by Bloomberg, the Washington Post, and WBIN Television.

This is a time of anxiety about our country and our children’s future in a continuing economic crisis. Many are in despair, not only about policy, but politics. And so we ask who has the character, who has the ideas, and who has the experience to lead.

This debate is different and distinctive. It is only about the economy. So we debate this evening about spending and taxes, deficit and debt, about the present and the future, about rich and poor, and about the role of government. And because we’re at a table — this is the kind of table I like — the kind of kitchen table where families for generations have come together to talk and solve their problems.

The rules are one minute for an answer, 30 seconds for follow-up and rebuttal. If a candidate is singled out by name for criticism, they have 30 seconds to respond. Later in the debate, they will question each other.

I’m the moderator. Joining me are Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post and Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg News.

Joining us at the table, the eight Republican candidates. They are: former Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman; Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann; Texas Governor Rick Perry; former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain; former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum; former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich; Texas Congressman Ron Paul; former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

I am pleased to be here at this table to have an opportunity to talk to them about the issues that all of us are thinking about.

And I begin this evening first with Herman Cain. As you know, when Standard & Poor’s downgraded American credit, they noted not only the economic difficulties, but the political dysfunction. So we begin this evening with the question: What would you do specifically to end the paralysis in Washington?

CAIN: Two things. Present a bold plan to grow this economy, which I have put my 9-9-9 plan on the table, and it starts with throwing out the current tax code and putting in the 9-9-9 plan.

Secondly, get serious about bringing down the national debt. The only way we’re going to do that is, the first year that I’m president and I oversee a fiscal year budget, make sure that revenues equals spending. If we stop adding to the national debt, we can bring it down.

So the answer is, we must grow this economy with a bold solution, which is why I have proposed 9-9-9, and at the same time get serious about not creating annual deficits so we can bring down the national debt. That would re-establish confidence in our system, and I believe we could get our credit rating back.

ROSE: Governor Perry, are you prepared — even though you’ve said that you want to make Washington inconsequential — to go to Washington and, as Ronald Reagan did, compromise on spending cuts and taxes in order to produce results?

PERRY: Well, certainly as the governor of the second largest state, I’ve had to deal with folks on both sides of the aisle. I’ve signed six balanced budgets as the governor of — of Texas. So working with folks on both sides of the aisle and — and bringing ideas, whether it’s ways to redo your tax structure or what have you.

One of the things that I laid out today I think is a pretty bold plan, to put 1.2 million Americans working in the energy industry. And you don’t need Congress to do that. You need a president with a plan, which I’m laying out over the next three days, and, clearly, the intent to open up this treasure trove that America’s sitting on and getting America independent on the domestic energy side. It’s time for another American Declaration of Independence. It’s time for energy independence.

ROSE: We’ll come back to energy, also your economic plan this evening, but I go now to Governor Romney. The paralysis there, and everybody’s concerned about it. What specifically would you be prepared to do to make the country moving again on addressing its problems?

ROMNEY: I’d be prepared to be a leader. You can’t get the country to go in the right direction and get Washington to work if you don’t have a president that’s a leader. And three years ago, we selected a person who had never had any leadership experience, never worked in the private sector, never had the opportunity to actually bring people together, and he hasn’t been able to do so.

He said he’d bring us hope and change. Instead, he’s divided the nation and tried to blame other people.

The real course for America is to have someone who is a leader, who can identify people in both parties who care more about the country than they care about getting reelected.

There are Democrats like that. There are Republicans like that. I was the governor of a state that had a few Democrats. People in this room know how many we had in Massachusetts.

ROSE: So it’s essential to deal with Democrats and be prepared to compromise on the big issues of our time?

ROMNEY: You have to stand by your principles. At the same time, you know that good Democrats and good Republicans who love the country first will be able to find common ground from time to time and recognize we can’t keep on spending like we’re spending, we can’t demand more from tax revenue from people, because that kills jobs and hurts working families.

We have got to help the middle class in this country. The only way that will come together is if you have people on both sides of the aisle who listen to a leader who has the experience of leading. And that’s what America is looking for and desperately longing for.

ROSE: And back to Governor Perry, this plan that you would like to lay out, because Governor Romney has said you have had two months to produce a plan, an economic plan, he’s had a 59 point plan, what is the plan? What will you say specifically?

PERRY: Well, clearly, opening up a lot of the areas of our domestic energy area. That’s the real key. You have got an administration that, by and large, has either by intimidation or over-regulation, put our energy industry and the rest of the economy in jeopardy. And we have got to have a president who is willing to stand up and to clearly pull back those regulations that are strangling the American entrepreneurship that’s out there.

And it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s Obamacare, whether it’s Dodd-Frank, or whether it’s the tax burden. A president, particularly with the plan that I’m going to be laying out over the next three days — and I’m not going to lay it out all for you tonight — Mitt has had six years to be working on a plan. I have been in this for about eight weeks. But, clearly, we’re going to be focused on initially the energy industry in this country and making a America again independent, and clearly the place where domestic energy needs to be produced from.

ROSE: Let me introduce my friend Karen — Karen.

TUMULTY: Congresswoman Bachmann, three years after the financial meltdown, Main Street continues to suffer. People have lost their jobs, they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their faith in the future. But Wall Street is thriving. The banks not only got bailed out by the government, they have made huge profits, they’ve paid themselves huge bonuses.

Do you think it’s right that no Wall Street executives have gone to jail for the damage they did to the economy?

BACHMANN: I think if you look at the problem with the economic meltdown, you can trace it right back to the federal government, because it was the federal government that demanded that banks and mortgage companies lower platinum level lending standards to new lows.

TUMULTY: But the federal government has also deregulated them.

BACHMANN: It was the federal government that pushed the subprime loans. It was the federal government that pushed the Community Reinvestment Act. It was Congressman Barney Frank and also Senator Chris Dodd that continued to push government-directed housing goals.

They pushed the banks to meet these rules. And if banks failed to meet those rules, then the federal government said we won’t let you merge, we won’t let you grow.

There’s a real problem, and it began with the federal government, and it began with Freddie and Fannie. If you look at these secondary mortgage companies which the federal government is essentially backing 100 percent, they put American mortgages in a very difficult place.

We had artificially low interest rates, Freddie and Fannie were the center of the universe on the mortgage meltdown, and we had lending standards lowered for the first time in American history. The fault goes back to the federal government, and that’s what’s wrong with Dodd- Frank.

Dodd-Frank institutionalized all of these problems that were put into effect by the federal government. That’s why I introduced the bill to repeal Dodd-Frank. It’s the Jobs and Housing Destruction Act.

TUMULTY: So, Speaker Gingrich, it sounds like Congresswoman Bachmann does not believe that Wall Street is to blame for the financial mess. You’ve said that the current protests on Wall Street are, in your words, “the natural product of Obama’s class warfare.”

Does this mean that these people who are out there protesting on Wall Street, across the country, have no grievance?

GINGRICH: No, let me draw a distinction. I think there — virtually every American has a reason to be angry. I think virtually every American has a reason to be worried.

I think the people who are protesting on Wall Street break into two groups. One is left-wing agitators who would be happy to show up next week on any other topic, and the other is sincere middle-class people who, frankly, are very close to the Tea Party people and actually care.

And you can tell which group is which. The people who are decent, responsible citizens pick up after themselves. The people who are just out there as activists trash the place and walk off and are proud of having trashed it. So let’s draw that distinction.

If they want to really change things, the first person to fire is Bernanke, who is a disastrous chairman of the Federal Reserve. The second person to fire is Geithner.

The fact is, in both the Bush and the Obama administrations, the fix has been in. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people to be angry. But let’s be clear who put the fix in: The fix was put in by the federal government.

And if you want to put people in jail — I want to second what Michele said — you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and let’s look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment, and the politicians who put this country in trouble.

ROSE: Clearly you’re not saying they should go to jail?

GINGRICH: Well, in Chris Dodd’s case, go back and look at the countryside [sic] deals. In Barney Frank’s case, go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at — at Freddie Mac. All I’m saying is…

UNKNOWN: So if he were…

GINGRICH: Everybody — everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who have been at the heart of the sickness which is weakening this country and ought to start with Bernanke, who has still not been exposed for the hundreds of billions of dollars.

[applause]

And I’m going to say one last thing. I want to repeat this. Bernanke has in secret spent hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out one group and not bailing out another group. I don’t see anybody in the news media demanding the kind of transparency at the Fed that you would demand of every other aspect of the federal government. And I think it is corrupt and it is wrong for one man to have that kind of secret power.

TUMULTY: So, Congressman Paul, where you come down on this?

[laughter]

PAUL: One thing I might — might say is, we have made some inroads on the Federal Reserve. We passed a bill last year. We got a partial, you know, audit of the Fed. We’ve learned a whole lot. They were dealing in $15 trillion; $5 trillion went overseas to bail out foreign banks.

But you know what? Congress did a lot. I’ve worked on it for a good many years. But Bloomberg helped and Fox helped. They had court cases, Freedom of Information Act. And there are some even at this table who didn’t think auditing the Fed was such a good idea, that we could call up the Fed and ask them and they would tell us what they’re doing. I’ve been calling them up for 30 years and they never tell me.

[laughter]

But we’re getting to the bottom of it. But if you want to understand why we have a problem, you have to understand the Fed, because the cause comes from the business cycle. We shouldn’t be asking what to do exactly with the recession — obviously, we have to deal with that — but you can’t solve — you can’t cure the disease if you don’t know the cause of it.

And the cause is the booms. When there are booms and they’re artificial, whether it’s the CRA or whether it’s the Fed, easy credit, when you have bubbles, whether it’s the Nasdaq or whether it’s the housing bubbles, they burst. And when they do, you have to have corrections. And that’s what we’re dealing with. And we can do this by building coalitions and not sacrificing any principles.

ROSE: Julianna?

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Charlie.

Senator Santorum, I want to turn to jobs, because you’ve said that when you were growing up in a steel town in Pennsylvania, 21 percent of the country was involved in manufacturing. Now it’s down to 9 percent. Can those jobs ever return? And what would you do to create jobs now?

SANTORUM: Yeah, the jobs can come back if you create a climate for them to be profitable. I — I — we have a lot of businesspeople, manufacturers in Pennsylvania. I don’t know a single one who wanted to shift their jobs offshore, who didn’t want them in their own community to be able to employ people and see the fruits of their labor being benefiting the community that they live in.

What happened was, we became uncompetitive. So we need to be competitive. And that’s why I’ve proposed taking the corporate tax for manufacturers and processors, taking it from 35 percent and eliminating it. Zero percent tax. Allow this to be the — the manufacturing capital of the world again.

Take that money, $1.2 trillion that’s overseas from manufacturers who did send their jobs overseas, bring it back, zero percent tax rate if you invest it in plant and equipment in this country.

Repeal every regulation the Obama administration has put in place that’s over $100 million. Repeal them all. May have to replace a few. Let’s repeal them all, because they’re all antagonistic to businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and do as Governor Perry suggested. We need a bold energy plan — I put one out there — to drill — Pennsylvania, I don’t want to brag, Governor, but Pennsylvania is the gas capital of the world right now, not Texas, because we are…

ROSE: All right.

SANTORUM: … we’re doing a great job. And energy prices and gas went down by 75 percent.

GOLDMAN: Let me just follow up, because we’re in a crisis. So what would you do right now to create jobs?

SANTORUM: The cool thing about my plan, as opposed to Herman’s plans and some of the other plans out here, it will pass tomorrow. It would pass tomorrow.

Why? Because industrial state Democrats want those jobs. And they know if we put a pro-manufacturing jobs plan on the table, it will pass over night. We’ll get votes from Indiana and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan, all of those states.

So, it’s not just proposing a plan that will get things started, that “The Wall Street Journal” will smile at — excuse me, “The Washington Post” — but it’s a plan that will actually pass and get things done and bring people together. That’s why I put it on the table.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

I want to follow up now to Governor Huntsman. From the Erie Canal to the Internet, innovation is what has always fueled economic recoveries. So shouldn’t the focus now not be on trying to create the innovative jobs of tomorrow? And what do you think those are?

HUNTSMAN: We need to regain our industrial base. I would, first and foremost, disagree with Rick on one measure. That is, Pennsylvania is not the gas capital of the country. Washington, D.C., is the gas capital of the country.

[laughter]

HUNTSMAN: There are two things that critically need to be done for us to stay ahead in this highly-competitive world. And when we lose one or both of them, we lose out to the Chinese and the Indians.

One is maintaining a strong commitment to innovation entrepreneurship and freedom in the marketplace. We have the sense of innovation that no country has been able to replicate. Some have tried, and some will continue to try, but nobody does it like we do here, and that gives rise to high technology, to regular manufacturing jobs across the board. It makes this economy hum when it’s working well.

The second part of it is, you need a marketplace like Rick described a moment ago in which you can translate those innovations into products. We are losing our ability to maintain a competitive marketplace today.

ROSE: All right.

HUNTSMAN: That’s taxes, that’s regulation. We have lost it to others. So, right now, we are not able to translate innovation to the — we’ve got to regain the magic of a strong marketplace so that we have the complete package.

ROSE: Karen.

TUMULTY: Congressman Gingrich — Speaker Gingrich, Medicare is going broke. Consider the fact that half of all Medicare spending is done in the last two years of life, and research that has been done right here at Dartmouth by “The Dartmouth Atlas” would suggest that much of this money is going to treatments and interventions that do nothing to prolong life or to improve it. In fact, some of it does the opposite.

Do you consider this wasteful spending? And, if so, should the government do anything about it?

GINGRICH: I am really glad you asked that, because I was just swapping e-mails today with Andy von Eschenbach, who was the head of the National Cancer Institute, the head of the Food & Drug Administration. But before that, he was the provost M.D. Anderson, the largest cancer treatment center in the world.

And he wrote me to point out that the most recent U.S. government intervention on whether or not to have prostate testing is basically going to kill people. So, if you ask me, do I want some Washington bureaucrat to create a class action decision which affects every American’s last two years of life, not ever.

I think it is a disaster. I think, candidly, Governor Palin got attacked unfairly for describing what would, in effect, be death panels.

And what Von Eschenbach will tell you if you call him is, the decision to suggest that we not test men with PSA will mean that a number of people who do not have — who are susceptible to a very rapid prostate cancer will die unnecessarily. And there was not a single urologist, not a single specialist on the board that looked at it. So, I am opposed to class intervention for these things.

TUMULTY: Well, Congresswoman Bachmann, of course no one wants the government to come between a doctor and a patient. But do you think that Americans are getting the most for their money in Medicare spending? And how can we make sure that the money that is being spent is being spent on the treatments and the preventive treatments that do the most?

BACHMANN: We have a big problem today when it comes to Medicare, because we know that nine years from now, the Medicare hospital Part B trust fund is going to be dead-flat broke, so we’ve got to deal with this issue. I was in the White House with President Obama this summer. We asked him not once, but three times, “President Obama, what is your plan to save Medicare?”

And the president mumbled and he didn’t give an answer the first time, the second time. And the third time the president said something very interesting, Karen. He said Obamacare.

I think that senior citizens across the country have no idea that President Obama plans for Medicare to collapse, and instead everyone will be pushed into Obamacare.

And just like Newt Gingrich said, the way that Obamacare runs, there’s a board called IPAB. It’s made up of 15 political appointees. These 15 political appointees will make all the major health care decisions for over 300 million Americans. I don’t want 15 political appointees to make a health care decision for a beautiful, fragile 85- year-old woman who should be making her own decision.

ROSE: We’ll come back to Medicare, as well, and medical issues and then the cost of Medicare in the United States.

I want to talk about advisers and appointees. Tell me, Governor Huntsman, whose advice do you seek on economic issues? And who — what’s the profile of the kind of person you’d like to have advising you in your White House?

HUNTSMAN: I’d like the profile of my own father, who’s a great entrepreneur. And he started with nothing, and he built a great business. And my brother now runs that business.

People who have been out in the world, who have actually had their hands on products and manufacturing and know something how to build something from the ground up, that’s what this country has always done. It’s what we need to continue to do.

But in order to have the right policies in place — and some I’ve put forward as governor of the great state of Utah — tax reform. I created a flat tax in the state of Utah. It took that state to the number-one position in terms of job creation. Regulatory reform and energy independence, I want the kind of people who understand what makes an economy work. But let’s be real about what it takes to get into federal government service these days. Who on Earth from the private sector is ever going to want to give up their privacy and enter government service with the background checks, the financial disclosures, and everything else that serve as tremendous disincentives for good people to get into government?

So what we have today, Charlie, we’ve got a professional governing class of people on one end and then you’ve got private- sector people on the other.

ROSE: And so what would you do about that to change that, to attract those kind of people so that they would be willing to serve a cross-section of people from every gender…

HUNTSMAN: Let’s get back to what we did a generation or two ago, when we were more open in terms of accommodating people from all backgrounds who wanted to take a little bit of their life and serve in government, and then leave, and go back to what it is they did best, whether on the farm, or whether insurance, or whether business, or whether academia.

ROSE: When you mention a flat tax, does that mean that you look with some favor upon 9-9-9 that Herman Cain mentioned at the beginning of this conversation?

HUNTSMAN: I think it’s a catchy phrase. In fact, I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard about it.

[laughter]

ROSE: Price of a pizza?

HUNTSMAN: Well, here’s — here’s — here’s what — here’s what we need. We need something that’s doable, doable, doable. And what I have put forward is a tax program that is doable. It actually wipes clean all of the loopholes and the deductions.

This is right out of what the Simpson-Bowles Commission recommended, a bipartisan group of people that took a thoughtful approach to tax reform.

ROSE: Corporate and individual?

HUNTSMAN: Individual, and on the corporate side, phase out all of the corporate welfare, all of the subsidies, because we can’t afford it any longer, in a revenue-neutral fashion, buy down the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, leveling the playing field for businesses big and small, allowing us to be a whole lot more competitive in the second decade of the 21st century.

ROSE: Julianna?

GOLDMAN: OK. We will be coming back to 9-9-9, but first…

CAIN: Wait, wait.

GOLDMAN: Well…

CAIN: He mentioned me.

ROSE: Give him 30 seconds.

CAIN: He mentioned me, and you didn’t give me an opportunity to respond.

ROSE: You have that opportunity now.

CAIN: I thank you very much. 9-9-9 will pass, and it is not the price of a pizza, because it has been well-studied and well-developed. It starts with, unlike your proposals, throwing out the current tax code. Continuing to pivot off the current tax code is not going to boost this economy. This is why we developed 9-9-9, 9 percent corporate business flat tax, 9 percent personal income flat tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax. And it will pass, Senator, because the American people want it to pass.

ROSE: This is beginning to sound more like my table.

Julianna? I mean, Karen?

TUMULTY: So, Mr. Cain, who do you turn to for political advice and for economic advice?

CAIN: My advisers come from the American people. Now, I will have some experts. One of my experts that helped me to develop this is a gentleman by the name of Rich Lowery out of Cleveland, Ohio. He is an economist, and he has worked in the business of wealth creation most of his career.

I also have a number of other well-recognized economists that helped me to develop this 9-9-9 plan. It didn’t come off a pizza box, no. It was well-studied and well-developed, because it will replace the corporate income tax, the personal income tax, the capital gains tax, the death tax, and most importantly, the payroll tax.

TUMULTY: So — so who are some of these economists?

CAIN: Rich Lowery out of Cleveland, Texas, is one of the economists that I have used. He’s been my lead economist on helping to develop this.

ROSE: Julianna?

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

Governor Romney, it’s 2013, and the European debt crisis has worsened. Countries are defaulting. Europe’s largest banks are on the verge of bankruptcy. Contagion has spread to the U.S. And the global financial system is on the brink.

What would you do differently than what President Bush, Henry Paulson, and Ben Bernanke did in 2008?

ROMNEY: Well, you’re talking about a scenario that’s obviously very difficult to imagine. And —

GOLDMAN: But it’s not a hypothetical, because more than half —

ROMNEY: It is. I’m afraid it is a hypothetical.

GOLDMAN: Governor, it’s not —

ROMNEY: Do you want to explain why it’s not a hypothetical?

GOLDMAN: Yes.

ROMNEY: OK.

GOLDMAN: Because more than half the country believes that a financial meltdown is likely in the next several years, and the U.S. banks have at least $700 billion in exposure to Europe. So it’s a very real threat, and voters want to know what you would do differently.

ROMNEY: It’s still a hypothetical as to what’s going to precisely happen in the future. I’m not very good at being omniscient, but I can tell you this, that I am not going to have to call up Timothy Geithner and say, how does the economy work? Because I spent my life in the economy.

I spent my entire career working in the private sector, starting businesses, helping turn around businesses, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. And I know how to make tough decisions and to gather the input from around the country to help make the important decisions that have to be made.

Clearly, if you think the entire financial system is going to collapse, you take action to keep that from happening. In the case of Europe right now, they are looking at what’s happening with Greece. Are they going to default on their debt, are they not? That’s a decision which I would I would like to have input on if I were president of the United States and try and prevent the kind of contagion that would affect the U.S. banking system and put as at risk.

But I can tell you this — I’m not interested in bailing out individual institutions that have wealthy people that want to make sure that their shares are worth something. I am interested in making sure that we preserve our financial system, our currency, the banks across the entire country. And I will always put the interest of the American people ahead of the interest of any institution.

GOLDMAN: So would you or would you not be open to another Wall Street bailout?

ROMNEY: No one likes the idea of a Wall Street bailout. I certainly don’t.

GOLDMAN: But you said in 2008 that it prevented the collapse of the financial —

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: There is no question but that the action of President Bush and that Secretary Paulson took was designed to keep not just a collapse of individual banking institutions, but to keep the entire currency of the country worth something and to keep all the banks from closing, and to make sure we didn’t all lose our jobs. My experience tells me that we were on the precipice, and we could have had a complete meltdown of our entire financial system, wiping out all the savings of the American people. So action had to be taken.

Was it perfect? No. Was it well implemented? No, not particularly.

Were there some institutions that should not have been bailed out? Absolutely.

Should they have used the funds to bail out General Motors and Chrysler? No, that was the wrong source for that funding. But this approach of saying, look, we’re going to have to preserve our currency and maintain America — and our financial system is essential.

ROSE: So do you agree with Speaker Gingrich about Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Fed?

ROMNEY: I wouldn’t keep Ben Bernanke in office. I would choose someone of my own —

ROSE: And who might that be?

ROMNEY: Well, I haven’t chosen that person. I haven’t even chosen a vice president. I’m not sure I’m the nominee yet.

[laughter]

ROSE: Well, we would like to have — nor has anyone else, but we would like to have an idea of the kind of people that you would have confidence in, in playing this very important role, although Congressman Paul may differ about how important it is.

ROMNEY: Well, I wish we could find Milton Friedman again, although what Milton said to us was — he said, you know, “If you took all the economists in America, and you laid them end to end, it would be a good thing.” And I have more respect for economists than that.

The people who help guide my economic policy are Greg Mankiw at Harvard —

ROSE: Right.

ROMNEY: — and Glenn Hutchins at Columbia. They were both former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers. And I didn’t always agree with them.

I also talk to a number of business leaders. I talked to people who are currently in the economy, in the financial sector, and in the manufacturing sector. And on the basis of these various viewpoints, I make my decisions. And I believe that drawing on the best minds of this country, including economists, is something that’s essential to make sure that we preserve our financial system.

Right now, America is in crisis. We don’t need to think about a hypothetical of what happens if Europe explodes and pulls us under, although if that does happen, you want to have someone who is smart, who has experience, who knows how the financial services sector works, who knows how to protect American jobs, and I do. I have done it.

ROSE: And as far as you’re concerned, there is no institution, no financial institution, that is too big to fail?

ROMNEY: Well, no. You don’t want to bail out anybody.

The idea of trying to bail out an institution to protect the shareholders or to protect a certain interest group, that’s a terrible idea. And that shouldn’t happen.

You do want to make sure that we don’t lose the country and we don’t lose our financial system and we don’t lose American jobs, and that all the banks don’t go under. So, you have to take action very carefully to make sure that you preserve our currency and preserve our financial system. But bailouts of individual institutions? No one has interest in that, I don’t think.

GOLDMAN: Mr. Cain, back in 2008, you wrote that the Wall Street bailout was a win-win for the taxpayer. You just heard Governor Romney. Do you agree?

CAIN: Conceptually I made that statement based upon the concept, but I happen to agree with Governor Romney. The way it was administered is where it got off-track. They were discretionary in which institutions they were going to save, rather than apply it equitably, which is what most of us thought was going to be done. The implementation of it is where they got off-track. I didn’t agree with it. I don’t think Governor Romney agreed with it. So did a lot of us. The implementation was at fault.

ROSE: Housing is considered one of the real problems, in terms of our economy, and getting housing starts up.

GINGRICH: Can I say one thing, before we go to housing?

ROSE: Yes.

GINGRICH: Because I think this is really important. There’s a real possibility that you can’t have the euro and the Greek economy in the same system. There’s a possibility we could have a meltdown in the next year.

The thing that is most obvious looking back is that Paulson and — and Bernanke and Geithner didn’t have a clue, not because they’re not smart, but because they were operating in a world that had suddenly changed so radically they didn’t know.

ROSE: All right.

GINGRICH: One of the reasons I’ve said that the Congress should insist that every decision document from 2008, 2009 and 2010 at the Fed be released is we are not any better prepared today for a crisis of that scale because the people who were in that crisis and were wrong are still in charge. And I think we need to learn, what did they do right and what did they do learn — wrong, precisely for the reason you raised about 2013?

ROSE: Let me go to housing, what you’d do. Would you get the federal government out of housing? Yes?

PAUL: Absolutely. I mean, there’s no need to. Look at…

ROSE: No Freddie — no Freddie Mac, no Fannie Mae, nothing?

PAUL: The — no. You — that’s where the distortions come. That’s where the moral hazard comes from. That’s where the malinvestment, overbuild.

It was predictable. You talked about what economists we should look to. And, unfortunately, we’ve been living with Keynesian economics for many, many decades. And everybody who was right about predicting the bubbles were Austrian economists. They said they were coming. And yet they’re also saying — and I agree with them — that everything that we’re doing right now is wrong.

So what we did with the housing bubble, yes, we had too many houses. It was glaring in our face. The bubble was doomed to burst, and it came because of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, easy credit, and also Community Reinvestment Act.

So who — who got into trouble? The people who did the speculating, the Wall Street, the derivatives market? They got the bailout. They got [inaudible] so what happened to the middle class? They lost their jobs. They lost their houses.

This whole system is all messed up. And you’re — what I hear here is just tinkering with the current system and not looking at something new and different, and it’s a free-market economy without a Federal Reserve system, with sound money. If you don’t have that, you’re going to continue with the bubble.

And this propping up this debt and keeping the correction, you need the correction. You need to get rid of the malinvestment and the debt.

ROSE: All right. Time.

PAUL: The debt is the burden on the economy.

ROSE: All right. We’ll be back — take a break and be right back. Stay with us from Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire.

[commercial break]

ROSE: In order to take the pulse of America, we have partnered with LinkedIn. And they have some hundred 120 billion network professionals. And we’ve asked them to take part of this by giving us some polling that they have done.

But before I bring some of those results in, I want to take a look at a series of clips we’ll show you in this segment, beginning with this one of a former president.

[begin video clip]

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The single most important question facing us tonight is, do we reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share? Or do we accept a bigger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment simply because we disagree on certain features of a legislative package which offers hope for millions of Americans at home, on the farm, and in the workplace?

[end video clip]

ROSE: Let me go to the governor of Texas. Do you agree with the former president?

PERRY: Well, I think we are certainly talking about different times, because what I heard him say there, that he was willing to trade tax increases for reductions. And I don’t think he ever saw those reductions, he just saw the tax increase. As a matter of fact, in his diary, he made that statement that he is still looking around for those reductions.

So, I mean, from the standpoint — that is one of the problems that we have got in Washington, D.C. One of the reasons that I think Americans are so untrustworthy of what is going on in Washington is because they never see a cut in spending. They always hear the siren song of, you know, if you will allow us to raise taxes, then we’ll make these reductions over here.

When the fact of the matter is, the issue is we need to have a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. And the next president of the United States needs to spend his time passing a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.

ROSE: But I want to stay with this idea of spending cuts and revenue increases. And go back to you, Governor Romney. This is where it is, it seems, in Washington right now. Not only the paralysis, but also you have got the super committees. And if, in fact, they can’t find an agreement, you are going to have a trigger with automatic cuts, including defense.

So doesn’t that demand some kind of compromise, as Reagan suggested?

ROMNEY: Well, I don’t know which particular compromises he was referring to, we could take a look at that. But I can tell you this, if you go back a few years before that clip and go to JFK’s time, the government at all levels, federal, state, and local, was consuming about 27 percent of the U.S. economy. Today it consumes about 37 percent of the U.S. economy. It is on track to get to 40 percent.

We cease, at some point, to be a free economy. And the idea of saying, we just want a little more, just give us some more tax revenue, we need that. That is not the answer for America. The answer is to cut federal spending. The answer is to cap how much the federal government can as a percentage of our economy and have a balanced budget amendment.

And the second part of the answer is to get our economy to grow, because the idea of just cutting and cutting and taxing more — I understand mathematically those things work, but nothing works as well as getting the economy going. Get Americans back to work. Get them paying taxes. Get — get corporations growing in America, investing in America. Bring dollars back, as Rick said, repatriation dollars. Bring $1.3 trillion back from overseas. Invest in the United States. Get this economy going, and I’ll tell you, these kinds of problems will disappear.

TUMULTY: But could we get back to the actual choice that is likely to confront Congress at the end of the year, which is some mix of revenues and cuts or these draconian automatic spending cuts that would include defense, which of those two, if that is the choice, would you prefer?

ROMNEY: Well, my choice is not to cut defense. I think it’s a terrible idea to cut defense. I think it’s a terrible idea to raise taxes. Particularly at a time when the economy’s struggling, the idea of raising taxes, taking more money away from the American people so government can spend it, and can spend it — right now, the president has a jobs bill.

TUMULTY: So this is…

ROMNEY: How’d his last jobs bill work out for us?

TUMULTY: But this is automatic cuts?

ROMNEY: Not so well.

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: No, I do not want the automatic cuts. I want to see that super-committee take responsibility for getting the economy going again by reining in the scale of the federal government and saying we’re going to pull back on some of the programs we have and reform our entitlements so they’re sustainable.

The American people want to see growth and jobs, and they believe that the right way to do it is by cutting back on the scale of government, and they’re right.

ROSE: Without any increase in revenue?

[applause]

[crosstalk]

GINGRICH: I just want to say — I want to say one thing about the entire way Washington works, which was just posed in that question. First of all, the Congress couldn’t figure out how to get the debt ceiling done with a president who showed zero leadership, so they adopt a truly stupid bill, OK?

[laughter]

And the bill basically says, we’re either going to shoot ourselves in the head or cut off our right leg, and we’ll come in around Thanksgiving and we’ll show you how we’re going to cut off the right leg, and the alternative will be shooting ourselves in the head.

Let me just say it bluntly. All of the spending cuts that are built into the debt ceiling bill, all of them are acts of Congress. They can all be repealed at any moment. It is nonsense to say we’re going to disarm the United States unilaterally because we’re too stupid to balance the budget any other way.

[applause]

ROSE: All right.

Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: Charlie, last summer I was a leading voice in the wilderness of Washington and a lone voice, as a matter of fact, saying: Do not increase the debt ceiling. By that, what I was saying is, let’s not give Barack Obama another $2.4 trillion blank check to spend.

Think of what this means. Our government right now — this is significant — we are spending 40 percent more than what we take in. We all paid a lot of taxes this year. We paid $2.2 trillion in taxes. That’s a lot of money from all the American people. The American government spent 100 percent of that $2.2 trillion, but the travesty is they spent $1.5 trillion more than that. That’s the problem.

Every year, we are spending about 40 percent more than what we take in. Our answer has to be that we cut back on the spending so we get to balance. We can’t do this because all…

ROSE: Will cutting back on the spending…

BACHMANN: … all around us are young people that are going to be paying for this burden. And their tax rates won’t be our tax rates. Their tax rates could come at some point.

Their overall effective burden — I’m a federal tax lawyer. That’s what I do for a living. And my — my background is in economics. Their tax rate someday in their peak earning years, Charlie, could be as much as 75 percent. Who’s going to get out of bed in the morning to go to work if they’re paying 75 percent tax rates? We’ve got to get our spending house in order and cut back on spending.

ROSE: Cutting back on spending, in your judgment, will do it?

BACHMANN: That’s one piece of the answer. That’s not the whole answer. But we have to cut back on spending.

ROSE: Take — I want you to take a look. We’ll come to all of you. Let me take a look at another clip. This one you will recognize, as well. Here it is.

[begin video clip]

CAIN: It’s called the 9-9-9 plan.

[applause]

It imposes a 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent personal flat tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax.

[end video clip]

ROSE: Julianna?

GOLDMAN: I said we would get back to 9-9-9.

Mr. Cain, you say that your plan is revenue-neutral. And last year, the U.S. collected $2.2 trillion dollars in tax revenue, but Bloomberg Government has run the numbers, and your plan would have raised no more than $2 trillion. And even with that shortfall, you’d still be slapping a 9 percent sales tax on food and medicine.

CAIN: The problem with that analysis is that it is incorrect.

[laughter]

[applause]

CAIN: The reason it is incorrect is because they start with the assumptions that we don’t make. Remember, 999 plan throws out the current tax code. And it starts with three simple economic driving principles: production drives the economy, risk-taking drives growth, and we need sound money, measurements must be dependable.

Now what 999 does, it expands the base. When you expand the base, we can arrive at the lowest possible rate which is 999. The difference between the 999 plan and the other plans that are being proposed is that they pivot off of the existing tax code.

We have had an outside firm, independent firm dynamically score it. And so our numbers will make it revenue neutral.

ROSE: All right — go ahead, I’m sorry, go ahead.

GOLDMAN: But then explain why under your plan all Americans should be paying more for milk, for a loaf of bread, and beer?

CAIN: Pizza, I don’t buy beer.

[laughter]

GOLDMAN: Yes, and pizza.

CAIN: You have to start with the biggest tax cut a lot of Americans pay, which is the payroll tax, 15.3 percent. That goes to 9 percent. That is a 6 percentage point difference. And the prices will not go up. So they have got a 6 percentage point difference to apply to the national sales tax piece of that, and in doing so, they have the flexibility to decide on how much they want to spend it on new goods, how much they want to spend it on used goods. Because there is no tax on used goods.

GOLDMAN: But, Congresswoman Bachmann, you’re a former IRS lawyer, do you agree?

BACHMANN: I would have to say that the 999 plan isn’t a jobs plan, it is a tax plan. And I would say that from my experience being in Congress, but also as a federal tax lawyer, when you — the last thing you would do is give Congress another pipeline of a revenue stream. And this gives Congress a pipeline in a sales tax.

A sales tax can also lead to value-added tax. The United States Congress put into place the Spanish-American War tax in 1888. We only partially repealed that in 2006. So once you get a new revenue stream, you are never going to get rid of it.

And one thing I would say is, when you take the 999 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil is in the details.

[laughter]

[crosstalk]

ROSE: We have given several chances to respond. I will come back. We will continue to talk about taxes and spending. We also know here that there has been a paradigm shift in the world economic order. We know about China and we know about India.

Here is our next clip and we will respond from that. Here it is.

[begin video clip]

ROMNEY: I will label China as it is, a currency manipulator. And I will go after them for stealing our intellectual property. And they will recognize that if they cheat, there is a price to pay. I certainly don’t want a trade war with anybody. We are going to have a trade war, but we can’t have a trade surrender either.

[end video clip]

ROSE: Karen.

TUMULTY: Governor Huntsman, you were also ambassador to China. And you say that this would risk a trade war. But if China is indeed keeping its currency low, that means that everything they sell in this country is artificially cheap and everything that our companies tried to sell in China is artificially expensive.

So what do you say to people who ask, aren’t we already in a trade war with China?

HUNTSMAN: Well, first of all, I don’t subscribe to the Don Trump school or the Mitt Romney school of international trade. I don’t want to find ourselves in a trade war. With respect to China, if you start slapping penalties on them based on countervailing duties, you are going to get the same thing in return because what they are going to say, because of quantitative easing part one and part two, you are doing a similar thing to your currency.

And then you’re going to find yourself in a trade war very, very quickly. And what does that do? That disadvantages our small businesses. It disadvantages our exporters. It disadvantages our agricultural producers.

So I say for the first and the second largest economies in the world, we have no choice. We have to find common ground. We have to, of course, use our trade laws and use them very, very aggressively.

But at the end of the day, we have got to find more market opening measures. We have got to get more governors from this country together with governors from provinces of China, mayors together with mayors, and exploit the opportunities that exist for exporters.

That is a job creator in this country. It is a huge job creator. And we have to get used to the fact that as far as the eye can see into the 21st Century, it’s going to be the United States and China on the world stage.

TUMULTY: You know, Governor Romney, this issue does carry a lot of resonance, especially in the states like New Hampshire, which, as you probably know, has lost a greater percentage of its manufacturing jobs to China than any other state.

But voters have heard candidates talked tough on China before. George W. Bush did it, Barack Obama did it, only to see that once elected, the president takes a much more cautious approach because of the complexity of the relationship and the fact that this is our biggest creditor.

Why should voters believe that you would be any different?

ROMNEY: I’m afraid that people who have looked at this in the past have been played like a fiddle by the Chinese. And the Chinese are smiling all the way to the bank, taking our currency and taking our jobs and taking a lot of our future. And I am not willing to let that happen.

I’m in this race to try to get America to make sure we’re strong again and we’re creating jobs where the best place in the world to be middle class again. And for that to happen, we have to call cheating for what it is.

And people say, we might have a trade war with China. Well, now, think about that.

We by this much stuff from China, they buy that much stuff from us. You think they want to have a trade war?

I mean, this is a time when we are being hollowed out by China, that is artificially holding down their prices, as you just said a moment ago, and that’s having a massive impact on jobs here. It is the wrong course for us.

When people have pursued unfair trade practices, you have to have a president that will take action. And on day one, I have indicated, day one, I will issue an executive order identifying China as a currency manipulator. We’ll bring an action against them in front of the WTO for manipulating their currency, and we will go after them. If you are not willing to stand up to China, you will get run over by China, and that’s what’s happened for 20 years.

[applause]

ROSE: Let me go to Governor Perry and then Governor Huntsman. Governor Perry.

PERRY: We’re missing this so much. What we need to be focused on in this country today is not whether or not we are going to have this policy or that policy. What we need to be focused on is how we get American working again. That’s where we need to be focused.

And let me tell you, we are sitting on this absolute treasure trove of energy in this country. And I don’t need 999. We don’t need any plan to pass Congress. We need to get a president of the United States that is committed to passing the types of regulations, pulling the regulations back, freeing this country to go develop the energy industry that we have in this country.

I can promise you that we do that, then we will create an environment in this country where the manufacturing will come back to this country. We did in Texas.

We brought key manufacturing that had business in China back to the state of Texas. You free up this country’s entrepreneurs, where they know that they can’t risk their capital and have a chance to have a return on investment, and all of this conversation that we’re having today becomes substantially less impacting.

ROSE: All right.

I want to come back to these issues, but let me introduce — speaking of CEOs and business, this is a New Hampshire native. His name is David Cote. He is chairman and CEO of Honeywell, and he is a former member of the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

Here he is.

[begin video clip]

COTE: Twenty years ago, there were a billion people actively participating in the global economy. Today, there are more than four billion active participants in the global economy, with China, India, former CIS states, and other emerging economies now in the game.

While that is a good and peaceful phenomenon, it also means we need to compete more strongly that we did in the past. We need an American competitiveness agenda. We need to inspire that American competitive spirit that has served us for so well for over 200 years.

I would like to ask, what would be on your American competitiveness agenda? And with one last small request, my guess is all of us are ready to accept that we are a great country and a great people. So, if your response could focus on specifics, it would be much appreciated.

Thank you.

[end video clip]

ROSE: Senator Santorum, we talked about jobs in Pennsylvania. A competitive agenda of yours would be what?

SANTORUM: Well, I already put forward a plan.

You know, Mitt, I don’t want to go to a trade war, I want to beat China. I want to go to war with China and make America the most attractive place in the world to do business. And we need to do that with the agenda that I outlined, which, unlike Herman’s plan, which could not pass, because no — how many people here are for a sales tax in New Hampshire? Raise your hand.

There you go, Herman. That’s how many votes you’ll get in New Hampshire.

We’re not going to give the federal government, Nancy Pelosi, a new pipeline, a 9 percent sales tax for consumers to get hammered by the federal government.

How many people believe that we’ll keep the income tax at 9 percent? Anybody?

There. That’s why people won’t trust giving people —

[crosstalk]

ROSE: So if you keep mentioning “999” and Herman Cain, I’m going to have to go back to him every other question.

[applause]

SANTORUM: Hold on.

CAIN: That’s right.

SANTORUM: I am not done yet. I’ve only been able to answer one question, unlike everybody else here, so let me just finish what I’m saying.

ROSE: Right.

SANTORUM: We need to repeal Obamacare. That’s the first thing we need to do.

SANTORUM: You want to create jobs? I went to OSIPI yesterday and I talked to a small businessman there, and he said, “I will not hire anybody, I will not make a move until I find out what is going to happen with this health care bill and how it’s going to crush me.”

And so, repealing Obamacare, and we can do it, not by waivers. That’s the wrong idea, Mitt. The reason it’s the wrong idea, because you get a waiver, California going to waive that? No. New York going to waive it? No. All of these states, many of them, liberal states are going to continue on, and then states like New Hampshire that will waive it will end up subsidizing California.

[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: We need to repeal it…

ROSE: All right. But the time…

SANTORUM: I know.

[crosstalk]

ROSE: You see the red light, time.

SANTORUM: We need to repeal it by doing it through a reconciliation process. And since I have experience and know how to do that, we’ll take care of it…

[crosstalk]

ROSE: I’ve got to go to the break, and I’m — but I’m going to give both Herman Cain and Governor Romney a chance to make their point, because they were both mentioned, first Cain, then Romney, then break.

CAIN: Therein lies the difference between me, the non- politician, and all of the politicians. They want to pass what they think they can get passed rather than what we need, which is a bold solution. 9-9-9 is bold, and the American people want a bold solution, not just what’s going to kick the can down the table — down the road.

ROSE: Governor Romney?

[applause] ROMNEY: Rick, you’re absolutely right. On day one, granting a waiver for all 50 states doesn’t stop in its tracks entirely Obamacare. That’s why I also say we have to repeal Obamacare, and I will do that on day two, with the reconciliation bill, because as you know, it was passed by reconciliation, 51 votes.

ROSE: All right.

ROMNEY: We can get rid of it with 51 votes. We have to get rid of Obamacare and return to the states the responsibility…

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: No, not if you get rid of it. And particularly — by the way, the Supreme — the Supreme Court may get rid of it.

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: Let me finish. Let me finish.

ROSE: OK, let’s — then we’ll go to Huntsman, then we’ll go to the break, and then when we come back, each of you can question each other.

[laughter]

ROMNEY: Hold on, guys.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

ROMNEY: Let me just — let me just say this, which is we all agree about repeal and replace. And I’m proud of the fact that I’ve put together a plan that says what I’m going to replace it with. And I think it’s incumbent on everybody around this table to put together a plan that says this is what I’ll replace it with, because the American people are not satisfied with the status quo. They want us to solve the problem of health care, to get it to work like a market, and that’s what has to happen.

ROSE: All right. Governor Huntsman, then we go.

HUNTSMAN: It’s disingenuous to — to just say that you can — you can waive it all away. The mandate will be in place. The IRS is already planning on 19,500 new employees to administer that mandate. That will stay, and that’s the ruinous part of — of Obamacare. And that — Mitt, your plan is not going to do anything.

ROMNEY: I said we had to repeal it. Did you miss that?

HUNTSMAN: No. It doesn’t — it doesn’t repeal the mandate.

ROMNEY: No, no, I said I’m going to repeal it through reconciliation.

[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: Through reconciliation, you can repeal the taxes, you can repeal the spending, and therefore, the mandate has no teeth, because there’s no tax penalty if you don’t enforce it.

ROSE: All right. We have much to talk about.

When we come back, the candidates will ask questions of each other, after this break.

[applause]

[commercial break]

ROSE: Welcome back. We are at the Republican presidential candidates’ debate. We are at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. And we are pleased now to turn it around a bit and have the candidates question each other.

They will each have 30 seconds to pose and answer. We’ll have one minute to respond, 30 seconds for a question, one minute to respond. We will proceed in alphabetical order. I want you to remember, as we talk about this, we are talking about the economy, or those things that affect the economy.

Beginning in alphabetical order, Congresswoman Bachmann.

BACHMANN: Thank you.

Well, in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan produced an economic miracle, and while all of us were wishing and yearning for a third term for Ronald Reagan, Governor Perry, you were campaigning and co-chairing Al Gore’s election campaign for president of the United States.

You went on to increase spending in Texas by over 50 percent. And you financed that spending by increasing bond debt by over 137 percent. That is exactly what Barack Obama has been doing, increasing debt by trillions of dollars.

How can we trust you to not go down the Obama way and overspend and pay for that spending with indebtedness on the backs of the next generations?

PERRY: Well, I, like most people in the state of Texas and those southern states, grew up a Democrat. Michael Reagan and I were talking just the other day, Charlie, that I came to the Republican Party sooner in age than his dad, Ronald Reagan, did.

And let me just address this issue of the debt in the state of Texas. Texas has the sixth lowest debt per capita when I started as governor back in 2000. And today, Texas has the second lowest debt per capita in the United States. I think that is what America is looking for is a president of the United States that understands how to balance budgets, how to deal with the spending issue, and how to get Americans back working again.

ROSE: Herman Cain, question.

CAIN: Yes. One of my guiding principles has been and will always be, surround yourself with good people. The 999 plan that I have proposed is simple, transparent, efficient, fair, and neutral.

My question is to Governor Romney. Can you name all 59 points in your 160-page plan, and does it satisfy that criteria of being simple, transparent, efficient, fair, and neutral?

[laughter]

[applause]

ROMNEY: Herman, I have had the experience in my life of taking on some tough problems. And I must admit that simple answers are always very helpful, but oftentimes inadequate.

And in my view, to get this economy going again, we’re going to have to deal with more than just tax policy and just energy policy, even though both of those are part of my plan.

And the other parts of my plan are these. One is to make sure that we stop the regulatory creep that has occurred in Washington. And all of the Obama regulations, we say no to, we put a halt on them, and reverse all those that cost jobs.

Number two, we have trade policies that open up new markets to American goods. And I lay out a number of things that I would do in that 59 points to open up more markets to American goods. And, we, of course, stop the cheating that goes on.

We also have to have the rule of law. By that I mean you can’t have the federal government, through its friends at the National Labor Relations Board, saying to a company like Boeing that you can’t build a factory in a non-union state. That’s simply wrong and violates the principle of the rule of law.

We also have to have institutions that create human capital. We’re a capitalist system. But we don’t just believe in physical capital or financial capital, also human capital. We need great schools, great institutions.

Finally, you have got to have a government that does not spend more money than it takes in. Those are the seven major pillars of those 59.

CAIN: So, no, it is not simple, is what you are saying?

ROMNEY: Let me tell you, to get this economy restructured fundamentally, to put America on a path to be the most competitive place in the world to create jobs, is going to take someone who knows how to do it. And it is not one or two things. It is a good number of things to get America…

[crosstalk]

ROSE: All right. Speaker Gingrich, question.

GINGRICH: Governor Romney, I’d like to say, first of all, there is an awful lot in your plan that is very good, and that I think would be very helpful if implemented, a lot better than what Obama is doing.

But one of the characteristics of Obama in his class warfare approach has been to talk about going after people who made over $250,000 a year and divide us.

And I was a little surprised — I think it’s about page 47 of your plan — that you have a capital gains tax cut for people under $200,000, which is actually lower than the Obama model. Now, as a businessman, you know that you actually lose economic effectiveness if you limit capital gains tax cuts only to people who don’t get capital gains.

So, I’m curious, what was the rationale for setting an even lower base marker than Obama had?

ROMNEY: Well, the reason for giving a tax break to middle income Americans is that middle income Americans have been the people who have been most hurt by the Obama economy. The reason that you’re seeing protests, as you indicated, on Wall Street and across the country is, middle income Americans are having a hard time making ends meet.

Not only do we have 25 million people out of work, or stopped looking for work, or part-time jobs needing full-time employ, we just saw this week that median income in America has declined by 10 percent during the Obama years. People are having a hard time making ends meet.

And so if I’m going to use precious dollars to reduce taxes, I want to focus on where the people are hurting the most, and that’s the middle class. I’m not worried about rich people. They are doing just fine. The very poor have a safety net, they’re taken care of. But the people in the middle, the hard-working Americans, are the people who need a break, and that is why I focused my tax cut right there.

ROSE: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Since this discussion is all about economics, Governor Romney, I promise this won’t be about religion.

Sorry about that, Rick.

Since some might see you because of your past employment with Bain Capital as more of a financial engineer, somebody who breaks down businesses, destroys jobs, as opposed to creating jobs and opportunity, leveraging up, spinning off, enriching shareholders, since you were number 47 as governor of the state of Massachusetts, where we were number one, for example, and the whole discussion around this campaign is going to be job creation, how can you win that debate given your background?

ROMNEY: Well, my background is quite different than you described, John. So the way I’ll win it is by telling people an accurate rendition of what I have done in my life. And fortunately, people in New Hampshire, living next door, have a pretty good sense of that.

They understand that in the business I was in, we didn’t take things apart and cut them off and sell them off. We, instead, helped start businesses, and they know some of the names.

We started Staples. We started the Sports Authority. We started Bright Horizons children’s centers. Heck, we even started a steel mill in a farm field in Indiana, and that steel mill operates today and employs a lot of people.

So, we began businesses. Sometimes we acquired businesses and tried to turn them around, typically effectively. And that created tens of thousands of new jobs.

And I am proud of the fact that we were able to do that. That is a big part of the American system.

People are not going to — in my opinion, are not going to be looking for someone who is not successful. They want someone who has been successful and who knows how fundamentally the economy works.

Look, I would not be in this race had I spent my life in politics alone. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but right now, with the American people in the kind of financial crisis they are in, they need someone who knows how to create jobs, and I do.

ROSE: All right.

Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Since the Federal Reserve is the engine of inflation, creates the business cycle, produces are recessions and our depressions, the Federal Reserve obviously is a very important issue. And fortunately, tonight we have a former director of the Federal Reserve at Kansas City. So I have a question for Mr. Cain.

Mr. Cain, in the past you have been rather critical of any of us who would want to audit the Fed. You have said — you’ve used pretty strong terms, that we were ignorant and that we didn’t know what we are doing, and therefore, there was no need for an audit anyway, because if you had one, you’re not going to find out anything, because everybody knows everything about the Fed.

But now that we have found and we have gotten an audit, we have found out an awful lot on how special businesses get bailed out — Wall Street, the banks, and special companies, foreign governments. And you said that you advise those of us who were concerned, and you belittled — you say call up the Federal Reserve and just ask them.

ROSE: Question?

[crosstalk]

PAUL: Do you still stick by this, that that this is frivolous, or do you think it’s very important? Sixty-four percent of the American people want a full audit of the Fed on a regular basis.

ROSE: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: First of all, you have misquoted you. I did not call you or any of your people ignorant. I don’t know where that came from.

PAUL: I’ll get it for you.

CAIN: All right. Now, so you’ve got to be careful of the stuff that you get off the Internet, because that’s just not something that I have said.

Secondly, when I served on the board of the Federal Reserve in the 1990s, we didn’t do any of the things that this Federal Reserve is doing. I don’t agree with the actions of this Federal Reserve. I don’t agree with the actions that have been undertaken by Ben Bernanke. We didn’t have a $14 trillion national debt to prop up with some of the actions that they’re taking.

And I have also said, to be precise, I do not object to the Federal Reserve being audited. I simply said, if someone wants to initiate that action, go right ahead. It doesn’t bother me.

So you — I’ve been misrepresented in that regard. I don’t have a problem with the Federal Reserve being audited. It’s simply not my top priority. My top priority is 9-9-9, jobs, jobs, jobs.

[applause]

ROSE: Governor Perry, question for…

PERRY: Governor Romney, your chief economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, who you know well, he said that Romneycare was Obamacare. And Romneycare has driven the cost of small-business insurance premiums up by 14 percent over the national average in Massachusetts. So my question for you would be: How would you respond to his criticism of your signature legislative achievement?

ROMNEY: You know, the — the great thing about running for president is to get the chance also to talk about your experience as a governor. And I’m proud of the fact that we took on a major problem in my state.

And the problem was that we had a lot of kids without insurance, a lot of adults without insurance, but it added up to about 8 percent of our population. And we said, you know what, we want to find a way to get those folks insured, but we don’t want to change anything for the 92 percent of the people that already have insurance. And so our plan dealt with those 8 percent, not the 92 percent.

One of the problems with Obamacare is he doesn’t just deal with the people without insurance. He takes over health care for everyone. Then he does something else that Chris Christie said today. He said the problem with Obamacare is he spends an extra trillion dollars and raises taxes. And raising taxes is one of the big problems, something we didn’t do in Massachusetts. He also cuts Medicare. Only — but people out there are talking about cutting Medicare, it’s President Obama that did that.

And I’m proud of what we are able to accomplish. I’ll tell you this, though. We have the lowest number of kids as a percentage uninsured of any state in America. You have the highest. You…

[crosstalk]

ROMNEY: I’m still — I’m still speaking.

[crosstalk]

PERRY: … criticism.

ROMNEY: I’m still speaking. We — we have — we have less than 1 percent of our kids that are uninsured. You have a million kids uninsured in Texas. A million kids. Under President Bush, the percentage uninsured went down. Under your leadership, it’s gone up.

I care about people. Now, our plan isn’t perfect. Glenn Hubbard is a fine fellow. Take a look at his quote. Some people say that. Just because some people say something doesn’t mean it’s true.

The truth is, our plan is different, and the people of Massachusetts, if they don’t like it, they can get rid of it. Right now, they favor it 3 to 1.

But I’m not running for governor of Massachusetts. I’m running for president of the United States. And as president, I will repeal Obamacare, I’ll grant a waiver on day one to get that started, and I’ll make sure that we return to the states what we had when I was governor, the right to care for our poor in the way we thought best for our respective states.

ROSE: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Romney’s before me, R.

ROSE: No, I’m sorry. You’re right. Governor Romney?

[laughter]

Very good. I — I missed school that day.

[crosstalk]

ROSE: I missed school that day when they said R is before S.

GINGRICH: Think of us as your…

[crosstalk]

[laughter]

ROMNEY: You’d think someone from PBS would know that.

[crosstalk]

ROSE: We’d know that, wouldn’t we?

[laughter]

I was thinking how much I was enjoying this.

ROMNEY: Exactly. Exactly right.

Let me turn to Congresswoman Bachmann and just — just as you, Congresswoman. As — as we’ve spoken this evening, we’re all concerned about getting Americans back to work. And you’ve laid out some pretty bold ideas with regards to taxation and cutting back the scale of the federal government. And there’s no question that’s a very important element of getting people back to work.

And I’d like to ask you to expand on your other ideas. What do you do to help the American people get back to work, be able to make ends meet? You’ve got families that are sitting around the kitchen table wondering how they’re going to make — make it to the end of the month. You’ve got — you’ve got young people coming out of college, maybe not here at Dartmouth, but a lot of colleges across the country wondering where they can get a job.

What — what would you do — beyond the tax policies you describe — to get people back to work?

BACHMANN: Well, I do understand that. I’m — I’m a mother of 28 kids, 22 foster kids, 5 biological kids. I get how difficult it is for young people right now to get jobs right out of college. It’s very, very tough.

And the solutions that I’m offering in my plan, which if I can give a commercial, are at michelebachmann.com. The solutions that I’m offering aren’t just a silver bullet. It’s not just the tax code. It’s also dealing with the regulatory burden, because businesses — my husband and I started our own successful business. I’m 55. I spent my whole life in the private sector. I get job creation, too. And the business world is looking at 1.8 trillion every year in compliance costs with government regulations.

That has to go. So I want to get rid of that, it’s the mother of all repeal bills. But the number one reason that employer say that they are not hiring today is “Obama-care.” And I was the leading critic for President Obama in Washington, D.C., against “Obama-care.” That is why I was the first member of Congress to introduce that bill to repeal “Obama-care.” I understand that is what is inhibiting job creation and job growth.

We have to repeal that. I also introduced and I fought on Barney Frank’s committee against Dodd-Frank, which is the “housing and jobs destruction act.” That’s why I was the chief author of that bill as well. There is much more to my solutions, go to michelebachmann.com and you can find out.

ROSE: Ask now?

[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: We are in the “live free or die!” state, and I oppose the single biggest government intrusion into the private sector, the Wall Street bailout, the TARP program. I opposed it because it violated the principles of our Constitution, the spirit of our Constitution, and because the experience I had that if you open up the door of government involvement in the private sector, some president will and in fact did drive a truck through it and explode the size of the federal government and constrict our freedom.

The interesting thing here is, is the four people on this panel that actually supported TARP at the time of its passage are the people who say that they are the anti-Washington candidates, that they are the business candidates. And they are the four on this program that supported the Washington bailout, giving Washington, naively, I would say, tools to constrict our freedom. And since…

TUMULTY: So do you have a question for one of them?

SANTORUM: My question is — you prompted it perfectly, because here is my question. My question is, since I think Herman Cain is giving naively a tool in his 999 plan of giving Washington a huge new tax burden — tax opportunity to get money through a sales tax, can we trust you that with your lack of experience that you won’t continually give Washington the ability to take freedom away from freedom-loving people here in the “live free or die!” state?

CAIN: There are three deterrents to the…

SANTORUM: And, by the way, the four people were Governor Huntsman, Governor Perry, Herman Cain, and Governor Romney, all supported TARP.

CAIN: There are three deterrents to this nightmare scenario you described in terms of how bad things are going to be, because we are trying to fix the real problem.

The first deterrent is that I’m going to ask the United States Congress to include a two-thirds majority vote before they can raise the 999 tax. The second deterrent, the second deterrent is the fact that because it is visible, simple, and transparent, the American people are going to be the ones to hold Congress’s feet to the fire.

The third return is that I will be president and I won’t sign anything that raises the 999.

ROSE: With that, we will take a break, and come back for our final segment. Stay with us.

[applause]

[commercial break]

ROSE: We are back at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire, talking with the eight Republican candidates about a variety of issues.

Clearly, we come back to health care. And I want to go to Governor Perry.

Explain to me what you think the difference is about your health care ideas and Governor Romney’s health care ideas, and how you see mandates and how he sees mandates and the Constitution, because not only has there been some exchange here, Governor Christie got involved today.

PERRY: Well, certainly the issue of health care is probably one of the biggest ones that’s facing us. I mean, there are a lot of Americans sitting out there today, and getting those people back to work is the most important thing that we do as a country so that they can have the opportunity to purchase health care.

And I think that is probably the biggest issue that are facing Americans. There are people sitting out there around the kitchen table watching TV tonight who are looking for someone to lay out an idea that truly will get this country back working again. And that’s why I lay out, without having any congressional impact of all, how to get our energy industry back to work, and back to work very quickly.

But in the state of Texas, from the standpoint of what we have done to make access of health care better, we passed the most sweeping tort reform in the nation in 2003. We also passed Healthy Texas, which expands the private sector insurance. And we have driven down the cost of insurance by 30 percent.

So, those are some of the ways that the states — but the real issue for us is Medicaid and how to get the flexibility on Medicaid so that the innovators can occur in the states. I can promise you, whether it’s Governor Jindal or myself or Susana Martinez over in New Mexico, that’s where you will find the real innovation in health care. The way to deliver health care more efficiently, more effectively is to block-grant those dollars back to the state and keep this federal government that has this one-size-fits-all mentality from driving the thought process that we have seen destroy health care in this country today.

TUMULTY: But, Governor Perry, Texas as “The Washington Post” fact-checker noted, Texas has had 16 waivers for Medicaid. So how can you say that the problem is that the federal government has not given Texas enough flexibility?

PERRY: They haven’t anywhere near given the states — I think what you should see is the block-granting, not having to go to Washington, D.C., and ask them, mother, may I every time you come up with a concept or an idea. Block-granting back to the states, I’ll guarantee you, the governors and their innovators in their states will come up with ways to better deliver health care more efficiently, more effectively, more cost-efficiently, and that’s what this country is looking for, is a president who understands that we have these 50 laboratories of innovation, free up these states from Washington, D.C.’s one size fits all.

ROSE: Julianna.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Charlie.

Mr. Cain, you disapprove of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and we all know that your priority is 999. But one of the most important appointments that you’re going to have to make your first year, should you be president, would be Fed chairman.

So which Federal Reserve chairman over the last 40 years do you think has been most successful and might serve as a model for that appointment?

CAIN: Alan Greenspan.

GOLDMAN: Why?

CAIN: Because that’s when I served on the board of the Federal Reserve in the early 1990s. And the way Alan Greenspan oversaw the Fed and the way he coordinated with all of the Federal Reserve banks, I think that it worked fine back in the early 1990s.

Now, on that same point, I have already identified two candidates — which I cannot give their names — to replace Mr. Bernanke, in anticipation of having that responsibility.

We must narrow the mission of the Fed first. I don’t believe in ending the Fed. I believe we can fix the Fed by getting their mission refocused on monetary price stability. And I have candidates in mind that will help us do that.

GOLDMAN: So you have two appointments waiting in the wings for — for 2013, for — when his term is up, 2014?

CAIN: Yes, I have two candidates waiting in the wings…

GOLDMAN: How about a hint?

CAIN: … to take that job. I’ve got to keep them confidential.

GOLDMAN: OK.

Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Spoken like a true insider.

No, Alan Greenspan was a disaster.

[laughter]

[applause]

Everybody in Washington — liberals and conservatives — said he kept interest rates too low, too long. Of course, the solution was, lower them even more, and they think that’s going to solve our problem.

But if I had to name one person that did a little bit of good, that was Paul Volcker. He at least knew how to end — or help, you know, end the inflation.

But, of course, with my position that I don’t think highly of the Federal Reserve, I think we should have sound money and we shouldn’t have somebody deciding what the interest rate should be and how much money supply we should have, I mean, nobody satisfies me.

But certainly, Alan Greenspan has ushered in the biggest bubble. And what did we do? We’ve continued the same thing, doing the same thing. We think the inflation under Alan Greenspan was bad so we’re trying to solve the problem by inflating even further. So Bernanke compounds the problem. He’s inflating twice as fast as — as Greenspan was.

But Greenspan caused so much trouble. And he used to believe in the gold standard. I think he’s coming around to that. Before he retires, he’ll write his — his biography and explain why he’s coming back to the gold standard.

ROSE: I want to go from the gold standard to a small-business person who is from New Hampshire who’s in the audience with us and has a question about small business, of which she has founded one. Margot Thompson?

QUESTION: Businesses like mine have great difficulty obtaining credit. What specifically would you do to make bank lending more accessible to small businesses?

ROSE: Direct it to…

QUESTION: I was told to direct it to you.

[laughter]

ROSE: Oh, oh. So, Governor Romney?

[laughter]

ROMNEY: Give her the answer, Charlie.

[laughter]

ROSE: I ask questions, not answer them, Governor.

ROMNEY: Oh, oh, OK.

ROSE: I forget to explain that.

ROMNEY: OK. What’s happened in this country under the Obama administration is that you have a president who I think is well meaning, but just over his head when it comes to the economy.

And the absolute wrong time to have the absolute wrong people put together a financial regulatory bill was right now in Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. They were the wrong guys at the wrong time, because what they did with this new bill is usher in what will be hundreds and thousands of pages of new regulations.

The big banks, the big money-center banks on Wall Street, they can deal with that. I spoke with one banker there that said they have hundreds of lawyers working on that legislation and trying to implement it.

For community banks that provide loans to businesses like yours, they can’t possibly deal with a regulatory burden like that. Then you have inspectors coming in and writing down their assets and saying they’re not worth as much as the bank thought they were worth, and therefore the banks are unable to lend.

Small community banks across this country are starving and struggling because of inspectors that are making their job impossible and because of regulation that’s fine for the big banks, because they can deal with it. It’s a killer for the small banks. And those small banks loaning to small businesses and entrepreneurs are what have typically gotten our economy out of recession. What’s — what the president has done on almost every dimension is exactly the wrong thing to get this economy going again.

ROSE: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: I’d like to add to that, because the Dodd-Frank bill is the jobs and housing destruction act. And I have spoken to — to Iowa bankers, and they told me that they are going to see the collapse of community banks, just like Mitt said, all across the state.

BACHMANN: I talked to a banker in Texas who owns multiple branch banks. He said he’s going to lose $20 million on his bottom line this year because of all of the compliance.

So, government is putting a huge layer of regulation on banks. We will see literally thousands of banks close their doors. That will be hard for small business owners like you and like me. And so that’s going to hurt real people and it will lead to job destruction.

That’s why I introduced the bill to repeal Dodd-Frank, because it will hurt credit, not add to credit. And by the way, that’s why we see the new $5 debit card fee that people are paying every month that they are upset about, because of Dodd-Frank. And that was insider dealing, because Senator Durbin had former staffers that came to lobby him on behalf of retailers.

This is dirty dealing. As president of the United States, I would end all of these payoffs to political donors by our legislators. That’s wrong. That’s got to end.

ROSE: Here, and then go over to you. First and then there.

CAIN: In addition to what Governor Romney said, I agree, repeal Dodd-Frank. But also, get rid of the capital gains tax. That’s a big wall between people with ideas and people with money. And we know which plan gets rid of the capital gains tax.

[laughter]

PAUL: I just want to add one quick thing. Dodd-Frank obviously is a disaster. It’s estimated it’s going to cost a trillion dollars.

I think one the reasons we’re not getting anywhere and we’re not getting anywhere in Washington, it’s a partisan fight. It’s a fight over power, because Sarbanes-Oxley, which was done by the Republicans, it cost a trillion dollars, too.

Let’s repeal that, too. I mean, if you look at what we have done as Republicans, we have caused a lot of problems.

To say it’s all in these past two years, I mean, I think that is so misleading. And that’s why the American people are sick and tired of listening to the politicians.

ROSE: All right.

I want to bring my colleagues in — Karen.

TUMULTY: Governor Perry, taxpayers stand to lose half a billion dollars in the collapse of Solyndra, which is a solar energy firm that was a centerpiece of the Obama green jobs initiative. Do you think there were inadequate safeguards there, or do you think this is just the risk we run when the government gets involved in subsidizing new industries and technologies?

PERRY: Well, I don’t think the federal government should be involved in that type of investment, period. If states want to choose to do that, I think that’s fine for states to do that.

TUMULTY: And you have in Texas done that with the emerging technology fund. But your own state auditor said earlier this year that that fund is neither accountable nor transparent. “The Dallas Morning News” reported that that fund gave $16 million to companies that are connected to your campaign contributors. And like Solyndra, some of the emerging technology funds investments have gone bust.

So how is this different in principle from the Obama administration’s efforts to pick winners in the future economy?

PERRY: Well, first off, the Texas legislature has full oversight of that committee. It has approved it for — I think since 2003. So, every two years, the Texas legislature looks at it. It’s had full oversight.

And I can promise you, the 54,600 jobs that have been created and the $14 billion-plus worth of investment that has come out of the Enterprise Fund in the state of Texas, those people that have jobs today in the state of Texas, they are absolutely happy that we have got a program like that. And 75 percent of those emerging technology fund dollars, my appointees, never made a contribution to me, period.

TUMULTY: But you talk about oversight. The fact is, that in some instances, your appointees have overruled the regional boards that have tried to turn back some of these deals.

PERRY: Every one of those projects had the lieutenant governor, the Speaker, and the governor’s office, so there is an extraordinary amount of oversight in those programs, and we are proud of them. I mean, we feel like that those are part of the reason that Texas has led the nation in the creation of jobs.

While this country was losing 2.5 million jobs, Texas was creating one million jobs. That’s the kind of leadership that America is longing for, someone that actually understands that you have to be able to give a climate where people know they can risk their capital and have a chance to have a return on that investment.

ROSE: All right.

We have one more video I want to show. Here is.

[begin video clip]

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The more people who own their home, the better off America is. And we’re making good progress. Our nation’s 68 percent homeownership rate is the highest ever. Most people own homes now than ever before in the country’s history, and that’s exciting for the future of America.

[end video clip]

ROSE: Speaker Gingrich, is the American dream of owning a home no longer a realistic dream, and is it too easy in America?

GINGRICH: You know, there is a stream of American thought that really wishes we would decay and fall apart and that the future be bleak so the government could then it share the misery.

It was captured by Jimmy Carter in his “malaise” speech. It is captured every week by Barack Obama in his apologias disguised as press conferences.

[laughter]

GINGRICH: The fact is, and the governor is exactly right, when we get back — I mean, a lot of these folks are right about a lot of things. His energy plan, his industrial manufacturing plan, most of what he put down, a fair amount, but not totally what my good friend said there, hard money with a very limited Federal Reserve.

BACHMANN: Repeal “Obama-care.” Repeal “Obama-care.” GINGRICH: What Huntsman has done — and she’s right on repealing Dodd-Frank. I am shocked that the House Republicans have not repealed Dodd-Frank. They ought to do it now. They ought to repeal Sarbanes- Oxley now.

If we get back on track, and you know this as a former ambassador, the Chinese couldn’t compete with us in 100 years if we got our act together in this country and we got back to doing the right things in this country, at which point we could afford to buy houses, which would solve virtually everything else.

You have got to be able to afford it to be able buy it, and that is where things went wrong in the last decade.

ROSE: All right. Julianna.

GOLDMAN: Mr. Cain…

[applause]

GOLDMAN: … you recently said, quoting you, “don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself.” So are you telling 14 million unemployed Americans that it is their fault that they don’t have a job?

CAIN: No, the question was — that response was directed at the people that are protesting on Wall Street, not that 14 million people who are out of work for no reason of their own other than this economy is not growing, not the millions of people that are under-unemployed.

That statement was not directed at them. It was specifically directed at the people who are protesting on Wall Street. And I also said that they have basically targeted the wrong target. It should be against the failed policies of this administration, not Wall Street is where they should be protesting.

GOLDMAN: Governor Romney, I want to ask you, because President Obama’s jobs bill stalled in the Senate today, and so it may have to be broken into component parts for Congress to vote on.

If the payroll tax cut is not extended, that would mean a tax increase for all Americans. What would be the consequences of that?

ROMNEY: No one likes to see tax increases, but look, the stimulus bills the president comes out with that are supposedly going to create jobs, we have now seen this played in the theater several times, and what we’re seeing has not worked.

The American people know that when he went into office and borrowed $800 billion for a massive job stimulus program, then they did not see the jobs. Some of those green jobs we were supposed to get, that is money down the drain.

The right course for America is not to keep spending money on stimulus bills, but instead to make permanent changes to the tax code. Look, when you give — as the president’s bill does, if you give a temporary change to the payroll tax, and you say, we’re going to extend this for a year or two, employers do not hire people for a year or two.

They make an investment in a person that goes over a long period of time. And so if you want to get the economy going again, you have to have people who understand how employers think, what it takes to create jobs.

And what it takes to create jobs is more than just a temporary shift in a tax stimulus, it needs instead fundamental restructuring of our economy to make that sure we are the most attractive place in the world for investment, for innovation, for growth, and for hiring. And we can do that again.

GOLDMAN: So you would be OK with seeing the payroll tax cuts?

ROMNEY: Look, I don’t like temporary little Band-Aids, I want to fundamentally restructure America’s foundation economically.

ROSE: Before closing questions, I want not this hour-and-a-half to pass without some recognition and conversation about the question of disparity in America.

TUMULTY: Governor Perry, over the last 30 years, the income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans has grown by more than 300 percent, and yet we have more people living in poverty in this country than at any time in the last 50 years.

Is this acceptable? And what would you do to close that gap?

PERRY: The reason we have that many people living in poverty is because we have got a president of the United States who is a job- killer. That’s what’s wrong with this country today.

You have a president who does not understand how to create wealth. He has over-taxed, over-regulated the small-business men and women to the point where they are laying off people.

Two-and-half million Americans are out there who have lost their jobs. We have got 14 million without work. This president, I will suggest to you, is the biggest deterrent to getting this country back on track, and we have to do everything we can to replace Barack Obama in 2012.

[applause]

[crosstalk]

ROSE: OK. But we are almost out of time. I want to give you a chance, and then we have to go the final questions.

SANTORUM: There is more to it than that. And I agree with Rick, what he said, but the biggest problem with poverty in America, and we don’t talk about here, because it’s an economic discussion — and that is the break down of the American family.

You want to look at the poverty rate among families that have two — that have a husband and wife working in them? It’s 5 percent today. A family that’s headed by one person? It’s 30 percent today. We need to do something, and we need to talk about economics. The home — the word “home” in Greek is the basis of the word “economy.” It is — it is the foundation of our country. We need to have a policy that supports families, that encourages marriage…

ROSE: All right.

SANTORUM: … that has fathers take responsibility for their children. You can’t have limited government — you can’t have a wealthy society if the family breaks down, that basic unit of society. And that needs to be included in this economic discussion.

ROSE: All right. I’ve got one last question, one last question, with 30 minutes…

PROTESTOR: [off-mike]

ROSE: One last question…

PROTESTOR: [off-mike]

ROSE: All right. One last question, as we close this evening, and, each of you, 30 seconds. What is it about you that you want to connect with the American people, in their both despair and in their hope for the future that says something essentially about who you are?

And I begin with Congresswoman Bachmann.

BACHMANN: I’m sorry, Charlie.

[crosstalk]

SANTORUM: A little distraction.

[laughter]

ROSE: It is about the individual. We have 30 seconds here. We’ve talked about issues here, but I want to talk for a moment, as a last impression, a sense of what it is about you that you want to say here and let the American people know about you and your sense of recognizing their own pain, as well as their hope?

BACHMANN: Well, I do. I grew up in a middle-class home. We went to below…

ROSE: Thirty seconds, too, I’m sorry.

BACHMANN: We went to below poverty when my parents divorced. And my mother worked very hard. We all did. We all got jobs. And we were able to work our way through college. And — and eventually my husband and I started a business.

We have broken hearts for at-risk kids, Charlie. That’s why we took 23 foster children into our home. I believe the best solutions are the ones closest to home. If we reach out as individuals to help people and have broken hearts for people and care for them on a personal basis, then we don’t need big government to step in and do that job. The more that we can do to love people, the better off this…

[crosstalk]

ROSE: Herman Cain, 30 seconds?

CAIN: I can connect with people’s pain because I was po’ before I was poor. My dad worked three jobs. I understand what that means. But more importantly, with my career and with my records, I understand that leaders are supposed to make sure we’re working on the right problems, we’re assigning the right priority.

Surround yourself with the right people, which will allow you to put together the right plans, and, yes, sometimes those plans will be bold plans, because this economy is on life support. We don’t need to trim around the edges. We need a bold plan.

ROSE: Congressman — Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I grew up in an Army brat family. We moved all over the country. In recent years, I’ve had relatives out of work. I’ve had folks who are trying to find jobs for up to a year. We have, I think, a pretty good sense of the pain level.

But I also think it’s important to say that, of leaders, that you find solutions. I don’t think people hire one of us just to say, “I sympathize with you.” I think they hire us to say, “This is how we will solve it.” And I would say every person at this table is more likely to solve those problems than Barack Obama.

ROSE: Congressman Paul?

[applause]

PAUL: My motivation, my goal has always been to promote liberty, believing that’s what made America great. If we want prosperity, if we want peace, we understand what the cause of liberty is all about, and we have to understand that a free-market system and sound money gives us the prosperity.

And it also is the humanitarian program, because once you get into the welfare state and the socialist state, it all backfires. So if you care about people, you believe in liberty, that’s what made America great. That’s what I want to restore.

ROSE: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: [inaudible] I grew up in a steel town. And one of the things that I realized is that, when manufacturing left, a lot of the people in the middle income of America left.

SANTORUM: And what we — I just read a recent study that actually income mobility from the bottom two quintiles up into the — up into the middle income is actually greater, the mobility in Europe than it is in America today.

We need to change that. And the way you do it is by — by creating jobs in the manufacturing sector of the economy, which is what I will do. It will create that income mobility. It’ll create the opportunity for semi-skilled and lower-skilled and — and skilled workers to rise in society. It will take those people off of occupy and bring them into the workplace, where they can — they can family- sustaining jobs.

ROSE: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Not only have I seen and participated in the creation of a great family business, where jobs mean something, but I presided over a state that delivered the lowest level of unemployment in this country, 2.4 percent. And when I saw on the faces of people who had the dignity of a job, you knew what it meant to moms and dads and entire families.

And when Sheriff Hardy, who is here in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, when he talks about his deputies who for the first time are handing out foreclosure notices to the middle class, and they’re seeing a rise in suicides, they’re seeing a rise in spousal abuse, they’re seeing a rise in substance abuse, it gives you a sense of what it means to have the dignity of a job. We don’t have enough of them in this country.

ROSE: Governor Perry?

PERRY: Charlie, as the son of tenant farmers and a young man who had the opportunity to wear the uniform of my country, and then the great privilege to serve as the governor of the second-largest state in this country, I’ve got not only the CEO experience, but also working with the private sector to create the jobs.

And that’s what people are begging for. Talking to that out-of- work rig worker out in the Gulf of Mexico today, they’re begging for someone to make America America again.

ROSE: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: You know, we’ve talked about crisis this evening, economic crisis, people out of work, incomes going down. But there’s another crisis, and that’s that people wonder whether their future will be brighter for the kids than it’s been for them. It’s always been what it means to be American, to have a greater degree of confidence in the future than even what we’ve enjoyed ourselves.

And what we have to do is to have leadership in this country, like the men and women at this table, who believe in America. My experience will help us get our values strong, get our economy strong, and make sure that our military is second-to-none in the world.

I’m absolutely devoted to making America the strongest nation on Earth. And if you don’t want that as your objective, don’t vote for me. We already have a president that doesn’t make that his first — first objective.

ROSE: All right. I want to thank each and all of the candidates who sat at this table this evening. As I said at the beginning, I believe in tables, and I believe that places where you can come and talk about the country and its future and your beliefs in important.

Secondly, I want to thank Karen and thank Julianna for joining us. I want to thank all of you who came here this evening to hear these candidates. Thank you very much. For those at home, thank you for watching. A post-debate program will follow this. We thank you for your time. Good night.

[applause]

September 22, 2011: Fox News / Google /  Florida Republican Party Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Orlando, Florida September 22, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Former Governor Gary Johnson (NM);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATORS:
Bret Baier (Fox News);
Megyn Kelly (Fox News);
Chris Wallace (Fox News)

BAIER: Welcome to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, the site of our Republican presidential debate. It is being sponsored by Fox News and Google in conjunction with the Florida Republican Party.

Besides watching us on Fox News Channel, we are being streamed on YouTube.com/Fox News and heard on Fox News Radio.

Now let’s meet the candidates.

Texas Governor Rick Perry. [applause]

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. [applause]

Congressman Ron Paul. [applause]

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. [applause]

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. [applause]

Businessman Herman Cain. [applause]

Former Senator Rick Santorum. [applause]

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. [applause]

And former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. [applause]

Joining me at the big desk tonight, my Fox News colleagues Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace. [applause]

With our partner Google, we have some new features we’d like to quickly tell you about.

Throughout the night we’ll be playing some questions from viewers who posted their video and text questions on YouTube. We will also be polling viewers on key issues while the debate is under way. We will have updates from our own Shannon Bream.

Our rules are similar to previous Fox debates, one minute for answers, 30 seconds for follow-ups. And after an outpouring of e-mails from dog owners who said the last bell sounded like their doorbell, we have a new sound for the candidates if they run too long.

Thank you to Google for that sound. We hope after a string of debates we don’t have to use that too much.

Now, we received thousands and thousands of questions from around the world on different topics. Each one of these pins on the map is another question from health care and immigration, to foreign policy and social issues. But the highest percentage of questions dealt with jobs, the economy, debt, and government spending. And that was even before today’s major market slide.

What makes this debate unique is that not only did you submit the questions, you voted on them, letting everyone know which questions you think the candidates should be asked tonight.

We received questions from all 50 states, but our first question comes from Dave Meldeau, right here in Florida.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: As a small business owner, one of the obstacles I have in growing my business in today’s economy is having the confidence and incentive to go out and hire new employees. I’m wondering what each one of our candidates would propose to do as president to help incent small businesses like mine to hire new employees and to confidently grow our business in this troublesome economic environment.

[end video clip]

BAIER: Governor Perry, I’ll put that question to you.

PERRY: Yes, sir.

Well, Rick Scott is sitting right over there, and he and I compete every day with trying to get jobs into our states. And what we have done in the state of Texas over the course of the last decade is to lower that tax burden on the small businessmen and women, have a regulatory climate that is fair and predictable, and sweeping tort reform that we passed in 2003 that told personal injury trial lawyers, don’t come to Texas, because you are not going to be suing our doctors frivolously. [applause]

PERRY: That’s the way you get the government off of the back of small businessmen and women. And that’s the way you free up those small business entrepreneurs, where they know that they can risk their capital and have a chance to have a return on investment.

If it will work in the state of Texas, it will work in Washington, D.C. And that’s exactly what I’m going bring to Washington when I go there in November — or, excuse me, in January of 2013.

BAIER: Governor Perry, the thing we’ve heard from most people who submitted questions is they wanted specifics, they wanted details. Most of the people on the stage, opponents, have a specific jobs plan on paper that people can read.

Where is your jobs plan?

PERRY: Well, you will see a more extensive jobs plan. But the fact of the matter is, you look at the state of Texas and see what we’ve done there from the standpoint of lowering that tax burden, the regulatory climate in the state of Texas. We’ve taken those types of regulation off the throat of small business operators.

People understand that the state of Texas, during the last decade, something special happened there. It was the number one state for relocation for five years in a row. And we plan on keeping it that way, Rick. [laughter]

BAIER: Governor Romney — Governor Romney, you have a specific plan. In recent days, actually, the top rising search of your name on Google actually dealt with people searching for specifics of that plan.

But a Wall Street Journal editorial recently called your 59-point economic plan, quote, “surprisingly timid and tactical considering our economic predicament.” Specifically, the editorial board had a problem with you picking the $200,000 income threshold for eliminating interest, dividends, and capital gains taxes, writing that you were afraid of President Obama’s, quote, “class warfare rhetoric.”

How do you response to that criticism?

ROMNEY: Well, let’s go back — let’s go back and talk — microphone on? Can we get the mike on? There we go.

BAIER: There we go.

ROMNEY: Let’s go back and talk about the question that Dave asked, which is how to get small business a break. And President Obama has done everything wrong.

I happen to believe that to create jobs it helps to have had a job, and I have. And having had a job in small business and in big business, I know what you have to do is make America the most attractive place in the world for business, and that means our corporate tax rates, our employer tax rates have to be competitive. Small business pays at the highest rate. We need to get those rates down to globally competitive levels.

Number two, government and regulators have to be allies of business, not foes.

Number three, we’ve got to become energy secure in this country.

Number four, we have to have trade policies that work for us, not just for the other guys, and crack down on cheaters like China.

And my list goes on in my 59 points. But finally, let me tell you this… [applause]

I — I know there are some that say, look, we should lower taxes for the very highest-income people. Other folks have different plans. My view is very simple: The people that have been hurt most by the president’s economy, the Obama economy, has been the middle class.

That’s why I cut taxes for the middle class.

BAIER: So, sir, what… [applause] … what do you consider rich? Is half-a-million dollars, a million dollars rich? At what income does someone reach your definition of rich?

ROMNEY: I don’t try and define who’s — who’s rich and who’s not rich. I want everybody in America to be rich. I want people in this country to have opportunity. [applause]

And I want everybody to have the kind of opportunities that we on this stage have had. I want people in America to recognize that the future will be brighter for their kids than it was for them.

I know that the — the president’s party wants to try and take from some people and give to the others. That isn’t the way to lift America. The way to lift America is to give people opportunity and to let them enjoy the freedoms that have made us the envy of the world. [applause]

BAIER: Governor, thank you very much. Occasionally, through the debate, we will ask the same questions we ask the candidates to you at home. The first one, what is your definition of rich? You can vote on that answer at youtube.com/foxnews. We’ll bring some of those results throughout the show with Shannon Bream.

Now to my colleague, Megyn Kelly.

KELLY: Thanks, Bret.

Congresswoman Bachmann, after the last debate, a young member of the California Tea Party said he didn’t feel he had had his question fully answered. And it’s a question that received the most votes on Google and YouTube on the list, as well. The answer his question is a number. And the question was, quote, “Out of every dollar I earn, how much do you think that I deserve to keep?”

BACHMANN: And after the debate, I talked to that young man, and I said I wish I could have answered that question, because I want to tell you what my answer is: I think you earned every dollar. You should get to keep every dollar that you earn. That’s your money; that’s not the government’s money. [applause]

That’s the whole point. Barack Obama seems to think that when we earn money, it belongs to him and we’re lucky just to keep a little bit of it. I don’t think that at all. I think when people make money, it’s their money.

Obviously, we have to give money back to the government so that we can run the government, but we have to have a completely different mindset. And that mindset is, the American people are the genius of this economy. It certainly isn’t government that’s the genius. And that’s the two views.

President Obama has embraced a view of government-directed temporary fixes and gimmicks. They don’t work. He’s destroyed the economy. What does work is private solutions that are permanent in the private sector. That gives certainty; that will grow our economy. [applause]

KELLY: Senator Santorum, next question is for you. This map from Google depicts 22 states in the U.S. are right-to-work states. In the other 28, if a business is a union shop, you have to join the union if you want to work there. Now, this next question is one of the top-voted questions online, and it comes to us via YouTube from Yates Wilburn of Hilton Head, South Carolina.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: With unemployment numbers remaining above 9 percent, union issues, such as the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit against Boeing and several union battles in state legislatures across the country have become incredibly relevant to the national discussion. For all the candidates, would you support some form of a federal right-to-work law, allowing all workers to choose whether or not to join a union?

[end video clip] [applause]

KELLY: That’s for you, Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: I — I think the most important area that we have to focus in on when it comes to unions is public employee unions. That’s the area of unionization that’s growing the fastest and it’s costing us the most money.

We’ve seen these battles on the state level, where unions have — have really bankrupted states from pension plans to here on the federal level, for example, 30 percent to 40 percent union — union employees make above their private-sector equivalents.

I do not believe that — that state, federal or local workers, unions, should be involved in unions. And I would actually support a bill that says that we should not have public employee unions for the purposes of wages and benefits to be negotiated. [applause]

KELLY: Speaker Gingrich, this next one’s for you. You criticized extending unemployment benefits, saying that you were, quote, “opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.” Benefits have already been extended to 99 weeks, and they are set to expire soon. If you were president today, would you extend unemployment benefits? And if not, how do you justify that to the millions of unemployed Americans who are looking in earnest and whose families are depending on those checks?

GINGRICH: Well, what I’ve said is that I think unemployment compensation should be tied directly to a training program. And if you have to — if you don’t have a job and you need help, then in order for us to give you the help, you should sign up for a business-led training program so that that 99 weeks becomes an investment in human capital, giving us the best-trained workforce in the world so you can get a job.

But I believe it is fundamentally wrong to give people money for 99 weeks for doing nothing. That’s why we had welfare reform. [applause]

And, frankly, the easiest thing for Congress to do, if the president sends up a proposed extension, is to allow all 50 states to experiment at the state level with developing a mandatory training component of unemployment compensation, so you’d have 50 parallel experiments, and not pretend that Washington knows best or that Washington can solve the problem by itself. But I believe deeply, people should not get money for doing nothing. [applause]

BAIER: Now I turn to my colleague, Chris Wallace.

Chris?

WALLACE: Bret, thank you. Good evening, candidates.

Governor Huntsman, in Utah, you offered millions of dollars in tax credits to promote clean energy. In June you said that as president you would subsidize natural gas companies. How is that different from the Obama administration, which gave the solar panel company Solyndra a half-a-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees, and as we all know, that company ended up bankrupt, and we taxpayers ended up on the hook?

HUNTSMAN: Chris, first of all, it’s an honor to be here in Orlando, home of my wife, the greatest human being I’ve known in 28 years.

We’ve learned some important lessons as this economy has spun out of control. We have some hard decisions to make. And we’re not going to fix the problem. We’re not going to be able to bring our people together in America until we fix the economy.

I’m convinced that part of the divide that we’re experiencing in the United States, which is unprecedented, it’s unnatural, and it’s un-American, is because we’re divided economically, too few jobs, too few opportunities.

We have learned that subsidies don’t work and that we can no longer afford them. I believe that we can move toward renewable energy, but we’re going to have to have a bridge product. Everybody wants to draw from the sun and draw from the wind, and I’m here to tell you that eventually that will make sense, but today the economics don’t work.

We need something like natural gas. I’ve put forward an energy independence program, along with tax reform and regulatory reform. Just by drawing from natural gas, for example, you’re looking at 500,000 to 1 million jobs over the next five years. It is ours, it’s affordable, it has important national security implications, and we should begin the conversion process.

WALLACE: But just a 30-second follow-up, sir. In June, you told the New Hampshire Union Leader as president you would subsidies the natural gas industry.

HUNTSMAN: I would be willing to begin an effort, so long as there was a rapid phase-out. I do not like subsidies. I do not like long-term subsidies. But if there was some sort of way to get the ball rolling with a — with a — with a quick phase-out, I would be in favor of that.

WALLACE: Mr. Cain, I want to follow up on your 999 plan for economic growth. That’s a 9 percent… [applause]

Well, they seem to already know what it is. But for the few who don’t, it’s a 9 percent flat corporate tax, a 9 percent flat income tax, and a new 9 percent national sales tax.

Now, conservatives usually say repeal the income tax before you impose a new tax. Isn’t there a danger with your 999 plan, with these three taxes, that some government down the road after President Cain is going to increase three forms of taxation on Americans?

CAIN: No, there’s no danger in that. And first, let me answer Dave’s question with the 9, 9, 9 plan. Unfortunately, nobody up here answered his question. He wanted to know as a small businessman what are we going to do to help him as a small business person? I have walked in Dave’s shoes.

This economy is on life support, that’s why my 9, 9, 9 plan is a bold solution. It starts with throw out the current tax code and pass 9 percent business flat tax, 9 percent personal income tax, and the 9% national sales tax. This is the most important part, it eliminates, or replaces corporate income tax, personal income tax, capital gains tax as well as the estate tax.

Then it treats all businesses the same. And the people who are paying only payroll tax, 15.3, that 15.4 they don’t have to pay, now they only have to pay that 9 percent.

And unlike Governor Romney’s plan my plan throws out the old one.

He’s still hooked to the current tax code. That dog won’t hunt. [applause]

WALLACE: The rule is if your name is mentioned in an answer you get 30 seconds to respond — Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: That’s fine. I put my plan out, I want to make it clear my intent is to help the people who have been most hurt by President Obama’s economy. And the people who have been most hurt are the middle income families of America. And that’s why my plan says that if middle income families want to save their money, anybody earning under $200,000 and not pay any taxes on interest, dividends or capital gains, zero tax on their savings, that’s the plan I’m for. And I will get that done in my first year. Thank you.

WALLACE: Congressman Paul I want to show the video that got the most votes of all the video questions submitted to YouTube. And this one comes, as you can see, from Brandy and Michael in Spencer, Indiana.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: There’s growing concern among Americans about the size and the scope of the federal government and its infringement upon state and individual rights.

QUESTION: If you’re elected president how do you plan to restore the 10th amendment, hold the federal government only to those enumerated powers in the Constitution and allow states to govern themselves?

[end video clip]

WALLACE: Congressman what is your answer for Brandy and Michael?

PAUL: Well obviously, it would take more than one individual, but the responsibility of the president would be to veto every single bill that violates the 10th amendment. That would be the solution. [applause]

WALLACE: Anything else? You have a little time left. [laughter]

PAUL: Well, I’ll tell you what, that is the subject that is crucial because government is too big in Washington, D.C. It’s run away. We have no controls of spending, taxes, regulations, no control in the Federal Reserve printing money. So if we want government, whether it is medical care or whatever, it is proper to do it at the local level as well as our schools. But there’s no authority in the constitution to do so much what we’re doing. There’s no authority for them to run our schools, no authority to control our economy, and no authority to control us as individuals on what we do with our personal lives! [applause]

BAIER: OK, we got to the full answer there at the end. Governor Johnson, same question to you about the 10th amendment. With this added, you are an outspoken libertarian. What makes you a better choice for libertarian Republicans than Congressman Paul?

JOHNSON: I’m not going to presume to make that assumption, but I would like to say that I do bring a unique perspective to this stage. I started a one-man handyman business in Albuquerque in 1974 and grew it to over 1,000 employees. I have run for two political offices in my life: governor of New Mexico and reelection. I promise to submit a balanced budget to congress in the year 2013. I promise to veto legislation where expenditures exceed revenue.

And if anybody doubts my willingness to veto bills, I think I vetoed more bills than any governor in the history of the United States. I think I vetoed more bills than all the other governors in the country combined.

Add to that, throwing out the entire federal tax system and replacing it with a consumption tax, the fair tax, which would absolutely reboot the American economy because it does away with the corporate tax to create tens of millions of jobs in this country.

BAIER: Governor Johnson, thank you.

We’ll be coming back to the issue of the economy throughout this debate tonight. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we’ll also be checking in with our own Shannon Bream throughout the night to get real-time updates from people watching — Shannon.

BREAM: Hi Bret.

Well, this is the most interactive debate ever, and it’s thanks to our partner Google. You can go to YouTube.com/Fox News. What happens there, folks can see the debate streaming live. But also, to the right of the screen, all night long, we are sending out questions so we can get your answers at home. And you can participate and weigh in.

Bret, a little bit earlier, asked Governor Romney how he defines rich. It’s a question we put to folks out on the Internet as well, and we’ve got the results.

Here’s the question: “I define rich as someone having an annual income higher than.” A hundred thousand dollars, 13 percent of you weighed in there; $250,000, 22 percent; $500,000, 22 percent; and the majority went with $1 million annual income, that defines you as rich,
44 percent of those who voted.

We’ll be going through all kinds of polls and data on the commercials. Join us at YouTube.com/Fox News.

Bret, back to you.

BAIER: Thanks, Shannon.

After the break, we will be tackling foreign policy, government spending. Shannon will have more on that, too. And also the issue of immigration.

Now, here for a preview of what’s to come, let’s take a look at what’s called a word cloud. It shows the words that were used most often in all of the questions you asked about immigration. The bigger the word, the more often it was used.

The biggest word in this cloud, as you see, is “illegal.”

Back after a short break. [applause]

[commercial break]

[begin video clip]

GOV. RICK SCOTT, R-FLA.: Good evening. I’m Florida Governor Rick Scott. Because of Florida’s size and diversity, our state represents the very pulse of our great nation. Not only will Florida be a must win for a Republican to be our party’s nominee, Florida is a must win on the road to the White House.

It is my belief that the next president will be the candidate who both articulates a plan for getting America’s economy back on the right track and inspires confidence in the hearts and minds of all Americans.

Good luck to all the candidates.

This debate is a partnership with Fox News and Google. I thank the men and women of Fox News and Google for choosing Florida, and thank all of you for being part of this exciting event.

[end video clip]

BAIER: Thank you Governor Scott.

And welcome back to Orlando, Florida, and the Republican presidential debate. [applause]

BAIER: My colleague Megyn Kelly will take us through the next round of questions on government spending and debt.

KELLY: Thanks, Bret.

Governor Perry, Governor Romney has been hammering you on your idea of turning Social Security back to the states, repeatedly. Can you explain specifically how 50 separate Social Security systems are supposed to work?

PERRY: Well, let me just say first, for those people that are on Social Security today, for those people that are approaching Social Security, they don’t have anything in the world to worry about. We have made a solemn oath to the people of this country that that Social Security program in place today will be there for them.

Now, it’s not the first time that Mitt has been wrong on some issues before. And the bottom line is, is we never said that we were going to move this back to the states. What we said was, we ought to have as one of the options the state employees and the state retirees, they being able to go off of the current system, on to one that the states would operate themselves.

As a matter of fact, in Massachusetts, his home state, almost 96 percent of the people who are on that program, retirees and state people, are off of the Social Security program. So having that option out there to have the states — Louisiana does it, almost every state has their state employees and the retirees that are options to go off of Social Security.

That makes sense. It’s an option that we should have.

KELLY: Governor Romney, you’re satisfied with that?

ROMNEY: Well, it’s different than what the governor put in his book just, what, six months, and what you said in your interviews following the book. So I don’t know. There’s a Rick Perry out there that is saying — and almost to quote, it says that the federal government shouldn’t be in the pension business, that it’s unconstitutional.

Unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states.

So you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that. [applause]

ROMNEY: Now, my own view is, that we have to make it very, very clear that Social Security is a responsibility of the federal government, not the state governments, that we’re going to have one plan, and we’re going to make sure that it’s fiscally sound and stable.

And I’m absolutely committed to keeping Social Security working. I put in my book that I wrote a couple of years ago a plan for how we can do that and to make sure Social Security stable not just for the next 25 years, but for the next 75.

Thank you.

PERRY: And I would like to respond to that.

KELLY: Go ahead, Governor Perry.

PERRY: Speaking of books and talking about being able to have things in your books, back and forth, your economic adviser talked about Romneycare and how that was an absolute bust. And it was exactly what Obamacare was all about.

As a matter of fact, between books, your hard copy book, you said it was exactly what the American people needed, to have that Romneycare given to them as you had in Massachusetts. Then in your paperback, you took that line out. So, speaking of not getting it straight in your book sir, that would be a — [applause]

KELLY: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Governor Perry, we were talking about Social Security, but if you want to talk about health care, I’m happy to do that.

BAIER: We are going to have a round on that.

ROMNEY: I actually wrote my book, and in my book I said no such thing. What I said, actually — when I put my health care plan together
— and I met with Dan Balz, for instance, of The Washington Post. He said, “Is this is a plan that if you were president you would put on the whole nation, have a whole nation adopt it?”

I said, “Absolutely not.” I said, “This is a state plan for a state, it is not a national plan.”

And it’s fine for to you retreat from your own words in your own book, but please don’t try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book. I stand by what I wrote. I believe in what I did.

And I believe that the people of this country can read my book and see exactly what it is.

Thank you. [applause]

KELLY: We’ve got plenty of questions for all the other candidates up here tonight, but I want to stick with you on this one, Governor Romney.
Congresswoman Bachmann has said that President Obama has “ushered in socialism” during his first term. Governor Perry says that this administration is “hell bent” toward taking America toward a socialist country” When Speaker Gingrich was asked if he believes President Obama is a socialist, he responded, quote, “Sure, of course he is.” [laughter]

Do you, Governor Romney… [applause]

Do you, Governor Romney, believe that President Obama is a socialist?

ROMNEY: Let me tell you the title that I want to hear said about President Obama, and that is: former President Barack Obama. That’s the title I want to hear. [applause]

Let me tell you this. What President — what President Obama is, is a big-spending liberal. And he takes his political inspiration from Europe and from the socialist democrats in Europe. Guess what? Europe isn’t working in Europe. It’s not going to work here.

I believe in America. I believe in the opportunity and in the freedom that is American opportunity and freedom. I believe in free enterprise and capitalism. I believe government is too big. It’s gone from 27 percent of our economy in the years of JFK to 37 percent of our economy. We have to rein in the scale of government or we’re not going to be — continue to be a free economy.

I love this country. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I only spent four years as a governor. I didn’t inhale. [laughter]

I’m a business guy. I’m going to get America working again, because I believe in the principles that make America the hope of the Earth.

Thank you. [applause]

KELLY: Governor Huntsman, this next one’s for you. This week, President Obama proposed a tax hike on millionaires, saying that they need to pay their, quote, “fair share.” According to an August Gallup poll, 66 percent of American adults actually believe that a tax hike on the wealthy is a good idea to help tackle our mounting debt. Is there any scenario under which you could side with the 66 percent of people who believe that it is a good idea to raise taxes on millionaires?

HUNTSMAN: We’re not going to raise taxes. This is the worst time to be raising taxes, and everybody knows that. [applause]

We need to grow. We need to be reminded of what Ronald Reagan told us so beautifully, that which is great about America, freedom. We need to re-establish freedom in the marketplace.

We need to address our underlying structural problems that we have.

And in order to do that, we’re going to have to fix our taxes. And we put forward a program endorsed by the Wall Street Journal that phases out for individuals all the loopholes, all the deductions, and creates three rates, 8, 14, 23.

On the corporate side, it phases out all of the corporate welfare, all of the subsidies, and it gets it from 35 percent to 25 percent.

This is exactly where we need to be. We need to grow; we need to create jobs. This is not a point in time where we should be raising taxes.

We need to fix the underlying structural problems in this economy.

And until such time as we do, we’re not going to provide the confidence to businesses who are looking to deploy capital in the marketplace and hire people. And that would be serious tax reform, like I proposed, and like I did in the stay of Utah, and that would be — that would be structural reform, as well, dealing with Dodd-Frank, and repealing Obamacare, because they are presenting tremendous uncertainty to the marketplace right now.

KELLY: Thank you, Governor.

Mr. Cain, this question was one of the top 10 video questions voted on by people online, and it comes to us from Lee Doren of Arlington, Virginia, via YouTube.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: My question is, if you were forced to eliminate one department from the federal government, which one would you eliminate and why? Thank you.

[end video clip] [laughter]

CAIN: The first — the first department, if I were forced to eliminate a department, I would start with the EPA and start all over.

It’s out of control. [applause]

Now, I know that makes some people nervous, but the EPA has gone wild. The fact that they have a regulation that goes into effect January 1, 2012, to regulate dust says that they’ve gone too far. [laughter]

So rather than try to fix it, eliminate all of the things that they have right now and then start rebuilding a responsible EPA.

Now, with the rest of my time, may I offer a solution for Social Security, rather than continuing to talk about what to call it? I have proposed the Chilean model. It’s been around 30 years, and it works.

It’s a personal retirement account. And in the last 30 years, not only has Chile succeeded with that model, but 30 other countries have done so. I don’t think we’re doing a service to the American people to keep bantering about what you call it and what you don’t call it. The solution is: Fix it. [applause]

KELLY: Speaker Gingrich, every day the federal government takes in about $6 billion, but spends about $10 billion. So we borrow 40 cents of every dollar we spend. Now, I understand that you believe that if we modernize the federal government that it’ll help a lot, it’ll save billions. But given the resistance that we’ve seen in Washington — the seeming intractable resistance we’ve seen in Washington to spending cuts, how can you possibly slash spending by 40 percent? How can you do it?

GINGRICH: Well, the way you described the question, you can’t. [laughter]

KELLY: Well, that’s it. Stick a fork in us.

GINGRICH: If — if you assume Washington remains the way Washington is right now, it’s all hopeless. We might as well buy Greek bonds and go down together. [laughter]

KELLY: How do you get us out of that? [applause]

GINGRICH: Well, next Thursday in Des Moines, I’m going to outline a 21st century Contract with America. And it’s going to be far bolder, far deeper, far more profound than what we did in 1994 or what I helped Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan do in 1980.

It’s important to remember, this month, in the Reagan administration, September 1983, we created 1,100,000 new jobs. Obama’s socialist policies, class warfare, and bureaucratic socialism, we created zero in August.

I believe with leadership we can balance the budget. I did it for four consecutive years. We went from $2.2 trillion projected deficit over a decade to $2.7 trillion projected surplus when I left. I think it is doable, but it takes real leadership. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you, Megyn.

The next question is for all of the candidates. It comes to us from Atlanta, Georgia, on the topic of education.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Stella Lohmann from Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve taught in both public and private schools, and now as a substitute teacher I see administrators more focused on satisfying federal mandates, retaining funding, trying not to get sued, while the teachers are jumping through hoops trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all education for their students. What as president would you seriously do about what I consider a massive overreach of big government into the classroom? Thank you.

[end video clip] [applause]

BAIER: That topic is for all candidates. And to get everyone to weigh in, 30 seconds each, please.

Governor Johnson?

JOHNSON: I’m promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013. That’s a 43 percent reduction in federal spending.

I am going to promise to advocate the abolishment of the federal Department of Education. [applause]

The federal Department of Education gives each state 11 cents out of every dollar that every state spends, but it comes with 16 cents worth of strings attached. So what America does not understand is that it’s a negative to take federal money. Give it to 50 laboratories of innovation, the states, to improve on, and that’s what we’ll see dramatic improvement. [applause]

BAIER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Yeah, 20 years ago, the federal contribution to education was 3 percent. It’s now at 11 percent, and our schools are doing worse, and it’s exactly what Gary Johnson just said. It’s because the federal government’s meddling.

The bottom-line problem with education is that the education system doesn’t serve the customer of the education system. And who’s the customer? The parents, because it’s the parents’ responsibility to educate the children.

It’s been that responsibility — from the moment they were born, they began the education of their children. And at some point, we have
— the government has convinced parents that at some point it’s no longer their responsibility. And in fact, they force them, in many respects, to turn their children over to the public education system and wrest control from them and block them out of participation of that.

That has to change or education will not improve in this country. [applause]

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: I think you need very profound reform of education at the state level. You need to dramatically shrink the federal Department of Education, get rid of virtually all of its regulations.

And the truth is, I believe we’d be far better off if most states adopted a program of the equivalent of Pell Grants for K-through-12, so that parents could choose where their child went to school, whether it was public, or private, or home-schooling, and parents could be involved. Florida has a virtual school program that is worth the entire country studying as an example. [applause]

BAIER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: If you care about your children, you’ll get the federal government out of the business of educating our kids. [applause]

In 1980, when the Republican Party ran, part of the platform was to get rid of the Department of Education. By the year 2000, it was eliminated, and we fed on to it. Then (inaudible) Republicans added No Child Left Behind.

So the first thing a president should do is — the goal should be set to get the government out completely, but don’t enforce this law of No Child Left Behind. It’s not going to do any good, and nobody likes it. And there’s no value to it. The teachers don’t like it, and the students don’t like it.

But there are other things that the federal government can do, and that is give tax credits for the people who will opt out. We ought to have a right to opt out of the public system if you want.

BAIER: Governor Perry.

PERRY: There are a lot of good ideas here on the side and whether it is cutting back on the Department of Education, making those types of reductions.

I happen to believe we ought to be promoting school choice all across this country. I think school — the voucher system, charter schools all across this country. But there is one person on this stage that is for Obama’s Race to the Top and that is Governor Romney. He said so just this last week. And I think that is an important difference between the rest of the people on this stage and one person that wants to run for the presidency.

Being in favor of the Obama Race to the Top and that is not conservative.

BAIER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Nice try.

Let me tell you what I think I would do.

One, education has to be held at the local and state level, not at the federal level. We need get the federal government out of education. And secondly, all the talk about we need smaller classroom size, look that’s promoted by the teachers unions to hire more teachers. We looked at what drives good education in our state, what we found is the best thing for education is great teachers, hire the very best and brightest to be teachers, pay them properly, make sure that you have school choice, test your kids to see if they are meeting the standards that need to be met, and make sure that you put the parents in charge.

And as president I will stand up to the National Teachers Unions.

BAIER: Governor Romney, I want give you more time. Did Governor Perry say something that wasn’t true?

ROMNEY: I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying. I don’t support any particular program that he’s describing. I think that the president — I think the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is doing a good thing by saying, you know what, we should insist that teachers get evaluated and that schools have the opportunity to see which teachers exceeding and which ones are failing and that teachers that are not successful are removed from the classroom. Those ideas by Secretary Duncan, that is a lot better than what the president did which is cutting off school choice in the Washington, D.C. schools. So let’s give us a full chance to talk about it.

BAIER: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: We need that to do with education what has always worked historically, and that’s local control with parents. What doesn’t work is what we see happen right now.

I’m a mom five biological kids. We’ve raised 23 foster children in our home. The reason why I got involved in politics was because of the concern I had about our foster children and the education they were getting. What I would do as president of the United States is pass the mother of all repeal bills on education. I would take the entire federal education law, repeal it. Then I would go over to the Department of Education, I’d turn off the lights, I would lock the door and I would send all the money back to the states and localities.

BAIER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: A lot of good ideas, I won’t repeat them.

All of the programs at the federal level where there’s strings attached, cut all the strings. We have got to encourage parents to take advantage of choices, but provide those choices and we must find ways to empower the students. This is how we are going to improve education, but primarily get the federal government out of trying to educate our kids at the local level.

BAIER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: This is a key question, because it has so much to do with our nation’s competitiveness. I feel like I’ve run my own clinical trial in my home, raising seven kids. We’ve seen every option. We’ve experienced everything out there. But as governor I learned some important things. I signed the first — or the second voucher bill in the United States, Carson-Smith. I’ve actually done something about this.

We actually worked on early childhood literacy. If you can lock in the pillars of cognitive development around reading and math before age six, you are giving those kids the best gift possible as they then proceed through education.

Finally, you’ve got to say no to unfunded mandates coming out of Washington. They are totally unacceptable. No one loves their schools more than parents and local school boards, and local elected officials.

Localize, localize, localize. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Huntsman thank you.

And by the way, everyone likes the new sound, it’s far more pleasing instead of the bell? OK, I guess they do. [laughter]

BAIER: …round of questions on immigration.

WALLACE: Congresswoman Bachmann, as you well know, a number of states are trying to crack down on illegal immigration. We got a bunch of questions on immigration like this one from Tim Emerson, this is a text question so you don’t need to look up there. Tim Emerson of California.

He wrote this, “would you support each state enforcing the immigration laws since the federal government is not?”

Congresswoman, could you answer Tim’s question? And if your answer is yes, how do you square that with the constitution which says that congress has the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization?

BACHMANN: Well, the reason why he’s asking this question is because the federal government has failed the American people and has failed the states. It’s reprehensible that President Obama has sued the state of Arizona and the governor of Arizona for trying to protect the people in Arizona. That’s wrong. [applause]

BACHMANN: As president of the United States, I would do what my job would demand of me. That’s to uphold the sovereignty of the United States of America.

To do that, I would build a fence on America’s southern border on every mile, on every yard, on every foot, on every inch of the southern border. I think that’s what we have to do, not only build it, but then also have sufficient border security and enforce the laws that are on the books with the ICE agents, with our border security.

And here’s the other thing I would do. I would not allow taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens or for their children. [applause]

BACHMANN: That’s a madness. End the madness for illegal aliens to come into the United States of America.

WALLACE: Congresswoman, thank you.

And we’re going to get back to that issue in a moment.

But first, Speaker Gingrich, as you well know, there’s a debate going on in Congress right now about whether or not to make all employers, all businesses use E-Verify, a government database, to check whether or not new hires are illegal. Now, some Tea Partiers object to that idea because they say it would turn small businessmen into immigration agents.

But Kristen Williamson of the Federation for American Immigration Reform sent this question. Please look at it.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: Kristen Williamson, the Federal for American Immigration Reform.

Struggling U.S. workers continue to compete with millions of illegal aliens. Do you support legislation to require all employers to use E-Verify in order to ensure that the people that they hire are actually legally authorized to work in the U.S.? And will you impose penalties against employers who continue to hire illegal workers?

[end video clip]

WALLACE: The question, Mr. Speaker, is, should employers be required to use E-Verify?

GINGRICH: Well, let me say, first of all, I think we would be better off to outsource E-Verify to American Express, MasterCard or Visa, because they actually know how to run a program like that without massive fraud. [applause]

GINGRICH: Second, the program should be as easy as swiping your credit card when you buy gasoline. And so I would ask of employers, what is it you would object to in helping the United States of America in dealing with the problem involving illegal immigration?

But, in addition, I want to reinforce what Congresswoman Bachmann said. I strongly favor 100 percent control of the border, and I strongly favor English as the official language of government. [applause]

GINGRICH: And I favor modernizing the legal visa system to make it far more convenient, far easier and far more practical. Here in Orlando, where we have a huge interest in people being able to visit easily for tourism, we have a terribly antiquated legal system while our border is too open for people who are illegal. [applause]

WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

Governor Romney, I want to continue a conversation that you had with Governor Perry in the last debate.

In Massachusetts, you vetoed legislation to provide interstate tuition rates to the children of illegals. Governor Perry of course signed the Texas Dream Act to do exactly that. But what about Governor Perry’s argument that it’s better to get these kids an education and to get them jobs than to consign them just to being a burden on the state?

ROMNEY: It’s an argument I just can’t follow. I’ve got be honest with you, I don’t see how it is that a state like Texas — to go to the University of Texas, if you’re an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? That’s $22,000 a year.

Four years of college, almost $100,000 discount if you are an illegal alien go to the University of Texas. If you are a United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn’t make sense to me. And that kind of magnet — [applause]

ROMNEY: That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense. We have to have — just as Speaker Gingrich said, and as Michele Bachmann said as well, Congresswoman Bachmann, and that is we have to have a fence, we have to have enough Border Patrol agents to secure the fence, we have to have a system like E-Verify that employers can use to identify who is here legally and illegally.

We have to crackdown on employers that hire people that are here illegally. And we have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits like a $100,000 tax credit — or, excuse me, discount for going to the University of Texas. That shouldn’t be allowed. It makes no sense at all. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor Perry, I’m going to ask you a question, so you don’t need to respond to him, because you’re going to get a full minute to answer your question, which is on directly this point. You’re the candidate whose name, by a wide margin, came up most often in the questions being submitted to all of you candidates about immigration.

Dave Hollenback of Arizona sent this “To date, it appears that you have not tried to stop the illegals from coming. We have high unemployment and a considerable amount of jobs going to illegals. Are you going to exert an effort to stop the abuse of U.S. citizens by illegals?”

Now, last year, more than 16,000 children of illegals, young people in Texas, took advantage of your in-state tuition rate. Speak to that issue. And just, generally, how do you feel being criticized by a number of these other candidates on the stage for being too soft on immigration, sir?

PERRY: Well, I feel pretty normal getting criticized by these folks, but the fact of the matter is this: there is nobody on this stage who has spent more time working on border security than I have.

For a decade, I’ve been the governor of a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. We put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border. We’ve got our Texas Ranger recon teams there now.

I supported Arizona’s immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to defend it. Every day I have Texans on that border that are doing their job.

But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society.

I think that’s what Texans wanted to do. Out of 181 members of the Texas legislature, when this issue came up, only four dissenting votes.

This was a state issue. Texans voted on it. And I still support it greatly. [applause]

WALLACE: Senator Santorum — [booing]

SANTORUM: Chris, no one here is suggesting —

WALLACE: Senator Santorum, you don’t need to butt in because I was about to ask you a question on this exact issue.

You say that Governor Perry’s opposition to building a border along the entire fence shows that he is a “big government moderate.”

Question: Is he soft on illegal immigration?

SANTORUM: Governor Perry, no one is suggesting up here that the students that are illegal in this country shouldn’t be able to go to a college and university. I think you are sort of making this leap that, unless we subsidize this, the taxpayers subsidize it, they won’t be able to go.

Well, most folks who want go to the state of Texas or any other state out of state have to pay the full boat. The point is, why are we subsidizing?

Not that they can’t go. They can go. They just have to borrow money, find other sources to be able to go.

And why should they be given preferential treatment as an illegal in this country? That’s what we’re saying. [applause]

SANTORUM: And so, yes, I would say that he is soft on illegal immigration. I think the fact that he doesn’t want to build a fence — he gave a speech in 2001 where he talked about, buy national health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don’t even think Barack Obama would be for buy national health insurance.

So I think he’s very weak on this issue of American sovereignty and protecting our borders and not being a magnet for illegal immigration, yes.

WALLACE: Governor Perry, 30 seconds to respond, sir.

PERRY: I’ve got one question for him.

Have you ever even been to the border with Mexico?

SANTORUM: Yes.

PERRY: I’m surprised if you have, but you weren’t paying attention, because the idea that you —

SANTORUM: Well, the answer is, yes, I have.

PERRY: — are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 miles, and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana, does not make sense. You put the boots on the ground.

We know how to make this work. You put the boots on the ground.

You put the aviation assets —

SANTORUM: But it’s not working, Governor.

PERRY: — in the ground. No, it’s not working because the federal government has not —

SANTORUM: But you said we know how it works. Is it working in Texas?

PERRY: The federal government has not engaged in this at all. When I’m the president of the United States, I’ll promise you one thing —

SANTORUM: But you’re saying you put the assets there. Has it worked in Texas?

PERRY: — we will put the assets on the ground —

SANTORUM: You said you have.

PERRY: — the boots on the ground —

BAIER: Senator Santorum, let him finish, please.

PERRY: — the aviation assets on the ground, and we will stop illegal immigration, we will stop the drug cartels, and we will make America secure.

SANTORUM: Can you answer the question? Is it working?

WALLACE: Well, you know, you asked your question, he gave his answer, sir.

SANTORUM: OK.

WALLACE: Sometimes we are frustrated with all of you answering questions. [laughter]

WALLACE: Congressman Paul, I want to ask you a question about a comment you made a couple of weeks ago about a border fence with Mexico. Here’s what you said, sir. I want to quote it: “There’s capital controls and there’s people control. So every time you think of a fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.”

Question, Congressman, do you know a lot of Americans who want to take their money and flee the United States of America? [laughter]

PAUL: There are — there are some. All the candidates up here talk about repatriation of dollars. They’ve already taken them overseas.

We’re talking about trying to bring in $1.5 trillion because they leave our country, because we make it uncomfortable, too many regulations, too much taxation. They can’t start business; they’ve lost confidence.

Yes, when countries destroy a currency, they do lead to capital controls and they lead to people control. So I think it is a real concern. [applause]

And, also, once you have these data banks, the data banks means that everybody is going to be in the data bank. You say, oh, no, the data bank’s there for the illegals. But everybody’s in the data bank.

That’s national ID card. If you care about your personal liberty, you’ll be cautious when you feel comfortable, blame all the illegal immigrants for everything. What you need to do is attack their benefits: no free education, no free subsidies, no citizenship, no birth-right citizenship. [applause]

And that would get to the bottom of it a lot sooner. But economically, you should not ignore the fact that, in tough economic times, money and people want to leave the country. That’s unfortunate.

WALLACE: Congressman Paul, thank you very much, sir.

BAIER: Chris, thank you. Let’s check in now with Shannon Bream.

Shannon?

BREAM: Well, Bret, one of the really interesting and valuable pieces of information we get from our partner, Google, is looking at search trends. We want to take you through some of those.

They’ve looked online for people within the U.S. who have been searching for coupons. We’ve talked about the economy a lot. If you look at the trend, it has been going up, up, up very steadily since 2004 to right now.

Another search compares home loan searches for foreclosure searches. Those have slipped over time. And now more people searching for information about foreclosures than home loans.

And another look, this compares folks searching for the best SUV miles per gallon and also gas prices, and those go together. When people are worried about their pocketbooks, worried about finding a bargain, they’re also looking at how they can save on gas and how they can conserve.

We’ve also been tracking questions that you’ve been putting to the candidates. We’ve put them to the folks at home, as well, and we’ve got some results. This question the same one we asked the candidates. If you had to cut a government department, what would you cut?

This is what the folks at home told us: the Labor Department, 8 percent; the EPA, 12 percent; Housing and Urban Development, 12 percent; Education,
47 percent, easily the majority there; and none, 20 percent. [applause]

Check it all out, YouTube.com/foxnews. Bret, back to you.

BAIER: Thanks, Shannon. We’ll check back with you a little later.

Up next, foreign policy, social issues, and health care, after the break.

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to Orlando and the Republican presidential debate. We’re parting — partner — partnering — easy for me to say — with Google and the Florida Republican Party.

Now to the topic of foreign policy. And all night we’ve been showing you these word clouds. Take a look at this one. All the searches on foreign policy, Israel is the biggest word. These are actually the words used in questions.

And that brings us to our first question. This week, with the Palestinian efforts at the United Nations, the issue of the future of Israel is a big concern to questioners. In fact, Governor Romney, the next question was a top question voted in the foreign policy section from Yigal Marcus in Teaneck, New Jersey.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: As president, how would you approach the new reality in the Middle East, specifically with regards to our ally, Israel, and the existential threats it faces from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and now the Palestinian Authority?

[end video clip]

BAIER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Very simple. You start off by saying that you don’t allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and your allies. [applause]

The president went about this all wrong. He went around the world and apologized for America. He — he addressed the United Nations in his inaugural address and chastised our friend, Israel, for building settlements and said nothing about Hamas launching thousands of rockets into Israel.

Just before Bibi Netanyahu came to the United States, he threw Israel under the bus, tried to negotiate for Israel.

The right course — if you disagree with an ally, you talk about it privately. But in public, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your allies. The right course for us… [applause]

The right course for us is not to try and negotiate for Israel. The right course is to stand behind our friends, to listen to them, and to let the entire world know that we will stay with them and that we will support them and defend them.

And with regards to Iran, which perhaps represents the greatest existential threat to Israel, we have to make it abundantly clear: It is unacceptable — and I take those — that word carefully — it is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear nation. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you, Governor Romney.

Mr. Cain, this week, the Palestinian Authority brought their bid for statehood to the United Nations. How would you respond to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state?

CAIN: It starts with an extension of the Reagan philosophy of peace through strength. My philosophy would extend that to peace through strength and clarity. This administration has not made it clear how it stands with Israel.

When I was in Israel last month, I met with the deputy prime minister. And he made it shockingly, chillingly clear that, given everything that’s going on, number one, Israel will defend itself, with all of the tensions going on in the Middle East.

And he also made it real clear that he wasn’t sure how this administration stood when it came to Israel. I made it clear, which — and I would also make it clear to all of — our — the other people in the world, that if you mess with Israel, you’re messing with the United States of America. We will stand solidly behind Israel. [applause]

CAIN: If in fact it was clear to the Palestinians, where the United States stood, they might have had second thoughts about trying to pull such a move without negotiating with Israel.

BAIER: Mr. Cain, thank you.

Here’s a comparison of searches on Google for Israel, Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past few years. You can see the lines, Israel dominates the searches except for a few critical moments in time for Pakistan.

Which brings us to this, Governor Perry, if you were president, and you go a call at 3 am telling you that Pakistan had lost control of is nuclear weapons, at the hands of the Taliban, what would be your first move?

PERRY: Well obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with — and that’s the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States.

For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16’s, we chose not to do that. We did the same with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.

Today, we don’t have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.

BAIER: Senator Santorum if the security situation were to fall apart in Iraq in 2012 would you support sending U.S. troops back to the region to stabilize the gains made?

SANTORUM: I’m not for taking them out of the region. I believe we need to listen to our generals, and our generals are being very, very clear that we need to continue to stabilize Iraq, the Iraqi government wants and needs our intelligence in particular, needs force protection.

We need to have anywhere — I’m hearing numbers of 20,000, 30,000 troops potentially to remain in Iraq, not indefinitely, but to continue to make sure that this is a stable transition.

This is the difference between Congressman Paul, Governor Huntsman, Governor Perry and myself when it comes to this issue. I stand up and say that when we engage in Iraq and Afghanistan, we engage because we want to be successful. We want victory. We want to have accomplished a national security objective for this country to make sure that we are safer.

We are not on a political agenda to withdraw troops. So the first thing is to make sure that we secure success.

To answer the question on Pakistan, which I’m not too sure was answered. The bottom line is, that we should be establishing relationships in Pakistan with allies of ours, folks like relationships with President Musharraf who we had in the past with others in that country so if in fact something like that would occur we could work in concert to make sure that that coup could be overturned and make sure those nuclear weapon do not fall in those hands.

But working with allies at that point is the last thing we want to do. We want to work in that country to make sure the problem is defused.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich, many of the foreign policy questions we received had directly to do with the U.S. economy as well when it came to the topic of foreign aid.

Butch Russell had the top voted video question in the section of foreign policy.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: When are we gonna get someone in the White House that can stand up to these other countries and say you are not getting any more of our money. This is stupid. We send billions of dollars overseas to countries that hate us.

[end video clip] [applause]

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich.

GINGRICH: I think — I actually there’s a lot to that. And I’ve been a strong supporter of international assistance, but I think there are a couple of good reasons to review the whole program.

First of all, I would replace virtually all government to government aid with some kind of investment approach that encouraged American companies to create jobs that made both the United States and the other country wealthier. Our bureaucrats giving their bureaucrats money is a guaranteed step towards corruption.

Second, I think when you have countries that vote against you in the United Nations consistently you really have to ask yourself why are you giving them anything? I mean, if they are not your ally why are… [applause]

GINGRICH: We came out of World War II with the generosity that made perfect sense when we had 50 percent of the world economy. And it was a different world. And we need to understand how different it is.

But I want to go back to your question on Pakistan, because I think people need to understand how real this is. This world is in danger of becoming dramatically more dangerous in the not-too-distant future.

People talk about an Iranian weapon? There may be well over 100 nuclear weapons in Pakistan. And the example you used is not too far-fetched to worry about.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich, thank you.

Governor Johnson, here in Florida, charter flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Havana, Cuba, have resumed. Is there a problem with that? And what are your thoughts on U.S.-Cuba policy?

JOHNSON: I think the biggest threat to our national security is the fact that we’re bankrupt, so I am promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013, and included in that is a 43 percent reduction in military spending.

I think it’s crazy that we have foreign aid to company — to countries when we’re borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar to do that. [applause]

Military alliances — military alliances are really key to other countries taking up the slack.

With regard to flights to Cuba? You know, I’m — I’m in favor, I think, of the whole notion that trade promotes friendship, as opposed to not. So I would be inclined to looking at establishing or supporting those kinds of flights.

BACHMANN: Bret? Bret?

BAIER: Governor Johnson, thank you.

Now…

BACHMANN: Excuse me, Bret? Could I weigh in on this?

BAIER: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: I’d like to weigh on this, because according to the State Department’s website, there are four nations that are state sponsors of terror. Cuba is one of those nations. We would never have flights between the United States and Cuba. It’s a state sponsor of terror. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you, Congresswoman.

Now to my colleague, Megyn Kelly, on the topic of social issues.

KELLY: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Just one issue. I just want to respond to my friend, Rick Santorum, here. Is the microphone working?

BAIER: It is.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you. We do have a difference of opinion here in terms of overall foreign policy. And I think, you know, as the only one on stage with any hands-on foreign policy experience, having served — having lived overseas four different times, we’re at a critical juncture in our country. We don’t have a foreign policy, and we don’t project the goodness of this country in terms of liberty, democracy, open markets, and human rights, with a weak core.

And right now in this country, our core, our economy, is broken.

And we don’t shine that light today. We’re 25 percent of the world’s GDP. The world is a better place when the United States is strong. So guiding anything that we talk about from a foreign policy standpoint needs to be fixing our core.

But, second of all, I believe that, you know, after 10 years of fighting the war on terror, people are ready to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, Rick. [applause]

They’re ready to bring our troops home. This country — this country has given its all.

KELLY: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: What remains behind, some element to collect intelligence, special forces capability, and we’re going to have to do that in every corner of the world. But we need to fix this core and get serious about what the rest of the 21st century holds for this country.

BAIER: Senator Santorum, very quickly?

SANTORUM: Just because our economy is sick does not mean our country is sick, and it doesn’t mean our values are sick. And we’re going to stand up for those values every opportunity… [applause] … and to do so to make sure that our country is safe. The bottom line is — that you just mentioned is — is — is we should be fighting wars to win, not fighting wars for politics. [applause]

And this president is fighting a war in Afghanistan — in Afghanistan with one hand tied behind our generals, not giving the troops they need, not giving the authority, the rules of engagement to allow us to be successful. And unless we change those rules of engagement and make sure that our folks can win, then we are going to play politics with our military. [applause]

HUNTSMAN: This — this may — this may not come as a huge revelation. We’ve been talking about Pakistan here. But at the end of the day, folks, only Pakistan can save Pakistan. Only Afghanistan can save Afghanistan. [applause]

All that I want right now at this point in history is for America to save America. We’ve got to fix our core and… [crosstalk] [applause]

BAIER: Thank you very much. Now, as I originally said, Megyn Kelly on social issues. [laughter]

KELLY: And now I’m moving on from you, Governor Huntsman, to you, Congresswoman Bachmann. In 2006, you said that public schools are, quote, “teaching children that there is separation of church and state,” and said, quote, “I am here to tell you that’s a myth.”

Do you believe that there is a limit… [applause] … on government’s ability to inject religion into the public square? And if so, what is that limit?

BACHMANN: Well, I think that Thomas Jefferson stated it best. He was the author of the — the religious liberty that he valued so much, and that’s the — the United States government should not be a state church. That’s really what the fundamental was of separation of church and state.

And when Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists, the Danbury Baptists wanted to know, will you have a national church in the United States? He said no, because we believe in freedom of conscience, we believe in freedom of religious liberty, and expression, and speech.

That’s a foundational principle in the United States. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t people of faith and that people of faith shouldn’t be allowed to exercise religious liberty in the public square. Of course we should be able to… [applause] … (inaudible) exercise our faith. And — and whether that expression occurs in a public school or occurs — occurs in a public building, we should be able to allow — to have freedom for all people to express our belief in God. [applause]

KELLY: Senator Santorum, this question stirred up a whole lot of controversy online, and it comes from Stephen Hill, who is a soldier serving in Iraq.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job.

My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?

[end video clip] [booing]

SANTORUM: Yeah, I — I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to — to — and removing “don’t ask/don’t tell” I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.

We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform. [applause]

And I believe this undermines that ability. [applause]

KELLY: So what — what — what would you do with soldiers like Stephen Hill? I mean, he’s — now he’s out. He’s — you know, you saw his face on camera. When he first submitted this video to us, it was without his face on camera. Now he’s out. So what would you do as president?

SANTORUM: I think it’s — it’s — it’s — look, what we’re doing is playing social experimentation with — with our military right now. And that’s tragic.

I would — I would just say that, going forward, we would — we would reinstitute that policy, if Rick Santorum was president, period.

That policy would be reinstituted. And as far as people who are in — in — I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in — in conformity with what was happening in the past, which was, sex is not an issue. It is — it should not be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it — keep it to yourself, whether you’re a heterosexual or a homosexual. [applause]

KELLY: Congressman Paul, you have said that you believe that life begins at conception and that abortion ends an innocent life. If you believe that, how can you support a rape exception to abortion bans, and how can you support the morning-after pill? Aren’t those lives just as innocent?

PAUL: They may be, but the way this is taken care of in our country, it is not a national issue. This is a state issue. And there are circumstances… [applause]

There are circumstances where doctors in the past have used certain day-after pills for somebody with rape. And, quite frankly, if somebody is treated, you don’t even know if a person is pregnant, you don’t even know if there’s a disease, but if it’s 24 hours after rape, I don’t know where — how you’re going to police it.

So I don’t think you should create — we have too many laws already. Now, how are you going to police the day-after pill? It doesn’t make any sense to me in a practical matter.

So I would say that nobody can out-do me on respect for life. I’ve spent a lifetime dealing with life. But I still think there is a time where the law doesn’t solve the problems. Only the moral character of the people will eventually solve this problem, not the law. [applause]

KELLY: Governor Perry, you and our former president, George W. Bush, have a lot in common. You’re both Republicans from Texas. You both ran on the same ticket for the statehouse. You both share a deep religious faith.

Now, you’ve made a point of saying, well, we went to different colleges, Texas A&M and Yale, and point out that you have a different approach from President Bush when it comes to government spending. But what are the other differences that you can cite between you and President Bush? And what say you about these reports that there is some bad blood between the two of you?

PERRY: Well, let me address the first — or the last issue first.

And we got a great rapport. I talk to the president from time to time, call him on his birthday, wish him happy birthday, talk to him on a relatively regular basis. I highly respect the president and his public service.

What we have in — in — in difference is probably as much as in style as in substance on various issues. For instance, you know, I was very vocal in my disagreement with him on Medicaid Part D that the federal government should be involved in that very expensive program.

And I was also vocal against No Child Left Behind.

It gets back to the federal government has no business telling the states how to educate our children. [applause]

BAIER: Thank you, Meagan.

We’ve been showing you these word clouds throughout the night. Take a look at this one, all of the questions on health care. You can see the big word there, Obamacare.

Chris has the questions on health care.

WALLACE: And we’ll get right to that question of Obamacare.

Mr. Cain, you are a survivor of stage 4 colon and liver cancer. And you say, if Obamacare had been… [applause]

WALLACE: …and we all share in the happiness about your situation. But, you say if Obamacare had been in effect when you were first being treated, you would dead now. Why?

CAIN: The reason I said that I would be dead under Obamacare is because my cancer was detected in March of 2006. From March 2006 all the way to the end of 2006, for that number of months, I was able to get the necessary CAT scan tests, go to the necessary doctors, get a second opinion, get chemotherapy, go — get surgery, recuperate from surgery, get more chemotherapy in a span of nine months. If we had been under Obamacare and a bureaucrat was trying to tell me when I could get that CAT scan that would have delayed by treatment.

My surgeons and doctors have told me that because I was able get the treatment as fast as I could, based upon my timetable and not the government’s timetable that’s what saved my life, because I only had a 30 percent chance of survival. And now I’m here five years cancer free, because I could do it on my timetable and not a bureaucrat’s timetable.

This is one of the reasons I believe a lot of people are objecting to Obamacare, because we need get bureaucrats out of the business of trying to micromanage health care in this nation. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor Huntsman, you say President Obama’s health care plan is a trillion dollar bomb dropping — dropped on taxpayers and job creation. But I want to show you the top voted question on YouTube that was submitted on health care. And it comes from Ian McDonald of Michigan who says he has a health problem. Watch it, sir.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: Hi, I’m a student. And I have a chronic heart condition. So for me, and those like me, the Democrats’ health care reform, allowing us to stay on our parents’ insurance longer was a godsend.

If were you elected, would you work as is the stated position of your party to repeal this reform? And if so, are we supposed to pray really hard that our ailments don’t prevent us from going to class?

[end video clip]

WALLACE: Governor, what about provisions that Ian talks about? For instance, the one that allows kids to stay on their parents’ policies until they were 26, or not limiting coverage for preexisting conditions. President Obama says the only way that insurance companies can afford to provide those kinds of reforms is with the individual mandate where they get a lot of new customers.

HUNTSMAN: When I hear this discussion, I think of my daughter Elizabeth who is sitting on the front row who suffers from juvenile diabetes. And I also am reminded that we are fundamentally approaching health care reform the wrong way.

This one trillion dollar bomb that Obamacare means to this country over 10 years is creating such uncertainty in the marketplace that businesses aren’t willing to hire, they’re not willing to deploy capital into the marketplace. It everyone it has gummed up our system.

So you say what do we do? I say we go out to the states and let the states experiment and find breakthroughs in how we address health care reform. Health care reform, it’s is a three trillion dollar industry.

It’s the size of the GDP of France. It’s large. It’s complicated. All I want to do is do the kind of thing we did in the state of Utah.

In direct response, we need affordable insurance policies. We don’t have affordable insurance policies today. We got one in Utah a stripped down bare bones catastrophic coverage policy that young people can finally afford.And then you can start whittling down the high percentage of the people who are uninsured in this country because they have an affordable policy. That’s number one.

Number two, we have to deal with cost containment measures like harmonizing medical records. We were the first state to do that. So let’s forget federal fixes in solutions and turn to the states where we’re going to find real breakthroughs and real answers to this terribly difficult and complicated problem.

WALLACE: Thank you, governor.

Congresswoman Bachmann, in the last debate you criticized Governor Perry for his executive order mandating that 6th graders get the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Then afterward, you suggested that the vaccine was linked to mental retardation and you said that it could be, quote, “potentially be a very dangerous drug.”

But the American Academy of Pediatrics has looked at it and says that the HPV vaccine has an excellent safety record. So my question to you is, do you stand by your statement that the HPV vaccine is potentially dangerous? And if not, should you be more careful when you’re talking about public health issue?

BACHMANN: Well, first I didn’t make that claim nor did I make that statement. Immediately after the debate, a mother came up to me and she was visibly shaken and heart broken because of what her daughter had gone through. I so I only related what her story was.

But here’s the real issue, Governor Perry mandated a health care decision on all 12-year-old little girls in the state of Texas. And by that mandate, those girls had to have a shot for a sexually transmitted disease. That is not appropriate to be a decision that a governor makes.

It is appropriate that parents make that decision in consultation with their doctor.

But here’s the even more important point, because Governor Perry made a decision where he gave parental rights to a big drug company.

That big drug company gave him campaign contributions and hired his former chief of staff to lobby him to benefit the big drug company.

That’s what was wrong with that picture. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor Perry, obviously 30 seconds to respond.

PERRY: Thank you.

I got lobbied on this issue. I got lobbied by a 31-year-old young lady who had stage 4 cervical cancer. I spent a lot of time with her.

She came by my office talked to me about in program.

I readily admitted we should have had an opt-in, in this program.

But, I don’t know what part of opt-out most parents don’t get. And the fact is, I erred on the side of life and I will always err on the side of life as a governor as the president of the United States. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor Perry, I now have a question for you. Texas has the most uninsured residents of any state in the country, 25 percent.

In the last debate, you blamed it on restrictions imposed by the federal government. But we checked about that, sir, in fact the feds treat Texas like they do all the other big states. On its own, on its own, Texas has imposed some of the toughest eligibility rules for Medicaid of any state in the country. In fact, you rank 49th in Medicaid coverage of low income residents.

So the question is, isn’t Texas’ uninsured problem because of decisions made by Texas?

PERRY: Well, I disagree with your analysis there, because we’ve had a request in for the federal government so that we could have a Medicaid waiver for years. And the federal government has stopped us from having that Medicaid waiver. Allowing the state of Texas, or for that matter the other states that we’re making reference to here, that have waivers give them more options to be able to give the options, there’s a menu of options that we could have, just like Jon Huntsman talked about. That is how we go forward with our health care.

Each state deciding how they’re going to deliver that health care.

Not one size fits all. And I think this whole concept of not allowing the states to come up with the best ideas about how to deliver health care in their state. And the fact is, people continue to move to the state of Texas. Some of the highest rates in the country, because we’ve created a state where opportunity is very much the word of the day there, if you will, for finding work and what have you.

And our health care is part of that. Our education is part of that. And we are proud of what we put together in the state of Texas.

WALLACE: Governor Romney, the other day Governor Perry called Romneycare socialized medicine. He said it has failed in western Europe and in Massachusetts. And he warns that Republicans should not nominate his words, Obama-lite.

How do you respond to Governor Perry?

ROMNEY: I don’t think he knows what he was talking about in that — in that regard.

Let me tell you this about our system in Massachusetts: 92 percent of our people were insured before we put our plan in place. Nothing’s changed for them. The system is the same. They have private market-based insurance.

We had 8 percent of our people that weren’t insured. And so what we did is we said let’s find a way to get them insurance, again, market-based private insurance. We didn’t come up with some new government insurance plan.

Our plan in Massachusetts has some good parts, some bad parts, some things I’d change, some things I like about it. It’s different than Obamacare.

And what you — what you heard from Herman Cain is one absolutely key point, which is Obamacare intends to put someone between you and your physician. It must be repealed. And if I’m president of the United States, on my first day in office, I will issue an executive order which directs the secretary of health and human services to provide a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states. That law is bad; it’s unconstitutional; it shall not stand. [applause]

WALLACE: Governor — Governor Perry, 30 seconds to respond.

PERRY: I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment?

Was it — was before he was before the social programs, from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade? He was for Race to the Top, he’s for Obamacare, and now he’s against it. I mean, we’ll wait until tomorrow and — and — and see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.

WALLACE: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: I’ll use the same term again: Nice try. [laughter]

Governor, I’m — I wrote a book two years ago, and I laid out in that book what my views are on a wide range of issues.

I’m a conservative businessman. I haven’t spent my life in politics. I spent my life in business. I know how jobs come, how jobs go. My positions are laid out in that book. I stand by them.

Governor Perry, you wrote a book six months ago. You’re already retreating from the positions that were in that book.

PERRY: Not an — not an — not an inch, sir.

ROMNEY: Yeah, well, in that book, it says that Social Security was forced upon the American people. It says that, by any measure, Social Security is a failure. Not to 75 million people. And you also said that — that Social Security should be returned to the states.

Now, those are the positions in your book. And simply, in my view, I’m stand by my positions. I’m proud of them.

There are a lot of reasons not to elect me, a lot of reasons not to elect other people on this stage, but one reason to elect me is that I know what I stand for, I’ve written it down. Words have meaning, and I have the experience to get this country going again. [applause]

WALLACE: Gentlemen, thank you both.

Bret?

BAIER: Coming up, we return to issue number one: jobs.

Stay tuned.

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to the Orange County Convention Center here in Orlando, Florida, and the Republican presidential debate.

Now a question for all of the candidates. Independent New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently fretted over the possibility of the unemployed rioting in the streets. Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich recently said, quote, “For the first time in my life, I’m worried about this country.” And recently, a liberal columnist wrote this, quote, “We’ve lost our mojo.”

You know, President Obama promised hope and change. And according to many polls, fewer and fewer Americans believe he’s delivered.

Now, I’m not asking for your jobs plan here. What I’m asking for is, how are you going to turn this country around? We’ll go down the row, 30 seconds each.
Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: First of all, let me say that this is a human tragedy playing out, with 15 million unemployed, so many million beyond who are so dispirited, they’ve absolutely given up.

Sheriff Hardy, who’s a great sheriff in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, talks about foreclosures, that his folks are now handing out first time ever to the middle class.

I would drop three things on the doorstep of Congress to change and turn the situation around: one, my tax reform package, endorsed by the Wall Street Journal; two, serious regulatory reform, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare repealed; three, energy independence. Boone Pickens had some great ideas in terms of converting to natural gas. It’s a 500,000 job creator over five years. It would get the engines of growth going like nothing else I can think of.

BAIER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Obviously starts with economic growth. And, yes, I’ve already laid out how I would do that with my 999 plan. But what Americans are looking for in order to build their confidence is leadership. There is a severe deficiency of leadership in Washington, D.C. And once we fill that void, I believe the American people will begin to develop some confidence again.

In terms of believing in this nation, Ronald Reagan was the one who said that we are a shining city on a hill. We’ve slid down the side of that hill. [laughter]

Americans want somebody who’s going to lead them back up to the top of that hill. That’s how we turn this country around. [applause]

BAIER: Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: I agree. It’s time to reach for the brass ring of liberty once again. And we can. The signature issue of Barack Obama and his presidency has been the passage of Obamacare. This week, a study came out from UBS that said the number-one reason why employers aren’t hiring is because of Obamacare.

That’s why I introduced the bill to repeal Obamacare. And as president of the United States, that’s the very first thing I would do, is repeal Obamacare.

BAIER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: All across America, you’ve got families sitting across from their — sitting in their living rooms and their kitchens, sitting at that kitchen table, with a calculator and a checkbook, seeing if they have enough money to make ends meet for the month or the week.
You’ve got people who are sitting at that same table filling out job application forms, knowing that there are hundreds of other people that are doing the same thing for the same job.

These are tough times for a lot of people in this country, but we are a patriotic people. We place our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem. No other people on Earth do that. And if we’re led by a leader who draws on that patriotism, who tells the truth, who lives with integrity, and who knows how to lead, America will remain the hope of the Earth and the strongest nation in the world. I’ll do it. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Perry?

PERRY: Americans — Americans want a leader who’s got a proven record of job creation. Number one, we get rid of Obamacare. Secondly, we pull back all of those regulations that are job-killing today, whether it’s Dodd-Frank or whether it’s the EPA.

And then we sit with Congress and we lower those corporate tax rates, we lower those personal tax rates, and then we put our plan to make America energy independent, and that is the way you get America working again. [applause]

BAIER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Government destroys jobs; the market creates jobs. So the government isn’t going to be expected to create the jobs; they have to change the environment. But you can’t do that unless you understand where the depression, recessions come from, and you can’t understand that unless you know where the bubbles come from.

I’ve been arguing this case for 20 years and warning about bubbles and housing bubbles and Nasdaq bubbles. And a lot of other economists have been doing the same thing.

Until we understand that, you can’t solve the problem. You have to deal with the Federal Reserve system. You have to deal with free markets. And you have to deal with the tax program and the regulatory system. [applause]

Then you can get your jobs, because the people will create the jobs, not the government. [applause]

BAIER: Waiting for the applause.

Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Thirty-two years ago, we were in the same place. We had a failing president. He gave a speech on malaise. People wrote about the presidency being too big, nobody could do it. The Soviet Union was on offense.

And a leader came along. He said, when your brother-in-law is unemployed, it’s a recession. When you’re unemployed, it’s a depression. When Jimmy Carter’s unemployed, it’s a recovery. [applause]

Nothing — nothing will turn America around more than Election Night, when Barack Obama loses decisively. [applause]

BAIER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: The last words Ronald Reagan said as president of the United States in his farewell address, he was concerned about the future of our country because we were forgetting who we were, didn’t remember what America was really all about.

I think that’s what’s the problem right now, is we have a president who doesn’t understand what America is all about.

America is a great country because we are a country that believes in God-given rights to every single man, woman and child in America… [applause] … and that we built this country from the bottom up, believing in free people, to have that responsibility to live their lives in service to themselves, their family, their community, and their god, and in so doing, we transformed the world.

We had a leader in Reagan who believed in you. President Obama is the new King George III, who believes in things being dictated from on high. We need to replace him with someone who believes in the American people again. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Johnson?

JOHNSON: My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration. [laughter] [applause]

Balance the federal budget now, not 15 years from now, not 20 years from now, but now. And throw out the entire federal tax system, replace it with a fair tax, a consumption tax, that by all measurements is just that. It’s fair. It does away with corporate income tax. If that doesn’t create tens of millions of jobs in this country, I don’t know what does. [applause]

BAIER: You just made your neighbor’s dog very famous. [laughter]

When we come back in just one minute — one minute — the final round. We’ll be talking about the Republican ticket. We’re back from Orlando, Florida. [applause]

[commercial break]

BAIER: Welcome back to Orlando for our final round, our final question from YouTube. Our wildcard question comes from Darrell Owens in Richmond, Virginia.

[begin video clip]

QUESTION: If you had to choose one of your opponents on the stage tonight to be your running mate in the 2012 election, who would you choose, and why? And why would this person help you make the country better?

[end video clip]

BAIER: Again, if you had to choose a running mate, one of the people on the stage with you, who would you choose and why? Thirty seconds down the row.
Governor Johnson?

JOHNSON: Well, that would be the guy three down, Congressman Paul.

And that would be… [applause]

And that would be the notion that this country is about liberty and freedom and that right now we are facing an extraordinary crisis that, if we do not address it now, we’re going to find ourselves in a monetary crisis that is going to leave us all with nothing. And if we want to look at an example of that, that would be Russia that experienced a monetary collapse, that in our lifetimes may never acquire. We need to avoid that now.

BAIER: Senator Santorum, who would you choose?

SANTORUM: I would pick someone who would do what I have articulated I would do as president of the United States. That’s what you — that’s what a vice president should be, someone who would follow through on what you promise the American public to do.

BAIER: You have eight to choose.

SANTORUM: And — and I — and I would say that, you know, right now that, you know, the guy that I’m agreeing with most up on stage is probably the guy to my left. So I would say that Newt Gingrich would be the guy that I would — I would pick as someone who — who would follow through with what I’m saying.

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Yeah, I’m going to disappoint those in the audience who want this to be a Hollywood game. I don’t have any idea who I would pick as the vice presidential nominee. What I do know is, it would have to be a person capable of being president of the United States, and that would be the first criteria. These are all good friends of mine. I couldn’t imagine hurting any of their feelings by choosing one tonight. [laughter]

BAIER: Congressman Paul, hurt away.

PAUL: I don’t plan to make a choice at the moment, because I am on national polls. It seems like I’m in third place now. I think it would be inappropriate. [applause]

As soon as — as soon as I’m one of the two top tier, then I will start thinking along that line. But right now, I’m going to defer, and just work very hard, and make sure that I stay in the top tier and then eventually be one of the top two contenders. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Perry, how do you answer Darrell Jones?

PERRY: Well, staying with the game show idea here, I don’t know how you would do this, but if you could take Herman Cain and mate him up with Newt Gingrich, I think you would have a couple of really interesting guys to work with. [laughter]

I don’t know how you’d do it.

BAIER: Governor Romney, Darrell Owens would like an answer.

ROMNEY: There are a couple of images I’m going to have a hard time getting out of my mind. [laughter]

That’s one, and Gary Johnson’s dogs are the other, I’ll tell you. [laughter]

I’m — I’m going to go with Newt on this, meaning I’m going to subscribe to his same view. I know I’m going to disappoint.

But my view is, if you pick a vice president, if you’re lucky enough to become the nominee of this party, picking a vice president would be something you give a lot of thought to, a lot of evaluation to, and you want someone who without question could become the president of the United States.

These people could all fill that — that position. Any one of them would be a better president than what we have now. [applause]

BAIER: Governor Romney, I hate to follow up here, but you called Governor Perry unelectable based on his Social Security…

ROMNEY: Actually, I — actually, I didn’t use that term, but the newspaper did. That happens now and then. But the point is still, I think, that there are some problems that exist in each of our backgrounds that make it harder for us to get elected. I hope we get elected. I hope one of us gets to that White House. I think we will, because I think this president has failed miserably.

But I’ll tell you one thing. I — look, Governor Perry and I disagree on some issues. I think I probably disagree with everybody — we all have differing views on different issues. But one thing’s for sure: We all agree that President Obama needs to be former President Obama, and we’re going to make that happen. [applause]

BAIER: Congresswoman Bachmann, back to the original question?

BACHMANN: Obviously, we need to have a strong constitutional conservative, and that’s what I would look for in a vice president.

But I want to say this, as well. Every four years, conservatives are told that we have to settle, and it’s anybody but Obama. That’s what we’re hearing this year.

I don’t think that’s true. I think if there’s any year — President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times. He hasn’t gone to the basement yet. It’ll be a lot lower than what it is now. That’s why we need to choose a candidate who represents conservatives and constitutional conservative positions. [applause]

BAIER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: This is a game, and it is hypothetical. I’ll play the game. [laughter]

If — if Governor Romney would throw out his jobs growth plan and replace it with 999, he has a shot. [laughter]

If he does not, I would probably go with Speaker Gingrich, who I have the greatest admiration for, in all seriousness, because of his history and because of his depth of knowledge. I could go on because I have respect for everybody up here. But it’s a game. [laughter]

BAIER: It is a YouTube question.

Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: You know, I’m tempted to say that, when all is said and done, the two guys standing in the middle here, Romney and Perry, aren’t going to be around, because they’re going to bludgeon each other to death. [laughter]

But — but I’m also reminded of about four years ago, we had two frontrunners in similar situations, one by the name of Rudy Giuliani, I think, and the other by the name of Fred Thompson. They seemed to disappear altogether; I can’t remember where they went.

But I would have — I would have to say, since Chris Wallace doesn’t qualify as somebody on the stage, so I can’t — I can’t pick one of you, that Herman Cain, because of his selection of ties, the fact that — the fact that we both — we both apparently agree with the gold standard, wearing the yellow ties here tonight. And because of the good neighbor policy, 999, mixed with my tax policy, would be the most competitive thing this nation could ever achieve. I’d have to say Herman’s my man. [applause]

BAIER: Candidates, thank you very much. That is it for our debate tonight. Our thanks to the candidates and their staffs. A big thank you to our debate partner, Google, and the Florida Republican Party, to all the great people here in the Orange County Convention Center and, of course, the state of Florida. They could not have been more hospitable.

Stay with Fox News Channel, America’s election headquarters, all the way to the general election and the inauguration.

September 12, 2011: CNN /  Tea Party Express Republican Presidential Debate Transcript

Republican Candidates Debate in Tampa, Florida September 12, 2011

PARTICIPANTS:
Representative Michele Bachmann (MN);
Herman Cain (GA);
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (GA);
Former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Governor Rick Perry (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA); and
Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA)MODERATOR:
Wolf Blitzer (CNN);

BLITZER: And welcome to the Florida State Fairgrounds here in Tampa, the site of the first ever Tea Party/Republican presidential debate.

One year from now, right here in Tampa, the Republican National Convention will nominate the Republican candidate for president of the United States.

Tonight, eight contenders will be on this stage to try to convince voters he or she is the best choice to hold the highest office in the country. And joining them inside this hall, Tea Party activists from Florida and across the nation.

I’m Wolf Blitzer.

I’d like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, including U.S. troops and their families watching overseas.

Tonight’s debate is airing on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, and the American Forces Network seen on U.S. military bases in 175 countries and aboard Navy ships at sea around the globe.

We also want to welcome our co-sponsors, the Tea Party Express, and more than 100 state and local Tea Party groups from across the United States.

Members of the Tea Party movement will play an active role in this debate. We’ll take questions from here in Florida, one of the most critical battleground states in the nation. We’ll also take questions from Tea Party activists in three other key states.

Watch parties are under way right now in Portsmouth, Virginia, an historic Navy port and a 2012 election battleground. In Phoenix, Arizona, the western states shaping the national debate over immigration. And in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Midwestern swing state that has been decisive in so many elections.

BLITZER: It’s time now to meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders.

[applause]

Joining us now on stage, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

[applause]

BLITZER: The former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

[applause]

BLITZER: Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

[applause]

BLITZER: Texas Governor Rick Perry.

[applause]

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

[applause]

ROMNEY: Hey, guys. Hi.

BLITZER: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

[applause]

The former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain.

[applause]

And the former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman.

[applause]

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

[applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, please rise now and join recording artist Diana Nagy as she leads us in the national anthem.

DIANA NAGY, RECORDING ARTIST: [Sings “The Star Spangled Banner”]

BLITZER: Diana Nagy, thanks very, very much.

Candidates, please take your podiums. And while you do, I want to tell all of our viewers, everyone here a little bit more about how this debate will work.

I, obviously, will be the moderator. I’ll ask questions and follow-ups, and I’ll work to try my best to make sure that each candidate is getting his or her fair share of the questions and the answer time. And as I mentioned, the tea party activists will be asking questions here in the hall, as well as from our remote sites. And, viewers, you, too, can participate. We’re accepting questions for the candidates on Twitter — make sure to include #cnnteaparty — on Facebook and, of course, on cnnpolitics.com. Each candidate will have about one minute to answer questions and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. I’ll make sure that each candidate gets the time to respond if they are singled out for specific criticism.

It’s important that the American public knows where the candidates agree on the substantive issues and where they disagree. We want everyone watching to emerge from this debate more informed about these eight people, who each want to become the president of the United States.

Now that the candidates are all in place, it’s time for the candidates to introduce themselves to our audience. I’m asking them all to keep it very, very short. Here’s an example of what I have in mind.

I’m Wolf Blitzer, and I’m usually in “The Situation Room,” but tonight I’m thrilled to be at the Tea Party Republican presidential debate.

[applause]

Governor Huntsman, we’ll begin with you.

HUNTSMAN: Wolf, delighted to be here. Yesterday, we were reminded how extraordinary this country is when we pull together during a time of need. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are deeply divided. I believe I have the experience and the leadership necessary to move this country forward.

CAIN: I’m Herman Cain. I am the only non-politician on this stage tonight, and I believe that America has become a nation of crises. That’s why I want to be president of the United States of America.

BACHMANN: My name is Michele Bachmann. I know we can do so much better in this country. That’s why I’m the chief author of the bill to repeal Dodd-Frank, the bill to repeal Obamacare. And that’s why I brought the voice of the Tea Party to the United States Congress as the founder of the Tea Party Caucus.

[applause]

ROMNEY: My name is Mitt Romney. And like you, I recognize that America’s economy is in crisis. Got a lot of people without work, and a lot of people wonder whether the future is going to be brighter for their kids. I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how jobs come to America and why they go. And I want to use that experience to get America growing again, adding jobs, and assuring every citizen that they know that their kid and their grandkid will have a brighter future. Thank you.

[applause]

PERRY: I’m Governor Rick Perry. And I’m proud to be here today with the Tea Party Express. And I simply want to get America working again and make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.

[applause]

PAUL: I’m Congressman Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas. I’ve been in the Congress for 20 years. My goal has always been to promote the cause of liberty and to obey the Constitution. I plan to do that as president, as well.

GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich. I think it is totally appropriate that we’re having this particular debate on 9/12. And in the spirit of 9/12, I hope to work with you to fundamentally, profoundly change Washington in what will be a long and difficult struggle against the forces of reaction and special interests.

[applause]

SANTORUM: I’m Rick Santorum. I’m a former two-term senator from a state that has over a million more registered Democrats than Republicans, and I won two elections there without having to change my policies or my party to win.

[applause]

BLITZER: Ladies and gentlemen, the eight Republican presidential candidates.

[applause]

All right. Let’s — let’s start off here in Tampa. We have a Tea Party activist. Please identify yourself and ask your question.

QUESTION: [off-mike] Tea Party, Jacksonville, Florida. My question: How will you convince senior citizens that Social Security and Medicare need to be changed and get their vote?

BLITZER: Good question. Let me begin with Michele Bachmann. Congresswoman, how do you do that? How do you go ahead and change, reform Social Security, Medicare, while at the same time getting votes?

BACHMANN: Well, one thing that we need to let senior citizens know is, for those who are currently on the Social Security system, the United States government made a promise to senior citizens, and we have to keep that promise to them.

But we also need to know that for those who are not yet on the system, the system simply has to be reformed in order for it to work. The same goes with Medicare. We know that President Obama stole over $500 billion out of Medicare to switch it over to Obamacare. We also know that Medicare hospital trust fund will be bankrupt within nine years. These are programs that need to be saved to serve people, and in their current form, they can’t.

So we need to have someone who understands these programs, who — who understands the solutions to these programs. I’m a person that’s had feet in the private sector and a foot in the federal government. I’ve been there long enough to know the problems, but not long enough to become a part of the system. I know what to do, and I have the core of conviction to be able to make the changes that senior citizens can count on.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, speaking of Social Security, you’ve said in the past it’s a Ponzi scheme, an absolute failure, unconstitutional, but today you wrote an article in USA Today saying it must be saved and reformed, very different tone. Why?

PERRY: Well, first off, the people who are on Social Security today need to understand something. Slam-dunk guaranteed, that program is going to be there in place for those. Those individuals that are moving towards being on Social Security, that program’s going to be there for them when they arrive there.

But the idea that we have not had the courage to stand up and look Americans in the face, young mid-career professionals or kids that are my children’s age and look them in the eye and said, listen, this is a broken system. It has been called a ponzi scheme by many people long before me. But no one’s had the courage to stand up and say, here is how we’re going to reform it.

We’re going to transform it for those in those mid-career ages, but we’re going to fix it so that our young Americans that are going out into the workforce today will know without a doubt that there were some people who came along that didn’t lie to them, that didn’t try to go around the edges and told them the truth.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, you said that Governor Perry’s position on Social Security is, quote, unacceptable and could even obliterate the Republican Party. Are you saying he could not, as Republican nominee, beat Barack Obama?

ROMNEY: No, what I’m saying is that what he just said, I think most people agree with, although the term ponzi scheme I think is over the top and unnecessary and frightful to many people. But the real issue is in writing his book, Governor Perry pointed out that in his view that Social Security is unconstitutional, that this is not something the federal government ought to be involved in, that instead it should be given back to the states.

And I think that view, and the view that somehow Social Security has been forced on us over the past 70 years that by any measure, again quoting book, by any measure Social Security has been a failure, this is after 70 years of tens of millions of people relying on Social Security, that’s a very different matter.

So the financing of Social Security, we’ve all talked about at great length. In the last campaign four years around, John McCain said it was bankrupt. I put in my book a series of proposals on how to get it on sound financial footing so that our kids can count on it not just our current seniors.

But the real question is does Governor Perry continue to believe that Social Security should not be a federal program, that it’s unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states or is he going to retreat from that view?

BLITZER: Let’s let Governor Perry respond. You have 30 seconds.

PERRY: If what you’re trying to say is that back in the ’30s and the ’40s that the federal government made all the right decision, I disagree with you. And it’s time for us to get back to the constitution and a program that’s been there 70 or 80 years, obviously we’re not going to take that program away. But for people to stand up and support what they did in the ’30s or what they’re doing in the 2010s is not appropriate for America.

ROMNEY: But the question is, do you still believe that Social Security should be ended as a federal program as you did six months ago when your book came out and returned to the states or do you want to retreat from taht?

PERRY: I think we ought to have a conversation.

ROMNEY: We’re having that right now, governor. We’re running for president.

PERRY: And I’ll finish this conversation. But the issue is, are there ways to move the states into Social Security for state employees or for retirees? We did in the state of Texas back in the 1980s. I think those types of thoughtful conversations with America, rather than trying to scare seniors like you’re doing and other people, it’s time to have a legitimate conversation in this country about how to fix that program where it’s not bankrupt and our children actually know that there’s going to be a retirement program there for them.

ROMNEY: Governor, the term ponzi scheme is what scared seniors, number one. And number two, suggesting that Social Security should no longer be a federal program and returned to the states and unconstitutional is likewise frightening.

Look, there are a lot of bright people who agree with you. And that’s your view. I happen to have a different one. I think that Social Security is an essential program that we should change the way we’re funding it. You called it a criminal…

PERRY: You said if people did it in the private sector it would be called criminal. That’s in your book.

ROMNEY: Yeah, what I said was…

[applause]

ROMNEY: Governor Perry you’ve got to quote me correctly. You said it’s criminal. What I said was congress taking money out of the Social Security trust fund is like criminal and that is and it’s wrong.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, let me expand this conversation. Do you agree with Governor Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme?

PAUL: Well, I agree that Social Security is broke. We spent all the money and it’s on its last legs unless we do something. One bill that I had in congress never got passed was to prevent the congress from spending any of that money on the wars and all the nonsense that we do around the world.

Now the other thing that I would like to see done is a transition. I think it’s terrible that the Social Security system is in the — the problems it has, but if people wouldn’t have spent the money we would be OK.

Now, what I would like to do is to allow all the young people to get out of Social Security and go on their own. Now, the big question is, is how would the funding occur?

BLITZER: All right. Hold that thought for a minute, because I want Herman Cain to get involved.

Are you with Governor Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme?

CAIN: I don’t care what you call it, it’s broken. And here’s my solution.

[applause]

CAIN: Start with optional personal retirement accounts. In 1981, the Galveston County employees, they opted out because that was a very short window of opportunity. They took it. Today, when people retire in Galveston County, Texas, they retire making at least 50 percent more than they would ever get out of Social Security.

[applause]

Secondly, allow younger workers to have personal retirement accounts as an option.

Now, to answer this gentleman’s question, current seniors will not be affected. It’s to give the option to the younger workers.

The Galveston County model worked, and it also worked in the small country of Chile. Instead of giving it to the states, let’s give it back to the workers. That’s what personal retirement accounts will do.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, when it comes to reforming Social Security, is anything from your perspective off the table?

HUNTSMAN: I don’t think anything should be off the table except maybe some of the drama that’s playing out here on this floor today. I mean, to hear these two go at it over here, it’s almost incredible.

You’ve got Governor Romney, who called it a fraud in his book “No Apology.” I don’t know if that was written by Kurt Cobain or not. And then you’ve got Governor Perry, who is calling this a Ponzi scheme.

All I know, Wolf, is that we’re frightening the American people who just want solutions. And this party isn’t going to win in 2012 unless we get our act together and fix the problem.

We all know that we’ve got entitlement problems, we’ve got Medicare, we’ve got Social — the fixes are there. I mean, the Ryan plan is there, for heaven’s sake.

We’ve got the answers. We don’t have leadership. That’s the problem.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, would you raise the retirement age for Social Security recipients?

GINGRICH: No, not necessarily, but let me start with — I’m not particularly worried about Governor Perry and Governor Romney frightening the American people when President Obama scares them every single day.

[applause]

GINGRICH: This is eating into my time.

Let me just say to all of you —

BLITZER: Let me just pinpoint the question. What would you do to fix Social Security?

GINGRICH: OK. But can I also expand for a second? Because that was not a rhetorical joke.

President Obama twice said recently he couldn’t guarantee delivering the checks to Social Security recipients. Now, why should young people who are 16 to 25 years old have politicians have the power for the rest of their life to threaten to take away their Social Security?

[applause]

GINGRICH: Now, I just want to make two simple points about Social Security and how you save it.

The first is, you get back to a full employment economy, and at four percent unemployment you have such a huge increase in funding, that you change every single out year (ph) of projection in a positive way.

The second is you say precisely as several folks here have said it, if you are younger — everybody who is older and wants to be totally protected, fine, no change. So don’t let anybody lie to you, starting with the president. No change. But if you’re younger and you would like a personal account, you would control instead of the politicians. And you know you’ll have more money at the end of your lifetime if you control it than the politicians.

Why shouldn’t you have the right to choose?

BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, when it comes to Social Security, are you with Governor Romney or Governor Perry?

SANTORUM: Well, the question is who is with me? Because I’ve been out here talking about — you want to talk about courage to tell the truth, Governor? I was out in 1994 running against a Democratic incumbent in a campaign managed by James Carville, and I went out and talked about Social Security reform.

Why? Because I knew this day was coming. And I had the courage to go out and say Social Security is in trouble. And I told a group of young people at La Salle University that we needed to do something like raising the retirement age.

They ran that on TV for three weeks prior to the election, in the second oldest per capita state in the country. And I still won the election. Why? Because the people of Pennsylvania wanted someone who had the courage to tell them the truth.

[applause]

SANTORUM: And I had the courage to tell them the truth.

And what I’ve done since I was in the United States Senate is every year I proposed — I went, in fact, with Bill Clinton in 1997 on the first bipartisan Social Security town hall meeting, and I was the spokesperson, a Republican conservative from a blue state out there leading the charge on Social Security.

You folks want someone with courage? I’ve got a track record of courage and a track record of concrete proposals on how to fix this, among some of the things that have been discussed here tonight.

BLITZER: Senator, thank you.

Let’s go to another question. We have a question now from the audience.

Go ahead. Identify yourself.

DR. BRIDGET MELSON, PLEASANTON TEA PARTY: Hi. My name is Dr. Bridget Melson with the Pleasanton Tea Party. Good to be here.

My question for you is, what is your plan to balance the budget and get this spending under control so that my children’s share of the debt is erased without compromising my retired mother’s already tenuous financial future?

BLITZER: Good question. Let me ask Speaker Gingrich to respond, and I’ll sort of paraphrase it.

How do you do that? How do you protected seniors, balance the budget? So much of the budget goes to defense and entitlements like Social Security, Medicare.

GINGRICH: But that’s just a Washington mythology. And anybody who knows anything about the federal government knows that there’s such an enormous volume of waste, that if you simply had a serious all-all effort to modernize the federal government, you would have hundreds of billions of dollars of savings falling off.

Let me say, I helped balance the budget for four straight years. This is not a theory. Rick and I were working together on this. This is not a theory. You voted for it. So we can balance the federal budget.

But let me start with — all of you should go to Strong America Now, which is a group that believes if you modernize the federal government, you save $500 billion a year. Now, check and see whether the super committee of 12 in their august power is willing to sit down with that group and actually learn how to be smart rather than cheap, and actually modernize the federal government.

One example, the federal government is such a bad manager of money, that somewhere between $70 billion and $120 billion a year in Medicare and Medicaid is paid to crooks. We wrote a book several years ago called “Stop Paying the Crooks.” I thought it was pretty obvious even for Washington. So I would start to balance the budget by stop paying the crooks, not by cheating honest Americans.

[applause]

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, staying on the issue of spending, budget deficits, you voted for the prescription drug benefits for seniors when you were in the United States Senate costing about $1 trillion. If you had to do it over again, you wouldn’t vote for that, but if you were president of the United States, would you repeal prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare?

SANTORUM: I think we have to keep a prescription drug component, but we have to pay for it. In other words, we have to have a program that is funded.

Now, the reason that that program has actually worked well is it’s come in 40 percent under budget because it’s a program that uses private sector insurance, not government-run, one-size-fits-all health care. If we do that for the rest of Medicare, which is what the Ryan proposal suggests, and something that I proposed, again, years ago, had the courage to go out and lead on this issue, then we would be able to have a prescription drug program and we’d be able to have Medicare that you choose.

The idea that unless we have a government-run, one-size-fits-all Medicare program, that that’s throwing grandma off a cliff, is Washington think — is people who think in Washington this president, who believes that they know better than you how to run your life and how to purchase your health care. I trust you, I trust the American people. That is the greatness of our country.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Governor Perry, it was President Bush who pushed for prescription drug benefits for senior, not President Obama. It was President Bush who pushed for prescription drug benefits for seniors. The question to you: If you were president — it’s not a difficult question — would you vote to eliminate, to repeal those prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare?

PERRY: No. It’s a $17 trillion hole that we have in our budget we’ve got to deal with. And I think that’s the issue of, how do you find the savings and still deliver the services?

For instance, in the state of Texas, we combined a substantial amount of our health and human services from 10 down to five agencies. We put an Office of Inspector General into place, and we saved over $5.3 billion, Newt, just by finding the waste and the fraud in Texas state government. I’m thinking there might be more waste and fraud in the federal government than even there is in the Texas government.

BLITZER: But, Governor, just to be precise, if you were president, you wouldn’t repeal prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare?

PERRY: That’s what I said when I started the conversation.

BLITZER: OK. Just want to be precise on that, Governor.

Governor Romney, what about you?

ROMNEY: I wouldn’t repeal it. I’d reform Medicare and reform Medicaid and reform Social Security to get them on a sustainable basis, not for current retirees, but for those in their 20s and 30s and early 50s.

But the key to balancing the budget — and we talk about all the waste in government and the inefficiency. And having spent 25 years in business, I know something about taking waste out of enterprises. I’d love to do that to the federal government. And there is massive waste.

But we’re not going to balance the budget just by pretending that all — all we have to do is take out the waste. We’re going to have to cut spending. And I’m in favor of cutting spending, capping federal spending as a percentage of GDP, at 20 percent or less, and having a balanced budget amendment. That’s essential to rein in the scale of the federal government.

And there’s a second part to balancing the budget, and that’s growing the economy again. And that’s why I laid out a plan to restructure the foundation of America’s economy to start creating jobs again so people are paying taxes, businesses are paying taxes, not because we’re raising the rates, but because we’re growing the economy.

The right answer for America is to stop the growth of the federal government and to start the growth of the private sector.

[applause]

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, what about you? Would you repeal it?

PAUL: Well, we shouldn’t have never started it. I voted against it. But that sure wouldn’t be on my high list. I would find a lot of cuts a lot of other places. As a matter of fact, on Social Security, it is already being reformed, because the cost of living increases aren’t there, so the value is going down.

So, no, there’s places we should cut. And we cut — we spend — and I’m not sure I can get anybody to agree with me on here — on this panel, but we spend $1.5 trillion overseas in wars that we don’t need to be in and we need to cut there…

[applause]

… and then put this money back into our economy here. And that is the only way to achieve it. Then it still wouldn’t be enough in order to get some people out. What we need to do is cut the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and all these departments, and get rid of them.

[applause]

Then we can do it.

BLITZER: We’re going to get to national security. Don’t worry.

Congresswoman Bachmann, what about you?

BACHMANN: I think that the principle has to change, because for years, politicians have run on the idea that government is going to buy people more stuff and that the federal government would be taking care of people’s prescription drugs, their retirement, their health care, their housing, their food.

We’re the everybody else that’s paying for the freight for all of these things. That’s the principle that has to change, because we have to now recognize that, going forward…

[applause]

… this isn’t going to work anymore. We have to be an ownership society, where individual responsibility, personal responsibility once again becomes the animating American principle. And we can’t be ashamed of that.

BLITZER: All right, we’ve got a lot more to discuss. We’re only just beginning. I want to take a quick break. I want our viewers out there to know they can weigh in, they can respond. Go to Twitter, Facebook, cnn.com. We want to hear from you if you have questions for these eight Republican presidential candidates. You’ll have an opportunity to get some questions to them. We’re going to talk about jobs, jobs, jobs when we come back.

[applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN Tea Party Republican presidential debate. We’ve got a question from Portsmouth, Virginia. Please identify yourself. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Sandra Jones (ph) from Yorktown, Virginia. My question is, what would you do to get the economy moving forward? Do you have a plan? And, if so, what is it?

BLITZER: All right, good question. Let’s ask Governor Huntsman. The first thing you would do as president of the United States, knowing, of course, that President Obama today formally gave legislation to Congress with his jobs plan?

HUNTSMAN: Let us recognize, first and foremost, that what we’re seeing playing out in America is a human tragedy. We have millions and millions who are unemployed, millions beyond who are so dispirited they’ve completely given up trying to find a job. We’ve got moms and dads and families that have been economically shipwrecked. And it’s a great American tragedy that we’re watching play out.

I have put forward a program that I want all of you to understand is basically patterned after what I did as governor. I think when you look at everybody on the stage here, all you have to do is say, where have they been and what have they done?

First and foremost, I want to reform this tax code. I put forward a program that the Wall Street Journal has come out and endorsed. It basically calls for stripping out the loopholes and the deductions and lowering the rates for individuals, cleaning out corporate welfare and subsidies on the corporate side and lowering the rate, leaving us a whole lot more competitive for the 21st century. That’s the first item of business I’d drop on the doorstep of Congress.

Second is regulatory reform, because we cannot go forward with Obamacare.

[applause]

We cannot go forward with Dodd-Frank, because businesses in this country are saying there’s no predictability, there’s no ability to see around the bend, we don’t know what costs are going to be, we’re not hiring and bringing new people on.

Third, this country needs to wean itself from its heroin-like addiction to foreign oil. We need energy independence desperately in this country.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Perry, the president in his new plan has a lot of tax cuts, payroll tax cuts, middle-class tax cuts, tax credits for hiring veterans, tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed people. Are those things you would support?

PERRY: And he’s going to pay for them all with raising your taxes. That is the issue. He had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs, $400-plus billion dollars in this package. And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.

[laughter]

This president does not understand how to free up the small businessmen and women or, for that matter, Wall Street. You give people the opportunity to risk their capital by lowering the tax burden on them, by lowering the regulatory climate, and you will see an American economy that takes off like a rocket ship.

And that’s what we need to be focusing on in this country, freeing up the small businessmen and women to do what they know how to do, which is risk their capital and give them half a chance to have an opportunity to have a return on that investment, and they will go risk their capital. That’s what the president of the United States needs to do: Quit the spending. Give clear regulatory relief and reform the tax code.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, Governor, whenever the president supports tax cuts, that has to be balanced with spending cuts?

PERRY: I would suggest to you that people are tired of spending money we don’t have on programs we don’t want.

[applause]

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, I’m going to bring Mr. Cain in, in a moment, but the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, which went across the board, were not offset with spending cuts, and as a result, potentially, a lot of economists think, the deficit went up and up and up.

BACHMANN: Well, there’s a reason why the deficit went up and up and up. When you have a trillion dollars worth of spending that you don’t pay for, it’s going to go up. And now we’re seeing again that the president wants to do more of the same.

I was the leading voice in the wilderness of Washington all summer. I was one of the only people in Washington that said do not raise the debt ceiling. Don’t give the president of the United States another $2.4 trillion blank check. You’ve got to draw the line in the sand somewhere and say no more out of control spending.

The president wanted to borrow money from countries like China to pay it back for a stimulus. We’ve got $1.2 trillion already that’s been earned by American countries overseas. If we have a 0 percent tax rate, Wolf, we can bring that 1.2 trillion — it’s called repatriation — bring that in. You’d have 1.2 trillion flooded into the system, then pass the free trade agreements so that we can move the economy, permanently lower the tax code. I’m a federal tax lawyer. I know how to do that. Repeal Dodd-Frank, repeal Obamacare.

It really isn’t that tough if you try. It is easy to turn around this economy, just have the backbone to do it.

BLITZER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Yes.

This economy is on life support. I don’t want – we need a bold solution, not one that tinkers around the edges, not one that allows politicians to continue to pick winners and losers. I believe we throw out the entire tax code and put in my nine nine nine plan. nine nine nine. A 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent personal income tax and a 9 national sales tax. Now I’ve been told by some people, well, you can’t get that done. I say why? Well, because you don’t know how Washington works. Yes, I do. It doesn’t.

The American people are ready to do something bold. We need a bold solution in order to get this economy growing at the maximum rate.

I agree with many of the others up here who say, you get the government out of the way. American entrepreneurship, American businesses, they will create the jobs if we provide some certainty.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, you know Governor Perry as governor of Texas created more jobs in Texas than any other state.

ROMNEY: Terrific state, no question about that. Some wonderful things that Texas has going for it that the nation could learn from. zero income tax. That’s a pretty good thing. Right to work state. Republican legislature, Republican supreme court.

By the way, a lot of oil as well.

We’re an energy rich nation. We’re living like an energy poor nation.

I spent my life in the private sector. I’ve competed with companies around the world. I’ve learned something about how it is that economies grow. It’s not just simple wave a wand and everything gets better. No, you have to make some structural changes. The world has changed.

What’s happened over the last 20, 30 years is we’ve gone from a pay phone world to a smartphone world and President Obama keeps jamming quarters into the pay phone thinking things are going to get better. It’s not connected, Mr. President.

And if we’re going to get this economy going, we’ve got seven, one, make our tax code competitive with the world. Two, get regulations to work to encourage enterprise. Three, to make sure we have trade policies that work for us not just for the other guys. Four is to have energy security in this country by developing our energy resources. Five so execute the rule of law, which is to stop the Boeing decision that the NLRB put in place. Six is to make sure that we have institutions that create fantastic human capital. And finally number seven is to balance the budget. People won’t invest here unless they have confidence here. And that’s what I’ll do.

BLITZER: And just to get back to the question. So does Governor Perry deserve any credit for all those jobs that were created in Texas?

ROMNEY: Oh, sure.

BLITZER: Go ahead and tell him how much credit he deserves.

[laughter]

ROMNEY: Well, look, I think Governor Perry would agree with me that if you’re dealt four aces that doesn’t make you necessarily a great poker player. And four aces — and the four aces that are terrific aces are the ones the nation should learn from, the ones I described, zero income tax, low regulation, right to work state, oil in the ground and a Republican legislature. Those things are terrific.

And by the way, there has been great growth in Texas. Under Ann Richards, job growth was under 2.5 percent a year, under George Bush was 3 percent a year, under Rick Perry it’s been 1 percent a year.

Those are all good numbers. Those are all good numbers. But Texas is a great state. And I’ll tell you, if you think that the country is like Texas going swimmingly well, then somebody who has done that is just terrific. But if you think the the country needs a turnaround, that’s what I do.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Perry, you were dealt four aces.

PERRY: Well, I was going to say Mitt you were doing pretty good until you got to talking poker. But the fact is the state of Texas has led the nation. While the current resident of the White House is overseeing the loss of 2.5 million jobs, Texas during my period of governor has created over a million jobs. And we did that during some pretty tough economic period.

[applause]

PERRY: One of the things that’s really important, one of the things that the Fed Reserve chairman said was the most powerful — one of the most powerful things that happened, was tort reform that we passed in that state. And you want to talk about some powerful job creation? Tell the trial lawyers to get out of your state and to quit costing businessmen and women.

[applause]

PERRY: That’s what needs to happen in the states, and it’s also what needs to happen at the federal level, passing federal tort reform at those federal levels.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you’re from Texas. Does your governor deserve all that credit?

PAUL: Not quite.

[laughter]

PAUL: I’m a taxpayer there. My taxes have gone up. Our taxes have doubled since he’s been in office. Our spending has gone up double. Our debt has gone up nearly triple.

So, no. And 170,000 of the jobs were government jobs. So I would put a little damper on this, but I don’t want to offend the governor, because he might raise my taxes or something.

[applause]

PAUL: But I would like to mention something that we said earlier about a tax cut and can you — how do you pay for a tax cut? I think that’s the wrong principle, because when you give people their money back, it’s their money.

You don’t have to pay for it. That means that the government owns all of our money if you look that way.

[applause]

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we have to cut the spending, and a good way to start, there’s a little embassy we built over in Baghdad that cost us a billion dollars. It’s bigger than the Vatican. That’s what’s bankrupting this country, and that’s the easy place to cut. That’s where we should be cutting.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Perry, you have 30 seconds to tell Congressman Paul whether you’re going to raise his taxes.

PERRY: While I’ve been governor, we have cut taxes by $14 billion, 65 different pieces of legislation. You may not have seen them, Representative Paul, but the fact of the matter is, there are people coming to Texas for five years in a row, the number one destination. They’re not coming because we’re overtaxing them.

They’re coming to Texas because they know there’s still a land of freedom in America, freedom from over-taxation, freedom from over- litigation and freedom from over-regulation, and it’s called Texas. We need to do the same thing for America.

[applause]

BLITZER: Let me bring Speaker Gingrich into this conversation.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. All of us who covered you when you were Speaker — and you worked with President Clinton at the time — you compromised, he compromised, you got things done. There was a budget surplus for as far as the eye could see.

If you were president, would you work with the Democrats, assuming they were the majority in the House or the Senate? Would you compromise with them on some of these gut issues?

GINGRICH: Well, you know, after the last debate, when Governor Huntsman and Governor Perry and Governor Romney each explained how their state was the best at job creation, Brady Castis (ph), who works with me, went back and checked. In the four years I was Speaker, we created — the American people, not me — created more jobs in Utah than under Governor Huntsman, more jobs in Massachusetts than under Governor Romney, and more jobs in Texas than in the 11 years of Governor Perry.

Now, I don’t claim credit for that because it was done by investors and done — in fact, Mitt, at that time, as the private sector, was part of the job creation. But I just want to point out, the American people create jobs, not government. OK?

[applause]

GINGRICH: Now, Ronald Reagan — when I was a very young congressman, Ronald Reagan taught me a great lesson if you have Democrat in charge. And that is to go to the American people on principle, have the American people educate their congressmen.

He used to say, “I try to turn up the light for the people so they will turn up the heat on Congress.” When we passed welfare reform, half the Democrats voted yes because they couldn’t go home having voted no. And on a principle basis, I’d be glad to work with Democrats in any office, but I’d do it on principle, not on compromising principle.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[applause]

BLITZER: All right. We have a question via CNNPolitics.com. “All of you profess to be pro-business candidates for president. Can you be pro-worker at the same time?”

Mr. Cain?

CAIN: The answer is absolutely yes, because I was a worker before I was an executive and before I was a business owner. Absolutely.

And when I ran the National Restaurant Association, it is a collection of small businesses. Godfather’s Pizza is the same way, when I ran the region for Burger King. One restaurant is the basic fundamental business unit in this country. And so, yes, I know how to be pro-worker because I came from a pro-worker family. My mother was a domestic worker, my father was a barber, a janitor, and a chauffeur, all at the same time. I understand work because that’s how I came up. So the answer is, absolutely yes.

The two are not mutually exclusive, but what we need is the right leadership, starting with, are we working on the right problems? If we keep tinkering around the edges on the tax code or tinkering around the edges on Social Security, we’re not going to solve the right problem.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Cain.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, you have experience in the business community, in government. Why would you be more effective in creating jobs than any of your rivals on this stage?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just say about workers, this country needs more workers. Can we say that?

This country needs more workers, and we’re not going to get more workers until we actually have an economic plan led by someone who has actually done it before, presumably as a governor, to create the environment in which the private sector can then work its magic. That’s how we’re going to get from point A to point B.

But let me just say that we have put forward a plan, Wolf. And I want people to take a serious look at this, because you can come up with a spin on everything — any way to describe your plan, come up with fancy language, but I just want you to take a look at what we have done where we have been in terms of proposing job creation measures under tax reform in our state that is totally applicable to what this country needs: looking at regulatory reform; creating the most business-friendly environment in the entire United States; creating health care reform without a mandate.

I know that everything’s bigger in Texas, and Rick likes to talk that way. And I know all the smart people reside in Massachusetts. But let me just tell you, Utah, the great state of Utah, was number one in job creation at 5.9 percent during my years as governor.

We were the best managed state in America. We were the best place in America for business.

I’m the only person on this stage, Wolf, who can actually lay claim to all of that. And you know why it’s important? It’s because it’s exactly what this country needs at this point in his history.

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to let everybody respond. We’ve got a lot more to talk about, including national security — it’s a critical issue — taxes, Federal Reserve, health care, many more subjects coming up.

Stay with us. Remember, go to Twitter or Facebook, CNNPolitics.com. We want to hear from you as well.

Our special coverage of this historic CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debate will continue after this.

[applause]

[commercial break]

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN/Tea Party presidential debate. We’re here in Tampa.

Let’s go right to a question from the audience.

Please give us your name.

STEVE ROUTSZONG, GREATER GASTON COUNTY TEA PARTY: Good evening. I’m Steve Routszong with the Tea Party of Greater Gaston County, from Gastonia, North Carolina.

My question tonight is: What is your position on the Federal Reserve? Should it indeed be audited and be held accountable by the American people?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I agree with an audit on the Federal Reserve. I believe that what we should do with the Fed is to make it a single charter instead of a dual charter.

I think the second charter that was instituted that had it be responsible for increasing employment and dealing with that leads to a fundamental distrust among the American people that they are taking their eye off the ball, which is sound money. They should be a sound money Federal Reserve. That should be their single charter, and that is it.

With respect to some of the questions that were asked in the last segment on the economy, I would just say this. Some people say that Barack Obama’s economy is a disaster. My feeling is it would have to make a dramatic improvement just to be a disaster. The…

[laughter]

[applause]

What we need to do is have a pro-growth plan that can pass the Congress with Democratic support and, as Newt mentioned, be able to rally the American people. What the American people want is a policy that’s going to get people the opportunity to rise in society, to fill that great middle of America, and that is manufacturing jobs.

That’s why my plan takes the corporate tax, which is 35 percent, cuts it to zero, and says, if you manufacture in America, you aren’t going to pay any taxes. We want you to come back here. We want you to have “Made in America” stamped on your — your product.

[applause]

BLITZER: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: You were once with the Kansas City Federal Reserve. Should it be audited?

CAIN: Yes, it can — it should be audited. And, secondly, I believe that its focus needs to be narrowed. I don’t believe in ending the Fed; I believe in fixing the Fed.

For many, many decades, the Fed did its job when it was singularly focused on sound money. When we wake up in the morning, we expect 60 minutes to be in an hour. Now when we wake up, because of some of the actions of the current Fed, we don’t know what the value of the dollar is going to be.

In 1988, it took 1.2 dollars in order to be able to convert from Canadian to U.S. It is now totally reversed because of the current policies of the Fed.

BLITZER: Thank you. Congresswoman Bachmann, you know that Governor Perry has suggested that Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, potentially should be tried for treason for what he’s doing.

[applause]

Do you agree?

BACHMANN: Well, as president of the United States, I would not be reappointing Ben Bernanke, but I want to say this. During the bailout, the $700 billion bailout, I worked behind the scenes against the bailout, because one of the things that I saw from the Federal Reserve, the enabling act legislation is written so broadly that, quite literally, Congress has given the Federal Reserve almost unlimited power over the economy.

That has to change. They can no longer have that power. Why? Because what we saw, with all of the $700 billion bailout, is that the Federal Reserve opened its discount window and was making loans to private American businesses. And not only that, they’re making loans to foreign governments.

This cannot be. The Federal Reserve has a lot to answer for. And that’s why it’s important that they’re not only audited, but they have got be shrunk back down to such a tight leash that they’re going to squeak.

BLITZER: It’s one thing to say you wouldn’t reappoint him, Ben Bernanke…

[applause]

… to be head of the Federal Reserve. It’s another thing — do you agree or disagree with Governor Perry that potentially he’s engaged in treason?

BACHMANN: Well, that’s for — that’s for Governor Perry to make that decision. My — my opinion is, I would not reappoint Ben Bernanke.

BLITZER: You stand by those remarks, Governor?

PERRY: I — I said that, if you are allowing the Federal Reserve to be used for political purposes, that it would be almost treasonous. I think that is a very clear statement of fact.

[applause]

I am not a fan of the current chairman allowing that Federal Reserve to be used to cover up bad fiscal policy by this administration. And that, I will suggest to you, is what we have seen.

It is a travesty that young people in America are seeing their dollars devalued in what — we don’t know if it was political or not because of the transparency issue. But I stand by this, that we need to have a Fed that is working towards sound monetary policy, that creates a strong dollar in America, and we do not have that today.

[applause]

BLITZER: Governor Romney, is there anything you disagree with — with — with Governor Perry on that point?

ROMNEY: Well, my own view is that, quite simply, that the Federal Reserve has a responsibility to preserve the value of our currency, to have a strong American currency, such that investors and people who are thinking about bringing enterprises to this country have confidence in the future of America and in our currency. People will not invest in this country and create jobs in this country for the American people if they don’t have belief in our currency.

Of course we should see what the Fed is doing. There should be some oversight to make sure that it’s — it’s acting properly.

But at the same time, we recognize that we need to have a Fed. Why — why do I say that? Because if we don’t have a Fed, who’s going to run the currency? Congress? I’m not in favor of that. I’d rather have an agency that is being overseen rather than have the United States Congress try and manage our currency.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another question from the hall. Go ahead. And please identify yourself.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Tyler Hensley (ph). I’m from Napa, California. My — well, first of all, thank you guys for coming out tonight. My question is, out of every dollar that I earn, how much do you think that I deserve to keep?

BACHMANN: Oh, I love that question. I love that question.

[applause] [crosstalk]

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I’ve come out with a tax program that basically simplifies, lowers, flattens the rate, why? Because I did it as governor in the state of Utah; I believe that that experience means something.

And I look at people who are earning, you in the workplace, trying to make ends meet. You ought to be given a competitive tax code. We need to clear out the cobwebs. We need to clear out the deductions, the loopholes, the corporate welfare, and all the subsidies. And for you, you know, we leave it at 8 percent, 14 percent, 24 percent. Those are the three rates that I think would work on the individual income side. On the corporate side, I think we recognize the reality that a whole lot of companies can afford to have lobbyists and lawyers on Capitol Hill working their magic. Let’s recognize the reality that they’re all paying 35 percent. We need to lower that to 25 percent. So let’s phase out the corporate subsidies and clean out the cobwebs and leave it more competitive for the 21st century.

I can tell you, by doing that with our tax code — and I know, because we did it in a state that took us to the number-one job creator in this country — it will leave you and your generation a whole lot better off.

But the thing that you all need to be worried about is the debt that is coming your way, because we have a cancer that is eating away at the core of this country called debt. And it’s going to eat — eat — eat alive this country until your generation gets active in the 2012 election cycle and finds a leader who can address debt and growth.

[applause]

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Speaker Gingrich, some of the biggest companies in the United States, the oil companies, they got — I guess some would call government handouts in the form of tax breaks, tax exemptions, loopholes. They’re making billions and billions of dollars. Is that fair?

GINGRICH: You know, I thought for a second, you were going to refer to General Electric, which has paid no taxes.

[applause]

You know, I — I was — I was astonished the other night to have the president there in the joint session with the head of G.E. sitting up there and the president talking about taking care of loopholes. And I thought to myself, doesn’t he realize that every green tax credit is a loophole…

[applause]

… that everything he wants — everything General Electric is doing is a loophole? Now, why did we get to breaks for ethanol, breaks for oil and gas, et cetera? We got to them because of this idea, which the young man just represented. If we make you — if we make it possible for you to keep more of your own money, you will do more of it.

We have a simple choice. We can depend on Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, or we can encourage development in the United States of manufacturing, as Rick said. We can encourage development of oil and gas. We can do it by saying we’re going to let you keep more of your money if you create more of what we want. I’m for an energy- independent America, and that means I favor people who create energy.

[applause]

BLITZER: But I just want to follow up, Mr. Speaker. If you eliminate some of those loopholes, those exemptions, whether for ExxonMobil or G.E. or some other companies, there are those who argue that is, in effect, a tax increase and it would violate a pledge that so many Republicans have made not to raise taxes.

GINGRICH: Yes, a lot of people argue that. They’re — they’re technically right, which is why I’m — look, I’m cheerfully opposed to raising taxes. This government — we have a problem of overspending. We don’t have a problem of undertaxing.

And I think that it would be good for us to say, we’re not going to raise any — which is why I’m also in favor of keeping the current tax cut for people who are working on Social Security and Medicare. I think trying to raise the tax on working Americans in the middle of the Obama depression is a destructive policy. So I don’t want to have any tax increase at any level for anyone. I want to shrink government to fit income, not raise income to try to catch up with government.

BLITZER: All right, let’s go to Cincinnati.

[applause]

We’ve got a question from Cincinnati. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello. My question is, would any of you be willing to support the fair tax?

BLITZER: Governor Romney? A fair tax basically is a national sales tax.

ROMNEY: Yeah. Yeah. The — the idea of a national sales tax or a consumption tax has a lot to go for it. One, it would make us more competitive globally, as we send products around the world, because under the provisions of the World Trade Organization, you can reimburse that to an exporter. We can’t reimburse our taxes right now. It also would level the playing field in the country, making sure everybody is paying some part of their fair share. But the way the fair tax has been structured, it has a real problem and that is it lowers the burden on the very highest income folks and the very lowest and raises it on middle income people. And the people who have been hurt most by the Obama-economy are the middle class.

And so my plan is to take the middle class individuals and dramatically reduce their taxes by the following measure. And that is for middle income Americans, no tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. Let people save their money as the way they think is best for them, for their kids, for their future, for their retirement. We’re taxing too much, we’re spending too much and middle income Americans need a break and I’ll give it to them.

BLITZER: All right. We have another question from Portsmouth, Virginia. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Linda Gunn (ph). I’m from Portsmouth, Virginia. I’m part of the Virginia Taxpayers Alliance. My question has to do with executive orders, under what circumstances should a president sign an executive order? And how frequently should such an order be signed?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul.

PAUL: The executive orders have been grossly abused by all administrations for a lot of years. If you can’t — some executive orders are legal. When the president executes proper function of the presidency like moving troops and other things, yes, it’s done with an executive order. But the executive order should never be used to legislate. That is what is so bad.

So the executive order should be taken under control. And I have made a promise that as president I would never use the executive order to legislate.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, as you well know, you signed an executive order requiring little girls 11 and 12-year-old girls to get a vaccine to deal with a sexually transmitted disease that could lead to cervical cancer. Was that a mistake?

PERRY: It was. And indeed, if I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently. I would have gone to the legislature, worked with them. But what was driving me was, obviously, making a difference about young people’s lives.

Cervical cancer is a horrible way to die. And I happen to think that what we were trying to do was to clearly send a message that we’re going to give moms and dads the opportunity to make that decision with parental opt-out.

Parental rights are very important in state of Texas. We do it on a long list of vaccines that are made, but on that particular issue, I will tell you that I made a mistake by not going to the legislature first. Let me address Ron Paul just a minute by saying I will use an executive order to get rid of as much of Obamacare as I can on day one.

[applause]

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, do you have anything to say about what Governor Perry just said. You’re a mom.

BACHMANN: I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest.

That’s — little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan. They don’t get a do- over. The parents don’t get a do-over. That’s why I fought so hard in Washington, D.C., against President Obama and Obamacare.

President Obama in a stunning, shocking level of power now just recently told all private insurance companies, you must offer the morning-after abortion pill, because I said so. And it must be free of charge. That same level coming through executive orders and through government dictates is wrong. And that’s why again we have to have someone who is absolutely committed to the repeal of Obamacare and I am. I won’t rest until it’s appealed.

BLITZER: Let’s let Governor Perry respond. Was what you signed into law, that vaccine for 11 and 12-year-old girls, was that,as some of your critics have suggested, a mandate?

PERRY: No, sir it wasn’t. It was very clear. It had an opt- out. And at the end of the day, this was about trying to stop a cancer and giving the parental option to opt out of that. And at the end of the day, you may criticize me about the way that I went about it, but at the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life. And that’s what this was really all about for me.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum — go ahead.

BACHMANN: Can i ad to that, Wolf? Can I add to that?

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: Hold on a second. First Congresswoman Bachmann, then Senator Santorum.

BACHMANN: I just wanted to add that we cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate. We can’t deny that…

[applause]

BLITZER: What are you suggesting?

BACHMANN: What I’m saying is that it’s wrong for a drug company, because the governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?</