CNN WMUR New Hampshire Debate transcript (Part 4 of 4) #CNNDebate

Republican Debate, Part 4/4

Aired June 13, 2011 – 21:30   ET

Media Credit David S. Holloway / CNN

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KING: Mr. Cain, another issue that’s come up in recent years…

(APPLAUSE)

… as this debate has bubbled up is the whole question of birthright citizenship. If there are two illegal immigrants, two adults who came into this country illegally, and they have a child, should that child be considered a citizen of the United States?

CAIN: I don’t believe so. But let’s — let’s look at solving the real problem, OK? Immigration is full of problems, not one. This is why we keep kicking the can down the road. Secure the borders. Get serious about securing our borders.

Number two, enforce the laws that are already there.

Number three, promote the path to citizenship, like this lady did, by getting — cleaning up the bureaucracy.

And here’s how we deal with the illegals that are already here. Empower the states to do what the federal government hasn’t done, won’t do, and can’t do. Then we won’t be getting into the problem that was raised.

We are a compassionate nation. Of course they’re going to get care. But let’s fix the problem.

KING: Well, to empower the states, Mr. Cain says, Governor Pawlenty, do you support, then — Arizona has its version, parts of it — parts of it, employee enforcement law, have been upheld. The big SB 1070 making its way to the Supreme Court. Alabama just has a new bill. Would you want to be president of the United States in which each state can decide what it does? Or would you make the point, look, this is a federal purview, period?

PAWLENTY: I’m a strong supporter of state rights, but if the federal government won’t do its job — in this case, protecting and securing our border — then let the states do it. And they will. And…

(APPLAUSE)

… when President Bush asked governors to volunteer their National Guard to go to the border to help reinforce, through Operation Jump Start, our border, I was one of the few governors who did it. I sent Minnesota National Guard there to reinforce the border, and it works. And that’s what we need to do.

And, by the way, this issue of birthright citizenship again brings up the importance of appointing conservative justices. That result is because a U.S. Supreme Court determined that that right exists, notwithstanding language in the Constitution. I’m the only one up here — I believe I’m the only one up here — who’s appointed solidly, reliably conservative appointees to the — to the court.

KING: I want to do one more on this issue. President Bush and Senator McCain spent a lot of time on this, Mr. Speaker. I want your view. There are an estimated maybe 20 million illegal immigrants in this country. People have different numbers. If you were going to round them all up — Congressman Tom Tancredo on this stage four years ago would have said round them up and kick them up, they broke the law, they shouldn’t be here. I don’t know where the money would come from in this environment.

So I want you sense. Do you — is that what the states should be doing, the federal government should be spending money and resources on? Or — or like President Bush and like Senator McCain, at least in the McCain-Kennedy days, should we have some path to status for those who are willing to step up and admit where they are and come out of the shadows?

GINGRICH: One of the reasons this country is in so much trouble is that we are determined among our political elites to draw up catastrophic alternatives. You either have to ship 20 people out of America or legalize all of them.

That’s nonsense. There’s not — we’re never going to pass a comprehensive bill. Obama proved that in the last two years. He couldn’t get a comprehensive bill through with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and he didn’t even try, because he knew he couldn’t do it.

You break this down. Herman Cain’s essentially right, you break it down. First of all, you control the border. We can ask the National Guard to go to Iraq. We ask the National Guard to go to Kuwait. We ask the National Guard to go to Afghanistan. Somehow we would have done more for American security if we had had the National Guard on the border.

But if you don’t want to use the National Guard, I’m…

(APPLAUSE)

Just one last example. If you don’t want to use the National Guard, take — take half of the current Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy in Washington, transplant it to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. You’ll have more than enough people to control the border.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: All right. Let’s…

GINGRICH: No, but let me say this, John. No serious citizen who’s concerned about solving this problem should get trapped into a yes/no answer in which you’re either for totally selling out protecting America or you’re for totally kicking out 20 million people in a heartless way. There are — there are humane, practical steps to solve this problem, if we can get the politicians and the news media to just deal with it honestly.

KING: All right.

John Distaso down on the floor has a question.

DISTASO: Thank you, John.

Congressman Paul, this is for you. John, if you don’t mind, I’d also like to hear from Governor Romney and a couple of the candidates, because it relates to a specific New Hampshire issue with a national question.

Here in New Hampshire, there is a popular bill that is being considered by our state legislature that would restrict the state’s power to seize private land to build a power plant or a transmission facility. Should governments at any level be able to use eminent domain for major projects that will reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil?

PAUL: No. We — we shouldn’t have that power given to the government where they can take private land and transfer it to a private industry. The eminent domain laws are going to vary in different states, but we have the national eminent domain laws. It was never meant to take it from some people, private owners, and then take it and give it to a corporation because it’s going to help that locality.

And this goes back to the basic understanding of property rights. Property and free society should be owned by the people, and it shouldn’t be regulated to death by the governments, whether it’s Washington, D.C., or local governments.

Right now, we really don’t own our land. We just pay rent on our land and we listen to all these regulations. So I would say that courts should get out of the way, too. They should not have this right to take land from individuals to provide privileges for another group.

(APPLAUSE)

DISTASO: Governor Romney, you’re a property owner in New Hampshire. You are a New Hampshire property owner, but you also are for reducing our dependence on foreign oil. There are a lot of people in the state who are concerned about this project, but they also want to have energy independence. How do you feel about that?

ROMNEY: Well, I don’t believe that land should be taken — the power of government to give to a private corporation. And so the right of eminent domain is a right which is used to foster a public purpose and public ownership for a road, highways, and so forth. And so my view is, if land is going to be taken for purposes of a private enterprise, that’s the wrong way to go.

Now, the right answer for us to have energy independence is to start developing our own energy in this country, and we’re not doing that. We — we have a huge find with natural gas; 100 years of new natural gas has been found. More drilling for oil, natural gas, clean coal. We have coal in great abundance, nuclear power ultimately, and all the renewables. But it’s time for us to have a president who really cares about finally getting America on track for energy security.

KING: And so let’s stay on this issue, because it is a very important issue. Josh McElveen down on the floor.

MCELVEEN: Thanks very much, John. Timely issue. Question for Senator Santorum. The Senate tomorrow is going to be voting on possibly abolishing the ethanol tax, effective July 1st (inaudible) major impact on our friends in another early voting state in Iowa. They grow corn. This is a move that would basically remove tax credits worth $6 billion. Question to you is, do you support abolishing?

SANTORUM: Yeah, I actually had proposed that we can phase out the ethanol subsidy, which is the blender’s credit, over a five-year period of time. I also proposed, as part of helping him in that transition — one other thing. I also phase out the tariff on ethanol coming into this country over that five-year period of time.

One of the issues for the ethanol industry is distribution networks. So I would take half of that credit every year, 4.5 cents, and use it to help expand distribution for E-85 in other areas of the country. And that all would be shut down in five years.

And I say that because I think the ethanol industry — I voted against ethanol subsidies my entire time in Congress. But I will tell you, the ethanol industry has matured greatly, and I think they are actually capable of surviving and doing quite well going forward under that — under that plan.

KING: All right. I want to — got to work in one more break before we go. We’ve got a lot more ground to cover. Believe it or not, our candidates — we’re running out of time here.

Into and out of every break we’re having a little experiment called “This or That.” “Spicy” from Governor Romney was the last one.

Governor Pawlenty, to you, Coke or Pepsi?

PAWLENTY: Coke.

KING: Coke it is, a good, swift answer there.

We’ve got to work in one more break. Before we go to break, though, I just want to show you. We’re asking you on Twitter to show us what you think. What are the candidates’ opinions on whether or not to withdraw troops from Afghanistan? That and a number of foreign policy questions when we return here to the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, seven Republicans who want to be your next president debating. Stay right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Seven Republican candidates for president debating on the campus of St. Anselm Congress in beautiful Manchester, New Hampshire — St. Anselm College, excuse me. We want to turn to foreign policy now.

I want to move up to Hancock and Jean Mackin, and she’s got a question.

MACKIN: I’m here with John Brown from Swanzey, New Hampshire. He’s retired from the U.S. Navy, 25 years of service. Right now, he has three sons serving in the Navy. So you can imagine he has a very important question. What would you like to ask tonight, John?

JOHN BROWN, VOTER: Osama bin Laden is dead. We’ve been in Afghanistan for ten years. Isn’t it time to bring our combat troops home from Afghanistan?

KING: Governor Romney, take the lead on that one.

ROMNEY: It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes to our generals that we can hand the country over to the Taliban military in a way that they’re able to defend themselves. Excuse me, the Afghan military to defend themselves from the Taliban. That’s an important distinction.

I want to say, first of all, thank you to you for the sacrifice of your family and your sons in defending the liberty that we have and our friends around the world. Thank you for what you’ve done.

KING: Congressman Paul?

ROMNEY: Let me — let me continue. That is I think we’ve learned some important lessons in our experience in Afghanistan. I want those troops to come home based upon not politics, not based upon economics, but instead based upon the conditions on the ground determined by the generals.

But I also think we’ve learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban. Thank you.

KING: Congressman Paul, do you agree with that decision?

PAUL: Not quite. I served five years in the military. I’ve had a little experience. I’ve spent a little time over in the Pakistan/Afghanistan area, as well as Iran. But I wouldn’t wait for my generals. I’m the commander in chief.

I make the decisions. I tell the generals what to do. I’d bring them home as quickly as possible. And I would get them out of Iraq as well. And I wouldn’t start a war in Libya. I’d quit bombing Yemen. And I’d quit bombing Pakistan. I’d start taking care of people here at home because we could save hundreds of billions of dollars.

Our national security is not enhanced by our presence over there. We have no purpose there. We should learn the lessons of history. The longer we’re there, the worse things are and the more danger we’re in as well, because our presence there is not making friends let me tell you.

KING: Governor Pawlenty, a growing number of Republicans are more skeptical of these foreign involvements. But I want you to take what Congressman Paul just said there. Let’s focus on one.

He said no bombing in Yemen. The strikes in Yemen have been targeted at al Qaeda leaders, at al Qaeda operatives, who the president of the United States, who happens to be a Democrat in his case, views as serious threats against this nation. Do you agree with Congressman Paul there or do you agree with President Obama and the strikes?

PAWLENTY: Let me first say to John, thank you for your family’s commitment to our nation, to your service, to the sacrifices that you made and to the burdens that you bear. I know I speak for everyone in this room and all across this country when we say we’re grateful to you. We wouldn’t have the country without people lie you and your sons. Thank you very much.

Beyond that, John, I start with this perspective. On September 11th, 2001, individuals and groups killed 3,000 or so of our fellow Americans. They would have killed not 3,000, but 30,000 or 300,000 or 30 million if they could have. If they had the capability to do that in their hands — and as soon as they get it, they’ll try.

The first duty of the president of the United States, as the leader of this nation and commander in chief, is to make sure the nation is safe. You bet. If there are individuals I have intelligence on, or groups in Yemen that present a threat to our security interests in that region or the United States of America, you can bet they will hear from me and we’ll continue the bombings.

KING: Let’s stay on foreign policy. I want to move the questioning. Tom Foreman up in Rochester. Tom. We lost him.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I’d like to know your opinion on your involvement with Libya.

KING: Congresswoman Bachmann, should the president have supported and jointed more U.S. presence, but now a NATO operation? Was that the right thing to do? Is that in the vital national interest of the United States of America?

BACHMANN: No, I don’t believe so it is. That isn’t just my opinion. That was the opinion of our defense secretary, Gates, when he came before the United States Congress. He could not identify a vital national American interest in Libya.

Our policy in Libya is substantially flawed. It’s interesting. President Obama’s own people said that he was leading from behind. The United States doesn’t lead from behind. As commander in chief, I would not lead from behind.

We are the head. We are not the tail. The president was wrong. All we have to know is the president deferred leadership in Libya to France. That’s all we need to know. The president was not leading when it came to Libya.

First of all, we were not attacked. We were not threatened with attack. There was no vital national interest. I sit on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. We deal with the nation’s vital classified secrets.

We to this day don’t yet know who the rebel forces are that we’re helping. There are some reports that they may contain al Qaeda of North Africa. What possible vital American interests could we have to empower al Qaeda of North Africa and Libya? The president was absolutely wrong in his decision on Libya.

KING: Mr. Speaker, address the same question. Was it in the vital national interest of the United States? As you do so, I had a conversation with a soon-to-be candidate who is not here tonight, Governor Huntsman, recently, who said he didn’t think when it came to vital national interest. And he also said we can’t afford it right now.

Should the price tag be a factor when you’re the commander in chief of the United States?

GINGRICH: Sure. The price tag is always a factor, because, as General Eisenhower once he was president pointed out, as Abraham Lincoln understood, as George Washington understood, that’s part of the decision.

But I think what Congresswoman Bachmann just said ought to really sober everybody about how much trouble we’re in. Ten years after 9/11, our intelligence is so inadequate that we have no idea what percent of the Libyan rebels are, in fact, al Qaeda. Libya was the second largest producer of people who wanted to kill Americans in Iraq.

I think that we need to think fundamentally about reassessing our entire strategy in the region. I think that we should say to the generals we would like to figure out to get out as rapid as possible with the safety of the troops involved. And we had better find new and very different strategies because this is too big a problem for us to deal with the American ground forces in direct combat.

We have got to have a totally new strategy for the region, because we don’t today have the kind of intelligence we need to know even what we’re doing.

KING: Mr. Cain, take 30 seconds, please. People might say he’s a businessman. He has no experience in government. How would you look at your responsibilities, draw that line, vital U.S. national interests as commander in chief?

CAIN: It starts with making sure we understand the problem, which I don’t think we did. We didn’t have the intelligence. Number two, is it in the vital interest of the United States of America? If the answer is no, then we don’t go any further. If it’s not in the vital interest of America, To paraphrase my grandmother, with the situation in Libya and many of these other situations, they’re not simple situations. It’s a mess. It’s just an absolute mess.

And there’s more that we don’t know than we do know, so it will be very difficult to know exactly what we do until, like others have said, we learn from the commanders in the field.

KING: Let’s stay on how you would all focus as a commander in chief. Let’s move down. Jennifer has a voter with a question.

VAUGHN: Staying on this topic, John, thank you. I’d like you to meet Greg Salts, who lives here in Manchester, New Hampshire. What’s your question tonight for the candidates?

GREG SALTS, TRUCK DRIVER: Well, I support the U.S. military. But frankly, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs. We have nation building going on around the world. We’re the world’s police force. World War II is over. The Korean War is over. But we still have military bases all over Europe, all over Asia.

We have something like 900 military bases all around the world. I want to know if there’s a candidate on the stage who is willing to shut down the bulk — not the bulk of these bases, but the bases that aren’t vital to our national security, and take that money to pay off our national debt?

KING: Senator Santorum, why don’t I start with you on this one?

SANTORUM: We have actually closed down a lot of bases overseas. Look, what we’re dealing with is a failure of leadership on this administration’s part to actually put together a strategy where we can confront our enemies. And our enemies are asymmetric threats: terrorism.

That means that they are not just the positioned in the Middle East, but around the world. That means we have to have the ability to confront those threats from around the world, which means we need basing around the world.

So number one, we do need that basing. We do need to be able to be nimble and to be able to attack where we’re attacked because it’s not just a threat. We don’t need to build bases in Germany for a threat from the Soviet Union.

Its much broader threat, number one. So we have to engage our allies and have our allies know that we have their back. The president has not done that. He’s done everything he can, whether it’s Israel or Honduras or whether it’s Colombia or whether it’s Czechs, the Poles — he has turned his back on American allies and he has embraced our enemies.

Our enemies no longer respect us. Our friends no longer trust us. And we have a foreign policy that unfortunately now we’re probably going to need more of a presence, because we’ve created such a vacuum. Thus, all the contingency operations you’re seeing here as a result of America’s fecklessness in dealing with the threats that confront us.

KING: I need to step in on time here. We have to take our last break of the evening. I know a lot of you have a lot of things to say. We’ll get to more issues.

As we do some, if you take a look up here, you’ll see the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. A lot of good questions. Would you have released the bin Laden photos? Would you support Israel at any cost if they’re attacked by surrounding hostile countries.

Good questions from our viewers there. We’re here on the campus of St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Seven Republican candidates for president.

We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL: BREAK)

KING: We’re in the closing moments of our Republican presidential debate here on the St. Anselm College campus, Manchester, New Hampshire. Time flies when you’re having fun. One last segment with the candidates.

Let’s kick off by going down on to the floor, WMUR’s Jennifer Vaughn.

VAUGHN: Hi, Mr. Cain. This one is for you. Public opinion polls consistently result in low approval ratings for Congress as a whole. And early polls show a lack of enthusiasm for this field of candidates. Most of you will say that you don’t watch polls, but shouldn’t you pay attention to public sentiment? And aren’t these polls a direct reflection of what voters are and are not looking for?

CAIN: Yes. I happen to believe that the polls do represent a barometer, because it’s way too early. Secondly, probably a lot of the people don’t know us yet, because it’s still real early in the process.

So as people get to know us more and more, I think they’re going to find that this really is a good field of candidates, at least in my opinion. But the people that know the most about everybody up here, they don’t see this as a weak field, and neither do I.

KING: All right. It is likely that the Republican nominee for president is standing on the stage tonight. If you win the nomination, you’ll have to make the choice that a nominee makes, and that is picking a running mate.

Governor Pawlenty to you, look back on 2008 and the process. President Obama made a pick. Senator McCain made a pick. Who made the best choice?

PAWLENTY: Senator Biden has been wrong about every major strategic decision in the modern history of the international conflict and military. Look at his judgment about partitioning Iraq, for example. Now we have Iraq being probably one of the shining example of success in the Middle East.

If Vice President Biden would have had his way, we would have had a partitioned Iraq and probably more mayhem in the Middle East. I think Governor Palin is a remarkable leader. I think she’s qualified to be president of the United States.

I think she’s equally as qualified or more qualified, and would have been as strong of a president as Joe Biden. He’s wrong on everything.

KING: Go ahead, Governor.

ROMNEY: John, any one of the people on this stage would be a better president than President Obama. He has failed in job one, which was to get this economy going again. He failed in job two, which was to restrain the growth of the government. And he failed in job three, which is to have a coherent, consistent foreign policy.

We’ve had presidents in the past that had bad foreign policies. This is the first time we’ve had a president that doesn’t have a foreign policy. And this hit or miss approach has meant a couple of successes, like getting Osama bin Laden — congratulations — but a lot of misses, like throwing our friends under the bus. And that’s why any of these people who gets better known by the American people will serve as president with distinction over the future.

KING: If that is you, if there is a President Bachmann, and you’re only allowed to hire one of the candidates on the stage, which one would it be and why?

ROMNEY: Don’t choose the old guys.

BACHMANN: Well, maybe we’ll have to have an “American Idol” contest and go from there. We’ll let the audience decide.

KING: Let the audience decide. Congressman Paul, if you were the president of the United States and you could pick one, but just one of these gentlemen and the lady, to join your administration, who would it be and why?

PAUL: Join the administration?

KING: Yes.

PAUL: I would think everybody would qualify.

KING: You only get to pick one. It’s about choices.

PAUL: I have to pick one? Hum? Let me look — let me look them over. I would have to do a bit more quizzing. I would have to — they haven’t even told me how they feel about the Federal Reserve yet. They haven’t told me about the foreign policy. So I have to do some more quizzing.

KING: We’re down to our last minute. I want to try to get to everybody. I want to start with you, Senator Santorum. What have you learned in the last two hours.

SANTORUM: I think what Hermann said. We have a great field of candidates. I was very impressed by what I heard. I hope everybody else was. These are folks that answered the questions that were asked of them.

KING: Congresswoman?

BACHMANN: In the last two hours, I’ve learned more about the goodness of the American people — from the question from John, his three sons that are serving in the Navy, his wonderful service. Everyone who asked a question has talked to me about –

KING: Don’t mean to interrupt you.

GINGRICH: I think once again, New Hampshire is proving why it’s first in the nation as the primary, because the questions are so good.

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: And New Hampshire is proving that the issue people care most about is getting this economy growing again, so that we can have rising housing prices again. People can have the kind of incomes they deserve. They don’t have to wonder whether the future is brighter than the past. People in New Hampshire love the future.

PAUL: I’ve learned with the group here that disagrees on some issues, we can talk about it and be civil to each other.

KING: Governor?

PAWLENTY: I learned that if you trust the people, our future is bright and I learned that the Boston Bruins have more heart than the Vancouver Canucks.

KING: Mr. Cain?

CAIN: What I’ve learned is that all of these candidates up here share one thing in common. And that is, it’s not about us. It’s about the children and the grandchildren. We’re not that far apart on all of the big issues.

KING: I want to thank all seven of our candidates tonight. I want to thank “The Union Leader,” WMUR and St. Anselm College for having us. We have a feisty campaign to come. Please pay attention at home.

I want to thank everybody here. I’m John King. I’ll see you tomorrow on “JOHN KING USA.” Anderson Cooper continues our coverage. Post-debate analysis right now.

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