HH: I’m pleased to welcome back Governor Mitt Romney. Governor, congratulations on your nomination by the GOP, and on a great speech last week.
MR: Well, thank you, Hugh. It was a great experience for me. Ann and I just loved it in Tampa.
HH: Now you went on Meet The Press yesterday, and some people are attempting to suggest you are backing away from your commitment to repeal Obamacare. What’s your position?
MR: Well, of course, I’m going to repeal Obamacare. I’ve said that on the campaign trail I think every single day. Obamacare must be repealed in its entirety. It’s bad policy, it’s bad law, and frankly, a two trillion dollar entitlement we don’t want, and we certainly can’t afford. I have my own health care plan, and it does not require Obamacare to make our health care system work better. Obamacare is a disaster, in my opinion, and has to be repealed entirely. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do some important things to improve our health care system, like, for instance, getting Medical malpractice reform, taking actions to lower the cost of health care. And of course, people shouldn’t be able to be dropped from their insurance if they get ill. These are all parts of the plan that I put out in Michigan, oh, a year, year and a half ago, describing my health care plan. So the Obamacare approach is the wrong way to go. We need to, instead of having government choice, we need consumer choice. And I’ll repeal Obamacare, and make sure we put in place the kinds of reforms that bring down the cost of health care, and make sure at the same time we return to the individual, and to their states, the responsibility for their care.
HH: Now Governor Romney, I want to switch to the headlines. President Obama is leading from behind again, this time in Chicago, where he is silent on a strike that has sent 350,000 kids away from the schoolroom. The teachers there have rejected a 16% pay hike over four years. What is your opinion of teachers striking in Chicago, and whether or not the president of the United States ought to weigh in on his hometown and his chief of staff-turned-mayor?
MR: Well, I think the President ought to stand up and say that we ought to put the kids first in this country, and the teachers union goes behind. Look, I think we’ve got to help the kids, help their parents, help the teachers, but the teachers’ union is opposed to many of the reforms in education that we know are critical to the success of our kids. Look, we have schools in this nation, I think of your state of California, I think it’s number 46 or something way towards the bottom in this country. And then America competing overseas for quality of education, we’re in the bottom third or bottom quartile in science and math. This is unacceptable. And we know that we’re going to have to raise our standards for our students. We need to make sure that teachers are rewarded for doing an excellent job. And we have to make sure that the teachers are also given an opportunity to be evaluated based upon the capabilities of their students. Look, we know what it takes to fix our schools, and this strike in Chicago is a setting where I think you need to stand up and say look, I’m with the kids, and I’m with their parents, and I’m not with the teachers’ union. We need to pick our side.
HH: Now Governor, if the President ever took questions, and he doesn’t take any more questions these days, he would say something like that’s a local issue, and it’s not for the president to get involved. How would you respond, anticipating that he’ll duck and filibuster on this, as he does so often?
MR: Well, you are right. He doesn’t take questions, or questions from people who ask really serious inquiry. And the answer is, the president does have an impact on the attitude of the nation. And I just happen to think that it’s critical for our kids to get the kind of education that will prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. And as president, I will stand up and say look, these teachers’ unions are not acting with the best interests of the kids in mind, and I think we should do that. And I’ve indicated in my education reform plan, by the way, Hugh, that all federal dollars, I will attach to the student, allowing the students to go to the school of their choice, as opposed to having the government tell them where they have to go to school.
HH: Now Governor Romney, last week in his acceptance speech, which was pretty flat in the eyes of most people, the President incredibly seemed to mock you over your concern over Russia. The President seemed to say that Russia was not a problem, and that it’s all Cold War thinking to worry about Vladimir Putin. I’m sure the Georgians disagree with that, but how was your reaction to that?
MR: Well, Russia is a geopolitical adversary, meaning that almost everything we try and do globally, they try and oppose. So we try and put pressure on Iran. They fought against crippling sanctions. We try and get tough language at the U.N. in action against the brutal brutality of Assad in Syria, and they instead send attack helicopters to Syria. I mean, Russia has been opposing us in political circles for some time. And I was appalled that the President said to Medvedev that just wail until after the election when I have more flexibility. How is it that he has flexibility with Russia he won’t tell the American people about? My own view is that Russia has a very different agenda than ours, and that we ought to recognize that, and that we should pursue our interests, but recognize Russia has having a different course ahead.
HH: Now Governor Romney as well, the President’s leading from behind on the sequestration. I know this is part of your ads that have rolled out in all the battleground states, but just for the national audience, what ought the President to be doing before these devastating cuts to our military occurs?
MR: Well, he ought to stop the sequestration process and put in place a status quo for six months to twelve months, where he would say look, we’re going to keep the tax rates and the budgetary items intact until the new president gets sworn in. If it happened to be Barack Obama, why, he could do what he thinks he wants to do. If it happens to be me, as I plan on it being, why, I will have a very different course than he would take. But to have the draconian cuts to our military go into effect on January 1st is something which is wrong for America, it’s wrong for our national security, it’s wrong for jobs in this country, and that, plus other elements of the state of the law, with sequestration as well as the tax increases, if those things are not stopped, why, you’re going to find America taking a real hit in jobs and in our economy.
HH: I don’t think there is a clearer difference, Governor Romney, between you and the President than on the size of the American Navy, presently at 282 ships. I have Robert Kaplan coming on later in the week to talk about his new book, in which he candidly says under President Obama’s budgets, we’re headed to 250. You’ve committed us to 313 and more. What’s the significance of that difference?
MR: Well, 313 ships was the number designated by the Navy as what they need to carry out the missions that have been given to them by the government of our country. And to fall below that level puts those missions in jeopardy. We have the Chinese, for instance, building a very substantial navy, particularly an underwater navy, a submarine system which is designed to deter interest in their part of the world. They’re insisting that they have title, if you will, to the South China Sea. And about a third or more of the trade of the world goes through the South China Sea. So we have to have a strong Navy, not because we intend on having to use our military might, but we want people to recognize that they would never want to engage our military. And my own view is we should go from building nine ships a year to at least fifteen ships a year. We should move back to the 313 level that’s necessary to protect our missions.
HH: Last quick question, Governor, the jobs report was very grim. I was at Hyde Park two days ago. FDR campaigned in ’32 on an ebullient, optimistic, we can turn this around. President Obama was grim last week. Can we turn this around?
MR: Well, we can’t turn it around under this president. There’s no question in my mind that as you listen to his speech in Charlotte, you saw a person that has no plan for turning around the economy. I do, and it’s going to come roaring back when we put it in place.
HH: Mitt Romney, thank you for joining us.
End of interview.