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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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CROWLEY: Joining me is Romney supporter and New Hampshire Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte. Thank you so much for being here this morning.

AYOTTE: Thank you, Candy. Appreciate it.

CROWLEY: I want to review the bidding for our viewers that have maybe been locked into the Olympics and have not been watching politics. In London, Mitt Romney held a fund-raiser with executives of a bank that is under investigation for rate fixing. He talked about the disconcerting news about London security around the Olympics and caused a mini-tempest over there. He talked publicly about his meeting with the secret intelligence -- with the head of MI6, and his adviser, which Mitt Romney has repudiated, talked about how the former governor understands the Anglo-Saxon heritage that President Obama does not. This is not how you thought this foreign policy trip would go so for?

AYOTTE: Well, I can tell you that certainly, Mitt Romney is going to be strong on American exceptionalism, and strong foreign policy for America, and he won't go around and apologize for America.

Think about it. The president's first major foreign policy speech in Cairo was to apologize for our country, and he's actually made us weaker around the world, as opposed to stronger, and Mitt Romney will stand strong with our allies.

CROWLEY: But let me just take you back to the question, which is -- this wasn't -- this did not help, this London leg of the trip?

AYOTTE: Well, you know, Candy, we all know stuff happens on the campaign trail. Governor Romney subsequently said very clearly that he was confident in London's readiness, but what is really missing here is the real story about the Olympics. When Salt Lake City was in trouble, Mitt Romney stepped in, served his community. And let's face it, he had to go in there and clean up somebody else's mess. It was not a sure thing. There were financial scandals. He went in, he served his country. Salt Lake City was a success. America was proud. And now we need someone to clean up Barack Obama's mess, and Mitt Romney is the person to do it.

CROWLEY: I know that is the message you want to get out. Let me move on to something you just said, talking about that President Obama, you believe, has conducted a weak foreign policy. We are talking about a man who upped the drone war to get at Al Qaida operatives both in Pakistan and Yemen well beyond what George Bush ever did. This is the man who gave the OK to go get bin Laden, now of course deceased. He wound down the war in Iraq, he is winding down the war in Afghanistan, and more importantly for Americans, I think, there have been no attacks on U.S. soil since President Obama took office. What is weak about that?

AYOTTE: Well, I certainly give him credit for getting Osama bin Laden and the drone attacks, but Candy, let's be clear where we are. Let's look at the situation right now in Syria, where essentially he has outsourced leadership to the United Nations, and is it a surprise that China and Russia don't want to support freedom in Syria? I mean, look at his reset policy. Here we have Russia basically thumbing their nose at the United States of America, continuing to provide arms to the Assad regime, and in addition to that, this week there was a report at the end of the week that the Russian naval chief, that Russia was actually looking at opening additional bases, including one in Cuba.

We are not stronger. The relationship with Israel -- when the people of Teheran stood in the streets of 2009 and asked for freedom, the president did not speak up for them. And I can tell you when Mitt Romney is president--

CROWLEY: They imposed sanctions.

AYOTTE: -- he will speak up for freedom.

CROWLEY: They certainly imposed sanctions--

(CROSSTALK)

AYOTTE: He was dragged to the table, to the economic sanctions. I mean, you can, the congressional leaders of both sides of the aisle are the ones that pushed stronger economic sanctions. It took years into his presidency to get those tougher economic sanctions in place.

CROWLEY: Let me show you the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, the question to voters who would better to handle foreign policy? Obama, 47 percent; Romney 32 percent. Clearly American voters see something they like here.

AYOTTE: Clearly, again, I think that certainly, on the Osama bin Laden issue, I give him great credit for that. But if you look overall, to start your major foreign policy initiative by apologizing for America in Cairo -- ask the Israelis, do they feel safer today? Iran is closer to the capability of having a nuclear weapon than when this president came into office, and actually we haven't been as tough as we can be on sanctions. He could have done this sooner, and certainly to try to think of negotiating with Teheran, which is how he came into the presidency, that has obviously not worked. CROWLEY: In the fiscal cliff category, you voted against the bill that actually set up this --

AYOTTE: I did.

CROWLEY: -- sequestration that now everyone is saying, oh my gosh, this will be Armageddon if we do this. But right -- you have warned that for defense spending, this would be terrible, for our veterans and that sort of thing. If it comes down to, because certainly the Democrats seem very dug in, as does the president -- it may come down to are you worried about the defense cuts or more worried about tax increases on wealthier Americans, at least the income, you may have to choose between that. Which is it, defense spending cuts or tax -- keeping the tax levels where they are?

AYOTTE: Well, Candy, I have to tell you, it makes me sick that some in Washington, particularly some of the Senate Democrats want to play -- and even our president unfortunately -- want to use our military as a bargaining chip. And last recently, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, wrote a letter to the president, asking him to come to the table to resolve this issue of sequestration for our military. And I'm calling on the president to do it. I am willing to sit down with members of both sides of the aisle, and let's resolve this before the election, because you know, if we wait until after the election, it is not just our national security, which Secretary Panetta has said we would be shooting ourselves in our head, I mean, awful. Undermining our national security. But also in terms of our defense industrial base, nearly a million jobs that are at stake.

CROWLEY: But aren't those the stakes for you all? The Democrats look at it, and I asked the same question of Democrats, here are the stakes for you. Aren't the stakes for Republicans, do you want these horrible, awful defense cuts, or do you want to protect the tax cuts for the wealthier income, the $250,000 and over?

AYOTTE: Candy, that is not the choice. And where is our commander-in-chief on this? Really, I mean, seriously. Here he is talking about -- you know, giving a speech to our military, why isn't he right now at the table with members of both sides of the aisle resolving this?

And he could lead this effort and he has been AWOL on this. And so I'm calling on him...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ... him to, right?

AYOTTE: ... to do this. Yes.

CROWLEY: You guys are going all -- August, right.

AYOTTE: We are going on tour. We are going to be going to -- we're leaving. And right now why isn't he in Washington? This is too important to put off until after the election.

CROWLEY: Let me just turn you to some politics. Beth Myers, you may or may not know her, may or may not have spoken with her recently. She is heading up the search for V.P. She put out two tweets recently, really does not tweet very often, in fact, this is only her second or third tweet, and listing possible V.P. picks.

And I don't know if you can see these, but the first name on that, Kelly Ayotte. Have you been vetted by the Romney campaign? Is this something you are interested in?

AYOTTE: Well, Candy, it is certainly an honor to be mentioned, but, again, we've talked about the grave issues facing our country right now. And servicing New Hampshire in the Senate, addressing these fiscal issues, that is where my priority is.

And Governor Romney will pick who he thinks is best, and he is in charge of that process, rightly so.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ... turned down.

AYOTTE: Again, honored to be mentioned, but the best honor I can have is serving the people of New Hampshire.

CROWLEY: You are a Penn State alum, I know...

AYOTTE: I am.

CROWLEY: A lot of sadness up there about the penalties against Penn State, too -- just in a short time, too rough, about right?

AYOTTE: You know, I think very tough on Penn State, but you have got to be tough on sexual abuse. And when I was attorney general I had to go after the Catholic Church on this. You know, you cannot allow institutions to condone this kind of behavior.

CROWLEY: Kelly Ayotte, thank you so much for joining us, Senator.

AYOTTE: Thanks, Candy, appreciate it.

CROWLEY: Appreciate it.

AYOTTE: Thanks very much.

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