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Mitt Romney on moving the 2014 Olympics and electoral prospects

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

HH: We begin the show, though, today, with former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, rumored by many to be on the shortest of lists. I’m not even going to bother asking you, Governor, because you wouldn’t tell me if you knew. But I do want to ask you about the Olympics and your experience there, in terms of whether or not the Russians ought to get the Olympics in 2014 after what they’ve done in Georgia.

MR: Well, Hugh, my own view is as the Caucuses are a hot spot, and as Russians have shown their willingness to act militarily against a sovereign nation, that the International Olympic Committee ought to revisit locating the Games elsewhere. I just don’t think you want to have the Games in a place that could be so close to a place of military conflict. And so I think the IOC should reevaluate that. Now I don’t think that we should boycott the Games. That puts the burden on our athletes. But I do think that before the Games occur, we ought to think about what’s the right location.

HH: You know, that’s exactly where I have come down, Governor, because I have read about the boycotts before, and it really punishes these young men and women who are such superstars. By the way, did you have a good time in Beijing?

MR: You know, the Games there were really exciting. I loved being there, and watching our athletes. They’re always inspiring. It’s interesting, though, to be in a country as large and prosperous as China is, but to see a country that has no Bill of Rights or anything like it. I mean, there’s no freedom of the press, there’s no freedom of religion, no freedom of assembly. You know, Christine in USA Today wrote an article saying a group of Chinese citizens gathered to watch a TV in a public place that was showing the Olympics, and the police came and disbursed them, because they didn’t want large groups assembling. They were afraid of anti-government demonstrations. It’s a, you know, it’s a very different setting. You just don’t appreciate what it’s like to have a Bill of Rights.

HH: I also appreciate watching at night, they’re using a lot of power, Governor. We’ve got to get busy on this, because they’re going to get all the oil if we don’t go get it.

MR: Well, there’s no question but that they recognize that to have the strongest economy in the world, you’ve got to have the energy that powers an economy. And they’re grabbing it up around the world, and we’re sitting here with Barack Obama and extreme environmentalists saying oh, let’s not develop even our own resources. China’s coming over off the coast of Florida and drilling for oil there, in waters that we haven’t been willing to drill in. So we’re going to have to get serious about becoming energy dependent ourselves, as John McCain would do.

HH: Now Governor, let’s talk a little politics. You are, of course, a son of Michigan, your father the Governor there, your mother a much beloved figure there, your brother in politics there. A lot of people say Michigan cannot be won by the Republican ticket, McCain-whoever. Can Michigan end up red at the end of the November election?

MR: No question about it. Michigan has seen what happens under the leadership of a liberal Democrat. Jennifer Granholm is a lovely person, much like Barack Obama. She’s well spoken and attractive, but under her leadership, things have gotten a lot worse, not better. And I think Michiganders recognize that you need to have somebody who is able to draw on years of experience, and bring the judgment that’s necessary to strengthen our economy and strengthen our interests around the world.

HH: Did you happen to have a chance to watch the forum at Saddleback Valley Community Church moderated by Rick Warren?

MR: I sure did. I think the winners in that were John McCain and Rick Warren.

HH: And what was it that struck you the most about Senator McCain’s persona there? I thought he was more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him.

MR: Yeah, you know, if I were giving him advice for his debates, I’d say you know what? Adopt the same posture and tone that you had in the Rick Warren conversation, because it was really that. It was a conversation. And as you know, debates take on a different flavor, because you’re typically standing, and it’s more of a speechifying kind of setting. And if John McCain just talks to people from his heart as he did with Rick Warren, I think he wins these debates.

HH: Barack Obama hedged and fudged on the abortion question. He was asked if he’d ever voted to restrict abortion in any way, and he didn’t answer the question, because he can’t. He’s never ever voted for any restriction on abortion, making him the most radical abortion candidate in modern American history. Is that going to be an issue, Governor Romney, in the fall?

MR: You know, I know a lot of people in this country are pro-choice, and I respect that view. But Barack Obama is way beyond pro-choice. And in the state of Illinois, a bill was brought up to say look, if there’s a botched abortion, and if the child is actually born alive, will you agree that this child should not be killed? And he voted no to that. So Barack Obama is so far beyond where the American people are comfortable that I think it could become an issue for him.

HH: He also had to fudge when he was asked about the time he worked against his own or his party’s interest. He invented some bipartisanship there with John McCain which has been exposed. You actually, today, there’s a report coming out of Massachusetts about one of your bipartisan achievements when you were Governor, which is the health reform in the state of Massachusetts. How’s that working out?

MR: Well, you know, I think it’s working pretty well. I like the structure of what we put together, which basically says look, we’re going to get everybody who can afford to buy insurance, we’re going to tell them buy insurance or pay your own way. No more showing up and getting free care at the hospital. You know, if you will, it’s kind of bringing personal responsibility to health care. And so I like how it’s going. We just saw the latest report. We’ve got some 430,000 people who are now insured that weren’t insured before, and the amount of free care that’s being given out at hospitals has shrunk, I think, by some 40%. So it’s working. It’s more expensive than I’d like it to be, and I think that’s because the Democratic legislature and governor have chosen to give away far more benefits and far more subsidy that what I would have chosen.

HH: Now Governor Romney, you’ve obviously been a surrogate for John McCain out there in these past many months. And so you’ve been talking to a lot of people. Are you an optimist about this race?

MR: You know, I am. I have to admit that several months ago, it looked like a pretty big tidal wave was going for Barack Obama. I mean, virtually every other week, Newsweek Magazine or Time had Barack on the cover, and I mean, it was a frenzy in favor of Barack Obama. And I wondered how can John McCain stand up to it? But you know, over the last several months, he’s done a pretty darned good job of exposing the fact that Barack Obama is a work in progress, that he doesn’t have the life experience to have the kind of judgment you need to strengthen the economy, or to defend our national interests abroad. And I think as people take a closer and closer look, you know, you’re going to find John McCain winning this thing in the final analysis.

HH: After the break, I’m going to play some excerpts of Barack Obama’s speech at the Veterans of Foreign War today. A lot of it has been already described as whining, and he particularly said he’s tired of people attacking his patriotism. I have not heard a single mainstream commentator or public official attack Barack Obama’s patriotism. Have you, Governor Romney?

MR: Well, I certainly wouldn’t attack his patriotism. I’m convinced that Barack Obama cares for our country. I just think that our country would be better served letting him stay in the Senate for another decade or two, and develop the kind of life experience that might prepare him in the future to be a candidate for president. I just think it’s way too early. I mean, the man has served in the U.S. Senate for three years. Two of those years, he’s been running for president. So it means he’s had about a year of national experience. And that’s just not enough to lead the greatest nation on Earth.

HH: I just haven’t heard those attacks, either, and I would love for him to be specific sometime about that, because it just doesn’t exist. Let’s conclude by talking about the economy, Governor. Obviously, you had a long record of success in the private sector. These are tough times, especially in the financial industry which you know pretty well. Are we at the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end of the financial crisis?

MR: Yeah, too hard to predict when this thing is going to turn, but it hasn’t turned yet. There are more tough times ahead. In part, the world and the markets here are looking for leadership from our next president, and they want to know which direction he’s going to head. I think if it’s Barack Obama, you’d see a troubled economy for some time. I think if it was John McCain, that among other things, keeping taxes down, continuing to promote trade around the world, and doing what’s necessary to get us off of foreign energy, that kind of a strategy augers awfully well for building our economy.

HH: Are you worried that the terrorists are going to try and exploit the election season, Governor? They’ve done it in Spain, they’ve done it in other places. Or are they going to sit back and sit this one out? Or do they just lack the capacity to hurt us?

MR: I hope they lack the capacity to hurt us. I don’t know if they do or they don’t. I hope they recognize as well that it would be hard to predict what the impact of an action by them might be. I frankly believe that the American people are not intimidated by acts perpetrated by people outside this country. And any effort to push our election one way or the other would be ignored by the people of this country.

HH: All right, now I’m going to ask the obligatory question. What do you need to tell us about the Vice Presidential selection, if anything?

MR: Yeah, nothing at all. I’ve got nothing on that front, but you know, John McCain has kept his own council, from what I can tell. I think he’s going to go with his personal instincts. They have served him well in the past. And you know, I’m expecting to campaign for the ticket, but not to be part of it.

HH: And Governor, will we see you up there in Minneapolis/St. Paul?

MR: I will be there. Look forward to seeing you, Hugh.

HH: Great. Thank you. Governor Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, always a pleasure to catch up with him.

End of interview.

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