|The American Presidency Project|
|• Presidential Candidates Debates|
|Republican Presidential Candidates Debate in Johnston, Iowa|
|December 12, 2007|
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (New York City);
Former Governor Mike Huckabee (AK);
Representative Duncan Hunter (CA);
Former Ambassador Alan Keyes;
Senator John McCain (AZ);
Representative Ron Paul (TX);
Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA);
Representative Tom Tancredo (CO); and
Former Senator Fred Thompson (TN)
WASHBURN: Hello, I'm Carolyn Washburn, editor of the Des Moines Register, and welcome to day one of the Des Moines Register debates.
Today we're going to talk with nine Republican candidates for President of the United States. The Democrats have spent lots of quality time in debates during this campaign, but this is the first time since summer that the Republicans have gone head to head in Iowa, and it's a critical time. Six in ten Iowa Republicans who say they expect to caucus told us just two weeks ago that they could still be persuaded to support another candidate, and now we're down to 22 days to go. So we're going to focus on issues Iowans say they still want to know more about. We won't talk a lot about the issues like Iraq or immigration. They are important issues, no doubt, but Iowans say they know where the candidates are coming from on those. Instead we'll dig in on issues that need more clarification. Iraq or immigration may come up because, of course, everything is interrelated, but we're not going to spend concentrated time on those.
First, I'd like to welcome the candidates. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of the city of New York. Congressman Duncan Hunter of California. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee. Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Senator John McCain of Arizona. And Ambassador Alan Keyes of Maryland.
Thanks to all of you for being with us today despite the ice yesterday.
The rules are pretty simple. I'll ask the questions and let you know how much time you have. There are timing lights. You'll see a yellow light when you have ten seconds left, and a red light when it's, please, time to stop. I will try not to be a grinch about it, but I do ask you to respect the time so that we cover as much time as possible. I will offer up to 30 seconds of rebuttal time for any candidate criticized by name, and I may allow other candidates to respond if we have time. I'll explain everything as we go along, so let's begin.
WASHBURN: We're going to start with a discussion about the financial situation facing our country, which was the single biggest issue Iowans of both parties wanted you to talk about. I'd like to ask everyone briefly to answer this question, and then we're going to talk more specifically. The Comptroller General has said the U.S. faces a tsunami of debt that is a great threat to our national security. Do you agree our country's financial situation creates a security risk, and why or why not? We're going to just go down the line starting with Mayor Giuliani, and please limit your answers on this to 30 seconds.
GIULIANI: I believe that it's a major problem, and it's one that hasn't been addressed the way it should be over the course of the last seven, eight, maybe really twenty years, and there are three major things we have to do. First, we have to reduce government spending, and we have to be very disciplined about that. And we have to do it by imposing spending caps on spending agencies in government, 5, 10, maybe 15 percent. We have to say we're not going to rehire half of the civilian employees coming up for retirement. Forty-two percent are coming up over the course of the next eight to ten years. They should not be rehired. That would give us a $20 billion, $22 billion reduction. The other would even be higher. And then we have to reduce taxes. Right now we should reduce the corporate tax to 25%. We should reduce it from 35% to 25%. It'd be a major boost in revenues for the government. Most importantly, it would be a way of dealing with our fiscal policy in the same way the Fed is dealing with our monetary policy to create more liquidity. And there are other taxes we should get rid of. We should get ride of the death tax and a whole group of others, but the first one should be the corporate tax.
WASHBURN: Okay, yes or not, I just want to be sure I'm clear, is that a threat to our national security? Yes or no, please.
GIULIANI: I wouldn't call it national security. I'd call it economic security. It's very, very important. I think that Islamic terrorism is national security. Economic security is also important.
HUNTER: There are two debts to the national security. One is the budget deficit, which is going to be about $161 billion this year. But the real deficit, the real loss that we have right now that is a threat to national security is a trade loss. The trade loss this year is going to be $800 billion. It's going to be $200 billion to communist China, which is rapidly becoming our banker. And there's an old saying you don't want to have a banker that doesn't have your best interests at heart. We should level the playing field. We should stop China from cheating on trade. We should bring back a lot of those high-paying manufacturing jobs to this country that we pushed offshore. That means bigger paychecks. That means more money going into the federal treasury and to Social Security and to Medicare. Eliminate those twin deficits, and we'll be on the right track.
WASHBURN: We do need to stay at 30 seconds. This is not the time to get behind. Congressman?
PAUL: It's absolutely a threat to our national security because we've spent too much, we tax too much, we borrow too much, and we print too much. When a country spends beyond its means, eventually it will destroy the currency, and we're in the midst of a currency crisis. Our dollar is going down rapidly as we speak. It's because we have lived beyond our means, we can't afford the foreign policy we have. We have to cut back. We have to live within our means. If we're going to spend money, we ought to spend it at home, and that is why we have to change this foreign policy. We can't afford to do what we're doing today, because it will destroy our dollar.
TANCREDO: The reason why it becomes a national security problem is because the bulk of our imbalance of trade is a result of our importation of oil from countries that are not our friends. That's really where it rests. Most of the rest of the stuff we bring in doesn't constitute that kind of threat to the United States, but when we are supplying funds, supplying the funds for the people in other countries that have an intent, a malicious intent in regard to the United States, it's a national security issue. So, of course, energy independence is one huge step in the direction of trying to alleviate that problem.
THOMPSON: Our country has a $9 trillion debt. A good chunk of that is owned by China. We're bankrupting the next generation, without any question. Every economist in Washington who's looked at it will tell you that. It affects our national security for one reason is because we're squeezing military spending. We're spending at below historic norms under these circumstances for our defense, and we're spending twice as much for entitlements. That's why I put out a specific social security plan that'll save social security while saving the government $4 trillion. It's all in entitlements. We've got to spend more for the military, as a matter of fact, but we've got to look at Social Security and Medicare and do some things now that won't hurt anybody badly but will save it for the next generation.
ROMNEY: This is, indeed, a time of extraordinary challenges in this country, and the overspending in Washington and the over promises that we've made are certainly among those challenges, but this is not a time for us to wring our hands and think that the future is bleak. In fact, the future is bright. We need leadership in Washington that will rein in excessive spending, and we also need leadership that will help America grow. The best answer for our economic woes is to make sure we have good jobs for our citizens, good health care for everyone, and that we have policies that promote the growth of the nation. We can have a level playing field around the world, get ourselves off foreign oil, reduce the excessive spending in Washington, and have a bright future for our kids. This, again, is based upon the strength of the American people. If you want to see a strong America, you don't look to Washington, you look to strength in the American people.
HUCKABEE: It's most certainly a national security threat because a country can only be free if it can do three things. First it has to be able to feed itself. It has to be able to put food on the table for its own citizens. Secondly, it's got to be able to fuel itself. If it looks to somebody else for its energy needs, it's only as free as those who are willing for it to be. It also has to be able to fight for itself. It's got to be able to manufacture its own weapons for defense. Tanks, airplanes, bullets, and bombs. When we start outsourcing everything and we're in that kind of a trade deficit, just remember who feeds us, fuels us and who helps us to fight. That's to whom we're enslaved. If we didn't do those three things, our national security is very much at risk.
MCCAIN: Of course, any nation that no longer has economic strength sooner or later will lose its military strength, so it's a national security issue. We have many trillions of dollars of unfunded liability. Obviously, we've been on a spending spree. We cannot increase taxes. If oil reaches $100 a barrel, which many people think it may, $400 billion of the American treasury will go to oil-producing countries. Some of those monies will go to terrorist organizations. We have got to achieve energy independence, oil independence in this nation. I will make it a Manhattan project, and we will, in five years, become oil independent.
KEYES: I think it's obviously a national security problem, but you have to understand what national security is. The Constitution defines it as securing the blessings of liberty. It has to do with the security of our people. If you want to secure the blessings of liberty for the American people, you cut off the spigot that funds the political ambitions of our leaders by abolishing the income tax and restoring control of 100% of their income to the American worker. That means you replace it with a fair tax system that puts the American people in control of their money. By doing that you will encourage the politicians to stop spending to fund their little political cliques and only limit their spending to what produces results for the American people.
WASHBURN: Thank you. I want to dig into the budget issue a little bit more. You'll have 30 seconds to answer this next question. Again, I want to start with Mayor Giuliani. What sacrifices would you ask Americans to make to lower the country's debt? And I'd like you to be specific.
GIULIANI: I think the most important thing is the federal government has to restrain its spending. That's the area in which we're hurting ourselves and in which we're creating this problem, national security, economic security, however you define it. The problem is not the American people. What we should be doing is restraining the amount of money that Washington spends in a concerted way with major reductions in civilian spending, using attrition, and returning – actually leaving more money in the pockets of the American people. The strength of America is not its central government. The strength of America are its people. Restrain the central government, give people more choice, more money to spend, we're going to see our economy booming. That's the kind of future where we can have unlimited dreams.
WASHBURN: Mayor, you've said you would cut non-militarial spending 10% across the board. What sort of sacrifices would that require from people who use those government services?
GIULIANI: That would require them trying to figure out other ways to do it. Rather than moving in the direction of more people on government medicine, I'd rather see us reduce the income tax burden, create an exemption for health care, so people can buy their own health care. So, that's going to require they take a little more time, take a little more ownership of their health care. But rather than relying on government as the nanny government, let's rely on people to make choices about their health care. Let's rely on instead of 17 million people buying their own health insurance, 50, 60, 70 million. You'll see the price come all the way down, and you'll see the quality come up. That's an American solution. It's a bold one but it's the kind of thing America's done in the past. We rely on our people, not on our government.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Congressman Paul, what sacrifices would you ask Americans to make for debt reduction?
PAUL: I think it's absolutely unnecessary to sacrifice. We want to give people more freedom, more chance to spend their own money. It's unnecessary. We can cut by looking at our foreign policy. We maintain an empire which we can't afford. We have 700 bases overseas. We're in 130 countries. We cut there and then we have a better defense of this country and the people get that money and they get to spend it here at home. There's no need to sacrifice, we need more liberty, more rights for the people to spend their own money. In that situation, there is no sacrifice and no need for it.
WASHBURN: So, Governor Huckabee, your colleagues seem to think there is no sacrifice needed to reduce the debt. Do you agree? What would you do?
HUCKABEE: Sometimes it's not so much doing things so that people sacrifice. It's doing them differently. Let me give an example. A lot of the federal budget goes to health care. We need to do what most American companies are finding works in reducing health care cost. That's moving from the intervention-based health care model to a prevention-based. Our current model is upside down. We wait until people are catastrophically ill, and then we spend the most expensive ways of trying to cure incurable diseases. If we would put the focus on prevention, we would find, like American business is finding, that there really is savings if you kill the snake rather than treat the snakebites, which is the way our current system is built.
WASHBURN: Governor Romney, I'd like you to address this first. You'll have one minute. Are there programs or situations that are so important that you'd be willing to run a deficit to pay for them?
ROMNEY: Well, we don't have to run a deficit to pay for the things that are most important because we can eliminate the things that aren't critical. In the private sector, where I spent the first 25 years of my life and most of my career, you learn how to focus on the things that are most important and you get rid of the things that aren't. We have in the federal government 342 different economic development programs often administered by different departments. We don't need 342. We probably don't need a hundred of those. We probably need a lot fewer than that. We have 40 different programs for work force training. There are probably five or six that are really working and a lot that are probably not working terribly well. We can get rid of some of those. We have 13 different programs to prevent teenage pregnancy. They're obviously not working real well, and we could probably cut it down to one or two that are making a difference. What anyone in the private sector's learned how to do is to focus their resources on those things that have the biggest impact, that are most important. Surely protecting our country and the defense of our military is critical. Getting our free market, finally able to allow all of our citizens to have health insurance, that's something we did in Massachusetts. Improving our schools with school choice, better pay for better teachers, these are a lot of things that we can do but they don't require us to eliminate the things that are most critical in our society. Instead they require us to get rid of those things that are unnecessary, and the sacrifice we need for the American people, it's this: it's saying let the programs that don't work go.
WASHBURN: Thank you.
ROMNEY: Don't lobby for them forever.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Congressman Tancredo, how would you answer that?
TANCREDO: I would say there is a way – a very clear way to actually establish what the government needs to do in order to reduce the costs that it incurs and to do what is right, and that is called follow the Constitution of this country. The Constitution is a limiting document. It tells the federal government what it can and cannot do. Today we do far too many things that exceed the constitutional bounds that are placed there. We have a responsibility. It is to protect and defend this country. Concentrate on that. Concentrate on doing what's right and what the Constitution itself gives us the responsibility for, and the rest of that stuff becomes extraneous. And honestly, if you think about it, if you ask America what would you do, what would you sacrifice, the one thing I would say is this: don't ask the government for womb to tomb protection for your life, to build a bubble around you because all of that will cost a humongous amount of money, but we will respond to you, politician will do it because they want the votes. Don't ask, and I guarantee you may administration will remain inside the bounds of the Constitution.
WASHBURN: Senator Thompson, could you answer that? Are there programs or situations so important you'd be willing to run a deficit for them?
THOMPSON: Yes, the military, the security of our people, first and foremost, always, our infrastructure, which is coming apart, and research and development, which is going to help us solve some of the problems in the future as far as energy and a lot of other issues. But I want to take a chance on telling the truth to the American people. Our entitlement programs, about 20 or 40 or so, are going to eat up our entire budget. Now, we'll go all day and nobody else will talk about that obvious problem we've got that we've got to address. The thing about it is we can do it now without hurting those programs, with actually strengthening those programs so that our kids and grandkids have them. I don't think we as American people are so selfish that we're going to put this off the table, kick the can down the road, and let everybody else solve that problem, you know, when our grandkids get to be working age. That's not America. That's not what makes us strong. And specifically as far as Medicare is concerned, we need to tell people in Warren Buffet's category, we're not going to take care of your Medicare in the future, we can't afford it.
WASHBURN: Which leads nicely to the next question. I want to go down the line in reverse order and hear from everyone very briefly, please, 15 seconds or so, who in this country is paying more than a fair share of taxes relative to everyone else? The wealthy, the middle class, the poor, or corporations? Starting with Mr. Keyes.
KEYES: That's one of those let's you and him fight questions that people in the media always want to get us involved in because they would like to pretend that the tax question is about fighting amongst ourselves, when the real sacrifice that's required from the American people, we need to start sacrificing some of these incumbents who have funded their political ambition using our money.
WASHBURN: Remember, we have 15 seconds.
KEYES: Who have spent overboard into the deficits after promising us on the Republican side that they would limit the government and then produce the highest budget deficits in the history of our country. I think we need to stop listening to these phonies and start looking for people who will actually fulfill the words that they speak. That's what I think.
WASHBURN: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: I'm happy to say low-income Americans except for payroll taxes don't pay taxes, but we've got to reform the tax code. Nobody understands it, nobody trusts it, nobody believes in it, and we have to fix it. And we can't raise taxes as our Democrat friends want. So I don't know exactly who's paying the most of the burden, but I would say that the American people need a tax code they can understand and that they know is fair.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee?
HUCKABEE: Over 80% of the American people know that the tax code is irreparably broken. I would lead one to a fair tax, and that means the rich people aren't going to be made poor, but maybe the poor people could be made rich. That ought to be the goal of any tax system, not to punish somebody but to enable somebody so that they can have a part of the American dream. The fair tax does just that.
WASHBURN: Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: I don't stay awake at night worrying about the taxes that rich people are paying, to tell you the truth. I'm concerned about the taxes that middle-class people are paying. They're under a lot of pressure. Gasoline is expensive. Home Heating oil, particularly in the northeast, is very difficult for folks. Health care costs are going through the roof. Education costs in higher education are overwhelming. And as a result, we need to reduce the burden on middle-income families in this country.
WASHBURN: Okay. A little snappier, gentlemen. Senator Thompson?
THOMPSON: My goal is to get in the Mitt Romney situation where I don't have to worry about taxes anymore.
ROMNEY: Well, you know, I'm just trying to get into your situation.
THOMPSON: You're getting to be a pretty good actor actually.
THOMPSON: Five percent of Americans pay over half the income taxes in this country. Forty percent of Americans pay no income taxes at all. I think we need to concentrate on preserving the tax cuts of '01 and '03. That's going to be a monumental battle that's coming at the end of 2010.
TANCREDO: Everyone that is presently paying tax can make a case that they're paying too much. The reality is, of course, you need a different system entirely. We do need to move away from this arcane – a system that taxes productivity, which is what we do, to a system that allows for a fair tax. I believe in that.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Congressman?
PAUL: The most sinister of all taxes is the inflation tax, and it is the most regressive. It hits the poor and the middle class. When you destroy a currency by creating money out of thin air to pay the bills, the value of the dollar goes down and people get hit with a higher cost of living. It's the middle class that's being wiped out. It is the most evil of all taxes.
HUNTER: The tax that we're all paying that doesn't help anything, it doesn't go to defense, it doesn't go to roads, it doesn't go to medical care, is a $250 billion plus that we pay each year not to the federal government to the treasury, but to prepare our taxes, defend our taxes, and for the massive cost of the IRS. That's all overhead, $250 billion-plus dollars. What we ought to do is have a system, the fair-tax system is a good one, or a flatter tax or simpler tax because that young couple that pays $1,450 in taxes may pay $450 to their tax preparer. That's a second tax.
GIULIANI: A flatter tax is simply a tax that you can file on one page. As an option, it would be a good idea. Reducing the corporate tax, as I suggested, reducing the corporate tax across the board, which would mostly benefit the middle class, that's where the focus should be. But we've got to reduce taxes across the board, and we should give the death penalty to the death tax. That really is a very unfair tax.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Periodically throughout the debate we'll give each of the candidates 30 seconds to make a free statement. The candidates drew for the order, and we'll hear from the first two candidates now, Senator McCain followed by Congressman Hunter.
MCCAIN: Thank you. I've devoted my life in uniform and in public office to keeping this nation safe. I've been involved in every major national security issue of our time. That kind of experience is what's given me judgment: the judgment to oppose a failed strategy in Iraq, a judgment to call for the strategy that's succeeding now. And I wasn't very popular because of it. I have the judgment and the experience, and I believe that I can ask every American to serve. I have one guiding principle, one ambition, and that is to keep America safe and to achieve and maintain our greatness.
WASHBURN: Congressman Hunter?
HUNTER: I stand for a strong national defense, enforceable borders, and bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs to this country, that we've pushed offshore with bad trade deals. I've been a member of the Armed Services Committee for 26 years now, and I've chaired that committee for four years, and I'm one of the few guys up here who's worn the uniform of the United States. And my own son has done, now, three tours in the Middle East, coming back on Thanksgiving. I know what it takes to secure this country. I also built that border fence in San Diego that worked so well, and I wrote the law that takes it across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. And as President, I will finish that border fence in six months.
WASHBURN: Thank you. I want to come back to some issues that affect the economy. You'll have 30 seconds again. The longer you go on, the shorter you'll have to go. Thirty seconds to answer these questions, and we're going to start with Congressman Paul. One in five jobs in Iowa depends on exports to foreign countries. But we're also exporting a lot of high-wage manufacturing jobs. What's your plan for keeping foreign markets open while protecting good-paying American jobs?
PAUL: Well, we need to adopt free trade agreements with other countries. Today we inhibit the export of, say, farm products to countries like Cuba. It's time we changed our attitude about Cuba. We should be looking to open these markets. But our markets get closed for monetary reasons because our chief export is our dollar. Because we have the reserve currency of the world, people take these dollars and our jobs go overseas. You can't solve any of these problems if you don't look at the monetary system and how it contributes to these job losses in order to provide the prosperity for our people here at home.
WASHBURN: Governor Romney, would you answer that?
ROMNEY: Yeah, I've spent the last, as I told you, 25 years in the private sector. I understand why jobs come and why jobs go. I've done business in over 20 countries around the world. And I understand how we can build strength in our economy, and that's by investing in education, investing in technology and innovation, getting ourselves off of foreign oil, and making sure the playing field that we play on around the world is level. It's not right now. We're going to have to renegotiate deals with people like those in China that manipulate their currency to put their products at an advantage over ours. We want to make sure that we do not have a circumstance where people close down their markets to our goods, because we can compete anywhere in the world. One out of three agricultural acres is planted to go offshore, so don't put up barriers that keep us from being able to trade. America can compete anywhere in the world, and to remain a superpower, we must compete around the world.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee?
HUCKABEE: Well, job migration is a result of three things. When you have excessive taxation that penalizes the productivity of a company, you add to that excessive regulation, which means you've got more red tape than is possible to get through. And I would say that as President one of my goals would be, I can't part the Red Sea, but I believe I can part the red tape. The third thing is we've got too much litigation. When a company goes into business, particularly small business, from which 80 percent of all American jobs come, most small business people can't fight off the potential liabilities that come from all of the lawsuits in litigation. Take care of those three things, we won't see the incredible level of job migration that we see today.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Some of our big trading partners commit human rights violations. Considering that poverty and abuse are often blamed for fostering terrorism, should we alter trade policies with those countries? Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: Well, obviously, we should make sure that every nation respects human rights, and we should advocate that and try to enforce it. But I will open every market in the world to Iowa's agricultural products. I'm the biggest free marketer and free trader that you will ever see. And I will also eliminate subsidies on ethanol and other agricultural products. They are n impediment to competition. They are an impediment to free markets. And I believe that subsidies are a mistake. And I don't believe that anybody can stand here and say that they're a fiscal conservative and yet support subsidies which distort markets and destroy our ability to compete in the world and destroy our ability to get cheaper products into the United States of America.
WASHBURN: I'm going to move to the next question. What specific changes should be made in NAFTA? Mayor Giuliani?
GIULIANI: I think the main thing is it should be enforced, and the reality is NAFTA's been a good thing. I was concerned about NAFTA, and I became convinced watching it that it's actually helped us. Our percentage of exports, percentage of GDP has gone up dramatically from something like 9 percent to 11 percent. It's brought more jobs to America. America should think about free trade, global economy as something we want to embrace. This is what we've always wanted. America is a country of entrepreneurs and dreamers and creators, and what we should be thinking about is how much can we sell to these people. As they're coming out of poverty, 20 million, 30 million people in India, China, these are new customers for the United States of America. Then we have to make sure that we have a level playing field. That's very important, but we shouldn't lose the goal of free trade. We're big dreamers here in this country. We've got plenty we can sell all over the world that will make up for what we're buying.
WASHBURN: Senator Thompson, what specific changes would you make to NAFTA?
THOMPSON: Well, I think free trade and fair trade has been the backbone of our economy. I think it's been just as good for us as it has Mexico. In fact, I think Mexico needs to think about that when they criticize us for trying to enforce our border. They export more – send more people out of the country every year than we do, in terms of illegal aliens. So it's been a good thing for both countries. It's a long, complex document. I have nothing in particular to point out. I just think we need to make a commitment to free and fair trade and enforce the agreements that we've got. The problem is too many people close their markets to us. They want trade with us but they want to place undue restrictions to our manufacturers and our farmers. We can't stand for that.
WASHBURN: Congressman Tancredo?
TANCREDO: NAFTA has been a disaster for a lot of places and especially Mexico. Southern Mexico, it was a disaster. It destroyed the entire agricultural economy. Guess what happened. They all came north. If NAFTA had worked so well, as everybody on this stage appears to think it did, why would we still have so much pressure on our southern border from people trying to escape from a country that does not provide them with the economic opportunities that NAFTA promised? What, of course, is also engrained in this whole discussion is the lack of sovereignty, the fact that our borders are meaningless, the fact that Mexican trucks can come across without – essentially without being checked. These are the problems with NAFTA, and they have to be unwound.
WASHBURN: Congressman Hunter, you wanted in on that?
HUNTER: Absolutely, you know, we had a $3 billion trade surplus with Mexico when we passed NAFTA, and the advocates said we're going to build on that surplus. Today we have a massive trade loss. We went immediately to a $15 billion trade loss. We had that now for the last many years. Let me tell you, if you take your product made in Iowa down to the Mexican border right now, you will pay a 15-percent tariff, which they moved into place after we passed NAFTA. You know, trade deals are business deals between nations. And we haven't made good business deals between nations, and NAFTA is a bad business deal.
WASHBURN: I want to move on and hear the free statements from our next two candidates. Congressman Paul first and then Senator Thompson.
PAUL: The goal of all political action should be to preserve liberty. We need more freedom in this country. We need to look to ourselves and what we are doing. We have drifted so far from our Constitution that the government that – the Constitution was written to restrain our government. Yet we've turned around and the Constitution now is used to restrain the people. But we have no chance if we don't restrain the government in all that they do in undermining our persona liberties, controlling our economic well being, and using it as an excuse to police the world. If we don't change the role for government, this country is going to suffer a very serious, serious economic crisis.
WASHBURN: Senator Thompson?
THOMPSON: On all these issues, I've been a strong, consistent, common-sense conservative. Butt he most important issue facing our country and will be for a long time, is national security and the safety of our people. I've spent a long time traveling both in and out of government, traveling, talking to foreign leaders, dealing with these issues. I know the world we live in. I think I know what we need to do. I think that it's going to require strong leadership. And I would ask people to think one thing before they cast a vote. When our worst enemy is sitting down at the negotiating table thinking about what he can do to the United States of America, who do you want sitting on our side of the table representing you? That's probably the guy you ought to elect President.
WASHBURN: Thank you. I want to take on a new issue. I would like to see a show of hands. How many of you believe global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity?
THOMPSON: I'm not doing hand shows today.
WASHBURN: No hand shows today.
WASHBURN: And so does that mean – is that yes or no for you? Do you believe that global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity?
THOMPSON: Well, do you want to give me a minute to answer that?
THOMPSON: Well, then I'm not going to answer it.
(Laughter and applause)
ROMNEY: How about 30 seconds?
WASHBURN: No, you know –
THOMPSON: How about a show of hands?
WASHBURN: We're going to follow up on that, but what I need to know is who believes global climate change is serious and caused by human activity, and then we'll talk more in detail about it.
I do. I believe that global climate change is real.
Let's have a chance to talk about it.
(All speaking at once)
WASHBURN: I'm going to start with Senator McCain and come back to Mayor Giuliani.
MCCAIN: I've been involved in this issue since the year 2000. I have had hearings. I've traveled the world. I know that climate change is real. But let me put it to you this way. Suppose that climate change is not real and all we do is adopt green technologies, which our economy and technology is perfectly capable of. Then all we've done is given our kids a cleaner world. But suppose they're wrong. Suppose they're wrong and climate change is real and we've done nothing? What kind of a planet are we going to pass on to the next generation of Americans? It's real. We've got to address it. We can do it with technology with cap and trade, with capitalist and free enterprise motivation. And I'm confident that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren a cleaner, better world.
WASHBURN: Mayor Giuliani?
GIULIANI: I agree with John. Climate change is real. It's happening. I believe human beings are contributing to it. I think the best way to deal with it is through energy independence, and I think energy independence ..
That I agree with.
WASHBURN: Who doesn't agree?
HUNTER: He said contributing but not totally –
GIULIANI: And I think our party –
You're getting closer.
Can you give us each a chance?
GIULIANI: And I think our party should embrace this as an issue for us.
WASHBURN: Let me come at it this way. Let me come at it this way. What impact on the economy would be acceptable in order to reverse global warming and greenhouse gas emissions? Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: Well, it's going to help our economy because we're going to invest in new technologies to get ourselves off of foreign oil. And as we get ourselves off of foreign oil, we also dramatically reduce our co2 emissions. That's good for the environment. It's also good for our economy. Because buying $300, $400 billion worth a year in oil from people who use it against us, that's bad for our economy. It's also bad for the environment. We can do these things in a way that helps both the environment and the economy and national security. That's the beauty of what we're talking about here, which is, yeah, is global an issue for the world? Absolutely. Is it something we can deal with by becoming energy independent and energy secure? We sure can. But at the same time, we call it global warming, not America warming. So, let's not put a burden on us alone and have the rest of the world skate by without having to participate in this effort. It's a global effort but our independence is something we can do unilaterally.
WASHBURN: Mr. Keyes, what do you think about this?
KEYES: Well, what I think is that a lot of folks out there ought to understand that what you're watching represents the situation in our country. Ask yourself who represents the people they don't let you hear from, and you'll know who you should vote for in the Iowa caucuses. Who represents the voice that they're absolutely determined to overlook in the discussion of our sovereignty and the betrayal of this people's sovereignty? On the border, on our moral principles, on the major export overseas, which is our jobs, these folks represent the very elite who year after year after year have destroyed our Constitution, betrayed our rights, and undermined our strength created by our people in the world.
WASHBURN: And yet the one person willing to talk about that is overlooked time and time again. That person represents you.
THOMPSON: I agree with Alan Keyes' position on global warming.
KEYES: Mostly I would have to say I'm in favor –
WASHBURN: Let me – Let me –
KEYES: I'm in favor of reducing global warming because I think the most important emission we need to control is the hot air emission of the politicians who pretend one thing and don't deliver.
Doctor, heal thyself.
(All speaking at once)
WASHBURN: Let me come to a question that Iowans may not let you out of answering. Governor Huckabee, you've said you support increasing government mandates requiring motorists use 36 million gallons of biofuels by 2022, which is six times what we're producing this year. Are you willing to increase that mandate even if it will drive up feed for livestock or force consumers to buy flex fuel vehicles?
HUCKABEE: I don't think that's what's necessary. And the reason this issue ought to be important is that we don't own this Earth. We are simply stewards of it, caretakers. And I know on a day like today it's hard to believe there is global warming, if anybody's been in Iowa on a day like today. But climate change and who's causing it is of less importance than what Senator McCain said, and he's exactly right. We have done no harm if we take better care of this planet and give it to your children with cleaner air, cleaner soil and cleaner water.
WASHBURN: So are you willing to increase the mandate?
HUCKABEE: I am willing for us to make the decisions which will not necessarily create the mandates. Let me tell you how we do it. You know who one of the biggest energy users is in the whole country? The United States government. If the government commits to being the primary user of alternative forms of energy, we have a market built in and, therefore, the big argument against having alternative energy is there's no market for i8t. Well, let the government be a marketplace, and we'll create the kind of demand that lowers the price rather than raises the price.
WASHBURN: Congressman Hunter?
HUNTER: You know, I say instead of mandates, incentives. The problem with mandating only biofuels, and, you know, ethanol's not the greatest thing in show business. You use a lot of energy to create ethanol, and there's other biofuels out there, biodiesel, etc. But by giving incentives in R and D and by bringing our government laboratories together with business, with our educational institutions, the United States can become the center with a grand new industry of energy innovation. We can be the leaders in the world in this. But you don't want to push away things like hydrogen, fuel cells, and other things. Incentives is the way to go, and we should take the entire array of alternative energy sources and give incentives to private enterprise to get involved and get into the business of delivering us a great product. And we can produce a great new industry for this next generation.
WASHBURN: Congressman Tancredo, what would you do about mandates?
TANCREDO: No, I don't believe in mandates. I believe the market is the best determinant of exactly how these problems should be addressed. I do not mind and I would not be opposed to research and development, but the idea that the government knows the right amount somehow, some way, some brilliant analyst, usually some politician who hasn't the brightest idea of the issue, will make a decision about what is the right amount of mandate to impose on the rest of the country. And you know what? It never works out right. Let the market – I trust the market more than I do the government.
WASHBURN: Let's hear free statements from two more candidates. First Congressman Tancredo and then Governor Huckabee.
TANCREDO: We have had 45 years of unlimited immigration, both legal and illegal, into this country. That is a problem, unlimited massive immigration is a problem. But when it happens commensurately without the same amount of assimilation, it becomes a catastrophe. It will become what Teddy Roosevelt warned of when he said you can have immigration, but if it happens without assimilation, all you end up with is not a nation, but a polyglot boarding house. Some of my friends on the stage, both governors and senators, say we should trust their judgment. Well, their judgment is what got us into this problem, so we need to trust somebody else to get us out.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee?
HUCKABEE: I think people in this country are looking for leadership. They're looking for change. They're not looking that people would be elected to be so much a ruling class but a servant class. We've forgotten that. Our founding fathers had a brilliant, really revolutionary idea, that the people elected would not represent the elite but would represent the ordinary. Our founding fathers had the idea that when we are elected, we're not elected as a part to be elevated up but to truly remember who it is we work for. I think sometimes that's what's happened in America. We forget our job is to keep this country safe first and foremost, and to it's to try to encourage Americans to be their best at everything they do. I can tell you it's a long way from the little rent house I grew up in to this stage. I'm still in awe this country would afford kids like me the opportunity to be a President. I'll try not to forget where I come from and where this country needs to go.
WASHBURN: Thank you. A new topic that some Iowans say hasn't had enough debate during this campaign, and that's education. American 15-year-olds ranked behind 16 other countries in recent assessment of science literacy. What educational standards does the U.S. need to adopt or improve to compete in the global economy, and what will you do to move us toward those standards, and what's your timetable? Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: The answer to the problem in education in America is simple. We need more choice and more competition. Entrance by a good student into college today, they have a number of choices and people are seeking them to be part of those educational institutions. We don't have the choice in competition we needed in K-12. We need more charter schools. We need vouchers where it's approved by the local state and school boards. We need to have, clearly, home schooling, if people want that. We need to reward good teachers and find bad teachers another line of work. We need to have all of these compete. In my home state of Arizona, we have charter schools. Some have failed. But they're competing with the public schools, and the level of education is increasing. In New York City today, there's a remarkable thing happening under Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein who have done marvelous work with an educational system that was clearly broken. Those can be examples of a way to improve education in America and provide choice in competition and give every American family the same choice I and my family had, and that is to send our child to the school of our choice.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Mayor Giuliani?
GIULIANI: I'm here because of the educational choices my parents made, or I wouldn't be here or have achieved anything that I've achieved. And that's the place where the decision should be made. Instead of having these education standards done in Washington by the education department or bureaucrats in a state capital or on a board, the choice should be made by parents. Parents should choose the school their child goes to the same way people choose higher education. Has it ever occurred to us that higher education is still the very, very best in the world, and you're asking me about K-12? Well, higher education is based on choice. It's based on a large consumer market. It's based on competition. It's the area of K-12 where we have this government command sort of approach. And if we give the choice to parents where they can choose a private school, a parochial school, a public school, a charter school, home schooling, let them be the decider. I think we'll see a big revolution in education.
WASHBURN: Congressman Hunter?
HUNTER: Three words. A math teacher in the barrio of Los Angeles taught young kids calculus. He taught them so well that the school district called up and said, “We think your kids are cheating on the test.” And he said, “test them again.” And he established this incredible system of calculus in the school district by inspiring young people. How many of us in our careers can point back to a teacher and say that teacher inspired me? What we have to do is take away the bureaucratic credentialing of teachers and allow people who are aerospace engineers and pilots and scientists and retired folks to come in and inspire young people in third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Let's inspire them to reach for the stars and given them the incentive to work hard enough to get there. Inspiration, changing the credentialing system and school choice.
WASHBURN: Hasn't that teacher since left the public school system?
HUNTER: And you know why? The post mortum on --- the unions ran him out of the school district, and I think that goes right to one of the big problems that we have.
WASHBURN: If we need to improve our educational system quickly to be more competitive in the world, does the federal government need to exercise different influence than it has historically over educational standards? If so, in what ways, and if not, how do you encourage state to meet national goals to move us forward? Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: Carolyn, these are 60-second answers, right?
ROMNEY: Okay, let's make sure because time is going pretty quick here. Education is an important topic, and the President was right to fight for No Child Left Behind, because we allow states now to test our kids and see how they're doing, particularly in math and English. We've made the same effort in our state, actually before No Child Left Behind was passed. We test our kids. We have high standards. We teach them in English, English immersion. We say to be successful in America, you've got to speak the language of America. We also put in place incentives for kids to do well. For those that take the graduation exam, which you have to take to get out of high school, we say you're going to get, if you score in the top 25% of the test, a four-year tuition-free scholarship to a Massachusetts institution of higher learning.
WASHBURN: But what about the role of the federal government?
ROMNEY: And the federal government insists on those tests and standards. And it's key. Let me continue. I think we also have to have higher pay for better teachers. And people who are not good teachers ought to find a better career. And finally, we need more parental involvement. And we've tested our kids in Massachusetts along with all the other kinds in the nation. Fifty states get tested every year in English and math. In fourth and eighth grade, my eighth graders came out number one in English, came out number one in math. My fourth graders, number one in English, number one in math. The first time in history one state number one in all four measures. School choice, better pay for better teachers, high standards, scholarships for the best kids, English immersion, these principles work.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee?
HUCKABEE: First of all, the whole role of education is a state issue. It's not really a federal issue. And the worst thing we can do is shift more burden, more responsibility, more authority to the federal government, when more of it needs to go to the states. But I think the federal government can play a pivotal role primarily in helping to make sure that the best practices that are working in the states are shared with state who are struggling. Let me give you a couple of examples of what has to happen in all the states, and the federal government can at least share the data and information. One, personalize the learning for the student. We have 6,000 kids every day drop out in this country. They don't drop out because they're dumb, they drop out because they're bored to death. They're in a 19th century education system in a 21st century world. If we really are serious, first of all, we make sure we build the curriculum around their interests rather than push them into something they don't care about. Second thing, unleash weapons of mass instruction. I'm a passionate, ardent supporter of having music and art in every school for every student at every grade level –
HUCKABEE: Because let's just make sure you understand why. It's not frivolous. It's because if we don't develop the right side of the brain with the same level of attention as we do the left, which is the logical side, we end up with an unbalanced, bored student, which is exactly what we've done, and students are out of our system because of it.
WASHBURN: Congressman Paul, what's the biggest obstacle –
KEYES: Excuse me, do I have to raise my hand? I'd like to address that question.
WASHBURN: I'm getting to you.
KEYES: No, you're not. You haven't in several go rounds, so I have to make an issue out of it. I would like to address the issue of education.
WASHBURN: Go ahead.
KEYES: I don't wish it to pass on –
WASHBURN: Go ahead, please. You have thirty seconds.
KEYES: They have a minute. Why do I get thirty seconds? See, your unfairness is now becoming so apparent that the voters in Iowa must understand there's a reason for it, and the reason is what I'm about to say. Governor Huckabee just addressed the question of education. He has stood before values voters and moral conservatives, claiming that he is their spokesman. Do you know the major problem in American education today? We allowed the judges to drive God out of our schools. We allowed the moral foundation of this republic, which is that we are created equal and endowed by our Creator, not by our Constitution or our leaders with our rights. If we don't teach our children that heritage and the moral culture that goes along with it, we cannot remain free. They will not be disciplined to learn science, to learn math, to learn history, to learn anything. And they don't want to talk about this, except when they're squabbling about their own personal faith and forgetting that we have a national creed. And that national creed needs to be taught to our children so that whether they are scientists or businessmen or lawyers, they will stand on the solid ground of a moral education that gives them the discipline they need to serve the right, to exercise their freedom with dignity, and to defend justice because they understand it is our heritage.
WASHBURN: Congressman Paul, what's the biggest obstacle standing in the way of improving education in the United States, and how would you address it?
PAUL: Probably the federal government. We've been involved at the federal level for over 50 years, we've had a Department of Education. It used to be the policy of the Republican Party to get rid of the Department of Education. We finally get in charge and a chance to do something, so we double the size of the Department of Education, and we have No Child Left Behind. The teachers don't like it. The students don't like it. The quality of education hasn't gone up. The cost of education has gone up. So, we need to look to our local resources, we need to release the creative energy of the teachers at the local level, but what we can do immediately is to give tax credits. I have a bill that would give tax credits to the teachers to raise their salaries. At the same time we should encourage home schooling and private schooling and let the individuals write that off. The parents have to get control of the education. It' used to be parents had control of education through local school boards. Today it's the judicial system and the executive branch of government, the bureaucracy that controls things, and it would be predictable that the quality would go down. The money goes to the bureaucrats and not to this educational system at home.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Senator Thompson, how would you answer that?
THOMPSON: The question was what's the biggest impediment to education?
WASHBURN: What is the biggest obstacle standing in the way, and how would you address it?
THOMPSON: The biggest obstacle, in my opinion, is the National Education Association, the NEA. I read time and time again every time someone wants to inject a little choice into the equation for the benefit of the kids, inject a little freedom, inject a little competition, because we're not exactly doing that well because of the things that you pointed out earlier, the NEA is there to oppose it and bring in millions and millions of dollars to go on television and work and scare people and misrepresent the situation on the ground. I think that that just goes against everything that we know that can make progress in this country. We're a nation of freedom and innovation and choice. And well-to-do people are out in the suburbs. They don't seem to care that much. Inner-city people need a chance to enjoy the choice that the Mayor's talking about for colleges and universities. Other people have a choice too. If they're wealthy enough to move into a neighborhood because they want their kids to go to school there, let's give it to everybody else and let's stop people from standing in the way of that.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Congressman Tancredo, what's your take on all that?
TANCREDO: I had the opportunity to serve under Ronald Reagan as the regional director for the U.S. Department of Education. Our task was to try to narrow it down because we knew we couldn't legislatively get rid of it, although we wanted to. So I went – in my region we knew we went from about 222 people. It took us about four or five years to get down to about 60 people. I used to always say we've gotten rid of 80% of the people in this department, has anybody been able to tell the difference? Do you know what? Not a single soul said they had. If we had gone to zero, you'd never know the difference. That's because we don't need the department. It's an encumbrance on our attempt to actually teach children in this country. As is the federal government and its intervention and rules. But I don't think, Governor, with all due respect, you can't say on one hand you're against having government intervention and on the other hand tell us you want music and art and everything else in the school. That's not the job of a president. It is the job of a governor. That's what you should run for if you want to dictate curriculum.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee, would you like a rebuttal? You have thirty seconds.
HUCKABEE: Well, I made very clear to the Congressman that what I suggested was that the federal government becomes the clearinghouse. It shows the best ideas. I was a governor ten-and-a-half years. I had executive experience longer than anyone on this stage running a government. And I had also the most, I think, impressive education record. And you know what? I looked for what other states were doing that worked. I was looking for all the ideas. We raised standards. We measured. And we held people accountable for the results. Anytime you give governors the opportunity to know what will work, they'll use it because it means jobs, it means economic development. That's exactly the only role. If anyone doubts the president ought not use the bully pulpit to encourage the best practices, I would say the second most job of importance to the president, second to being commander in chief, is to be the communicator in chief. And we're losing a lot of kids in this country. A third don't graduate. For a president to say that's none of my business? It's recklessly irresponsible. A president needs to say it's unacceptable that that many kids leave our schools every single day.
WASHBURN: Okay, Governor Romney.
ROMNEY: Just one small adjustment to what Governor Huckabee had to say, and I don't believe you had the finest record of any governor in education –
ROMNEY: -- because there's another one on the stand whose kids outperformed me. The kids in our state, as I indicated, scored number one in all four measures on the national exams, and they did that because of Republican principles, free market principles and it was a partnership. You see, education is not just the teachers union. I agree with Senator Thompson on that. They've been the biggest obstacle to change in education and choice. It's not just one side of this, it's teachers, it's parents, it's the state, it's federal government, it's all levels coming together and working together for the benefit of our kids. And we face right now an education challenge that's really unusual. We're behind. America's behind in education. Our kids score in the bottom 10-25% in exams around the world among major industrial nations, and we've got to have the kind of change that requires all of us working together, not just poking and saying it's someone else's job.
WASHBURN: Thank you. In light of the big needs and the financial realities we've just discussed up to this point, realistically what do you believe you could accomplish in your first year as president? We're going to go down the line starting with Mr. Giuliani. So that everyone gets a chance to talk, I need you to keep your remarks to 30 seconds.
GIULIANI: We can make sure the country is secure against Islamic terrorism and on the road to winning the war against Islamic terrorists. We could end illegal immigration by beginning a border stat system. It might take two or three years, but we could begin it. We could do a major tax reduction, the ones that I indicated earlier, to stimulate the economy. I would immediately begin to reduce the size of the federal government the way I did when I was Mayor of New York, and I would move toward energy independence as a goal similar to putting a man on the moon, the Manhattan project. You can use a lot of ways to describe the nature of it, but I would make sure that we accomplish energy independence. You would do things that we hadn't done before and that we previously thought were impossible. You need bold leadership to accomplish that, and I think I can do that.
HUNTER: First you've got to strengthen the U.S. military. We have to look at the horizon past Iraq and Afghanistan and see the emergence of North Korea with nuclear capability, Iran proceeding on that path despite what the NIE says, and also the emergence of communist China as a new superpower stepping into the shoes of the Soviet Union. So strengthening the military and meeting those horizon threats and also strengthening our border, enforcing the U.S. border. That means building the border fence and making sure we know who's coming into this country, what they're bringing with them. Lastly, bringing back the industrial base of the United States that right now is fragmenting and being sent off to China and to other places around the world, which also is a security threat, bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs to this country that will serve this next generation well.
WASHBURN: Thank you. That's a tall order for a year. Congressman Paul, what about you?
PAUL: Well, there's a limit to what you can do in one year. And at home, it's more difficult. You would have to work with a Congress, but a commander in chief could end the war. We could bring our troops home. That would be a major event. It would be very valuable. We could be diplomatically – we could become diplomatically credible once again around the world. Right now today we're not. Even our allies resent what we do. We would have no more preemptive war. We would threaten nobody. We would not threaten Iran. Now it is proven once again Iraq didn't have the nuclear weapons, had nothing to do with 9/11. The Iranians have no nuclear weapons, according to the CIA. There's no need for us to threaten the Iranians. We could immediately turn the Navy around and bring them home, and I think this would be a major step to ward peace.
WASHBURN: Thank you.
TANCREDO: The first five minutes after taking office, I would free Ramos and Compean. That's for sure. The second thing I would do is to make sure that we begin the process of securing those borders and enforcing the law inside the United States against hiring people who are here illegally. Then I would use that bully pulpit that the Governor talked about – and he's absolutely accurate in terms of the importance of it for a president of the United States – for this reason: to explain that it is, in fact, a war is not going on in Iraq. That's a battle. We are fighting a war against radical Islam. It is a threat to our existence as a nation, it's a threat to western civilization. It will take someone who's willing to say that and lead western civilization in this clash.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Senator Thompson, your first year?
THOMPSON: Well, it wouldn't take me a year. I'd go before the American people and tell them the truth and try to establish my credibility and tell ‘em that we haven't come to terms, yet, with the nature of the threat that we're facing or what we're going to have to do to defend ourselves over the years. I'd tell them that if they didn't' already know it, we're bankrupting the next generation and nobody even wants to talk about it, much less do anything about it. I'd tell them that judges are setting our social policy no win this country, and that's going to stop. And then I'd bring in members of Congress and say, look, I just got a mandate. We can work and cooperate together, or I'll go over your head to the American people.
WASHBURN: Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: I want to do more than talk in my first year. There are a lot of things that I want to get done. First of all, I want to establish a strategy to help us overwhelm global Jihad and keep the world safe. I want to end illegal immigration. We can get that done. I want to end the expansion growth of entitlements, rein ‘em in. I want to end the extraordinary growth in federal spending, and I want to keep our tax burden down and reduce our tax burden on middle-income families. I want to get us on a track to become energy independent. I want to get our schools on a track so they can become competitive globally. And I want to get health insurance for every America. It's going to take four years for that to happen, but I'll get us on track. We'll have a stronger military, a stronger economy, and stronger values with stronger families after my first year in office.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee?
HUCKABEE: Well, I like the laundry list that everybody's had, and I would agree that every one of those things is important. Reality is none of that's going to happen till we bring the country back together. I think the first priority of the next president is to be a president of all the United States. We are right now a very polarized country, and that polarized country has led to be a paralyzed government. We've got Democrats who fight Republicans, liberals fighting conservatives, the left right the right. Who's fighting for this country again? We've got to even quit fighting amongst ourselves, as conservatives and as Republicans, and start putting the better interests of this nation. If that doesn't happen we'll get none of these things done. We've got to be the united people of the United States, and a president has got to somehow remind us that we are a great, resilient nation that has to stick together to solve all of these problems.
WASHBURN: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: Our first obligation and my qualifications lend to making America safe. We must make America safe. This is a military, diplomatic, intelligence, and cyberspace challenge. And I have the credentials and the knowledge and the background and the judgment to do that. The second most important thing if we're going to complete that laundry list is restore trust and confidence in government. There is none today. We have to fix Medicare. We have to stop this wasteful pork barrel spending that has led to corruption in Washington. Of course, we have to fix our borders. We have to sit down together and fix Medicare and Social Security. I can lead. I can inspire confidence and restore trust and confidence in their government again. That's the key to any success we want to achieve.
KEYES: What I would concentrate on is restoring the sovereignty of the people of this country. I would restore their moral sovereignty, which is something I think I can do very simply by declaring that no action taken by the executive branch would support, aid, or abet anyone who is destroying the constitutional rights of those who are in the womb. I would sign an executive order to that effect day one, and we would reestablish this government's commitment to the constitutional rights of our posterity. Folks talk about our posterity, but you can't really respect them if you're killing them in the womb. It doesn't make any sense. And I would also want to abolish the income tax. You say it can't be done in a day. We need to start talking about it and talking about actually implementing the far tax proposal that will end the wasteful spending by putting them under the discipline of a people who can actually withhold their taxes by changing the patterns of spending. And finally, I would establish a national border guard. I would seal the borders of the United States so that only those would cross our borders who are subject to our laws and the terms of those laws –
WASHBURN: Thank you.
KEYES: And I would encourage through this national border guard a real respect for the security that must be maintained along that border if we're serious about the war on terror.
WASHBURN: We're going to move to the last three candidate statements. Governor Romney has 30 seconds, followed by Mr. Keyes and, finally, Mayor Giuliani.
ROMNEY: I want to begin by saying thank you to the people of Iowa over the last year. My wife and I visited many, many home, many places, over 70 town meetings, 67 counties. Josh, my son, has visited all 99 counties. People here have warm hearts. They've welcomed us and it's something that's made me feel very good about America. Anybody who's worried about the future of this great land needs to come to Iowa and meet the people with the kind of heartland values that you have here. People here also recognize we face real challenges, and they want somebody who will strengthen America. I know how to keep America strong. I know a lot about the economy. I'll make sure we keep good jobs. I've learned a lot about education and health care. I'll improve our schools, get our health care system working for all Americans, and I'll make sure that we have the kind of values that we can be proud of that are so essential to the great strength of this nation. And finally I want to say to the people of Iowa, I need your help, I'd like your vote, and I want you to get out and participate in that caucus.
WASHBURN: Mr. Keyes?
KEYES: I think that the critical thing is what you need to do. If you really want to see a change in government, then we need to restore the credibility of the Republican Party, a credibility that has been destroyed by the betrayal of promises to keep government limited that resulted in outrageously high budget deficits at an historic level in this country. The betrayal along the border with the President telling us that he suddenly discovered we didn't have a secure border six years into his term. And if you want to accomplish that, join the political army of America's revival at alankeyes.com and make sure you become part of that change. We're not going to restore self-government until you become an active people not willing to take the inadequate choices you have, but lifting up the choice that this country needs.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Mayor Giuliani?
GIULIANI: I've been tested by having to provide leadership through crisis, through difficult crises, not just September 11 but in my time as United States Attorney, Associate Attorney General, Mayor of New York City. And America needs bold leadership. We have big problems. We have problems that we haven't faced in the past and solved, problems about how to deal with terrorism effectively, problems about our border, problems about our economic security that we've talked about. And to do that we need bold leadership. We need the kind of ideas that I've put forward in the 12 commitments to the American people. But most importantly, we need an optimistic leader who can bring us these kinds of solutions. I've gotten results in the past. I would like the opportunity to do that for my country.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Voters have told us that character and leadership qualities matter as much or more than many issues. Over the past few months we asked candidates who have spent time in Iowa about some of their core values, and we videotaped the answers. Since we're pitching Web sites, you can see all the insights videos at DesMoinesRegister.com, but today we're going to see a few and then expand the conversation. Let's watch the first ones.
GIULIANI: I would do this as president. When I was Mayor of New York, I would go get people's opinions. I'd walk the streets, I'd sit down at a restaurant, I'd ask people what they think. I'd go on radio, do a call-in show. I did 96 town hall meetings all with the purpose of hearing what people had to say. Maybe – even with multiple sources of advice within government, maybe if you don't' hear from the people every once in a while, you get a wrong perspective.
HUNTER: Legislation is a function of compromise. When you put together a budget, for example, a budget to increase defense spending, and that budget which increases defense spending may have – may have also pork barrel programs that you don't like and you've promised your constituents you'll fight against pork barrel programs. In the end, if you vote for the budget of the United States, you vote for a lot of things.
PAUL: The Internet is delightful. It is just delightful for finding the information. And if there's a question that I need, ask, you can find it. So, I spend a lot of time getting information that was at one time in my life very difficult to find. There should be no excuse in this country anymore for not finding correct answers and analyzing the problems that we face, because the correct answers are out there and judgments should be made to the best of one's ability.
WASHBURN: So this next set of questions is entirely about character and leadership. Mayor Giuliani, your administration in New York has been accused of handling your security expenses in a way that obscured public disclosure. What specifically will you promise to do to ensure that a Giuliani White House is open with information that might be inconvenient to explain to the public?
GIULIANI: Well, the reality is that all –
WASHBURN: Thirty seconds, please.
GIULIANI: The reality is that all that information was available and known to people, known six years ago. And I would make sure that government was transparent. My government in New York City was so transparent that they knew every single thing I did almost every time I did it. So, I would be extremely – I would be extremely open.
GIULIANI: I'm used to it. I'm used to being analyzed. I haven't had a perfect life. I wish I had. And I do the best that I can to learn from my mistakes. But as far as open, transparent government, I think I've had both an open, transparent government and an open, transparent life, and it allows you to lead with honesty and truth.
WASHBURN: So are there things you could have done in this situation that would have been more open and not raised these concerns about obscuring public disclosure?
GIULIANI: No, the reality is that this was a bookkeeping practice. The way it was done actually made it more available to freedom of information act requests. Had it been done just in the police department, nobody would have ever found it. Everything that was laid out a few weeks ago had been laid out six years ago. Very well known. Some of the things that I wish if I had led a perfect life would have happened differently, but it was all well known. On the issue of transparency, I can't think of a public figure that's had a more transparent life than I've had.
WASHBURN: Mr. Keyes, how would you guarantee an open White House?
KEYES: I think the most important thing is to be absolutely authentic about who you are, not to say things today that contradict what you were two years ago like, sadly, Governor Romney. Not to take a stand on the most important issue of principle that faces our nation today, the question of whether we are created equal, and endowed by our Creator, not the Constitution but our God, with our inalienable rights from the womb to the tomb, and not to abandon the heritage of the Republican party, as Rudy Giuliani would do and as I could not follow him in doing, so I would not support him if he were nominated. And finally, I think it would be important to do what I'm doing in my campaign. We have three phone calls every week. People from all over the country gather online to talk to me, to interact, state their views. We have technologies now that allow people directly to communicate to their leadership, and I would make good use of those technologies.
WASHBURN: Governor Romney, would you like to respond?
ROMNEY: I'm not sure.
WASHBURN: It's entirely up to you.
ROMNEY: This audience and the whole nation has heard time and time again the fact that I was effectively pro choice when I ran for office. When I became Governor of Massachusetts, the first time a bill came to my desk, I simply could not side with taking a life. And I came on the side of life. Every bill that came to my desk, every issue that related to protecting the sanctity of life, I can down on the side of life. I'm pro-life, I'm not going to apologize for becoming pro-life. Ronald Reagan followed the same course, as did Henry Hyde and George Herbert Walker Bush, and I'm proud to be pro-life.
WASHBURN: Mayor Giuliani, would you like to respond?
GIULIANI: I think I've explained my position on abortion, which is that I oppose it, but I believe that ultimately the government should leave that decision to a woman and her conscience. I would like to see limitations on abortion. I've brought those about in New York City. We reduced abortions. We increased adoptions by 135%. But ultimately, it's a position that I thought out a long time ago. For me it's a position of conscience, and it's a position that, in spite of the fact that Alan wouldn't vote for me, I'm not going to change.
WASHBURN: Senator Thompson, you've expressed doubts that the recent report on Iran's nuclear capabilities is accurate. As president, how would you decide when to disagree with available intelligence, and then what would you do?
THOMPSON: Well, that's probably the most important question that's been asked today. We have a real problem with our intelligence community. It, along with certain parts of our military, were neglected for a long, long time in this country, and we're paying the price for it now. The fact is nobody has any real confidence in the result that they're getting. The result you're talking about was directly contradicted by their strong beliefs just two years ago. So, you've got to rebuild from the bottom up. I think that in the meantime, we have to rely on other people. The British are helpful to us. The Israelis sometimes are helpful to us.
WASHBURN: Thank you.
THOMPSON: In many respects, they have advancements that we don't have in terms of our intelligence capabilities, but the president cannot –
WASHBURN: Thank you.
THOMPSON: -- let a piece of paper by a bureaucrat determine – solely determine what his actions must be.
WASHBURN: Thank you. We're going to have to move on. Let's watch the next videos.
HUCKABEE: If a person says, “I'm a person of faith, but I don't let it influence me and I don't talk about it,” what they've just told me is that their faith is so immaterial, insignificant, and inconsequential that it really isn't a faith at all. If it's a faith it will drive their judgment, it will drive their value system and, therefore, it'll help define them. It's ludicrous to say that I have faith but it doesn't impact me at all.
MCCAIN: I think the hardest thing in this age of struggle against radical Islamic extremism is balancing the rights of everyone's privacy, plus our ability to combat this great evil of radical Islamic extremism. And that's why I think there has to be the participation of the courts, the legislature, the executive branch, and the American people to what measures we take.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee, you are distinguishing yourself from the other candidates by focusing on faith. You say your faith doesn't just influence you, that it defines you. A person who chooses you for president, then, would expect that to translate to public policy. So give me two examples you've not previously given, one in health care and one in education, where your faith would define change you want to see in policy?
HUCKABEE: The two overriding principles are you treat others as you wish to be treated. As it relates in health care, that means that we recognize that a person who is sick shouldn't be treated differently because they're in poverty than a person who has extraordinary wealth, that we have some sense of balance in how we approach that. That's the essence of what America is about. The second basic principle is that in as much as you've done it to the least of these, my brethren, you've done it unto me. As it relates to both health, education, or any policy, what it really m4eans is that you go back to what the founding fathers said. All of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with those rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
WASHBURN: But two specific changes in policy.
HUCKABEE: Well, I think I just tried to give them to you, both in education that everyone has an opportunity – you give education and health care, that you don't have some that are more equal than others. So there has to be a sense in which you have opportunity, whether it's through choice in charter schools in the education field, you have a curriculum that touches every child, not just a few. And in health care, you don't have a health care system like Congress has that is incredibly almost platinum. But there are a lot of Americans who can't even go to the doctor and find out if they're critically ill or if they have a terminal disease.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Governor Romney, as you look at the most pressing problems facing our country and the best opportunities to affect change in the next four years, do you think it's more important for the next president to be a fiscal conservative or a social conservative?
ROMNEY: I think it's incredibly important he be a conservative. I'm going to build on the same foundation Ronald Reagan built. We're not going to get the White House nor strengthen America unless we can pull together the coalition of conservatives and conservative thought that has made us successful as a party. That's social conservatives. It's also economic conservatives, and foreign policy and defense conservatives. Those three together form the three legs of the Republican stool that allowed Ronald Reagan to get elected and allowed our party to have strength over the last several decades. And I'm going to continue to draw, as many on this stage try and do, upon those strengths and to build America by virtue of those conservative principles whether in health care, education, defense, spending, entitlement reform, you name it. Conservative principles work. They've been tested time and again, and they'll keep working.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Congressman Hunter, same question?
HUNTER: Repeat the question. I was lost in Governor Romney's explanation. I thought it was quite good though.
WASHBURN: Do you think it's most important for the next president to be a fiscal conservative or a social conservative?
HUNTER: I think they both go to the core of this country because you have to keep the economy running, you have to keep the wheels turning. And of course the heart of our country is this idea that human beings have value, that they are given these inalienable rights that have been described by my friends. So those are two very important things. But one thing that's extremely important that Governor Romney didn't touch on was this. We also, in being conservative, having a conservative leader, part of that means not sending technology to our adversaries. And that's going to be the big threat of this next 15-20 years. Governor Romney's corporation that he founded, the Bain Capital Corporation, has joined up –
WASHBURN: Thank you.
HUNTER: -- has joined us with a Chinese corporation to buy an American defense contract.
WASHBURN: Thank you.
HUNTER: I think that is a mistake. And that's a defense contractor that did business with Saddam Hussein and with the Taliban –
WASHBURN: Thank you, Congressman.
HUNTER: So that, I think, is a very important part of conservative leadership. And thank you.
WASHBURN: We're going to look at the last video.
ROMNEY: I think we're better off by strictly following the Constitution as it existed and as it was brought forward, and if we think there's a need for a new right, then going to the people or their elected representatives to establish that right, rather than having judges from their own heart or their own mind establishing new rights and new laws. It's not for judges to legislate or to create a new Constitution. That's something that only the people and their elected representatives should be able to do.
TANCREDO: There are two sides to your human component, you know? One is the God-filled side. One is the human side. And there are things that feed either side, you know? And whichever you feed the most becomes the dominant side. And so you have to kind of concentrate on feeding the food side, or else you will lose control over it.
THOMPSON: The least we can do is look at our social policies and not just be concerned about the consuming of what's before us in the short view but what's best for the overall country, what's best for the future generations of the nation, and are we going to leave this place a better place than when we came into it. To me, that's real patriotism.
WASHBURN: Congressman Tancredo, your foreign policy positions on your campaign Web site consist of five sentences on Iraq. What assures Americans you're ready to lead our foreign policy?
TANCREDO: Because of the issue, of course, as I mentioned earlier, is just a battle going on in Iraq. The major battle is, of course, this clash of civilizations. I believe that the whole idea and the whole debate can be narrowed to a relatively small areas on a Web site or any place else, and that is this: we can not leave Iraq. We are committed there and will be for a long time. And I don't care who's elected president, that's the reality of the situation. We can, however, stop, in fact, being the police force in Iraq. And we are doing that. We are moving in exactly the direction that my Web site, the statement anticipates. What more do I have to say? We're getting it done.
WASHBURN: Thank you. Congressman Paul, you call your campaign a revolution, and I think it's safe to say that your brand of change is one of the most sweeping proposed by any candidates of either party, but getting your agenda through Congress would likely require a revolution of an entirely different sort. So how would you adjust your plan in light of political reality in Washington?
PAUL: Well, the secret is the term revolution. It wasn't my word, and it didn't come up on my Web page. It was coined by the supporters but, in a way, it is revolutionary to go back to the Constitution. We'd like to continue the old revolution. Believe me, freedom is unifying. We bring a lot of people together. People, then are free to choose what they would like to do with their lives, free to choose how they would spend their money. And all of a sudden we wouldn't be telling other countries how to live. This brings people together, and I think it's appealing to both left and right and middle. And our campaign really has that appeal so, therefore, we would bring the Congress together.
WASHBURN: Senator McCain, your reputation as a maverick has put you at odds with your own party leadership from time to time. Give us an example of a time you wished you had to compromise to get something done instead of holding firms on your ideals.
MCCAIN: I cannot think of a time and I hope I can never think of a time because I came to Washington because I had a set of principles and ideals. But at the same time I have more legislative achievements than anybody on this stage by far. I have joined together across the aisle on an umber of pieces of legislation, many of them very important. I'm proud of my legislative record of conserving my ideals and my conservative principles and getting things done in Washington. And I am proud of that, and I will continue to hold to those ideals. But I will reach across the aisle to the Democrats who I have worked with, who know me, and we know we can work together for the good of this country.
WASHBURN: Thank you. We're going to talk about New Year's resolutions. You have 15 seconds. We're going to start with Mr. Keyes and go this way, please suggest a New Year's resolution for one of your opponents here today.
KEYES: I, frankly, think the most important New Year's resolution is the one I'd suggest to the American people: resolve to return to your respect for the principle that makes us free, that we are all created equal and endowed by God with our inalienable rights.
WASHBURN: Fifteen seconds, please. Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: Let's raise the level of dialogue and discussion and debate in this campaign. Let's not accuse each other of a lack of patriotism or a lack of character. There are different views on differing issues. There are differences in experience. There are differences in experience.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee?
MCCAIN: But I think we should all be respectful of one another, and the American people, I think, will benefit from it.
WASHBURN: Governor Huckabee?
HUCKABEE: I'm going to be a lot more careful about everything I say, because I find it gets amplified to a new level.
WASHBURN: This is a new resolution of an opponent.
HUCKABEE: Well, I would make it one of them too.
WASHBURN: Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: Let's have a resolution amongst all of us that we'll have a spirited campaign as we have, but we'll come together, come together real soon when this is resolved, and we will fight to make sure that one of the people on this stage is the next President of the United States, not one of the people on that Democratic stage you've had more than once.
WASHBURN: Senator Thompson?
THOMPSON: Yeah, it'd be for myself, try to be a better man. Be strong, have faith, try to be a better husband and father.
TANCREDO: Well, it all sounds good, but you asked what we would do – what somebody else we think should do in terms of a resolution. I have to say it because you're leading the pack, now, and congratulations to you, Governor, but I have to ask you – no, no, no, I'm pointing right over there …
WASHBURN: Okay –
TANCREDO: Just a minute. Laughter does not count. I have to ask him a question –
WASHBURN: I have to keep moving.
TANCREDO: And the question is how are you going to convince America that you, in fact, changed your mind on the issue of immigration from when you were governor. That's all I want to know.
WASHBURN: Congressman Paul?
PAUL: My advice would be to reread the oath of office, take it seriously, obey the Constitution. We are well defended against all enemies foreign. We should be much more careful about defending against the enemies domestic.
WASHBURN: Congressman Hunter?
HUNTER: Yeah, to all my colleagues and, I think, to the American people, we've got lots of folks coming back from the Afghan and Iraqi theaters, lots of young people who need jobs. One thing we could do here just a couple of weeks before Christmas is buy American goods. If we buy American gods, we may save the job of our neighbor or provide a job for that young service person.
GIULIANI: I would resolve to all of us to take a look at better America and realize how lucky we are, how fortunate we have, not to have this pessimistic feeling that some have abroad in this land. America has accomplished great things. We've faced crises like this before.
WASHBURN: Thank you.
GIULIANI: We've always overcome them. A sense of optimism is the thing I would wish for.
WASHBURN: Thank you. And we're out of time. You can find out more about this debate at pbs.org and at DesMoinesRegister.com. And tomorrow at 1:00 we'll have our debate with the Democratic presidential candidates. I want to thank all of the candidates for being here today as well as our broadcast partner, Iowa Public Television, our studio audience, and everyone at home and at work. Happy Holidays, everyone.
|Citation: Presidential Candidates Debates: "Republican Presidential Candidates Debate in Johnston, Iowa", December 12, 2007. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29664.|
© 1999-2011 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project