Interview with Sen. Ayotte; Presidential Candidates Paul & Cain

Interview with Sen. Ayotte; Presidential Candidates Paul & Cain

By John King, USA - June 10, 2011

KING: Let's continue our conversation about the overseas challenge in Syria, in Libya and elsewhere with the Republican presidential candidate who has consistently challenged presidents of both parties about U.S. military interventions and involvement overseas, is the Republican Ron Paul of Texas. Good to be with you here in New Hampshire.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. KING: A few days before our big debate, welcome. I want to talk about some of these challenges and I want to talk particularly first about Libya.

Back in the Congress today, there was a conversation about the NATO operations. NATO has been quite open in recent days that their goal now is to continue the military strikes until Gadhafi yields power.

And there's been some grumbling the president has not asked the Congress to endorse this military action. Let's listen to Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama.


SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The Obama administration is clearly in violation of the War Powers Act, so I suppose that represents a death blow to the War Powers Act, if a liberal Democratic administration clearly has no intention of complying with it.


KING: What is your sense there? Should the president ask or is the president right in saying I'm the commander in chief, and this is being done through NATO, I don't need the blessing of Congress.

PAUL: That's absolutely wrong. You don't even need the War Powers resolution because the constitution is enough. He can't go to war without permission from the Congress.

So the War Powers resolution was meant to put some restraints on the president, and technically I'm not all that excited about the War Powers resolution, believing the constitution would be enough.

But it is a real insult to the American people, it's an insult to Congress for him to say, I don't even need to tell you, all I need to do is get a U.N. resolution and then use the force through the -- through NATO.

NATO was set up to fight and stand up against the communists. So they're searching for a mission instead of now defending Europe they're starting wars.

KING: On the bigger question, do you think the administration's goal and the policy of the United States should be regime change in Libya?

PAUL: Absolutely not. It's none of our business. We ought to just stay out of it.

KING: None of our business?

PAUL: None of our business. We don't need to be in there. That's a commercial business going in there, and that's why the British have commercial interests, the British and the French have commercial interests, and I'm sure we do too.

We've been doing business with Gadhafi for the past five years, and now the oil is over in the east. That's where the rebels are, and I understand that there's very likely some al Qaeda there. So we're probably inadvertently getting involved in something that is going to have blowback and a consequence.

Already we have the consequences costing way too much money. We don't have any money and we're getting involved there and it's not in our self interest. This is detrimental.

KING: Do you worry at all as you seek the nomination for president of the Republican Party that your views might leave you out of the Republican mainstream and Colonel Gadhafi has sent a letter apparently to the United States Congress asking for Congress's help.

He wants Congress to continue its investigation of military activities, NATO's and its allies, and here's what he says, to confirm what we believe - this is Gadhafi. To confirm what we is a clear violation of U.N. Security Resolution 1973.

Do you worry that in the public discourse it could be argued Ron Paul is on the side of Moammar Gadhafi?

PAUL: Hardly, because I don't want to be on his side. I'm not supporting him. I'm supporting the United States. I'm supporting neutrality. I'm supporting our position of staying out of this.

I'm supporting are the position that NATO and the United Nations has no authority to send our kids off to war so, no, and besides the American people don't want to go.

We've got a vote already about hands off over there, and almost, if not everyone in the Congress, says don't send in ground troops. They're very, very leery of this.

KING: The president said no ground troops.

PAUL: Yes, we've told the president that, but we're also coming close on winning this vote no money, bring the troops home and quit, cease and desist.

So, no, I'm not worried one bit. I think those who will support -- that are supporting this and supporting our militarism. I think they're going to be in trouble with the American people because the American people are coming my way.

KING: As this plays out we're also seeing disturbing images coming out of Syria. You see political protests. We know there's been a brutal crackdown by the regime.

We've seen some videos apparently of teenagers tortured by the regime. The administration has not called for regime change in Syria, but its language is beginning to get more muscular. Listen here to the Defense Secretary Robert Gates.


GATES: The slaughter of innocent lives in Syria should be a problem and a concern for everybody. And whether Assad still has the legitimacy to govern in his own country after this kind of a slaughter, I think is a question everybody needs to consider.


KING: Does Assad have the legitimacy to govern in your view? Should the United States now be demanding regime change in Syria?

PAUL: My personal opinion is not as relevant as what our policies should be and what our constitution says and what the responsibility is to defend this country.

Yes, there should be some question, but that's a personal opinion. But that doesn't justify us going in and picking sides in a several war. That's how we get into these messes.

KING: What would President Paul do? If you were seeing images of children being tortured, people by the hundreds trying to flee their country because their own government was shooting at them and imprisoning them if they were marching in the streets demanding rights.

PAUL: I don't think we have authority to get involved. We don't have constitutional authority. We don't have congressional authority. We don't have the money to do it. We don't know all the details.

We shouldn't be picking sides in civil wars. That's what we've been doing and that's why we're in 130 countries, 700 bases and we're bankrupt. So I would say it's bad policy. It's bad for our national defense and it's bankrupting our country.

KING: How different do you feel advocating these positions in this campaign? I remember if we go back four years when you advocated very similar positions, you took it pretty hard from Senator McCain and others who cast you as the outcast, the noninterventionist.

They put you on the extreme saying that was not the mainstream of the Republican Party. We do hear more Republicans, maybe not adopting fully your position, but talking about their skeptical about Libya. They think maybe it's time to start coming home at a quicker pace from Afghanistan.

PAUL: I think we just had 87 Republicans join a coalition of getting out of -- staying out of Libya and coming home, so we're winning this vote. The American people are sick and tire tired of it, they want us out of Afghanistan.

KING: Is the evolution was of the constitutional questions or is it because of the financial cost?

PAUL: Well, I wish it had been based on moral principles and the constitution, but I'll take the support any way I can get it. I always made fun of myself, it won't because I give a grand speech and I'm going to convert them, it's always going to be the money.

All great nations come down because they extend themselves too far, the empire gets too big, and they can't afford it. Just as the Soviet system came down, that is what's happening. We better wake up and realize it, and realize that if we live within our means and within our constitution, we're going to be safer and more prosperous.

KING: I'm going to ask last, you're a veteran at these things, some of your rivals up there on that stage Monday night will be new to these debates. Do you spend a lot of time preparing for them or you just swing it?

PAUL: I try to keep up on the news. I thought you were going to say you're a veteran of these things and I am a five-year veteran so I know a little bit about the military. So, yes, I prepare by reading the news, I don't have a system, and when I make my mistakes people say, well, maybe he should practice more.

But I deal in issues and on principles and the things I believe in, so my answers are always the same. I've been practicing a long time. I've been practicing and voting this way for, you know, 24 years.

So I don't think you know, taking a lot of instructions and doing a little cramming for this test is going to help me much. People say, what are you going to do? I say I'm going to try to get a good night's sleep and get exercise that day.

KING: Excellent advice. Congressman, we'll see you Monday night. Appreciate your time. Good to see you, sir.


KING: Welcome back, here's the latest news you need to know right now. CIA director Leon Panetta is in Pakistan right now. His first visit there since the United States raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. A U.S. official tells CNN Panetta plans to reiterate the U.S. commitment to cooperate with Pakistan in the fight against al Qaeda.

Power company that's serve Arizona spent today making contingency plans in case wildfires forced them to close down major supply lines. Now if that happens, customers in south eastern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas, could see rolling blackouts.

A rare fungus has infected eight people injured in the Joplin, Missouri tornado. Three of them have died. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is studying those cases.

Up next here, one of the reasons we're right here in New Hampshire tonight. We're here for a presidential debate Monday night.

Seven contenders for the Republican presidential nomination will join us on this beautiful college campus here in Manchester, New Hampshire. One of them is the surprise in this race -- he's gone from zero percent to 10 percent in national polls like that. His name is Herman Cain. He's a businessman from Georgia.

He'll be with us live right after the break.


KING: Businessman Herman Cain is perhaps so far the biggest surprise of the 2012 presidential race. Just this week, a Quinnipiac nationwide poll of Republicans puts Mr. Cain in third place, behind Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. He'll be right here with us in New Hampshire for our CNN exclusive debate Monday night -- and he joins me now live from Atlanta.

Mr. Cain, congratulations on your success so far.

I want to ask you this question, though. Now as you step on to the stage in the debate, you'll have more people watching you, what do you see as your biggest test to prove you belong with the professional politicians, with the big guys on Monday night?

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think the biggest test is going to be how I answer the questions in terms of my common sense solutions that I have been talking about around the country in New Hampshire, Iowa and other states. So, the biggest test is going to be able to live up to expectations relative to what I did in that first debate.

But I'm looking forward to it.

KING: We're looking forward to having you.

And you mentioned, you know, answering the questions. The biggest question, as you well know, sir, one of the reasons you're in this race is the economy is the biggest concern across the country.

CAIN: Yes.

KING: Among your proposals, you said lower corporate tax rates. You said lower individual tax rates -- 25 percent is the maximum tax rate is in your platform. And also, you want to take capital gains taxes all the way down to zero.

Let me ask you, to answer this question. For somebody out there watching who's a bit skeptical, who says, well, didn't George W. Bush try to do all that and where was the job growth, how would you answer that?

CAIN: I would say that he did some of that and we got some job growth. So, his did not fail. The problem then -- as it is now -- is that they had a spending problem, not a revenue problem, when it came to lowering taxes.

So, this is one of the reasons that I'm proposing take capital gains tax rate to zero, because you see, trying to take it down just a little bit is not going to help. Trying to take the corporate and the personal tax rates down just a little bit, that's not going to help.

And I happen to believe if you look at what happened in the '60s when John F. Kennedy made some big cuts and what happened in the '80s with Ronald Reagan, revenues went up over 50 percent.

We've got to be more aggressive instead of timid with the cuts in order for them to work.

KING: You've been harshly critical of the president, the Democratic president's current economic plan. I want to listen to something you said just this week on the Glenn Beck show, harshly critical of the president. Let's listen and we'll talk on the other side.


CAIN: For about the first 12 months of the Obama administration, I hesitated in believing that they could make this many bad decisions, collectively. So, you can only conclude that there's a certain amount of intent to do some of these things.


KING: I'm not sure what you mean by that -- a certain amount of intent to do some of these things. You're not saying the president of the United States and his administration, or they have an intent to do things that hurt the economy, that cause unemployment to go up, something like that, are you?

CAIN: No. What I meant was the president is supposed to be a very smart man. People have said that. Supposedly, he surrounded himself with a lot of smart people.

But, unfortunately, they weren't smart in the right things. They didn't talk about lowering taxes. They didn't talk about decreasing regulation. They talked about increasing regulation.

So, when I say, you know, have you to conclude that that was a certain amount of intent -- his intent was clearly to pass his agenda and not the agenda of the American people. And that's why his policies are failing.

KING: Well, that's why we have elections. You're a Republican, he's a Democrat. You say his agenda is not the agenda of the American people. He might argue he won the last presidential election in a landslide. But that's why we're going to have this next election without a doubt.

I want to listen to a little more of what you said -- again, this is about where the president's heart lies, I guess, is my characterization of this. This is again from the Beck program.

Let's listen.

CAIN: Yes.


CAIN: President Obama convinced a lot of people that he had America's best interest at heart. And if you look at the actions and the decisions that he has made, I am not convinced that he's had America's best interest at heart. And I -- it hurts me to say that, because of my respect for the office of the presidency.

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: You didn't think because he's black? Is that what it is?


KING: It's an interesting way to phrase the criticism. You could say: I disagree. I think his policies are hurting America. But you say the president of the United States, you do not believe he has the country's best interest at heart? You really believe that?

CAIN: John, with all due respect, and it's painful for me to say like I said. I don't.

Here is an example. When the United States Senate and the House of Representatives cannot come up with a health care bill in resolution, the president used the power of the presidency to get a lot of members of the House of Representatives to literally walk the plank to pass what he wanted to pass.

There were polls clearly stating that the American people wanted something to be done about health care, but the polls clearly indicated that wasn't the solution that they wanted. So, I had to only conclude that he didn't have the best interests of the American people at heart based upon that particular decision.

KING: Even some conservatives, not just liberals, not just Democrats, sir, many conservatives have questioned comments you've made about Muslims and whether they would serve in your administration. You would be the president of all Americans if you win the election.

I want you to listen to this exchange with the organization Think Progress.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?

CAIN: No. I will not. And here's why: there is this creeping attempt -- there's this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.


KING: Now, subsequently you said that you weren't opposed flatly to any Muslims serving in your administration, but you would want to know from them first that they put the United States Constitution ahead of any of their religious beliefs. And here's how you explained that to Glenn Beck.


BECK: Are you saying that it is -- that Muslims have to prove there has to be some loyalty proof?

CAIN: Yes, to the Constitution of the United States of America.

BECK: But would you do that to a Catholic or would you do that to a Mormon?

CAIN: No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't, because there is a greater dangerous part of the Muslim faith than there is in these other religions. I know there are Muslims who talk about, "But we are a peaceful religion," and I'm sure there are some peace-loving Muslims.

BECK: I know them. I know them.

CAIN: Yes, I know some of them, too.

BECK: Yes. OK.

CAIN: I absolutely do. So, this isn't casting a label on all Muslims. When that guy asked me that question in the middle of a rapid-fire Q&A session in Iowa, it came out of nowhere, number one.


KING: You may not be casting aspersions on all Muslims, sir, but wouldn't that test essentially subject all Muslims to a test that you would subject no other ethnic or religious group to in the United States? Isn't that discrimination?

CAIN: No, that's not discrimination, John. It's called trying to protect the American people.

Look, in my 40 years of business, I hired people from all races, creed, religion, sexual orientation. I look for the best people. But, look, this nation is under attack constantly by people who want to kill all of us. So, I'm going to take extra precaution.

When interviewed people in my business career, there was the resume, there was the work history, and then there was the one-on-one interview. And the one-on-one interview is where you have the opportunity to try to get a sense of the individual in terms of whether they would fit into the culture of your organization as well as were they going to be basically loyal to the objectives of the organization. I'll to the same thing.

KING: But, sir, the Constitution Article VI, Clause III of the Constitution says no religion test shall ever be required as a quality case to any office or public trust under the United States. Isn't that a religious test?

CAIN: John, I just say it. It wasn't going to be an absolute religious test. The question that was asked to me in that clip that you showed was, would I be comfortable? Now, I said, no, I would not be comfortable. And the way I would get comfortable is in a one-on- one interview.

I never said that I was going to discriminate against Muslims or any other religion for that matter. But I am going to take extra precautions if a Muslim person who is competent wants to work in my administration.

KING: Mr. Cain, we appreciate your time tonight. We're very much looking forward to having you on the stage, one of the seven Republican candidates on our CNN Monday night. We'll see you then and we'll see more as this campaign unfolds. Herman Cain, one of the surprises early on in this Republican race for president.

And when we come back, New Hampshire's new Republican senator, she's in touch with the electorate here. What does she think are the stakes for this debate? And she recently had breakfast with Sarah Palin. Is she going to run? Find out.


KING: What is the early lay of the land in New Hampshire and what are the stakes for our big debate Monday night?

Let's ask New Hampshire's new Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte, who just won election. Are you sure you don't want to jump into the field? We have seven candidates. We could an eight.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I'm quite sure. I just finished an election, and I'm happy to be in the Senate.

KING: So, you just finished an election where you won as a Republican in this state.


KING: When these seven candidates take the stage Monday night, what are you looking for? What is the defining question for these Republican candidates?

AYOTTE: Well, I really want to hear what is their plan on the debt and the spending in Washington. That's what we're grappling with right now. We've got the debt ceiling issue coming up in August, and what are they going to do?

And I think that the candidates have to get beyond the generalities of where we are right now for the debt. That was the biggest issue in my primary, and I think it's going to be the biggest issue in this primary, along with the economy.

KING: I'll say amen if we can get them beyond the generalities. I guess that's in part my job.

But how do you answer someone who says, yes, debt and deficits are a huge concern, spending is a huge concern -- but how far can you go right now, given the fragility of the recovery, some people, including the president of the United States -- I know he's from the other party -- he says you have to spend some, you have to have a little infrastructure spending, some -- I know it's a dirty word -- stimulus?

AYOTTE: Well, what I'd like to see -- hear from the candidates is how about taxes? Taxes and regulation are the biggest factor right now in terms of our economic growth. And we've seen it time and time again. This administration has continued to burden the private sector in a way that's made it difficult to grow and create jobs.

And so, I think that's the key. Where are they on taxes, where are they on issues like the corporate tax rate, and the burdensome regulations. And I'd like to hear what they think about this NLRB decision in Washington state because you think about how many jobs are lost there because of that decision.

KING: And do you have any doubt Republican primaries always venture into the debate about some of the social issues. We will have, I think, a very interesting debate because of the differences about whether it's Libya, or Afghanistan, or America's place in the world. Any doubt in your mind that this campaign will be not -- only in the Republican primary, but then in the general election -- mostly about the economy? AYOTTE: Well, I think you know, that is going to be the focus in this election, in this general election, and also in the primary. The social issues are important, particularly in the primary.

What's really going to drive it is the spending in Washington, the debt, the economy, the jobs -- we discussed such a negative jobs report the other day. And that's going to be particularly bad for the president. So, that's where he'll be vulnerable to Republicans. And I hope that's what we emphasize.

KING: And how much of a difference will it make, you know, in 2007, 2008, when we were here. You had an interesting Democratic race, a fascinating Democratic race and an interesting Republican race. And so, undeclared voters, independent voters in New Hampshire who can pick which primary to vote in had a tough choice to make.

AYOTTE: Right.

KING: This time, all those undeclared voters can, if they want, come into the Republican primary, because you won't have a challenge to President Obama. Do you think that will make a big difference or do we overplay that?

AYOTTE: I think it can make a difference. I mean, 40 percent of our electorate are registered independents. And it reminds me a little bit of the election I just went through because there wasn't a primary on the Democrat end, and there was a really vigorous primary on the Republican end. So, I think the independents took more of an interest in our primary and they're going to take more of an interest in this Republican primary right now.

And, certainly, John McCain, he focused on some independents and getting those in the -- getting in the primary.

KING: So, who's winning New Hampshire right now? Mitt Romney without a doubt here or --

AYOTTE: Well, right now, Governor Romney is certainly the front- runner. But there's a long way to go in this election, and it's going to be a long, hot summer in New Hampshire. We're expecting a lot of grassroots campaigning -- the diners, the door to door, and the town hall meetings, and especially those house parties. I think that will make the difference.

KING: We have the traditional game of chess going on in the sense the candidates deciding: do I compete everywhere?

AYOTTE: Right.

KING: Do I skip Iowa and focus on New Hampshire? Governor Romney said he won't participate in the Ames straw poll, participate to a degree in the caucuses. Some take that as a calculation, I don't want to spend too much time talking about abortion and same-sex marriage, I want to stay in New Hampshire and talk about the economy.

Is that how you see it? AYOTTE: What I see it is that you have to make calculated decisions in a presidential election. I think Governor Romney -- New Hampshire is particularly important to his campaign, and winning here, having finished here second last time around. So I can understand why he wants to focus here. And voters --

KING: Can he do anything but win here?

AYOTTE: I think he's got to win here. I really do. I think it's very important to his campaign. And I know the key is going to be -- as the front-runner -- is to be out, to show that you're not taking this for granted, you're really earning the support of New Hampshire voters, and you've got to do that one-on-one grassroots campaigning here.

Even if you have the most money, that is not what wins the election. In fact, it in my election, the person that had the most money and spent the most on TV came in third.

KING: You mentioned one-on-one. And you earlier mentioned getting into the diner. So, you've had a one-on-one conversation in a diner recently with Sarah Palin, who came through this state. She will not be at our debate. She says she's not sure, that she's thinking about it, exploring the possibility of running.

Did she tell you?

AYOTTE: She did not bring up running for president when you I met with her last week at a Portsmouth diner, basically. We talked about -- I had had my first town hall meeting the night before, and she wanted to know what were on voters' minds at the town hall meeting. So, she was curious about that.

KING: Was she questioning you like a candidate?

AYOTTE: She wasn't questioning me like a candidate. I mean, we talked a lot about our children. And my husband was with me, and he was stationed in Alaska. So, there was a lot of talk about hunting and fishing in Alaska, as you can imagine.

KING: In your gut, any gut on whether she's going to run?

AYOTTE: You know, it's obviously up to her. If I were to make a prediction right now, I don't -- I don't think that she will run. But again, anything can change. And as you know with Governor Palin, you never know what decision she's going to make until she makes that announcement.

KING: She endorsed you last time, called you one of those great mama grizzlies.


KING: Would you endorse her? Or are you going to endorse anybody? AYOTTE: I'm going to speak to every single presidential candidate. I look forward to it. And assess on what their plan is for America and whether they can beat Barack Obama. I think that's so important in this election.

And then I'm going to make a decision whether I'll get in and endorse in the primary.

KING: New Hampshire was good to President Obama. It has been good to the Democrats recently in presidential politics.


KING: When we get past the primary and into the general election, will New Hampshire be in play in your view?

AYOTTE: New Hampshire is in play in my view. If you look at what happened in 2010, New Hampshire is in play. I think it's very much a purple state, and it's not one that should be written off by Republicans in 2012.

KING: Any more advice for the poor moderator, one more question for Monday night?

AYOTTE: You know, I think -- I think the moderator should really be asking what is their plan on federal spending. And I hope the moderator asks about entitlements because to not talk about entitlements I think at this point is really -- that's a very important issue and it's 60 percent of the federal budget. So, I'd like to hear candidates, what their plan is for that -- especially when the president's been so absent on it.

KING: I'll make sure the moderator gets your message.

AYOTTE: I appreciate that.

KING: Senator Ayotte, I appreciate your time right here.

AYOTTE: Thanks, John.

KING: Thank you.


Don't Govern on Fantasies
E.J. Dionne · November 10, 2014

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