Mitt Romney appeared on Meet The Press on Sunday, September 9 with David Gregory. Perhaps the biggest headline was that he took Congressional Republicans to task for not holding the line in the debt ceiling negotiations in 2011.
>> i spent time with governor romney on the campaign trail for an exclusive two-part interview on the state of the race, and what, specifically, a romney presidency would mean for the country. we met up with the romneys friday in manchester, new hampshire, where they began a short trip downstate for an evening campaign rally in nash shaw.
> let me tell you, this economy is going to come back in a big way and you’re going to see more jobs again and you’re going to see rising home values again and you’re going to see more take-home pay again. but you’re right, it is going to require me being elected president and new hampshire is going to do it.
> it was a day that also saw the president in battleground new hampshire, to kick off his post- convention push to election day.
> now that both sides have made their argument, there is a big choice to make. and i honestly believe this is the biggest choice, the clearest choice, of any time in our generation.
> and that allows me to continue to hammer away on what i’d do to get america on the right track. and i have really two months to be able to convince people i can do a better job than the incumbent. i think i can do that. so i’m in a better spot than i was before the convention.
> it’s tough to beat an incumbent as you well know. do you feel like an underdog or do you feel like you’re right in this thing?
> i think it’s tough to beat an incumbent if the incumbent’s record is good. i think this incumbent has a very challenged record. and jobs numbers that have come out this week, as well as the performance over the last 3 1/2 years. suggest that this is a president that has not been able to deliver on his promises, people are dissatisfied with where he’s taken the country. and that gives me an opportunity, which might not have been available had he done what he said he would do.
> i want to ask you about the news of the day. these job numbers. pretty anemic growth. less than 100,000 jobs created last month. and yet it’s striking, because here you have the stock market at the highest level since 2007. i spoke to a top prominent business leader today who said the underpinnings of the economy right now are terrific. it’s prime to take off. and yet we seem to be relatively speaking in a jobless recoverry. what do you think is going on?
> i think it is a jobless rerevolvery if it’s a recovery at all. it doesn’t look like a recovery. you’re not seeing the job growth that keeps up with population growth. you’re not seeing any wage growth. so it’s not at all what a recovery is supposed to look like. it’s really not the kind of recovery people expected. normally when things go down as deeply as they did it comes rebounding. it’s now been how main months? 43 months with unemployment above 8%. and this last month what was surprising to me was not only the anemic job growth, but the three or four times as many people dropped out of the labor force as were added a new job holders. i mean, this is really a sign that people are having a hard time finding work. very, very troubling. and of course the stock market does well. in part because the indication by the fed that they’re going to print more money, pour more money into the system says we’re likely to have down the road high inflation. where else are you going to go? if interest rates are going to be near zero investors have to have some place to go.
> you don’t think the fed ought to be any more involved at this point?
> i don’t think that easing monetary policy is going to make a significant difference in the job market right now. i think what the nation needs is a change in fiscal policy, a different structure to our economic positions. and if we take the right course, i believe you’re going to see this economy come roaring back. because i do believe, as you began by saying, that there are many, many entrepreneurs, as well as major corporations, that are ready to jump, but they’re hoping to see the kind of conditions on the ground in this country, the economic conditions, that pro-business, pro-jobs conditions, that suggest that it’s a good idea to invest in america again.
> you talk about creating 12 million jobs in your first term.
> i see an independent report predicting about that many jobs under any event being created. doesn’t that suggest that the president and his team have laid a foundation for that kind of growth to occur?
> well, actually, the president has — has kept in place a series of policies that have made no progress against unemployment. and a shrinking job market. the number of individuals that are in the job market today is at an almost, well, 30-40-year low. people can’t find work. if this president’s re-elected, you’re going to see chronic high unemployment continue for another four years or longer. you’re going to see low wage growth, if any growth at all. and of course there will always be this fiscal calamity at our doorstep. a crisis potential at our doorstep. the kind that you’re seeing in europe today. i have — no question in my mind that if president obama is re-elected you’re not going to see our unemployment picture change dramatically. you’re not going to see us create the jobs we need to create or the rise in incomes people need.
> this just a wild guess, but i don’t think either one of you were looking for any souvenirs from charlotte. but i actually did bring one, okay? i brought one. this is a bumper sticker that i found, and it says, bin laden is dead, gm is alive. obviously this is one of the big tag lines, the bumper sticker line from the obama campaign. why is that not a good bumper sticker for the president?
> well, i don’t know that that’s going to get him the support that he wants. but of course he deserves credit for giving the order for the s.e.a.l. team 6 to go after bin laden and take him out. that’s absolutely right. with regards to gm we’ll probably get a chance to take a closer look at that. my view was general motors should have gone into bankruptcy earlier, the president resisted that for six months. i said let them go into bankruptcy. help them come out. but let them go in. and i don’t think most americans know that gm went bankrupt. that they did go bankrupt. the president put them into bankruptcy. and he finally did what i also thought was the right thing to do. but i thought it from the very beginning and that would have saved us $20 billion or so that otherwise would have been able to be invested in things like teachers and policemen, as well as growing our economy.
> what’s romney/ryan bumper sticker?
> well, we got bumper stickers letting people know who we are. but it’s basically, you want more jobs, you want higher income, then vote for romney and ryan.
> mrs. romney, your speech was very well-received around the country. you had an opportunity to talk about yourself.
> and to talk about your husband. and to talk about how he’s connected to people in your lives, and in your family. it was something that caught my attention, i’m sure it caught yours, from the keynote speaker at the democratic convention, which is sort of went for this charge that somehow neither one of you are empathetic about what’s going on in the country, people who are out of work. and the line was, from julian castro, the mayor of san antonio, you just don’t know how good you’ve had it. how does that sit with you?
> well, i think that the thing that i want to communicate to people, and it’s so important that people understand, is that mitt and i do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives. but i want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle. and our struggles have not been financial but they’ve been with health and with difficulties in different things in life. and one thing that i — that i, again, multiple sclerosis has been my teacher. it has been at times a cruel teacher. but it has also been a great gift in my life because what it has done, it has taught me to be more compassionate, and caring for others who are suffering. and i know that people are suffering right now. people think that we don’t have empathy just because we’re not suffering like they’re suffering is ridiculous. it’s ridiculous to think that you can’t have empathy for somebody that’s struggling. our lives have always been devoted to those that are struggling more than we are. and i am grateful for the opportunity that we had at the convention for others to speak up and talk about the kind of lives we’ve led, and in particular, for mitt, who really has been demonized in many ways as being heartless. and for people to stand up and say, excuse me, he was there when my son was dying of leukemia. he came to my son’s bedside. he did all of these things for my son. and then another woman saying how mitt was there for her. so there’s hundreds of those stories that haven’t been told. and it was refreshing for me, for the american people, to finally be able to see the lengths to which i see my husband and the perspective in which i understand how he operates.
> as a candidate now when is the last time you really got to spend some quality time with somebody who was out of work, and what did you get from that?
> well, actually, just last night it was, i was with a person who is facing some challenges. we spent some time together and shared our personal experiences. in an effort on my part to point out that we can make it through tough times. look, that’s part of everyday life for most people. you have friends and you have acquaintances that have challenges and you talk about them, and i can tell you this, my life has been greatly enriched by my relationship with this young lady here. and i know how well i’ve got it because i was able to marry ann. but the reason i’m in this race is to help people. i’m not in this race to slow the rise of the ocean, for to heal the planet. i’m in this race to help the american people. and this is a commitment on my part, on ann’s part, on our family’s part, that we care very deeply about this country. and i really think that those people that try and minimize the feeling and the connection we have with the american people really missed the mark very badly. and are trying to divide americans based on who has money and who was able to achieve success. and who does not have as much. and frankly, americans are not defined by whether they were successful financially or not. we’re a nation that’s come together and a united america can solve the kind of challenges we have today.
> i raise the convention. we do have this dynamic where i don’t think the democrats, or at least the president and mrs. obama weren’t watching yours, you weren’t watching theirs. nevertheless a lot of attention to, besides yourself, big headline on your final night and that was clint eastwood. he actually said after, you know, taking some shots about this, that it was mission accomplished. now i got to ask you, were you laughing along with him or were you wincing part of the time, governor?
> i was laughing at clint eastwood. look, look, to have him get up and speak in my behalf was a great thrill. i mean, this is a guy, ann and i have watched from back in the days of the good, the bad and the ugly. we’ve been watching his films for a long time, dirty harry and grand torino recently. he’s an american icon.
> true enough. but it was a little bizarre to have him talking to the schar.
> you don’t expect to have a guy like clint eastwood get up and read some teach off a teleprompter like a politician. you expect him to speak from the heart and that’s exactly what he did.
> what about bill clinton? he had quite an impact. do you think he could get elected today for president?
> you know, if the constitution weren’t the way it is, perhaps. but i don’t know the answer to that. but he did stand out in contrast with the other speakers. i think he really did elevate the democratic convention in a lot of ways. and frankly, the contrast may not have been as attractive as barack obama might have preferred if he were choosing to go before him and to go after.
> i want to ask you something a little more personal. you both are guarded about your faith. you talked more about it in the course of the convention. we came across a quote from a biography written about your father in 1968 and he said about being a mormon, i’m a member of a religion that is among the most persecuted minority groups in our history. and here you are the first mormon to be the nominee of the republican party. you could be the first mormon president. i wonder how much pride that gives you, how much pride you think it gives others in the church. is it similar to what many catholics felt with president kennedy?
> well, i can’t speak for all the members of the church. but i’m sure a number of members of my faith are proud of the fact that someone of my faith, and our faith, is able to run for president. my own reaction is i’ve got so many challenges ahead of me i don’t think so much about the impact this has on the church day-to-day, but more about what kind of impact i want to have on the electorate, and what it takes to become elected president. but i am — i’m convinced that my background, and my heritage and my faith have made me the person i am to a great degree. the judeo christian ethics that i was brought up with, the sense of obligation to one’s fellow man. and an absolute conviction that we are all sons and daughters of the same god and therefore, in a human family, is one of the reasons i being doing what i’m doing. it would have been very easy for me to stay in business. i like business, that’s fun. but when the olympic request came along, ann said you’ve got to do this. this is important. and when i ran for governor, this is important. to now, when i’m running for president. i think that comes in part from this judeo- christian ethic of service and commitment to one’s fellow man.
> mrs. romney, do you think that mormons in america and around the world, for that matter, have gotten past a level of persecution, that they can very openly be proud of what the two of you are doing?
> i certainly hope so. i mean, it’s always wonderful when milestones like that are accomplished. and i think that was why we were all so pleased with so many americans were so pleased with the last election. and seeing that a black man was elected president of the united states. it made us proud as americans to know that those prejudices that we’ve had in the past are falling away.
> the more personal areas we sat down at campaign headquarters the next morning for a more detailed discussion about where governor romney stands on the key issues of the campaign. so governor we talked last night about the jobs and the economy and also the debt. and i want to begin there. you’ve called the debt and our deficit a moral crisis. and yet in addition to extending the bush tax cuts you want to cut tax rates an additional 20%. you rejected a 10-to-1 spending ratio when it comes to spending through increasing taxes. and yet you want to balance the budget. the math simply doesn’t add up. does it?
> well, actually it does. and the good news is that five different economic studies, including one at harvard, and princeton, and aei, and a couple at the ” wall street journal,” all show that if we bring down our top rates, and actually go across the board, bring down rates for everyone in america, but also limit deductions and exemptions for people at the high end, while you can keep the progressivity in the code, you can remain revenue neutral and you create an enormous incentive for growth in the economy.
> you haven’t specified where you’d cut loopholes in particular to make up the savings? in addition you actually want to increase defense spending in addition to all of that.
> well, i want to maintain defense spending at the current level of the gdp. i don’t want to keep bringing it down as the president’s doing. this sequestration idea of the white house, which is cutting our defense, i think, is an extraordinary miscalculation.
> republicans agreed to that deal to extend —
> that’s a big mistake. i think it was a mistake on the part of the white house to propose it. i think it was a mistake for republicans to go along with it. the president was responsible for coming out with specific changes that he made to the defense budget. it was supposed to have come out this last week. he has violated the law that he, in fact, signed. the american people need to understand how it is that our defense is going to be so badly cut. my own plan, by the way, to bring down the rate of taxation while maintaining the revenues that come into the government is by making sure that we don’t lower taxes, on high income people. we’re not going to have high-income people pay less of the tax burden than they pay today. that’s not what’s going to happen. i do want to bring taxes down for middle-income people. in particular, i want middle-income americans not to have to pay taxes on interest and dividends and capital gains.
> est kin bowles who is part of the simpson-bowles commission says that something’s got to give. that your plan would not actually reduce the deficit. that, indeed, taxes would have to go up on the middle class. what gives? if you’re not right about your projection?
> first of all i’ve got princeton, harvard, ” wall street journal” and aei saying nationally that we can bring down the rates. and if we limit, or eliminate some of the loopholes and deductions at the high end, we keep the current progressivity of the code and we get the same revenue coming into the government and one marvel use thing we get is more growth in the economy. and my — my tax policy is designed to find a way to encourage more hiring in this country. i’m very concerned that we have 23 million people that are out of work, or stopped looking for work or underemployed. so everything i want to do with regards to taxation follows simple principles. which is bring our rates down to encourage growth, keep revenue up by limiting deductions and exemptions, and make sure we don’t put any bigger burden on middle income people. in fact i want to lower the burden on middle income people.
> governor, where are the specifics of how you get to this math? isn’t that an issue?
> well, the specifics are these, which is, those principles i described as the heart of my policy, and i’ve indicated as well, that contrary to what the democrats are saying i’m not going to increase the tax burden on middle income families. it would absolutely be wrong to do that. but you know, i’ve had the experience of being a governor. i’ve demonstrated that i have the capacity to balance budgets. i’ve balanced them four years in a row in massachusetts. and we cut the taxes 19 times in massachusetts.
> can you give me an example of a loophole that you will close?
> well, i can tell you that people at the high end, high-income taxpayers are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. those numbers are going to come down. otherwise they’d get a tax break and i want to make sure people understand, despite what the democrats said at their convention i am not reducing taxes on high-income taxpayers. i’m bringing down the rate of taxation, but also bringing down deductions and exemptions at the high end, so the revenues stay the same. the taxes people pay stay the same, middle-income people are going to get a break, but at the high end the tax coming in stays the same, but we encourage small business, because small business is able to keep more of what it makes, and therefore hire more people.
> will you balance the budget in your first term? is that a commitment you can make?
> i’ll balance the budget by the end of my second term. doing it in the first term would cause, i believe, a dramatic impact on the economy. too dramatic. and therefore, the steps i put in place, we put together a plan that lays out how we get to a balanced budget within 8 to 10 years.
> are you prepared to cut a deal with democrats that would cause conservatives to revolt? is it that important to get a deal, to get it away from this fiscal cliff?
> well, it’s critical to get the country on track to avoid the kind of financial calamities you’re seeing around europe. and i have a plan that does that by really doing two of the key elements that are necessary —
> but will you cut a deal — even if it risks conservatives —
> there’s nothing wrong with the term compromise. but there is something very wrong with the term abandoning one’s principles. and i’m going to stand by my principles. and those are i am not going to raise taxes on the american people. our problem in our country is not that we’re not paying enough taxes. it’s that we’re spending too much money, and the economy is not growing as it could. and should. look we’ve just watched another month of tepid job numbers. this does not look like a recovery. the president’s policies have meant that this economy is not growing as it should. the fastest way to balance our budget is to grow the economy, put more people to work, see rising incomes. that’s how you balance budgets. so my tax policy is not designed to say oh, let’s get some more money from people. it’s designed to say let’s get more growth in the economy, hire more people, so we can get more tax revenues in the way we ought to.
> let me ask you a couple of specific areas. on health care you say that you would rescind the president’s health care plan on day one. does that mean that you’re prepared to say to americans, young adults, and those with pre-existing conditions, that they would no longer be guaranteed health care?
> well, of course not. i’d say we’re going to replace obama care. and i’m replacing it with my own plan, and you know, even in massachusetts, where i was governor, our plan there deals with pre-existing conditions. and with young people.
> you’d keep that as part of the federal plan?
> i’m not getting rid of all of health care reform. of course there are a number of things that i like in health care reform that i’m going to put in place. one is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage. two to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like. i also want individuals to be able to buy insurance, health insurance on their own as opposed to only being able to get it on a tax advantage basis through their company.
> that brings us to medicare. because one of the things you believed in was the idea of premium support or a voucher for seniors under medicare and to achieve the goal of solvency. direct question, if competitive bidding in medicare fails to bring down prices, you have a choice of either passing that cost on to seniors, or blowing up the deficit. what would you do?
> well, let’s stand back, first. there’s nothing about seniors in our plan.
> you’d wit ten years to implement any plan?
> because there’s no change for anyone who is retired or nearing retirement. it’s only dealing with people in their 30s, 20s, 40s, and early 50s. that’s the group we’re dealing with and saying what’s the best deal for them? it strikes me the best deal for them is to either buy current medicare or to have a private plan. a lot like medicare advantage today. i like medicare advantage.
> that didn’t drive down prices, governor.
> oh, it sure did. actually what you’re saying with medicare today was medicare part “d” the prescription drug benefit is that congress, in putting this together, said look we’re going to allow companies to compete for a package of prescription drug benefits, and the cost that they’ve come up with is far less than anyone predicted. competition. look competition works.
> let me turn to foreign policy and answer a couple of questions there. the weekly standard took you to task in your convention speech for not mentioning the war in afghanistan one time. was that a mistake with so much sagry nice in two wars over the period of this last decade?
> you know, i find it interesting that the people are curious about mentioning words in a speech as opposed to policy. and so i went to the american legion the day before i gave that speech —
> you weren’t speaking to tens of millions of people when you went to the american legion.
> what i found is wherever i go i am speaking to tens of millions of people. everything i say is picked up by you and by others and that’s the way it ought to be. so i went to the american legion and spoke with our veterans there and described my policy as it relates to afghanistan and other foreign policy and our military. i’ve been to afghanistan and the members of our troops know of my commitment to afghanistan and the effort that’s going on there. i have some differences on policy with the president. i happen to think those are more important than what word i mention in each speech.
> but he used some pretty tough words in talking about you, saying you and paul ryan are quote new to foreign policy. want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost america so dearly. said you were stuck in a cold war time warp. pretty — pretty tough stuff in suggesting you’re not ready on day one to be the commander in chief.
> well, i can certainly look at his record, and i think one can say that he’s had some success and failures. perhaps the biggest failure as relates to the greatest threat that america faces, and the world faces. which is the nuclear iraq. the president has not drawn us furtherary way from the nuclear iran. in fact, iran is closer to having a weapon. closer to having nuclear capability than when he took office. this is the greatest failure in my opinion of his foreign policy. he ran for office saying he was going to meet with ahmadinejad, he was going to meet with castro, kim jong-il, all the world’s worst actors without preconditions, he would mete with them —
> going nuclear, so did president obama. neither one were able to achieve that, correct?
> president obama had a policy of engagement with ahmadinejad. that policy has not worked and we’re closer to a nuclear weapon as a result of that. i will have a very different approach with regards to iran. it’s an approach which by the way the president’s finally getting closer to. it begins with crippling sanctions that should have been put in place long ago.
> is the company safer or less safe because of president obama’s leadership?
> in some ways safer, getting rid of osama bin laden i think a success on the part of the president. authorizing, s.e.a.l. team 6, commanding s.e.a.l. team 6 to take him out. that was a great accomplishment. using the drones to strike at al qaeda targets, i think those are positive developments. i think iran, however, become nuclear is a whole different development, and a game changing threatening development. threatening not only to our ally israel but threatening to the united states of america. the president has not been successful, and in the words of prime minister netanyahu, iran has not changed its nuclear course one iota by virtue of this president’s policies. and that’s something i intend to change.
> what’s your red line? you put troops on the ground to stop iran from being nuclear? or can you live with a nuclear iran and continue?
> i don’t think we live with a nuclear iran. i think we make it very clear that a nuclear iran is unacceptable to the united states of america. this civilized nations throughout the world. and that we will maintain every option that’s available to us to keep that from happening.
> two presidents have said the very same thing. why can you succeed on iran where they cannot?
> well, at the time, president bush was president, iran was — was years away from a nuclear weapon. he pursued diplomacy, as i think we should continue to pursue diplomatic channels. we should pursue, as well, the kind of crippling sanctions that i’ve spoken about — well, actually when i gave a speech five years ago, we need to use every resource we have to dissuade them from their nuclear path. but, that doesn’t mean that we would take off the table our military option. that’s something which certainly every american would hope we would never have to use. but we have to maintain it on the table or iran will undoubtedly continue their treacherous course.
> i want to ask you one question on a social issue and that is abortion. you were on this program in 2007 and you said you would fight to overturn roe v. wade. i know you said this is an issue for the courts. i ask you now would a president romney fight to overturn roe v. wade and what would you do in that fight to achieve that goal?
> well, there are a number of things that i think need to be said about preserving and protecting the lives of the unborn child and i recognize there are two lives involved. the mom, and the unborn child. and i believe that people of good conscience have chosen different paths in this regard. but i am pro-life, and will intend, if i’m president of the united states, to encourage pro-life policies.
> just encourage or fight for it to be overturned?
> well, i don’t actually make the decision, the supreme court makes it. so they’ll have to make their own decision. but i will, for instance, i’ll reverse the president’s decision on using u.s. funds to pay for abortion outside this country. i don’t think taxpayers here should have to pay for abortion in this country. those things i think are consistent with my pro-life position, and i hope to appoint justices to the supreme court that will follow the law and the constitution, and it would be my preference that they — that they reverse roe v. wade and therefore they return to the people, and their elected representatives, the decisions with regards to this important issue.
> i want to come back to where we started and in this final area about how difficult it’s going to be to govern in washington as you well know.
> you know you could be a very unpopular president if you make tough choices that you say you’ll make. if it came to it, if the only way to achieve a deal on the debt, on this fiscal cliff, was to endanger yourself to the point where you would be a one-term president would you be satisfied with that?
> david, i could not care less about my political prospects. i want to become president of the united states to get this country on the right track again. america is at a critical crossroads. we have to strengthen the foundation of our economy, of our values, of your principles, so we have a military that’s so strong we can defend freedom for ourselves and for others. we’ve got to put americans back to work and politics, and whether i’m highly favored — not highly favored —
> would you be satisfied with one term if you could get a deal on averting a fiscal cliff.
> if i could get this country on track again i’d be satisfied with anything.
> as you know there’s still question, you acknowledge that people really know you. and i think the question is whether are you the moderate from massachusetts, the champion of universal health care who at one time was for abortion rights or are you the candidate who said he was a severe conservative? what will you be as president?
> i’m as conservative as the constitution. i believe in the principles this nation was founded upon. i understand how our economy works. i’ve lived in the economy. i also understand how to work across the aisle. you get elected in massachusetts, where 87% of your legislature is in the opposition party, you’ve got to work with people across the aisle. i know how to do that. i’m going to work like crazy to break the dead it lock in washington and to get america on the right track. i actually think that because we’re at this precipice economically, at the precipice fiscally as a nation, as well, that there are going to be good democrats and good republicans who have shown respect, and if they see a president that’s willing to work with them, to share credit with them, to encourage them and pull them along, if we’re going to be able to deal with the challenges we have. and if not i’m going to die trying because i’m going to do everything in my power to fix this country.
> final question, governor. before you go, you’re in a unique position. you had both parents seek high office and both fell short. victory in this race is november will be humbling enough because of the problems this country faces. but if you lose, how would you handle that?
> oh, i don’t worry about myself. i worry about the country. i mean i watched my dad when he thought he lost actually with his second term as governor, and lyndon baines johnson had won by a landslide in michigan and dad’s pollster came in and said george, i don’t think we can pull it out, johnson’s won by such a wide margin here and my dad wasn’t concerned at all. he was running because he cared about the state, thought he could do a better job than the people who were otherwise going to be running the state. and he went on and anticipated going on with his life. look i’m not worried about my life. my life is fine. i’m worried about the country. i’m worried about the people that can’t find work, the people in the middle class that have been crushed under this president. look their wages have gone down. their costs have gone up. around the world people are asking where’s america’s leadership? i was in poland a few years ago, he said where’s the american leadership? the world needs america to lead? this is a critical time for our country, and the president gives us something incomplete. we can’t afford a president who is incomplete. we’ve got to have a president who understands what it takes to restore america’s economic vitality. put americans to work and be able to provide the kind of military strength and leadership globally that the world needs and that americans deserve.
> governor thank you for having us to your headquarters. sorry about the gusty conditions. stay safe on the campaign trail.