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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript

Interview

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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. As I said, we're going to midnight in our post-State of the Union coverage. With us now, is one of President Obama's sharpest critics, South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint.

Senator, thanks very much for being with us.

First of all, the moment where Gabby Giffords entered the chamber, you were in the room. What was that like?

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It was -- it was really touching. And to -- for her to be there with Jeff Flake and the cheers, obviously, our hearts and prayers continue to go out to her. And it was one of those wonderful moments there on the House floor.

COOPER: In terms of what the president had to say, was there anything there that you really agreed with? Is there any room you see for compromise, for getting things done this year?

DEMINT: Oh, Anderson, he said a lot of wonderful things. And it would be wonderful if it was true. So there were things there that I certainly agreed with, but when he talked about us being more energy secure one week from killing the Keystone Pipeline, talking about building manufacturing jobs in our country when I talked to manufacturers and they know that Obama care, Dodd-Frank, all of the regulations are killing manufacturing jobs, so it was hard to take him seriously.

I think Americans are going to have to ask themselves are they better off now than they were $4 trillion ago? This was -- sounded like this first speech to the nation. He's trying to run from a record of broken promises, and we're going to have to hold him accountable.

COOPER: You wrote an op-ed in the "National Review" today. And you basically write, the president's eroding middle-class values. To use your words, quote, "For the last three years, those values have only been punished." Do you support the president when he says people who make more than $1 million a year should not get lower tax rates or special subsidies than they shouldn't pay a lower effective tax rate than middle class Americans?

DEMINT: Yes, no one should get tax breaks and subsidies, and a lot of us for years have been trying to get President Obama, first Senator Obama, to go with a low, simple flat rate and take out those subsidies and loopholes. We're all for that.

But then the president comes back and offer special loopholes to his choice of manufacturers. He wants to pick winners and losers. We just need a simple tax rate that allows our companies to compete. So we agree with the concept, but that's not what the president has been doing.

And he wants to punish people who earn $1 million a year. Anderson, people who earn $1 million a year in our country average doing it one or two years. And there are not too many people like Warren Buffett, so to build a policy around Warren Buffett doesn't make any sense.

The things that he has done has made it harder for our economy to sustain middle-class jobs. So it's hard for me to sit there and listen to him.

And frankly, Anderson, the biggest point of the speech for me, it was irresponsible for him not to recognize the dire circumstances our country is in because of the debt. When he ends his first term, we're going to be $5 trillion more in debt when he got here. The euro is close to collapse, and he spent most of his speech making more promises from government. That's really just irresponsible.

And again, he said some wonderful things. And I'd love to cheer for all of them, but what he says doesn't match up with what he's been doing for the last three years.

COOPER: Senator Jim DeMint, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

DEMINT: Thank you, Anderson.

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