December 3, 2007
Anna Christopher, NPR




December 3, 2007; Washington, D.C. Ė Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a Republican presidential candidate, discusses his views on health care, immigration and religion in an interview with host Robert Siegel airing today on NPR News All Things Considered.

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ROBERT SIEGEL: First, this was not a face-to-face interview as we had planned. Governor Romney was snowed in in Des Moines. Some of things he said on Iraq he invoked the wisdom of management consultant when a situation is chaotic: give it some time.

On immigration, Romney says 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 the people they hire are legal.

I asked the governor about the Massachusetts health care plan he that he championed. It mandates health insurance coverage; everyone is obliged to get coverage. The plan that he has proposed as a Presidential candidate does not include mandates. He says its permits states to do what Massachusetts did or to do otherwise.

MITT ROMNEY: I canít 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. Weíll see which ones work the best, and on the basis of that, develop a plan that really is applicable across the country.

But at this stage, for me to say, gee, weíve had something in Massachusetts, itís about six months into its implementation, it seems to be working; now letís make the whole country do the same thing Ė that doesnít make a lot of sense to me. Letís 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.

MR. SIEGEL: Youíve also invoked federalism on the issue of abortion and said that you think thatís something that states should have the right to either legalize or make illegal. At the same time, though, youíve expressed at least aspirational support Ė I think was your word Ė for a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of the unborn. Arenít those two ideas absolutely irreconcilable?

MR. ROMNEY: Actually, itís the same view that the President has proposed in the past and that he supports, and I think many in my party recognize Ė 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 itís 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 thatís frankly not where we are right now, and therefore the right next step is to overturn Roe v. Wade.

MR. SIEGEL: But isnít support for the constitutional amendment support for a one-size-fits-all national ban on abortion?

MR. ROMNEY: Itís 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 thatís not where we are now, and where we are now is in a setting where I believe the torch should return to the states Ė the ability to make these decisions Ė and to our elected representatives in Washington.

MR. SIEGEL: What do say Ė I mean, there are people who get very cynical about what youíve 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.

Iím curious Ė first of all, are there any ways in which youíve evolved that arenít convenient? Do you find that there are ways in which you are more liberal today than you used to be in the 1990s, and thatís just the way youíve grown in that direction.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, for instance, my health care plan Ė there are a lot of conservatives, as you know Ė from the Wall Street Journal to the CATO Institute Ė that do not like my health care plan, and I like my health care plan.

MR. SIEGEL: But youíre not running on your health care plan when it comes to your Ė (inaudible) Ė

MR. ROMNEY: I Ė 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. Iím 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 donít 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 thatís a position which a lot of conservatives arenít happy with.

Likewise, on No Child Left Behind, I have been a 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 Ė I actually believe it serves a useful function.

And finally, Iíd say that with regards to a number of, if you will, social issues, Iím certainly not the most conservative on these issues of anyone in my party or even of those that are running for office. On some Iím quite conservative; on others, Iím, if you will, a click to the center.

So Ė and Iíd 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 Iíve been consistently pro-life throughout my service as governor, and since then.

MR. SIEGEL: 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 Ė Mayor Giuliani and Governor Huckabee Ė both made a point of saying, well, in some parts itís allegorical, in some parts it should be interpreted, but yet, I believe in the Bible.

And you seemed Ė if I read you right Ė to make a point of saying itís the word of God, and even when considering some modification, you backed up, said, no, Iíll just stick with that. Itís the word of God. Left the impression Ė and I want to ask you Ė do you hold a literal belief, say, in the Genesis version of creation?

MR. ROMNEY: (Chuckles.) You know, I find it hard to believe that NPR is going to inquire on peopleís beliefs about various parts of the Bible in evaluating Presidential candidates, and actually, I donít know that thatís where America has come to Ė that you want to have us describing our particular beliefs with regards to Genesis and the Book of Revelations, so Ė

MR. SIEGEL: I raise Genesis only because creationism is a national issue in a variety of ways, and Ė

MR. ROMNEY: 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 Iím happy to give you an answer to that. But I donít know that going through books of the Bible and asking, well, do you believe this book, and do you believe these words, that thatís terribly productive. Particularly when we face global jihad, when we have 47 million people without health insurance, when we have runaways 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 isnít 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 is a big gap here and there - there are a lot of things I need to improve.

MR. SIEGEL: Well, Governor Romney, thank you very much for talking with us.

MR. ROMNEY: Thank you so much.

MR. SIEGEL: Thatís Republican Presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, speaking this weekend from Des Moines, Iowa.

Tomorrow the Democratic candidates take part in NPRís Iowa Presidential debate. Thatís at 2:00 Eastern Time.