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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
GOP Town Hall Event with South Carolina Voters. Aired 8:15-11p ET
Aired February 17, 2016 - 20:15 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: And, good evening, everyone.
In just three days, Republicans here are going to go to the polls and if history is any guide, Saturday's South Carolina primary will make some campaigns and break others.
It matters that much, which is why tonight matters so much, with three candidates one last chance for voters to ask the kind of questions face-to-face to help them decide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, a conversation with three leading Republicans in South Carolina. They're facing the voters and fighting for every last vote.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you ever want to fall in love with the American people, run for president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marco Rubio rising.
Ted Cruz talking tough.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The time for games is over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ben Carson running behind, hoping to rise above the fray.
And the rest of the field.
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I can win South Carolina.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three contenders, men of faith in a state where faith runs deep and the faithful vote.
But it's not all sweetness and light. South Carolina is a state that knows raw politics.
RUBIO: He's now literally just making things up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marco Rubio hitting Cruz, Cruz hitting back.
CRUZ: Whenever anyone points out their record, they simply start screaming, "Liar, liar, liar!" UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three contenders in a state where manners matter, but winning matters more. Just days before the first Southern primary, at the end of a campaign like we and the voters have never seen before, this is an ANDERSON COOPER 360 CNN Republican town hall. Voters seeking answers, a chance to drive the debating before making a choice that could make history.
COOPER: And good evening and welcome from the Old Cigar Warehouse in Greenville in South Carolina.
What a night ahead.
We are here tonight with just three days to go until primary day, just three days left to decide. Yet a lot of voters in this state remain undecided.
So tonight, Senators Rubio and Cruz, and Dr. Carson are here with voters and viewers for a conversation.
Tomorrow night, I'll be with John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, the voters and I not too far from here in Columbia, South Carolina.
I want to welcome our viewers watching in the United States, watching here in South Carolina and around the world on CNN International.
I also want to extend a warm welcome to all our service men and women who are watching on the American Forces Network and to those who are listening on the Westwood 1 radio network and on CNN Channel 116 on SiriusXM.
In the audience tonight here in Greenville, people who tell us they will be participating in Saturday's Republican primary. Some decided, some undecided.
We asked audience members to come up with their own questions, which we reviewed to make sure that they don't overlap. I'll ask some questions, as well.
But tonight, we really hope this is about South Carolina voters getting to know the candidates.
So let's get started.
Joining us first tonight is retired neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson.
COOPER: And welcome.
Great to see you.
Have a seat. (APPLAUSE)
COOPER: How's it going?
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Very good.
I want to start just, you obviously are a retired neurosurgeon. You've been running now -- you've been out on the campaign trail for 10 months.
What's harder, brain surgery or politics?
CARSON: Brain surgery is a lot harder.
CARSON: But, you know, the interesting thing that I've discovered about politics, good things and bad things. It's been wonderful having an opportunity to meet so many people across the country and hear what their concerns are.
It hadn't been that great, you know, dealing with the press.
COOPER: Are you looking at me or?
COOPER: Well, that's what really tonight is about, it's really you interacting with the voters. I'm just going to ask a couple of questions and then we're going to turn it over, really, to the voters.
COOPER: I want to ask you just about a couple of items in the news.
As you know, the government is trying to unlock the cell phone of one of the terrorists in San Bernardino. They've been unable to do that. They've now, they've gotten a judge to -- to ask Apple or to try to order Apple to create new operating software that would allow them essentially a back door to -- to open up and get access.
Do you think Apple should be forced to do that, because Apple says that's going to violate not only privacy rights, but it's going to make everybody's cell phone vulnerable, potentially, to hackers.
CARSON: Sure. Well, you know, the interesting thing is I think that Apple and probably a lot of other people don't necessarily trust the government these days. There is probably a very good reason for people not to trust the government but we're going to have to get over that because right now we're faced with tremendous threats and individual radical jihadist who want destroy us. And we're going to have to weigh these things one against the other. I believe what we need is a public private partnership when it comes
to all of these technical things and cyber-security because we're all at risk in a very significant way. So it's going to be a matter of people learning to trust each other which means, Apple needs to sit down with those trustworthy in the government. And that may have wait until the next election, I don't know but we'll see. They need to sit down with people they can trust and hammer out the relationship.
COOPER: If you were president right and you just have 11 months left in your term, would you nominate someone to fill Justice Scalia's seat.
CARSON: I probably would. I probably would take the opportunity to nominate someone. It doesn't necessarily mean that, that person is going to be acted on confirmed but why not do it?
But here is the real problem, you know, the Supreme Court is a very important part of our governing system. It was originally intended to consist of jurists who were people who loved America, and were people who fully understood our constitution, and were there to make sure that America preserved it's constitutional traditions. It was not suppose to be a partisan group.
It has become very partisan, so as a result everything that is done surrounding it; the pics, the confirmation hearings, deciding on whether to actually make the vote, all of it has become partisan in reaction to what is happening. Does it mean that we're forever gone? No, I think it means that these are things that we're going to have to start looking at.
We're going to start figuring out how in the world do we once again get back to a reasonable judicial system. We do not have that now. We have overreaching. We have a Congress that for some reason has become the peanut gallery, and is just watching what the Executive branch and the judiciary do and not really stepping up to correct some of the incorrect decisions that has been made by the Supreme Court.
COOPER: How would a President Carson pick judges? Would you have a litmus test as people often say?
CARSON: Yes, the litmus test would be their life. I would look back at what they have done throughout their lives, what kind of rulings they have had throughout their lives, what kind of associations they have had. You can tell a lot more about how a person has lived their life than you can with a series of interviews which they have been prepped for, which they know exactly how to answer. We've been burned by those kinds of things before.
COOPER: So you wouldn't necessarily have a list of questions on abortion, on whatever other issues?
CARSON: I think I could find out what their opinions are by looking back at their life.
You know, the bible says in Matthew:1720, by their fruit you will know them. COOPER: I want to have you meet a voter. Her name is Jessica Fuller.
She works in advertising. She's a voter here in Greenville. She says, she is still undecided so you could pick up a vote right here tonight.
COOPER: Welcome Jessica, go ahead.
JESSICA FULLER, PARTICIPANT: Dr. Carson, how do you reconcile the differences between traditional Christian values, specifically caring the least of these and current GOP stances on social issues such as welfare and subsidies for the poor?
CARSON: Well, when you say current GOP, I'm a part of the GOP and let me tell you what my stance is. My stance is that, we the people have the responsibility to take care of the indigent in our society. It's not the government's job. You can read the constitution all you want, it never says that it is the government's job and I think where we've gotten confused.
In the old days of America when communities were separated by hundreds of miles, why were they able to thrive? Because if it was harvest time and the farmer was up in the tree picking apples and fell down and broke his leg, everybody pitched in and harvested his crops for him. If somebody got killed by a bear, everybody took care of their family.
So we have a history of taking care of each other. Now for some strange reason, starting sort of in the '20s with Woodrow Wilson, the government started getting involved in everything. It kept growing, metastasizing. By the time we got to the '60s, LBJ was saying, we, the government, are going to eliminate poverty.
Now how did that work out? You know, $19 trillion later, 10 times more people on food stamps, more poverty, more welfare, broken homes, out-of-wedlock births, crime, incarceration. Everything is not only worse, it's much worse.
And that's because it's not their job. It's our job. I wish the government would read the Constitution. I think that would probably help quite a bit. And maybe they did read it and maybe they got confused when they read the preamble which says one of the duties is to promote the general welfare.
They probably thought that meant putting everybody on welfare. But in fact...
CARSON: ... I don't think it means that at all. And what we need to do is level the playing field.
But the government can play a very important role in facilitating what we, the people, do. Let me give you one quick example. Look at all of the out-of-wedlock births that are going on,
particularly in our inner cities. I have been speaking at a lot of the non-profit organizations that support organizations that support these women so that they don't have an abortion, so that they have the baby.
But usually their education stops when they have that baby. Now if you not only support them through that pregnancy, but now provide childcare for them so they can go back to school and get their GED or their associate's degree or bachelor's degree or their master's degree, learn how to take care of themselves, teach their baby how to take care of themselves so that you break the cycle of the dependency.
That's the only way we're going to get through these programs. That is true compassion. Having people become dependent on others is not compassion at all.
COOPER: Dr. Carson, I want you to meet, this is Katie Busbee. She works for the Chamber of Commerce here in Greenville. And she says she is undecided.
KATIE BUSBEE, GREENVILLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Dr. Carson, I know you would probably agree that one of the biggest issues facing our country is national security threats. So with groups like ISIS and the Middle East becoming more and more unstable, you are running as a candidate that has never governed before.
Are you qualified to be commander-in-chief? And are you qualified to deal with these national security threats?
CARSON: I obviously think so or I wouldn't be running for president. You know, it's the political class that has tried to convince everybody that they are the only ones who can solve our problems.
But the fact of the matter is our system was designed for citizen statesmen. It was designed for people who have had real-life experiences and then can transfer that to government work.
You know, I can guarantee you that I've had more 2:00 a.m. phone calls than anybody else, all the rest of them, had to make life and death decisions, had to derive information frequently from interns or residents who didn't know a lot but you've still got to manage to get the right information, make the right decisions, put together teams, complex teams to accomplish things that have never before been accomplished before.
You know, I think what we really need are people who know how to solve problems, not people who know how to talk. You know, we can all talk, but we can't all solve problems.
And what I think you need to look at is the course of a person's life. Go back and see, what kinds of things have they had to face? What kinds of things have they had to overcome?
And, you know, the people who say, well, you've never run anything, you don't know how to do anything. Maybe none of the things that they want to do. But I'll tell you, it does take skill to take -- you know, the division of pediatric neurosurgery, when I became chief, it wasn't even on the map.
And to take it to number one in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, by 2008, that's not something that's done lightly.
You know, to start the Carson Scholars Fund. These are things that are outside of medicine. And people said, you can't start another scholarship program. There are tens of thousands of them. But we started it. It's in all 50 states, has won major national awards that are only given to one organization in the country.
Obviously, you have to know how to do things. You know, I've spent 18 years on the board of Kellogg's, 16 years on the board of Costco, learned a tremendous amount about business, both domestically and internationally, and a lot of things that people who are politicians who are running have never done.
So I think you have to really look at what a person accomplishes in their life and not whether they have a specific pedigree of the political class who thinks that they rule us when, in fact, this country is of, for, and by the people. And it's we, the people, who need to assume once again the pinnacle position.
COOPER: Dr. Carson, this is Alexander Sexton, he works in the defense industry right here in Greenville. He says he is also undecided, but leaning in your favor. Welcome.
QUESTION: Dr. Carson, thank you for your time. Like many Americans, I've only recently felt the need to own a gun, and you know, right now the world is in a dangerous place. So, what is your plan to preserve my rights to own a gun, and also to protect the American people?
CARSON: Sure. Well, you know the Second Amendment is there for a very good reason. It was so that the people could assist the government in case of an invasion. More importantly, it was so that the people could protect themselves in case the government itself ever became tyrannical, and tried to rule the people.
So, we've had guns for hundreds of years, and we've been free for hundreds of years. I think there may be a correlation there.
And, you know, I think, you know, after the San Bernardino attacks, and the Paris attacks, you know? The current administration, their ideal of solving the problem was to take guns away from the people. Somehow that's going to solve your problem because there are terrorists trying to kill you. Take your guns away. It makes absolutely no sense.
What they should be doing is offering free classes in gun safety to all the citizens who want to take it so they can protect themselves. It is the fundamental right that we have to be able to protect ourselves, but we also need to take safety into account. Once we do that in a reasonable way, I think you're right, my right, all of our rights should be preserved.
COOPER: I just want to follow up on Alexander's question. He was saying he's gotten a gun for the first time in his life. Have you ever -- do you own a gun? Have you ever felt the need to have a gun?
CARSON: Yes. I don't know that I felt the need to have a gun, but I like having a gun. It's a nice thing to have. You know, I have multiple marksmanship awards from ROTC, and I'm very much in favor of preserving those rights.
COOPER: I want you to meet Vickie Burns. She's a retired small business owner. She says she's leaning towards Governor Bush, but she has not yet made up her mind. Welcome...
CARSON: ... OK.
QUESTION: Hi, Dr. Carson. My question for you is if you are elected president, what would be your big idea? In the past we've had great presidents that have united our country with programs such as the space program, the WPC, and we are in much need of a big idea.
CARSON: Well, I have multiple big ideas, but here's one of the things that I really want to get across to the country. We have only 330 million people. Sounds like a lot of people, but China has 1.4 billion people. India has 1.1 billion people. We have to compete with them on the world stage which means we can't afford to waste any of our people, so it doesn't make sense for us to have 20 plus percent of people who enter high school dropping out of highschool in the technological age, in the information age.
It makes no sense for us to have 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the inmates. And, we have to reorient ourselves in a way that we keep those things from happening because for everyone of those young people we can keep from going down that path of self destruction, that's one more person that we all don't have to be afraid of, or protect our family from. One more person that we don't have to pay for in the penal system, or the welfare system.
One more taxpaying, productive member of society who may discover the cure for cancer, or a new energy source. We can't afford to throw away any of our people. that's a big idea.
COOPER: This is Richard Leland, he's a family physician right here in Greenville, and he also says he's undecided. Richard, welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. Dr. Carson, in the event that you did not win the presidency, but one of your fellow Republicans did, if they were to ask you to consider serving as the Surgeon General, or head of the Department of Health and Human services, with your passion and your ability, would you be willing, at some point, to consider this?
CARSON: Well, I got to tell you, I'm not looking for a job, you know?
CARSON: You know? After...
COOPER: ... Well, there is one job you're looking for.
CARSON: After 15,000 operations, and a very arduous career, I'm definitely not just looking for something to do.
I feel that our country is on the precipice and it's about to go over the edge. And if we continue with politics as usual, Democrats or Republicans, we are going to go over that edge.
And I think we have to reach down and recognize that we're -- we can't just tinker around the edges. We're going to have to have some real ideas here, ideals of how we get that economic engine which is the most dynamic and powerful economic engine that the world has ever known rolling again.
I've got good ideas about that, bencarson.com. And I can explain them if anybody asks me that question.
But, you know, also, when we look at what's happening to our nation in terms of our vision for who we are, I think we're starting to lose sight of who we are.
We are so busily giving away our identity, our values and our principles for the sake of political correction -- correctness that we don't know who we are.
And the Bible says without a vision, the people perish.
So I have a vision that I think I share with a lot of "we, the people," and that's the direction I want to go in.
It would be very difficult for me to serve in an administration that didn't have that same philosophy.
COOPER: OK, thank you.
We're going to take a short break, Dr. Carson.
COOPER: We're going to have more questions from the audience for Dr. Carson when we come back.
You're watching a CNN Republican town hall from Greenville, South Carolina.
Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz are also coming up. We'll be back in a moment.
COOPER: Welcome back to the CNN townhall here in Greenville, South Carolina. We're talking to Dr. Ben Carson.
Our next question comes from Katie Abrames. She's a Clemson student. And she is undecided.
KATIE ABRAMES, CLEMSON STUDENT: Hi, Dr. Carson. My name is Katie. And when I was 18 and I had just graduated from high school, I lost one of my dearest friends to a senseless murder. It's one of the main reasons that I'm extremely passionate about impacting positive change in the current criminal justice system.
Personally I believe that people who go to prison should have the ability if they get parole or probation to re-assimilate into society and serve the community that they negatively impacted.
So if you are elected president, how would you work alongside policymakers to impact positive criminal justice reform?
CARSON: Well, you know, as I mentioned a little earlier, you know, we have 5 percent of the population of the world and 25 percent of the inmates. And that, obviously, means that something is askew.
And we're putting a lot of people in prison who don't need to be in prison. They're not violent criminals, and all we do is send them to the university (sic) where they become violent criminals, and then we release them on society. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
But when we send people to prison, we need to be thinking about whether they are going there for life or whether they're going to be reintegrated into society. If they are going to be reintegrated into society, we need to be thinking about, how are we going to make that a successful reintegration?
In many cases that may mean we should be offer something practical training. There's no reason people can't learn how to become a welder or a plumber or a whole host of different things.
Plus, you know, there are high level courses where people can learn mathematics and, you know, engineering skills. So we really ought to be thinking about how do we take these people and turn them away from a life that's going down the wrong pathway to one where they become part of the fabric of success in America.
COOPER: So does that mean for you re-looking at mandatory minimum sentences for...
CARSON: Absolutely. COOPER: ... low level, non-violent offenders?
CARSON: Absolutely it means that. And it also means we need to look at those who are mentally ill. There are a lot of mentally ill people who are being housed in prisons. That doesn't make any sense.
We have facilities all over the country that are sitting empty because we have decided that it's too expensive to take care of the mentally ill. So they end up on the street where frequently they become victimized by people and then they wind up in the criminal justice system.
And then we put them in amongst people who are violent criminals. So now you take somebody mentally unstable and now you are teaching them how to be a violent criminal, and then you're releasing them on our society. That doesn't make any sense.
So I think it would be a lot cheaper if we begin to take care of these people the way they should be taken care of.
And there's going to be, quite frankly, plenty of money to take care of people when we stop doing all the silly stuff that we're doing with all of these unnecessary regulations which tamp down our business with a tax system that absolutely is asinine and makes no sense whatsoever.
And then the money will be drawn in that's sitting on the sidelines. And we once again begin to create the can-do attitude as opposed to the what can you do for me attitude. And I think America will be on its way pretty quickly.
COOPER: Katie, thank you for your question, appreciate it.
COOPER: This is Will Richter who goes to Clemson. He's involved with student government at Clemson. He says he's deciding between you and Senator Rubio.
CARSON: That should be an easy choice.
WILL RICHTER, CLEMSON STUDENT: Hi, Dr. Carson. According to a "60 Minutes" investigation, the Justice Department says that China's corporate espionage is so vast that it constitutes a national security emergency, costing American companies hundreds of billions of dollars and American citizens over 2 million jobs.
If elected president, how would you go about protecting American intellectual property rights abroad while maintaining diplomatic relations?
CARSON: A very important question. I mean, we are being hit thousands of times a day. And if you go to individual Americans, millions of times every day by cyber attacks from China and other places. And, that's why, you know, I have advocated for a comprehensive
solution for cyber security, and again, you can read about that on the website. But, again, public-private partnerships so that we can create the kind of common monitoring process so that if you get attacked, or your company gets attacked, you know? We have a common place that we can report that, and we can begin to see where the pieces fit together so that we understand where it's coming from.
And, quite frankly, we have some pretty substantial offensive cyber capabilities. Our administration is reluctant to use them. I would not be reluctant to use them.
If somebody hit us from another country with a cyber attack, they would not do it a second time, believe me. And, people think that I'm nice, and I am nice, but I also want to protect our people. And protect -- if you stand up to people who are doing these things, it makes the much less likely to continue.
But, again, by having a public-private partnership being able to tap into all of our resources I think we'd have a much better opportunity to defend ourselves, and put up the kinds of defenses that can keep morphing so that they will not be able to keep up with us.
Americans have always been incredibly innovative, and if we can release that innovation again, and get rid of some of the things that dampen that innovation, I think we'll stay far ahead of the competition.
COOPER: Thank you for your question, appreciate it.
COOPER: I want you to meet Jillian Rogiers. She's a stay at home Mom, she's also still undecided. Gillian?
QUESTION: Hello, Dr. Carson...
CARSON: ... Hi.
QUESTION: I do appreciate your mild-mannered nature in this campaign, however...
CARSON: ... Uh-oh.
QUESTION: ... If you are...
QUESTION: If you are the Republican nominee, how do you plan to not -- how do you plan to get your message out over a boisterous Democrat?
CARSON: What boisterous Democrat would that be?
(LAUGHING) CARSON: No, quite simply. What I have discovered, you know? As a pediatric neurosurgeon, and as someone who dealt with loss of children -- I had a program at the hospital where I bring in 800 students at a time, frequently elementary students, and you would say how are you going to speak to 800 elementary students and keep them quiet?
You know what? By speaking softly because then they would -- what's he saying? They would shut up.
CARSON: It actually worked extremely well. But, really the key is not so much the volume with which you speak, but it's the content of what you say. That's what's going to make the difference. And, I think the American people are smart enough to be able to understand bluster, and rhetoric versus truth.
And, when it comes to the general election, you know? People who are running around saying things like free college for everyone, it'll be very easy to counter that by simply educating people as to the actual financial condition of our nation. And, that's not done, you know?
I think Margaret Thatcher probably said it best. She said socialism is great until you run out of other people's money, and that's exactly what would happen when we would explain that to people, and I think they would understand. So, I look forward to such a challenge.
COOPER: Of course -- a follow up to that. It's not just obviously in a general election, you've been on a stage with some pretty boisterous folks the last couple of months. I'm not going to name any names, but do you -- what are you thinking when you're on a stage in those debates? What is going through your mind?
CARSON: Well, I'll tell you, honestly what was going to my mind is will these guys in any way remember what happened in 2012 when they tried to tear each other apart, which was probably the only reason that President Obama was able to win reelection with a record that even noone could have won on.
So, we have to stop finding ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
COOPER: Do you have a candidate you would prefer to run against in a general, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton?
CARSON: I would relish running against either one of them. It would not be a problem.
COOPER: Our next question comes from, oh, I'm sorry, we're going to go for some of the personal questions here. Actually, if you would take a seat here. So, was it hard for you to give up surgery? I mean, you trained for this for so long. You were an excellent surgeon by all accounts.
CARSON: Some people have said, "I was just an OK surgeon." No, I miss very much what medicine used to be. I do not miss what it has become. And I think you will find if you talk to a lot of people in the medical profession that they're not very happy today.
COOPER: Because they're not able to spend time with patients?
CARSON: There are so many new rules and regulations and yes, the epicenter in all the various things that you have typed in - you don't even have a chance to look at the patient. There's a lot of information that you can gain from just looking at somebody when you're talking to them which is an essential part of medical care that's being lost.
That's the reason that I denoted a different type of system that actually costs less than either the current so-called Affordable Care Act or the system that we had before that. It would provide excellent care for everybody including the indigent and doesn't have any second class citizens. We have enough money to do it. We spend almost twice as much per capita as many other nations that have much better access.
We have so much disruption and inefficiency in our system that can be easily corrected.
COOPER: We know President Obama plays golf, we know former President George W. Bush, he used to play down in Texas. What do you do to relax?
CARSON: Play pool.
COOPER: Play pool?
CARSON: I love to play pool.
COOPER: Are you competitive when you play pool?
CARSON: I like to win and I'll tell you it relaxes me. When I would come home from a busy day of surgery, I would shoot pool. And my wife who didn't know how to play pool, learned how to play pool and has become an excellent player. She's good competition, if I mess up, she will beat me.
COOPER: What sort of music do you listen to?
CARSON: I primarily like classical music, particularly baroque music.
COOPER: Did you listen to that when you did surgery?
CARSON: Absolutely. All the residents knew when they came and did their pediatric nuero-surgery rotation that they would also learn classical music. I remember one resident, I would always ask him questions and he would always say, "that's the 1812 overture." And then he says, "I know I'm going to be right one time." (LAUGHTER)
COOPER: Dr. Carson, a pleasure.
CARSON: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Dr. Ben Carson.
When we come back, Senator Marco Rubio takes the stage and takes the questions.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: And welcome back.
We're coming to you tonight from the Old Cigar Warehouse here in Greenville, South Carolina. It's the first of two consecutive Republican town halls here on CNN. The next one is tomorrow night at Columbia featuring Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Donald Trump.
Right now, please welcome Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
COOPER: Hey, Senator, welcome.
How are you?
COOPER: Take a seat.
RUBIO: Thank you.
COOPER: So welcome, first of all.
Thanks for being here.
RUBIO: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: It's a beautiful building, yes.
I want to ask you about what's -- how is it feeling out on the campaign trail after a fifth place finish in New Hampshire, some counted you out. You had a -- a very good debate here. You're getting big crowds. Just today, a major endorsement from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
Are you feeling the -- the Marco-mentum?
RUBIO: The Marco-mentum?
I love that term. Yes. I do. I feel great about it. I mean we feel a lot of energy. People coming to our rallies are each getting bigger. People signing up. Obviously, Saturday, we'll find out. People are going to vote.
But I -- all I can do is our best. We've got a good message and I know why I'm running. And I feel good about what that's going to translate to. So we'll see.
COOPER: You probably know it's getting pretty tough out there. There's some accusations going back and forth. You called Ted Cruz a liar. He came out today and said your campaign is, quote, "relying on fabrication, refuted claims point by point."
Do you stand by the assertion that he's lying?
RUBIO: Well, I said he's been lying because if you say something that isn't true and you say it over and over again and you know that it's not true, there's no other word for it. And when it's about your record, you have to clear it up, because if you don't, then people say, well, then it must be true. He didn't dispute it.
And he's done that a number of times. We saw what he did to Dr. Carson in Iowa, which was wrong. We saw yesterday Trey Gowdy, somebody came up with a fake Facebook post saying Trey Gowdy was no longer endorsing me, a very popular congressman here in South Carolina.
So these things are disturbing and they need to be addressed. And I'll address them.
But that's not the core of my campaign. I spend 99 percent of my time talking about America's future. But if someone says something that's not true, and I don't clear it up, well, that's not fair. Then people may think, well, then it's true.
COOPER: Some -- President Obama said something I want to ask you about so you can -- you can respond to it.
He said yesterday, you've got a candidate who sponsored a bill that I supported to finally solve the immigration problem and he's running away from it as fast as he can."
RUBIO: Yes, but President Obama has no standing to talk about immigration because his party controlled the White House, the House and the Senate for two years and they did nothing.
And then, after, uh, Barack Obama has now put in place two unconstitutional executive orders, which has made it even harder to move forward on immigration.
So I believe this issue has to be dealt with. And if you're serious about dealing with immigration, the only thing I'm saying is you'd better secure the border first. Nothing else is going to be able to happen. Nothing else can happen until you secure the border first. The people have been very clear about that. And until we -- that's the key that unlocks the door to dealing with the rest of the issue. Until you do that, we just won't be able to make any progress.
COOPER: But as you know, I mean the president is saying you sponsored a bill that he supported.
RUBIO: Yes, and it doesn't -- it can't pass. It doesn't have the votes. People won't support a comprehensive approach to immigration. It's now been tried three times in the last decade. It has failed each time.
And so now we have to understand that the only way forward is through a step by step approach that begins by finally securing our border.
We're a sovereign country. Every country has a right to control who comes here, how they come here, when they come here. And we are the most generous country in the world on immigration.
COOPER: Do you think it could pass when you sponsored it?
RUBIO: Well, I didn't think the Senate version would pass as is. I knew it wouldn't. In fact, I repeatedly said that during the process. I said, "this bill is not strong enough."
I understood the Democrats controlled the Senate and so that's the best we could produce in a Senate controlled by Democrats. We wanted to send it to the House. We had hoped the House Republicans Conservatives would make it even better. They never took it up and so there's no way for it.
I can just tell you after that experience, for a fact of having been through that, no progress will be made on immigration in this country until we prove to the American people - not just pass a law but a prove to them that we've built the sufficient walls and fences on the border. That we have mandatory e-verify, that we have entry-exit tracking system to prevent Visa overstays and that we hire additional border agents and resources to secure the border.
COOPER: I want to ask you a couple of items in making headlines today before we get our audience questions because we've got some great questions. Now, it's a question I asked Dr. Carson, as you know the government is trying to get Apple to create a new software to basically allow them to unlock the phone used by the San Bernadino terrorists. Apple says. "look, if we create this backdoor, it's a whole new software thing and it's going to endanger 99.9% of those good users of the Iphone."
RUBIO: It's a very very complicated issue and I'll you why, it's about encryption. Today, there's encryption out, I think it's standard on the new Apple and what it does is it protects your privacy. If you lose your Ipad, if you lose your phone; no one can hack into and get your information. So that's why it's there.
Here's the thing though, if you require by law - if we passed a law that required Apple and these companies to create a backdoor, number one, criminals could figure that out and use it against you. And number two, there's already encrypted software that exists, not only now but in the future created in other countries. We would not be able to stop that.
So there would still be encryption capabilities, it just wouldn't be American encryption capabilities but people in this country could have it. So that's why this is such a difficult issue because on the flip- side of it, there might be valuable information on that phone from the San Bernadino killers that could lead us to preventing future crimes or future attacks - future terrorist attacks.
So I think we're either going to have a figure a way forward by working with Silicon Valley and the tech industry on this. There has to be a way to deal with this issue that continues to protect the privacy of Americans or creates some process by which, law enforcement and intelligence agencies could access encrypted information.
I don't have a magic solution for it today. It's complicated, it's a new issue that's emerged just in the last couple of years. But I do know this, it will take a partnership between the technology industry and the government to confront and solve this.
COOPER: So it does concern you - basically of Apple's concerns on the idea that this would create a back door?
RUBIO: If you create a backdoor, there is a very reasonable possibility that a criminal gang could figure out what the backdoor is. That possibility is - if you create a backdoor, you're creating a vulnerability. And what you're not going to chance is the fact that other companies around the world who are not subject to U.S. laws - they could create encryption technology that we'll never be able to get access to.
So it's not as simple as people think it is. Now Apple is under court order and I'm sure they're going to appeal it. They need to follow whatever the court order is ultimately.
But moving forward, we are going to have to work with Silicon Valley. We're going to have to with the tech Industry to figure out a way forward on encryption that allows us some capability to access information especially in an emergency circumstances where there might be information on there that could prevent a terrorist attack.
COOPER: Another item in the news which actually I've literally just Leonard about, someone was talking in my ear as you were coming out. We just learned that President Obama plans to visit Cuba some time I think this month. I don't know the exact date but he does plan to visit. Is that something as President you would ever do?
RUBIO: Not if there's not a free Cuba. And I'll tell you the problem with the Cuban government; it's not just a communist dictatorship, it is an Anti-American communist dictatorship. The Cuban government three years ago helped North Korea evade U.S. Sanctions. They were caught trying to sell missile parts to North Korea but nothing happened. The Cuban government today harbors hundreds of fugitives of American
judicial, Medicare fraud -- there are people there who have stolen your money. They come to the U.S., they steal money - Medicare fraud, they go back to Cuba, the Cuban government's protecting them.
The Cuban government is harboring a killer from New Jersey who killed a state trooper in New Jersey. The killer escaped jail, fled to Cuba and the Cuban government is protecting her.
Beyond that, they're a repressive regime. There's no elections in Cuba, there's no choice in Cuba. And so my whole problem -- I want the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba to change but it has to be reciprocal.
Look at what we did with Burma or Myanmar, where the U.S. opened up to them but they made political changes. And today, the former minority party is now the majority party in their legislative body because our change towards them was conditional on their change towards their people.
He didn't even ask that of the Cuban government. And so today, a year and two months after the opening of Cuba, the Cuban government remains as repressive as ever. But now, they have access to millions to not billions of dollars in resources that they didn't have access to before this opening.
COOPER: I've been told the President is going to go next month just for clarity.
RUBIO: He's probably not going to invite me.
COOPER: This is Maggie Grisell, she's a senior at Furman University, she says she's leaning in your favor...
RUBIO: ... Well, good. Let's finish it tonight.
COOPER: She likes Dr. Carson as well.
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Rubio...
RUBIO: I like Dr. Carson as well...
QUESTION: ...Welcome to Greenville.
I'm sure you're well aware that college and student debt loans are on the rise currently. As someone who's planning to attend dental school this upcoming fall, my only in-state option is about $100,000 dollars a year, setting me up for about half a million dollars of debt before I have the chance to make a dime of it back.
Do you currently think that there's a problem with the cost of education...
RUBIO: ... Yes.
QUESTION: And, if so, what's your plan to make it more affordable, specifically how do you deal with cutting costs for students, but still maintaining a high quality of education?
RUBIO: I think that's a great question. In fact, I believe I'm the only Republican candidate that consistently talks about student loan debt, and one of the reasons why is because three years ago I still owed over $100,000 in student loan debt. Which I was only able to pay off because I wrote a book, it's called an, "An American Son", no available in paperback.
RUBIO: People always laugh, I love that joke -- It's not a joke, it is available in paperback.
RUBIO: So, I've actually worked, and I have a bipartisan agenda on this issue, and it comprises four main things. The first is alternative accrediting, OK? Today there are only six accrediting boards in the country. You can only award what is recognized as a four year degree if you are accredited by one of these six institutions.
It's basically a monopoly because today in the 21st century we have the ability to learn multiple ways. You don't just have to sit in a classroom. There are so many different ways now to acquire information. And, so what I've pushed for is an alternative accrediting model that allows there to be an accredited learning outside of the traditional school setting.
For example, give people credit for what they learned through life experience, work experience, military experience. If you have mastered a subject, you should not be forced to sit in a classroom and pay to take a course on something you already know if you've proved you've already mastered it.
This alternative accrediting model would allow us to do that, and there's already options out there. Coursera, Udacity, but they're not accredited so you can't use financial aid, and the private sector doesn't recognize it. I think we need to do that. That is especially important for non-traditional students.
For example, let's say there's a single mother, she's a receptionist, she makes $11 dollars an hour. The only way she's ever going to get a raise is to go back to school and become a dental hygienist, or a paralegal. But, she can't go back to school because she has to work full-time during the day, and raise her kids at night.
If there was an alternative accrediting model that allowed her to acquire learning on nights, on weekends through life experience, work experience, that gave her credit for what she learned in her years on the job it would at least shorten that time, if not allow her to complete that degree course.
So, the first is alternative accrediting that would allow you to get the maximum number of credits without having to pay for it in a traditional institution. The second is an alternative to student loans called the student investment plan. And, this would allow you to go to a private investment group who would invest in you the way an investment group invests in a start-up business. In essence, they would believe in you so much, and in your success, that they would pay for your college. If you become financially successful, they're going to make their investment back with a profit. If you do not, they're going to lose their money and made a bad investment.
But, all the risk is on them. The third is to make income based repayment the automatic method of repaying a loan. I actually have that law right now that I'm working on with Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. And, why that is important is because I would rather collect $20 dollars a month from a student than nothing. Because if you're collecting $20 dollars, at least you're collecting $20 dollars a month and they're not defaulting on the debt, because if you default it ruins your credit, and no you can't buy a house, now you can't -- it really hurts you.
And, the fourth is called right to know before you go, which I'm working on with Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. And, what that law says is that before you take out a loan, schools have to tell you how much people make when they graduate from that school with the degree that you're seeking. Why is that important?
Number one, it will probably teach you that the market for Roman philosophers has tightened significantly. So, you may not want to borrow $50,000 dollars to be a Roman philosopher unless you're going to teach it, or go on to grad school.
But, the other is it's going to allow you to compare schools. It's going to allow you to look at two different schools, and say I want to major in history. A history major from this school makes $50 grand a year, and it only costs $20,000 dollars. A history major from this school makes $50,000 dollars a year, but it costs $100,000 dollars.
Now you have something to make a decision on other than the U.S. News and World Report college ranking. This is the kinds of things that I'm working on because to me this is deeply personal. When I graduated, when I got married, my first years, my largest payment after the rent was our student loan debt. It was over a thousand dollars a month.
So, I always joke that I never met her, but I paid Sally May a lot of money over the years, and I want to avoid more -- because today, higher education is a necessity. It is no longer a luxury. There are no good paying jobs without some skill, and or educational achievement in the 21st century. So, I do think it's a big issue, and I want us to work on it.
COOPER: Thank you, very much.
I'm going to throw away my Roman philosophy question...
RUBIO: ... Yeah. COOPER: Put that right there.
RUBIO: I didn't do well with Roman philosophy...
COOPER: I want you to meet Retired General Hamp McManus. He served 34 years in the U.S. Army in peacetime and during war. He says he is still deciding between you and Governor Kasich.
General? Thank you.
GEN. HAMP MCMANUS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Senator Rubio, many would argue that's we're not only electing a president this cycle, but our commander-in-chief to lead America in dealing with some very demanding national security issues ahead.
RUBIO: Yes, sir.
MCMANUS: What has prepared you the most for this very critical mission? And what strengths of your foundation for the trust and confidence our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines must have in you as their commander-in-chief?
RUBIO: Yes, sir. First of all, thank you for your service.
And I want to take this opportunity to thank all the veterans in South Carolina and across the country for the service they provided to our country.
It is not just electing a commander-in-chief. That is the most important job of the president. The president doesn't run the economy. The private sector does. The president can be an advocate for legislative action that helps the economy grow.
But national security and commander-in-chief is the most important job of the president. I say this to you without any reservation. I know I haven't lived as long as some of the people running for president, but no one running for president, especially on the Republican side, has more experience on national security or foreign policy than I do.
As both a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee over the last five years, I have been dealing with every single major issue that this country confronts. And I understand these issues well.
I have a record of good judgment on those issues. In 2011, when Moammar Gadhafi was facing his overthrow in Libya, I argued that if that became a protracted conflict, it would leave a vacuum that would be filled by jihadists. And that's exactly what has happened.
In 2012, when Bashar al-Assad was facing the threat of being overthrown in Syria, I warned that if we didn't empower non-jihadist rebels in Syria, they would be killed or exiled, and that vacuum that it left behind would be filled by a radical jihadist group. And that's what has happened with Jabhat al Nusra and now ISIS.
When ISIS emerged and crossed over into Iraq, from the very beginning I warned that they would become a major threat if not confronted and defeated immediately. The president called them the JV team. Well, today they have affiliates in over a dozen countries.
And they have -- by the way, we saw what they did in San Bernardino, what they inspired in Paris as well.
And so over the last five years that I've been involved in foreign policy and national security, I have proven time and again that I have both the judgment and the experience to make the right decisions and the right call on these issues.
The hardest vote I've ever taken in my time in the Senate was a war -- was a vote to authorize the use of force in Syria. Talked about this in the debate the other night. It is the most difficult vote you'll ever take in Congress.
And when Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people and poisoned them, President Obama announced that he would not take military action unless we in Congress authorized the use of that force.
And so I examined -- I was angry when I saw the images. I'm sure you saw the same images. As a father, I looked at these pictures of little children, curled up, some dead already because their own leader used poisoned gas and biological agents against them.
And I was outraged and I wanted us to exact revenge on him. And then I looked at what the president was proposing. Something that John Kerry later called an attack that would be unbelievably limited.
That attack that the president wanted to carry out I concluded after looking at it would be counterproductive. It actually would have empowered Assad, because all he was going to do was a symbolic strike.
Assad was going to emerge from it saying, I took on the U.S. and held on. It would have empowered him, it would have made him stronger, not weaker.
And so no matter how angry I was, I concluded that I would not vote to authorize the use of force. And it was a tough decision because what I had seen in those images that outraged us all.
And so I can look at that field of candidates running today and tell you without any, any hesitation that no one running as a Republican has shown better judgment or has more experience on national security or on foreign policy than I do.
MCMANUS: Thank you.
RUBIO: Thank you, General.
COOPER: I just want to follow up with that. Just a quick follow-up. As you know, Governor Bush again continued his line of attack on you saying you're inexperienced. What do you say to Republicans in South Carolina who say, look, do we really want another first-term senator in the White House?
RUBIO: Sure. Well, I would just tell you that I believe Barack Obama is a failed president not because he was a one-term senator. Barack Obama today has seven years of presidential experience. There's only two people in the world that have more experience than he does being president, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
And today, seven years after he became president, he is worse in the seventh year than he was in his first. So clearly experience was not the issue. The reason why he has failed as a president is because his ideas don't work. His philosophy, his ideology is a failed one.
I also think it's unfair to say I have no experience. I have 15 years of experience of turning conservative ideas into conservative action. I served eight-and-a-half years in the Florida legislature, not as a back-bencher, but as a leader.
We've been talking about eminent domain recently in the campaign. Florida has some of the best eminent domain laws in the country. You know who passed that law? I did. I was the speaker of the Florida House.
As speaker of the Florida House, we brought career academies to our schools. That means today students in high schools in Florida graduate not just with a high school diploma, but certified to work as welders, plumbers, electricians, pipe-fitters in vocational training because of what we've put in.
We reduced property taxes because I led the effort to do that. We brought the Harlem's children zone model into the inner city of Miami. It's now spread into Orlando and to Jacksonville because of my efforts.
We reformed our curriculum without common core, without the federal government and in my time in the U.S. Senate, despite the fact the Senate has not been the most active place in the world over the last five years, because I led the effort, in a bipartisan way, we imposed sanctions on Hezbollah. We get rid of the ObamaCare bailout fund.
Today, we have the Girls Count Act I passed on a bipartisan basis, which leverages U.S. foreign aid to take on the scourge of human trafficking and modern-day slavery around the world.
I led the effort and we imposed sanctions on human rights violators in Venezuela.
So I'm proud of what I have achieved, but my campaign is not about the past, it's about the future, about what we're going to do.
And I can say this to you without any, any hesitation whatsoever. I am as conservative as anyone running for president. But I am a 15 year conservative who has proven time and again the capability and the -- and the willingness to take conservative ideas and turn them into conservative solutions.
(APPLAUSE) COOPER: I want you to meet Patty Stoner (ph).
She lived here in Greenville for 40 years.
She said she's deciding between you and Senator Cruz.
RUBIO: Hi, Patty.
PATTY STONER: Thank you.
I have a nephew that's currently serving and is deployed to the Middle East as an elite person on an elite team. And there's been a lot of discussion about women in combat. And my concern is if you put women on the front line, you would have to lessen standards and that would put more troops that -- at arm's length and in -- in danger.
Also, do you feel like women can compete on the same level to be able to get a position on Special Forces?
RUBIO: Well, I don't -- I do not believe that the military is a place where we should be lowering standards in order to meet some sort of other goal. I believe that I'm open to people in both genders serving in combat, so long as they can meet the minimum requirements necessary for the job.
And we can't weaken those standards in order to accommodate somebody into the job. That I believe in strongly because lives are on the line. And national security is on the line. By the way, there are plenty of men that can't meet those standards either.
And so we should not lower standards for anyone because this is not -- this is not -- this is not a game. You are putting people into harm's way, where they have to be able not simply to do the job in front of them, but also to be able to protect the people that are working alongside them.
And so for me, it's not about the gender, it's about the ability to do the job. And as president and as commander-in-chief, I will not lower standards in order to achieve some sort of societal aim.
COOPER: Thank you very much (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: This is Joshua Goodwin (ph).
He's the vice chair of the Upstate Young Republicans.
He says he's voting for you on Sunday.
RUBIO: Good. Let's not blow it.
JOSHUA GOODWIN: Good evening, Senator.
RUBIO: Good evening.
GOODWIN: And welcome back to Greenville.
RUBIO: Thank you.
GOODWIN: My question for us is regarding the Charleston shooting. Myself and many South Carolinians were devastated by the hatred of racism and as a leader, I would like to know how would you simultaneously address the issue of racism, yet unify us as a country?
RUBIO: Yes, sir.
That's an important question.
First, let me begin by saying that the entire country was inspired by the way South Carolina, and in particular the people impacted in Mother Emanuel Church reacted to the shooting. I think the images of these family members who had lost loved ones saying on television, we forgive the killer, had an impact on the country that was profound.
And I think it says a lot about South Carolina, but it also says a lot about a role that faith plays in the state.
And if you ask people about it, they will tell you that the church is at the center of how not South Carolina responded, not just to that shooting, but to a previous police shooting and to a flood that was a 1,000 year event.
Now, you talk about race relations. It's a difficult issue in this country. I can tell you, and I know a lot of it is centered around law enforcement and police departments.
So let me begin by saying very clearly, I know for a fact that the overwomen -- overwhelming majority of the men and women who serve us in law enforcement are incredible people, who, every single day, put their lives potentially on the line for our safety and for our security.
RUBIO: But I also know -- but I also know that there are communities in this country where minority communities and the police department have a terrible relationship. I personally know someone who happens to be a police officer and a young African-American male, who told me that he has been pulled over seven, eight times in the last four years and never gets a ticket.
What is he supposed to think?
He gets pulled over for no reason, never gets a ticket, no one has any explanation for why he's being pulled over.
What is he supposed to think?
So I also know that in this country, there is a significant number, particularly of young African-American males, who feel as if they're treated differently than the rest of society. And here's the bottom line, whether you agree with them or not, I happen to have seen this happen.
But whether you agree with them or not, if a significant percentage of the American family believes that they are being treated differently than everyone else, we have a problem. And we have to address it as a society and as a country, because I do not believe we can fulfill our potential as a nation unless we address that.
I'm not sure it there's a political solution to that problem but there are things we can do. For example, one of the reasons why you see both educational and academic underperformance - not just in the African American community but also in the Hispanic comity is because of how a disproportionate number of our children are growing up in broken homes and dangerous neighborhoods.
They're living in substandard housing and forced by the government to attend a failing school. A child that's born with four strikes against them is going to struggle to succeed unless something breaks that cycle. We've seen things that work.
In New York City, Jeffrey Canada and the Harlem Children Zone has shown us what works. You get involved in the lives of children and you begin to address those strikes against them. And you can see the same results you would get anywhere else in the country.
So I do believe as a society, we have to confront this issue in a responsible way because ultimately, if a significant percentage of the American feels that they are locked out the promise of America, we will never be able to fulfill our destiny as a great nation.
COOPER: If I could, just a quick follow up? On a personal basis, have you ever felt the sting the racism?
RUBIO: You know, let me tell you a couple things, my parents were extraordinary people. My parents raised me to believe that it didn't matter that they came from Cuba and that he was a bartender and she was a maid. There was nothing that we couldn't do.
I do recall as a child during the Boat Lift in growing up in Las Vegas that some of the neighborhood kids - older kids, one day were taunting my family. The were saying, "why don't go back on your boat, why don't you go back to your country, why don't leave here." I didn't know what they were talking about, I was seven years old.
I said, "what boat - my mom doesn't even swim, she's afraid of water." And my parents had sit me down and explain that, "the Mariel Boat Lift is going on and people are really upset about it and they're hearing this stuff but don't blame the kids, they must be hearing it from somebody. That's why they're repeating it." So that disturbed me as a young child.
But I've got to tell you that for the most part in my life, I never saw it as a reflection on America, I saw it as a reflection on those kids and what they were saying. What I give my parents a lot of credit is that they never raised us to feel that we were victims. They always raised us to believe that our destiny and our future - we lived in the one place on earth where if you worked hard and you persevered, you could achieve no matter what.
That doesn't mean that I don't deny that there are people in this country that have had a different experience. We need to recognize that. If you look back at the history of this country we have some blemishes in our history that I believe even to this day, we're fighting through. But what I think is extraordinary about America is that we have fought through that.
We are a nation of perpetual improvement. If you look at how far we've come as a country since the 1960's. If you look at how far South Carolina has come from where it is today to where it was 30 to 40 years ago, simply amazing. In my campaign for president today, I got the endorsement of a governor of Indian decent, who endorsed a presidential candidate of Cuban decent, and tomorrow will be campaigning alongside an African American Republican Senator, all three are doing that here inside South Carolina.
That says a lot about the Republican party.
COOPER: I want to meet Douglas Parrott who was leaning towards Donald Trump but in the last debate over the weekend gave him some pause. Let us welcome him.
DOUGLAS PARROTT, PARTICIPANT: Senator Rubio, the United States economy seems to be chugging along at a anemic two percent GDP. Households incomes are down, workplace participation is down, the stock market seems to be trending down and the Fed has been stimulating our economy for the past decade and this is what we have to show for it. Could you prioritize three actions that you believe we must take as a nation to turn this economic ship around?
RUBIO: Well first of all, let me just address the Fed issue, Douglas. That's not the Fed's job to stimulate the economy. The Fed is a central bank, it is not some sort of overlord of the economy. They're not some sort of special Jedi Counsel that can decide the best things for us.
The Fed is a central bank. Their job is provide stable currency and I believe the should operate on a rules based system. They would have a very simple rule that determines when interest rates go up and when interestes rates goes down.
Today, it's like a magic eight ball. We don't know when they're going to raise interest and it creates an incredible amount of uncertainty in the market place. Your question goes to the core of something deeper and then I'm going to get to the three points.
We are living through a massive and rapid economic transformation. This is not an economic downturn. This is a massive economic transformation. We are having the industrial revolution every five years. You can be
on the cutting edge of an industry today and in less than five years, you're obsolete. That is disruptive and itt's eliminating jobs that once sustained them. It's replacing it with new jobs but those new jobs require skills that many of our people may not have because they haven't been trained for it.
So the first thing is, we have to make ourselves a friendlier place in a globally competitive economy. If you look at South Carolina, why is South Carolina attracting manufacturing? I'll tell you what it's doing, it's lowering it's taxes, it's reducing the regulatory burden - these things are important.
So as president, I want us to lead -- I want to be an active and vibrant advocate for setting an agenda that we are going to simplify our tax code. We have the highest combined corporate tax rate in the world. That's why I want to lower it to a flat rate of 25 percent on all businesses, including small businesses organized as subchapter S, and therefore their pass-throughs, paying as high as 39.5 percent.
I want us to allow businesses, all businesses, to immediately expense every dollar they invest into their business. I want us to move to a territorial system of taxation. We are the last major industrial country that double taxes its companies from making money overseas.
That's why you have $2 trillion of American corporate cash sitting overseas, $2 trillion is equivalent to the GDP of Russia. That's how much American corporate cash is not being invested here and instead is being invested overseas.
Regulatory reform is important. I've proposed a regulatory budget, a regulatory budget that says we're going to put a hard cap on how much federal regulations can cost our economy.
And that will force agencies to reduce regulations and it will say if you're going to add a new regulation, you're going to have to cut an existing one because regulations are a burden.
The third thing that we're going to have to address in order to get our economy growing is the national debt. It stands at $19 trillion with close to $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
We will have a debt crisis in America soon if we do not address it. In less than five years, 83 percent of the federal budget will be consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the interest on the debt.
That means we will only have 17 percent of our budget left for everything else, including the military. That's unacceptable. That's a debt crisis.
And so I want us to save Social Security and Medicare. And we can do it without disrupting it for people that are on it now. My mother is on Social Security and Medicare. I am against any changes to those programs that's bad for my mother, which is a pretty good policy. But it won't look the same for me. I'm going to -- instead of
retiring at 67, I may have to retire at 68. If I was still in the senate, I'd be one of the youngest people there.
RUBIO: If I had made a lot of money, my Social Security benefits may not grow as fast as they grow for someone who made less money. Medicare could be the option of taking my money and using it to buy a private plan that I like better. Medicare Advantage provides that somewhat now.
These are not unreasonable changes. They're not too much to ask of me, who is 25 years away from retirement, in exchange for balancing our budget, bringing our debt under control, and leaving Social Security and Medicare undisturbed for current beneficiaries.
You deal with our debt, you roll back regulations, you scale down our tax code, and you are going to see America lead the world in the 21st Century economy. We fail to do that, we remain stagnant like we are right now.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
RUBIO: Thank you.
COOPER: Senator Rubio, we're going to take a quick break.
We'll be back in a moment with more voter questions for Senator Marco Rubio.
COOPER: Alright, welcome back. We're here with Senator Marco Rubio, thanks very much for doing this.
Before we get back to audience questions, just today former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, obviously appointed by Ronald Reagan said there should be no delay in filling the vacancy by Justice Scalia's death. She said, quote, "I think we need somebody there now to do the job. Let's get on with it."
RUBIO: Well, I respect her very much. I would just say a couple things. There is now an 80 year precedent on this that in the last year of President's term, the Senate usually doesn't move forward, not just on Supreme Court nominations, but on appellate judges because you're appointing someone to a lifetime appointment, theoretically, to the Supreme Court.
So, there's going -- the Supreme Court can function with eight Justices. And, then their term will end, a new one will begin in October, and they'll be an election in November. And, this is going to be an issue in the campaign. Voters are going to ask of the Presidential candidates what kind of justice are you going to appoint? There's going to be an election, and then the new president will have an opportunity to nominate someone, and the Senate to confirm them.
So, that's the approach I support.
COOPER: You said there's precedent. President Obama just yesterday said, look, there's nothing in the Constitution that says you can't. If you were president, would you nominate somebody?
RUBIO: No, I would respect that president. And it is true, there's nothing in the Constitution that says he can't nominate someone. There's also nothing in the Constitution that says the Senate must immediately confirm them.
RUBIO: So, bottom line is that there will be someone filling that vacancy, and I think the new president should be the person who fills that vacancy. Look, it may not be a Republican. I think it's going to be a Republican, that's what I want it to be, but I think it's going to be an issue in this campaign, and the voters are going to be able to weigh in on it in November.
COOPER: I want you to meet Amber McDonald. She's an elementary school teacher. She says she is undecided right now.
RUBIO: Hi, Amber.
QUESTION: Good evening, how are?
RUBIO: Good evening, good.
QUESTION: As an educator for 14 years, I have seen a change in our children. I'm very passionate about what I do, and so it makes my job difficult when these children come in having other concerns. They're concerned about their parents who fought before they came. They're concerned that they didn't have food to eat breakfast. And, all of that comes into what we do every single day. How can you help us to make that easier -- to where we can maybe educate the parents to where those things are easier for them, then it helps our children to have an easier day, not as stressful.
RUBIO: Thank you for the question. I have three educators in my family, elementary school, and I hear the exact same thing because ultimately our schools are inheriting whatever society sends them in the morning. And, I touched on that briefly a moment ago.
If a child is being raised in a broken home, living in substandard housing, no access to healthcare, and facing these other challenges you talked about. This child faces significant obstacles, and they need to be addressed. The question is what can government do about it because ultimately there's no law I can pass to make people better parents. And, no matter how hard you try, and how much you want to help, there's only so much you can do about that as well. I do think we need to empower parents. It's one of the reasons why my tax plan that I've proposed increased the per child tax credit. I've been criticized for that by, for example, the Wall Street Journal and others. They don't like the per-child tax credit, but I don't understand why do we live in a country where a business invests money in a piece of equipment, they get to write it off their taxes. But if a working parent invests more money in their children they don't get to write that off their taxes.
This is their money. What I'm arguing is that working parents should be allowed to keep more of their own money so that they have the resources that it takes to raise their children. It's expensive to raise children in the 21st century. My tax plan recognizes that.
But, ultimately, I think your question goes to the core of something we need to remind ourselves there is not a federal government solution to every problem in our country. That does not mean that our leaders should not spend the time to tell people that what happens in our house -- what happens your house is often times much more important than what happens in the White House.
The most important job I will ever have will not be President of the United States, it will be to be a father of my four children. And, I think that's important for us as a society to continue to understand, that you cannot have a strong country without strong people. You cannot have strong people without strong values. And, you cannot have strong values without strong families.
No One is born with strong values, they have to be instilled in you in a strong home. And, while government cannot make families stronger, it most certainly can do things to help families like allowing them to keep more of their hard earned money, and most importantly, not having any laws, whether it's in our safety net program, or our tax code, that discourages marriage or undermine parenting.
COOPER: You're obviously very accomplished. Did you always know you wanted to do public service?
RUBIO: No, I wanted to play in the NFL, but...
RUBIO: ... And I would have had it not been for my lack of speed, size and talent.
RUBIO: But, I always had an interest in public service. My grandfather was very -- actually, it's great to be here today. My grandfather, one of the jobs he had growing as a young man was a cigar reader in the front of a cigar factory. In Cuba they didn't have T.V. or radio at the time -- they did, but they didn't have it in the cigar factory.
And, so he would read newspapers and novels to the workers. And, as a result, became a very well read person, and he instilled in me, kind of, this interest in politics, and world affairs. And, I think that was a seed that grew over time in me. But, I didn't know -- no one can predict you're going to be at a setting like I am here today.
But, I always had somewhat of an interest in it, but I thought I'd be an NFL player, and an NFL coach before I got to this point. We obviously fast forwarded past the NFL part, and got this part.
COOPER: I want you to meet Jason Lee, he's a minister, the father of four kids, and he says he is still undecided. Welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. I had the same shortcoming in the NFL as well, Senator.
RUBIO: I think almost everyone does, Jason.
QUESTION: Most GOP candidates point to Ronald Reagan as a model president they look up to, so I want to ask in terms of looking at him as a model for immigration and refugee resettlement. He had the refugee resettlement annual cap as high as 200,000 in one of his terms.
So, my question is looking at him, and considering yourself to be a compassionate conservative, will you let more vetted, secured, refugees into this country? What will your plan be for this American tradition of refugee resettlement?
RUBIO: Yes, sir. I believe that America must always continue to be a place that allows people seeking refuge from political persecution and violence to come.
Here's the difference between Reagan's world, and the one we live in now. Because, policies have to reflect the times in which you live. When Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, there did not exist a radical jihadist group that was attempting to use the immigration laws of other countries against those countries. And, that's the threat we now face.
It's the reason why, for example, in America there was a time in many communities when nobody locked their doors. No everybody locks their doors. And, it isn't because we hate people outside of our home, it's because we love the people inside of our home.
And, so today, in the process by which we accept people into the United State is going to have to be different. We know for a fact that ISIS, for example, has captured key places in Syria where passports are produced. And, so you've seen open sourced reporting that today ISIS has the capability of basically creating legitimate Syrian passports, except the picture and the name is not exactly who it says it is.
This is a real threat for America. If we accept 10,000 Syrian refugees tomorrow, and 9,999 of them were good people, and one of them was an ISIS killer, we have a big problem. We have to be 100% right given the threat we now face. So, what I've said is it's not about a religious test, it's not about discrimination. It's just that we have to be 100% right. And, that means that our vetting process must be stricter than it's ever been. Here's the hard truth, it's almost impossible to vet people now from that part of the world. We don't have a database to rely on. You can't just call up 1-800-Syria and ask them, "Do you know so-and-so," and, "do you know who they are, and why they're coming?"
It's just become harder and harder to vet people from certain parts of the world. So, my point is we'll always be a country that's open to refugees, but in the 21st century, if we don't know who you are, and we don't know why you're coming 100% for sure, we're not going to be able to allow you to come in because the threat we face is so significant now, and so real.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
Senator Rubio, this is Jeff Phillips. He's an attorney, he says he likes you, and Donald Trump. Still has not made up his mind. Jeff, welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Dr. Ben Carson mentioned, before you came out here, that the GOP may not have learned its lesson in 2012 regarding infighting, especially in the primary. This primary has been as contentious as any I've seen -- 45 years I've been watching politics.
The question is this. There's going to be a lot of healing. There's going to have to be a lot of bridge-building after this primary, no matter who wins it. And I would like to know what you would do and what you have done in the past to show that you have the ability not only to unify the Republican Party but unify the American people well enough to win the general election.
RUBIO: That's a great question.
First of all, I think we need to remember that in this country we're blessed that we have -- in this country, we solve through elections what other countries solve through civil wars. And that's just in America.
Just have some perspective here. The worst thing that happens to someone in the political process is you lose an election. They say nasty things about you and they run a bad ad about you.
In other countries, if you lose an election, you go to jail or you go into exile. So we're blessed to be living in a republic where we have strong disagreements about the future of our country but they are settled at the ballot box, not at the tip of a gun or a spear.
That said, you're right that we're going to -- if we want to win an election, we're going to ultimately have to come together. And I believe I already provide that. There's a reason why virtually every candidate in this field has attacked me. Because I run a campaign that I believe appeals to the broad sector of the Republican electorate.
Now they don't all agree with me on every issue. But we've basically campaigned to every voter in the Republican coalition.
But my promise to you if I'm the nominee is, I'm not just going to unify the Republican Party, I'm going to grow it. We're going to take our message to people that haven't voted for Republicans in a long time.
And they haven't voted for us because the left and the Democrats have told them that the Republican Party is the party of the rich people and the Democrats are the party of the working people.
That's one of the biggest lies in American politics. The Democratic Party, which today is led, apparently according to the polls, by a devout avowed democratic socialist, has become a far left party. And they are the party of big government.
Big government hurts people that are trying to make it, because the bigger the government, the more the people that influence government win at the expense of everybody else.
Look at Dodd-Frank. It passed. The big banks are bigger today than ever. The regional banks and the community banks are getting wiped out.
So we have a message and we're going to take it, we're going to take our message to people living paycheck to paycheck. You know why I know I can take that message to them? Because I grew up paycheck to paycheck.
Because my wife and I have lived paycheck to paycheck. Because I've written a check on Wednesday knowing that the money doesn't get there until Friday, so I date it Saturday. I've had to do that. I know what that feels like.
We're going to take our message to young Americans struggling under thousands of dollars in student loan debt. We're going to be the party of the single mom that is struggling to raise her children on $11 an hour because we're going to be the party that makes it easier for her to go back to school and get the degree that allows her to find a better-paying job.
We're going to take our message to parents raising their children in the 21st Century, because my wife and I are raising four children right now. We know how hard it is to instill in our children the values that they teach in our church instead of the values that the culture tries to ram down our throat.
My goal is not just to unify the party, but to grow it. And ultimately to unify our country. That doesn't mean everyone is going to agree with me on everything. But I'm going to be a president for all Americans, even the people that don't vote for me, I'm going to cut their taxes, too.
I'm going to be a president for all Americans, because an American president has to love the American people, even those that don't love you back. And that's what I intend to do.
COOPER: One of the things that Ted Cruz said earlier today, he called you -- that you are behaving like Donald Trump with a smile. I want you to be able to respond.
RUBIO: Donald smiles. I've seen him smile.
RUBIO: I don't know, this back and forth is silly. In the end, look, if somebody says something about me that isn't true, I'm going to correct the record, Anderson. But ultimately, it's not about me, it's not about Ted, it's not about Donald.
It's about what is this country going to look like when my 15-year-old daughter graduates from college. What is it going to look like when he buys her first home or tries to start her first business? What is it going to look like when my 8-year-old son does the same?
2016 is a turning point. And I honestly believe we only have two ways forward. We are either going to be the first Americans that leave their children worse off than themselves or we are going be the authors of a new American century, the greatest era in our history.
That's a pretty dramatic choice. I believe 2016 is about that. And when the stakes are that high, that's what I'm going to spend 99 percent of my time talking about.
COOPER: You talked about your kids, your wife, Jeanette. You have a commercial now with both of them in it. When did you know that your Jeannette was the woman for you?
RUBIO: Well, I'd like to think she liked me first, but I liked her first.
COOPER: How did you meet?
RUBIO: So I was playing sand volleyball at a park in West Miami, Florida, and saw this really cute girl sitting there. And I started asking questions about her. But months would go by. I finally didn't really get to know her until my college roommate was dating her best friend and introduced us.
And it took a little while to convince her that I was the right person. But we were dating for seven years. We got married in 1998. It has been one of the most blessed things that has ever happened to me in my life. I'm truly blessed to have not just a godly and wonderful wife and partner in life, but also been blessed by four incredible children. And I tell people all the time, I mean that's an extraordinary
blessing that it -- that's what I have so much peace about, no matter what happens.
I'm running for president. I'd love to be your president. But my kids are going to love me no matter what happens and -- and so if my wife. And I'm just blessed by that.
COOPER: If a -- if you are elected president, would you still coach your son in football?
RUBIO: I'd like to. I'll have to talk to the Secret Service about it. But a...
RUBIO: -- but I love -- and, you know, the thing about sports, we -- yes, would you love your children to be successful?
Absolutely, in whatever they do.
But for me, sports has been an incredible teacher of life -- life lessons. You know, I was a little bit disappointed by what happened in New Hampshire and I thought I had myself to blame. And the lessons that I applied to that disappointment came from sports.
I used to play defensive back. And, uh, I got beat from time to time on a pass play. You're going to if you're a corner back. You've got to put that behind you, because you've got another play coming up and you've got to make up for it on the next play.
I learned that lesson from athletics.
And so for me, as much as anything else, sports has been a way for me to instill life lessons in my children, particularly how to deal with failure, how to deal with disappointment and how to work alongside other people in order to achieve a goal.
COOPER: With all the -- with the worry now about concussions, do you worry about your child -- you used to do football in school?
RUBIO: Yes. I do -- well, we -- we try to make it as safe as we possibly can. Football has inherent danger. So does competitive stunt cheerleading. My daughter used to do that. So does driving a car to work and back.
So there's risks inherent in a lot of activity. I ultimately think football is an incredible sport. It teaches lessons, life lessons, that are -- that I think are valuable.
You can make the game safer. You can ek -- never make it entirely safe, and so we do spend a lot of the time coaching kids how to properly tackle, not use your head, very different from when -- when I was growing up and they taught you to use your head to tackle, so.
And the Democrats say that explains a lot about Marco Rubio, but it's not true.
But my point is it's -- it's a sport that brings with it some inherent danger, but so does life. And we try to make it as safe as possible.
COOPER: In Mason City, I was surprised you mentioned that you're color-blind, which I hadn't realized.
RUBIO: I am.
COOPER: And that you should have seen your clothes before your wife started picking them out.
RUBIO: Yes, well, we basically are now sticking to like reds and blues and grays and blues because I have trouble distinguishing between blue and black, blue and purple.
COOPER: So those...
RUBIO: -- green and blue...
COOPER: -- those are the colors...
COOPER: -- you can't see.
RUBIO: It's a mess, yes. I have no -- it's a...
COOPER: Did you always have that?
It was something...
RUBIO: I didn't know until people started telling me hey, that's a nice green shirt.
I go what green, the blue one I have on?
No, it's green. So I -- yes, I struggle with it.
COOPER: The other thing I think I found that's surprising about it is you like EDM.
RUBIO: I do.
COOPER: Electronic dance music.
RUBIO: Yes. It's -- I don't want people -- maybe people thought it was something else.
So I've -- I've (INAUDIBLE)...
COOPER: Have you ever been to a rave?
RUBIO: Well, no, no...
COOPER: -- and... RUBIO: -- I'm -- I've never been to a rave, no. I've never been to a rave.
COOPER: Well, I don't know.
RUBIO: It's the Republican primary, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, I...
COOPER: I mean you -- you like EDM. That's what they do, isn't it?
RUBIO: No, I listen to it. I don't necessarily...
RUBIO: -- I don't -- I think I'm a little too old to be going to a rave, (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: Well, maybe back in the day.
RUBIO: Well, I have the boots for it. I don't know if you saw that on TV or not, but, no, here's the thing about it. I actually grew up listening to '90s hip-hop music, especially the West Coast stuff. And I really liked it. But the -- in the last few years, what's happened with EDM, you've got these electronic -- these disc jockeys or these DJs that are taking electronic music and overlaying it with tracks from country music and all sorts of things and so the lyrics are clean. The beats and music is fun. I've gotten into it. It's a lot of fun.
COOPER: Do your kids like it, too?
RUBIO: Yes, they -- I mean there's -- the words are clean. Sometimes they have no words at all. It's electronic dance music, so that's perfect. I don't have to worry about the lyrics.
COOPER: Senator Rubio, thank you so much for your time.
RUBIO: Thank you, Anderson.
Thank you so much.
COOPER: Appreciate it.
COOPER: I want to thank Senator Rubio for taking part.
I really appreciate it.
Thank you very much.
Coming up next, Iowa caucus winner Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back. We're here at the historic Old Seville Warehouse on South Main Street in Greenville, South Carolina. Republican Candidates taking questions from voters. The primaries are just three days away.
Right now, please welcome Iowa Caucus winner, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
COOPER: Welcome, how are you. Have a seat.
CRUZ: Thank you.
COOPER: So obviously, you've won in Iowa. You've had a very good day today. There's a new poll out saying that, "on the national race, you are actually now in the lead." How does it feel out there for you?
CRUZ: Well, it feels fantastic. I mean, what we're really seeing - we're seeing that old Reagan coalition come together. You know, what was interesting Anderson - in Iowa, all the pundits in Iowa said that, "we didn't have a prayer." Every person on television was saying, "Donald Trump was going to win. Donald Trump was going to win."
And then, we saw record shattering turnout show up. And you know what was so encouraging? The folks that came together, it was that old Reagan coalition. So we won among conservatives but we also won among evangelicals. We won among Reagan democrats and we won among young people.
That's the coalition it's going to take I think to win the nomination but also to win the general election. And we needed up - our campaign earned more votes than any campaign in the history of the Iowa Republican Caucuses. It really was a testament to the grassroots.
COOPER: You got a cease and desist letter today from Donald Trump. I don't think I've ever heard of that actually happening in a race. One of many firsts that we've seen.
What did you think when you actually got the letter?
CRUZ: I'll confess, I laughed. This has not been a typical race by any sense and I don't think anyone is surprised that Donald is threatening to sue people. He's done that most of his adult life.
But this letter really was - look, I've practiced of 20 years and this letter really pressed the bounds of the frivolous and ridiculous letters I've ever seen. He was upset about an ad that we're running on T.V. The ad talks about the vacancy of the Supreme Court and that we've got issues such as life, and marriage, and religious liberty, and the 2nd amendment that are in the ballots.
COOPER: And it uses an old interview from Tim Russert back in the late 90's?
CRUZ: It plays Donald Trump doing an interview Time Russert where he explains in his own words, he says," he's very very pro-choice, he supports partial birth abortion -" and he says, "he's pro-choice in every respect." But most of the words in the ad are his own words on national television, and his argument in the letter is running his own words, was defamation.
COOPER: He says, though, you're misrepresenting his current position, that he has evolved -- pro life...
CRUZ: ... It is quite literally the most ridiculous theory I've ever heard, that telling the voters what Donald Trumps actual record is is deceitful and lying...
COOPER: ... Do you...
CRUZ: ... And, listen, I said this morning -- held a press conference where I read his letter to everyone, and I invited Mr. Trump. I said, please, Donald. File this lawsuit.
COOPER: You want to depose him?
CRUZ: And, you know why? Well, that's part of it, is that in any defamation case truth is a complete defense, and so his lawyer said he said that saying he's pro-choice, which actually we don't say he's pro-choice. Donald says he's pro-choice in every respect.
COOPER: But, that was back in the late 1990's. He's, again, has said he's evolved. Do you accept that he is pro-life?
CRUZ: Well, let's put it this way, four days ago on the debate stage, Donald Trump explained how many wonderful things he thought Planned Parenthood does. That was four days ago. Planned Parenthood is the largest abortionist in this country. They are responsible for taking the lives of millions of unborn children.
I'll tell you, nobody who is actually pro-life can stand up on national stage and sing the praises of planned parenthood as wonderful -- I don't think they do anything wonderful, and I don't think we need to be sending federal taxpayer funds to an organization that on video has been implicated in what appears to be multiple federal felonies.
COOPER: I don't want to sound like I'm arguing his case for him, but just for fact (ph) sake, he says he just does not support abortion at all. He's opposed to it, but there are other things that Planned Parenthood... CRUZ: ... Well, look, as I laid out. So, his claim is if you tell people his record, if you actually show Donald Trump on national television his own words, that he's going to file a lawsuit to prevent you from doing that.
I pointed out, listen, we've got at least four pieces of evidence. Number one his own words on national television. Number two, what he said on the debate stage four days ago, singing the praises of Planned Parenthood. Number three, last year, not very long ago, when talking about Supreme Court nominees, Donald said his sister -- now his sister is a Court of Appeals judge who was put on the Court of Appeals by Bill Clinton.
He said his sister would make a phenomenal Supreme Court Justice.
Now, listen, it's great to support your sister, that's a nice thing. But, if you're actually suggesting someone for the Supreme Court, his sister is a radical pro-abortion judge. She struck down New Jersey's ban on partial-birth abortion as irrational. That's an extreme position. That's who he suggested as a Supreme Court Justice last year.
And, one of the things I layed out, listen. Donald, for the last four decades has written checks to Democrats over, and over, and over again. From Jimmy Carter, to Hillary Clinton, to John Kerry, to Chuck Schumer, to Harry Reid. And...
COOPER: ... He has a lot of friends, he says.
CRUZ: ... Yeah, but it's not friends, and he's given -- so, in 2006, for example, when the Democrats took over Congress Donald and his son gave about three times as much to the Democrats as they did to the Republicans. They helped fund putting Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate. They helped set the stage for Obamacare.
And, for anyone that actually cares for conservative judges, I'll tell you, Anderson, there is no universe in which I could write a check to Chuck Schumer or Harry Reid, or Hillary Clinton, or John Kerry, or Joe Biden, or Jimmy Carter, and anyone who's done that by definition does not care about conservative justices because the people he supported fought tooth and nail to put liberals on the Supreme Court. I think the stakes are too high for that.
COOPER: I want to ask you about a couple of items of news that I've asked the other candidates who are here tonight. The issue with Apple, and the iPhone. If you know, again, if anybody's just joining us, a judge has ordered Apple to basically develop new software to create sort of a backdoor that would allow law enforcement to unlock the phone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists...
CRUZ: ... (INAUDIBLE)...
COOPER: ... Should Apple be compelled to do that?
CRUZ: I believe they should. They have a binding search order. And, listen, any time you're dealing with issues of security, and civil liberties, you got to balance them both. And, I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can protect yourself from terrorist, and also protect our civil rights.
COOPER: Because Apple, for their part, they said this creates a backdoor that basically endangers all of our cell phones.
CRUZ: Well, listen. I think Apple has a serious argument that they should not be forced to put a backdoor in every cell phone everyone has. That creates a real security exposure for hackers, cyber criminals to break into our cell phones. So, I think Apple has the right side on the global don't make us do this to every iPhone on the market.
But, I think law enforcement has the better argument. This concerns the phone of one of the San Bernardino hackers, and for law enforcement to get a judicial search order, that's consistent with the Fourth Amendment. That's how the bill of rights operates.
To say, Apple, open this phone, not Anderson's phone, not everyone's here, open this phone.
COOPER: But Apple says they can't do that, that its new operating software that basically would be available on everybody's phone.
CRUZ: But they wouldn't have to put it on everyone's phone. And that's -- I believe that Apple, anyone, nobody has a right to defy a legal search warrant. And the way our process works, look, banks all the time keep financial records.
And if you or I are a terrorist, if we're a drug dealer, and a search warrant is served on your bank, they can get your financial records. That's how the law enforcement system works.
And the Bill of Rights prevents the government from seizing our information without any evidence, but when you have a criminal, when you have a terrorist, we know the San Bernardino terrorists were radical Islamic terrorists.
If the Obama administration were not in this politically correct state of denial, ignoring that it is radical Islamic terrorism, we should have done more to prevent that attack.
But after the fact, we ought to be doing every tool we can to ascertain who else they might be in contact with, if there's a broader cell. So, of course, we should unlock their phones and find out who they're talking to, what texts they're sending, and that's a basic matter keeping this country safe.
COOPER: We just learned while we were on the air, President Obama plans to visit Cuba next month. I don't know if you had heard that. But I'm wondering, as president, is that something you would do?
CRUZ: It is not as long as the Castros are in power. And I will say I was saddened to hear that I wasn't surprised. This was foreshadowed for a long time. And, you know, President Obama's foreign policy has consistently
alienated and abandoned our friends. There has never been an administration more hostile and antagonistic to Israel than the Obama administration.
And what President Obama has shown to our enemies is weakness and appeasement. So his policy concerning Cuba and Iran both have parallels where he's allowing billions of dollars to go to tyrants who hate America, who are state sponsors of terrorism, who are fighting against our nation.
I think it's a real mistake. I think the president ought to instead be pushing for a free Cuba. It's 90 miles off the coast of America. And to go there and essentially act as an apologist -- you know, it was really striking when the Cuban officials came to Washington with the opening of the embassy, a Cuban dissident came, and came to the press conference and wanted to ask a question.
And the John Kerry State Department said, if she asked a question, she would be forcibly and physically removed. And I -- you know, I remember being astonished, because said, look, I expected that treatment in Cuba. That's what they do to free speech here.
But the Obama State Department was happy to silence a dissident to protect the Cubans from even asking questions. I mean, listen, my dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba. He fought with Castro in the revolution and he was imprisoned and tortured by Bautista.
And then my aunt, my Tia Sonia, was imprisoned and tortured by Castro. And so my family has seen firsthand the evil and the oppression in Cuba. And we need to have a president that stands up to our enemies, that doesn't -- you know, if you look at Cuba when the Soviet Union collapsed, they lost their major patron, their source of money.
But then what happened is Venezuela stepped in and became a patron. And you saw the oil revenues and actually Cuba had a corrupt bargain where they would send thugs, they would send soldiers down to Venezuela, that they would use to oppress the citizens there and in exchange Venezuela would send money.
Well, as oil prices have been tanking, Venezuela's economy is in freefall. And suddenly Cuba was again on the ropes. The Castros were again on the ropes. And just like with Iran, the Obama administration steps in with a lifeline.
And I'll tell you one of the things, Anderson, I'm very concerned about, is that Obama is emptying Guantanamo. He is releasing terrorists that our soldiers bled and died to capture.
And the next president is going to have to send soldiers out to capture them again or kill them when they return to waging jihad. And I fear that by the end of this year President Obama plans to give the Guantanamo Navy Base back to Cuba, which would be undermining U.S. national security interests profoundly.
I hope he doesn't do that. But it is consistent with his pattern of the last seven years. I think it is a profound risk.
COOPER: If trials can't be brought against the people in Guantanamo, what would you do with them, keep them there indefinitely?
CRUZ: If they are terrorists who are waging jihad there, then they should be detained in Guantanamo. We could have military tribunals if need be. We can interrogate them. But the Bill of Rights does not apply to foreigners who are waging war against America.
The Bill of Rights applies to Americans. And the people in Guantanamo, at this point, it's down to the worst of the worst. You know, a really alarming percentage of the people released from Guantanamo return immediately to waging jihad, return immediately to going back trying to murder Americans.
And part of the consequence of Obama is he engages in this -- this politically correct denial where he and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and the whole Democratic Party, they won't even say the words, radical Islamic terrorism. They don't acknowledge what they're fighting.
And it's part of the reason why we are so vulnerable, because we don't have the a commander-in-chief that is fighting the enemy and defeating the enemy.
COOPER: I want to bring in our audience questions.
But before I do, probably the toughest question of the night, though, for you.
Which side are you on, Clinton or South Carolina?
CRUZ: On this, I am going to shamelessly waffle and say I love them both.
COOPER: All right. Good answer.
COOPER: I want you to meet Donna Gotscheld (ph).
She's the president of Upstate Republican Women.
She says she is still undecided.
DONNA GOTSCHELD: Welcome, Senator Cruz.
CRUZ: Thank you.
GOTSCHELD: And as our governor would say, it's a great day in South Carolina.
GOTSCHELD: Senator, realizing that in a close husband and wife relationship, a wife has earned a great deal of respect from her husband and is thus a trusted adviser and confidante in everything except for special secret matters, and these issues, whether in America or abroad, what issues do you think your wife would be significantly interested in and possibly support their cause?
CRUZ: Well, Donna, thank you for that question and thank you very much for your leadership.
You know, I have been blessed in many regards, but in no way greater than -- than marrying the love of my life, Heidi Cruz. She is an extraordinary woman. She is -- she is the daughter of Christian missionaries. And so Heidi, as a little girl, lived in Africa. She lived in Kenya and Nigeria and her parents were missionaries there. Her brother is a missionary in Haiti right now.
And she is -- I met Heidi on January 2 of 2000. We were brought working on the George W. Bush campaign. And we started dating on January 5th, three days later. And it was love at first sight. I mean I was smitten by her hard.
I mean she is beautiful, she's brilliant, she's an unbelievable businesswoman. But she's also the most loving mom and wife. We are best friends in a very real sense. We're on the phone two, three, four, five times a day. We call each other on everything. We cooperate on everything.
She is out on the trail. I cannot tell you how many people, as I've traveled around, when I got elected to the Senate, said, listen, Ted, you're fine, but we love Heidi, so we're voting for you for Heidi. And I was like, well, I -- I'm thrilled and I'll take it.
You know, she's got a real heart for economic development. You know, when you've seen, as a little girl, poverty, poverty in Africa, when you've seen suffering -- you know, Heidi and I traveled down to Nicaragua with a mission trip to drill a water well in an impoverished village. And when you've seen people that are really hurting, you understand that -- that we need policies to lift people out of poverty.
And I think Heidi has a real heart here in America for helping people lift out of the poverty by empowering them, empowering them to start small businesses. Empowering them to achieve the American dream. And, you know, an important part of that is also educational options and school choice. I think school choice is the civil rights issue of 21st century. I think every child in America deserves access to a quality education.
And so Heidi and I, in this campaign, we are full and total partners. She is, right now, on the campaign trail. I'm on the campaign trail. My dad is on the campaign trail. Our little girls even sometimes are on the campaign trail. But -- but I think -- I think she will be involved in a lot of things if we win and -- but I think she has a real passion where she's going to focus a lot of energy is economic empowerment, helping people and especially women, especially Hispanics and African-Americans, those who are struggling, helping them achieve the American dream by understanding the principles of business, starting a business, expanding and achieving greater opportunity.
GOTSCHELD: Thank you so much.
COOPER: Thank you.
COOPER: I don't -- I don't want to -- I don't want to embarrass you at all, but your wife mentioned this to CNN a while back, that you occasionally, when you call her on the phone, you sing to her, you sing musicals?
Is that true?
CRUZ: Um, well, embarrassingly enough, yes. And I am a painfully horrible singer.
COOPER: Is this punishment or is this...
CRUZ: Well, I'm hoping it is sort of sincere and endearing. But look, I mean I...
COOPER: What's your favorite musical?
CRUZ: I actually don't sing musicals.
CRUZ: I mean I will sing things like, uh, on my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling, Heidi time.
COOPER: OK. All right.
CRUZ: Which is really corny, but -- but, you know, I used to do it when she put it on speaker phone in her office and embarrass her or, you know, I'd kind of do, you know -- you know, I just called to say I love you. I just called to say I care. I cannot sing to save my life, but -- but, uh, but my wife seems to at least laugh at it.
COOPER: Alright. I want you to meet Bobby Cox, he's a former Army Ranger, he says he's leaning toward Governor Bush, but he's still undecided. Bobby?
QUESTION: Evening sir. Thanks for coming out to Greenville here. By way of background, I attended Citadel down in South Carolina. Yeah, great school, and then during my senior year the actual 9/11 attacks occurred, and upon graduation I went into the Army. I actually deployed four times to Iraq. And, so during that time that we were in Iraq, we really felt like we were putting the Iraqi government on a stable ground. But, fast forward a couple years later when the actual cities that we had actually fought to protect with so much effort, time, and blood were actually retaken by ISIS. And, so there was a frustration there were a lot of my men thought that their time had been squandered overseas based upon really the lack of the U.S. political will to really see victory.
So, I want to ask you, as a commander in chief, you know? If you take on that mantle of leadership, what would you do to ensure the service members and their families their sacrifices during the time of war are not wasted like we see in the past?
CRUZ: Well, Bobby, let me say first of all, thank you for your service and sacrifice. Thank you for defending this nation.
CRUZ: And, you're question incredibly important. As I travel South Carolina I meet everyday, active-duty military. I meet, everyday, veterans who are so unhappy with the direction we're going right now. For seven years we've had a commander in chief who doesn't believe in the mission of the military. Who doesn't stand by them, who has weakened and degraded the military in a way that this' undermined readiness, and made us far less able to defend ourselves.
Yesterday, here in South Carolina, I rolled out a comprehensive plan to rebuild the military. To restore the strength that we need to defend ourselves. And, you know, if you think about the last time our military was badly weakened, it was 1980. It was following the Jimmy Carter administration, another weak Democratic president who undermined the military.
And, when Reagan came in, what Reagan did is he started with tax reform and regulatory reform. He lifted the burdens on small businesses. Than unchained the American free enterprise system. It produced incredible booming economic growth. That growth, in turn, that provided trillions in new federal revenue.
Reagan invested that revenue in rebuilding the military. And, but doing so, bankrupted the Soviet Union and now the Cold War. We need a president in 2017 who does the exact same thing with regard to radical Islamic terrorism. That is what I intend to do -- is start with tax reform, and regulatory reform. I will unleash the American economy, and use that economic growth to rebuild the military.
So, for example, as you know, President Obama's proposed reducing the regular Army to 450,000. I think that is far below what is needed to keep this country safe. I intend to increase it to a minimum of 525,000 soldiers. Likewise the Air Force.
The Air Force has been reduced to about 4,000 planes. We need to increase that to a minimum of 6,000 planes so that we can project power, and use our air power superiority. The Navy. We've got 272 ships, the least we've had since 1917, literally a century ago was the last time we had a navy with this few ships. We need to increase that to a minimum of 350 ships. And, we need an overall force level of 1.4 million troops at a minimum. In addition to that, we need to dramatically expand missile defense as we see asymmetric threats, we see rogue nations, we need to be able to defend ourselves. We need to expand cyber defense.
But, we also need to focus our foreign policy and military policy on identifying and defeating the real enemies. You know, I've got strong disagreements with the mistakes of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy the last seven years. One perfect example is Libya.
Libya. President Obama and Hillary Clinton led the world in toppling the government in Libya, and sadly they were supported by more than a few establishment Republicans, including several who are running for President. That has proven to be a catastrophic mistake.
Toppling the government in Libya meant we handed that country to radical Islamic terrorists. It's now a chaotic war zone where ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorists pose an acute national security threat to this country. And, it led directly to failures of the Obama- Clinton foreign policy, led directly to the tragedy of Benghazi.
Rather than engaging in trying to topple governments in the Middle East, and nation build, I think the focus of the military needs to be defending this country, protecting our national security interests. So, what should we be doing?
Oh, and by the way, many of those same folks, Obama, Hillary, and those same Republicans, are now saying we should do the same thing in Syria, topple Assad.
And, if we do that the same result is going to happen. If we topple Assad -- Assad's a bad man. But, if we topple Assad, ISIS will take over Syria. That is worse for America.
Instead of getting in the middle of civil wars, we ought to be focusing on the enemies of America. We ought to be utterly destroying ISIS. We ought to be using overwhelming airpower, we ought to be arming the Kurds, we ought to be using the tools we have to utterly, and completely destroy them.
And, I'll say a couple of things also.
When it comes to the men and women of the military, I don't think the military should be governed by political correctness. Should be governed -- should be used as for social experiments. So, for example, if I am elected president we will not be drafting our daughters into combat on the front lines.
I was astonished two debates ago when three different Republican candidates for President stood up and supported drafting women into combat. I think that doesn't make any sense, you know? When I was sitting there listening to it I kind of wondered if Rod Serling was going to walk out in a second and say, "You've entered the Twilight Zone."
Look, I'm the father of two daughters. Women can do anything, but the idea that the federal government would forcibly conscript young women and put them into combat, that makes no sense at all.
Another one of the most shameful things that, I think, of the last seven years is that we are sending our service men and women into combat with rules of engagement that have their arms tied behind their back. That have it impossible for them to fight and defend themselves and win, I think that is immoral, it is wrong, and I will tell you this. I give you my word as commander in chief, that will end on January 20th, 2017.
COOPER: Just a quick follow up. Donald Trump has said that George W. Bush didn't keep this country safe because 9/11 happened on his watch. What'd you think when you heard that?
CRUZ: I thought it was ridiculous. I thought it was really painful. Listen, I like Donald. I am not going to engage in personal attacks, but I think his policy positions have not made any sense.
When he stood up and defended impeaching George W. Bush -- that was his position. George W. Bush should have been impeached.
Listen, I'm a constitutionalist. My entire adult life has been spent defending the Constitution, defending the Bill of Rights. The standard for impeachment is high crimes and misdemeanors. He had no argument that George Bush committed any high crimes and misdemeanors. He just said on the stage it was a mistake.
You know, you don't impeach people for things you say are a mistake. And, at the time that Donald Trump was promoting impeachment, look, that was the -- those were the views of the Michael Moore's of the extreme fever-swamp of the left. And, I have to say to see on a Republican presidential stage a candidate suggesting we should have impeached George W. Bush. I think that really draws into question the judgement of that candidate to be commander in chief.
COOPER: I want you to meet Pastor Travis Haynes. He's from the Redemption Church. He says he's leaning in your favor, he says he also likes some of Donald Trump's policies. Pastor's, welcome.
QUESTION: Good evening, Senator.
QUESTION: As we see more, and more what appears to be more, and more opposition to Christian conservative values...
CRUZ: ... Yes.
QUESTION: What will you do to help protect those values if you're elected president?
CRUZ: Well, Pastor, thank you for being here. Thank you for your ministry.
You are right. We are seeing an assault on Judeo Christian values. We're seeing an assault on religious liberty, and we need a president who will stand up unambiguously, and protect those values.
You know, if you look at life, if you look at marriage, if you look at religious liberty, all three are intertwined, and you know, one of the dynamics you all have notice in a Republican primary is every republican candidate says they support life, marriage, religious liberty. That's what you say when you're running as a Republican candidate for president.
My suggestion, Pastor, is don't listen to what any of us say. Instead, follow the biblical test. You shall know them by their fruits. Ask of any candidate, don't tell me you're pro-life. Tell me what you've done to defend the right to life. So, for example, before I was in the Senate I was the Solicitor General of Texas, the chief lawyer for the state in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
We brought together a coalition of states before the U.S. Supreme Court defending the federal ban on partial birth abortion, and we won 5-4.
We brought together another coalition of states defending New Hampshire's (INAUDIBLE) law. And, we won unanimously.
And, in Texas, when the state legislature passed a law banning taxpayer funding going to Planned Parenthood, a federal district court struck down that law. And, I personally argued the appeal in the Court of Appeals, we won unanimously, reinstating that law and defunding Planned Parenthood. So on the question of life, a record matters.
Likewise on marriage. You know, in June of last year, we saw a decision from the Supreme Court. It was nothing short of tragic. Now, several of the Republican candidates when that decision came down put out statements that essentially said, "It is the settled law of the land, we must accept it, surrender, and move on." Those are almost word for word the talking points of Barack Obama. I think there's something really wrong when Republican candidates are echoing the talking points of Barack Obama.
I'll tell you, my view is very different. I think that decision was fundamentally illegitimate, it was lawless, it was completely inconsistent with the Constitution, and it will not stand. And then on religious liberty. Religious liberty for me has been a lifelong passion. I have spent the last two decades of my life fighting to defend religious liberty.
When I was solicitor general of Texas, we defended the Ten Commandments monument that stands on the state capitol grounds. We went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and we won 35-4 upholding the Ten Commandments. We defended the Pledge of Allegiance, the words "one nation under God." We went to the U.S. Supreme Court; we won unanimously.
And then in private practice, one of the cases I'm most proud of, is I represented over 3 million veterans pro bono, for free, defending the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial. This is a loan white Latin cross. It was erected over 70 years ago to honor the men and women that gave their lives in World War I. The ACLU sued, arguing could you not display a cross on public land. They won in the district court, they won in the Court of Appeals. The court ordered a giant sack to be placed over the Veterans Memorial with a change and a padlock at the bottom. And I represented 3 million veterans before the U.S. Supreme Court, defending the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial. And we won 5-4.
This for me is a life passion. And one of the things we've done -- the media often belittles threats to religious liberty. They say they don't exist, they're not real. So we've hosted big religious liberty rallies. One in Iowa, one here in South Carolina at Bob Jones University where we brought in heroes, ordinary people. A florist, a baker, a T-shirt salesman, a soldier, a fireman to tell their stories. How they stood for faith and they were persecuted. I would commend you (ph), Pastor, and anyone else who wants to see them. If you go to our web site, it's TedCruz.org, you can watch these stories, and they will uplift you. They will inspire you. How people made a decision: do I honor my faith, or do I give in to the government and be persecuted? And they chose to honor their faith instead.
And so when it comes to religious liberty, if I'm elected president, I intend on the first day in office to instruct the U.S. Department of Justice and the IRS and every other federal agency that the persecution of religious liberty ends today.
COOPER: I want you to meet -- this is Dr. Amir Agob (ph). He works nearby in Anderson, South Carolina. He says he's an independent. He's going to vote in the Republican primary on Saturday, but he's still undecided. Doctor?
DR. AMIR AGOB, PRACTICING DOCTOR FROM ANDERSON, S.C.: Good evening, Senator.
CRUZ: Good evening.
AGOB: You know, the the oil market is in big mess.
AGOB: I would like to know your opinion on Saudi Arabia's relationship with U.S. as the oil pricing is going down, and OPEC has done nothing to stabilize the oil prices. And that is affecting the economy. Recently Russia, Venezuela (ph), Qatar and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement to freeze the oil production instead of reducing it.
So let's assume for a minute that you are the president of United States. Would you continue your alliance with Saudi Arabia?
CRUZ: Well, listen, our relationship with Saudi Arabia is, as you know, fraught with complications. They have been allies at times, but at times, the kingdom has been funding radical Islamic terrorism. They have been paying off the wolves in hopes that they will devour others rather that than devour the monarchy.
And I think we need to hold our friends to account, that friends do not fund jihadists that are seeking to murder us. And when it comes to Saudi Arabia, we need to have real scrutiny and real pressure.
Now, I'll tell when you I have traveled aboard and met with heads of state and foreign ministers and defense ministers, over and over again what they say right now is it's hard to be friends with America. They say, where is America? America doesn't stand by their friends. That needs to change.
Now, with respect to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia is part of OPEC. It's a cartel. They are not seeking our interests, they are seeking their monetary interests. I think what we ought to be doing when it comes to energy is two things. Number one, a significant part of the reason that oil prices and commodity prices have fluctuated like crazy is the Federal Reserve has fluctuated from a strong dollar to a weak dollar, and every time that happens, going up and down and up and down, it ends up sending commodity prices soaring and plummeting and soaring and plummeting. And in my view we need to No. 1., audio the Federal Reserve and No. 2, move to a rules-based monetary policy, ideally tied to gold, because when it comes to the dollar we don't want a weak dollar; we don't want a strong dollar. We want a stable dollar. A dollar is a unit of measurement, and we want a dollar to be the same today, tomorrow and the next day, because that's what all of the other economic decisions are based upon, and so I think a significant part of the volatility in the oil market is driven by the fluctuations in the dollar.
Beyond that, when it comes to energy, you know, in the Senate, I've introduced legislation called the American Energy Renaissance Act. It is the most comprehensive energy legislation that has been submitted in the U.S. Senate. It would unleash the American energy resources. This country is blessed with abundant natural resources. And my view on energy is we ought to produce all of the above. It ought to be oil, and gas and coal, and wind, and solar, and nuclear, and ethanol, and biofuels and everything.
But you shouldn't have government picking winners and losers. There should be no subsidies. There should be no favoritism. It should be a fair and level playing field for everyone, so I intend to remove the barriers from Washington, which in turn will allow the American energy market to expand, to create high-paying jobs and to jump start the American economy.
COOPER: Thank you very much for your question.
QUESTION: This is Julie Herhsey. She's president of a local nonprofit. She said she's committed to voting for you on this Saturday, so you already have her vote, so don't blow it -- don't blow it here.
QUESTION: I don't think he can.
COOPER: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Senator Cruz, thank you for taking my question.
COOPER: Thank you.
QUESTION: In order to prevent future controversy and possible litigation, will you please justify constitutionally your legal right to be president of the United States as it relates to your natural- born status?
CRUZ: Sure, I'm happy to, Julie. Thank you for that question.
The law under the Constitution and federal law has been clear since the very first days of the Republican. The child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen. What the Constitution requires is for anyone to be president they have to be a natural-born citizen.
So if you or I travel abroad and we have a child overseas, that child is a U.S. citizens by virtue of birth. That's true if U.S. service members are travelling abroad. If they're defending this country. You know, Bobby mentioned before he had a couple deployments. If he had a child overseas that child is a natural-born citizen by virtue of the child's parents.
Likewise if American missionaries are travelling overseas their children are natural born citizens. That's why John McCain was a natural-born citizen. Even though he was born in Panama, because his parents were U.S. citizens.
That's why George Romney, Mitt Romney's dad, was a natural-born citizen, even though he was born in Mexico when his parents were Mormon missionaries. And so the law is straightforward. Indeed the very first Congress, which was -- consisted of many of the framers of the Constitution, the authors of the Constitution, wrote the very first laws on citizenship, and they explicitly defined the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad as a natural-born citizen.
Now my mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She is a natural-born citizen. I was born in Canada, as you have heard by now.
QUESTION: Yes, I've heard that.
CRUZ: But I was a citizen by birth, by virtue of my mother's citizenship, so I've never been naturalized. I've never breathed a breath of air on this planet when I was not a U.S. citizen. It was the act of being born that made me a U.S. citizen. So under the law, the question is clear. there will still be some that high to work political mischief on it, but as a legal matter, this is clear and straightforward.
COOPER: There are -- just to follow up -- some legal scholars who say Donald Trump would have standing to bring a lawsuit. Is that something you would welcome just to put it to bed once and for all?
CRUZ: You know, look, you can never write off the possibility of Donald Trump suing you.
CRUZ: He is welcome to file whatever lawsuit he likes. That lawsuit would not succeed. It is not a meritorious lawsuit. If he wants to file a lawsuit, he can file it and lose. But the legal merits of the matter are clear.
COOPER: We're going to take a short break. We're going to have more questions for Senator Cruz when we come back. More questions from the voters. We'll be right back.
COOPER: And welcome back. We are here once again with Senator Ted Cruz.
Just a couple of quick questions before we go back to our audience. You're on a Senate Judiciary Committee. If President Obama sends up a nominee, should they get a hearing to replace Justice Scalia?
CRUZ: They should not. For 80 years it has been the practice that the Senate has not confirmed any nomination made during an election year. And we shouldn't make an exception now.
You know, it was interesting, Anderson...
COOPER: Should they get a hearing though?
CRUZ: I don't think they should because it's not about the particular nominee. I think that hearing would end up very politicized. And I don't think it would be fair to the nominee. I think this is a matter of policy, that during a lame duck period we should not be confirming a Supreme Court nomination, particularly, you know, you look at Justice Scalia's passing.
Justice Scalia was a lion of the law. He was someone I knew for 20 years. He was brilliant. He was principled. He singlehandedly changed the course of American law. I've said before, like Ronald Reagan was to the presidency, so Justice Scalia was to the Supreme Court.
And his passing leaves a huge void on that court. And this court -- this nomination has the potential to dramatically shift the balance of power of the court. And so I believe we should have -- we have an election coming up in November. I think 2016 should be a referendum on the Supreme Court.
And, you know, it was striking, the last Republican debate occurred the same day that we learned Justice Scalia passed, and I think that shifted. It really made people focus on the gravity of the stakes here.
You know, you mentioned before the new poll today that has us in first place nationwide. It's the first time Donald Trump has not been in first place in many, many months. And, I think this is an important reason why, that people were looking at that stage and saying who do I know beyond a shadow of a doubt would nominate and fight to confirm principled conservative jurists who would defend the constitution?
You know, I mention before an answer to the pastor's question. The cases that I've litigated defending religious liberty, defending life, almost all of those were 5-4. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court striking down every restriction on abortion that's been put in place the last 40 years. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court writing the Second Amendment out of the Constitution. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ordering Tend Commandments monuments to be torn down, ordering veterans memorials to be torn down, and undermining our fundamental religious liberty.
And, I think one of the most important questions in this election is who understands and is prepared and committed to fight for principled Supreme Court justices who will follow the constitution. And, I got to tell you, Anderson, I cannot wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and take it to the American people.
Their vision of the Supreme Court and the Constitution is a Supreme Court that mandates unlimited abortion on demand, that takes away our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, that takes away our religious liberty. I don't think that's what the American people believe in. But, we ought to take it to the election, and if the Democrats want to nominate a liberal they need to win the election. I don't believe they're going to do it.
And, one of the reasons conservatives, I think, are uniting behind my campaign is they're coming to the conclusion that I have the experience, the background, and the commitment to the constitution to make that case against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and then to follow through and put principled jurists on the court.
COOPER: Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, both have said that you've lied, that you're a liar. Are they lying about this?
CRUZ: (LAUGHING) You know, I got to say, Anderson, this is a strange election season. In many ways, both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are following this pattern that whenever anyone points to their actual record, to what they've said, to what they've voted on, to what they've done, they start screaming liar, liar, liar.
I mean, it is the oddest thing. I can't think of any precedent in any previous Republican presidential election.
Now, from my end, I have not and will not respond in kind. If they want to engage in personal insults, if they want to go to the mud, I'm not going to say the same thing about them. I think the people of South Carolina deserve more than people just throwing mud at each other.
But, you know, look -- let's take for example the debate on Saturday. So, I mentioned on Saturday on the debate stage that Donald Trump for 60 years of his life has described himself as very pro-choice, as supporting partial birth abortion, as, quote, "Pro-Choice in every respect".
And, I mentioned that even now Donald Trump supports taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. And, his response was to bellow, liar, liar. And, he said, when did I ever say that?
And, I responded, I said, well, when we were debating defunding Planned Parenthood I was leading that fight. You opposed me, and you said on national television you think Planned Parenthood does wonderful things.
And then, Anderson, Donald proceeded to say on the debate stage once again, he thinks Planned Parenthood does wonderful things. The very thing he called me a liar for he agreed with on the stage.
You know, a few minutes later we had an exchange with Marco Rubio -- and listen, I like Marco. He's charming, he's a friend of mine, he's very, very talented. But, what I said, and my focus is on record, and substance, and issues, and vision for this country. I think that's what the voters are interested in.
But, I made three statements about Marco's immigration record in the debate. I said, number one, Marco right now supports granting citizenship to the 12 million people who are here illegally.
Now, that is a fact. He said that on the debate stage two or three debates ago. In fact, on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd just a few weeks ago Marco said we should grant citizenship to people here illegally even if they have criminal convictions. He said that on national television looking into the t.v. camera.
The second thing I said is I said when he was in Florida. He supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. That's a fact, that is his legislative record.
And the third thing I said is I said that he went on Univision and in Spanish said that he would not rescind the president's illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office. If I am elected president, the first day in office, I intend to rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive action.
Now, in response to that, Marco followed the same strategy as Donald, he just screamed liar, liar, liar. He didn't actually dispute any of the substance. You remember what he said at the same time was, well, how would you know what I said on Univision? You don't speak Spanish.
Well, Marco was incorrect on that. But, look, truth matters. Every one of these issues, Donald and Marco are on video on national television stating their positions. And just yelling liar doesn't make it so. And I would note, by the way, if Marco is right that I'm lying, then
I'll tell you else has to be lying, Jeff Sessions has to be lying, Mike Lee has to be lying, Mark Levin has to be lying, Rush Limbaugh has to be lying, Phyllis Schlafly has to be lying, James Dobson has to be lying, because every one of them has said the exact same thing I did, most of those folks haven't endorsed me.
They're not supporting me, but they've spoken the truth. And it cannot be -- look, one of the things I love about the people of South Carolina is how seriously they take their responsibility to vet the candidates.
So you can go -- you can go to our Web site, watch the video and see Marco and Donald stating their positions. And I'm going to continue focusing on issues and record, and just yelling insults and liar is not a response when you want to run away from your record.
COOPER: Let's get more questions from voters. This is Robert Tucker. He's a lawyer. He says he's still deciding between you and Senator Rubio.
CRUZ: Hi, Robert.
ROBERT TUCKER, LAWYER: Hello. Welcome back to Greenville.
CRUZ: Thank you.
TUCKER: From time to time we see articles written in the paper or on television that you don't get along with some of the Republican senators, your colleagues in Washington.
If you're going to have a problem with them, what are you going to say to them as president to get them on board so that we can get legislation passed?
CRUZ: It's a great question, Robert, thank you for asking it.
Let me focus on two levels. Let me, number one, explain why that is, and then, number two, how we actually change the direction in Washington.
The reason why that is, is simple. It's not that I speak with a lack of civility or respect. I mean, you've seen in this presidential campaign, as other people insult me, impugn my integrity, I don't respond in kind.
I try very much -- you know, the Bible talks about if someone treats you unkindly, repay them with kindness. It's like heaping coals on top of their head.
That has been the standard I've tried to follow. That's how I've approached it in the Senate. So I have not attacked or insulted my colleagues in the Senate, Democrat or Republican. Even if I disagree with them on the issues, I'll tell you why they say
Ted is unlikable in Washington. Because I'm actually honoring the commitments that I made to the men and women who elected me.
So, for example, on Planned Parenthood, I led the fight for to use the budgetary power of Congress to stop giving $500 million to Planned Parenthood. What Republican leadership wanted to do is have a show vote, lose the show vote, and then fund all of Obama's agenda, including Planned Parenthood.
So what's unlikable is when you stand up and say, how about we do what we said we would do? Likewise, when I stood up and led the fight against Obamacare, they said that was unlikable.
When I stood up and led the fight against the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill, they said that was unlikable. You know why? Because all the money in Washington, all the lobbyists in Washington wanted amnesty.
If you look at K Street, if you at the special interests, if you look at Wall Street, amnesty they think is great. It's cheap labor. And so when you actually stand up -- and by the way, the way we won these fights is that I stood up and tried to shine a light on them, shine attention on them and empower the American people.
So, for example, amnesty, Rubio-Schumer amnesty passed the Senate. Every Democrat voted for it. And a whole bunch of establishment Republicans. And it was headed to the House to pass.
House leadership, John Boehner, intended to take it up, pass it with all the Democrats and a handful of Republicans, roll over about 200 House Republicans. And I stood with Jeff Sessions and Steve King and we took the case to the American people.
And what happened is millions of American people rose up, lit up the phones to Congress and said, don't do this. And we defeated the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill in the House.
Now in the world of Washington, that's considered unlikable. When Republican leadership -- you know, I wrote a book last year called "A Time for Truth." The opening chapter is entitled "Mendacity." It describes the inside story of what happened on the debt ceiling, where Republican leadership wanted to make it easier for Harry Reid to add trillions in debt ceiling where Republican leadership wanted to make it easier for Harry Reid to add trillions in debt to our country, and I objected to that.
And, the act of objecting, of honoring the promise I made to the men and women who elected me engendered more animosity and unhappiness than anything I've done in my time in the Senate.
You know, just this morning, Senator Jim DeMint, tremendously respected former Senator here from South Carolina, was on a radio interview. He addressed this question, he said, listen. Ted is friend. Anyone who says he's unlikeable is being ridiculous. They said the same thing about me, Jim DeMint said, because Jim DeMint honored the commitments he made to the men and women of South Carolina, and Republican leadership hated Jim DeMint because, not that he spoke mean about them, but because he actually said let's do what we said we would do.
So, let's take the second half of your question.
How do we fix the problems? Because we actually need to fix them, not just talk about them, we need to change the direction of this country.
A president has really three levers, the presidential authority to change the direction of this country. Number one is executive power, that's been the one that Obama has abused so much. Now, the silver lining is everything done with executive power can be undone with executive power.
That's why I pledged on day one to rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Obama. It's why I've pledged to instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood, and prosecute any and all criminal violations. It's why I've pledged to end persecution of religious liberty in the executive branch.
It's also why I've pledged to instruct the Department of Education on day one that Common Core ends today.
Using legitimate executive power you can end many of the abuses of Obama if you just have a president willing to use that power.
The second avenue of executive power to change the direction of this country is foreign policy. It's why I've pledged on day one to rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal. And, on day one, to begin the process of moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Both of those are foreign policy the president can do immediately. And it's worth remembering that this same nation, Iran, released our hostages the day that Ronald Reagan was sworn in.
And, then the third avenue to change the direction of the country is legislation. Legislation is not easy with this broken Congress. I'm running on two big legislative initiatives. Number one repealing every word of Obamacare. And, number two, adopting a simple flat tax and abolishing the IRS.
Now, neither one of those are easy. I'm not remotely naive, or pollyannish. Could I get those done in this Congress? No. But, think about the last time we beat the Washington cartel. It was 1980, it was the Reagan revolution.
Remember, Reagan in 1976, primaried Gerald Ford. You want to make Republican leadership loathe you, come within an inch of beating the incumbent Republican president in a primary. You think they dislike me? They hated Reagan with the heat of a thousand white hot suns. He was unlikeable.
And, yet, what did Reagan do? In 1977, 1978, 1979, he didn't fly to Washington, sit down with the old bulls and say, come on guys, let's stand for something. He know that wouldn't work. Instead, he took the case to the people, he built a grassroots army. The Reagan revolution swept in.
And, when you go to the people it transformed the incentives. Today, everyone's a Reagan Republican. You cannot find a Republican who will not swear that Ronald Reagan is tattooed somewhere on their body.
But, the reason is he took the case to the people, and he changed the incentives. How do we abolish Obamacare, repeal Obamacare, and adopt a flat tax? We make the election a referendum so we come out of November 2016 with the mandate from the people. And, that's exactly what I intend to do.
QUESTION: Thank you.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
COOPER: Senator, this is Susan Harvey, she's a local travel agent. She says she's still undecided. Susan?
QUESTION: Good evening, Senator.
CRUZ: Hi, Susan.
QUESTION: Hi. If you're elected, what position in your cabinet would be the most important to fill first, and why?
CRUZ: That is a very good question. I would say it would be a three way tie between Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Attorney General. And, I think all three are critically important.
Listen, State and Defense -- when it comes to defense we need to start rebuilding our military immediately. When it comes to State, we have abandoned our friends and allies nationally and we need to -- it's part of the reason I mentioned before.
Ripping to shreds the Iranian nuclear deal, and moving the American embassy to Jerusalem. Both of those are within the power of the president, but they're also powerfully symbolic. You know, moving the embassy to Israel tells Israel, it tells all of our allies, it tells our enemies, America is back. You know, Obama in his opening weeks, he sent back the bust of Winston Churchill to the United Kingdom. If I'm elected president, Winston Churchill is coming back to the Oval Office.
So as secretary of state we need someone strong, someone who defends this country, someone who represents this country.
Look, I'm not in the position right now to be naming cabinet appointments, but I'll tell you, a secretary of state in a Cruz administration would be someone like John Bolton, would be someone who is strong, who defends this country, who stands our by our allies and stand up to our enemies.
And then looking at attorney general, attorney general, the lawlessness of he Obama administration has been one of the saddest legacies. And you know one of the most revealing aspects -- I mean, Anderson, if you watch reporters in Washington, off the record, you get them at the bar having a couple drinks, and you say, is Hillary Going to be indicted? Inevitably the answer they give you is they say, well, it depends on if the Obama White House decides they want to throw her overboard. It they decide politically they want to keep her, then no, she won't be indicted, and if they decide they're done with her, she will.
Now how sad is it that the media accepts as a given that whether someone is prosecuted under the criminal laws depends on what some political hack in the West Wing thinks.
You know, I used to be an associate deputy attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice and I spent five-and-a-half years as solicitor general in the state of Texas. Law enforcement and the administration of law is critically important. And I give you my word that the attorney general in my administration will be blind to party or ideology. It will not be a partisan position. Instead the only fidelity of the Department of Justice will to the laws and the Constitution of the United States. That's the way it's meant to work.
COOPER: Senator, we just got a few minutes left. Do you want to tell me what reporters you're having drinks with in D.C.?
CRUZ: I guess not.
ANDERSON: What's your favorite cocktail?
CRUZ: I'm a scotch fan.
I understand you're also kind of a night owl. What do you do late at night. What do you -- do you watch television? Do you have a guilty pleasure? Are you reading something now?
CRUZ: Look, back when I wasn't running for president I would watch TV. I used to remember what that was like. I'm a huge movie buff. I love movies. I like video games.
One of the things -- if you asked my wife, if you asked Heidi what drives her crazy about me the most, it is my iPhone. If she could fling my iPhone out the window and into the trash, she would be thrilled, because I'm on my iPhone. I'm playing Plants versus Zombies or Candy Crush. My girls love it. I mean, we'll sit there, the three of us, playing
the iPhone and Heidi wants to, like, throw something at all three of us.
ANDERSON: What -- I know you've done a lot of impersonations on the campaign trail. I've seen some of them, "Simpsons" characters, "Princess Bride." What's your favorite one? And do you want to grace us with it?
CRUZ: Oh look, I mean, part it have is you've got to have fun. You know, a lot of times I get the questions in town halls -- how do Republicans reach young people? And in answer to that, part of it is substance. We've got to make the case that the Obama economic agenda is hammering young people. For seven years young people come out of school with economic stagnation They can't get a job. They don't have a future. Obamacare is a massive wealth transfer from young, healthy people to everybody else. And the national debt is hammering young people.
But part of getting young people is having fun, loosening up. You know, would it kill the Republicans to crack a joke?
Actually some of them I think it might.
So, look, I'll give an example -- it's -- impersonations is part of that. It's just sort of having fun. But you know, I'm reminded of a few years back I was out in L.A., traveling out there. And the week before I arrived these posters began appearing all over town. And they're posters of my head on a shirtless torso that is ripped.
And it's covered with tattoos, a giant eagle on my chest, two six shooters on my abs, which are a perfect eight-pack.
CRUZ: Winston -- you sound less than convinced.
ANDERSON: Yes, well.
CRUZ: Winston Churchill on my right bicep which is massive, a cigarette dangling out of my mouth, and above it, the legend "black listed and loving it." Now, we had nothing it did with these posters. This was a local street artist in L.A. that just put them up on his own, but we decided to have some fun with them. So we posted on FaceBook, we said, "Well, for whatever reason, these posters started appearing all over Hollywood. I have to say I noticed a glaring error. I don't smoke cigarettes."
ANDERSON: Senator Cruz, thank you very much.
CRUZ: Anderson, thank you.
ANDERSON: Appreciate it.
ANDERSON: That's all the time we have. I want to thank Senator Cruz, and Rubio and Dr. Carson.
A special thanks to all the voters being here for asking the questions, and the viewers at home. I hope you join us tomorrow for the rest of the candidates. I want to thank everybody in Greenville.
Tomorrow night, same time, different city, another town hall. Columbia, South Carolina -- Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, John Kasich right here on CNN.
Our coverage continues with Don Lemon right after this.