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Posted on November 29, 2007 at 10:30 AM

GOP elephant logoThe Republicans running for the presidential nomination got together in St. Petersburg, FL Wednesday for another debate. We’ve pulled highlights from the transcript that might be of interest here at our little intersection of the web. Topics included spending on health care, torture, the death penalty, and charging doctors or women with crimes for abortions. The breakdown is after the jump.

John McCain on spending and SCHIP:

We’ve presided over great expansion of government; the latest being in the SCHIP, which was going to be paid for supposedly with a dollar a pack increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes. So we’re going to help children with their health insurance and hope that they continue to smoke.

Mitt Romney on spending and health care:

We’re going to have to see fundamental change in the way Washington works. We’re just not going to get out-of-the-box thinking with inside-the-Beltway politics. And we’re going to have to fundamentally go at something like our entitlements and say, “We’ve got to reform those.”

I took on a major issue, which was health care, found a way to get people health insurance without having to expand government, without having to raise taxes.

Mike Huckabee on reaching out to African-Americans through health initiatives:

And while I was governor, I tried to make sure that we included people not only in appointments and employment, but also in the programs that would truly make a difference, by putting disproportionate amounts of help for health problems specifically targeted to African-Americans, like hypertension and AIDS and diabetes.

Romney and McCain go back and forth after a question about waterboarding and torture:

ANDREW JONES (SEATTLE, WASHINGTON): Hello, gentlemen. I’m Andrew, and I’m a college student from Seattle, Washington.

Recently, Senator McCain has come strongly against using waterboarding as an instrument of interrogation. My question for the rest of you is, considering that Mr. McCain is the only one with any firsthand knowledge on the subject, how can those of you sharing the stage with him disagree with his position?

MR. COOPER: Governor Romney.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, he certainly is an expert, and I — and I certainly would want to get his counsel on a matter of this nature. But I do not believe that as a — a presidential candidate it is wise for us to describe precisely what techniques we will use in interrogating people.

I oppose torture. I would not be in favor of torture in any way, shape or form. We —

MR. COOPER: Is waterboarding torture?

MR. ROMNEY: And — as I just said, as a presidential candidate, I don’t think it’s wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use. And that is something which I would want to receive the counsel not only of Senator McCain, but of a lot of other people. And there are people who — who, for many, many years, get the information we need to make sure that we protect our country.

And by the way, I want to make sure these folks are kept at Guantanamo. I don’t want the people that are carrying out attacks in this country to be brought into our jail system and to be given legal representation in this country. I want to make sure that — that what happened to — (applause) — to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed happens to other people who are terrorists. He was captured. He was the so- called mastermind of the 9/11 tragedy. And he turned to his captors and he said, “I’ll see you in New York with my lawyers.” I presume ACLU lawyers. But that’s not what happened. (Laughter.)

He went to Guantanamo and he met GIs and CIA interrogators, and that’s just exactly how it ought to be. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. COOPER: There are — Senator McCain. There are reports Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, Governor, I’m astonished that you haven’t found out what waterboarding is.

MR. ROMNEY: I know what waterboarding is, Senator.

SEN. MCCAIN: Then I am astonished that you would think such a torture would be inflicted on anyone in our — who we are — held captive, and anyone who could believe that that’s not torture. It’s in violation of the Geneva Conventions. (Applause.) It’s in violation of existing law.

And Governor, let me tell you, if we’re going to get the high ground in this world and we’re going to be America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years, we’re not going to torture people. We’re not going to do what Pol Pot did. We’re not going Pot do what’s being done to Burmese monks as we speak.

And I suggest that you talk to retired military officers and active duty military officers like Colin Powell and others. And how in the world anybody could think that that kind of thing could be inflicted by Americans on people who are held in our custody is absolutely beyond me. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. COOPER: Governor Romney, 30 seconds to respond, please.

MR. ROMNEY: Senator McCain, I appreciate your strong response, and you have the credentials upon which to make that response. I did not say, and I do not say, that we’re in — that I’m in favor of torture. I am not. I’m not going to specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so that the people that we capture will know what things we’re able to do and what things we’re not able to do.

And I get that — and I get that advice from Cofer Black, who is a person who was responsible for counterterrorism in the CIA for some 35 years. I’d get that advice by talking to former general in our military, and I don’t believe —


MR. ROMNEY: — I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me as a presidential candidate to lay out all of the issues one by one —


MR. ROMNEY: — get question one by one, is this torture, is that torture.

MR. COOPER: Senator McCain?

MR. ROMNEY: That’s something which I’m going to take your and other people’s counsel on.

MR. COOPER: Senator McCain, 30 seconds to respond.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, then you would have to advocate that we withdraw from the Geneva Conventions, which were for the treatment of people who are held prisoner, whether they be illegal combatants or regular prisoners of war, because it’s clearly the definition of torture. It’s in violation of laws we have passed.

And again, I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not 24 and Jack Bauer. Life is interrogation techniques which are humane and yet effective. And I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. They army general there said that the techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn’t think they need to do anything else.

My friends, this is what America is all about. This is a defining issue, and clearly, we should be able if we want to be commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces to take a definite and positive position on, and that is we will never allow torture to take place in the United States of America — (off mike) — (cheers, applause.)

Huckabee responding to a question about what Jesus would do about the death penalty:

You know, one of the toughest challenges that I ever faced as a governor was carrying out the death penalty. I did it more than any other governor ever had to do it in my state. As I look on this stage, I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person on this stage that’s ever had to actually do it.

Let me tell you, it was the toughest decision I ever made as a human being. I read every page of every document of every case that ever came before me, because it was the one decision that came to my desk that, once I made it, was irrevocable.

Every other decision, somebody else could go back and overturn, could fix if it was a mistake. That was one that was irrevocable.

I believe there is a place for a death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous, so horrible, that the only response that we as a civilized nation have for a most uncivil action is not only to try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again, but also as a warning to others that some crimes truly are beyond any other capacity for us to fix. (Applause.)

Now, having said that, there are those who say, “How can you be pro-life and believe in a death penalty?” Because there’s a real difference between the process of adjudication where a person is deemed guilty after a thorough judicial process and is put to death by all of us as citizens under a law, as opposed to an individual making a decision to terminate a life that has never been deemed guilty because the life never was given a chance to even exist. That’s the fundamental difference. (Applause.)

MR. COOPER: Governor, I do have to press, though, the question, which — the question from the viewer was, “What would Jesus do?” Would Jesus support the death penalty?

MR. HUCKABEE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. (Laughter.) That’s what Jesus would do. (Cheers, applause.)

Ron Paul and Fred Thompson responding to a question about charging doctors and women with crimes for being involved with abortions:

Q Hi. My name is Journey. I’m from Texas, and this question is for all politically pro-life candidates. In the event that abortion becomes illegal and a woman obtains an abortion anyway, what should she be charged with, and what should her punishment be? What about the doctor who performs the abortion?

MR. COOPER: Congressman Paul? Ninety seconds.

REP. PAUL: You know, it’s not a federal function to determine the penalties for a crime of abortion if it’s illegal in a state. It’s up to the state, it’s up to the juries. And it should be up to discretion because it’s not an easy issue to deal with, but the first thing we have to do is get the federal government out of it. We don’t need a federal abortion police. That’s the last thing that we need. (Cheers, applause.)

But —

MR. COOPER: Should a woman be charged with a crime?

REP. PAUL: Pardon me?

MR. COOPER: Should the woman be charge with a crime?

REP. PAUL: I don’t personally think so. I’m an OB doctor and I practiced medicine for 30 years, and I, of course, never saw one time when a medically necessary abortion had to be done. But — so I think it certainly is a crime, but I also understand the difficulties. I think when you’re talking about third trimester deliberate abortion and partial-birth abortions, I mean, there has to be a criminal penalty for the person that’s committing that crime. But I really think it’s the person who commits the crime, and I think that is the abortionist.

MR. COOPER: So you’re saying a doctor should be punished. What sort of punishment should they get?

REP. PAUL: Well, I think it’s up to the states. I’m not — in the state. I’m not in — I’m not running for governor, and I think it’s different, and I don’t think it should be all 50 states the same way. So I — I don’t think that should be up to the president to decide that.

MR. COOPER: Senator Thompson.

MR. THOMPSON: Yeah, the young lady’s question is — (applause) — the — the young lady’s question is premised on if abortion becomes illegal. That presumes Roe versus Wade is overturned, which I think should be our number one focus right now. And that has to do with the kind of Supreme Court justices we put on the bench. (Applause.)

MR. COOPER: But the question is —

MR. THOMPSON: We should have — we got to — I’m getting there. I’m getting there.

That would mean that it goes back to the states, and then the states would have to outlaw it at an earlier stage than they outlaw it now. And then the question would be, who gets penalized and what should the penalty be? I think it should be fashioned along the same lines that it is now.

Most states have abortion laws that pertain — that — and — and prohibit abortion after viability. And it goes to the doctor performing the abortion, not the girl or the young girl or her parents, whomever it might be.


MR. THOMPSON: I think that same pattern needs to be followed. It could just be moved up earlier or much earlier in the process if the —

MR. COOPER: All right.

MR. THOMPSON: — if the state so determined.

Rudy Giuliani referencing the same question a little later on:

I don’t believe, in the circumstance that you asked before, that it should be criminalized. I think that would be a mistake, unless we’re talking about partial-birth abortion or late-term abortion.

The New York Times has the full transcript.

Earlier on
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