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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Republicans Debate in Washington, D.C.; Interview With Michele Bachmann; Interview With Newt Gingrich
Aired November 22, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Now to Anderson Cooper's 360 post debate coverage. I'm John King, in for Anderson tonight.
The CNN Republican National Security Debate just wrapped up here in Washington. We're at Constitution Hall, just steps from the White House. Live now with both the winners and the losers, the moments everyone will be talking about, and analysis from our excellent panel tonight.
Joining us, as soon as he can be freed from his responsibilities, "THE SITUATION ROOM's" Wolf Blitzer, who did a fabulous job moderating tonight's debate, our senior political analyst and former adviser to four presidents, David Gergen, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, CNN political contributor Ari Fleischer, of course, the former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, CNN contributor Dana Lash -- she's the co- organizer of the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition -- and CNN chief analyst Gloria Borger.
Let's get right to it. A spirited debate about national security issues. Some disagreements between the candidates, a libertarian/conservative divide over the Patriot Act passed after 9/11, some differences on immigration as well.
Let's go straight down to the floor and David Gergen.
David Gergen, your quick first impression on what we heard from these eight Republican candidates tonight?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't have any sound. I'm not hearing anything.
KING: David's having a bit of an audio problem.
Let's go out to Dana Loesch.
Dana Loesch, as a conservative who has watched the Republican race, have Mitt Romney at the top of the pack but then a host of other conservatives come up as what I will call the anybody but Romney candidate, it was former Speaker Newt Gingrich who came in at least tied, if not slightly ahead nationally tonight.
Your first impression on what we learned from these eight Republican candidates? DANA LOESCH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think there were a couple of really explosive parts of the debate for me. The first one was obviously Iran.
I thought that Perry and Gingrich sort of led the way with strategy when it comes to Iran. But the thing that sort of blew up in Newt Gingrich's face, I think, was the discussion on immigration. He kind of had a Rick Perry heartless moment with this.
I think this is going to really impact him tomorrow. It's really going to impact him with grassroots conservatives. I can see kind of both sides of the argument here. He was really Reaganesque when he mentioned this, because '84-'86, Reagan signed a huge amnesty bill, but I don't think he made that differentiation during the debate. This will come back and hurt him.
But ultimately I think that this was one of the most substantive debates, and we really were able to see a lot of different sides of the candidates on this particular issue. Ron Paul did surprisingly well on a couple of different parts. Perry talked more than normal. It was good. I think Gingrich -- and Gingrich ultimately probably looked one of the best.
KING: Dana, stand by. We will get more analysis.
As you can see from the pictures, the candidates are shaking hands here in the hall. Dana just mentioned potentially a tough moment for Newt Gingrich, a strong debate performance overall, but did he get in trouble with conservatives with his answer on immigration, saying we're never going expel the 10 million, 11 million or so illegal immigrants who are in the United States illegally?
Gloria Borger standing by right now with the former speaker of the house.
Gloria, take it away.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Here I am with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
What did you think of the debate tonight and your own performance?
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it was terrific. I told Wolf Blitzer this was two in a row he's done very, very well. And I thought it was a very balanced and very well-managed debate. People got to really talk about ideas.
BORGER: Let me ask you, one thing that came up at the end of the debate was the question of immigration. And you said that Americans want to be humane about immigration...
BORGER: ... that they, essentially, don't want to throw people out who have been in this country for a number of years. GINGRICH: I was drawing a distinction.
There are lots of people who will go home. There are millions who will go home. They have no ties here, they have no roots. But there are also millions who are going to end up staying. And I think I can't imagine any serious person who can walk down the street, see somebody they have known for 20 years, and say, you're leaving your family, you're leaving your church, you're leaving your the you have been in now for 20 or 25 years, and we're kicking you out forcibly.
BORGER: Well, let me tell you what -- Michele Bachmann's campaign put out something immediately which I got on my BlackBerry...
BORGER: ... which said that Newt Gingrich is opening the door to amnesty.
What would your response to that be?
GINGRICH: That is just totally inaccurate.
What I have said is, the Krieble Foundation has a very good program for legalization without citizenship for people who have been here a long time.
Now, I want to say "Go home" to lots of people. I want to between create a border that's controlled. I want a guest-worker program outsourced to American Express or Visa or MasterCard. I want English as the official language of government.
I'm willing to be tough, but I'm not willing to kid people. And I can't imagine any serious person here in this country who believes we're going to tear families apart that have been here 20 or 25 years.
BORGER: Do you think the Republican Party has hurt itself with the Hispanic community because there might be that perception?
I think it makes it -- it's not just the Hispanic community, but we have people who come to America from the whole planet. I think Governor Romney had it right tonight when he said, we favor immigration, we favor legal immigration.
We actually would have more opportunity for people who are talented to stay. And it's, frankly, the Democratic Party and the labor unions who block that. So, I mean, it's a mixed bag. But I think it's important, because I think somebody's up here going to be president. And I think that -- and, hopefully, it's going to be me, but one of us is going to be.
It's important for us to unify the country by having an honest conversation, not just a series of slogans.
BORGER: And can you reflect on this? Here you are standing, saying, I think it's going to me. But last summer...
GINGRICH: I said I hope it's going to be me.
BORGER: ... if I recall, if I recall, your campaign was imploding, and your staff was leaving you. And here you are.
And can you sort of reflect upon that for a minute about what's happened?
GINGRICH: It's a little bit like Mark Twain. I think the reports of my death were premature, which is what he said when somebody wrote an obituary before he died.
All of our core staff stayed. Callista and I had a team that we had assembled over the years. They all stayed, except one person. The professional politicians all left because I don't run a traditional campaign. I run a very idea-oriented, very positive campaign.
BORGER: So, what happened? What happened?
BORGER: Yes. Why are you where you are?
GINGRICH: Well, I think what's happened is people want substance. They want exactly the conversation you and I just had, exactly what this debate was like.
They really know the country's in trouble and really want to have a serious person who is willing to talk through at a level of detail that's real, and not just political slogans.
BORGER: And one last question. Looking at the folks around you on the podium tonight, who is it going to come down to, you and who else, do you think?
GINGRICH: Well, look, I always think that Governor Romney will be one of two finalists. He has the money. He's run before. He's got a tremendous base in New Hampshire.
So, if it does come down to two people, I hope I'm one of the two, but I'm absolutely certain the other one will be Mitt Romney, because he just has -- he has five years of campaigning. And that gives you an enormous base.
BORGER: OK, Mr. Speaker, thank you so much for being with us after this debate.
GINGRICH: Good to be with you again. Thanks, Gloria.
BORGER: John. KING: Gloria, thanks.
Good catch grabbing the former speaker of the House there, Newt Gingrich. He was one of the strong performers in tonight's debate. But we will check in with the rest of our panel in a moment. We will see if they agree with Dana Loesch that his remark at the end on immigration could hurt him with conservatives.
First, though, let's take a look at some of the most memorable moments from the just-wrapped-up debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty. I'm concerned, as everybody is, about the terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh was a vicious terrorist. He was arrested.
I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you want to respond, Mr. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Yes. Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That's the whole point.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don't want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we're sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we're going to stop you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: Is it OK for Muslim Americans to get more intensive pat downs or security when they go through airports than Christian Americans or Jewish Americans?
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, Blitz. That's oversimplifying it. I happen to believe that if -- if you allow our intelligence agencies to do their job they can come up with an approach -- I'm sorry, Blitz. I meant Wolf, OK?
CAIN: Blitz, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Cain.
(LAUGHTER) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We haven't done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is in Afghanistan. And I think the American people are getting very tired about where we find ourselves today.
BLITZER: Let me let Governor Romney respond.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me respond.
Are you suggesting, Governor, that we just take all our troops out next week or what -- what's your proposal?
HUNTSMAN: Did you hear what I just said?
I said we should draw down from 100,000. We don't need 100,000 troops. We don't need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan...
HUNTSMAN: -- many of whom can't even cross the wire. We need a presence on the ground that is more akin to 10,000 or 15,000.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Ahmadinejad came to -- to the U.N. General Assembly. He said that he wanted to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth.
He has said that if he has a nuclear weapon, he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He will use it against the United States of America.
And that's why President Obama has -- has failed the American people.
He has changed the course of history because at the time when we needed a leader most, we didn't have one.
ROMNEY: Congressman Paul, what they're doing is cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget.
We need to protect America and protect our troops and our military and stop the idea of Obamacare." That's the best way to save money, not the military.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: Hold on one second because Ron Paul wants to respond to that point.
PAUL: Well, they're not cutting anything out of anything. All this talk is just talk.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: Believe me. PERRY: I don't think anybody is particularly surprised that a super committee failed. It was a super failure. This president has been an absolute failure when it came to this budget process.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has poisoned the well. He's campaigned all over this country, trying to divide group from group in order to -- to -- to win, you know, to -- to position himself to win this election and rally his troops. And what he's done is poisoned the well here in Congress.
KING: Some of the highlights there from tonight's debate.
This was the 11 debate among and between the Republican candidates for president. Michele Bachmann back in our first debate at CNN in June, after that strong performance, skyrocketed in the polls. She has struggled sense.
How does she rate her performance tonight?
The Minnesota congresswoman, the conservative Tea Party favorite standing live right now with Gloria Borger -- Gloria.
BORGER: Thanks so much, John.
Thank you for being with us, Congresswoman.
I was most interested in your comments on Pakistan. You said that Pakistan is too nuclear to fail, and you criticized Governor Perry as naive when he talked about foreign aid to Pakistan, essentially saying that we shouldn't write any more blank checks.
BACHMANN: Well, and with Pakistan, we don't necessarily write blank checks. We deal with our -- our...
BORGER: It's been a long night.
BACHMANN: It's been a long night. Thank you for your understanding.
No, we deal with intelligence services and exchanges with them. And we gain information on al Qaeda, although there's more things that we need. This is -- Pakistan is a very imperfect partner in dealing with national affairs and national security.
And one thing that we realize about them is that they are a very fragile country. They have a thin veneer of a government that is holding them together. And yet you have the epicenter of terrorism right there. And you have hundreds of nuclear weapons.
BORGER: So, what would you say to Governor Perry? Governor Perry says we're essentially just handing the money and not getting anything in return. Are we getting enough in return?
BACHMANN: We're getting something from them. And it's a relationship where we need them, they need us, and we need to hold them more accountable than what we are. There's no question about that.
BORGER: And let me also switch conversation just back to immigration for a moment, because you and Newt Gingrich got into it a little bit there. Your campaign put out a press release saying -- after the debate -- saying that Speaker Gingrich had opened the door to amnesty.
Is that the way you would put it, that he is talking about amnesty?
BACHMANN: Well, again, I want to make it clear I'm not speaking personally or ill of anyone on a personal level. This is based upon issues.
And there's a distinct difference when it comes to immigration. I think there's one immigration organization that gave Speaker Gingrich a D-minus on his immigration policy, because he wants to legalize 11 million illegal aliens in the United States. That's not what I'm seeing from people who are talking to me about it.
And he wanted to legalize the DREAM Act. That's at the federal level for all states. That increases magnets to the United States. And that's something that I don't believe that we should do.
BORGER: So it's amnesty?
BACHMANN: Well, you're legalizing 11 million workers. If you're legalizing 11 million workers, it sounds like amnesty to me.
BORGER: And let me ask you, just finally, about the state of your campaign. When you came on early on, you were the favorite in Iowa. You won the straw poll.
And now your numbers are down in single digits. And you have to win Iowa in order to stay in the race?
BACHMANN: Well, we're working hard in Iowa. And the good news is, we have already identified more supporters than Mike Huckabee had when he won in Iowa.
Iowa is a matter of getting your supporters out to the polls. That's what we're in the process of doing. Don't count us out by a long shot. We have a very good opportunity in Iowa, and then to go on and secure the nomination. I'm excited. I think it's time to have a mother in the White House.
BORGER: Do you need to win Iowa?
BACHMANN: Well, I think the country needs to have a new president, and I believe that I'm the best candidate to be the next president of the United States.
BORGER: Well, we have heard that.
Thank you so much, Congresswoman.
BACHMANN: Thank you.
BORGER: Back to you, John.
KING: Nice try there, Gloria, trying to get Congresswoman Bachmann to say whether or not she needs to win in Iowa. It's an important question, because we're talking tonight on an important night, our debate tonight six weeks -- six weeks from tonight, Iowans cast the first official votes when they caucus for their Republican choice.
Then, one week after that, the New Hampshire primary.
Much more, much more to get to here tonight, including what the candidates said about a host of other issues, the Patriot Act, for example, racial profiling, some fireworks early on in the debate.
We will be back after a quick break. Large panel to consider.
Our ANDERSON COOPER 360 special coverage of the Republican presidential debate continues in just a moment.
KING: Welcome back. We're live tonight from DAR Constitution Hall, just steps from the White House.
At tonight's Republican presidential debate right here in Washington, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would look at strengthening, strengthening the Patriot Act that was passed after 9/11 after elected if he's elected. Texas Congressman Ron Paul disagreed and disagreed strongly. He said Timothy McVeigh, for example, the Oklahoma City bomber, was caught and executed without the Patriot Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: I want to bring others in, but do you want to respond, Mr. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Yes. Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That's the whole point.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) GINGRICH: Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don't want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we're sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we're going to stop you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Racial profiling also came up. Herman Cain and Rick Santorum said it should be used, should be used to prevent terrorist attacks.
Joining me now to discuss the debate again, David Gergen, Donna Brazile, Ari Fleischer, Dan Lothian. Let's also bring in Erin Burnett from "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" into the conversation. That shows airs right here on CNN.
David Gergen, the Patriot Act conservative-libertarian split that has existed since this was passed right after 9/11 came out in full force tonight here.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely.
And Ron Paul, I should tell you, John, he continues to speak well for the libertarians. And you can see them on Twitter tonight. They're all out there cheering him on because they thought he was strong tonight.
But at the same time, I think when Newt Gingrich came back, as did Mitt Romney, they really speak for the majority in the Republican Party, a much stronger Patriot Act, be tough on terrorism. The war continues, from their point of view.
KING: From their point of view, Ari. That's a question that essentially puts the legacy of the president you worked for in question. Do you want to continue and strengthen perhaps the policies first put in under George W. Bush, or do you, as Congressman Paul says, want to walk away from it?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that debate has been settled.
And I think it really is about a 8 percent to 10 percent group that follows Ron Paul on this issue. And it reminded me of a debate on September 12. I remember this. Arlen Specter, former prosecutor, senator from Pennsylvania, said in a meeting with George Bush that Osama bin Laden has been indicted, and nobody paid attention to that because that wasn't enough.
That debate was largely settled in the country, not alone the Republican Party, by using the military to protect us on September 11.
KING: Do you agree with Ari about the size of the Ron Paul constituency or the libertarian constituency on the Patriot Act, Dana, in the sense that a lot of Tea Party people are suspicious of any government reach into their lives?
LOESCH: Right. I think it would probably be a little bit bigger than that, but I also think that there are a lot of conversations like myself who can kind of see both sides and sort of have a foot in either -- in either part of that conservative ideology.
I see some very libertarian principles which seem valid to me, but then I also have some conservative reservations that Newt Gingrich mentioned in this debate tonight. What good does it do if you're going to tell a terrorist, OK, well, after you have been successful, we're going to come and hunt you down? That doesn't deter anything.
I understand that, but at the same time, you also don't want to chip away at the civil liberties of American citizens who are innocent.
BLITZER: Another flash point in the debate -- that was one of them, the conservative-libertarian split on the Patriot Act. Another flash point was when the question, the sensitive question of racial profiling, came up. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: If you're trying to find somebody who may have a nuclear weapon that they are trying to bring into an American city, I think you want to use every tool that you can possibly use to gather the intelligence.
SANTORUM: obviously, Muslims would be -- would be someone you'd look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are -- the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we've -- by and large, as well as younger males.
I mean, these are things that -- not exclusively -- but these are things that you profile to -- to find your best -- the most likely candidate.
CAIN: Targeted identification. If you take a look at the people who have tried to kill us, it would be easy to figure out exactly what that identification profile looks like.
PAUL: Don't be willing to sacrifice liberty for security.
Today it seems too easy that our government and our congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Erin Burnett, a decade after 9/11, this is another debate in the country. Do you subject everybody who wants to get on a plane to the same security, or do you profile? Do you say on 9/11 the attackers were Muslims, therefore, any Muslim trying to board a plane? Do you have a database that says who is more at risk of creating a terrorist attack or is it everybody gets the same thing?
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, this is a really tough issue, right?
But part of the problem is, when you look at some of the recent attacks that we have had, even domestically, right, not necessarily people who are coming from overseas, domestically, and then you look at some of the names, you say, all right, well, some of those people would have identified themselves as people who have studied under clerics, whether it be Yemen or elsewhere.
It's a tough issue. And I think people can see both sides of it, but when you start talking about profiling, it becomes much more difficult when you're looking at obviously the vast majority of Muslims, whether they be Muslim Americans or not, are not doing this. But if you are going to go ahead and randomly pick out Ari Fleischer and somebody else because you're so busy being politically correct that you miss someone who might have bad intent, you don't want to miss it for that reason.
FLEISCHER: We can never racially profile. I will say it right now. It's just wrong for law enforcement of any type to say we're going after one targeted group.
If there's evidence that all these people fit a profile, then go after the individuals. And if it ends up 90 percent are one ethnicity, as long as it's law-driven to go after individuals, we can never as an American society put people in categories, say that category is suspect. That's part of our DNA.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And I would agree with Ari on this.
There's no place in the country for the kind of stereotyping and racially profiling people that some would say that this would help us get rid of terrorists. So I have to agree with Ron Paul on this issue.
But, you know, John, this was like a retro debate. I felt like we were going back into the past. The neocons, it was like the last hurrah, a celebration of the past, not looking at the current threats in the way the president has handled them and perhaps how we handle future threats to this country.
KING: The Twitterverse will be so excited that Donna Brazile agrees with Ron Paul.
KING: All right, everybody, stand by. We are going to work in a quick break.
And up next, we will talk with the moderator of tonight's debate, Wolf Blitzer. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: No, Blitz. That's oversimplifying it. I happen to believe that if -- if you allow our intelligence agencies to do their job they can come up with an approach -- I'm sorry, Blitz. I meant Wolf, OK?
CAIN: Blitz, Wolf.
CAIN: Since we're on a -- since we're on a blitz debate, I apologize, Wolf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: One of the lighter moments there of tonight's Republican debate here in Washington.
And, Blitz, you know, Wolf, Wolf Blitzer is with me right now.
Can I call you Wolf?
BLITZER: Call me whatever you want. It's all right.
KING: A great job tonight.
Now, what your impression, eight Republican candidates, some disagreements on some of the big security issues. What stood out most to you?
BLITZER: On most of the issues, they agreed. They were all looking for opportunities, understandably, to go after President Obama, but there was disagreements. There were some disagreements.
And the most out from these other Republicans was Ron Paul, as he takes views that almost all of these Republican candidates disagree with. Governor Huntsman, he disagrees with a lot of them, especially on Afghanistan, thinks it's time to move on, and spend a lot less money in Afghanistan, reduce that force from 100,000 U.S. troops down to 10,000 or 15,000, he said.
But the others are not ready to make that kind of decision yet. But there was some significant differences, some significant agreement as well. We were hoping that out of this debate, we would have a better appreciation on national security, where these candidates stand. I think we got a little bit better appreciation.
KING: I think we got a much better appreciation.
At the end, you had an interesting conversation about immigration, which we know has been an issue that has moved the numbers in this Republican race. Governor Perry gets into the race, he's up high, says I don't support a fence, I give in-state tuition breaks to children of illegal immigrants, conservatives go away.
I thought it was interesting at the end. Remember, this was the party of George W. Bush, the compassionate conversation who wanted to have a path to citizenship initially. Then it became a path to legal status for those who are in the country illegally.
Newt Gingrich says you have to do something, you're not going to expel them. A lot of the others don't know what to say. They can't find the right word because they know if they say anything that is open to letting those who broke the law to get here stay, they will be accused of amnesty. They're all -- they're struggling on that one.
BLITZER: I was a little surprised at how tough Governor Romney was on this issue, because he disagreed with Newt.
Newt Gingrich said, look, if you have been here 25 years, and your kids were raised here, you go to a church, you got to find a way to stay here legally. You don't necessarily get a pathway to citizenship, but you can stay, not all 11 million or 12 million illegal immigrants.
And you heard Governor Romney said, well, look, that in effect is a magnet. If you do that, that will encourage more illegal immigration. So they got into a little dispute on that.
Afterwards, I was speaking to the speaker, Mitt -- the speaker, Newt Gingrich, and he said, look, he was saying what he feels. It might get him into some trouble with conservatives and Republicans, but that's his position, and he's thought a lot about it and he's willing to take the grief, if he gets some grief on that.
KING: It will be interesting to watch, because Iowa, the immigration issue plays among the Tea Party and the conservative base there. Six weeks from tonight, is the vote there?
When you look at these debates, we always look coming in, well, who is at the top? Does the front-runner get a target? Gingrich, for the first time, was at least Governor Romney's equal, if not slightly ahead of him, in the national polls. And yet, on the immigration at the end, yes, some criticism, but for the most part tonight, we saw a lot of what we have seen in prior debates, everyone trying to say Newt's a smart guy, right?
BLITZER: He didn't get a lot of grief. He got a little bit, but not much.
I was expecting, frankly, some of the so-called second-tier candidates to go after Newt Gingrich, because he has emerged as a top -- he's one of the front-runners right now, he and Romney, according to the national polls. And the polls in Iowa, even in New Hampshire, South Carolina, both of them are doing really, really well.
So, I thought maybe we would see a little bit more from Michele Bachmann, for example, or Rick Santorum or some of the other candidates, Huntsman going after Newt Gingrich, and Romney, for that matter, but you didn't see a lot of that right now. I think there -- maybe it's before Thanksgiving, they're trying to be nice.
KING: Tonight on the stands, I suspect maybe by sunrise tomorrow or Iowa or sundown. Great job. Thank you for spending time with us. Foreign policy, national security of course the focus of the Republican debate. It's not surprising that Pakistan came up, specifically, the amount of U.S. aid that goes to Pakistan.
Here's what Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Governor Rick Perry had to say on that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: They also are one of most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites, are available or potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have been made on nuclear sites. I would continue that aid, but I think the Obama policy of keeping your fingers crossed is not working in Pakistan, and I also -- also think that Pakistan is a nation that it's kind of like too nuclear to fail.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Until Pakistan clearly shows that they have America's best interests in mind, I would not send them one penny, period. I think it is important for us to send the message to those across the world that if you're not going to be an ally of the United States, do not expect a dime of our citizens' money to be coming into your country.
BACHMANN: With all due respect to the governor, I think that's highly naive, because again, we have to recognize what's happening on the ground. These are nuclear weapons all across this nation, potentially al Qaeda could get a hold of these weapons. These weapons could find their way out of Pakistan, into New York City or into Washington, D.C.
PERRY: We need to be engaged in that part of the world. I never said for us not to be engaged. I just said we need to quit writing blank checks to these countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Candidates can't talk about Pakistan without also talking about Afghanistan, its neighbor. Another big part of the debate tonight. The candidates clashed over what U.S. policy in that country should be going forward.
Utah governor Jon Huntsman, for example; Texas congressman, Ron Paul, came under attack for their positions.
Let's bring back our panel again: We have David Gergen, Donna Brazile, Ari Fleischer, Dana Loesch, and Erin Burnett.
The Pakistan question, Erin, that candidates were struggling because if you answer the question "friend, foe, or don't know," you probably get a don't know from most policy experts yet Bachmann using a clever line, from an "Atlantic" piece, too nuclear to fail, said you can't walk away because if the United States walks away, despite all the frustrations, somebody will step in or the nuclear weapons will be at risk. A tough challenge for the sitting president but also for these would-be presidents.
BURNETT: It sure is. When you look at what this president's done, he's pulled back a third of the military that we're providing to Pakistan because of his frustration how they've been cooperating or not cooperating with the U.S. But this is something where, you know, defense attorney Leon Panetta will tell you. You don't have a choice. You may wish you had a choice You could just bail them. But Mitt Romney came out and said what, they're the sixth most populous country in the world. They have nuclear weapons. It is too big to ignore for this country.
KING: Do you have a choice? Do you have a choice? You need to be tougher with Pakistan. The Perry approach is go to zero based foreign aid period so everybody comes in at zero and you have to make your case for it. Do you I have choice when it comes to Pakistan, which clearly angers, infuriates, frustrates the president and the security apparatus?
GERGEN: You have no choice but to keep -- try to keep Pakistan on our side and to remain as friendly as possible under the circumstances, given the fact they've got nuclear weapons that could get into the hands of the terrorists. You've got to work at it.
Now the Obama administration has tried very hard with back channels, having the head of the joint chiefs gone over there. They've sent repeated envoys over there, and they have been really, really disappointed.
So I think these Republican candidates are struggling because nobody in the foreign policy world has -- there's no consensus in the foreign policy community as it's called on what to do.
KING: And yet, Donna, it was interesting. Governor Huntsman was among those who said the United States should have had no role in Libya, said that early on, no role at all, not in our national interest. And says in the case of Pakistan he would be in favor of more drone attacks, which of course, infuriate the Pakistani government. They say you're violating their sovereignty. In terms of that policy going forward, anything strike you?
BRAZILE: I thought what struck me about Governor Huntsman's response to Mitt Romney on the issue of Afghanistan is he said basically you have to make decisions as commander in chief. You cannot leave it to your generals. I thought Huntsman came across clearly understanding a lot more about Afghanistan, the region itself, Pakistan. \
Look, Secretary Clinton was there recently, putting pressure once again on the leaders in Pakistan to get its act together. We can't abandon Pakistan. We cannot zero out funding. We have to find a way to convince them to help us in our pursuit of the terrorists. At the same time the U.S. may have to resort to drones. But of course we have to be cognizant of the civilians that have been killed in that area, as well.
KING: Ari, first to you and then to you, Dana. If a Republican voter out there watching, we think the economy is going to dominate next October and November without a doubt. But people do make a threshold decision. Is this person a commander in chief? Do I trust him with the nuclear football? Do I trust him, you know, the question came up at the end of the debate, for the unpredictable, the thing we can't think of? George W. Bush never asked about al Qaeda back in 2000.
Any impressions, Ari, saying that was a commander in chief?
FLEISCHER: And that was a great question, about what it is that you don't you see out there. You know, it's fascinating out of all these debates, John, is the Republican Party, first to nominate the most conservative and this year against Barack Obama the biggest outsider in the dance. But who's leading? The biggest established figures, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Who's not getting traction? The one who's taking the toughest, most conservative positions: Rick Perry, no-fly zone over Syria, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, send Congress home, cut their pay. The typical things that we think are red meat just aren't working this year.
The biggest thought during the debates, Newt Gingrich, is the one who's propelled himself back from death. It's a fascinating open primary for Republicans. As a political capitalist, it's great to be a consumer watching these Republicans.
KING: And so just less than two years after the rise of the Tea Party, is the Tea Party influence when it comes to this presidential campaign fading and the establishment resurging?
LOESCH: I don't think so necessarily, because Newt Gingrich has walked back a lot of -- he's walked back a lot of things. First we had New York 23, which was the fight between grassroots and the establishment. And the grassroots won that, of course. They ended up taking out the Republican candidate, but they won that. That was the goal.
And in discussing Gingrich and Perry, I think that the ideals of the grassroots, these super conservative ideas that are red meat and I think do poll well and a lot of people identify with. A lot of people, especially fiscally, want to see certain things happen. I think that when it comes to Perry being one of them -- you know, as Ari was saying, I don't think it's the ideas that failed. I think it's perhaps the receptor, the vehicle in which, you know, they were delivered.
Forgetting the third department that you cut, necessarily, isn't helpful. I do think that he's coming back from that, but that being said, I think if those ideas had been delivered in a Newt Gingrich way -- authoritative, aggressive, dare I say confrontational -- I think that it would have gone over a lot better and we would probably see a lot more support from those results.
You have to be able to convey your ideas to people, and that's what Rick Perry hasn't been doing in the beginning.
KING: Six weeks until the Iowa caucuses now critical to the Perry strategy. We once thought he would be a multi-state candidate. Now, he has to prove himself in state No. 1.
Everybody stand by. Our panel will be back just ahead. But coming up, Tom Foreman tells us how the candidates' claims and counterclaims stand up to those stubborn facts. We're Keeping Them Honest.
KING: "Keeping Them Honest," a lot of claims were made in tonight's Republican debate here in Washington. Numbers, names, places and dates all flying as the eight candidates duked it out over national security and foreign policy. Did they stick to the facts or maybe wander a bit? Tom Foreman joins us now to check the facts.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Mitt Romney, what he said about the administration and the cuts the administration are making to defense. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's just talk about what they're cutting with the first $350 billion, not the next 600 which is coming down the road.
The first 350 billion, cut to stop the F-22, the delayed aircraft carriers, stopped the Navy cruiser system. They said long-range Air Force bombers aren't going to be built. They're trying to cut our troops by 50,000. The list goes on. They're cutting programs that cut into the capacity of America to defend itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Cutting the capacity of America to defend itself, is that true? He's got all of his numbers right. All of those cuts are correct, the ones he named. However, this is a context that may be missing.
Last year the U.S. spent $700 billion on defense. That's more than the next 17 nations combined. That's why there is a debate about this, because some people say, "Look, we can cut defense and still have a lot of defense out there."
So the bottom line is, he is correct. What he has said is true, but it is incomplete.
Let's turn from that to something that was said by Newt Gingrich, which was also very interesting in all of this. He talked about the idea of putting pressure on Iran over developing a nuclear programming by going after their oil, an economic attack, in effect. And he said this about U.S. oil production... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All sources, energy program in the United States, designed once again to create a surplus of energy here so we can say to the Europeans, pretty cheerfully, all of the various sources of oil we have in the United States we could literally replace the Iranian oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Could we replace the Iranian oil? This is -- this is a trap that comes up all the time when we talk about oil as a weapon. It has to do with the speed at which you can do it.
The truth is, we could increase our capacity, but look at this. We produce 9,688,000 barrels per day. Iran produces 4 billion -- 4,252,000. So we would have to increase by about 50 percent if we wanted to truly replace the oil they have on the world market and put pressure on them in this way.
Just as important, even if you put that aside, it takes time. We would need refinery capacity. We'd need to build all these facilities. And when we talk about the Iranian nuclear program, if we're talking about pressure on that, that seems to be pretty far along.
So the simple truth is, while this is not something that couldn't be considered, it is a bit on the side of being misleading, to say that you could somehow ramp up our oil production and this would put this enormous pressure on Iran.
One more thing, John. Earlier you played that bite from Michele Bachmann where she talked all about the Pakistani nukes and the threat there. The simple truth is if you look at this, there is significant concern in the U.S. intelligence forces about the Pakistani nukes, but mainly that's just because you cannot afford to be wrong about something like this.
Pakistani security is considered fairly strong, and their nukes are kept dismantled in different parts, in different places. So the idea that terrorists could get them together, as she suggested, somehow have them operational, get them out of the country, get them across the ocean, get them to the United States and blow one up in New York, or Washington, or Denver or somewhere like that, is a real stretch.
That makes this statement in many ways something that we'd have to say is more along the lines of being misleading, to suggest there's some imminent threat of that happening to the U.S. We have to take it seriously, but it's not something that's right around the corner, that intelligence forces think is right around the corner.
KING: Tom Foreman, "Keeping Them Honest" tonight. Tom, thank you.
And one of the most heated moments during tonight's debate came when the candidates started discussion the emotional issue of illegal immigration. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney clashed with the new frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, when the former House speaker shared his thoughts on the immigration topic. Listen right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families, and expel them.
I do believe if you've been here recently and you have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border. I believe we should have severe penalties for employers.
I urge all of you to look at the Preble (ph) Foundation plan. I don't see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.
BLITZER: Governor Perry?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He won't like me saying it this way, but the former speaker there sounding a lot more like former President George W. Bush and the original John McCain when it came to the immigration issue. John McCain would put it, they're God's children; we're not going to kick them out.
Let's get back to our panel. Gloria Borger has joined us. Gloria, this is the issue that will not go away in Republican primary politics, and the speaker had another strong debate performance. The question is, does that one at the end, the compassionate conservative answer, we're not going to expel them. Does it do to him, now that he's come up in the polls, what talking about immigration and tuition benefits for the children of illegal immigrants and not building the fence across Texas -- does this question now do to Newt Gingrich what we know it already did to Rick Perry?
BORGER: Well, we're going to have to say, aren't we? I mean, I asked him about it after the debate. He -- he stuck to it, and Michele Bachmann's campaign put out a statement right after the debate which said that Newt Gingrich, quote, "opens the door to amnesty." And he said that's not the case. But I just believe we can't -- we can't pretend that we're going to deport 12 million people. He said it's just essentially realistic.
He is someone who voted for Ronald Reagan's bill in 1986, which a lot of people called amnesty at the time. And I think that it could -- it could really hurt him. Although he also said, after the debate, look, we've been hurt. The Republican Party has been hurt with Hispanic voters because of our positions on illegal immigration.
And so you know, I think he spoke up, and it was clear that Michele Bachmann was ready to -- to attack him on that issue.
KING: Another, we talked about the libertarian-conservative divide earlier. This is the Chamber of Commerce/grassroots divide, Dana Loesch, in a sense. That, you know, the establishment Republican, the business community says, "Figure this out. Give us a guest worker program. You're never going to kick all these people out." At the grass roots, when people say that. Gingrich's answer will be called amnesty by many Tea Party voters, will it not?
LOESCH: Well, yes, it absolutely will be. I will say that Newt Gingrich has always been very consistent when it comes to immigration, and as Gloria was saying he supported Reagan in the '80s when Reagan signed an amnesty law. And it was -- this was a law that he championed. He was very excited about this when this passed.
So there -- I understand where he's coming from, but I think his logic in determining his conclusion in many cases is unsound.
For instance, when he talks about families being here for a quarter of a century, breaking the law for a quarter of a century does not make that law that you broke somehow less illegal.
And I think that he needs to understand that this suggestion that somehow wanting the law to be enforced is less humane from the bases, it's a little -- again this could be his Perry heartless moment. He should have, and maybe he didn't roll this out with his plan -- and all of these candidates failed with that. They need to talk about ways to make immigration less -- to remove some of the bureaucracy. That's the problem.
Immigration is bureaucratic. There's a lot of red tape. There are a lot of good people who are prevented from coming -- becoming citizens in this country because we make it too difficult.
KING: But on those who are here, David, whether it's for two weeks or 25 years, illegally, Newt Gingrich tonight took the Mike Bloomberg position. Does it hurt him?
GERGEN: Probably in the short term. But I will have to tell you, in the long term, I think it may not.
Look, I have a bias. Good for him. He broke with the orthodoxy. He did have to take a more humane position.
And by the way, this is what most Americans want. They want to distinguish between those people who have been here a long time and who have let their families stay versus those who have been here a short time. And you depart from that, as you said.
But just to go back to the politics of it, yes, I think he's going -- I think he'll take a hit in the conservative community. He will also get credit for being willing to say what he believes. And I think with the broader public, John, he's just now, for the first time -- Americans who are not Republicans, independents are thinking, might Newt Gingrich actually be the candidate? With a lot of those people seeing the humane side of Gingrich tonight, I think was a plus. You know, it's part of -- I kept thinking about this is a man who's also asking for redemption and is seeking redemption in his own personal life.
KING: We're going to watch this one play out; we'll watch how it plays out. These debates have changed the Republican race, almost overnight in many cases. Everybody stand by. Still ahead on 360, was this a make-or-break night for any of these Republican candidates? Final thoughts from our panel, next.
KING: If you're paying attention to the latest polls, Newt Gingrich came into this debate tonight in a statistical tie at the top of the Republican field with the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. The first time in the race former speaker Gingrich at the front of the pack. His job tonight, to try to solidify that position. Did he or did one of his fellow candidates steal the new front- runner's thunder?
Let's go back to our panel for some final thoughts. David Gergen, I'll start on this end of the group. Your final impression: what did you learn tonight?
GERGEN: Huntsman, best night. Romney held his own but seemed to fade a little bit, didn't have as much air time, not as dominant. Overall, Newt Gingrich, he had the wind at his back coming in. He had a big entourage following him when he left.
BRAZILE: Newt Gingrich, he was less confrontational, more informational. So I thought he had a good night. Jon Huntsman, because this is an area where he understands the world. He served under three presidents. Herman Cain, he's faded from the landscape, but you know what? At the end of the day, we know who should be on the other end of that 3 a.m. phone call. It's Barack Obama.
KING: Why did I know that was coming? I knew it was coming. The Republicans rightly to your right in the conversation here. Ari Fleischer, final thought?
FLEISCHER: He can be on the 3 a.m. phone call until January 19, 2013. Then it's going to change on the line.
You know, another debate, another good night for Newt. But I think the trend you're seeing here is those who have fallen behind are not coming back up. So the question is, when the music stops, who is going to be in the not-Romney chair? Right now, looks like Newt, but this is still so unsettled. Republican voters, 78 percent say they're not locked in. A lot of time to go.
LOESCH: I think Gingrich, I'm going to have to agree, I think Gingrich took this debate tonight. I thought Huntsman was a little bit more -- he came alive. He had some answers that I thought were pretty good.
Perry did a lot better this debate than he has the previous debates. I think if he had been doing consistently well, he would be in the top tier, as opposed to where he is now.
Cain fell by the wayside. Bachmann did good, but she didn't -- she needs to be -- she needs to be a little bit more aggressive. Her aggressiveness, I think, took it towards the end when she went after Gingrich a little bit.
BORGER: I'm going to have to agree. I say Newt Gingrich had a very good debate. The thing about Newt Gingrich, I've covered him for a really long time, because you never know who's going to show up, right? And it could be the good Newt, the smart Newt, the full-of- ideas Newt, who I think we saw tonight. Or it could be the negative, nasty, anti-media, down...
KING: Well, wait a minute on the anti-media stuff. Hold on.
BORGER: Newt Gingrich. And I think tonight we saw the first Newt Gingrich, the more positive Newt Gingrich, who sort of had a vision for -- and took on Ron Paul, I think, and the Patriot Act debate. It was very, very interesting.
And we saw the intellectual Newt, the professorial Newt. But he was appealing, which is something I don't think he's really been before. And I think it's probably because he's more relaxed, and he's doing better in the polls, and people like him. So I think he was more likable this evening.
KING: I think Speaker Gingrich came into the debate with the most to lose. I have to agree with all of you. He certainly had a very good night, with the exception -- I want to see how the immigration debate plays out.
Herman Cain was asked a question about Syria and started talking about the U.S. economy. That to me is a sign of his weakness when it comes to the commander in chief test. We'll see how that plays out.
Thanks to our panel. That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching it. If you missed tonight's debate, you can see it again in its entirety, next.