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CAIN: And you know that commercial where they have demagogued the whole thing with medi-scare and having grandma tossed off the bridge? If we don’t fix this problem, it’s going to be our grandkids in that wheelchair that they were going to be throwing off the bridge. We have got to fix the problem.
KING: Let’s continue the conversation on entitlements. I know Congresswoman Bachmann wants to get in and others want to get in.
Let’s get on John Distaso on the floor.
DISTASO: Thank you, John.
Mr. Cain, back to you. And while you’re fired up there, let’s turn to Social Security. Can you be specific regarding ages and income levels? Everyone talks about reform. What is your specific Social Security reform plan in regards to raising the retirement age, at what ages, cutting benefits and what income level means testing kicking in?
CAIN: Let’s fix the problem and that is to restructure Social Security. I support a personal retirement account option in order to phase out the current system. We know that this works. It worked in the small country of Chile when they did it 30 years.
That payroll tax had gotten up to 27 percent for every dollar that the worker made. I believe we can do the same thing. That break point would approximately 40 years of age.
Now, young people realize they still got to contribute to the current system for those people that are on Social Security, that are near Social Security.
DISTASO: Are you going to raise the retirement age as president of the United States?
CAIN: I don’t have to raise the retirement age, because that by itself isn’t going to solve the problem. If Congress decides to do that, that’s a different matter.
Here’s — let me give you one another example where this approach has worked. The city of Galveston, they opted out of the Social Security system way back in the ’70s. And now, they retire with a whole lot more money. Why? For a real simple reason — they have an account with their money on it.
What I’m simply saying is we’ve got to restructure the program using a personal retirement account option in order to eventually make it solvent.
KING: All right. We’re going to keep the conversation move. I know people want to weigh in. You’ll get a chance to weigh in.
Let’s move now. Jennifer Vaughn is on the floor with a question.
VAUGHN: John, thank you very much.
Governor Romney, I’d like to ask this to you first, please.
The Treasury Department says the United States will hit its credit limit on August the 2nd. Do you believe we will ultimately have to raise the debt ceiling?
ROMNEY: I believe we will not raise the debt ceiling unless the president finally, finally is willing to be a leader on issues that the American people care about. And the number one issue that relates to that debt ceiling is whether the government is going to keep on spending money they don’t have.
And the American people and Congress and every person elected in Washington has to understand we want to see a president finally lay out plans for reining in the excesses of government.
You’ve heard on here a whole series of ideas about entitlements. And that’s about 60 percent of federal spends. That’s a big piece. That’s a big chunk. Ideas from all these people up here.
Where are the president’s ideas?
Each person has different ideas here. We can try them and try different ideas in different states and different programs at the federal level.
But why isn’t the president leading? He isn’t leading on balancing our budget and he’s not leading on jobs. He’s failed the American people both in job creation and the scale the government.
VAUGHN: Governor —
ROMNEY: And that’s why he’s not going to be reelected.
VAUGHN: Governor, what happens if you don’t raise it? What happens then? Is it OK not to?
ROMNEY: Well, what happens if we continue to spend time and time again, year and year again more money than we take in?
What we say to America is: at some point, you hit a wall. At some point, people around the world say, “I’m not going to keep loaning money to America to pay these massive deficits pay for them because America can’t pay them back and the dollar is not worth anything anymore.” In that circumstance, we saddled our future — the future of our kids in a way that is just unacceptable.
And so, you’re going to see Republicans stand up and say, “Mr. President, lay down plans to balance this budget.” If he does so, if we gets Democrats to come at that time table and honestly deal with the challenges we have, with the entitlement challenges, with the spending and discretionary accounts, with our jobs issues, and finally say you know what? We really can’t afford another trillion dollars of Obamacare.
ROMNEY: If he’ll be honest about these things, then I think you’ll see the kind of progress you’d hope to see.
KING: Congresswoman Bachmann, you’ll get a vote on this issue. What Governor Romney outlined is the goal of Republicans, who’s got a big deal to balance the budget. If you can’t get that on the short term and this date approaches, those negotiations are continuing, what is your price tag — what is your price tag in at least a first wave of cuts? And if you don’t get it, would you say to the House Republicans, “No, let the government go into default, that’s where we need to stand”?
BACHMANN: I’ve already voted no on raising the debt ceiling in the past. And unless there are serious cuts, I can’t.
But I want — I want to speak to someone that’s far more eloquent than I. Someone who said just dealing with the issue of raising the debt ceiling is a failure of leadership. That person was then Senator Barack Obama. He refused to raise the debt ceiling because he said President Bush had failed in leadership.
Clearly, President Obama has failed in leadership. Under his watch, in two and a half years, we’ve increased the federal debt 35 percent just in that amount of time.
So, what we need to do both, from the Congress and president, he needs to direct his treasury secretary: pay the interest on the debt first, then we won’t have a failure of our full faith and credit from their prioritized spending. We have to have serious spending cuts.
KING: OK. Appreciate that again. I want to ask the candidates a little shorter on those answers so we can keep the voters involved.
Let’s go down to Josh on the floor.
MCELVEEN: Thank you, John.
And I’m joined by Mr. Jerry Kitty (ph) who runs a juvenile institution out of Massachusetts.
And I’m told that has nothing to do with your question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.
I’m just wondering what your definition of the separation of church and state is and how it will affect your decision-making.
KING: Governor Pawlenty, I want you to take that one first.
PAWLENTY: Well, the protections between the separation of church and state were designed to protect people of faith from government, not government from people of faith. This is a country that in our founding documents says we’re a nation that’s founded under God, and the privileges and blessings at that we have are from our creator. They’re not from our member of Congress. They’re not from our county commissioner.
And 39 of the 50 states have in the very early phrases of their constitutions language like Minnesota has in its preamble. It says this, “We the people of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberties,” and so the Founding Fathers understood that the blessings that we have as a nation come from our creator and we should stop and say thanks and express gratitude for that. I embrace that.
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KING: Let’s spend a little time talking. Let’s spend a little bit of time talking about it.
Senator, let’s start with you. Just what role does faith play in your political life? Are there decisions, certain issues where some might you just, let’s meet with my advisers, what does my gut say, and others where you might retreat and have a moment of private prayer?
SANTORUM: I’m some who believes that you approach issues using faith and reason. And if your faith is pure and your reason is right, they’ll end up in the same place.
I think the key to the success of this country, how we all live together, because we are a very diverse country — Madison called it the perfect remedy — which was to allow everybody, people of faith and no faith, to come in and make their claims in the public square, to be heard, have those arguments, and not to say because you’re not a person of faith, you need to stay out, because you have strong faith convictions, your opinion is invalid. Just the opposite — we get along because we know that we — all of our ideas are allowed in and tolerated. That’s what makes America work.
KING: Congressman Paul, does faith have a role in these public issues, the public square, or is it a personal issue at your home and in your church?
PAUL: I think faith has something to do with the character of the people that represent us, and law should have a moral fiber to it and our leaders should. We shouldn’t expect us to try to change morality. You can’t teach people how to be moral.
But the Constitution addresses this by saying — literally, it says no theocracy. But it doesn’t talk about church and state. The most important thing is the First Amendment. Congress shall write no laws — which means Congress should never prohibit the expression of your Christian faith in a public place. KING: OK. Great. Let’s go down to Josh McElveen, and let’s continue the conversation.
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MCELVEEN: Thank you.
While we’re on the topic of faith and religion, the next question goes to Mr. Cain. You recently said you would not appoint a Muslim to your cabinet and you kind of back off that a little bit and said you would first want to know if they’re committed to the Constitution. You expressed concern that, quote, “a lot of Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country.”
Are American-Muslims as a group less committed to the Constitution than, say, Christian or Jews?
CAIN: First, the statement was would I be comfortable with a Muslim in my administration, not that I wouldn’t appoint one. That’s the exact transcript.
And I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us.
And so, when I said I wouldn’t be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us, number one.
Secondly, yes, I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts. I believe in American laws in American courts, period. There have been instances –
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CAIN: There have been instances in New Jersey — there was an instance in Oklahoma where Muslims did try to influence court decisions with Sharia law. I was simply saying very emphatically, American laws in American courts.
KING: So, on that point, Governor Romney let me come to you on this.
What Mr. Cain is saying that he would have — my term, not his — a purity test or a loyalty test. He would want to ask a Muslim a few question or a few questions before he hired them, but he wouldn’t ask those questions of a Christian or Jew.
CAIN: Sorry. No, you are restating something I did not say, OK? If I may, OK?
KING: Please let’s make it clear.
CAIN: When you interview a person for a job, you look at their — you look at their work record, you look at their resume, and then you have a one-on-one personal interview. During that personal interview, like in the business world and anywhere else, you are able to get a feeling for how committed that person is to the Constitution, how committed they are to the mission of the organization —
KING: When I asked — I asked this question the other night, though, you said you want to ask a Muslim those questions but you didn’t you have to ask them to a Christian or a Jew?
CAIN: I would ask certain questions, John. And it’s not a litmus test. It is simply trying to make sure that we have people committed to the Constitution first in order for them to work effectively in the administration.
KING: Should one segment, Governor — I mean, one segment of Americans, in this case, religion, but in any case, should one segment be singled out and treated differently?
ROMNEY: Well, first of all, of course, we’re not going to have Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen. We have a Constitution and we follow the law.
No, I think we recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome in this country. Our nation was founded on a principal of religious tolerance. That’s in fact why some of the early patriots came to this country and we treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion.
Obviously, anybody who would come into my administration would be someone who I knew, who I was comfortable with, and who I believed would honor as their highest oath — their oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.
KING: Mr. Speaker, go ahead.
GINGRICH: I just want to comment for a second. The Pakistani who emigrated to the U.S. became a citizen, built a car bomb which luckily failed to go off in Times Square was asked by the federal judge, how could he have done that when he signed — when he swore an oath to the United States. And he looked at the judge and said, “You’re my enemy. I lied.”
Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I’m in favor of saying to people, if you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.
GINGRICH: We did this — we did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.
KING: We’re going to work in another break.
Still a lot more ground to cover with our seven Republican candidates for president tonight. Voters here in New Hampshire are asking the questions. You can help us at home on Facebook and on Twitter. Please send in your suggestions.
In and out of every break, we’re asking a candidate a personal question, this or that, to make a choice.
Mr. Cain, deep dish or thin crust?
CAIN: Deep dish.
KING: Deep dish, it is. Our seven candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will be right back.
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KING: Seven Republican candidates for president here on the campus of St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Let’s continue our conversation.
But, first, let’s continue to know our candidates a little better.
Deep dish emphatically from Mr. Cain before the break.
Governor Romney, to you now. Imagine you’re getting to the barbecue joint. Maybe it’s here in New Hampshire, maybe it’s South Carolina ordering some wings. Spicy or mild?
ROMNEY: Oh, spicy. Absolutely.
And, by the way, Bruins are up 4-0.
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KING: All right. All right. There you go. There you go. I think — I think that’s an audience pleaser.
Let’s continue our questions. Let’s get right down on the floor with John Distaso of the “Union Leader.”
DISTASO: Thank you, John.
Congresswoman Bachmann, let’s turn to a serious subject.
New Hampshire is one of five states where individuals who happen to be gay can marry legally. This is a question of conflicting interest. I know you’re opposed to same-sex marriage.
As president, would you try to overturn — what influence would you use from the White House to try to overturn these state laws despite your own personal belief that states should handle their own affairs whenever possible and in many circumstances? BACHMANN: Well, I do believe in the 10th Amendment and I do believe in self-determination for the states.
I also believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I carried that legislation when I was a senator in Minnesota, and I believe that for children, the best possible way to raise children is to have a mother and father in their life.
Now, I didn’t come from a perfect background. My parents were divorced. And I was raised by a single mother. There’s a lot of single families and families with troubled situations. That’s why my husband and I have broken hearts for at-risk kids and it’s why we took 23 foster children into our home.
DISTASO: What would a President Bachmann do to initiate or facilitate a repeal law on the state level? Anything at all from the White House? Would you come into the state of New Hampshire, for instance, and campaign on behalf of a repeal law?
BACHMANN: I’m running for the presidency of the United States. And I don’t see that it’s the role of a president to go into states and interfere with their state laws.
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KING: On that point — on that point, to voters out there for whom this is an important issue, let’s try to quickly go through it. Let me start at this end, we’ll just go right through. I’ll describe it this way. Are you a George W. Bush Republican, meaning a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, or a Dick Cheney who, like I believe, the congresswoman just said, this should be made — this decision, same sex marriage, should be a state’s decision?
CAIN: State’s decision.
PAWLENTY: I support a constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and woman. I was the co-author of the state — a law in Minnesota to define it and now we have courts jumping over this.
KING: OK. Let’s just go through this.
PAUL: The federal government shouldn’t be involved. I wouldn’t support an amendment. But let me suggest — one of the ways to solve this ongoing debate about marriage, look up in the dictionary. We know what marriage is all about.
But then, get the government out of it. Why doesn’t it go to the church? And why doesn’t it to go to the individuals? I don’t think government should give us a license to get married. It should be in the church.
KING: Governor Romney, constitutional amendment or state decision? ROMNEY: Constitutional.
KING: Mr. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Well, I helped author the Defense of Marriage Act which the Obama administration should be frankly protecting in court. I think if that fails, at that point, you have no choice except to (ph) constitutional amendment.
KING: We heard the congresswoman’s answer, Senator.
SANTORUM: Constitutional amendment. Look, the constitutional amendment includes the states. Three-quarters of the states have to — have to ratify it. So the states will be involved in this process. We should have one law in the country with respect to marriage. There needs to be consistency on something as foundational as what marriage is.
KING: Very quickly?
BACHMANN: John, I do support a constitutional amendment on — on marriage between a man and a woman, but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law.
KING: All right, let me ask you another question. The Obama administration is in the process — and Leon Panetta, who’s the new defense secretary, will implement — essentially, the repeal of “don’t ask/don’t tell” so gays will be allowed to serve openly in the military. I want to ask each of you — and, again, if we can be quickly, because then we want to get to the voters question — if you were president — if you become president of the United States, now gays are allowed to serve openly in the military, would you leave that policy in place or would you try to change it, go back to “don’t ask/don’t tell,” or something else?
CAIN: If I had my druthers, I never would have overturned “don’t ask/don’t tell” in the first place. Now that they have changed it, I wouldn’t create a distraction trying to turn it over as president. Our men and women have too many other things to be concerned about rather than have to deal with that as a distraction.
KING: Leave it in place if you inherit the new Obama administration policy or try to overturn it?
PAWLENTY: John, we’re a nation in two wars. I think we need to pay deference to our military commanders, particularly our combatant commanders, and in this case, I would take my cues from them as to how this affects the military going forward. I know they expressed concerns — many of the combatant commanders did — when this was originally repealed by the Obama administration.
PAUL: I would not work to overthrow it. We have to remember, rights don’t come in groups. We shouldn’t have gay rights. Rights come as individuals. If we would (ph) have this major debate going on, it would be behavior that would count, not the person who belongs to which group.
KING: Leave it in place, what you inherit from the Obama administration or overturn it?
ROMNEY: Well, one, we ought to be talking about the economy and jobs. But given the fact you’re insistent, the — the answer is, I believe that “don’t ask/don’t tell” should have been kept in place until conflict was over.
KING: Mr. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Well, I think it’s very powerful that both the Army and the Marines overwhelmingly opposed changing it, that their recommendation was against changing it. And if as president — I’ve met with them and they said, you know, it isn’t working, it is dangerous, it’s disrupting unit morale, and we should go back, I would listen to the commanders whose lives are at risk about the young men and women that they are, in fact, trying to protect.
BACHMANN: I would — I would keep the “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy.
KING: So you would — whatever the Obama administration does now, you would go — try to go back? You’d try to reverse what they’re doing?
BACHMANN: I would, after, again, following much what the speaker just said, I would want to confer with our commanders-in-chief and with — also with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because I’d want to know how it was being implemented and if it has — had had the detrimental effects that have been suggested that will come.
KING: All right. Last word on this issue, Senator?
SANTORUM: The job of the United States military is to protect and defend the people of this country. It is not for social experimentation. It should be repealed. And the commanders should have a system of discipline in place, as Ron Paul said, that punishes — that punishes bad behavior.
KING: Let’s go back down to the floor here. Jennifer Vaughn has a question.
VAUGHN: Thanks, John.
Senator Santorum, staying with you for a moment, if I may, you are staunchly pro-life. Governor Romney used to support abortion rights until he changed his position on this a few years ago. This has been thoroughly discussed. But do you believe he genuinely changed his mind, or was that a political calculation? Should this be an issue in this primary campaign? SANTORUM: I think — I think an issue should be — in looking at any candidate is looking at the authenticity of that candidate and looking at their — at their record over time and what they fought for. And I think that’s — that a factor that — that should be determined.
You can look at my record. Not only have I been consistently pro-life, but I’ve taken the — you know, I’ve not just taken the pledge, I’ve taken the bullets to go out there and fight for this and lead on those issues. And I think that’s a factor that people should consider when you — when you look, well, what is this president going to do when he comes to office?
A lot of folks run for president as pro-life and then that issue gets shoved to the back burner. I will tell you that the issue of pro-life, the sanctity and dignity of every human life, not just at birth, not just on the issue of abortion, but with respect to the entire life, which I mentioned welfare reform and — and the dignity of people at the end of life, those issues will be top priority issues for me to make sure that all life is respected and held with dignity.
KING: Governor Romney, let me give you — take — take 20 or 30 seconds, if there’s a Republican out there for whom this important, who questions your authenticity on the issue?
ROMNEY: People have had a chance to look at my record and look what I’ve said as — as I’ve been through that last campaign. I believe people understand that I’m firmly pro-life. I will support justices who believe in following the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end.
KING: Is there anybody here who believes that that’s an issue in the campaign, or is it case closed?
(UNKNOWN): Case closed.
KING: Case closed it is. All right. Let’s move on to the questions.
Tom Foreman is standing by up in Rochester.
FOREMAN: Hi, John. Representative Bachmann, I have a question for you. Governor Pawlenty says he opposes abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at stake. Do you have any problem with that position? And if so, why?
BACHMANN: I am 100 percent pro-life. I’ve given birth to five babies, and I’ve taken 23 foster children into my home. I believe in the dignity of life from conception until natural death. I believe in the sanctity of human life.
And I think the most eloquent words ever written were those in our Declaration of Independence that said it’s a creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take.
And the first of those rights is life. And I stand for that right. I stand for the right to life. The very few cases that deal with those exceptions are the very tiniest of fraction of cases, and yet they get all the attention. Where all of the firepower is and where the real battle is, is on the general — genuine issue of taking an innocent human life. I stand for life from conception until natural death.
KING: All right. Governor Pawlenty, it was your position that was brought into the question. We’ll give you a few seconds.
PAWLENTY: Well, this is a great example where we can look at our records. The National Review Online, which is a conservative publication, said based on results — not just based on words — I was probably the most pro-life candidate in this race.
As governor of the state of Minnesota, I appointed to the Supreme Court a conservative court for the first time in the modern history of my state. We passed the most pro-life legislation anytime in the modern history of the state, which I proposed and signed, including women’s right to know, including positive alternatives to abortion legislation, and many others.
I’m solidly pro-life. The main pro-life organization in Minnesota gives me very, very high marks. And I haven’t just talked about these things; I’ve done it.
KING: All right, Governor, thank you for that. Let’s go back up to — now up to Plymouth, New Hampshire. Thomas Fahey is standing by with a voter and a question.
FAHEY: Yes, thanks, John. I’m here with Lydia Cumbee. She lives in Franconia, and she is a naturalized citizen who moved to New Hampshire several years ago from Minnesota, of all places. And she’s got a question about immigration.
QUESTION: As a naturalized American citizen who came here legally, I would like to know how you, as America — as president, plan to prevent illegal immigrants from using our health care, educational, or welfare systems?
KING: Senator Santorum, why don’t you lead off on that one?
SANTORUM: Well, I’m the son of a legal immigrant in this country and — and believe in legal immigration. That is a great wellspring of — of strength for our country.
But we cannot continue to provide — the federal government should not require states to provide government services. And I have consistently voted against that and believe that we are, unfortunately — my grandfather came to this country — I announced in Somerset County. He didn’t come here because he was guaranteed a government benefit. He came here because he wanted freedom.
And I think most people who come to this country — certainly all people who come here legally — want it because they wanted the opportunities of this country. And that’s what we should be offering. We should not be offering to people — particularly those who broke the law to come here or overstayed their visa — we should not be offering government benefits.
KING: And so, Dr. Paul, to you on this one, the question comes up, though, once they’re in the country illegally, you have — compassion sometimes bumps up against enforcing the law and state budget crises. A 5-year-old child of an illegal immigrant walks into an emergency room. Does the child get care?
PAUL: Well, first off, we shouldn’t have the mandates. We bankrupted the hospitals and the schools in Texas and other states. We shouldn’t give them easy citizenship.
We should think about protecting our borders, rather than the borders between Iraq and Afghanistan. That doesn’t make any sense to me.
But on — on coming in, you know, there was a time when government wasn’t — we didn’t depend on government for everything. There was a time when the Catholic Church actually looked after…
KING: But should they get care? Should they get care? Should taxpayers have to pay for that care?
PAUL: No, they should not be forced to, but we wouldn’t — we shouldn’t be penalizing the Catholic Church, because they’re trying to fulfill a role. And some of the anti-immigrants want to come down hard on the Catholic Church, and that is wrong.
If we believed in our free society — as a matter of fact, this whole immigration problem is related to the economy. People aren’t coming over as much now because it’s weak. When we had a healthy economy, some of our people didn’t work (ph) and people flowed over here getting jobs. So there is an economic issue here, as well.
But, no, if you have an understanding and — and you want to believe in freedom, freedom has solved these kind of problems before. You don’t have to say, oh, you’re not going to have care or there won’t be any care and everybody is going to starve to death and — and die on the streets without medical care. That’s the implication of the question. That’s just not true, and you shouldn’t accept it.