HH: Welcome and a Happy New Year to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Governor, good to have you back, and a happy 2010 to you.
MR: Thanks so much, Hugh, and Happy New Year to you as well.
HH: Let’s start with Scott Brown. I had him on the program yesterday, Governor, and I concluded by asking myself how does a Republican win in that state nowadays. I used to campaign there in the 70s for Republicans, but you’re the last one to do it. How do you win in Massachusetts when you’re a Republican?
MR: Well, it’s not impossible. There really is a conservative streak in Massachusetts. There are a lot of Catholic folks who are social conservatives, and of course, there’s a strain of Yankee conservatism when it comes to fiscal matters. And you know, we had sixteen years of Republican governors. I was the last of that sixteen years, but then Massachusetts also voted twice for Ronald Reagan. So you know, Scott Brown has proved he can win in that setting. He was in a special election a few years back for state senate, and Democrats were, you know, planning on winning that one, it was a sure thing, and he surprised everybody and won the seat. So I’m counting on him doing the same thing in this big one.
HH: Well Martha Coakley, not many people know about his opponent. Is she right out of central casting for liberal Democrats?
MR: Yeah, she is everything that a very liberal constituency would want. I don’t think she fits terribly well with people in this state, but you know, she’s a Democrat, she’s an attractive person, well spoken. She’s been a district attorney, been recently elected as attorney general, but not somebody who has a long history in the public arena, and as a result, you know, Scott Brown’s got almost as much name recognition as she does.
HH: Now in terms of Deval Patrick and his impact on this, your successor in the statehouse, has really not charmed the Massachusetts electorate.
MR: You know, in a lot of respects, Deval Patrick was a precursor of the Barack Obama campaign. He had the same campaign team. Plouffe and Axelrod were running Deval Patrick’s race. And instead of having the campaign slogan yes we can, their slogan was together we can. The campaign was all about hope. So a lot of promises and a lot of enthusiasm, and then not much delivered. And as a result, his approval rating and favorability has really fallen through the floor in Massachusetts. And so I don’t think he’s going to be helping Martha Coakley at all, and as a result, it gives Scott Brown a real opportunity. And I guess the polls show this a very close race.
HH: Yeah, and it’s one worth supporting, America, www.brownforussenate.com. Governor, I also want to talk to you about health care. It is much on everyone’s mind. There is a new marriage penalty, we found that out today in the Wall Street Journal, in Obamacare. What’s your assessment of this bill, as much as we know about it?
MR: Well, we don’t know a lot about it, but what we do know doesn’t make us very pleased. Clearly, if the President’s intention was to get people insured, why that’s something that could be done relatively easily without a huge cost being put on the American people, without new taxes being raised. But his ambition is much broader than that. It really is a government takeover of about one-fifth of the U.S. economy. And that is something which is frightening to people not only in the medical community, but people who rely on Medicare for their source of health care, as well as though who are going to see their taxes go up to pay for this monstrosity.
HH: Now Governor, a lot of people say hey, Massachusetts has the first version of Obamacare. I point out that the mandate in Massachusetts is done by the state, not the federal government, making the latter unconstitutional and the former Constitutional. But what other differences are there between the system you helped to work to put into place in Massachusetts, and what President Obama has proposed?
MR: Well, I certainly didn’t take thousands of pages to write about it. And very clearly, what we said was look, we’re not going to raise taxes on people. We’re also not going to cut back on Medicare like the President’s plan does. And our mandate is pretty soft. It says look, if you choose not to get yourself insured, why you’re going to lose one of your tax exemptions, but it’s going to be a lot less burden than if you just go out and buy yourself some insurance. And frankly, the system is working pretty well. Massachusetts continues to be very high cost. It was before, still is, and that’s a bigger problem. But this bill in Washington doesn’t solve that problem, and that’s really where the President ought to be focusing.
HH: What do you make of President Obama after one year? We’re coming up on the anniversary of his inauguration. What do you think of the first year?
MR: Well, I think it’s been an enormous disappointment. He has pursued his very aggressive liberal agenda, focusing on health care, at the very time when he should have been focusing on jobs and the economy, and on being successful in Afghanistan. And by taking his eye off those most important issues, he’s let both of those slide in a significant way. He just recently had a jobs summit, because his stimulus bill that’s cost us almost a trillion dollars hasn’t worked. And in Afghanistan, where you know, he finally settled on a strategy there, and hopefully that will be successful, but he took his eye off the ball, and hasn’t gotten much done.
HH: You opposed the takeover of GM and Chrysler. You’re a car guy. You’re from a car family in Michigan. Has it turned out, unfortunately, exactly as you thought it would?
MR: Well yeah, in a lot of respects. I mean, my view was instead of giving the car companies tens of billions of dollars, they should have gone immediately into a structured bankruptcy, and that way, the government would not have ended up controlling the companies, and the UAW would not have controlled the companies. Instead, shareholders and bondholders and banks, and so forth, that had made the investment, would be the ones guiding the companies today. I’m hopeful that they’ve taken some of the tough medicine that will allow them to get back on their feet. But I’m somewhat fearful that if government’s going to call any of the shots here, that they’ll run these companies for politics rather than for profits, and the net result will be a loss of jobs down the road.
HH: Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is my guest. Governor, 2010 is a chance to get a strategic foothold back in the Republican Party. What’s your game plan for this year?
MR: Well, this is the year for Republicans of all stripes, and all parts of the country to come out and support those races where we think we can pick up a key Senate seat or a House seat, or perhaps a governorship. We have got to get balance in Washington. We cannot have the President and his most liberal friends in Congress to ram through various pieces of legislation, taking away our freedoms and our rights. And so I’m going to be working hard for primarily Senate and Congressional candidates that I think have a good shot of winning that I have trust and belief in, and will be campaigning this year. So write your checks, volunteer, do whatever we can, because we can’t let this Obama machine keep on rolling.
HH: Do you think the climate change bill is dead for the year?
MR: Yeah, I think so. I think the Democrats realize that if they too blatantly push their most extreme items right now, in addition to health care, that it will make it more difficult for them. I think they’re going to try to put on some sheep’s clothing and talk about fiscal discipline, and reining back the size of government, try to wear some Republican clothing. I don’t think the American people will buy it.
HH: What do you make of the Tea Party movement, Mitt Romney? It’s been, it’s everywhere. It’s active behind Scott Brown in Massachusetts. What do you think it says?
MR: What I think it says is that people are really angry about what’s happening in Washington. And frankly, you know, they’re very angry at the Obama administration and the Democrats, but they’re also angry at Republicans who in the past, when we had the lead, didn’t act a lot different than the Democrats do today. You know, we added a huge entitlement with Medicare Part D, we grew the scale of government in Washington during the Bush years, and I think people are angry about that. They just want Washington to know that Washington is leading us on a road of decline, and that’s not acceptable for this great country.
HH: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Happy New Year to you, thanks for joining us, and thanks for helping Scott Brown out as well. That would be the Massachusetts Miracle, and we could use one, America, www.brownforussenate.com.
End of interview.