The former governor of Massachusetts appeared on my program earlier today and had this to say about the claim by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum that we’d be better off with four more years of Barack Obama than with “an Etch-a-Sketch Republican”:
HH: I begin this hour with former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney, the presumed nominee of the Republican Party. Governor, welcome back, and before we do any politics or policy, congratulations on 43 years of marriage. I talked to your wife yesterday, and we’ll replay that interview later today. It was, is a tremendous accomplishment.
MR: Well, thank you so much. Actually, that was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Staying in love with Ann is about as easy as it gets, and obviously highly rewarding.
HH: Well, I’ve got to talk to you about something Rick Santorum said today. He shocked a lot of people when he said that you know, we might as well stick with President Obama rather than elect Mitt Romney if you’re the nominee. That’s a paraphrase. But what do you think of that statement?
MR: Well, I’m afraid Rick is confusing the nature of this race. This race is not about one person. This is a race about the direction for the country. The country is going in a very seriously wrong direction under President Obama. And I’m afraid that Rick increasingly thinks this race is about him. It’s not about him. It’s not about me. It’s not about a personality. It’s about the country. And I’m really disappointed in Rick’s statement. Obviously, he endorsed me three years ago when I was running for president. He had no problem calling me a real conservative, a solid conservative. But now that he’s in the race, it has become all about Rick. And that’s just not right for the party, it’s not right for the country.
HH: Governor Romney, the exact quote from Senator Santorum is “We might as well stay with what we have.” You have talked about the consequences of a second term for Barack Obama. Now one of two people are going to be president a year from now – you or Barack Obama. What difference will it make?
MR: Well, first of all, under Barack Obama, we’d keep Obamacare. If I’m president, we’ll get rid of Obamacare. Under President Obama, we’ll have probably two, maybe even three new Supreme Court justices, liberals, progressives, so to speak. If I’m president, we’ll have strict constructionists on the Court. Under Barack Obama, we’ll have more restriction on fossil fuels, and a higher cost of gasoline. If I’m president, we’ll take advantage of our energy resources. Under Barack Obama, we’ll continue to tilt the playing field towards organized labor. If I’m president, we’ll allow individuals to have a secret ballot to decide if they want a union or not. I mean, my list goes on. You could not have much more differences than those that add up, for instance, to a deficit under Barack Obama of a trillion dollars a year, with America ultimately hitting a Greek-like wall. If I’m president, we will finally balance our budget, we will secure Social Security and Medicare without bankrupting the next generation. It’s a wholly different course if I’m president than if Barack Obama is president.
HH: Now Governor, you and Senator Santorum have gotten along pretty well. You’ve thrown some hammers at each other. But do you expect the next month, or the end game of this to get rougher before it gets more collegial towards the convention?
MR: Well, I joked that desperate polls call for desperate pols. And I think when people come to the point that they begin to think that this race is about them, and not about the country, when they think this is a matter of personal ego and not a matter of national direction, then I think we’re really going in a very unfortunate way. And I’m really surprised, frankly, by Senator Santorum’s comments. I mean, I know that there are a lot of people across the country that are saying we need to consolidate behind the guy who has now weathered, I think there are 38 different contests we’ve had, if you include all the little islands as well. We’re way down in the process, and so I’m sure that the Senator’s hearing from some of those people saying hey, let’s get going, let’s move on and get our nominee ready to go against President Obama. And perhaps he’s striking out with some frustration from those kinds of questions. But you know, he’s welcome to stay in obviously as long as you’d like to stay in. But this kind of rhetoric, suggesting that we’re better off with Barack Obama than with one of the other Republican nominees is, I think, an enormous mistake on his part.
HH: Let’s turn, then, he also brought up the Etch-a-Sketch. And my longtime assessment of Eric Fehrstrom is he’s among the best spokespeople. I know he’s been your friend and close advisor for years. But even the best throw a spanner occasionally. And Eric threw a spanner yesterday. And Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Joe Klein over at Time Magazine said he was up all night thinking that this is like John Kerry’s “I was for the $87 billion before I was against it.” What about this brouhaha about the Ohio Art invention of our youths, Governor?
MR: What was that, I didn’t quite get that last piece.
HH: Well, it’s made by Ohio Art. That’s the company that makes it. And so I’m very proud of the fact that…
MR: Oh, I see. Oh, I see. Well, first of all, this wasn’t me speaking. This was Eric. And you know, everybody’s going to make a gaffe now and again. I’ve certainly made my share of them, and I’m sure others will. The other candidates have as well. And everyone understands, of course, that Eric was talking about the organization of a campaign, the next chapter of a campaign as you go from primary to general, and you have new people that come on board. You have to raise new money. But of course, the policies stay exactly the same. I’ve written a book about my policies. I was a governor. I was a conservative governor. The policies that I described in my book, the policies that I put in place as governor, the policies that I described in the campaign are all the same, and I’m going to keep those policies going forward. But you know, I know that in the nature of politics, people grab onto anything they can. And I just don’t think that this is going to be a campaign that focuses on small items, toys and things of that nature. This is a question about what kind of America we’re going to have, and are we going to retain economic freedom in this country, are we going to have a population which believes the future’s brighter than the past, or are we going to sink America with massive deficits and overwhelming debt. And that’s what it comes down to, and these little gaffes from day to day, and they’re going to be all over the place, that’s not how we’re going to decide the course of America.
HH: Now there’s a meme developing out there that you’ve got sort of a Sports Illustrated cover jinx. And for the audience that doesn’t follow sports, you know, you show up on the cover of Sports Illustrated, you lose the next game. They’re saying every time you win something, someone steps on the story the next day. I suspect that means we’ll have a very big story on November 7th out of you. But what about that, that campaign’s stepping on its own story, Governor?
MR: Well, this timing was not ideal, of course, but you never can estimate that every word that comes out of your mouth is going to absolutely the way you wanted to describe it. Rick Santorum said the other day that he doesn’t care about high unemployment. Really? Is that what he meant to say? He also said something of a similar nature that the economy was not the issue he was concerned about. Really? Is that accurate? People are going to say things that are getting to be problematic, and you know, you just have to weather the storm. But ultimately, I know the Democrats are going to push these things hard. I just don’t expect the Republicans to try and pick them up and push them as well. And when these issues come up, why, you know, they’re going to make the news for a while, and then we’re going to get on to what really counts, which is getting back to the course of the direction of this country.
HH: Governor, I want to turn to something the President has said, and he does mean it. It’s not a gaffe. And I’m not a big fan of Glenn Kessler and the Pinocchio test, because I think it goes way left. It leans way left. But he awarded him two Pinocchios for underestimating U.S. oil reserves, and underestimating our capacity to generate energy. Do you think the President is backtracking with his comments today about Keystone? And do you think he is systematically distorting the ability of America to produce its own energy?
MR: I think there’s no question but that his continued reference to us having only 2% of the world’s reserves, and using 20% of the world’s oil, is a misstatement, mischaracterization of the energy resources we have in this country. Not only do we have a much more abundant source of oil through the Bokken reserves in North Dakota, but also the Outer Continental Shelf. And of course, we haven’t begun to seismically evaluate the kind of resources we have in this country, oil resources. And then we have natural gas in a massive abundance, which can be used for transportation, ultimately. And of course, our coal, the reserves we have in coal are the largest in the world. So we have energy resources to become energy secure and independent, and ultimately, they’ll have an impact in energy prices. And the President was just wrong-headed on this. And the decision he made not to complete the pipeline from Canada, the Keystone pipeline, will go down as one of the most ridiculous decisions of his presidency.
HH: Governor, the Kessler column also scores you, though, for saying he never, for your hitting the President for promising to keep 8% unemployment. The Post says you know, he never really promised that. But then there’s evidence emerging that he’s alluded to the Christina Romer report often. Do you think he’s responsible for what his administration put out when they promised 8% and no higher on the unemployment side?
MR: Well, there’s no question about that. Policies made, policy statements made by his administration to describe his position on why he needed the stimulus are his policies, and he therefore has to stand behind them. If he disagrees with them, he can stand up and say well, I take exception with my chief economic advisor, or with my secretary of state, or whomever. But when, for that matter, you have the secretary of state say that Mr. Assad is a reformer, that’s his problem just as it is, unless of course, he stands up and disavows it.
HH: Last question, Governor, we’ve got about 30 seconds, I’ve got to ask. Jeb Bush endorsed you yesterday. And then when he went public, he endorsed sort of Marco Rubio as your vice president. Did he make that pitch to you in private?
MR: No, he did not, actually. He didn’t mention Marco to me in private. But obviously, there are a lot of terrific people who will be on someone’s list for VP. I hope I’m the nominee that gets to make that choice. It’ll be a great experience to see these guys and learn more about them.
HH: Governor Mitt Romney, thanks for joining us today.
End of interview.