Mitt Romney responds to judicial nomination questions, and checks in from the campaign trail.
HH: Joined now by Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. Governor, welcome back, hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
MR: It was a great Thanksgiving. A little touch football and a lot of turkey.
HH: Excellent. Now Governor, a lot of ground to cover. There’s a controversy about Judge Tuttman, one of your appointees. Can you tell us how you came to appoint her, and your reaction to her decision to release the man who went out and murdered two young, wonderful people in Washington State?
MR: Yeah, as a matter of fact, I’ve appointed some sixty judges. And in each case, I wanted to find people who would be law and order judges and follow the law. This judge had served 17 years as a prosecutor, putting bad people away, and so I had every reason to believe that the judge would be a law and order judge. And ultimately, I believe she made a very bad decision. This is a person who had been in jail, he’d served his term, but was up for assault, and she let him go on personal recognizance, and he ended up killing someone. And in my view, she made a very bad judgment, and as a result, she should step down from the bench.
HH: Was it your choice entirely to put her on the bench? Or are you limited in the candidates brought to you?
MR: No, actually, there is a process, a judicial nominating council, which selects people and forwards them to me, and then I interview them. And if I want them, I nominate them, and then there is further a Governor’s Council made up of eight Democrats, elected, who decide yes or no on these people. But there’s no reason to think that this person would not be a law and order judge. And so I’m not embarrassed about this selection of her. I think she made a very bad choice.
HH: Okay, this judge issue, Mitt Romney, is it going to plague you in New Hampshire, is it going to hurt you in Iowa?
MR: You know, there’ll be an attempt by some to suggest that all of the judges that someone appoints or votes for are somehow, that their decisions are somehow your responsibility. I just don’t think that’s the case. If you select somebody who is a known liberal, and they do liberal things, why, that’s maybe a different matter. But you have people in the United States Senate that voted for Ruth Bader Ginsberg that would certainly not want to be responsible for all of her decisions. And I don’t think it rises to that kind of level. And frankly, it was Mayor Giuliani who tried to do that. And of all the people who might have raised a question of judgment on selecting someone, Mayor Giuliani was not the one to do it, given the fact that he nominated someone to be the secretary of Homeland Security, who he knew was under investigation, and who has since pled guilty to crimes, and is under federal indictment on sixteen other potential crimes.
HH: Should the Bernie Kerik…or when Rudy urged Bernie Kerik on President Bush, should that a be a concern about his judgment for other people? And will that raise a question about whether or not you’ll get Soutered if can’t pick judges in Massachusetts?
MR: You know, I didn’t make any comment about Bernie Kerik’s connection to Rudy Giuliani. I made no comment about Rudy Giuliani’s judgment in that regard. But when he came out and attacked me for a decision of a judge, that was a very different setting, and I responded that he was the last person I would have expected to make that kind of a statement. And I agree with Senator McCain on this, that it showed very bad judgment on Mayor Giuliani’s part to have somebody who had been implicated for political corruption being recommended to the President of the United States as the Secretary of Homeland Security.
HH: Here’s what Rudy had to say just earlier today on Fox News.
RG: I think Mitt has a record, he’s got to defend his own record, and I don’t think his record is going to be a record that he’s going to talk about very much. We talk about our record a lot, and we talk about the things I did in New York, and I want to do them for the rest of the country. And he kind of runs away from it. So there is a difference.
HH: Your response, Governor Romney?
MR: (laughing) Well, I talk about my record in my stump speech everywhere I go, and I’m very proud of it. I came into the state when we had a $3 billion dollar budget gap, and I worked together with people across the aisle, and we were able to close that gap in the first year. I balanced the budget every single year. And at the end of four years, I left a $2 billion dollar rainy day fund. Now compare that with Mayor Giuliani’s. He came in and faced a $1.5 billion dollar budget gap, but at the end of his tenure, he left a $3 billion dollar budget hole which the new mayor, Mayor Bloomberg, said was an economic mess, which he would not pass along to his successor. And by the way, the tax rate in Boston when I left office, was 5.3%. The tax rate in New York when the Mayor left office was over 10%. So I’m happy to talk about my record. I also put in place a health plan that gets every citizen insured. Those that didn’t have insurance now get free market insurance, and that’s the right course for America.
HH: You know, Mara Liasson said on Fox today that your health plan is the same as Hillary’s.
MR: Who said that?
HH: Mara Liasson said that on Fox News, Brit Hume’s Special Report today.
MR: Oh, you know, I don’t know her, but I can tell you this, which is I want to get everybody to get insurance. I don’t want people to worry about losing their insurance. But Hillary has a very different plan than mine. Hers cost $110 billion dollars more. Mine costs no more at all. Hers gives people government insurance. I instead help them get private free market insurance. And hers is a one size fits all plan, dictated from Washington. Mine, instead, says let’s let each state create their own plan that is consistent with getting people insured. So we have similar objectives, which is helping people to get inside the health care system, but we approach it in a very different way. Mine is a free market way, hers, government.
HH: Former Massachusetts GOP Chairman, Jim Rappaport, blasted you today when he endorsed Rudy, and called you untrustworthy, blah, blah, blah. What’s Jim Rappaport got against Mitt Romney?
MR: Well, Jim Rappaport wanted to be my lieutenant governor, and worked very hard in a campaign to become lieutenant governor, and I endorsed his opponent, and worked hard for his opponent, and that opponent became my lieutenant governor. Her name is Kerry Healey. She served very well, and Jim is obviously very bitter about that choice.
HH: The Annapolis Conference gets underway tomorrow, Governor Romney. And a lot of conservatives are skeptical that this is a good idea. What’s your assessment of it?
MR: Well, you know, I have very limited expectations from this conference. The President originally outlined a roadmap for peace in the Middle East, and in Israel. And the first phase of that was that the Palestinians would have security arrangements and governmental institutions which would allow them to make certain commitments that they could follow through on. And that has not happened. As a matter of fact, it’s gotten worse, not better. And so calling this conference at this stage, is of potentially very limited value. Of course, it’s fine for people to talk with one another, but because on the Palestinian side you really don’t have anybody who can make any commitments for which there could be follow through, you have to be very skeptical about the outcome.
HH: And Governor Romney, yesterday, the Times of London published a story about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, blasting the United States, heaping scorn on “the chosen nation myth of America,” meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity, and saying that we had lost the moral high ground since September 11th. One of the jobs of being president is to respond to attacks like this, especially when they come from quarters which are surprising, like the Archbishop of Canterbury. How do you respond to such a broadside from a Church leader like this?
MR: You know, it does point out that we’re very fortunate in our country not to have a state-sponsored religion…
MR: …because it would be a very difficult thing to have political leaders standing up and saying things of that nature if they were also religious leaders. And you know, I think you have to go through piece by piece, and say with him, he’s entitled to his opinion, but he’s certainly not speaking for God, and that this is a nation which has sacrificed more than any nation in the history of the Earth to preserve peace, and certainly has saved the bacon of people in Great Britain, and people in Europe generally, and the entire world doesn’t speak German today because of the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Americans. So it’s not a great place for him to be making that kind of comment, and today, we are one of the nations that’s taking the lead to keep the spread of violent, radical jihad from developing nuclear weaponry, and potentially threatening the existence of great civilizations.
HH: Governor Romney, fifteen seconds, the absentees start getting cast in New Hampshire on the 10th of December. Are you feeling good about the Granite State?
MR: You know, we’re making progress in the Granite State, and in Iowa. I’m pleased. It’s going to be a real battle, it’s going to be real close before this is finished.
HH: Mitt Romney, always a pleasure, catch up with you soon again.
End of interview.