Mitt Romney from the presidential campaign trail.
HH: I begin today with Governor Mitt Romney, former governor of the great state of Massachusetts. Governor, you’ve been in Texas this week. Good politicking down that way?
MR: Did very well in Texas. I was in Texas, and then headed up north to Michigan, and then have been in South Carolina, and right now, I’m in Alabama.
HH: That’s quite a schedule, Governor. Now I want to see if you’ve had the opportunity over the last two weeks to follow the debate over Iraq in the Senate and the House, and your reflections on those “debates.”
MR: Well, you know, there’s something that Senator Vandenberg of Michigan said long ago. He said politics should end at the water’s edge. While we’re dealing with America’s interests abroad, and the lives of our fighting men and women, we really have to put politics aside, and I wish I could see more of that being done out of Washington. It’s been so partisan, and there’s been so much posturing. I think most people recognize that we’re not going to turn and run away from the scenario there, because that would cause a potentially huge casualty to our interests in that region, and it could also put our friends at risk. At the same time, they recognize that as long as there is the reasonable probability of a pathway to success, and by success I mean a stable Iraq with a central government, then that’s a pathway that is in our interest to pursue. And at this point, that means bringing in additional troops, doing our best to secure Baghdad, and we’ll see within months if that’s working.
HH: Do you think that the Republican leadership in the Senate, Senator McConnell and others, managed to convey good messages or mixed messages over the course of those two weeks?
MR: Well, I haven’t watched the TV closely enough, because I’ve been traveling around the country to know how effectively we’ve been able to communicate. But by and large, the best communication from our party is going to come from the administration. And it’s going to be hard for people to understand what one Senator or another is going to say, but fortunately, I think the American people by and large recognize that there is a great interest on our part not to have that part of the world devolve into a regional conflagration where Iran and Saudi Arabia and others are somehow drawn into that conflict. And that’s the effort that’s trying to be prevented at this stage.
HH: Now you were in Israel a couple of weeks ago talking about Iran. Yesterday, the supreme leader of Iran issued a series of threats directed at the United States, backed up by some display of weaponry not before seen used by the Revolutionary Guard. That situation appears to be growing much more malevolent, much more dangerous as the weeks go by, Governor. Do you believe that our country is aware of the breadth of that threat?
MR: You know, our intelligence about what’s going on in Iran is of course somewhat limited. Our experience in Iraq tells us that we can’t rely 100% on our intelligence efforts in the Middle East. What we do know, of course, is that the leadership of Iran, and particularly Ahmadinejad himself, have threatened a genocidal approach to our friends there, the Israelis. They have threatened the world with the prospect of a nuclear bomb. And in this kind of setting, this is not a time for us to say let’s sit down and see what we can give them, and negotiate with them. Instead, this is a time for the people of Iran to recognize that their leadership is taking them down a very dangerous path, one that would lead to economic isolation, diplomatic isolation, and potentially becoming a member of the circle of suspects, meaning nations that could end up being suspects as a result of nuclear weaponry being used anywhere in the world. So this is a time for us putting the pressure on Iran, and just like we did on Apartheid South Africa. It’s not time to do what Hillary Clinton suggested doing, which suggested a level of timidity that’s quite troubling.
HH: Now to switch to domestic politics, you gave a speech in Detroit to the economic club there. You said make the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent, reform the tax code, and then you brought up tax free savings. What chance does that have, Governor, of getting through a Democratic Congress?
MR: Well, I actually think tax free savings, the way I described it, has a very good chance of getting through, as well as making the tax cuts permanent. You see, if we do not make the tax cuts permanent, there will be a huge increase in the tax rate for the American people. We’d lose the child care credit and a number of other features that have become a part of our system, and there’s just no way the American public’s going to sit still to see a massive tax increase. It would slow down our economy, it’s the exact wrong place to go. The savings plan which I proposed is quite simply this, and that is the American people shouldn’t have to pick and choose among all sorts of little government programs that tell you where you can save and what you can use your money for, and when you can take it out. Instead, you ought to be able to save a certain number, and I use this as an example, $5,000 dollars for a couple filing jointly. $5,000 dollars of dividends, interest and capital gains, and if you earn that amount or less in a year, you pay no tax on it. So you can save where you want, and you can use it when you want it, and you don’t have to pay taxes on your savings.
HH: All right. Again, I think…that’d be a great plan. I just can’t see Democrats going for that, but maybe you can get it through.
MR: Well, the reason I think it has prospects is that as long as the number is something like $5,000 dollars that people can save tax free, you know, it has such a positive impact on middle class Americans. This is not something that Bill Gates is going to get excited about, because his capital gains interest and dividends is probably a billion dollars a year. This is something where a couple that’s saving for kids going to college, or perhaps saving for an addition on their home, or a vacation they want to take, this is something for middle America. And I think the Democrats are going to have a hard time not providing the tax savings for middle America to be able to save their income the way they want to.
HH: Now Governor, in an era of global warming almost hysteria, you also took on CAF