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Mitt Romney’s analysis of the two foreign policy speeches by Cheney and Obama

Thursday, May 21, 2009

HH: Joining us to discuss both, former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. Governor Romney, welcome, always a pleasure.

MR: Thank you, good to be with you again.

HH: What did you make of these two speeches today?

MR: Well, they were very much in contrast with one another. In the case of Dick Cheney, you have a person who has served, who was in the administration at the time America was attacked who saw 3,000 lives taken, he has no political ambition at this point, and frankly, he’s not terribly concerned about legacy, because that’s something which will be meted out over the coming decades. And so he spoke entirely from the heart, and he spoke clearly, directly, convincingly. Barack Obama is still very a politician on a campaign trail. He really has not yet made the transition from politician to president, and I thought his remarks were extraordinarily twisted and disjointed. And a careful examination of them would find that they’re quite inaccurate as well.

HH: One of his big arguments is we’ve got to close Guantanamo Bay, Governor Romney, because it’s a recruiting tool for terrorists. How do you assess the quality of that argument?

MR: Well, it’s frankly a pretty funny and silly argument to make. The terrorists are combating governments all over the world from Indonesia to Nigeria, and of course in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. This is an effort to overthrow moderate Muslim governments and other governments that are friendly to human rights and to freedom. And Guantanamo is just one of the many, many items that they have on their litany of objections, but of course they want to eliminate Israel, they want to overthrow the United States, they want to establish a religious caliphate. And to somehow think that by giving in to some small thing that they want, that that means they will be less able to attack us or less able to recruit is frankly the height of silliness, and President Obama knows it. There’s no good reason for closing Guantanamo. We are going to have prisoners that are individuals who are enemy combatants, and we have to put them somewhere. And there will always be an objection that we’re holding their prisoners.

HH: Governor Romney, there was an argument in the President’s speech today, look, we already have terrorists in places like Supermax, and he implied that he’s going to send them to Colorado. And then I had one of his lefty drones call up and say we already have terrorists…this is going to be the talking point. But of course it ignores scale and it ignores the nature of these terrorists. Do you think that it is wise to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his colleagues at Guantanamo Bay anywhere in the United States?

MR: I don’t see any reason for saying that we have a very substantial prison facility in Guantanamo, and I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. It’s a very large prison complex, it is effectively managed, it’s a place from which escape is virtually impossible. And to say we’re going to close that for what reason? It makes the Europeans happy, and it makes some liberals happy, but we’re going to continue to interrogate these people, I certainly hope, and bringing them onto our shores has the potential of increasing their rights under the Constitution. And these people don’t deserve rights under the Constitution. And of course, they may well spread their hatred to prisoners within our prison system. It just doesn’t make sense. And by the way, what’s President Obama going to do with all of the enemy combatants that we have in our bases in places like Afghanistan? Is he going to be bringing them here to the United States as well and giving them lawyers in New York? I mean, we’ve always had people who we capture in conflicts, and we don’t put them through our legal system.

HH: Governor Romney, in terms of why is he doing this, this is partly a payoff of a political promise that was made during the campaign. But at what point does he have to look up and say no…his own party isn’t backing him on this.

MR: Well, I think that’s the real problem he finds himself in, and he was, you know, if you listen to his remarks today, he’s basically playing a game of Twister, which he is beginning to recognize the responsibilities and the implications associated with being president and commander in chief, and the need to protect the people. At the same time, he is still the politician who is thinking about what he did to get elected, how badly he wants to get re-elected. And frankly, you know, he brought into the White House his two top political operatives. And that’s something for which Republicans are, which George Bush was highly criticized with Karl Rove. But Karl Rove wasn’t playing the national security role that Axelrod is playing, and so he’s still speaking like the politician, still trying to get the support of the left wing of his party. And it’s time for him to put aside that stuff, and recognize what’s right for his country, because if he does not do that, he very much imperils our future safety.

HH: Governor Romney, at the time of 9/11, you were preparing to stage the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. And today, the Vice President made reference to the time in which enhanced interrogation techniques were used, the fear, the immediate fear of additional attacks coming in. What was that level of concern for people who have forgotten it from your perspective?

MR: Well, I certainly recall that we were very, very concerned that our Olympic games would be a potential site of attack, and we wondered whether there would be other attacks prior or subsequent to that event. I was in Washington at the time of the attacks. I spoke the next morning with Senator Hatch as we were thinking about preparations, and we talked together about how likely it was that another attack would be imminent. Look, the enhanced interrogation techniques, or waterboarding that we’re describing, was directed towards three individuals. And this was something which the Democratic leadership was aware of, and which the nation, I’m sure had we taken a vote, would have been 99.9% in favor of. Just a few folks in the ACLU would have said no. When you have a setting where people are threatening the death of Americans, and having just been successful in doing so, you want to take action to protect American citizens. And that’s the attitude and the sentiment that existed following 9/11. And frankly, we are still at risk as the arrests of today point out, and the need to be vigilant and to gather information remains an extraordinarily high priority.

HH: Should conservatives and Republicans be afraid of this argument?

MR: Well, you know, you always want to follow the rule of law, but at the same time, you make sure that the rule of law is such that you can protect the nation. And if there’s something in the law that doesn’t make sense, then you go to Congress and you work through a legal process to conform it with what does make sense. I was impressed by what Chief Justice Roberts said some time ago. He said look, this administration has done more to protect the rights and procedural opportunities that should be afforded detainees than any wartime administration in our history. And that I think is consistent with the fact that those of us who’ve looked at it carefully believe the Bush administration followed the law and did so as we would have expected.

HH: Now Governor, I want to switch subjects on you with the last three minutes here in this segment, because the push to single payer is underway in Washington, D.C. You oversaw a health care reform in Massachusetts that’s had a couple of years in the field now. How is what the Democrats are proposing in D.C. different from what you did, because a lot of them are saying oh, this is just the Romney plan on steroids.

MR: Well, it’s probably the steroids that didn’t help it very much. There are two key differences. One, in the Democrats’ plan, they put a mandate on businesses to pay or play, so to speak, to basically pay for insurance of all their employees. That was not in our plan. And two, something I vehemently object to, they’re establishing a government insurance product, if you will, a government insurance company that will begin to sell insurance products to American citizens. Let me tell you, that is letting the camel’s nose under the tent. They are looking forward to having a time when government is providing the health insurance for all of Americans. That is the wrong way to go. Government-managed health care, government-managed insurance for health care is not the answer. Helping people get private insurance is what we did. That works, it does not require the government to get into this business for us to get people insured.

HH: And then last question, your father dueled with Walter Reuther for a lot of years over automobile policy, the former head of the UAW. What do you think he would say? What do you say about the UAW basically owning Chrysler, soon to own a large portion of GM?

MR: Well, I see it as a payback that organized labor bosses are getting from Barack Obama. It is an outrageous result. Walter Reuther said to my dad in a private conversation many years ago, he said George, I recognize that less and less work for more and more money is a dead end street. And that’s exactly what the UAW has been doing, looking for less and less work, more and more work rules, more and more restrictions, wanting more and more money, and more and more pension benefits for retirees, and it has killed the domestic automobile industry. And the absolute wrong thing to do is to then reward the UAW by giving them the ownership of that industry. And you’re going to have a lot of people who say hey, I’m not going to be buying American if I’m basically going to be supporting the UAW.

HH: So what happens to the car industry in the United States, Governor?

MR: Well, the right thing to have done would have been for management to either go into bankruptcy or have a prepackaged bankruptcy before government started giving them billions of dollars. But once they started taking billions of dollars from government, they now were hooked, if you will, and their supplier was the guy that was going to call the shots. And that’s Barack Obama and his association with labor. They should have been able to predict it was going to put them in a very precarious position. It’s done that, and I think you have to look forward to years and years of massive government subsidies ultimately followed by failure.

HH: Governor Mitt Romney, always a pleasure, Governor, thanks for joining us today.

MR: Thanks, Hugh, good to be with you.

End of interview.

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