Great lineup today. The transcripts of my conversations with Mitt Romney and Bishop Olmsted will be posted below later today, and the transcript of my talk with Vince Flynn will be posted at the transcripts page later this week, as will the talk with Ryan Lizza about the key wing vote in 2012. Vince’s new novel, Kill Shot is another terrific Mich Rapp read, but the best news is Vince’s improving health.
Governor Romney transcript:
HH: Pleased to welcome back Governor Mitt Romney. Governor, good to have you.
MR: Thanks, Hugh, good to be with you today.
HH: Tonight, Colorado and Minnesota. Do you expect to extend your winning streak in either or both places?
MR: You know, I think we’ve got a good chance of that happening, although these are not states that have delegates associated with them, so they’re more kind of beauty contests at this stage, but hope to do well there. The big ones, of course, that have delegates are Arizona and Michigan, and I think I’ll win those. [# More #]
HH: Now I want to start with a substantive question, Governor. For the benefit of the audience, President Obama and his Department of Health and Human Resources have issued regulations that would require Catholic institutions like B.C. and Notre Dame and Georgetown, every Catholic elementary and high school, as well as all Catholic hospitals and social service agencies to provide sterilization and the morning after pill through their health insurance plans. If you are elected president, will you suspend those regulations on the first day in office and pledge to revoke them? And prohibit any other similar regulation from going forward?
MR: Absolutely. Yes. Undoubtedly. Hugh, this is an attack on religious conscience, religious practice in America. It is antithetical to the principles of our 1st Amendment, the very founding of our country. It is a continuation of the attack by this administration on religious thought and belief and practice in this country. I find it extraordinary. One of the other decisions, as you know, that they made was to say that the government should be able to determine who qualifies as a minister for a particular faith, and thereby would be able to enjoy the ministerial exemption from certain laws. And that was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, and even with some liberals on the bench, they lost that battle, 9-0. Even the entire Supreme Court thought they’d gone too far. This is one more example of an attack on religion, and it’s got to end. And if I’m president, if you can imagine, it will be over.
HH: Now President Obama called Archbishop and Cardinal-designate Dolan of New York on the morning these issues were, these regulations were issued. And the New York Times today says the Obama administration wants to compromise. Can this decision be understood as anything other than the President’s decision, Governor Romney?
MR: I think you’re absolutely right. This is the President’s decision. This was not something that surprised him. And by the way, if it had surprised him, he could have reversed it immediately upon hearing about it. He knew where this was headed. He knew that this was going to be a big favor among his secular friends who do not like the sense of freedom of religion in this country. And I think he has made an enormous mistake, particularly among Catholic voters. There are a lot of Catholic voters who vote Democrat. You know, I come from a state, Massachusetts. We’ve got a lot of Catholics, and a lot vote Democrat. But this is going to change a lot of people’s minds, and they’re going to realize that this President’s agenda is not just bankrupting the country, it is also changing us from a nation under God.
HH: Now what will your attitude be generally towards the country’s religious institutions if you become the president, because they’re in the tens of thousands. And President Obama clearly considers them some sort of obstacle to be rolled over when they get in his way.
MR: Well, one of the great things about America is that people have confidence in something greater than themselves. And the religious institutions in our country encourage us to be bigger than ourselves, to have purposes that are larger than our selfish interests. And as a result, we are a greater people than we would be if we were an entirely selfish people. And I believe part of the greatness of America flows from the religious convictions of our many citizens. And even those who are not members of any particular faith typically have a vision of something greater than themselves. This is quintessentially an American attribute. And the attack on religion is unseemly, it’s unconstitutional, and I think it’s unwise.
HH: Let me ask you about marriage now, Governor. Today, the most reversed circuit in the country, in an opinion written by the most reversed judge on that circuit in the country, overturned Proposition 8, imperiling the marriage laws of the entire United States. If you are the president, and this is pending before the Supreme Court, will you instruct your new attorney general, and your new solicitor general, and maybe the former is Bob McDonnell, or whoever it is, to issue an amicus brief in defense of Proposition 8?
MR: Absolutely. And my guess is wild horses couldn’t keep them from being able to do so on their own. I strongly believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that an attempt to suggest that the Constitution requires otherwise is stretching our Constitution beyond its bounds. I believe in following the Constitution, and if people feel that the Constitution is wrong, or that we should add something to the Constitution, there is a process for doing that. It’s known as the amendment process. And we’ve done that a number of times in American history. But the idea of men and women, unelected, sitting on the bench and changing the Constitution, legislating from the bench is something which we simply cannot endure as a true constitutional democracy.
HH: Does President Obama, in your view, Governor, owe the United States people a comment on this decision, and a clear declaration of where he believes the Constitution directs the courts to act in this regard?
MR: Well, I’d like to hear what he has to say, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t make me happy. He began by saying he was opposed to same sex marriage, but over the years, he’s been changing his position. And I think the things he’s taken to the Supreme Court, his unwillingness, for instance, to defend the Defense Of Marriage Act, suggests that he will try and move towards a new approach to the Constitution, which is similar to the most liberal members of the bench, which is to see the Constitution as a place from which you depart, and then you follow your conscience or your own views. And that, of course, is antithetical to the idea of a true constitutional democracy, where the people are the final arbiter of law.
HH: Now Governor, I want to switch over to economics. You’re on the ballot tonight in Colorado, or in the caucuses tonight, where oil and gas exploration matters a great deal. And you’re headed over to Ohio pretty soon on Super Tuesday, and some other states where natural gas exploration is everything. It’s reviving the Ohio economy. Will you put a stop, if you’re the president, to the EPA’s attempt to halt new exploration for natural gas out of these baseless fears concerning fracking?
MR: The answer is yes. As you know, I think almost 70% of our oil wells have used fracking technology. Fracking regulations have always been managed at the state level. The Obama administration, as you know, is not wild about letting states regulate anything, and is intending to have the EPA get its finger in the pie, and frankly, take over the entire pie. And through regulations relating to fracking, they have held up the development of natural gas in this country. I spoke with the head of a large chemical company. He said they’re building a $20 billion dollar facility in Saudi Arabia. They wanted to build it in Oklahoma or Texas, but he said they couldn’t count on getting the natural gas because of the EPA. This is the approach of this administration. I will have a very different approach. I want to develop our natural resources so we can free ourselves, our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and so that we can make ourselves more competitive to employers that want to remain here.
HH: Will the Keystone XL pipeline get built quickly under a Romney administration?
MR: Absolutely. This idea of holding off a pipeline that would bring needed oil from one part of North America to another is simply a reaction by the President to the interests of the Sierra Club and his most extreme environmentalists. It’s the wrong way to go. I just shake my head. The President has tried to hold up coal, he’s held up deep sea oil drilling, he’s held up gas. Of course, there’s been no progress on nuclear power plants. He likes solar and wind. We all like solar and wind. But they’re not going to power America’s economy. We have to develop all of our sources of energy, and this President and his policies are simply wrong-headed.
HH: Now back to politics, Governor Romney. The primary calendar takes you to Arizona next, and I go there a lot, and I’ve got a lot of friends there like Sheriff Paul Babeu, who’s on your team. He’s running for Congress now. And border security, specifically border security, not immigration generally, border security matters a lot down there. How quickly will the 800-900 miles of fence that the previous Congresses have authorized get built under a President Romney?
MR: Well, we’ll talk to the contractors and certainly get it done within my first term. There are other parts that are important as well, which is we have to have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And then we’ve got to crack down on employers that hire people that are here illegally. I’ve talked to border patrol agents in San Diego, and the head of the border patrol agent union and I spoke, and he said look, one of our problems is so many people that are coming across the border are coming across to find work. And interspersed among them are some very bad characters. And he said if you could shut off the magnet that draws people here for work, then we could find those few that are coming here to do very bad things. And so we’re going to have to do all three things – build the fence, patrol it adequately with the right number of personnel, and finally, turn of the magnet that draw people here illegally.
HH: I want to talk about Operation Gun Runner, or called Fast & Furious by some, Governor Romney. If you are the president, you’ll have a Department of Justice that is compromised by this. Will you direct your attorney general to follow the leads wherever they go, regardless of where they take him?
MR: Well, of course. And in this case, you have an attorney general who has not been forthright with the American Congress. He has disappointed on a number of fronts. And in my view, he should be replaced. I find him to be inadequate to the job, and in this respect, he has not demonstrated the kind of transparency and forthrightness that we would expect of an attorney general. I think he should resign in shame, or he should be replaced.
HH: Now Governor, more generally, you ran the Olympics. You took it over when it was in a state of chaos. And you had a thousand different things going on. I’ve told people about the number of events and countries and athletes. Is running a campaign more or less complicated than running the Olympics?
MR: Well, they’re very similar. The experience of leadership is one which translates pretty well from sector to sector, from the private sector to the volunteer sector like the Olympics, actually even to government. I mean, I had the chance to help lead the state of Massachusetts. There are a number of characteristics that do pertain. Number one, you have to build a terrific team of people, and know how to pull that kind of team together. Number two, you have to have good judgment. And my judgment has developed over the years, and that judgment, I think, you have to be able to apply to the challenges that arise that you never would have expected. Number three, you have to have a vision. And my vision for America is one of strength and preservation of the values that made us the nation we are, which is our commitment to life, our commitment to liberty, and our commitment to allowing people to pursue happiness in the way they choose. So I find the campaign a little bit of an unusual organization, but my team is working well. And if I just do a good job myself, why, I think they’ll be pleased with where we end up.
HH: Let’s conclude by talking about foreign affairs, Governor. The massacres in Syria are growing, and there are lots of reports that Israel is inching, or actually moving rapidly toward striking at Iran’s nuclear capacity before it becomes operational. Is the United States leading in the way you want it to lead right now? And if not, what would you do differently at president?
MR: Well, this President has been characterized by a member of his administration as leading from behind, and I think the word behind is the most appropriate one here, where the United States is not in the lead. We should have been first and foremost calling for Assad’s removal from Syria. We should have been working with Turkey and Saudi Arabia in their effort to remove Assad. We should have been working with the Alawites in Syria, to convince them that they should give up on Assad, that they would have a future in Syria under new leadership. Syria moving into a majority view as opposed to the Assad/Alawite leadership would be a huge blow to Iran. It’s very important to us, and we should have led here as opposed to dragging our feet. With regards to Iran, the President failed to put in place crippling sanctions. He failed to speak out for the voices of dissent that took to the streets against Ahmadinejad. And of course, he’s failed to put together a credible case for military action. And only if the Iranians feel that a military action is imminent, or likely, are they going to be willing to step away from their nuclear ambition. So the President is failing on front after front around the world in part because of his lack of leadership experience. He never led anything until he got to the White House, and this learning on the job is not serving us well.
HH: If Israel is forced to act, Governor Romney, last question, what do you expect President Obama to do? And will you urge him to provide all necessary assistance to Israel?
MR: Well, I hope Israel has enough confidence in America to pre-wire what their intent would be, and for us to be able to move resources and assets to the region such that we could protect Israel, that we could provide them with the equipment they need to protect themselves, and such that we could prevent the Straits of Hormuz from being blocked, or from any other kind of untoward action being applied towards our friend in the region. I don’t know whether Israel is going to move in that direction, but Israel is our ally. We share values. Iran is the world’s sponsor of terror around the world. And we have to stand with our friends and push away at those like Ahmadinejad and the world’s worst actors.
HH: Governor Mitt Romney, thank you for your time, good luck tonight.
MR: Thanks, Hugh, good to be with you.
End of interview.
Bishop Olmsted transcript:
HH: So pleased to welcome to the program Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix. Bishop, welcome, I’m really honored that you would join us today.
TO: Thank you, Hugh, good to be with you.
HH: Your letter to all of the people of the Phoenix Diocese I read on the air, and I posted it. In it, you say we cannot, we will not comply with this unjust law. What does that mean, Bishop Olmsted?
TO: Well, we have to, just because of our own dignity as a human person, and our integrity as a believer, we have to, our faith means something. And if it means something, then it’s connected with our deepest convictions, connected with our commitments. And our commitment is to serve the Lord our God with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul. And so to act against our conscience, what we think is right or wrong, would be to deny something very central to who we are as a human person.
HH: But when you say we will not comply, does that mean that you would get out of all of the institutions that currently operate Catholic Charities, the schools, any Catholic college or institution under your authority? Or does it mean that you would simply refuse to comply, and you would pay whatever fines, or not pay whatever fines were levied against you?
TO: I think that those decisions, we’ll have to make as we get nearer to the time and look at it. Certainly, paying the fines, I can’t imagine how that could last very long, because we have a lot of institutions. But they serve those who need to be educated, those who are poor, those who are elderly, Native American populations, etc. So we couldn’t possibly sustain the fines for a very long time. So I hope we don’t reach that stage where we have to make some very concrete situations. But personally, in terms of our deciding whether or not we will pay for these things as individuals, I think that’s something we can each make and need to make. And then, as a sense of organizations wherever we’re obliged, I would hope that we would stay strong and not comply with this.
HH: Now Bishop, I don’t want to, I’m not asking you a gotcha question. But it’s really the central question. Right now, just on this program, Mitt Romney said he would revoke this on the first day as president. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have said the same thing. So you have the three leading Republicans saying they would end this regulation, and you have President Obama who called Archbishop Dolan and said it’s coming. It’s a clear divide. Will you have to consider the question, I’m not asking you to answer it, but will you have to consider the question on how, on instructing Catholics of good conscience how they ought to vote in the presidential election if this situation doesn’t change?
TO: Well, we Catholic bishops have been trying to do that with every single election, to help our people to vote according to the principles that we believe. We usually talk precisely about those things which are always wrong, always evil. Those are ones in which we really cannot compromise on. And then others, where it’s a question of prudential judgment, whether what’s there or not, these issues are really very basic issues. So these will certainly be principles we will be lifting up for our people as they make very serious decisions of voting.
HH: Can you imagine yourself coming to the point where a letter is read in the Diocese of Phoenix that says a Catholic in good conscience may not vote for President Obama? I’m not asking you answer that question, but do you think you’ll have to consider that level of specificity if this impasse continues?
TO: I would be very surprised that we would ever mention by name. Our usual way of acting is not ad hominem, not directed to particular persons, but as directed to the principles that we need to lift up, which obviously have to do with presentations that politicians are making and others. So people can make their own application from those.
HH: But am I correct, Bishop? Is it your understanding that the President did call Cardinal-designate Dolan and explain his decision to him?
TO: I don’t know if that happened or not. I know there was a conversation back, I think it was in November between Archbishop Dolan then, now Cardinal-elect Dolan, and the President. And at that time, I don’t think he had the impression that this was the direction that things were going to go.
HH: Were you surprised by this decision?
TO: I was surprised by the decision. I don’t understand why we would step away from the 1st Amendment, which is religious freedom. Religious freedom is the first freedom. We were created by God in the image of God, so our relationship with Him is the first freedom that we have. He’s the one who gives us freedom. And so if we violate that first freedom, it’s the first one in our bill of rights, it’s the first one that’s recognized in the United Nations. It just makes sense that it’s the first freedom. So it doesn’t make sense that to me, why the administration would want to take such a drastic act contrary to our human dignity and to our freedom.
HH: I agree with that, Bishop Olmsted, which brings me back around to the question of every coming up against the hard choice to advocate a candidacy by name. But I don’t think unless the bishops say it clearly that the interest groups in the Democratic Party will hear you. To avoid the impasse, they have to know what this means to Catholics. Do you think they get it, that this just cannot stand?
TO: I think it’s very encouraging that we hear statements made by a number of Catholics of all different political persuasions. A number of editorials have come out by people from various political persuasions as well, have seen this as really a major departure from recognition of a right that all of us need to have protected.
HH: Have you heard from the Vatican on this, yet, to your knowledge, Bishop Olmsted?
TO: Well, every…this is the year when bishops go to visit with the Pope. About every five to seven years, all the bishops of the world go to visit with the Pope. And there was a group of bishops from the United States who were there in January. And at that time, there was a statement made by Pope Benedict. I could read part of it for you, if you’d be interested.
TO: What Pope Benedict says is of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms – the freedom of religion. Many of you, he says, have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoke to me of a roaring tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship, without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience. So he addressed it very directly, speaking precisely about religious freedom, and lifting up what we have seen, sadly, that’s happened with the administration, especially with Hillary Clinton, when they tried to reduce freedom of religion to reach freedom of worship. And that’s a very narrow category. That’s not at all what we’re talking about.
HH: No, it’s not. Last question, Bishop. Could you personally, as Thomas Olmsted, Bishop Olmsted, could you vote for someone who stood behind this policy?
TO: I could not vote for someone who’s in favor of any intrinsically evil thing.
HH: And this policy is intrinsically evil?
TO: Well, this policy means that we are forced to subsidize things that are intrinsically evil.
HH: Bishop Olmsted, thank you so much for joining me from the Archdiocese of Phoenix. I appreciate your time so much.
End of interview.