TAPPER: Live from the Bank United Center on the campus of the University of Miami, this is the CNN Republican Presidential debate. For our viewers in the United States and around the world, welcome to Miami Florida, I’m Jake Tapper.
TAPPER: In just five days voters will go to the polls here in this state as well as in Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri. The race for the Republican nomination for president could change dramatically.
Florida and Ohio each have a large number of delegates at stake and they award all of them to the candidate who wins. They’re a winner-take-all state. So that’s the first time that will happen in this primary season and this is the last debate before that critical round of voting.
We hope tonight the candidates will give the voters specifics on their visions for America.
So now let’s welcome the candidates.
Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Real estate developer and businessman Donald Trump.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates for president of the United States.
Before we begin this evening, we want to remember former first lady Nancy Reagan, who passed away this week. Her funeral will be held tomorrow and we would like to take a moment of silence to remember Nancy Reagan.
(MOMENT OF SILENCE)
Now, please rise for our national anthem performed by the Frost Singers from the University of Miami. (STAR SPANGLED BANNER)
TAPPER: Thanks to the Frost Singers from the University of Miami.
Candidates, you can now take your positions behind the podiums while I briefly explain the rules. As moderator, I will attempt to guide the discussion, asking questions and followups. Joining me in the questioning this evening will be Washington Times reporter Stephen Dinan, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, and Salem Radio’s Hugh Hewitt.
Candidates, you have one minute and 15 seconds to answer each question, and 45 seconds to respond to followups or for rebuttals if your name is invoked. That’s longer than you’ve had in previous debates.
Timing lights will be visible. Those lights will warn you when time is up. And as you requested, a bell will also sound, like this.
We know that each of you wants to debate these important issues, but please wait until you are called upon and please do not talk over one another. These are the rules to which all of you agreed.
Our goal this evening is a serious debate on the issues.
It’s time now for opening statements. You’ll each have 30 seconds.
Governor Kasich, we will start with you.
KASICH: Well, thank you. You know, I look in the faces of people all across this country, and I know they want to be hopeful. And many are hopeful. Look, I can take conservative policies to the White House, to Washington, to restore the strength of our economy. But I also want to transfer power, money and influence to where you live, because I believe the strength in this country rests in the neighborhoods, the families, the communities and our states.
And I believe it’s a new partnership - a partnership that can allow us to restore the spirit of America and strengthen America for the best century we’ve ever had.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio?
RUBIO: Every election is important. I believe this is the most important election in a generation. Because what’s at stake in this election is not simply what party is going to be in charge or which candidate wins. What’s at stake is our identity as a nation and as a people.
RUBIO: For over two centuries, America has been an exceptional nation. And now the time has come for this generation to do what it must do to keep it that way. If we make the right choice in this election, our children are going to be the freest and most prosperous Americans that have ever lived. And the 21st century is going to be a new American century.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Fifty-nine years ago, Florida welcomed my father to America as he stepped off the ferry boat from Cuba onto Key West. He was 18. He was filled with hopes and dreams, and yet he was in the freest land on the face of the earth.
This election, this debate is not about insults. It’s not about attacks. It’s not about any of the individuals on this stage. This election is about you and your children. It’s about the freedom America has always had and making sure that that freedom is there for the next generation, that we stop Washington from standing in the way of the hard-working taxpayers of America.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: One of the biggest political events anywhere in the world is happening right now with the Republican Party. Millions and millions of people are going out to the polls and they’re voting. They’re voting out of enthusiasm. They’re voting out of love. Some of these people, frankly, have never voted before - 50 years old, 60 years old, 70 years old - never voted before.
We’re taking people from the Democrat Party. We’re taking people as independents, and they’re all coming out and the whole world is talking about it. It’s very exciting. I think, frankly, the Republican establishment, or whatever you want to call it, should embrace what’s happening.
We’re having millions of extra people join. We are going to beat the Democrats. We are going to beat Hillary or whoever it may be. And we’re going to beat them soundly.
TAPPER: Thank you. Thank you.
Let’s begin with jobs and the economy, which Republican voters say is the most important issue to them in this election. There have been some real differences expressed in - on this stage on whether trade deals have been good for the American workers. One of Mr. Trump’s, the front runner’s, signature issues is ending what he calls “disastrous trade deals” in order to bring jobs back to America.
Governor Kasich, I’d like to start with you. You’ve been a strong advocate for these trade deals over the years. Critics say these deals are great for corporate America’s bottom line, but have cost the U.S. at least 1 million jobs. How do you respond to the criticism that you’ve been catering to board rooms at the expense of the American middle class?
KASICH: Well, Jake, I grew up in a blue collar family. And the simple fact of the matter is that of course we’re sensitive about trade. One out of five Americans works in a job connected to trade; 38 million Americans are connected to it.
But my position has always been we want to have free trade, but fair trade. And I’ve been arguing all along that it is absolutely critical that when other countries break those agreements, we don’t turn the process over to some international bureaucrat who comes back a couple years later and says, “Oh, America was right,” and people are out of work.
The fact of the matter is we have to have an expedited process. When people cheat, when countries cheat and they take advantage of us, we need to blow the whistle. And as president of the United States, I absolutely will blow the whistle and begin to stand up for the American worker.
But we don’t want to lock the doors and pull down the blinds and leave the world. Because frankly, if we do that, prices will go up. People will buy less. Other people will be out of work. And we don’t want to see that happen.
Trade, though, has to be balanced and we have to make sure that when we see a violation, like some country dumping their products into this country, believe me as president, I will stand up and I will shut down those imports because they’re a violation of the agreement we have and the American worker expects us to stand up.
And Jake, my family worked in the steel industry, not with a white collar. I understand their plight.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, your critics say your campaign platform is inconsistent with how you run your businesses, noting that you’ve brought in foreign workers instead of hiring Americans, and your companies manufacture clothing in China and Mexico.
Why should voters trust that you will run the country differently from how you run your businesses? TRUMP: Because nobody knows the system better than me. I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me. I’m a businessman. These are laws. These are regulations. These are rules. We’re allowed to do it. And frankly, because of the devaluations that other countries - the monetary devaluations that other countries are constantly doing and brilliantly doing against us, it’s very, very hard for our companies in this country, in our country, to compete.
So I will take advantage of it; they’re the laws. But I’m the one that knows how to change it. Nobody else on this dais knows how to change it like I do, believe me.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio, last October, you said that you’re, quote, “generally very much in favor of free trade.” More recently, you backed a away from your support of some trade deals. If elected, will you support free trade deals even if it means the inevitable loss of U.S. jobs?
RUBIO: No, I support free trade deals that are good for America. We’re 5 percent of the world’s population. If all we do is sell things to each other, we can only sell to 5 percent of the people on earth. We have to have access to the hundreds of millions of people in the world today who can afford to buy things.
The problem is we’re a low-tariff country. To import something into the United States is not very expensive, but many of these countries we can’t export to because their tariffs are too high. And so I am in favor of deals that allow us to bring down those tariffs so that America can sell things to all these people around the world.
There are good trade deals and there are bad ones. So for example, here in Florida, we have benefited from the free trade deal with Colombia. It’s allowed flower exporters to come into the United States but it’s created jobs for hundreds of people who are now delivering those flowers and working in that industry. We have a surplus with Colombia.
On the other hand, you’ve seen trade deals like in Mexico that have been less than promising in some aspects, better in others. Bottom line is I believe that America, if given access to foreign markets, our workers are the most productive in the world, our people are the most innovative on this planet. If it is a free and fair trade deal, we can compete against anyone in the world, and we need to in the 21st century.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz, you were a supporter of the Pacific trade deal, but after taking some heat from conservatives, you changed your position. Why should these voters who don’t like these trade deals trust that you will fight for them all the time and not just in election years?
CRUZ: Actually that’s incorrect. There are two different agreements. There’s TPA and TPP. I opposed TPP and have always opposed TPP, which is what you asked about. And when it comes to trade, look, free trade, when we open up foreign markets, helps Americans. But we’re getting killed in international trade right now. And we’re getting killed because we have an administration that’s doesn’t look out for American workers and jobs are going overseas. We’re driving jobs overseas.
And the people who are losing out are in manufacturing jobs, or the steel industry or the auto industry. But I’ll tell you who else is going to be losing out, which is the service industry. This Obama administration is negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement which is another treaty to allow services to come in and take jobs from Americans as well.
And you’ve got to understand. Trade and immigration are interwoven, and they are hurting the working men and women of this country. So the question is, what’s the solution? It’s easy to talk about the problems. But do you have a solution to fix it? And I think the solution is several things.
Number one, we need to negotiate trade deals protecting American workers first, not the corporate board room. Number two, we need to lift the regulations on American businesses here so we see jobs coming back. And number three, we need a tax plan like the tax plan I’ve introduced that will not tax exports and that will tax imports, and that will bring millions of high-paying jobs back to America.
TAPPER: Let’s talk more about how American jobs are impacted by foreign workers. Let’s go to Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times. Stephen.
DINAN: Senator Rubio in late 2014, Disney laid off 250 tech workers in Orlando, replacing many of them with foreign workers. Some of the Americans even had to train their own replacements. You support increasing the H-1B visa program that made it possible to bring in these foreign workers. Doesn’t this program take jobs away from Americans?
RUBIO: If it’s being abused the way Disney did. Understand that program, it is illegal now under that program to use it to replace American workers. Under that program, you have to prove not only that you’re not replacing Americans, but that you’ve tried to hire Americans. And if a company is caught abusing that process, they should never be allowed to use it again.
The second problem with the current structure of the program that people perhaps don’t understand is a lot of these companies are not directly hiring employees from abroad. They are hiring a consulting company like Tata, for example, out of India. That company then hoards up all of these visas. They hire workers. You hire - Disney or some other company hires this company.
What they’re basically doing is they are insourcing and outsourcing. They are bringing in workers from abroad that are not direct employees of a Disney or someone else, they’re employees of this consulting business. And what I argue is that no consulting business such as that should be allowed to hoard up all of these visas, that the visas should only be available for companies to use to directly hire workers and that we should be stricter in how he enforce it.
It is illegal now, it is a violation of the law now to use that program to replace Americans. And if a company is caught doing that, whether it be Disney or anyone else, they should be barred from using the program in the future.
DINAN: Senator Rubio, real quick follow-up on this.
You’ve - in the - in the context of illegal immigration, you’ve called for basically putting off any legalization process until we get the border secured.
DINAN: Why not call for a pause on H1Bs until those abuses you’ve talked about are solved.
RUBIO: Well first, I think - well, I’d be open to it if it takes a pause. But I don’t think it takes a pause to enforce the law. What they are doing is they are in fact using that program to replace an American.
If there’s an American working at Disney and they bring someone from another country using H1B to replace their direct job, that’s in violation of the law. And what I’m explaining to you is, what they are doing now is they are not - what they are doing is they are eliminating the job.
They are outsourcing the entire tech division to a consulting company. They are making the argument that we didn’t replace you. We just replaced the whole unit by hiring a company to do it instead. And that company that they’re hiring is bringing their workers from abroad. It’s a loophole they’ve figured out that we need to close so they can no longer continue to do it that way.
DINAN: Governor Kasich, I want to come to you next. Mr. Trump says that legal immigration is producing quote, “lower wages and higher unemployment for U.S. workers”. He’s calling for a pause on green cards issued to foreign workers. Wouldn’t that help workers in the U.S.?
KAISCH: Well look, I believe in immigration, but it has to be controlled. The simple fact of the matter is I wouldn’t be standing here. I’d be maybe running for president of Croatia if we didn’t have immigration.
Immigration is something that brings youth and vibrance and energy to our country. But we clearly have to control our borders. We can’t have people just walking in. Look, we lock our doors at night in our homes. The country has to be able to lock its doors as well. So, we - I have a comprehensive plan to deal with this problem of immigration.
I would say we have to absolutely finish the wall and guard the border. And if anybody were to come in after that, they are going to have to go back. No excuses because we can’t continue this problem. I think we ought to have a guest worker program, where people come in, work and go home.
And I think at the same time, for the 11 and a half million who are here, then in my view if they have not committed a crime since they’ve been here, they get a path to legalization. Not to citizenship. I believe that program can pass the Congress in the first 100 days.
But let’s not lose sight of the fact that the whole key to the future of America is strong economic growth with common sense regulation, lower taxes and a balanced budget.
We can have a rising tide that lifts all the workers in America, all the people who are citizens of America, if we’ll just follow the formula that works, that I used in Washington. And guess what, I’ve used it in Ohio to grow over 400 private sector jobs since I’ve been governor
DINAN: Mr. Trump, I do want to come to you. Will you also in your answer, address how long you think that pause would be and what that pause would look like.
TRUMP: I will. First of all, I think and I know the H1B very well. And it’s something that I frankly use and I shouldn’t be allowed to use it. We shouldn’t have it. Very, very bad for workers. And second of all, I think it’s very important to say, well, I’m a businessman and I have to do what I have to do.
When it’s sitting there waiting for you, but it’s very bad. It’s very bad for business in terms of - and it’s very bad for our workers and it’s unfair for our workers. And we should end it. Very importantly, the Disney workers endorsed me, as you probably read.
And I got a full endorsement because they are the ones that said, and they had a news conference, and they said, he’s the only one that’s going to be able to fix it. Because it is a mess. I think for a period of a year to two years we have to look back and we have to see, just to answer the second part of your question, where we are, where we stand, what’s going on.
We have to sort of take a strong, good, hard look and come up with plans that work. And we’re rushing into things, and we’re just - we’re leading with the chin.
We’re leading with people that don’t know what they are doing in terms of our leadership. I’d say a minimum of one year, maybe two years.
DINAN: Senator Cruz, I want to bring you in very quickly on this.
DINAN: The United States averages about a million new permanent legal immigrants a year and hundreds of thousands more guest workers. What should the right level be?
CRUZ: Well, we need to redefine our legal immigration system so that it meets the needs of the American economy. Right now, we’re bringing in far too many low skilled workers. What that is doing is driving down the wages of hard-working Americans. Our system isn’t working. And then on top of that, we’ve got a system that’s allowing in millions of people to be here illegally.
And the answer to that, I’ve laid out a very, very detailed immigration plan on my website. We’re going to build a wall, triple the border patrol. We’re going to end sanctuary cities. And let me tell you how we’re going to do that.
We’re going to cut off federal taxpayer funds to any city that defies federal immigration laws.
CRUZ: We’re going to end welfare benefits for anyone who is here illegally. And the thing to understand, Stephen, we can solve these problems. It’s not that we don’t know how to do it. It’s that we’re lacking the political will. Neither of the parties in Washington wants to do this.
The Democrats support illegal immigration because they view those illegal immigrants as potential voters and far too many of the Republicans are doing the bidding of Wall Street and the special interest and they view it as cheap labor.
CRUZ: We need instead leadership that works for the working men and women of this country. We need an immigration system that takes care of the jobs of the working men and women of this country.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio, did you want to weigh in?
RUBIO: Well, I would add when you talk about the millions of green cards that are coming in, those aren’t actually workers at all. They are just coming in primarily based on family connection. And ;let me tell you, when my parents came in 1956, I acknowledge that my parents came to the U.S. on a family-based system.
The problem is nothing looks like it did 60 years ago. The 21st Century economy simply is not creating enough jobs for people that don’t have skills. When my parents came, they had a very limited education. My father stopped going to school when he was 9 years old because his mother died and he had to work. And he would work the next 70 years of his life and never go back to school. And I’m grateful every day that America welcomed them.
But today in the 21st Century, 60 years later, finding jobs when you don’t have skills is very difficult. We need to move to a merit- based system of immigration, not just on H-1B, particularly on green cards. The primary criteria for bringing someone from abroad in the 21st Century should be, what skills do you have? What business are you going to open? What investment are you going to make? What job are you going to be able to do when you arrive in the United States?
TAPPER: Education obviously plays a large role when it comes to jobs and the economy. The United States has long been falling behind others in the industrialized world. American students currently rank 27th out of 34 countries in math and 17th in reading.
Mr. Trump, you’ve called the education standards known as Common Core a disaster. What are your specific objections to Common Core?
TRUMP: Education through Washington, D.C. I don’t want that. I want local education. I want the parents, and I want all of the teachers, and I want everybody to get together around a school and to make education great.
And it was very interesting, I was with Dr. Ben Carson today, who is endorsing me, by the way, tomorrow morning, and he is…
TRUMP: We were talking. We spoke for over an hour on education. And he has such a great handle on it. He wants competitive schools. He wants a lot of different things that are terrific, including charter schools, by the way, that the unions are fighting like crazy. But charter schools work and they work very well.
So there are a lot of things. But I’m going to have Ben very involved with education, something that’s an expertise of his.
TAPPER: OK. But just to clarify, the Common Core standards were developed by the states, states and localities voluntarily adopt them, and they come up with their own curricula to meet those standards. So when you say “education by Washington, D.C.,” what do you mean?
TRUMP: You’re right, Jake. But it has been taken over by the federal government. It was originally supposed to be that way. And certainly sounds better that way. But it has all been taken over now by the bureaucrats in Washington, and they are not interested in what’s happening in Miami or in Florida, in many cases.
Now in some cases they would be. But in many cases they are more interested in their paycheck and the big bureaucracy than they are taking care of the children.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, you have called opposition to Common Core hysteria. What is your response to grassroots conservatives who do not agree with you?
KASICH: Well, look, all I’m in favor of in Ohio is high standards. First of all, let me tell you, I would take 125 federal education programs, put them in four buckets, and send them back to the states. OK, I’ve been working on this for many, many years.
Secondly, Jake, in our state, the state school board sets the standards. And we want high standards because we have not always had high standards, unfortunately. They set the standards and the local school boards develop the curriculum.
Not only did we have that in the law, we reasserted it in the law. And we also want parental advisers in the local school district so that, in fact, you know, frankly, education has to be run at the school board level with a little guidance from the state.
Now on top of that, you want to talk about the 21st Century and what we need to do with our kids? We need to start connecting them to the real world. We need to be training them for the jobs of the 21st Century, not the jobs of 20 years ago.
We need vocational education starting in the seventh grade where kids can get that kind of education that can take them to college, but all the way through their K through 12 they ought to be connected with real-world jobs.
Frankly, what ought to happen is we ought to get them to pursue their God-given talents and connect them with the things that give them passion. And that’s exactly what we’re doing in Ohio, combined with mentoring programs to talk to kids about what their future can be.
So let me be clear, local control, obviously, high state standards. That’s what it is in the state of Ohio.
TAPPER: So, Senator Cruz, let me bring you in. You object to Common Core. Governor Kasich says it’s local school boards developing local curriculum to meet higher standards. What’s wrong with that?
CRUZ: Common Core is a disaster. And if I am elected president, in the first days as president, I will direct the Department of Education that Common Core ends that day.
CRUZ: Now, let me tell you why you can do that, because it’s easy to talk about the problem, but you have to understand the solutions. The Obama administration has abused executive power in forcing common core on the states. It has used race-to-the-top funds to effectively blackmail and force the states to adopt common core.
Now, the one silver lining of Obama abusing executive power is that everything done with executive power can be undone with executive power, and I intend to do that.
Beyond that, though, Jake, I intend to work to abolish the federal Department of Education and send education back to the states and back to the local governments.
And let me say finally, the most important reform we can do in education after getting the federal government out of it, is expand school choice; expand charter schools and home schools and private schools and vouchers, and scholarships. And give every child - African American, Hispanic - every child in need an opportunity to access to a quality education.
TAPPER: Let’s move on to another topic of particular interest here in Florida. Florida has the highest percentage of seniors in the country. There are 3.1 million senior citizens here who receive Social Security benefits, and they’re very interested in hearing what you candidates intend to do to keep Social Security going for future generations.
Let me turn now to my colleague Dana Bash.
BASH: Senator Rubio, you argue Americans your age must have an honest conversation about making Social Security sustainable. For people under 55, you want to raise the retirement age and also reduce benefits for wealthier Americans. So, what should the new retirement age be? And how much will those benefits be cut?
RUBIO: Well, first of all, let me say that you’re right, there are about 3 million seniors in Florida with Social Security and Medicare. One of them is my mother, who happens to be here today. I’m against any changes to Social Security that are bad for my mother. And we don’t have to make any changes for them. But anyone who tells you that Social Security can stay the way it is is lying. Any politician that goes around saying, “We don’t have to anything; all we have to do is raise a few taxes or just leave it the way it is,” they’re not being honest with you.
Social Security will go bankrupt and it will bankrupt the country with it. So what it will require is people younger, like myself, people that are 30 years away from retirement, to accept that our Social Security is going to work differently than it did for my parents.
For example, instead of retiring at 67 the way I’m supposed to retire, I’d have to retire at 68. If I were still in the Senate, I’d be one of the youngest people there.
If I’ve made a lot of money, my Social Security benefit will not grow as fast as someone who made less money. And by the way, Medicare could very well become the option of using my Medicare benefit to buy a private plan that I like better. Medicare Advantage does that now.
These are not unreasonable changes to ask of someone like myself who is 25 or 30 years away from retirement, in exchange for leaving the program undisturbed for the people that are on it now or about to retire, and ensuring that we do not bankrupt our country and that this program still exists when my children retire, when my grandchildren retire, when I retire.
BASH: Senator, the question was specific though. You made your plan very clear about generally what you want to do, but how high would the retirement age go and how much would you cut those benefits?
RUBIO: Well, I’m sorry I didn’t answer that part. So the thing is that my - my generation, someone my age would retire at 68. We would continue to allow it to increase the retirement age for future generations until it hit 70. And so my children would retire at 70. I would retire at 68. It would be a graduating scale over a period of time.
But again I’m talking about people like myself and Ted who are 45 years old. We’re years away from retirement. For people that are on it now, we don’t have to change it at all. If we don’t do anything, we will have a debt crisis. It’s not a question of if. It is a question of when. In less than five years, only 17 percent of our budget will remain discretionary; 83 percent of the federal budget in less than five years will all be spent on Medicare, Medicaid, the interest on the debt.
That’s - all of it will be eaten up by that. That’s a debt crisis. And it will be debilitating to our economy and our children deserve better than to inherit a debt crisis.
BASH: Mr. Trump, you don’t want to raise the retirement age, and you also don’t want to cut benefits even for wealthier Americans. But according to the Social Security Administration, unless adjustments are made, Social Security is projected to run out of money within 20 years. So specifically, what would you do to stop that from happening?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I want you to understand that the Democrats, and I’ve watched them very intensely, even though it’s a very, very boring thing to watch, that the Democrats are doing nothing with Social Security. They’re leaving it the way it is. In fact, they want to increase it. They want to actually give more.
And that’s what we’re up against. And whether we like it or not, that is what we’re up against.
I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is; to make this country rich again; to bring back our jobs; to get rid of deficits; to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is rampant in this country, rampant, totally rampant.
TRUMP: And it’s my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is. Not increase the age and to leave it as is.
You have 22 years, you have a long time to go. It’s not long in terms of what we’re talking about, but it’s still a long time to go, and I want to leave Social Security as is, I want to make our country rich again so we can afford it. I want to bring back our jobs, I want to do things that will make us, that will bring back GDP…
I mean, as an example, GDP was zero essentially for the last two quarters. If that ever happened in China. you would have had a depression like nobody’s ever seen before. They go down to 7 percent, 8 percent, and it’s a - it’s a national tragedy. We’re at zero, we’re not doing anything.
We’ve lost our jobs. We’ve lost everything. We’re losing everything. Our jobs are gone, our businesses are being taken out of the country. I want to make America great again and I want to leave Social Security as is. We’re going to get rid of waste, fraud, abuse and bring back business.
BASH: Senator Rubio, I know you want to get in. Hang on one second, I just want to follow up with Mr. Trump. You’re talking about waste, fraud and abuse, but an independent bipartisan organization, the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget, says improper payments like you’re talking about, that would only save about $3 billion, but it would take $150 billion to make Social Security solvent. So how would you find that other $147 million?
TRUMP: Because they don’t cover most of the subjects. We’re the policemen of the world. We take care of the entire world. We’re going to have a stronger military, much stronger. Our military is depleted. But we take care of Germany, we take care of Saudi Arabia, we take care of Japan, we take care of South Korea. We take - every time this maniac from North Korea does anything, we immediately send our ships. We get virtually nothing.
We have 28,000 soldiers on the line, on the border between North and South Korea. We have so many places. Saudi Arabia was making a billion dollars a day, and we were getting virtually nothing to protect them. We are going to be in a different world. We’re going to negotiate real deals now, and we’re going to bring the wealth back to our country. We owe $19 trillion. We’re going to bring wealth back to our country. (APPLAUSE)
BASH: Senator Rubio, will that be enough to save Social Security?
RUBIO: No. And I - and I think you’ve outlined why. The numbers don’t add up. You know, when I ran for the Senate in 2010, I came out and said we’re going to have to make changes to Social Security, and everyone said that’s the end of your campaign. In Florida, you can’t talk about that, but people know that it’s the truth here in Florida.
Fraud is not enough. Certainly, let’s wipe out the fraud, but as you said, it won’t add up. You already gave those numbers. The second point is on foreign aid. I hear that all the time as well. I’m against any sort of wasting of money on foreign aid, but it’s less than 1 percent of our federal budget. The numbers don’t add up.
The bottom line is we can’t just continue to tip-toe around this and throw out things like I’m going to get at fraud and abuse. Let’s get rid of fraud, let’s get rid of abuse, let’s be more careful about how we spend foreign aid. But you still have hundreds of billions of dollars of deficit that you’re going to have to make up.
And here’s the thing. If we do not do it, we will have a debt crisis. Not to mention a crisis in Social Security and Medicare. Both parties have taken far too long to deal with it. It is one of the major issues confronting America. It’s barely been asked in any of these debates. And we’d better deal with or we’re going to have to explain to our children why they inherited this disaster.
BASH: Mr. Trump, Senator Rubio says your numbers don’t add up. What’s your response? Senator Rubio says that your numbers don’t add up. What’s your response, Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: Well, I don’t know if he’s saying that. Look, I’m just saying very simply we have a country that I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve been going over budgets and looking at budgets. We don’t bid things out. We don’t bid out, as an example, the drug industry, pharmaceutical industry. They don’t go out to bid. They just pay almost as if you walk into a drug store. That’s what they’re paying.
And the reason is they have a fantastic lobby. They take care of all of the senators, the Congressmen. They have great power and they don’t bid out. The military is never properly bid. When we go out to military bids, it’s not properly bid. And the people that really sell us the product are oftentimes the product we don’t want, only because that particular company has political juice, OK?
I’m self-funding my campaign. Nobody is going to be taking care of me. I don’t want anybody’s money. I will tell you something. We’re going to go out to bid in virtually every different facet of our government. We’re going to save a fortune. (APPLAUSE)
BASH: Thank you, Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz, you advocate allowing younger workers to put some of their Social Security taxes into personal accounts. What do you say to critics who say that market volatility means that this is a disastrous proposal?
CRUZ: Well, number one, we need to see responsibility. Social Security right now is careening towards insolvency, and it’s irresponsible. And any politician that doesn’t step forward and address it is not being a real leader. We need to see political courage to take this on and save and strengthen Social Security.
CRUZ: And as president, what I will do for seniors, for anyone at or near retirement, there will be no changes whatsoever. Every benefit will be protected to the letter. But for younger workers, we need to change the rate of growth of benefits so it matches inflation instead of exceeding inflation. And as you noted Dinan, we need to have for younger workers, that a portion of your tax payments are in personal accounts, like the 401(k), that you own, that you control, that you can pass on to your kids and grandkids.
CRUZ: And one of the things that is critically important. Listen, we’ve got lots of challenges in the world. But the answer can’t just be wave a magic wand and say problem go away. You have to understand the problems. You have to have real solutions.
It’s like government spending. It is very easy. Hillary Clinton says she’ll cut waste, fraud and abuse. If only we had smarter people in Washington, that would fix the problem. You know what? That is the statement of a liberal who doesn’t understand government is the problem.
CRUZ: Here’s my philosophy. The less government, the more freedom. The fewer bureaucrats, the more prosperity. And there are bureaucrats in…
… Washington right now who are killing jobs and I’ll tell you, I know who they are. I will find them and I will fire them.
BASH: Did you justice just compare Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton on this issue?
CRUZ: I will let Donald speak for himself. But I will say, there’s a reason, in my campaign I’ve laid out a very, very specific spend and cut plan, $500 billion. I’ve specified five major agencies that I would eliminate, 25 programs. And Dana, you know why political candidates don’t do that? Because when you do that, the lobbyists attack you. When you specify the programs you would eliminate, then you get attacked. Let’s talk for example back in Iowa the first primary. When I went to Iowa and campaigned against ethanol mandates, everyone said that was political suicide. You can’t take on ethanol in Iowa. And my opponents on this stage not only didn’t do the same. They attacked me and even promised to expand corporate welfare.
If we’re going to stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids, you’ve got to be willing to take on the lobbyists, which means not just some fanciful waste, fraud and abuse, but specifying these are the programs I’ll eliminate so that we can take care of the hard working taxpayer.
BASH: Thank you Senator Cruz.
Mr. Trump, would you like to respond?
TRUMP: Yes. If you look back to Iowa, Ted did change his view and his stance on ethanol quite a bit. He did and - at the end. Not full on, but he did change his view in the hopes of maybe doing well. And you know, I think everybody knows that. It was a front page story all over the place, and he did make a change.
BASH: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Listen, if you are fed up with Washington, the question you ought to be asking is who is willing to take on Washington? It’s easy to have language, I’m fed up with the corruption in Washington. But if you have a candidate who has been funding liberal Democrats and funding the Washington establishment, it’s very hard to imagine how suddenly this candidate is going to take on Washington.
When I stood up and led the fight against Obamacare, Washington was furious and attacked me, but I did it because I was honoring my commitment to the hard-working men and women of this country who are losing their jobs because of Obamacare.
CRUZ: When I led the fight against amnesty, it’s because I was standing with the people…
… against Washington. And if you want to tell people you’re going to stand against Washington, the question we should ask is, when have you ever stood up to the lobbyists in Washington?
BASH: OK. Mr. Trump, I’ll let you respond because he mentioned you but then I’m going to move to Governor Kasich. Go ahead.
TRUMP: Well, that’s fine. First of all, Ted was in favor of amnesty. So there’s no question about that. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio recently endorsed me and there’s nobody tougher on the borders than Sheriff Joe. And Jeff Sessions, one of the most respected Senator in Washington, an incredible man, also endorsed me.
And there’s nobody that knows more about the borders than Senator Jeff Sessions. I would say this. We’re all in this together. We’re going to come up with solutions. We’re going to find the answers to things. And so far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here.
BASH: Governor Kasich, let’s get back to Social Security. You told a voter in New Hampshire to quote, “Get over cuts to Social Security benefits” because you have a reform plan and that is just the reality you say that is out there. Why is cutting Social Security payments the solution?
KASICH: Well, first of all, we hear about taking on Washington. I took on Washington and I won. I actually got the budget balanced when I was a member of the Congress, the chairman of the budget committee. We paid down a half a trillion dollars of the national debt. We also balanced the budget four years in a row. And we were just growing jobs like crazy and the wage issue was not even an issue then.
I also had a plan in 1999 to save Social Security and take the $5 trillion projected surplus and not only have Social Security for our young people, but also to give them private accounts. Now there are more 18-year-olds who believe they have a better chance of seeing a UFO than a Social Security check and we have a lot of seniors who are very nervous.
KASICH: I have a plan to fix it that doesn’t even require raising the retirement age.
If you’ve had wealth throughout your lifetime, when the time comes to be on Social Security, you’ll still get it. It will just simply be less. And for those people who depend on that Social Security, they’ll get their full benefit. That’s the way it will work. And we don’t have to monkey around with the retirement age. And how do I know that? I’ve done all this before.
This is not a theory. Do you have to take on entitlement programs to balance a budget? Yes. It doesn’t mean you have to cut them. It means you need to innovate them, the way we do things in the 21st Century.
So not only did we have a balanced budget in Washington, but when I went to Ohio, we were $8 billion in the hole and now we’re $2 billion in the black. Our credit is strong. We’re up 400,000 jobs. And I want to go back with the same formula to beat the Washington insiders again.
And I will get it done, and this country will be much stronger economically as a result.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
Let’s take a broader look at the Republican Party now. Mr. Trump, one of the concerns your opponents have expressed throughout the course of this campaign is the notion that in their estimation you hold views that are at direct odds with Republican Party tradition.
How are you looking to fundamentally change the Republican Party as its potential leader? What should the Republican Party stand for in 2016?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I don’t really think that. I think that I hold views that are very similar to many of the people. We are more inclusive. And if you look at the polls and if you look at the millions of people that have been pouring into the polls, it’s, again, the biggest story.
You look at all of these people that are coming in, something is happening. I am different in one primary respect, and that’s trade. I feel that we have had horrible negotiators, horrible trade deals. The jobs in this country are disappearing, and especially the good jobs.
You look at the recent jobs reports, which are really done so that presidents and politicians look good, because all of these people looking for jobs, when they give up, they go home, they give up, and they are considered statistically employed. So that’s that.
But I will say, trade deals are absolutely killing our country. The devaluations of their currencies by China and Japan and many, many other countries, and we don’t do it because we don’t play the game. and the only way we’re going to be able to do it is we’re going to have to do taxes unless they behave.
If you don’t tax certain products coming into this country from certain countries that are taking advantage of the United States and laughing at our stupidity, we’re going to continue to lose businesses and we’re going to continue to lose jobs.
And if you look at the average worker over the last 12 years, their salary and their pay have gone down, not up. It has gone down. And I think that’s why there has been such an outpouring of love to what I’m saying.
TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz…
TAPPER: … Donald Trump has so far won 35 percent of the vote. Those people are signing up to his vision of the Republican Party. What do you think is wrong with that vision?
CRUZ: Well, Donald is right, for example, he was just talking about international trade. He’s right about the problems. But his solutions don’t work. So, for example, his solution on international trade, he proposed earlier a 45 percent tariff on foreign goods.
Now he backed away from that immediately and he may come back with a different number tonight. I don’t know where he’ll be tonight. But I’ll tell you what happens. You know, we’ve seen prior presidential candidates who proposed massive tariffs, you know, Smoot- Hawley led to the Great Depression.
And the effect of a 45 percent tariff would be when you go to the store, when you go to Walmart, when you are shopping for your kids, the prices you pay go up 45 percent. But not only that, when you put those in place, because a tariff is a tax on you, the American people, but the response of that is that the countries we trade with put in their own tariffs.
A much better solution that works is the tax plan I’ve laid out which would enable our exports to be tax-free, would tax our imports, would not raise prices for Americans, and would not result in reciprocal tariffs. Fix the problem and that’s what’s missing from what Donald says.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, we’ll give you a chance to respond.
TRUMP: The 45 percent tax is a threat. It was not a tax, it was a threat. It will be a tax if they don’t behave. Take China as an example. I have many friends, great manufacturers, they want to go into China. They can’t. China won’t let them. We talk about free trade. It’s not tree free trade, it’s stupid trade.
China dumps everything that they have over here. No tax, no nothing, no problems, no curfews (ph), no anything. We can’t get into China. I have the best people, manufacturers, they can’t get in. When they get in, they have to pay a tremendous tax.
The 45 percent is a threat that if they don’t behave, if they don’t follow the rules and regulations so that we can have it equal on both sides, we will tax you. It doesn’t have to be 45, it could be less. But it has to be something because our country and our trade and our deals and most importantly our jobs are going to hell.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Jake, let me be clear what Donald just said. He said that that 45 percent tax is a threat. And mind you, you are paying the tax. It’s not China that pays the tax. It’s you, the working men and women.
So ask yourself at home: How is this helping you? If your wages have been stagnant for 20 years; if you can’t pay the bills, how does it help you to have a president come and say, “I’m going to jack - I’m going to put a 45 percent tax on diapers when you buy diapers, on automobiles when you buy automobiles, on clothing when you buy clothing.” That hurts you.
It’s why we’ve got to get beyond rhetoric of China bad, and actually get to how do you solve the problem. Because this solution would hurt jobs and hurt hard-working taxpayers in America.
TRUMP: Jake, I have to say - honestly, it’s just the opposite. What will happen if they don’t behave, we will put on a tax of some amount, and it could be a large amount, and we will start building those factories and those plants. Instead of in China, we’ll build them here. And people will buy products from here, rather than buying it through China where we’re being ripped off. And we have a $505 billion trade deficit right now.
So we’ll build our factories here and we’ll make our own products. And that’s the way it should be done. And the way we’ve been doing it for the last long period of time is our country - our country is in serious, serious trouble. It’s a bubble and it’s going to explode, believe me.
TAPPER: All right. We’re going to take a very quick break. When we come back, we’ll have much more of this Republican presidential debate from the University of Miami right after this. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to the CNN Republican presidential debate in Miami, Florida.
Mr. Trump, let me start with you. Last night, you told CNN quote, “Islam hates us?” Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims.
TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.
DINAN: Do you want to clarify the comment at all?
TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ve been watching the debate today. And they’re talking about radical Islamic terrorism or radical Islam. But I will tell you this. There’s something going on that maybe you don’t know about, maybe a lot of other people don’t know about, but there’s tremendous hatred. And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.
DINAN: Senator Rubio, your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, said in response to Mr. Trump’s comment last night, I’m sorry - Senator Jeff Flake, I apologize. Your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said in response to that comment, Republicans are better than this. Do you agree?
RUBIO: Well, let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says cause he says what people wish they could say. The problem is, presidents can’t just say anything they want. It has consequences, here and around the world.
RUBIO: And so let me give you one. Two days ago, I met this extraordinary couple who were on furlough because they are missionaries in Bangladesh. It’s a very tough place to be a missionary. It’s Muslim.
And their safety and security very much relies upon friendly Muslims that live along side them, that may not convert, but protect them and certainly look out for them. And their mission field really are Muslims that are looking to convert to Christianity as well. And they tell me that today they have a very hostile environment in which to operate in because the news is coming out that in America, leading political figures are saying that America doesn’t like Muslims. So this is a real impact. There’s no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world.
I can also tell you if you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you’re going to see crescent moons there. If you go anywhere in the world you’re going see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims.
RUBIO: And they love America. And as far as I know, no one on this stage has served in uniform in the United States military. Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America. No matter what their religious background may be.
DINAN: Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: Marco talks about consequences. Well, we’ve had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and could have been the White House. There have been a lot of problems.
Now you can say what you want, and you can be politically correct if you want. I don’t want to be so politically correct. I like to solve problems. We have a serious, serious problem of hate.
TRUMP: There is tremendous hate. There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means. Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.
Now I will say this, there is tremendous hatred. The question was asked, what do you think? I said, there is hatred. Now it would be very easy for me to say something differently. And everybody would say, oh, isn’t that wonderful.
DINAN: Mr. Trump, thank you.
TRUMP: We better solve the problem before it’s too late.
DINAN: Senator Rubio?
(APPLAUSE) RUBIO: Well, here we go. See, I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m interested in being correct.
RUBIO: And in order to be correct on this issue, here’s the bottom line. We do work. There is - Islam has a major problem on its hands. It has a significant percentage of its adherents, particular in the Sunni faith but also in the Shia, who have been radicalized. And are willing to fly planes into a building and kill innocent people.
There is no doubt about that. It is also true if you look around the world at the challenges we face, we are going to have to work together with other - with Muslims, who do not - who are not radicals. We’re going to have to work with the Jordanian kingdom.
We’re going to have to work with the Saudis. We’re going to have to work with the Gulf kingdoms. We’re going to have to work with the Egyptians to defeat, for example, ISIS.
RUBIO: It will take a Sunni Arab movement to defeat them.
And so I think you can be correct without meaning to be politically correct. We are going to have to work with people of the Muslim faith even as Islam itself faces a serious crisis within it of radicalization.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.
Governor Kasich, do you think Islam hates us?
KASICH: No, I don’t. I think there is a sect of, you know, this radical Islam that is really, really serious, and poses the greatest threat to us today. There isn’t any question. And that’s why the whole world has to work together to make sure that we don’t have proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction.
But look, I was there when, and saw it, when the Egyptian ambassador to the United States was in the Rose Garden bringing the Arab Muslim world to work with us to repel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. The fact is that if we’re going to defeat ISIS, we’re going to have to have these countries. And they are Egypt. And they are Saudi Arabia. And they are Jordan. And they are the Gulf states.
And we’re going to have in some way or another a rapprochement with Turkey. And I frankly think the Europeans went in the wrong direction when they rejected Turkey from joining in to the economic sphere of Europe. The simple fact of the matter is, a lot of these Muslim countries, they are just - they can’t believe the stuff they see out of people who have distorted their faith.
Look, the people who represent radical Islam, they want to destroy everything that we’re about and other Muslims who don’t share their view. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to bring the world together, the civilized world. And we all speak with one voice to make sure that people who sit on the fence understand what civilization is, and we represent it, and equality and hope for everybody.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Kasich.
Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about something else you’ve said during the course of this campaign. You said that the U.S. has to, quote, “take out” the families of terrorists. When it was pointed out that targeting civilians is against the Geneva Conventions, you said, quote, “So they can kill us, but we can’t kill them?”
It is against federal, military and international law to target civilians. So how will you order the military to target the families of suspected terrorists, while also abiding by the law?
TRUMP: Let me go back to the other just for a second. In large mosques, all over the Middle East, you have people chanting “death to the USA.” Now, that does not sound like a friendly act to me.
As far as the families are concerned, and as far as the law is concerned, we have a law - this all started with your question on water boarding. We have a law that doesn’t allow right now water boarding. They have no laws. They have no rules. They have no regulations. They chop off heads. They drown 40, 50, 60 people at a time in big steel cages, pull them up an hour later, everyone dead. And we’re working on a different set of parameters.
Now, we have to obey the laws. Have to obey the laws. But we have to expand those laws, because we have to be able to fight on at least somewhat of an equal footing or we will never ever knock out ISIS and all of the others that are so bad.
We better expand our laws or we’re being a bunch of suckers, and they are laughing at us. They are laughing at us, believe me.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio, would you as president pursue a policy of targeting the families of suspected terrorists?
RUBIO: No, of course not. And we don’t have to in order to defeat terrorists. The way you defeat terrorists is pretty straightforward. It’s difficult to do, but it has to be done. When I’m president of the United States, the best intelligence agencies in the world that right now have been hamstrung. They’re going to be expanded. And the best intelligence agencies in the world are going to find terrorists.
And then the best military in the world, which needs to be rebuilt because - because Barack Obama is gutting our military. He’s going to leave us with the smallest Army since the end of World War II, and the smallest Navy in a century, and the smallest Air Force we’ve ever had.
We are going to rebuild that military and that military is going to find the terrorists and destroy them. And if we capture any of these terrorists alive, they’re not going to have the right to remain silent. And they’re not going to go to a courtroom in Manhattan. They’re going to go to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and we will find out everything they know and we’ll do so legally.
(APPLAUSE) TAPPER: Senator Cruz, you’ve talked about changing the rules of engagement in battle against ISIS. Would that include targeting the families of suspected terrorists?
CRUZ: No, of course not. We’ve never targeted innocent civilians and we’re not going to start now. But listen, Jake, I understand. People are scared and for seven years, we’ve faced terrorist attacks and President Obama lectures Americans on Islamophobia. That is maddening.
But the answer is not simply to yell, “China bad, Muslims bad.” You’ve got to understand the nature of the threats we’re facing and how you deal with them. And yes, it is true there are millions of radical Islamic terrorists who seek to kill us. We need a president, commander in chief focused on fighting them.
CRUZ: And I’ll tell you, frankly one concern I have with Donald is that although his language is quite incendiary, when you look at his substantive policies on Iran, he has said he would not rip up this Iranian nuclear deal. I think that’s a mistake.
The Ayatollah Khomeini wants nuclear weapons to murder us. I’ll give you another example, dealing with Islamic radical terrorism. On Israel, Donald has said he wants to be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians.
As president, I will not be neutral. And let me say this week, a Texan, Taylor Force. He was an Eagle Scout, he was a West Point graduate, he was an Army veteran. He was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist this week in Israel, and I don’t think we need a commander in chief…
… who is neutral between the Palestinian terrorists and one of our strongest allies in the world, the nation of Israel.
HEWITT: Thank you Senator Cruz.
Mr. Trump. we’re going to come to you in a second, but wait. I want to go to Hugh Hewitt, who has questions on this exact line of subject.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump, I want to follow-up on the quote that Senator Cruz used. You said you would want to be, quote, “sort of a neutral guy”. He did mention Taylor Force. He was a West Point graduate, he was a war hero. He was a Vanderbilt graduate student.
He was killed in a Palestinian terror attack near Tel Aviv, many others were killed. And the Israeli government says the Palestinian authority is inciting this. Do you still want to stay neutral when the Palestinian authority is inciting these attacks.
TRUMP: First of all, there’s nobody on this stage that’s more pro Israel than I am. OK. There’s nobody.
TRUMP: I am pro-Israel.
TRUMP: I was the grand marshall, not so long ago, of the Israeli Day Parade down 5th avenue. I’ve made massive contributions to Israel. I have a lot of - I have tremendous love for Israel. I happen to have a son-in-law and a daughter that are Jewish, OK? And two grandchildren that are Jewish.
TRUMP: But I will tell you, I think if we’re going to ever negotiate a peace settlement, which every Israeli wants, and I’ve spoken to the toughest and the sharpest, they all want peace, I think it would be much more helpful is - I’m a negotiator. If I go in, I’ll say I’m pro-Israel and I’ve told that to everybody and anybody that would listen.
But I would like to at least have the other side think I’m somewhat neutral as to them, so that we can maybe get a deal done. Maybe we can get a deal. I think it’s probably the toughest negotiation of all time. But maybe we can get a deal done.
HEWITT: Senator Trump…
TRUMP: And, by the way, just so you understand, as far as Iran, I would have never made that deal. I think it’s maybe the world deal I’ve ever seen. I think it’s the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated. I will be so tough on them and ultimately that deal will be broken unless they behave better than they’ve ever behaved in their lives, which is probably unlikely. That deal will be broken.
HEWITT: Thank you Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz and Senator Rubio.
CRUZ: You know, we need a president who understands the national security interests of this country. The reason we are friends and allies with Israel is they are a liberal Democratic country that share our values, they’re our strongest ally in the region.
We get billions in intelligence resources, billions in military resources. And the Palestinian Authority that Donald, along with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama say they want to treat neutrally, the same as Israel. The Palestinian Authority is in a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization.
They pay the families of these terrorists who murder people. And this is exactly the moral relativism Barack Obama has. And the answer is not scream, all Muslims bad.
Let me give you an example of a Muslim for example, we ought to be standing with, President el-Sisi of Egypt, a president of a Muslim country who is targeting radical…
… Islamic terrorist. HEWITT: Senator Rubio.
CRUZ: He’s hunting them down and stomping them.
HEWITT: Thank you.
CRUZ: Our focus needs to be on keeping this country safe.
HEWITT: I want to go back to the Israeli government’s assertion that the Palestinian Authority is inciting the convulsion of violence. Do you agree.
RUBIO: Well, that’s undeniable. First of all, they’ve said, they’ve encouraged people to do so. And you’ve seen the speeches of the Palestinian Authority president how glorious this is that they’re doing these sorts of things.
But let me go back for a moment. The policy Donald has outlined, I don’t know if he realizes, is an anti-Israeli policy. Maybe that’s not your intent but here’s why it is an anti-Israeli policy. There is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment. There just isn’t.
RUBIO: Because there’s no one to negotiate with. The Palestinian Authority is not interested in a serious deal and they are now in union with Hamas, an organization whose specific purpose is the destruction of the Jewish state. Every time that Israel has turned over territory of any kind, be is Gaza, or now in Judea and Sumaira, it is used as a launching pad to attack Israel. And that’s what will happen again.
These groups are not interested in a deal with Israel. What they are interested in is ultimately removing the Jewish state and occupying its entire territory.
So maybe in 30 years the conditions will exist, but they do not exist now.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump, and then I’ll come to you Senator Kasich.
RUBIO: And To have a president forcing the Israelis to the table is harmful to the Israeli and emboldens Israel’s enemies.
HEWITT: Thank you senator.
Mr. Trump a response and then we’ll go to Governor Kasich.
TRUMP: If I become president of the United States, one of the things that will be an absolute priority is number one, protection of Israel, but also seeing if a deal can be made, the toughest deal, the toughest negotiation there probably is of any kind no matter where you look, no matter how hard you look.
But I would like to give it a shot. Very, very pro-Israel, nobody more pro-Israel. But I would love to give it a shot. And I have to tell you this, Hugh. I have friend, Israelis, non-Israelis, people from New York City that happen to be Jewish and love Israel, and some are very tough people, every single one of them, they know it’s tough, but every single one of them wants to see if we could ever have peace in Israel.
And some believe it’s possible. It may not be, in which case we’ll find out. But it would be a priority if I become president to see what I could do.
HEWITT: Governor Kasich, do you agree the Israeli government that the Palestinian Authority is inciting this violence?
KASICH: Well, there’s no question. They were saying that the Israelis intended to go to the Dome of the Rock. And I mean, when you think about this, thank goodness we work with Israelis to give them the Iron Dome where they can protect themselves against all the missiles that were flying in. Could you imagine living in like Miami here and having people shooting missiles in?
Secondly, there was just an article the other day, Hugh, that I know you’re familiar with the Israelis are learning to train underground in combat because the Palestinians now, Hamas in particular, is digging these tunnels trying to get under Israel. They’re coming at them from above, they’re trying to come at them under the ground.
And I just have to tell you this, I don’t believe there is any long-term permanent peace solution. And I think pursuing that is the wrong thing to do. I believe that every day that we can stability in that region by supporting the Israelis and making sure they have the weapons and the security that they need with our 100 percent backing is the way to proceed in the Middle East in regard to Israel.
HEWITT: Thank you, Governor. Senator Cruz, I want to stay in the region. Just this week the head of U.S. Central Command, General General Lloyd Austin, essentially said it’s going to take a lot more troops on the ground to fix - to end the ISIS threat in Syria and Iraq.
From the beginning of this campaign, you have said you will follow the judgment of military commanders in the Pentagon. So here’s the commander saying we need a lot more troops on the ground. Will you follow that advice and inject Americans again into what is in essence is metastasizing Sunni-Shia civil war?
CRUZ: We need to do whatever is necessary to utterly defeat ISIS. And that’s needs to be driven not by politicians but by military expertise and judgment. Right now we’re not using a fraction of the tools that we have. We’re not using our overwhelming air power. We’re not arming the Kurds. Those need to be the first steps. And then we need to put whatever ground power is needed to carry it out.
But, you know, a question that actually Jake asked, and I’m glad to come back to it now, is rules of engagement. We have right now our troops engaged in combat but President Obama has rules of engagement that are so strict that their arms are tied behind their back.
They’re not able to fight. They’re not able to defend themselves. They’re not able to kill the enemy. And I have got to tell you, Hugh, I think that is wrong. It is immoral. And I give my word to every soldier, sailor, and airman, and marine, and every wife and husband, every son and daughter, every mother and father, that will end in January 2017.
HEWITT: Governor Kasich, if it takes 20,000 or 30,000, if the Pentagon says that’s what needs to be done, will you follow their advice?
KASICH: Hugh, I’ve said all along and laid out my foreign policy, I’m going to remind everybody that 55 percent of the foreign policy experts in this country said I was the best to be commander-in- chief. I spent 18 years on the Defense Committee, Armed Services, and then I was in the Pentagon with Donald Rumsfeld after 9/11, in and out for a couple of years.
We absolutely have to win this with a coalition. Arabs have to be with us. The Europeans have to understand that this threat is closer to them than even is closer - is as close as it is to us. And in addition to that, you have to be in the air and you have to be on the ground.
And you bring all the force you need. It has got to be “shock and awe” in the military-speak. Then once it gets done, and we will wipe them out, once it gets done, it settles down, we come home and let the regional powers redraw the map if that’s what it takes.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump, more troops? TRUMP: We really have no choice. We have to knock out ISIS. We have to knock the hell out of them. We have to get rid of it. And then come back and rebuild our country, which is falling apart. We have no choice.
HEWITT: How many…
TRUMP: I would listen to the generals, but I’m hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000. We have to knock them out fast. Look, we’re not allowed to fight. We can’t fight. We’re not knocking out the oil because they don’t want to create environmental pollution up in the air.
I mean, these are things that nobody even believes. They think we’re kidding. They didn’t want to knock out the oil because of what it’s going to do to the carbon footprint. We don’t fight like we used to fight. We used to fight to win. Now we fight for no reason whatsoever. We don’t even know what we’re doing.
TRUMP: So, the answer is we have to knock them out. We have to knock them out fast. And we have to get back home. And we have to rebuild our country which is falling apart.
TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. Trump.
Let’s turn from current conflicts to those who have served in conflicts.
Senator Rubio, according to a V.A. study, of the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day, 17 of them have no connection to the V.A. The V.A. believes that this lack of connection is one of the reasons for this tragically high suicide rate.
What specifically would you do as president to make sure that veterans in crisis are able to get the help they need?
RUBIO: Well, first let me say that one out of four calls to our office is about a veteran here in Florida that’s struggling with the V.A. my brother is a veteran. He’s struggling with the V.A.
The other day, we heard this horrible story. It was a headline in USA Today, and it said, “Calls to the V.A. Suicide Hotline Went to Voicemail.” Well, about a few days ago, we now found out that one of the gentlemen - one of the veterans who left a voicemail committed suicide. And they happened to call him back the day after he died.
People need to be held accountable for this. One of the things I’m proudest of is that in my time in the U.S. Senate working with Jeff Miller here from Florida in a bipartisan way, and I’ll give him credit - Bernie Sanders was a part of this - we passed a V.A. accountability bill. And what it did is it created now a law that gives the V.A. secretary, because of the law I passed, it gives the V.A. secretary the power to fire people that aren’t doing a good job.
Senior executives should be held accountable if the V.A. outreach isn’t working. The problem is no one’s being held accountable. Even after we passed that law, no one’s been fired for no outreach. No one’s been fired for calls going to the voicemail. No one’s been disciplined. No one’s been demoted.
When I’m president of the United States, if you work at the V.A. and you are not doing a good job, you will be fired from your job at the V.A. (APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, the Veterans Affairs Department is one of the biggest line items in the domestic budget. As part of its attempt to cut costs, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives just voted to try to reduce spending in the post-9/11 GI Bill.
Should veterans’ benefits be part of attempts to reduce the deficit?
KASICH: I don’t - I haven’t seen the provisions of that bill, Jake. My initial instincts are no. And let me just say about the V.A. When a veteran comes home, they ought to have access to healthcare wherever they want to go at any time, number one.
Number two, the Veterans Administration needs to be restructured. It needs to be downsized and spread out. It needs to be so responsive to the needs of the veterans.
And secondly, the Pentagon needs to share the information of returning veterans with the veterans’ service operations in the states and with the job people in the states so that when a veteran comes home, they can be linked with a job.
And when that happens, that means that every veteran will get work, because they’re our golden employees. No veteran ought to be without healthcare; no veteran ought to be homeless; and no veteran ought to be unemployed in the United States of America.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Kasich.
Let’s turn to another issue of real importance here in Florida. Just over a week from now, President Obama will visit Cuba, the first time in 88 years that a sitting U.S. president will set foot in Cuba.
Two of you on this stage have parents who were born in Cuba and moved to the United States. Let’s go back to my colleague Dana Bash.
BASH: Senator Rubio, Donald Trump agrees with President Obama in his decision to reengage diplomatically in Cuba. The majority of Americans seem to agree with that as well. So why are President Obama, Donald Trump and the majority of Americans wrong?
RUBIO: Well, I would love the relationship between Cuba and the United States to change. But it will require Cuba to change, at least its government. Today, it has not. The fact of the matter is that after these changes were made - after these changes were made, there are now millions and hundreds of millions of dollars that will flow to the Castro regime.
It will now allow them to become set permanent and in stone. They will now be able to carry out a transition where the military continues to run the country there. They’ll put a puppet figure forward as their new president. And nothing will change for the Cuban people.
There has not been a single democratic opening; not a single change on the island in human rights. In fact, things are worse than they were before this opening. The only thing that’s changed as a result of this opening is that now the Cuban government has more sources of money from which to build out their repressive apparatus and maintain themselves there permanently.
And we asked nothing in return. Compare that to the changes that were required in Burma. And by no means is Burma a perfect country. But at least when there was a democratic opening to Burma, they were required to make some democratic openings. When there was a diplomatic opening, it required democratic opening. And today, the former minority party is now the majority party in their legislative body.
He asked nothing in return and we are getting nothing in return. And Cuba and its regime remains an anti-American communist dictatorship, helped North Korea evade U.N. sanctions. It’s harboring fugitives of American justice, including people stealing our Medicare money and moving back to Cuba, all in exchange for nothing.
BASH: Mr. Trump, you said the concept of opening Cuba is fine. You said the concept of opening Cuba is fine. Why do you agree with President Obama and disagree with what Senator Rubio just said?
TRUMP: Well, I don’t really agree with President Obama. I think I’m somewhere in the middle. What I want is I want a much better deal to be made because right now, Cuba is making - as usual with our country, we don’t make good deal. We don’t have our right people negotiating, we have people that don’t have a clue.
As an example, I heard recently where the threat was made that they want reparations for years of abuse by the United States, and nobody’s talking about it and they’ll end up signing a deal and then we’ll get sued for $400 billion or $1 trillion.
All that stuff has to be agreed to now. We don’t want to get sued after the deal is made. So I don’t agree with President Obama, I do agree something should be - should take place. After 50 years, it’s enough time, folks. But we have to make a good deal and we have to get rid of all the litigation that’s going to happen.
This was just a little story but it was a big story to me because I said oh, here we go, we make a deal, then get sued for a tremendous amount of money for reparations. So I want to do something, but it’s got to be done intelligently. We have to make good deal.
BASH: Senator Rubio, I know you want to get in. But just to be clear, Mr. Trump, are you saying that if you were president, you would continue the diplomatic relations or would you reverse them?
TRUMP: I would want to make a good deal, I would want to make a strong, solid, good deal because right now, everything is in Cuba’s favor. Right now, everything, every single aspect of this deal is in Cuba’s favor. It the same way as the Iran deal.
We never walked - we never - all we do is keep giving. We give and give and give.
BASH: But Mr. Trump, just to be clear, there is an embassy that you would have to decide whether it would be open or whether you would close it. Which would it be? In Havana.
TRUMP: I would probably have the embassy closed until such time as a really good deal was made and struck by the United States. (APPLAUSE)
RUBIO: All right, first of all, the embassy is the former consulate. It’s the same building. So it could just go back to being called a consulate. We don’t have to close it that way. Second of all, I don’t know where Cuba is going to use, but if they sue us in a court in Miami, they’re going to lose.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Third, on the issue of a good deal, I know what the good deal. I’ll tell you what the good deal now, it’s already codified. Here’s a good deal - Cuba has free elections, Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out, Cuba has freedom of the press, Cuba kicks out the Russians from Lourdes (ph) and kicks out the Chinese listening station in Berupal (ph) Cuba stops helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions, Cuba takes all of those fugitives of America justice, including that cop killer from New Jersey, and send her back to the United States and to jail where she belongs. And you know what? Then we can have a relationship with Cuba. That’s a good deal.
BASH: Thank you, Senator Rubio. Senator Cruz, if you become president, would you reverse course and once again break diplomatic relations with Cuba?
CRUZ: Yes, I would. And you know, I think this exchange actually highlights a real choice for Republican primary voters. When it comes to foreign policy, do you want to continue on the same basic trajectory as the last seven years of the Obama foreign policy? When it comes to these deals, Cuba and Iran, they were negotiated by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
There’s a real difference between us. Donald supported Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. And what he said right now is that he agrees in principle with what they’re doing. The only thing he thinks is that they should negotiate a little bit better deals, they should be more effective. I have a fundamental disagreement and I think most Republicans and most Americans do, that we shouldn’t be allowing billions of dollars to go to nations that hate us to go to Cuba, to go to Iran and to let them use those billions of dollars to try to murder us.
CUBA: Thank you Senator Cruz. Mr. Trump.
TRUMP: Well, if Ted was listening, he would have heard me say something very similar. I said we would not do the deal unless it was going to be a very good deal for us. And I