Six Republican Presidential candidates faced questions on their ideological bona fides during a policy-heavy forum on Fox News Channel on Saturday night.
Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, was pressed on how conservatives can “trust that a President Gingrich will not advance these sorts of big government approaches” that he advocated in the past, including his support for a mandate that citizens get health insurance.
Representative Michele Bachmann was asked how she would carry out her call to remove all illegal immigrants in the United States or pay the $135 billion to do so.
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was asked questions about his health care overhaul there, and what he would say to President Obama if the President were to note during a general election debate its similarities to the federal health care law.
The candidates faced these questions from a roster of attorneys general who filed legal cases against the 2009 health care law: Pam Bondi of Florida, who brought the suit the Supreme Court agreed to hear; Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia, a spokesman for legal action against the law; and Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma. They were gathered by the Fox News host Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas.
It was one of the more substantive events in the Republican contest. The candidates faced the panel solo and did not interact, leaving intraparty politics largely out of it, except for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who urged the audience to give him “a second look,” a tacit acknowledgment of his drop in polls and a new opportunity after Herman Cain’s decision to suspend his campaign.
The attorneys general, new to Presidential politics, did not let their own general ideological agreement with the candidates get in the way of tough questions about how they would carry out their proposals.
They seemed to give Mr. Gingrich the hardest time. He was grilled on calls he has made to abolish federal courts whose rulings he disagrees with. It is a position that invariably wins applause from conservative audiences, but the attorneys general, conservative Republicans all, seemed to raise a collective eyebrow.
Mr. Cuccinelli had big disagreements with Mr. Gingrich, asking him how he would assure conservatives that his less ideologically pure positions would not trickle into his White House. Mr. Gingrich said he would introduce a “very clearly philosophically driven program” that would train his appointees and tell them “this is where this administration is going.”
Mr. Romney parried questions about the Massachusetts health care law, repeating that his policy was less ambitious and did not seek to upend the health care system the way he said Pres. Obama had hoped the federal law would.
Mr. Cuccinelli stayed with his line of questioning. “You would agree, wouldn’t you,” he said, “what you did in that bill in Massachusetts in 2006 affected the entire industry. Correct?”
Mr. Romney said that “for the 92% of us that were already insured, nothing changed.”
Mr. Cuccinelli asked Rep. Bachmann how she would handle environmental disagreements across state lines if she were to end the Environmental Protection Agency. When Ms. Bachmann answered that “a lot of these cases would be negotiated,” he pressed, “You cannot just negotiate without a legal foundation and thereby compel both sides to participate.”
Ms. Bondi asked former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania which environmental regulations he would allow. Mr. Santorum said the problem was that environmental laws that have been on the books for decades were overly broad, allowing regulators to craft many rules. He promised to have Congress rewrite the laws to be much narrower.
Mr. Pruitt asked Representative Ron Paul of Texas about his opposition to the PATRIOT Act. Mr. Paul responded by saying, “Are you going to put cameras in every household or whatever? I don’t think it’s a lack of laws that are our problem.”
Via The New York Times.