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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Part II: 20:30-21:00, CNN Southern Republican Debate
Aired January 19, 2012 - 20:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 at getting a job when they come home, and we ought to have a very aggressive economic program of regulatory cuts and tax cuts and 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.
JOHN KING, DEBATE MODERATOR AND CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's turn to our audience now.
Let's turn now and take a question from down in our audience tonight. Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: My name is Sonny Cohen (ph). 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 My question to any of the candidates is: Do any of you sincerely believe that Obamacare can either be repealed or reversed in its entirety?
KING: Let me go first to Governor Romney on that one.
Governor, you had 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 preexisting 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?
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 could take action to pull out of Obamacare.
But number two, we have to go after a complete repeal and that's going to have to happen...
... that -- that's going to have to happen 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 laid out what I'll replace it with. First, it's a bill that does care for people that have preexisting conditions. If they've got a preexisting condition and they've been previously insured, they won't be denied insurance going forward.
Secondly, I'd 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.
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...
... at stake here. Do we -- 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 -- 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.
KING: Mr. Speaker, you heard the skepticism. This is a southern Republican voter, but he's skeptical. He knows how Washington works. He's watched Washington work. He's asking 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?
GINGRICH: Well, let me say first of all, if you've watched Washington and you're not skeptical, you haven't learned anything.
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 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 a pretty good, sound step 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 cut.
But let me make one observation. He 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.
I mean I have -- 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.
KING: 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?
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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...
... than under the current law. He 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 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...
... then we have Speaker Gingrich, who has been -- who has been for an individual mandate, not back when the time that just was -- Heritage was floating around in the '90s, but as late as comments since 2008, just a few years ago.
He stood up and said that you should have an individual mandate or post $150,000 bond. How many $150,000 bond holders 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 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 (inaudible) with the left.
KING: I want to bring Congressman Paul -- bring you into the discussion in just a moment. But Senator Santorum directly challenged the governor and then the speaker. Governor, you first.
ROMNEY: Well, so much of what the senator said was wrong. Let me mention a few of the things. First of all, the system and my state is not a government-run system. Ninety-two 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 brought private insurance, not government insurance.
And the people in the state still favor the plan 3-1. 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 in 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 it. And I'll return to the -- I'll return the power to the states, where the power for caring for the uninsured ought to reside constitutionally. Thank you.
KING: Senator Santorum, he says your facts are wrong.
SANTORUM: Well, they're simply not wrong. The fact is that, yes, you're right, Governor Romney. Ninety-two percent of people did have health insurance in -- 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.
In fact, over half the people that 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 in -- with this government-run health care system, where you have very prescriptive programs about reimbursements rates. You have very prescriptive programs 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 and government. It was the basis for Obamacare.
And you do not draw a distinction that's going to be effective for us just because it was the state level, not the federal level.
KING: If you want, Governor, quickly?
ROMNEY: Sure, absolutely. First of all, as you probably know, Medicaid is not a state program.
SANTORUM: Of course it is. It's a state and federal program.
ROMNEY: Medicaid is as demanded by the federal government and it is -- 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 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 plans.
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 issue.
GINGRICH: No, 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 a law.
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'll 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.
KING: Senator, I want to bring Congressman Paul in. You're shaking your head. Quickly.
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, every American what kind of health care 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.
GINGRICH: Look, just one --
KING: Quickly, Mr. Speaker. The congressman's getting lonely down here. Let's go.
GINGRICH: 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.
SANTORUM: 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 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.
KING: Congressman Paul, you have the floor. Do you trust these men to repeal Obamacare?
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
PAUL: I thought you were -- I thought maybe you were prejudiced against doctors and a doctor that practiced medicine in the military or something.
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 had the privilege of practicing medicine in the early '60s before we had any government. It worked rather well and there was nobody out in the street suffering with no medical care.
But Medicare and Medicaid came in 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 gave them prescription drug programs. Senator Santorum supported it. You know, that's expanding the government.
PAUL: So -- and most of them are bankrupt. Prescription drugs, they're not going to be financed. Medicare's not financed. 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 $1 trillion the first year, but I try to really --
PAUL: Even though these programs should have never started but a lot of people depend on it, I want to try to protect the people who are dependent 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.
PAUL: We have troops in Korea since the Korean War, in Japan since World War II, in Germany since -- 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 that World War II was won in less than four years. Afghanistan, we're there for 10 years. Nobody says where's the money coming from?
We could work our way out of here and take care of these people 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.
KING: All right.
Going to ask 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.
KING: Back in 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 -- 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?
SANTORUM: Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich. He -- he handles it very, very well.
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 that's -- that's what I think we're seeing here.
For him to suggest that -- 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 2-0 coming into South Carolina, and I should get out of the race?
These are -- there are not -- there are not cogent thoughts. I mean, and -- and let's just be honest.
I mean, Newt's -- Newt's a friend. I love him. But at times, you've just got, 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. I'm going to make Barack Obama the issue in this campaign.
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"?
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 -- 16 years. And most of the Republican leaders in the House thought it was a joke. Even the night before the election, they 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 ultimately became the first re-elected 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, (inaudible).
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.
SANTORUM: I will give Newt Gingrich his due on grandiose ideas and grandiose projects. I will not give him 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. It was a coup against him in three. I served with him. I was there. I knew what the problems were going on in the House of Representatives when 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 your taking credit for the 1994 election, and you did have a lot of 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 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.
KING: Mr. Speaker, respond.
(APPLAUSE) GINGRICH: You know, campaigns are interesting experiences for all of us. And each of us writes a selective history that fits our interest.
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 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 a majority. Those are just historic facts, even if they're inconvenient for Rick's campaign.
KING: Governor Romney, you're raising your hand to come in the conversation. I want to let you in on the conversation, but also, as I do, you put an ad on the air paid by your campaign, not one of the super PAC ads, calling the Speaker an unreliable leader. Why?
ROMNEY: Well, let me go back and address first 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's lived 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 -- well, I take that back. We've got a doctor down here who spent most of his time in the surgical suite -- well not surgery, in the birthing suite.
ROMNEY: But 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 economy works at the grassroots level.
Now, you asked me an entirely different question.
GINGRICH: It beats me. I don't know.
Where are we at, John?
ROMNEY: Let me tell you, one of the things I find amusing is listening to how much credit is taken in Washington for what goes on, on Main Street.
I mean, Mr. Speaker, it was -- you talk about all the things you did with Ronald Reagan 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 in the diary, he says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn't a very good idea and he dismissed it. That's the entire mention.
I mean, he mentions George Bush 100 times. He even mentions my dad once.
So 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.
KING: Quickly respond, Mr. Speaker.
GINGRICH: This is probably a fundamental difference in our background and our experience.
Under Jimmy Carter, we had the wrong laws, the law 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 jobs, 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.
ROMNEY: Let me just --
KING: Go ahead, quickly.
ROMNEY: Let me just tell you, Mr. Speaker, you were Speaker four years.
ROMNEY: I was in business 25 years.
ROMNEY: So you're not going to get credit for my 25 years, number one.
Number two, I don't recall -- I don't recall a single day saying, oh, thanks heavens Washington is there for me. Thank heavens. I said, please get out of my way, let me start a business and put Americans to work.
KING: All right. 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.
JOHN MARCOUX, RETIRED STOCK TRADER: John Marcoux from the great city of Charleston.
MARCOUX: Gentlemen, when will you release your tax returns specifically?
GINGRICH: An hour ago.
KING: Mr. Speaker posted his online an hour ago. We know 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?
PAUL: Well, I hadn't 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 income. And I don't want to be embarrassed because I don't have a greater income.
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, 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.