On the night of the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Democracy Now! did a special broadcast from the campus, near the official debate hall. We aired the entire President Obama-Mitt Romney debate live and spoke with students and local residents about the issues they wanted to hear the candidates address.
AMY GOODMAN: From Hofstra University on Long Island, this is a Democracy Now! special, "Expanding the Debate."
MITT ROMNEY: If President Obama were able to get re-elected, why, he would raise taxes. He’s made it very clear. The vice president blurted out the truth the other day. They’re planning on raising taxes a trillion dollars on small business and on individuals. The estimate—the estimate is their tax plan will cost 700,000 jobs. I make this commitment: I will not raise taxes on small business or on the middle class in America. I’m going to keep our taxes down.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: These days, Mitt Romney is for whatever you’re for. Suddenly he loves the middle class, can’t stop talking enough about them. He loves Medicare, loves teachers. He even loves the most important parts of "Obamacare." What happened?
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney prepare to take the stage for their second debate, here on Long Island. We’ll air the entire debate live and speak with students, professors and local residents about the real questions they want candidates to address. And we’ll hear why Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala got arrested today trying to enter the site of tonight’s debate. All that and more, coming up.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re at Hofstra University on Long Island, the site of tonight’s second presidential debate. In just under an hour, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will take the stage for their second debate. Tonight’s debate will be conducted in a town hall format with pre-approved questions from the audience.
The debate comes a day after Time magazine obtained the contract secretly negotiated by the Obama and Romney campaigns that dictates the terms of the 2012 presidential debates. The secret deal severely limits the role of tonight’s moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley. Under the deal, Crowley is not allowed to, quote, "ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate."
Third-party candidates have also been barred from participating in tonight’s debate. Earlier this afternoon, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala attempted to get into Hofstra University. They were arrested for blocking the main gate of the school. Democracy Now! was there at the time of their arrest.
DR. JILL STEIN: We are here at the barred gates of American debates to say that we need to open up this debate and make it a full, fair and inclusive debate.
CHERI HONKALA: It shouldn’t just be whether or not you have billions of dollars that determine whether or not the American people can hear about your platform.
DR. JILL STEIN: Our Green campaign is on the ballot for 85 percent of voters. Eighty-five percent of voters deserve to know who their choices are in this election and what the real solutions are that can solve the desperate problems that we’re facing. The Commission on Presidential Debates makes a mockery of democracy by conducting this fake and contrived debate.
HOFSTRA OFFICIAL: Do you have credentials?
CHERI HONKALA: Yes, we do have credentials.
HOFSTRA OFFICIAL: Can I see?
CHERI HONKALA: We’ve been on the ballot in 85 percent of the country.
DR. JILL STEIN: Eighty-five percent of voters.
HOFSTRA OFFICIAL: This is an event. This is something that Hofstra has sponsored. It’s an event, an educational experience for our faculty, our students.
DR. JILL STEIN: Well, we think it’s more than that.
POLICE OFFICER 1: You’ve got to move out [inaudible] run over by a car.
POLICE OFFICER 2: If you could just slide over here.
POLICE OFFICER 3: Just slide over is all we need you to do, just for a minute while she makes [inaudible]
POLICE OFFICER 1: [inaudible] a little bit. You’re going to get run over.
POLICE OFFICER 2: You can stand here, just slide over.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Move in with the traffic cone.
POLICE OFFICER 3: While she makes her phone call [inaudible].
POLICE OFFICER 2: Just right over here.
POLICE OFFICER 3: Ma’am, please.
DR. JILL STEIN: Well, we’re here to stand our ground. We’re here to stand ground for the American people, who have been systematically locked out of these debates for decades by the Commission on Presidential Debates. We think that this commission is entirely illegitimate; that if—if democracy truly prevailed, there would be no such commission, that the debates would still be run by the League of Women Voters, that the debates would be open with the criteria that the League of Women Voters had always used, which was that if you have done the work to get on the ballot, if you are on the ballot and could actually win the Electoral College by being on the ballot in enough states, that you deserve to be in the election and you deserve to be heard; and that the American people actually deserve to hear choices which are not bought and paid for by multinational corporations and Wall Street.
POLICE OFFICER 4: Ladies and gentlemen, you are obstructing the vehicle of pedestrians and traffic. If you refuse to move, you are subject to arrest.
Remove them. Bring them back to arrest them, please.
POLICE OFFICER 5: Come on, ma’am.
POLICE OFFICER 6: Would you step up, please? Stand up, please?
POLICE OFFICER 5: We’ll help you. Come on. Thank you, ma’am.
POLICE OFFICER 6: Thank you, ladies.
POLICE OFFICER 5: Watch the flag.
POLICE OFFICER 4: Thank you, ladies.
POLICE OFFICER 5: Thank you.
POLICE OFFICER 6: Come with us.
POLICE OFFICER 5: Just come with us.
POLICE OFFICER 6: Thank you. You guys have to stay here. All right, everybody, we’re going to ask you to please move back.
DR. JILL STEIN: Well, I’d say this is what democracy looks like in the 21st century. I’m afraid it’s going to take some—some politics and courage here to get our democracy back. So, more to come.
AMY GOODMAN: Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate, anti-poverty activist Cheri Honkala, getting arrested today here at Hofstra University, the site of tonight’s presidential debate.
Dr. Stein is scheduled to appear tomorrow morning on our two-hour "Expanding the Debate" special. Stein, Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode will be given a chance to answer the same questions asked of President Obama and Mitt Romney tonight. This, again, part of our "Expanding the Debate" series.
As we count down to tonight’s debate, we spend the hour with a number of guests from Hofstra University and the surrounding community. We’re joined by Margaret Melkonian, executive director of the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. Sister Jeanne Clark is founder of Homecoming and the former coordinator of Pax Christi here on Long Island. And Kayla Rivara is a senior at Hofstra University, a fellow at Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement and program assistant for the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. But we’re going to start today with Professor Greg Maney.
We welcome you to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this community? Greg Maney is co-director of Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement and a professor of sociology here, as well as a community activist. Talk about the stage being set here. It’s an elaborate event. From the minute we got off the Long Island Rail Road, there were police there. There were dogs. When we came up to the Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of the building that we’re broadcasting from on Hofstra University, there were hundreds of people protesting, and there were a lot of police. Talk about how Hofstra is preparing for this and why Hofstra was chosen for this second presidential debate.
GREG MANEY: Well, Hofstra, you know, got the presidential debate back in 2008, and in large part because of our work in engaging students in active citizenship in local, national and global communities, to our—you know, we’ve tried to fulfill our commitment as an institution, via our education committed to the free exchange of ideas, to keep the campus as open as possible.
As you’ve noted, the Commission on—CPD has its own set of rules regarding, you know, what we can and can’t do on campus. But Hofstra very much has made an effort to make sure that there are spaces on campus where people can protest from the community. And the Center for Civic Engagement, in particular, is committed to making sure that people from the surrounding communities actually are able to voice what their concerns and aspirations are for the debate. And that’s why we’re holding this forum here. And we want to thank you and Democracy Now! for helping to bring these voices beyond our community and beyond Long Island. So thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, this is truly a global forum. We’re here at Monroe Hall. And Hofstra spent $5 million on this one evening, on this debate?
GREG MANEY: It wouldn’t surprise me, yes, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And describe Long Island, this area of Long Island in New York for us, for people who are now watching or listening in Egypt, perhaps in China, in South Africa. Tell us about Long Island and this area.
GREG MANEY: Right. Well, Long Island has—has two counties: Nassau and Suffolk County. And they can—they’re different from one another—density of population, economies. We are so proud, as Hofstra University, to be part of vibrant, diverse communities that surround us, such as Uniondale, Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt and Westbury. These—Long Island has had the reputation of being racially and class-segregated. And that’s still very much a reality for us. But there are communities that are closer to the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream of being integrated communities. We found in—particularly in these times of economic downturn and crisis, that coming together across social boundaries and drawing upon our strengths has empowered us as communities. And it’s really been wonderful for Hofstra to be a part of coalitions working to provide affordable healthcare, to improve the quality of public education, to deal with the housing foreclosure crisis, to deal with attempts at gentrification and displacement of local residents—the same old race and class politics—by bringing together and working with organizations that are strengthening democracy, promoting social justice and ensuring sustainability. We’re seeing a new Long Island emerge.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Margaret Melkonian, longtime peace activist here on Long Island, executive director of the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. What do you want to see come out of tonight’s town hall, Margaret?
MARGARET MELKONIAN: Well, I’m interested in what kinds of questions will be asked the candidates. I mean, it is the only debate that really does allow some citizens’ voices to ask questions. And then I’m interested in how it’s all going to be covered.
AMY GOODMAN: Can I ask you, do you know who’s going to be in there?
MARGARET MELKONIAN: We know that there’s a hundred people that have been selected by the Gallup poll organization, the Gallup poll organization that has chosen undecided voters. There will be a hundred students that came and were chosen by lottery here at Hofstra. And then there will be public officials, politicians, our congressional delegation and members of the city delegation, as well. So...
AMY GOODMAN: Do any of you know someone who’s been chosen to ask a question? I know Candy Crowley was allowed to review the questions this morning. Again, we know the presidential candidates are deeply concerned that she might herself ask a question or even follow up on one of the participants’ questions. And their mics will be turned off the minute they ask their question, so they can’t engage in a follow-up, like perhaps "You didn’t answer my question."
MARGARET MELKONIAN: But I would hope that some of the questions that get asked are the questions that were asked when hundreds of people came to Hofstra today and lined Hempstead Turnpike and used the public space that was created by Hofstra for community voices to be heard, that the questions about the war in Afghanistan, questions about immigration, questions about women’s reproductive rights, questions about the environment, labor issues, that we hope that some of those questions get asked inside there. But for us, being outside and even being here tonight means that we’re inside that room, in some ways, that we’re not just relying on what the media will report back to us about the horse race or the American idol, who won tonight. Really what’s more important is what they say, the substance of their answers, and where they plan—these candidates plan to take the country in the next four years.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you concerned about what happened around 2:00 this afternoon with the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, getting arrested as they attempted to enter the grounds of—well, what can we call it? This gated debate?
MARGARET MELKONIAN: Well, I think that’s—I think it’s true that the folks on stage tonight don’t represent all the candidates that are running for office and that the debates are fairly closed, and that I think there are calls for opening up that debate. I mean, it was a different debate when Ross Perot was there on the stage years back with Clinton and Mr. Bush, I believe. So I think that process should be opened up somewhat more, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Kayla Rivara, can you talk about what you’re representing here today, fellow at Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement and program assistant for the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives? You’re a student here?
KAYLA RIVARA: Yes, I’m a senior here at Hofstra.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the reaction of students today as this presidential debate takes place?
KAYLA RIVARA: Well, as about 70 percent of Americans also agree, I’ve noticed a lot of students here on campus are really looking to see an end to the war in Afghanistan—and not just in 2014, but now. And the question has really become, between the two candidates, that neither has really broken away from the sort of militaristic perspective that we’re looking continuously for military solutions in Afghanistan, where after a 11 years, now in our 12th year, the longest war, that there really are no military solutions.
AMY GOODMAN: What question would you ask the candidates tonight?
KAYLA RIVARA: I think I would ask them to address that. I don’t think either candidate has really taken seriously or addressed sincerely these questions, whether it’s the bloated military budget or defense budget or the treatment of veterans when they come home. We’ve seen, so far, 2,000 American soldiers have been killed in this war, thousands more Afghan civilians. One in three American soldiers that come home suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. And one veteran commits suicide every day. So, the question has become, do we really want two more years of this, if it is indeed a failed—a failed war?
AMY GOODMAN: Do you have fellow students here at Hofstra who have returned from war?
KAYLA RIVARA: No, although my boyfriend is in—he’s active duty in the Army. I’ve gotten to know a lot of his friends. We have an ROTC program here on campus. And it’s allowed us to really interact and to kind of bridge that gap between civilian dialogue, and then also those who will be subject to possibly being misused as servicemen and women to go for their, what seems like, political interests abroad.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by Sister Jeanne Clark, founder of Homecoming and the former coordinator of Pax Christi Long Island. Sister Jeanne Clark, talk about what Pax Christi is and what you’re doing at Hofstra tonight.
SISTER JEANNE CLARK: Well, Pax Christi is a national Catholic organization for peace and nonviolence. Our focus is nonviolence, that—to live in a world of nonviolence, that I think we’re getting closer and closer to see that it is the only solution, that war is not the answer. So all of those things.
And also Homecoming, the organization that I founded—coming home to Long Island, it’s coming home to the land, because we’re totally divorced from the land. And that’s so obvious in all the presidential campaign that talks about the economy in total—a vacuum. It’s not connected to the earth. And there is no economy without clean water and good soil. So, we need to begin to think differently, to think about economy differently—and everything, because we are of the earth. So, for us to be talking in this kind of illusion that everything is disconnected from the earth is why the earth is so depleted. And climate change, of course, is, for me, a crisis. And it is a economic crisis also, connected to climate change. But climate change affects all of us. It affects us locally. It affects us globally. It affects every person, whether we’re Democrat, Republican. And that’s what I would like addressed. It seems like it’s invisible there.
AMY GOODMAN: Sister Jeanne, last week the vice-presidential candidates had their debate in Kentucky, and one of the questions that Martha Raddatz asked them was the fact that both of them are Catholic, both Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice-presidential candidate Congressmember Paul Ryan, and how that affected their worldview and what it would mean for them if they, either one, were to become vice president, in Congressman Ryan’s case, or vice president again, in Joe Biden’s case. You’re a Catholic nun.
SISTER JEANNE CLARK: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What did you think of their responses? And what does religion mean to you in the public arena, when we’re talking about presidential politics and elections?
SISTER JEANNE CLARK: Well, I don’t think religion should play a part in the politics of it. Of course, our faith influences us. My faith influences me, the gospel of Jesus—that’s what Pax Christi is about—the nonviolence of Jesus. So, that affects my—my whole being and everything I believe. But I don’t believe that that should be forced on anyone in the United States. I belong to the Interfaith—Long Island Interfaith Alliance, and we meet in the mosque. I have gone on protests to try to say that the way we are treating our Muslim brothers and sisters—I mean, this—this is a democracy. There are all different religions. There are people with no religions. I’ve often said that humanists, I believe, many of them I’ve been on panels with, have more faith than I do, because they have faith in human beings, and they do things because it’s good for human beings. So, you know, we need to broaden our understanding. So, I thought the question—I was surprised by the question. Of course, I—
AMY GOODMAN: How does religion, for you, inform the whole controversy around choice, a woman’s right to choose an abortion?
SISTER JEANNE CLARK: How does religion inform it?
AMY GOODMAN: Your position on choice.
SISTER JEANNE CLARK: Well, I have a position about freedom of choice in all areas. I don’t—I don’t know how anyone could limit people’s choice. I mean, that’s a human thing. I would—I would understand, even—as far as the food issue even, I believe there is no choice here in the United States, because I go into a supermarket, and things are not labeled with GMOs. And I choose not to eat things with GMOs, because I understand what they are, and for my health and well-being. So, I don’t even have a choice in that. So, a choice is something we all need in every area of our life, I believe.
AMY GOODMAN: Your comment on the Vatican drawing controversy after reprimanding the leadership of—the Leadership Conference of Women religious for promoting what they called "radical feminist themes," "issues of social justice," and challenging church teachings on homosexuality and male-only priesthood. The Vatican reprimanded the largest group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying they focus too heavily on issues of social justice while failing to speak out enough on issues of crucial importance, such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
SISTER JEANNE CLARK: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Your thought on this, on this group of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious? Are you a part of that?
SISTER JEANNE CLARK: Oh, yes, I’m very much a part of it, and I trust that leadership. And I know that that leadership is about the gospel of Jesus. And naturally, social justice and human rights are an integral part of it. And we believe in life in all its forms. There was somebody protesting. We were—I was out on the street on the corner, and there was a man, and he was screaming, "Obama is killing the babies!" with, you know, being for abortion. And right behind him was the thing about drones. You know, "No drones." And that person didn’t see that drones are killing babies, too. So, you know, we need to say—to think about life and how life is promoted. So, yes, I’m very much a part of this—that controversy with sisters, and I know that the sisters will not submit to things that they believe in their conscience and in the gospel.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn right now to something that Margaret Melkonian was referring to, which was the speak-out that has been taking place really all day today in different fora—people standing, saying who they are and saying the question that they would ask of the presidential candidates tonight.
Again, Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, who’s qualified for government money in these federal elections, was arrested, for people who are just tuning in, as she tried to enter the debate today, along with her vice-presidential running mate, Cheri Honkala. And you can tune in tomorrow morning on Democracy Now! We broadcast live 8:00 to 10:00 Eastern [Daylight] Time for a two-hour special in which third-party candidates will be participating in the debate. We’ll be playing Mitt Romney’s responses to the town hall questions, as well, of course, of President Obama’s responses, and then we’ll be stopping the tape and expanding the debate to hear other points of view, as well. They will be joining us from our studio, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson. Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party will be joining us from Roanoke, Virginia, to be a part of that, well, time that we break the sound barrier.
But let’s turn to some of the people who have been speaking out throughout the day, as we broadcast here from Monroe Hall.
SISTER JEANNE CLARK: Hi. My name is Sister Jeanne Clark. I belong to lots of organizations here on Long Island about peace and the connection with the earth. My organization is Homecoming, coming home to Long Island, knowing we’re part of the earth. And my question—I hear a lot about you fix—people—your campaigns talking about fixing the economy, growing the economy, without any inclusion of earth, which is depleting all around us. And my question is, how do propose to grow the economy without further depleting the earth? And do you consider climate change as an economic issue, as I do? So I’d like your answer to that question.
JEANNINE MAYNARD: Good evening. My name is Jeannine Maynard. I’m a co-facilitator with the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition. And here in my neighborhood, we’re a working-class area, and one in five mortgage-owned homes have been the subject of foreclosures or a threat to foreclosure. I would like to say that having policy is not enough. Do you have the implementation plan to reach my neighborhood? Neighborhood and family fears are now overshadowed by investor fears. Resulting policy implementation leaves us with the investor groups taken care of first, and support for people and places does not effectively reach the neighborhoods. So what will you do to change the process of identifying and removing the implementation barriers to policy initiatives that have been failing to reach us at the neighborhood level? Thank you.
JOHN MARTIN: My name is John Martin, and I’m an organizer with New York Students Rising. It’s a coalition of SUNY and CUNY student groups coming together to fight privatization and corporatization of our public higher education system. That said, my questions for the candidate would be concerning the epidemic of student debt, this past May topping over a trillion dollars. And I would like to ask them what their administrations would do to address the crisis, the coming crisis of student debt.
AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices, people here at Monroe Hall and around the Hofstra area. We are a little more than a half-an-hour away from the second presidential debate, which will be held in a town hall format here at this Long Island university at Hofstra, which also hosted the debate four years ago. CNN’s Candy Crowley will moderate, but there’s been a great deal of concern behind the scenes expressed by the two major parties that she might intervene too much, that she’s not supposed to ask questions, even to ask follow-ups. And the people who are chosen, whose questions she chose this morning, who are going to be a part of this town hall will also have their mics turned off—at least those are the rules so far that we understand—if they try to follow up with one of the presidential candidates.
Well, I’m Amy Goodman, and we’re holding this town hall on Hofstra campus not far from the main scene. Greg Maney is with us, co-director of Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement, professor of sociology at Hofstra, as well as a community activist. And before I introduce our next guest, Fred—I mean, Professor Maney, explain where we are in relation to the main debate, the main scene tonight? Because here, at least people could get into this hall, unlike Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, who were the Green Party candidates arrested earlier today. They’re still not out. We’re hoping they will get out, not just for a self-serving reason, in that Jill Stein is supposed to be joining us on Democracy Now! in New York City tomorrow to be part of the third-party presidential candidates being included in this town hall discussion. We will play excerpts of the town hall discussion, stop after Mitt Romney and President Obama answer questions, to have Jill Stein, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party also weigh in, given the time constraints. Tell us where we are right now.
GREG MANEY: Well, I feel like I’m more at the heart of democracy being here with all of you than if I was over there.
MARGARET MELKONIAN: Well said.
AMY GOODMAN: And there, where?
GREG MANEY: Because—over in Hofstra Arena, where the candidates are speaking, because, as you mentioned, you know, it’s very scripted, and these questions aren’t necessarily coming from people who are in communities who are facing very real problems, problems of being—facing eviction from their houses, losing their jobs, being discriminated against because of their race or religion or sexual preference. You know, we really are facing critical problems that have roots, often that have roots locally, that contribute to global crises.
So, for instance, there was a rash of subprime—I call it—I’m not polite; I call it "predatory lending," that took place in our communities that Hofstra is a part of, particularly targeting lower- to mixed-income, racial minority areas. And so, for instance, Uniondale has the second-highest foreclosure filing rate in Nassau County. Uniondale is one of the communities that we’re part of. Village of Hempstead is not far behind. And we’ve seen the devastating consequences—families being forced out of their houses, you know, the stress breaking up families, children being ripped out of their schools, and, you know, that kind of just quick money off the backs of ordinary people. They then bundled up those predatory loans and sold them as derivatives to people in Norway and elsewhere and precipitated an entire global crisis.
Now, there was a person earlier at our open-mic session who was talking about how U.S. neoliberal policies, in terms of trade and investment, have totally destroyed local economies and ripped families from their homes and scattered them like seeds to the wind, have been responsible for putting in repressive governments that wouldn’t allow these kind—this kind of forum to happen. And so many of those people are residents of our communities here. We have a large Central American population that lives in Hempstead and Uniondale—Colombian, as well. And many have been traumatized by, you know, policies that have really been perpetrated by the U.S. government. And it’s just not, you know, Republican; it’s Democrats have supported this kind of corporate globalization for over 30 years. So, this is really a—we’re all experiencing these local linkages in an era of global interdependence.
And we’re the ones that have to solve the problems. You know, with the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision by the Supreme Court, you know, big money—yes, it’s still a representative democracy at the federal level: the elected representatives represent Wall Street, not Main Street. So we need to organize ourselves at the grassroots, local level, if we’re ever going to be able to challenge big money. And that people power comes from people like us talking with one another, getting on the same page, crossing social boundaries of race, class, religion, what have you.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Greg Maney is a sociologist here at—at Hofstra University, the college that is the site of tonight’s debate that is going to take place in just about, oh, 27 minutes. Fred Brewington is also with us, civil rights attorney, community advocate. And Jeannine Maynard is with us, co-facilitator of Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition, a community organizer and licensed clinical social worker.
Fred Brewington, as we were leaving today, we heard about the decision, the decision that has been made in Ohio that on last weekend before the vote takes place on November 6th, Election Day, people in Ohio, which is a swing state, will be able to vote on the weekend, as they were able to do in 2008, a court ruling that it would be discriminatory and unfair for the polls not to be open and would suppress voter participation. You’re involved in an issue of voter participation and voter purging right here in Hempstead, where Hofstra is. Can you talk about that case?
FRED BREWINGTON: Well, sure. There are a number of issues that range not only across the nation, but come home, that deal with issues of voting rights. The issue of voter suppression is one that really has been a undercurrent in this election. But I think people need to really understand that it was an attack on the really nearly three million voters that made the difference last time, to try and neutralize that number.
Here in Hempstead, and particularly in Nassau County, where we are—and just, by the way, we’re about six football fields away from where the debate is actually going to take place, on the other side of Hempstead Turnpike. And that’s a major thoroughfare here. But it’s important that we consider that, because that major thoroughfare is just like what they tried to do with regard to elections, was draw a line down between the people that call themselves to be the have-nots and the people that are the haves, and try and separate people and create the type of problems in being able to be eligible to vote, whether or not you had ID, an identification. And although New York was not actually one of the states that dealt with that, we had to basically fight to keep that out.
The issue of voting rights in Nassau County has been a major question. Indeed, one of the major voting rights cases in the country, Goosby v. The Town of Hempstead, changed the entire form of government in Nassau County so that African Americans, particularly, could be able to elect candidates of their choice. The remnants of that—the remnants of that are the underpinnings of what we see right now going on in Nassau County, the second-most segregated suburban community in the country.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s first?
FRED BREWINGTON: I think Suffolk County might be.
AMY GOODMAN: The other county on Long Island.
FRED BREWINGTON: Our sister county to the east.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain how that plays out. I mean, that might surprise many people.
FRED BREWINGTON: Well, that plays out—you have to remember—remember, for us that reside in Long Island, and in particularly this area of the country, we know that the planned communities which excluded certain people for a long period of time even allowed in the deeds to have restrictive covenants, such that people who were African American could not purchase the properties when they were resold. Levitttown is one of the main foci of that issue. But that’s not the only one. When you go on the North Shore of Long Island, in particular, and those properties have never been exchanged before or sold before, you will find in many of those deeds restrictive covenants that still limit who can buy and who can’t buy.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you mention Levittown, and I also grew up on Long Island. And, you know, that was a model for communities around the country.
FRED BREWINGTON: You gonna tell me where?
AMY GOODMAN: Bayshore.
FRED BREWINGTON: OK, I won’t hold that against you.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you. Bayshore High. But in Levittown, just to explain to people who are outside of this community—
FRED BREWINGTON: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: —a model—the developer, Levitt, you know, all the houses look the same.
FRED BREWINGTON: They’re cookie-cutter houses.
AMY GOODMAN: It was—sort of Pete Seeger sang about it: "Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky."
FRED BREWINGTON: Right, and it—it was—it was intended, according to reports, to allow for people returning back from the war to be able to come in and buy and purchase into the American dream. The only problem was that the American dream was not open to all. It was open to only some people. And it stayed that way for a very long time. In fact, we see the remnants right here on Long Island.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeannine Maynard, you live in this area—
JEANNINE MAYNARD: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —in Uniondale. You are co-facilitator of the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition.
JEANNINE MAYNARD: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re a community organizer, a clinical social worker. What do you want to see the presidential candidates address tonight? In just some 20, 25 minutes, they will be having their debate.
JEANNINE MAYNARD: OK. I absolutely want to see them address the issue of poverty in America. It’s unconscionable that we have so much of our population living in poverty or near poverty. The discussion has been ignored in its fullness. And I think that it’s very difficult when you have these narrow bands of themes that are being discussed, and there’s no understanding of the relationship between the things in column A and the things in column B.
But poverty in this country is having severe impact here. One quarter of our children are—well, one quarter of the nation’s population are youth. And of that population, about 44 percent are growing up in low income. Fifteen percent are actually in poverty. What that means for us here is substantially different than the way it may look in other places. In the tri-state New York area, the youth population is so large that if the youth population was counted as a separate state, they would be around the 16th state of the nation. So when you get a concentration of our youth that are impacted that way, it’s large numbers. One in five homes in Uniondale is under threat of foreclosure, yet our youth services were cut. So, our programs, for example, for our junior high youth—we have two junior highs, more than 700 youth in each of them, close to 800 youth, so that’s about 1,600 young people between the ages of 10 and 14 that get out after school every day and don’t have programs. Those that can qualify for sports programs do, but the schools can’t take care of everything. And the demand on working parents is very, very difficult for the New York economy.
The outcome of that shows up in risk behavior and situations that we’ve done a remarkable job in changing the course of for our youth by pulling together as a neighborhood. We’re doing the community organizing. We were a designated Weed and Seed community when that funding was available. Before that funding ended, we would not have qualified anymore, because the situation had improved. Our young people are stepping up, and they’re participating in renewable energy projects with the Cradle of Aviation. They’re stepping into some wonderful dynamic projects and letting us know what they need, what they’re interested in, and how we can help them. And then the funding is cut. So now I’m working in Brooklyn; I used to work with the youth program here. And it’s just a testament of the struggle that we go through, trying to do the right thing at the grassroots level and not having the resources roll down in time or in the ways that make a difference here.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel either of the major-party candidates addresses the issue of poverty—President Obama, who was a community organizer—
JEANNINE MAYNARD: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —on the South Side of Chicago, or Mitt Romney?
JEANNINE MAYNARD: No. I feel that they’re running for cover. I think that the political cover is that if things get bad enough, the services that are unpopular get paid for as mandated services. We have youth who are incarcerated. We have probation fees. We have healthcare for those that would be dying or be a public risk. But we don’t have the prevention. And we don’t have the community-building efforts that are coming through strongly enough.
And the difficult thing is that there are some policies and situations that have the potential to do that. A lot of the transportation initiatives really speak to the development of healthy communities, walkable places. You would have multiple layers of benefit for the health of the community if youth were walking more and if seniors felt safer in their neighborhoods. If the transportation plan was integrated with new developments and new technologies, you would start to see environmental relief of conditions. But those things get left by the side and put into the financial debate. And we’re hearing about their fears about investing, and they ignore the fears of a neighborhood, where things aren’t knitting together correctly.
AMY GOODMAN: Fred Brewington, if you were in the arena tonight at Hofstra and you were one of those precious few who had your question chosen—you had to hand in your index card; Candy Crowley of CNN reviewed it this morning and chose a group of people to ask questions—what would the question be that you asked President Obama and Governor Romney?
FRED BREWINGTON: Well, first of all, I’d ask both of them to look squarely into the camera and answer this question: whether or not each of them have really considered how people who can’t pay for their own rent can buy food? And when that happens so often in communities just like Uniondale and Freeport and Roosevelt and Hempstead, over and over again, where people are choosing between food and a house—and a roof over their head, how are they going to be able to address that seriously from the standpoint of the federal government not backing down but stepping up?
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Maney, your question for the presidential candidates? We’re broadcasting from Monroe Hall — what did you say? — six football fields away from where the debate will take place in less than 20 minutes.
GREG MANEY: Right. Well, just dovetailing with what Mr. Brewington said, when I look at how much is being spent on wars and occupations, I think it’s $1.30 trillion since 2001. So we’re talking—for Nassau County, that’s $13.7 billion; for Suffolk County, $13.4 billion. And I ask myself, you know, is this really necessary? And so, I went to look at what military, you know, brass say, what conservative, you know, pundits and policy wonks are saying, and they’re saying there’s a lot of big-money military projects that are not necessary for our national security. So, for instance, you know, former Secretary of Defense Gates was saying—you know, guess how many aircraft carriers the U.S. government has.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Twenty-two.
GREG MANEY: Close, about half of that: 11. Eleven. And he said that, you know, there is no no other country in the world that has even one of these that’s remotely comparable in size and capacity. And so, he recommended, you know, why don’t we cut a few of these 11, you know? Do you know how much cost savings we would have from cutting two? $1.5 billion.
Do you know what $1.5 billion can do in terms of poverty in communities? It can buy for a full year health insurance, comprehensive health insurance for 575,000 children. This is according to the National Priorities Project. It could employ over 278,000 full-time elementary school teachers. You know, it could basically provide for students in college—it could provide over 240,000 scholarships. OK? So, these are ways that just—we’re not talking about, you know, dramatic reductions that are going to compromise the national security of our country. We’re talking about reductions that will increase human security for U.S. citizens, so security for not having to make the choices between whether to pay the rent or to buy—to get food or to pay the medical bills, because we deserve, as human beings, a social safety net, particularly for our children, so we can realize our potential.
You know, I think this—we have a responsibility. If the $1.3 trillion—and I’ll wrap this up—the $1.3 trillion was spent towards love and life and promoting love and life, then I would say that that was a bargain. But as far as I can tell, it’s being spent towards death and hate.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to continue on this theme of putting questions to the presidential candidates. I want to thank sociologist Greg Maney, who teaches here at Hofstra University, and Fred Brewington, civil rights attorney and community advocate here in Hempstead, and Jeannine Maynard, co-facilitator of the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition—
JEANNINE MAYNARD: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: —a licensed clinical social worker. As we turn to more people who were just speaking a few minutes ago here in Monroe Hall, just yards from—OK, six football fields from—must use sports metaphors—where the main debate will be taking place in less than 15 minutes.
JEANNINE MAYNARD: Thank you.
MARA BARD: My name is Mara Bard. I’m representing the Long Island School of the Americas Watch. And my question is for both candidates. What would you change in U.S. foreign policy in order to create relations with the countries south of the Rio Grande to reflect respect of their sovereignty and the right of self-determination? The question is based in that U.S.A. has always have an attitude of intervention toward Latin America. And now militarization in the Americas have increased during the Obama administration, as evidenced by the military coup and the ongoing violence in Honduras, the ever-expanding war on drugs and war on terror, the continual murder of unionists in Colombia, the construction of new U.S. military bases throughout the hemisphere and the activation of the Fourth Fleet. This together with the implementation of the free trade agreements has generated a displacement of people toward the U.S. through Mexico. And there, we are confronted with a humanitarian crisis: migrants dead at the U.S.-Mexican border are already 50,000 people have died and 25,000 disappear.
AMOL SINHA: Hi. My name is Amol Sinha. I’m with the New York Civil Liberties Union, Suffolk County Chapter. In the past several months, we’ve heard about the targeted killings of at least three U.S. citizens overseas without any sort of judicial process. Attorney General Eric Holder has defended these actions while neither confirming nor denying the existence of the targeted killing program. The ACLU and other groups like it are challenging the tactics as constitutionally violative. What’s your position on the targeted killings, and how would you increase transparency with regards to national security?
DANIEL CLAYTON: My name is Daniel Clayton from Uniondale High School, DECA Business Club. And my question for the candidates is that, as a student, as a graduating senior, I’m very interested to know what exactly would you be doing to help seniors who are graduating, going to college, and thus graduating from college and joining the workforce, with a limited amount of student debt? That’s my question.
AMY GOODMAN: This is a Democracy Now! special. We are minutes from the major-party presidential debate that is taking place at the Hofstra Arena, six football fields from where we are at Monroe Hall, also at Hofstra University in Long Island. I’m Amy Goodman.
And in our last panel here before the debate, we’re joined by three people to talk about the issue of labor. Charlene Obernauer is the executive director of Long Island Jobs with Justice and the founder of the Long Island Bus Riders Union. Nadia Marin-Molina is a community organizer, attorney and advocate of immigrant rights with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. And Sergio Argueta is director of the undergraduate social work program at Adelphi University nearby and founder and board president of S.T.R.O.N.G., working to end gang and youth violence.
Sergio, let’s begin with you. We don’t have much time. The major presidential debate is about to begin. If you were in that room, since it is a town hall forum like we are having here, what question would you put to the presidential candidates? And give us the context for the kind of work that you’re doing here on Long Island.
SERGIO ARGUETA: The question that I would ask is, if your children had to walk these streets, where youth are killed on their way to and from school, where it seems that the rights of passage in entering a correctional facility is a day—you know, is a part of life, as opposed to actually graduating from these institutions, where schools look like correctional facilities, where we have state-of-the-art metal detectors with armed policed officers, yet we don’t have extracurricular programs—what would they do to save the lives of 16,000 youth that are murdered in this nation between the ages of 10 and 24 on a yearly basis?
AMY GOODMAN: Charlene Obernauer, you’re with Long Island Jobs with Justice, founder of Long Island Bus Riders Union. The question you would put to these candidates?
CHARLENE OBERNAUER: Well, I would ask—in 2008, Barack Obama came out in strong support of the Employee Free Choice Act, and that was one of the reasons why labor actually supported Barack Obama. But, you know, we saw that kind of rise and fall. And we still have fierce attacks on labor unions all over the country, both locally via statewide legislation and, you know, proposed national legislation. So, what kind of support can we expect from the president on Employee Free Choice Act or other labor law reform? And we also see in New York state and federally, the minimum wage is still is at $7.25. In 2008, Barack Obama said that he would support a minimum wage increase, but we haven’t seen that minimum wage increase legislation move at all federally. So we’d love to see some kind of support. And my question would be, how can low-wage workers count on you as president? How can low-income people count on you as president—to both of the candidates?
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think would be Mitt Romney’s response?
CHARLENE OBERNAUER: I think that Mitt Romney’s response would be very tailored towards the people that he represents. He would probably say that he—he would make a donation to send kids to college. It would all be about private donations. I think that, you know, his solution to a lot of these problems are, "Oh, well, let’s, you know, set up this charity, or let’s set up this fund," instead of actually changing public policy in a way that can represent the needs of low-income people.
AMY GOODMAN: Nadia Marin-Molina is also with us. She’s an advocate of immigrant rights in this community. Your question to the presidential candidates?
NADIA MARIN-MOLINA: I think my question would be about immigration policy. I mean, we know what Mitt Romney’s immigration policy is: he wants people to miraculously deport themselves, by making their lives so miserable here in the United States that that would be their choice.
But for President Obama, the question would be, does he want to continue to be known as the president who has deported record numbers of people, more than President Bush did before him, or does he want to be known as the president who changed the situation and recognized the dignity and respect of every human being? And he could start to demonstrate—if he has that willingness, he could start by firing his current ICE director, who has done nothing to support immigrants and has done everything to increase the crackdowns on immigrants, the dragnet programs, and is actually in communication with anti-immigrant hate groups like FAIR, who are apparently in close coordination with him.
AMY GOODMAN: John Morton, you’re referring to?
NADIA MARIN-MOLINA: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: What is his background?
NADIA MARIN-MOLINA: Well, John Morton most recently came out with a letter to FAIR. FAIR wrote him a letter, and FAIR is a nationally recognized anti-immigrant group, which has been put on a list of hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And he—they wrote a letter expressing their concerns about certain state-level immigration issues coming up. And Morton’s response was to express sympathy for FAIR, rather than to express sympathy for the millions of families and communities that are being terrorized by his policies.
AMY GOODMAN: There was an UndocuBus that pulled up from Phoenix to Charlotte, the Democratic convention. And scores of people got out, supporters and undocumented immigrants, young and old. Families were getting arrested calling for passage of the DREAM Act and a compassionate, fair immigration policy. When young people, DREAMers, protested in the last few years, not only risking arrest but risking deportation, including in President Obama’s campaign offices, President Obama did respond this summer in a kind of executive order and said—and especially relevant that we’re here at a university—that young people, 30 or under, who meet certain criteria, they can’t get health insurance, but they could study or they could work, get a reprieve from deportation for a few years. What is your response?
NADIA MARIN-MOLINA: The deferred action program that Obama put into place demonstrates the power of social movements to actually create change. It’s a victory that shows that when youth were willing to organize, were willing to challenge the administration, and not wait to see what happened but were willing to disrupt and keep pushing on the administration, the administration had to respond. And I think, for all of us, that needs to be a lesson, that we can’t sit back and hope that when the president is re-elected, that he’s going to miraculously pass greater policies. It’s only going to happen if we push.
AMY GOODMAN: Governor Romney’s policy on this?
NADIA MARIN-MOLINA: His policy, he said this—
AMY GOODMAN: What he recommends? What he proposes? The whole issue of self-deportation?
NADIA MARIN-MOLINA: That’s expressly his policy. And I think, at this point, the situation of immigrant families and the situation of immigrant communities is difficult enough. The exploitation is widespread across the country. And to think that his plan is to make people’s lives even more difficult is something that is—that he should be ashamed of rather than touting it as his immigration policy.
AMY GOODMAN: Sergio, elaborate on this, and the communities you work with, the areas of gangs and how you feel that they can be worked with, how they can be helped?
SERGIO ARGUETA: So, basically, all of the social policies and social issues that have been discussed today, they are all interwoven. They all impact one another. And so, as a result, in these impoverished communities, where segregation is allowed to exist, you have the have-nots and you have those that have more than their fair share. And as a result, you know, we’re all in these bubbles. Many of the young people that are forced to come here as a result of, you know, trade agreements that create poverty in other parts of the world, result with, you know, young people now, because of these horrific immigration laws that we’ve had that have kept families apart, and now we’re seeking—you know, adolescents are coming to this place called America. And they get here, and they’re further marginalized because they don’t speak the language, because they don’t have legal status. And they go to some of these schools where they have a number of issues that include violence and poverty. And as a result, that gang life, that gang culture, is there to embrace many of these young people.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to the main debate right now at Mack Arena. I want to thank you all very much for being with us. And I want to thank the folks here at Monroe Hall. We are about six football fields away from the Mack Arena at Hofstra University, where about a hundred people are gathered to ask President Obama and Governor Romney questions in this second presidential debate.
We are still waiting to hear whether Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the Green Party candidates, have been released. We understand they were chained—handcuffed, rather, to their chairs. People should—will find out later in this broadcast and also tomorrow on Democracy Now!, when we expand tonight’s debate. We’ll be stopping the videotape after each question—each answer to the town hall questioners from Mitt Romney and President Obama, so that we can include third-party candidates. And we’ll see if Dr. Jill Stein is out of jail. She and Cheri Honkala were arrested at Hofstra University as they tried to make their way into the gated debate that is run by the corporation, the Commission for Presidential—the Commission [on] Presidential Debates. It is run by the Democratic and Republican Party, wrested from the League of Women Voters, that had run those debates for so many decades.
After the debate, we will have a 30-minute wrap-up with members of this community that live and work here around Hofstra University on Long Island. This is a Democracy Now! special broadcast. And again, tomorrow morning, 8:00 to 10:00 in the morning, Democracy Now! will hold an expanded presidential debate with Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, will be joining us from Roanoke, Virginia, from his headquarters. Hopefully Jill Stein will be out of jail, the Green Party presidential candidate, and she will be joining us, or perhaps somehow we can make contact with her on—well, she’ll redefine "cellphone." And then—and then we’ll also be joined by Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.
We’re going right now to CNN’s Candy Crowley, who is the moderator of tonight’s presidential debate here at Hofstra in Mack Arena.
CANDY CROWLEY: ...a town hall, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Gallup organization chose 82 uncommitted voters from the New York area. Their questions will drive the night. My goal is to give the conversation direction and to ensure questions get answered. The questions are known to me and my team only. Neither the commission nor the candidates have seen them. I hope to get to as many questions as possible. And because I am the optimistic sort, I’m sure the candidates will oblige by keeping their answers concise and on point. Each candidate has as much as two minutes to respond to a common question, and there will be a two-minute follow-up.
The audience here in the hall has agreed to be polite and attentive—no cheering or booing or outbursts of any sort. We will set aside that agreement just this once to welcome President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.
Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us here tonight. We have a lot of folks who have been waiting all day to talk to you, so I want to get right to it.
Governor Romney, as you know, you won the coin toss, so the first question will go to you. And I want to turn to a first-time voter, Jeremy Epstein, who has a question for you.
JEREMY EPSTEIN: Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me—but more importantly, my parents—that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, Jeremy. I appreciate your—your question, and thank you for being here this evening. And to all of those from Nassau County here that have come, thank you for your time. Thank you to Hofstra University and to Candy Crowley for organizing and leading this—this event. Thank you, Mr. President, also, for being part of this—this debate.
Yours question—your question is one that’s being asked by college kids all over this country.
I was in Pennsylvania with someone who had just graduated. This was in Philadelphia, and she said, "I—I got my degree. I can’t find a job. I’ve got three part-time jobs. They’re just barely enough to pay for my food and pay for an apartment. I can’t begin to pay back my student loans."
So what we have to do is two things: we have to make sure that we make it easier for kids to afford college and also make sure that when they get out of college, there’s a job.
When I was governor of Massachusetts, to get a high school degree, you had to pass an exam. If you graduated in the top quarter of your class, we gave you a John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, four years tuition-free to the college of your choice in Massachusetts. It’s a public institution. I want to make sure we keep our Pell—Pell Grant program growing. We’re also going to have our loan program so that people are able to afford school.
But the key thing is to make sure you can get a job when you get out of school. And what’s happened over the last four years has been very, very hard for America’s young people. I want you to be able to get a job. I know what it takes to get this economy going. With half of college kids graduating this year without a college—or excuse me, without a job and without a college-level job, that’s just unacceptable. And likewise, you got more and more debt on your back. So more debt and less jobs.
I’m going to change that. I know what it takes to create good jobs again. I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve. And kids across this country are going to recognize we’re bringing back an economy. It’s not going to be like the last four years. The middle class has been crushed over the last four years, and jobs have been too scarce. I know what it takes to bring them back, and I’m going to do that and make sure when you graduate—when do you graduate?
2014. When you come out in 2014—I presume I’m going to be president—I’m going to make sure you get a job. Thanks, Jeremy. Yeah, you bet.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Jeremy, first of all, your future is bright, and the fact that you’re making an investment in higher education is critical, not just to you but to the entire nation.
Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country, but not just jobs, good-paying jobs, ones that can support a family. And what I want to do is build on the five million jobs that we’ve created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone. And there are a bunch of things that we can do to make sure your future is bright.
Number one, I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. You know, when Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt, I said, we’re going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry, and it’s come surging back. I want to do that in industries not just in Detroit but all across the country. And that means we change our tax code so we’re giving incentives to companies that are investing here in the United States and creating jobs here. It also means we’re helping them and small businesses to export all around the world in new markets.
Number two, we’ve got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world. And the fact that you’re going to college is great, but I want everybody to get a great education. And we’ve worked hard to make sure that student loans are available for folks like you, but I also want to make sure that community colleges are offering slots for workers to get retrained for the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs of the future.
Number three, we’ve got to control our own energy, you know, not only oil and natural gas, which we’ve been investing in, but also we’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy sources of the future, not just thinking about next year, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now. That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy-efficient cars.
We’ve got to reduce our deficit, but we’ve got to do it in a balanced way, asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more, along with cuts, so that we can invest in education like yours. And let’s take the money that we’ve been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America—roads, bridges, schools. We do those things, not only is your future going to be bright, but America’s future is going to be bright, as well.
CANDY CROWLEY: Let me ask you for a more immediate answer, beginning with Mr. Romley [sic]. Just quickly, what can you do—we’re looking at a situation where 40 percent of the unemployed have been unemployed for six months or more. They don’t have the two years that Jeremy has. What about those long-term unemployed who need a job right now?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, what you’re seeing in this country is 23 million people struggling to find a job, and a lot of them, as you say, Candy, have been out of work for a long, long, long time. The president’s policies have been exercised over the last four years, and they haven’t put Americans back to work. We have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office. If the—the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when he took office; it’s 7.8 percent now. But if you calculated that unemployment rate taking back the people who dropped out of the workforce, it would be 10.7 percent. We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work.
That’s why I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in four years and rising take-home pay. It’s going to help Jeremy get a job when he comes out of school. It’s going to help people across the country that are unemployed right now.
And one thing that the—the president said, which I want to make sure that we understand, he said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt, and—and that’s right. My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy’s and—and Continental Airlines and come out stronger. And—and I know he keeps saying, "You wanted to take Detroit bankrupt." Well, the president took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So, when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did. And—and I think it’s important to know that that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet, so they could start hiring more people. That was precisely what I recommended and ultimately what happened.
CANDY CROWLEY: Let me—let me give the president a chance. Go ahead.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy, what Governor Romney said just isn’t true. He wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open, and we would have lost a million jobs. And that—don’t take my word for it; take the executives at GM and Chrysler, some of whom are Republicans, may even support Governor Romney. But they’ll tell you his prescription wasn’t going to work.
And Governor Romney says he’s got a five-point plan. Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector; that’s been his philosophy as governor; that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money.
That’s exactly the philosophy that we’ve seen in place for the last decade. That’s what’s been squeezing middle-class families. And we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess. The last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, the next question is going to be for you here. And Mr. Romney, Governor Romney, there will be plenty of chances here to go on, but I want to—
MITT ROMNEY: That—that Detroit—that Detroit answer—
CANDY CROWLEY: We have all these folks.
MITT ROMNEY: That Detroit answer—
CANDY CROWLEY: I will let you absolutely—I—I—
MITT ROMNEY: —and the rest of the answer, way off the mark.
CANDY CROWLEY: OK. We’ll—well, you certainly will have lots of time here coming up, because I want to move you on to something that’s sort of connected to cars here and—and go over—and we want to get a question from Phillip Tricolla.
PHILLIP TRICOLLA: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.
But what I’ve also said is we can’t just produce traditional sources of energy. We’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we doubled clean energy production, like wind and solar and biofuels. And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years.
Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and a hundred years’ worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas. And we can do it in an environmentally sound way. But we’ve also got to continue to figure out how we have efficient energy, because ultimately that’s how we’re going to reduce demand, and that’s what’s going to keep gas prices lower.
Now, Governor Romney will say he’s got an all-of-the-above plan, but basically his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies. So he’s got the oil and gas part, but he doesn’t have the clean energy part. And if we are only thinking about tomorrow or the next day and not thinking about 10 years from now, we’re not going to control our own economic future, because China, Germany, they’re making these investments. And I’m not going to cede those jobs of the future to those countries. I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States.
That’s going to help Jeremy get a job. It’s also going to make sure that you’re not paying as much for gas.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor, on the subject of gas prices?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, let’s look at the president’s policies, all right, as opposed to the rhetoric, because we’ve had four years of policies being played out. And the president’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters.
So where did the increase come from? Well, a lot of it came from the Bakken Range in North Dakota. What was his participation there? The administration brought a criminal action against the people drilling up there for oil, this massive new resource we have. And what was the cost? Twenty or 25 birds were killed, and they brought out a Migratory Bird Act to go after them on a criminal basis.
Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables. I believe very much in our renewable capabilities; ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix.
But what we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas. This has not been Mr. Oil or Mr. Gas or Mr. Coal. Talk to the people that are working in those industries. I was at—in coal country. People grab my arms and say, "Please, save my job." The head of the EPA said, "You can’t build a coal plant. You’ll virtually—it’s virtually impossible, given our regulations." When the president ran for office, he said, if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you’ll go bankrupt. That’s not the right course for America.
Let’s take advantage of the energy resources we have, as well as the energy sources for the future. And if we do that, if we do what I’m planning on doing, which is getting us energy independent, North America energy independence within eight years, you’re going to see manufacturing jobs come back, because our energy is low cost. They’re already beginning to come back, because of our abundant energy. I’ll get America and North America energy independent. I’ll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses. We’re going to bring that pipeline in from Canada. How in the world the president said no to that pipeline, I will never know. This is about bringing good jobs back for the middle class of America, and that’s what I’m going to do.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me just see if I can move you to the gist of this question, which is, are we looking at the new normal? I can tell you that tomorrow morning, a lot of people in Hempstead will wake up and fill up, and they will find that the price of gas is over $4 a gallon. Is it within the purview of the government to bring those prices down, or are we looking at the new normal?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy, there’s no doubt that world demand’s gone up. But our production is going up, and we’re using oil more efficiently.
And very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We’ve opened up public lands. We’re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration, and my—the previous president was an oil man. And natural gas isn’t just appearing magically; we’re encouraging it and working with the industry.
And when I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, when—Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, "This plant kills," and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal.
So, what I’ve tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil. Same thing with natural gas.
And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years, oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and, most importantly, we’re also starting to build cars that are more efficient. And that’s creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported, because that’s the demand around the world. And it also means that it will save money in your pocketbook.
That’s the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.
MITT ROMNEY: But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Not true, Governor Romney.
MITT ROMNEY: So how much did you cut it by?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s not true.
MITT ROMNEY: By how much did you cut them by, then?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Governor, we have actually produced more oil on—
MITT ROMNEY: No, no. How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Governor Romney, here’s what we did. There were a whole bunch of oil companies.
MITT ROMNEY: No, I had a—I had a question—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, you—you—you—
MITT ROMNEY: —and the question was, how much did you cut them by?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You want—you want me to answer a question, I’m—
MITT ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m happy to answer the question.
MITT ROMNEY: All right. And it is?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Here’s what happened. You had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren’t using. So what we said was, "You can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s most profitable for you. These are public lands. So, if you want to drill on public lands, you use it, or you lose it."
MITT ROMNEY: OK. Now—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And so, what we did was take away those leases, and we are now reletting them so that we can actually make a profit.
MITT ROMNEY: And production—and production on private—on government lands—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And production is up.
MITT ROMNEY: —is down.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, it isn’t.
MITT ROMNEY: Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Governor—
MITT ROMNEY: And production on gas—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What you’re saying is just not true.
MITT ROMNEY: —is down 9 percent.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s just not true.
MITT ROMNEY: It’s absolutely true. Look, there’s no question but that the people recognize that we have not produced more oil and gas—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ll give you your time; go ahead.
MITT ROMNEY: —on federal lands and in federal waters. And coal—coal production is not up. Coal jobs are not up. I was just at a coal facility where some 1,200 people lost their jobs.
The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, Governor—
MITT ROMNEY: And the answer is, I don’t believe people think that’s the case—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you’re asking my question, I’m not going to answer it.
MITT ROMNEY: That wasn’t the question.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK. Go ahead.
MITT ROMNEY: That was a statement. I don’t think the American people believe that. I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas. And the proof—the proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you’re paying at the pump. If you’re paying less than you paid a year or two ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you’re paying more. When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about a buck-eighty-six a gallon. Now, it’s four bucks a gallon. Price of electricity is up.
If the president’s energy policies are working, you’re going to see the cost of energy come down. I will fight to create more energy in this country, to get America energy secure. And part of that is bringing in a pipeline of oil from Canada, taking advantage of the oil and coal we have here, drilling offshore in Alaska, drilling offshore in Virginia where the people want it.
CANDY CROWLEY: Let me give—
MITT ROMNEY: Those things will get us the energy we need.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, could you address—because we did finally get to gas prices here, could you address what the governor said, which is, if your energy policy was working, the price of gasoline would not be $4 a gallon here. Is that true?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, think about what the governor—think about what the governor just said. He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney’s now promoting. So, it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices, because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.
What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong and, at the same time, produce energy. And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we’ve—we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once. So, I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production. What I’m not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation. So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says "these are imaginary jobs," when you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that—in Iowa is all for it, providing tax credits to help this work, and Governor Romney says, "I’m opposed. I’d get rid of it." That’s not an energy strategy for the future. And we need to win that future. And I intend to win it—
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —as president of the United States.
CANDY CROWLEY: I got to—I got to move you along.
MITT ROMNEY: No, he—he got the first—
CANDY CROWLEY: And the next question—
MITT ROMNEY: He actually got—
CANDY CROWLEY: —is for you—
MITT ROMNEY: He actually got the first question, so I get the last question—last answer on that one.
CANDY CROWLEY: Actually, in the follow-up, it doesn’t quite work like that.
MITT ROMNEY: Actually—
CANDY CROWLEY: But I’m going to give you a chance here. I promise you, I’m going to. And the next question is for you. So if you want to, you know, continue on, but I don’t want to leave all these guys—
MITT ROMNEY: Candy, Candy—
CANDY CROWLEY: —sitting here.
MITT ROMNEY: Candy, I don’t have a policy of—of stopping wind jobs in Iowa, and that they’re not phantom jobs. They’re real jobs.
CANDY CROWLEY: OK.
MITT ROMNEY: I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa and across our country. I appreciate the jobs in coal and oil and gas. I’m going to make sure—
CANDY CROWLEY: You’re—OK. Thank you, Governor.
MITT ROMNEY: —we’re taking advantage of our energy resources. We’ll bring back manufacturing to America. We’re going to get through a very aggressive energy policy, three-and-a-half million more jobs in this country. It’s critical to our future.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy, it’s OK. I’m used—
CANDY CROWLEY: We’re going to move you along to taxes.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m used to being interrupted.
CANDY CROWLEY: All right.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know—
CANDY CROWLEY: We’re going to move you both along to taxes over here and all these folks that have been waiting. Governor, this question is for you. It comes from Mary Pollano—Follano, sorry.
MARY FOLLANO: Hello.
MITT ROMNEY: Hi, Mary.
MARY FOLLANO: Governor Romney, you have stated that if you’re elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue. Concerning the—these various deductions, the mortgage deduction, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the—oh, what’s that other credit? I forgot.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You’re doing great.
MARY FOLLANO: Oh, I remember. The education credits, which are important to me, because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you very much.
And let me tell you, you’re absolutely right about part of that, which is, I want to bring the rates down, I want to simplify the tax code, and I want to get middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes. And the reason I want middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes is because middle-income taxpayers have been buried over the past four years. You’ve seen, as middle-income people in this country, incomes go down $4,300 a family, even as gasoline prices have gone up $2,000. Health insurance premiums, up $2,500. Food prices up. Utility prices up. The middle-income families in America have been crushed over the last four years. So I want to get some relief to middle-income families. That’s part—that’s part one.
Now, how about deductions? Because I’m going to bring rates down across the board for everybody, but I’m going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits, particularly for people at the high end, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they’re paying now. The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that will stay the same. Middle-income people are going to get a tax break.
And so, in terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be say everybody gets—I’ll pick a number—$25,000 of deductions and credits, and you can decide which ones to use. Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit and so forth, you can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions.
But your rate comes down, and the burden also comes down on you for one more reason, and that is, every middle-income taxpayer no longer will pay any tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. No tax on your savings. That makes life a lot easier. If you’re getting interest from a bank, if you’re getting a statement from a mutual fund or any other kind of investment you have, you don’t have to worry about filing taxes on that, because there’ll be no taxes for anybody making $200,000 a year and less, on your interest, dividends and capital gains.
Why am I lowering taxes on the middle class? Because under the last four years, they’ve been buried. And I want to help people in the middle class. And I will not—I will not, under any circumstances, reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest income taxpayers. And I will not, under any circumstances, increase taxes on the middle class.
The president’s spending, the president’s borrowing will cause this nation to have to raise taxes on the American people, not just at the high end. A recent study has shown the people in the middle class will see $4,000 a year higher taxes as a result of the spending and borrowing of this administration. I will not let that happen. I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget, and I’m going to reduce the tax burden on middle-income families. And what’s that going to do? It’s going to help those families, and it’s going to create incentives to start growing jobs again in this country.
CANDY CROWLEY: Thanks, Governor.
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My philosophy on taxes has been simple. And that is, I want to give middle-class families and folks who are striving to get in the middle class some relief, because they have been hit hard over the last decade, over the last 15, over the last 20 years.
So, four years ago, I stood on a stage just like this one. Actually, it was a town hall. And I said I would cut taxes for middle-class families. And that’s what I’ve done, by $3,600. I said I would cut taxes for small businesses, who are the drivers and engines of growth. And we’ve cut them 18 times. And I want to continue those tax cuts for middle-class families and for small businesses.
But what I’ve also said is, if we’re serious about reducing the deficit, if this is genuinely a moral obligation to the next generation, then in addition to some tough spending cuts, we’ve also got to make sure that the wealthy do a little bit more. So what I’ve said is, your first $250,000 worth of income, no change. And that means 98 percent of American families, 97 percent of small businesses, they will not see a tax increase. I’m ready to sign that bill right now. The only reason it’s not happening is because Governor Romney’s allies in Congress have held the 98 percent hostage because they want tax breaks for the top 2 percent.
But what I’ve also said is, for above $250,000, we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was president. We created 23 million new jobs. That’s part of what took us from deficits to surplus. It will be good for our economy, and it will be good for job creation.
Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy. He was on 60 Minutes just two weeks ago, and he was asked, "Is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 a year?" And he said, "Yes, I think that’s fair." Not only that, he said, "I think that’s what grows the economy."
Well, I fundamentally disagree with that. I think what grows the economy is when you get that tax credit that we put in place for your kids going to college. I think that grows the economy. I think what grows the economy is when we make sure small businesses are getting a tax credit for hiring veterans who fought for our country. That grows our economy.
So we just have a different theory. And when Governor Romney stands here, after a year of campaigning, when during a Republican primary he stood on stage and said, "I’m going to give tax cuts" — he didn’t say "tax rate cuts," he said "tax cuts" — "to everybody," including the top 1 percent, you should believe him, because that’s been his history. And that’s exactly the kind of top-down economics that is not going to work if we want a strong middle class and an economy that’s thriving for everybody.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor Romney, I’m sure you’ve got a reply there.
MITT ROMNEY: You’re absolutely right.
You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I’m not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.
And why do I want to bring rates down and at the same time lower exemptions and deductions, particularly for people at the high end? Because if you bring rates down, it makes it easier for small business to keep more of their capital and hire people. And for me, this is about jobs. I want to get America’s economy going again. Fifty-four percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals. So when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people.
For me, I look at what’s happened in the last four years and say this has been a disappointment. We can do better than this. We don’t have to settle for—how many months? Forty-three months with unemployment above 8 percent, 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job right now. There are three-and-a-half million more women living in poverty today than when the president took office.
We don’t have to live like this. We can get this economy going again. My five-point plan does it: energy independence for North America in five years; opening up more trade, particularly in Latin America; cracking down on China when they cheat; getting us to a balanced budget; fixing our training programs for our workers; and finally, championing small business. I want to make small businesses grow and thrive. I know how to make that happen. I spent my life in the private sector. I know why jobs come and why they go. And they’re going now because of the policies of this administration.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor, let me ask the president something about what you just said. The governor says that he is not going to allow the top 5 percent—believe is what he said—to have a tax cut, that it will all even out, that what he wants to do is give that tax cut to the middle class. Settled?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, it’s not settled. Look, the cost of lowering rates for everybody across the board 20 percent, along with what he also wants to do in terms of eliminating the estate tax, along what he wants to do in terms of corporates, changes in the tax code, it costs about $5 trillion. Governor Romney then also wants to spend $2 trillion on additional military programs, even though the military is not asking for them. That’s $7 trillion. He also wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. That’s another trillion dollars. That’s $8 trillion.
Now, what he says is, he’s going to make sure that this doesn’t add to the deficit, and he’s going to cut middle-class taxes. But when he’s asked, "How are you going to do it? Which deductions, which loopholes are you going to close?" he can’t tell you. The—the fact that he only has to pay 14 percent on his taxes when a lot of you are paying much higher, you know, he’s already taken that off the board. Capital gains are going to continue to be at a low rate, so we—we’re not going to get money that way. We haven’t heard from the governor any specifics, beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, in terms of how he pays for that.
Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, "Here, I want to spend seven or eight trillion dollars, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it," you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal. And neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up.
And—and what’s at stake here is one of two things: either, Candy, this blows up the deficit—because, keep in mind, this is just to pay for the additional spending that he’s talking about, seven, eight trillion dollars, that’s before we even get to the deficit we already have—or, alternatively, it’s got to be paid for not only by closing deductions for wealthy individuals—that—that will pay for about 4 percent reduction in tax rates—you’re going to be paying for it. You’ll lose some deductions. And you can’t buy the sales pitch. Nobody who’s looked at it that’s serious actually believes it adds up.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me get—let me get the governor in on this. And, Governor, let’s—before we get into a—
MITT ROMNEY: I—I—
CANDY CROWLEY: —vast array of who says what, what study says what, if it shouldn’t add up, if somehow when you get in there there isn’t enough tax revenue coming in, if somehow the numbers don’t add up, would you be willing to look again at a 20 percent—
MITT ROMNEY: Well, of course they add up. I—I was—I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the—the state of Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years. When we’re talking about math that doesn’t add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits over the last four years—$5 trillion? That’s math that doesn’t add up. We have—we have a president talking about someone’s plan in a way that’s completely foreign to what my real plan is.
And then we have his own record, which is, we have four consecutive years where he said, when he was running for office, he would cut the deficit in half. Instead he’s doubled it. We’ve gone from $10 trillion of national debt to $16 trillion of national debt. If the president were re-elected, we’d go to almost $20 trillion of national debt. This puts us on a road to Greece. I know what it takes to balance budgets. I’ve done it my entire life. So, for instance, when he says, "Yours is a $5 trillion cut." Well, no, it’s not, because I’m offsetting some of the reductions with holding down some of the deductions. And—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy?
MITT ROMNEY: And just—
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor, I’ve got to—I’ve got to actually—
MITT ROMNEY: I’m sorry—
CANDY CROWLEY: I need to have you both hang—
MITT ROMNEY: And I’ve told you—yeah.
CANDY CROWLEY: I understand the stakes here. I understand both of you. But I—I will get run out of town if I don’t—
MITT ROMNEY: And I just described—
CANDY CROWLEY: —allow these people to get—
MITT ROMNEY: And I just described to you, Mr. President—I just described to you precisely how I’d do it—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ll [inaudible] to you.
CANDY CROWLEY: You will get—OK, good.
MITT ROMNEY: —which is with a single number that people can put—and they can put their—their deductions and credits into that bucket.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy—
CANDY CROWLEY: Let me—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Are we keeping track of how—
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, we’re keeping track, I promise you.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK.
CANDY CROWLEY: And Mr. President, the next question is for you, so stay standing.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Great, looking forward to it. And it’s Katherine Fenton, who has a question for you.
KATHERINE FENTON: In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, Katherine, this is a great question. And, you know, I was raised by a single mom who had to put herself through school while looking after two kids. And she worked hard every day and made a lot of sacrifices to make sure we got everything we needed. And my grandmother, she started off as a secretary in a bank. She never got a college education, even though she was smart as a whip. And she worked her way up to become a vice president at a local bank. But she hit the glass ceiling. She trained people who would end up becoming her bosses during the course of her career. She didn’t complain; that’s not what you did in that generation.
And this is one of the reasons why one of the first—the first bill I signed was something called the Lilly Ledbetter bill. And this is named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less, and the Supreme Court said that she couldn’t bring suit because she should have found out about it earlier, when she had no way of finding out about it. So we fixed that. And that’s an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue. This is a middle-class issue. And that’s why we’ve got to fight for it.
It also means that we’ve got to make sure that young people like yourself are able to afford a college education. Earlier, Governor Romney talked about he wants to make Pell Grants and other education accessible for young people. Well, the truth of the matter is, is that that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve expanded Pell Grants for millions of people, including millions of young women, all across the country. We did it by taking $60 billion that was going to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, and we said, let’s just cut out the middleman, let’s give the money directly to students. And as a consequence, we’ve seen millions of young people be able to afford college, and that’s going to make sure that young women are going to be able to compete in that marketplace.
But we’ve got to enforce the laws, which is what we are doing. And we’ve also got to make sure that in every walk of life we do not tolerate discrimination. That’s been one of the hallmarks of my administration. I’m going to continue to push on this issue for the next four years.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women.
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I—and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can’t we—can’t we find some—some women that are also qualified?"
And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, "Can you help us find folks?" And they brought us whole binders full of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, "I can’t be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school." So we said, "Fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you."
We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers, they’re going to be anxious to hire women. In the—in the last four years, women have lost 580,000 jobs. That’s the net of what’s happened in the last four years. We’re still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned three-and-a-half million women more now in poverty than four years ago.
What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that—that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
This is what I’ve done. It’s what I look forward to doing. And I know what it takes to make an economy work, and I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that—that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy. An economy with 50 percent of kids graduating from college that can’t find a job or a college-level job, that’s not what we have to have.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor?
MITT ROMNEY: I’m going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, why don’t you get in on this quickly, please?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Katherine, I just want to point out that when Governor Romney’s campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it, he said, "I’ll get back to you." And that’s not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy.
Now, there are some other issues that have a bearing on how women succeed in the workplace. For example, their healthcare. You know, a major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the healthcare choices that women are making. I think that’s a mistake. In my healthcare bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who’s insured, because this is not just a health issue, it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket. Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that in fact employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need.
When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood—there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country. And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work. When we talk about child care and the credits that we’re providing, that makes a difference in terms of whether they can go out there and earn a living for their family.
These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues. And one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And I’ve got two daughters, and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody’s sons have. That’s part of what I’m fighting for as president of the United States.
CANDY CROWLEY: I want to move us along here to Susan Katz, who has a question. And, Governor, it’s for you.
SUSAN KATZ: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter, because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?
MITT ROMNEY: Great. Thank you, and I appreciate that question. I—I just want make sure that—I think I was supposed to get that last answer, but I want to point out that I don’t believe—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Don’t think so, Candy.
MITT ROMNEY: I don’t believe—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want to make sure our timekeepers are working here.
CANDY CROWLEY: OK.
MITT ROMNEY: I—the time to keep—
CANDY CROWLEY: The timekeepers are all working.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: All right.
CANDY CROWLEY: And let me tell you that the last part, it’s for the two of you to talk to one another, and it isn’t quite as ordered as you think. But go ahead and use this two minutes any way you’d like to. The question is on the floor.
MITT ROMNEY: I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. And—and the—and the president’s statement on my policy is completely and totally wrong.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Governor, that’s not true.
MITT ROMNEY: Let me come back and—and answer your question. President Bush and I are—are different people, and these are different times. And that’s why my five-point plan is so different than what he would have done.
I mean, for instance, we can now, by virtue of new technology, actually get all the energy we need in North America without having to go to the—the Arabs or the Venezuelans or anyone else. That wasn’t true in his time. That’s why my policy starts with a very robust policy to get all that energy in North America, become energy secure.
Number two, trade. I’ll crack down on China. President Bush didn’t. I’m also going to dramatically expand trade in Latin America. It’s been growing about 12 percent per year over a long period of time. I want to add more free trade agreements so we’ll have more trade.
Number three, I’m going to get us to a balanced budget. President Bush didn’t. President Obama was right. He said that that was outrageous to have deficits as high as half-a-trillion dollars under the Bush years. He was right. But then he put in place deficits twice that size for every one of his four years. And his forecast for the next four years is more deficits, almost that large. So that’s the next area I’m different than President Bush.
And then let’s take the last one, championing small business. Our party has been focused on big business too long. I came through small business. I understand how hard it is to start a small business. That’s why everything I’ll do is designed to help small businesses grow and add jobs. I want to keep their taxes down, on small business. I want regulators to see their job as encouraging small enterprise, not crushing it.
And the thing I find most troubling about "Obamacare" — well, it’s a long list, but one of the things I find most troubling is that when you go out and talk to small businesses and ask them what they think about it, they tell you it keeps them from hiring more people.
My priority is jobs. I know how to make that happen. And President Bush had a very different path for a very different time. My path is designed in getting small businesses to grow and hire people.
CANDY CROWLEY: Thanks, Governor. Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to tell you that we did come in during some tough times. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when I started. But we have been digging our way out of policies that were misplaced and focused on the top doing very well and middle-class folks not doing well. Now we’ve seen 30 consecutive—31 consecutive months of job growth, 5.2 million new jobs created. And the plans that I talked about will create even more.
But when Governor Romney says that he has a very different economic plan, the centerpiece of his economic plan are tax cuts. That’s what took us from surplus to deficit. When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China, and is currently investing in countries—in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks. That’s—Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.
And what we’ve done when it comes to trade is not only sign three trade deals to open up new markets, but we’ve also set up a task force for trade that goes after anybody who is taking advantage of American workers or businesses and not creating a level playing field. We’ve brought twice as many cases against unfair trading practices than the previous administration, and we’ve won every single one that’s been decided. When I said that we had to make sure that China was not flooding our domestic market with cheap tires, Governor Romney said I was being protectionist, that it wouldn’t be helpful to American workers. Well, in fact, we saved a thousand jobs. And that’s the kind of tough trade actions that are required.
But the last point I want to make is this. You know, there are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform; he didn’t call for self-deportation. George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. So, there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy. And I think that’s a mistake. That’s not how we’re going to move our economy forward.
CANDY CROWLEY: I want to move you both along to the next question, because it’s in the same wheelhouse, so you will be able to respond. But the president does get this question. I want to call on Michael Jones.
MICHAEL JONES: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, we’ve gone through a tough four years. There’s no doubt about it. But four years ago, I told the American people and I told you I would cut taxes for middle-class families. And I did. I told you I’d cut taxes for small businesses. And I have.
I said that I’d end the war in Iraq. And I did. I said we’d refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9/11. And we have gone after al-Qaeda’s leadership like never before, and Osama bin Laden is dead.
I said that we would put in place healthcare reform to make sure that insurance companies can’t jerk you around, and if you don’t have health insurance, that you’d have a chance to get affordable insurance. And I have.
I committed that I would rein in the excesses of Wall Street. And we passed the toughest Wall Street reforms since the 1930s. We’ve created five million jobs, gone from 800,000 jobs a month being lost, and we are making progress. We saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse.
Now, does that mean you’re not struggling? Absolutely not. A lot of us are. And that’s why the plan that I’ve put forward for manufacturing and education and reducing our deficit in a sensible way, using the savings from ending wars to rebuild America, and putting people back to work, making sure that we are controlling our own energy, but not just the energy of today, but also the energy of the future—all those things will make a difference. So the point is, the commitments I’ve made, I’ve kept. And those that I haven’t been able to keep, it’s not for lack of trying, and we’re going to get it done in a second term.
But you should pay attention to this campaign, because Governor Romney has made some commitments, as well. And I suspect he’ll keep those, too. You know, when members of the Republican Congress say, "We’re going to sign a no-tax pledge, so that we don’t ask a dime for millionaires and billionaires to reduce our deficit so we can still invest in education and helping kids go to college," he said, "Me, too." When they said, "We’re going to cut Planned Parenthood funding," he said, "Me, too." When he said, "We’re going to repeal 'Obamacare,' first thing I’m going to do," despite the fact that it’s the same healthcare plan that he passed in Massachusetts and is working well, he said, "Me, too." That is not the kind of leadership that you need, but you should expect that those are promises he’s going to keep.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me let—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And the choice in this election is going to be whose promises are going to be more likely to help you in your life, make sure your kids can go to college, make sure that you are getting a good-paying job, making sure that Medicare and Social Security—
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, thank you.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —will be there for you.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor?
MITT ROMNEY: I think you know better. I think you know that these last four years haven’t been so good as the president just described and that you don’t feel like you’re confident that the next four years are going to be much better either.
I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can’t afford four more years like the last four years.
He said that, by now, we’d have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is nine million Americans without work. I wasn’t the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the president’s plan. Didn’t get there.
He said he would have, by now, put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security, because he pointed out they’re on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He’d get that done. He hasn’t even made a proposal on either one.
He said in his first year he’d put out an immigration plan that would deal with our immigration challenges. Didn’t even file it.
This is a president who has not been able to do what he said he’d do. He said that he’d cut in half the deficit. He hasn’t done that, either. In fact, he doubled it. He said that, by now, middle-income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It’s gone up by $2,500 a year. And if "Obamacare" is passed, or implemented—it’s already been passed—if it’s implemented fully, it’ll be another $2,500 on top.
The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a president who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again. He keeps saying, "Look, I’ve created five million jobs." That’s after losing five million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country. The unemployment, the number of people who are still looking for work, is still 23 million Americans.
There are more people in poverty, one out of six people in poverty. How about food stamps? When he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Today, 47 million people are on food stamps. How about the growth of the economy? It’s growing more slowly this year than last year, and more slowly last year than the year before.
The president wants to do well. I understand. But the policies he’s put in place, from "Obamacare" to Dodd-Frank, to his tax policies, to his regulatory policies, these policies combined have not let this economy take off and grow like it could have.
You might say, "Well, you got an example of one that worked better?" Yeah, in the Reagan recession, where unemployment hit 10.8 percent, between that period—the end of that recession and equivalent period of time to today, Ronald Reagan’s recovery created twice as many jobs as this president’s recovery. Five million jobs doesn’t even keep up with our population growth. And the only reason the unemployment rate seems a little lower today is because of all the people that have dropped out of the workforce.
The president has tried, but his policies haven’t worked. He’s great as a—as a—as a speaker and describing his plans and his vision. That’s wonderful, except we have a record to look at. And that record shows he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need. Median income is down $4,300 a family, and 23 million Americans out of work. That’s what this election is about. It’s about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future and assure our kids the kind of hope and optimism they deserve.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor, I want to move you along. Don’t—don’t go away, and we’ll have plenty of time to respond. We are quite aware of the clock for both of you. But I want to bring in a different subject here. Mr. President, I’ll be right back with you. Lorraine Osario has a question for you about a topic we have not heard—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is for Governor Romney?
CANDY CROWLEY: Yes, this is for Governor Romney, and we’ll be right with you, Mr. President. Thanks.
MITT ROMNEY: Is it Lorena?
LORRAINE OSARIO: Lorraine.
MITT ROMNEY: Lorraine?
LORRAINE OSARIO: Yeah, Lorraine, yeah.
MITT ROMNEY: Lorraine.
LORRAINE OSARIO: How you doing?
MITT ROMNEY: Good, thanks.
LORRAINE OSARIO: President—Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green card that are currently living here as productive members of society?
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, Lorraine. Did I get that right? Good. Thank you for your question. And let me step back and tell you what I’d like to do with our immigration policy broadly and include an answer to your—your question.
First of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of American parents. Ann’s dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American. We welcome legal immigrants into this country.
I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined, I want it to be clearer. I don’t think you have to—shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also think that we should give visas to people—green cards, rather, to people who graduate with skills that we need, people around the world with accredited degrees in—in science and math, get a green card stapled to their diploma, come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure that our legal system works.
Number two, we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are four million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who’ve come here illegally.
What I will do is I’ll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so. I won’t put in place magnets for people coming here illegally, so, for instance, I would not give driver’s licenses to those that have come here illegally, as the—as the president would.
The kids of—of those that came here illegally, those kids I think should have a pathway to become a—a permanent resident of the United States. And military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.
Now, when the president ran for office, he said that he’d put in place, in his first year, a piece of legislation—he’d file a bill in his first year that would reform our—our immigration system, protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration. He didn’t do it. He had a Democrat House and Democrat Senate, supermajority in both houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come here legally and for those that are here illegally today? That’s a question I think the—the president will have a chance to answer right now.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good. I look forward to it. Was it Lorena? Lorraine.
We are a nation of immigrants. I mean, we’re just a few miles away from Ellis Island. We all understand what this country has become because talent from all around the world wants to come here, people who are willing to take risks, people who want to build on their dreams and make sure their kids have an—even bigger dreams than they have.
But we’re also a nation of laws. So what I’ve said is, we need to fix a broken immigration system. And I’ve done everything that I can on my own and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fix this system.
First thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler and cheaper for people who are waiting in line, obeying the law, to make sure that they can come here and contribute to our country. And that’s good for our economic growth. They’ll start new businesses. They’ll make things happen to create jobs here in the United States.
Number two, we do have to deal with our border. So we’ve put more Border Patrol on than any time in history, and the flow of undocumented workers across the border is actually lower than it’s been in 40 years.
What I’ve also said is, if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gangbangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that’s what we’ve done.
And what I’ve also said is, for young people who come here, brought here oftentimes by their parents, have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag, think of this as their country, understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers, then we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship. And that’s what I’ve done administratively.
Now, Governor Romney just said that, you know, he wants to help those young people, too. But during the Republican primary, he said, "I will veto the DREAM Act," that would allow these young people to have access. His main strategy during the Republican primary was to say, "We’re going to encourage self-deportation," making life so miserable on folks that they’ll leave. He called the Arizona law a model for the nation. Part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers. And you know what? If my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they’re not a citizen, I don’t want—I don’t want to empower somebody like that.
So, we can fix this system in a comprehensive way. And when Governor Romney says the challenge is, well, Obama didn’t try, that’s not true. I sat down with Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of my term, and I said, "Let’s fix this system," including senators previously who had supported it on the Republican side. But it’s very hard for Republicans in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform if their standard-bearer has said that this is not something I’m interested in supporting.
CANDY CROWLEY: Let me get the governor in here, Mr. President. Let’s speak to, if you could, Governor—
MITT ROMNEY: Let’s.
CANDY CROWLEY: —the idea of self-deportation.
MITT ROMNEY: No, let—let me go back and speak to the points that the president made and—and—and let’s get them correct. I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the nation in that aspect. I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law, which is—which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that that was a model for the nation. That’s number one.
Number two, I asked the president a question I think Hispanics and immigrants all over the nation have asked. He was asked this on Univision the other day. Why, when you said you’d filed legislation in your first year, didn’t you do it? And he didn’t answer. He—he doesn’t answer that question. He said the standard-bearer wasn’t for it. I’m glad you thought I was a standard-bearer four years ago, but I wasn’t. Four years ago, you said in your first year you would file legislation. In his first year, I was just getting—I was licking my wounds from having been beaten by John McCain, all right. I was not the standard-bearer. My—my view is that this president should have honored his promise to do as he said.
Now, let me mention one other thing, and that is self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we’re not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead, let people make their own choice. And if they—if they find that—that they can’t get the benefits here that they want, and they can’t—and they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make a decision to go a place where—where they have better opportunities. But I’m not in favor of rounding up people and—and—and taking them out of this country. I am in favor, as the president has said, and I agree with him, which is that if people have committed crimes, we’ve got to get them out of this country.
Let me mention something else the president said. It was a moment ago, and I didn’t get a chance to, when he was describing Chinese investments and so forth.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy? Hold on a second. The—
MITT ROMNEY: Let me—I—you know, I’m still—Mr. President, I’m still speaking.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: At some point, we’ve got to—
CANDY CROWLEY: I’m sorry. Mr.—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Governor Romney—
MITT ROMNEY: Mr. President, why don’t you let me finish?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m—
MITT ROMNEY: I’m going to—I’m going to continue.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m used to being interrupted, but want to make sure—
CANDY CROWLEY: Go ahead and finish, Governor Romney.
MITT ROMNEY: I’m going to continue. The president made a—
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor Romney, if you can make it short. See all these people? They’ve been waiting for you.
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, just going to make a point.
CANDY CROWLEY: Could you make it short?
MITT ROMNEY: Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in—in Chinese companies.
Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy?
MITT ROMNEY: Have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ve got to say—
MITT ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, I—I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it doesn’t take as long.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, let me give—let me give you some—let me give—let me give you some advice.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don’t check it that often.
MITT ROMNEY: Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.
MITT ROMNEY: You also have investments outside the United States.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.
MITT ROMNEY: You also have investments through a Cayman’s trust.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: All right.
CANDY CROWLEY: And we are way—we are sort of way off topic here, Governor Romney.
MITT ROMNEY: All right. So, Mr. President—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re a little off topic here.
MITT ROMNEY: So—so, let’s—
CANDY CROWLEY: We are completely off the immigration.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Come on. I thought we were talking about immigration.
CANDY CROWLEY: And we were. So, quickly, Mr. President—
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, I came back to what you spoke about before.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I do want to—I do want to make sure that—
CANDY CROWLEY: If I could have you sit down, Governor Romney. Thank you.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I do want to make sure that we just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn’t referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it—not E-Verify, the whole thing. That’s his policy. And it’s a bad policy. And it won’t help us grow.
Look, when we think about immigration, we have to understand there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise. And they provide us energy, and they provide us innovation, and they start companies like Intel and Google. And we want to encourage that.
Now, we’ve got to make sure that we do it in a smart way and a comprehensive way, and we make the legal system better. But when we make this into a divisive political issue, and when we don’t have bipartisan support—I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get comprehensive immigration reform done, and we can’t—
MITT ROMNEY: I’ll get it done. I’ll get it done. First year.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We can’t—we have not seen Republicans—
CANDY CROWLEY: OK. Mr. President, let me move you on here, please.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —serious about this issue at all.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And it’s time for them to get serious on it.
CANDY CROWLEY: Don’t go away, though.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This used to be a bipartisan issue.
CANDY CROWLEY: Right. Don’t go away, because—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m here.
CANDY CROWLEY: I want you to talk to Kerry Ladka, who has a—wants to switch the topic for us.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK. Hi, Kerry.
KERRY LADKA: Good evening, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m sorry. What’s your name?
KERRY LADKA: It’s Kerry, Kerry Ladka.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Great to see you, Kerry.
KERRY LADKA: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, let me first of all talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren’t just representatives of the United States; they’re my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm’s way. I know these folks, and I know their families. So nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am.
So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and—and procedures, not just in Libya, but in every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this, and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is, when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.
Now, Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points. And that’s not how a commander-in-chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.
And people—not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya—in—in Iraq, and I did. I said that we’d go after al-Qaeda and bin Laden; we have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That’s what I’m doing. And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable, and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, I’m going to move us along. Governor?
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, Kerry, for your question. It’s an important one.
And—and I—I think the president just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk, and—and he takes responsibility for—for that—for the failure in providing those security resources, and—and those terrible things may well happen from time to time. I—I’m—I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. And today there’s a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We—we think of their families and care for them deeply.
There were other issues associated with this—with this tragedy. There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration, or actually whether it was a terrorist attack. And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading or instead whether we just didn’t know what happened, I think you have to ask yourself why didn’t we know five days later. When the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration, how could we have not known?
But I find more troubling than this, that on—on the day following the assassination of a United States ambassador, the first time that’s happened since 1979, when—when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn’t know what happened, that the president, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, another political event. I think these—these actions taken by a president and a leader have symbolic significance, and perhaps even a material significance, in that you’d hope that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We’ve read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear this was not a demonstration. This was an attack by terrorists.
And this calls into question the president’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and—and Israel. The president said that—that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel. We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb. Syria—Syria’s not just a tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategic—strategically significant player for America. The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and—and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.
CANDY CROWLEY: Because we’re—we’re closing in and I want to still get a lot of people in, I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly. Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president, and I’m always responsible. And that’s why nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.
The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror. And I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then, a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.
And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander-in-chief.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to reply—
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, I—
CANDY CROWLEY: —just quickly to this please.
MITT ROMNEY: I certainly do. I certainly do. I think it’s interesting the president just said something, which—which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s what I said.
MITT ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Please proceed.
MITT ROMNEY: Is that what you’re saying?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.
MITT ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CANDY CROWLEY: He did, in fact, sir. So let me—let me—call it an act of terror in the Rose Garden, used the word.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did, as well, take—it did, as well, take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You’re correct about that.
MITT ROMNEY: This—the administration—the administration indicated that this was a—a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
CANDY CROWLEY: It did.
MITT ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest—am I incorrect in that regard? On Sunday, the—your secretary—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy?
MITT ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador of the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy, I’m—
MITT ROMNEY: —this was a spontaneous reaction.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m happy to have a longer conversation—
CANDY CROWLEY: I—I know you—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —about foreign policy.
CANDY CROWLEY: Absolutely. But I want to—I want to move you on.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK. I’m happy to do that, too.
CANDY CROWLEY: And also, people can go to the transcripts and—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I just want to make sure that—
CANDY CROWLEY: —figure out what was said and when.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —you know, all these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.
CANDY CROWLEY: Because what I—what I want to do—Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the internet and from this crowd.
NINA GONZALEZ: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.
But there have been too many instances during the course of my presidency where I’ve had to comfort families who have lost somebody, most recently out in Aurora. You know, just a couple of weeks ago—actually, probably about a month—I saw a mother, who I had met at the bedside of her son, who had been shot in that theater. And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some time, and we said a prayer. And remarkably, about two months later, this young man and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable, good as new. But there were a lot of families who didn’t have that good fortune and whose sons or daughters or husbands didn’t survive.
So, my belief is that, A, we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.
But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so, what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence, because, frankly, in my home town of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence, and they’re not using AK-47s, they’re using cheap hand guns.
And so, what can we do to intervene to make sure that young people have opportunity; that our schools are working; that if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control?
And so, what I want is a—is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on—on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We of course don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country, to have automatic weapons. What I believe is we have to do as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have.
And you ask, how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state. And I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll—we’ll give people the—the hope and opportunity they deserve, and perhaps less violence from that.
But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the benefit of having two parents in the home—and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great idea, because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will—will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So, we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system.
The greatest failure we’ve had with regards to—to gun violence, in some respects, is what—what is known as Fast and Furious, which was a program under this administration. And how it worked exactly, I think we don’t know precisely, but where thousands of automatic and AK-47-type weapons were—were given to people that ultimately gave them to—to drug lords. They used those weapons against—against their own citizens and killed Americans with them. And this was a—this was a program of the government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can’t imagine. But it’s one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which has occurred during this administration, which I think the American people would like to understand fully. It’s been investigated to a degree, but—but the administration has—has carried out executive privilege to prevent all of the information from coming out. I’d like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence, thousands of guns going to Mexican drug lords.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor—Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were banned and are no longer banned. I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. Obviously, with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that, given the kind of violence that we see, sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you’ve changed your mind?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually, in my state, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it’s referred to as a—as an assault weapon ban, but it had—at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together, because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted. There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that hadn’t previously been available and so forth. So it was a mutually agreed-upon piece of legislation. That’s what we need more of, Candy. What we have right now in Washington is a place that’s—that’s gridlocked.
CANDY CROWLEY: So if I could—
MITT ROMNEY: We haven’t had—
CANDY CROWLEY: If you could get people to agree to it, you’d be for it?
MITT ROMNEY: We haven’t—we haven’t had—we haven’t had the—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy?
MITT ROMNEY: We haven’t had the leadership in Washington to work on a bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my state and bring these two together.
CANDY CROWLEY: Quickly, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The—first of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. So, that’s on the record.
But I think that one area we agree on is the importance of parents and the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they’re less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts. We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and we’ve got to make sure they don’t get weapons. But we can make a difference in terms of ensuring that every young person in America, regardless of where they come from and what they look like, have a chance to succeed.
And Candy, we haven’t had a chance to talk about education much, but I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we’ve put in place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to succeed. We’re starting to see gains in math and science. When it comes to community colleges, we are setting up programs, including with Nassau Community College, to retrain workers, including young people who may have dropped out of school but now are getting another chance, training them for the jobs that exist right now. And, in fact, employers are looking for skilled workers, and so we’re matching them up, giving them access to higher education. As I said, we have made sure that millions of young people are able to get an education that they weren’t able to get before. Now—
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, I have to—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But—
CANDY CROWLEY: I have to move you along here.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But—
CANDY CROWLEY: You said you wanted to hear this question, so we need to do it here.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’ll be just—just one second.
CANDY CROWLEY: One—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Because—because this is important. This is part of the choice in this election. And when Governor Romney was asked whether teachers—hiring more teachers was important to growing our economy, Governor Romney said, "That doesn’t grow our economy."
CANDY CROWLEY: The question, of course—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When he was asked, was class size—
CANDY CROWLEY: —Mr. President, was guns here, so I need to move us along.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I understand.
CANDY CROWLEY: You know the question was guns. So let me—let me—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But this will make a difference—
CANDY CROWLEY: —bring in another—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —in terms of whether or not we can move this economy forward for these young people—
CANDY CROWLEY: I understand.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —and reduce our violence.
CANDY CROWLEY: OK, thank you so much. I want to ask Carol Goldberg to stand up, because she gets to a question that both these men have been passionate about. It’s for Governor Romney.
CAROL GOLDBERG: The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?
MITT ROMNEY: Boy, great question and important question, because you’re absolutely right. And the place where we’ve seen manufacturing go has been China. China is now the largest manufacturer in the world—used to be the United States of America. A lot of good people have lost jobs. A half-a-million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last four years. That’s total over the last four years. One of the reasons for that is that people think it’s more attractive in some cases to go offshore than to—than to stay here. We have made it less attractive for enterprises to stay here than to go offshore from time to time. What I will do as president is make sure it’s more attractive to come to America again.
This is the way we’re going to create jobs in this country. It’s not by trickle-down government, saying we’re going to take more money from people and hire more government workers, raise more taxes, put in place more regulations. Trickle-down government has never worked here, has never worked anywhere. I want to make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for small business, for big business, to invest and grow in America.
Now, we’re going to have to make sure that as we trade with other nations that they play by the rules. And China hasn’t. One of the reasons—or one of the ways they don’t play by the rules is artificially holding down the value of their currency, because if they put their currency down low, that means their prices on their goods are low. And that makes them advantageous in the marketplace. We lose sales, and manufacturers here in the U.S. making the same products can’t compete. China has been a currency manipulator for years and years and years. And the president has a regular opportunity to—to label them as a—as a currency manipulator but refuses to do so. On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me as president to be able to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers. So we’re going to make sure that people we trade with around the world play by the rules.
But let me—let me not just stop there. Don’t forget, what’s key to bringing back jobs here is not just finding someone else to punish—and I’m going to be strict with people who we trade with to make sure they—they follow the law and play by the rules—but it’s also to make America the most attractive place in the world for businesses of all kinds. That’s why I want to down the tax rates on small employers, big employers, so they want to be here. Canada’s tax rate on companies is now 15 percent. Ours is 35 percent. So if you’re starting a business, where would you rather start it? We have to be competitive if we’re going to create more jobs here.
Regulations have quadrupled. The rate of regulations quadrupled under this president. I talk to small businesses across the country. They say, "We feel like we’re under attack from our own government." I want to make sure that regulators see their job as encouraging small business, not crushing it. And there’s no question but that "Obamacare" has been an extraordinary deterrent to enterprises of all kinds hiring people.
My priority is making sure that we get more people hired. If we have more people hired, if we get back manufacturing jobs, if we get back all kinds of jobs into this country, then you’re going to see rising incomes again. The reason incomes are down is because unemployment is so high. I know what it takes to get this to happen, and my plan will do that, and one part of it is to make sure that we keep China playing by the rules. Thank you.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, two minutes here, because we are then going to go to our last question.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK. We need to create jobs here. And both Governor Romney and I agree actually that we should lower our corporate tax rate. It’s too high. But there’s a difference in terms of how we would do it. I want to close loopholes that allow companies to deduct expenses when they move to China, that allow them to profit offshore and not have to get taxed so they have tax advantages offshore. All those changes in our tax code would make a difference.
Now, Governor Romney actually wants to expand those tax breaks. One of his big ideas when it comes to corporate tax reform would be to say, if you invest overseas, you make profits overseas, you don’t have to pay U.S. taxes. But, of course, if you’re a small business or a mom-and-pop business or a big business starting up here, you’ve got to pay even the reduced rate that Governor Romney’s talking about. And it’s estimated that that will create 800,000 new jobs. Problem is, they’ll be in China or India or Germany. That’s not the way we’re going to create jobs here.
The way we’re going to create jobs here is not just to change our tax code, but also to double our exports. And we are on pace to double our exports, one of the commitments I made when I was president. That’s creating tens of thousands of jobs all across the country. That’s why we’ve kept on pushing trade deals, but trade deals that make sure that American workers and American businesses are getting a good deal.
Now, Governor Romney talked about China, as I already indicated. In the private sector, Governor Romney’s company invested in what were called "pioneers of outsourcing." That’s not my phrase; that’s what reporters called it. And as far as currency manipulation, the currency has actually gone up 11 percent since I’ve been president because we have pushed them hard. And we’ve put unprecedented trade pressure on China. That’s why exports have significantly increased under my presidency. That’s going to help to create jobs here.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, we have a really short time for a quick discussion here. IPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China. One of the major reasons is labor is so much cheaper here. How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?
MITT ROMNEY: The answer is very straightforward. We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China has been cheating over the years, one, by holding down the value of their currency; number two, by stealing our intellectual property—our designs, our patents, our technology. There’s even an Apple store in China that’s a counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis, that’s number one.
Number two, we have to make America the most attractive place for entrepreneurs, for people who want to expand a business. That’s what brings jobs in. The president’s characterization of my tax plan—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: How much time do we got, Candy?
MITT ROMNEY: —is completely—
CANDY CROWLEY: You’ll get—
MITT ROMNEY: —is completely—is completely false.
CANDY CROWLEY: Let me to go to the—
MITT ROMNEY: Let me tell you—
CANDY CROWLEY: Let me to go to the president here, because we really are running out of time. And the question is, can we ever get—we can’t get wages like that. It can’t be sustained here.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Candy, there are some jobs that are not going to come back, because they’re low-wage, low-skill jobs. I want high-wage, high-skill jobs. That’s why we have to emphasize manufacturing. That’s why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing. That’s why we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the best science and research in the world. And when we talk about deficits, if we’re adding to our deficit for tax cuts for folks who don’t need them, and we’re cutting investments in research and science that will create the next Apple, create the next new innovation that will sell products around the world, we will lose that race. If we’re not training engineers to make sure that they are equipped here in this country, then companies won’t come here. Those investments are what’s going to help to make sure that we continue to lead this world economy, not just next year, but 10 years from now, 50 years from now, a hundred years from now.
CANDY CROWLEY: Thanks Mr. President.
MITT ROMNEY: Government does not create jobs.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor Romney?
MITT ROMNEY: Government does not create jobs.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor Romney, I want to introduce you to Barry Green, because he’s going to have the last question to you first?
MITT ROMNEY: Barry? Oh, there’s Barry. Hi, Barry.
BARRY GREEN: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question, to each of you. What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, and that’s an opportunity for me, and I appreciate it.
In the nature of a campaign, it seems that some campaigns are focused on attacking a person rather than prescribing their own future and the things they’d like to do. In the course of that, I think the president’s campaign has tried to characterize me as—as someone who’s very different than who I am.
I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids. I understand what it takes to—to make a bright and prosperous future for America again. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I’m a guy who wants to help, with the experience I have, the American people.
My—my passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God. And I believe we’re all children of the same god. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I—I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years. I’ve sat across the table from people who were out of work, and worked with them to try and find new work or to help them through tough times.
I went to the Olympics when they were in trouble to try and get them on track. And as governor of my state, I was able to get 100 percent of my people insured, all my kids, about 98 percent of the adults. I was able also to get our schools ranked number one in the nation, so 100 percent of our kids would have a bright opportunity for a future.
I understand that I can get this country on track again. We don’t have to settle for what we’re going through. We don’t have to settle for gasoline at four bucks. We don’t have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level. We don’t have to settle for 47 million people on food stamps. We don’t have to settle for 50 percent of kids coming out of college not able to get work. We don’t have to settle for 23 million people struggling to find a good job.
If I become president, I’ll get America working again. I will get us on track to a balanced budget. The president hasn’t. I will. I’ll make sure we can reform Medicare and Social Security to preserve them for coming—coming generations. The president said he would. He didn’t.
CANDY CROWLEY: Governor—
MITT ROMNEY: I’ll get our incomes up. And by the way, I’ve done these things. I served as governor and showed I could get them done.
CANDY CROWLEY: Mr. President, last two minutes belong to you.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That’s not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot, and everybody should do their fair share, and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy is grown. That’s how we built the world’s greatest middle class. And—and that is part of what’s at stake in this election. There’s a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward.
I believe Governor Romney is a good man, loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about: folks on Social Security who have worked all their lives; veterans, who’ve sacrificed for this country; students, who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams; soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now; people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income. And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years, because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.
And when my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a GI Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote, and that’s why I’m asking for another four years.
CANDY CROWLEY: President Obama, Governor Romney, thank you for being here tonight.
On that note, we have come to an end of this town hall debate. Our thanks to the participants for their time and to the people of Hofstra University for their hospitality.
The next and final debate takes place Monday night at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Don’t forget to watch. Election Day is three weeks from today. Don’t forget to vote. Good night.
AMY GOODMAN: You have been listening to, you have been watching the second presidential debate here at Hofstra University, just down the road from we’re broadcasting right now at Monroe Lecture Hall. I’m Amy Goodman.
And in this last minutes before the top of the hour, we’re going to get response from the Hofstra community. We’re joined by Etana Jacobi, who is the Harry H. Wachtel Leadership Scholar at Hofstra University and assistant director of the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives; Carolyn Eisenberg, one of the founders of Long Island Teachers for Human Rights and a professor of U.S. foreign policy at Hofstra University. Mario Murillo is with us, professor and chair of the Department of Radio, Television, Film at Hofstra University, co-director of the Center for Civic Engagement, which is co-sponsoring this town hall with us at Democracy Now! And Sergio Argueta is back with us, director of the undergraduate social work program at Adelphi University, the nearby school on Long Island, and founder and board president of S.T.R.O.N.G., working to end gang and youth violence.
We are also joined by a loud, rowdy audience here at Monroe Hall at the end of this debate.
I wanted to turn first to Carolyn Eisenberg, a professor of foreign policy, one of the founders of Long Island Teachers for Human Rights. Your assessment of this debate, held in a town hall forum with about a hundred people inside the Mack Arena?
CAROLYN EISENBERG: Well, it wasn’t boring. I think a lot of how people are going to respond is really about this interplay of personalities here. Really, I think that was the drama that we saw tonight, was the interplay of personalities. I think the governor was actually quite disrespectful to the president at certain times.
AMY GOODMAN: In what way? In what way?
CAROLYN EISENBERG: I just felt that there were ways—you know, even sort of the physical approach, the interruptions, that there’s just some way in which you’re dealing with the president of the United States and that you—there’s a kind of decorum that he did not really observe. And I think people could understandably find this offensive. I think—
AMY GOODMAN: I’m wondering if the most famous line of this hour-and-a-half-or-so debate will be President Obama’s line, "Your pension is bigger than mine."
CAROLYN EISENBERG: Your—well, that’s a question. I think we saw tonight President Obama needing to be far more aggressive than we have ever seen him in one of these debates. And I think there’s a question—I think, in this room, a lot of people would say, "Well, thank goodness he’s fighting back." How that’s going to play around the country, I don’t know.
But, Amy, I think you’re—you know, probably on your mind are the foreign policy questions. I don’t think this debate, you know, hinged on those foreign policy questions. I mean, the whole format really militated against really any substantive exchange. When we had the issue of Libya, it was a pretty lame conversation, and Governor Romney was accusing the president, in general, of being responsible for all the problems in the Middle East and not being tough enough. We—we saw that. But we didn’t have a good discussion on foreign policy.
Most of the important questions were just never raised at all. The one allusion that I remember about Afghanistan was President Obama say, "Well, I promised, you know, we would be getting out of there, and now we’re doing that." But the reality is, we have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. And we’re talking about 2014, was really the date that has been given. And I know that Vice President Biden was very unequivocal the other day: "But, well, that’s it. Final. Absolutely. We’re gone." But that actually was not the policy of the administration. The policy of the administration is to keep some residual force still in Afghanistan after 2014. So that whole subject of Afghanistan, there really was no engagement on that question. Now, it may well be that there wasn’t because the positions of Governor Romney and President Obama really are not that far apart.
I think, on this campus, an issue that has been of, you know, great concern to many people here and around the country, and certainly around the world, has been the use of drones. I think several people mentioned that earlier, this new policy of assassinating people in various countries, not necessarily clear who they are, what the charges are against them. This is a huge departure from previous administrations, which minimally—to their assassinations in secret. I mean, this is a very, very serious issue. That didn’t really come out here, either.
This was an argument by Governor Romney that because he made a lot of money at Bain, he knew how to run businesses, and he knew how to run the country. And President Obama was basically trying to deal with that argument in a variety of ways. But in terms of foreign policy, we really did not have a chance to really have substantive discussion, nor did we have a discussion about the fact that we are on track in—for the next fiscal year of $600 billion—or, actually, in excess of $600 billion that’s in the defense budget right now. And the Republicans may want to make it a little bit bigger, but the reality is that the Democrat—ceratinly the White House, in their budget, has kept the military budget very high. So that really didn’t come, you know, through at all.
But again, I think there was a different drama here tonight. And I think the drama was that you have a man saying, "I’ve made a lot of money, and I’m white. And I should be the president of the United States." And I think, you know, we saw the president struggling with that, but he has a bad economy. His policies have not worked all that well. And I think the president was trying, in a variety of ways, to really, you know, counteract the idea that Mitt Romney should now be the head of this country for the next four years. I think that’s what went on.
AMY GOODMAN: It was interesting that Mitt Romney said—Governor Romney said, "I spent my—I’ve spent my life in the—you know, involved in business," as opposed to in public life, when in fact he was governor of Massachusetts.
Mario Murillo, a professor and chair of the Department of Radio, Television and Film here at Hofstra University, I wanted to get your comment but also let our audience know around the country and around the world that third-party candidates were not only kept out of this debate, but one of them has—is detained. She is Jill Stein. She is the Green Party presidential candidate. And she and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, attempted to make their way to the debate today, to the Mack Arena, and they were detained. They continue to be detained many hours later. We’re hoping they will be out—well, for their own sake, but also because we are going to have third-party candidates in tomorrow morning 8:00 to 10:00 Eastern [Daylight] Time, in on this broadcast on radio and television stations around the country and around the world tomorrow to participate in this debate. You know, we’ll just stop the tape after each of the answers to the questions and expand the debate, with Jill Stein, hopefully, if she’s out of detention, with Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party. Professor Mario Murillo, your response?
MARIO MURILLO: Well, you know, first of all, I want to thank you, Amy, and the whole crew from Democracy Now! for coming here.
CAROLYN EISENBERG: Yes.
MARIO MURILLO: You know, as a media person, as you know, Amy, my feeling is that I don’t even want to waste my time talking specifically about how I react to this one particular highly staged, hyper-mediated event, in which all of us were pretty much closed out. You know, we know for the next several—next week, up at least until the next and final debate, we’re going to hear ad nauseum Republicans and Democrats commenting on who won, who lost; who was more presidential; who was, you know, speaking clearly; who was, you know, gaining points; who’s taking the lead. And I—you know, I really don’t think it’s worth our time, especially when you think about the fact that, as you rightfully reported and Democracy Now! reported, one of the candidates who’s running for president was jailed today. And I bet you—I could guarantee you, you can flip the channels tonight when you get home, and none of the channels covering the so-called campaign is going to report on that one story.
So, my feeling is, if you look at the debate coverage today, we’ve got to keep—or the debate itself, we have to think about it as, in many respects, an act of deception, really. And in the spirit of civic engagement, in the spirit of "where do we go from here," I don’t even want to say who was lying, who was not lying, who was more forceful. But I’d rather raise the question as: how do we make sure that whoever comes into office come January of next year are going to be true to their word, because I remember—I’ll go back to my—you know, I’m really pleased to be here on campus this time around, 2012, because in 2008, the last time the debate came, I missed when the circus came to town. I was 3,000 miles away in Colombia. I was spending my time in Colombia on a sabbatical research fellowship that I was dealing with. And I remember watching the debate online and listening to it here on Hofstra. I was like imagining how all my colleagues and friends and all of you were responding to what was going on between McCain and between Barack Obama.
And that was the first and probably the only time—I don’t have the transcript of every campaign event that took place in 2008, but I’m pretty sure it was the only time that Colombia, the country Colombia, and Latin America in general, in terms of U.S. foreign policy, came up in any of the campaign debates. And that was the issue of the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States, in which, at the time, candidate Obama was vehemently opposed to the free trade agreement. And he made a public statement saying that, "No, because of the violation of human rights against trade unionists, the attacks on trade unionists and the complete impunity in which that has been going on for years in Colombia, I cannot support this, particularly because it also impacts workers here at home" — clearly getting the pressure from the trade union movement here and the human rights community here and in Colombia. Needless to say, McCain attacked him. He said this is crazy. And the next day, it was the biggest story in Colombia. It was like the biggest story for the next couple days, in which, "Wow! We were finally mentioned by the presidential candidates." And needless to say, right after being inaugurated the president in January, Obama took a total about-face and said he embraced the free trade agreement.
So, we may have false illusions about, you know, Obama or Romney or McCain or whoever, but the bottom line is that they say whatever they’re going to say, and they’re still not going to address the concerns that were raised right here. So, when they’re talking about the tax cuts of Romney, why didn’t they raise—why didn’t Obama raise the issue, well, not only are you going to cut taxes, but you’re also going to cut tons of programs that Jeannine and that so many other of the panelists on the—prior to the debate were pointing out and that Sergio here was—were pointing out earlier and saying how it’s directly impacting communities right here at home.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I want to say, if people want to line up at this microphone, we don’t have much time. We just have nine minutes to go. And each one, we’ll give you, say, 30 seconds of what you felt about this debate. But I also want to get our panelists in, also let people know, Mario Murillo, who you’ve just heard, co-director of the Center for Civic Engagement, is the author of Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest, and Destabilization, as well as Islands of Resistance: Puerto Rico, Vieques, and U.S. Policy. Mario himself, Professor Murillo, a Colombian Puerto Rican.
We’re also joined here by Sergio Argueta, and we spoke before the debate. What are your thoughts right now, afterwards?
SERGIO ARGUETA: Well, I mean, I truly—
AMY GOODMAN: And Sergio Argueta is with—at Adelphi University down the road.
SERGIO ARGUETA: I was—it was a little refreshing, believe it or not, although we didn’t get into too many of the issues. I was sort of—I was very happy to hear that they actually discussed the issue of youth violence. It’s an issue that’s near and dear to us. The reason the organization S.T.R.O.N.G. was started was because a young man was literally beaten to death less than two minutes right up the block, beaten to death by 13 to 18 individuals.
And to us, youth violence is a human rights issue. When it comes to the impact that it’s having on our nation—3,000 people were lost on the attacks of September 11—two times that amount are lost on a yearly basis due to gangs and youth violence. Four times, five times that amount are lost in this nation as a result of homicide. It’s the leading cause of death for African-American males, the second leading cause of death for Latinos, that oftentimes leads to mass incarceration. So the fact that they started to talk about these issues is important. Eighty-five percent of the homicides relating to youth incorporate guns, the use of guns. So, the fact that they mentioned it.
But there is no real answer. They didn’t—none of them. They both came up short on really talking about the issues. The fact that Mitt Romney merely makes a connection to parenting, you know, and the fact that, you know, kids are being raised in single-parent homes, as if that’s the only issue that we’re faced with—some sort of moral implication as opposed to the fact that there’s a lack of morality in spending more money on incarcerating individuals than educating them, the fact that you’re taking away funding for extracurricular programs, but you’re funding, you know, anti-drug and anti-gang campaigns. I was very disappointed that the president referred to, you know, gang-involved youth as "gangbangers," because I think that’s definitely a way that it’s meant to dehumanize our youth. These are young kids that don’t have the resources and the structures needed to actually excel in life.
AMY GOODMAN: I think it’s interesting also, it took a town hall and people in the community to raise the question of gun violence, when a major campaign was led by the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, named for Jim Brady, the press secretary of Ronald Reagan—in the attempted assassination of the president, he was shot in the head—a major campaign to get Jim Lehrer, the PBS host and moderator of the first debate, to ask a question about gun violence because of—well, they had that first debate in Colorado. That was Columbine. That was Aurora, as well—not the last gun massacre. I mean, you had the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. But I wanted to bring Etana Jacobi into this conversation, leadership scholar, the Harry H. Wachtel Leadership Scholar here at Hofstra and assistant director of the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. Your response to the debate?
ETANA JACOBI: It’s actually really interesting that all of my colleagues here are talking about issues that are raised by the community. And that’s something that Hofstra is really focusing on. We have this project called Deepening Democracy Through Deliberation, in which we’re getting 100 forums throughout Long Island and community members engaged in these issues. As everyone said, these are issues that really matter to the community, yet no one is talking about them on a national level. So what we’re trying to do is fact-based, issue-based conversations in which we get intergenerational conversations—students from high schools, students from Hofstra University and other local universities, senior citizens at libraries really engaged in these issues, talking about immigration reform, the future of higher education, national security, energy policy—a lot of the issues that were discussed in the debate, but really nothing substantial was coming out of their conversations, because it was a debate. It wasn’t a discussion. It wasn’t a deliberation in which we’re actually trying to find a solution to these problems. It’s "he said, she said," going back and forth.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in this town hall meeting that is happening here at Monroe Lecture Hall, and I’m—we only have three-and-a-half minutes left, so that means about two minutes. So I’m asking each person to say name, the group you’re with and a quick comment about what you—what your assessment was of this debate.
MAC BICA: Yes. Thank you, Amy. My name is Mac, Mac Bica. I’m the coordinator here of Long Island Veterans for Peace. And I just want to say that I’m outraged. I’m incensed. I feel like I live in a fantasy world here. Did we not just celebrate the end of the 11th year, the beginning of the 12th year of a war that has now become America’s longest war? Did we not mark the 2,000th death of an American citizen, not even talking about the tens and hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis that are dying? Yet, not one question! Not one question was deemed relevant enough to ask at this debate. I mean, we should be incensed. We should be outraged. And all I say is, bring back the League of Women Voters.
AMY GOODMAN: Next point—very quickly, your name, your organization and your comment?
RABBI YISROEL DOVID WEISS: Yeah, my name—with the help—
AMY GOODMAN: If you’re with an organization.
RABBI YISROEL DOVID WEISS: With the help of the Almighty, my name is Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss from Neturei Karta, Jews United Against Zionism. And although it was just barely touched upon, but it was given—it was mentioned as a given that the fact is that Israel is totally the interest of America. And we are frustrated constantly because we know that the name of Judaism has been transformed from religion into a nationalism, Zionism. It’s been kidnapped, hijacked. And anybody who opposes the—the oppression and the taking of the land of the Palestinian people and all the Muslim countries are portrayed as Jewish enemies, and therefore it has repercussions that there’s constant conflict with Arabs and Muslims, mistrust. We—
AMY GOODMAN: We can take—we can take—
RABBI YISROEL DOVID WEISS: Yes. We just wanted to say that this is not the truth. We could live in peace. And we plead with the—that they should understand that America’s interest is peace, religious peace—we can have it—and not the interest of Israel, which has brought bloodshed, constant bloodshed. peaceful dismantlement of—an impediment to peace that’s not the religious issues.
AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds for one last comment. Your name and your point?
JUSTIN BURRELL: Yeah, my name is Justin Burrell. I just came here by myself. I wanted to ask this question to them, but, I mean, I got refused. I think it’s a pretty damn good one.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the question?
JUSTIN BURRELL: What are five things that are not in the Constitution that you think every American should have? My point of view, I’m a disabled American, so I think it should be food and water, shelter, electricity, education and healthcare. I would have loved to have heard that.
AMY GOODMAN: On that note, I want to thank you so much—
JUSTIN BURRELL: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: —all for being with us. It’s a beginning of the conversation. That does it for our broadcast. And we encourage everyone to let us know what you think at democracynow.org. Democracy Now! is produced by Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Steve Martinez, Sam Alcoff, Robby Karran, Deena Guzder. Special thanks to Julie Crosby, Becca Staley, Hugh Gran, Jessica Lee, Denis Moynihan, John Wallach, Vesta Goodarz, Nemo Allen, Mike DiFilippo, Miguel Nogueira, and to our camera crew here at Hofstra University, Hofstra Professor Mario Murillo and the Center for Civic Engagement, Enrique Gallego and Tim Brigham [phon.], Bill Neo [phon.], Paul Brown [phon.] and Charlie Hutcheon [phon.].
We want to encourage everyone to tune in tomorrow to Democracy Now! and every day at democracynow.org. We will expand the debate once again, break the sound barrier. Hopefully, Jill Stein will be out of detention. She was jailed with her vice-presidential running mate, Cheri Honkala. We still understand they have been detained in North Bellmore. We have three third-party presidential candidates join the debate on Democracy Now! tomorrow. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks.