HH: Joined now by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Governor, welcome back, always a pleasure to talk to you.
MR: Thank you, Hugh, good to be with you.
HH: Governor, after the debate today, and Frank Luntz’ focus group says you won it, Mike Huckabee went on CNN with Wolf Blitzer and said that after the debate, he apologized to you for the comments in the New York Times magazine this Sunday. What did the Governor say to you, and what’s your reaction to it?
MR: Well, he apologized sincerely, and I of course accepted and welcomed his apology. You know, Mike is a good guy. He’s doing his best. And you know, I think it’s totally appropriate for candidates to point out the differences they have on issues, and to point out the differences in our records. But I think bringing someone’s religion into a political context is simply beyond the bounds of what Americans expect, and I don’t think that’ll work, and I appreciate his apology.
HH: All right, now I was watching the debate on Jet Blue, crossing from West to East today. And the only time I didn’t hear anything, I was able to watch the Luntz People Meter, was when you were talking about education. As I just discussed with Frank, you went off the charts there. What is it that you said about education?
MR: Well, you know, we’ve been pretty proud of our education system in our state. We basically have applied, in my view, Republican principles. We said look, we’re going to have school choice, so we built more charter schools, we said that we’re going to teach kids in English, because to be successful in America, you’ve got to speak the language of America. We have high standards, we test our kids, and the kids who score in the top 25% of the test in their senior year, those we give a four year tuition free scholarship to institutes of higher learning. And our kids now score number one in the nation on the nationwide exams. Actually, all four measures of the nationwide exam. So Republican principles of school choice and high standards and teaching in English are making a difference.
HH: Now one part of the debate that I also was happy with was with Senator Thompson saying no show of hands today, and you agreed with him on that. But the question was important, and I’d like to hear, what do you think about global warming, and what is the American role in addressing that issue?
MR: Well, I think most people who look at what’s happening in the world are convinced that we’re seeing a warming of the planet. And I think most people think as well that our activity contributes to that. I think a lot of us are uncertain as to how much our activity is the source of that, but there’s no question we’d like to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. That can only help. And there are things we can do as a nation unilaterally, and that would be taking the tack to actually become energy independent. It will allow us to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gases. So nuclear power, liquefied coal, where you sequester the CO2, renewable resources, plus much greater efficiency in our cars, our homes, our appliance, that’ll get us energy independent, reduce our greenhouse gases. But I do not believe that we want to place a new huge tax on America, particularly if other nations are not going to be abiding by an effort to reduce greenhouse gases. They call it global warming. They do not call it America warming. And we need China and Brazil and Indonesia to participate as well.
HH: All right, Governor, you’ve got a date with Tim Russert on Sunday. He worked over Rudy Giuliani pretty hard. Rudy swung back and did well. What’s your game plan for a Meet the Press, which is really Meet the Cuomo Aide?
MR: Well, I’m going to be wearing my hockey pads on Sunday, making sure that all of my vital organs are protected with fiberglass (laughing). Tim’s a pretty tough interviewer, and I’m sure he’ll pull out old tapes and old questions and comments, and I’ll just have to parry them one by one and set him straight. And hopefully, be able to explain why it is that this is an important time for somebody who has the kind of background and skills that I have to lead the country.
HH: Now today’s debate moderator wouldn’t talk about Iraq or the NIE, et cetera, but I’ll bet you Russert does the most. What about the NIE on Iran, Governor Romney? And do you believe that there is an attempt to politicize intelligence by some within the intelligence community?
MR: You know, it’s hard to know just how or why the NIE was written the way it was. But frankly, if you read the entire non-classified portion, it makes it very clear that you have 16 different intelligence agencies that have concluded that Iran is creating the nuclear fuel that they need, number one, and number two, that they could have a bomb within, or by 2009 or 2010, so certainly within the next president’s first term, so that the threat to the world of a nuclear Iran is very much underscored in the NIE. And therefore, without spending a lot of time focusing on one sentence or the other, the conclusion of this report suggests that this is a rogue nation, and that we have to take action to make sure they do not develop that nuclear technology.
HH: Last question, Governor, how much time between now and January 3rd are you spending in Iowa?
MR: I’ll be spending a lot of time in Iowa, a lot of time in New Hampshire, some in Nevada. You know, I’m one of the few guys who’s participating in all these early primaries, not just one or two, and particularly these very early primaries. And as a result, I have to be on the road a good deal. But I am planning on spending Christmas with my family at home, and there are some things that are sacred.
HH: Merry Christmas to you, Governor, and thanks for joining us tonight.
End of interview.