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The “Famously Genial” Mitt Romney Talks Vice Presidential Vetting, Vladimir Putin, and the Unemployment Rate

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I interviewed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney today. The transcript will be posted here later this afternoon.

HH: Joined now by former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney. Governor Romney, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.

MR: It’s great to be with you today. Thanks, Hugh.

HH: Now the Washington Post yesterday, Governor, in a news story, Philip Rucker and David Fehrenthold wrote it, called you in the first line the “famously genial” Mitt Romney. Now that’s a high compliment. It’s pretty interesting that it got past editors as sort of an objective truthful thing. But a lot of the combative conservatives out there asked immediately does “famously genial” beat the Chicago gang and Chicago rules in the fall?

MR: (laughing) You know, I think people have watched enough of the debates that they can see that I’ve got plenty of backbone. And when it came to debating, whether it was Newt or Rick Santorum or Rick Perry, when I got up to make a point, I can make it pretty forcefully. So don’t worry about that, folks. You don’t get to be successful in business, and successful at the Olympics, and successful as the governor by being a shrinking violet. But I can be a nice guy if I’ve got a friend. [# More #]

HH: Now I am surprised that that actually got into the opening line of the story, Governor. Are you? And there is a story in Politico today that your press team is opening a charm offensive on the media. Is it working?

MR: (laughing) I doubt it’ll ever work. But I do know that after Super Tuesday, and the celebration time that followed, members of my staff took out members of the media and had a good evening together, chatting and laughing and talking about the process to date. So hopefully, we’ll maintain some good relationships, even though most of the guys in the mainstream media are, well, let’s just say they don’t lean the conservative way.

HH: Now Governor, when and if you are comfortable that the nomination is indeed locked up as your team says it is, the delegate math in your favor, you are not only famously genial, but famously prepared. You’ll have to pick a running mate. Now in the past, some people have done that very publicly, and some people have done that very privately. Which model will you pick?

MR: Well, I imagine it will be very private if I’m fortunate enough to have that opportunity. And we have not even begun such a process, as you can imagine. You know, we’re a long way from that moment. But it would be a private process, and anticipating your next question as to who would make, be on my…I’ll tell you, I have no idea. But I can tell you whoever it would be would be someone who would be unquestionably qualified to be the vice president, and potentially the president, if that were needed.

HH: Now Governor Romney, today I asked my law students, hey, I’m going to talk to Mitt Romney today, what do you want me to ask him? And I did so, because Michael Barone on this program yesterday said the demographic that Mitt Romney really needs to connect with more than any is younger voters. And interesting, the question after class from a young woman law student was give me three reasons, Governor, why I as a young person should support you over Barack Obama? So take a whack at it. Why?

MR: Yeah, number one, if I’m the president, you’re going to have a much more likely chance to have a job when you get out of college. Number two, if I’m the president, the national debt is not going to be at Greek-like levels, making it almost impossible for you to have a bright future. And number three, if I’m the president, we’re not going to become more like Europe. We’re going to become more like the America we remember, which was committed to individual liberties, freedom, and the Constitution.

HH: Speaking of unemployment, the buzz is the number is going to drop tomorrow. And the spin, or the narrative out there is that the unemployment number keeps dropping, Barack Obama wins going away. Is that true? Does a falling unemployment number take the employment picture off the table?

MR: No, I think employment and jobs and rising incomes, and how long it has taken this president to try and help the economy recover, those continue to be the major issues. I think people in this country will care about the economy and the prospects for a bright future. They look at the debt, the massive debt the president has put in place. That’s of course related to the economy. These are the issues that we’ll be defining unless, of course, there’s some kind of international event, some kind of event with Iran or some other place that captures our thoughts at that point.

HH: That transitions me to the second question from a law student. Vladimir Putin, he asked, has won reelection, which means he’ll be around for almost all, if not all of the two terms ahead of us for the president. If you’re the president, he asked, will you put missile defense back on the table for Poland and the Czech Republic?

MR: Yeah, the answer is absolutely. Missile defense has to be an extraordinarily high priority. As you know, this president has cut our investment in missile defense both in Alaska as well as in Eastern Europe. He got nothing for it from Russia. And my view is absolutely, we need to make a very substantial investment in our missile defense system, whether it’s to defend ourselves from Iran or some other rogue state.

HH: You wrote about Putin extensively in your book before the campaign began. And what is your assessment, for the benefit of those who haven’t read it, of the once and future president of Russia?

MR: I think he’s a dangerous character. I think he’s still a KGB character at heart. I think he is a crony capitalist in the worst sense of that word, which is that he uses the wealth of the nation and the various enterprises to further his political interests and his personal interests. I believe he is intent on reestablishing a superpower with Russia as a massive military entity. I think he poses a threat to his neighbors. I think he poses a threat to people who rely on his nation for energy. I think he’s a very dangerous character.

HH: All right, Governor Romney, today on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, I was talking about this story right before you came on, is a story about a 30 story hotel in China that was constructed in 15 days. Now as you know, in the United States, it takes 15 days to get a call back from one of the 30 different agencies that control the construction of a hotel. How in the world does our country compete against a country like China that basically facilitates that kind of investment?

MR: Yeah, well, our country, and particularly our government in Washington, and the bureaucracy there, thinks that business is bad. They may not say it, but they don’t like businesspeople, they don’t like what business does. They like to collect the taxes, but they don’t like business. And until we have a regulatory environment, not just the regulations, but the regulators, and the government that recognize that entrepreneurs, big and small, are essential for the strength of America, and encourage economic development and investment, and find ways to make us more productive, why, we’re going to find ourselves falling behind. That’s the track President Obama has put us on. It’s a road to decline. We have to get off it by getting away from Barack Obama.

HH: Your campaign today responded to a BuzzFeed story about the collapse of the VA’s ability to handle the second G.I. bill, that they’re not getting the loans, the tuition, etc. And Andrea Saul scored them for it. The President also wants to cut Tri-Care. What’s your reaction to that story, and to that proposed cut, Mitt Romney?

MR: Yeah, my view is the President is comfortable cutting one part of the federal government, and it’s our military and our support for our veterans. And I think he’s absolutely wrong. Whether it’s the number of troops we have, the number of ships we build, the number of aircraft we buy, we should be increasing our commitment to the military, not decreasing it, not so that we can fight more wars, but so we can prevent wars. I also believe that the people who have served, who need care from our veterans system, need to know that we’re going to provide the care that they so generously and richly deserve. So I’m, I have a very different view. I’m not looking to cut our commitment to our military, either our soldiers, our equipment, or our veterans.

HH: Last question, Governor, quick, there’s a picture over at of you and Mrs. Romney driving four of your grandchildren in a convertible. Is that a ’63 Nash Rambler?

MR: It is a 1962 Rambler American. I have not seen the picture, but I have a Rambler American from that era, yeah.

HH: All right, good for Duane. He found it. Thank you, Governor, always a pleasure to talk with you.

End of interview.


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