HH: Yesterday, when I saw a picture of President Obama in close one-on-one conversation with just their interpreters with Vladimir Putin, I thought of the man who might have been there, had the American people thought otherwise three and a half years ago, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney, former Republican nominee, joins me now. Governor, welcome back, good to talk to you.
MR: Thank you, Hugh, it’s good to be with you today.
HH: You must have unusual thoughts when you recall the debate in which the President turned to you and said the 80s called and they want their foreign policy back.
MR: Well, it’s a sad commentary that the President’s been so ineffective. I find it troubling and revealing that the world around us is going to hell, and the President takes no responsibility. He and Hillary Clinton don’t admit to making any mistakes, and they tell us everything is under control. And frankly, they’re responsible for much of the mess we’re seeing in the world. And we’re looking for a different strategy, a different course.
HH: Let me play for you the two most frequently quoted comments from the President’s testy, long press conference yesterday with the White House press corps. The first one is where he goes after, apparently, Donald Trump, but it could have been Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or anybody. Here is that cut, number 13:
BO: What I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.
HH: What’s your reaction?
BO: Once again, you have a president not acknowledging that what he told us was wrong. He told us that ISIS was contained, and he was wrong. He initially told us that he didn’t have a strategy to deal with ISIS, then he tells us that he has a tactical approach. And his approach has not worked. And that’s apparently by virtue of the events not just in North Africa, but obviously in France, Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and around the world. And so what the American people want to see, and what Republican candidates are speaking about, and obviously different candidates in different ways, they’re saying look, we need a different approach. We need a comprehensive strategy. We need one which is collaborative with leaders in NATO, and one which has been thoroughly evaluated with pros and cons and alternatives. And we’re seeing that. And frankly, all of the confidence the President has been exuding about how we’re dealing with ISIS has been revealed for what it is, and that is highly ineffective.
HH: He had a second salvo aimed at Republicans, this one in regards to the widespread rejection of the idea of large-scale Syrian immigration at this point. Here’s what the President said.
BO: And when I hear folks say that well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person whose fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who’ve benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution? That’s shameful. That’s not American.
HH: Governor Romney, what do you think about that, that’s shameful, that’s not American to want to vet carefully people who would enter the country?
MR: Well, the President has a view that this is about religion, and it’s not about religion. ISIS and jihadists and radical violent Islamists are not objectionable to us because of religion. They’re objectionable, because they want to kill innocent people and tear down democratic institutions around the world. They want to level the world and replace it with a religious caliphate of their own. It is not a religion we object to. It is the distortion of that religion in the vision of Islamism. And America has to be smart. And we have to recognize that it is very difficult for us through an interview with a State Department bureaucrat to figure out if somebody is intent on bombing us or planning on attacking us in some way. And what we’ve seen in France is evidence that these people intend to infiltrate various Western nations, and to wreak havoc. And we have to be smart. The 1st Amendment, for instance, says we have a right to free speech. But that doesn’t mean you can yell fire in a movie theater. In the same way, we have a right to freedom of religion. But that doesn’t mean that someone who has taken a piece of Islam and distorted it as the Islamists have, is entitled to protection in the United States of America.
HH: Now Chris Christie was on the program yesterday, got in some hot water with some commentators, because I asked him what about five year old orphans, and he said look, right now, we’re just not ready for anybody. And he’s being represented as heartless and cold, etc. What he was saying is we don’t have a system in place. What do you think about the possibility of developing a system where orphans and small children are at least allowed in? It’s males 15-40 that we really have to worry about, and some unaccompanied females as well. But little infants and kids, is there some way to do a workaround here, Mitt Romney?
MR: Well, I have to be honest with you, Hugh, I’m not sure there’s a big demand for orphans being taken as refugees. If there is, why, that’s something worth looking at, obviously. I’m not worried about little children or orphans coming into the country. I think, I can’t speak for Chris, but I know rhetorically, I think what he and others are saying is hey, guys, let’s take a pause on bringing refugees into this country that are coming from places where Islamists, jihadists may have infiltrated that group. And that makes a lot of sense. But surely, if there’s a need for places for orphans to be received, you know, our nation can participate in that. But that’s, I don’t know that that’s a big requirement right now.
HH: Now Governor, I don’t believe you’ve been interviewed since former Secretary of State Clinton testified. In that testimony, it came out that on the night of the Benghazi attacks, she sent an email to Chelsea saying this is an al Qaeda-like group. In the days following the attacks, in communications with the Egyptian foreign minister and I believe the Libyan prime minister, he said this is nothing to do with the video, this is an al Qaeda-like group, confirming your point of view during the campaign. What was your reaction to that testimony? And do you believe that there was a concerted effort to lie to the American people at the time of the Benghazi attack because of the campaign?
MR: Well, I believe that both Secretary Clinton and President Obama have endeavored both during that time and in the years following to try and minimize the extent of the threat and the risk associated with violent Islamist groups. And that was true, I believe, with the attack in Benghazi, and it’s been true since then. We’ve, with the attacks of this week, we’ve seen once again that what the President said was contained was not at all contained. And what Susan Rice said about this attack in Benghazi being a possible result of a videotape, they knew darn well that was not the case, that this was an attack by a terrorist group. They have not been honest with us when it comes to the extent of the threats of these violent groups, and I think that they’ve tried to hide what’s really going on in part because they want to say that they’re doing a great job. Look, this is too many respects, it’s political. And frankly, I’ll say it again, the world has seen an extraordinary decline in peace and stability, and this has happened under the watch of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. And they take no responsibility for it, and they don’t admit to having made serious errors in judgment, which they have made. And they continue to tell us things are under control, and they’re not.
HH: As a lame duck, do you think President Obama is even more reckless than he was when he was facing reelection?
MR: You know, I can’t judge the degree of recklessness before and after. I just think that on the issue of foreign policy, and keeping America and America’s interests, and the interest of freedom secure and strong, the President’s been a disaster. I think he may go down in history as one of the very worst foreign policy presidents in American history. And the consequence of that is loss of life. The consequence of that is the loss of freedom. The consequence is an America that is not as strong to defend itself and to defend our values as it should be.
HH: Governor Romney, let me turn to Hillary Clinton, because I don’t know if you suffered through either or both of the Democratic debates. Did you watch either or both of them, Governor?
MR: Yes, I’ve had the lack of pleasure of doing that, yes.
HH: Does she own President Obama’s world? She was the architect. You ran against Obama-Clinton, in essence, in 2012. Does Mrs. Clinton own the responsibility for the world as it is right now?
MR: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama take responsibility for the decline in American interest, and the interest of freedom around the world. That, she was Secretary of State, he, president, at a time when bad things have happened in Ukraine, Russia, France, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, the South China Sea, Libya, major parts of North Africa. This has been a disastrous foreign policy, and it has Hillary Clinton’s picture on the top right hand side of the resume, and Barack Obama’s on the left.
HH: And do you believe the Republican candidates have been prosecuting that case aggressively enough and with enough clarity in the first three, four debates that they’ve held?
MR: Well, there’s so many Republican candidates that much of what they’re having to do is to distinguish themselves from one another. But I think as the process moves on, and as it narrows down in terms of number of candidates, they’ll be able to spend more time focusing on the disastrous record of Hillary Clinton. I sure hope that’s the case, and I think there’s plenty of material to go after Hillary Clinton on. You know, she basks in these Democratic debates where she doesn’t get attacked like she ought to, and when she finally faces a Republican, and by the way, perhaps a more skeptical media than it’s been in the past, she’s going to have a lot of explaining to do.
HH: And then Governor, last question, the obvious one, Southern California wants the Olympics. Anyone approached you, yet, about taking any role in that?
MR: No, they have not, other than the former mayor of San Diego asking me to help with regards to that bid. But it’s been awhile, and I sure hope L.A. gets the Olympics. I think it’s an extraordinary transformational event for the people that live in the region It brings people together and allows America to host the world. It’s a marvelous thing, and I’m delighted that L.A. has a good shot of getting that experience.
HH: Were you surprised that the Boston bid fell apart? You were the governor of Massachusetts for four years, and so you know the possibilities and the limitations of that city pretty well.
MR: The city has a real hard time with transportation, and the Big Dig, which people I’m sure have heard of, was so disruptive for I think over a decade that the people there just couldn’t countenance the idea of a major new construction projection taking years and years and years to complete. So it can’t come as a complete surprise that the people just said gosh, enough already, and I understand that.
HH: So if the phone rang, and on the other end was Governor Brown or Mayor Garcetti or any number of Californians, and they asked Mitt Romney to throw in on the Olympics Games, you’d be open to a draft?
MR: (laughing) I’d be open to help any way I could. I’m not going to take any job, full-time job in the Olympic effort, but if anyone ever calls and asks for advice, I’m happy to offer that advice, and certainly support the effort on the part of L.A. to win the Games.
HH: Governor Mitt Romney, always a pleasure, thanks for calling in, Governor.
MR: Thanks, Hugh, good to be with you.
End of interview.