Mitt Romney reacts to the GOP debate last night.
HH: We begin today with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, fresh from the debate scene. Governor, always a pleasure, thanks for joining us on the day after.
MR: Thank you, Hugh, it’s good to be with you.
HH: I want to start on a somber note. I noticed in the press yesterday that a former aide of yours, Army 1st Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich was killed in Iraq this week. I know you were close, and I’m sure that just is a very difficult thing to deal with.
MR: It is another trauma. There’s no question it brings home the extraordinarily high price of freedom in this country. I’ve probably attended forty funerals of servicemen in my state, no servicewomen yet, thank Heavens, but servicemen in my state, and the wives left behind, the parents, it just reminds us that this great bounty which we enjoy here comes at a high cost.
HH: Governor, was Andrew…he could have avoided this. I mean, he was a great, obviously…fine on your staff, and very ambitious politically. What motivated him, do you know?
MR: Yes, I do. It’s really an unusual story, because his father is a professor, and is very much against the war, and is a veteran. And Andrew had been working in my office. He was in the policy shop of my office on the governor’s staff, and he just decided that he felt there was a great need to stand up for America, that he wanted to volunteer, and to sign up in the military, so he went down and signed up. It’s tragic that his life was lost. As you can imagine…and the fact that he became involved not out of, you know, just a career motivation, which is fine. But that he got involved because he wanted to serve his country makes the shedding of his blood that much more poignant.
HH: Well, our prayers go out to his family, as I’m sure you join us in doing that. Now Governor, I have to shift to the debate, because that’s the topic of the moment. There was a tense exchange between you and Senator McCain last night. You made policy discussion a centerpiece. He struck back at you in sort of a personal level. Did you mind that?
MR: Well, I was a little surprised at the nature of his response, but you are right. My comment was entirely focused on a couple of policy differences, and that is the Senator obviously is very consistent in his support of McCain-Kennedy and McCain-Feingold. But in my view, he’s consistently wrong. Consistency that’s wrong is not something I’m going to applaud. I think we’ve seen that McCain-Feingold has been a disaster. It’s been terrible for our party, it’s been terrible for money in politics, and it’s been terrible for the 1st Amendment. So it was a bad piece of legislation, the President shouldn’t have signed it, and I think he was wrong on that, and I think McCain-Kennedy takes us in the same direction, which is something that sounds good to a number in the media, but which upon implementation ends up doing more harm than good. And that’s what I saw as being wrong with both bills.
HH: Now Governor Romney, I want to focus on McCain-Feingold first, and then we’ll come to the immigration issue. It seems to me if there’s one thing that 95% of the Republican base agrees on, it’s that George Soros is bad for the country, the way he uses his money, and that it’s anathema to insulate incumbents from criticism 60 days before an election. Nevertheless, Senator McCain is proud of McCain-Feingold. Are you aware of any other of the candidates, and I mean even down to the fringe, Ron Paul, that support McCain-Feingold?
MR: You know, I do understand that one of the potential candidates, Fred Thompson, may have been a co-sponsor, but I don’t know whether that’s the case or not, but may have been a supporter once upon a time. But of those that are currently in the race, I haven’t heard anyone defend McCain-Feingold. I don’t want to misrepresent anyone’s record, so you’ve got to check on that. But I just think it’s so patently been an attack on the 1st Amendment, and secondly, it’s impact on my party is really something, because prior to McCain-Feingold, the Republican Party typically was competitive with the Democratic Party, despite the big union money. Usually, we had a slight lead. Now, following the passage of McCain-Feingold, the Democratic Party and their like-minded 527’s, have outraised us. The swing has been some $300 million dollars in funding, from Republican advantage to Republican disadvantage. So it’s been just a terrible piece of legislation.
HH: In responding to you, Senator McCain also made a statement that I objected to, which is that money has corrupted the Republican Party. Now I know we’ve got some bad actors who took payoffs and perks, but that wasn’t campaign finance. I don’t think our party is corrupted by campaign contributions, do you?
MR: Well, I sure don’t. I do know that there are some people who are corrupted by money. That will always be the case. But as I recall, the most prominent cases of corruption that have come out lately came out after McCain-Feingold, not before. And the point is real clear, which is McCain-Feingold talks about trying to remove the influence of money from politics, but it has gotten worse, not better. There’s more money going into politics, not less. And the unfortunate difference, in my view, among the differences, is that instead of the money going to candidates and parties that you can hold responsible for what they do, it’s going into these independent committees in great numbers, the George Soros type committees, 527’s, so to speak, and that they’re able to do their dirty work with the candidate able to stand aside and say hey, it’s not my committee. So this is a very unfortunate trajectory in the financing of campaigns.
HH: Now let’s switch to a little bit of the theater last night, and it was not contrived when Mayor Giuliani lashed out at Ron Paul. But as I looked at the wide shot, it seemed to me that you and Sam Brownback also wanted to say something in response to Ron Paul, and I wonder if these debates have to get down to the big three or maybe four very quickly, Governor, if they’re going to do us any good.
MR: Well, you know, I think the biggest challenge is that each one of us wants to take a little longer to answer the question.
MR: Because sometimes the questioner will start off with a wind-up in their question that has three or four things that are not accurate, and then he’ll ask a question, and there’s really not time to go through the inaccuracies and answer the question, so you sort of say okay, well, I’m going to take a piece of that. When someone asks you, for instance, what you do to combat the jihadists, or what you’re going to do in Iraq or Iran, answering in 60 seconds is a challenge. And I’ve tried to develop that skill, but I do look forward to a time when, well, hopefully, I’m one of the survivors on the stage, and that we all get a chance to spend a few minutes talking about these very important topics.
HH: And I’m also getting a little d