"Face the Nation" transcripts, October 21, 2012: Sen. Rubio, Cutter, Madden


(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on October 21, 2012, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include: Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Obama campaign aide Stephanie Cutter and Romney campaign aide Kevin Madden. A roundtable included Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, Time Magazine columnist Rick Klein, New York Times correspondent David Sanger and CBS News' John Dickerson.

SCHIEFFER: Well, good morning again and welcome to "Face the Nation" from Boca Raton. Behind me this morning on the Lynn University campus, as you see what is known as Remembrance Plaza, it's a memorial to two professors and four students here who were killed in the Haiti earthquake in January of 2011 while on a college service trip.

And joining me now, the home state senator from Florida, Senator Marco Rubio, who I've heard supports Mitt Romney.

RUBIO: Now more than ever.


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.