RUSH TRANSCRIPT, Mandatory credit: CNN
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COOPER: And welcome back.
We’re coming to you tonight from the Old Cigar Warehouse here in Greenville, South Carolina. It’s the first of two consecutive Republican town halls here on CNN. The next one is tomorrow night at Columbia featuring Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Donald Trump.
Right now, please welcome Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
COOPER: Hey, Senator, welcome.
How are you?
FLORIDA SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Thanks.
COOPER: Take a seat.
RUBIO: Thank you.
COOPER: So welcome, first of all.
Thanks for being here.
RUBIO: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: It’s a beautiful building, yes.
I want to ask you about what’s — how is it feeling out on the campaign trail after a fifth place finish in New Hampshire, some counted you out. You had a — a very good debate here. You’re getting big crowds. Just today, a major endorsement from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
Are you feeling the — the Marco-mentum?
RUBIO: The Marco-mentum?
I love that term. Yes.
I do. I feel great about it. I mean we feel a lot of energy. People coming to our rallies are each getting bigger. People signing up. Obviously, Saturday, we’ll find out. People are going to vote.
But I — all I can do is our best. We’ve got a good message and I know why I’m running. And I feel good about what that’s going to translate to. So we’ll see.
COOPER: You probably know it’s getting pretty tough out there. There’s some accusations going back and forth. You called Ted Cruz a liar. He came out today and said your campaign is, quote, “relying on fabrication, refuted claims point by point.”
Do you stand by the assertion that he’s lying?
RUBIO: Well, I said he’s been lying because if you say something that isn’t true and you say it over and over again and you know that it’s not true, there’s no other word for it. And when it’s about your record, you have to clear it up, because if you don’t, then people say, well, then it must be true. He didn’t dispute it.
And he’s done that a number of times. We saw what he did to Dr. Carson in Iowa, which was wrong. We saw yesterday Trey Gowdy, somebody came up with a fake Facebook post saying Trey Gowdy was no longer endorsing me, a very popular congressman here in South Carolina.
So these things are disturbing and they need to be addressed. And I’ll address them.
But that’s not the core of my campaign. I spend 99 percent of my time talking about America’s future. But if someone says something that’s not true, and I don’t clear it up, well, that’s not fair. Then people may think, well, then it’s true.
COOPER: Some — President Obama said something I want to ask you about so you can — you can respond to it.
He said yesterday, you’ve got a candidate who sponsored a bill that I supported to finally solve the immigration problem and he’s running away from it as fast as he can.”
RUBIO: Yes, but President Obama has no standing to talk about immigration because his party controlled the White House, the House and the Senate for two years and they did nothing.
And then, after, uh, Barack Obama has now put in place two unconstitutional executive orders, which has made it even harder to move forward on immigration.
So I believe this issue has to be dealt with. And if you’re serious about dealing with immigration, the only thing I’m saying is you’d better secure the border first. Nothing else is going to be able to happen. Nothing else can happen until you secure the border first.
The people have been very clear about that. And until we — that’s the key that unlocks the door to dealing with the rest of the issue. Until you do that, we just won’t be able to make any progress.
COOPER: But as you know, I mean the president is saying you sponsored a bill that he supported.
RUBIO: Yes, and it doesn’t — it can’t pass. It doesn’t have the votes. People won’t support a comprehensive approach to immigration. It’s now been tried three times in the last decade. It has failed each time.
And so now we have to understand that the only way forward is through a step by step approach that begins by finally securing our border.
We’re a sovereign country. Every country has a right to control who comes here, how they come here, when they come here. And we are the most generous country in the world on immigration.
COOPER: Do you think it could pass when you sponsored it?
RUBIO: Well, I didn’t think the Senate version would pass as it sovereign country. Every country has a right to control who comes here, how they come here, when they come here. We are the most generous country in the world on immigration.
COOPER: Do you think it could pass when you sponsor it?
RUBIO: Well, I didn’t think the Senate version would pass as is. I knew it wouldn’t. In fact, I repeatedly said that during the process. I said, “this bill is not strong enough.”
I understood the Democrats controlled the Senate and so that’s the best we could produce in a Senate controlled by Democrats. We wanted to send it to the House. We had hoped the House Republicans Conservatives would make it even better. They never took it up and so there’s no way for it.
I can just tell you after that experience, for a fact of having been through that, no progress will be made on immigration in this country until we prove to the American people – not just pass a law but a prove to them that we’ve built the sufficient walls and fences on the border. That we have mandatory e-verify, that we have entry-exit tracking system to prevent Visa overstays and that we hire additional border agents and resources to secure the border.
COOPER: I want to ask you a couple of items in making headlines today before we get our audience questions because we’ve got some great questions. Now, it’s a question I asked Dr. Carson, as you know the government is trying to get Apple to create a new software to basically allow them to unlock the phone used by the San Bernadino terrorists. Apple says. “look, if we create this backdoor, it’s a whole new software thing and it’s going to endanger 99.9% of those good users of the Iphone.”
RUBIO: It’s a very very complicated issue and I’ll you why, it’s about encryption. Today, there’s encryption out, I think it’s standard on the new Apple and what it does is it protects your privacy. If you lose your Ipad, if you lose your phone; no one can hack into and get your information. So that’s why it’s there.
Here’s the thing though, if you require by law – if we passed a law that required Apple and these companies to create a backdoor, number one, criminals could figure that out and use it against you. And number two, there’s already encrypted software that exists, not only now but in the future created in other countries. We would not be able to stop that.
So there would still be encryption capabilities, it just wouldn’t be American encryption capabilities but people in this country could have it. So that’s why this is such a difficult issue because on the flip-side of it, there might be valuable information on that phone from the San Bernadino killers that could lead us to preventing future crimes or future attacks – future terrorist attacks.
So I think we’re either going to have a figure a way forward by working with Silicon Valley and the tech industry on this. There has to be a way to deal with this issue that continues to protect the privacy of Americans or creates some process by which, law enforcement and intelligence agencies could access encrypted information.
I don’t have a magic solution for it today. It’s complicated, it’s a new issue that’s emerged just in the last couple of years. But I do know this, it will take a partnership between the technology industry and the government to confront and solve this.
COOPER: So it does concern you – basically of Apple’s concerns on the idea that this would create a back door?
RUBIO: If you create a backdoor, there is a very reasonable possibility that a criminal gang could figure out what the backdoor is. That possibility is – if you create a backdoor, you’re creating a vulnerability. And what you’re not going to chance is the fact that other companies around the world who are not subject to U.S. laws – they could create encryption technology that we’ll never be able to get access to.
So it’s not as simple as people think it is. Now Apple is under court order and I’m sure they’re going to appeal it. They need to follow whatever the court order is ultimately.
But moving forward, we are going to have to work with Silicon Valley. We’re going to have to with the tech Industry to figure out a way forward on encryption that allows us some capability to access information especially in an emergency circumstances where there might be information on there that could prevent a terrorist attack.
COOPER: Another item in the news which actually I’ve literally just Leonard about, someone was talking in my ear as you were coming out. We just learned that President Obama plans to visit Cuba some time I think this month. I don’t know the exact date but he does plan to visit. Is that something as President you would ever do?
RUBIO: Not if there’s not a free Cuba. And I’ll tell you the problem with the Cuban government; it’s not just a communist dictatorship, it is an Anti-American communist dictatorship. The Cuban government three years ago helped North Korea evade U.S. Sanctions. They were caught trying to sell missile parts to North Korea but nothing happened.
The Cuban government today harbors hundreds of fugitives of American judicial, Medicare fraud — there are people there who have stolen your money. They come to the U.S., they steal money – Medicare fraud, they go back to Cuba, the Cuban government’s protecting them.
The Cuban government is harboring a killer from New Jersey who killed a state trooper in New Jersey. The killer escaped jail, fled to Cuba and the Cuban government is protecting her.
Beyond that, they’re a repressive regime. There’s no elections in Cuba, there’s no choice in Cuba. And so my whole problem — I want the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba to change but it has to be reciprocal.
Look at what we did with Burma or Myanmar, where the U.S. opened up to them but they made political changes. And today, the former minority party is now the majority party in their legislative body because our change towards them was conditional on their change towards their people.
He didn’t even ask that of the Cuban government. And so today, a year and two months after the opening of Cuba, the Cuban government remains as repressive as ever. But now, they have access to millions to not billions of dollars in resources that they didn’t have access to before this opening.
COOPER: I’ve been told the President is going to go next month just for clarity.
RUBIO: He’s probably not going to invite me.
COOPER: This is Maggie Grisel, she’s a senior at Fairmont University. She says she’s leaning in your favor but she likes Dr. Carson as well…RUBIO: …before this opening.
COOPER: I’m told the President’s going to go there next month, just for clarity.
I want you to meet…
RUBIO: … Probably not going to invite me. Probably not.
COOPER: This is Maggie Grisell, she’s a senior at Furman University, she says she’s leaning in your favor…
RUBIO: … Well, good. Let’s finish it tonight.
COOPER: She likes Dr. Carson as well.
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Rubio…
RUBIO: I like Dr. Carson as well…
QUESTION: …Welcome to Greenville.
I’m sure you’re well aware that college and student debt loans are on the rise currently. As someone who’s planning to attend dental school this upcoming fall, my only in-state option is about $100,000 dollars a year, setting me up for about half a million dollars of debt before I have the chance to make a dime of it back.
Do you currently think that there’s a problem with the cost of education…
RUBIO: … Yes.
QUESTION: And, if so, what’s your plan to make it more affordable, specifically how do you deal with cutting costs for students, but still maintaining a high quality of education?
RUBIO: I think that’s a great question. In fact, I believe I’m the only Republican candidate that consistently talks about student loan debt, and one of the reasons why is because three years ago I still owed over $100,000 in student loan debt. Which I was only able to pay off because I wrote a book, it’s called an, “An American Son”, no available in paperback.
RUBIO: People always laugh, I love that joke — It’s not a joke, it is available in paperback.
RUBIO: So, I’ve actually worked, and I have a bipartisan agenda on this issue, and it comprises four main things. The first is alternative accrediting, OK? Today there are only six accrediting boards in the country. You can only award what is recognized as a four year degree if you are accredited by one of these six institutions.
It’s basically a monopoly because today in the 21st century we have the ability to learn multiple ways. You don’t just have to sit in a classroom. There are so many different ways now to acquire information. And, so what I’ve pushed for is an alternative accrediting model that allows there to be an accredited learning outside of the traditional school setting.
For example, give people credit for what they learned through life experience, work experience, military experience. If you have mastered a subject, you should not be forced to sit in a classroom and pay to take a course on something you already know if you’ve proved you’ve already mastered it.
This alternative accrediting model would allow us to do that, and there’s already options out there. Coursera, Udacity, but they’re not accredited so you can’t use financial aid, and the private sector doesn’t recognize it. I think we need to do that. That is especially important for non-traditional students.
For example, let’s say there’s a single mother, she’s a receptionist, she makes $11 dollars an hour. The only way she’s ever going to get a raise is to go back to school and become a dental hygienist, or a paralegal. But, she can’t go back to school because she has to work full-time during the day, and raise her kids at night.
If there was an alternative accrediting model that allowed her to acquire learning on nights, on weekends through life experience, work experience, that gave her credit for what she learned in her years on the job it would at least shorten that time, if not allow her to complete that degree course.
So, the first is alternative accrediting that would allow you to get the maximum number of credits without having to pay for it in a traditional institution.
The second is an alternative to student loans called the student investment plan. And, this would allow you to go to a private investment group who would invest in you the way an investment group invests in a start-up business. In essence, they would believe in you so much, and in your success, that they would pay for your college. If you become financially successful, they’re going to make their investment back with a profit. If you do not, they’re going to lose their money and made a bad investment.
But, all the risk is on them. The third is to make income based repayment the automatic method of repaying a loan. I actually have that law right now that I’m working on with Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. And, why that is important is because I would rather collect $20 dollars a month from a student than nothing. Because if you’re collecting $20 dollars, at least you’re collecting $20 dollars a month and they’re not defaulting on the debt, because if you default it ruins your credit, and no you can’t buy a house, now you can’t — it really hurts you.
And, the fourth is called right to know before you go, which I’m working on with Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. And, what that law says is that before you take out a loan, schools have to tell you how much people make when they graduate from that school with the degree that you’re seeking. Why is that important?
Number one, it will probably teach you that the market for Roman philosophers has tightened significantly. So, you may not want to borrow $50,000 dollars to be a Roman philosopher unless you’re going to teach it, or go on to grad school.
But, the other is it’s going to allow you to compare schools. It’s going to allow you to look at two different schools, and say I want to major in history. A history major from this school makes $50 grand a year, and it only costs $20,000 dollars. A history major from this school makes $50,000 dollars a year, but it costs $100,000 dollars.
Now you have something to make a decision on other than the U.S. News and World Report college ranking. This is the kinds of things that I’m working on because to me this is deeply personal. When I graduated, when I got married, my first years, my largest payment after the rent was our student loan debt. It was over a thousand dollars a month.
So, I always joke that I never met her, but I paid Sally May a lot of money over the years, and I want to avoid more — because today, higher education is a necessity. It is no longer a luxury. There are no good paying jobs without some skill, and or educational achievement in the 21st century. So, I do think it’s a big issue, and I want us to work on it.
COOPER: Thank you, very much.
I’m going to throw away my Roman philosophy question…
RUBIO: … Yeah.
COOPER: Put that right there.
RUBIO: I didn’t do well with Roman philosophy…
COOPER: … I want you to meet retired General Hampton (ph) McManus (ph), he served 34 years in the U.S. Army in peacetime and during war. He says he’s still deciding between you and Governor…
COOPER: I’m going to throw away my Roman philosophy question, had it written down right there.
RUBIO: Yes, please. I didn’t do well with Roman philosophy…
COOPER: I want you to meet Retired General Hamp McManus. He served 34 years in the U.S. Army in peacetime and during war. He says he is still deciding between you and Governor Kasich.
General? Thank you.
GEN. HAMP MCMANUS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Senator Rubio, many would argue that’s we’re not only electing a president this cycle, but our commander-in-chief to lead America in dealing with some very demanding national security issues ahead.
RUBIO: Yes, sir.
MCMANUS: What has prepared you the most for this very critical mission? And what strengths of your foundation for the trust and confidence our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines must have in you as their commander-in-chief?
RUBIO: Yes, sir. First of all, thank you for your service.
And I want to take this opportunity to thank all the veterans in South Carolina and across the country for the service they provided to our country.
It is not just electing a commander-in-chief. That is the most important job of the president. The president doesn’t run the economy. The private sector does. The president can be an advocate for legislative action that helps the economy grow.
But national security and commander-in-chief is the most important job of the president. I say this to you without any reservation. I know I haven’t lived as long as some of the people running for president, but no one running for president, especially on the Republican side, has more experience on national security or foreign policy than I do.
As both a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee over the last five years, I have been dealing with every single major issue that this country confronts. And I understand these issues well.
I have a record of good judgment on those issues. In 2011, when Moammar Gadhafi was facing his overthrow in Libya, I argued that if that became a protracted conflict, it would leave a vacuum that would be filled by jihadists. And that’s exactly what has happened.
In 2012, when Bashar al-Assad was facing the threat of being overthrown in Syria, I warned that if we didn’t empower non-jihadist rebels in Syria, they would be killed or exiled, and that vacuum that it left behind would be filled by a radical jihadist group. And that’s what has happened with Jabhat al Nusra and now ISIS.
When ISIS emerged and crossed over into Iraq, from the very beginning I warned that they would become a major threat if not confronted and defeated immediately. The president called them the JV team. Well, today they have affiliates in over a dozen countries.
And they have — by the way, we saw what they did in San Bernardino, what they inspired in Paris as well.
And so over the last five years that I’ve been involved in foreign policy and national security, I have proven time and again that I have both the judgment and the experience to make the right decisions and the right call on these issues.
The hardest vote I’ve ever taken in my time in the Senate was a war — was a vote to authorize the use of force in Syria. Talked about this in the debate the other night. It is the most difficult vote you’ll ever take in Congress.
And when Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people and poisoned them, President Obama announced that he would not take military action unless we in Congress authorized the use of that force.
And so I examined — I was angry when I saw the images. I’m sure you saw the same images. As a father, I looked at these pictures of little children, curled up, some dead already because their own leader used poisoned gas and biological agents against them.
And I was outraged and I wanted us to exact revenge on him. And then I looked at what the president was proposing. Something that John Kerry later called an attack that would be unbelievably limited.
That attack that the president wanted to carry out I concluded after looking at it would be counterproductive. It actually would have empowered Assad, because all he was going to do was a symbolic strike.
Assad was going to emerge from it saying, I took on the U.S. and held on. It would have empowered him, it would have made him stronger, not weaker.
And so no matter how angry I was, I concluded that I would not vote to authorize the use of force. And it was a tough decision because what I had seen in those images that outraged us all.
And so I can look at that field of candidates running today and tell you without any, any hesitation that no one running as a Republican has shown better judgment or has more experience on national security or on foreign policy than I do.
MCMANUS: Thank you.
RUBIO: Thank you, General.
COOPER: I just want to follow up with that. Just a quick follow-up. As you know, Governor Bush again continued his line of attack on you saying you’re inexperienced. What do you say to Republicans in South Carolina who say, look, do we really want another first-term senator in the White House?
RUBIO: Sure. Well, I would just tell you that I believe Barack Obama is a failed president not because he was a one-term senator. Barack Obama today has seven years of presidential experience. There’s only two people in the world that have more experience than he does being president, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
And today, seven years after he became president, he is worse in the seventh year than he was in his first. So clearly experience was not the issue. The reason why he has failed as a president is because his ideas don’t work. His philosophy, his ideology is a failed one.
I also think it’s unfair to say I have no experience. I have 15 years of experience of turning conservative ideas into conservative action. I served eight-and-a-half years in the Florida legislature, not as a back-bencher, but as a leader.
We’ve been talking about eminent domain recently in the campaign. Florida has some of the best eminent domain laws in the country. You know who passed that law? I did. I was the speaker of the Florida House.
As speaker of the Florida House, we brought career academies to our schools. That means today students in high schools in Florida graduate not just with a high school diploma, but certified to work as welders, plumbers, electricians, pipe-fitters in vocational training because of what we’ve put in.
We’ve reduced property taxes because I led the effort to do that. We brought…RUBIO: Students in high schools in Florida graduate not just with a high school diploma, but certified to work as welders, plumbers, electricians, pipe fitters and vocational training, because of what we put in.
We reduced property taxes because I led the effort to do that. We brought the Harlem’s children zone model into the inner city of Miami. It’s now spread into Orlando and to Jacksonville because of my efforts.
We reformed our curriculum without common core, without the federal government and in my time in the U.S. Senate, despite the fact the Senate has not been the most active place in the world over the last five years, because I led the effort, in a bipartisan way, we imposed sanctions on Hezbollah. We get rid of the ObamaCare bailout fund.
Today, we have the Girls Count Act I passed on a bipartisan basis, which leverages U.S. foreign aid to take on the scourge of human trafficking and modern-day slavery around the world.
I led the effort and we imposed sanctions on human rights violators in Venezuela.
So I’m proud of what I have achieved, but my campaign is not about the past, it’s about the future, about what we’re going to do.
And I can say this to you without any, any hesitation whatsoever. I am as conservative as anyone running for president. But I am a 15 year conservative who has proven time and again the capability and the — and the willingness to take conservative ideas and turn them into conservative solutions.
COOPER: I want you to meet Patty Stoner (ph).
She lived here in Greenville for 40 years.
She said she’s deciding between you and Senator Cruz.
RUBIO: Hi, Patty.
PATTY STONER: Thank you.
I have a nephew that’s currently serving and is deployed to the Middle East as an elite person on an elite team. And there’s been a lot of discussion about women in combat. And my concern is if you put women on the front line, you would have to lessen standards and that would put more troops that — at arm’s length and in — in danger.
Also, do you feel like women can compete on the same level to be able to get a position on Special Forces?
RUBIO: Well, I don’t — I do not believe that the military is a place where we should be lowering standards in order to meet some sort of other goal. I believe that I’m open to people in both genders serving in combat, so long as they can meet the minimum requirements necessary for the job.
And we can’t weaken those standards in order to accommodate somebody into the job. That I believe in strongly because lives are on the line. And national security is on the line. By the way, there are plenty of men that can’t meet those standards either.
And so we should not lower standards for anyone because this is not — this is not — this is not a game. You are putting people into harm’s way, where they have to be able not simply to do the job in front of them, but also to be able to protect the people that are working alongside them.
And so for me, it’s not about the gender, it’s about the ability to do the job. And as president and as commander-in-chief, I will not lower standards in order to achieve some sort of societal aim.
COOPER: Thank you very much (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: This is Joshua Goodwin (ph).
He’s the vice chair of the Upstate Young Republicans.
He says he’s voting for you on Sunday.
RUBIO: Good. Let’s not blow it.
JOSHUA GOODWIN: Good evening, Senator.
RUBIO: Good evening.
GOODWIN: And welcome back to Greenville.
RUBIO: Thank you.
GOODWIN: My question for us is regarding the Charleston shooting. Myself and many South Carolinians were devastated by the hatred of racism and as a leader, I would like to know how would you simultaneously address the issue of racism, yet unify us as a country?
RUBIO: Yes, sir.
That’s an important question.
First, let me begin by saying that the entire country was inspired by the way South Carolina, and in particular the people impacted in Mother Emanuel Church reacted to the shooting. I think the images of these family members who had lost loved ones saying on television, we forgive the killer, had an impact on the country that was profound.
And I think it says a lot about South Carolina, but it also says a lot about a role that faith plays in the state.
And if you ask people about it, they will tell you that the church is at the center of how not South Carolina responded, not just to that shooting, but to a previous police shooting and to a flood that was a 1,000 year event.
Now, you talk about race relations. It’s a difficult issue in this country. I can tell you, and I know a lot of it is centered around law enforcement and police departments.
So let me begin by saying very clearly, I know for a fact that the overwomen — overwhelming majority of the men and women who serve us in law enforcement are incredible people, who, every single day, put their lives potentially on the line for our safety and for our security.
RUBIO: But I also know — but I also know that there are communities in this country where minority communities and the police department have a terrible relationship. I personally know someone who happens to be a police officer and a young African-American male, who told me that he has been pulled over seven, eight times in the last four years and never gets a ticket.
What is he supposed to think?
He gets pulled over for no reason, never gets a ticket, no one has any explanation for why he’s being pulled over.
What is he supposed to think?
So I also know that in this country, there is a significant number, particularly of young African-American males, who feel as if they’re treated differently than the rest of society. And here’s the bottom line, whether you agree with them or not, I happen to have seen this happen.
But whether you agree with them or not, if a significant percentage of the American family believes that they are being treated differently than everyone else, we have a problem. And we have to address it as a society and as a country, because I do not believe we can fulfill our potential as a nation unless we address that.
I’m not sure there’s a political solution that they are being treated differently than everyone else. We have a problem and we have to address it as a society and as a country because I do not believe that we can fulfill our potential as a nation unless we address that.
I’m not sure it there’s a political solution to that problem but there are things we can do. For example, one of the reasons why you see both educational and academic underperformance – not just in the African American community but also in the Hispanic comity is because of how a disproportionate number of our children are growing up in broken homes and dangerous neighborhoods.
They’re living in substandard housing and forced by the government to attend a failing school. A child that’s born with four strikes against them is going to struggle to succeed unless something breaks that cycle. We’ve seen things that work.
In New York City, Jeffrey Canada and the Harlem Children Zone has shown us what works. You get involved in the lives of children and you begin to address those strikes against them. And you can see the same results you would get anywhere else in the country.
So I do believe as a society, we have to confront this issue in a responsible way because ultimately, if a significant percentage of the American feels that they are locked out the promise of America, we will never be able to fulfill our destiny as a great nation.
COOPER: If I could, just a quick follow up? On a personal basis, have you ever felt the sting the racism?
RUBIO: You know, let me tell you a couple things, my parents were extraordinary people. My parents raised me to believe that it didn’t matter that they came from Cuba and that he was a bartender and she was a maid. There was nothing that we couldn’t do.
I do recall as a child during the Boat Lift in growing up in Las Vegas that some of the neighborhood kids – older kids, one day were taunting my family. The were saying, “why don’t go back on your boat, why don’t you go back to your country, why don’t leave here.” I didn’t know what they were talking about, I was seven years old.
I said, “what boat – my mom doesn’t even swim, she’s afraid of water.” And my parents had sit me down and explain that, “the Mariel Boat Lift is going on and people are really upset about it and they’re hearing this stuff but don’t blame the kids, they must be hearing it from somebody. That’s why they’re repeating it.” So that disturbed me as a young child.
But I’ve got to tell you that for the most part in my life, I never saw it as a reflection on America, I saw it as a reflection on those kids and what they were saying. What I give my parents a lot of credit is that they never raised us to feel that we were victims. They always raised us to believe that our destiny and our future – we lived in the one place on earth where if you worked hard and you persevered, you could achieve no matter what.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t deny that there are people in this country that have had a different experience. We need to recognize that. If you look back at the history of this country we have some blemishes in our history that I believe even to this day, we’re fighting through. But what I think is extraordinary about America is that we have fought through that.
We are a nation of perpetual improvement. If you look at how far we’ve come as a country since the 1960’s. If you look at how far South Carolina has come from where it is today to where it was 30 to 40 years ago, simply amazing. In my campaign for president today, I got the endorsement of a governor of Indian decent, who endorsed a presidential candidate of Cuban decent, and tomorrow will be campaigning alongside an African American Republican Senator, all three are doing that here inside South Carolina.
That says a lot about the Republican party.
COOPER: I want to meet Douglas Parrott who was leaning towards Donald Trump but in the last debate over the weekend gave him some pause. Let us welcome him.
DOUGLAS PARROTT, PARTICIPANT: Senator Rubio, the United States economy seems to be chugging along at a anemic two percent GDP. Households incomes are down, workplace participation is down, the stock market seems to be trending down and the Fed has been stimulating our economy for the past decade and this is what we have to show for it. Could you prioritize three actions that you believe we must take as a nation to turn this economic ship around?
RUBIO: Well first of all, let me just address the Fed issue, Douglas. That’s not the Fed’s job to stimulate the economy. The Fed is a central bank, it is not some sort of overlord of the economy. They’re not some sort of special Jedi Counsel that can decide the best things for us.
The Fed is a central bank. Their job is provide stable currency and I believe the should operate on a rules based system. They would have a very simple rule that determines when interest rates go up and when interestes rates goes down.
Today, it’s like a magic eight ball. We don’t know when they’re going to raise interest and it creates an incredible amount of uncertainty in the market place. Your question goes to the core of something deeper and then I’m going to get to the three points.
We are living through a massive and rapid economic transformation. This is not an economic downturn. This is a massive economic transformation.
We are having the industrial revolution every five years. You can be on the cutting edge of an industry today and in less than five years, you’re obsolete. That is disruptive and itt’s eliminating jobs that once sustained them. It’s replacing it with new jobs but those new jobs require skills that many of our people may not have because they haven’t been trained for it.
So the first thing is, we have to make ourselves a friendlier place in a globally competitive economy. If you look at South Carolina, why is South Carolina attracting manufacturing? I’ll tell you what it’s doing, it’s lowering it’s taxes, it’s reducing the regulatory burden – these things are important.
So as president, I want us to lead – I want us to be an active and vibrant advocate for setting an agenda that we are going to simplify our tax code. We have the highest combined corporate tax rate in the world…… its taxes. It’s reducing the regulatory burden. These things are important.
So as president, I want us to lead — I want to be an active and vibrant advocate for setting an agenda that we are going to simplify our tax code. We have the highest combined corporate tax rate in the world. That’s why I want to lower it to a flat rate of 25 percent on all businesses, including small businesses organized as subchapter S, and therefore their pass-throughs, paying as high as 39.5 percent.
I want us to allow businesses, all businesses, to immediately expense every dollar they invest into their business. I want us to move to a territorial system of taxation. We are the last major industrial country that double taxes its companies from making money overseas.
That’s why you have $2 trillion of American corporate cash sitting overseas, $2 trillion is equivalent to the GDP of Russia. That’s how much American corporate cash is not being invested here and instead is being invested overseas.
Regulatory reform is important. I’ve proposed a regulatory budget, a regulatory budget that says we’re going to put a hard cap on how much federal regulations can cost our economy.
And that will force agencies to reduce regulations and it will say if you’re going to add a new regulation, you’re going to have to cut an existing one because regulations are a burden.
The third thing that we’re going to have to address in order to get our economy growing is the national debt. It stands at $19 trillion with close to $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
We will have a debt crisis in America soon if we do not address it. In less than five years, 83 percent of the federal budget will be consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the interest on the debt.
That means we will only have 17 percent of our budget left for everything else, including the military. That’s unacceptable. That’s a debt crisis.
And so I want us to save Social Security and Medicare. And we can do it without disrupting it for people that are on it now. My mother is on Social Security and Medicare. I am against any changes to those programs that’s bad for my mother, which is a pretty good policy.
But it won’t look the same for me. I’m going to — instead of retiring at 67, I may have to retire at 68. If I was still in the senate, I’d be one of the youngest people there.
RUBIO: If I had made a lot of money, my Social Security benefits may not grow as fast as they grow for someone who made less money. Medicare could be the option of taking my money and using it to buy a private plan that I like better. Medicare Advantage provides that somewhat now.
These are not unreasonable changes. They’re not too much to ask of me, who is 25 years away from retirement, in exchange for balancing our budget, bringing our debt under control, and leaving Social Security and Medicare undisturbed for current beneficiaries.
You deal with our debt, you roll back regulations, you scale down our tax code, and you are going to see America lead the world in the 21st Century economy. We fail to do that, we remain stagnant like we are right now.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
RUBIO: Thank you.
COOPER: Senator Rubio, we’re going to take a quick break.
We’ll be back in a moment with more voter questions for Senator Marco Rubio.
COOPER: Alright, welcome back. We’re here with Senator Marco Rubio, thanks very much for doing this.
Before we get back to audience questions, just today former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, obviously appointed by Ronald Reagan said there should be no delay in filling the vacancy by Justice Scalia’s death. She said, quote, “I think we need somebody there now to do the job. Let’s get on with it.”
RUBIO: Well, I respect her very much. I would just say a couple things. There is now an 80 year precedent on this that in the last year of President’s term, the Senate usually doesn’t move forward, not just on Supreme Court nominations, but on appellate judges because you’re appointing someone to a lifetime appointment, theoretically, to the Supreme Court.
So, there’s going — the Supreme Court can function with eight Justices. And, then their term will end, a new one will begin in October, and they’ll be an election in November. And, this is going to be an issue in the campaign. Voters are going to ask of the Presidential candidates what kind of justice are you going to appoint? There’s going to be an election, and then the new president will have an opportunity to nominate someone, and the Senate to confirm them.
So, that’s the approach I support.
COOPER: You said there’s precedent. President Obama just yesterday said, look, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says you can’t. If you were president, would you nominate somebody?
RUBIO: No, I would respect that president. And it is true, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says he can’t nominate someone. There’s also nothing in the Constitution that says the Senate must immediately confirm them.
RUBIO: So, bottom line is that there will be someone filling that vacancy, and I think the new president should be the person who fills that vacancy. Look, it may not be a Republican. I think it’s going to be a Republican, that’s what I want it to be, but I think it’s going to be an issue in this campaign, and the voters are going to be able to weigh in on it in November.
COOPER: I want you to meet Amber McDonald. She’s an elementary school teacher. She says she is undecided right now.
RUBIO: Hi, Amber.
QUESTION: Good evening, how are?
RUBIO: Good evening, good.
QUESTION: As an educator for 14 years, I have seen a change in our children. I’m very passionate about what I do, and so it makes my job difficult when these children come in having other concerns. They’re concerned about their parents who fought before they came. They’re concerned that they didn’t have food to eat breakfast. And, all of that comes into what we do every single day. How can you help us to make that easier — to where we can maybe educate the parents to where those things are easier for them, then it helps our children to have an easier day, not as stressful.
RUBIO: Thank you for the question. I have three educators in my family, elementary school, and I hear the exact same thing because ultimately our schools are inheriting whatever society sends them in the morning. And, I touched on that briefly a moment ago.
If a child is being raised in a broken home, living in substandard housing, no access to healthcare, and facing these other challenges you talked about. This child faces significant obstacles, and they need to be addressed. The question is what can government do about it because ultimately there’s no law I can pass to make people better parents. And, no matter how hard you try, and how much you want to help, there’s only so much you can do about that as well.
I do think we need to empower parents. It’s one of the reasons why my tax plan that I’ve proposed increased the per child tax credit. I’ve been criticized for that by, for example, the Wall Street Journal and others. They don’t like the per-child tax credit, but I don’t understand why do we live in a country where a business invests money in a piece of equipment, they get to write it off their taxes. But if a working parent invests more money in their children they don’t get to write that off their taxes.
This is their money. What I’m arguing is that working parents should be allowed to keep more of their own money so that they have the resources that it takes to raise their children. It’s expensive to raise children in the 21st century. My tax plan recognizes that.
But, ultimately, I think your question goes to the core of something we need to remind ourselves…RUBIO: This is their money. What I’m arguing is that working parents should be allowed to keep more of their own money so that they have the resources that it takes to raise their children. It’s expensive to raise children in the 21st century. My tax plan recognizes that.
But, ultimately, I think your question goes to the core of something we need to remind ourselves there is not a federal government solution to every problem in our country. That does not mean that our leaders should not spend the time to tell people that what happens in our house — what happens your house is often times much more important than what happens in the White House.
The most important job I will ever have will not be President of the United States, it will be to be a father of my four children. And, I think that’s important for us as a society to continue to understand, that you cannot have a strong country without strong people. You cannot have strong people without strong values. And, you cannot have strong values without strong families.
No One is born with strong values, they have to be instilled in you in a strong home. And, while government cannot make families stronger, it most certainly can do things to help families like allowing them to keep more of their hard earned money, and most importantly, not having any laws, whether it’s in our safety net program, or our tax code, that discourages marriage or undermine parenting.
COOPER: You’re obviously very accomplished. Did you always know you wanted to do public service?
RUBIO: No, I wanted to play in the NFL, but…
RUBIO: … And I would have had it not been for my lack of speed, size and talent.
RUBIO: But, I always had an interest in public service. My grandfather was very — actually, it’s great to be here today. My grandfather, one of the jobs he had growing as a young man was a cigar reader in the front of a cigar factory. In Cuba they didn’t have T.V. or radio at the time — they did, but they didn’t have it in the cigar factory.
And, so he would read newspapers and novels to the workers. And, as a result, became a very well read person, and he instilled in me, kind of, this interest in politics, and world affairs. And, I think that was a seed that grew over time in me. But, I didn’t know — no one can predict you’re going to be at a setting like I am here today.
But, I always had somewhat of an interest in it, but I thought I’d be an NFL player, and an NFL coach before I got to this point. We obviously fast forwarded past the NFL part, and got this part.
COOPER: I want you to meet Jason Lee, he’s a minister, the father of four kids, and he says he is still undecided. Welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. I had the same shortcoming in the NFL as well, Senator.
RUBIO: I think almost everyone does, Jason.
QUESTION: Most GOP candidates point to Ronald Reagan as a model president they look up to, so I want to ask in terms of looking at him as a model for immigration and refugee resettlement. He had the refugee resettlement annual cap as high as 200,000 in one of his terms.
So, my question is looking at him, and considering yourself to be a compassionate conservative, will you let more vetted, secured, refugees into this country? What will your plan be for this American tradition of refugee resettlement?
RUBIO: Yes, sir. I believe that America must always continue to be a place that allows people seeking refuge from political persecution and violence to come.
Here’s the difference between Reagan’s world, and the one we live in now. Because, policies have to reflect the times in which you live. When Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, there did not exist a radical jihadist group that was attempting to use the immigration laws of other countries against those countries. And, that’s the threat we now face.
It’s the reason why, for example, in America there was a time in many communities when nobody locked their doors. No everybody locks their doors. And, it isn’t because we hate people outside of our home, it’s because we love the people inside of our home.
And, so today, in the process by which we accept people into the United State is going to have to be different. We know for a fact that ISIS, for example, has captured key places in Syria where passports are produced. And, so you’ve seen open sourced reporting that today ISIS has the capability of basically creating legitimate Syrian passports, except the picture and the name is not exactly who it says it is.
This is a real threat for America. If we accept 10,000 Syrian refugees tomorrow, and 9,999 of them were good people, and one of them was an ISIS killer, we have a big problem. We have to be 100% right given the threat we now face.
So, what I’ve said is it’s not about a religious test, it’s not about discrimination. It’s just that we have to be 100% right. And, that means that our vetting process must be stricter than it’s ever been. Here’s the hard truth, it’s almost impossible to vet people now from that part of the world. We don’t have a database to rely on. You can’t just call up 1-800-Syria and ask them, “Do you know so-and-so,” and, “do you know who they are, and why they’re coming?”
It’s just become harder and harder to vet people from certain parts of the world. So, my point is we’ll always be a country that’s open to refugees, but in the 21st century, if we don’t know who you are, and we don’t know why you’re coming 100% for sure, we’re not going to be able to allow you to come in because the threat we face is so significant now, and so real.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
Senator Rubio, this is Jeff Phillips. He’s an attorney, he says he likes you, and Donald Trump. Still has not made up his mind. Jeff, welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Dr. Ben Carson mentioned, before you came out here, that the GOP may not have learned its lesson in 2012 regarding infighting, especially in the primary. This primary has been as contentious as any I’ve seen — 45 years I’ve been watching politics.
The question is this…… lesson in 2012 regarding infighting, especially in the primary. This primary has been as contentious as any I’ve seen in the 45 years I’ve been watching politics.
The question is this. There’s going to be a lot of healing. There’s going to have to be a lot of bridge-building after this primary, no matter who wins it. And I would like to know what you would do and what you have done in the past to show that you have the ability not only to unify the Republican Party but unify the American people well enough to win the general election.
RUBIO: That’s a great question.
First of all, I think we need to remember that in this country we’re blessed that we have — in this country, we solve through elections what other countries solve through civil wars. And that’s just in America.
Just have some perspective here. The worst thing that happens to someone in the political process is you lose an election. They say nasty things about you and they run a bad ad about you.
In other countries, if you lose an election, you go to jail or you go into exile. So we’re blessed to be living in a republic where we have strong disagreements about the future of our country but they are settled at the ballot box, not at the tip of a gun or a spear.
That said, you’re right that we’re going to — if we want to win an election, we’re going to ultimately have to come together. And I believe I already provide that. There’s a reason why virtually every candidate in this field has attacked me. Because I run a campaign that I believe appeals to the broad sector of the Republican electorate.
Now they don’t all agree with me on every issue. But we’ve basically campaigned to every voter in the Republican coalition.
But my promise to you if I’m the nominee is, I’m not just going to unify the Republican Party, I’m going to grow it. We’re going to take our message to people that haven’t voted for Republicans in a long time.
And they haven’t voted for us because the left and the Democrats have told them that the Republican Party is the party of the rich people and the Democrats are the party of the working people.
That’s one of the biggest lies in American politics. The Democratic Party, which today is led, apparently according to the polls, by a devout avowed democratic socialist, has become a far left party. And they are the party of big government.
Big government hurts people that are trying to make it, because the bigger the government, the more the people that influence government win at the expense of everybody else.
Look at Dodd-Frank. It passed. The big banks are bigger today than ever. The regional banks and the community banks are getting wiped out.
So we have a message and we’re going to take it, we’re going to take our message to people living paycheck to paycheck. You know why I know I can take that message to them? Because I grew up paycheck to paycheck.
Because my wife and I have lived paycheck to paycheck. Because I’ve written a check on Wednesday knowing that the money doesn’t get there until Friday, so I date it Saturday. I’ve had to do that. I know what that feels like.
We’re going to take our message to young Americans struggling under thousands of dollars in student loan debt. We’re going to be the party of the single mom that is struggling to raise her children on $11 an hour because we’re going to be the party that makes it easier for her to go back to school and get the degree that allows her to find a better-paying job.
We’re going to take our message to parents raising their children in the 21st Century, because my wife and I are raising four children right now. We know how hard it is to instill in our children the values that they teach in our church instead of the values that the culture tries to ram down our throat.
My goal is not just to unify the party, but to grow it. And ultimately to unify our country. That doesn’t mean everyone is going to agree with me on everything. But I’m going to be a president for all Americans, even the people that don’t vote for me, I’m going to cut their taxes, too.
I’m going to be a president for all Americans, because an American president has to love the American people, even those that don’t love you back. And that’s what I intend to do.
COOPER: One of the things that Ted Cruz said earlier today, he called you — that you are behaving like Donald Trump with a smile. I want you to be able to respond.
RUBIO: Donald smiles. I’ve seen him smile.
RUBIO: I don’t know, this back and forth is silly. In the end, look, if somebody says something about me that isn’t true, I’m going to correct the record, Anderson. But ultimately, it’s not about me, it’s not about Ted, it’s not about Donald.
It’s about what is this country going to look like when my 15-year-old daughter graduates from college. What is it going to look like when he buys her first home or tries to start her first business? What is it going to look like when my 8-year-old son does the same?
2016 is a turning point. And I honestly believe we only have two ways forward. We are either going to be the first Americans that leave their children worse off than themselves or we are going be the authors of a new American century, the greatest era in our history.
That’s a pretty dramatic choice. I believe 2016 is about that. And when the stakes are that high, that’s what I’m going to spend 99 percent of my time talking about.
COOPER: You talked about your kids, your wife, Jeanette. You have a commercial now with both of them in it. When did you know that your Jeannette was the woman for you?
RUBIO: Well, I’d like to think she liked me first, but I liked her first.
COOPER: How did you meet?
RUBIO: So I was playing sand volleyball at a park in West Miami, Florida, and saw this really cute girl sitting there. And I started asking questions about her. But months would go by. I finally didn’t really get to know her until my college roommate was dating her best friend and introduced us.
And it took a little while to convince her that I was the right person. But we were dating for seven years. We got married in 1998. It has been one of the most blessed things that has ever happened to me in my life. I’m truly blessed to have not just a godly and wonderful wife and partner in life, but also been blessed by four incredible children.
And I tell people all the time, I mean, that’s an extraordinary blessing that — that’s why I have so much peace…RUBIO: Been one of the most blessed things that’s ever happened to me in my life. I’m — I’m truly blessed to have not just a godly and wonderful wife and partner in life but I’ve also been blessed by four incredible children.
And I tell people all the time, I mean that’s an extraordinary blessing that it — that’s what I have so much peace about, no matter what happens.
I’m running for president. I’d love to be your president. But my kids are going to love me no matter what happens and — and so if my wife. And I’m just blessed by that.
COOPER: If a — if you are elected president, would you still coach your son in football?
RUBIO: I’d like to. I’ll have to talk to the Secret Service about it. But a…
RUBIO: — but I love — and, you know, the thing about sports, we — yes, would you love your children to be successful?
Absolutely, in whatever they do.
But for me, sports has been an incredible teacher of life — life lessons. You know, I was a little bit disappointed by what happened in New Hampshire and I thought I had myself to blame. And the lessons that I applied to that disappointment came from sports.
I used to play defensive back. And, uh, I got beat from time to time on a pass play. You’re going to if you’re a corner back. You’ve got to put that behind you, because you’ve got another play coming up and you’ve got to make up for it on the next play.
I learned that lesson from athletics.
And so for me, as much as anything else, sports has been a way for me to instill life lessons in my children, particularly how to deal with failure, how to deal with disappointment and how to work alongside other people in order to achieve a goal.
COOPER: With all the — with the worry now about concussions, do you worry about your child — you used to do football in school?
RUBIO: Yes. I do — well, we — we try to make it as safe as we possibly can. Football has inherent danger. So does competitive stunt cheerleading. My daughter used to do that. So does driving a car to work and back.
So there’s risks inherent in a lot of activity. I ultimately think football is an incredible sport. It teaches lessons, life lessons, that are — that I think are valuable.
You can make the game safer. You can ek — never make it entirely safe, and so we do spend a lot of the time coaching kids how to properly tackle, not use your head, very different from when — when I was growing up and they taught you to use your head to tackle, so.
And the Democrats say that explains a lot about Marco Rubio, but it’s not true.
But my point is it’s — it’s a sport that brings with it some inherent danger, but so does life. And we try to make it as safe as possible.
COOPER: In Mason City, I was surprised you mentioned that you’re color-blind, which I hadn’t realized.
RUBIO: I am.
COOPER: And that you should have seen your clothes before your wife started picking them out.
RUBIO: Yes, well, we basically are now sticking to like reds and blues and grays and blues because I have trouble distinguishing between blue and black, blue and purple.
COOPER: So those…
RUBIO: — green and blue…
COOPER: — those are the colors…
COOPER: — you can’t see.
RUBIO: It’s a mess, yes. I have no — it’s a…
COOPER: Did you always have that?
It was something…
RUBIO: I didn’t know until people started telling me hey, that’s a nice green shirt.
I go what green, the blue one I have on?
No, it’s green. So I — yes, I struggle with it.
COOPER: The other thing I think I found that’s surprising about it is you like EDM.
RUBIO: I do.
COOPER: Electronic dance music.
RUBIO: Yes. It’s — I don’t want people — maybe people thought it was something else.
So I’ve — I’ve (INAUDIBLE)…
COOPER: Have you ever been to a rave?
RUBIO: Well, no, no…
COOPER: — and…
RUBIO: — I’m — I’ve never been to a rave, no. I’ve never been to a rave.
COOPER: Well, I don’t know.
RUBIO: It’s the Republican primary, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, I…
COOPER: I mean you — you like EDM. That’s what they do, isn’t it?
RUBIO: No, I listen to it. I don’t necessarily…
RUBIO: — I don’t — I think I’m a little too old to be going to a rave, (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: Well, maybe back in the day.
RUBIO: Well, I have the boots for it. I don’t know if you saw that on TV or not, but, no, here’s the thing about it. I actually grew up listening to ’90s hip-hop music, especially the West Coast stuff. And I really liked it. But the — in the last few years, what’s happened with EDM, you’ve got these electronic — these disc jockeys or these DJs that are taking electronic music and overlaying it with tracks from country music and all sorts of things and so the lyrics are clean. The beats and music is fun. I’ve gotten into it. It’s a lot of fun.
COOPER: Do your kids like it, too?
RUBIO: Yes, they — I mean there’s — the words are clean. Sometimes they have no words at all. It’s electronic dance music, so that’s perfect. I don’t have to worry about the lyrics.
COOPER: Senator Rubio, thank you so much for your time.
RUBIO: Thank you, Anderson.
Thank you so much.
COOPER: Appreciate it.
COOPER: I want to thank Senator Rubio for taking part.
I really appreciate it.
Thank you very much.
Coming up next, Iowa caucus winner Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
We’ll be right back.