Participants: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, John Huntsman, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum
Moderator: Wolf Blitzer
Ron Paul Highlights:
This is a rush transcript. If you notice any errors please report them using the “Help improve this post” link at the bottom of this post.
TV Voice: Ron Paul, a leading anti-war voice in Congress.
Ron Paul: We should only go to war when the people in this country declare the war.
TV Host: Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
Ron Paul: I’m Ron Paul, I’m the congressman from Texas, I am pleased to be here at the debate because this is a very important debate. I am convinced that needless and unnecessary wars are a great detriment, they undermine our prosperity and our liberties, they add to our deficits, and they consume our welfare. We should take a careful look at our foreign policy.
TV Host: Our lead-off question is from the Honorable Edwin Meese, the former attorney general of the United States, who’s representing the Heritage foundation.
Edwin Meese: At least 42 terrorist attacks aimed at the United States have been thwarted since 9/11. Tools like the PATRIOT Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorist. Shouldn’t we have a long-range extension of the investigative powers contained in that act, so that our law enforcement officers can have the tools that they need?
Wolf Blitzer: Congressman Paul, I suspect you disagree.
Ron Paul: I do.
Wolf Blitzer: Tell us why.
Ron Paul: I think the PATRIOT Act is unpatriotic, because it undermines our liberty. I’m as concerned as everybody is about the terrorist attack, Timothy McVeigh was a viscous terrorist, he was arrested. Terrorism is still on the books, internationally and nationally it is a crime and we should deal with it. We dealt with it rather well with Timothy McVeigh. But what I really fear is, we have drifted into a condition that we were warned against, because our early founders were very clear, they said, “Don’t be willing to sacrifice liberty for security”. Today, it seems too easy that our government and our Congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security, you can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights.
Wolf Blitzer: I want to bring others in, but do you want to respond, Mr. Speaker?
Newt Gingrich: Yea, Timothy McVeigh succeeded, that’s the whole point. Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says, “After we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you”. I want a law that says, “You try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you”.
Ron Paul: This is like saying that we need a policeman in every house and a camera in every house, because we want to prevent child beating and wife beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security, and you might prevent a crime; but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms and we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don’t do it so carelessly.
Wolf Blitzer: In this profiling, who would be profiled?
Rick Santorum: Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. Obviously, Muslims would be someone you look at, absolutely. The radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, by and large, as well as younger males. These are things that, not exclusively, but you profile, to find your most like candidate.
Wolf Blitzer: Congressman Paul?
Ron Paul: That’s digging a hole for ourselves. What if they look like Timothy McVeigh, he was a pretty tough criminal. I think we’re using too much carelessness at the use of words that we’re at war. I don’t remember voting on a Declaration of War, or a war against terrorism. And terrorism is a tactic, it isn’t a person, it isn’t a people. So this is a very careless use of words. What about this: sacrifice liberties because they’re terrorists? You’re the judge and the Jury? No, they’re suspects, and in the DOD budget they have changed the wording on the definition of Al-Qaida and Taliban, it’s “Anybody associated with organizations”, which means almost anybody can be loosely associated. So that makes all Americans vulnerable, and now we know that American citizens are vulnerable to assassination. So I would be very cautious about protecting the rule of law, it will be a sacrifice that you will be sorry for.
Wolf Blitzer: Is it okay for Muslim Americans to get more intensive pat downs or security when they go through airports than Christian Americans or Jewish Americans?
Herman Cain: No, Blitz, that’s oversimplifying it. I happen to believe that if you allow our intelligence agencies to do their job, they can come up with an appropriate … I’m sorry, Blitz, I meant Wolf … Blitz/Wolf … since we’re on a Blitz debate.
Rick Santorum: I agree with Ron Paul, we are not fighting a war on terrorism, terrorism is a tactic.
Wolf Blitzer: If Israel attacked Iran to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack? Congressman Paul, would you support Israel and help Israel in such an attack?
Ron Paul: No, I wouldn’t do that. But there would be good reasons, because I don’t expect it to happen, because the Mossad leader that just retired said it would be the stupidest thing to do in the world. There’s a big argument over in Israel, they’re not about to do this. They’ve just pulled 40 major experts on foreign policy by the National Journal, and not one of them said there should be a unilateral attack on the sites in Iran. So that’s not going to happen, and if it did, you’re supposing that if it did, why does Israel need our help? We need to get out of their way. I mean, we interfere with them, we interfere with them when they deal with their borders; when they want to have peace treaties, we tell them what they can do because we buy their allegiance and they sacrifice their sovereignty to us. And then they decide they want to bomb something, that’s their business, but they should suffer the consequences. When they bombed the Iraqi missile site, nuclear site, back in the 1980s, I was one of the few in Congress that said that it’s none of our business. And Israel should take care of themselves, Israel has 200, 300 nuclear missiles, and they can take care of themselves. Why should we commit, we don’t even have a treaty with Israel. Why do we have this automatic commitment that we’re going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel? So I think they’re quite capable of taking care of themselves, I think we do detriment. Just think of all the money we gave to Egypt over 30 or 40 years, we were buying their friendship. Now there’s a civil war and they’re less friendly to Israel, that whole thing is going to backfire once we go bankrupt and we remove our troops. So I think we should be very cautious in our willingness to go to war and send troops without a proper declaration by the U.S. Congress.
Paul Wolfowitz: My name is Paul Wolfowitz, I’m a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and my question is about development assistance. Under George W. Bush, who was a conservative Republican, the United States spent millions of dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa and elsewhere, and set up the millennium challenge corporation to encourage governments of poor countries to pursue policies that promote economic growth and job creation. Do you believe that those are still wise expenditures, or do you think that we can no longer afford them?
Ron Paul: I think the aid is all worthless, it doesn’t do any good for most of the people. You take money from poor people in this country, and you end up giving it to rich people in poor countries. And they’re used as weapons of war, so you accomplish nothing. We should export maybe some principles about free markets and sound money and maybe they could produce some of their own wealth. But his whole idea of talking about the endless wars and the endless foreign aid, it seems like nobody cares about the budget. I mean, we’re in big trouble, and nobody wants to cut anything. so if you’re going to keep sending foreign aid overseas and these endless wars that you don’t have to declare and go into Libya without even counseling with the Congress, the biggest threat to our national security is our financial condition, and this is just aggravating it.
Wolf Blitzer: Governor Romney?
Mitt Romney: Congressman Paul, what they’re doing is cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget, they’re cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget which just happens to equal the trillion dollars they’re putting into Obama Care. And so what you have is a President that has a priority of spending us into bankruptcy, but he’s not just spending us into bankruptcy, he’s spending the money foolishly. We need to protect America, and protect our troops and our military, and stop the idea of Obama Care; that’s the best way to save money, not the military.
Wolf Blitzer: Hold on for one second, because Ron Paul wants to respond to that point.
Ron Paul: Well, they’re not cutting anything out of anything, all this talk is just talk, believe me. They’re nibbling away at baseline budgeting, and its automatic increases, there’s nothing cut against the military. And the people on the Hill are nearly hysterical because the budget isn’t going up as rapidly as they want it to. It’s a road to disaster, we better wake up.
Audience Member: I’d like to turn it back a little bit to closer to home and talk about what’s going on at the border, our sovereign border. As all of you know, the drug related crimes and violence is getting heavier and heavier in that area. First, do you consider that to be a national interest threat, and secondly, what could we be doing with the Mexican government to help stop these drug cartels?
Wolf Blitzer: Governor Perry, you represent the state with the longest border with Mexico, right now what do you think you should do if you were President of the United States as far as using the United States military goes?
Rick Perry: Well, let me kind of broaden it out. I think it’s time for a 21st century Monroe Doctrine.
Wolf Blitzer: Congressman Paul, you’re from Texas, do you agree with your Governor?
Ron Paul: Not entirely. The drug war was mentioned, I think that’s another war we ought to cancel, because it is to nobody’s benefit, and that’s where the violence is coming from. But yes, we do have a national responsibility for our borders. What I’m sort of tired of is all the money spent and lives lost worrying about the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan, forgetting about our borders between United States and Mexico. We should think more about what we’re doing at home. We need better immigration services, obviously, but if you subsidize something or give people incentives, you get more of it. So if you give easy road to citizenship, you’re going to have more illegals. If you have a weak economy -which is understandable, we should have prevented it, that’s understandable. But mandating to the states and to Texas that we have to provide free medical care and free education, that’s a great burden to us, it’s a great burden to California and all the border states. So I would say, eliminate all these benefits and talk about eliminating the welfare state, because it’s detrimental not only to here, but also to the people to come, because that’s the incentive to bring their families with them.
Wolf Blitzer: I just want to clarify, when you say, “cancel the war on drugs”, does that mean legalize all these drugs?
Ron Paul: I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure, you can at least have sick people have marijuana because it’s helpful, but compassionate conservatives say, “Well, we can’t do this, we’re going to put people who are sick and dying with cancer and they’re being helped with marijuana if they have multiple sclerosis, the federal government is going in there and overriding state laws and putting people like that in prison. Why don’t we handle the drugs like we handle alcohol? Alcohol is a deadly drug. What about the real deadly drugs which are a prescription drugs, they kill a lot more people than the illegal drugs. So the drug war is out of control, I fear the drug war because it undermines our civil liberties, it magnifies our problems on the borders. Over the past 40 years we’ve spent over a trillion dollars on this war, and believe me, the kids can still get the drugs, it just hasn’t worked.
Wolf Blitzer: Herman Cain, let me let you weigh in.
Katherine Zimmerman: The United States adopted a policy of disengagement with Somalia after its retreat following Black Hawk Down. Today, an Al-Qaida affiliate, Al-Shabab, controls significant territory in that country. What can the United States do to prevent Al-Sbahab from posing the same threat that Al-Qaida did from Afghanistan ten years ago?
Wolf Blitzer: Congressman Paul?
Ron Paul: You’re talking about Al-Qaida, correct?
Katherine Zimmerman: Yes.
Ron Paul: You have to understand who the Al-Qaida really is, the Al-Qaida responds in a very deliberate fashion. Matter of fact, Paul Wolfowitz explained it very clearly after 9/11, he said that Al-Qaida is inspired by the fact that we had bases in Saudi Arabia. So if you want to inspire Al-Qaida, just meddle in that region, that will inspire the Al-Qaida. Matter of fact, he went on to say that that was a good reason for us to remove the base that we had for 50 years in Saudi Arabia, and that we should have done that. So there is a response. Al-Qaida responds to that and they’re quite annoyed with us. So if you have a no-fly zone over Syria, that’s an act of war. What if we had China put a no-fly zone over our territory? I don’t think we would like that. And I think we should practice a policy of goodwill to other people, what about saying that we don’t do anything to any other country that we don’t have them do to us? When we had a no-fly zone over Iraq, it was meant to be for a regime change, evidently they wanted to have regime change. But what is our business, why should we spend more money and more lives to get involved in another war, that is the internal affairs of the other nations. And we don’t need another nation to start nation building, we have way too many already. So this is just looking for more trouble, I would say, “Why don’t we mind our own business?”
Question: What is the one national security issue you worry about that no one is asking about today?
Ron Paul: I worry most about over-reaction on our part, getting involved in another war when we don’t need to, when we haven’t been attacked, and our national security has not been at threat. And I worry a lot about people never coming around to understanding who the Taliban is, and why they are motivated. Taliban doesn’t mean they want to come here and kill us, the Taliban means that they want to kill us over there because all they want to do is get people who occupy their country out of their country, just like we would if anybody tried to occupy us.
Wolf Blitzer: Governor Perry?