HH: What a strange, strange year it’s going to begin to be in politics. A week ago, on September 26, speaking on his program, denounced a phony soldier, a guy who is actually serving time in jail now for pretending to be a veteran and an anti-war veteran at that. He picked up on a story that had been on ABC News two days earlier. And then this week, the lefties out there, beginning with Hillary’s front group, Media Matters, began to attack him on it. And then, the Harry Reids of the world take to the Senate floor to denounce Rush Limbaugh, and Rush has been talking about it. I catch up now with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to talk about new media and this political climate. Governor, always a pleasure to talk to you.
MR: Thank you, Hugh, good to be with you.
HH: Thanks for joining us. Have you been able to follow this story?
MR: Well, you know, you sort of follow it from afar as you’re from place to place. And I think anybody who looks at the story hears what Rush Limbaugh has to say, which of course makes perfect sense. He was referring to this soldier who had doctored up his resume, was a phony soldier. And he was critical of that soldier, and he had every right to be critical of that soldier. And it’s amazing to watch the Democrats turn that into something which clearly he had not intended to make it. And certainly, with his explanation, people should say oh, okay, I understand what you were saying, what you mean. I understand the context. And that’s fine.
HH: Now Governor, when I got to the studio today, I called your staff, because my mailbox was full of e-mails saying why is Governor Romney down on Rush. Did that catch you by surprise that somehow you’d become part of this story?
MR: Gosh, I didn’t know I had become part of the story. That just shows how you’re running around the country and you hear those things. Surely, the comment which he made today, or yesterday, where he said look, you have to understand, I wasn’t referring to all soldiers who oppose the war, I was referring to this soldier as a phony soldier. That makes sense, and you know, you take the man at his word. That’s what he was referring to, and you know, he’s got a long record of supporting our soldiers. There’s no question that this is a man who has been very much on the side of our fighting men and women, but somebody who’s doctored their resume is not somebody who he or anybody else is going to stand up for.
HH: Now this strikes me as an attempt by the MoveOn.org left, allied with some Democratic Senators, to turn attention away from the attack on General Petraeus made a few weeks ago, and an attempt to rebrand themselves as pro-military. How do you assess the effectiveness of trying to escape the effect of the MoveOn.org attack on General Petraeus?
MR: Well, it’s a very different setting. In the case of MoveOn.org, they actually ran an ad, and they said that General Petraeus will betray us, and that is an extraordinary challenge to make for a person who is risking his life for the security and safety of our country, and that’s outrageous. The Democrats wouldn’t distance themselves from it and denounce it, and that was to their dishonor. In this case, Rush’s statement taken out of context appears to say something which he explains he did not mean to say, that he instead was referring to an individual soldier who had doctored his resume. They’re entirely different matters, and you know, the lefties will believe what the lefties want to believe, but the truth of the matter is Rush Limbaugh supports our troops, and supports the rights of Americans to express their views. After all, he does that very thing day in and day out.
HH: Now Governor, expanding the scope here a little bit to how the campaign has changed, today, Rudy Giuliani’s in New Hampshire, he’s at the Chocolate Moose, and he misstates where he is. He says he’s in Massachusetts. All right, the kind of stuff that happen every day on the campaign trail. But then it shows up on the Politico.com Jonathan Martin blog as being a significant issue. You’ve run statewide in Massachusetts twice. Was there anything ever like this kind of scrutiny on one word showing up and immediately becoming an issue?
MR: Well, it is interesting today that gotcha politics is alive and well. It used to be that you had a day to clean up your mistakes. So if you made a mistake, you know, you’ve got to fix before the news cycle. But now, the news cycle is instant, and everything is made a huge matter. And you know, I’ve made at least two or three gaffes in my campaign so far. They’re made big deals by not just the media, but by the opposition. And you know, frankly, look, I’m going to mess up where I am now and then, and so will Rudy and so will John McCain and everybody else. And let’s give the process a bit of a break.
HH: There’s real serious news today. There’s a six party accord on North Korea. I’m not sure whether trust but verify doesn’t answer completely. Have you had a chance to be briefed on this deal yet that President Bush is very happy with, Governor Romney?
MR: Well, the answer is yes, but if there’s ever been a group that you need to verify, it would be the North Koreans. They’re in severe financial distress. It’s very possible that they do intend to dismantle their nuclear technology. But frankly, it’s something we’re going to have to verify, and we should not be giving them resources or technology if we have any question whatsoever about whether or not they’re abiding by the agreement.
HH: Now Governor, also in the news, and coming up next hour, I’m having an extensive interview with Michael Ledeen, author of The Iranian Time Bomb, his brand new book. Is the idea that the Iranians are caught again exporting violence and death into Iraq to hurt our American soldiers with, when you were Governor of Massachusetts, you had then-former president of Iran Khatami come, and you refused him any aid and assistance in his visit. What did you make of the Ahmadinejad visit, his successor, to New York?
MR: Well, I thought it was an outrage to invite Ahmadinejad to New York, to speak at Columbia University, to speak at the UN. I mean, we should have indicted him for genocide, or for incitation of genocide under the genocide convention. That was the right course. We should indict him, not invite him. And frankly, the willingness of someone like Barack Obama to say that in his first year, he’s going to meet with Ahmadinejad, is outrageous. The man is a buffoon, he is denying the Holocaust, he has called for the elimination of Israel. He should not be given any world audience, and he certainly shouldn’t be given audience with somebody who wants to be the president of the United States.
HH: All right, I want to switch to domestic politics. Hillary Clinton, your likely opponent if you’re the GOP nominee, has proposed this week giving $5,000 dollars to every baby born in the United States. Your reaction, Governor Romney?
MR: Boy, I’m losing you, but it’s a bad idea. It’s a bad idea. Can you still hear me?
HH: Yeah, I can, Governor…
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HH: Governor Romney, good to have you back. I did want to complete this conversation about Hillary cradle care at $5,000 dollars a person. You got cut off, dropped off the cell when you were beginning to say it’s a pretty bad idea.
MR: Yeah, it’s a bad idea. We don’t want to add more debt to the national balance sheet so that we can give out more money. You know, one of the things I think she’s ignoring is that you certainly want to make sure that we encourage marriage, not just babies. And you want to have incentives in this country that encourage people to get married before they have babies. And this idea that we’re just going to pay folks to have babies is not the best idea. And particularly, there are great ways that we could do wonderful things for our kids like investing and getting them computer in schools, and investing in better teachers, investing as well in helping kids that provide service to the country, either in the military or in our communities. There are lots of ways we can say we’re going to reward our kids, but just sending out checks for having babies is not a great idea.
HH: She picked up the endorsement of a teachers’ union today. I’m not sure if it’s the NTEU or the American Federation of Teachers. Your reaction to that, Governor Romney? What’s it tell you about what the teacher unions think about politics at the national level?
MR: Well, no surprise, of course, that the teachers unions are going to get behind the Democrats in this regard, and I have no beef with unions generally. But there are good unions and bad unions. And the teachers unions at the national level are so focused on their members that they’re forgetting that the first responsibility of an elected official is to be caring about the kids. And somebody’s got to stand up and represent the kids of this country, not just the teachers unions, and I’m really saddened and dismayed that a presidential candidate like Hillary Clinton would line up to be so pro-union in a setting like this, so pro-teachers union. But you know, I guess it has to be expected.
HH: 30 seconds, Governor. Have you filed the 3rd quarter financial report yet?
MR: I think we’ve probably filed it, yeah. But I know we raised about $10 million dollars.
HH: And…that’s not your money, that’s $10 million outside of you?
MR: Yeah, that’s what we raised from outside sources. I put in several million dollars myself, but I don’t have the exact number. But it was more money that I’d like.
HH: (laughing) Governor Mitt Romney, always a pleasure, good to talk to you, thank you.
End of interview.