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Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (R-MA) meets with potential supporters at an Iowa Christian Alliance House Party in Dubuque, Iowa, Nov. 30, 2007.
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (R-MA) meets with potential supporters at an Iowa Christian Alliance House Party in Dubuque, Iowa, Nov. 30, 2007. Rick Gershon/Getty Images
Republican presidential contender and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has invested a significant amount of time and money in Iowa, which holds the nation's first caucus a month from now.
Romney has run strong in the Iowa polls but has recently been overtaken by Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas.
Huckabee is a Baptist minister, and he appeals to many Christian conservatives. Romney appears to be conscious of the challenge: He has scheduled a major speech on faith Thursday.
Some of the things Romney said on Iraq invoked the wisdom of a management consultant when a situation is chaotic: Give it some time.
On immigration, Romney says there would be no special path to legal status for people here illegally, and a system of good, verifiable worker ID cards would let employers know that all of the people they hire are legal.
Under Romney's leadership, Massachusetts passed a health care plan that mandates that state residents are obliged to get coverage. The plan that he has proposed as a presidential candidate does not include mandates. He says it permits states to do what Massachusetts did, or to do otherwise.
Robert Siegel: As governor of Massachusetts, you not only signed into law but you were an architect of a state health care system that includes mandates for insurance. As a candidate for president, your plan doesn't include mandates, requirements that people have health insurance. Why not take a centerpiece of the plan from your own state and apply it nationwide?
Romney: I can't begin to tell you what the right program is for Texas. It may well be to include mandates. My expectation is that you are going to find different states trying different options. We'll see which ones work the best, and on the basis of that, develop a plan that is applicable across the country.
But at this stage, for me to say, "Gee, we passed something in Massachusetts; it's about six months into its implementation; it seems to be working; now let's make the whole country do the same thing" — that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Let's instead use the states, as they always have been used, as laboratories of democracy, and develop plans state by state that work state by state, and ultimately we can learn from one another and perhaps find a model that works best.
You've also invoked federalism on the issue of abortion and said that you think that's something that states should have the right to either legalize or make illegal. At the same time, though, you've expressed at least aspirational support — I think was your word — for a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of the unborn. Aren't those two ideas absolutely irreconcilable?
Actually, it's the same view that the president has proposed in the past and that he supports, and I think many in my party recognize — even the author of that provision in the Republican platform, Jim Bopp, follows the same course — which is that the right next step for America would be to remove the one-size-fits-all pronouncement from the Supreme Court, which took away from the states and the elected representatives of the citizens the ability to guide abortion policy and instead mandated a single standard.
In my view, it's time to overturn Roe v. Wade, and that would, of course, return to the citizens and to the states this authority. Ultimately, I would welcome an America where there was such consensus around abortion that we ended the practice altogether, but that's frankly not where we are right now, and therefore the right next step is to overturn Roe v. Wade.
But isn't support for the constitutional amendment support for a one-size-fits-all national ban on abortion?
It's a recognition that it would be a wonderful state for this country to be in where there was a massive national consensus that abortion should not be a practice of this country. But that's not where we are now, and where we are now is in a setting where I believe the torch should return to the states — the ability to make these decisions — and to our elected representatives in Washington.
What do you say — I mean, there are people who get very cynical about what you've described as your own personal evolution on the issue of abortion, or for that matter, on your view of your own health care plan for Massachusetts — that looking now for a more conservative electorate to support you, you have evolved in ways that are convenient.
I'm curious — first of all, are there any ways in which you've evolved that aren't convenient? Do you find that there are ways in which you are more liberal today than you used to be in the 1990s, and that's just the way you've grown in that direction?
Well, for instance, my health care plan — there are a lot of conservatives, as you know — from The Wall Street Journal to the Cato Institute — that do not like my health care plan, and I like my health care plan.
But you're not running on your health care plan.
You happen to be wrong, sir. I am running on my health care plan, and my health care plan I would like to see adopted in other states. I'm going to put in place carrots and sticks to encourage states to adopt provisions which I think you are going to find are very much like my health care plan, and yet I don't impose my plan on every other state, given the differences between different states. But I do believe we should move towards every citizen becoming insured. And that's a position which a lot of conservatives aren't happy with.
Likewise ... I have been an ardent supporter of No Child Left Behind, I continue to be, and as you know, many conservatives in my party are adamantly opposed to No Child Left Behind.
I also believe that the Department of Education — which once upon a time I said should be eliminated — I actually believe it serves a useful function.
And finally, I'd say that with regards to a number of social issues, I'm certainly not the most conservative on these issues. On some, I'm quite conservative; on others, I'm, if you will, a click to the center.
I'd finally tell you that my record with regards to abortion, for instance, was something which was demonstrated over four years as governor. This is not a change which occurred simply as I began running for president; but rather, the first time as governor I faced a bill relating to the sanctity of human life, I came down on the side of life, and I've been consistently pro-life throughout my service as governor, and since then.
One last point: In the CNN-You Tube debate, there was a moment when one of the people who submitted a question asked all the candidates whether they believed in every word of the Bible, and two of your rivals — Mayor [Rudolph] Giuliani and Gov. [Mike] Huckabee — both made a point of saying, "Well, in some parts it's allegorical, in some parts it should be interpreted, but yet, I believe in the Bible."
And you seemed — if I read you right — to make a point of saying it's the word of God, and even when considering some modification, you backed up, said, "No, I'll just stick with that. It's the word of God." [That] left the impression — and I want to ask you — do you hold a literal belief, say, in the Genesis version of creation?
You know, I find it hard to believe that NPR is going to inquire on people's beliefs about various parts of the Bible in evaluating presidential candidates, and actually, I don't know that that's where America has come to — that you want to have us describing our particular beliefs with regards to Genesis and the Book of Revelations, so —
I raise Genesis only because creationism is a national issue in a variety of ways, and —
Well, but then you could ask me a question and say, "Do you believe that we should teach creationism in our schools, in our science classes and so forth?" and I'm happy to give you an answer to that. But I don't know that going through books of the Bible and asking, "Well, do you believe this book? And do you believe these words?", that that's terribly productive. Particularly when we face global jihad, when we have 47 million people without health insurance, when we have runaway costs in our entitlements, to be asking presidential candidates about their specific beliefs of books of the Bible is, in my view, something which really isn't part of the process which we should be using to select presidents.
My point is the Bible is the word of God, and I try and live by it. I don't accept some commandments and reject others. I accept the commandments of the Bible as being applicable and do my best to try and live by them, although frankly, there's a big gap here and there. There are a lot of things I need to improve.