Mitt Romney Offers Ideas And 'No Apology'
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
Mitt Romney's fiery speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month seemed to signal what could be another bid for the presidency. In his address, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, and former Massachusetts governor, railed against what he sees as the Obama administration's missteps.
That theme is reiterated in his new book called "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness." It's a 300-page treatise filled with ideas for the economy, foreign policy and national security. Mitt Romney is in our New York bureau. Welcome to the program, sir.
Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Governor, Massachusetts, Author, "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness"): Thank you, Liane. Good to be with you.
HANSEN: So, is all of this leading up to an announcement?
Mr. ROMNEY: You know, it's just not decided at this point, and I'm probably not going to make that decision until well after the November elections. The real job is to try and get some balance in Washington again by electing some conservative senators and congresspeople, which is an effort I'm doing my best to get under way this year.
HANSEN: The title of the book, "No Apology," does that have anything to do with the criticisms you've had of President Obama's foreign policy?
Mr. ROMNEY: It does to a degree, and then more than that as well. But I was very critical of the fact that from the very early days of his administration, the president embarked on a tour where he said that America has been dismissive and divisive and arrogant. At the same time, the broader purpose of this book is to describe my view that America is facing some real challenges. That's our overspending, our overdependence on foreign oil, the weakness in our schools, the weakness in the foundations of our national proactivity and economy, the atrophy that is occurring in some parts of our military. It's not going to be easy, but the tough road ahead typically makes us stronger.
HANSEN: I want to go back to the idea of your criticism of President Obama's foreign policy, it being failed. Could it not be argued that many saw his approach as making amends in the face of a failed foreign policy?
Mr. ROMNEY: It's always possible to make amends with a number of gestures to other nations. But I think it's a startling thing when, for instance, the British media says that never in the history of America has an American president gone on foreign soil and been so critical of his home nation. I think that's a mistake.
HANSEN: I'd like to talk about the economy. I find it interesting, given that you have a business background. You were once CEO of a major management consulting firm. Your supporters refer to you as Mr. Fix It. So, Mr. Fix It, what's your prescription, then, for fixing the economy?
Mr. ROMNEY: You know, first of all, TARP has served its purpose. I'd take the funding that's still left in TARP and instead of using it as a slush fund, I'd say we're going to use that to pay down our debt. Secondly, the stimulus, I'd fix the stimulus rather than passing another stimulus; $787 billion for the current stimulus is a backbreaking amount of debt that we're going to owe to the Chinese and others. It's the wrong way to have gone in a way that was not as effective as it could've been.
What would've been more effective? Well, because the consumer segment of our economy was, frankly, frightened, the corporate side would've been a far more effective place to create stimulus. So, you could've said, we're going to let businesses expense their capital expenditures entirely in the very first year. We're also going to put in place far more robust investment tax credits to encourage small businesses, large businesses, to buy more stuff - like new buildings, new equipment, cars and so forth - immediately. And as they do so, they're putting more people to work in the businesses that supply those goods.
HANSEN: I'm speaking with the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, and he was also a former Republican presidential candidate.
I want to talk about health care because in your book, "No Apology," you are critical of President Obama's approach to overhauling health-care legislation. Now, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you oversaw a statewide universal coverage plan. Given your experience, what is the president doing wrong?
Mr. ROMNEY: Well, first of all, we solved the uninsured problem at the state level with federal support, as we received in our state. Number two: You do not put in place a plan that's going to raise taxes on the American people. Raising taxes kills jobs. It causes employers to pull back. It's the wrong way to go. Number three: We did not reduce Medicare and put a burden on senior citizens, as the president's plan does. That's the wrong way to go. And finally, we did not create a public option, if you will, a government insurance plan.
Fortunately, the president's backed away from that, as a result of a lot of pressure from the American people. And I really think in the final analysis, even if he's able to push this through a partisan nuclear option, the American people are going to reject it.
HANSEN: But doesn't that plan, President Obama's plan, almost mirror the one you oversaw as governor back in 2006?
Mr. ROMNEY: Well, I just described all the ways it doesn't. His raises taxes; mine didn't. His cuts Medicare; mine didn't. His is done at a federal level; mine is done at a state-by-state level. So, in those three elements alone, it's a dramatically different plan. The idea that we're going to add another entitlement in a nation that's overwhelmed right now with entitlement liability -we didn't do that in Massachusetts.
HANSEN: In as much as any group needs a leader, who do you think is leading the GOP right now?
Mr. ROMNEY: Well, you know, when you have the White House, the president really is the spokesperson, the leader of the party that has the White House. And that's what the Democrats have now. When you don't have the White House, of course, you have the prominent elected leaders, but you're seeing a lot of other voices that come forward.
Some new governors that were just elected: Bob McDonnell in Virginia, Chris Christie in New Jersey; in Massachusetts, Scott Brown. And then, of course, people like Senator McCain and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty. People listen to the different voices and ultimately, we're probably going to settle on a nominee, probably a year and a half or two from now. And at that point, that will be the person who represents our party.
HANSEN: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The title of his new book is "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness." Thanks for joining us.
Mr. ROMNEY: Thanks so much. Good to be with you.