Governor Mitt Romney today discussed recent issues with National Reviews’ Kathryn Jean Lopez. Below is a partial transcript:
Link to full interview here: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MmY1MTQyMTk0Yjk2ZDNmZmVmNmNkNjY4ODExMGM5NWE=
A Primary Factor
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in an exclusive pre-Christmas 2006 interview.
An NRO Q&A
It seemed that the second the 2006 elections were over we were on to 2008, and already the campaign seems to be in full swing — even before some of the potential candidates have setup official exploratory committees. And among the most talked about on the Republican side is Mitt Romney, who is just about to finish his term as governor of Massachusetts. He agreed to be e-interviewed by NationalReview Online Editor Kathryn Lopez (who — full disclosure— has some pro-Romney tendencies). The full interview — in which he addresses Iraq, gay marriage, abortion, religion, and more, appears below.
Lopez: What did you make of the Iraq Study Group report that was released last week?
Gov. Romney: The members of the Iraq Study Group deserve credit for their hard work. But their recommendations read like the product of a flawed process — one more focused on reaching consensus for the sake of reaching consensus. There were a few recommendations that I found especially striking: Suggesting that somehow the Israel-Palestine conflict is a root of sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq is just wrong. Sunnis are killing Shia and vice versa. Pressuring Israel won’t change that.
Proposing that we negotiate with terrorist regimes like Syria and Iran — without a rigorous analysis of how our incentives could ever be aligned — is just counter-productive. I have no quarrel with talking, especially if it yields valuable intelligence and insight about an adversary. But that’s a far cry from actually negotiating with Iran, which sponsors Hezbollah, has nuclear ambitions, and has been clear in its intention to wipe our ally Israel off the map. And Syria is systematically undermining the sovereignty of Lebanon and funding and arming terrorists. Any suggestion that we might trade something for their help or forbearance is out of the question. When considering a negotiation, one must ask what kind of leverage we have, and recognize that there are situations where we have more to lose than gain by negotiating.
Finally, inferring that our troops may be withdrawn from combat positions before Iraq is secure runs counter to my view and to the views I have heard from some of America’s most accomplished military leaders. I am not suggesting that there are simple solutions for Iraq. But it is clear to me that some of these recommendations will not meet our objectives in Iraq, or in the broader long war America is fighting today.
Lopez: As you know, in recent days the New York Times, as well as the Boston newspaper, Bay Windows, have run pieces about your 1994 race against Ted Kennedy and your run for governor that appear to be in conflict with your current position against gay marriage. Are they?
Gov. Romney: These old interviews and stories have frequently been circulated by my opponents ever since I took a stand against the Massachusetts supreme-court ruling on same-sex marriage. This being the political season, it is not surprising this old news has appeared again. But I have made clear since2003, when the supreme court of Massachusetts redefined marriage by fiat, that my unwavering advocacy for traditional marriage stands side by side with a tolerance and respect for all Americans.
Like the vast majority of Americans, I’ve opposed same-sex marriage, but I’ve also opposed unjust discrimination against anyone, for racial or religious reasons, or for sexual preference. Americans are a tolerant, generous, and kind people. We all oppose bigotry and disparagement. But the debate over same-sex marriage is not a debate over tolerance. It is a debate about the purpose of the institution of marriage and it is a debate about activist judges who make up the law rather than interpret the law.
I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history. I believe marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman and I have been rock solid in my support of traditional marriage. Marriage is first and foremost about nurturing and developing children. It’s unfortunate that those who choose to defend the institution of marriage are often demonized.
Lopez: And what about the 1994 letter to the Log Cabin Republicans where you indicated you would support the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and seemed open to changing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military? Are those your positions today?
Gov. Romney: No. I don’t see the need for new or special legislation. My experience over the past several years as governor has convinced me that ENDA would be an overly broad law that would open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalize employers at the hands of activist judges.
As for military policy and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, I trust the counsel of those in uniform who have set these policies over a dozen years ago. I agree with President Bush’s decision to maintain this policy and I would do the same.
Lopez: In a 1994 debate with Senator Kennedy, you said “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my Mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it.” Further confusing matters,the Boston Globe reported in 1994 that “as a Mormon lay leader [you] counseled Mormon women not to have abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life was at risk.” What is your position on abortion today?
Governor: On Roe v. Massachusetts,“I will continue to honor what I pledged to you, but I prefer to call myself pro-life.” The state of Massachusettsis a pro-choice state and when I campaigned for governor I said that I would not change the law on abortion. But I do believe that the one-size-fits-all, abortion-on-demand-for-all-nine-months decision in Wade does not serve the country well and is another example of judges making the law instead of interpreting the Constitution.
What I would like to see is the Court return the issue to the people to decide. The Republican party is and should remain the pro-life party and work to change hearts and minds and create a culture of life where every child is welcomed and protected by law and the weakest among us are protected. I understand there are people of good faith on both sides of the issue. They should be able to make and advance their case in democratic forums with civility, mutual respect, and confidence that our democratic process is the best place to handle these issues
And yes, as a private citizen I have counseled women not to have abortions.
Lopez: Does that mean you were “faking it”— as one former adviser has suggested — as a pro-choicer in your previous political campaigns? Why should anyone believe you’re really pro-life now?
Gov. Romney: I believe people will see thatas governor, when I had to examine and grapple with this difficult issue, Icame down on the side of life. I know in the four years I have served asgovernor I have learned and grown from the exposure to the thousands ofgood-hearted people who are working to change the culture in our country.I’m committed to promoting the culture of life. Like Ronald Reagan, andHenry Hyde, and others who became pro-life, I had this issue wrong in the past.
Lopez: Will an exposé on Mormon Christmas celebrations hurtyou in the primaries?
Gov. Romney: This may sound strange to some, but my grandchildren will be eagerly awaiting presents to be delivered to their homes by a bearded man in a red suit led by a pack of flying reindeer. The lead reindeer, by the way, has a red light bulb for a nose — certainly aYouTube scandal waiting to happen.