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Mystery GOP Debate Theater 2011: Simi Valley

Once again our Mystery Debate Theater team gathered at Beachwood HQ . . . well, not really. I went solo on Wednesday night. This transcript edited for clarity and comedy.

NBC's BRIAN WILLIAMS: Tonight, from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, in a place dedicated to the memory of this Republican icon, in the 100th year after his birth, we will hear from the eight candidates who would like to claim his legacy.

RHODES: Hey, that's mean!

WILLIAMS: Thank you especially for joining us here in this spectacular space, this spectacular presidential library, where we are all gathered under the wings of Air Force One.

RHODES: And to celebrate Ronald Reagan's legacy, this is the Air Force One used in the movie, not the real one.

WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, you have touted your state's low taxes, the lack of regulation, tough tort reform as the recipe for job growth in the Lone Star State, but Texas ranks last among those who have completed high school, there are only eight other states with more living in poverty, no other state has more working at or below the minimum wage. So is that the kind of answer all Americans are looking for?

PERRY: Actually, what Americans are looking for is someone who can get this country working again. And we put the model in place in the state of Texas.

RHODES: Come for the dropouts, stay for the indentured servitude.


WILLIAMS: Governor Romney . . .

RHODES: Who dyed your hair? It looks like a barrel of ink fell on it.

WILLIAMS: Bain Capital, a company you helped to form, among other things, often buys up companies, strips them down, gets them ready, resells them at a net job loss to American workers.

ROMNEY: You know, that might be how some people would like to characterize what we did, but in fact, we started business at Bain Capital, and when we acquired businesses, in each case we tried to make them bigger, make them more successful and grow. The idea that somehow you can strip things down and it makes them more valuable is not a real effective investment strategy. We tried to make these businesses more successful.

By the way, they didn't all work. But when it was all said and done, and we looked at the record we had during the years I was there, we added tens of thousands of jobs to he businesses we helped support. That experience, succeeding, failing, competing around the world, is what gives me the capacity to help get this economy going again.

RHODES: If Brian Williams is prepared, he will follow up with some information gleaned from this Boston Globe article.


RHODES: Guess not.


ROMNEY: States are different. Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right to work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground.

Those are wonderful things, but Governor Perry doesn't believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, well, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.

RHODES: You mean it would be like a made-up quote endlessly repeated by the media that Brian Williams will once again fail to correct here tonight?


ROMNEY: I came into a state that was in real trouble - a huge budget gap, losing jobs every month. We turned it around. Three out of four years, we had unemployment rate below the national average, we ended up with 4.7 percent unemployment rate.

PERRY: Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.

ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.

RHODES: The Clinton economy ruled!

PERRY: That's not correct.

ROMNEY: Yes, that is correct.

WILLIAMS: Nice to see everybody came prepared for tonight's conversation.

RHODES: Except you.


CAIN: Here's how I would fix this economy. First, eliminate the current tax code.

RHODES: Then, get rid of unemployment. Next, make everyone a millionaire. Finally, outlaw sadness.

CAIN: I call it my 9-9-9 economic growth plan.

RHODES: That's 6-6-6 upside down.

CAIN: A 9 percent tax on corporate income, our 9 percent tax on personal income and a 9 percent national sales tax. If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent ought to be good enough for the federal government. This will replace all federal income taxes. It will also replace the payroll tax, so everybody gets some skin in the game. And it replaces the capital gains tax.

RHODES: And the sales tax, so when you buy something for $9.99 it's really $9.99!


HUNTSMAN: I hate to rain on the parade of the Lone Star governor, but as governor of Utah, we were the number one job creator in this country during my years of service. That was 5.9 percent when you were creating jobs at 4.9 percent.

RHODES: Yeah, but Utah has a lot of Mormons in the ground.


BACHMANN: ObamaCare is killing jobs.

RHODES: Jobs death panels!

BACHMANN: I've raised five biological kids and 23 foster kids in my home.

RHODES: And none of them are gay. Anymore.


WILLIAMS: Over to Congressman Paul, you're known as the absolutist in the bunch, someone who has consistently opposed federal government from having any role - and I think by your definition - that isn't explicitly laid out in the Constitution.

So this makes people curious: Is there a line with you? Where do you draw it? Does this include things like making cars safe, making medicine safe, air traffic control controlling the jets above our heads?

PAUL: If you need detailed regulations, you can do it at the state level.

RHODES: Have you been to Illinois?

WILLIAMS: Well, 30 seconds more for devil's advocate here, because would you then put it on the drug companies to say, "No, we're bringing this to market, trust us, it's a fantastic drug"? All the pilots in the sky, to add to their responsibilities, their own air traffic control, in an organic way?



PAUL: You would have private institutions that could become credible.

RHODES: "Honey, I don't think we should fly to Florida this winter, Consumer Reports says the air traffic control over Georgia only rates one star."


GINGRICH: When I was speaker, we added 11 million jobs, in a bipartisan effort, including welfare reform, the largest capital gains tax cut in history. We balanced the budget for four straight years.

RHODES: That's why I'm endorsing Bill Clinton for a third term!


ROMNEY: What we face in our state is different than what other states face. What we had is a lot of people who found that they could simply stop getting insurance, go to the hospital, and get free care paid for by the people, paid for by taxpayers. We were spending hundreds of millions of dollars in our state giving care to people who in some cases could afford to take care of themselves.

RHODES: Unlike the other 49 states in the union.

ROMNEY: And we said, you know what? You've either got to get insurance, if you can afford it, or you're going to have to help pay the cost of providing that care to you.

OBAMA: The only difference between Sen. Clinton's health care plan and mine is that she thinks the problem for people without health care is that nobody has mandated - forced - them to get health care.

RHODES: Oops, how did that get in here?

POLITICO's JOHN HARRIS: Governor Perry, you clearly don't like the Massachusetts plan as an example for other states, but Massachusetts has nearly universal health insurance. It's first in the country. In Texas, about a quarter of the people don't have health insurance. That's 50 out of 50, dead last. Sir, it's pretty hard to defend dead last.

PERRY: Well, I'll tell you what the people in the state of Texas don't want: They don't want a health care plan like what Governor Romney put in place in Massachusetts.

RHODES: No matter how sick they get.

HARRIS: Why are so many people in Texas uninsured?


PERRY: Well, bottom line is that we would not have that many people uninsured in the state of Texas if you didn't have the federal government.



HUNTSMAN: You know, at some point, we're going to get around to talking about individual and personal responsibility. And I'm raising seven kids. I've got a couple of them here. The most important thing we can do in this health care debate - right, Rick - is talk about individual responsibility, personal responsibility.

RHODES: For example, I've been employed by the government as an ambassador three times. My family's got great health insurance!


BACHMANN: We just learned today that if the federal government would pull back on all of the regulatory restrictions on American energy production, we could see 1.2 million jobs created in the United States.

RHODES: Most of them in disaster relief!


BACHMANN: Don't forget the day that President Obama took office, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon.

RHODES: Herman Cain has a plan to make it $9.99.


PAUL: I do want to address the subject of $2 oil or gasoline, because I can do it much better than that. I can get you a gallon of gasoline for a dime. You can buy a gallon of gasoline today for a silver dime. A silver dime is worth $3.50.

RHODES: So is a domestic beer at the Beachwood. You're still not really paying 10 cents for a gallon of gas - or a Pabst Blue Ribbon.


PAUL: I strongly supported Ronald Reagan . . . But in the 1980s, we spent too much, we taxed too much, we built up our deficits, and it was a bad scene.

RHODES: Right on, man.


WILLIAMS: We would be remiss, of course, any gathering in this space would, without a mention, perhaps a short tribute, to one of the most important people here tonight.


WILLIAMS (voice-over): The legacy represented here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library is impressive: over 1 million photos, 60 million pages of documents, tens of thousands of audio and videotapes encompassing the life and work of the late president.

RHODES: From his denial of AIDS to Iran-Contra.

WILLIAMS: But even this great place can't evoke the full magnitude and spirit of Ronald Reagan's life like his partner. Reagan has always said her life started when she met Ronald Wilson Reagan. And from that point onward, they tackled everything together.

RHODES: Unless her astrologist advised otherwise.

WILLIAMS: All along, Mrs. Reagan was his advisor and champion-in-chief. Their love for one another was an enduring image at the White House. That bond would sustain them through the unthinkable.

RHODES: Ollie North?

WILLIAMS: Mrs. Reagan decided to dedicate herself to the Just Say No campaign.

NANCY REAGAN: If you're ever offered drugs, please, please, just say no.

RHODES: Unlike Betty Ford. Or George W. Bush.

WILLIAMS: It was with great dignity and grace that President Reagan announced in 1994 he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

RHODES: Even though he'd had it since his second term.


HARRIS: Vice President Cheney said [Social Security is] not a Ponzi scheme. You say it is.

PERRY: Absolutely.

ROMNEY: The issue in [Perry's] book Fed Up, Governor, is you say that by any measure, Social Security is a failure. You can't say that to tens of millions of Americans who live on Social Security and those who have lived on it.

The governor says look, states ought to be able to opt out of Social Security. Our nominee has to be someone who isn't committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security.

Under no circumstances would I ever say by any measure it's a failure. It is working for millions of Americans, and I'll keep it working for millions of Americans. And we've got to do that as a party.

PERRY: We're about fixing things. You can either have reasons or you can have results. And the American people expect us to put results in place.

RHODES: Without reasons.

PERRY: You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme. It is. That is what it is. Americans know that, and regardless of what anyone says, oh, it's not - and that's provocative language - maybe it's time to have some provocative language in this country and say things like, let's get America working again and do whatever it takes to make that happen.

RHODES: Which is only provocative if you say it naked.


CAIN: I believe in the Chilean model, where you give a personal retirement account option so we can move this society from an entitlement society to an empowerment society.

Chile had a broken system the way we did. Thirty years ago, a worker was paying 28 cents on a dollar into a broken system. They finally awakened and put in a system where the younger workers could have a choice.

Give them a choice with an account with their name on it, and over time we would eliminate the current broken system that we have. That is a solution to the problem. Rather than continuing to talk about how broken it is, let's just fix it using the Chilean model.

RHODES: Now that's a Ponzi scheme.


HARRIS: Congressman Paul, we've been talking just now about Governor Perry's rhetoric, but let's talk about his record.

Just this morning, your campaign put out a statement accusing him of pushing for bailout money, supporting welfare for illegal immigrants, and trying to forcibly vaccinate 12-year-old girls against sexually transmitted diseases.

He's your home state governor. Is he less conservative than meets the eye?

PAUL: Much more so, yes.

Just take the HPV. Forcing 12-year-old girls to take an inoculation to prevent this sexually transmitted disease, this is not good medicine.

BACHMANN: When it comes to dealing with children, it's the parents who need to make that decision.

PERRY: But here's the facts of that issue. There was an opt-out in that piece.

I hate cancer. We passed a $3 billion cancer initiative that same legislative session of which we're trying to find over the next 10 years cures to cancers. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV. We wanted to bring that to the attention of these tens of thousands of young people in our state. We allowed for an opt-out.

I don't know what's more strong for parental rights than having that opt-out. There's a long list of diseases that cost our state and cost our country. It was on that list.

Now, did we handle it right? Should we have talked to the legislature first before we did it? Probably so. But at the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives.

RHODES: Except when it comes to health insurance.


HARRIS: Senator Santorum, one final note on this book, Fed Up, Governor Perry says in his book that it was, quote, "unprincipled" for Republicans to vote in favor of creating the Department of Homeland Security.

RHODES: Democrats, too.


SANTORUM: I want to get back to this . . . How about parental rights being more important than state's rights? How about having, instead of an opt-out, an opt- in?

RHODES: Wasn't there already an opt-in? It involved a telephone, your doctor and an insurance company. It was called Life.


GINGRICH: We need to understand, there are people out there who want to kill us.

RHODES: In here, too.


WILLIAMS: Congressman Paul, you want to demolish the TSA. What would exist in its place?

PAUL: The airlines that are responsible for carrying their cargo and their passengers. I mean . . . the airlines could do that.

RHODES: Um, have you flown lately?


PAUL: Just remember, 9/11 came about because there was too much government.

RHODES: Oh. I thought it was too many Bilderbergs.


WILLIAMS: The question is, federal aid, something like FEMA, if you object to what its become, how it's run, your position is to remove it, take it away, abolish it. What happens in its absence?

PAUL: Well, what happened before 1979? We didn't have FEMA.

RHODES: Not exactly.

CAIN: The federal government is not good at micromanaging anything. This is why I believe in empowering the states to do more and limit what the federal government does with regard to those kinds of programs.

RHODES: Again, have you been to Illinois?


WILLIAMS: Governor Huntsman, you know, the upside to this is, I guess, you could fly with your shoes on. The downside is, who does the job the next day?

HUNTSMAN: Let me just say, while this is an important discussion that we're having, we've spent about 15 minutes now on homeland security. But I'm guessing there are a whole lot of people tuned in around this country who are saying, why are we spending all this time talking about the smaller issues?

RHODES: Yes, can't we get back to that 9-9-9 thing?

HUNTSMAN: We've got 14 million people unemployed.

RHODES: Maybe the Department of Homeland Security could hire them.

HUNTSMAN: How are we going to get this country back on its feet?

RHODES: Like it was in the 90s under Clinton.


WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, you can't have much of a workforce without a basis of education.

RHODES: You can with the kind of jobs we have in Texas!

WILLIAMS: As you know, your state ranks among the worst in the country in high school graduation rates, as we established, yet you recently signed a budget cut for millions in education funding. You pushed for greater cuts than were in the budget that the legislature passed. You've said that education is a top priority, but explain cutting it the way you did, please.

PERRY: Well, I think the reductions that we made were thoughtful reductions, and the fact of the matter is, Texas has made great progress in the 10 years that I've been governor, from the standpoint of our graduation rates now are up to 84 percent, higher than they've been during any period of time before that.

Our 4th and 8th grader African-American and Hispanics on the NAEP test, they were some of the highest in the country. We're making progress. When you share the border with Mexico, and when you have as many individuals that we have coming into the state of Texas, we have a unique situation in our state.

RHODES: Immigrants are taking tests Americans refuse to! No, but really, it's hard for spoiled American children to compete with kids so motivated they risked their lives crossing the border.

PERRY: When Caterpillar and Toyota and eBay and Facebook move to your state, it's not because you've got a workforce that's not capable.

RHODES: It's because you've got a workforce dumb enough to take slave wages.


GINGRICH: I visited schools where, three years earlier, there were fights, there were dropouts, there was no hope. They were taken over by a charter school in downtown Philadelphia, and all of a sudden the kids didn't fight anymore.

RHODES: And today, the Xanax Charter School is second in the state in peacefulness only to the Ritalin Academy.


ROMNEY: The reason [illegal immigrants] come in such great numbers is because we've left the magnet on.

RHODES: I thought Obama turned the magnet off.

GINGRICH: We ought to control the border, we ought to have a legal guest worker program. We ought to outsource it, frankly, to American Express, Visa, and MasterCard.

RHODES: The Guest Worker Rewards Card: Come for the jobs, stay for the points. (Restrictions may apply.)


GINGRICH: We should insist that first-generation immigrants who come here learn American history in order to become citizens. We should also insist that American children learn American history.

RHODES: Stop stealing my lines, Newt.


SANTORUM: Look, I'm the son of an Italian immigrant. I think immigration is one of the great things that has made this country the dynamic country that it continues to be, people who are drawn because of the ideals of this country. And so we should not have a debate talking about how we don't want people to come to this country, but we want them to come here like my grandfather and my father came here.

RHODES: Through the mob.


BACHMANN: One thing that we do know, our immigration law worked beautifully back in the 1950s, up until the early 1960s, when people had to demonstrate that they had money in their pocket, they had no contagious diseases, they weren't a felon. They had to agree to learn to speak the English language, they had to learn American history and the Constitution.

And the one thing they had to promise is that they would not become a burden on the American taxpayer.

RHODES: Newt's right: We should insist that all Americans learn their history.


HUNTSMAN: For example, why is it that Vancouver is the fastest-growing real estate market in the world today? They allow immigrants in legally, and it lifts all boats.

RHODES: Say what?


PAUL: I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to leave with their capital. And there's capital controls and there's people control. So, every time you think of fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.



PERRY: Let me just say something about the president of the United States. And I know he's taken lots of slings and arrows here today. But one thing that I want to say that he did do that I agree with is that he maintained the chase and we took out a very bad man in the form of bin Laden, and I tip my hat to him.

I give more props to those Navy SEALs that did the job, but the other thing this president's done, he has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job.

RHODES: Except for Navy SEALs and everyone else employed to take out bin Laden.


PERRY: We should never put our young men and women's lives at risk when American interests are not clearly defined by the president of the United States.

RHODES: Like in Grenada?


BACHMANN: I sit on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We deal with the nation's classified secrets.

RHODES: Suddenly I do not feel safer today than I did on 9/11.


BACHMANN: Well, I believe that it was wrong for the president to go into Libya . . . If there is no vital interest, that doesn't even meet the threshold of the first test for military involvement.

RHODES: Like Grenada.


HARRIS: Governor Huntsman, your chief political adviser has been quoted very prominently as describing the Republican Party as "a bunch of cranks," and said your opponents on the stage "make a buffet of crazy and inane comments." I'm sure that's insulting to some of these people up here.

We're now here face to face. Tell us which one of these people are saying crazy or inane things.

HUNTSMAN: Well, I'm sure you have John Weaver's telephone number. You can go ahead and give him a call.


HUNTSMAN: But let me just say . . .

HARRIS: Well, hang on. Let's follow up on that, because you speak for yourself.

You yourself have said the party is in danger of becoming anti-science. Who on this stage is anti-science?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy. We've got to win voters. And by making comments that basically don't reflect the reality of the situation, we turn people off.

RHODES: Except Republicans.


PERRY: The science is not settled on [climate change].

RHODES: There's still a guy in Idaho who isn't convinced.

PERRY: Just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.

RHODES: Yes. By a church that refused to accept science - the same church, by the way, that now accepts evolution.

PERRY: Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.

HARRIS: Tell us how you've done that. Are there specific scientists or specific theories that you've found especially compelling?

PERRY: Let me tell you what I find compelling, is what we've done in the state of Texas, using our ability to regulate our clean air. We cleaned up our air in the state of Texas, more than any other state in the nation during the decade. Nitrous oxide levels, down by 57 percent. Ozone levels down by 27 percent.

RHODES: Sure, but that's according to science.

PERRY: That's the way you need to do it, not by some scientist somewhere saying, "Here is what we think is happening out there."

RHODES: So you measured the nitrous oxide levels yourself? That explains a lot.


WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, will come to the end of his term in 2014. Would you reappoint Ben Bernanke?

GINGRICH: I would fire him tomorrow.


GINGRICH: I think he's been the most inflationary, dangerous, and power-centered chairman of the Fed in the history of the Fed.

RHODES: Inflationary?

GINGRICH: I want to take the rest of my time, Brian, to go back to a question you asked that was very important. We were asked the wrong question at the last debate. The question isn't, would we favor a tax increase? The question is, how would we generate revenue?

There are three good ways. The Ronald Reagan technique put 3,700,000 more people back to work as of last Friday.

RHODES: A) I thought he was dead. B) He did it by placing tiny ads in newspapers all across the country. C) You mean deficit spending?

GINGRICH: The committee of 12 ought to be looking at, how do you create more revenue, not how do you raise taxes.

RHODES: For example, "I Survived Newt Gingrich's Presidential Campaign" t-shirts.


WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, you often hear this figure, 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, and the promised effort underway soon, at least, in Washington to correct that. Isn't some of this argument semantics? And won't the effort to correct that be a de facto tax increase?

ROMNEY: You know, I must admit, I have a bit of a hard time with the idea that there are people who don't feel like they're supporting our troops by contributing tax revenue through the income tax or through other tax vehicles.

I don't want to raise taxes on the American people, but I think everybody ought to feel that they're part of this effort and that they're providing for our military, providing for our roads, providing for our schools. That ought to be part of what every American experiences.

RHODES: They're talking about rich people, right?

WILLIAMS: Would Ben Bernanke have a job in your administration?

ROMNEY: No, I'd be looking for somebody new. I think Ben Bernanke has over-inflated the amount of currency that he's created.

RHODES: After all, a silver dime is now worth $3.50.


WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times.


Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?

PERRY: No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, very clear process in place of which when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required.

But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.

RHODES: And sometimes even if you don't.

WILLIAMS: What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?

PERRY: I think Americans understand justice.

RHODES: Just not Texans.


HARRIS: Mr. Cain, the General Electric Corporation last year made $14.2 billion in profits worldwide, but paid no U.S. taxes. Perfectly legal, but does it strike you as fair?

CAIN: This is why I proposed my 9-9-9 plan. The government needs to get out of the business of picking winners and losers. The government needs to get out of the business of trying to figure out who gets a tax break here, who gets a tax break there.

When you go to 9-9-9, it levels the playing field for all businesses. What a novel idea. And the government won't be in the business of trying to determine who's going to be able to make more money and pay no taxes and vice versa.

RHODES: Here's another novel idea: If you watch a Republican debate long enough, Herman Cain will begin to make sense.


Comments welcome.


Posted on September 8, 2011

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - Locked Out And Loaded.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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