Reasons to agree
- Romney ran businesses (Bain Capital and Bain Consulting) that bought poorly ran companies and turned them around.
- Barack Obama is running the country poorly.
- The country will need a massive turnaround in 2012.
Reasons to agree
These transcripts and videos have a tendency to go away, so I am trying to document some stuff.
June 1, 2007
Borg: it's still early but even so, recent polling has to be good news for republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has shot to the top in "the Des Moines register's" latest poll, leading two other front runners, Arizona senator john McCain and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Romney's name hit the headlines early in the century for taking over as president and CEO of Salt Lake city's organizing committee for the 2002 winter Olympic games, leading that event out of scandal and financial crisis. He was then elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002. He served one term, didn't seek reelection, left office last January to run for president. There's a legacy of business and politics in his family. His father, the late George Romney, chaired American motors corporation. He was a three-term governor of Michigan, and he also ran for the republican presidential nomination, lost to Richard Nixon in 1968. Mr. Romney, welcome to "Iowa press."
ROMNEY: thanks, dean. Good to be with you.
Borg: and you know the two gentlemen across the table from the campaign trail.
ROMNEY: I certainly do. David and Michael are all over the Iowa countryside.
Borg: that's right. And that's good because they know the questions to be asking you. It's Dave Yepsen, political columnist for "the Des Moines register," and "associated press" senior political writer mike glover.
Glover: governor, you are running for the republican presidential nomination, but one person that's getting a lot of mention these days is someone who is speculating about it, and that's former senator and actor Fred Thompson. If he gets in the race, what impact does that have on it?
ROMNEY: well, I’m probably not a good political pundit to know what's going to happen precisely, but I can tell you that he's a good man. He served as well as a senator. My only comment is come on in, the water's fine. I think he'll make the race more interesting. It's a challenge to get in a presidential race, but he's got good ideas. And after all, he puts bad people in jail every week on "law and order," so that will give him a good start.
Glover: one of things you have tried to do and one of the ways that may impact on your race is you've positioned yourself as the conservative in the republican field. Doesn't he take that option away from you?
ROMNEY: well, I think everybody in the republican field is conservative and establishes their conservative bona fides. In my own case, I have a record as a governor over four years. People can look at my record, and the positions I take as president are very much the same as the positions I’ve taken as a governor. So we'll look at each other's records, and some are more conservative than others. I don't think I’m the most conservative on every single issue, by any means. But people will get to know us and decide if we have the character and the vision to lead America in a direction that, frankly, is different than we've been led over the last couple of decades. We've got some changes we're going to have to make if we're going to stand up to the challenges that we face as a nation.
Yepsen: governor, all the polls here in Iowa now show you as the front-runner. Are you comfortable with that position in this race?
ROMNEY: well, I’m still the underdog and I think people recognize that. I’m not too well known.
Yepsen: wait a minute; why do you say that?
ROMNEY: well, if you look at the national polls, you recognize that I’ve got a long ways to go to catch up with senator mayor Giuliani or senator McCain. But I’m going to keep on battling and our team here, the people in the grass-roots that I’ve come to know, have been very supportive and have given me a real boost here. I recognize also that there are updrafts and downdrafts in politics, and I’ve had some good updrafts: a couple of debates; the "60 minutes" piece; the "today" show; the jay leno show; all those things came together. If I could have that happen every week, I’d be in pretty good shape. The Iowa republicans run a thing they call the straw poll on august 11. Do you have to win that straw poll.
ROMNEY: no, I don't have to win that. I’d like to win it. I’m going to compete aggressively. I believe in the Iowa process. I think that people who are planning on running for president should really subject themselves to the process of getting known by voters in Iowa. This is a process that is not advertising based. It's person-to-person based. And I don't know that there's a better system imaginable than having a couple of states like Iowa and New Hampshire, also South Carolina, getting to know the heart and the character of the candidate rather than just looking at their 30-second ad. So I think it's a good process, and I intend to compete aggressively.
Borg: we're going to give you that opportunity right now, more than a 30-second commercial, and that is what are you telling Iowans why you should be the republican nominee?
ROMNEY: well, what I tell Iowans is that Washington needs to change, that we've got real problems in our country, that Washington is so divided. It's so steeped in bickering and partisanship that we need to have people who will go to Washington to actually improve Washington to get the country on track so that we can do what we've always done, which is overcome our challenges, take advantage of our opportunities, and strengthen America.
Borg: what is it about you that makes you best able to do that?
ROMNEY: well, I spent my life bringing transformation and change to organizations. In the private sector some 25 years, I’ve learned a lot from my successes and failures there. Then running the Olympics, that was in trouble. I learned a lot. I got it back on track. Then as a governor of a very democratic state, I was able to make progress there improving the state. I can bring change and transformation to Washington that will strengthen America, that will strengthen our military, that will strengthen our economy, and strengthen the American family. And that's what America needs, better schools, better health care, better environment, better jobs. A strong America can provide these answers.
Glover: your critics suggest that they worry about your commitment to certain key issues, and they accuse you of flip-flopping on a couple of issues like abortion and gay rights. How do you respond to that?
ROMNEY: well, I did change my position with regards to abortion when I became governor. We were having an extended debate with regards to stem cell research as it related to cloning and embryo farming, and I recognized that we had gone too far with our row-v-wade mentality, had cheapened the value of human life. That was a couple of years ago I read an Op Ed piece in the Boston papers and said, look, I think we need to protect the sanctity of human life. My positions as governor have been pretty, I think, entirely steady throughout my four-year term, and those positions are the same positions I’m campaigning on today. Look at my record. See what I’ve done as governor, and you'll know exactly what I do as president.
Glover: and what do you say about gay rights?
ROMNEY: you know, I recognize and believe that people who are gay should not be discriminated against. I feel the same way now as I did when I was governor. At the same time, I don't believe that marriage should be extended to people of the same gender. I think marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. And neither marriage nor civil union would I want to see adopted on a state-by-state basis or on a national basis. I think we should consistently recognize that we do not discriminate against gay people for their choices in life or their orientation, but we don't extend marriage to them either.
Glover: constitutional amendment?
ROMNEY: I favor a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman. I testified on behalf of that amendment. I wrote a letter to every U.S. Senator encouraging them to support that amendment. I had seen what happened in a state when a court, in our case the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts, required the state to begin marrying people of the same gender. And the consequences I think are more expansive than people had expected, and they relate to kids. Kids are the ones that suffer the impact of same-sex marriage, not the adults. And that's why I support a federal amendment to limit marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman.
Yepsen: governor, one of the questions that keeps coming up in this campaign is about your religious faith. You're a Mormon . Have you seen any evidence in Iowa that social conservatives oppose you or have trouble with your faith?
ROMNEY: not at all. You know, there's going to be an individual here or there that's going to pop up and express a view that is discriminatory based on faith. But the great majority of people in Iowa say to me that they want a person of faith to lead the country, but they don't particularly want to choose their leader based on what church they go to.
Yepsen: are media people like me, are we making too much of this?
ROMNEY: probably. But, you know, you're also responding to what people are interested in. And I have no problem with the fact that people ask questions about things they find interesting. What I find as I go out and talk to people is that they want to know where I stand on the issues, how we can get America on track again, what things I would do if I were elected president, and they're not going to discriminate based on which church I go to.
Yepsen: governor, I want to turn this question on its head. People ask you is it going to hurt you. I want to ask you if it's going to help you. I go around to a lot of republican events in this state, and I see new people. A lot of them are members of the church. I asked one of your aides one time, I said, "so are you working the Mormon network hard?" he said it works itself. Is the fact -- is your Mormon faith really an asset to you in this campaign in that it's bringing new people into the republican party and into the caucus process?
ROMNEY: well, my guess is that the number of members of my faith in Iowa is pretty small and, therefore, not a big factor in my plans for Iowa, but I certainly hope that people of my faith support me. And maybe that will balance the few people who are somewhat reticent to support someone of my faith. I can't tell you whether it's a positive or negative in terms of who turns out, but I can tell you that I think people respect an individual who actually believes that we have a creator, who believes that we're a human family that's concerned about loss of life in Africa just like loss of life here. I think people want a person of faith to lead the country.
Glover: one of your signature achievements as governor of Massachusetts was a sweeping health care plan. Should that serve as a model for the nation?
ROMNEY: in many respects, yeah. Our plan showed that you don't have to have a government takeover of health care or new taxes to get everybody insured. I’d like to see everybody insured in this country, but with private market-based insurance filling the gap, not by having the government expand its role. And we showed that that could be done in Massachusetts, and probably part of that could be adopted and adapted by other states. I would not impose a one-size-fits-all policy on the entire country instead of like different states try their own methods for getting people insured. But I’d want the federal government to provide the kind of flexibility in the payments it makes to allow the states to be able to experiment in finding the best ways to get their uninsured covered.
Glover: when you first started testing the waters, that was sort of the signature issue that you talked about all the time. I don't hear it that much anymore. Are you backing away from that?
ROMNEY: no, I’m very proud of what we did in health care, and I believe that this will be one of the issues that will distinguish me from the other members of the republican group and will help me in the general election if I’m lucky enough to get there. And that is, I am able to deal with people on both sides of the aisle and I’m willing to take on tough issues that help all Americans. Some folks just don't want to talk about getting everybody insured. I think that's a mistake. I want to improve our schools. I want to improve our environment. I want to improve our health care. Someone once said to me, well, those are democratic issues. No, they're not. Those are American issues and republicans and conservatives have answers for those issues and answers that are based on the free-market system and personal responsibility, not based on the government takeover.
Yepsen: another issue confronting the country right now, governor, is Iraq. What would you do about it?
ROMNEY: well, I supported the president's entry into Iraq based upon the intelligence we had at that point. I think the intelligence, we now recognize, was badly flawed. We made a number of errors after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government and military. I think we were underprepared and underplanned for what developed. At this stage because I believe there's a reasonable probability that the surge will provide stability for the central government of iraq and allow it to maintain a military that could protect its own borders, that's the course which I support. As long as there's a reasonable probability of success, I will support it. We're going to get a report from general Patrias over the coming months. By the end of the year, we should have a good read at whether that's working or not working. I’m certainly hoping that it's going to work and that, as a result of it working, we'll able to bring our troops home. I want them home as soon as we possibly can get them back.
Yepsen: governor, your experiences have been in business and the statehouse in Massachusetts. What in your background gives you the competency that we need in a president to deal with military questions like Iraq? Wouldn't we be better off with somebody from Washington who may know something more about the military?
ROMNEY: well, you almost smile as you ask that question. I think we've learned that you want people that are not old hands and experienced in the ways things have been done in the past, but you want new ideas and a fresh approach. Ronald Reagan came in as a president, swept aside the old thinking about the cold war, came out with a new vision as to how we could win the cold war, and did it. You want people who have experience in leading and solving tough problems as opposed to folks that think they have all the answers. My life has taught me that I don't have all the answers, but I know how to get them. And you get them by bringing in people with differing backgrounds, who have different perspectives, who will debate issues openly, where you insist on gathering good information and data to make good decisions. And that's a process I’ve employed time and again, and I’m looking forward to doing it as president if I’m lucky to get that spot.
Glover: to flip that question around just a bit, how much of an advantage is it to come to the race as a governor? I mean governors have a lot better track record getting elected than do members of congress.
ROMNEY: the track record is pretty compelling, I must admit. You're right, a lot of governors have been successful running for president and senators and people who are not governors have been less successful. I think people expect someone to have leadership experience. I mean look at the government of the united states. It's the largest enterprise in the world. It employs more people than any business that I know of. It has a budget of $2.7 trillion. It's the largest enterprise in the world, and yet on the democratic side right now, the three front-runners have never run anything. They haven't run a farm. They haven't run a corner store. They haven't run a state. They have no experience leading or managing a major enterprise, and yet they want to take on the largest enterprise in the world. You need to have people who know something about the principles of leadership, decision making, bringing people of different backgrounds together to get the job done. I’ve got that experience and it's something I think that will give me a big leg up in the general election.
Borg: I’d like to broaden Dave's question on Iraq to a world view, and that is concerning Al Qaeda and what seems to be cells popping up all over the world and bombings with links to Al Qaeda. Are we losing the war on terrorism?
ROMNEY: well, we're very much engaged in the war against terrorism, and I was shocked to see john Edwards say there's not a war on terrorism. You tell that to the people in Algeria, and tell it to the people in Sudan and in Thailand and in Indonesia and Bali, in Madrid, in London. There is a war against terror, and terrorists come in a lot of different flavors and stripes, Sunni and Shi'ite and Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas. And there needs to be a global effort, one with a strong military arm but, number two, with a reaching out with our nonmilitarily resources to help support moderate Muslims and moderate Islamic governments to help them reject the extreme, and it's an effort we need to begin to carry out in real earnest.
Borg: but do we need some help, and how do we get it?
ROMNEY: the answer is yeah. We can do almost anything as Americans on our own, but we're a lot stronger if we have friends standing with us. And we --
Borg: how do we do it?
ROMNEY: well, I’d like to bring together the nations of the world, the civilized nations, including some of the moderate Islamic states, to convene a conference to say: how can we support you; how do we make sure that the moderate Islamic governments get schools that are not Wahhabi schools and agricultural and economic policies that allow them to compete globally and the rule of law put in place; how can we assure that these things occur in your respective countries so that you can have the strength to reject the violent and the extreme jihadists, because we can't go over the entire planet and fight the jihadists everywhere they exist. We're going to rely on Muslim people themselves to carry out that battle.
Yepsen: governor, there's a lot of controversy in the country right now over immigration, including in your party. What is your position on immigration, and why is better than john McCain’s?
ROMNEY: well, I have three principles that I think are critical in our immigration policy. Number one, secure the border. Number two, put in place an employment verification system so we know who's here legally and who is not, and we say to employers you may not hire people who are not here legally. If you do, you get sanctioned. And then number three, for those that are already here illegally, what I would say is they're welcome to apply for citizenship or apply for permanent residency, but they don't get to the front of the line. They're treated like everybody else, the millions in the rest of the world that have applied for this status. But you don't want to treat people who come here illegally better than the people who follow the law, stayed in their home countries, and applied from their home country. And what I see wrong with the most current measure that's being considered by the senate is this "z" visa, which basically says to all those that are here illegally today, they would be entitled to stay here indefinitely and work here. And in my opinion, that's an unfair advantage. It's a special pathway that this should not be afforded to people relative to the many who have been waiting fairly in their own lines.
Glover: one of the major issues that always gets taken to presidential candidates is education. What do you want to do about education, and are you satisfied with the federal government's role in education right now?
ROMNEY: well, the federal government has a role to play, but it's a limited role. In education, we really want to have our schools being managed at the local level, perhaps with the states being involved as well. But I really am reluctant to have the federal government step in and start mandating a curriculum and matters of that nature. But in the most recent couple of years, president bush pursued a policy of insisting on testing to go on to see which schools were succeeding and failing. We've had that in our state for some years, actually before the president's bill was passed, and it's helped us identify schools that are failing. I want to make sure that our very best teachers are treated like the professionals they are. I want better pay for better teachers. I also want to make sure that parents are involved in education. I proposed in my state that with our bottom schools, our 10 percent of the schools that are failing in our state, that the parents be required to go to a parental preparation class before they send their kids to school for the first time so they learn how to support discipline in the classroom, what homework is, and how to help their child watch good tv and stay away from bad tv.
Glover: and the signature issue of the bush presidency has been no child left behind. Do you support it and would you advance it?
ROMNEY: yeah, I do. I do. There are ways that it could be improved.
Glover: like what?
ROMNEY: well, the testing of the various cohorts within schools is sometimes so narrow that it doesn't properly characterize the entire institution. There are differences in different states in terms of how high the standards are, but the philosophy of testing our kids to see how the schools are doing, that's something I support. I think it's a good idea, but I don't look to have the federal government start mandating curriculum and mandating particular practices in schools. Let the parents and the local school districts have that final word.
Yepsen: governor, all the polls show that one issue a lot of caucus goers are concerned about is jobs. How do you create good jobs? How would you do that?
ROMNEY: well, there are a couple of paths. One is to look long term. And the way that we can lead the world is by continuing to have a great education system. Unfortunately, our k-12 system has fallen behind international standards. That's got to be fixed if we're going to be the leader economically long term. Shorter term, keeping our tax rates low so that people are able to invest their money and help create new businesses and new jobs has always been critical for us. Small business is the source of most of our new jobs in this country. Making it easier for small business to compete by taking off regulations and, by the way, keeping our tax rates down makes a lot of sense. I saw senator clinton just a while ago indicated that she's looking to readjust corporate tax rates upward. That's a mistake. You don't raise taxes on the enterprises that are creating jobs. We have one of the highest tax rates for corporations of any country in the world. I think we're only number two to Japan.
Yepsen: governor, I hear republicans talk about that question all the time about not raising taxes, but isn't the country going to have to come up with some more revenue just to pay the bills, social security, Medicare? We're running a deficit now. Don't we need the money?
ROMNEY: the answer is the best way to get money is to grow the economy, because the faster the economy grows, the more revenues that come in from taxes, the more we're able to do for our citizens. We're also going to have to look at our spending and cut back on the excess. The waste in government is, frankly, overwhelming. And some of our entitlement programs are going to need to have to be updated and modernized, particularly programs like Medicaid and Medicare, where the cost of health care is just going through the roof. It's overwhelming people in the private sector. It's overwhelming the government sector. And we couldn't possibly raise taxes high enough without killing our economy to keep spending the way we've been spending.
Glover: governor, it wouldn't be an official "Iowa press" show if we didn't have a little talk about politics. The conventional wisdom is president bush's approval rating is pretty low, and next year is shaping up as a pretty strong democratic year. How do you argue against that?
ROMNEY: well, I think when the two candidates are selected and we have debate after debate and people look at the faces of the two people and listen to them, they're not going to care about their party affiliation, they're not going to care about where they came from in the country. What they're going to care about is what their vision is for America and whether individuals believe they could actually help achieve that vision. I see a bright and promising future for this country. I’m optimistic about our future. I think that a description of where we're going to go overwhelms all of the baggage that any one of us might come to the debate with. And when people go into the voting booth, they're going to vote for the future of America, not for one party or another.
Glover: and you've mentioned senator Clinton. Do you assume that she's the democratic nominee?
ROMNEY: I think she's the most likely nominee at this point, but I get that by just reading you guys. I mean she, Barack Obama, or John Edwards are all possibilities. All three seem to be moving very sharply left. I listened to senator clinton earlier this week, and she laid out a policy which, frankly, if that were described to France, I don't think the French voters would elect her as president on that platform. France is a great country. It's moving toward our direction of freedom and conservative principles. I think she's taken the wrong direction.
Yepsen: governor, one of the issues in a caucus fight is electability. Activists are looking for somebody they think can win in November. Why are you the most electable republican in the race?
ROMNEY: well, I think at least all three of the front-runners are all electable. We'll all be able to raise the money that we need. We all have a vision for the future of the country. We've got good ground teams in each of the early states, the early primary states. I have a special feature that I think will help me get to win in the fall of '08, and that is that my dad's great reputation in Michigan will enable me, I believe, to win in Michigan and hold onto Ohio, and I want to be able to keep Florida as well. So some of those states you have to win as a republican I can hold onto, and some of those states that have been democratic states, like Michigan, I think I can attract as well. New Hampshire too. But I’m not planning on getting Massachusetts necessarily. That's a pretty liberal state. [ laughter ]
Glover: one of the questions that we have is this is a pretty compacted primary season. How quickly will there be a republican nominee?
ROMNEY: my guess is that on February 6, you'll see the nominee of each party. I think there's a real likelihood that that's going to be the case because there's so many states that will have their primaries on February 5 or before. But there's always the possibility that the votes are split up among the early states and then among the February 5 states and that we go on beyond that. That would be the exciting... Expensive, exhausting, but exciting.
Yepsen: governor, one policy issue that we haven't talked about here that I do want to ask you about is the environment. What would you do to protect the environment, enhance the environment?
ROMNEY: you know, it's one of the critical legacies that we leave for our kids and our grandkids. I want to make sure that our environment in clean. I’m concerned about the climate of our planet as well. I’m convinced that the planet does seem to be getting warmer and that it's more variable, and probably human activity is contributing to that. I don't know how much of the change is due to human activity, but I do know that we can put in place policies that I call "no regrets" policies. We can take policies that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and eliminate that dependence so we can be energy independent.
Borg: do you see the country right now dragging its feet on that?
ROMNEY: I do. I think we can take action in a far more robust manner, a Manhattan style project, an Apollo style project where we say we are going to make the investments necessary to become energy independent. That means biodiesel, befoul, ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, liquefied coal with co2 sequestered, nuclear power, more drilling, at the same time much better efficiency in our automobiles and homes. Those kinds of policies will enable us to be energy independent and at the same time reduce our omissions of co2.
Yepsen: we've got less than a minute. You're in rural America, yet your background is not in rural America, Massachusetts, Michigan. Why would you be a good president for rural America?
ROMNEY: well, I’d hope to be a good president for all of America, and I spent a summer out in rural America in Idaho. I worked on a ranch there. I remember coming home from the ranch and seeing the extraordinary black soil and tall corn of Iowa saying, boy, god must have loved this place. What a remarkable place. And my view is that the issues that face rural America are the same issues that you're seeing even in places like Detroit. We want to see our products brought into markets that keep us from being able to get into them. We want to see a clean environment. We want better schools. Iowa may be a rural state, but its reputation for good schools is something which is known throughout the country.
Borg: thank you for spending time with us today and for your insights.
ROMNEY: thanks, dean. Good to be with you.