Florida Senate Debate: Transcript Part II

By Kate McCarthy

Oct 6, 2010 10:54pm

Part two of the Florida Senate debate transcript:

CRAIG PATRICK:
Mr. Meek, I want you to speak to a quote about Ronald Reagan.  Quote "Democrats had gotten complacent.  Fat and happy.  Thought that you could come up with a government program to solve every problem.  Ronald Reagan called for a leaner, more effective government.  That was the right message then."  That’s a quote from President Barack Obama.  Do you agree with the President?  Did Reagan have the right message then?  And why or why not is it the right message now?

KENDRICK MEEK:
We should have a leaner and meaner– you know, leaner government right now.  But I think it’s important to know that we did have eight years of an administration that both of these gentlemen are fighting to bring back.  Dick Cheney and others who decided to give this kind of trickle-down economics, that will help the middle class.

The facts are that middleclass families are earning less, five percent less than they earned– they– they earned since these Bush policies have been in place.  Marco Rubio’s advocating those policies.  Charlie Crist are advocating those policies.  This is not a party issue.  This is standing up for the middle class.  I think it’s important to note, when we look at this issue of health care, and I’m shocked that Marco Rubio would even use the word radical.  Because I guess he’s been called that quite a bit.

That you have to look at what’s happening in real Florida.  Real Florida, people don’t have insurance.  Charlie Crist sits here and talks about Cover Florida, it does everything but that.  Less than 10,000 enrollees.  19 million Floridians.  And we have individuals who don’t have insurance right now.  And these guys are sitting here as though it’s another day at the office.  We have a crisis right now in the State of Florida and in this country.  And we need leaders that are gonna stand up for those every day people who punch in and punch out every day.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Marco Rubio then Charlie Crist.

KENDRICK MEEK:
I think– I think when we look at this, George, we have to look at it for– from the standpoint of who wants to go to the Senate and make it work?  I’m leaving a very safe House seat to run for the United States Senate, because I’m frustrated with all of the no and the filibuster and all of the things that are going on in the Senate that has this country on lockdown.

And has families suffering right now.  And I think it’s very important that we look at fact versus fiction.  Now, we can sit around here and spin this around all we want to.  But in the final analysis, it comes down to who has health care insurance and who doesn’t.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Let’s get an answer.

KENDRICK MEEK:
And it comes down to who’s gonna expand middleclass opportunities in this country.

MARCO RUBIO:
Sure.  First of all, I believe Washington’s broken and both parties are to blame.  And let’s remind everybody that when I first got into this race a year and a half ago, I was 30 points down in the polls.  The Republican establishment did not endorse me.  They actually endorsed Con– Governor Crist.  They raised him a bunch of money that he has refused to refund.  It’s still sitting in his bank account.

I believe both parties are to blame for what’s going on in Washington.  And I’m going up there hopefully not to repeat the mistakes of the past, but to stand up to the direction that Washington is taking us and offer a clear alternative.  As far as facts are concerned, on the health care bill, the facts are clear.  The fact is that this bill is a disaster.  It has broken every promise that it has made to the American People.

The fact is that on the stimulus bill, it’s been a disaster.  They– they’ve borrowed and spent $150,000 for jobs that they claim they have saved or created.  This is a bill that’s grown our national debt by $800,000.  And our children and grandchildren are gonna work their whole lives to pay it off.  And yet, unemployment is higher.  Three million jobs have been lost in America.  200,000 jobs lost in Florida since it passed.

This is yet another example.  It’s very simple in this race.  If you like Obamacare.  If you like the stimulus plan.  You can vote for Charlie Crist or Kendrick Meek.  I’m probably not your candidate.  But if you want your next U.S. Senator to be someone that stands up to these sorts of things, and offers clear alternatives, I’m the only one running that will.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Governor Crist.

CHARLIE CRIST:
Yeah, well, let– let’s talk about what the facts are.  Marco Rubio just talked about the fact that, you know, when he was running– in the Republican primary that he really didn’t get much support and– and, you know, it– it changed.  Things changed.  And– and I want to explain to the people of Florida why I’m running as an Independent.

He says both parties to blame.  Well, I think both parties are to blame, that’s why I’m running as an Independent.  My former party said such extreme things that Marco Rubio has embraced.  Such as overturning Roe vs. Wade.  Hurting senior citizens with the Social Security program.  Not supporting public school teachers.  That’s extreme.  It’s radical.  And it’s wrong.

And I couldn’t be comfortable with it anymore.  And I– I– it wasn’t honest with myself to stay in that party.  So, I left the building.  And I’m happy to be running as an Independent, where I only have my allegiance to you.  Not to party bosses in Washington, when I get there.  Only to the people of Florida, if you’re kind enough to send me there.  I think that’s the kind of leadership people want.  I think that’s the kind of Senator you deserve.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Next round, Brendan McLaughlin.

BRENDAN MCLAUGHLIN:
Mr. Rubio, you have– called for the extension of the Bush tax cuts for all income categories, including those earning more than $250,000 a year in family income.  Even though– experts have said that eliminating that tax break for the highest– income earners would reduce our structural deficit by up to a quarter.  You’ve talked a lot about the deficit being this corrosive, dangerous, critical problem for our country.  If that’s the case, why are you willing to essentially borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to provide these tax cuts to the wealthiest two or three percent of Americans?

MARCO RUBIO:
Well, first of all, let’s be clear about a couple things, about what you just said.  The first thing is that the Bush tax cuts are the current tax code.  It’s what the taxes are now.  And what I have said, and what a growing number of Democrats have begun to say, is that it’s a bad idea to raise taxes on everybody– on anybody, at this time in– in such an economic downturn.  That’s not just me saying it.  You know who says that now?  The Governor– the gubernatorial candidate of the Democrat in the state, Alex Fink (PH).

A growing number of colleagues of Kendrick Meek’s in the– in the– in the– House, as Democrats, have begun to agree with our position on this, as well.  Here’s the bottom line.  Our debt problem going forward is not because the American people aren’t paying enough in taxes.  Our debt problem going forward is because Washington can’t control spending.  In fact, on the rate that we’re going right now, within the next five years, this deficit’s gonna double.  And we’ll actually– could trigger a downgrade in our bond rating.  And within ten years, it could triple.  And we’re gonna– here– here’s the scariest part.  By 2015, by 2015, our annual deficit could be $2.1 trillion.  And $900 billion of that, $900 billion would be interest.  That’s outrageous.

BRENDAN MCLAUGHLIN:
I’m still not sure what your justification is, though, for adding that onto the–

MARCO RUBIO:
Well, I’ll tell you what the justification is.  We have to do two things at the same time here.  Number one is we have to grow our economy.  And the way you grow your economy is by creating a stable and affordable tax code.  And that’s what the current tax code does.  And that’s why it should be extended.  And the second thing we need to do is reduce the spending.  And that’s why I’ve advocated rolling back discretionary spending and freezing it.  A balanced budget amendment.  And we have to do both things.  I think that’s the part Washington’s gotten wrong.  They haven’t done both things.  We must do both things, because that’s the only thing that will work.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Mr. Meek?

KENDRICK MEEK:
I think it’s important to pay very, very close attention to what Mr. Rubio is saying here.  He’s willing to give billionaires and millionaires and even companies.  Both have signed a pledge of giving companies that ship jobs overseas tax breaks.  Continue to take away from the U.S. worker.  It’s okay with Mr. Rubio to put on their backs $700 billion of additional debt that will be on the backs of the middle class.

And that their children and their grandchildren will have to pay that debt back.  The Bush tax cuts for the super wealthy came about– as some sort of insert within the bill, almost eight, ten years ago.  It wasn’t something that George W. Bush ran on.  It was something that just happened.  No one were saying– billionaires were– weren’t holding signs saying, "Please give me a tax cut.  Please give me a tax cut."  They got it through the kind of ideology that Marco Rubio represents.

The kind that Charlie Crist endorsed.  And still endorses.  I think it’s very, very important to note that there’s only one candidate that’s sitting here that’s willing to stand up for the middle class.  And be able to level that playing field.  I mean, the old-school politics of saying that if you can write a big, fat campaign check that you get accountability.  That you walk into some of these big homes– here in Florida and throughout the country and say, "Don’t worry.  I’ll protect things.  I’ll make sure everything’s okay."  I’m the only person that’s willing to stand up and take the responsible role.  I’m the only candidate here that has voted for a (UNINTEL).

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Okay, let’s–

KENDRICK MEEK:
That will allow us to pick a policy if we’re gonna spend it.  We’re gonna show how we’re gonna pay for it.  And I think it’s gonna bring us back under fiscal discipline.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Where do you stand on this question of extending the tax cuts for the wealthy?

CHARLIE CRIST:
I support it.  I support it.  I think that– this is absolutely the wrong time to raise taxes on anybody.  I’ve never voted for a new tax.  Through my entire career.  You know, Marco Rubio, early in his career, voted to raise property taxes.  Let me repeat that.  Voted to raise property taxes in his career.

Now, I think what we’ve done in Florida, we’ve lived within our means.  We have to.  We have a Constitution that requires us to live within our means.  As Governor of the State of Florida, I reduced the budget by over $7.4 billion.  I signed into law, as your governor, the single largest tax cut in the history of Florida.

And I understand what it means to veto earmarks.  I had to do it to Speaker Rubio.  You know, he sent to me, in the first budget, when I was Governor and he was Speaker, about $500 million in earmarks that I had to veto.  That kind of earmark expertise that Washington embraces, you don’t have to send Marco Rubio to Washington.  He’s already gone Washington.  That’s exactly what we don’t need up there right now.  What we need is to reign in spending, exercise some fiscal discipline, make sure that we send somebody to Washington that appreciates the value of a dollar of the hardworking people that sit at home (UNINTEL).

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
(UNINTEL) but just quickly on the– only on the question of earmarks, which he just raised.

MARCO RUBIO:
Well, they’re all– they’re– again, they’re once again false, George.  I mean, the– number one, on the issue that he’s never raised taxes, it’s absurd.  He broke a pledge never to raise taxes.  He just raised taxes in Florida by $2 billion dol– dollars just a year ago.  On the issue of earmarks, Governor, my– my– our budget was leaner than yours.  Both years that I was the Speaker of the House.

You should have just lined up and endorsed our budget.  And as far as Congressman Meek is concerned, the things he’s saying.  These tax increases, Congressman, aren’t just on individuals, they’re on (UNINTEL) corporations.  Small businesses that create jobs.  Small businesses like a restaurant I was in last week, where the guy told me, he’s not hiring more people until he’s sure that the folks in Washington aren’t gonna raise his taxes.

And so, I think that’s why a growing number of Americans, Democrats, Republicans, all across the political spectrum, have decided that the direction that Nancy Pelosi and you and others want to take our country is the wrong direction.

(OVERTALK)

KENDRICK MEEK:
We have to be very clear here, George.

(OVERTALK)

KENDRICK MEEK:
I think it’s very, very important.  Only two to three percent of those that are in that tax bracket actually create jobs.  I’m willing to look at that.  But you want to take us back to Dick Cheney days.  You want those individuals to get tax cuts that we can’t afford and can’t pay for.  You’re– we’re– we got the car out of the ditch, you want the keys back.  You want to drive it back into the ditch.  And make sure that these special interest groups get their tax cut.

I’m gonna stand there for the middle class every– people that are paying a lot of taxes in this state.  And I think it’s very, very important that we have leaders that are willing to stand up to those individuals in this state.  And I’m guarantee you, George, that I’m one of those individuals.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Okay, Governor Crist.

KENDRICK MEEK:
My history–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
We have to move on.  (UNINTEL) very quick.

CHARLIE CRIST:
Ver– very quickly.  The Speaker said that he didn’t put these earmark items into the budget.  Are you telling us here tonight that you didn’t put $800,000 in for AstroTurf on a field– in a football field that you play– at–

MARCO RUBIO:
Governor, I don’t know–

CHARLIE CRIST:
I vetoed it.

MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah, not only– not only am I willing to–

CHARLIE CRIST:
Look at the facts.

MARCO RUBIO:
Not only am I willing to tell you that, but I think Politifact, and independent journalists that have studied the issue have said I had nothing to do with putting that in there.  The fact of the matter is, Governor, that the budgets that I proposed as Speaker spent less money than the budgets you proposed as Governor.  Why didn’t you sign onto our budgets?

CHARLIE CRIST:
I had to cut $500 million out of the pork that you sent me as Governor of the State of Florida–

MARCO RUBIO:
Governor, why didn’t you line up behind our budget?  Our budget didn’t have that in there.

CHARLIE CRIST:
That’s what you sent to me.

MARCO RUBIO:
No.  Our budget didn’t have that in there.

CHARLIE CRIST:
And you’ve gone Washington.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
We gotta move on to the next round.  I want to move to foreign policy.  The question is for you, Mr. Meek.  And it’s very simple.  Do you think the war in Afghanistan can be won?  How do you define victory?  And do you believe that President Obama should begin withdrawing troops next July, even if that victory hasn’t been achieved?

KENDRICK MEEK:
I think it’s very important to note the discussion that’s going on right now to trying to find some sort of truce between the Taliban and Afghans are very, very important.  I think some of the minerals that have been found by the U.S. military should be commended and should be a part of this discussion.  Going after– Osama bin Laden is very, very important.  Need to be captured, killed, or what have you.  The intelligence that we have picked up.  On the ground intelligence is very, very important.  But I think the redeployment of our men and women– in– in– middle of next year or the beginning of next year is pivotal.  Every time, George–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Even if there is no victory, and how do you define it?

KENDRICK MEEK:
Well, how do you– well, the question is defining victory is killing Osama bin Laden?  Is it making sure that we– bring about– the Taliban and– and capture all the–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
I’m asking you.  What is the answer?

KENDRICK MEEK:
It’s a very– it’s a very slippery slope.  But one thing I do know, George, is that we have military families that are here, even– many military families that live within Florida.  That need their loved ones back home.  That want their fathers back home.  Want their mothers back home.  No one really thinks about them in this process.

And as I’ve ran for the United States Senate since January of ’09, I have encountered a number of military families saying, "Sir–" and I served on Armed Services Committee six of my eight years– in– on– on the Armed Services Co– in Congress.  And I talked to these individuals.  And their real, live, breathing individuals.  And they’re concerned about the fact that we clap for them when they walk through the airport.  But who’s clapping when these guys and gals are sitting in V.A. centers throughout the State of Florida, wait– waiting two hours for care?  And that’s what we have to think about when we think about this whole issue of war and how we find a responsible reason–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Just to be clear, because I want (UNINTEL PHRASE).  Redeployment begins next July, regardless of conditions on the ground?

KENDRICK MEEK:
Well, our allies will be redeploying, at that time, too.  And I think it’s very important that we start looking at that.

MARCO RUBIO:
The first thing, the Congressman’s absolutely right.  We first need to thank and congratulate our troops and express our gratitude.  Because you’re absolutely right, these are the bravest and finest young men and women that our country has.  Our family knows this firsthand.  My brother was special forces Army during the Vietnam era and that– we know the strain that that puts a family through.

That being said, the War in Afghanistan is extremely important that we be successful.  And this is how we define success, I believe.  It’s by providing a level of security on the ground.  Which I think General Petraeus and the President  are gonna be successful at doing.  If they commit themselves to doing it, as I believe that they– and hope that they have.  To provide a level of security on the ground so that the Afghan– Afghan People can establish for themselves a government that functions.

And create institutions and civil society that work.  And let me explain why that’s important.  Number one, we don’t ever want Afghanistan to ever again become a base of operations for the Taliban or any terrorist.  But even more frightening is that Afghanistan could become a base of operations to destabilize Pakistan.  And Pakistan is a nuclear power.  It’s a nuclear state.  And the notion that Pakistan could fall into the hands of a Taliban-like regime is ubs– absolutely unacceptable.  And that’s why it’s so critical that we succeed in Afghanistan.

CHARLIE CRIST:
I think we all can agree that we have a deep and abiding– and appropriate respect for the people who serve in our military.  Florida is the state that has a significant number of military bases, more than 20 installations, throughout Florida.  We have a Department of Veteran Affairs in my Administration.  And I’m very proud that former– Leroy Collins (PH)– was serving in that before he was tragically killed recently.

It is important, I think, for us to realize what the question being posed is.  What’s happening in Afghanistan?  Is it being successful?  Is it appropriate to– remove the troops next summer?  I think that all of us have agreed that General Petraeus is an excellent military leader.  I know him personally.  I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him when he was based in Tampa.  I think it was the right move for the President of the United States to put him in place after– General McChrystal left.

I also think it’s important that success is defined by security.  It’s defined by safety.  The first line of our Constitution, and our founding fathers talked about it.  Was that the duty of government is to ensure domestic tranquility.  That’s what’s being talked about here.  We have to make sure that nuclear weaponry does not expand around the globe.  First and foremost, we have to make sure that that doesn’t happen in Iran with Ahmadinejad.  He’s a madman.  And our responsibility and our duty as a friend and ally to Israel, makes it incumbent upon us to keep our attention and monitor the situation there, as well.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
I want to move on.  But let me just make– I want to make sure we clarify the differences here.  You say redeployment begins next July, basically–

KENDRICK MEEK:
We have– we have the discussion of redeployment in the beginning of first quarter, second quarter of next year.  As– as these two gentlemen mentioned, security is very, very important.  (UNINTEL PHRASE).

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
You want to pursue success.  You say reassess at that time.

MARCO RUBIO:
No, I don’t.  I think the artificial timeline that’s been–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
That’s what I’m saying.

MARCO RUBIO:
No, I think it undermines our mission.  I think the enemy knows– the enemy knows when you’re going to leave, how can you be successful?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
He supports a timeline.  You’re against–

MARCO RUBIO:
I do not.  I think an artificial timeline is false.

CHARLIE CRIST:
I think it’s appropriate for the President, the Commander in Chief– to let the American People understand when he wants to achieve that success.  And if, at that time, in concert with the discussion and the advice and counsel of General Petraeus, they feel it’s the right time to come home, then that (UNINTEL).

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
So, you’ll follow General Petraeus’s recommendation.  Okay, let’s move on.

CRAIG PATRICK:
Mr. Rubio, as you know, we’re developing a high-speed rail that would link Orlando and Tampa Bay into one of the largest economic markets in the world and clearly create jobs.  But you also want to cut discretionary, non-defense spending back to the levels of two years ago.  How can we possibly have both?  Or are you willing to tell the folks here in Florida, right here, right now, that if you win, high-speed rail may have to wait.

MARCO RUBIO:
Well, let me tell you this.  There’s no shortage of good programs you can spend money on.  You can come up with a long list of things the Federal Government can spend money on and worthy projects.  But nothing is more important than dealing with this long term debt issue.  It is simply unsustainable.  And that’s not just me saying it.  That’s the President’s advisors telling him that this long term debt problem our country faces is simply unsustainable.

And that’s a priority over virtually everything else our country faces.  In fact, the national debt is not just a domestic issue.  Even people like Hillary Clinton and the leading military commander in this country have said that the national debt has a significant national security component.  That our enemies dream of a Greece-like day of reckoning for America, as much as they do another 9/11.  So, this national debt issue has to be confronted and solved.  It is perhaps the predominant issue facing our country along with economic growth.

CRAIG PATRICK:
And at the expense of high-speed rail, would leave us with a down payment with– a rail line to nowhere.

MARCO RUBIO:
Well, again, that’s the problem with the decisions that have been made in Washington up to this point.  And– and that– they are going to borrow money that we don’t have and leave the IOU to our children and our grandchildren.  Something that no generation of American has ever done.  And again, it’s another example of the dramatic choice in this race.  If you like that kind of behavior from Washington, D.C., if you think Washington is placing us in the right direction when it comes to debt spending, then you’re probably not gonna vote for me.  You should vote for Congressman Meek, whose voting record is identical to Nancy Pelosi’s.

You should vote for Governor Crist who was willing to go along with all those sorts of things, if it’s politically expedient.  But if you want your next U.S. Senator to be someone that will stand up and say, "Look, this national debt issue is the most serious issue we face and we must solve it."  I’m the only on running that’s going to do that.

CHARLIE CRIST:
Let me tell you.  When you’re the Governor of a state the size of Florida, the fourth largest state in the country.  And you realize that a couple years ago the economy literally fell off a cliff, you have to lead.  And you have to strike a balance.  That’s leadership.  Now, when the President came to Fort Meyers, I was proud to go there and welcome him to my state for the first time since he had been sworn in as President.

We needed the funds that were allocated in order to keep us from losing jobs.  As I said earlier, 20,000 educators in our state would not have employment, if that hadn’t happened.  60,000 additional Floridians tonight, maybe watching this show, wouldn’t have a paycheck coming to their home.  The high-speed rail, Craig, that you mentioned, we worked on very hard in our administration.

Three different times I called a special session to get it done.  Fortunately, the third try was the charm.  That gave us an additional $1.2 pie– 5 billion.  The down payment that you mentioned, of Florida tax dollars that had gone to Washington, that I fought to get back here for our fellow Floridians to improve our transportation.  Every time a billion dollars is spent on infrastructure, the argument is that it will create 28,000 new jobs for people.  It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs.  And I understand you have to have a blend of these things in order to do what’s right.  And that’s called leadership.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Mr. Meek?

KENDRICK MEEK:
Again, George, I’m glad that we’re having this debate here tonight, so Floridians can see who stands on solid ground.  I think Mr. Rubio means what he says.  The fact that he’s willing to make sure that people from Tampa to Orlando to Daytona to South Florida sit in traffic for the next 20 years.

He wants to make sure that he stands up on behalf of the rightwing ideology– that he stands on.  Charlie Crist stands on a wet paper box as it relates to the issues that he stands for.  ‘Cause you don’t know where he is.  And he did not provide the leadership to bring those resources back here.  I’m the only candidate that actually stood up and voted for the stimulus.  To make sure that we did not go into a depression.  To bring (UNINTEL) so that we could stop the recession.  I mean– to be able to stop the– the depression from taking place.

I think it’s very, very important that we understand in this race that high-speed rail will create over 20,000 jobs for this state.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Marco Rubio just said that he would stand with Dick Cheney and– and George Demint — I mean– Senator Demint and all of these rightwing Members of Congress in the Federal Government, once upon a time, speaking of Dick Cheney.  That he’s willing to stand with them.

He’s not willing to stand with those construction workers that are sitting at home right now.  He’s not willing to take a stand on comprehensive immigration reform that will make sure that individuals that are here undocumented that they no longer take the jobs from those that are citizens and those that are residents here in this country.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
All right, we’ve gotta get to the final round.

KENDRICK MEEK:
It’s very, very important to look at this.

BRENDAN MCLAUGHLIN:
This question is for Governor Crist.  We are one of the few states in Florida that have a ban on gay adoption.  It’s been longstanding.  You supported that ban, saying at one point that you believe– traditional mother and father to adopt is best.  The appeals court recently found that to be unconstitutional.  And you called that decision great.  And you have stopped enforcing the ban on gay adoption.  Would you clarify for the voters what your position is on two things.  Gay adoption in Florida.  And the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the armed forced.

CHARLIE CRIST:
Be happy to.  And this is very important.  You’re talking about individuals lives.  How they live their lives.  Some people in Washington on the radical right want to tell people who they should love and who they shouldn’t.  Demint was raised by– Senator Demint– was raised by Congressman Meek.  And he talks about who should be able to teach our children and who shouldn’t.  Based on their sexual persuasion.  That’s unconscionable.

That man, Senator Demint, first guy who endorsed our opponent, Marco Rubio.  That’s where he’s coming from.  That part of the party.  That extreme, radical right part of the party.  What we need to have is common sense and what’s right for the child.  When I was– saying that it wasn’t appropriate to have that adoption, it was because that was the law on the books in our state.  I was the Attorney General of Florida.

I understand enforcing the law and respecting it.  And you’re right.  When the court changed it, they changed it by a district court of appeal, a three-judge panel unanimously changed it and said, "That law is unconstitutional."  Well, that is in line with what I talked about when I ran for Governor.  Even in the Republican primary.  That I’m a live and let live kind of guy.  You want to know where I stand?  I am a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.

I really believe in less government and more freedom.  I don’t want to impose my will on other people.  Even though I’m pro-life, I vetoed that bill that would have required an ultrasound.  But I also understand that we need to live within our means.  I’m the only guy at this table who can do that.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Mr. Rubio.

MARCO RUBIO:
Well, first of all, I think it’s always funny to listen to the Governor attack me for positions he himself held just six months ago, when he was trying to be the biggest conservative in the world and win the Republican primary.  I think that’s the first thing we need to point out.  The second thing we need to point out is that the governor talks about leadership when he was the Governor or has been the Governor of the State of Florida.

Governor, virtually everything in Florida is worse off today than it was four years ago when you took over.  800,000 jobs have been lost since you took over as Governor.  200,000 of them were jobs lost since you supported the stimulus.  Florida was once one of the strongest economies in the country.  Now only California and Nevada are worse off.

And you broke your pledge never to raise taxes last year when you signed a bill that raised $2 billion in new taxes and fees.  Those are the facts.  The other thing that all this discussion brings to mind and to light is the dramatic choice that we have here in Florida.  It appears that for every problem America is facing, the solution that Kendrick Meek and Charlie Crist offer is either a government spending program.  Either a government spending program or a tax increase.  Virtually every problem our country faces can be solved by a tax increase or a government spending program, according to them.  I don’t stand for that.  And if you want a U.S. Senator that believes in that, then you’re gonna vote for one of them.

KENDRICK MEEK:
Just to clarify– I think it’s important to note that I am the only candidate sitting here at this table– that’s endorsed by the pro-choice community, because I am a pro-choice– policymaker.  I am the only candidate that has stood up for the middle class and will continue to stand up for the middle class.  The reason why I’m gonna win this race is the fact that every day Floridians can identify with me.

It– it’s really mindboggling, it’s beyond an explanation for the Governor to stand here and do more than a (UNINTEL) two step.  I mean, he is saying that he was– I would just say to George– Governor Wallace, when it came down to gay adoptions in this state.  For all of the kids that are in foster care right now that are looking for homes, he stood– he said he thought it was inappropriate.

And when he ran against Jim Davis in ’96– I mean, in ’06, he said that– Jim Davis didn’t have the values that he possessed.  That– that’s not in a federal– that’s not in the state statute.  That’s his opinion.  You need a leader that’s gonna stand on behalf of the people of the State of Florida in a time of need.  Not when it’s politically convenient for them.  Marco Rubio has raised another– another good point here.  The fact that he’s willing to go along with the Tea Party and everyone else that’s on the radical right, on issues, versus standing with Floridians.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
I– I gotta stop you there.  We have less than a minute left, but he just called you Governor Wallace.  I want you to take 15 minutes to respond.

CHARLIE CRIST:
Well, my name’s–

KENDRICK MEEK:
Well, I didn’t call him Governor Wallace.  I just said that he stood in the schoolhouse door on this issue.  And for him to turn around and say–

CHARLIE CRIST:
Am I the one that gets to answer–
(OVERTALK)

KENDRICK MEEK:
I mean, come on.  Get out of here.

CHARLIE CRIST:
Nobody’s fought harder for minorities in this state than I have.
(OVERTALK)

CHARLIE CRIST:
You know, I fought for civil rights–

KENDRICK MEEK:
Nothing to do with it.  I’m just saying that (UNINTEL) stood firm on this issue of gay adoption.  And now you want to be the biggest cheerleader for gay adoption.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Literally, ten seconds.

CHARLIE CRIST:
I hope the people at home understand what’s going on here.  If you want somebody on the far right, you’ve got Marco Rubio.  The far let, you have Kendrick Meek.  If you want somebody who wants–
(OVERTALK)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
We could– we could go on for (UNINTEL), but we have 15 seconds left.  Gentlemen, thank you all very much.  It was a stimulating debate.  Thank you, my colleagues here for (UNINTEL) ABC News.  Have a good (UNINTEL).  Weigh in on what you saw tonight on ABCNews.com and we’ll see you later.

Transcript has been edited for clarity.

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