Rubio running campaign realistically focused on challenges

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 4, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Yesterday, at this time, I was doing a taped interview with Marco Rubio just as these tweets were coming to light from Democratic presidential candidates and others berating this latest development in California on guns.

We would later come to find that it wasn't quite that black and white.

And when I raised it with Marco Rubio, he wanted to point that out, even before we had a full dimension of what was really going on.

He was right. Listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the left often pivots to gun laws.

But the truth is, states like California, for example, have very strict gun laws, as they do in Illinois and Chicago, as they do in Washington, D.C., as they do in many other jurisdictions that have significant amount of gun violence.

So it's never been shown that these gun laws are effective, other than in keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. So, instead of all these -- focus on gun control, we should be focused on what is causing this violence. We don't know about this particular case, but we know about others where mental illness often plays a key and critical role.

CAVUTO: Do you get a sense, given more violent incidents around the globe, and I'm even putting Paris in that mix, that there is a sense of global disorder?

RUBIO: Well, there most certainly is a global disorder.

And it's driven by rouge countries like North Korea and Iran, by a gangster in Moscow, by Chinese aggression and expansion in the Asia-Pacific region, and by radical Islamic jihadists, not just ISIS, but al Qaeda and so forth.

So there's certainly disorder globally. I'm not sure it's directly related to any of what is happening here domestically in the United States. What we have here is a combination of mental illness, but also in some of the gun crime that is occurring in this country, it's criminal activity, individuals shooting at each other, a bystander gets shot or whatever it may be.

And I think we have to ask ourselves, what has happened in this country, where something like life and the values that create a strong society have been undermined? And the answer is, you see a breakdown in family. You see hostility towards the institutions in society that reinforce these values. And you see that reflected in crime statistics and jail population and in many other challenges that we face as a country.

CAVUTO: Senator, if I can move to politics, in the latest polls, you're in second, and one of the fastest surging candidates period right now.

Did you envision, when you first entered this race, that you would be where you are now?

RUBIO: Well, I'm not sure where I am in terms of the polls...


RUBIO: ... because the polls come and go. They're up and down.

And in terms of the polls, where you are depends on which poll you are reading. We don't pay a lot of attention to that. It's relevant in the sense that it determines where you stand on the stage at the debate.

But, other than that, it really doesn't matter until you get to February and people actually start voting and it counts. I have always felt optimistic about our campaign. You can go back months, and you can see that we have always believed that, as long as we continue to lay out our vision for America's future, and the ideas that -- what it will take to get us there, we have always felt people would respond to that very positively.

So, we're going to continue to run a campaign that is realistically focused on our challenges, but also optimistically focused on our opportunities. I think America has the opportunity to be greater than she has ever been.  But there are some things we're going to have to do. We're not on the right direction right now. We need to change that.

CAVUTO: Senator, having had a chance to chat with you in the last debate on FOX Business Network, one thing is very clear, that your emergence now has gotten the attention of some of your competitors, including Chris Christie, who dismisses, while he speaks highly personally of you, as too young and inexperienced.

I want you to react to Chris Christie commenting on, I guess, new.


QUESTION: Does Marco have the experience to be president?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Listen, he doesn't have my experience.

I have been through the fire here. New is wonderful. It's great, it's shiny, it's untarnished, and everybody loves new. It's really exciting.  New is great, until you need experience.


CAVUTO: What did you think of that?

RUBIO: Well, look, when you run for president, all these candidates are going to look for what they need to say to convince you to vote for them, instead of someone else. So it's a normal part of that process.

I like Chris Christie. We get along well. I think he is a good guy. We agree on a lot of issues. I can only tell you who I am and what I have done. And if you look at foreign policy, for example, I'm -- I say this repeatedly. With all due respect, I don't think there's anybody on that stage that has a better understanding or has shown better judgment on the issues confronting our country than I have, whether it's what is happening with ISIS, what is happening now in Libya, what is happening in Syria, what is happening with Russia and the Middle East.

Time and again, sometimes years before it happened, we clearly warned of what the consequences would be of our current policies under the Obama administration. So we will continue to focus on that. And we will let the voters decide who has the right temperament, judgment, and experience to guide our country here into the 21st century.

I remain confident that they will decide we are, we're the right people for that.

CAVUTO: Given your personal friendship with Chris Christie, then, you would entertain him as a possible running mate?

RUBIO: Well, we're far too early in this process to talk about any of it.


RUBIO: As I said, and no one else is going to talk about it. He is running for president. I'm sure he wants to win as much as I do.

So we are going to focus on that. And I will say we have a very talented group of Republicans running. We're very fortunate. None of our candidates is under FBI investigation. And none of our candidates is an avowed socialist. So we have a strong field.

And I think what is going to give us a strong nominee, someone who can unite our party, because, if we're not united, we can't win, but also attract new people to vote for us who perhaps in the past haven't voted for us, because the Democrats convinced them we don't care about people like them.

We do. And we're going to show how limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense, the key pillars of a strong conservative movement, are better for all Americans than what Barack Obama is doing now.

CAVUTO: When you have people like David Petraeus and Madeleine Albright petitioning Congress to say, look, it's not a good idea to stall these Syria refugees and their influx into the United States, that it sends the wrong message, and then, to ink it, they get Henry Kissinger to agree, do you think they're saying that Congress is overdoing it on freezing refugees and you're making a big mistake, and that, in your case as a presidential candidate, it's actually hurting the party?

RUBIO: Well, look, here's the thing, is, my position isn't that we don't - - it's not that we don't want to accept refugees. It's that we may not be able to accept most of them, because you can't accept people from that part of the world unless they're fully vetted.

And most of them cannot be fully vetted. We just don't have accurate databases or information to vet them against. And this is a very unique refugee crisis. In the past, we have understood a lot more about the refugees, because they were fleeing communism, they were fleeing something else.

But, in this case, it's a very unique situation, where you have a group like ISIS that is openly trying to use the refugee crisis as a way to insert foreign fighters into the West, where you have people coming from a part of the world where radicalism is growing, where we don't have anything on which to vet them against or compare them to.

So, common sense still applies. If it's a 7-year-old child, if it's a 90- year-old widow, if it's a well-known Chaldean priest, these are people your can vet. But a vast number of them are people we will not able to vet.  And given what is happening around the world today, we cannot accept people into this country who we don't know who they are or why they're coming.

And that's the big problem, and it's a -- I understand it's a unique challenge, but it's one we face here in the 21st century that we have to take very seriously.

CAVUTO: You know, Senator, I know you're very busy on the campaign trail, but ISIS has just released another video, I guess, showing how it would target New York and Washington and a host of other cities.

But I always wonder, Senator, how this even gets up to begin with, and it just premieres, and then they try to clamp down and try to hide the video.

If you became president, what would you do about that? Because there are lot of privacy rights enthusiasts who say, don't go too far. What you do to sort of weed out bad guys threatens the freedom off all guys.

RUBIO: Well, first we have to understand why ISIS does this. They're trying to attract people to an apocalyptic vision of Islam.

They openly brag and talk about that they're motivated by a desire to trigger a final apocalyptic showdown between the West and their version of Islam. And so we have to understand that is what motivates them and that's why they put out this propaganda. It tells you they're not going to go away on their own. They have to be defeated.

But I think we need to put out counterpropaganda that actually tells the truth about what life its like under ISIS control, that actually undermines their effectiveness in the minds of their potential recruits.

Now, propaganda has always been a part of every conflict we have ever been involved in. And I think it needs to be part of this one. We need to cut off the flow of people that are either joining ISIS or being radicalized by them by offering clear and counter information.

Now, we still have to defeat them military, obviously, but we have to deal with this propaganda war that they're waging, because this is how they attract fighters. That's why they put out those videos, is they're hoping to inspire people to join them, either by conducting homegrown lone wolf attacks here in the United States or by literally traveling to Libya and joining their cause over there.

CAVUTO: How would you take the fight to them if you became president?  Because our fear is that collateral damage if we go after ISIS positions, and we avoid it.

Would you accept as president, Senator, the collateral damage and the real likelihood, in going after ISIS strongholds, you would likely be killing citizens?

RUBIO: Well, the thing -- we would certainly want to diminish them.

But here's the point. When an opponent, when an adversary is openly using innocent civilians as human shields, you cannot guarantee that civilian casualties will be zero. We will take all the best efforts possible to avoid them, and we will certainly not target civilians, but we cannot allow them to use them as human shields in a way to impede our objective.

Ultimately, ISIS cannot be defeated solely from the air. They have to defeated on the ground by an armed group. And it has to be made up primarily of Sunni Arabs. If it's Western forces, it won't work. Kurds are not interested in fighting. They can't liberate Sunni villages.

Kurds are only interested in fighting in those parts of the countries -- or those countries where there are Kurds. It has to be defeated by a ground force made up primarily of Sunni Arabs. It will require more special operators and more airstrikes.


CAVUTO: I'm sorry. But what if it's more American ground forces?

We have heard talk of about 200 additional ground troops. Your opponent in this race Lindsey Graham has said it has got to be 10,000. And the numbers go back and forth, that American boots on the ground, it is just unavoidable if you want to take the fight to ISIS.

RUBIO: Well, there will have to be a significant number of special operators on the ground to help with the airstrikes, to help with the training, to help coordinate high-profile assaults.

CAVUTO: Well, what is significant, what is significant?

RUBIO: Well, I don't think there's a magic number.

People are throwing around numbers as if there's a magic number to it. I would say that it has to be based on the tactics. We lay out the objective to military commanders. They present to us their plan to achieve that objective, and embedded in that plan will be the number of fighters that they need to help accomplish it.

And that's what we would make our decision based on. We have not yet heard from our military experts what the number should be, because the president hasn't laid out a clear strategy about what it is we are trying to achieve.

ISIS cannot be contained. They have to be defeated. And in order to defeat this group who is trying to lure us into a ground war against them with primarily Western forces, because it fits into their narrative that they're going to trigger this apocalyptic final showdown in the city of Dabiq in Syria -- that's why their magazine is named "Dabiq."

That's what they're trying to do in many ways. We have to ensure that they are rejected ideologically and defeated militarily, primarily by Sunni Arab fighters. But we're going to have to put special operators alongside them.  What the right number is will be determined by the tactical plan that our military commanders present.

CAVUTO: You know, separately, as you have been hearing with -- on the domestic issue that is getting a lot of attention, ObamaCare, UnitedHealthcare, the latest insurance company, perhaps the biggest one to say, these exchanges are killing us, they're costing us an arm and a leg, and we just might opt out, other insurers, Aetna and a host of others, have said, much as you kind of telegraphed a few years ago, Senator, that they would be coughing up some money, and this wouldn't be the draw it was.

Now, that is the great backstop for ObamaCare, the key funding mechanism.  So, if they opt out of the exchanges, then you have to wonder how you finance this. And an issue of a bailout has come to mind.

In other words, that since there are 8 million to 12 million Americans who picked up insurance, you can't leave them high and dry. What do you say?

RUBIO: Well, we had these exchanges. What people don't realize is that, under ObamaCare, there is something called the high-risk corridor. It's a bailout fund.

And what it basically says is that if these companies participate in the exchange, and they lose money, they can go after taxpayer money to bail them out for their losses. Last year, I was successful in getting language at the end of the year in the budget bill that took that bailout money away.

And as a result, these companies have lost money, and now some of them are talking about dropping out. Next week, we're going to have to do it again.

CAVUTO: Did you know that would happen, that this was your own way to...

RUBIO: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: ... get a self-fulfilling prophecy?

RUBIO: No, absolutely.

In fact, I have been talking about it since 2013. I have been saying these companies are going to lose money and they're come to the American taxpayer for a bailout. And because I was able to achieve what we did last year, we saved the American taxpayer $2.5 billion of taxpayer money that instead...

CAVUTO: And Darrell Issa has quoted that and commended you for that, and why -- one of the reasons he's supporting you.

But I guess the question comes back to, well, you saved all of this money and you have avoided a means by which insurance companies can get someone to help them out. You do risk the issue of a lot of people who have health care losing that health care. Right? What do you do?

RUBIO: Well, that's not the issue.

The issue is that the health care plan that has been created is not a sustainable plan. It cannot exist and it cannot move forward without us bailing out private insurance companies. And that was their argument that was made from the beginning.

CAVUTO: No, I know what you're saying. But they're going to blame you.

If a Hillary Clinton were the nominee, Senator, she will say, these 8 million to 12 million have lost their insurance because Senator Rubio but that provision in to choke off coverage, to choke off the insurers, and eventually to choke off all those people.

RUBIO: Well, that argument can be used to bail out with taxpayer money any industry in America.

And at that point, why shouldn't we bail everybody out, not just insurance companies, but the airlines, the automakers? Everyone could be bailed out then.

Here's the bottom line. I don't just want to repeal Obamacare. And I think if we can -- if we can continue with this bailout fund, it continues to damage these exchanges, and as a result you will see less companies participating in them. But, beyond that, I think that we need to replace it.

We need to replace it with a system that allows every American, whether it's through a refundable tax credit or their own employers giving them money, to buy any health insurance they want from any company in America across state lines that is willing to sell it to them.

That's a much better way to help people get insurance than a plan that requires the American taxpayer to bail out private insurance companies who have decided to cozy up to the Obama administration.

CAVUTO: Real quickly, sir, we're hearing from some on the Republican Party, this memo, this private memo, others not so private, saying the party has do come up with a plan to stop Donald Trump, that he would damage the party.

John McCain worried that a Trump nominee -- nominee would kill the party's chances, even risk losing the Senate as a result. Do you agree with that?

RUBIO: Look, we're going to have a strong nominee. I don't believe it will be Donald Trump, because I believe it's going to be me. That's why I'm running for president.

But -- and I believe I can help unify this party and attract new people to the conservative cause and help reverse the damage Barack Obama has done to America.

CAVUTO: Well, what are they so frightened about? Then what are they so frightened about? Are you?

RUBIO: Well, you will have to ask them.

CAVUTO: Are you?

RUBIO: My campaign is not about -- no, because I think...

CAVUTO: Are you frightened about that?

RUBIO: No, because I think that -- no, I'm not frightened about it, because I know that, at the end of the day, we're going to nominate someone that can unite our party and attract new people.

But we are going to have to have elections, and at the end of the day, if you don't want someone to be the nominee, then you have got to rally around and support someone else to win. And that is why we have these elections.  That's why, in the -- 10 weeks, the voters of Iowa are going to start weighing in, and then a week after that in New Hampshire, and then a week after that in South Carolina, and then Nevada and then a bunch of early states.

So, this is the way you move forward and do this. I don't think this election is about any unique individual. And, look, you can't ignore the fact that Donald Trump is in first place because he has touched upon something, a nerve, in the American population, who are frustrated and angry at a broken political culture.

And I think we should spend more time focused on that message, which is Washington is broken because it is out of touch and out of date. And both parties are to blame. And we better nominate someone who is going to change that. And that's the core of my campaign.

CAVUTO: Senator Rubio, thank you very much.

RUBIO: Thank you.


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