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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Part 3: (09:00pm - 09:30pm) CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate

Aired October 18, 2011 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: You know, we worry more about the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need to bring the guard units home and the units back here so we can have more personnel on our border.

(APPLAUSE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR AND DEBATE MODERATOR: We have a question in the audience.

QUESTION: My question for you is, do you support opening the national nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain?

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, we'll start with you.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, we -- we worked on this when I was speaker. I think that it has to be looked at scientifically. But I think at some point we have to find a safe method of taking care of nuclear waste. And today, because this has been caught up in a political fight, we have small units of nuclear waste all over this country in a way that is vastly more dangerous to the United States than finding a method of keeping it in a very, very deep place that would be able to sustain 10,000 or 20,000 and 30,000 years of geological safety.

COOPER: Is Yucca Mountain that place?

GINGRICH: I'm not a scientist. I mean, Yucca Mountain certainly was picked by the scientific community as one of the safest places in the United States. It has always had very deep opposition here in Nevada. And, frankly...

COOPER: You were for opening it in Congress, right?

GINGRICH: Huh?

COOPER: When you were in the Congress, you were...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: When I was in Congress, frankly, I worked with the Nevada delegation to make sure that there was time for scientific studies. But we have to find some method of finding a very geologically stable place, and most geologists believe that, in fact, Yucca Mountain is that.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you oppose this?

PAUL: Yes. Yes, I've -- I've opposed this. We've had votes in the Congress. There was a time when I voted with two other individuals, the two congressmen from Nevada. And I approach it from a state's rights position. What right does 49 states have to punish one state and say, "We're going to put our garbage in your state"? I think that's wrong.

But I think it's very serious. I think it's very serious. But quite frankly, the government shouldn't be in the business of subsidizing any form of energy. And nuclear energy, I think, is a good source of energy, but they still get subsidies. Then they assume this responsibility. Then we as politicians and the bureaucrats get involved in this. And then we get involved with which state's going to get stuck with the garbage.

So I would say, the more the free market handles this and the more you deal with property rights and no subsidies to any form of energy, the easier this problem would be solved.

COOPER: Governor Romney, where do you stand on this?

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Congressman Paul was right on that.

(APPLAUSE)

I don't always agree with him, but I do on that. The -- the idea that 49 states can tell Nevada, "We want to give you our nuclear waste," doesn't make a lot of sense. I think the people of Nevada ought to have the final say as to whether they want that, and my guess is that for them to say yes to something like that, someone's going to have to offer them a pretty good deal, as opposed to having the federal government jam it down their throat.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, if -- if Nevada says, "Look, we don't want it," then let other states make bids and say, hey, look, we'll take it. Here's a geological site that we've evaluated. Here's the compensation we want for taking it. We want you electric companies around the country that are using nuclear fuel to compensate us a certain amount per kilowatt hour, a certain amount per ton of this stuff that comes.

Let -- let the free market work. And on that basis, the places that are geologically safe, according to science, and where the people say the deal's a good one will decide where we put this stuff. That's the right course for America. (APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Governor Perry?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, from time to time, Mitt and I don't agree. But on this one, he's hit it, the nail, right on the head. And I'll just add that when you think about France, who gets over 70 percent of their energy from nuclear power, the idea that they deal with this issue, that their glassification, and that the innovation -- and, Congressman Paul, you're correct when it comes to allowing the states to compete with each other. That is the answer to this.

We need to have a -- a -- a discussion in -- in this country about our 10th Amendment and the appropriateness of it, as it's been eroded by Washington, D.C., for all these many years, whether it's health care, whether it's education, or whether it's dealing with energy. We don't need to be subsidizing energy in any form or fashion, allow the states to make the decision. And some state out there will see the economic issue, and they will have it in their state.

COOPER: We're going to move on to an issue very important here in the state of Nevada and throughout the West. We have a question from the hall.

QUESTION: Yeah, my question is, those of us who own property here in Nevada have been devastated by the real estate bubble. What would you do as president to help fix the overall problem of real estate and foreclosures in America?

COOPER: Senator Santorum, Nevada has the highest rate of foreclosure.

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yeah, I mean, it's -- it's a situation right now where obviously the market's in -- has been decimated. And so now you're looking at, how do you repair it? The problem is -- in the first place, is that several people up here, the, quote, "businesspeople," supported the TARP, supported the bailout. Governors Perry, Romney...

PERRY: Wrong.

SANTORUM: No, you wrote a letter on the day of the vote -- you wrote a letter on the day of the vote, Governor, saying to vote for the plan. That's what you -- I mean, that -- the letter's been...

PERRY: No, I didn't.

SANTORUM: Yes, you did, Governor. You sent...

COOPER: You'll have a chance to respond. Let him finish.

SANTORUM: Joe Manchin signed it with you. So you -- you supported it. Governor Romney and Herman Cain all supported the -- the TARP program, which started this ball... HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not all of it.

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: I mean, I -- I mean, you guys complain about Governor Romney flip-flopping. I mean, look at what's going on here. I mean, the -- the bottom line is, you all supported it, you all started this ball rolling, where the government injected itself in trying to make -- trying to fix the market with the government top-down trying to do it, and (ph) managed decline. And what happened was, people who did things that were wrong invested in things, took risks, were bailed out, and the folks who acted responsibly are now getting hurt because their houses have gone down in value. We need to let the market work, and that's what hasn't been happening so far.

COOPER: I'm going to allow each of the three of you to respond.

Governor Perry, you have 30 seconds.

PERRY: The fact is, Rick just has that wrong. We wrote a letter to Congress asking them to act. What we meant by acting was, cut the regulations, cut the taxation burden, not passing TARP.

There is clearly a letter out of our office that says that, Rick. I'll get you a copy of it so you'll understand it.

SANTORUM: Hold on. I need to respond to that.

He sent a letter the day of the vote on the floor of the House saying, pass the economic plan. There was only one plan, and that was the plan that was voted on the floor. It was TARP.

You sent a letter on that day saying, vote for that plan. Now, you can send a letter later saying I didn't mean it, but when you said it, it was the only plan that was in play, and that was the TARP plan.

COOPER: Governor Perry -- do you want to respond, Governor Perry?

PERRY: I'm just telling you I know what we sent, I know what the intention was. You can read it any way you want, but the fact of the matter, I wasn't for TARP, and have talked about it for years since then.

COOPER: Governor Romney, 30 seconds.

ROMNEY: There's an effort on the part of people in Washington to think somehow they know better than markets, how to rebalance America's economy. And the idea of the federal government running around and saying, hey, we're going to give you some money for trading in your old car, or we're going to give you a few thousand bucks for buying a new house, or we're going to keep banks from foreclosing if you can't make your payments, these kind of actions on the part of government haven't worked.

The right course is to let markets work. And in order to get markets to work and to help people, the best we can do is to get the economy going. And that's why the fundamental restructuring I've described is so essential to help homeowners and people across this country.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Mr. Cain, I want you to be able to respond. Thirty seconds.

CAIN: I have said before that we were in a crisis at the end of 2008 with this potential financial meltdown. I supported the concept of TARP, but then, when this administration used discretion and did a whole lot of things that the American people didn't like, I was then against it. So yes, and I'm owning up to that.

Now, getting back to the gentleman's question in terms of what we need to do, we need to get government out of the way. It starts with making sure that we can boost this economy and then reform Dodd-Frank and reform a lot of these other regulations that have gotten in the way --

COOPER: Time.

CAIN: -- and let the market do it just like Mitt has talked about.

COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, does the federal government have a role in keeping people in their homes, saving people from foreclosure, in the state of Nevada?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That was the question that was initially asked. And what I want to say is this -- every day I'm out somewhere in the United States of America, and most of the time I'm talking to moms across this country.

When you talk about housing, when you talk about foreclosures, you're talking about women who are at the end of their rope because they're losing their nest for their children and for their family. And there are women right now all across this country and moms across this country whose husbands, through no fault of their own, are losing their job, and they can't keep that house. And there are women who are losing that house.

I'm a mom. I talk to these moms.

I just want to say one thing to moms all across America tonight. This is a real issue. It's got to be solved.

President Obama has failed you on this issue of housing and foreclosures. I will not fail you on this issue. I will turn this country around.

We will turn the economy around. We will create jobs. That's how you hold on to your house.

Hold on, moms out there. It's not too late. COOPER: We have another question. This one is a Twitter question.

"How do you explain the Occupy Wall Street movement happening across the country? And how does it relate with your message?"

Herman Cain, I've got to ask you, you said, -- two weeks ago, you said, "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job, and you're not rich, blame yourself."

That was two weeks ago. The movement has grown. Do you still say that?

(APPLAUSE)

CAIN: Yes, I do still say that. And here's why.

(APPLAUSE)

CAIN: I still stand by my statement, and here's why.

They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they're directing their anger at the wrong place. Wall Street didn't put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn't spend a trillion dollars that didn't do any good. Wall Street isn't going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration.

(APPLAUSE)

So I do stand by them.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you've been -- Congressman Paul, you've been critical of Governor Romney for -- for holding fundraisers with -- with Wall Streeters. Do you think he understands what the protest is about? Do you understand?

PAUL: Well, I think Mr. Cain has blamed the victims. There's a lot of people that are victims of this business cycle. We can't blame the victims.

But we also have to point -- I'd go to Washington as well as Wall Street, but I'd go over to the Federal Reserve.

(APPLAUSE)

They -- they create the financial bubbles. And you have to understand that you can't solve these problems if you don't know where these bubbles come from.

But then, when the bailout came and supported by both parties, you have to realize, oh, wait, Republicans were still in charge. So the bailouts came from both parties. Guess who they bailed out? The big corporations of people who were ripping off the people in the derivatives market. And they said, oh, the world's going to come to an end unless we bail out all the banks. So the banks were involved, and the Federal Reserve was involved.

But who got stuck? The middle class got stuck. They got stuck. They lost their jobs, and they lost their houses. If you had to give money out, you should have given it to people who were losing their mortgages, not to the banks.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Mr. Cain, do you want to respond? He referenced you. So if you want to respond, you have 30 seconds.

CAIN: All I want to say is that representative Paul is partly right, but he's mixing problems here. It's more than one problem. Look, the people -- the banks -- yes, the banks and the businesses on Wall Street, yes, the way that was administered was not right.

But my point is this: What are the people who are protesting want from bankers on Wall Street, to come downstairs and write them a check? This is what we don't understand. Take -- go and get to the source of the problem, is all I'm saying.

COOPER: I've got to give you 30 seconds.

CAIN: And that's the White House.

COOPER: And then we'll go to Governor Romney.

PAUL: Yes, the argument is it's -- the program was OK, but it was mismanaged. But I work on the assumption that government's not very capable of managing almost anything...

(APPLAUSE)

... so you shouldn't put that much trust in the government. You have -- you have to trust the marketplace. And when the government gets involved, they have to deal with fraud. And how many people have gone to jail either in the government, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, that participated in this? And nobody suffers the consequences. All these investigations, and yet the people who lose their jobs and lose their houses, it's their fault, according -- that's why they're on Wall Street. And we can't blame them. We have to blame the business cycle...

COOPER: Time.

PAUL: ... and the economic policies that led to this disaster.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Governor Romney, you -- you originally called the protests "dangerous." You said it was class warfare. You recently sounded more sympathetic. Where do you stand now? What is your message to those people protesting?

ROMNEY: Look, we can spend our time talking about what happened three years ago and what the cause was of our collapse. But let's talk about what's happened over the last three years. We've had a president responsible for this economy for the last three years, and he's failed us.

He's failed us in part because he has no idea how the private sector works or how to create jobs. On every single issue, he's made it harder for our economy to reboot. And as a result, we have 25 million Americans out of work or stopped looking for work or in part- time work and can't get full-time employed. Home values going down. You have median income in America that in the last three years has dropped by 10 percent.

Americans are hurting across this country, and the president's out there campaigning. Why isn't he governing? He doesn't -- he doesn't have a jobs plan even now. This -- this is a critical time for America.

(APPLAUSE)

And I -- and I can tell you that this is time to have someone who understands how the economy works, who can get America working again. Instead of dividing and blaming, as this president is, let's grow America again and have jobs that are the envy of the world. And I know how to do it.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We're going to continue on the other side. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper, the western Republican presidential debate, live from the Venetian in Las Vegas. As you watch the debate tonight, send us your comments and questions for the candidates on Twitter. Use the hashtag #CNNDebate. Also contact us on Facebook and cnn.com.

When we come back, the right to bears and should a candidate's faith matter? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to the CNN GOP debate live from the Venetian in Las Vegas. Let's continue. We've got an e-mail question that was left at cnnpolitics.com. This is from a Mike Richards who says: "With the controversy surrounding Robert Jeffress, is it acceptable to let the issue of a candidate's faith shape the debate?"

Senator Santorum, this is in reference to a Baptist pastor who, at the Values Voter Summit, after introducing Governor Rick Perry, said of -- said that "Mitt Romney is not a Christian," and that "Mormonism is a cult." Those were his words.

Should...

(BOOING)

COOPER: Should voters pay attention to a candidate's religion? SANTORUM: I think they should pay attention to the candidate's values, what the candidate stands for.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: That's what is at play. And the person's faith -- and you look at that faith and what the faith teaches with respect to morals and values that are reflected in that person's belief structure. So that's -- those are important things.

I -- I'm a Catholic. Catholic has social teachings. Catholic has teachings as to what's right and what's wrong. And those are legitimate things for voters to look at, to say if you're a faithful Catholic, which I try to be -- fall short all the time, but I try to be -- and -- and it's a legitimate thing to look at as to what the tenets and teachings of that faith are with respect to how you live your life and -- and how you would govern this country.

With respect to what is the road to salvation, that's a whole different story. That's not applicable to what -- what the role is of being the president or a senator or any other job.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich, you agree with that?

GINGRICH: Well, I think if the question is, does faith matter? Absolutely. How can you have a country which is founded on truths which begins we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights? How can you have the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which says religion, morality and knowledge being important, education matters. That's the order: religion, morality and knowledge.

Now, I happen to think that none of us should rush in judgment of others in the way in which they approach God. And I think that all of us up here I believe would agree.

(APPLAUSE)

But I think all of us would also agree that there's a very central part of your faith in how you approach public life. And I, frankly, would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments, because then I'd wonder, where's your judgment -- how can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don't pray?

(APPLAUSE)

Who you pray to, how you pray, how you come close to God is between you and God. But the notion that you're endowed by your creator sets a certain boundary on what we mean by America.

COOPER: Governor Perry, Mitt Romney asked you to repudiate the comments of that pastor who introduced you on that stage. He didn't make the comments on the stage; he made them afterward in an interview. Will you repudiate those comments? ROMNEY: Well, our faith -- I can no more remove my faith than I can that I'm the son of a tenant farmer. I mean, the issue, are we going to be individuals who stand by our faith? I have said I didn't agree with that individual's statement. And our founding fathers truly understood and had an understanding of -- of freedom of religion.

And this country is based on, as -- as Newt talked about, these values that are so important as we go forward. And the idea that we should not have our freedom of -- of religion to be taken away by any means, but we also are a country that is free to express our opinions. That individual expressed an opinion. I didn't agree with it, Mitt, and I said so. But the fact is, Americans understand faith. And what they've lost faith in is the current resident of the White House.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Time.

Governor Romney, is that -- is that acceptable to you?

ROMNEY: You know, with -- with regards to the disparaging comments about my faith, I've heard worse, so I'm not going to lose sleep over that.

(LAUGHTER)

What I actually found was most troubling in what the reverend said in the introduction was he said, in choosing our nominee, we should inspect his religion. And someone who is a good moral person is not someone who we should select; instead, we should choose someone who subscribes to our religious belief.

That -- that idea that we should choose people based upon their religion for public office is what I find to be most troubling, because the founders of this country went to great length to make sure -- and even put it in the Constitution -- that we would not choose people who represent us in government based upon their religion, that this would be a nation that recognized and respected other faiths, where there's a plurality of faiths, where there was tolerance for other people and faiths. That's bedrock principle.

And it was that principle, Governor, that I wanted you to be able to, no, no, that's wrong, Reverend Jeffress. Instead of saying as you did, "Boy, that introduction knocked the ball out of the park," I'd have said, "Reverend Jeffress, you got that wrong. We should select people not based upon their faith." Even though -- and I don't suggest you distance yourself from your faith any more than I would. But the concept that we select people based on the church or the synagogue they go to, I think, is a very dangerous and -- and enormous departure from the principles of our -- of our Constitution.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Would you still like him to say that?

(UNKNOWN): I'm sorry?

COOPER: Would -- would you still like the governor to say that? Or was that something you wanted him to...

ROMNEY: I'll let him -- that's his choice.

COOPER: Do you want to respond to that, Governor Perry?

PERRY: I have. I said I did not agree with the -- Pastor Jeffress's remarks. I don't agree with them. I -- I can't apologize any more than that.

ROMNEY: That's fine.

COOPER: We've got a question from the audience.

QUESTION: Currently, there's a deficit reduction measure to cut defense spending by $500 billion. Would you support such a reduction in defense spending? And if elected president, how will you provide a strong national defense?

COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, should defense be cut?

BACHMANN: Well, $500 billion is the amount that the questioner had mentioned. And don't forget, this was an historic week when it came to American foreign policy.

We saw potentially an international assassination attempt from Iran on American soil. That says something about Iran, that they disrespect the United States so much, that they would attempt some sort of heinous act like that.

Then, we saw the president of the United States engage American troops in a fourth conflict in a foreign land. This is historic.

Then, on Sunday, we heard the reports that now that -- in Iraq, the 5,000 troops that were going to be left there won't even be granted immunity by Iraq. This is how disrespected the United States is in the world today, and it's because of President Obama's failed policies.

He's taken his eyes off the number one issue in the world. That's an Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. That makes all of us in much danger.

COOPER: Time.

BACHMANN: And the president of Iran is a genocidal maniac. We need to stand up against Iran.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Congresswoman --

BACHMANN: And as president of the United States, I will. We will be respected again in the world. COOPER: The question though was about budget cuts. And is everything on the table in terms of cutting the budget?

BACHMANN: Absolutely everything.

COOPER: So defense spending would be on the table, should be?

BACHMANN: Defense spending is on the table, but again, Anderson, now with the president, he put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa. We already were stretched too thin, and he put our Special Operations Forces in Africa.

COOPER: I just want to make sure. OK. It's on the table.

BACHMANN: It's on the table, but we cannot cut it by $500 billion. We can't do that to tour brave men and women who are on the ground fighting for us.

COOPER: Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: I mean, if you want to understand how totally broken Washington is, look at this entire model of the super committee, which has now got a magic number to achieve. And if it doesn't achieve the magic number, then we'll all have to shoot ourselves in the head so that when they come back with a really dumb idea to merely cut off our right leg, we'll all be grateful that they're only semi-stupid instead of being totally stupid.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: Now, the idea that you have a bunch of historically illiterate politicians who have no sophistication about national security trying to make a numerical decision about the size of the defense budget tells you everything you need to know about the bankruptcy of the current elite in this country in both parties. The fact is, we ought to first figure out what threaten us, we ought to figure out what strategies will respond to that. We should figure out what structures we need for those strategies. We should then cost them.

I helped found the Military Reform Caucus. I'm a hawk, but I'm a cheap hawk. But the fact is, to say I'm going to put the security of the United States up against some arbitrary budget number is suicidally stupid.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you've proposed --

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Congressman Paul, you just proposed eliminating the Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior, Housing and Urban Development. You say it will save a trillion dollars in one year.

(APPLAUSE) COOPER: You're proposing a 15 percent cut to the Defense Department. Can you guarantee national security will not be hurt by that?