Questions For The GOP Field At Tonight’s Debate

Questions For The GOP Field At Tonight’s Debate

By Alex Seitz-Wald on Jun 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Tonight, Republican presidential hopefuls will gather in New Hampshire for the first real debate of the 2012 election. The CNN/WMUR/Union Leader-sponsored event will help introduce the seven candidates to the country and offer the first chance for the field’s top candidates to go head to head, as the front-runners skipped May’s presidential forum in South Carolina.

With the latest job numbers,  a lot of Americans are asking: What exactly do lower corporate taxes and tax cuts for millionaires do for me?  The GOP hopefuls have laid out plans that will overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and corporations, but have yet to explain how they would create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and help the millions of unemployed Americans searching for jobs.

While much remains to be learned about these candidates, here are the questions we’re hoping they each get asked tonight:

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOV. MITT ROMNEY: You’ve positioned yourself as a leader on job creation, releasing a web video today attacking President Obama on the bleak jobs picture. But while you were governor, Massachusetts was ranked 47th on job creation. While you were at Bain, the company slashed jobs. And in 2009, when hundreds of thousands of jobs were on the line when General Motors and Chrysler were struggling for survival, you penned an op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” The government’s rescue of these companies helped return themto profitability and save jobs. Given your record, how can Americans trust you on job creation?

FORMER MINNESOTA GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: Last week, you presented an economic plan that would dramatically cut the top individual income tax rate and the corporate tax rate, depriving the government of up to $7.8 trillion in tax revenue. And that’s on top of the $2.5 trillion cost of extending all of the Bush tax cuts. You’ve said you would pay for the cuts with a nearly unprecedented economic growth rate of 5 percent a year for 10 years that even you yourself say is an “aspiration.” But, in case we are unable to achieve that growth rate, how would you balance the budget with these massive new tax cuts, especially since you’ve taken military cutsoff the table?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): You voted for the GOP Medicare privatization plan, but later said there is an “asterisk” by your vote because, you said, “I’m concerned about shifting the cost burden to senior citizens.” Indeed, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says seniors would pay thousands of dollars more each year for their health care starting in 2022. By now, nearly all of your potential opponents have come out in support of the plan — do you fully support it? If not, why?

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): Several recent polls show that a majority of Americans are in favor of gay marriage. Republicans here in New Hampshire have veto-proof majorities in both chambers, but chose to not pursue repealing gay marriage to focus on jobs and the economy. Was that the right decision?

FORMER GODFATHER’S PIZZA CEO HERMAN CAIN: In March, you said you would not appoint Muslims to a Cain administration’s cabinet and then, just this past week on Fox News host Glenn Beck’s show, you called for special loyalty oaths for Muslim political appointees, which you would not give to members of other religions. You’ve also publicly calls on Americans to “re-read” the Constitution, but isn’t your singling out of Muslims unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH: Before later backtracking, you famously said that the GOP Medicare privatization plan was “right-wing social engineering.” You later disavowed those comments and pledged support for the plan. But now, given the fact that numerous polls showing the plan to be unpopular, the blowback Republican lawmakers faced in their home districts over it, and the results of the special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District, were you right the first time?

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): You have been very outspoken about your interpretation of the Constitution, passionately arguing that most of what the federal government does today — including Social Security and Medicare — is unconstitutional. As president, would you work to completely repeal these social safety net programs? You’ve also suggested the Civil Rights Actwas an unconstitutional encroachment on property owners. Would you work to repeal it? What about similar laws like the Voters With Disability Act or the Voting Rights Act?

Today’s Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed

A persistent slowdown in hiring is the biggest threat facing the U.S. recovery, according to a group of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal. Economists have sharply cut the number of jobs they predict the economy will create. “If jobs don’t grow fast enough, the recovery will sputter,” said economist Nicholas S. Perna of Perna Associates.

President Obama is moving aggressively to win back Wall Street donors who gave heavily to his campaign in 2008. Among Obama’s efforts was a meeting with more than two dozen Wall Street executives at the White House earlier this year.

The United Nations said Sunday that May was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since the agency began tracking their deaths in 2007. “We’re very concerned about this because, historically, civilian harm increases over the summer fighting months, and we’ve only just begun the summer now,” said Georgette Gagnon, who directs the U.N.’s human rights mission in Kabul.

Gareth Porter of IPS casts doubt on U.S. military claims of capturing over 4,000 Taliban. He writes, “More than 80 percent of those called captured Taliban fighters were released within days of having been picked up, because they were found to have been innocent civilians, according to official U.S. military data.”

The Obama administration is launching a new “Campaign to Cut Waste” that includes plans to close or consolidate about 500 federal websites as part of an effort to reduce government overlap. In a video announcing the initiative, Obama joked that the government doesn’t need websites devoted to desert tortoises or a quintet of U.S. Forest Service rangers who play the fiddle.

Tomorrow, President Obama will become the first U.S. president in 50 years to visit Puerto Rico. The last president to do so was John F. Kennedy. The island, whose future status remains in limbo, is “crippled by a soaring murder rate, mass exodus and 16.2 percent unemployment.”

And finally: After CNN blocked former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R) from participating in tonight’s debate, Fox News host John Stossel decided to throw Johnson a bone and invited him to debate “President Obama” — in the form of Obama impersonator Reggie Brown. In a “SNL”-worthy seven-minute segment, Brown recited “real Obama quotes” for Johnson to counter in front of “a small studio audience” that “was there to clap for Johnson and boo fake POTUS.”

[update]Here are how the questions were asked and answered during the debate.

  • Mitt Romney on the auto bailout:

[Union Leader Reporter Tim] FAHEY: Yes, thank you, John. I wanted to ask Governor Romney about the auto industry. General Motors and Chrysler have rebounded since the Obama administration bailed them up. Bankruptcy is no longer a threat.

Would you say the bailout program was a success?

ROMNEY: The bailout program was not a success because the bailout program wasted a lot of money. About $17 billion was used unnecessarily.

When the CEOs of the auto companies went to Washington asking for money from Washington, I wrote an op-ed, and I said, look, the right process for these companies is not a bailout, not a big check from Washington, but instead letting these enterprises go through bankruptcy, re-emerge, getting rid of the unnecessary costs that they had, the excessive debt, re-emerge, and that would be the preferred way for them to be able to get on their feet again.

Instead, the Bush administration and the Obama administration wrote checks to the auto industry. Ultimately, they went through the very bankruptcy process that I suggested from the beginning.

But the big difference was $17 billion was wasted. And then President Obama, given that money, was able to put his hands on the scales of justice and give the company to the UAW.

There is a perception in this country that government knows better than the private sector, that Washington and President Obama have a better view for how an industry ought to be run. Well, they’re wrong. The right way for America to create jobs is to — is to keep government in its place and to allow the private sector and the — and the energy and passion of the American people create a brighter future for our kids and for ourselves.

[CNN’s John] KING: Let me read you, Governor, just a little bit of an op-ed piece you wrote back in November 2008.


“If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” From a profit standpoint, they’re doing pretty well right now. On that point, “kiss goodbye,” I understand you disagree with the policy. Kiss the industry goodbye, were you wrong?

ROMNEY: No, I wasn’t wrong, because if you read the rest of the op-ed piece, it says what they need to do is go through a bankruptcy process to shed unnecessary costs. If they just get paid checks after checks from the federal government, they’re going to be locked in with high UAW costs, legacy costs. They’ll never be able to get on their feet. They have to go through bankruptcy.

And it turned out that that’s finally what they did. And the head of the UAW, he wrote an op-ed piece saying, Romney’s wrong, the government has to step in and give them a check.

That’s the wrong way to go. Use the process of law. Use the process of American ingenuity. Don’t have government try and guide this economy.

  • Tim Pawlenty on his plan for $7.8 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations:

KING: OK, I’m going to try to ask all of you to keep the follow- ups to 30 seconds as we — so we can get more in.

Governor Pawlenty, answer the critics — and as you do so — who say 5 percent every year is just unrealistic. And as you do so, where’s the proof — where’s the proof that just cutting taxes will create jobs? If that were true, why during the Bush years, after the big tax cut, where were the jobs?

Well, John, my plan involves a whole plan, not just cutting taxes. We’re proposing to cut taxes, reduce regulation, speed up this pace of government, and to make sure that we have a pro-growth agenda.

This president is a declinist. He views America as one of equals around the world. We’re not the same as Portugal; we’re not the same as Argentina. And this idea that we can’t have 5 percent growth in America is hogwash. It’s a defeatist attitude. If China can have 5 percent growth and Brazil can have 5 percent growth, then the United States of America can have 5 percent growth.

And I don’t accept this notion that we’re going to be average or anemic. So my proposal has a 5 percent growth target. It cuts taxes, but it also dramatically cuts spending. We need to fix regulation. We need to have a pro-American energy policy. We need to fix health care policy. And if you do those things, as I’ve proposed, including cut spending, you’ll get this economy moving and growing the private economy by shrinking government.

  • Marriage Equality:

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.


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.

  • Herman Cain on his controversial pledge not to appoint Muslims to his administration:

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


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.

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.
  • Newt Gingrich on the GOP’s plan to end Medicare:

KING: All right, Governor.

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring you into this conversation, because I’m looking down — I want to get the words just right — your initial reaction to the Ryan plan? It’s radical right-wing social engineering. Then you backtracked. Why? 

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, it was a very narrow question, which said, should Republicans impose an unpopular bill on the American people? Now, I supported the Ryan budget as a general proposal. I actually wrote a newsletter supporting the Ryan budget. And those words were taken totally out of context.

I’m happy to repeat them. If you’re dealing with something as big as Medicare and you can’t have a conversation with the country where the country thinks what you’re doing is the right thing, you better slow down.

Remember, we all got mad at Obama because he ran over us when we said don’t do it. Well, the Republicans ought to follow the same ground rule. If you can’t convince the American people it’s a good idea, maybe it’s not a good idea. So let me start there.

Second, there are certain things I would do different than Paul Ryan on Medicare. I agree strongly with him on Medicaid, and I think it could be done. But let me just say two quick things.

KING: Quickly. 

GINGRICH: Congressman Tom Price has a very good bill in that would allow private contracting so those people who want to voluntarily could contract with their doctor or their hospital in addition to Medicare, and it would be outside the current system and it would relieve the pricing pressure on the current system. We did a study called “Stop Paying the Crooks.” We think you can save $70 billion to $120 billion in Medicare and Medicaid annually by not paying crooks…

All right. We have to — we have to save time. 

GINGRICH: … two examples.

KING: We have to save time. Let me start with the senator first. Should the Republicans slow down?



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