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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript


Location: Unknown


Welcome back to Florida.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you very much, Senator.

How high are the stakes for tomorrow's debate?

RUBIO: Well, I think they're important. All these debates have mattered. You know, Peggy Noonan had a great write-up this weekend in The Wall Street Journal that talked about how these debates perhaps have mattered more than ever before.

And I think part of it is that the president had created this false image of Mitt Romney in the minds of some voters that was completely knocked down in that first debate. And I think now what's becoming apparent in these debates is that -- is that the president has no plan for the next four years.

I mean, he has failed to outline any sort of ideas about how he will govern the country moving, in his words, forward, over the next four years. And that's why these debates have mattered more than ever. I think tomorrow is his last chance to tell us what he's going to do over the next four years.

SCHIEFFER: It is interesting that tomorrow's debate comes 50 years to the day when John Kennedy went on American television and announced that the Soviet Union had put nuclear-tipped missiles 90 miles from the coast of Florida in Cuba. We also know that Fidel Castro, the dictator of Cuba then, still the dictator, I guess, in name, but still the dictator, is very near death, we are told.

I'm wondering, Senator, what do you think will be the course of U.S. relations with Cuba if -- if Castro does go?

RUBIO: Well, it won't be the direction the president has taken it over the last four years.

Let me give you an example. They have these things called people-to-people trips to Cuba, which ostensibly is for Americans to be able to travel to Cuba, be in contact with everyday Cubans. That's not what they are. They're really tourism trips. I mean, people go over there for salsa dancing and cigar-rolling lessons. And all it is is a source of hard currency for the Castro regime. You talk about Fidel Castro being near death. I don't know that to be true, but I can tell you what's been dead for over 50 years in Cuba, and that's democracy. There are no political freedoms in Cuba. And I think that, sadly, over the last four years, the cause of freedom in Cuba has been -- has been hurt by this additional trips to Cuba and remittances that are providing hard currency for that regime.

SCHIEFFER: Are there lessons to be learned for today's politicians from what happened during the Cuban missile crisis?

We did avert, and probably came as close as we'll ever come, or had come to that point, to nuclear war. Are there lessons to be taken away from that?

RUBIO: Well, you read the accounts after the fact, it was even more chilling in terms of some of the advice that the president was getting from his military officials at the time. You look back in hindsight and maybe you're glad he didn't take some of that advice, in terms of some of the issues.

Look, I think war and armed conflict is always the last of all the options you have on the table. I think you try to avoid that at all costs. Sometimes it's unavoidable. That's the lesson of World War II. I think the other lesson of the last 50 or 60 years, however, is that, the stronger the U.S. military, the stronger our defense capabilities, the stronger the chances for peace are.

And that's a lesson of the Cold War and thereafter is you always want -- I think and I believe and Mitt Romney believes strongly that the world is a safer and better place that the United States is the strongest military power on earth. The stronger you are, the less likelihood you'll ever have to use it.

SCHIEFFER: You know, most American political elections, just like this one, are about the economy, but usually, probably within the first year of any president's term, there is some unanticipated foreign crisis, like the Cuban missile crisis.

Right now, we have this -- this awful thing that happened in Libya. An American ambassador and three other Americans were killed. You're aware of all the finger-pointing, the back and forth -- it was the work of terrorists; it wasn't the work of terrorists. What have you been able to find out about what happened there?

RUBIO: Well, from the early days of that attack, it was apparent this was not just a popular uprising.

Number one, in Libya, there was no record of popular uprisings against the United States. In fact, the United States is pretty highly regarded in most of Libya, and particularly in Benghazi. This ambassador was incredibly popular in Benghazi. Secondly, they were well-armed and a well-executed attack. It had all the markings of a military-style attack.

Here's what's troubling. What's most troubling about this is that one of narratives that the Obama campaign has laid out is that bin Laden is dead -- they've bragged about that forever -- and that Al Qaida is in retreat.

And you start to wonder, did they basically say do not allow any story to emerge that counters that narrative?

Is that why, for two weeks, they told us that the Libyan incident in Benghazi was a popular uprising and not a terrorist attack, because it ran counter to their campaign narrative?

I hope that that's not true. But that's what you start to wonder about.

Let me point one more thing out. You said that, early on in any presidency, there's a moment truth. This president had one in Iran. After the false elections there, the people took to the streets and the president refused to line up with the green revolution there. He said he wasn't going to get involved in Iran's sovereignty. And the result has been disastrous. There is now no well-organized opposition in Iran because it was completely demoralized in its early days of its rebellion by the president's lack of engagement.

SCHIEFFER: Let me go back just to that incident. In the beginning, the administration was first saying it appeared that it was the result of a spontaneous demonstration. Then the president said, no, he had called it an act of terror from the first.

Today there are some American newspapers, the Los Angeles Times among them, The Washington Post, quoting CIA people as saying it may have been the work -- may have been inspired by a spontaneous demonstration.

RUBIO: Well, that's not the evidence that you're seeing.

I mean, these folks were well-armed. It was a well-executed attack. And the truth is -- let's find out the truth. Let's put all the facts on the table now so we can see exactly how it developed and we could know.

But I can tell you that the markings of it and the weapons that they were carrying and the way that it was carried out in multiple stages had all the markings of a terrorist-type attack. And for 14 days this administration did everything in its power, including on this show and others that Sunday after the attack, to say that it was a popular uprising, that it was a spontaneous uprising linked to a YouTube video, which we now know not to be the case. Even the administration now admits that.

SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney has made quite a point throughout the campaign of saying that, on his first day in office, he will declare China to be a currency manipulator. I understand you told some reporters from Bloomberg that you don't agree with the president, that you don't think that's a wise thing to do.

RUBIO: Well, I agree with Mitt Romney that China is a currency manipulator. I believe that the best way -- that a trade war is not the right way to approach it. And I think that, if you label them a currency manipulator, that's what it may result; it would hurt American businesses.

But I understand his frustration. And it may lead to -- we may have to do what Governor Romney is saying. We may have to label them a currency manipulator. But the ideal way to deal with it -- because we both have a lot to lose here. China has a lot to lose here, too, on the trade war. It would be good for neither one of our economies. So hopefully we can avoid that. It may come to that, but I hope we can avoid that.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this question. What do you think-- what do you want to hear from the candidates as to what they see as America's role in the world?

RUBIO: Well, I think that's a great question. And, you know, the answer -- I think, for Governor Romney, he's laid that out pretty clearly. He'd use America's role in the world as a catalyst for peace, prosperity and freedom.

Now, he understands America can't solve every problem in the world unilaterally. Increasingly, is takes global coalitions to address these issues. But these coalitions have to be put together and they have to be led. And only the United States has the capability to do that.

The current president, on the other hand, has a very different vision of the world. And part of the failure that this president has had is his failure to outline broad goals, real goals, a real view of what America's role in the world should be. We have never got than from this president, just like for much of this campaign, we haven't gotten from this president his plans for the future.

So I hope tomorrow night - I don't know who the moderator is-- but I hope that the president will be pressed on what his plans are for the next four years on foreign policy and, if possible, on the economy. I know that's not the topic, but they are related.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's just talk about the economy for a minute. Before the year is out, unless the congress does something, and the president would have to sign into law whatever they do, we're facing what people are calling the fiscal crisis because of these automatic tax hikes that go in for everybody, and these draconian cuts in both social and defense programs that will be enacted, again, automatically.

Do you think congress is going to be able to solve this? And what should whoever is elected president because even if Mitt Romney is elected and he's not in office yet, won't he have to do something to encourage the congress to solve this?

RUBIO: Well, let me say on that issue I agree with what Barack Obama said in December of 2010 and that is in the middle of an economic downturn, in the middle of a bad economy, it's not a good time to raise taxes on anybody. I hope he remember that and says that again and does that again because without presidential leadership, we're not going to be able to confront this issue. I think the long-term solution to this problem, is the combination of pro-growth strategies on tax reform and regulatory reform and repealing Obamacare, combined with fiscal spending discipline so we don't keep digging a hole.

I think if we can get growth going in our economy and hold the line on spending, we can recover fairly quickly. And I think that's what Governor Romney is promising. Sadly we don't know what President Obama's plan is on the fiscal cliff or anything for that matter.

SCHIEFFER: Just one more foreign policy question. Do you take seriously these reports that Iran now wants to make a deal on some kind of nuclear thing?

RUBIO: Well, the White House has denied that. And so I don't think there's anything further to comment on that story. I will say that I think Governor Romney would agree with this, force is the last option, it's the least desirable one. It has to be on the table and the candidates agree on that. I am concerned that Iran has used negotiations - quote, unquote-- in the past as a way to buy time to further their nuclear program.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, it's always a pleasure to have you. Thank you very much.

RUBIO: Thanks for coming back...

SCHIEFFER: And we'll be back in one minute.


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