Taped an interview with Mitt Romney about the new edition his book No Apolgy: Believe in America that will air shortly. The transcript will be posted below. Among other topics: If Romney runs he will compete in Iowa, and he is skeptical about the NBC-Politico debate that the hard left network and lurching left website have announced will be held on May 2. (I discussed that debate diktat on Fox & Friends with Steve Doocy this morning.)
HH: Pleased to welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. Governor, welcome back, good to have you on.
MR: Thank you, Hugh. It’s good to be with you again.
HH: The release of the paperback edition of No Apology: Believe In America has had you out on the media hustings quite a lot. I saw you on Piers, I saw you on Letterman, et cetera. It’s sort of like the introduction of a presidential campaign. Do you have a decision timeline for making your decision on that?
MR: You know, it’s no immediate time. We’re huddling as a family and giving it some thought. But you know, the one thing I learned from the last campaign I ran is that we got in too early. The American people are just getting over the election of November of 2010. We’re looking to see what the Republican leadership in the House will do, and how the President will change his direction. And the idea of starting off a campaign right now, it’s just too early. So we’re thinking about sometime down the road, and when the time comes, we’ll make sure you’re among the very first to know, if not the first, Hugh.
HH: All right, a couple of political questions, and then I want to turn to the book, No Apology, and I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com. The National Journal’s got a story out that if you run, you’re going to skip Iowa because John Thune’s from South Dakota, Tim Pawlenty’s from Minnesota, they’re neighbors, and you know, you didn’t win last time, so there’s no upside. Even if you finish third or fourth, you’ll get blasted. What’s your response? If you run, will you be competing for votes in Iowa?
MR: Well, if I decide to run, I’ll be planning on running nationwide. And certainly, the early states will be places where we concentrate most of our attention. So it’s nice for people who are from the outside of a campaign to offer their suggestions. But frankly, if I get in this, I’m not going to be doing so much of a political calculus as I am a calculus of what message needs to be heard by the American people, and how can I deliver it best. And that would surely take me to Iowa as well as the other early states, and probably, ultimately, quite a few of our states.
HH: NBC and Politico are pushing for a May 2nd debate. I was on Fox and Friends this morning denouncing the idea. Have you accepted that invitation yet, Governor?
MR: No, I have not. I think it’s kind of curious that before, I think, anybody had announced their candidacy for the White House, or for our nomination for the presidency, that various networks are announcing their debates. I don’t know if there will be anybody announced by that time, or at least anybody that you think of as being among the leading contenders. But I don’t know what the time is of our own decision process. But that seems kind of early, and I think it’s a curious approach.
HH: Now let’s get to the book, No Apology: Believe In America, just came out in paperback. On Page 11 of the new edition, you write, “We need a U-turn from the policies of the past few years.” It seems to me that’s what the elections of 2010 voted for. Have you seen any signs of a U-turn coming from President Obama?
MR: Well you know, as I listened to his State of the Union address, and I listened to the first several minutes of it, I thought wow, this is a dramatic change in course for the President. He said the kinds of things, frankly, that I had said at CPAC last year, that America’s economy is driven by innovation, that we need to make America the most business-friendly place on the planet, the most entrepreneurial and small business-friendly place around. And so he was saying all those things, and then as we went on, I realized he may say those things, but he just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know what he has to do to make those things happen. And in fact, the very things he proposed in the same speech continue on the same path he’s been on before, which is protect government, grow government’s intrusion into the lives of our people, have government try and direct the economy and enterprise, and that simply does not work. He know where he wants to go. He doesn’t know how to get there.
HH: Now drawing on your days in the private sector and the Olympics, and a little bit from your governor days, but more from the private sector experience and Olympic experience, the President’s whole first team has left him. They’ve all gone. What does that tell you? And does it alarm you that everyone who arrived in D.C. with him at the senior staff level has basically vamoosed?
MR: Well, what I don’t know is how many of them have gone so that they can become part of a campaign, and are getting ready to be politicians with him. You know, I was surprised that someone like Mr. Axelrod played such a prominent and close to the president role in the White House, being such a politically-oriented person. But you know, the fact that people have left, I think, is a little surprising, to be frank, so soon. You know, most people expect the management team to hang together for at least three or four years. In the case of President Bush, I think he had his chief of staff for all eight years of his term. I would expect more continuity. But I guess there are new faces in the White House, and that suggests some people are either tired of what they were doing, or don’t agree on the new course.
HH: Yeah, I think Andrew Card left after about six years, and was replaced by, oh, I can’t remember his name offhand, but coming back to that…
MR: Oh, yeah, by Bolton. He was replaced by Josh Bolton. That’s right.
HH: That’s right, that’s the guy. Now I also want to talk to you about the quote. You say, “My worst fears about the President have come true.” Which fears were those, Mitt Romney?
MR: Well, you know, when he was campaigning in the general election, he spoke to the hopes and aspirations of Americans, he spoke as somebody who represented the middle of the political spectrum, he spoke of working on a bipartisan basis. But as I watched him in the primaries before that, and as I have considered the people he associated with, I was concerned that he would take a far more liberal tack. And in fact, of course, that’s what he did. He came into office, instead of focusing on the economy, and the fact that millions of Americans were out of work, he pushed that aside and instead focused on a liberal agenda, including a takeover of health care, a cap and trade program, Card Check, a financial regulatory reform which will encompass tens of thousands of pages of new regulations. He put in place the liberal agenda that he had been pining for, and that of course has made it more difficult for Americans to get back to work.
HH: Now I’ve got to ask you about David Axelrod. You just mentioned him. He popped up on the radar a couple days ago, trying to make the argument that Obamacare is just the Massachusetts health care reform that you helped to pioneer in 2006. It seems to me like Team Obama really wants to hang an albatross on you, Governor Romney, which is Obamacare, as opposed to Massachusettscare. What was your reaction to that interview?
MR: (laughing) Well, I listened with interest, or read with interest. I can tell you this. I really wish they’d have paid more careful attention to what we did, and they would have recognized one very important thing, among others, and that was that our plan was a state plan, put together by Republicans and Democrats, for our state. It was not a plan that was suited for California, or for Texas, or frankly for any other state. It was designed for our state. And the idea of taking what was designed for one state, or any part of that, and applying it to everybody, may be a huge problem. And in this case, it is a problem. It violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, for the federal government to usurp the power of states in crafting their own plans, and putting in place Obamacare in the nation. I think you’re going to find more courts saying it’s unconstitutional, and I think you’re going to find the American people rejecting Obamacare.
HH: Now Governor Romney, in the introduction to No Apology, you quote a Massachusetts man, Massachusetts farmer Jonathan Smith, at the Massachusetts state’s ratification convention, the federal Constitution, saying, and I think this would warm the Tea Party’s heart, that he had read the proposed federal Constitution. He didn’t ask any lawyers about it, he said there were no lawyers in his town, and that was very good. I formed my own opinion, he said, and I was pleased with this Constitution. And you go on to write, “Like Farmer Smith, Americans today can read the Constitution and observe the painstaking care exercised by its framers to protect the powers of the states, and to preserve the freedoms of the citizens.” How much do you think this argument about the Constitution is going to matter in the next two year debate about where America is and where its headed?
MR: I think it matters a great deal, because I think if we believe as a nation that the right course is for the federal government to play a more and more intrusive role in the functioning of states, and in the functioning of business, and in the functioning of our families, then I think we’re going down a road to ruin. That is absolutely the wrong course. That’s where liberals would take us. What they have to recognize is that the power and the dynamism that came in our Constitution flowed from the idea that states would be laboratories of democracy, that individuals and businesses would be able to create jobs and innovate in their own ways, and the idea that the federal government can play the role of innovator-in-chief is simply wrong. We have to rely upon the Constitutional principle of federalism, and of course of individual responsibility, and personal freedom.
HH: You also mention in the introduction to No Apology that part of the 2008 economic crisis was government interference in the housing market. You called it a proximate cause in that collapse. Can you explain what you mean by that?
MR: Yeah, there’s no question but that one of the reasons that the housing market got so overheated was the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were guaranteeing loans when they recognized that the people who were taking out those loans couldn’t possibly repay them. They were, you know, I think we all heard of these interest-only mortgages, we heard of so-called liar loans, where people didn’t even have to provide documentation as to their income. And some of us thought well, that must be two or three percent of the mortgage market. In fact, it was as much as half of the mortgage market was not conforming mortgage loans. And as a result of this excessive lending, and guarantees by the federal government, which did not have to be made, that we had this housing boom, particularly in this sub-prime mortgage area, that obviously helped contribute to the great collapse. Now the government wasn’t solely responsible, but it certainly encouraged this development. It financed it with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And it could have blown the whistle. It could have said banks, you’ve got to stop doing this. The regulators could have said to Wall Street, hey, you can’t keep packaging this or leveraging yourself up so high. But they simply were asleep at the switch. Government played a major role in the financial crisis we’ve just had.
HH: And Governor Romney, we’re running low on time here, but I do want to get you to talk a little bit about the new crisis, which is the public finance crisis. We’ve got all this unfunded liability, we have states that are absolutely bankrupt. You spend a lot of time now in California, so you know how bankrupt California is, but it’s also Illinois and New Jersey. It’s going to be extraordinarily complex, the workout of the public finance and all of the government bonds. What’s your advice to the White House and the Congress right now about getting ahead of this?
MR: Well, the good news for each of the governments involved is that they don’t have to balance the budget in the coming six months or twelve months. What they do have to do is take legislative action that shows that their budget will be balanced within a reasonably short period of time, that they have dealt with their major structural problems like entitlements, or in the case of states, their retirement plans, to show hey, look, we’ve got a handle on this, we’ve dealt with it, we’ve solved it, and within a reasonable period of time, we’re going to be in balance. If they show the world that, then the people who loan us the trillions of dollars that we get will say okay, I’ll hang with you for a while here. But if we continue to show that we cannot deal with the structural problems we have, we cannot rein in our excesses, then at some point, someone’s going to say no more. And at that point, we could have true economic crisis.
HH: Last question, you mention Arthur Brooks in the introduction to No Apology, the great leader of the American Enterprise Institute, and his book, The Battle. In that, he says the nation is a 70/30 country, 70% center-right, 30% pretty liberal, even hard left. It seems to me that most of the mainstream media is in that 30%, and that none of them are rooting for you, or for most of the Republicans. How do you intend, if you do run, if people are correct in anticipating that you do, how are you going to battle against that headwind?
MR: You know, one of the great things about the change in the media world in the past decade or so is the emergence not only of talk radio, cable TV, but also the internet and Twitter, by virtue of the new modern technology, and the modern way of communicating, a lot of people are getting their news directly from the source. And they’re not having to have it filtered by either side of the issue, if you will. And that is a great thing. The fact, for instance, that the mainstream media was whole hog in favor of Obamacare, but the American people saw through it right away and said no way, that is a testament of the power of the new media. Talk TV, talk radio, cable TV, internet, Twitter, it’s a very positive development. And any Republican who decides to run for office better understand that, because that’s the way we win.
HH: Mitt Romney, congratulations on the issue of No Apology in paperback, look forward to talking to you after you make an announcement one way or the other on the presidential race.
MR: Thanks, Hugh, good to be with you.
HH: Thank you, Governor.
End of interview.