Fusion writers and editors watched the GOP debate on CNN and transcribed it as quickly and accurately as humanly possible. Here's the conversation, annotated it using Genius.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: These nine Republicans are positioned on stage based on their ranking in the recent polls, so let's begin right now. I'd like to invite each candidate to introduce himself or herself to our audience. You'll have one minute. First to you, Senator Paul.
SEN. RAND PAUL: The question is, how do we keep America safe from terrorism? Trump says close that internet thing. The question is, what does he mean by that? Like they do in North Korea? Like they do in China? Rubio says we should collect all Americans' records all of the time. The Constitution says otherwise. I think they're both wrong. I think we defeat terrorism by showing them that we do not fear them. I think if we ban certain religions, if we censor the internet, I think that at that point the terrorists will have won. Regime change hasn't won. Toppling secular dictators in the Middle East has only led to chaos and the rise of radical Islam. I think if we want to defeat terrorism, I think if we truly are sincere about defeating terrorism, we need to quit arming the allies of ISIS. If we want to defeat terrorism, the boots on the ground. The boots on the ground need to be Arab boots on the ground. As commander in chief I will do whatever it takes to defend America. But in defending America, we cannot lose what America stands for. Today is the bill of rights anniversary. I hope we will remember that and cherish that in the fight on terrorism.
BLITZER: Thank you, senator. Governor Kasich?
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Thank you, Wolf. Just last weekend a friend asked one of my daughters, do you like politics? And my daughter said, no, I don't. And the reason I don't like it is because there's too much fighting. Too much yelling. It's so loud I don't like it. I turned to my friend and I said, you know. She's really on to something. When we think about our country and the big issues, wolf, that we face in this country. Creating jobs, making sure people can keep their jobs. The need for rising wages. Whether our children when they graduate from college can find a job. Protecting the homeland. Destroying ISIS. Rebuilding defense. These are all the things that we need to focus on but we'll never get there if we're divided. We'll never get there if Republicans and Democrats just fight with one another. Frankly, we are Republicans and they are Democrats. But before all of that, we're Americans. And I believe we need to unify in so many ways to rebuild our country to strengthen our country to rebuild our defense and for America to secure its place in the world for us. For our children. And for the next generation. Thank you.
BLITZER: Governor Christie?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: Thank you, Wolf. America has been betrayed. We've been betrayed by the leadership that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have provided to this country over the last number of years. Think about just what's happened today. The second largest school district in America in Los Angeles closed based on a threat. Think about the effect that that is going to have on those children. When they go back to school tomorrow wondering, filled with anxiety about whether they're really going to be safe. Think about the mothers who will take those children tomorrow morning to the bus stop. Wondering whether their children will arrive back on that bus safe and sound.Think about the fathers of Los Angeles who tomorrow will head off to work and wonder about the safety of their wives and their children. What is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton done to this country that the most basic responsibility of an administration is to protect the safety and security of the American people. I will tell you this.I'm a former federal prosecutor. I fought terrorists and won. When we get back in the White House, we will fight terrorists and win, again. And America will be safe.
BLITZER: Ms. Fiorina?
CARLY FIORINA: Like all of you, I'm angry. I'm angry at what's happening to our nation. As citizens, it's time to take our country back. Bombast and insults won't take it back. Political rhetoric that promises a lot and delivers little won't take it back. All of our problems can be solved. All of our wounds can be healed by a tested leader who is willing to fight for the character of our nation. I have been tested. I have beaten breast cancer. I have buried a child. I started as a secretary. I fought my way to the top of corporate America while being called every B-word in the book. I fought my way into this election. And onto this debate stage while all the political insiders and the pundits told me it couldn't be done. I've been told no all my life. And all my life I've refused to accept no as an answer. Citizens, it is time to take our country back from the political class. From the media. From the liberal elites. It can be done. It must be done. Join me and we will get it done.
BLITZER: Governor Bush?
FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH: Our freedom is under attack. Our economy is under water. The leading Democrat is under investigation. And America is under the gun to lead the free world to protect our civilized way of life. Serious times requires strong leadership. That's what is at stake right now. Regarding national security. We need to restore the defense cuts of Barack Obama. To rebuild our military, to destroy ISIS before it destroys us. Regarding economic security, we need to take power and money away from Washington, D.C., and empower American families so that they can rise up, again. Look, America still is an exceptional country. We love to lead. And we love to win. And we do it when we take on any challenge and when we take on, we support our friends. As president, I will keep you in our country safe, secure and free. Thank you.
BLITZER: Senator Rubio?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Thank you, Wolf. It's really amazing to be back in Las Vegas. I spent six years here as a child growing up. Not far from where we stand tonight I sat on the porch and listened to my grandfather tell stories as he smoked one of his three daily cigars. One thing my grandfather instilled in me is I was really blessed because I was a citizen of the greatest country of all mankind. But there have always been people in american politics who wanted America to be more like the rest of the world. In 2008, one of them was elected president of this country and the result has been a disaster. Today you have millions of Americans that feel left out and out of place in their own country. Struggling to live paycheck to paycheck and called bigots because they hold on to traditional values. Around the world, America's influence has declined while this president has destroyed our military, our allies no longer trust us and our adversaries no longer respect us. That's why this election is so important. That's why I'm running for president and that's why I'm going to ask you for your vote tonight. If you elect me president, we will have a president that believes America is the greatest country in the world and we will have a president that acts like it.
BLITZER: Senator Cruz.
SEN. TED CRUZ: Thank you, Wolf. America is at war. Our enemy is not violent extremism. It is not some unnamed malevolent force. It is radical islamic terrorist. We have a president who is unwilling to other its name. The men and women on this stage, every one of us, is better prepared to keep this nation safe than is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. We need a president who understands the first obligation of the commander in chief is to keep America safe. If I am elected president, we will hunt down and kill the terrorists. We will utterly destroy ISIS. We will stop the terrorist attacks before they occur because we will not be prisoners to political correctness. Rather we will speak the truth. Border security is national security and we will not be admitting jihadists as refugees. We will keep America safe.
BLITZER: Dr. Carson?
DR. BEN CARSON: Thank you, Wolf. Please join me for a moment of silence and remembrance of the San Bernardino victims. … Thank you. You know, our country since its inception has been at war. Every 15 or 20 years. But the war that we are fighting now against radical Islamist jihadists is one we must win. As a neuro surgeon I had to face life and death situation. I had to come up with the right diagnosis and right plan and execute that plan frequently with other colleagues. Right now, the United States of America is the patient. And the patient is in critical condition and will not be cured by political correctness and will not be cured by tumidity. And I am asking the congress, which represents the people, to declare a war on ISIS. So that we can begin the process of exciting that cancer and bring peace and prosperity back to America.
BLITZER: Mr. Trump?
DONALD TRUMP: Thank you. I began this journey six months ago. My total focus was on building up our military, building up our strength. Building up our borders. Making sure that China, Japan, Mexico, both at the border and in trade no longer takes advantage of our country. Certainly would never have made that horrible, disgusting, absolutely incompetent deal with Iran where they get $150 billion. They're a terrorist nation. But I began it talking about other things. And those things are things that I'm very good at and maybe that's why I'm center stage. People saw it. People liked it. People respected it. A month ago things changed. Radical Islamic terrorism came into effect even more so than it has been in the past. People like what I say. People respect what I say. And we've opened up a very big discussion that needed to be opened up. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Thank you. Since you last debated, Americans have witnessed terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. The FBI director says the country now faces the greatest terror threat since 9/11. You all have different say you want to temporarily ban non american muslims from coming to the United States. Ban refugees fleeing ISIS from coming here. Deport 11 million people and wall off America's southern border. Is the best way to make America great again to isolate it from much of the rest of the world?
TRUMP: We are not talking about isolation. We're talking about security. We're not talking about religion. We're talking about security. Our country is out of control. People are pouring across the southern border. I will build a wall. It will be a great wall. People will not come in unless they come in legally. Drugs will not come through that wall. As far as other people into migration where they're going, tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them. I don't think so, Wolf. They're not coming to this country. And if I'm president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They're going. They're gone.
BLITZER: Governor Bush. You called Mr. Trump unhinged when he proposed banning non-American Muslims from the United States. Why is that unhinged?
BUSH: Well, first of all, we need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate. That should be our objective. The refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS there. Which means we need to have a no fly zone. Safe zones there for refugees and to build a military force We need to embed our forces, our troops inside the Iraqi military. We need to arm directly the kurds and all of that has to be done in concert with the Arab nations. If we're going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS? The kurds are our strongest allies. They're Muslim. Look, this is not a serious proposal.In fact, it will push the Muslim world, the Arab world away from us at a time when we need to reengage with them to be able to create a strategy to destroy ISIS. So, Donald, you know, is great at the one liners. But he's a chaos candidate. And he'd be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.
BLITZER: Mr. Trump.
TRUMP: Jeb doesn't really believe I'm unhinged. He said that very simply because he has failed in this campaign. It's been a total disaster. Nobody cares. And, frankly, I'm the most solid person up here. I built a tremendous company and all I want to do is make America great, again. I don't want our country to be taken away from us and that's what's happening. The policies that we've suffered under other presidents have been a disaster for our country. We want to make America great again. And, Jeb, in all fairness, he doesn't believe that.
BUSH: Look, he mentioned me. I can talk. This is the problem. Banning all muslims will make it harder for us to do exactly what we need to do. Which is to destroy ISIS. We need a strategy. We need to get the lawyers off the back of the war fighters. Right now under President Obama we've created this standard that is so high that it's impossible to be successful in fighting ISIS. We need to engage with the Arab world to make this happen. It is not a serious proposal to say that to the people that you're asking to support, for their support that they can't even come to the country to even engage in a dialogue with us. That's not a serious proposal. We need a serious leader to deal with this. I believe I'm that guy.
BLITZER: Senator Rubio. I'm going to go to Senator Rubio, again, his thoughts. You have said that banning Muslims is unconstitutional. But according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll a majority of Americans support Mr. Trump's idea.
RUBIO: I understand why they feel that way because this president hasn't kept us safe. We had an attack in San Bernardino and we were paying attention to the most important issue we had in this country since 9/11 and all this talk about the proposal that isn't going to happen. We must deal with this threat of radical Islamists, especially from ISIS. The most sophisticated terror group that has threatened the world or the United States of America. They're actively recruiting Americans. the attack in SB was an american citizen Born and raised in this country, he was a health inspector.Had a newborn child and left all that behind to kill 14 people. We also understand that this is a group that is growing in its governance of territory. Not just Iraq and Syria. They are now a predominant group in Libya. Beginning to pop up in Afghanistan and increasingly involved in attacks in Yemen and Jordan in its sights.
This group needs to be confronted with serious proposals and this is a very significant threat we face and the president has left us unsafe. He spoke the other night to the American people to reassure us. I wish he hadn't spoken at all. He made things worse because what he basically said was we're going to keep doing what we're doing now and what we are doing now is not working.
BLITZER: Hugh Hewitt, you have a question.
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: Senator Cruz, you've said you disagree with Mr. Trump's policy. I don't want to cage match, you’ve tweeted you don't want a cage match but Republican primary voters deserve to know. With the kind of specificity and responsiveness that you delivered in your nine supreme court arguments how you disagree with Mr. Trump. Would you spell that out with us?
CRUZ: Well, listen, Hugh, everyone understands why Donald has suggested what he has. We're looking at a president who's engaged in this double speak. Where he doesn't call radical islamic terrorism by its name. Indeed, he gives a speech after the San Bernardino attack where his approach is to try to go after the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens, rather than to keep us safe. Even worse, president Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing bringing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to this country when the head of the FBI has told congress they cannot vet those refugees. I understand why Donald made that proposal. I introduced legislation in the Senate that I believe is more narrowly focused at the actual threat which is radical islamic terrorism and what my legislation would do is suspend all refugees for three years from countries where ISIS or Al Qaeda controls substantial territory.
HEWITT: So, you're saying you disagree because he's too broad and you have more narrower focus. Why do you disagree with him?
CRUZ: I'm reminded of what FDR's grandfather said. He said all horse thieves are Democrats. But not all Democrats are horse thieves. In this instance, there are millions of peaceful Muslims across the world in countries like India where there is not the problems we are seeing in nations that are controlled—have territory controlled by Al Qaeda or ISIS and we should direct at the problem, focus on the problem and defeat radical islamic terrorism. It's not a war on a faith.It's a war on a political ideology that seeks to murder us.
HEWITT: Carly Fiorina, this is the Christmas dinner debate. This will be the debate that Americans talk about at Christmas. Thus far in the first 10 minutes, we haven't heard a lot about Ronald Reagan's sitting on a hill. But heard a lot of keeping Americans safe and everyone else out. Is this what you want the party to stand for?
FIORINA: What I think we need to stand for are solutions. I offer myself as a leader to the people of this country because I think they're looking for solutions. Not lawyers arguing over laws. Or entertainers throwing out sound bites that draw media attention. We need to solve the problem. To solve the problem, we need to do something here at home. And something over there in their caliphate. We need to deny them territory. Here at home we need to do two fundamental things. Number one, we need to recognize that technology has moved on. The patriot act was signed in 2001, roughly. The iPhone was invented in 2007. The iPad was invented in 2011. Snapchat and Twitter and all the rest of it have been around just for several years. Technology has moved on and the terrorists have moved on with it. Let me tell you a story. Soon after 9/11 I got a phone call from the NSA. They needed help. I gave them help. I stopped a truck load of equipment and I had it turned around. It was escorted by the NSA into headquarters. We need the private sector's help because government is not innovating. Technology is running ahead by leaps and bound. The private sector will help, just as I helped after 9/11. They must be engaged and they must be asked. I will ask them. I know them.
BLITZER: Governor Christie, Americans are clearly more afraid today than at any time since 9/11. As you mentioned in your opening statement today in Los Angeles, 650 school children didn't go to—650,000 school children didn't go to school because of an e-mail threat. This, two weeks after an attack killed 14 people in San Bernardino. Is this the new normal? And, if so, what steps would you take as president of the united States to ensure that fear does not paralyze America?
CHRISTIE: Wolf, unfortunately, it's the new normal under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The fact is that if you listen to Hillary Clinton the other day, what she said to the American people was, that's regards to ISIS. “My strategy would be just about the same as the president's”. Just about the same as the president's? We have people across this country who are scared to death. Because I could tell you this, as a former federal prosecutor, if a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, California, is now a target for terrorists, that means everywhere in America is a target for these terrorists. Now, I spent seven years of my life in the immediate aftermath of September 11th doing this work. Working with the patriot act. Working with our law enforcement. Working with the surveillance community to make sure that we keep America safe. What we need to do, wolf, is restore those tools that have been taken away by the president and others. Restore those tools to the NSA and law enforcement community. We need a president who understand what actionable intelligence looks like and act on it and we need a president and a cabinet that understands that the first and most important priority of the president of the United States is to protect the safety and security of Americans as someone who has done it, I will make sure it gets done, again.
BLITZER: Thank you. Governor Kasich. One of the killers in San Bernardino was an American who was not on anyone's watch list. How are you going to find that radicalized person and stop another such attack?
KASICH: Well, first of all, Wolf, I said last February that we needed to have people on the ground, troops on the ground in a coalition similar to what we had in the first gulf war. I remember when the Egyptian ambassador to the United States stood in the rose garden and pledged Arab commitment to removing Saddam hussein from Kuwait. Before we came out here tonight, I am told that the Saudis have organized 34 countries who want to join in the battle against terrorism. First and foremost, we need to go and destroy ISIS and we need to do this with our Arab friends and our friends in Europe. And when I see they have a climate conference over in Paris, they should have been talking about destroying ISIS because they are involved in virtually every country, you know, across this world.
Now, you destroy ISIS in a coalition and you get joint intelligence with our European friends and then here at home, there are things called the joint terrorism task force. Headed by the FBI and made up of local law enforcement, including state police. They need the tools and the tools involve encryption where we cannot hear what they're even planning. When we see red flags, a mother, a father, a neighbor who says we have a problem here then we have to give law enforcement to listen to stop these terrorist attacks before they occur we can do this but we gotta get moving. Pay me now or pay me a lot more later. This is the direction we need to go.
BLITZER: Thank you. Dana Bash, you have the next question.
DANA BASH, CNN: A crucial question is how to balance surveillance with privacy and keeping Americans safe. Senator Cruz, you voted for a bill that president Obama signed into law just this past June that made it harder for the government to access Americans' phone records. In light of the San Bernardino attack, was your vote a mistake?
CRUZ: Well, Dana, the premise of your question is not accurate. I'm very proud to have joined with conservatives in both the senate and the house to reform how we target bad guys. And what the usa freedom act did it did two things. Number one, it ended the federal government's bulk collection of phone Metadata of millions of law-abiding citizens.Number two in the second half that is critical. It strengthened the tools of national security and law enforcement to go after terrorists. It gave us greater tools and we are seeing those tools work right now in San Bernardino. In particular, what it did is the prior program only covered a relatively narrow slice of phone calls. When you had a terrorist, you could only search a relatively narrow slice of numbers, primarily landlines. The usa freedom act expands that so we have the phones that terrorists are likely to use and the focus of law enforcement is on targeting the bad guys. You know, the Obama administration keeps getting wrong is whenever anything bad happens they focus on law-abiding citizens instead of focusing on the bad guys. We need to focus on radical islamic terrorists and we need to stop them before they carry out acts of terror.
BASH: Bipartisan support for that. But you voted against it. So, is Senator Cruz wrong?
RUBIO: He is and so are those who voted for it. Some voted for it because they wanted to keep it alive and they were afraid the whole program would expire. Here's the world we live in. This is A radical jihadist group and it’s ability to radicalize American citizens and its inability to exploit loopholes in our illegal immigration system and its ability capture to hold territory in the middle East in multiple countries. This is not just the most capable, but the most sophisticated terror threat we have ever faced. We are now at a time when we need more tools and not less tools. That tool we lost: the metadata tool. That was a valuable tool that we no longer have at our disposal.
BASH: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: I would note that Marco knows what he's saying isn’t true. Mark Levin wrote a column last week that says the attack ads in the super PAC he’s running are knowingly false and in fact an Alinsky-like attack like Barack Obama. And the reason is simple. What he knows is that the old program covered 20 to 30% of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100%. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism and he knows that is the case.
BASH: Senator —
RUBIO: Let me be very careful when answering this. I don't think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss personal information. There is nothing we are allowed to do under this bill that we could not do before. This bill did, however, take away a valuable tool that allowed the national security agency and other intelligence agencies to quickly and rapidly access phone records and match them up with other phone records to see who terrorists have been calling. Because I promise you the next time there is an attack on this country, the first thing people are going to want to know is, why didn't we know about it and why didn't we stop it? The answer better not be we didn't have access to information to identify these killers before they attack.
BASH: Senator Paul, I know this is—this has been a very big issue for you. You hear many of your colleagues are calling for increased surveillance by law enforcement. You call that hogwash. Why is that hogwash?
PAUL: You know, I think Marco gets it completely wrong. We are not any safer through the collection of all Americans' records. In fact, I think we're less safe. We get so distracted by all the information, we're not spending enough time getting specific information on terrorists. The other thing is, the one thing that might have stopped San Bernardino and might have stopped 9/11 would have been stricter controls on those who came here. Marco has opposed at every point increased security border security for those who come to our country. On his gang of eight bill, he would have liberalized immigration and he did not and he steadfastly opposed any new border security for refugees or students. Last week, I introduced another bill saying we need more security. We need more scrutiny. Once again, Marco opposed this. So, Marco can't have it both ways. He thinks he wants to be this, oh I'm great and strong on national defense. But he's the weakest of all the candidates on immigration. He is the one for an open border that is leaving us defenseless. If we want to defend the country, we have to defend against those coming in and Marco has more of an allegiance to Chuck Schumer and to the liberals than he does to conservative policy.
BASH: Senator Rubio.
RUBIO: I want to thank Rand for another 30 seconds because, number one, what he's pointing to is a bill last week that amendment that he voted for that only ten people voted for. You know why? Because it's not focused on terrorists. It would have banned anyone from coming here, someone from Taiwan would not have been able to come here as a tourist. Number two, This program, this Metadata program is actually more strict than what a regular law enforcement agency has now. If a regular law enforcement agency wants your phone records, all they have to do is issue a subpoena. But now the intelligence agency is not able to quickly gather records and look at them to see who these terrorists are calling. And the terrorists that attacked us in San Bernardino was an American citizen, born and raised in this country and I bet you we wish we would have had access to five years of his records so we could see who he was working with.
BASH: Governor Christie, I'll come to you in a minute. Go ahead, Senator Paul.
PAUL: Can I respond?
BASH: Go ahead, please.
PAUL: Marco still misunderstands the immigration issue. What I put forward was an amendment from high-risk terrorist countries but would have started it up but wanted to go through global entry which is a program where we do background checks. Every terrorist attack we had since 9/11 has been legal immigration. Marco wants to expand that. I want more rules, more scrutiny and to defend the country you have to defend the border.
BASH: Senator, we're going to talk about immigration in a while. But Governor Christie, just listening to this, listening to this, you heard senator Paul, senator Cruz talk about how important it is to protect Americans' privacy, even in a time of grave danger. What's wrong with that?
CHRISTIE: Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine this is what it is like to be on the floor of the United States senate. Endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from a person who never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position. For 7 years, I had to make these decisions after 9/11. Make a decision on how to proceed forward with an investigation or How to pull forward or pull back. Whether you use certain actionable intelligence or whether not to. Yet they debate about this bill and the subcommittee and nobody in America cares about that. What they care about is Are we going to have a president who knows what they're doing to make these decisions? For the seven years afterwards New Jersey was threatened like no other region in this country and what we did is we took actions within the constitution to make sure that law enforcement had all the information they needed. We prosecuted two of the biggest terrorism cases in the world and stopped Fort Dicks from being attacked from six radicalized muslims from a mosque in new Jersey because we worked with the Muslim American community to get intelligence to make sure we did those cases. We used the Patriot Act to get other intelligence. This is the difference between having been a federal prosecutor and actually doing something and just spending your life as 1 of 100 debating it. Let's talk about how we do this and not each bill which these guys like more. People don't care about that.
BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you. Dr. Carson. You're in favor of monitoring mosques and schools where there is anti-American sentiment. What do you consider anti-American?
CARSON: Well, first of all, let me just complain a little bit. This is the first time I have spoken and several people have had multiple questions. So, please try to pay attention to that. Now, as far as monitoring is concerned, what my point is, we need to make sure that any place. I don't care whether it's a mosque, a school, a super market a theater. It doesn't matter. If there are a lot of people getting there, engaging in radicalizing activities, then we need to be suspicious of it. We have to get rid of all this PC stuff and people are worried about somebody's going to say that I'm Islamophobic or what have you. This is craziness. We are at war. That's why I ask congress, go ahead and declare the war. We need to be on a war footing. We need to understand that our nation is in grave danger. You know, what the Muslim brotherhood said and the explanatory memorandum that was discovered during the holy land foundation trial is that they will take advantage of our PC attitude to get us. We have to be better than this. We have to be smarter than they are.
BLITZER: Dr. Carson, who was right in that little debate we just heard between senator Rubio and senator Paul?
CARSON: I think you have to ask them about that. I don't want to get in between them. Let them fight.
BLITZER: We have a lot more to come and everyone will have their full opportunities. Governor Bush, six days after 9/11, your brother visited a mosque and said, "Islam is peace." The conversation tonight is about banning muslims and surveillance of mosques. Are president bush's words still relevant in today's Republican party?
BUSH: They are relevant, if we want to destroy ISIS. If we want to destroy radical islamic terrorism. We can't disassociate ourselves from peace-loving Muslims. If we expect to do this on our own, we will fail. If we do it in unison with people who are also at risk and threatened by Islamic radical terrorism, we'll be far more successful. Look, the FBI has the tools necessary to monitor un american activities in our country. It goes on. We shouldn't be talking about it. To be honest with you, out in the public. Of course they have those capabilities and we should be sure we give the FBI and NSA our intelligence communities all the resources they need to keep us safe. But the main thing we should be focused on is a strategy to destroy ISIS and I laid out a plan at the Reagan library before the tragedy of Paris and before San Bernardino to do just that. It requires leadership. It's not filing an amendment and calling it success. It's is developing a strategy, leading the world, and funding it and making sure we have a military that is second to none and doing the job and making sure that we destroy ISIS there. That's how you keep America safe.
BLITZER: Ms. Fiorina, as you pointed out, you were a CEO in silicon valley on 9/11. Companies there say they won't help the FBI crack encrypted communications from ISIS. Should they be forced to?
FIORINA: You know, listening to this conversation, let me just say, we have a lot of argument about laws, but none of it solves the problem. Let's examine what happened. Why did we miss the Tsarnaev brothers? Why did we miss the San Bernardino couple? It wasn't because we had stopped collecting meta data. It was because I think as someone who comes from the technology world, we were using the wrong algorithms. This is a place where the private sector can be helpful because the government is willfully behind the technology curve. But secondly, the bureaucratic processes that have been in place since 9/11 are inadequate, as well.
What do we now know that DHS vets people by going into databases of known or suspected terrorists. And yet we also know that ISIS is recruiting people who are not in those databases. So, of course, we're going to miss them. And then we now learn that DHS says, no, we can't check their social media. Every parent in America is checking social media and every employer is, as well but our government can't do it? The bureaucratic procedures are so far behind. Our government has become incompetent, unresponsive, corrupt. And that incompetence and lack of accountability is now dangerous. It is why we need a different kind of leadership in the white house that understands how to get bureaucracies competent, again.
BLITZER: But my question was, should these Silicon Valley companies be forced to cooperate with the FBI?
FIORINA: They do not need to be forced. They need to be asked. To bring the best and brightest. The most recent technology to the table. I was asked as a CEO. I complied happily and they will, as well. But they have not been asked. That's why it cost billions of dollars to build an Obama website that failed. Because the private sector wasn't asked.
BLITZER: Mr. Trump. You recently suggested closing that internet up. Those were your words as a way to stop ISIS from recruiting online. Are you referring to closing down actual portions of the internet? Some say that would put the U.S. in line with China and north Korea.
TRUMP: Well, look, this is so easy to answer. ISIS is recruiting through the internet. ISIS is using the internet better than we are using the internet and it was our idea.What I wanted to do is I wanted to get our brilliant people from silicon valley and other places and figure out a way that ISIS cannot do what they're doing. You talked freedom of speech. You talked freedom of anything you want. I don't want them using our internet to take our young impressionable youth and watching the media talking about how they're masterminds. These are masterminds. They shouldn't be using the word mastermind. These are thugs and terrible people in ISIS. Not masterminds. We have to change it from every standpoint. We should be using our brilliant people. Our most brilliant mind to figure a way that ISIS cannot use the internet. And then on second, we should be able to penetrate the internet and find out exactly where ISIS is and everything about ISIS. We can do that if we use our good people.
BLITZER: Let me follow up, Mr. Trump. So, are you open to closing parts of the internet?
TRUMP: I would certainly be open to closing areas where we are at war with somebody. I sure as hell don't want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our internet. Yes, sir. I am.
BLITZER: Thank you. Governor Kasich, is shutting down any part of the internet a good idea?
KASICH: No. I don't think it is. I want to go back to two other issues. One is the meta data. We know we have to hold this data for a longer period of time. And, you know, in a lot of ways, Chris is right. What a president has to do is take a position. We don't want to err on the side of having less. We want to err on the side of having more. That's good for our families. In addition to that, wolf, there is a big problem. It's called encryption. And the people in San Bernardino were communicating with people who the FBI had been watching but because their phone was encrypted. Because the intelligence officials could not see who they were talking to, it was lost. We have to solve the encryption problem. It is not easy. A president of the united States, again, has to bring people together. Have a position. We need to be able to penetrate these people when they are involved in these plots and these plans and we have to give the local authorities the ability to penetrate than disrupt. That's what we need to do.Encryption is a major problem and congress has got to deal with this and so does the president to keep us safe.
BLITZER: Thank you, governor. The fight against radical Islamic terrorists and ISIS has been called the war of our time. Let's talk about how each of you as commander in chief would fight this war and win it. Senator Cruz. You have said you would "Carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion testing whether or not sand can glow in the dark." Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital where there are hundreds and thousands of civilians?
CRUZ: What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS. To put things in perspective. In the first Persian Gulf War we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We carpet bombed them for 37 days. Saturation bombing after which our troops went in and in a day and a half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army. Right now Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. It isphoto op foreign policy. We need to use overwhelming air power and we need to be arming the kurds and we need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are. Let me go back to the earlier discussion a minute ago. It is not a lack of confidence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks. It is political correctness. We didn't monitor the Facebook posting of the female San Bernardino terrorist because the Obama DHS thought it would be inappropriate she made a public call to jihad and they didn't target it. The Tsarnaev brothers. The elder brother made a public call to jihad and the Obama administration didn't target it. Nidal Hasan communicated with Anwar al-Awlakim a known radical cleric, asked about waging jihad against his fellow soldiers. The problem is because of political correctness, the Obama administration, like a lot of folks here, want to search every one's cell phones and e-mails and not focus on the bad guys and political correctness is killing people.
BLITZER: Thank you. To be clear, Senator Cruz, would you carpet bomb Raqqa, where there are a lot of civilians? Yes or no.
CRUZ: You would carpet bomb where ISIS is. The location of the troops. You use air power directed. But the object isn't to level a city, the object is to kill the ISIS terrorists. To make it, listen, ISIS is gaining strength because the perception is that they're winning. And president Obama fuels that perception. That will change when militants across the globe see that when you join ISIS that you are giving up your life. You are signing your death warrant and we need a president who is focused on defeating every single ISIS terrorist and protecting the homeland which should be the first priority.
BLITZER: Thank you, senator. Senator Rubio. You have been critical of senator Cruz's strategy. His voting record doesn't match his rhetoric. Why?
RUBIO: Well, let me begin by saying we have to understand who ISIS is. ISIS is a radical Sunni group. Air strikes are a key component, but they must be defeated on the ground force and that must be made of Sunni Arabs themselves. Sunni Arabs that confront them militarily. We will have to embed additional American special operators alongside them to help them with training and help them conduct special missions and help improve the air strikes. The air strikes are important. But we need to have an air force capable of it and because of the budget cuts we are facing in this country, we are going to be left with the oldest and the smallest air force we have ever had.We have to reverse those cuts. In addition to the cuts to our Navy and in addition to the cuts to our army, as well. Beyond that we must win the information war against ISIS. Every war we have ever been involved in has had a propaganda of informational aspect to it. ISIS is winning the propaganda war and recruiting people, including Americans, to join them. We have to show what life is really like in ISIS territory and we have to show them why ISIS is not invincible by going out and conducting these attacks and publicizing them to those who they recruit.
BLITZER: I ask the question, senator, because you said this. You said he, referring to Senator Cruz, voted against the defense authorization act every year that it came up and I assume that if he voted against it, he would veto it as president. That's the bill that funds our troops.
RUBIO: That is accurate. Three times he voted against the defense authorization act. Which is a bill that funds the troops. It also, by the way, funds the iron dome and other important programs. I have to assume you vote against it it in the senate, you would also veto it as president. He has also supported, by the way, a budget that is called a containment budget. It is a budget that would radically reduce the amount of money you spend on our military. You can't carpet bomb ISIS. If we continue those cuts that we're doing now, not to mention additional cuts. We'll left with the smallest and oldest air force this country has ever had and that leaves us less safe.
BLITZER: Senator Cruz.
CRUZ: You know, Marco has continued these attacks and they know it's not true. It is true that I voted against the national defense authorization act because when I campaigned in Texas I told voters in Texas that I would oppose the federal government having the authority to detain U.S. Citizens permanently with no due process. I have repeatedly supported an effort to take that out of that bill and I honored that campaign commitment. But more broadly, you know, the notion Marco is suggesting that somehow he also has tossed more than a few insults this direction. Let's be absolutely clear. ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism will face no more determined foe than I will be. We will utterly destroy them by destroying the bad guys. One of the problems with Marco's foreign policy is he is far too often supported Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama undermining governments in the Middle East that have helped radical Islamic terrorists. We need to focus on killing the bad guys, not getting stuck in Middle Eastern civil wars that don't keep America safe.
BLITZER: Senator Rubio.
RUBIO: Three points of distinction. The first is, if you're an American citizen and you decide to join up with ISIS. We're not going to read you your miranda rights. You're going to be treated as an enemy combatant a member of an army attacking this country. Number two, we do need our defense capabilities. It is a fact that the cuts we are facing today and the cuts that senator Cruz would have supported would leave us with an even smaller air force and a smaller Navy than the one we are going to be left with. The final point I would make is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s strategy is to lead from behind. It sounds like what he is outlining is not to lead at all. We cannot continue to outsource foreign policy. We must lead. we are the most powerful nation in the world. We need to begin to act like it, again.
BLITZER: Much more on this, but I want to move now back to Mr. Trump.
PAUL: Look, this legislation–
BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on. We have a lot. We have a lot to discuss. I want to move to Mr. Trump right now. We have a question on this war against ISIS and how you would fight and win this war. Here's the question from Facebook. Listen to this.
FACEBOOK QUESTION: I'm Josh Jacob from Georgia tech. Recently Donald Trump mentioned we must kill the family of ISIS members. Between civilians and combatants. My question is, how would intentionally killing innocent civilians set us apart from ISIS?
BLITZER: Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: We have to be much tougher and much stronger than we've been. We have people that know what is going on. You look at the attack in California the other day.Numerous people, including the mother that knew what was going on. They saw a pipe bomb sitting all over the floor. They saw ammunition all over the place. They knew exactly what was going on. When you had the world trade center go. People were put into planes that were friends, family, girlfriends and they were put on planes and they knew what was going on. They went home and wanted to watch their boyfriends on television. I would be very, very firm with families. Frankly, that will make people think because they may not care much about their lives. But they do care, believe it or not, about their families' lives.
BUSH: This is another example of the lack of seriousness. Look, this is, this is troubling because we're at war. They've declared war on us and we need to have a serious strategy to destroy ISIS. But the idea that that is a solution to this is just is just crazy. It makes no sense to suggest this. Look, two months ago Donald Trump said that ISIS was not our fight. Just two months ago. He said that Hillary Clinton would be a great negotiator with Iran. And he gets his foreign policy experience from the shows. That is not a serious kind of candidate. We need someone that thinks this through. That can lead our country into safety and security.
BLITZER: Mr. Trump.
TRUMP: Look, the problem is we need toughness. Honestly. I think Jeb is a very nice person. He's a very nice person, but we need tough people and we need toughness and we need intelligence and we need tough. Jeb said when they come across the southern border they come as an act of love.
BUSH: You said on September 30th that ISIS was not a factor.
TRUMP: Are you talking or am I talking, Jeb ?
BUSH: I’m talking right now.
TRUMP: You can go back.
BUSH: I’m talking.
TRUMP: You interrupted me. Are you going to apologize, Jeb.
TRUMP: Am I allowed to finish? Excuse me, am I allowed to finish?
BLITZER: Go ahead, Mr. Trump. Governor bush, please. One at a time.
BUSH: Bit of your own medicine there.
TRUMP: I know you’re trying to build up your energy, Jeb, but it’s not working. Look, look, look. We need a toughness. We need strength. We're not respected, you know, as a nation any more. We don't have that level of respect that we need. And if we don't get it back fast, we're just going to go weaker, weaker and just disintegrate. And we can't allow that to happen. We need strength. We don't have it.When Jeb comes out and he talks about the border and I saw it and I was witness to it and so was everyone else and I was standing there, they come across as an act of love. He's saying the same thing right now with radical Islam. And we can't have that in our country. It just won't work. We need strength.
BLITZER: Governor Bush.
BUSH: Donald, you're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That's not going to happen. And I do have the strength. Leadership, leadership is not,leadership is not about attacking people and discouraging people. Leadership is about creating a serious strategy to deal with the threat of our time. I laid out that strategy before the attacks in Paris and before the attacks in San Bernardino. And it it is the way forward. We need to increase our military spending. We need to deal with the no-fly zone in Syria, a safe zone. We need to focus on building a military that is second to none so that we can destroy Islamic terrorism.
TRUMP: With Jeb's attitude, we will never be great again. That I can tell you. We will never be great, again.
BLITZER: Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash. Go ahead with the next question.
HEWITT: Dr. Carson, you mentioned in your opening remarks that you're a pediatric neurologist —
HEWITT: People admire and respect and are inspired by your life story, your kindness , your evangelical core support. We're talking about ruthless things tonight. Carpet bombing, toughness, war.People wonder, could you do that? Could you order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and thousands? Could you wage war as a commander in chief?
CARSON: Interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them we’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor. They’re not happy about it believe me and they don't like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me. Sometimes you, I sound like him. Later on they really realize what's going on and by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture. And understand that it's actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job rather than death by 1,000—
HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian, it's like—
CARSON: You got it.
HEWITT: That is what war. Can you be as ruthless as Churchill was in prosecuting the Nazis?
CARSON: Ruthless is not necessarily the word I would use but tough, resolute, understanding what the problems are and understanding that the job of the president of the United States is to protect the people of this country and to do what is necessary in order to get it done.
BASH: Senator Paul. You said ISIS grew stronger because of the hawks in your party. Do you really think that Republicans have fueled the rise of ISIS?
PAUL: I think that by arming the allies of ISIS the islamic rebels against Assad that we made that space bigger for ISIS to grow. I think those that wanted regime change have made a mistake. When we toppled Gadhafi in Libya, I think that was a mistake. I think ISIS grew stronger and we had a failed state and more at risk. I would like to also go back to another question. Which is, is Donald Trump a serious candidate. The reason I ask this is, if you are going to close the internet, realize America what that entails. That entails getting rid of the first amendment. Okay. No small feat. If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there is something called the Geneva convention we're going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So, when you ask yourself whoever you are that think you're going to support Donald Trump. Think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?
TRUMP: So, they could kill us, but we can't kill them? That's what you're saying. As far as the internet is concerned. We're not talking about closing the internet. I'm talking about parts of Syria, parts of Iraq. Where ISIS is. Spotting it it. Now, you could close it. What I like even better than that is getting our smartest and getting our best to infiltrate their internet. So, that we know exactly where they're going. Exactly where they're going to be. I like that better. But, we have to — who would be. I just can't imagine somebody booing. These are people that want to kill us, folks. And you're objecting to us infiltrating their conversations? I don't think so. I don't think so.
BASH: Senator Paul. Senator Paul, I want to go back to my initial question which is, you saying that ISIS grew stronger because of your party and do you think your own party, the people who you're describing are responsible for the rise of ISIS?
PAUL: I think that if you believe in regime change, you're mistaken. In 2013, we put 600 tons of weapons. Us, Saudi Arabia and Qatar into the war against Assad. By pushing Assad back we did create a safe space. We had people coming into our foreign relations committee and saying we need to arm the allies of Al Qaeda. They're still saying this. It is a crazy notion. This is the biggest debate we should be having tonight is regime change a good idea. Has it been a good idea? There are still people.The majority on the stage. They want to topple Assad. And then there will be chaos and I think ISIS will be in charge of Syria.
BASH: Governor Kasich, would you like to respond to Senator Paul?
KASICH: Yeah, let me just suggest to everybody. And I hear, last February I said we needed to have people on the ground and a coalition with Europe and our allies. This is not going to get done just by working with the Sunnis. And it is not going to get done if we just embed a few people. We have to go massively like we did in the first gulf war where we destroyed Saddam's ability to take Kuwait. We need to have a coalition that will stand for nothing less than the total destruction of ISIS and we have to be the leader. We can't wait for anybody else. I served on the armed services committee for 18 years and we must lead or the job won't get done, unfortunately, for our country.
BLITZER: Thank you, governor. Senator Rubio. Let's continue this conversation. This is a critically important issue.
FIORINA: I hope at some point you're going to ask me my strategy for defeating ISIS.
BLITZER: We have a lot of time. I want to get senator Rubio right now. One of the aspects of your strategy. You say the only way to defeat ISIS with ground forces made up primarily of Arab forces. Those nations have conducted less than 5% of the air strikes and actually none since August. What makes you think they are willing to fight on the ground if they're not even willing to fight from the air?
RUBIO: They most certainly will have to be worked on to provide more than what they're doing now. One major reason why they are not a broader part of the coalition. They have lost complete trust and confidence in this president. This president cut a deal with our mortal enemy the Shia in Iran. This is the reason why they no longer trust this president or are willing to work alongside them. But they have as much invested in this as we do. In fact moreso. for it is the king of Saudi Arabia they want to behead first. It’s The king of Jordan they want to dethrone. They want to go into Egypt. Like the way they've gone into Libya. On another point we need to talk about. Assad is one of the reasons why ISIS exists to begin with. Assad is a puppet of IRan and He has been so brutal towards the Sunni within Syria that he created the space that led for the people of Syria themselves to stand up and overthrow him. That led to the chaos which allowed ISIS to take advantage of this situation grow more powerful. And it’s the fact that this president led from behind that meant there are n alternative groups on the ground to be empowered leaving ISIS the prime operating space they needed to become the force they have now become.
BLITZER: Stand by. Ms. Fiorina. The former defense secretary Bob Gates says the chances of getting Sunni Arab forces on the ground to get the job done. His words, chances very remote. What's your strategy?
FIORINA: Well, first, I'll just point out that talking tough is not the same as being strong. To wage war, we need a commander in chief who has made tough calls in tough times and stood up to be accountable over and over. Not first-term senators who never made an executive decision in their life. One of the things I would immediately do in addition to defeating them here at home is bring back the warrior class. Petraeus, mcchrystal, madis, keen, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know, every one was retired early because they told president Obama things that he didn't want to hear. We must have Sunni Arabs involved in this coalition. We must commit leadership, strength, support and resolve. I will just add that Margaret Thatcher once said if you want something talked about. Ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.
BLITZER: Thank you. Governor Christie, what is your strategy?
CHRISTIE: Wolf, you sit up here and you listen to this stuff and you think that so many of these people have had so much to do in this national debate. They talk like they were bystanders. You know, we talk about our military being degraded over time and, yet, we've had folks on the stage that have been a part of congress who have participated in sequester. Who participated in the degrading of this military over time. And that's why I think people get so frustrated with Washington, D.C., now. That's why they're so angry with the electorate so angry with everybody who is involved in government in Washington, D.C. Because if you listen to the folks up here, you would think that they're not even there. They had nothing to do with this. This is the difference between being a governor and being in the legislature. Because when something doesn't work in New Jersey, they look at me. Say why didn't you get done. Why didn't you do it. You have to be responsible and accountable and so on ISIS let's be clear.
The president needs to be a force that is trusted in the world. And on this I agree with Marco. You know, this president's not trusted. If you're the king of Jordan, if you’re in the royal family in Saudi Arabia and he's made this deal with Iran which gives them 150 billion dollars to wage a war and try to extend their empire across the Middle East, why would you want to do it now? But I will tell you this, when I stand across from king Hussain of Jordan I say to him you have a friend sir who will stand with you to fight this fight he’ll change his mind.
BLITZER: Dr. Carson, what is your strange in—strategy?
CARSON: Well first of all, I have been talking about this for over a year. We have to destroy their caliphate. Because that gives them legitimacy to go ahead with the global jihad. We have to take their energy because they are—ISIS is the richest terrorist organization there is, take their oil and shut down all the mechanisms by which they can disperse money because they go after disaffected individuals from all over the place. And they are able to pay them, and that makes a difference. As far as the command centers are concerned in Raqqa and to a lesser degree mosul, cut those off the same kind of thing we did with sinjar, working with the embedded forces with the kurds, shut off the supply routes soften them up and then we go in with special ops followed by our air force to take them over. Those are things that work. But also, you know, this whole concept of boots on the ground, you know we've got a phobia about boots on the ground. If our military experts say we need boots on the ground we should put boots on the ground and recognize there will be boots on the ground and they'll be over here if we don't stand our ground.
BLITZER: Stand by, we're only just beginning. Which candidates want to move U.S. Foreign policy in a dramatic new direction?
BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Facebook Republican presidential debate at the Venetian, Las Vegas. The war against ISIS will pose many challenges for the next commander-in-chief. The last two presidents pursued a policy that promoted toppling dictators to support democratic. Senator Cruz you said that the world would be safer if Saddam hussein was in Iraq and Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt. Would you preserve dictatorships rather than promoting democracy in the Middle East.
CRUZ: If I believe an America-first foreign policy that President Obama and Hillary Clinton and more than a new Republicans have gotten distracted from the central focus of keeping this country safe. So let's go back to the beginning of the Obama administration when Hillary Clinton and president Obama let nato in toppling the government in Libya. A number of Republicans supported them, the result of that—and we were told then there were these moderate rebels that would take over. The result is that Libya is now a terrorist war zone run by jihadists. Move to Egypt. Once again the Obama administration toppled Mubarak who had been a reliable ally of the United States and Israel and in its place Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood came in, a terrorist organization. And we need to learn from history, these same leaders, Obama, Clinton and far too many Republicans want to topple Assad. Assad is a bad man. Gadhafi is a bad man. But they were assisting us at least Gadhafi and Mubarak in fighting terrorists. And if we topple Assad, ISIS will take over Syria and it will worsen national security interests. And the approach inset of a democracy promoter we ought to hunt down the enemies and kill ISIS rather than creating opportunities for ISIS to control new countries.
BLITZER: Senator Rubio, ISIS is clearly growing in Turkey. Senator Cruz says you haven't learned your lesson do. You have any regrets for supporting president Obama's intervention in Libya?
RUBIO: To begin with The revolt against Gadhafi was not started by the United States. It was started by the Libyan people. And the reason I argued we needed to get involved because he was going to go one way or the other and the longer the civilian war bookings, the more militias would be formed. and the more unstable the country would become after the fact. As far as Moammar Gadhafi is concerned by the way, he is the man who killed the Americans over Lockerbie, Scotland. Moammar Gadhafi is also the man that bombed that cafe in Berlin and killed Marines. And you know why he started cooperating on the nuclear program? Because we got rid of Saddam hussein. So he got scared that he would be next and that’s why he started cooperating. Look we will have to work around the world with less than ideal governments. The government in Saudi Arabia is not a democracy but we have to work with them. The government in Jordan is not perfect but we have to work with them. But anti-american dictators like Assad, who help Hezbollah who help get those IEDs into Iraq, if they go I will not shed a tear.
CRUZ: It's more than not shedding a tear, it's actively getting involved to topple a government and we keep hearing from president Obama and Hillary Clinton and Washington Republicans that they are searching for mythical moderate rebels. It's like a purple unicorn. They don't exist. They end up being jihadists. And I’ll tell you whose view on Assad is the same as mine, it’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu has said Israel doesn’t have a dog in that fight because Assad is a puppet of Iran, a Shia radical islamic terrorist. at the same time, prime minister Netanyahu doesn't want to see Syria governed by ISIS and we need to focus on American interests not on global—
BLITZER: Everybody stand by for a moment. Governor Kasich, go ahead.
KASICH: I don't understand this thing about Assad he has to go. Assad is aligned with Iran and Russia. We want to prevent Iran being able to extend a shia crescent across the Middle East. Assad’s gotta go and there are moderates there. There are moderates in Syria who we should be supporting. I don't support a civil war or want to be policeman of the world but we can't back off of this. let me tell you at the end the Saudis have agreed to put together a coalition inside Syria to stabilize that country. He must go. It would be a blow to Iran and Russia.
BLITZER: Mr. Trump, are Americans safer with dictators running the world in the Middle East?
TRUMP: In my opinion—
(someone shouts in the crowd)
BLITZER: Go ahead, Mr. Trump.
TRUMP: We have spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly if they were there and if we could have spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges and all of the other problems, our airports and all the other problems we have we would have been a lot better off I can tell you that right now. We have done a tremendous disservice not only to the Middle East but to humanity, the people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away and for what?It's not like we had victory. It's a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized, a total and complete mess. I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States on schools, hospitals, roads, airports and everything else that are all falling apart.
FIORINA: That is exactly what President Obama said.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
FIORINA: That's exactly what president Obama has said I'm amazed to hear that from a Republican presidential candidate. But let's start with who got it wrong, who really got it wrong. Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong. The reset button with Vladimir Putin. She called Bashar al-Assad a positive reformer and opened an embassy and later said over and over and over, Bashar al-Assad Assad must go although she was not prepared to do anything about it. Recall that Hillary Clinton was all for toppling Moamar gaddafi and didn't listen to her own people on the ground. And she lied about the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
TRUMP: There is nothing to respond to. People feel differently. Benghazi was a disaster because of Libya everything fell into place. It could not have been worse. What do we have now? We have spent $3 trillion and probably much more. Thousands and thousands of lives, we have nothing. Wounded warriors all over the place, who I love, we have nothing for it. Ben said, correctly, this is not a knock. This is one of the finest men. But I have been talking about oil for three years. I've been saying take the oil.Take the oil. I didn't just say bomb it, take it and use it and distribute it so the wound warriors and people. I have been saying this now for many years. Now all of a sudden everyone saying take the oil. I have been saying it for years.
BLITZER: Dr. Carson, is the Middle East better off with dictators?
CARSON: No one is ever better off with dictators. But there comes a time when you're on an airplane, they always say, in case of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop down put yours on first and administrator help to your neighbor. We need oxygen right now and need to think about the needs of the American people before we go and try to solve everybody else's problems. The fact of the matter is, the Middle East has been in turmoil for thousands of years. For us to think that we're going to go in there and fix that with a couple of little bombs and a few declarations is relatively foolish.
BLITZER: Governor Bush?
FIORINA: I think we are—
BLITZER: Governor Bush, here is the question, you said getting rid of Saddam hussein was a pretty good deal. In light of what is happened in Iraq do you still feel that way?
BUSH: I do. And the lesson learned is we have to have a strategy to get in and a strategy to get out which means you create a stable situation. President Obama does not believe American's leadership in the world is a force for good. He does not believe that our strength is a place where security can take place. He leads from behind. He creates an environment that now we're creating the most unstable situation we've had since the World War II era. The focus ought to be that Hillary Clinton wants to double down on a failed foreign policy. We need to be united to beat that. We'll be in a place far less secure than it used to be.
BLITZER: Senator Paul, was getting rid of Saddam Hussein a pretty good deal?
PAUL: These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions. Whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. I don't think because I think the regime change was a bad idea it means that Hussein was necessarily a good idea. There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It's what the neoconservatives have wanted and what the vast majority of those on the stage want. They still want regime change, they want it in Syria, they wanted it in Iraq they wanted it in Libya. It has not worked. Out of regime change you get chaos and you have seen repeatedly the the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of oh my goodness they want to do something about terrorism and yet they're the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.
BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
CRUZ: Is asking the wrong questions. We should be defeating—the question of whether we should be toppling dictatorships is asking the wrong question, we should be defeating our enemies so the problem with defeating—
BLITZER: Senator we’re going to get to you. Wait your turn. We have two hours. We'll have plenty of time.
CRUZ: Well let me explain, the focus should be on defeating our enemies so for example a regime we should change-
BLITZER: Senator, please you’ll have plenty of opportunity.
CRUZ: Is Iran because Iran has declared war on us.
BLITZER: These are the rules you all agreed to. Hugh, go ahead with your question.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump, we are talking about the most important thing. You are OK with Mr. Assad staying in power but you are in favor of winning. If he stays in power, Iran is winning, Hezbollah is winning. They are winning everywhere. If they are winning how can we be winning?
TRUMP: I think Assad is a bad guy. A lot of people killed. We are backing people we have no idea who they are. The rebels, we have no idea. A lot of people think that they are ISIS. We have to do one thing at a time. We can't be fighting ISIS and fighting Assad, Assad is fighting ISIS, Russia is fighting ISIS and Iran is fighting ISIS. We have to do one thing at a time. We can't be fighting ISIS and fighting Assad, Assad is fighting ISIS, Russia is fighting ISIS and Iran is fighting ISIS. We have to do one thing at a time. Lindsey Graham said I have been here 10 years. But he will be there another 50. He won't be able to solve the problem. We have to get rid of ISIS first. Then we start thinking about it. But we can't fight Al Assad and when you fight Al Assad you are fighting Russia and a lot of different groups.
HEWITT: Governor Christie, is he right? Because if we step back, Iran goes nuclear. Is Donald Trump right?
CHRISTIE: I think we have to focus on what the priorities are. And what I've always said that the president has set up an awful situation through his deal with Iran. Because what his deal with Iran has done is empower them and enrich them. And that's the way ISIS has been created and formed here. ISIS is created and formed because of the abuse that Al Assad and his Iranian sponsors have rained down on the Sunnis in Syria. When we empower Iran that's why this president — and when Hillary Clinton says her theory against ISIS will be just about the same as the president. Then get ready for more unrest and more murder and more violence in the Middle East. We need to focus our attention on Iran. If you miss Iran you are not going to get ISIS. The two are connected because one causes the other.
HEWITT: Senator Paul, let me ask you heard Governor Kasich say Assad must go. Do you agree?
PAUL: I think it's a mistake. Regime change in Syria — I have been saying this for several years now. In 2013 I said you are giving arms to radical jihadists? That's crazy.But you will be back fighting your own weapons. Had Al Assad been bombed two years ago, ISIS would have been in charge of all of Syria now. We need a realistic foreign policy instead of a utopian one. They are not going to love us.
KASICH: The foreign policy, you have to know how to pick and choose. There's no way if Saddam had not had weapons of mass destruction I would have gone. I don't believe that the U.S. Should be involved directly in civil wars. I opposed the U.S. Involvement in Lebanon. There is a difference between Iraq, where you have Sunni, shia and kurds put together after the first World War by the western powers. It doesn't work. It needs to break up into three parts. And finally in regard to Syria, understand that Al Assad is an ally of Iran. And it is time we punched the Russians in the nose. We need to stand up against them. Not just there but also in eastern Europe where they threaten some of our most precious allies.
FACEBOOK QUESTION: My name is Ashley. Ms. Fiorina, you said you would not communicate with Vladimir Putin because you would be coming from a side of weakness.
BLITZER: U.S. And Russian war planes are flying over Syria right now. Is this a good time for the United States not to talk to Putin?
FIORINA: I didn't say I would cut off all communication with Putin. As president of the united States now is not the time to talk with him. Reagan walked away at Reykjavik.There is a time and a place for talk and a time and a place for action. Vladimir Putin respects strength. He lied to our president's face. We need to speak to him from a position of strength. So as commander-in-chief Iwill not speak to him until we set up that no-fly zone, until we have gathered our Sunni Arab allies. And we the United States of America are going to cut off the money flow which we can do and don't need permission or collaboration to do and I will not speak to him personally until we have rebuilt the sixth fleet and the missile defense program and conducted military exercises in the baltic states. And let us remember one other thing, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are responsible for the growth of ISIS because they withdrew from Iraq in 2011. It's not these people up here. It's Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: Thank you Ms. Fiorina. Governor Christie if the U.S. Imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached that no-fly zone would you be willing to shoot down the plane and risk war with Russia?
CHRISTIE: I would do it. A no-fly zone means no-fly zone. That's what it means. I have this plain language hang up. But I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. I would say to him, listen, Mr. President, there is a no-fly zone in Syria and it applies to you. And we would shoot down the presidents, if they thought that this president is the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.
BLITZER: Senator Paul? I want you to respond to what we heard from governor Christie, if there was a no-fly zone, you said that potentially could lead to World War III, why?
PAUL: If you are in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. Here's the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment not someone so reckless as to stand on the stage saying yes, I'm going to shoot down Russian planes. Russia flies in that air space. It may or may not be in love with the fact that they are there. But they were init sited by Iraq and Syria to fly in that air space. If we announce a no-fly zone it's a recipe for disaster and World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength but not from a point of recklessness that would lead to war. This is something — this type of judgment is having that kind of judgment who you would appoint and conduct affairs that is important. When we think about the judgment of someone who might want world War III we might think about someone who would shut down a bridge because they don't like their friends. I think we need to be very careful about that.
BLITZER: Governor Christie?
CHRISTIE: What's reckless is is calling Assad a reformer and allowing Russia to come into Crimea and Ukraine and inviting Russia into Syria to team with Iran and the reckless people are the folks in the white house right now, President Obama and Hillary Clinton are the reckless people and if you think that a no-fly zone is a reckless policy you're welcome to your opinion, but how is it working so far as we have 250,000 Syrians murdered and millions running around the world running for their lives. We need to try something else and that is not reckless.
HEWITT: Governor Bush, you said that Mr. Trump is not qualified be president because he’s not qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin. Why are you better qualified than Mr. Trump?
BUSH: First of all. I know what I don't know. I would seek out, as I have, the best advice that exists. I won't get my information from the shows. I don't know if that is Saturday morning or Sunday morning. I don't know which one. I will seek out the best advice and create a strategy and persuade the American people what the role of America should be. I've laid out a policy of rebuilding the military. All of the talk we are seeing here, most of which I agree on, frankly requires a much stronger military. We have a lack of readiness that is scary. We have planes that Harry Truman inaugurated, the B-52. The Navy has been gutted and decimated. The readiness of the Marines is way down. If we’re serious about America’s leadership in the world then we need to make sure that we have the back of the armed forces. The armed forces radio is here listening today. I hope they know If I'm president I'll be a commander-in-chief not an agitator or divider in chief. I will lead with the country in a way that will create great security and greater safety.
TRUMP: I think it's very sad that CNN leads Jeb Bush down a road by starting off virtually all the questions “Mr. Trump this, Mr. Trump that,” I think it's very sad. And frankly I watched the first debate and the first long number of questions were “Mr. Trump said this, said that”. These poor—although, Santorum, good guy. Governor Huckabee, good guy. They were very nice and I respect them greatly but I thought it was very unfair that virtually the entire early portion of the debate was “Trump this, Trump that" But in order to get ratings, I guess.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump I was on CNN last night —
TRUMP: I think it's very unprofessional. I think it's very unprofessional.
HEWITT: It's not CNN. It’s me. I watched you last night for 16 minutes, it’s not CNN. It's America's watching you.
TRUMP: OK, fine.
BUSH: I was—I was mentioned so I can bring up something, the simple fact is if you think this is tough and you are not being treated fairly. Imagine what it will be like dealing with Putin or President Xi or the Islamic terrorism that exists. This is a tough business.
TRUMP: You're a tough guy, Jeb. I know.
BUSH: And we need to have a leader that’s—
TRUMP: You're tough.
BUSH: You're never going to be president of the United States by insulting your way to the presidency.
TRUMP: I'm at 42 and you're at 3. So far I'm doing better.
BUSH: Doesn’t matter.
TRUMP: So far I’m doing better. You started off over here and moving over further and further. Pretty soon you’re gonna be off the end.
FIORINA: This does not do a thing to solve the problem.
BLITZER: Hugh, go ahead.
KASICH: It sounds more and more what my daughter said that I said in the beginning all the fighting and arguing is not advancing us. It is not the way we're going to strengthen our country. We will strengthen our country when we come together. You have Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Marco and a lot of people who have studied these issues. You know what a leader does? A leader has a sound program, has a good policy and then brings people together to solve problems. Guess what? Both in congress and in balancing the budget in an Ohio fixing the economy and we talk about the fence, the first thing we better get going is strengthen our economy, because if we don't have a strong economy, we can't pay for all of this. And the world wants us to be able to function from strength, believe it or not. Get our economy going, get these people together in a room. We can fix this, ladies and gentlemen. We don't have to fight all the time. It can be done and we will be great.
HEWITT: Thank you, governor. Dr. Carson, commander-in-chief question. You have been the head of neurosurgery, traveled the world, but does that prepare you to command troops from Djibouti and Japan and Afghanistan to Iraq to be in charge of the men and women in the armed services listening tonight?
CARSON: You know, there is a false narrative that only the political class has the wisdom and the ability to be commander-in-chief. But if you go back and you study the design of our country, it's really designed for the citizen statesman. And we need to be talking about where does your experience come from? You know, and I've had a lot of experience building things. Organizing things, you know, a national scholarship program. One of the things that you'll notice if you look through my life is I don't do a lot of talking. I do a lot of doing. And really, it says more about a person than how much they talk. And some people say you're weak because you know you're not loud and you're not boisterous and you're not rude. But the fact of the matter is, look and see what I've done. And that speaks volumes about strength.
BASH: Thank you, Dr. Carson. We've been talking tonight about programs and policy proposals that you all have to keep Americans safe and it's a big discussion on the campaign trail. Also about border security and immigration. So let's talk about immigration. Senator Rubio. You—you co-authored a bill that supported a path to citizenship to immigrants. Do you still support that path to citizenship?
RUBIO: Immigration is not an issue I read about in the newspaper or watch a documentary on PBS. My family are immigrants. My wife's family are immigrants. All of my neighbors are immigrants. I see every aspect of this problem. The good, the bad, and the ugly. In 2013 we learned that the American people don't trust the federal government to enforce immigration laws and we will not be able to do anything on immigration until we prove to the American people that immigration is under control. We know what it takes to do. That it takes 20,000 additional border agents and completing 700 miles of fencing. It takes a mandatory verify system and entry/exit system. After we have done that, the second thing we have to do is reform and modernize the legal immigration system.
After we have done those two things the American people will be reasonable with what do you do with someone who has been in this country for ten or 12 years and have to go under a background check, pay a fine and pay taxes and given a work permit. But you can't get to that third step until you have done the other two things and that was the lesson we learned in 2013. There is no trust that the federal government will enforce the law. They will not support you until you see it done first.
BASH: You described a long path but does it end at citizenship?
RUBIO: I am personally open after all that has happened and after ten years in probationary status, tie am open to a green card. You can't begin that process until you prove to people not just pass a law that says you will bring illegal immigration you should control you have to prove it is working. That is the lesson of 2013. And it is more true today, after a migratory crisis with migrants coming over after all the executive orders, more than ever we need to prove that illegal immigration is you should control.
BASH: Thank you, senator. Senator Cruz on the campaign trail, senator Rubio has said his immigration plan is not that different from yours. Is that true?
CRUZ: I think that anyone who watched the battle that we had. There was a time for choosing, as Reagan put it, where there was a battle over amnesty and some chose to stand with President Obama and support a massive amnesty plan. Others chose to stand with Jeff sessions and the American people and secure the border. This issue is directly connected to what we've been talking about. The front line with ISIS isn't just in Iraq and Syria, it's in Kennedy airport and the Rio Grande. Border security is national security. And one of the most troubling aspects of the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight bill is it gave President Obama blanket authority to admit refugees. We have seen what happened in San Bernardino when you are letting people in and the FBI can't vet them, it puts American citizens at risk. I tell you if I'm elected president, we will secure the border. We will triple the border patrol. We will build a wall that works and I'll get Donald Trump to pay for it.
TRUMP: I'll build it.
BLITZER: Senator Rubio, please.
RUBIO: In 2013 we had never faced a crisis like the Syrian refugee crisis now. As far as Ted's record I'm puzzled by his attack on this issue. You support legalizing people who are in this country illegally and supported a 500% increase in the number of H1B Visas and supports doubling the number of green cards. I think what is important for us to understand is there is a way forward on this issue. And when I'm president I will do it. It will begin by bringing illegal immigration under control and proving it to the American people.
BASH: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: I understand that Marco wants to raise confusion. It is not accurate what he said that I supported legalization. I led the fight against his legalization and amnesty bill. There was one commentator that put it this way, for Marco to suggest our record is the same is like suggesting that the fireman and the arsonist have the same plan because they were at the same fire. I was fighting to secure the border. And on campaign trails, candidates all the time make promises. Marco said he learned that the American people didn't trust the federal government. He campaigned in Florida promising—
FIORINA: Ladies and gentlemen, this is why the American—
BASH: Ms. Fiorina, please wait your turn.
FIORINA: You haven't gotten to me. This is why—
CRUZ: What you do—is you enforce the law. I've laid out a very, very detailed immigration plan on my website, it's 11 pages, existing federal law and in particular the question of what to do with people who are here now, you enforce the law. That means you stop the Obama administration's policy of releasing criminal illegal aliens. You know how many illegal aliens George W. Bush deported? 10 million. We can enforce the laws and if we secure the border that solves the problem.
BASH: Mr. Trump, you like to say that you restarted this conversation. In the campaign.
TRUMP: I think I did.
BASH: Who do you side with in this? Senator Rubio or Cruz?
TRUMP: I have a hard line position, we have a country or we don't have a country. People who have come into our country they have to go and come back through a legal process. Walls have to work, just speak to the folks in Israel, walls work, if they are properly constructed. I know how to build. But I feel a very, very strong bind and I'm bound to this country. We either have a border or we don't. People can come into the country and we welcome people to come in, but they have to come in legally.
BASH: Governor Bush, listening to this, do you think this is the tone, this immigration debate? That Republicans need to take to win back hispanics into your party especially states like Nevada that has a pretty large hispanic community.
BUSH: It isn't, but it's an important subject to talk about for sure and people have good ideas on. This we need to secure the border. Coming here legally needs to be easier than coming here illegally. We have a national security consideration, an epidemic of heroin overdoses in all sorts of places because of the ease of bringing heroin in. We have to secure the border. It's a serious undertaking and we need more fencing and we do need to use technology and border control and we need to have cooperation with local law enforcement. There are 800,000 cops on the beat. They should be the eyes and ears for the threat against terror as well as for immigration. This is a serious challenge. If we can get it right yeah, we'll start winning votes again. The real problem isn't anyone on this stage. The real problem is Barack Obama has done nothing. Congress has funded these programs of building the fencing and he hasn't done it. He wants to maintain it as a wedge issue. Republicans need to fix it. When we do we'll be better off.
BLITZER: Governor, thank you very much. Dr. Carson, you recently visited a refugee camp in Jordan and you deemed it really quite nice saying that the people there didn't want to come to the United States. Do you think the camps are a lock-term solution to the problem of Syrian refugees?
CARSON: It was very interesting to have an opportunity to talk to the Syrians themselves. I asked what do you want? What is your supreme desire? Their desire was to be settled back in your own country. I said what can Americans do? They said support the efforts of those who are trying to provide safety for us. Including the Jordanians. Of course they had a new hospital, for instance, that was unstaffed because there wasn't enough money to do it. But here's what is really neat if you go into the province in northeastern Syria, that is an area as big as Lebanon controlled by the kurds, the Christians and the moderate Sunnis and there are airstrips and hotels, you could settle a lot of people there. All we would have to do is be willing to provide them with defensive weaponry. And we seem to with afraid to give the kurds weaponry. We like to send it through Baghdad and they get a tenth of it. And if we would support them we have a perfect ideal there we don't need to set this up as we either take a bunch of refugees who will be infiltrated with terrorists, I guarantee you, to not would be terrorist malpractice, and we have to choose the right choice.
BLITZER: Senator Paul you oppose letting Syrian refugees into the United States. The United States has accepted 2,000 Syrian refugees including 13 living in Las Vegas right now. Would you send them back? What would you do with these people?
PAUL: I think we need to set the record straight on this. I think Marco misspoke about the bill. On the gang of eight bill there was no emphasis on scrutiny or safety for refugees. Two Iraqi refugees came to my town. Their fingerprints were on a bomb in a database. We got them on food stamps and began to provide for them but didn't have adequate security. On Marco's bill we had an opportunity. There was a conservative consensus for an amendment I put forward called trust by verify which would have strengthened border security and Marco was more sympathetic to the president than conservative principles. If he wants to run as a national defense conservative he has to explain why he has not stepped up to support border security it.
RUBIO: As he has just admitted the reason why they were allowed in is they messed up on using the database. They did not run the wall as it exists now. It's not that America doesn't want to accept refugees we may not be able to. This is an issue we have to be 100% right on. If we allow 900,000 in but one who is an ISIS killer. We get one person wrong and we have a serious problem. There is not a single person in the national defense apparatus of the country that can guarantee you will be 100% right.
BLITZER: Senator Paul, you didn't answer the question about the 2,000 Syrian refugees already here in the United States. Will you send them back or let them stay?
PAUL: My bill would only be for going forward. I have not taken a position on sending anyone home. But we have a lot of problems in our country and one of the things that we do, charity is about giving your own money, not giving someone else's money to put everyone on government housing and food stamps is a mistake. To give of your own money. My church has helped people that have come from Bosnia, that is a good thing. But we should not just take care of the world's refugees. No one in the Middle East is doing anything, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait. They need to step up.
BLITZER: We have another question from Facebook. Let's listen.
FACEBOOK QUESTION: My name is Carla Hernandez from the University of Texas at Austin, and my question is directed to all the candidates if the Bible clearly states that we need to embrace those in need and not fear, how can we justify not accepting refugees?
BLITZER: Governor Christie you say there should be a pause in allowing new refugees coming into the United States including orphans under the age of 5.
CHRISTIE: The first job of the president of the United States is to protect your and your security and the security and safety of your family. And this debate stops with me in the discussions with the FBI director. Now, listen, I'm a former federal prosecutor I know Jim Comey. We worked together. When he gets up before Congress and says we cannot effectively vet these people, for me that is the end of the conversation. We have to put America's security first. The American people, we on the stage need to open our ears. The American people are not whispering to us. They are screaming to us that it's our job to make this government work. It's so dysfunctional. It's so ineffective. It's so ineffectual. And it was widows and orphans by the way and we now know that women can commit heinous acts against humanity just the same as men can do it. When the FBI director tells me that he can vet those people, then we'll consider it and not a moment before because your safety and security is most important to me.
BLITZER: Governor Kasich?
KASICH: Obviously, as president of the United States we have to keep the people safe. That's the first and foremost. As governor of Ohio I have an obligation to keep the 11.5 million people in Ohio safe. We have been able to make—we made one against a person who was favorable to ISIS living in Akron. But will it me tell you what is interesting about the administration. We had Central American miners play—placed in Ohio. Some of them may have been human trafficked. When the administration tells me we have a great vetting process, they sent the miners to us, the schools were disrupted. We didn't know where they were, and bad things happened to them and now they tell me we ought to admit the Syrian refugees. People accuse me of having too big of a heart. But I also have to say I must keep the people of my state safe. So we take a pause.
BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Facebook Republican presidential debate. We're here at the Venetian las Vegas. We have been focusing on the Middle East but let's turn to world threats you will potentially face as commander-in-chief. Candidates here have called the North Korean leader unstable. He now says he has a hydrogen bomb. What would you do about Kim Jong-un?
FIORINA: He is a dangerous man. And Republican and Democrat administrations have been ineffective dealing with him. We need China as part of the strategy. China is a rising adversary. We have to push back on China. They, too, recognize one thing, strength and their own economic interest. I know that in order to get China to cooperate with us we must first retaliate against their cyber attacks so they know we're serious. We have to push back on their desire to control the trade route through the south China sea. We cannot let them control the disputed islands and we must work with the Australians, the South Koreans, the Japanese and the Filipinos to contain China and we must ask or their help and support with North Korea. China is as concerned about Kim Jong-un as we are.
BLITZER: Dr. Carson? What would you do about Kim Jong-un?
CARSON: I do believe he is unstable and China has more influence with him than we do. But we also recognize that North Korea is in severe financial straits and they have decided to use their resources to build their military than to feed their people and take care of the humanitarian responsibilities that we have, we can capitalize on, that we can use that to keep Putin contained. … And we need to do a lot of other things with the resources that we have. So that economic power works just as well as military power, perhaps better. The military needs to be upgraded. You look at the Ohio-class submarines, the Minuteman-3 missiles, the B-52 bombers, you know, if we don't get the military right nothing else matters.
BLITZER: Dana and Hugh you have questions.
BASH: If you said if China launches a cyberattack on the U.S., they will see cyberwarfare like they have never seen before. What would that look like?
CHRISTIE: We have one of the great advantages of America being the open society that we are. We are not hiding things from the American people but China is conducting business in a way that hides things from their people. If they want to attack all the personnel records in the federal government which they have done and they have my social security number and fingerprints as well as other folks on this stage. They need to be fought back on. And we need to go with the things they are most sensitive and embarrassing to them that they are hiding and get that information and put it out in public and let the Chinese people digest how corrupt the government is and how they are enriching oligarchs all throughout China. And this president has seen personnel records of people who have sacrificed for the American and for the federal government stolen by the Chinese and done nothing in return. This is why I said at the beginning that this administration, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have betrayed the American people. It has led to Putin in the Middle East and eastern Europe and significant problems in the Middle East as well.
BASH: Governor Bush, what you just heard from governor Christie, are you concerned that could escalate with China and they could retaliate and as the NSA has said, attack the U.S. And maybe its power grid which is Chinese have the capability to do?
BUSH: I agree with Chris. Hillary Clinton's using a private server for where classified information goes by. This is a serious administration? The president receives an inspector general's report that the office of personnel management could be hacked into, 23 million files have—are in the hands of the Chinese, allegedly, including by the way, members of the press it turns out last week. So now you can have a feel for what it is like to see this type of attack. This is something we have to have the best defensive capabilities and coordinate our efforts with the private sector and offensively we need to have capabilities second to none. We need to create a situation where they know that there will be adverse impacts if they continue to do what they're doing. They will respect a united States that is serious about protecting our infrastructure. If we don't do it we will continue to see what is happening. The Russians and rogue actors, including ISIS, this is a serious part of the 21st century security challenge that we face.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command and care and control of the military forces. The triad, the missiles and submarines are aging out. It's an executive order. What is your priority?
TRUMP: I think we need someone we can trust who is total responsibility who knows what he or she is doing that is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I'm frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was against going into Iraq because you are going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it very strongly and it was very important. But we have to be extremely vigilant and careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame. I would have said get out of Syria. If we didn't have the power of weaponry today, the power is so massive that we can't just leave areas that 50 years ago we wouldn't care, it was hand to hand combat. The biggest problem this world has too is not President Obama with global warming which is inconceivable, this is what he's saying. The biggest problem we have today is nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. In my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.
HEWITT: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio—
TRUMP: I think, to me, nuclear's just, the power, the devastation is just very important to me.
HEWITT: Senator Rubio, you have a response?
RUBIO: I do. Well first let's explain to people at home what the triad is. Maybe a lot of people have not heard that terminology before. The triad is out ability of the United States to conduct nuclear attacks using airplanes, from the ground and from our nuclear subs. All three are critical. It gives us the ability at deterrence. Some are more critical than others. The Ohio class submarine needs to be modernized. The B-52 as someone pointed out is an outdated model that was flown by the grandparents of the people flying it now. And we need an upgrade on the silo-launched missiles.
BLITZER: Some of you have questioned whether your opponents have the right temperament to be in control of the nuclear codes. Dana you have a question on this.
BASH: Mr. Trump, you said this weekend that Senator Cruz is not qualified to be president because he does not have the right temperament and acted like a maniac. But last month you said you were open to naming Senator Cruz as your running mate.
TRUMP: I did. I have gotten to know him over the last three or four days, he has a wonderful temperament. He's just fine. Don't worry about it.
BASH: Senator Cruz. You have not been willing to attack Mr. Trump in public. But you—
TRUMP: You better not attack.
BASH: But you questioned his judgment in having control of mark's nuclear arsenal. Why are you willing to say things in private and not in public.
CRUZ: I said that the judgment that every voter is making of every one of us up here is who has the experience, who has the vision, who has the judgment to be commander-in-chief. That is a standard I'm held to. And in the course of this discussion about our foreign policy threats it illustrates the need for clarity of focus. My daughters, Caroline and Katherine came tonight. They are 7 and 5. You think about the Los Angeles schools cancelling their schools today. And every parent is wondering how do we keep our kids safe? We need a commander-in-chief that did what Reagan did. He set out a strategy to defeat communism. One of the things we've seen here is how easy it is for president Obama and Hillary Clinton to be distracted from islamic terrorism. We need a president who stands up and says we will defeat ISIS and says the greatest national—
BASH: A lot of people have seen— A lot of people have seen these comments you made in private. What you are saying is that you do believe that Mr. Trump has the judgment to be commander-in-chief?
CRUZ: That is a judgment for every voter to make. But all nine of the people here would make an infinitely better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: Thank you, senator.
CRUZ: And there is a real danger, Dana, when people get distracted.
BLITZER: Thank you—
CRUZ: I'm answering the question. There is a danger when people are distracted by peripheral questions and military conflict. We need to focus on defeating jihadism, ISIS and Iran have declared war on America and we need a commander-in-chief who will do everything necessary to keep our children safe and I will do everything—
BLITZER: We are a month and a half away from the first real test who will be the Republican presidential nominee. Hugh?
HEWITT: My listeners are worried that Hillary Clinton is going to win because you will run as an independent. Will you assure the people that you will run as a Republican?
TRUMP: I really am.
HEWITT: Dr. Carson?
TRUMP: Can I just finish?
TRUMP: I've gained great respect for the Republican leadership. I've gained great respect for many — in different forms for the people on the dias. I have great respect for the people I have met in this process. But I will tell you, I am totally committed to the Republican party. I feel very honored to be the front runner. And I think I'll do very well if I'm chosen if I'm so fortunate to be chosen. Polls have come out recently that say I will beat Hillary.
HEWITT: Dr. Carson, Mr. Trump just committed to stay the distance regardless of the result. How about you?
CARSON: The statement that I would leave the party was contingent upon whether in fact the party acts like they have in the past with a lot of subterfuge. And I have been assured that the Washington Post writer had it all wrong and they will not be engaging in anything to thwart the will of the people. That's why I got into this race as a member of we the people to bring back honesty to the process.
BLITZER: When we come back, everyone will have an opportunity to explain why this particular candidate, each of you on the stage, believes he or she should be the Republican presidential nominee.
BLITZER: It's time for closing statements. Senator Paul?
PAUL: The greatest threat to national security is our debt. We borrow a million dollars a minute and whose fault is it in you have those on the right who say we won't spend anything on the military and the same on the left who say the same for domestic welfare. But there is an unholy alliance and we we spend more money on everything.We are not stronger if we go further into debt. We are not projecting power from bankruptcy court. There is no greater threat than our debt and I'm willing to hold the line on all spending. I hope you will consider me in the election. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Governor Kasich?
KASICH: No Republican has ever been elected president of the united States without winning Ohio. Let me give you a tip on how to win Ohio, it's reform, it's hope, it's growth, it's opportunity, and it's security. The people of Ohio are the people of America. The people of America are reflected in Ohio. Our message has to be big. And bold, and positive and connect, not just with people's heads but also connect with their hearts. If we do it, we will beat Hillary Clinton and we will run the White House and we will fix America.
BLITZER: Governor Christie?
CHRISTIE: I was named chief federal prosecutor of New Jersey and on September 11st 2001, I lost touch with my relatives and praying they were alive. They were sent home. Many of our friends and others in our neighborhood lost their lives that day. Terrorism, radical jihadist terrorism is not theoretical to me. It's real. For seven years I spent my life protecting our country against another one of those attacks. You won't worry when I'm president whether it can be done. I have already done it. If you give me the chance and give me your vote I will protect America from the wars brought to our doorstep.
BLITZER: Miss Fiorina?
FIORINA: I, too, remember September 11th. I remember immediately putting into place security procedures all throughout our country that did business in 170 countries where we thought corporate interests would be attacked next. To take our country back, to keep our nation safe, we have to begin by beating Hillary Clinton. We need to unify our party. We need to be better than our government which 75% of the American people now think is corrupt and incompetent. We need to be better than our politics. We have 80% of the people who believe we have a professional political class. We need to unify our party. We need a conservative in the white house and we need to beat Hillary Clinton to take our country back and keep our nation safe. I can. I am. And together, if you join me, we will take our country back.
BLITZER: Governor Bush?
BUSH: Ask yourself, which candidate will keep you and our country safer, stronger, and freer? Hillary Clinton has aligned herself with Barack Obama on ISIS, Iran, and the economy. It's an alliance doomed to fail. My plans will fortify our national and economic security. And my record as governor will give you a sense I don't make false promises. I deliver real results. For America to be safe and sound I ask for your support. Thank you all very much.
BLITZER: Senator Rubio?
RUBIO: As we near the end of the year we enter one of the most important elections in a generation. What is at stake is not just who is in charge but our identity as a people and a nation. For over 200 years this is a unique place where anyone from anywhere can achieve anything. And millions of Americans feel like they are being left behind insecure in their future and unsafe in the face of terrorism. This is about electing a president so that the American dream can expand and reach more people and change more lives than ever before and rebuild our military so we can remain the strongest nation on Earth. I ask for your vote. If you do this, we will rebuild this country and usher in the greatest era in the history of this great land.
BLITZER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Judgment. Strength. Clarity and trust. Barack Obama as said he doesn't believe in American leadership or America winning, he is wrong. America can win again and we will win again. Ronald Reagan reignited the American economy, rebuilt the military and I will do the same. Unleashing small businesses and rebuilding the military. Our strategy is simple. We win, they lose. We've done it before. And we can do it again.
BLITZER: Dr. Carson?
CARSON: I have been fortunate enough to travel to 58 different countries. And I thank God every day I was born in this country, the most exceptional country that the world has ever known. And I want to make sure that we preserve that exceptionalism for the next-generation. My mother told me if I work hard and I believed in the American principles and I believed in god anything is possible. I believe that is true. That's why I'm not anxious to give away American principles for the sake of political correctness.
BLITZER: Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: Our country doesn't win anywhere. We don't win on trade. We don't win on the military. We can't defeat ISIS. We're not taking care of our great people, the veterans, we're not taking care of them. We have to change our whole way, our health care system is a disaster. It's going to implode in 2017. It doesn't work. Nothing works in our country. If I'm elected president we will win again. We will win a lot and we're going to have a great, great country, greater than ever before. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks to all the Republican presidential candidates.