Remarks by Mitt Romney, Presidential Candidate, at the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory 2008
MR. ROMNEY: Thanks a lot. Thank you, thank you. Cheryl, it's good to see you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. And good friends in this room, it's good to be with you today. I know that many of you have been very helpful to my efforts, and I appreciate that very, very much. Thank you also, Matt Brooks, for the work that you've done in helping build the RJC to the powerhouse it is today. I have to -- (applause) -- I have to acknowledge as well that I've been doing my best to convert some of my Jewish Democrat friends to the Republican cause. (Laughter, applause.)
I sent -- (chuckles) -- I've got a good liberal Democrat in the state of Washington named David Nurnberg (sp), and I sent him up to be a surrogate for me in Alaska. And he went up and spoke up there, but on Saturday, he attended services there, and I said -- in Anchorage. I said, "How was it?" He said, "They call the place 'the synagogue of the frozen chosen.'" (Laughter.) So I'm moving him bit by bit.
Now I want to thank also Ann, who is sitting here in the front row next to Teddy Cutler. Thank you. Stand up, Ann. Say hi. Hi, sweetheart. (Applause.)
It was some time ago that she and I went to Israel together, and it seemed to most people at that time -- people were thinking that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was about borders, about boundaries, about who got what land. Obviously, if you don't understand the true nature of a problem, it's not real likely that you're going to solve it, and in some cases, you could end up doing more harm than good. You look back to the World War II days, the 1930s, we saw -- well, we thought that the Hitler problem was about reuniting the German nations, that was bringing together Austria, and so the world nodded as he took in Austria and appeased of course as he took on the Sudetenland. Of course that was not was Hitler was about. It was not about boundaries; it was about his ambition to conquer the world and to eliminate races of human beings.
Now, Israel-Palestinian boundaries are not the issue in the Middle East, nor is the plight and -- (applause) -- nor is the plight and poverty of the Palestinian people the issue in the Middle East, either; that could have been solved long ago by the extraordinary oil wealth of their friendly Arab neighbors. The -- (applause) -- in fact, it's also not about establishing a Palestinian state. As Tony Blair I think very famously said, "The conflict and fighting is not about the coming into being of a Palestinian state; it is for the going out of being of an Israeli state."
The real problem is that jihadists want to conquer the world. They want to eradicate a Jewish state and the Jewish people. You saw of course the report from George Tenet, his book saying that "Osama bin Laden sees the acquisition of nuclear weapons as a religious imperative." Think about that -- he sees it as a religion to get nuclear weapons. Clerics have also issued fatwas, as you know, allowing the use of nuclear weapons against the infidels, and a nation that is speaking about genocide is rushing headlong to develop the capacity to carry out genocide.
Now, to the liberal minds -- and I have a few of them in Massachusetts -- this is all too hard to believe. They frankly do not understand it; they do not believe it. I went to a memorial service relating to the 9/11 tragedy, and the minister who stood up got up and said that it was time for us to focus on the root causes of terrorism -- lack of good housing and lack of good health care. (Laughter.) And -- yeah. It's just extraordinary what you hear in the liberal world. And of course then Jimmy Carter -- Jimmy Carter gets up and says that the -- (interrupted by booing).
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Boo!
MR. ROMNEY: (Laughs.) Remember that old Rodney Dangerfield line? "Take Jimmy Carter, please." (Laughter, scattered applause.) He thinks -- (interrupted by applause) -- is that Henny Youngman? I'm not giving you the right -- that wasn't Rodney, it was Henny Youngman. You know, he said, of course, that the security fence is keeping peace from coming to the Holy Land. I've been there. I realize that the security fence is keeping violence from overrunning the Holy Land, and so -- (interrupted by applause).
It seems that the political mind in the United States is divided into two camps. On one side you have virtually all the Democrats that see the Palestinian issue as the root cause of the conflict in the Middle East, and they somehow believe that if you take the Baker- Hamilton, you know, wave of the wand over Israel and you solve it, that all the jihadists will go away. And they also, of course, see that what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan as a national matter within boundaries that is not something of a global nature.
The other camp, where Republicans reside and where some good people like Joe Lieberman reside as well, see a single conflict rooted in ancient history with radical Islamic jihadists intent on causing the collapse of the entire civilized world. Destroying Israel is simply a weigh station on their road to do all of that, and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are not isolated wars but are fronts in the global war against us, a global war being waged by violent, radical jihadists.
Now, you might ask, isn't there some truth to both views? No, there's not. We're right, and they're wrong. (Applause.) In the face of what is an existential threat from jihadists, many in the Democratic Party are in the most serious delusional and politically driven denial since Neville Chamberlain.
Based upon an understanding of the real war, let me offer a couple of -- well, actually, I'm going to try four policy imperatives, and I'm going to go through these, I hope, pretty quickly.
First, we've got to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan. At a minimum to me, success means making sure that Hezbollah and Hamas do not have safe haven from which they would launch their attacks on the world. Now the Democrats, of course, deny that Iraq has a central role in the war against global terrorism, and they want to cause a precipitous withdrawal of our troops hoping somehow that al Qaeda and Hezbollah would just simply go home, despite the fact that al Qaeda and Hezbollah have said that if we were to precipitously withdrawal they would immediately fill the vacuum.
That's why, of course, that the surge has been so essential. It has allowed Sunnis to come to their senses and to work with us to reject al Qaeda safe haven, and it is also why I know that the blood and sacrifice of service men and service women has not been in vain. We have fought and eliminated safe haven after safe haven. (Applause.)
It seems that the Democrats don't have a strategy for Iraq, for Iran, for the violence of the global jihad and particularly for Iran; and that leads me to a second imperative, and that is that Iran must be stopped.
Ahmadinejad has obviously gone well beyond the bound of outrage when he calculatedly desecrates human history. He denies the Holocaust, but in fact his denial is not about history, it's about the present, and it's about the future. He's denying the Holocaust to see how people respond. He's doing what an evil person did before him, to see whether he can get the human mind to acquiesce in the destruction of a people and a nation. On Quds Day, you saw that he spoke before thousands and thousands and Iranians. He printed out bibs with phrases on them. "Death to Israel." "Death to America." He's testing the water. He wants to know how people will react. He wants to see if we can accommodate the views which he has about the future of Israel.
This was, of course, not just Ahmadinejad, but also former president of Iran Khatami, who said about Hamas (sic) these things. He said Hamas is the -- excuse me -- Hezbollah. "Hezbollah is the shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims and supporters of freedom in the world." And yet when Harvard University invited Khatami to come speak on the eve of September 11th, the media and Washington elite praised him as a moderate.
By the way, I took a different course. I received a call asking if we would provide state police resources to accompany his caravan going from the airport to Harvard, and I said, "No way." (Applause.)
I was delighted, by the way, to go with Mel Sembler and many others to go to Israel right after my term of governor was over. We were there in January. I gave a speech at the Herzliya Conference -- as Mel indicated, it focused on Iran -- and tried to elevate the awareness associated with Iran and also to see if we can't develop a more comprehensive strategy for action. And then I got a chance to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, an old friend. And after that meeting I called on states to -- (light applause) -- called on a number of states and major pension plans to divest from investments in Iranian businesses.
I also called on the United States -- excuse me -- the United Nations secretary-general to withdraw his confounding, strange invitation to Ahmadinejad to use the forum of the United Nations General Assembly for his propaganda. In my view, as the ambassador indicated, rather than be invited to New York, he should have been indicted in New York. (Applause.) And the reason being that the Genocide Convention specifically calls out as a potential source of indictment incitation to genocide. And there's no question that that's exactly what Ahmadinejad is doing.
Now, some Democrats think it's possible to -- to live with a nuclear Iran. That thinking, I believe, is based upon the view that somehow if Iran is developed the -- or is given the capacity to develop nuclear weaponry and join the nuclear club, that they'll become a responsible actor. But frankly, there has been no word or no action from Iran's leaders in the last quarter of a century to suggest that they would be a responsible player.
There are others in the democratic world who believe in the logic of deterrence, and they point out that that served us well through the Cold War. In fact, the Soviet Union was deterred from its ambition in part because of our nuclear deterrence. But for all of the Soviet Union's deep flaws, they were never suicidal. The soviet commitment to national survival was never in question. And that assumption can simply not be made about an irrational regime that celebrates martyrdom, as Iran does.
It's time for Democrats to break their silence and answer this question: Will you act to stop a nuclear Iran? Let me assure you of one thing: I will. (Applause.)
It's time for us to take Ahmadinejad at his genocidal word, and these are some of the things I think we have to do.
Number one, tighten dramatically the economic sanctions not just by us, but by our friends worldwide.
Number two, impose far more strict diplomatic sanctions. I think it's time that Ahmadinejad and all of his cohorts feel at least as bad as the people from apartheid South Africa and probably worse, and that's where I'd add that indictment.
Third, we got to enlist the support of the Arab states. They can't just wring their hands and hope that America does something about a nuclear Iran, and that means that they should support Iraq's nascent government. They can help us focus on Iran by, if you will, turning down the temperatures in the Arab-Israeli conflict and making sure that weapons and finance does not flow to Hamas or to many other -- of enemies of Israel. And of course, they can tell their Palestinian friends to drop their campaign of terror and recognize Israel's right to exist. (Applause.)
I think we also, fourth, have to make it clear to the Iranian people that becoming a nuclear nation is not a source of pride. Right now they feel that this is a great way of showing that they've made it on the world stage. It is instead a source of peril, and the reason is this: If Iran were to develop nuclear material and if that material were to fall into hands of people who used it -- another state or perhaps a non-state actor -- the world would respond not just to the person that used the material, but also to the person or the nation that supplied it. Developing nuclear material puts you in a dangerous circle of suspects you do not want to be in.
And finally, I think Iran has to understand that not only is the military off on the table, it is in our hand. To communicate that I want to make sure that quietly we work together with responsible Democrats and Republicans to reach consensus about potential military action, do so also with our friends, so that Iran recognizes this is not just some far-flung idea that we might act militarily, but instead we are poised and ready to act.
Now, there's another policy imperative let me mention, and that's because of this growing chorus of threats about the existence of Israel. I think it calls for a more explicit statement from America about our foreign policy priority with regards to Israel, and that is this: America will never allow the destruction of Israel. We are committed -- (interrupted by applause). We are committed to the integrity of Israel as a Jewish state. Now we make this guarantee because Israel is a key strategic ally in the war against terror because we, of course, have great respect for the Israeli people; and also because the world has a moral obligation to a nation that rose literally from human ashes. Never again.
Now, you know that a peace meeting -- (interrupted by applause) -- a peace meeting is planned for Annapolis. Now despite optimism from a lot of corners, I think there's a -- at least a certain degree of caution which is in order particularly when bad actors like Bashar al-Assad are going to be reluctant invitees, and there are more than independent militias that are running rampant across the Palestinian territories. I just think we just cannot forget that a stable Palestinian security and governmental institution and institutions are a pre-condition to a vital resolution of the conflict there and so is a genuine desire for peace on both sides. There's just not anyone to talk to right now who has those institutions in place. (Applause.)
We really can't in any way accommodate any effort which would reduce Israel's security, and the thousand-plus rockets that have been launched from the Gaza Strip show that the best of intentions can result in something far less positive than is often anticipated.
Now, there's another priority, and that is we have to recognize the need to overwhelm global jihad, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but globally.
And I've spoken on this at some length before, but let me just mention a couple of things.
One, I want to add military strength. I believe that a strong America is the best ally peace has ever known. I want to add 100,000 troops to our military. I want to raise our military spending to 4 percent. I want to make sure that our troops have the equipment they need on the battlefield to be successful and the care they deserve when they come home. Strength is key. (Applause.)
Second, it's time for us to actually become energy secure, energy independent. That's going to take investment. We can do it. We can no longer send a billion dollars a day to people who don't like us. It's time for us to become energy independent. (Applause.)
I'm not going to get into this at great length, but it is also time for us to restructure our civilian agencies of power. We have military powers that have been readjusted for the world post-Cold War. We have not done that with our civilian agencies of strength. It's time for us to completely restructure how we face the world. One of the ways we do that, of course, is to strengthen our old alliances as well as create new ones. And I've been calling for a far more expanded NATO, as well as regional alliances that we can develop. I'm glad that others are echoing that call as well.
I should also note that building new alliances also suggests that we ought to talk honestly about where old discussion groups and alliances have failed. And the United Nations has failed. It's failed to contain aggression. It's failed to stop proliferation. It's failed to stop genocide. And its failures, I think, stem from a lack of community of interest on the part of the members of the United Nations. What we need are new international structures in which only free nations are invited to work together and where we have shared goals. (Applause.)
We are not going to withdraw from the U.N. We're not going to withdraw from the U.N. because I think we have to have a place where the whole world can talk, but we also need bodies where the free world can act.
Now, the United Nations Human Rights Council has a particularly repugnant record. It has repeatedly targeted Israel while at the same time remaining virtually silent about the egregious violations from places like Burma and Sudan and Cuba and North Korea and Zimbabwe and Syria. In my view, it is time to end the U.S. support for this sad spectacle. (Applause.) It is time for the United Nations (sic) to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Finally, let me just say I think the obvious, and that is that jihadism has emerges as this century's nightmare, following the steps of totalitarian philosophies of the last century. We should also remember that in the two prior global confrontations with totalitarianism, it wasn't always obvious that we'd win. As a matter of fact, in those conflicts, the balance of power was a lot more closely aligned than it is today. Those are wars we could have lost. In the current conflict, defeat is really not as dangerously close as it was during the darkest moments of World War II or the Cold War. There's really no comparison as you look at the resources that we have, economically and militarily, and the resources that are held by the terrorists. In those previous wars, there were a lot of ways we could have lost. Victory was far from guaranteed.
But in the current conflict, there is only one way we could lose. And that is if we, as the civilized world, become deniers, denying the reality of global jihad, denying the peril from Iraq's terrorist safe havens, denying the reality of Iranian aggression, denying the very real possibility that nuclear weapons could actually be used.
I will not be a denier, nor will you. Together we can act, we must act to defeat evil, to protect liberty, and to ensure that the peace that god intends for all of his children is finally brought to the Earth.
God bless the troops, "heroes proved through liberating strife." (Applause.) "Heroes proved through liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life." God bless them, and God bless America.
Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you.
Well, now I have the fun of taking some questions from this group, and I'm looking forward to that, I hope. (Chuckles.)
(Laughter.) Oh, you got a line on either side.
Wonderful. Please, sir. Start over here on your right.
Q Okay, thank you very much. I'm here today with my 11-year old daughter Nicole (sp),in the front row, who may be one of the -- (off mike).
MR. ROMNEY: Where's Nicole? There's Nicole right there. Hi, Nicole.
Q -- who may be, I understand, the youngest member of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
MR. ROMNEY: Excellent.
Q And this is a joint question from both of us. We were travelling here and talking about the impact of our fossil fuel dependence on America's security, Israel's security, how it's funding the bad guys around the world, whether it's Putin, whether it's Venezuela, the Arab states, Iran. Also, the environment, and also how, as a populist issue, because fossil fuel consumption is such a bigger percentage of the expenditures of lower-income families, reducing that dependence would help both lower incomes as well as the economy in general.
What, concretely, can you do to -- would you do -- to eliminate that dependence on -- or reduce it significantly -- on fossil fuels? And how better can you and the other candidates communicate the reasons for our needs to do that?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, first, on communication. I believe the president is not only the commander in chief, he is the educator in chief. And the president's -- I mean, I remember Ross Perot getting out there with those charts, remember that? He'd get out there and we all laughed at them, but you know what? We learned something from it. He showed us what would happen.
We have to show the American people what happens to the world if we have $100 a barrel oil, or $150 a barrel oil. What it means to have Putin as a superpower leader of the world. What it means to have Chavez massively more wealthy. What it means to have Ahmadinejad and his ilk more and more wealthy. It changes the world dynamic. What it means to the American family to have gasoline going for $5 and $8 and $10 a gallon. And one, that has to be communicated.
And then people have to understand there are two ways. We can either go that way, or we can take a path that gets us to be energy secure, energy independent. And I believe the American people will say, yeah, we've got to do that. That means substantially more investment in technology to develop, if you will, more efficiency in our vehicles and our homes and our businesses, and more sources of energy that could be more efficient.
We spend right now -- we've done a calculation -- about $4 billion a year on the widest array of energy-related projects as a nation. I'm talking about as a government, as a federal government. We should be spending a lot more than that. We send a billion dollars a day out of our economy to buy oil. We can afford more than $4 billion to figure out how to stop that from going out.
I believe that you're going to see far more nuclear power and should, liquefied coal where you sequester CO2 -- all of our renewable resources -- more oil, more gas, we have plenty of resources of our own, and then more efficiency. A more efficient automotive fleet, homes and businesses. And that investment is going to be necessary. I believe the resolve of the American people will be there as long as the president educates and then actually leads. (Applause.)
Just talking -- just talking about it year after year. Since Jimmy Carter, we've been talking about reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We're now up to 60 percent dependence. And it's going to drop, I'm told, the forecasters say, to about 55, and then it goes back up and just keeps going higher and higher and higher. That's unacceptable for all the reasons you describe. We're going to become energy independent. It'll take awhile, but just getting on the track and having that technology for ourselves -- and by the way, selling it to other people, like China, will change the whole dynamics of the world once again and make productive people those that lead the world.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Q Hi, Governor Romney.
MR. ROMNEY: Hi.
Q I'm interested to hear -- we all know where Senator McCain stands on coerced interrogation and torture of enemy combatants. As someone who's not very equivocal and kind of straightforward and straight talking, it's very easy for me to define torture. To me, torture is anything that leaves permanent scars, like burning with cigarettes or cutting off of fingers or limbs, or gouging or, you know, pulling of fingernails. To me --
MR. ROMNEY: Give me a full list, will you? Go ahead. (Laughs/laughter.)
Q To me, torture is not waterboarding or exposing combatants to cold temperature or loud music. Rap music might be, but -- (laughter). But anyhow, I've been kind of frustrated because President Bush has not been able to define what is torture to him, and I haven't heard really any of the other candidates define what is torture, and I'd really be interested to hear what you think.
MR. ROMNEY: I don't think you're going to find people -- and I think it's wise -- defining exactly what the line is on torture, because I don't think you want the enemy combatants to know what you're planning on doing. I don't think you want them to know, "Oh, this is what they can do. They can't do more than this." I think you want to leave it somewhat unclear.
The Military Commissions Act talks about the circumstances where we use certain types of interrogation techniques. I got to tell you, I know the president comes under a lot of criticism, and the war in Iraq was not perfectly managed; far from it. But he has kept us safe these last six years, and that has not been easy. (Applause.)
And he made sure that when al Qaeda was calling, we were listening. And can you believe it? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted not to allow him to do that. Extraordinary.
He also made sure that when we captured a terrorist, we interrogated them, as effectively as we could. Did we go across the line of torture, as you would define it? Of course not. We don't torture people. But we're not going to tell them exactly what we're going to do. And we are going get the information we need to protect American lives.
And of course he also fought for the Patriot Act. (Applause.) And you know the most famous story in this, and that was when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured. And he turned to his captors and he said, "I'll see you in New York with my lawyers." And the answer was he did not go to New York to sit with his lawyers. Instead he saw GIs and CIA interrogators, and he saw them in Guantanamo, just as it ought to be. (Applause.) Thank you.
Q Governor, a frequent -- I'm Gary Lieber (sp) from California. And a frequent concern I've had is that our party hasn't been very good at articulating the issues or framing the debate, and I'd like to thank you for doing that so well on so many of the issues.
But my specific point of concern is on health care. Our government in California seems to be taking a chapter out of your book in Massachusetts on universal, when I think the markets, which you have extolled so greatly over your lifetime, can play a much greater role than the Hillary Clinton model of universal health care. Could you address health care just for just a minute?
MR. ROMNEY: I'm delighted you raised it. And the -- and I totally agree with you.
Let me tell you, though, that we as the Republican Party have been hit by the Democrats or they've got an advantage, particularly with women voters, who care deeply about the environment, about health care and about education. And the truth is, the Democratic Party talks about those things, but they talk about them so they could raise money from those interest groups. They don't actually do anything that improve any one of the three.
And so we found a way in our state to work together -- frankly, Republicans and Democrats -- to get health insurance for all of our citizens, in a Republican way.
Now, I know some people disagree with me. That's okay. We can, through private market mechanisms, solve the problems that exist in our economy. If you've got one-seventh of the U.S. economy, 17 percent in health care, growing to 20 percent, a fifth of our economy, if it's not working right, the last thing you want to do is put more government into it. You look at it and say: We -- if we want to fix it, you got to get government out of it.
And that's what I tried to do in Massachusetts. We weren't able to do it in some ways. We want to make it work more like a market and less like a regulated utility. And that's how I think we're going to be successful nationwide.
My plan, by the way, allows every citizen in America to get health insurance. How do I do that? No new taxes raised. No requirement that people get government insurance but instead private insurance. Let them get private market-based insurance. (Light applause.) And deregulate state markets.
It's really interesting. In my state of Massachusetts, we went to work. We sat down with the insurance companies and said, "How come your premiums are so high for these single people that are uninsured that want to buy insurance?" And they said, "Well, you got so many regulations you stick on us that our premiums have to be very, very high." They said, "Take off the regulations and we'll get the rates lower." A lot of people didn't believe them. But we went through and took off a lot of regulations. I wanted to take off more than the Democrats did. We took them out. And the premium for a single person, 42 years of age, in Boston has gone from $340 a month to $180 a month -- basically in half. (Applause.)
The market works in health care. We will take the high ground on health care. We don't want the guys that -- well, the bureaucrats that ran the Katrina cleanup running our health care system. That's for sure.
And so we're not going to go with Hillary Care, socialized medicine. We are instead going to have private, market-based insurance, and we have the answers to all three issues. They're not Democrat issues; they're our issues. Thank you. (Applause.)
Q Governor Romney, I sincerely mean this to be political and not personal. I live in a community with a large Mormon population. What is it about the LDS faith that scares people so badly? And is there some way to overcome that fear?
MR. ROMNEY: I'm probably the wrong guy to ask, but my neighbors might know actually. (Laughter.)
You know, I've been really pleased that in my conversations, particularly with evangelical Christian leaders and evangelicals in places like Iowa and South Carolina, that the response has been very warm.
You probably heard James Dobson, I think, a week or so ago. He said, look. And he's head of Focus on the Family. I hope I quote him correctly here. Somebody correct me. I didn't hear it directly but I heard secondhand that he said, look, I can't vote for Mayor Giuliani or Senator McCain or Senator Thompson. Well, that sort of left one guy left standing there. (Laughter.)
And I was -- and Tony Perkins likewise has been very supportive in the comments he's made. He hasn't -- neither one has endorsed anyone at this stage. But I believe that evangelical Christians are very much open to my candidacy, because we share views on so many issues. Are we 100 percent aligned on every issue? Of course not, but we share values.
And I think that the success I've had in Iowa and New Hampshire and Michigan and South Carolina and Nevada -- in all of those states, I'm either number one or tied for number one. The success I've had in those states -- not in South Carolina, but my own polls show me doing about that well. Of course, I make them up. (Laughter.)
But the success I'm having in those states is coming in part because of evangelical Christians saying, look, we share values. You flow from the same Judeo-Christian philosophies that the rest of us flow from. We believe in God; we believe that all children on earth are the children of the same maker; we believe that liberty is a gift of God.
Those principles will be part of the values which I bring to the White House if I'm fortunate enough to become your president. And they're not faith-specific. They are part of the faith value structure that all Americans subscribe to. Thank you. (Applause.)
Q (Off mike.) I'm referring to a Newsweek poll that shows that -- (off mike) -- a fairly significant number of people said, I would never vote for a Mormon. What -- (off mike)?
MR. ROMNEY: (Laughs.) Yeah.
Q What is there about the Mormon faith that scares people?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, I don't know whether it said they'd never vote for or would less likely to vote for. But in the same poll -- I saw one by Gallup that said, look, people don't want to vote for a person -- they don't want to vote for a Mormon. That was, I don't know, 29 percent. Then they had even more that said they wouldn't want to vote for somebody 70 or older. Then they had even more that said they wouldn't want to vote for somebody who had been divorced many times.
But you know what? They're going to vote for all of us, because those things are on the back of their mind. But at the front of their mind, they want to know who can lead America to become a more prosperous and secure place, and that's what they care about. Thank you. (Applause.)
Q (Name inaudible.)
I was going to address the previous -- (off mike). But first, I want to say, I grew up in a high school that was all Mormon and Jewish. And everybody here would decry any use of your religion to keep you from office.
MR. ROMNEY: Thank you. (Applause.)
Q My concern when the Iraq War started was that we really needed to turn right and -- in that region towards Iran. And my concern now is, do you think that the Iraq Conflict, without getting into whether it was right or wrong, has weakened us to the point where we would be unable to deal with Iran militarily?
MR. ROMNEY: No, I do not believe that we are unable to deal with Iran militarily. I don't anticipate that the kind of strategy we would pursue would be a ground-intensive, change-the-regime, change- the-government type of effort. I think it's more likely that other military actions would be in the nature of blockade or a bombardment or surgical strikes of one kind or another.
I think that Iran recognizes that American military might is not to be trifled with, and that we have the resolve and the willingness to remove what is the greatest threat to peace on the planet, which is a nuclear Iran. And so I think they're going to have to recognize that that is something which is real.
Now, does the fact that we have -- that we're still in Iraq have an influence on our options? Certainly. We have 160,000 troops in harm's way there and in a place that's close to Iran, but we certainly have options, we have capabilities, and -- in my view, to make it very clear to the Iranians that the military option is in our hand. We should build the kind of support and consensus here as well as among our friends. And thankfully there are people like Merkel and Sarkozy that are beginning to recognize that this is not just a worry for America; it's a worry for the entire civilized world.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Q Sir, you very commendably stated your commitment to ending the supplying of weapons and monies and whatnot to Hamas. My question, though, would be kind of along that same line. We've seen empirically that Hamas has a way of acquiring the weapons that we send to Fatah as well as the money; two or three heavy machine guns that were made by the U.S. recently opened fire on Israeli helicopters. If you were to be elected, would you commit yourself to ending the support, both militarily and financially, to terrorist groups like Fatah, specifically? (Applause.)
MR. ROMNEY: You know, I'd want a lot more -- I'd want a lot more information and evidence about where Fatah is going. Right now -- I mean, I have to be honest. When I was in Israel in January and came home and people said, "Well, what do you think about the prospects for peace and so forth?" My reaction was, how would you possibly have a peace conference at this stage? There's no one to talk to. There's no one in charge. You got Hamas and Fatah going at each other, you got militias running up and down the country -- who do you talk to on the other side?
Do you want peace? Absolutely. And I know there's been some change -- I wouldn't even call it an "advancement" -- you have -- Hamas now controls the Gaza Strip but is lobbing missiles, and the missiles are going to become more sophisticated. So is there an opportunity right now? I'm cautious in my perspective with regards to those kind of conversations.
What role would Fatah have in the future? If somehow Abbas, after all these years, could develop the kind of strength in the security apparatus -- even in the West Bank -- and also governmental institutions that suggest that there was the foundation of a state -- that'd be wonderful. And in that circumstance, you could obviously think about working with Fatah.
But in the current circumstances, I think we have to do our very best to understand, where is the money going? Where are the weapons going? Who's getting it? How is it being used? And obviously if weapons are being used against the good guys, then you make adjustments.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. ROMNEY: Pardon? (Applause.)
Q (Off mike.)
MR. ROMNEY: Oh. I'm being moved in on. I can tell. I'm in big trouble here. I got a -- you know, I'm in a -- let me do this. I just want to -- I want to underscore something. What -- do you have something you want to say?
Q No, I was just going to come stand next to you at the end.
MR. ROMNEY: Okay, good. (Laughter, applause.)
I -- I just to have tell you, one of the most interesting experiences I had -- and it was actually before my trip to Israel, my most recent trip, that is -- and that was I was in Boston when Shimon Peres happened to visit. And he was in the apartment of Meir Shlomo, who was the counsel general in Boston, and there was a small group there -- Ted, I think you were there and a few others -- and someone said to him, "What do you think about the conflict in Iraq?"
Now, I presumed that what he would say as the leader of the liberal party would be some very critical things about Iraq and about our action and so forth there; he surprised me. He said, "Before I respond to that, I need to place the conflict in context." He said, "America is unique in the history of the world." He said, "In the history of the world, whenever there's been war, the nation that wins takes land from the nation that loses, because land is the source of value on the planet and has been from the beginning." He said, "One nation in history has been willing to lay down hundreds of thousands of lives -- this during the last century -- and take no land -- no land from Germany, no land from Japan, no land from Korea -- America. America is unique in the history of the world." And Colin Powell had it in his book -- he said America -- the only land we took was enough land to bury our dead.
It is essential that America remain strong. It's essential that America have a strong military to defend ourselves and our friends and our interests around the world. It's essential that we have a strong economy. You can't have a strong military unless you have a strong economy -- a superpower economy. And of course for those things to happen, you also have to have strong families, teaching our kids the values that they need so they can be strong. A strong America is what my campaign is about.
We're going to have to change things in Washington. I know there are a lot of politicians in Washington that say that they don't like change in Washington. Well, get used to it, because I'm coming -- (laughter) -- and -- (interrupted by applause).
We're -- you've sank another question? Okay. I get another question.
Q I stood up too soon. (Laughter.)
MR. ROMNEY: You never stand up too soon, honey. (Laughter.) You're always welcome.
Q As a Michigander, I look forward to the day when you will be the second Romney for whom we vote. (Applause.)
MR. ROMNEY: (Laughs.) Thank you.
Q And to follow up to the last gentleman's question, I'm wondering if you could kindly comment on Secretary Rice's current fore into the Mideast and her declaration reported in the press today that now is the time for a Palestinian state.
MR. ROMNEY: You know, the road map to peace had a good deal going for it and a lot to commend it, and it had different stages and phases, as you know.
At the beginning, the first phase was that there would be Palestinian security apparatus in place, and once that was in place and the Palestinian Authority had the ability to control terror and violence and the territories, then you'd move to establish, if you will, the institutions of government that are necessary. And then, finally, with those things in place, you'd come to a phase where there'd be negotiations over some of the tough issues, boundaries and so forth. That makes a lot of sense to me.
Somehow jumping head of the first two -- without security apparatus in place, without institutions of government that are stable and in place and just saying let's just go right into a final resolution of the other issues -- is a difficult leap. Do we have hope? Is there the opportunity for dialogue? You know, I'm one of these guys that's always willing to talk. As Ross Perot used to say, I'm all ears, but -- (interrupted by laughter) -- but I'm cautious in this hope.
I am very concerned when a bad actor like Assad is saying, well, why should I come? It's like you got to have people on both sides of this discussion that want to be there and that badly want peace. You want to negotiate from a position of strength, and you want to make sure the person on the other side is actually able to deliver something. And right now that's hard to see.
So you know, I will certainly be supportive of the president and Secretary Rice in their hopes, but I'm cautious at this stage. And we'll see what comes from it, and I believe that the road map to peace is the pathway that has the most promise. (Applause.)
Thank you. You folks are wonderful. Thank you so very much. Honor to be with you. (Continued applause.)