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State of the Union
Interview With Presidential Candidate Donald Trump; Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; State of the Cartoonion: Republicans' "Super Heroic" Lineup. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired October 25, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): One on one with Donald Trump, the front-runner showing a crack in the armor, as he slips beneath Ben Carson in Iowa.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Ben Carson is a very low-energy person. Actually, I think Ben Carson is lower energy than Jeb, if you want to know the truth.
TAPPER: What is Trump's next move?
Plus, Bernie Sanders, does he need a new strategy now that Hillary is on a roll?
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's been quite a week, hasn't it?
TAPPER: I will ask him live.
And Marco Rubio on Hillary, Hispanics and who can take down Trump to win the Republican nomination.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm increasingly confident that it's going to be me.
TAPPER: An exclusive interview next.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is competitive.
That chill you feel is the newly icy relationship between leading Republican candidates Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. Trump, who has been leading not only nationally, but in early, early primary state polls for months, is suddenly slipping, dropping to number two in Iowa, behind Carson.
And so, for Trump, that bromance with Carson, it's over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have a breaking story. Donald Trump has fallen to second place behind Ben Carson.
TRUMP: We informed Ben, but he was sleeping.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Carson, too, is taking shots at Donald Trump on immigration policy, on taxes, and even on Trump's upcoming hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because I think the presidency of the United States is a very serious thing, and I don't even want to begin to put it in the light of -- of comedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, naturally, this new rivalry was on the top of my mind when I sat down with Mr. Trump at the Trump Doral in Miami.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, thanks so much for doing this.
TRUMP: Thank you.
TAPPER: Appreciate it.
So, some surprising news out of Iowa, where, in two polls now, Dr. Ben Carson has pulled ahead of you, one by eight points, one by nine points.
What is your message to Iowans? Why should they vote for you, and not Dr. Carson?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I was really surprised to see it, because three nights ago, I was in Iowa. We had a packed house. We had 4,000 people, and it was a lovefest.
And I have done really well with the evangelicals and with the Tea Party and everything. And I just don't understand the number. But you know what? I accept the number. It means I have to work a little bit harder in Iowa.
I think it's just the same. I mean, I'm going to make our country great again. We're going to do trade pacts that are incredible, instead of, like, incompetent, because what we have right now with China, with Japan, with everybody is just incredible. And nobody can do like -- nobody is going to be able to do what I do in terms of making our country wealthy again, so we can do all the things we want to do, including the military and the vets and taking care of people.
So, I'm just going to have to work a little bit harder. And I was very surprised to see the numbers. You know, I had a lead, and it sort of flip-flopped a little bit with Ben Carson. And I like Ben, but he cannot do with trade like I do with trade. He can't do with a lot of things like I do. So, we'll just have to see what happens.
TAPPER: Well, you guys disagree, you two disagree on a number of issues. Immigration is one of them. Are you going to start contrasting your positions with his more?
TRUMP: Well, I think so.
I mean, you just bring up one. He's very, very weak on immigration, and I'm very strong on immigration.
He believes in amnesty strongly. He believes, on citizenship -- I mean, he's going to give citizenship to people that are here illegally. And you can't do that. And, you know, we disagree on other things also.
But I think the big thing, also, is, he's just not going to be able to do deals with China, to do deals with Japan. These countries -- these countries are all ripping us like nobody has ever ripped us before.
TAPPER: Another position where you two disagree is, he thinks everyone should pay taxes, including the poor. He proposed something like tithing from the Bible, where everybody pays 10 or 15 or 20 percent. You don't. You believe in progressive taxation.
TRUMP: I agree with him 100 percent.
TAPPER: Oh, you do?
TRUMP: Except for one problem.
I know how to administer. I know how to get things done. I know how to run a company or a country. And you're going to have millions of people and millions of tax returns coming in, and you're talking about an IRS, you'd have to build even bigger than it is right now.
And the amount is going to be so little. And I want it to run right. What I want to do is create opportunity, create jobs so that people can get back on the tax rolls. You're talking millions and tens of millions of tax returns going in with a dollar, where it would cost you much more than that just to administer.
So, I agree with him 100 percent. I like the idea that everybody should pay something, but most of these people are paying nothing now. They have nothing. And what are you going to do? So, I believe in proper management, proper administration. I would love everybody to pay, because, psychologically, I think that's good.
But, from an administration standpoint, it would be a total nightmare. TAPPER: I want to ask you about specifically a group that he seems to
be beating you with.
The "Des Moines Register" poll shows he's beating you in Iowa with born-again Christians 33 percent to 18 percent. You have stayed pretty steady with born-again Christians. He's gone up. The poll also asked Iowa Republicans if they view you as a committed president; 32 percent said yes, 28 percent said no, and 40 percent said they weren't sure.
Now, back in September, Dr. Carson was asked what distinguishes him from you, and he mentioned faith. He brought it up. And he said -- quote -- "Probably, the biggest thing, I have realized where my successes come from, and I don't in any way deny my faith in God."
Do you think that that comment in any way might have affected evangelical support for him?
TRUMP: No, because look, as far as -- I can only speak for myself. I don't like to talk about somebody else's faith. I can say that I'm a Presbyterian. I'm a believer. I do very well with evangelicals.
I was surprised. This is actually the first time that he's done better than me. But I would match myself against just about everybody. I am a believer. And they have always really taken -- they like me. We have -- I have gone to many meetings. We have had 28 of the great ministers last week. You probably saw that, and pastors from all over the country, and so many.
And they really -- I have had a great relationship with Christianity, and, frankly, I would say every bit as good as his. So, I don't understand the poll. I actually don't.
TAPPER: Paul Ryan is likely to be the next speaker of the House. You have referred to him as weak on immigration.
TRUMP: Very weak on immigration.
TAPPER: Are you concerned about that? If you become president, he'll be the speaker of the House. He could...
TRUMP: They have to pick somebody. I think I will get along with him good. And he can change.
But they have to pick somebody. Right now, they have no idea who they're going to pick. It looks like it's going to be Paul Ryan. I think he's a very nice guy. I think he's a very capable guy. But there are a couple of issues that he's very weak on, and one of those issues is immigration. And we have to be strong.
TAPPER: Should -- should they...
TRUMP: We have to have a border. We have to have a wall. We're going to have a wall.
TAPPER: Should House Republicans not support him for speaker because of this?
TRUMP: I don't think that's going to happen, because they can't come up with another name. So, even people that are very conservative, very hard-line conservative look like they're falling into line. You see what's happening.
So, I think he'll be speaker, and I think I will get along very well with him.
TAPPER: Let's turn to the issue of super PACs and big money in politics.
You issued a statement this week disavowing all super PACs that are out there in your name, requesting that they return all of the donations and calling on all presidential candidates to do the same. Why?
TRUMP: It's a scam. It's a big, fat scam.
These super PACs are a disaster. I have -- I think they said nine or 10 super PACs were set up in my name. I don't even know who these people are. You have all these people raising money, I guess in the name of Trump, that we love Trump. And some of them, I'm sure, do, and probably some of them don't.
And I have no idea what they are going to do with the money they are raising. But they are raising all of this money, and they're going to spend it on the campaign. And we have -- you know, the candidates are not supposed to be involved and all this stuff, but they have all this money going. Nobody even knows who the people are. Nobody knows where they are. Nobody knows what they're doing with the money.
It's a whole big scam. If you look at Ben Carson, Ben Carson is spending money from super PACs all over the place. Now I hear his super PACs are going to merge. I have heard that his super PACs are essentially running his campaign in Iowa, where they are actually running his campaign, where they are doing all of the ground work and everything.
That's not what the purpose of a super PAC was supposed to be. And, by the way, Jeb Bush, the same thing -- he's got one of his best friends that heads up his super PAC. And I'm calling on all candidates to disavow their super PACs. It's a scam. They know it. It's a joke.
I mean, it's a joke. They're all laughing about it. I laugh about it.
TAPPER: You just brought up Jeb Bush. He was on my show last week, and he had some very tough things to say about you, about you not being a serious candidate, about his having great concerns about you being commander in chief.
I want to give you an opportunity to respond.
TRUMP: Well, I'm going to respond. Look, he happens to be a very nice person. As I said, he's a low- energy person. By the way, Ben Carson is a very low-energy person. We need high-energy people. But...
TRUMP: Because you need energy.
We are so far behind the eight ball. You need a stronger temperament. You have to have a strong temperament. I have watched people all of my life. When the -- and I know all about low-energy guys. OK? It doesn't work. It doesn't work.
When you are dealing with China, these people come in, they are fierce, they are fierce, and you have to be a certain -- you need a certain temperament. I remember when Jeb would say that, gee, he's a little bit too strong. He's -- we need strength. They are cutting off people's heads in Syria and all over the Middle East.
I mean, we need people that have a certain strength. I know more about this than Jeb will ever know. I have more common sense, and I'm a far better leader than Jeb. Jeb will never be a leader. So...
TAPPER: Why do you keep talking -- why do you keep talking about Jeb Bush, when Ben Carson is...
TRUMP: Well, because I always thought -- no, no, I talk about Ben Carson too.
TRUMP: I think Ben Carson is a very-low energy person.
Actually, I think Ben Carson is lower energy than Jeb, if you want to know the truth. We need strong energy.
The thing with Ben, he's got a very good PAC, and he's got people running his PAC, and, in my opinion, he's got people all over Iowa from his PAC, and they are running -- Ben doesn't even go to Iowa that much. And he's doing well in Iowa.
So, I think that the super PACs are a real problem in terms of our country. And I am talking about Ben. I did talk about Jeb because I thought Jeb was going to be the front-runner. Obviously, he's no longer the front-runner. I probably won't talk about him so much anymore.
TAPPER: Carson criticized your proposal to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. He said it would cause the collapse of the farming industry. That's obviously something of major concern to people.
TRUMP: People can come -- they can come with visas. They come right back in. In other words, people can come back in with visas. And it's very simple.
TAPPER: So, you don't buy -- you don't buy that critique?
TRUMP: Look, we either have a country or not. These are illegal people. There are at least 11 million. Nobody knows. Could be 30 million.
But there are at least 11 million. I have been hearing that number for years, so it's probably wrong. Could be less, could be more. But they can come back in. They can come back in with visas. They can come back in with work permits. They can do worker permits. They can come back in.
But I would tell Carson and I would tell other people that are very weak on it -- Jeb happens to be -- Rubio happens to be very weak on immigration. He was a member of the gang of eight. They wanted to give the whole country away, Rubio. Then his polls went down, and all of a sudden, he got out of the gang of eight very fast.
But they are weak on immigration. I'm very strong on immigration. We either have a country or we don't. And we either have borders or we don't.
TAPPER: Don't go anywhere. We have much more from my interview with Donald Trump. What did he think about the Benghazi hearings? What would the Trump doctrine be?
Plus, his surprising take on Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't consider her an enemy. I mean, right now, she's an opponent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Let's get right back to more of my interview with Donald Trump.
His review of Hillary Clinton at this week's congressional hearing on the Benghazi attack might surprise you.
TAPPER: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Benghazi Committee the other day.
What did you think?
TRUMP: Well, I thought she did OK.
I sort of felt she was going to do OK. I -- it was a very partisan -- and it looked quite partisan. The level of hatred between Republicans and Democrats was unbelievable. The level of -- you have never seen anything like it.
Now, I have been doing this for a long time. I have been dealing with Republicans, with Democrats. I get along with everybody, and I have always gotten along with everybody. In all of the years that I have been involved in politics, I have never seen dislike, hatred, whatever you want to call it, between two parties like you have right now.
TAPPER: You think that hurts the Republican Party? Would that...
TRUMP: I think it hurts both parties.
TAPPER: Both parties.
TRUMP: And I really think it hurts the country. To be honest with you, Jake, it hurts the country.
Nothing can be done. I mean, like, we have corporate inversion, where tremendous amounts of money wants to come back into the country. It's impossible. Everybody agrees. But this is an interesting one. The Republicans and the Democrats, they all agree.
TAPPER: What you're talking about, Trump as an era -- the Trump administration bringing in an era of bipartisanship. That seems to be the implication you're making.
TRUMP: I absolutely think so.
You know, a lot of people think, well, I'm sort of a tough guy and I'm going to do what -- I actually think I'm a really nice person. But some people say, oh, he's tough and -- I'm going to unify.
This country is totally divided. Barack Obama has divided this country unbelievably. And it's all -- it's all hatred. What can I tell you? I have never seen anything like it. Now, I'm going to unify the country. And, sometimes, I will say that, people say, well -- but the people that know me -- and I'm talking about some of the biggest people in the world -- they call up, they say: "It's right. I have seen it."
And, you know, one of the big knocks on me was that, over the years, I have gotten along with Democrats and I have gotten along with Republicans. And I said, that's a good thing.
As a businessman, I had an obligation to do that, to myself, to my family, to my company, to my employees. I get along with everybody. I will be a great unifier for our country.
TAPPER: Hillary Clinton, at the debate, the Democratic debate, was asked to name enemies of which she was proud, and she said Republicans.
TRUMP: Well, that's part of the problem, because you have the other side using that.
And, as a Republican, what -- what do you think when you see a thing like that?
TAPPER: Is she your enemy?
TRUMP: I don't consider her an enemy. I mean, right now, she's an opponent. I don't consider her an enemy.
But she can be easily beaten by her record, and I'm not talking about the Benghazi record. And some pretty bad things came in, you know, hundreds of phone calls from the ambassador, help, help, help, and nothing was done. You know, people are sort of forgetting some of the things that took place during that hearing.
But I don't consider that. I just say that her record as a -- her record in government, I mean, if you look at it, she was in favor of the war with Iraq, which she shouldn't have been. It was a disaster, and, by the way, which I wasn't.
And I should be given credit, because, in 2003, I came out with a major statement, front page, all over the place -- I don't know why, because I was just a businessman -- I wasn't a politician -- but that we shouldn't go into Iraq because it's going to totally destabilize the Middle East, and that Iran is going to end up taking over Iraq, which is, by the way, exactly -- after spending $2 trillion, thousands of lives, wounded warriors, who I love, all over the place, Iran is taking over Iraq as we speak.
And, by the way, what they don't have, ISIS has. So, we shouldn't have done it. Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the war.
TAPPER: The U.S. just lost a soldier in Iraq. You were just talking about ISIS -- a Delta Force commando. Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, he was killed on a joint mission with Kurds to rescue roughly 70 hostages being held by ISIS, ones that the Pentagon says were facing imminent execution.
He's the first American soldier killed in combat against ISIS. Would you have ordered that mission?
TRUMP: I would say the following.
I was totally against Iraq, but we shouldn't have left the way we left. And if you remember -- and I told you very early on, if we're going to leave, take the oil, because, right now, you know who has the oil. And you know who is buying the oil is China. They don't have 10 cents in this whole deal, and they are buying the oil.
They are the biggest customer. But you have the oil going to ISIS and you have the oil going to Iran. And Iran will end up with most of it, and ISIS will have plenty, because they have got plenty of money because they took the oil, because we were stupid.
And I said, take the oil when we leave. But we shouldn't have really left. We shouldn't have gotten in, but then we shouldn't have left. So, Bush should have gotten us in, and Obama shouldn't have taken us the way he took us out.
And the other thing, unpredictability. He's so predictable. When he took us out, he shouldn't have said, we're going as of a certain date, because the enemy just sat back and waited, full strength, nobody being killed, everything fine, takes them out, and then they go and they did their number, which obviously they are doing to this day.
TAPPER: This is the situation, though, that you will inherit if you become commander in chief.
TRUMP: That's right, and I think I will be very good at it.
TAPPER: Would you have...
TRUMP: And if you look at the same polls in Iowa, and if you look at -- you know, by the way, nobody talks about the ABC/"Washington Post" poll, where I was number one nationwide by a lot.
You know, everyone loves to talk about the Iowa poll, and I honestly think the Iowa poll...
TAPPER: You are absolutely leading in nationwide polls over...
TRUMP: By a lot.
TAPPER: By a lot.
TRUMP: But I will say this.
I believe that -- and, if you look at the polls, people give me the highest mark by far for leadership. They give me the highest mark by far for military. They are giving me the highest marks for military.
TAPPER: And that's what I want to know. Would you -- would you order a special forces, a special operations mission to go rescue hostages, even if they weren't American hostages?
TRUMP: I think I might, but I would have to look at the situation.
I think -- I am not going to criticize anybody for that. I think I might, but I would have to look at the situation. All I know is this. We're living in medieval times. You know, I used to read about medieval times. They would chop heads off. And we're in medieval times. We're in the most brutal period of this world that anybody can remember. I'm talking about for thousands of years.
We're having heads chopped off. We're having people drown in cages. We're living in a -- in an unbelievably dangerous and horrible world, which is why I want to go back to the military, because we need it now maybe more than ever before.
TAPPER: What is the Trump doctrine? When would you use force? And how would you use force? Would it be overwhelming? Would it be more like counterterrorism, special ops, Navy SEALs, Delta Force?
TRUMP: The Trump doctrine is very simple, Jake. It's strength. It's strength. Nobody is going to mess with us. Our military is going to be made much stronger.
When General Odierno left, I was watching him three or four weeks ago on television, where he said that the Army is in the worst level of preparedness that it's ever been that he can ever remember, and maybe in its history. I said, wow, what a statement.
TAPPER: But you also recently said that the Middle East would be better off with Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein and Assad in power. How does...
TRUMP: I didn't say Assad.
But we certainly have not gained anything with Gadhafi. And you look at what happened, I mean, look at Libya, look at Iraq. Iraq used to be no terrorists. He would kill the terrorists immediately. It was like -- now it's the Harvard of terrorism, Iraq.
If you look at Iraq from years ago -- I'm not saying he was a nice guy. He was a horrible guy, but it was a lot better than it is right now. Right now, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. Right now, Libya -- nobody even knows Libya. Frankly, there is no Iraq and there is no Libya. It's all broken up. They have no control. Nobody knows what's going on.
TAPPER: The world would be better off with Saddam Hussein...
TRUMP: A hundred percent.
TAPPER: ... and Gadhafi in power?
TRUMP: A hundred percent.
TAPPER: If they were...
TRUMP: Now, as far as Assad is concerned...
TAPPER: What about the human rights abuses and...
TRUMP: Let's talk -- well, you don't think they're happening now? They're worse now than they ever were. People are getting their heads chopped off. They're being drowned. They're -- right now, they are far worse than they were ever under Saddam Hussein or Gadhafi.
I mean, look what happened. Libya is a catastrophe. You look at our ambassador, as an example, OK? Libya is a disaster. Iraq is a disaster. Syria is a disaster, the whole Middle East. And it all blew up around Hillary Clinton and around Barack Obama. It all blew up.
Now, one thing about Assad, not a good guy. I understand that, but we're backing and spending billions and billions of dollars on backing rebels that we have no idea who they are. And a lot of people think they're ISIS. I happen to think they're ISIS, but who knows?
But we're spending billions of dollars to get Assad out with people that we have no idea who they are. I don't think that is smart. We have to rebuild our country. Our country is falling to pieces. We have $19 trillion in debt. We have infrastructure that is a disaster, our roadways, our airports, our schools, everything.
We have to start thinking about ourselves. We are pouring trillions of dollars into the Middle East, and we have nothing for it. We have nothing.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, thanks so much for spending the time talking to us today.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
TAPPER: Feel the Bern, that was the message flying over a Clinton rally in Iowa yesterday. Is Sanders stepping up his fight?
We will ask him live. Senator Bernie Sanders joins us next.
TAPPER: If you're a political junky in Iowa, this was a weekend not to be missed. There was a big Democratic dinner featuring all the Democratic candidates still running for president, a blowout concert from Katy Perry, who is supporting Hillary Clinton, and a drop-by from an old friend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm tired of the stranglehold that women have had on the job of presidential spouse.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A question now is whether Bernie Sanders can keep his momentum going as Hillary Clinton builds some of her own.
Senator Sanders joins us now live from Des Moines.
Senator, thank you so much for being here.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My pleasure, Jake.
TAPPER: So, Senator Sanders, you went on offense at last night Iowa's Jefferson Jackson Dinner, sharply contrasting your record with that of Secretary Clinton's.
She, of course, is coming off a -- a stretch that many pundits consider to be strong, between her debate, the Benghazi hearing, Vice President Biden not running for president.
Going forward, are we in a new phase of the campaign. Are you going to be drawing contrasts on issues more aggressively?
SANDERS: Well, I don't know it's a new phase. Look, I've known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I have a lot of respect for her. She's a friend. We have differences of opinion and I think the American people, people participating in the Democratic primary process, need to know the differences.
I have consistently been a critic of what is going on on Wall Street, the greed, the recklessness, the illegal behavior. I help lead the effort to -- against the deregulation of Wall Street. I believe that we should bring back Glass-Stegall legislation so that you do not have the absurd situation of commercial banks and investment banks and large insurance companies being together. You do not have six financial institutions having assets equivalent to 60 percent of the GDP. With all the economic and political power that these banks have, I think you have to break them up. That has always -- that has been my view for a very, very long time. That is not Hillary Clinton's view.
I believe that NAFTA and CAFTA and permanent normal trade relations, trade agreements, have been a disaster for American workers, that over the last 14 or 15 years we've lots tens of thousands of factories, millions of decent paying job. From the very beginning, I understood tat the Transpacific Partnership was a bad trade agreement. I didn't have to do a lot of thinking about it. Keystone Pipeline, the same thing. War on Iraq, the same thing.
So I have been consistent over the years and I think it's important for the people to know that.
TAPPER: And one of the issues you drew a contrast with on Hillary Clinton last night had to do with the Defense of Marriage Act, which Bill Clinton signed into law. I want you to take a listen to what Clinton -- Hillary Clinton -- had to say on Friday about her husband signing that law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: DOMA was a line that was drawn that was to prevent going further.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It was a defensive action?
CLINTON: It was a defensive action. The culture rapidly changed so that now what was totally anathema to political forces, they had ceded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Senator Sanders, you voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. Hillary Clinton is calling it a defensive action. Last night, you said some are trying to rewrite history
SANDERS: Well, I think the history of that is pretty clear. The Republicans came into Congress. Many of them, I'm sorry to have to say, were homophobic. They saw it as a good political issue. And what they were trying to do was make it impossible for gay couples to be married, to have -- get benefits from the federal government, to have marriage in one state be recognized in another state.
I think everybody at the time knew this was simply homophobic legislation. And I have to tell you something, Jake. The vote that I cast, we were way -- the vote on that was just overwhelmingly for DOMA because I think a lot of members of Congress were nervous about going home. And it was not an easy vote. I voted against DOMA because I think -- I thought then and I think now that people have the right to love those folks that they want to love and get married regardless of their sexual orientation. It was not an easy vote. But that was the issue.
SANDERS: And I think everybody at the time knew what was going on.
TAPPER: You're calling that legislation homophobic. Hillary Clinton is out there saying that Bill Clinton signed into law this legislation you called homophobic. She said it was done as a way of being defensive to protect gay rights.
SANDERS: I would not agree with that assertion. I think -- look, and in fact, that legislation was initiated not by Bill Clinton -- he signed it -- it was initiated by Republicans in the House. He ended up signing it. Not vetoing it. But, to my mind, I think the evidence is very, very clear that that legislation was anti-gay legislation. It was playing off fears of a lot of Americans.
Now the good news, as Hillary Clinton just indicated, the culture has changed radically. We have become a far less discriminatory society. Gay rights and gay marriage is now legal in 50 states in this country. We should be very, very proud of it. We have come a long, long way since that vote in 1996.
TAPPER: Senator Sanders, I appreciate the tone that you bring to the presidential race, but I have to say your rival Secretary Clinton is not bringing the same tone. She's basically calling you a sexist.
I want you to take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I've been told to stop, and I quote, "shouting about gun violence." Well, first of all, I'm not shouting. It's just when women talk some people think we're shouting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You're the one she's quoting, Senator Sanders. She is suggesting in public that you have a problem with women speaking out.
SANDERS: Well, you know, all that I can say is I am very proud of my record on women's issues. I certainly do not have a problem with women speaking out. And I think what the secretary is doing there is taking words and misapplying them.
What I was saying is if we are going make some progress on dealing with these horrific massacres that we're seeing, is that people have got to stop all over this country talking to each other. It's not Hillary Clinton. You have some people who are shouting at other people all across this country. You know that. This nation is divided on this issue.
What I have said is I think there is a consensus out there that talks about banning assault weapons, that talks about expanding background checks, that talks about doing away with the gun show loophole, doing -- making sure that the strawman situation becomes federal law and we make sure that guns do not get into the hands of people who should not have them. That we deal with the mental health crisis.
What I was talking about, clearly, across this country you've got people shouting at each other.
TAPPER: Right. What she's suggesting you're saying --
SANDERS: Well, she is --
TAPPER: -- that she's shouting and that you, when you when you hear a woman talking, you think they're shouting.
SANDERS: Well, what can I say? That's just not the case. That's wrong.
TAPPER: I want to turn another issue that came up at the Democratic debate. You're the chairman of -- you were the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Following the debate you were criticized by Paul Reickhoff, he's the founder and CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He told CNN, quote, "For far too long Senator Sanders was apologizing for the VA. He was refusing to acknowledge the severity of the crisis. He was positioning it as a smaller issue than it was while veterans were dying waiting for care." I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond.
SANDERS: Well, let me say this. I am very proud that when I was chairman of the Senate Veterans' Committee, I received the highest awards from the American Legion and the highest award from the Veterans Foreign Wars, VFW. And I received those awards because they knew that I was doing everything that I could to protect veterans' rights, do everything I could to make sure that every veteran in this country got the health care and the benefits that they needed in a timely matter.
You know, the politics in the Veterans' Committee, in the veterans world as well. And I'm not saying that every veterans organization is 100 percent supportive, but I worked very closely with all of major the veterans organizations, not only the American Legion, the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Vets, all of the veterans organization. And what we ended up doing in a bipartisan manner, I worked with people like John McCain in the Senate, Jeff Miller over in the House of Republicans, to put together the most comprehensive veterans' health care legislation in the modern history of this country, which in fact is making -- improving health care for our veterans so that we ensure that get it --
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: -- in a timely manner.
TAPPER: Thank you so much, Senator Sanders. We appreciate it. We hope to see you out there on the campaign trail.
SANDERS: OK, thank you very much, Jake.
TAPPER: There are the polls and then there are the odds. Why the betting markets say Marco Rubio is the man to beat. An exclusive interview after this break.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Jeb Bush is slashing spending and salaries to stay competitive in a race many once thought he might easily lead on the campaign trail. This weekend he sounded disenheartened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this election is about how we're going to fight to get nothing done, then I don't want anything -- I don't want any part of it. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: The most obvious beneficiary of a weakened Bush is Senator Marco Rubio.
CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel, sat down with him for an exclusive interview.
JAMIE GANGEL, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: So let's start with the Republican frontrunner, Mr. Trump. We're here in South Carolina, but he was in your home town last night and he has 28 percent in your home state of Florida, you have 14. Why aren't you winning in your home state?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I, I, don't -- if you start paying attention to these polls in October, I mean, you'll go crazy. You know, I've been up, I've been down.
GANGEL: But you're the sitting senator in Florida.
RUBIO: Yes, it's a very unusual year and I think part of it is that people are really angry about the direction of our country and what you see in Florida is no different than what you see reflected around the country.
GANGEL: Last night at the Trump event there were protesters on immigration that had to come out. And at the end Trump said, I'm going to win with Hispanics, I love the Hispanics.
What do you think when you hear him say things like that?
RUBIO: It just, I mean it's Donald being Donald. I mean that's what it is.
GANGEL: He is the frontrunner, though, and he hits you and Carson over and over again. He says you're weak on immigration. Is he more in tune with the Republican Party on this issue than you are?
RUBIO: No, his rhetoric is a little louder but, if you think about where he was six months ago, his position on immigration six months ago was nothing like what he's saying now. And even what he's saying now is -- borders on the absurd. He's going to deport all these people and then he's going to allow back in the ones that are good. His plan makes no sense.
GANGEL: Jeb Bush says Donald Trump has dangerous views on national security and he has grave doubts about him as Commander in Chief. Are you comfortable with the idea of Donald Trump with his finger on the button?
RUBIO: Well, I wouldn't term it that way. I would say that ultimately the next President of the United States, on their first day in office, must understand the threats that face this country and must have shown good judgment about what to do about those issues. GANGEL: Are you comfortable --
RUBIO: Well, I'm not -- the truth is, as I said in the debates last time on CNN, I don't believe that at up to this point in the campaign he has clearly outlined a deep understanding of the issues before this country in a serious way. And obviously he has time to change that. We have more debates coming up.
GANGEL: So right now he's not ready to be Commander in Chief?
RUBIO: To this point in the campaign, he has not proven an understanding of these issues or the preparation necessary to be the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military force in the world.
GANGEL: If he's the nominee, would you enthusiastically support him?
RUBIO: Well, I'm going to support the Republican nominee, and I'm comfortable that it's not going to be Donald Trump, and I'm increasingly confident that it's going to be me. And so I feel good answering that question.
GANGEL: Do you think there needs to be a stop Trump movement?
RUBIO: No, I think we should have a Republican primary. And I think that candidates should go out and they should tell people who they are and what they're for, and the voters are going to decide.
GANGEL: Marco Rubio criticism over and over again -- that you keep missing votes on the Senate floor, 43 percent of the votes. I know you say you're campaigning for president, but Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, they've missed fewer than 10 votes, you're up at 59 or 60.
RUBIO: Well, everyone needs to run their own campaign. I can tell you that in the history of presidential politics, people have when they've been running for politics in the Senate, they've missed votes. And I'm not missing votes because I'm on vacation.
GANGEL: This many votes?
RUBIO: Well, actually this is lower than what other people have missed. I'm running for President so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again. A lot of these votes won't mean anything. They're not going to pass and, even if they did, the President would veto it. We can --
GANGEL: The other day, though, you got up on the Senate floor and you said federal workers who don't show up should be fired.
RUBIO: That's not what I said.
GANGEL: What did you say?
RUBIO: I said federal workers that aren't doing their jobs, that are not performing at their jobs, should be able to be fired...
GANGEL: OK. RUBIO: ...should be held accountable for not performing.
GANGEL: So someone might say you're not showing up, you're not doing your job by voting.
RUBIO: Not true, not true.
GANGEL: You don't think you're in a glass house?
RUBIO: Because voting is not the only part of the Senate job. I mean the most important thing a Senator does is constituent service. We are still involved in looking out for Florida's issues.
GANGEL: ...votes aren't important?
RUBIO: Of course, they're important.
GANGEL: Intelligence committee hearings aren't important?
RUBIO: We do all the intelligence briefings. I was just there this Tuesday. I got fully briefed and caught up on everything that's happening in the world. I'm fully aware. We have a staffer that's assigned to intelligence, we get constant briefings. I think votes of course are important. But unfortunately too many of them today are not meaningful.
GANGEL: Hillary Clinton has had a pretty good two weeks. She had Saturday Night Live, she did well in the debates, she went through 11 hours of the hearings. If it is a face off Marco Rubio - Hillary Clinton, how formidable is she?
RUBIO: Well, she'll be the Democratic nominee, someone who comes from a political dynasty and that, in and of itself, is going to bring fundraising capabilities and so forth. People may think she had a good week. I think this is the week it was proven that she lied about Benghazi.
GANGEL: So here's the good news for Marco Rubio. You are on the rise. The betting folks say you are now the most likely person to win the Republican nominee over Jeb Bush. Democrats say you are formidable, that they are scared of you. So why is it taking you so long to get traction?
RUBIO: Well, first of all, none of those things matter. That's just campaign talk. It like -- politics today is covered almost like sports. And so you watch these teams, they have a really good game, they're the top team in the world. The next week they have a bad game, it's disaster. That's not the way campaigns work.
GANGEL: Well, when the Democrats say that they're scare of you and you're formidable....
RUBIO: That, again, look, I --
GANGEL: ...you don't believe that?
RUBIO: No, it's -- I don't believe any of these things back and forth. This is a campaign about the future of America, it's not a college football game. And we need to take it seriously because the very direction of our country for the next 50 or 100 years is at stake in 2016.
TAPPER: When we come back a brand new State of the Cartoonion. What might we see at this coming up -- week -- Republican debate?
TAPPER: Some of the Republican candidates complained that it took super human strength to get through the last debate. This time around will they be channeling their secret powers to succeed. It's the subject of this week's State of the Cartoonion.
TAPPER (voice-over): Tweeting this cartoon our friends at "CNBC" this week announced which Republicans made their debate. It was all very super heroic as if this is the new lineup for the super friends in the Hall of Justice.
Christi the crusader, killer Carly or depending on your point of view maybe this is the Legion of Doom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: The Legion of Doom. Dedicated to a single objective, the conquest of the universe.
TAPPER: The traffic disrupter. Lady of layoffs. It was all a theme this week.
Jeb Bush was stumped when asked to name his favorite comic book character landing eventually on Supergirl. Star of an upcoming TV show whose super power, according to Bush, is being attractive.
BUSH: I saw there's a -- Supergirl is on TV. I saw it when I was working out this morning. There's an ad promoting Supergirl. She looked kind of -- she looked pretty hot.
BUSH: I don't know what channel it was on but I'm looking forward to that.
TAPPER: Of course we already knew that Donald Trump not only has a favorite super hero, he fancies he is one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you Batman? TRUMP: I'm Batman.
TAPPER: Not everyone sees him that way of course. A Mexican comic book features it's (ph) hero punching the lights out of a villain looks an awful lot like Donald trump. The theme will continue this Wednesday when on the debate stage they all vie to be Captain America.
TAPPER: Thanks for spending your Sunday with us. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is now.