‘We The People Have Spoken’ Tea Party Squeezes Rove Out –Donations Drop 98%

February 2, 2014 at 9:21 am

tea-party-vs-gop
Wake up call.

After wasting nearly $325 million during the 2012 election cycle with nothing to show for it and then declaring war on the Tea Party, donations to Karl Rove’s three Crossroads groups decreased by 98% last year. The groups reportedly raised a paltry $6.1 million combined in 2013.

Rove runs Crossroads GPS, American Crossroads, and the Conservative Victory Project Super PAC, which was formed this year to wage war against conservatives. Rove’s two groups raised $325 million in 2012 and about $70 million in 2010. As Politico notes, though, “Rove added a third group to the network in 2013, forming the Conservative Victory Project to counterbalance the influence of Tea Party and conservative grassroots forces in GOP primaries.”

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S.C. Rep. Tim Scott’s RNC Speech [Full Video & Text]

August 30, 2012 at 9:45 am

South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott speaking at the Republican National Convention August 28, 2012.

Our only “Hope” is to “Change” the current resident of the White House.

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The past four years of “Hope” and “Change” have led me to one simple conclusion: Our only “Hope” is to “Change” the current resident of the White House. And I am so proud to support the next President of the United States, Governor Mitt Romney!

You see, as a poor kid growing up in a single parent household in North Charleston, South Carolina, I felt like I didn’t have much going for me. But I did have a couple of things. A mom who believed in tough love. And that love comes at the end of a switch. And my momma loved me a lot! And a small business owner who was my mentor. And taught me that I could “think my way out of poverty.” He taught me that having a job is a good thing but creating jobs was even better.

Mitt Romney embodies the same vision for America that my mentor had for me. He believes that the path forward is more important than the place where we begin.

And let me close by giving President Obama a heartfelt message from the good people of South Carolina: Hit the road, Jack! And don’t you come back no more, no more, no more! Thank you.

Full Text & Video: GOP VP Nominee Paul Ryan’s RNC Speech

August 29, 2012 at 10:48 pm

One word –POWERFUL.

Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention on August 29, 2012, Tampa, Florida.

College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.

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Mr. Chairman, delegates, and fellow citizens: I am honored by the support of this convention for vice president of the United States.

I accept the duty to help lead our nation out of a jobs crisis and back to prosperity – and I know we can do this.

I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old – and I know that we are ready.

Our nominee is sure ready. His whole life has prepared him for this moment – to meet serious challenges in a serious way, without excuses and idle words. After four years of getting the run-around, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney.

I’m the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power.

They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.

With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money – and he’s pretty experienced at that. You see, some people can’t be dragged down by the usual cheap tactics, because their ability, character, and plain decency are so obvious – and ladies and gentlemen, that is Mitt Romney.

For my part, your nomination is an unexpected turn. It certainly came as news to my family, and I’d like you to meet them: My wife Janna, our daughter Liza, and our boys Charlie and Sam.

The kids are happy to see their grandma, who lives in Florida. There she is – my Mom, Betty.

My Dad, a small-town lawyer, was also named Paul. Until we lost him when I was 16, he was a gentle presence in my life. I like to think he’d be proud of me and my sister and brothers, because I’m sure proud of him and of where I come from, Janesville, Wisconsin.

I live on the same block where I grew up. We belong to the same parish where I was baptized. Janesville is that kind of place.

The people of Wisconsin have been good to me. I’ve tried to live up to their trust. And now I ask those hardworking men and women, and millions like them across America, to join our cause and get this country working again.

When Governor Romney asked me to join the ticket, I said, “Let’s get this done” – and that is exactly, what we’re going to do.

President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two. Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account. My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.

A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

Right now, 23 million men and women are struggling to find work. Twenty-three million people, unemployed or underemployed. Nearly one in six Americans is living in poverty. Millions of young Americans have graduated from college during the Obama presidency, ready to use their gifts and get moving in life. Half of them can’t find the work they studied for, or any work at all.

So here’s the question: Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?

The first troubling sign came with the stimulus. It was President Obama’s first and best shot at fixing the economy, at a time when he got everything he wanted under one-party rule. It cost $831 billion – the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government.

It went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs, and make-believe markets. The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal.

What did the taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus? More debt. That money wasn’t just spent and wasted – it was borrowed, spent, and wasted.

Maybe the greatest waste of all was time. Here we were, faced with a massive job crisis – so deep that if everyone out of work stood in single file, that unemployment line would stretch the length of the entire American continent. You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business.

But this president didn’t do that. Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care.

Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.

The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.

And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.

You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn’t have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So, they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama. An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for. The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it.

In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer’s and moved in with Mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved.

We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it’s there for my Mom today. Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.

So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the Left isn’t going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program, and raiding it. Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.

Obamacare, as much as anything else, explains why a presidency that began with such anticipation now comes to such a disappointing close.

It began with a financial crisis; it ends with a job crisis.

It began with a housing crisis they alone didn’t cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn’t correct.

It began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America.

It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.

President Obama was asked not long ago to reflect on any mistakes he might have made. He said, well, “I haven’t communicated enough.” He said his job is to “tell a story to the American people” – as if that’s the whole problem here? He needs to talk more, and we need to be better listeners?

Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What’s missing is leadership in the White House. And the story that Barack Obama does tell, forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old. The man assumed office almost four years ago – isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility?

In this generation, a defining responsibility of government is to steer our nation clear of a debt crisis while there is still time. Back in 2008, candidate Obama called a $10 trillion national debt “unpatriotic” – serious talk from what looked to be a serious reformer.

Yet by his own decisions, President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined. One president, one term, $5 trillion in new debt.

He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.

Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems. How did the president respond? By doing nothing – nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue.

So here we are, $16 trillion in debt and still he does nothing. In Europe, massive debts have put entire governments at risk of collapse, and still he does nothing. And all we have heard from this president and his team are attacks on anyone who dares to point out the obvious.

They have no answer to this simple reality: We need to stop spending money we don’t have.

My Dad used to say to me: “Son. You have a choice: You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution.” The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems.

And I’m going to level with you: We don’t have that much time. But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this.

After four years of government trying to divide up the wealth, we will get America creating wealth again. With tax fairness and regulatory reform, we’ll put government back on the side of the men and women who create jobs, and the men and women who need jobs.

My Mom started a small business, and I’ve seen what it takes. Mom was 50 when my Dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years, and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model.

Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere. A lot of heart goes into each one. And if small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place. Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning. Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them. After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.

We have a plan for a stronger middle class, with the goal of generating 12 million new jobs over the next four years.

In a clean break from the Obama years, and frankly from the years before this president, we will keep federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, or less. That is enough. The choice is whether to put hard limits on economic growth, or hard limits on the size of government, and we choose to limit government.

I learned a good deal about economics, and about America, from the author of the Reagan tax reforms – the great Jack Kemp. What gave Jack that incredible enthusiasm was his belief in the possibilities of free people, in the power of free enterprise and strong communities to overcome poverty and despair. We need that same optimism right now.

And in our dealings with other nations, a Romney-Ryan administration will speak with confidence and clarity. Wherever men and women rise up for their own freedom, they will know that the American president is on their side. Instead of managing American decline, leaving allies to doubt us and adversaries to test us, we will act in the conviction that the United States is still the greatest force for peace and liberty that this world has ever known.

President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record. But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it.

College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life. Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you.

None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers – a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.

Listen to the way we’re spoken to already, as if everyone is stuck in some class or station in life, victims of circumstances beyond our control, with government there to help us cope with our fate.

It’s the exact opposite of everything I learned growing up in Wisconsin, or at college in Ohio. When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.

By themselves, the failures of one administration are not a mandate for a new administration. A challenger must stand on his own merits. He must be ready and worthy to serve in the office of president.

We’re a full generation apart, Governor Romney and I. And, in some ways, we’re a little different. There are the songs on his iPod, which I’ve heard on the campaign bus and on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, I hope it’s not a deal-breaker Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC, and ends with Zeppelin.

A generation apart. That makes us different, but not in any of the things that matter. Mitt Romney and I both grew up in the heartland, and we know what places like Wisconsin and Michigan look like when times are good, when people are working, when families are doing more than just getting by. And we both know it can be that way again.

We’ve had very different careers – mine mainly in public service, his mostly in the private sector. He helped start businesses and turn around failing ones. By the way, being successful in business – that’s a good thing.

Mitt has not only succeeded, but succeeded where others could not. He turned around the Olympics at a time when a great institution was collapsing under the weight of bad management, overspending, and corruption – sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

He was the Republican governor of a state where almost nine in ten legislators are Democrats, and yet he balanced the budget without raising taxes. Unemployment went down, household incomes went up, and Massachusetts, under Mitt Romney, saw its credit rating upgraded.

Mitt and I also go to different churches. But in any church, the best kind of preaching is done by example. And I’ve been watching that example. The man who will accept your nomination tomorrow is prayerful and faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best. Not only a fine businessman, he’s a fine man, worthy of leading this optimistic and good-hearted country.

Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life.

We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.

Each of these great moral ideas is essential to democratic government – to the rule of law, to life in a humane and decent society. They are the moral creed of our country, as powerful in our time, as on the day of America’s founding. They are self-evident and unchanging, and sometimes, even presidents need reminding, that our rights come from nature and God, not from government.

The founding generation secured those rights for us, and in every generation since, the best among us have defended our freedoms. They are protecting us right now. We honor them and all our veterans, and we thank them.

The right that makes all the difference now, is the right to choose our own leaders. And you are entitled to the clearest possible choice, because the time for choosing is drawing near. So here is our pledge.

We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead.

We will not spend four years blaming others, we will take responsibility.

We will not try to replace our founding principles, we will reapply our founding principles.

The work ahead will be hard.

These times demand the best of us – all of us, but we can do this.

Together, we can do this.

We can get this country working again.

We can get this economy growing again.

We can make the safety net safe again.

We can do this.

Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country. Join Mitt Romney and me.

Let’s give this effort everything we have.

Let’s see this through all the way.

Let’s get this done.

Thank you, and God bless.

[End transcript]

Also see:

Era of Media Fact Checkers Intimidating Republicans Is Over

It’s official; the term “fact checker” is now a punchline.

For four long years, I’ve waited for these disgracefully partisan left-wing fact checkers to implode, and this morning and last night it finally happened. And it happened under the weight of their own lies and shameless Obama-shilling.

Meet GOP VP Nominee Paul Ryan’s Family [Photos]

Full Transcript: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate Feb, 22, 2012

February 23, 2012 at 9:35 am

Full Transcript of CNN ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, 20:00-22:00

Aired February 22, 2012 – 20:00   ET

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN’S JOHN KING, USA: Right now the Republican presidential candidates in their debate before a series of contests that could change everything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: In Arizona tonight, a grand showdown in a presidential contest that’s been all over the map.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don’t like the state of the race right now, wait a couple of weeks.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been like riding Space Mountain at Disneyland.

ANNOUNCER: The Republican race could take another turn right now. With the GOP candidate return to the debate stage.

Rick Santorum. The late contender. Says it’s a two-man duel now. And he’ll be the one left standing.

SANTORUM: I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.

ANNOUNCER: Mitt Romney. The long-distance runner. Says every rival that’s threatened him has made him stronger.

ROMNEY: My conservatism is to the core.

ANNOUNCER: Newt Gingrich. The determined challenger. Vowing to compete, win or lose, until the last votes are cast.

GINGRICH: We intend to change Washington, not accommodate it.

ANNOUNCER: Ron Paul. The delegate hunter. Keeping his campaign going by picking and choosing his battles.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have the message that America needs at this particular time.

ANNOUNCER: The final four. In Arizona. A state rich in presidential campaign history. A frontline in the immigration wars. And the fight to bounce back from recession.

GINGRICH: We know how to help the American people create jobs.

ROMNEY: It’s been tough for middle-income families in America.

ANNOUNCER: Here in the West, they know a thing or two about fight to the finish. And this debate could change the landscape once again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, DEBATE MODERATOR, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening from the Mesa, Arizona Arts Center just outside of Phoenix. This is the Arizona Republican presidential debate. Tonight, the four candidates in their final debate before 14 critical contests across the country, including the primary right here in Arizona on Tuesday. Welcome. I’m John King.

Arizona Republicans are here in our audience tonight. Some of them will have a chance to question the candidates. And crowds even gathering outside to watch it at a viewing party here in downtown Mesa. You can also take part in this debate. Send us your questions online on Twitter. Make sure to include the hashtag cnndebate on Facebook and Facebook.com/cnnpolitics, and of course on CNNpolitics.com.

It’s time now to meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders. Joining us on stage, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

(APPLAUSE)

The former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

(APPLAUSE)

And the former senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

(APPLAUSE) And the Texas congressman, Ron Paul.

(APPLAUSE)

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

Just before we came on the air tonight, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. We want to ask everyone now here in the hall to rise and at home as well, as we have the national anthem performed. It’s our honor tonight to welcome the Arizona State University Symphonic Chorale.

(MUSIC)

KING: Thank you. Our thanks to the Arizona State University Symphonic Chorale. That was fabulous.

Gentlemen, I want to ask you to take your seats. I’ll take a moment now to explain to you how our debate will work.

I’ll question the candidates, as well as we’ll also take some questions from members of our audience. I’ll follow up and guide tonight’s discussion.

Candidates, we’re going to try to make sure each of you get your fair amount of questions. And you’ll have a minute to answer and 30 seconds for rebuttal and follow-ups. And if you’re singled out for a particular criticism, I’ll make sure you get a chance to respond.

Now we’re going to have each of the candidates introduce themselves. And so we have more time to debate tonight, we’re going to ask them to keep it short.

Here’s an example. I’m John King from CNN. I’m honored to be your moderator tonight and I’m thrilled to be in a state that reminds us baseball season is just around the corner.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, we begin with you, sir.

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Congressman Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas.

I am the defender of the Constitution. I’m the champion of liberty. This shows the roadmap to peace and prosperity.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Rick Santorum.

And we have a lot of troubles around the world, as you see, the Middle East in flames, and what’s going on in this country with gas prices and the economy. And I’m here to talk about a positive solutions that confront this country that include everybody from the bottom up.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Mitt Romney.

And there was a time in this country when you knew that if you worked hard and went to school, and if you learned the values of America in your home, that you could count on having a secure future and a prosperous life. That was an American promise and it’s been broken by this president.

I want to restore America’s promise, and I’m going to do that –

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: That’s good enough. As George Costanza would say, when they’re applauding, stop. Right?

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Newt Gingrich.

And I’ve developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again and so every American can look forward to $2.50 a gallon gasoline.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Gentlemen, it’s good to see you again.

Let’s get started on the important issues with a question from our audience.

Sir, please tell us who you are and state your question.

(UNKNOWN): My name is Gilbert Fidler (ph) from Gilbert, Arizona, and I’d like to ask this question to all the candidates if I could.

Since the first time in 65 years our national debt exceeds our gross national product, what are you going to do to bring down the debt?

KING: Thank you, sir.

Senator Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Gilbert.

I put together a specific plan that cuts $5 trillion over five years, that spends less money each year for the next four years that I’ll be president of the United States. So it’s not inflation- adjusted, it’s not baseline-budgeting. We’re actually going to shrink the actual size of the federal budget, and we’re going to do so by dealing with the real problem.

And here’s where I differentiate myself from everybody else, including, obviously, the president. I actually have experience on tackling the toughest problems that we have in this country, and that’s the growth of entitlement spending.

Obviously, the first thing we need to do is repeal Obamacare. That’s the one entitlement that we can get rid of.

(APPLAUSE)

And that’s a couple trillion dollars in spending over the next 10 years. But there’s bigger issues.

When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It’s now 60 percent of the budget.

Some people have suggested that defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It’s now 17 percent. If you think defense spending is the problem, then you need a remedial math class to go back to.

Defense spending will not be cut under my administration, but we will go after all of the means-tested entitlement programs — Medicaid, food stamps, all of those programs — and do what we did with welfare.

We cut the welfare — we cut spending on welfare, froze it and then we block granted it to the states and gave them the flexibility to run that program they way they saw fit with two provisos. Number one, there would be a time limit on welfare and a work requirement. We were going to say that poverty is not a disability. That these programs need to be transitional in nature. We need to do the same thing with Medicaid. We need to do the same thing with — with food stamps. All of the other means tests of entitlement programs.

And unlike the Paul Ryan plan — I see I’m out of time, but unlike the Paul Ryan plan, we also will deal with Medicare and Social Security, not 10 years from now. But we need to start dealing with it now because our country is facing fiscal bankruptcy.

KING: Governor Romney, I’m wondering if that answer satisfied you? Just in recent days you said this, quote, “If you want a fiscal conservative, you can’t vote for Rick Santorum because he’s not.” Did he answer your questions there?

ROMNEY: Well I’m looking at his historic record, which voting for raising the debt ceiling five different times without voting for compensating cuts. Voting to keep in place Davis-Bacon, which cost about $100 billion over — over 10 years. A whole series of votes. Voting to fund Planned Parenthood, to expand the Department of Education. During his term in the Senate, spending grew by some 80 percent of the federal government. But I — but I want to respond to Gilbert’s question, which I think is a critical one.

And that is as you — as you look at this country, I’m a guy who has lived in the world of business. If you don’t balance your budget in business, you go out of business. So I’ve lived balancing budgets. I also served in the Olympics, balanced a budget there. And — and served in the states. And all four years I was governor, we balanced the budget. Here’s what I’d do at the federal level, I would divide all of the programs into three major places for opportunity to reduce costs.

Number one, I’m going to go through every single program and ask if we can afford it. And if not, I’m going to say, is this program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’m going to get rid of it. Number two, I’m going to take programs…

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …I’m going to take programs that are important, but that could be better run at the state level and send them back to the states as a block grant and that included Medicaid and — and housing vouchers and food stamps. These programs for the poor, to be run more efficiently and can be run with less fraud and abuse at the state level. And then finally number three, with what’s left of government, I’m going to cut the employment by 10 percent. And I’m going to link the pay of government workers with the pay in the private sector. Government servants shouldn’t get paid more than the people who are paying taxes.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator, the governor singled you out. Take a few seconds.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: Well, the governor talks about raising the debt ceiling. There was a debt ceiling vote this summer and the governor was asked the question whether he would have voted to raise the debt ceiling ultimately and he said, yes. Because government has to pay their bills. We can’t default ultimately. What happened the — the 12 years I was in the United States Senate, we went from the debt to GDP ratio, which is now over 100 percent. When I came to the Senate it was 68 percent of GDP. When I left the Senate it was 64 percent of GDP.

So government as a size of the economy went down when I was in the United States Senate. Sure I had some votes. Look, I think we’ve all had votes that I look back on I — I wish I wouldn’t have voted — No Child Left Behind, you’re right, it lead to education spending. That’s why I’ve said that we need to cut and eliminate No Child Left Behind and — and education funding from the federal government, move it back to the local level where it belongs where parents and local communities can deal with that.

But if you look at my record on spending, on taking on entitlements, never having voted for an appropriation bill increase. You look at — at my record of never having raised taxes. Governor Romney raised $700 million in taxes and fees in Massachusetts. I never voted to raise taxes. Governor Romney even today suggested raising taxes on the top 1 percent, adopting the Occupy Wall Street rhetoric. I’m not going to adopt that rhetoric. I’m going to represent 100 percent of Americans. We’re not raising taxes on anybody.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor, please quickly I want to bring the congressman and the speaker into the conversation, but respond.

ROMNEY: There were so many misrepresentations there, it’s going to take me a little while. Number one, I said today that we’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent. So that’s number one. Number two, I said yes we should increase the debt ceiling in this last vote, but only if we have a cut, cap and balance provision put in place. Only in that case. And, therefore, I did not agree with the deal that was done in Washington. That was the wrong way to go.

And finally, Senator during your term in Congress, the years you’ve been there, government has doubled in size. You voted to raise the debt ceiling five times without compensating cuts in spending. In my view, we should not raise the debt ceiling again until we get compensating cuts in spending. A cut, cap and balance approach must be taken.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker…

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker, join the conversation. Address Gilbert’s question and if you so choose, address some criticism you’ve received on this issue from this state’s senior Senator campaigning for governor Romney. He questioned your credentials on fiscal conservatism. He said when you were the speaker, earmarking became an art.

GINGRICH: Well when I was speaker, as I’m sure he remembers, we balanced the budget for four consecutive years, the only time in his lifetime. So I think that’s a good place to start with Gilbert’s question. We’re meeting tonight on the 280th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. You go back and look at the founding fathers, they’d have had very clear messages. Hamilton would have said you have to have jobs and economic growth to get back to a balanced budget. You’re never going to balance the budget on the back of a highly unemployed country. And so I would be committed, first of all, to a program of jobs and economic growth.

Second, the energy issue is enormous. The leading developer of North Dakota oil estimated recently that, if we would open up federal land and open up offshore, you would have $16 trillion to $18 trillion — not billion — trillion dollars in royalties to the federal government in the next generation, an enormous flow which would drive down prices to $2.50 a gallon, would help us balance the budget and would create millions of jobs.

Finally, I agree generally with the need to reform government. I think that, if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws, go to a modern management system, we could save a minimum of $500 billion a year with a better system. And if we then applied the tenth amendment, as Governor Rick Perry has agreed to head up a project on, I think we can return to the states an enormous share of the power that’s currently in Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, you’ve questioned the conservative — fiscal conservative credentials of all these gentlemen but particularly this week Senator Santorum. You have a new television ad that labels him a fake. Why?

PAUL: Because he’s a fake.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(BOOING)

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: I’m real, John. I’m real.

PAUL: Congratulations.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: No. I find it really fascinating that, when people are running for office, they’re really fiscally conservative. When they’re in office, they do something different. And then when they explain themselves, they say, “Oh, I want to repeal that.”

So the senator voted for No Child Left Behind, but now — he voted for it, but now he’s running on the effort to get rid of it. So I think the record is so bad, you know, with the politicians.

And, you know, nobody accuses me of not having voted for too much. They’re always accusing me for not voting for enough. And I’ve been running in office, in office off and on for a good many years, and over all those years, I’ve never voted for a budget deficit. I never voted to increase the national debt.

As a matter of fact, there’s only one appropriation bill I voted for, and that was for veterans. I assumed, from the 1970s on, that we were embarking on a very dangerous path, and we’re involved in that danger right now.

So this idea of being fiscally conservative now that we’re running for office and we’re going to repeal something that we did before, I mean, this — it loses credibility is what our problem is. So… (APPLAUSE) And — and the one thing that I think should annoy all Americans is the voting for foreign aid? I mean, just think there are foreign aid packages that are huge, and when the member votes for it, they don’t say, well, this money is going to A, B, C, because I love that country, but it’s the principle of the way the government works. You vote for foreign aid because, for some weird reason, it’s supposed to be good for America, but then it goes and helps all our enemies. That’s what I disapprove of.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum, respond quickly.

SANTORUM: Ron, The Weekly Standard just did a review, looking at the National Taxpayers Union, I think, Citizens Against Government Waste, and they measured me up against the other 50 senators who were serving when I did and they said that I was the most fiscally conservative senator in the Congress in the — in the 12 years that I was there.

My — my ratings with the National Taxpayers Union were As or Bs. They were very high from the Citizens Against Government Waste. I got a hero award.

I was a leader, as you know, on taking on tough issues, which is the entitlement programs, not just welfare reform, but I also worked on Medicare reform and Medicaid reform and also was a leader on trying to deal with Social Security.

And I did that not representing one of the most conservative districts in the state of Texas but in the state of Pennsylvania, with the second largest per capita population of seniors in the country.

And I can tell you those seniors really cared about Social Security. Why? Because all my rich seniors moved to Florida and Arizona. And…

(LAUGHTER)

… and what’s left — what’s left in Pennsylvania is folks who relied on Social Security. And I was out there as a Republican senator, a conservative voting record, over a 90 percent conservative voting record from the American Conservative Union.

By the way, Ron, you ranked 145th in the bottom half of Republicans this year in a conservative voting record from that same organization.

We had a strong record in a tough state to be a conservative. If I can stand up in the state of Pennsylvania, which hasn’t elected a Republican president since 1988, and have a strong principled voting record on issues that were tough in my state, senior issues, imagine now, as president of the United States, with a Tea Party movement and a conservative — a riled-up conservative base, what we can accomplish in Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman, quickly.

PAUL: You know, that’s always a cop-out when you compare yourself to the other members of Congress. The American people are sick and tired of the members of Congress. They get about a 9 percent rating.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: But this whole thing about comparison of conservative votes, I think you make a very important point. I don’t rate what, at the top. If it’s spending or on taxes I’m at the very top because I vote for the least amount of spending and the least amount of taxes, which means that some of the conservative ratings — you have to realize sometimes conservatives want to spend money, too.

When it comes to overseas spending, you vote for the foreign aid. Conservatives are quite pleased with spending money overseas. But if you’re a strict fiscal conservative and a constitutionalist you don’t vote for that kind of stuff and so you can’t just go by the ratings.

KING: As you can see, this is a — it’s an important issue to the people in the audience. I think it’s one of the reasons this race has been so volatile. Voters are looking and they say which of these candidates can I trust? And each of you are trying to make your case to them.

As you try to do so, Governor Romney, you said recently that as governor you’re a severely conservative governor of Massachusetts. What did you mean by that?

ROMNEY: Well, severe, strict. I was, without question, a conservative governor in my state. We balanced the budget all four years I was in office. We cut taxes 19 times.

I enabled our state police to enforce illegal immigration laws so that people could be taken out of our state that were illegally. We drove our schools to have –

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: — campaigned for and fought for English immersion in our school, and had that successfully implemented. My policies in Massachusetts were to — were conservative, and in a state, as Rick indicated, a state that was a relatively liberal state, I stood up and said I would stand on the side of life when the legislature passed a bill saying that life would not be defined not at conception but later.

I said no. When there was an effort to put in place embryo farming and cloning, I vetoed that. When the Catholic Church was attacked, saying, look we’re not going to allow you to continue to place children in homes where there’s a preference for a man and a woman being the mom and dad, I worked with the Catholic Church to put legislation in place to protect their right to exercise their religious conscience.

I have through my record as a governor demonstrated that kind of conservative belief. But also, look a step back and look at my record running the Olympics. Balanced the budget there, made it successful with the help of a terrific team.

Then look back into the business. You can’t be, I don’t believe, anything but a fiscal conservative and run a business, because if you don’t balance your budget, you go out of business.

KING: Mr. Speaker, as you know, often when deficit reduction –

(APPLAUSE)

KING: — when deficit reduction and economic growth are priorities at the same time, some people see a collision. Some people see a conflict. You’ve outlined your views on taxes. Governor Romney today outlined a tax plan that would cut the — put the top rate at 28 percent, eliminate capital gain taxes for incomes below $200,000, cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

Is that the right approach? And is it consistent — and it’s a tough one sometimes — with spurring economic growth at a time this state and other states are looking for jobs? But as you have Gilbert’s (ph) question, also looking to make sure the next president works on the deficit?

GINGRICH: Well, look, first of all, I think that Governor Romney today moved in the right direction, and I think that that’s a serious step towards trying to find — closer to supply side. I wouldn’t agree with him on capping capital gains cuts at $200,000, because I think that’s, frankly, economically destructive, and I don’t believe in class warfare.

And that’s a number below Obama’s class warfare number. So we can argue later about capital gains cuts.

But I think there’s a different question. Everybody talks about managing the current government. The current government is a disaster. I mean, we don’t — you know –

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: — this is — it is — the reason I started with the idea that came out of Strong America Now to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws and go to a modern management system, is you change everything.

And the fact is, if we’re serious — and, in a funny kind of way, Ron and I are closer on the scale of change. We’d approach it slightly different, but I think you’ve got to start and say what would a modern system be like?

And a modern system would be — just take control of the border. It is utterly stupid to say that the United States government can’t control the border. It’s a failure of will, it’s a failure of enforcement.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: So let me just take that one example. Let’s assume you could, tomorrow morning, have a president who wanted to work with your governor, that instead of suing Arizona, helped Arizona, who actually worked with Arizona. Now –

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: — what’s the fiscal reality three years from now in your emergency rooms, in your schools, in your prisons, of controlling the border? It’s a lot less expensive. You just took a major step towards a less expensive future. So I think it is possible to modernize the federal government and cut taxes and develop energy simultaneously. And the three lead you to Gilbert’s concern. Let’s get back to a balanced budget.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: The Speaker raises an important point about looking forward, and I hope we spend most of the night doing that. But as you know, there’s a lot of anger in the base of the party about some of the things that have happened in the past, and the Tea Party, especially.

Now, earmarks, the pork barrel spending, it’s a tiny slice of the budget. I think we all know that. But if you talk to a Tea Party activist, they think — an example, a gateway to corruption.

Senator, you have said there are good earmarks and bad earmarks. And you have talked about your earmarks in the past. Any that you specifically regret? And why have you criticized — why do you think the money that went to Governor Romney for security at the Olympics, why was that a bad earmark?

SANTORUM: I didn’t suggest it was a bad earmark. I voted for it and about half the money — a little over half the money that went to the Salt Lake games.

But Governor Romney asked for that earmark. That’s really the point here. He’s out there on television ads right now, unfortunately, attacking me for saying that I’m this great earmarker, when he not only asked for earmarks for the Salt Lake Olympics in the order of tens of millions of dollars, sought those earmarks and used them, and he did as the governor of Massachusetts, $300 million or $400 million. He said, I would be foolish if I didn’t go out and try to get federal dollars.

So the idea that somehow earmarks during the time that I was in Congress were this thing that drove up spending in Washington, D.C., if you actually look at it, as I said before, as a percentage of GDP, actually the deficits — the debt went down. What happened is there was abuse.

When abuse happened, I said we should stop the earmarking process. But I did say there were good earmarks and bad earmarks.

We wouldn’t have the V-22 Osprey, which was the most essential air platform for our Marines in particular in the war against the radical Islamists. We wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for an earmark. That program would have been killed under George Bush 41. Dick Cheney, the Defense Department, wanted to kill that program, and many of us, including myself, stood up and made sure that was there.

Congress has a role to play when it comes to appropriating money, and sometimes the president and the administration doesn’t get it right. What happened was an abuse of the process.

When that abuse occurred, I stepped forward, as Jim DeMint did, who, by the way, was an earmarker, as almost everybody else in Congress was. Why? Because Congress has a role of allocating resources when they think the administration has it wrong.

I defended that at the time. I’m proud I defended it at the time, because I think they did make mistakes. I do believe there was abuse, and I said we should stop it, and as president I would oppose earmarks.

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: I didn’t follow all of that, but I can tell you this — I would put a ban on earmarks. I think it opens the door to excessive spending, spending on projects that don’t need to be done.

I think there are a lot of projects that have been voted for. You voted to the “Bridge to Nowhere.” I think these earmarks, we’ve had it with them.

SANTORUM: Yes.

ROMNEY: If Congress wants to vote in favor of a bill, they should take that bill, bring it forward with committees, have people say — vote it up or down on the floor of the House or the Senate, have the president say yes or no, and move forward. But the earmark process is broken. There are thousands and thousands of earmarks, money being used inappropriately.

And I’ll tell you this — he mentioned coming to the Olympics, coming to the United States Congress, asking for support. No question about it. That’s the nature of what it is when you lead an organization or a state.

You come to Congress and you say, these are the things we need. In the history of the Olympic movement, the federal government has always provided the transportation and security. So we came to the federal government asking for help on transportation and security.

I was fighting for those things. Our games were successful. But while I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

KING: Quickly. (APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: It’s really interesting, Governor, because the process you just described of an open process where members of Congress put forth their suggestions on how to spend money, have them voted on individually, is exactly how the process worked. So what you just suggested as to how earmarks should work in the future is exactly how they worked in the past. So I suspect you would have supported earmarks if you were in the United States Senate.

ROMNEY: I’m sorry. The 6,000 earmarks that were put in place under the Speaker’s term, for instance, were oftentimes tagged on to other bills –

(BOOING)

ROMNEY: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be critical.

That was the process. There were thousands — I mean, we’ve had thousands and thousands of earmarks. They are typically tagged on to — bundled on to other bills.

OK. Go ahead, Mr. Speaker. Go ahead.

SANTORUM: Wait a second. You’re entitled to your opinions, Mitt. You’re not entitled to –

ROMNEY: I’ve heard that line before. I’ve heard that before, yes.

SANTORUM: — misrepresent the facts, and you’re misrepresenting the facts. You don’t know what you’re taking about.

What happened in the earmark process — what happens in the earmark process was that members of Congress would ask, formally, publicly request these things, put them on paper, and have them allocated, and have them voted on a committee, have them voted on, on the floor of the Senate.

Congressman Paul — Congressman…

ROMNEY: Attached to a bill? Attached to a bill?

SANTORUM: As part of the bill. Congressman Paul…

ROMNEY: And the president can’t veto it?

SANTORUM: He can veto the bill.

ROMNEY: The whole bill, but he can’t veto the earmark?

SANTORUM: Well, we tried to do that, by the way. I supported a line-item veto.

ROMNEY: That’s what I support. That’s what I support.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: Hold on. Hold on.

Mitt, I agree with you. I support — I support the line-item veto. I voted for a line-item veto so we could do just that. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court struck it down. I would like to go back, as president, again, and give the president the authority to line-item veto.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is were they transparent? And the bottom line was, when I was in the United States Senate, there was transparency, and Congressman Paul, who is one of the most prolific earmarkers in the Congress today, is — would tell you…

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (OFF-MIKE).

SANTORUM: And I’m not — I’m not criticizing; I’m just saying that’s a fact, that…

(LAUGHTER)

… that he — he…

(APPLAUSE)

(BOOING)

ROMNEY: I think you need a chance to say a word.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Mr. Speaker, you were referenced by the governor, you first, then Congressman Paul.

Don’t worry. We’ll get to you, Congressman. I promise.

(BOOING)

GINGRICH: Now, look, let me just say flatly all of you need to think about this because this is one of those easy demagogic fights that gets you into a lot of trouble. If you have Barack Obama as president and you have a Republican House, you may want the House imposing certain things on the president.

Now, when I was speaker, for example…

(APPLAUSE)

… and we had a liberal Democrat in the White House — I actually want to reinforce what the governor said. I helped the Atlanta Olympics get the support they needed from the U.S. government to be successful. I thought it was totally appropriate to help the Atlanta Olympics. And I actually went to — to your former governor and sat down with the people originally planning the Winter Olympics and said, look, this is what we did; this is what you need to do.

I think it was totally appropriate for you to ask for what you got. I just think it’s, kind of, silly for you to then turn around and run an ad attacking somebody else for getting what you got and then claiming what you got wasn’t what they got because what you got was right and what they got was wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, answer Senator Santorum, please, sir.

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I followed that and I…

(LAUGHTER)

You know, there’s reason for the confusion, because…

(LAUGHTER)

… because it’s all Congress’s fault. They’re all messed up and they don’t know what they’re doing in Congress is the real reason.

(APPLAUSE)

But this whole idea of earmarking — earmarking is designating how the money’s spent. What a lot of people don’t understand is if — if the Congress doesn’t say the way the money should be spent, it goes to the executive branch, and that’s the bad part. If you were actually cutting, it would make a difference. But you don’t want to give more power to the executive branch.

Even if I’m president, I don’t want more power over that — over that funding. That should be with the people and — and with the Congress. But earmarking — the reason we get into trouble is — is the irresponsibility of Congress.

Take your highway funds. We’re supposed to pay a user fee. If we pay our gasoline tax, we should get our fair share back. But what do they do? They take the highway funds and other of these trust funds and they spend this money overseas in these wars that we shouldn’t be fighting. And then when the highways need building, then you have to go and fight the political system and know who to deal with and maneuver and try to get some of your money back.

But if you say you’re against — against the earmarking and fuss and fume over, the answer is vote against the bill. That is what I do. I argue for the case of the responsibility being on the Congress, but it’s the responsibility of us who believe in fiscal conservatism to vote against the bill. We need to vote against the spending is what we need to do.

(APPLAUSE) KING: Let’s take another important economic question. This one comes to us from CNNPolitics.com, and you can see it in the audience up on the board here.

“Why was George W. Bush wrong in his efforts to save the auto industry and why was Barack Obama wrong to continue the effort?”

Senator Santorum, I want to go to you first with this question. You, like your friends on the stage tonight, opposed the auto bailout. Michigan votes on Tuesday, along with Arizona. We assume folks are watching there tonight. Address your answer to an auto worker who may believe strongly that he or she has that job tonight because of the help — the bailout?

SANTORUM: I would just say to them that I in principle oppose government coming in and bailing out a sector of the economy or an industry with government dollars and — and with government manipulation of that market, which is exactly what happened twice, in 2008 and 2009.

The first time it happened was the Wall Street bailout. On principle, I opposed the Wall Street bailout, even though I understand people — reasonable people could disagree. I felt that having the government come in in such a major way and have a huge influence over the direction of that industry, that that would be damaging to what I believe is the best way to resolve these types of problems, which lets the market work, constructive capitalism, as Governor Romney was talking about in his days at Bain Capital, and destructive capitalism.

And that means pain. I understand that. But it also means limited government and allowing markets to work because we believe they’re more efficient over time. I held the same consistent position when it came to the auto bailouts. I can say that with respect to Governor Romney, that was not the case. He supported the folks on Wall Street and bailed out Wall Street, was all for it. And then when it came to the auto workers, the folks in Detroit, he said, no. That to me is not a consistent, principled position. I had one. I believe in markets, not just when they’re convenient for me.

KING: Governor?

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Nice — nice try, but now let’s look at the facts. All right, first of all — first of all let’s go back to the auto industry and — and go back to 2000, I think it was 2008, President Bush was still in office and the three chief executive officers of the three major auto companies got in their private planes and flew to Washington and said, please write us a check. I think they wanted $50 billion. And I wrote an Op-Ed in the paper and I said, absolutely not. Do not write a check for $50 billion.

These companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy, just like airlines have, just like other industries have. Go through a managed bankruptcy…

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …and — and if they go through that managed bankruptcy and shed the excessive cost that’s been put on them by the UAW and by their own mismanagement, then if they need help coming out of bankruptcy, the government can provided guarantees and get them back on their feet. No way would we allow the auto industry in America to totally implode and disappear. That was my view. Go through bankruptcy. When that happens, then the market can help lift them out. With regards to — to TARP it’s very simple, or — or the Wall Street. Look, I don’t want to save any Wall Street Banks.

I just don’t want (sic) make sure we lose all of our banks. And like — like President Bush at the time, I was concerned that if we didn’t do something, there were some pretty high risks that not just Wall Street banks, but all banks would collapse. And like many other people — many other economists, they were concerned that our entire currency system would go down. My view is this, we have to have industries that get in trouble, go through bankruptcy. Now, Senator you voted in favor of the bail out of the airline industry after 9/11.

I think that was the right thing to do. It was an emergency. You also voted for the bail out of the steel industry. I don’t think I agree with that one, but I do believe that the right course for the auto industry was to go through a managed bankruptcy process and then to get help getting out.

KING: Governor let me ask you…

(APPLAUSE)

KING: …you — you mentioned — you mentioned President Bush’s position on the Wall Street bail out. If you talk to people in the Bush administration at the time, they say they would have preferred the structured bankruptcy route that you talked about, but that there was no private capital available. That nobody would give the auto companies money and that their choice they say at the time, was to either give the government money or have them liquidate.

ROMNEY: Yeah, it was really interesting. Because, you know, I wrote my piece and I said look, these companies need to go through managed bankruptcy. And the head of the UAW said, we can’t go through managed bankruptcy. The industry will disappear if that happens. And the politicians, Barack Obama’s people, oh no, we can’t go through managed bankruptcy. Six months they wrote, I think it was $17 billion in checks to the auto companies. Then they finally realized I was right. They finally put them through managed bankruptcy. That was the time they needed the help to get out of managed bankruptcy.

Those monies they put in beforehand were — it was wasted money. And number two, because they put that money in, the president gave the companies to the UAW, they were part of the reason the companies were in trouble. Giving these companies to the UAW was wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK) KING: Mr. Speaker — one second.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: As — as Governor Romney well knows, that the American government shut down the airline industry after 9/11. And the government by it’s action stopped the airline industry from functioning and yes, as a result of government action, which I thought it was appropriate for government since we shut down the industry…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: I agree with you.

SANTORUM: …after the events of 9/11.

ROMNEY: I agree.

SANTORUM: But government didn’t shut down the banks. They didn’t shut down the financial service industry. So when you compare those, it’s not apples to apples, Mitt and that’s not a fair comparison.

KING: Mr. Speaker, come in on the conversation. It’s a tough one. It’s a tough one. It’s a major American industry, in a time of trouble.

GINGRICH: That’s not a tough…

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That’s not tough, you say.

GINGRICH: It’s not tough. First of all, there’s a huge amount of the American auto industry that was just fine. BMW in South Carolina was terrific. Mercedes in Alabama was doing just fine. Honda in Ohio was just fine. So the — Toyota was just fine. What we have is the United Auto Workers and a management system that had grown very, I think incapable of tough decisions because they were used to selling out to the United Auto Workers. And so they came in and said, oh we can’t change. And this president on behalf of the United Auto Workers said, you’re exactly right.

Now, the fact is, Chrysler is now Fiat. So when we talk about saving the American auto industry, let’s be clear what they were doing. I think that they would have been much better off to have gone through a managed bankruptcy, I agree with Governor Romney. I think it would have happened. I think what would have happened is the UAW would have lost all of their advantages and the result was, what you had I thought was an unprecedented violation of 200 years of bankruptcy law by Barack Obama to pay off the UAW at the expense of every bondholder. (APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, as you join the conversation, the criticism of President Obama here, but I also want you to address the state’s current Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who supports Mitt Romney, but that’s irrelevant to this point. He says, “The bailout actually was something that really worked.”

Is that Republican governor wrong?

PAUL: Well, you know, it’s interesting when they argue that case.

First, I don’t like the idea that you have good bailouts and bad bailouts. If bailouts are bad, they’re bad, and we shouldn’t be doing it.

But this argument about maybe one that works, you know, well, now that the bankruptcy or the bailing out of GM worked, I said that’s sort of like if a criminal goes out and robs a bank, and he’s successful, therefore you endorse what he did, because he’s successful. But you have to rob people, you have to distort the law.

The government is supposed to protect contracts. They’re not supposed to regulate contracts and they’re not supposed to undermine contracts. And that’s what we’ve been doing.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: In the housing bubble, we undermined contracts. And this is what we’re doing here. So you want to respect the contracts.

A lot of people will accuse me of advocating a free market, that there’s no regulations. Actually, the regulations are tougher, because you have to go through bankruptcy and you have to face up to this.

And it isn’t like General Motors would be destroyed. Newt made that point there, that there were good parts of General Motors. But politicians can’t figure this out. Then they serve the special interests, and then you have labor fighting big business.

I opt for the free market in defense of liberty. That’s what we need in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: All right.

We’re off to a good start, Gentlemen. We’re going to take our first break of the evening.

In a moment, our Republican presidential debate here in Arizona continues. A lot more ground to cover, including two issues that are dominating the discussion here in Arizona in recent days, immigration and faith. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Arts Center and the Arizona Republican Presidential debate. Let’s get right back to questioning the four contenders for the Republican nomination. We take a question now from cnnpolitics.com. You can see it up on the screen here.

Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why? As you can see — it’s a — it’s a very popular question in the audience, as we can see. Look, we’re not going to spend a ton of time on this but it is — please.

GINGRICH: Can I just make a point?

KING: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys are giving you some feedback here, John.

KING: I see that. I see that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they’re making it very clear.

GINGRICH: No, I think — look, I think there’s — I want to make two — I want to make two quick point, John.

The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Sure is.

GINGRICH: But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. OK? So let’s be clear here.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: If we’re going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion. It is not the Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: John, what’s happened — and you recall back in the debate that we had George Stephanopoulos talking out about birth control, we wondered why in the world did contraception — and it’s like, why is he going there? Well, we found out when Barack Obama continued his attack on religious conscience.

I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama. Most recently, of course –

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: — most recently requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable.

And he retried to retreat from that but he retreated in a way that was not appropriate, because these insurance companies now have to provide these same things and obviously the Catholic Church will end up paying for them.

But don’t forget the decision just before this, where he said the government — not a church, but the government should have the right to determine who a church’s ministers are for the purposes of determining whether they’re exempt from EEOC or from workforce laws or labor laws.

He said the government should make that choice. That went all the way to the Supreme Court. There are a few liberals on the Supreme Court. They voted 9-0 against President Obama. His position –

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: — his position — his position on religious tolerance, on religious conscience is clear, and it’s one of the reasons the people in this country are saying we want to have a president who will stand up and fight for the rights under our Constitution, our first right, which is for freedom of religion.

KING: So let’s focus the time — let’s focus the time we spend on this on the role of the president and your personal views and question the role of government.

And Senator Santorum, this has come up — yes, it has come up because of the president’s decision in the campaign. It’s also come up because of some of the things you have said on the campaign trail. When you were campaigning in Iowa, you told an evangelical blog, if elected, you will talk about what, quote, “no president has talked about before — the dangers of contraception.” Why?

SANTORUM: What I was talking about is we have a society — Charles Murray just wrote a book about this and it’s on the front page of “The New York Times” two days ago, which is the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock in America, teens who are sexually active.

What we’re seeing is a problem in our culture with respect to children being raised by children, children being raised out of wedlock, and the impact on society economically, the impact on society with respect to drug use and all — a host of other things when children have children.

And so, yes, I was talking about these very serious issues. And, in fact, as I mentioned before, two days ago on the front page of “The New York Times”, they’re talking about the same thing. The bottom line is we have a problem in this country, and the family is fracturing.

Over 40 percent of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it’s so much harder to succeed economically? It’s five times the rate of poverty in single-parent households than it is in two-parent homes. We can have limited government, lower tax — we hear this all the time, cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything’s not going to be fine.

There are bigger problems at stake in America. And someone has got to go out there — I will — and talk about the things.

And you know what? Here’s the difference.

The left gets all upset. “Oh, look at him talking about these things.” You know, here’s the difference between me and the left, and they don’t get this. Just because I’m talking about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it.

That’s what they do. That’s not what we do.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: As an OB doctor, I’ve dealt with birth control pills and contraception for a long time. This is a consequences of the fact the government has control of medical care and medical insurance, and then we fight over how we dictate how this should be distributed, sort of like in schools. Once the government takes over the schools, especially at the federal level, then there’s no right position, and you have to argue which prayer, are you allowed to pray, and you get into all the details.

The problem is the government is getting involved in things they shouldn’t be involved in, especially at the federal level.

(APPLAUSE)

But sort of along the line of the pills creating immorality, I don’t see it that way. I think the immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pills. So you don’t blame the pills.

I think it’s sort of like the argument — conservatives use the argument all the time about guns. Guns don’t kill, criminals kill.

(APPLAUSE)

So, in a way, it’s the morality of society that we have to deal with. The pill is there and, you know, it contributes, maybe, but the pills can’t be blamed for the immorality of our society.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor, please.

ROMNEY: John, you know, I think as Rick has just said, this isn’t an argument about contraceptives, this is a discussion about, are we going to have a nation which preserves the foundation of the nation, which is the family, or are we not? And Rick is absolutely right.

When you have 40 percent of kids being born out of wedlock, and among certain ethnic groups the vast majority being born out of wedlock, you ask yourself, how are we going to have a society in the future? Because these kids are raised in poverty in many cases, they’re in abusive settings. The likelihood of them being able to finish high school or college drops dramatically in single-family homes. And we haven’t been willing to talk about this.

And when we have programs that say we’re going to teach abstinence in schools, the liberals go crazy and try and stop us from doing that. We have to have a president who’s willing to say that the best opportunity an individual can give to their unborn child is an opportunity to be born in a home with a mother and a father. And I think –

(APPLAUSE)

KING: It’s an issue on which all of you have criticism on the Obama administration, it’s an issue on which some of you have also criticized each other.

Governor Romney, both Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich have said during your tenure as governor, you required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

And Mr. Speaker, you compared the president to President Obama, saying he infringed on Catholics’ rights.

Governor, did you do that?

ROMNEY: No, absolutely not. Of course not.

There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their report. There was no such requirement.

Likewise, in Massachusetts health care bill, there’s a provision in Massachusetts general laws that says people don’t have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings. Churches also don’t have to provide that to entities which are either the church themselves or entities they control. So we have provisions that make sure that something of that nature does not occur.

That’s why when I worked closely with the leaders of the Catholic Church, I met with the cardinal a number of times, and with his emissaries. We talked about the issues we were concerned about.

We battled, for instance, to help the Catholic Church stay in the adoption business. The amazing thing was that while the Catholic Church was responsible for half the adoptions in my state — half the adoptions — they had to get out of that business because the legislature wouldn’t support me and give them an exemption from having to place children in homes where there was a mom and a dad on a preferential basis.

Absolutely extraordinary. We have to have individuals that will stand up for religious conscience, and I did and I will again as president.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, the reports we got were quite clear that the public health department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a morning-after abortion pill, and that the governor’s office issued explicit instructions saying that they believed it wasn’t possible under Massachusetts law to give them that waiver. Now, that was the newspaper reports that came out. That’s something that both Senator Santorum and I have raised before. But I want to go a step further, because this makes a point that Ron Paul has been making for a generation and that people need to take very seriously.

When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move towards tyranny, because the government has the power of force.

(APPLAUSE)

You inevitably — and I think this is true whether it’s Romneycare or Obamacare or any other government centralized system — you inevitably move towards the coercion of the state and the state saying, “If you don’t do what we, the politicians, have defined, you will be punished either financially or you will be punished in some other way like going to jail.”

And that’s why we are, I think, at an enormous crossroads in this country. And I think the fact is, for almost all of us who have been at this for any length of time, we’re now looking at an abyss that forces you to change what you may once have thought — and I suspect all four of us are much more worried today about the power of the state than we would have been — with the possible exception of Congressman Paul — than we would have been at any point in the last 25 years.

PAUL: John…

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman, please.

PAUL: … have a quick follow-up?

(APPLAUSE) You know, we talk about the morning-after pill. Actually, the morning-after pill is nothing more than a birth control pill, so if birth control pills are on the market, the morning-after pill — so if you’re going to legalize birth control pills, you really — you can’t separate the two. They’re all basically the same, hormonally.

But once again, the question is, if you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator has, you voted for birth control pills. And you literally, because funds are fungible, you literally vote for abortions because Planned Parenthood gets the money — “Oh, I’ll buy birth control pills,” but then they have the money left over to do the abortion.

So that’s why you have to have a pretty strong resistance of voting for these bunches of bills put together. Planned Parenthood should get nothing, let alone designate how they spend.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum?

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding, but it’s included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including…

(BOOING)

… the funding for the National Institutes of Health, the funding for Health and Human Services and a whole bunch of other departments. It’s a multi-billion-dollar bill.

What I did, because Title X was always pushed through, I did something that no one else did. Congressman Paul didn’t. I said, well, if you’re going to have Title X funding, then we’re going to create something called Title XX, which is going to provide funding for abstinence-based programs, so at least we’ll have an opportunity to provide programs that actually work in — in keeping children from being sexually active instead of facilitating children from being sexually active. And I pushed Title XX to — to accomplish that goal.

So while, yes, I — I admit I voted for large appropriation bills and there were things in there I didn’t like, things in there I did, but when it came to this issue, I proactively stepped forward and said that we need to do something at least to counterbalance it, A; B, I would say that I’ve always been very public that, as president of the United States, I will defund Planned Parenthood; I will not sign any appropriation bill that funds Planned Parenthood.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Senator (sic), go ahead. PAUL: John, this demonstrates the problem that I’m talking about. There’s always an excuse to do this. Now…

(APPLAUSE)

… Title XX — I don’t know whether you inferred that I would support Title XX for abstinence. No, it would cost money as a program. It’s not a program of the federal government to get involved in our lives this way. If you want laws like that, maybe the state, but…

(APPLAUSE)

… the federal government shouldn’t even be having — spending money on abstinence. That’s way too much more. I don’t see that in the Constitution any…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Just a — just a brief comment. Senator, I just saw a YouTube clip of you being interviewed where you said that you personally opposed contraceptives but that you — you said that you voted for Title X. You…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: But you used that as an argument, saying this is something I did proactively. You didn’t say this is something I was opposed to; it wasn’t something I would have done. You said this — you said this in a positive light, “I voted for Title X.”

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: I think it’s — I think I was making it clear that, while I have a personal more objection to it; even though I don’t support it, that I voted for bills that included it. And I made it very clear in subsequent interviews that I don’t — I don’t support that…

(BOOING)

… I’ve never supported it, and — and have — and on an individual basis have voted against it. That’s why I proposed Title XX to counterbalance it.

So I — you know, Governor Romney, I can just say that — that, you know, we were talking about this issue before of, you know, religious conscience and protections. But this is — the whole reason this issue is alive is because of the bill that you drafted in Massachusetts, Romneycare, which was the model for Obamacare and the government takeover of health care.

(BOOING)

ROMNEY: Wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second.

SANTORUM: And there was a study…

ROMNEY: Wait a second.

SANTORUM: There was a study that just came out about 10 days ago, two weeks ago, that listed 15 ways in which Romneycare was the model for Obamacare, everything from individual mandates, everything from — from fines. Yours is different. You required businesses over 10 employees; Barack — President Obama’s is over 50 employees.

But there — there’s a — and even the drafter of your bill, when they were working on Obama’s bill, said in fact it was the model. So here we have, as Newt said, the real fundamental issue here is government coercion and government coercion when you give governments the right to be able to take your responsibility to provide for your own health and — and — and care, and give it to the government.

That’s what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts. It would be a very — very, let say it would be a difficult task for someone who had the model for Obama Care, which is the biggest issue in this race of government in control of your lives, to be the nominee of our party. It would take that issue completely off…

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Governor — Governor, take 30 seconds to respond and then I want to move the conversation on.

ROMNEY: Much longer than 30 seconds.

KING: I hope not.

ROMNEY: That’s a — that’s a long — that’s a long — that’s a long answer. First of all, let’s not forget that four years ago, well after Romney Care was put in place, four years ago, you not only endorsed me, you and Laura Ingram, and said and this is the guy who is really conservative and we can trust him. Let’s not forget you said, that number one.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Number two…

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …number two, under the tenth amendment, states have the right to do things that they think are in their best interest. I know you — you agree with that. But let’s — let’s point this out, our bill was 70 pages. His bill is 2700 pages. There’s a lot in that 2,700 pages I don’t agree with and let me tell you, if I’m president of the United States, I will repeal Obama Care for a lot of reasons. One, I don’t want to spend another trillion dollars. We don’t have that kind of money, it’s the wrong way to go. Number two, I don’t believe the federal government should cut Medicare by some $500 billion.

Number three, I don’t think the federal government should raise taxes by $500 billion and, therefore, I will repeat Obama Care. And let me — let me — let me mention one more — the reason we have Obama Care — the reason we have Obama Care is because the Senator you supported over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, the pro- choice Senator of Pennsylvania that you supported and endorsed in a race over Pat Toomey, he voted for Obama Care. If you had not supported him, if we had said, no to Arlen Specter, we would not have Obama Care. So don’t look at me. Take a look in the mirror.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator please, quickly?

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: So, okay Governor, let’s — let’s get this straight. First off number one, you funded Romney Care through federal tax dollars through Medicaid. I know it well, it’s called disproportionate share provider tax. About $400 million that you got from the federal taxpayers to underwrite Romney Care to make sure you didn’t have to raise taxes right away. But of course you had to. Ask your governor, of the $8 billion of tax increases he had to put in place.

Yes governor, you balanced the budget for four years. You have a constitutional requirement to balance the budget for four years. No great shakes. I’m all for — I’d like to see it federally. But don’t go around bragging about something you have to do. Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years, does that make him qualified to be president of the United States? I don’t think so.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: The bottom line is, what you did was you used federal dollars to fund the government takeover of health care in Massachusetts, used it as — and — and Barack Obama…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …Arlen Specter.

SANTORUM: Well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: But — and then Barack Obama used it as a model for taking over this health care system in America. Why I supported Arlen Specter, number one because — because Arlen Specter was a — a Senator who was going to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at a time when the most important issue that was coming up in the next session of Congress was two to three Supreme Court nominees that were going to be available. And one, and maybe two of them, or maybe all three were going to be out of the conservative block. And Arlen Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we had a conversation.

He asked me to support him. I said will you support the president’s nominees? We had a 51/49 majority in the Senate. He said I’ll support the president’s nominees as chairman. Every nominee Arlen Specter supported from the time he — he took on Judge Forks and saved Justice Thomas. Every nominee he supported, passed. Why? Because it gave Democrats cover to vote for it and it gave Republican moderates cover to vote for it.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: And just — no because he wouldn’t have been able to give the moderate Republicans and the conservative Democrats the — the leeway to then support that nominee, which is exactly what Arlen Specter did. He defended Roberts, defended Alito. We have a 5/4 majority on the court that struck down that case that you just talked about and is there as a guardian of liberty. And I did the right thing for our country.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …Arlen Specter…

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …supporting Arlen Specter — supporting Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey, that was a — that was a very tortuous route…

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Just about as tortuous as…

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let’s move the conversation along — let’s move the conversation along and take a question from a voter down here in our audience. All right, Sir identify yourself and ask your question please?

QUESTION: Gentleman my name is Jerry Lott (ph) and I’m from Key Man, Arizona. It seems that Arizona has come under federal attack just for wanting to secure its southern border. What will you and your administrations do to fix the situation? To secure our border and to protect the American people?

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, I want to go to you first on this one. You’re from a border state. As you answer Gary’s question, a recent federal analysis says the cost of secure fencing, which they have a good deal of the border along this state, would cost about $3 million per mile. Is that a good investment? Money well spent?

PAUL: Probably not, but we can do a better job, and the best way to do it is forget about the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and deal with our borders, put our resources on this border. This is what we need. But we need to change the rules. We reward illegal immigration. They get benefits, Texas hospitals, and, you know, schools are going bankrupt.

The restraints on the states, and Obama’s restraints on the states to deal with it. Why is it if an illegal comes across the border and they go on private property, why isn’t that trespassing? And why don’t you have the right to stop it? So but there should be no mandates from the federal government about what you must do under the 9th and 10th. There would be essentially none.

But the federal government does have a responsibility for these borders. And I just hate to see all these resources — I think that we should have much more immigration service on the border to make it easier — it’s hard to even get to visit this country. We’re losing a lot of visitors and workers that could come to this country because we have an inefficient immigration service.

And then that invites the illegal. We have to deal — we can’t endorse the illegal, but the program today endorses the illegal problems. And a weak economy is always detrimental, too, because of the welfare state. We have welfare at home and some jobs go begging, we have jobs going begging in this country in the midst of the recession, has to do with the economy.

You can’t ignore the economy. But also the welfare state, allowing immigrants to come over and then get the benefits — if you subsidize something, you get more of. So there’s a lot we can do and should do and certainly this president is not doing a very good job.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker, the fence has been a point of contention in the race. And one of your high-profile supporters, a gentleman who’s been up here during this campaign, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, is here tonight. He said this: if you build a 30-foot wall from El Paso to Brownsville, the 35-foot ladder business gets really good.

You signed a pledge to construct a double fence. Why is Governor Perry wrong?

GINGRICH: He’s not wrong. They’d have to have two 35-foot ladders because it’s a double fence.

(LAUGHTER)

Look, the fact is I helped Duncan Hunter pass the first fence bill in San Diego when I was Speaker of the House. San Diego and Tijuana are the most densely populated border. It turned out it worked. It worked dramatically. Duncan and I would be glad to testify. He’s former chairman of the national — of the Defense Committee — how much it worked.

However, it stopped. It stopped in part because there was a wetlands. It turned out none of the illegal immigrants cared about wetlands policy. Then you had to go and build around the wetlands, which we did. The further we have gone with the fence, the fewer the people have broken into California.

Now, the thing that’s fascinating, though, John, is you quoted a government study of how much it would cost. That’s my earlier point. If you modernize the federal government so it’s competent, you could probably do it for 10 percent of the cost of that study.

The fact is –

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: — what I would do, I would — I have — I have a commitment at newt.org, I would — to finish the job by January 1, 2014, I would initiate a bill that would waive all federal regulations, requirement and studies.

I would ask Governor Brewer here, I would ask Governor Martinez, Governor Brown, and Governor Perry to become the co-leaders in their state. We would apply as many resources as are needed to be done by January 1 of 2014, including, if necessary — there are 23,000 Department of Homeland Security personnel in the D.C. area.

I’m prepared to move up to half of them to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This is a doable thing.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor Romney, the border security is part of the equation, what to do about whether it’s 8 million or 11 million illegal immigrants in the country now is another part of the equation. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s with us tonight from Maricopa County — he’s in the audience — he told me –

(APPLAUSE)

KING: — he told me this week here in Mesa — these are his words — “it’s called political garbage, if you will, to not arrest illegals already in this country.”

You’ve talked to the governor about self-deportation, if businesses do their job, asking for the right documents, the people will leave. What about arresting? Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here that says — that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e- verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who’s here legally and who’s not here legally.

And as a result of e-verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn’t doing.

(APPLAUSE)

And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. I’ll also complete the fence. I’ll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers, and to check E- Verify. And if an employer hires someone that has not gone through E- Verify, they’re going to get sanctioned just like they do for not paying their taxes.

You do that, and just as Arizona is finding out, you can stop illegal immigration. It’s time we finally did it.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum, we had the conversation about the border and the fence. Governor Romney talks about E-Verify, making sure business is doing their part of the equation.

What about the individual? You said in our last debate employers should be sanctioned, as Governor Romney just said, if they hire illegal immigrants. About a quarter of all workers in private households are undocumented.

What about the homeowner who hires somebody as a household cleaning worker, as a nanny, perhaps? Does that person — if you’re going to be consistent, have enforcement across the board, should that person be sanctioned?

SANTORUM: I’m not going to require homeowners to do E-Verify. I think that’s one step too far. But I think what we need to do is to give law enforcement the opportunity to do what they’re doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government, which is to allow folks to enforce the law here in this country, to allow people who are breaking the law or suspicious of breaking the law to be able to be detained and deported if they’re found here in this country illegally, as well as those who are trying to seek employment.

This is enforcing not just upon the employer, but on those who are here illegally and trying to do things that are against the law, like seeking employment here.

KING: It’s a tough policy question, obviously, and this state has been part of the driving force. It also becomes — especially for four gentlemen who would like to be the next president of the United States, it’s a difficult political question in the sense that the Latino population is the fastest-growing demographic in our country.

And some Republicans — some Republicans — Marco Rubio, for example, the senator from Florida that all of you have complimented, said — could be a leading force in your administration if you’re elected — he said this recently. He says he worries that some of the rhetoric used by Republican politicians on this issue has been harsh, intolerable, inexcusable.

Mr. Speaker, is he right? GINGRICH: I don’t know who he’s referring to, so I’m not going to comment in general on a statement. Is there somebody somewhere who’s done that? Sure.

Was it also intolerable for President Obama to go to El Paso and make a totally demagogic speech in which he fundamentally — no.

(APPLAUSE)

The great failure here — I voted in 1986 for the bill which was supposed to solve all this, which Ronald Reagan solved — signed. And in Reagan’s diary, he says, I signed this bill because we have to get control of the border and we have to have an employer-sanctioned program with a guest worker program.

Now, all of us who voted for that bill got shortchanged on everything we were supposed to get. President Bush couldn’t get it through. President Obama can’t get it through.

I believe you cannot pass a single large comprehensive bill, the 2,700-page kind of bill you described. I think you’ve got to go one step at a time.

The first step is to control the border. I don’t believe anybody who’s here illegally — and I talked last night, for example, with folks who are of Hispanic background from Nogales who are in the import-export business dealing with Mexico every day. They don’t want a border that’s closed, they want a border that’s controlled, that has easy access for legality and impossible access for illegality. And that’s the model that I think you can talk about in my community of any ethnic background in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: All right, Gentlemen. We’re going to take another quick break.

Our Arizona Republican presidential debate will continue in a moment, but here’s a question. One of these men could be president just 11 months from now. How would they deal with threats from Iran and North Korea?

Plus, a great question sent to us at CNNPolitics.com. Define yourself using one word, Gentlemen, and one word only.

Can the candidates keep it that short? Stick around and find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: That was a good exercise. Let’s move our conversation now –

(UNKNOWN): It is.

KING: Let’s move our conversation now to the important responsibilities one of you gentlemen could have in just 11 months as the commander-in-chief of the United States.

And Governor Romney, I want to ask you first, 11 months from now, if you’re successful, you would be our commander-in-chief. The Pentagon recently announced plans to open up 14,000 new jobs to women, putting them closer and close to the front lines of combat. Senator Santorum says he sees a lot of things wrong with this.

What do you think?

ROMNEY: I would look to the people who are serving in the military to give the best assessment of where women can serve. We’ve had over 100 women lose their lives in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was with Governor Bob McDonnell. His daughter has served as a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He said that she doesn’t get emotional when she faces risk, he’s the one that gets emotional as she faces that kind of risk. And I believe women have the capacity to serve in our military in positions of significance and responsibility, as we do throughout our society.

(APPLAUSE)

I do think that the key decisions that are being made by this administration, by President Obama, however, related to our military are seriously awry. This is a president who is shrinking our Navy, shrinking our Air Force, wants to shrink our active-duty personnel by 50,000 to 100,000, is cutting our military budget by roughly a trillion dollars.

The world is more dangerous. It is not safer.

North Korea is going through transition. The Arab Spring has become the Arab Winter.

Syria is in flux. And, of course, Pakistan, with 100 nuclear weapons or more, represents a potential threat. Northern Mexico is a real danger area.

I mean, looking around the world, you have Hezbollah in Latin America and Mexico. I mean, we face a very dangerous world. The right course is to add ships to our Navy, to modernize and add aircraft to our Air Force, to add 100,000 troops to our active-duty personnel, and to strengthen America’s military.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: I want to get to some of those hotspots Governor Romney just mentioned, but Speaker Gingrich, on the question of a more prominent role for women, good idea or bad idea?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think it’s a misleading question in the modern era. You live in a world of total warfare. Anybody serving our country in uniform virtually anywhere in the world could be in danger at virtually any minute. A truck driver can get blown up by a bomb as readily as the infantrymen. So I would say that you ought to ask the combat leaders what they think is an appropriate step, as opposed to the social engineers of the Obama administration.

(APPLAUSE)

But everybody needs to understand — and by the way, we live in an age when we have to genuinely worry about nuclear weapons going off in our own cities. So everybody who serves in the fire department, in the police department, not just the first responders, but our National Guard, whoever is going to respond, all of us are more at risk today, men and women, boys and girls, than at any time in the history of this country. And we need to understand that’s the context in which we’re going to have to move forward in understanding the nature of modern combat.

I think this is a very sober period, and I believe this is the most dangerous president on national security grounds in American history.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: The problem is the character of our wars. And I don’t like to think of people in groups. Individuals have rights, not groups. You don’t have women’s rights or men’s rights.

And we still have draft legislation. What I fear is the draft coming back because we’re getting way over-involved. And the draft — we keep registering our 18-year-olds. So when the draft comes, we’re going to be registering young women, and because of this they’re going to be equal.

Now, the wars we fight aren’t defensive wars, they’re offensive wars. We’re involved in way too much.

They’re undeclared, they’re not declared by the Congress, and so we’re in wars that shouldn’t be involved. So I don’t want even the men to be over there. I don’t want women being killed, but I don’t want the men being killed in these wars.

(APPLAUSE)

But because now we have accepted now for 10 years that we’re allowed to start war, we call pre-emptive war, preventive war. Well, that’s an aggressive war.

I believe in the Christian just war theory that you have to morally justify the wars in defense. Now, if we’re defending our country — and we need to defend, believe me — with men and women will be in combat and defending our country, and that’s the way it should be. But when it’s an offensive war, going where we shouldn’t be, that’s quite a bit different. So it’s the foreign policy that needs to be examined.

KING: Senator?

SANTORUM: I actually agree with the comments made by the two gentlemen to my left, that there are different roles of women in combat. They are on the front line right now. Their combat zone is, as Newt said, everywhere, unfortunately, in that environment.

My concern that I expressed, I didn’t say it was wrong. I said I had concerns about certain roles with respect to — and particularly in infantry.

I still have those concerns, but I would defer to at least hearing the recommendations of those involved. But I think we have civilian control of the military, and these are things that should be decided not just by the generals, but we should not have social engineering, as I think we’ve seen from this president. We should have sober minds looking at what is in fact the best proper — proper roles for everybody in combat.

KING: Let’s continue the conversation about the commander in chief question. We have a question from our audience, Sir?

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Ken Taylor (ph) from Wickenberg, Arizona and my question to all the candidates is, how do you plan on dealing with the growing nuclear threat in Iran?

KING: It’s a pressing question at the moment. Mr. Speaker, let’s go to you first on this one. I want to ask you in the context of the president’s and this country’s highest ranking military officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey told CNN this last week, quote, “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and would not achieve Israel’s long term objectives.” If you win this election, General Dempsey would still be — would then be your chairman of the joint chiefs.

If the prime minister of Israel called you, said he wanted to go forward and questioned, Sir do you agree — Mr. President do you agree with your chairman of the joint chiefs? Would you say, yes, Mr. Prime Minister, please stand down? Or would you give Israel the green light?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all this is two different questions. General Dempsey went on to say that he thought Iran was a rational actor. I can’t imagine why he would say that. And I just cannot imagine why he would have said it. The fact is, this is a dictator, Ahmadinejad, who has said he doesn’t believe the Holocaust existed. This is a dictator who said he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. This is a dictator who said he wants to drive the United States out of the Middle East. I’m inclined to believe dictators. Now I — I think that it’s dangerous not to.

(APPLAUSE) GINGRICH: If — if an Israeli prime minister, haunted by the history of the Holocaust, recognizing that three nuclear weapons is a holocaust in Israel, if an Israeli prime minister calls me and says, I believe in the defense of my country. This goes back to a point that Congressman Paul raised that we probably disagree on. I do believe there are moments when you preempt. If you think a madman is about to have nuclear weapons and you think that madman is going to use those nuclear weapons, then you have an absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: But often…

(APPLAUSE)

KING: The American people often don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world until they have to, but this is an issue, this confrontation with Iran that is partly responsible for what we have seen daily at the gas pump. Prices going up and going up and going up. So I want — Governor Romney come into the conversation, we’ll continue it with everyone at the table. As we have this showdown, confrontation, call it what you will with Iran. Should our leadership, including the current president of the United States and the four gentleman here with me tonight, be prepared to look the American people in the eye and say — and I want to hear everybody’s plans, over the long run I think I can bring down the price of gasoline, or I can’t if that’s your plan.

But at the moment, we need to have a conversation about how as long as this continues, the prices are likely to keep going up.

ROMNEY: Look, the — the price of gasoline pales in comparison to the idea of Ahmadinejad with nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah and Hamas and that they can bring into Latin America and potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here. I mean — or — or more sophisticated bombs here, this — we simply cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry. And — and — and this president has a lot of failures. It’s hard — it’s hard to think of — economically his failures, his — his policies in a whole host of areas have been troubling.

But nothing in my view is as serious a failure as his failure to deal with Iran appropriately. This president — this president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not. He decided to give Russia — he decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective, removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe and got nothing in return. He could have gotten crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not. When dissident voices took to the street in Iran to protest a stolen election there, instead of standing with them, he bowed to the election. This is a president…

(APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: …who has made it clear through his administration in almost every communication we’ve had so far, that he does not want Israel to take action. That he opposes military action. This is a president who should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They’re not just on the table. They are in our hand. We must now allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If they do, the world changes. America will be at risk. And some day, nuclear weaponry will be used. If I am president, that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama, it will happen.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum, please?

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: I agree with Governor Romney’s comment. I think they are absolutely right on and well spoken. I would say that if you’re looking for a president to be elected in this country that will send that very clear message to Iran as to the seriousness of the American public to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon, there would be no better candidate than me because I have been on the trail of Iran and trying to advocate for stopping them getting a nuclear weapon for about eight years now.

I was the author of a bill back in 2008 that talked about sanctions on a nuclear program that our intelligence community said didn’t exist and had the President of the United States, president bush oppose me for two years.

And, by the way, so did Joe Biden on the floor of the Senate, and Barack Obama. I always say if you want to know what foreign policy position to take, find out what Joe Biden’s position is and take the opposite opinion and you’ll be right 100 percent of the time.

But they opposed me. He actively opposed me. We did pass that bill eventually at the end of 2006, and it was to fund the pro- democracy movement, $100 million a year. Here’s what I said — we need to get this — these pro-American Iranians who are there, who want freedom, want democracy, and want somebody to help them and support them.

Well, we put — we put some money out there and guess what? Barack Obama cut it when he came into office. And when the Green Revolution rose, the pro-democracy prose, we had nothing. We had no connection, no correlation and we did absolutely nothing to help them.

In the meantime, when the radicals in Egypt and the radicals in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood, when they rise against either a feckless leader or a friend of ours in Egypt, the president is more than happy to help them out.

When they’re going up against a dangerous theocratic regime that wants to wipe out the state of Israel, that wants to dominate the radical Islamic world and take on the great Satan, the United States, we do nothing. That is a president that must go. And you want a leader who will take them on? I’ll do that.

KING: Congressman Paul, all three of your rivals here make a passionate case that — all three of them make a passionate case that this is a vital U.S. national security interest. But you disagree.

PAUL: I disagree because we don’t know if they have a weapon. As a matter of fact, there’s no evidence that they have it. There is no evidence. Israel claims they do not have it and our government doesn’t. I don’t want them to get a weapon. But I think what we’re doing is encouraging them to have a weapon because they feel threatened. If you look at a map of — if you look at a map of Iran, we have 45 bases around their country, plus our submarines.

The Iranians can’t possibly attack anybody. And we’re worrying about the possibility of one nuclear weapon. Now, just think about the Cold War. The Soviets had 30,000 of them. And we talked to them. The Soviets killed 100 million people and the Chinese, and we worked our way out of it.

And if you want to worry about nuclear weapons, worry about the nuclear weapons that were left over from the Soviet Union. They’re still floating around. They don’t have them all detailed. So we’re ready to go to war. I say going to war rapidly like this is risky and it’s reckless.

Now, if they are so determined to go to war, the only thing I plead with you for, if this is the case, is do it properly. Ask the people and ask the Congress for a declaration of war. This is war and people are going to die. And you have got to get a declaration of war.

And just to go and start fighting — but the sanctions are already backfiring. And all that we do is literally doing the opposite. When we’ve been — were attacked, we all came together. When we attacked the — when we — when we put them under attack, they get together and it neutralizes that. They rally around their leaders.

So what we’re doing is literally enhancing their power. Think of the sanctions we dealt with Castro. Fifty years and Castro is still there. It doesn’t work. So I would say a different approach. We need to at least — we talked — we talked to the Soviets during the Cuban crisis. We at least can talk to somebody who does not — we do not have proof that he has a weapon. Why go to war so carelessly?

KING: Let’s stay on this theme. We have a question from cnnpolitics.com, a question — you can see it up on the screen here. In regards to Syria, should the United States intervene and should we arm the rebellion?

Senator Santorum, let me start with you on this one. The American people have watched these videos that started months ago and has accelerated in recent days. What is the role for the United States today?

SANTORUM: Syria is a puppet state of Iran. They are a threat not just to Israel, but they have been a complete destabilizing force within Lebanon, which is another problem for Israel and Hezbollah. They are a country that we can do no worse than the leadership in Syria today, which is not the case, and some of the other countries that we readily got ourselves involved in.

So it’s sort of remarkable to me we would have — here again, it’s — I think it’s the timidness (sic) of this president in dealing with the Iranian threat, because Syria and Iran is an axis. And the president — while he couldn’t reach out deliberately to Iran but did reach out immediately to Syria and established an embassy there. And the only reason he removed that embassy was because it was threatened of being — of being overtaken, not because he was objecting to what was going on in Syria.

This president has — has obviously a very big problem in standing up to the Iranians in any form. If this would have been any other country, given what was going on and the mass murders that we’re seeing there, this president would have quickly and — joined the international community, which is calling for his ouster and the stop of this, but he’s not. He’s not. Because he’s afraid to stand up to Iran.

He opposed the sanctions in Iran against the — against the central banks until his own party finally said, “You’re killing us. Please support these sanctions.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president who isn’t going to stop them. He isn’t going to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon. We need a new president or we are going to have a cataclysmic situation with a — a power that is the most prolific proliferator of terror in the world that will be able to do so with impunity because they will have a nuclear weapon to protect — protect them for whatever they do. It has to be stopped, and this president is not in a position to do that.

KING: And the question of Syria…

(APPLAUSE)

… Mr. Speaker, then Governor Romney, if you were president today, what would you do differently from this president tomorrow?

GINGRICH: Well, the first thing I’d do, across the board for the entire region, is create a very dramatic American energy policy of opening up federal lands and opening up offshore drilling, replacing the EPA.

(APPLAUSE)

We — the Iranians have been practicing closing the Straits of Hormuz, which has one out of every five barrels of oil in the world going through it. We have enough energy in the United States that we would be the largest producer of oil in the world by the end of this decade. We would be capable of saying to the Middle East, “We frankly don’t care what you do. The Chinese have a big problem because you ain’t going to have any oil.”

(APPLAUSE)

But we would not have to be directly engaged. That’s a very different question.

But, first of all, you’ve got to set the stage, I think, here to not be afraid of what might happen in the region.

Second, we clearly should have our allies — this is an old- fashioned word — we have have our allies covertly helping destroy the Assad regime. There are plenty of Arab-speaking groups that would be quite happy. There are lots of weapons available in the Middle East.

And I agree with — with Senator Santorum’s point. This is an administration which, as long as you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe.

You know, the only people you’ve got to worry about is if you’re an American ally.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: I agree with both these gentlemen. It’s very interesting that you’re seeing, on the Republican platform, a very strong commitment to say we’re going to say no to Iran. It’s unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

And — and Rick is absolutely right. Syria is their key ally. It’s their only ally in the Arab world. It is also their route to the sea. Syria provides a — a shadow over Lebanon. Syria is providing the armament of Hezbollah in Lebanon that, of course, threatens Israel, our friend and ally.

We have very bad news that’s come from the Middle East over the past several months, a lot of it in part because of the feckless leadership of our president.

But one little piece of good news, and that is the key ally of Iran, Syria, is — has a leader that’s in real trouble. And we ought to grab a hold of that like it’s the best thing we’ve ever seen.

There’s things that are — we’re having a hard time getting our hands around, like, what’s happening in Egypt. But in Syria, with Assad in trouble, we need to communicate to the Alawites, his friends, his ethnic group, to say, look, you have a future if you’ll abandon that guy Assad.

We need to work with — with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to say, you guys provide the kind of weaponry that’s needed to help the rebels inside Syria. This is a critical time for us.

If we can turn Syria and Lebanon away from Iran, we finally have the capacity to get Iran to pull back. And we could, at that point, with crippling sanctions and a very clear statement that military action is an action that will be taken if they pursue nuclear weaponry, that could change the course of world history.

KING: Let’s try to get another question.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: John? KING: Congressman, quickly, please?

PAUL: No, I get a minute to go quickly.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, I — I’ve tried the moral argument. I’ve tried the constitutional argument on these issues. And they don’t — they don’t go so well. But there — there’s an economic argument, as well.

As a matter of fact, Al Qaida has had a plan to bog us down in the Middle East and bankrupt this country. That’s exactly what they’re doing. We’ve spent $4 trillion of debt in the last 10 years being bogged down in the Middle East.

The neoconservatives who now want us to be in Syria, want us to go to Iran, have another war, and we don’t have the money. We’re already — today gasoline hit $6 a gallon in Florida. And we don’t have the money.

So I don’t believe I’m going to get the conversion on the moral and the constitutional arguments in the near future. But I’ll tell you what, I’m going to win this argument for economic reasons. Just remember, when the Soviets left, they left not because we had to fight them. They left because they bankrupted this country and we better wake up, because that is what we’re doing here. We’re destroying our currency and we have a financial crisis on our hands.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Let’s take another question from our audience, please.

Identify yourself and ask your question.

(UNKNOWN): I’m Marsha Crossen (ph) from Scottsdale, Arizona.

What is your stand on education reform and the No Child Left Behind Act?

KING: This came up a bit earlier in the debate. Some of you mentioned it in a general way.

Senator Santorum, to you first. Specifically, what do you do about No Child Left Behind today if you’re president?

SANTORUM: Well, you know what? I supported No Child Left Behind. I supported it. It was the principal priority of President Bush to try to take on a failing education system and try to impose some sort of testing regime that would be able to quantify how well we’re doing with respect to education.

I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.

(BOOING) You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something. And in this case, you know, I thought testing was — and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea.

What was a bad idea was all the money that was put out there, and that, in fact, was a huge problem. I admit the mistake and I will not make that mistake again. You have someone who is committed.

Look, I’m a home schooling father of seven. I know the importance of customized education for our children. I know the importance of parental control of education.

(APPLAUSE)

I know the importance of local control of education. And having gone through that experience of the federal government involvement, not only do I believe the federal government should get out of the education business, I think the state government should start to get out of the education business and put it back to the state — to the local and into the community.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor Romney, when you were governor, you had to deal with this law. So weigh in. And as you do, it’s designed, like it or not, to help the public school system, which has struggled. Senator Santorum, just the other day, called public schools in this country factories.

ROMNEY: Well, I’m not going to comment on that unless you’d like to.

With regards to your question, I came into a state where Republicans and Democrats had worked to — before I got there to make some very important changes. They said that they were going to test our kids every year.

They said to graduate from high school, you’re going to have to pass an exam in English and math. I was the first governor that had to enforce that provision.

There were a lot of people that said, oh, no, no, no. Let people graduate even if they can’t pass that exam. I enforced it. We fought it. It was hard to do.

We added more school choice. My legislature tried to say no more charter schools. I vetoed that, we overturned that.

With school choice, testing our kids, giving our best teachers opportunities for advancement, these kinds of principles drove our schools to be pretty successful. As a matter of fact, there are four measures on which the federal government looks at schools state by state, and my state’s number one of all 50 stays in all four of those measures, fourth-and-eighth-graders in English and math. Those principles, testing our kids, excellent curriculum, superb teachers, and school choice, those are the answers to help our schools.

And with regards to No Child Left Behind, the right answer there — President Bush stood up and said, you know what? The teachers unions don’t want school choice, I want school choice to see who’s succeeding and failing.

He was right to fight for that. There are things that should be changed in the law, but we have to stand up to the federal teachers unions and put the kids first and the unions behind.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker, on that point, this is a conversation about what is the proper role of the federal government in the education issue? To the point the governor just raised about teachers unions, you have complimented President Obama to a degree on that issue, saying he had some courage to stand up to the teachers union. You went on tour with Al Sharpton and this president’s education secretary in support of the multibillion-dollar Race to the Top program that essentially — I think they used stimulus money for it, but incentives to states, to schools that perform, and that enact reforms.

GINGRICH: What we did is we went around, including Tucson, in this state, and we talked about the importance of charter schools, which was the one area where I thought the president did in fact show some courage, being willing to go into Philadelphia or into Baltimore or in a variety of places and advocate — we were in Montgomery, Alabama, for example — and say charter schools are an important step in the right direction.

There are two things wrong with the president’s approach. And the reason I would, frankly, dramatically shrink the Federal Department of Education down to doing nothing but research, return all the power under the Tenth Amendment back to the states.

And I agree with Rick’s point. I would urge the states, then, to return most of that power back to the local communities, and I’d urge the local communities the turn most of the power back to the parents. And I think the fact is –

(APPLAUSE)

We have bought — we bought over the last 50 years three huge mistakes. We bought the mistake that the teachers unions actually cared about the kids. It’s increasingly clear they care about protecting bad teachers.

And if you look at L.A. Unified, it is almost criminal what we do to the poorest children in America, entrapping them into places. No Nation Left Behind said if a foreign power did this to our children, we’d declare it an act of war because they’re doing so much damage. The second thing we bought into was the — the whole school of education theory that you don’t have to learn, you have to learn about how you would learn.

So when you finish learning about how you would learn, you have self esteem because you’re told you have self esteem, even if you can’t read the words self esteem. And the…

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: …and the third thing we bought, which Rick eluded to, which is really important. We bought this notion that you could have Carnegie units and you could have state standards and you could have a curriculum everybody — every child is unique. Every teach is unique. Teaching is a missionary vocation. When you bureaucratize it, you kill it. We need a fundamental re-thinking from the ground up.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul?

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: Newt — Newt’s going in the right direction, but not far enough.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: The Constitution is very, very clear. There is no authority for the federal government to be involved in education.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: There’s no — no prohibition in the Constitution for the states to be involved in education. That’s not a bad position and we can sort things out. But once — once again the Senators for — was for No Child Left Behind, but now he’s running for president, now he’s running to repeal No Child Left Behind once again. But — and he calls it a team sport. He has to go along to get along and that’s the way the team plays. But that’s what the problem is with Washington. That’s what’s been going on for so long.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: So, I don’t accept that form of government. I understand it. That is the way it works. You were with the majority. You were the Whip and you organized and got these votes all passed. But I think the obligation of all of us should be the oath of office. We should take — and it shouldn’t be the oath to the party. I’m sorry about that, but it isn’t the oath to the party, it’s the oath to our office.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: To obey the law and the law is the Constitution.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Gentleman, thank you. One more break. When we come back, the final question of what could be the final Republican debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Art Center, our Arizona Republican presidential debate, the four contenders on stage tonight.

Gentlemen, our time is short, so one last question.

Nine states have voted so far. We talked a bit earlier about the volatility in the race. The people of Arizona vote Tuesday. Michigan, on Tuesday. Wyoming and Washington State, then Super Tuesday, beyond that. Fourteen states over the next 10 days or so.

Republican voters are clearly having a hard time.

I want to close with this question: Help the voters who still have questions about you. What is the biggest misconception about you in the public debate right now?

Congressman Paul, we’ll start with you, sir.

PAUL: I would say the perpetuation of the myth by the media that I can’t win.

(APPLAUSE)

And the total ignoring some statistics that show it to be the opposite. Just recently, there was a poll in Iowa, and it matched all the four of us up against Obama. And guess what? I did the very best.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: So I would say that is been the biggest myth. But let me tell you, though, public perception is one thing, but when you go around and talk to the American people and we have our rallies, that misconception isn’t there. And I think that’s the biggest misconception that I have to deal with.

KING: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: I think that the fact is that the American public are really desperate to find somebody who can solve real problems. I think that’s why it’s been going up and down and why you have got all sorts of different folks as front-runners.

And all I can say is that my background of having actually worked with President Reagan, then having been Speaker, if there was one thing I wish the American people could know about me, it would be the amount of work it took to get to welfare reform, a balanced budget, a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, and that you’ve got to have somebody who can actually get it done in Washington, not just describe it on the campaign trail.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: We’ve got to restore America’s promise in this country where people know that with hard work and education, that they’re going to be secure and prosperous and that their kids will have a brighter future than they’ve had. For that to happen, we’re going to have to have dramatic fundamental change in Washington, D.C., we’re going to have to create more jobs, have less debt, and shrink the size of the government.

I’m the only person in this race –

KING: Is there a misconception about you? The question is a misconception.

ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions want, I get to give the answers I want. Fair enough?

(APPLAUSE)

And I believe that there’s a whole question about, what do we need as the person that should be president? What is their position on this issue? Who can be the toughest going after Obama?

What we really need, in my opinion, is to say who can lead the country through the kind of fundamental change we have in front of us? And we have people here who all different backgrounds.

I spent 25 years in the private sector. I worked in business. I worked in helping turn around the Olympics. I worked in helping lead a state.

I believe that kind of background and skill is what is essential to restore the American promise. If people think there’s something else in my background that that is more important, they don’t want to vote for me, that’s their right, but I believe I have the passion, the commitment and the skill to turn America around, and I believe that’s what’s needed.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I think the thing I hear I have heard from the very beginning, can you defeat Barack Obama? And if you want to look at the people on the stage, we’re going to be running against the president who is going to have the national media behind him, he’s going to have more money, a lot more money, because he isn’t having to spend a penny in the primary. So he’s going to outspend whoever it is. He’s going to have the national media on his side.

Maybe you want a candidate who is not going to be able to win an election by beating the tar out of his opponent, spending four or five to one in order to win an election in a state, but actually can run a campaign based on issues and ideas and a vision that’s positive for America, to be able to be outspent and yet cut through because you have a strong vision, you have principles and convictions that is going to convince the American public that you’re on their side in making a big difference in our country and keeping us safe and prosperous. So we’re looking for someone — I think people, they’re looking for someone who can do a lot with a little — run a campaign on a shoestring and win a bunch of states and rise in the polls. You’re looking for someone who can take what’s going on in Washington and look at what went on in my campaign and see someone who can do a lot with a little.

That’s what we need in Washington, not just after the election, but we’re going to need to have that before the election, and I’m the best person, from a state which is a key swing state, from a region of the country which is going to decide this election, right across the Rust Belt of America. We’ve got the programs; we’ve got the plan, and we can win and defeat Barack Obama and govern this country conservatively.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Gentlemen, I want to thank you. I want to thank all of our candidates tonight. We also want to thank our partner tonight, the Republican Party of Arizona, and we’d like to thank our hosts here at the Mesa Arts Center, a beautiful venue here.

Full Video & Transcript: Southern Republican Presidential Debate Charleston, SC January 19, 2012

January 20, 2012 at 7:43 am

Location: North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, South Carolina
Broadcast: CNN
Sponsor: Southern Republican Leadership Conference
Host: John King of CNN
Participants: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul

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Transcript:

JOHN KING: I want to ask the candidates to get comfortable at their podiums, have our audience take their seats while I tell you a bit about how tonight’s debate will work. I’ll ask questions, as will some members of our audience tonight. I’ll follow up and guide the discussion.

Candidates, I promise you, we’re going to try to make sure each of you gets your fair share of the time and the questions. You’ll have one minute to answer and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals, and I’ll make sure you get time to respond if you are singled out for criticism.

Now let’s have the candidates introduce themselves. We’re going to ask them to keep it short, and here’s an example. I’m John King from CNN. I’m rooting for the Patriots this weekend — (cheers) — and I’m honored to be your moderator this evening.

Senator Santorum, let’s begin with you.

RICK SANTORUM: I’m Rick Santorum, and I want to thank the people of the Low Country for their hospitality to my wife, Karen, and our seven Children. And I also want to thank the people of Iowa for a little delayed but most welcome victory there. Thank you to the people of Iowa. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Governor.

MITT ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney. It’s good to be back in South Carolina, see many good friends here. It’s also great to be here with my wife and some of my kids. I’m married now 42 years. I have five sons, five daughters-in-law, 16 grandkids, and they’re the joy of my life. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker.

NEWT GINGRICH: I’m Newt Gingrich. I want to thank the people of South Carolina for being so hospitable. As a Georgian, it feels good to be back at home in the South, and I look forward to this evening. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Congressman Paul.

REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL (R-TX): Thank you very much. It’s great to be here tonight.

I am a congressman from Texas. I’ve been elected for — 12 times. And also I practiced OB-GYN for a 30-year period. I’ve also served five years in the military and I’m only — I’m the only U.S. veteran on this stage tonight. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: You’ve met the candidates. It’s time now to begin the debate, an even that has quite a dramatically different feel than just a few hours ago.

Just this morning, as Senator Santorum just noted, we learned he, not Governor Romney, won the Iowa caucuses. (Cheers, applause.)

There were five podiums on this stage when the sun came up; four now because of Governor Rick Perry’s decision to drop out.

Just as Speaker Gingrich surged into contention here in South Carolina, a direct, fresh character attack on the speaker. And Mr. Speaker, I want to start with that this evening.

As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with The Washington Post, and this story has now gone viral on the Internet. In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?

MR. GINGRICH: No — but I will. (Cheers, applause.)

I think — I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Is that all you want to say, sir?

MR. GINGRICH: Let me finish.

MR. KING: Please. (Boos, cheers, applause.)

MR. GINGRICH: Every person in here knows personal pain.

Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine. (Cheers, applause.)

My — my two daughters, my two daughters wrote the head of ABC, and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it. And I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is a subject of conversation on the campaign. I’m not — I get your point; I take get your –

MR. GINGRICH: John, John, it was repeated by your network. (Boos.) You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with that. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Now, OK –

MR. GINGRICH: Now, let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested, because they would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor, they’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll probably get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul. I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: All right. As I noted — as I noted at the beginning, we have four podiums on this stage tonight, not five.

And when he exited the race this morning, Governor Perry quickly and forcefully endorsed Speaker Gingrich. And in that remark, he said that, no, Mr. Gingrich is not a perfect man. Senator Santorum, he said none of us are. And he said he believes in his Christian faith that guides him to the value of redemption. Speaker Gingrich doesn’t believe this is an issue; Governor Perry says this is not an issue. I just want to start with you, sir, and go down. Do you believe it is?

RICK SANTORUM: I’ve answered this question repeatedly throughout the course of this campaign. I am a Christian, too, and I thank God for forgiveness. But, you know, these — these are issues of our lives, and what we did in our lives are issues of character for people to consider. But the bottom line is, those are — those are things for everyone in this audience to look at, and they’re to look at me, look at what I’ve done in my private life and personal life, unfortunately.

And what I say is that this country is a very forgiving country. This — this country understands that we are all fallen. And I’m very hopeful that we will be judged by that standard and not by — by a higher one on the ultimate day. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Governor Romney?

MITT ROMNEY: John, let’s get on to the real issues, is all I’ve got to say. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Congressman?

REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL (R-TX): I think too often all of us are on the receiving ends of attacks from the media, and it’s very disturbing, because sometimes they’re not based on facts and we suffer the consequences. You know, sometimes it reminds me of this idea of getting corporations out of running campaigns — (chuckles) — but what about the corporations that run the media? (Cheers, applause.) I mean, they’re always (in politics ?).

And I think — I think — I think our responsibility is sorting facts and fiction. The people have to sort this out. But I think setting standards are very important, and I’m very proud that my wife of 54 years is with me tonight.

(Applause.)

MR. KING: As I said at the top of the debate — as I said at the top of the debate, we’ll take some questions from the audience. We’ve reached out to people online. We’ve also reached out to a number of voters, some who wish they could be here tonight but can’t be here tonight.

I want to turn to a question from one of those voters. Her name is Jane Gallagher (sp). She’s from here in South Carolina. As all of you know and as everyone in this audience from South Carolina knows, we’re in a state with 9.9 percent unemployment.

And Jane asks this question: List three or more specific programs that will put American people back to work.

Congressman Paul, I want to begin with you. Do you believe we need specific federal programs to put the American people back to work?

REP. PAUL: Well, most of the things the federal government could do to get us back to work is get out of the way.

I’d like to see — (cheers, applause) — I’d like to see the federal government have a sound currency. That creates a healthy economy. (Applause.) I would like to see massive reduction of regulations. I would like to see income tax reduced as to near zero as possible.

And that is what we have to do. We have to get the government out of the way. We have to recognize why we have unemployment. And it comes because we have a deeply flawed financial system that causes financial bubbles, the bubbles burst and you have the unemployment.

Now, the most important thing to get over that hump that was created artificially by bad economic policy is to allow the correction to occur. You have to get rid of the excessive debt and you have to get rid of the mal-investment. And you don’t do that by buying the debt off the people who — who were benefiting from it.

So we the people shouldn’t be stuck with — stuck with these debts on these mortgage derivatives and all. We need to get that behind us, which means the government shouldn’t be doing any bailouts.

So most of the things to improve the environment is getting the government out of the way and enforce contract laws and enforce bankruptcy laws. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, come in on that point and — (inaudible) — address what you would like to do, but also specifically the question, do we need federal programs?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, there are three things that can be done at a specifically South Carolina level. There’s one easy thing to do at a national level, and that’s repeal the Dodd-Frank bill, which is killing small business, killing small banks. That would help overnight. (Applause.)

The three specifics.

One, there $29 billion plus of natural gas offshore. In Louisiana, jobs for that kind of production are $80,000 a year. That would help us become energy independent from the Middle East.

Part of the royalties from the natural gas could be used, then, to modernize the Port of Charleston and the Port of Georgetown. Charleston has to be modernized to meet the larger ships that’ll come through the Panama Canal in 2014. One out of every five jobs in South Carolina is dependent on the Port of Charleston.

The third thing you could do, frankly, is fundamentally, radically overhaul the Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers today takes eight years to study — not to complete — to study doing the port. We won the entire Second World War in three years and eight months. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: OK. A subset of the jobs conversation among the candidates in this state over the past week, Mr. Speaker, has been from you and from the now-departed Governor Perry pretty sharp criticism of Governor Romney’s tenure as the CEO of Bain Capital. I want you to be specific: What do you think he did wrong that –

MR. GINGRICH: No –

MR. KING: — makes you question his ability as a president to create jobs?

MR. GINGRICH: I think there are specific cases — Georgetown Steel would be a case here, a company in Gaffney, South Carolina — but specific cases where Bain Capital’s model — which was to take over a company and dramatically leverage it, leave it with a great deal of debt — made it less likely to survive. I think the governor ought to explain — because it started because he cited his experience as a key part of his preparation for being president. And so I think the underlying model of that kind of investment, which is very different from venture capital, ought to be explained and those cases ought to be looked at.

MR. KING: Well, Governor Romney, let me give you a chance. Explain.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, I hope I get a chance to talk about the topic you began with.

MR. KING: We’ll –

MR. ROMNEY: We’ll come back to the — (chuckling) — the direct attack from Speaker Gingrich in a moment.

MR. KING: Sure.

MR. ROMNEY: So let’s go back and talk about, first, what you do to get the economy going. And — and of course we’ve spoken time and again about our tax code that’s out of alignment with other nations. We’ve spoken about the fact that regulation is overwhelming us, that we need to take care of our energy resources and become energy-secure. We have to open up markets, and we have to crack down on China when they cheat.

But — but I’d like to talk about something else that President Obama has been doing. He’s been practicing crony capitalism. And if you want to get America going again — (applause) — you’ve got to stop the spread of crony capitalism. He gives General Motors to the UAW. He takes $500 million and sticks it into Solyndra. He — he stacks the labor stooges on the NLRB, so they can say no to Boeing and take care of their friends in the labor movement. (Applause.)

You go across the country — with regards to energy, because he has to bow to the most extreme members of the environmental movement, he turns down the Keystone pipeline, which would bring energy and jobs to America. (Applause, boos.) This — this — this president is biggest impediment to job growth in this country, and we have to replace Barack Obama to get America working again. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Huh. So let’s go back — I’m glad you had that opportunity. I do want to go back, see if we can clear this up. The questions about Bain — many have been about the number. You have said 120,000 jobs that you can tie back to decisions you made at Bain Capital. I want you to take your time, sir, and do the math. Do the math in how you get to 100(,000) or 120,000 jobs.

MR. ROMNEY: I’ll — I’ll do the math, but let me tell you, I know we’re going to get attacked from the left, from Barack Obama, on capitalism. I know that people are going to say, oh, you should only practice it this way or that way, and think they know better than the private market. My view is, capitalism works. Free enterprise works. (Cheers, applause.) And I — and — and I find it — I find it kind of strange, on a stage like this, with Republicans, having to describe how private equity and venture capital work and how they’re successful — (applause) — and how they create jobs. But let me — let me tell you that answer.

We started a number of businesses; four in particular created 120,000 jobs, as of today. We started them years ago. They’ve grown — grown well beyond the time I was there to 120,000 people that have been employed by those enterprises.

There are others we’ve been with, some of which have lost jobs. People have evaluated that since — well, since I ran four years ago, when I ran for governor. And those that have been documented to have lost jobs, lost about 10,000 jobs. So 220,000 less 10(,000) means that we created something over a hundred thousand jobs. And there’s some of them, by the way, that — that were businesses we acquired that grew and became more successful, like Domino’s Pizza and a company called Duane Reade and others.

I’m very proud of the fact that throughout my career, I have worked to try and build enterprises — hopefully to return money to investors. There’s nothing wrong with profit, by the way. That profit — (cheers, applause) — that profit — that profit — that profit went to pension funds, to charities; it went to a wide array of institutions. A lot of people benefited from that.

And by the way, as enterprises become more profitable, they can hire more people. I’m — I’m someone who believes in free enterprise. I think Adam Smith was right, and I’m going to stand and defend capitalism across this country, throughout this campaign. I know we’re going to hit it hard from President Obama, but we’re going to stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Senator Santorum, join the conversation. Specifically to the initial question from Jane, what should the federal government be doing? And do you believe in specific programs? And I also want to ask you if you share the speaker’s concern about Governor Romney’s tenure at Bain.

MR. SANTORUM: Well, on the first question, I believe in capitalism, too. I believe in capitalism for everybody, not necessarily high finance but capitalism that works for the working men and women of this country who are out there paddling alone in America right now — (applause) — who have an unemployment rate two and a half times those who are college-educated, and feel that no party cares about them. Because you have the Democratic Party and Barack Obama, and all he wants to do is make them more dependent, give them more food stamps, give them more Medicaid.

I was — I was talking to a state official the other day that — in Iowa that told me that the state of Iowa is being fined because they’re not signing up enough people onto the Medicaid program. This is the — this is what the answer is for the economic squalor that Barack Obama has visited on working men and women in this country, and it’s creating more government programs and getting them more dependent on those programs.

We need a party that just doesn’t talk about high finance and — and cutting corporate taxes or cutting the top tax rates. We need to talk about how we’re going to put men and women in this country who built this country back to work in this country in the manufacturing sector of our economy. (Cheers, applause.)

And — (applause) — and there’s one candidate that — that — that has done that. I have done that. I’ve done that throughout the course of this campaign. I talked about who we were going to target and make sure that we can be competitive.

I was in Boeing today and I was up in BMW yesterday. South Carolina can compete with anybody in this world in manufacturing. (Cheers, applause.) We just need to give them the opportunity to compete. And we are 20 percent more costly than our top nine trading partners, and that’s excluding labor costs. That’s why I say we need to cut the corporate tax in manufacturing down to zero. We need to give manufacturers a leg up so they can compete for the jobs, half of which — we went from 21 percent of this country in manufacturing down to 9 (percent) and we left the dreams of working men and women on the sideline. We need to show that we’re the party, we’re the movement that’s going to get those Reagan Democrats, those conservative Democrats all throughout the states that we need to win to win this election to sign up with us, and we’ll put them back to work. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Let’s stay on the economy and let’s stay on the South Carolina experience all you gentlemen have had. As you know and as this audience reflects, this is a state incredibly proud of its military tradition and incredibly proud of its veterans. (Applause.)

Many of those veterans, who have served post-9/11, served honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan, are coming back to a terrible economy. Right now, unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans aged 18 to 24 is at 22 percent.

Congressman Paul, to you first, sir. Should the federal government be specifically targeting that part, our veterans coming back, saying the unemployment rate is so high among that subgroup that the federal government should offer a tax incentive to employers, or take other steps to help them, to incentivize the economy to help them get jobs?

REP. PAUL: Well, to some degree, but you really want to make the environment — the economy healthy for everybody, and not designate special places. But to help them out to come back is probably necessary on some occasions now.

But we have to think about how serious our problems are here, because we faced something much, much greater after World War II. We had 10 million came home, all at once. We — but what did we do then? There were some of the liberals back then that said: Oh, we have to have more work programs, and do this and that. And they thought they would have to, you know, do everything conceivable for those 10 million. They never got around to it, because they came home so quickly.

But you know what the government did? They cut the budget by 60 percent. They cut taxes by 30 percent. By that time, the debt had been liquidated, and everybody went back to work again and you didn’t need any special programs. (Cheers, applause.)

So — but the one thing — talking about the concern about the military and the veterans, I’m very proud that, you know, I get twice as many donations from the military — active military people, than all the rest put together. (Cheers, applause.) So I am very concerned about them.

I think where the real problem is, is we can create a healthy economic environment if we did the right things. But where the veterans really deserve help, both as a physician and as a congressman, is the people who’ve come back and aren’t doing well health-wise. They need a lot more help.

We have an epidemic now of suicide of our military coming back. So they need a lot of medical help, and I think they come up shortchanged. They came up shortchanged after Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and even now. They don’t get care from the Veterans Administration. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: I think we all agree there’s a generational challenge for the country with the brain injuries and the other injuries and the suicide, as you mentioned. I want to stay on the economy for a minute, though.

Senator Santorum, you started to shake your head. Again, specifically it’s a role-of-government question. Should the question be stepping in and saying we need to help this subgroup in the economy that’s hurting, the veterans?

MR. SANTORUM: Well, obviously we have and should continue to have veterans’ preferences. People who went out and served this country should have — should have preferences when it comes to job positions when they come back to work in this economy.

But my dad and mom worked for the Veterans Administration. I grew up on VA grounds, lived in an apartment in those — on those VA grounds for the first 18 years of my life. And I saw the impact of the Vietnam War on those veterans who came back. And they came back very damaged, not just with physical wounds but a lot of psychological (wounds/ones ?). And that’s, I’m sure, a very big part of the high unemployment rate that we’re dealing with.

And we need to be much, much more aggressive. We have a president of the United States who said he is going to cut veterans’ benefits, cut our military, at a time when these folks are — four, five, six, seven tours, coming back, in and out of jobs, sacrificing everything for this country, and the president of the United States can’t cut one penny out of the social welfare system and he wants to cut a trillion dollars out of our military and hit our veterans. And that’s disgusting. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Governor, and then Mr. Speaker, Senator Santorum passionately makes the case. It also is a time, as all of you know, of very tough budget decisions the next president’s going to have to make, setting priorities. How do you do it? How — what specifically do you do to help the veterans?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, let’s distinguish between what gets done at the federal level and what gets done at the state level.

In our state we found a way to help our — our veterans by saying, look, if you’re going to come back, particularly if you’re in the National Guard, we’ll pay for your education, college degree, both the fees and tuition — we’d give you a full ride. And we also had a plan that said, if you come back and you’ve been out of work for a year or more, we’re going to put a — like a bonus on your back, which, if anyone hires you, that bonus goes to them to pay for your training. So we can encourage that to occur.

But let’s do it at the state level. Let’s not have the federal government continue to extend its — its tentacles into everything that goes on in this country. Let’s let the — (applause) — let’s take the — let’s take the money that’s — that — that we use to help people who have real needs, and instead of having it all administered by the federal government that thinks they know how to do everything, let’s take that money, bundle up South Carolina’s fair share and every other state’s fair share, send it to them and say, you care for your people in the way you feel best. Let’s do that at the state level.

And I agree with what — what Senator Santorum said with regards to our military budget. Right now for the president to be cutting $350,000 from our military budget, planning to cut another $650,000 — $650 billion, excuse me — 350 billion (dollars), another 650 billion (dollars) — a trillion dollars — his secretary of defense says that represents a doomsday scenario. We’ve got an aging Navy. We’ve got an aging Air Force. They’re planning on cutting our number of active- duty personnel. They can’t possibly keep up with the needs of our veterans. It is absolutely wrong to balance our budget on the backs of our military. We need a strong military — so strong no one in the world would ever think of testing it. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, please come in. We’re going to have — we’ll have some conversations about commander in chief. You have the floor now: specifically, veterans who need jobs.

MR. GINGRICH: Yeah, let me just say two things about Congressman Paul’s history.

The U.S. government did two dramatic things after World War II. They created a GI Bill which enabled literally millions of returning veterans to go to college for the very first time. My father, when — who was in the Second World War, went to college on a GI Bill.

So there was an enormous expansion of opportunity that enabled them to integrate into a new, emerging society.

The second thing they did is, they dramatically cut taxes, and the economy took off and grew dramatically, and it absorbed the workforce.

So I would say we ought to both have a transition process for veterans to enable them to have a real advantage in getting a job when they come home, and we ought to have a very aggressive economic program of regulatory cuts and tax cuts in American energy, so that the entire population is absorbed by getting back to about 4 percent unemployment, in which case virtually every veteran would have a very good job at the end of the transition period. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Let’s turn to our audience now.

MR. : Please.

MR. KING: Let’s turn now and take a question from down in our audience tonight. Go ahead, sir.

Q: My name is Sonny Coane. I’m from Sevier County, Tennessee. My question to any of the candidates is, do any of you sincerely believe that “Obamacare” can either be repealed or reversed in its entirety?

MR. GINGRICH: Sure. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Let me — let me go first to Governor Romney on that one. Governor, you have said you would do it on day one, with an executive order that would free the states up to opt out — waivers, essentially, to get out of that program. I know your friend the South Carolina governor might like to have that option.

Help me understand, as you do that, how would it play out? And what happens to those — someone with a pre-existing condition, for example — who now has coverage under the president’s health care plan, or a young American, 22, 23, 24, who, because of the changes in the law, can now stay a few extra years on their parents’ health care? What happens to them when you sign that executive order?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, first of all, the executive order is a beginning process. It’s one thing, but it doesn’t completely eliminate “Obamacare.” It’s one thing I want to get done, to make sure that states can take action to pull out of “Obamacare.”

But number two, we have to go after a complete repeal. (Cheers, applause.) And that’s going to have to have to happen — that — that’s going to have to happen with — with a House and a Senate, hopefully that are Republican. If we don’t have a Republican majority, I think we’re going to be able to convince some Democrats that when the American people stand up loud and clear and say, we do not want “Obamacare,” we do not want the higher taxes, we do not want a $500 billion cut in Medicare to pay for “Obamacare,” I think you’re going to see the American people stand with our president and say, let’s get rid of “Obamacare.”

But we’ll replace it. And I’ve — and I’ve laid out what I’ll replace it with. First, it’s a bill that does care for people that have pre-existing conditions. If they’ve got a pre-existing condition and they’ve been previously insured, they won’t be denied insurance going forward.

Secondly, I’ll allow people to own their own insurance rather than just be able to get it from their employer. I want people to be able to take their insurance with them if they go from job to job. (Applause.) So — so we’ll make it work in the way that’s designed to have health care act like a market, a consumer market, as opposed to have it run like Amtrak and the Post Office. That’s what’s at risk — (applause) — at stake here.

Do we — we go back to this. Ours is the party of free enterprise, freedom, markets, consumer choice. Theirs is the party of government knowledge, government domination, where Barack Obama believes that he knows better for the American people what’s best for them. He’s wrong. We’re right. That’s why we’re going to win. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, you heard the skepticism. It’s a Southern Republican voter. But he’s skeptical, and he knows how Washington works.

MR. GINGRICH: Well, sure.

MR. KING: He’s watched Washington work. He’s asked: Can it be reversed in its entirety. You — you were the speaker of the House. You understand how this works. How? How can it be repealed in this current political environment?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, let me say, first of all, if you’ve watched Washington and you’re not skeptical, you haven’t learned anything. (Laughter, applause.) I mean, this — this system is a total mess right now.

Second, can you get it repealed in total? Sure. You have to elect a House, a Senate and a president committed to that. It has to be a major part of the fall campaign. And I think that, frankly, on our side with any of us, it’s going to be a major part of the fall campaign. The American people are frightened of bureaucratic centralized medicine, they deeply distrust Washington, and the pressure will be to repeal it.

And a lot of what Governor Romney has said I think is actually pretty good, sound stuff for part of the replacement. I would always repeal all of it, because I so deeply distrust the congressional staffs that I would not want them to be able to pick and choose which things they kept.

But let me make one observation. You raised a good example. Why is President Obama for young people being allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26? Because he can’t get any jobs for them to go out and buy their own insurance. (Cheers, applause.)

I mean, I — I have an — I have an offer — I have an offer to the parents of America: Elect us, and your kids will be able to move out, because they’ll have work. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: (Laughs.) Let’s — (inaudible) — Senator Santorum, you heard Governor Romney and you heard Speaker Gingrich. Do you trust them, if one of them is the Republican Party’s nominee, and potentially the next president of the United States, to repeal this law?

MR. SANTORUM: The biggest — the biggest thing we have to do is elect a president. I think Newt’s right. The problem is that two of the people up here would be very difficult to elect on, I think, the most important issue that this country is dealing with right now, which is the robbing of our freedom because of “Obamacare.”

Governor Romney tells a very nice story about what his plan is now. It wasn’t his plan when he was in a position to do a plan. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he put forth “Romneycare,” which was not a bottom-up, free-market system. It was a government-run health care system that was the basis of “Obamacare.” And it has been an abject failure, and he has stood by it.

He’s stood by the fact that it’s $8 billion more expensive — (applause) — than under the current law. He’s stood by the fact that Massachusetts has the highest health insurance premiums of any state in the country; it is 27 percent more expensive than the average state in the country. Doctors — if you’re in the Massachusetts health care system, over 50 percent of the doctors now are not seeing new patients — primary care doctors are not seeing new patients. Those who do get to see a patient are waiting 44 days, on average, for the care.

It is an abject disaster.

He’s standing by it, and he’s going to have to have to run against a president — he’s going to have to run against a president who’s going to say, well, look, look at what you did for Massachusetts, and you’re the one criticizing me for what I’ve done? I used your model for it.

And then — (cheers, applause) — then we have Speaker Gingrich, who has been for an individual mandate, not back in the time that just was — Heritage was floating around in the ’90s, but as late as — comments (since/in ?) 2008, just a few years ago, he stood up and said that we should have an individual mandate or post a $150,000 bond. How many $150,000 bondholders do we have here who can post a bond for their health insurance?

These are two folks who don’t present the clear contrast that I do, who was the author of health savings accounts, which is the primary basis of every single — (cheers, applause) — conservative reform of health care. I was the author of it back in 1991 and ’92, 20 years ago. I’ve been fighting for health reform, private-sector, bottom-up, the way America works best, for 20 years, while these two guys were playing footsies with the left. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: I want to bring Congressman Paul — I’ll bring him into the discussion in just a moment, but Senator Santorum directly challenged the governor and then the speaker. Governor, you first.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, so much of what the senator said was wrong. Let me mention a few of the things.

First of all, the system in my state is not a government-run system. Ninety-eight — 92 percent of the people had their own insurance before the system was put in place, and nothing changed for them. They still had the same private insurance. And the 8 percent of the uninsured, they bought private insurance, not government insurance. And the people in the state still favor the plan three to one.

And it certainly doesn’t work perfectly. Massachusetts, by the way, had the highest insurance costs before the plan was put in place and after, but fortunately, the rate of growth has slowed down a little less than the overall nation. And one of the things I was proud of is that individuals who wanted to buy their own insurance saw their rates — when they were not part of a big group — saw their rates drop by some 40 percent with our plan.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But I do believe that having been there, having been on the front lines, showing that I have compassion for people that don’t have insurance but that the Obama plan is a 2,700-page, massive tax increase, Medicare-cutting monster, I know how to cut it. I’ll eliminate it. I will repeal is and I’ll return the — I’ll return the power to the states, where the power for caring for the uninsured ought to reside constitutionally. Thank you.

MR. SANTORUM: Yeah, I’d like –

MR. KING: Senator Santorum, he says your facts are wrong.

MR. SANTORUM: Well, they’re simply not wrong. The fact is that, yes, you’re right, Governor Romney, 92 percent of people did have health insurance in Massachusetts, but that wasn’t private-sector health insurance. A lot of those people were, as you know, on Medicare and Medicaid, so they’re already on government insurance, and you just expanded it, in fact. Over half the people who came on the rolls since you put “Romneycare” into effect are fully subsidized by the state of Massachusetts, and a lot of those are on the Medicaid program. So the idea that you have created this marketplace and — and — with this government-run health care system where you have very prescriptive programs about reimbursement rates, you have a very prescriptive program just like what President Obama is trying to put in place here, you’re arguing for a plan — you’re defending a plan that is top-down. It is not a free-market health care system. It is not bottom-up. It is prescriptive in government. It was the basis for “Obamacare.” And we do not draw a distinction that it’s going to be effective for us just because it was the state level, not the federal level. (Applause.)

MR. ROMNEY: (Chuckles.)

MR. KING: If you want, Governor, quickly.

MR. ROMNEY: Sure, absolutely.

First of all, as you probably know, Medicaid is not a state program. All right?

MR. SANTORUM: Of course it is. It’s a state and federal program.

MR. ROMNEY: Medicaid is as demanded by the federal government, and it is — it’s — it is a mandate –

MR. SANTORUM: (Off mic.)

MR. ROMNEY: — it’s a mandate by the federal government and it’s shared 50/50 state and federal. The people of Massachusetts who are on Medicaid, I would like to end that program at the federal level, take the Medicaid dollars and return them to the states, and allow states — states to craft their own plans.

That would make the plan we had in Massachusetts a heck of a lot better. My view is, get the federal government out of Medicaid, get it out of health care, return it to the states. And if you want to go be governor of Massachusetts, fine. But I want to be president, and let states take responsibility for their own plan. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, it may seem like a while ago, Mr. Speaker, but Senator Santorum made the point, in his view, you don’t have credibility on this.

MR. GINGRICH: No, what he — what he said, which I found mildly amazing, was that he thought I would have a hard time debating Barack Obama over health care. Now, in fact, I — as Republican whip, I led the charge against “Hillarycare” in the House. As speaker of the House, I helped preside over the conference which wrote into law his idea on health savings accounts. So I was delighted to help him get it to be law. (Applause.) And — and the fact is, I helped found the Center for Health Transformation. I wrote a book called “Saving lives and Saving Money” in 2002. You can go to healthtransformation.net, and you will see hundreds of ideas — none of which resemble Barack Obama’s programs.

So I’d be quite happy to have a three-hour Lincoln-Douglas-style debate with Barack Obama. I’d let him use a teleprompter. I’ll just rely on knowledge. We’ll do fine. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Senator, you’re — I want to bring Congressman Paul in. You’re shaking your head. Quickly.

MR. SANTORUM: The core of “Obamacare” is an individual mandate. It is what is being litigated in the Supreme Court right now. It is government top-down telling every business and every American what kind of health care that you will have. That is the problem with “Obamacare” at the core of it. And the speaker supported it repeatedly for a 10-year period. So when he goes and says, I can, you know, run rings around President Obama in a Lincoln-Douglas debate, you can’t run rings around the fact, Newt, that you supported the primary core basis of what President Obama’s put in place.

MR. GINGRICH: Look, just one — one brief comment. One –

MR. KING: All right, quickly, Mr. Speaker. The Congressman is getting lonely down here. Let’s go.

(Applause.)

MR. GINGRICH: Well, one — just one brief comment. Of course you can. I can say, you know, I was wrong, and I figured it out; you were wrong, and you didn’t. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. SANTORUM: You held that — Newt — Newt, you held that position for over 10 years. And, you know, it’s not going to be the most attractive thing to go out there and say, you know, it took me 10 or 12 years to figure out I was wrong, when guys like Rick Santorum knew it was wrong from the beginning. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Congressman Paul, you have the floor. Do you trust these men to repeal “Obamacare”?

REP. PAUL: Thank you! (Laughter, applause.) I thought you were — I thought maybe you were prejudiced against doctors and a doctor that practiced medicine in the military or something. (Cheers, applause.)

No, I want to address the question. The gentleman asked whether he thinks we can repeal “Obamacare.” Theoretically, we can. The likelihood isn’t all that good. We can diminish some of the effect. But I’m more concerned about a bigger picture of what’s happening, and that is government involvement in medicine.

I — I had the privilege of practicing medicine in the early ’60s, before we had any government. It worked rather well, and there was nobody on the street suffering with no medical care. But Medicare and Medicaid came in and — and — and it just expanded. But even when we had the chance to cut back on it, when we had a Republican Congress and a Republican president, we — we gave them prescription drug programs. Senator Santorum supported it. (Laughs.) You know, that’s expanding the government! (Cheers, applause.) So — so it’s endless.

And the — and most of them are bankrupt. Prescription drugs, they — they’re not going to be financed; Medicare is not financeable; Medicaid’s in trouble. But nobody talks about where the money’s going to come from.

Now, even in my budget proposal — which is very, very tough, because I’m going to cut a trillion dollars the first year — but I try to really — (cheers, applause) — even though these programs should have never started that a lot of people are dependent on, I want to try to protect the people who are dependent on — on medical care.

Now, where does the money come? My suggestion is, look at some of the overseas spending that we don’t need to be doing. (Cheers, applause.) We have — we have troops in Korea since — since the Korean War, in Japan since World War II, in Germany since World War — those are subsidies to these countries. And we keep fighting these wars that don’t need to be fought, they’re undeclared, they never end. Newt pointed out, you know, World War II was won in less than four years; Afghanistan, we’re there for 10 years. Nobody says, where does the money come? We could work our way out of here and take care of these people on — with these medical needs, but we can’t do it with the current philosophy of the government taking care of everybody forever on medical care, cradle to grave, and being the policeman of the world.

We will get rid of all this government program, unfortunately because we’re going bankrupt and you’re going to have runaway inflation and our checks are going to bounce. And that’s going to be a lot worse problem than we’re facing tonight. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: All right. I’m going to ask all of our candidates to stand by, our audience as well. We have a couple breaks tonight. We’re going to take one of them now.

One candidate on this stage suggested this week that two candidates should get out of the race. One of them listened. We’ll get the reaction from the other coming up.

And also coming up, this is just in: While we’ve been on the air having this debate, Speaker Gingrich has released his tax returns. He’s put them online. We’ll ask him what’s in them when we come back. (Cheers, applause.)

(Announcements.)

(Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: (Off mic) — back to Charleston, South Carolina, and our Southern Republican presidential debate. Let’s get back to questioning the four gentlemen who would like to be the Republican nominee for president and the next president of the United States.

Part of the political conversation during the crackling campaign in this great state this week — Senator Santorum, Speaker Gingrich said he thought it would be preferable for the conservative movement if one candidate, in his view, had a direct campaign against Governor Romney. He suggested — he didn’t — said it was up to you, but he suggested perhaps Governor Perry and Senator Santorum should get out of the race.

In suggesting that, he said this: You don’t have, quote, “any of the knowledge for how to do something on this scale.”

What do you say to that?

MR. SANTORUM: Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich. He — he handles it very, very well. (Cheers, applause.) And that’s really one of the issues here, folks. I mean, a month ago, he was saying that, oh, I’m — it’s inevitable that I’m going to win the election and it’s — I’m destined to do it.

I don’t want a nominee that I have to worry about going out and looking at the paper the next day and figuring out what is he — worrying about what he’s going to say next.

And — and that’s what I think we’re seeing here. (Applause.)

For him to suggest that someone who was tied for first, and eventually won, the Iowa caucuses and finished with twice as many votes as he did; and finished ahead of him in New Hampshire in spite of the fact that he spent an enormous amount more money in both those places, plus had the most important endorsement in the state, the Manchester Union Leader; and I was 10 points behind him a week before the election and then finished ahead of him, so I was 2-and-0 coming into South Carolina — and I should get out of the race — these are — these are not cogent thoughts.

I mean, and — and — and — and let’s just be honest. I mean — (cheers, applause) — I mean, Newt’s a friend, I love him, but at times you just got to — you know, sort of that, you know, worrisome moment that something’s going to pop. And we can’t afford that in a nominee. We need someone — I’m not the most flamboyant and I don’t get the biggest applause lines here, but I’m steady. I’m solid. I’m not going to go out and do things that you’re going to worry about. I’m going to be out there and I’m going to make Barack Obama the issue in this campaign. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker take some time to respond. As you do so, what exactly did you mean, doesn’t have any of the knowledge for how to do something on this scale?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, it’s a very simple question: How big a scale of change do we want in Washington? I started working with Governor Reagan in 1974. I helped, with Jack Kemp and others, the development of supply-side economics in the late ’70s. I participated in the ’80s in an enormous project of economic growth, and with President Reagan’s leadership, the American people created 16 million jobs. With President Reagan’s leadership, the Soviet Union disappeared.

I came back — I spent 16 years on a grandiose project called creating a Republican majority in the House. Sixteen years. And most of the Republican leaders in the House thought it was a joke.

And we created the first majority. We then worked for two solid years, reformed welfare; two out of three people went back to work or went to school. We got — ultimately became the first reelected Republican majority since 1928. We then went on to cut taxes for the first time in 16 years, the largest capital gains tax cut in American history. In the four years I was speaker, the American people created 11 million new jobs. We balanced the budget for four consecutive years, the only time in your lifetime.

You’re right: I think grandiose thoughts. This is a grandiose country of big people doing big things, and we need leadership prepared to take on big projects. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Quickly.

MR. SANTORUM: I will give Newt Gingrich his due on grandiose ideas and grandiose projects. I will not give him his — his — his — his due on executing those projects, which is exactly what the president of the United States is supposed to do. Four years into his speakership, he was thrown out by the conservatives. There was a coup against him in ’03.

I served with him. I was there. I knew what the problems were going on in the House of Representatives, and Newt Gingrich was leading this — leading there. It was an idea a minute — no discipline, no ability to be able to pull things together. I understand you’re taking credit for the 1994 election, and you did have a lot plans. As you know, I worked with you on those, and we had meetings early in the morning on many — many a week. And so we worked together on that.

But you also have to admit that this freshman congressman who wasn’t supposed to win a race, came and did something you never did, which is blew the lid off the biggest scandal to hit the Congress in 50 years. You knew about it for — for 10 or 15 years because you told me you knew about it. And you did nothing, because you didn’t have the courage to stand up to your own leadership, the Democratic speaker of the House, take to the floor of the Senate, demand the releasing of the checks that were being kited by members of Congress, risk your political career, risk your promotion within the ranks and do what was right for America — and that had more or as much to do with the 1994 win as any plan that you put together. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, respond.

MR. GINGRICH: You know, campaigns are interesting experiences for all of us, and each of us writes a selective history that fits our interests. As a freshman in 1979, I moved to expel a member who was a convicted felon for the first time since 1917 against the wishes of our leadership. In the page scandal in the 1980s, I moved and threatened to expel them unless they were punished much more severely against the wishes of the leadership. In the late 1980s, I initiated charges against the speaker of the House, Jim Wright, at rather considerable risk for a back-bench member. In 1990, I opposed the president of the United States of my own party when he tried to raise taxes. I said I actually thought he meant “read my lips,” and I led the fight against raising taxes against the wishes of my party’s leadership.

I think long before Rick came to Congress I was busy being a rebel, creating the Conservative Opportunity Society, developing a plan to win a majority in the Congress. And if you talk to anybody who worked at the Congressional Campaign Committee from — from December of 1978 on, for 16 years, I worked to help create the Republican Party nationally to become a majority. I worked to create GOPAC to train the majority. Those are just historic facts, even if they’re inconvenient for Rick’s campaign. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Governor Romney, you’re raising your hand to come in the conversation. I want to let you in the conversation. But also, as I do, you put an ad on the air, paid by your campaign — this is not one of the super PAC ads, your campaign — calling the speaker an unreliable leader. Why?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, let — let me go back and — and address, first, the — what you just heard. What you’ve listened to, in my view — and the speaker’s rendition of history going back to 1978 and his involvement in Washington — is in my view a perfect example of why we need to send to Washington someone who has not lived in Washington, but someone who has lived — (applause) — in the real streets of America, working in the private sector, who’s led a business, who started a business, who helped lead the Olympics, who helped lead a state.

We need to have someone outside Washington go to Washington. If we want people who spent their life and their career — most of their career in Washington, we have three people on the stage who’ve — well, I take that back. We got a doctor down here who spent most of his time in the — in the surgical suite — well, not surgery — the birthing suite. And — (laughter) — but the — (cheers, applause) — I just — I think America — I think America has to make a choice as to whether we’re going to send people who spent their life in Washington go represent our country or instead whether we’re going to lead — have someone who goes who’s been a leader in the private sector and knows how the real economy works at the grass-roots level.

Now you asked me a(n) entirely different question. What do you — what’s — (laughter) –

MR. GINGRICH: Beats me. I don’t know. Where are we at, John? (Laughter.)

MR. ROMNEY: Let’s — let’s — let me — let me say — let me say one — one of the things I find amusing is listening — is listening to how — how much credit is taken in Washington for what goes on on Main Street. I — I mean, Mr. Speaker, it was — it was — you talk about all the things you did with Ronald Reagan and — and — and the Reagan revolution and the jobs created during the Reagan years and so forth. I mean, I looked at the Reagan diary. You’re mentioned once in Ronald Reagan’s diary. And it’s — and in the diary, he says you had an idea in a meeting of — of young congressmen, and it wasn’t a very good idea, and he dismissed it. That — that’s the entire mention. And — I mean, he mentions George Bush a hundred times. He even mentions my dad once.

So I — I — I — there’s a sense that Washington is pulling the strings in America. But you know what? The free people of America, pursuing their dreams and taking risk and going to school and working hard — those are the people that make America strong, not Washington. (Cheers, America.)

MR. KING: Quickly respond, Mr. Speaker.

MR. GINGRICH: Yeah. Look, this is — this is probably a fundamental difference in our background and our experience. Under Jimmy Carter, we had the wrong laws, the wrong regulations, the wrong leadership, and we killed jobs. We had inflation. We went to 10.8 percent unemployment.

Under Ronald Reagan, we had the right job — the right laws, the right regulators, the right leadership. We created 16 million new jobs.

We then had two consecutive tax increases: one by a Republican; one by a Democrat. The economy stagnated. When I became speaker, we went back to the Ronald Reagan playbook: lower taxes; less regulation; more American energy. And 11 million jobs showed up.

Now, I do think government can kill jobs, and I do think government can create the environment where entrepreneurs create jobs. And the truth is, you did very well under the rules that we created to make it easier for entrepreneurs to go out and do things. You’d have been much poorer if Jimmy Carter had remained president. (Applause.)

MR. ROMNEY: Let — let me just –

MR. KING: All right, go ahead, quickly.

MR. ROMNEY: Let me just tell you, Mr. Speaker, you were speaker four years.

MR. GINGRICH: Right.

MR. ROMNEY: I — I was in business 25 years. (Applause.)

MR. GINGRICH: Right.

MR. ROMNEY: So you’re not going to get credit for my 25 years, number one. (Applause.)

Number — number two, I don’t recall — I don’t recall a single day saying, “Oh, thank Heavens, Washington is there for me –” (laughter) “– thank — thank heavens.” I — I said, “Please get out of my way. Let me start a business and put Americans to work.” (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: All right, let me — let me get out of the way for a second, and go back out to our audience and take a question from an audience member.

Sir?

Q: John Marcoux (ph), from the great city of Charleston. (Cheers, applause.)

Gentlemen, when will you release your tax returns, specifically?

MR. GINGRICH: An hour ago. (Laughter.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker posted his online an hour ago. We note that.

Congressman Paul — we’ll come down the line. Congressman Paul, I want to start with you. We reached out to your campaign this week, and they said you would not release your tax returns. Why?

REP. PAUL: Well — well, I hadn’t thought it — thought it through. I don’t have an intention of doing it, but for a different reason. I’d probably be embarrassed to put my financial statement up against their incomes. (Laughs, laughter.) I don’t want the embarrassment because I don’t have a greater income. (Applause.)

MR. KING: (Laughs.)

REP. PAUL: Now, I mean, it may come to that, but right now, I have no intention of doing that. I think with our financial statements — with congressional financial statements, I think you know more about me than I know about myself.

That’s how my wife found out so much about what we were doing, you know, from my financial statements. (Laughter.)

No, we don’t need — I don’t think people need that because nobody’s challenging me because I have no conflict of interest and I don’t even talk to lobbyists and — and I don’t take that kind of money. So there’s no conflict. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: All right. Governor Romney, when will we see yours?

MR. ROMNEY: When my taxes are complete for this year. And I know that if I’m the nominee the president’s going to want to insist that I show what my income was this last year and so forth. When they’re completed this year in April I’ll release my returns in April, and probably for other years as well.

And I know that’s what’s going to come. Every time the Democrats are out there trying their very best to — to try and attack people because they’ve been successful, and I — and I have been successful. But let me tell you, the — the — the challenge in America is not people who have been successful. The challenge in America — and President Obama doesn’t want to talk about this — is you got a president who’s played 90 rounds of golf while there are 25 million Americans out of work. And — and — (cheers, applause) — and you’ve got — and — and while the price of gasoline has doubled, he said no to the Keystone pipeline. And while we’ve got 15 trillion (dollars) of debt, he said, look, I’m going to put another trillion of debt for “Obamacare.” That’s the problem in America, not the attacks they make on people who have been successful.

MR. KING: But some of the questions about when you’ll release your taxes have not come — the president has raised them — his campaign has raised them, you’re right on that. But so have some of your rivals up here. Speaker Gingrich has said you owe them to the people of South Carolina before they vote. Governor Perry made that point as well before he left the race. Why not should the people of South Carolina before this election see last year’s return? (Cheers, applause.)

MR. ROMNEY: Because I want to make sure that I beat President Obama. And every time we release things drip by drip, the Democrats go out with another array of attacks. As — as has been done in the past, if I’m the nominee, I’ll put these out at one time so we have one discussion of all of this. I obviously pay all full taxes. I’m honest in my dealings with people. People understand that. (Applause.) My taxes are carefully managed. And I pay a lot of taxes. I’ve been very successful.

And I — when I have our — our taxes ready for this year, I’ll release them. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Speaker Gingrich, is that good enough?

MR. GINGRICH: Look, he’s got to decide and the people of South Carolina have to decide. But if there’s anything in there that is going to help us lose the election, we should know it before the nomination. (Cheers, applause.) And if there’s nothing in there — if there’s nothing in there, why not release it? I mean, it’s a very simple model.

And — but he’s got to decide. It’s his decision. And everybody’s got to run their own campaign based on what they think is a reasonable risk. I’ve — I released mine this evening. We also released the little small charitable foundation we have so people can see what we do and how we did it and what our values are. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Senator Santorum, when will we see yours?

MR. SANTORUM: Well, I do my own taxes, and they’re on my computer, and I’m not home. So — (laughter) — and there’s nobody at home right now. Until I get home, I won’t get them. When I get home, I’ll — you’ll get my taxes. (Laughter, applause.)

MR. KING: But you did call on the governor to release his.

MR. SANTORUM: No, someone asked me would it be OK for — I said, yes; I don’t — I don’t think it’s a big deal. I mean, if Governor Romney’s told what his tax rate is; mine’s higher than that, I can assure you. But I can’t tell you what it was. All I know is it was very painful writing the check. But I — (inaudible) — that’s all I can tell you. (Applause.)

MR. KING: I want to — Governor Romney, you mentioned the Democratic attacks. I want to ask you to go back in history a little bit. Back in 1967, your father set a groundbreaking — what was then a groundbreaking standard in American politics: He released his tax returns. He released them for not one year, but for 12 years. And when he did that, he said this: One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.

When you release yours, will you follow your father’s example?

MR. ROMNEY: Maybe. (Chuckles, applause.) I — you know, I don’t know how many years I’ll release. I’ll take a look at what the — the — what our documents are. (Jeers.) And I’ll release multiple years; I don’t know how many years. And — but I’ll be happy to do that.

Let me tell you, I know there are some who are very anxious to see if they can’t make it more difficult for a campaign to be successful. I know the Democrats want to go after the fact that I’ve been successful. I’m not going to apologize for being successful. (Cheers, applause.) And — and I’m not — I’m not suggesting these people are doing that, but I know the Democrats will go after me on that basis, and that’s why I want to release these things all at the same time.

And I — I mean — you know, my dad, as you know — born in Mexico, poor, didn’t get a college degree — became head of a car company. I could have stayed in Detroit, like him, and gotten pulled up in the car company. I went off on my own. I didn’t inherit money from my parents. What I have, I earned. I worked hard, the American way. (Cheers, applause.)

And I’m going to be able — I’m going to be able to talk to President Obama in a way no one else can that’s in this race right now, about how the free economy works, what it takes to put Americans back to work, and make sure he understands that this divisiveness and dividing Americans between 99 and 1 is dangerous. We are one nation under God. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: You’ve raised the topic of putting America back to work. I think we’re ready for another question from our audience. Am I right? Oh, not quite yet. All right, so let’s stay up here for a second.

Let’s move to — you mentioned putting America back to work. Let’s talk about something. Apple Computer. Apple Computer is a breathtakingly important American company. Senator Santorum, it’s one of the most respected companies in the country. I’ve handed it off, but I carry Apple products to do my work every day.

It employs about 500,000 people in China. It is based in the United Sates, has some employees here, about 40-something-thousand, I think 46,000, most of them in retail stores and at the headquarters; 500,000 of them are in China.

As a president of the United States, what do you do about that?

MR. SANTORUM: I’m the only person on this stage that will do something about it. I’ve got a specific plan in place that I’ve put out there, called the Made In the USA plan, for exactly these kinds of companies, that have great technology and then go somewhere else to make them because America is uncompetitive.

And that’s why we have to cut the corporate tax for all corporations who manufacture and process in this country.

People have said, well, why are you doing it for corporations and only cutting it in half — which I do — to 17 1/2 percent for the rest? It’s because the local pharmacy’s not going to move to China. They’re not going to — they — we — the jobs that we’re losing are jobs that we have to compete with other countries, and those are manufacturing jobs. The reason they’re going there is not because our — our — our workers or our management in this country are not productive. We have great productivity gain. It’s amazing the — the transformation that has been made in the last decade or two about our manufacturing process here. It is simply government getting in the way.

None of these folks do anything. I do dramatic things that send a signal. Apple, you want — you — you have all those employees over there, you make all those profits over there. If you want to bring that money back, right now you pay a 35 percent tax. Under our plan, if you bring it back and invest it in plant equipment here in Charleston, you pay nothing. (Cheers, applause.) You put that money to work — if you invest it, you pay nothing. It’s a powerful incentive.

You throw on top of that the energy policy that we put out there to — to revitalize the energy sector, you — which will create — again, for manufacturing, energy cost is a big deal. So we have an energy piece.

We also have a piece having to do with regulations. The Obama administration has promulgated two and a half times the number of regulations that cost American businesses over a hundred million dollars a year — two and a half times the last 16 years of presidents. This president is putting a burden on manufacturers and business. It’s the reason they’re not — we’re not making things here. I’ll repeal every single one of those regulations on day one. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Congressman Paul, how do you revive made in America?

REP. PAUL: You have to create the right conditions to bring these companies back, and they have to bring their capital back and shouldn’t be taxed. But — Apple’s a great company, but the way you ask the question, it infers that because there’s a bunch of workers overseas, it hasn’t benefited a lot of people here.

The consumers obviously have been benefited by a good company, well run. But obviously there’s a lot of employees with Apple in this country as well. I don’t think that’s the number that you have to be concerned about. A lot of people worry about us buying and the money going overseas.

MR. : Yeah.

REP. PAUL: But if you send money to China, they’ll say they’re paying wages over there and pay — we send dollars over there — what — they don’t put the dollars in a shoe box. They have to spend those dollars.

Unfortunately, they’re buying our debt and perpetuating our consumerism here and our debt here. (Scattered applause.) But immediately there’s a benefit to us because those dollars come back.

But also, when you get products, if they’re buying products cheaper over there — let’s say the computer costs a hundred dollars instead of a thousand dollars. Well, the person’s just saved $900. That helps the economy. That $900 stays in that person’s pocket. So — whether it’s shoes or a computer. So we shouldn’t be frightened about trade or sending money on.

But we have to look at the reason why they’re doing this. I mean, even the car companies — there’s obviously a problem with car companies here. They’re in bigger trouble, and we had to bail them out. But there are foreign companies that build cars in this country and they make a living out of this. So this — it’s more complex than that, but we have to do whatever we can.

I think the — I think the — the — the union problem, the right-to-work states and — (applause) — of course I’ve chided Senator Santorum on this because he has voted, you know, against right-to-work. But we have to change these conditions to invite people back.

But believe me, the regulations and the fact that we are the issuer of the reserve currency of the world is a real — a temporary blessing for us because it’s easy for us to export our money. That’s unfortunately our greatest export, and they’re still taking our money. Soon, though, they’re going to quit, and this whole ballgame is going to end, and we better get prepared for it. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: He mentioned you, Senator Santorum. Go ahead, quickly.

MR. SANTORUM: Congressman Paul knows, because we’ve talked about this before, I’ve already signed a pledge and said I would sign a national right-to-work bill. And when I was a senator from Pennsylvania, which is a state that is not a right-to-work state, the state made a decision not to be right to work. And I wasn’t going to go to Washington and overturn that from the federal government and do that to the state. That’s a very different — different position.

REP. PAUL: May I –

MR. KING: Quickly, sir.

REP. PAUL: Yeah, the response should be, yes, I understand that. That’s the way politics works: You voted the way you thought was best –

MR. SANTORUM: Well, representative government.

REP. PAUL: — yeah — for your state. (Applause.) But as president, are you going to represent South Carolina or Pennsylvania? That’s really the question. (Applause.)

MR. SANTORUM: Well, maybe — maybe you didn’t hear what I said. I said I would support a national right-to-work law and sign it into law, and would support and advocate for one. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Well, let’s continue the economic conversation with some input from a question from Twitter. If you look up here, you can see it. #CNNDebate: What is your take on SOPA, and how do you believe it affects Americans?

For those who have not been following this, SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act: crack down on Internet piracy, which is clearly a problem. But opponents say it’s censorship.

Full disclosure: Our parent company, Time Warner, says we need a law like this because some of its products — movies, programmings and the like — are being ripped off online. (Boos.)

Let me start — let me start with you, Mr. Speaker. There’s two competing ends — two engines, even — of our economy here at ads — at odds on this. How do you deal with it?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, you’re asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood. (Laughter, applause.) And I’m weighing it. I’m weighing it. I’m not — I’m not rushing in. I’m — I’m trying to think through all of the many fond, left-wing people who we’re so eager to protect. (Laughter.)

On the other hand, you have virtually everybody who’s technologically advanced, including, you know, Google and YouTube and Facebook and all the folks, who say this is going to totally mess up the Internet, and the bill in its current form is written really badly and leads to a range of censorship that is totally unacceptable.

Well, I favor freedom. (Applause.) And I think that if you — you know, I think — we have a Patent Office, we have copyright law. If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue for — for — but the idea that we’re going to preemptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of giant corporations’ economic interests strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, (right ?). Governor Romney, these companies complain — some of them are based in Hollywood, not all of them are — that their software, that their publishing, that their movies, that their shows are being ripped off.

MR. ROMNEY: I think he got it just about right. The — the truth of the matter is — (applause) — that — that the law as written is far too intrusive, far too expansive, far too threatening to freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet. It would have a potentially depressing impact on one of the fastest- growing industries in America, which — which is the Internet and all those — those industries connected to it.

At the same time, we care very deeply about intellectual content that’s going across the Internet. And if we can find a way to very narrowly, through our current laws, go after those people who are pirating, particularly those from offshore, we’ll do that — but a very broad law which gives the government the power to start stepping into the Internet and saying who can pass what to whom — I think that’s a mistake. And so I’d say, no, I’m standing for freedom.

MR. KING: I mean — (cheers, applause) — it’s a big issue in the country right now.

Congressman Paul and Senator Santorum, your views on this one quickly.

REP. PAUL: I was the first Republican to sign on with a host of Democrats to oppose this law. And we have worked — (cheers, applause) — we have had a concerted effort, and I feel like we’re making achievements. There — this bill is not going to pass, but watch out for the next one.

And I am pleased that the attitude has sort of mellowed up here, because the Republicans, unfortunately, have been on the wrong side of this issue. And this is a good example on why it’s good to have somebody that can look at civil liberties and work with coalitions and bring people together.

Freedom and the Constitution bring factions together. I think this is a good example. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Those who support the law, Senator, argue tens of thousands of jobs are at stake.

MR. SANTORUM: I don’t – I don’t support this law, and I agree with everybody up here that it goes too far. But I will not agree with everybody up there that there isn’t something that — that can and should be done to protect the intellectual property rights of people. The Internet is not a — a — a — a free — a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people. And — and particularly when we’re talking about — in this case, we’re talking about entities offshore that are doing so, that are pirating things. So the idea that the government — that you have businesses in this country and that the government has no role to try to protect the intellectual property of people who have those rights in this country from people overseas pirating them and then selling them back into this country, I — you know, I — it’s great; I mean, I’m for free, but I’m not for — for people abusing the law. And that’s what’s happening right now, and I think something proper should be done. I agree this goes too far. But the idea that, you know, anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from? Where — where in America does it say that anything goes. (Boos, cheers.) We have laws, and the respect of law and the rule of law is an important thing, and property rights should be respected.

MR. KING: All right. Gentlemen, I want to thank you. (Applause.) As for our audience, applaud if you wish. Stand by one second, we’ll take one more break. Much more of our Southern Republican Presidential Debate to come, including this question:

After months of campaigning, if these candidates could do one thing over, what would it be? (Cheers, applause.)

(Announcements.)

MR. KING: (Cheers, applause.) Welcome back to the Southern Republican presidential debate. I’m John King. We’re live in Charleston, South Carolina.

Lots more issues to wander through tonight, but I just want to take this moment. After months and months of campaigning, maybe this is fun, maybe it isn’t.

Speaker Gingrich, I want to start with you. You’re at this for months and you’re out there. If there’s one thing, just one thing in this campaign you could do over, what would it be?

MR. GINGRICH: I would skip the opening three months, where I hired regular consultants and tried to figure out how to be a normal candidate, and I would just to straight at being a big-ideas, big- solutions, Internet-based campaign from day one, because it just didn’t work. I mean, it’s not who I am. I’m not capable of being a sort of traditional candidate. I’m a very idea-oriented candidate. And I think the Internet makes it possible to create a momentum of ideas that’s very, very exciting.

MR. KING: Governor Romney?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, I’d have worked to get 25 more votes in Iowa, that’s for sure. (Laughter.) (Applause.) And — (laughter, applause). (Laughs.)

And — well, let’s see. I guess — I guess I also would go back and take every moment I spent talking about one of the guys on the stage, and spent that time talking about Barack Obama, because — (cheers, applause) — the truth is that Barack Obama is just way over his head.

And — and he’s taking our country down a path that is very dangerous. He’s making us more and more like a European social-welfare state. He’s making us an entitlement society. He’s taking away the rights of our citizens. He believes government should run this country.

Look, the right course for America is to return to our fundamental principles, and I would be talking about that more and probably about my colleagues less because, frankly, any one of them would be a better president than the one we got. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Senator?

MR. SANTORUM: I actually thought about that, and you know what, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s — for — for me to be standing here in the final four is about as amazing a thing that I could have ever conceived of happening. Someone who had no money, who lost his last race, who everyone basically ignored as I traveled around South Carolina, Iowa and — and New Hampshire and — and just talked to people. Town hall meeting after — 700 town hall meetings, just going around. And it proved that good ideas and hard work still pay off in America, and it just was an affirmation to me of the great process that we have. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Congressman?

REP. PAUL: I — I can’t think of any one thing that I would do differently. But I would continue to do what I’m always trying to do.

One thing that I believe about a free society is it provides the opportunity for us to work for our own virtue and excellence. And in campaigning, I think I can still learn a lot about becoming a better deliverer of a message, and the conviction I have — but I think if I spoke a little slower and made more conviction that I could do a better job. So I think in general I could — I — I will continue to work on delivering a message which I think is a great message. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: All right, gentlemen, thank you. Let’s get back to our issues discussion and let’s begin with a question down in our audience.

Q: Hi. I would like to ask, on the issue of amnesty of the illegal aliens, would you — how would you secure that the American citizens would get — keep the jobs in line first for them?

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, let’s start with you on that. She mentioned the word “amnesty.” You have explained your position in this campaign, and as you know, some conservatives have said: No, Mr. Speaker, you say you can’t deport — maybe it’s 10 (million), 11 (million); some people say it’s high as 20 million — people illegally in this country. You say it’s unrealistic to deport them all, so some would have to be given a path to legal status. And as you know, many conservatives say: No, that’s amnesty, Mr. Speaker.

MR. GINGRICH: Right. What I say — let’s start with — I think you have to first of all control the border. I don’t think you can pass a comprehensive bill, because nobody trusts the government. So first, you control the border. We have a bill that would have it controlled by January 1, 2014. And — and I’m prepared both to waive all federal regulations to get it built and controlled by 2014, and I’m prepared to move up to half the people who work for Homeland Security, about 20 — they have 23,000 employees in Washington. I’d be prepared to move half of them to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, if that’s what it took to control the border. (Applause.)

Second, I — I favor English as the official language of government, and I think that creates a continuity. (Cheers, applause.)

Third, I would actually modernize their legal system of — of visas because the — currently we make it too difficult to come here legally and too easy to come here illegally. (Applause.)

Fourth, I would make it much easier to deport people, so if you are a noncitizen who belongs, say, to MS-13, an El Salvadorean gang, you — we should be able to get rid of you in two weeks, not two years, and we should have a much easier deportation. (Applause.)

Fifth, I favor a guest worker program, and I would outsource it to American Express, Visa or MasterCard, because they can run it without fraud and the federal government’s hopeless.

So you want a system that is accurate and that is anti-fraud, which leads you then to be able to say to private employers, if you hire somebody who’s illegal, we’re going to have an enormous economic sanction, because there will be no excuse once you have a guest worker program that’s legal.

Then you get down to the question of people who are already here. I believe — and what I just described — most of them will go home. The one group I singled out — and we — and we do have a lively debate on this up here — there are people who have been here 25 years. They’ve been working, they’ve been paying their bills; they’re married, they have children, they may have grandchildren; they may be in your church.

Now, I don’t think we’re going to deport grandmothers and grandfathers who have 25 years of networking and relationships in a community. So I’ve suggested a World War II-style draft board where local citizens would review the applications, you could only apply if you proved that you were financially responsible, you proved you had genuine family ties, and you had an American family sponsor you. You still wouldn’t get amnesty; you wouldn’t get citizenship. You would get a residency permit. In order to apply for citizenship, you would have to go back to your own country and get in line behind everybody else and be processed as a person from that country.

But I think it would — I think this is a doable, solvable, practical solution. And I think trying to deport grandmothers and grandfathers will never pass the Congress and would never be accepted by the American people. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Governor Romney, is that the doable, practical solution?

MR. ROMNEY: You know, the issue of illegal immigration is relatively straightforward, compared to the tough issues we face — issues like how we’re going to compete with China as it grows a military which is of extraordinary scale and a navy of that scale; how we’re going to deal with radical violent jihadists; Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, making sure they’re solvent. We’ve got real challenges that are tough.

This one is not tough: You build a fence, you have enough Border Patrol agents to secure the fence, and you also have a system of giving to people who come here legally an identification card, and you expect employers and insist that employers check that card before they hire someone.

If they don’t check the card, if they don’t run it through the U.S. database and get an instant response from the government or from Mastercard, Visa, American Express or whomever, then those — those employers are going to get severely sanctioned. If you do that, we solve the problem of illegal immigration.

And with regards to those that have come here illegally now, we’re not going to round them all up and deport them, but we’re also not going to give them a preferential pathway to become permanent residents or citizenships — citizens. They need to go back home, apply for citizenship, apply for permanent residency, like everyone else. Coming here illegally should not give you an advantage being able to become a permanent resident of the United States. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Do you have the same view, Senator?

MR. SANTORUM: Well, I come at it from — as being the — the son of an immigrant. And my grandfather came to this country and brought my dad when he was 7 years old. And that’s the story that I — that I love, am familiar with and believe in my — in the heart of hearts that — that immigration is — people who want to come to this country and be Americans is really the continuing, you know, infusion of freedom and — and enthusiasm for our country.

But when you come here illegally, the first act you take is to break our law, that’s a different story. And I — you know, we have two folks here, both Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich: Mitt Romney has the position now that people have to go home, but as few as just a few years ago, he said that there could be a pathway to citizenship. He’s repeatedly said that. Now he’s changed his position. I understand that. He’s done that on a couple of occasions.

And — and you have Speaker Gingrich, who — who believes there needs to be a legal pathway. That’s where President Obama’s position is. I think we need a — again, just like health care, we need a clear contrast, someone who can say, look, we — I have always been for making sure that the law is enforced, and enforced fairly. I’m — I — I grieve for people who have been here 25 years and maybe have to be separated from their family if they — if they were picked up and deported.

But my father grieved for his father when he came to this country and lived here five years and other folks who sacrificed, who came here to America, did it the right way according to the law, because America was worth it. And if you want to be an American, the first thing you should do is respect our laws and obey our laws. And — (cheers, applause) — and the idea that someone, whether it’s — whether it’s either of these two gentlemen, whether the idea that someone who came here and lived here 25 years has only broken one law, if they’ve worked for 25 years they’ve been breaking the law for 25 years. (Applause.) If they’ve been working they have probably stolen someone’s Social Security number and they’ve committed Social Security fraud. They’ve — this — this is not just a single occurrence. It’s an ongoing issue. And if we treat people like that differently than we do with a mother who out of a desperate situation goes out and — and shoplifts or does something and gets thrown in jail, what are we saying — that we’re going to treat people in this country who do things for their family differently than those who are here illegally? I don’t think so. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: You mentioned both Governor Romney and the speaker. Take a — take a moment quickly and then I want to bring Congressman Paul into the conversation. He essentially is saying he doesn’t trust you on this.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I ran for president four years ago. This was the position I described when I ran four years ago. Wrote a book, laid out my position. I actually agreed, I think, with what you just said, which is I believe those people who have come here illegally should not be given a preferential path to become permanent residents or citizens of this country.

You shake your head. I’m –

MR. SANTORUM: That’s not in the book.

MR. ROMNEY: OK –

MR. SANTORUM: I’ll be happy to show you the quotes of what you said –

MR. ROMNEY: OK, good, good, good.

MR. SANTORUM: — that people should have a pathway to citizenship.

MR. ROMNEY: And the path –

MR. SANTORUM: Not — not — not — not citizenship; pathway to be legal in this country. Not citizenship.

MR. ROMNEY: And the pathway that I’ve described is that those individuals who have come here illegally should be able to register in this country, have a temporary period to arrange their affairs, and return home and get at the back of the — at the back of the line like everyone else. And the position I’ve had is that the people who come here illegally should not be given a preferential pathway relative to others but should be able to get in the same line, at the back of the line.

And I agree with the senator. I’m sorry you don’t acknowledge my agreement, but I agree with you that this is a nation at laws. At the same time, I think it’s important — I’m glad you mentioned this, because I didn’t in my answer, and that is, we need to underscore the fact that we’re a party of legal immigration. We like legal immigration. (Applause.) We want legal immigration.

And to protect legal immigration, we want to stop illegal immigration. And we don’t want to do anything that would suggest to people, come on in here, just wait long enough, whether it’s five years or 10 years, wait long enough and we’ll take you all in on an amnesty basis. I want people to get in line legally.

MR. KING: Congressman Paul, you’re from a border state. If this is a problem — you’ve heard your colleagues talk about making sure employers — companies that hire large numbers of people — making sure they get the message they can’t hire illegals. What about individuals? About a quarter of the illegal immigrants in the country work for individuals. If this is a problem, if I hired an illegal immigrant, say, to clean my home, should I be prosecuted for doing that?

REP. PAUL: I don’t believe you should be, because I think those laws are misdirected. that makes you the policeman or the businessman the policeman or the Catholic Church the policeman if they do anything to help an illegal immigrant. It should be the law enforcers, and that is the border guards and the federal government in charge of immigration. So no, I don’t agree with those laws.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m soft on the issue of illegal immigration. It’s illegal. I can’t imagine anybody standing up here and saying, oh, I’m for illegal immigration. We’re all against illegal immigration.

But I think what we fail to do is — is look at the incentives, and it has a lot to do with economics. There’s an economic incentive for them to come, for immigrants to come, but there’s also an incentive for some of our people in this country not to take a job that’s a low-paying job. You’re not supposed to say that, but that is true.

But there’s also an economic incentive in the welfare state for immigrants to come in.

In Texas, we suffer from the fact that there are federal mandates that we have to take care of their medical needs and their educational needs, and it bankrupts some of our — our school districts and our hospitals. So it’s those mandates.

But we need a more generous immigration policy — it shouldn’t be legal — but we need more resources. But I find that the resources are all overseas. I — when I was in the military, I was on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and that is a no-man’s land. You can’t see the border. At least we can — we can see the river south of Texas; we know where the Rio Grande is. Over there, we can’t see it. But we’re over there fighting and dying over that border, looking for problems. Why don’t we take those resources and quit pretending we can defend those borders and put them on our borders and take care of our needs here? (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Go ahead, Mr. Speaker.

MR. GINGRICH: Yeah, I — John, I just think if you’re going to raise immigration, I want to make the point that on the very first day that I’m inaugurated, I will issue an executive order to the Justice Department to drop the lawsuits against South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona. (Cheers, applause.) The federal government should enforce the law, not stop states from helping it enforce the law.

MR. KING: I think we have nodding heads. I assume we have agreement on that.

But let’s move on to another issue that came up in the campaign right here in South Carolina this week, and that’s the life issue. Mr. Speaker, your campaign sent out a mailing to South Carolina Republicans across this state, essentially questioning Governor Romney’s commitment on this issue, saying that he has changed his position on the abortion issue.

If you’ll recall, I moderated a debate back in New Hampshire in June. There were seven candidates then. We have four tonight. But when this came up, we talked about it briefly, and then I asked: Is this a fair game, an issue in this campaign, or is it case-closed?

Mr. Cain, who was with us at the time, said case-closed, and I paused. No one else took the opportunity to speak up.

If it was case closed then, why is it a legitimate issue now?

MR. GINGRICH: You just said nobody else spoke, so nobody else said yes, that’s case closed. I mean, Herman Cain thought it was case closed. The rest of us didn’t — it wasn’t a — a particular issue in the fight that night. I mean, we are allowed to run our own campaigns, John. It’s not an automatic requirement that we fit it in your debate schedule. (Applause.)

This is — look, this is a very straightforward question. Governor Romney — and I — and I accept this — I mean, Governor Romney has said that he had a — an experience in a lab and became pro-life, and I — I accept that. After he became pro-life, “Romneycare” does pay for tax-paid abortions. “Romneycare” has written into it Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, by name; does not have any right-to-life group written into it. He did appoint pro-abortion judges. And a branch of the government which included his appointees did agree to fund an abortion clinic for Planned Parenthood. All that occurred after he had become pro-life.

Now, those are all facts which we validated. And essentially that’s a legitimate part of the campaign is to say, OK, if you’re genuinely pro-life, how come these things are occurring?

MR. KING: Governor Romney, he questions whether you’re genuinely pro-life. (Applause.)

MR. ROMNEY: I’m not questioned on character or integrity very often, and I — I don’t feel like standing here for that. But let me clarify the things which are wrong in what the speaker just said. And — and he can get a scintilla of truth in there to make it seem like this is a significant issue. But let’s go through one by one.

First, in “Romneycare,” there’s no mention of abortion whatsoever. The courts in Massachusetts, the Supreme Court was the body that decided that all times that there was any subsidy of health care in Massachusetts that one received abortion care. That was not done by the legislature, would not be done by me either. I would have vetoed such a thing. That was done by the courts, not by the legislature or by me.

Number two, it’s true, somewhere in that bill of ours, 70 pages, there’s the mention of the word(s) “Planned Parenthood,” but it describes a person at a technical advisory board about payment structures. There’s no requirement — or no participation of — of Planned Parenthood in our health care plan.

With regards to judges, I appointed probably 50 or 60 judges — at the trial court level, mostly, the great majority. These were former prosecutors; 80 percent of them former prosecutors. We don’t have a litmus test for appointing judges — asking them if they’re pro-life or not pro-life. These were people going after crimes and — and — and the like. I didn’t get to appoint any Supreme Court justices.

I — I am pro-life. And the Massachusetts Citizens for Life and several other family-oriented groups wrote a letter two weeks ago and said they’d watched my record, that I was an avidly pro-life governor. I am a pro-life governor; I am a pro-life individual.

And I — I have to be honest here. It is — this is not the time to be doubting people’s words, or questioning their integrity. I am pro-life — by the way, is there any possibility that I’ve ever made a mistake in that regard, I didn’t see something that I should have seen? Possibly. But you can count on me, as president of the United States, to pursue a policy that protects the life of unborn, whether here in this country or overseas. And I’ll reverse the policies of this president. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, he says you’re questioning his integrity.

MR. GINGRICH: Well, I’m going to yield to Senator Santorum.

MR. KING: Senator?

MR. SANTORUM: I just want to make out one point. And there are a lot of legislatures here — legislators here in the room, and they — and they know this to be the truth; that if you write a piece of legislation and you — and you say “medical care,” and you do not specifically mention that abortion is not covered, we know from every court decision at the state and federal level that the federal courts and state courts will require it. That is someone (sic) every governor knows, every state legislator knows. And so when Governor Romney did not put that in the bill, you can’t say: Oh, gee, surprise, the court made us cover abortions. He knew very well that the court would make him cover abortions. That’s number one. (Applause.)

Number — number two, what we’re talking about here is someone who’s not going to just check the boxes and say — (whispering) — yes, I’m pro-life.

We get a lot of folks who just whisper into the microphone that they’re pro-life, and then you have other people go out and fight the battle and defend life and come out of the trenches and actually work to make sure that the dignity of every human life — innocent human life in this country is protected. And I’ve done that. (Cheers, applause.)

And I — and I would say, in — in — in — in contrast with Speaker Gingrich, who, on the social issues in particular when he was speaker and even afterwards — they were pushed in the back bench. There was a Pledge to America that the Congress tried to put together in 2010. I got phone calls ringing off the hook that Speaker Gingrich went in and told them, keep social issues out of the Pledge to America for the 2010 elections, and we need you to come in and help to try to convince these folks to put that back into the pledge. We don’t need someone who in the backrooms is going to get up and say, social issues in the front — are in the back of the bus, and then come out here and try to pretend they’re pro-life. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Governor Romney and then Speaker Gingrich. He mentioned you both.

MR. GINGRICH: Sure.

MR. KING: Please, quickly.

MR. ROMNEY: Senator, I — I admire the fact that you’ve been a stalwart defender of — and pro-life, and in a state where that’s not easy.

I was also a governor in a state where being pro-life was not easy. And — and I — and I battled hard. What came to my desk was a piece of legislation that we’re going redefine when life begins. In our state, we said life began at conception. The legislature wanted to change that to say no, we’re going to do it at implantation. I vetoed that.

The legislature also said we want to allow cloning for purposes of — of creating new embryos for — for testing. I vetoed that.

The legislature did not want abstinence education. I pushed and pursued abstinence education.

There was an effort to also have a morning-after pill provided to, as I recall, young women in their teens. I covered the exact age. I vetoed that.

I stood as a pro-life governor, and that’s why the Massachusetts pro-life family association supported my record as governor, endorsed my record as governor.

I did my very best to be a pro-life governor. I will be a pro-life president. I’m proud of that. I wrote about it in my book. My record is solid.

I appreciate your record. I hope you’ll appreciate mine. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, he — he mentioned you specifically. Then we want to move on, but please respond.

MR. GINGRICH: Well, the fact is that I voted with Henry Hyde, who was the leading pro-life advocate in the House for a generation. I had a 98.6 percent pro-life voting record. The only one we disagreed on was welfare reform, which they scored, for reasons we never understood. But otherwise it was a perfect record on pro-life.

When I was speaker, we twice passed a bill, that actually Rick was very active in, to end partial-birth abortion. Twice it was vetoed by Clinton, but twice we passed it. In the 2010 election, the freshman class has the highest percentage of pro-life members ever in history, and my job was to maximize their winning. And the fact is we won a huge victory in 2010 with the largest number of pro-life members ever elected in a freshman class. (Applause.)

MR. KING: All right, let’s move on. Let’s take another question. Congressman, I’ll bring you in on this one.

Let’s take a question now from social media. A question –

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Off mic) — Ron! (Off mic.)

MR. KING: Before we move on, you want in on this issue? They want you in on this issue. Would you like in on this issue? (Cheers, applause.)

REP. PAUL: But John, once again, it’s a medical subject, and I’m a doctor, you know! (Laughs.) (Cheers.)

No, I do want to make a couple comments, because I can remember the very early years studying obstetrics, and I was told — and it was before the age of abortion, and I was told taking care of a woman that’s pregnant, you have two patients. And I think that — that solves a lot of the problem about, you know, when life begins and all. (Applause.)

And I also experienced a time later on in my training, in the 1960s, when the culture was changing. The Vietnam War was going on, the drugs were there, and pornography came in, and abortion became prevalent even though it was illegal.

So the morality of the country changed, but then the law followed up. When the morality changed, it will — reflects on the laws. The law is very important. We should have these laws. But law will not correct the basic problem, and that’s the morality of the people that we must do. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, just very, very briefly, I want to talk a little bit about that funding, because the flaw there is, if you — if you send funding out and you say, well, you can have it for birth control but not for abortion, all funds are fungible. Even funds that go to any hospital, if you say, well, it’s not for birth control and it’s not for Planned Parenthood, it’s not for abortion — if you send it to the hospital, they can still use that money. This is an indictment of government- run medicine, because you never can sort that all out. (Cheers, applause.) You need the government out of that business, or you will always argue over who’s paying what bills.

MR. KING: All right. Very quickly, Senator.

MR. SANTORUM: I think that — that was directed at me, and so I would just say this.

REP. PAUL: (No ?).

MR. SANTORUM: Congressman Paul has a National Right to Life voting record of 50 percent, which is pretty much what Harry Reid’s National Right to Life voting record is. So for — to go out and say that, you know, you’re someone who stands up for the right to life, you repeatedly vote against bills on a federal level to promote the right to life, and you say that this is an individual personal decision or state decision. Life should be protected, and you should have the willingness to stand up on a federal level and any level of government and protect what our — excuse me — what our declaration protects, which is the right of our Creator to life, and that is a federal issue, not a state issue. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Quickly, sir.

REP. PAUL: Well, just — just for the record, I wasn’t even thinking about you when I was giving my statement.

MR. SANTORUM: (Off mic.)

REP. PAUL: So you are overly sensitive. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)

But it — but it is true that we have a disagreement on how we approach it. I follow what my understanding is of the Constitution, and it — it does allow for the states to deal with difficult problems. As a matter of fact, it allows the states to deal with almost all the problems, if you look at it. It is not given — these powers aren’t given to the Congress.

I see abortion as a violent act. All other violence is handled by the states: murder, burglary, violence. That’s a state issue. (Cheers, applause.) So don’t try to say that I’m less pro-life because I want to be particular about the way we do it and allow the states the prerogative.

This is the solution. This is the solution, because if we would allow the states to write their laws, take away the jurisdiction by a majority vote in the Congress, you repeal Roe versus Wade overnight instead of waiting year after year to change the court system. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: All right. We need to take one more break. Gentlemen, stand by.

Less than 35 hours away now from the polls opening right here in South Carolina, a state that is crucial, often decisive, in Republican presidential politics. Stay with us and hear the candidates’ closing arguments to the voters of a state that takes pride in picking presidents. (Cheers, applause.)

(Announcements.)

(Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Welcome back to the Southern Republican Presidential Debate. We’re in Charleston, South Carolina tonight. Gentlemen, we’re running out of time. Time flies. I wish we could stay all night. I don’t suspect you have campaigning to do. I don’t suspect you’ll agree to that. I didn’t think so. (Laughter.)

You know the history of this state. We’re inside 35 hours now from voters in South Carolina going to the polls, and we all know the history of this state. In modern times, the winner of the South Carolina Republican primary has gone on to be your party’s nominee. We have an interesting race at the moment: Senator Santorum wins Iowa, Governor Romney wins New Hampshire, everybody’s waiting to see. Most people believe, Governor Romney wins here, he would be the prohibitive favorite.

I want each of you, since we have a short time left — and I’ll start on the end, we’ll come down the line. Congressman Paul, make your case. Make your case. South Carolina essentially faces this decision: not so fast, let’s continue the race; or embrace Governor Romney. Make your case to the people of South Carolina in these final hours.

REP. PAUL: Well, South Carolina is known for their respect for liberty. And a lot of people will ask the question — (applause) — they will ask the question in a way, what will you do for South Carolina or what will you do for New Hampshire, what will you do for the various states. But if you understand liberty, it’s equal for everybody. It benefits everybody. So if you have a protection of liberty, which is the purpose of the Constitution — protection of individual liberty — and that means you protect the private property rights system. And if you do that, that benefits everybody.

And this is what we have to do, is convince people that we can bring people together with the understanding of what those — those beliefs were that made America great.

And it is freedom. It isn’t this continued spending money and debt.

This is the reason — we’re in a mountain of debt, and we have to deal with it. We really never even got around to talking about that tonight. And one of my very modest proposals — (cheers, applause) — my modest proposal is in the one: first year, cut a trillion dollars out of the budget, to get started. (Cheers, applause.) Because the debt bubble is a great burden. It’s a debt — it’s a burden to all of us. And as I mentioned earlier, these programs are going to go down, if we don’t get our budget under control. And we have to be willing to look at overseas spending and all of the entitlement system here in this country. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker.

MR. GINGRICH: Well, let me start — I want to thank CNN, and I want to thank the people of Charleston for a very, very interesting and very useful evening.

And we have a real challenge. It is imperative that we defeat Barack Obama. (Cheers, applause.) This is, I believe, the most dangerous president of our lifetime, and if he is reelected, after the disaster he has been, the level of radicalism of his second term will be truly frightening.

But in addition to beating Obama, we have to have a team victory in the Senate and the House, and we have to have a principled victory, so the American people will send a signal that in January of (2000- turn-13 ?), they want very dramatic, very deep change in Washington. (Applause.)

I believe the only way to create the momentum is to be able to overcome his billion-dollar campaign with a series of debates which decisively convince the American people that a Saul Alinsky radical who is incompetent cannot be reelected. And I hope you will vote for me on Saturday as the person who could do that. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Governor Romney.

MR. ROMNEY: I agree with a lot of what these last two men have just said. I think this is an absolutely critical election. I believe that the Founders took very careful thought in — in the preparation of the words of our Declaration of Independence, that said that the Creator had endowed us with certain unalienable rights — not the state, but the Creator — among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And by virtue of those words, the pursuit of happiness, this became the place on the planet where we were able to pursue our dreams as we might choose. People came here from all over the world, wishing to pursue happiness in their own way. And that has made us the most powerful economic engine in the world, where we can guard freedom because our military is the strongest in the world coming from that powerful economic engine.

This president’s changing that. He’s changing the very nature of America. He’s turning us not from a — a — a merit society, an opportunity society where people are free to choose their own course, but instead he’s making us an entitlement society where people think they’re entitled to what other people have, where government takes from some and gives to others. That has never been the source of American greatness.

We need to return to the principles upon which this country was founded. Our president said, I think in a very revealing way, that he wants to fundamentally transform America. He’s wrong; we need to restore the values that made America the hope of the Earth. And I understand those values. (Applause.) I will do everything in my power to restore those values by keeping America free, by fighting for free enterprise, by standing up to President Obama and pointing out how he has made it almost impossible for our private sector to reboot. I will get America working again. I will defeat Barack Obama and keep America as it’s always been, the shining city on a hill. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Senator Santorum.

MR. SANTORUM: I agree with Governor Romney 100 percent on what he said about what the — what the — what the stakes are.

The question is: Who’s the best person to take on President Obama? I would make the argument that a conviction conservative who has a clear contrast with President Obama on the most important issues of the day is the best person — someone who has a clear contrast on health care, a clear contrast on global warming, a clear contrast on the Wall Street bailout — will talk about the one issue — that huge issue in the last couple of years where government has come in and taken over, and both Newt and Governor Romney have supported that.

We’re — we need someone who not only says now they’re going to stand up for conservative principles — the big issues; (plus ?) someone who has a track record of doing so, and winning. I’m the only one in this race that’s ever defeated a Democratic incumbent. I did it for the Congress and I did it for the Senate. (Applause.)

We’re the only people in this race that actually has won a swing state. And I did it because I have a plan like I outlined today. I come from those states. I come from the background — I come with the working-class and strong credentials not just with a plan, but with the character that fits in with exactly the voters we need — those Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan and Indiana and Wisconsin. Those are the votes and those are the states. You want to win? Elect someone who can win in the states we have to win and draw the clear contrast with President Obama.

South Carolina, you’ve been told in the past you’ve got to settle for a moderate because they can win. And you said — when the last time we had a situation like this in 1980, you said: No, we’re going to take the strong conviction conservative, and you voted for Reagan before Reagan was the Reagan we knew. Vote for the one who can do the job that America needs. Vote for me. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: That concludes our debate this evening. I want to thank all of our candidate for their time tonight. I want to thank our wonderful audience. We also want to thank the people of South Carolina — I do, for CNN — (cheers, applause) — I know the candidates do as well.

Tune in to CNN 6 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, our special coverage of the South Carolina presidential primary. (Cheers, applause continue.)

Also, next Thursday we’ll be live in Jacksonville, Florida, for a Republican presidential debate there.

END

Video: Newt Gingrich’s Standing Ovation at South Carolina GOP Debate

January 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Juan mop, meet floor.

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BuzzFeed

Christinewjc at Talk Wisdom links…thanks!

Cain, Romney & Gingrich Answer the Muslim in Government Question [Update:What Would Obama Say?]

June 15, 2011 at 4:30 am

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Update: I know! Let’s ask Obama.

Um..

Obama appointee says Koran and Islam influenced Jefferson, Founding Fathers; writing book on sharia in US courts

al Hibri’s Youtube page has the following description of a video series, Dr. Azizah al-Hibri on Islam, Law, and the Concept of Democracy (Part I):

Uploaded by on Oct 16, 2009

Were the freedoms outlined in the U.S. Constitution influenced by the Quran? Professor Azizah Y. al-Hibri, President of Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, Islamic scholar and law professor at the University of Richmond, discusses the influences of the Quran and early Muslim history on Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. Listen as Dr. al-Hibri explains the implications of the Quran on U.S. Constitutional principles from freedom of religion to the separation of church and state.

Watch the video as well. Screen shot in case the memory hole gets hungry. >>>

…never mind.

Read it all.

Update 2:

Obama Campaign Sends Around Misleading DNC Video on GOP Debate – Jake Tapper

Debate transcript.

 

Video: Rising GOP Star Paul Ryan Annihilates ObamaCare…

February 25, 2010 at 10:45 pm

…In just over six minutes.

“This is a ponzi scheme which would make Bernie Madoff proud.” Rep Paul Ryan as he verbally slapped Obama in the teeth~ ConserValidity

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Transcript:
BOEHNER: Mr. President — Mr. President, Mr. Ryan is going to open this conversation on behalf of us.

RYAN: Thank you.

Look, we agree on the problem here. And the problem is health inflation is driving us off of a fiscal cliff.

Mr. President, you said health care reform is budget reform. You’re right. We agree with that. Medicare, right now, has a $38 trillion unfunded liability. That’s $38 trillion in empty promises to my parents’ generation, our generation, our kids’ generation. Medicaid’s growing at 21 percent each year. It’s suffocating states’ budgets. It’s adding trillions in obligations that we have no means to pay for it.

Now, you’re right to frame the debate on cost and health inflation. And in September, when you spoke to us in the well of the House, you basically said — and I totally agree with this — I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits either now or in the future.

Since the Congressional Budget Office can’t score your bill, because it doesn’t have sufficient detail, but it tracks very similar to the Senate bill, I want to unpack the Senate score a little bit.

And if you take a look at the CBO analysis, analysis from your chief actuary, I think it’s very revealing. This bill does not control costs. This bill does not reduce deficits. Instead, this bill adds a new health care entitlement at a time when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have.

Now, let me go through why I say that. The majority leader said the bill scores as reducing the deficit $131 billion over the next 10 years. First, a little bit about CBO. I work with them every single day — very good people, great professionals. They do their jobs well. But their job is to score what is placed in front of them. And what has been placed in front of them is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors. Now, what do I mean when I say that?

Well, first off, the bill has 10 years of tax increases, about half a trillion dollars, with 10 years of Medicare cuts, about half a trillion dollars, to pay for six years of spending.

Now, what’s the true 10-year cost of this bill in 10 years? That’s $2.3 trillion.

It does couple of other things. It takes $52 billion in higher Social Security tax revenues and counts them as offsets. But that’s really reserved for Social Security. So either we’re double-counting them or we don’t intend on paying those Social Security benefits.

It takes $72 billion and claims money from the CLASS Act. That’s the long-term care insurance program. It takes the money from premiums that are designed for that benefit and instead counts them as offsets.

The Senate Budget Committee chairman said that this is a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud.

Now, when you take a look at the Medicare cuts, what this bill essentially does — it treats Medicare like a piggy bank. It raids a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare, not to shore up Medicare solvency, but to spend on this new government program.

Now, when you take a look at what this does, is, according to the chief actuary of Medicare, he’s saying as much as 20 percent of Medicare’s providers will either go out of business or will have to stop seeing Medicare beneficiaries. Millions of seniors who are on — who have chosen Medicare Advantage will lose the coverage that they now enjoy.

You can’t say that you’re using this money to either extend Medicare solvency and also offset the cost of this new program. That’s double counting.

And so when you take a look at all of this; when you strip out the double-counting and what I would call these gimmicks, the full 10- year cost of the bill has a $460 billion deficit. The second 10-year cost of this bill has a $1.4 trillion deficit.

And I think, probably, the most cynical gimmick in this bill is something that we all probably agree on. We don’t think we should cut doctors 21 percent next year. We’ve stopped those cuts from occurring every year for the last seven years.

We all call this, here in Washington, the doc fix. Well, the doc fix, according to your numbers, costs $371 billion. It was in the first iteration of all of these bills, but because it was a big price tag and it made the score look bad, made it look like a deficit, that bill was — that provision was taken out, and it’s been going on in stand-alone legislation. But ignoring these costs does not remove them from the backs of taxpayers. Hiding spending does not reduce spending. And so when you take a look at all of this, it just doesn’t add up.

And so let’s just — I’ll finish with the cost curve. Are we bending the cost curve down or are we bending the cost curve up?

Well, if you look at your own chief actuary at Medicare, we’re bending it up. He’s claiming that we’re going up $222 billion, adding more to the unsustainable fiscal situation we have.

And so, when you take a look at this, it’s really deeper than the deficits or the budget gimmicks or the actuarial analysis. There really is a difference between us.

And we’ve been talking about how much we agree on different issues, but there really is a difference between us. And it’s basically this. We don’t think the government should be in control of all of this. We want people to be in control. And that, at the end of the day, is the big difference.

Now, we’ve offered lots of ideas all last year, all this year. Because we agree the status quo is unsustainable. It’s got to get fixed. It’s bankrupting families. It’s bankrupting our government. It’s hurting families with pre-existing conditions. We all want to fix this.

But we don’t think that this is the answer to the solution. And all of the analysis we get proves that point.

Now, I’ll just simply say this. And I respectfully disagree with the vice president about what the American people are or are not saying or whether we’re qualified to speak on their behalf. So…

(LAUGHTER)

… we are all representatives of the American people. We all do town hall meetings. We all talk to our constituents. And I’ve got to tell you, the American people are engaged. And if you think they want a government takeover of health care, I would respectfully submit you’re not listening to them.

So what we simply want to do is start over, work on a clean- sheeted paper, move through these issues, step by step, and fix them, and bring down health care costs and not raise them. And that’s basically the point.

Previously:

Transcript Speech-Q&A: Obama at House GOP conference Baltimore 1/29/10

January 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm

OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you so much. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you, John, for the gracious introduction.

To Mike and Eric, thank you for hosting me.

Thank you to all of you for receiving me. It is wonderful to be here.

I want to also acknowledge Mark Strand, the president of the Congressional Institute.

To all the family members who are here and who have to put up with us who are in elective office each and every day, thank you, because I know that’s tough.

(APPLAUSE)

I very much am appreciative of not only the tone of your introduction, John, but also the invitation that you extended to me. You know what they say, “Keep your friends close, but visit the Republican Caucus every few months.”

(LAUGHTER)

Now, part of the reason I accepted your invitation to come here was because I wanted to speak with all of you, and not just to all of you. So I’m looking forward to taking your questions and having a real conversation in a few moments.

And I hope that the conversation we begin here doesn’t end here, that we can continue our dialogue in the days ahead.

It’s important to me that we do so; it’s important to you, I think, that we do so. But, most importantly, it’s important to the American people that we do so.

I’ve said this before, but I’m a big believer not just in the value of a loyal opposition, but in its necessity. Having differences of opinion, having a real debate about matters of domestic policy and national security; that’s not something that’s only good for our country, it’s absolutely essential.

It’s only through the process of disagreement and debate that bad ideas get tossed out and good ideas get refined and made better. And that kind of vigorous back-and-forth, that imperfect, but well-founded process, messy as it often is, is at the heart of our democracy. It’s what makes us the greatest nation in the world.

So, yes, I want you to challenge my ideas. And I guarantee you that, after reading this, I may challenge a few of yours.

(LAUGHTER)

I want you to stand up for your beliefs. And knowing this caucus, I have no doubt that you will. I want us to have a constructive debate.

The only thing I don’t want — and here I am listening to the American people, and I think they don’t want either — is for Washington to continue being so Washington-like. I know folks when we’re in — in town there, spend a lot of time reading the polls and looking at focus groups and interpreting which party has the upper hand in November and in 2012 and so on and so on and so on. That’s their obsession.

And I’m not a pundit; I’m just a president. So take it for what it’s worth.

But I don’t believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security. They want us to focus on their job security.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I don’t think they want more gridlock. I don’t think they want more partisanship. I don’t think they want more obstruction. They didn’t send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel cage match to see who comes out alive. That’s not what they want.

They sent us to Washington to work together, to get things done, and to solve the problems that they’re grappling with every single day.

And I think your constituents would want to know that, despite the fact it doesn’t get a lot of attention, you and I have actually worked together on a number of occasions.

There have been times where we’ve acted in a bipartisan fashion, and I want to thank you and your Democratic colleagues for reaching across the aisle.

There has been, for example, broad support for putting in the troops necessary in Afghanistan to deny Al Qaida safe haven, to break the Taliban’s momentum and to train Afghan security forces. There’s been broad support for disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaida.

And I know that we’re all united in our admiration of our troops.

(APPLAUSE)

So it may be useful for the international audience right now to understand, and certainly for our enemies to have no doubt, whatever divisions and differences may exist in Washington, the United States of America stands as one to defend our country.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s that same spirit of bipartisanship that made it possible for me to sign a defense contracting reform bill that was co-sponsored by Senator McCain and members of Congress here today.

We’ve stood together on behalf of our nation’s veterans. Together we passed the largest increase in the V.A.’s budget in more than 30 years and supported essential veterans health care reforms to provide better access and medical care for those who serve in uniform.

Some of you also joined Democrats in supporting a credit card bill of rights and in extending unemployment compensation to Americans who were out of work.

Some of you joined us in stopping tobacco companies from targeting kids, expanding opportunities for young people to serve our country, and helping responsible homeowners stay in their homes.

So we have a track record of working together. It is possible. But, as John, you mentioned, on some very big things we’ve seen party- line votes that — I’m just going to be honest — were disappointing.

OBAMA: Let’s start with our efforts to jump-start the economy last winter when we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. Our financial system teetered on the brink of collapse and the threat of a second Great Depression loomed large.

I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t understand, why we got opposition in this caucus for almost $300 billion in badly needed tax cuts for the American people or COBRA coverage to help Americans who’d lost jobs in this recession to keep the health insurance that they desperately needed, or opposition to putting Americans to work laying broadband and rebuilding roads and bridges and breaking ground on new construction projects.

There was an interesting headline in — in CNN today: Americans disapprove of stimulus, but like every policy in it. And there was a poll that showed that if you broke it down into its component parts, 80 percent approved of the tax cuts, 80 percent approved of the infrastructure, 80 percent approved of the assistance to the unemployed.

Well, that’s what the Recovery Act was, and I — you know, let’s face it, some of you have been at the ribbon cuttings for some of these important projects in your communities.

Now, I understand some of you had some philosophical differences, perhaps, on just the concept of government spending, but as I recall, opposition was declared before we had a chance to actually meet and exchange ideas. And I saw that as a missed opportunity.

Now, I am happy to report this morning that we saw another sign that our economy is moving in the right direction. The latest GDP numbers show that our economy is growing by almost 6 percent. That’s the most since 2003.

To put that in perspective, this time last year we weren’t seeing positive job. We were seeing the economy shrink by about 6 percent. So we’ve seen a 12 percent reversal during the course of this year.

This turnaround is the biggest in nearly three decades, and it didn’t happen by accident. It happened, as economists, conservative and liberal, will attest, because of some of the steps that we took.

OBAMA: And, by the way, you know, you mentioned the Web site out here, John. If you want to look at what’s going on in the Recovery Act, you can look on recovery.gov, a Web site, by the way, that was Eric Cantor’s idea.

Now, here’s the point: These are serious times. And what’s required by all of us, Democrats and Republicans, is to do what’s right for our country, even if it’s not always what’s best for our politics.

I know it may be heresy to say this, but there are things more important than good poll numbers. And on this, no one can accuse me of not living by my principles.

(LAUGHTER)

A middle class that’s back on its feet, an economy that lifts everybody up, an America that’s ascendant in the world: That’s more important than winning an election.

Our future shouldn’t be shaped by what’s best for our politics. Our politics should be shaped by what’s best for our future.

But, no matter what’s happened in the past, the important thing for all of us is to move forward together.

We have some issues right in front of us on which I believe we should agree because, as successful as we’ve been in spurring new economic growth, everybody understands that job growth has been lagging.

Some of that’s predictable. Every economist will say jobs are a lagging indicator. But that’s no consolation for the folks who are out there suffering right now.

And since 7 million Americans have lost their jobs in this recession, we’ve got to do everything we can to accelerate.

So, today, in line with what I stated in the State of the Union, I’ve proposed a new jobs tax credit for small business. And here’s how it would work.

Employers would get a tax credit of up to $5,000 for every employee they add in 2010.

They’d get a tax break for increases in wages as well. So if you raise wages for employees making under $100,000, we’d refund part of your payroll tax for every dollar you increase those wages faster than inflation.

It’s a simple concept. It’s easy to understand. It would cut taxes for more than 1 million small businesses.

So I hope you join me. Let’s get this done.

I want to eliminate the capital gains tax for small business investment and take some of the bailout money the Wall Street banks have returned and used it to help community banks start lending to small businesses again.

So join me.

I am confident that we can do this together for the American people. And there’s nothing in that proposal that runs contrary to the ideological predispositions of this caucus. The question is, what’s going to keep us from getting this done.

OBAMA: I’ve proposed a modest fee on the nation’s largest banks and financial institutions to fully recover the taxpayers’ money that they provided to the financial sector when it was teetering on the brink of collapse. And it’s designed to discourage them from taking reckless risks in the future.

If you listen to the American people, John, they’ll tell you they want their money back. Let’s do this together, Republicans and Democrats.

I’ve proposed that we close tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping American jobs overseas, and instead give companies greater incentive to create jobs right here at home — right here at home. Surely that’s something that we can do together, Republicans and Democrats.

We know that we’ve got a major fiscal challenge in reining in deficits that have been growing for a decade and threaten our future. That’s why I’ve proposed a three-year freeze in discretionary spending, other than what we need for national security. That’s something we should do together. That’s consistent with a lot of the talk, both in Democratic caucuses and Republican caucuses. We can’t blink when it’s time to actually do the job.

At this point, we know that the budget surpluses of the ’90s occurred in part because of the pay-as-you-go law, which said that, well, you should pay as you go and live within our means, just like families do every day. Twenty-four of voted for that, and I appreciate it, and were able to pass it in the Senate yesterday.

But the idea of a bipartisan fiscal commission to confront the deficits in the long term died in the Senate the other day, so I’m going to establish such a commission by executive order.

And I hope that you participate fully and genuinely in that effort. Because if we’re going to actually deal with our deficit and debt, everybody here knows that we’re going to have to do it together, Republican and Democrat.

No single party is going to make the tough choices involved on its own. It’s going to require all of us doing what’s right for the American people.

And as I said in the State of the Union speech, there’s not just a deficit of dollars in Washington, there’s a deficit of trust. So I hope you’ll support my proposal to make all congressional earmarks public before they come to a vote. And let’s require lobbyists who exercise such influence to publicly disclose all their contacts on behalf of their clients, whether they are contacts with my administration or contacts with Congress.

OBAMA: Let’s do the people’s business in the bright light of day, together, Republicans and Democrats.

I know how bitter and contentious the issue of health insurance reform has become, and I will eagerly look at the ideas and better solutions on the health care front.

If anyone here truly believes our health insurance system is working well for people, I respect your right to say so, but I just don’t agree and neither would millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who can’t get coverage today, or find out that they lose their insurance just as they’re getting seriously ill. That’s exactly when you need insurance, and for too many people, they’re not getting it. I don’t think a system is working when small businesses are gouged, and 15,000 Americans are losing coverage every single day, when premiums have doubled and out-of-pocket costs have exploded and they’re poised to do so again.

I mean, to be fair, the status quo is working for the insurance industry, but it’s not working for the American people. It’s not working for our federal budget.

It needs to change. This is a big problem and all of us are called on to solve it.

And that’s why from the start I sought out and supported ideas from the Republicans. I even talked about an issue that has been a holy grail for a lot of you, which was tort reform, and said that I’d be willing to work together as part of a comprehensive package to deal with it. I just didn’t get a lot of nibbles.

Creating a high-risk pool for uninsured folks with preexisting conditions; that wasn’t my idea, it was Senator McCain’s. And I supported it and it got incorporated into our approach.

Allowing insurance companies to sell coverage across state lines to add choice and competition and bring down costs for businesses and consumers — that’s an idea that some of you, I suspect, included in this better solutions. That’s an idea that was incorporated into our package. I support it, provided that we do it hand-in-hand with broader reforms that protect benefits and protect patients and protect the American people.

A number of you have suggested creating pools where self-employed and small businesses could buy insurance. That was a good idea. I embraced it. Some of you supported efforts to provide insurance to children and let kids remain covered on their parents’ insurance until they are 25 or 26. I supported that. That’s part of our package.

I supported a number of other ideas from incentivizing wellness to creating an affordable catastrophic insurance option for young people that came from Republicans like Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe in the Senate, and I’m sure from some of you as well.

OBAMA: So when you say I ought to be willing to accept Republican ideas on health care, let’s be clear: I have. Bipartisanship, not for its own sake, but to solve problems, that’s what our constituents, the American people, need from us right now.

All of us, then, have a choice to make. We have to choose whether we’re going to be politicians first or partners for progress, whether we’re going to put success at the polls ahead of the lasting success we can achieve together for America.

Just think about it for a while. We don’t have to put it up for a vote today.

Let me close by saying this: I was not elected by Democrats or Republicans, but by the American people. That’s especially true because the fastest-growing group of Americans are independents. That should tell us both something.

I’m ready and eager to work with anyone who is willing to proceed in the spirit of goodwill. But understand, if we can’t break free from partisan gridlock, if we can’t move past the politics of no, if resistance supplants constructive debate, I still have to meet my responsibilities as president. I’ve got to act for the greater good, because that, too, is a commitment that I have made. And that, too, is what the American people sent me to Washington to do.

So I am optimistic. I know many of you individually. And the irony, I think, of our political climate right now is that, compared to other countries, the differences between the two major parties on most issues is not as big as it’s represented. But we’ve gotten caught up in the political game in a way that’s just not healthy. It’s dividing our country in ways that are preventing us from meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

I’m hopeful that the conversation we have today can help reverse that. So thank you very much.

Thank you, John.

(APPLAUSE)

Now I’d like to open it up for questions.

PENCE: The president has agreed to take questions, and members will be encouraged to raise your hand while you remain in your seat.

(LAUGHTER)

The chair will take the prerogative to make a brief remark and pose the first question.

Mr. President, welcome back to the House Republican Conference.

OBAMA: Thank you.

PENCE: We are pleased to have you return (inaudible) a year ago. House Republicans said then we would make you two promises. Number one, that most people in this room and their families would pray for you and your beautiful family just about every day for the four years. I want to assure you we’re keeping that promise.

OBAMA: I appreciate that.

PENCE: Number two, (inaudible) to you, Mr. President, was that door (ph) was always open. And we hope that by evidence of our invitation to you that we can demonstrate that (inaudible).

Mr. President, (inaudible) us in this conference yesterday, on the way into Baltimore, stopped by the Salvation Army homeless facility here in Baltimore yesterday.

PENCE: I met a little boy, an African-American boy, in the 8th grade, named David Carter Jr.

When he heard that I would be seeing you today, his eyes lit up like I haven’t seen. And I told him if he wrote you a letter, I’d give it to you. And I have.

But I had a conversation with little David Jr. and David Sr. And their families are struggling in this economy. His dad said words to me, Mr. President, that I’ll never forget. About my age, and he said — he said, “Congressman, it’s not like it was when we were coming up.” He said, “There’s just no jobs.”

Now, last year, about the time you met with us, unemployment was 7.5 percent in this country. Your administration and your party in Congress told us that we’d have to borrow more than $700 billion to pay for a so-called stimulus bill that was a piecemeal list of projects and boutique tax cuts, all of which we were told had to be passed or unemployment would go to 8 percent, as your administration said.

Well, unemployment is 10 percent now, as you well know, Mr. President. Here in Baltimore, it’s considerably higher.

Now, Republicans offered a stimulus bill at the same time. It cost half as much as the Democratic proposal in Congress. And using your economic analyst models, it would have created twice the jobs at half the cost. It essentially was across-the-board tax relief, Mr. President.

Now, we know you’ve come to Baltimore today and you’ve — you’ve raised this — a tax credit which was last promoted by President Jimmy Carter.

But the first question I would pose to you, very respectfully, Mr. President, is would you be willing to consider embracing, in the name of little David Carter Jr. and his dad, in the name of every struggling family in this country, the kind of across-the-board tax relief that Republicans have advocated, that President Kennedy advocated, that President Reagan advocated, and that has always been the means of stimulating broad-based economic growth?

OBAMA: Well, the — there was a lot packed into that question there.

(LAUGHTER) First of all, let me — let me say I already promised that I’ll be writing back to that young man and his family…

PENCE: Thank you.

OBAMA: … and I appreciate you passing on the letter.

OBAMA: Let’s talk about just the jobs environment generally.

You’re absolutely right than when I was sworn in, the hope was that unemployment would remain around 8 — or in the 8 percent range. That was just based on the estimates made by both conservative and liberal economists because at that point not all the data had trickled in.

We had lost 650,000 jobs in December. I’m assuming you’re not faulting my policies for that. We had lost, it turns out, 700,000 jobs in January, the month I was sworn in. I’m assuming it wasn’t my administration policies that accounted for that. We lost another 650,000 jobs the subsequent month, before any of my policies had gone in to effect. So I’m assuming that wasn’t as a consequence of our policies. That doesn’t reflect the failure of the Recovery Act.

The point being that what ended up happening was that the job losses from this recession proved to be much more severe in the first quarter of last year going into the second quarter of last year than anybody anticipated.

So, I mean, I think we — we can score political points on the basis of the fact that we underestimated how severe the job losses were going to be, but those job losses took place before any stimulus, whether it was the ones that you guys have proposed or the ones that we proposed, could have ever taken to effect.

Now, that’s just the fact, Mike, and I don’t think anybody would dispute that. I — you could not find an economist who would dispute that.

Now, at the same time, as I mentioned, most economists, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, would say that had it not been for the stimulus package that we passed, things would be much worse.

Now, they didn’t fill a 7 million hole in the unemployment — in the number of people who were unemployed. They probably account for about 2 million, which means we still have 5 million folks in there that we’ve still got to deal with. That’s a lot of people.

The package that we put together at the beginning of the year, the truth is should have reflected, and I believe reflected what most of you would say are common-sense things. This notion that this was a radical package is just not true. A third of them were tax cuts. And they weren’t — when you say they were boutique tax cuts, Mike, 95 percent of working Americans got tax cuts. Small businesses got tax cuts. Large businesses got help in terms of their depreciation schedules.

OBAMA: I mean, it was a pretty conventional list of tax cuts.

A third of it was stabilizing state budgets. There is not a single person in here who, had it not been for what was in the stimulus package, wouldn’t be going home to more teachers laid off, more firefighters laid off, more cops laid off.

A big chunk of it was unemployment insurance and COBRA, just making sure that people had some floor beneath them — and, by the way, making sure that there was enough money in their pockets that businesses had some customers.

You take those two things out, that accounts for the majority of the stimulus package. Are there people in this room who would think that was a bad idea?

A portion of it was dealing with the AMT — right? — the alternative minimum tax. Not a proposal of mine. That’s not a consequence of my policies that we have a tax system where we keep on putting off a potential tax hike that is embedded in the budget that we have to fix each year. That cost about $70 billion.

And then the last portion of it was infrastructure, which, as I said, a lot of you have gone to appear at ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against.

Now, I say all this not to relitigate the past, but it’s simply to state that the component parts of the Recovery Act are consistent with what many of you say are important things to do: rebuilding our infrastructure, tax cuts for families and businesses, and making sure that we were providing states and individuals some support when the roof was caving in.

And the notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs — why would I resist that? I wouldn’t. I mean, that’s my point, is that — I am not an ideologue. I’m not. It doesn’t make sense if somebody could tell me, “You could do this cheaper and get increased results,” that I wouldn’t say, “Great.”

OBAMA: The problem is, I couldn’t find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made.

Now, we — we can — here’s what I know going forward, though. I mean, we’re talking — you know, we’re talking about the past. We can talk about this going forward.

I have looked at every idea out there in terms of accelerating job growth to match the economic growth that’s already taken place.

The jobs credit that I’m discussing right now is one that a lot of people think would be the most cost-effective way for encouraging people to pick up their hiring.

There may be other ideas that you guys have. I am happy to look at them and I’m happy to embrace them. I suspect I will embrace some of them. Some of them I’ve already embraced.

But the question I think we’re going to have to ask ourselves is, as we move forward, are we going to be examining each of these issues based on what’s good for the country, what the evidence tells us, or are we going to be trying to position ourselves so that come November, we’re able to say, “The other party, it’s their fault”?

If we take the latter approach, then we’re probably not going to get much agreement. If we take the former, I suspect there’s going to be a lot of overlap. All right?

PENCE: Mr. President, would — will you consider supporting across-the-board tax relief, as President Kennedy did?

OBAMA: Here’s what I’m going to do, Mike: What I’m going to do is I’m going to take a look at what you guys are proposing.

And the reason — the reason I say this, you know, before you say OK, I think it is — I think is important to note, you know, what you may consider across-the-board tax cuts could be, for example, greater tax cuts for people who are making a billion dollars. I may not agree to a tax cut for Warren Buffett. You may be calling for a (sic) across-the-board tax cut for the banking industry right now. I may not agree to that.

So, you know, I think that we’ve got to look at what specific proposals you’re putting forward.

And — this is the last point I’ll make — if you’re calling for just across-the-board tax cuts and then, on the other hand, saying that we’re somehow going to balance our budget, I’m going to want to take a look at your math and see how that — how that works. Because the issue of deficit and debt is another area where there has been a tendency for some inconsistent statements.

How’s that? All right?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

PENCE: Paul Ryan from Wisconsin?

RYAN: Thank you.

Mr. President, first of all, thanks for agreeing to accept our invitation here. It is a real pleasure and honor to have you with us here today.

OBAMA: Good to see you.

Is this your crew right here, by the way?

RYAN: Yes, this is my daughter Liza, my sons Charlie and Sam, and this is my wife Janna.

OBAMA: Hey, guys.

RYAN: Say “hi” to everybody.

(LAUGHTER)

I serve as the ranking member of the Budget Committee, so I want to talk a little budget, if you don’t mind.

OBAMA: Yes.

RYAN: The spending bills that you have signed into law, the domestic and discretionary spending has been increased by 84 percent. You now want to freeze spending at this elevated level beginning next year. This means that total spending in your budget would grow at 300ths of 1 percent less than otherwise. I would simply submit that we could do more and start now.

You’ve also said that you want to take a scalpel to the budget and go through it line by line. We want to give you that scalpel. I have a proposal with my home state senator, Russ Feingold, a bipartisan proposal, to create a constitutional version of the line- item veto.

(APPLAUSE)

The problem is we can’t even get a vote on the proposal.

So my question is, why not start freezing spending now? And would you support a line-item veto and helping us get a vote on it in the House?

OBAMA: Let me respond to the two specific questions, but I want to just push back a little bit on the underlying premise, about us increasing spending by 84 percent.

Now, look, I talked to Peter Orszag right before I came here, because I suspected I’d be hearing this — I’d be hearing this argument.

The fact of the matter is is that most of the increases in this year’s budget, this past year’s budget, were not as a consequence of policies that we initiated, but instead were built in as a consequence of the automatic stabilizers that kick in because of this enormous recession.

So the increase in the budget for this past year was actually predicted before I was even sworn into office and had initiated any policies. Whoever was in there, Paul — and I don’t think you’ll dispute that — whoever was in there would have seen those same increases because of, on the one hand, huge drops in revenue, but at the same time people were hurting and needed help. And a lot of these things happen automatically.

OBAMA: Now, the reason that I’m not proposing the discretionary freeze take into effect this year, retro — we prepared a budget for 2010, it’s now going forward — is, again, I am just listening to the consensus among people who know the economy best.

And what they will say is that if you either increased taxes or significantly lowered spending when the economy remains somewhat fragile, that that would have a destimulative effect and potentially you’d see a lot of folks losing business, more folks potentially losing jobs. That would be a mistake when the economy has not fully taken off.

That’s why I’ve proposed to do it for the next fiscal year. So, that’s point number two.

With respect to the line-item veto, I actually — I think there’s not a president out there that wouldn’t love to have it. And, you know, I think that this is an area where we can have a serious conversation. I know it is a bipartisan proposal by you and Russ Feingold.

I don’t like being held up with big bills that have stuff in them that are wasteful but I’ve got to sign because it’s a defense authorization bill and I’ve got to make sure that our troops are getting the funding that they need.

I will tell you, I would love for Congress itself to show discipline on both sides of the aisle. I think one thing that, you know, you have to acknowledge, Paul, because you study this stuff and take it pretty seriously, that the earmarks problem is not unique to one party, and you end up getting a lot of pushback when you start going after specific projects of any one of you in your districts, because wasteful spending is usually spent somehow outside of your district. Have you noticed that? The spending in your district tends to seem pretty sensible.

So I would love to see more restraint within Congress. I’d like to work on the earmarks reforms that I mentioned in terms of putting earmarks online, because I think sunshine is the best disinfectant. But I am willing to have a serious discussion on the line-item veto issue.

RYAN: OK. I’d like to walk you through it, because we have a version we think is constitutional…

OBAMA: Let me take a look at it. RYAN: I would simply say that automatic stabilizer spending is mandatory spending. The discretionary spending, the bills that Congresses signs — that you sign into law, that has increased 84 percent. So…

OBAMA: We’ll have a — we’ll have a longer debate on the budget numbers there, all right?

PENCE: Thank you, Paul.

Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia?

CAPITO: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Thank you.

CAPITO: … for joining us here today.

OBAMA: Thank you.

CAPITO: As you said on your — in the State of the Union address on Wednesday, jobs and the economy are number one. And I think everyone in this room, certainly I, agree with you on that.

I represent the state of West Virginia. We’re resource rich. We have a lot of coal and a lot of natural gas.

But our — my miners and the folks who are working and those who are unemployed are very concerned about some of your policies in these areas: cap-and-trade, an aggressive EPA and the looming prospect of higher taxes. In our minds, these are job-killing policies.

So I’m asking in — in to — if you would be willing to re-look at some of these policies, with the high unemployment and unsure economy that we have now, to assure West Virginians that you’re listening.

OBAMA: Well, I — look, I listen all the time, including to your governor, who’s somebody who I enjoyed working with a lot before the campaign and now that I’m president.

And I know that West Virginia struggles with unemployment. And I know how important coal is to West Virginia and a lot of the natural resources there. That’s part of the reason why I’ve said that we need a comprehensive energy policy that sets us up for a long-term future.

For example, nobody’s been a bigger promoter of clean coal technology than I am. In testament to that, I ended up being in a whole bunch of advertisements that you guys saw all the time about investing in ways for us to burn coal more cleanly.

I’ve said that I’m a promoter of nuclear energy, something that, you know, I think over the last three decades has been subject to a lot of partisan wrangling and ideological wrangling. I don’t think it makes sense. I think that that has to be part of our energy mix.

I’ve said that I am supportive — and I said this two nights ago at the State of the Union — that I’m in favor of increased production.

So if you look at the ideas that this caucus has, again, with respect to energy, I’m for a lot of what you said you are for.

The one thing that I’ve also said, though — and here we have a serious disagreement and my hope is we can work through this agreement — these disagreements; there’s be effort on the Senate side to do so on a bipartisan basis — is that we have to plan for the future.

And the future is that clean energy — cleaner forms of energy are going to be increasingly important. Because even if folks are still skeptical in some cases about climate change in our politics and in Congress, the world’s not skeptical about it.

If we’re going to be going after some of these big markets, they’re going to be looking to see is the United States the one that’s developing clean coal technology? Is the United States developing our natural gas resources in the most effective way? Is the United States the one that is going to lead in electric cars?

Because if we’re not leading, those other countries are going to be leading.

OBAMA: So what I want to do with West Virginia to figure out how we can seize that future. But to do that, that means there’s going to have to be some transition. We can’t operate the coal industry in the United States as if we’re still in the 1920s or the 1930s or the 1950s. We’ve got to be thinking, what does that industry look like in the next hundred years?

And it’s going to be different. And that means there’s going to be some transition, and that’s where I think a well-thought-through policy of incentivizing the new while, you know, recognizing that there’s going to be a transition process and we’re not just suddenly putting the old out of business right away. That has to be something that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to embrace.

PENCE: Jason Chaffetz, Utah?

Right behind you, Jason.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s truly an honor.

OBAMA: It’s great to be here.

CHAFFETZ: And I appreciate you being here.

I — I’m one of 22 House freshmen. We didn’t create this mess, but we are here to help clean it up. And (inaudible) talk a lot about this deficit of trust. There’s some things that have happened that I would appreciate your perspective on, because I can look you in the eye and tell you, we have not been obstructionist. The Democrats have the House and Senate and the presidency.

And when you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn’t. I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed.

You said you weren’t going to allow lobbyists in the senior-most positions within your administration, and yet you did. I applauded you when you said it, and disappointed when you didn’t.

You said you’d go line by line through the health care debate — or through the health care bill. And there were six of us, including Dr. Phil Roe, who sent you a letter and said, “We would like to take you up on that offer. We’d like to come.” We never heard a letter. We never got a call. We were never involved in any of those discussions. And when you said in the House of Representatives that you were going to tackle earmarks, and, in fact, you didn’t want to have any earmarks in any of your bills, I jumped up out of my seat and applauded you. But it didn’t happen.

More importantly, I want to talk about moving forward, but if we can address…

OBAMA: Well, how about — yes…

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: I’d certainly appreciate it.

OBAMA: That was a long list. So the…

(LAUGHTER)

Let me — let me respond.

Look, the truth of the matter is that if you look at the health care process — just over the course of the year — overwhelmingly the majority of it actually was on C-SPAN, because it was taking place in congressional hearings in which guys were participating.

OBAMA: I mean, the — how many committees were there that helped to shape this bill? Countless hearings took place.

Now, I kicked it off, by the way, with a meeting with many of you, including your key leadership.

What is true, there’s no doubt about it, is that once it got through the committee process and there were now a series of meetings taking place all over the Capitol trying to figure out how to get the thing together, that was a messy process. And I take responsibility for not having structured it in a way where it was all taking place in one place that could be filmed.

How to do that logistically would not have been as easy as — as it sounds because you’re shuttling back and forth between the House, the Senate, different offices, et cetera, different legislators. But I think it’s a legitimate criticism. So on that one, I take responsibility.

With respect to earmarks, we didn’t have earmarks in the Recovery Act. You know, we didn’t get a lot of credit for it, but there were no earmarks in that.

I was confronted at the beginning of my term with an omnibus package that did have a lot of earmarks from Republicans and Democrats, and a lot of people in this chamber. And the question was, was I going to have a big budget fight at a time when I was still trying to figure out whether or not the financial system was melting down and we had to make a whole bunch of emergency decisions about the economy. So what I said was let’s keep them to a minimum, but I couldn’t excise them all.

Now, the challenge, I guess, I would have for you as a freshman is what are you doing inside your caucus to make sure that I’m not the only guy who’s responsible for this stuff, so that we’re working together. Because this is going to be a process.

You know, when we talk about earmarks, I think all of us are willing to acknowledge that some of them are perfectly defensible, good projects. It’s just they haven’t gone through the regular appropriations process in the full light of day.

So one place to start is to make sure that they are at least transparent; that everybody knows what’s there before we — we move forward. In terms of lobbyists, I can stand here unequivocally and say that there has not been an administration who was tougher on making sure that lobbyists weren’t participating in the administration than any administration that’s come before us.

Now, what we did was if there were lobbyists who were on boards and commissions that were carryovers and their term hadn’t completed, we didn’t kick them off.

OBAMA: We simply said that moving forward, any time a new slot opens, they’re being replaced.

So we’ve actually been very consistent in making sure that we are eliminating the impact of lobbyists, day in-day out, on how this administration operates.

There have been a handful of waivers where somebody is highly skilled; for example, a doctor who ran Tobacco-Free Kids technically is a registered lobbyist, on the other hand, has more expertise than anybody in figuring out how kids don’t get hooked on cigarettes.

So there have been a couple of instances like that, but generally we’ve been very consistent on that front. OK?

CHAFFETZ: Thank you.

PENCE: Marcia Blackburn, Tennessee?

OBAMA: Hey.

BLACKBURN: Thank you, Mr. President.

And thank you for acknowledging that we have ideas on health care. Because, indeed, we do have ideas. We have plans. We have over 50 bills. We have lots of amendments that would bring health care ideas to the forefront.

We would — we’ve got plans to lower cost, to change purchasing models, address medical liability, insurance accountability, chronic and preexisting conditions, and access to affordable care for those with those conditions, insurance portability, expanded access, but not doing it with creating more government, more bureaucracy and more cost for the American taxpayer.

And we look forward to sharing those ideas with you. We want to work with you on health reform and making certain that we do it in an affordable, cost-effective way that is going to reduce bureaucracy, reduce government interference and reduce costs to individuals and to taxpayers.

And if those good ideas aren’t making it to you, maybe it’s the House Democrat leadership that is an impediment instead of a conduit.

OBAMA: Well, no…

(CROSSTALK) BLACKBURN: But we’re concerned also that there are lessons learned from public option health care plans that maybe are not being heeded. And certainly in my state of Tennessee, we were the test case for public option health care in 1994. And our Democrat government has even cautioned that maybe our experiences there would provide some lessons learned that should be heeded and would provide guidance for us to go forward.

BLACKBURN: And as you said, what we should be doing is tossing old ideas out, bad ideas out, and moving forward and refining good ideas. And certainly we would welcome that opportunity.

So my question to you is, when will we look forward to starting anew and sitting down with you to put all of these ideas on the table, to look at these lessons learned, to benefit from that experience, and to produce a product that is going to reduce government interference, reduce cost and be fair to the American taxpayer?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Actually, I’ve gotten many of your ideas. I’ve taken a look at them, even before I was handed this.

Some of the ideas we have embraced and are in our package.

Some of them are embraced with caveats. So let me give you an example.

I think one of the proposals that has been focused on by the Republicans as a way to reduce costs is allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines. We actually include that as part of our approach. But the caveat is we’ve got to do so with some minimum standards, because otherwise what happens is that you could have insurance companies circumvent a whole bunch of state regulations about, you know, basic benefits or what have you; making sure that a woman is able to get mammograms as part of preventive care, for example.

Part of what could happen is insurance companies could go into states and cherry-pick and just get those who are healthiest and leave behind those who are least healthy, which would raise everybody’s premiums who weren’t healthy, right?

So it’s not that many of these ideas aren’t workable, but we have to refine them to make sure that they don’t just end up worsening the situation for folks rather than making it better.

Now, what I said at the State of the Union is what I still believe. If you can show me and if I get confirmation from health care experts, people who know the system and how it works, including doctors and nurses, ways of reducing people’s premiums, covering those who do not have insurance, making it more affordable for small businesses, having insurance reforms that ensure people have insurance even when they’ve got preexisting conditions, that their coverage is not dropped just because they’re sick, that young people right out of college or as they’re entering in the workforce can still get health insurance — if those component parts are things that you care about and want to do, I’m game.

OBAMA: And I’ve got — and I’ve got a lot of these ideas.

The last thing I will say, though — let me say this about health care and the health care debate because I think it also bears on a whole lot of other issues.

If you look at the package that we’ve presented — and there’s some stray cats and dogs that got in there that we were eliminating — we were in the process of eliminating.

For example — for example, you know, we said from the start that — that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your — if you want to keep the health insurance you’ve got, you can keep it; that you’re not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decisionmaking. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.

And so we were — we were in the process of scrubbing this and making sure that it’s tight.

But at its core, if you look at the basic proposal that we put forward, it has an exchange so that businesses and the self-employed can buy into a pool and can get bargaining power the same way big companies do, the insurance reforms that I’ve already discussed, making sure that there’s choice and competition for those who don’t have health insurance.

The component parts of this thing are pretty similar to what Howard Baker, Bob Dole and Tom Daschle proposed at the beginning of this debate last year.

Now, you may not agree with Bob Dole and Howard Baker and Tom — and certainly you don’t agree with Tom Daschle on much…

(LAUGHTER)

… but that’s not a radical bunch. But if you were to listen to the debate, and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot.

(LAUGHTER)

No, I mean, that’s how you guys — that’s how you guys presented it.

(APPLAUSE)

And so I’m thinking to myself, “Well, how is it that a plan that is pretty centrist…”

(LAUGHTER)

No, look, I mean, I’m just saying — I know you guys disagree, but if you look at the facts of this bill, most independent observers would say this is actually what many Republicans — it — it’s similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care.

So all I’m saying is we’ve got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.

I’m not suggesting that we’re going to agree on everything, whether it’s on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me.

I mean, the fact of the matter is is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you’ve been telling your constituents is, “This guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.”

OBAMA: And I — I would just say that we have to think about tone.

It’s not just on your side, by the way. It’s — it’s on our side as well. This is part of what’s happened in our politics, where we demonize the other side so much that when it comes to actually getting things done, it becomes tough to do.

Mike?

PENCE: Dr. Tom Price from Georgia?

And then we’ll have one more after that, if your time permits, Mr. President.

OBAMA: You know, I’m having fun.

(LAUGHTER)

This is great.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: So are we.

Tom Price, Georgia?

PRICE: Thank you.

I want to stick on — on the general topic of health care, but ask a very specific question.

You have repeatedly said, most recently at — at the State of the Union, that Republicans have offered no ideas and no solutions, in spite of the fact…

OBAMA: I don’t think I said that.

What I said was within the context of health care — I remember that speech pretty well. It was only two days ago.

(LAUGHTER)

I said I’d welcome ideas that you might provide.

I didn’t say that you haven’t provided ideas. I said I’d welcome those ideas that you’ll provide.

PRICE: Mr. President, multiple times from your administration there have come statements that Republicans have no ideas and no solutions, in spite of that fact that we’ve offered, as demonstrated today, positive solutions to all of the challenges we face, including energy and the economy and health care.

Specifically, in the area of health care, this bill, H.R. 3400, that has more cosponsors than any health care bill in the House. It is a bill that would provide health coverage for all Americans, would correct the significant insurance challenges of portability and preexisting, would solve the lawsuit abuse issue, which isn’t addressed significantly in the other proposals that went through the House and the Senate, would write into law that medical decisions are made between patients and families and doctors, and does all of that without raising taxes by a penny.

But my specific question is, what should we tell our constituents who know that Republicans have offered positive solutions to the challenges that Americans face and yet continue to hear out of the administration that we’ve offered nothing?

OBAMA: Tell them I — look, I have to say, that on the — let’s just take the health care debate. And it’s probably not constructive for us to try to debate a particular bill. This isn’t the venue to do it.

But if you say that we can offer coverage for all Americans and it won’t cost a penny, that’s just not true. You can’t structure a bill where suddenly 30 million people have coverage and it costs nothing.

If…

(CROSSTALK)

PRICE: … and I understand that we’re not interested in debating this bill.

OBAMA: Sir…

PRICE: But what should we tell our constituents, who know that we’ve offered these solutions, and yet hear from the administration that — that we have offered nothing?

OBAMA: Let me — I’m using this as a specific example, so let me answer your question. You asked a question, I want to answer it.

OBAMA: It’s not enough, if you say, for example, that we’ve offered a health care plan and I look up — this is just under the section that you’ve just provided me — or the book that you’ve just provided me, “Summary of GOP Health Care Reform Bill.”

“The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing America’s number one priority for health reform.”

I mean, that’s an idea that we all embrace. But specifically it’s got to work. I mean, there’s got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, “Is this something that will actually work or is it boilerplate?”

You know, if I’m told, for example, that the solution to dealing with health care costs is tort reform, something that I’ve said I am willing to work with you on, but the CBO or other experts say to me, you know, “At best, this could reduce health care costs relative to where they’re growing by a couple of percentage points or save $5 billion a year, that’s what we can score it at, and it will not bend the cost curve long term or reduce premiums significantly,” then you can’t make the claim that that’s the only thing that we have to do.

If we’re going to do multi-state insurance so that people can go across state lines, I’ve got to be able to go to an independent health care expert, Republican or Democrat, who can tell me that this won’t result in cherry-picking of the healthiest going to some and the least healthy being worse off.

So I am absolutely committed to working with you on these issues. But it can’t just be political assertions that aren’t substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy, because otherwise we’re going to be selling the American people a bill of goods.

I mean, the easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would have been to tell people that, “What you’re going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms, we’re going to lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, and it won’t cost anybody anything.” That’s great politics. It’s just not true.

OBAMA: So there’s got to be some test of realism in any of these proposals, mine included. I’ve got to hold myself accountable, and I guarantee the American people will hold themselves — will hold me accountable if what I’m selling doesn’t actually deliver.

PENCE: Mr. President, a point of clarification.

What’s in the “Better Solutions” book are all the legislative proposals that were offered…

OBAMA: Oh, I understand. I’ve actually read your bills.

PENCE: … throughout 2009.

OBAMA: I understand.

PENCE: And so rest assured the summary document that you received is backed up by precisely the kind of detailed legislation that Speaker Pelosi and your administration have been busy ignoring for 12 months.

OBAMA: Well, Mike, hold on, hold on a second.

(APPLAUSE)

No, no, no, no, no. Hold on a second guys.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, Mike, I’ve read your legislation. I mean, I take a look at this stuff. And the good ideas we take.

But here — here’s the thing, here’s the thing, I guess, that all of us have to be mindful of. It can’t be all-or-nothing one way or the other, all right?

You — you — and what I mean by that is this. If we put together a stimulus package in which a third of it are tax cuts that normally you guys would support, and support for states and the unemployed and helping people stay on COBRA that your governors certainly would support, Democrat or Republican. And then you’ve got some infrastructure, and maybe there’s some things in there that you don’t like in terms of infrastructure, or you think the bill should have been $500 billion instead of $700 billion, or there’s this provision or that provision that you don’t like. If there’s uniform opposition because the Republican caucus doesn’t get 100 percent or 80 percent of what you want, then it’s going to be hard to get a deal done. That’s because that’s not how democracy works.

So my hope would be that we can look at some of these components parts of what we’re doing, and maybe we break some of them up on different policy issues. So if the good congressman from Utah has a particular issue on lobbying reform that he wants to work with us on, we may not be able to agree on a comprehensive package on everything, but there may be some component parts that we can work on.

OBAMA: You may not support our overall jobs package, but if you look at the tax credit that we’re proposing for small businesses right now, it is consistent with a lot of what you guys have said in the past. And just the fact that it’s my administration that’s proposing it shouldn’t prevent you from supporting it.

That’s my point.

PENCE: Thank you, Mr. President.

Peter Roskam from the great state of Illinois?

OBAMA: Oh, Peter’s an old friend of mine.

ROSKAM: Hey, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Peter and I have had many debates.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSKAM: Well, this won’t be one.

Mr. President, I heard echoes today of the state senator that I served with in Springfield, and there was an attribute and a characteristic that you had that I think served you well there. You took on some very controversial subjects: death penalty reform. I — you and I…

OBAMA: We worked on it together.

ROSKAM: … negotiated on.

OBAMA: Yes.

ROSKAM: You took on ethics reform. You took on some big things.

One of the keys was you rolled your sleeves up, you worked with the other party, and ultimately you were able to make the deal.

Now, here’s an observation.

Over the past year, in my view, that attribute hasn’t been in full bloom. And by that I mean, you’ve gotten the subtext of House Republicans that sincerely want to come and be a part of this national conversation toward solutions, but they’ve really been stiff-armed by Speaker Pelosi. Now, I know you’re not in charge of that chamber, but there really is this dynamic of, frankly, being shut out.

When John Boehner and Eric Cantor presented last February to you some substantive job creation, our stimulus alternative, the attack machine began to marginalize Eric — and we can all look at the articles — as Mr. No. And there was this pretty dark story, ultimately, that wasn’t productive and wasn’t within this sort of framework that you’re articulating today.

So here’s the question: Moving forward — I think all of us want to hit the reset button on 2009, how do we move forward?

And on the job creation piece in particular, you mentioned Colombia, you mentioned Panama, you mentioned South Korea. Are you willing to work with us, for example, to make sure those FTAs get called? That’s no-cost job creation. And ultimately, as you’re interacting with world leaders, that’s got to put more arrows in your quiver, and that’s a very, very powerful tool for us.

But the obstacle is, frankly, the politics within the Democratic Caucus.

OBAMA: Well, the — first of all, Peter and I did work together effectively on a whole host of issues. One of our former colleagues is right now running for governor on the Republican side in Illinois.

OBAMA: In the Republican primary, of course, they’re running ads of him saying nice things about me.

(LAUGHTER)

Poor guy.

(LAUGHTER)

Although, that’s the — that’s one of the points that I made earlier. I mean, we’ve got to be careful about what we say about each other sometimes because it boxes us in in ways that makes it difficult for us to work together because our constituents start believing us. They don’t know sometimes this is just politics, what you guys, you know, or folks on my side do sometimes. So just a tone of civility instead of slash-and-burn would be helpful.

The problem we have sometimes is a media that responds only to slash- and-burn-style politics. You don’t get a lot of credit if I say, “You know, I think Paul Ryan’s a pretty sincere guy and has a beautiful family.” Nobody’s going to run that in the newspapers, right?

(LAUGHTER)

And by the way, in case he’s going to get a Republican challenge, I didn’t mean it.

(LAUGHTER)

I don’t want to — don’t want to hurt you, man.

(LAUGHTER)

But, the — on the specifics, I think both sides can take some blame for a sour climate on Capitol Hill. What I can do maybe to help is to try to bring Republican and Democratic leadership together on a more regular basis with me. That’s, I think, a failure on my part is to try to foster better communications, even if there’s disagreement. And — and I will try to see if we can do more of that this year.

That’s on the — sort of, the general issue.

On the specific issue of trade, you’re right. There are conflicts within and fissures within the Democratic Party. I suspect there probably are going to be some fissures within the Republican Party as well.

I mean, you know, if you went to some of your constituencies, they’d be pretty suspicious about it — new trade agreements, because the suspicion is somehow they’re all one-way.

So part of what we’ve been trying to do is make sure that we’re getting the enforcement side of this tight; make sure that if we’ve got a trade agreement with China or other countries, that they are abiding with it, they’re not stealing our intellectual property, we’re making sure that their non-tariff barriers are lowered, even as ours are opened up.

OBAMA: And my hope is is that we can move forward with some of these trade agreements, having built some confidence, not just among particular constituency groups, but among the American people, that trade is going to be reciprocal, that it’s not just going to be a one- way street.

You are absolutely right, though, Peter, when you say, for example, South Korea is a great ally of ours. I mean, when I visited there, there’s no country that is more committed to friendship on a whole range of fronts than South Korea.

What is also true is that the European Union is about to sign a trade agreement with South Korea, which means right at the moment when they start opening up their markets, the Europeans might get in there before we do.

So we’ve got to make sure that we seize these opportunities. I will be talking more about trade this year. It’s going to have to be trade that combines opening their markets with an enforcement mechanism, as well as just opening up our markets.

I think that’s something that all of us would agree on. Let’s see if we can execute it over the next several years.

All right? Is that it?

PENCE: Jeb Hensarling of Texas, and that’ll be it, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Jim’s (sic) going to wrap things up?

PENCE: Yes, sir.

OBAMA: All right.

HENSARLING: Jeb, Mr. President.

OBAMA: How are you?

HENSARLING: I’m doing well.

Mr. President, a year ago I had an opportunity to speak to you about the national debt. And something that you and I have in common is we both have small children. And I left that conversation really feeling you’re sincere commitment to ensuring that our children, our nation’s children do not inherit an unconscionable debt. We know that under current law that government — the cost of government is due to grow from 20 percent of our economy to 40 percent of our economy right about the time our children are leaving college and getting that first job.

Mr. President, shortly after that conversation a year ago, the Republicans proposed a budget that ensured that government did not grow beyond the historical standard of 20 percent of GDP. It was a budget that actually froze immediately non-defense discretionary spending. It spent $5 trillion less than ultimately what was enacted into law.

And unfortunately, I believe that budget was ignored.

And since that budget was ignored, what were the old annual deficits under Republicans have now become the monthly deficits under Democrats. The national debt has increased 30 percent.

Now, Mr. President, I know you believe — and I understand the argument; I respect the view — that the spending is necessary due to the recession. Many of us believe, frankly, it’s part of the problem, not part of the solution, but I understand and I respect your view.

HENSARLING: But this is what I don’t understand, Mr. President. After that discussion, your administration proposed a budget that would triple the national debt over the next 10 years. Surely you don’t believe 10 years from now we will still be mired in this recession. It proposed new entitlement spending and moved the — the cost of government to almost 24.5 percent of the economy.

Now, very soon, Mr. President, you’re due to submit a new budget and my question…

OBAMA: Jim (sic), I know there’s a question in there somewhere, because you’re making a whole bunch of assertions, half of which I disagree with.

(LAUGHTER)

And I’m having to sit here listening to them. At some point, I know you’re going to let me answer.

HENSARLING: That’s…

OBAMA: All right.

HENSARLING: That’s the question.

You are soon to submit a new budget, Mr. President. Will that new budget, like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25 percent of our economy? That’s the question, Mr. President.

OBAMA: All right. Jim (sic), with all due respect, I’ve just got to take this last question as an example of how it’s very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we’re going to do, because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running — running a campaign.

Now, look, let’s talk about the budget, once again, because I’ll go through it with you line by line.

The fact of the matter is, is that when we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. $1.3 trillion. So — so when you say that suddenly I’ve got a monthly budget that is higher than the annual — or a monthly deficit that’s higher than the annual deficit left by Republicans, that’s factually just not true, and you know it’s not true. And what is true is that we came in already with a $1.3 trillion deficit before I had passed any law. What is true is, we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade.

Had nothing to do with anything that we had done. It had to do with the fact that in 2000, when there was a budget surplus of $200 billion, you had a Republican administration and a Republican Congress, and we had two tax cuts that weren’t paid for, you had a prescription drug plan — the biggest entitlement plan, by the way, in several decades — that was passed, without it being paid for, you had two wars that were done through supplementals, and then you had $3 trillion projected because of the lost revenue of this recession.

OBAMA: That’s $8 trillion. Now, we increased it by $1 trillion because of the spending that we had to make on the stimulus.

I am happy to have any independent factchecker out there take a look at your presentation versus mine in terms of the accuracy of what I just said.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Now, going forward, here’s the deal.

I think Paul, for example, head of the Budget Committee, has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal. I’ve read it. I can tell you what’s in it. And there are some ideas in there that I would agree with, but there are some ideas that we should have a healthy debate about, because I don’t agree with them.

The major driver of our long-term liabilities, everybody here knows, is Medicare and Medicaid and our health care spending. Nothing comes close.

Social Security we could probably fix the same way Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan sat down together and they could figure something out. That is manageable.

Medicare and Medicaid, massive problem down the road. That’s where — that’s — that’s going to be what our children have to worry about.

Now, Paul’s approach, and I don’t — I want to be careful not simplifying this, because I know you’ve got — you’ve got a lot of detail in your plan — but, if I understand it correctly, would say we’re going to provide vouchers of some sort for current Medicare recipients at the current level. No?

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: 55 and — well, no, I understand. I mean, there’s a grandfathering in, but just for future beneficiaries. Right?

That’s why I said I didn’t want to — I want to make sure that I’m not being unfair to your proposal, but I just want to point out that I’ve — I’ve read it.

And the basic idea would be that at some point, we hold Medicare costs per recipient constant as a way of making sure that that doesn’t go way out of — way out of whack. And I’m sure there are some details that…

RYAN: (inaudible) a blend of inflation and health inflation. The point of our plan is because Medicare, as you know, is a $38 trillion unfunded liability…

OBAMA: Right.

RYAN: … it has to be reformed for younger generations, because it won’t exist because it’s going bankrupt.

And the premise of our idea is, look, why not give people the same kind of health care plan we here have in Congress? That’s the kind of reform we’re proposing for Medicare.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Well, look, as I’ve said before, this is an entirely legitimate proposal. The problem is two-fold.

One is that, depending on how it’s structured, if recipients are suddenly getting a plan that has their reimbursement rates going like this, but health care costs are still going up like that, then over time the way we’re saving money is essentially by capping what they are getting relative to their costs.

OBAMA: Now, I just want to point out — and this brings me to the second problem — when we made a very modest proposal as part of our package — our health care reform package to eliminate the subsidies going to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage, we were attacked across the board by many on your aisle for slashing Medicare. You remember? “We’re going to start cutting benefits for seniors.” That was — that was the story that was perpetrated out there; scared the dickens out of a lot of seniors.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: No — no, but here’s my point.

If the main question is going to be what do we do about Medicare costs, any proposal that Paul makes will be painted factually from the perspective of those who disagree with it as cutting benefits over the long term.

Paul, I don’t think you disagree with that — that — that there is a political vulnerability to doing anything that tinkers with Medicare. And that’s probably the biggest savings that are obtained through Paul’s plan.

And I raise that not because we shouldn’t have a serious discussion about it. I raise that because we’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, “Well, you know, that’s — the other party’s being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z.”

That’s why I say if we’re going to frame these debates in ways that allow us to solve them, then we can’t start off by figuring out, A, who’s to blame; B, how can we make the American people afraid of the other side.

And unfortunately, that’s how our politics works right now, and that’s how a lot of our discussion works. That’s how we start off. Every time somebody speaks in Congress, the first thing they do, they stand up and all the talking points — I see Frank Luntz up here sitting in the front.

OBAMA: He’s — he’s already polled it…

(LAUGHTER)

… and he said, you know, “The way you’re really going to — I’ve done a focus group, and, you know, the way we’re going to really box in Obama on this one or make Pelosi look bad on that one” — I know — I like Frank. We’ve had conversations between Frank and I. But that’s how we operate. It’s all tactics, and it’s not solving problems.

And so the question is, at what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability, or a serious question about — a serious conversation about Social Security, or a serious conversation about budget and debt in which we’re not simply trying to position ourselves politically.

That’s what I’m committed to doing. We won’t agree all the time in getting it done, but I’m committed to doing it.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. President, take one more?

OBAMA: I’ve already gone over time.

PENCE: He’s gone way over…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: I’ll be happy to take your question, Congressman, off- line. You can give me a call, all right?

Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you, everybody.

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Better Solutions – GOP policy alternatives Jan 29 2010

“Better Solutions – A compilation of GOP policy alternatives presented to President Barack Obama by Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) on January 29, 2010.”