Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Republican Presidential Debate Covers Gay Marriage, DADT, Abortion Rights

Last night's CNN debate between 7 Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination included a lengthy exchange on same-sex marriage, repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and abortion rights.  Here is the excerpt from the full transcript:
[JOHN] DISTASO:... Congresswoman Bachmann, let's turn to a serious subject.
New Hampshire is one of five states where individuals who happen to be gay can marry legally. This is a question of conflicting interest. I know you're opposed to same-sex marriage.
As president, would you try to overturn -- what influence would you use from the White House to try to overturn these state laws despite your own personal belief that states should handle their own affairs whenever possible and in many circumstances?
BACHMANN: Well, I do believe in the 10th Amendment and I do believe in self-determination for the states.
I also believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I carried that legislation when I was a senator in Minnesota, and I believe that for children, the best possible way to raise children is to have a mother and father in their life.
Now, I didn't come from a perfect background. My parents were divorced. And I was raised by a single mother. There's a lot of single families and families with troubled situations. That's why my husband and I have broken hearts for at-risk kids and it's why we took 23 foster children into our home.
DISTASO: What would a President Bachmann do to initiate or facilitate a repeal law on the state level? Anything at all from the White House? Would you come into the state of New Hampshire, for instance, and campaign on behalf of a repeal law?
BACHMANN: I'm running for the presidency of the United States. And I don't see that it's the role of a president to go into states and interfere with their state laws.
KING: On that point -- on that point, to voters out there for whom this is an important issue, let's try to quickly go through it. Let me start at this end, we'll just go right through. I'll describe it this way. Are you a George W. Bush Republican, meaning a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, or a Dick Cheney who, like I believe, the congresswoman just said, this should be made -- this decision, same sex marriage, should be a state's decision?
CAIN: State's decision.
PAWLENTY: I support a constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and woman. I was the co-author of the state -- a law in Minnesota to define it and now we have courts jumping over this.
KING: OK. Let's just go through this.
PAUL: The federal government shouldn't be involved. I wouldn't support an amendment. But let me suggest -- one of the ways to solve this ongoing debate about marriage, look up in the dictionary. We know what marriage is all about.
But then, get the government out of it. Why doesn't it go to the church? And why doesn't it to go to the individuals? I don't think government should give us a license to get married. It should be in the church.
KING: Governor Romney, constitutional amendment or state decision? ROMNEY: Constitutional.
KING: Mr. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Well, I helped author the Defense of Marriage Act which the Obama administration should be frankly protecting in court. I think if that fails, at that point, you have no choice except to (ph) constitutional amendment.

KING: We heard the congresswoman's answer, Senator.
SANTORUM: Constitutional amendment. Look, the constitutional amendment includes the states. Three-quarters of the states have to -- have to ratify it. So the states will be involved in this process. We should have one law in the country with respect to marriage. There needs to be consistency on something as foundational as what marriage is.

KING: Very quickly?
BACHMANN: John, I do support a constitutional amendment on -- on marriage between a man and a woman, but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law.

KING: All right, let me ask you another question. The Obama administration is in the process -- and Leon Panetta, who's the new defense secretary, will implement -- essentially, the repeal of "don't ask/don't tell" so gays will be allowed to serve openly in the military. I want to ask each of you -- and, again, if we can be quickly, because then we want to get to the voters question -- if you were president -- if you become president of the United States, now gays are allowed to serve openly in the military, would you leave that policy in place or would you try to change it, go back to "don't ask/don't tell," or something else?

CAIN: If I had my druthers, I never would have overturned "don't ask/don't tell" in the first place. Now that they have changed it, I wouldn't create a distraction trying to turn it over as president. Our men and women have too many other things to be concerned about rather than have to deal with that as a distraction.

KING: Leave it in place if you inherit the new Obama administration policy or try to overturn it?

PAWLENTY: John, we're a nation in two wars. I think we need to pay deference to our military commanders, particularly our combatant commanders, and in this case, I would take my cues from them as to how this affects the military going forward. I know they expressed concerns -- many of the combatant commanders did -- when this was originally repealed by the Obama administration.

KING: Congressman?
PAUL: I would not work to overthrow it. We have to remember, rights don't come in groups. We shouldn't have gay rights. Rights come as individuals. If we would (ph) have this major debate going on, it would be behavior that would count, not the person who belongs to which group.

KING: Leave it in place, what you inherit from the Obama administration or overturn it?

ROMNEY: Well, one, we ought to be talking about the economy and jobs. But given the fact you're insistent, the -- the answer is, I believe that "don't ask/don't tell" should have been kept in place until conflict was over.

KING: Mr. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Well, I think it's very powerful that both the Army and the Marines overwhelmingly opposed changing it, that their recommendation was against changing it. And if as president -- I've met with them and they said, you know, it isn't working, it is dangerous, it's disrupting unit morale, and we should go back, I would listen to the commanders whose lives are at risk about the young men and women that they are, in fact, trying to protect.

KING: Congresswoman?

BACHMANN: I would -- I would keep the "don't ask/don't tell" policy.

KING: So you would -- whatever the Obama administration does now, you would go -- try to go back? You'd try to reverse what they're doing?
BACHMANN: I would, after, again, following much what the speaker just said, I would want to confer with our commanders-in-chief and with -- also with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because I'd want to know how it was being implemented and if it has -- had had the detrimental effects that have been suggested that will come.

KING: All right. Last word on this issue, Senator?
SANTORUM: The job of the United States military is to protect and defend the people of this country. It is not for social experimentation. It should be repealed. And the commanders should have a system of discipline in place, as Ron Paul said, that punishes -- that punishes bad behavior.

KING: Let's go back down to the floor here. Jennifer Vaughn has a question.

VAUGHN: Thanks, John.
Senator Santorum, staying with you for a moment, if I may, you are staunchly pro-life. Governor Romney used to support abortion rights until he changed his position on this a few years ago. This has been thoroughly discussed. But do you believe he genuinely changed his mind, or was that a political calculation? Should this be an issue in this primary campaign?
SANTORUM: I think -- I think an issue should be -- in looking at any candidate is looking at the authenticity of that candidate and looking at their -- at their record over time and what they fought for. And I think that's -- that a factor that -- that should be determined.

You can look at my record. Not only have I been consistently pro-life, but I've taken the -- you know, I've not just taken the pledge, I've taken the bullets to go out there and fight for this and lead on those issues. And I think that's a factor that people should consider when you -- when you look, well, what is this president going to do when he comes to office?

A lot of folks run for president as pro-life and then that issue gets shoved to the back burner. I will tell you that the issue of pro-life, the sanctity and dignity of every human life, not just at birth, not just on the issue of abortion, but with respect to the entire life, which I mentioned welfare reform and -- and the dignity of people at the end of life, those issues will be top priority issues for me to make sure that all life is respected and held with dignity.

KING: Governor Romney, let me give you -- take -- take 20 or 30 seconds, if there's a Republican out there for whom this important, who questions your authenticity on the issue?

ROMNEY: People have had a chance to look at my record and look what I've said as -- as I've been through that last campaign. I believe people understand that I'm firmly pro-life. I will support justices who believe in following the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end.

KING: Is there anybody here who believes that that's an issue in the campaign, or is it case closed?

(UNKNOWN): Case closed.

KING: Case closed it is. All right. Let's move on to the questions.
Tom Foreman is standing by up in Rochester.

FOREMAN: Hi, John. Representative Bachmann, I have a question for you. Governor Pawlenty says he opposes abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is at stake. Do you have any problem with that position? And if so, why?

BACHMANN: I am 100 percent pro-life. I've given birth to five babies, and I've taken 23 foster children into my home. I believe in the dignity of life from conception until natural death. I believe in the sanctity of human life.

And I think the most eloquent words ever written were those in our Declaration of Independence that said it's a creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take.

And the first of those rights is life. And I stand for that right. I stand for the right to life. The very few cases that deal with those exceptions are the very tiniest of fraction of cases, and yet they get all the attention. Where all of the firepower is and where the real battle is, is on the general -- genuine issue of taking an innocent human life. I stand for life from conception until natural death.
KING: All right. Governor Pawlenty, it was your position that was brought into the question. We'll give you a few seconds.

PAWLENTY: Well, this is a great example where we can look at our records. The National Review Online, which is a conservative publication, said based on results -- not just based on words -- I was probably the most pro-life candidate in this race.

As governor of the state of Minnesota, I appointed to the Supreme Court a conservative court for the first time in the modern history of my state. We passed the most pro-life legislation anytime in the modern history of the state, which I proposed and signed, including women's right to know, including positive alternatives to abortion legislation, and many others.

I'm solidly pro-life. The main pro-life organization in Minnesota gives me very, very high marks. And I haven't just talked about these things; I've done it.