CNN THE SITUATION ROOM - Transcript
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BLITZER: All right. My heart goes out to all those people in Rome. Thanks very much, Carol, for that. Check in with you shortly.
Republican Mitt Romney is wearing many hats in these final weeks before the midterm election. He is finishing out his term as the governor of Massachusetts. He's the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And he's a leading presidential prospect in 2008.
Now he is offering some very blunt talk about the GOP's chances next month and about the hot-button issue of gay marriage.
BLITZER: And joining us now, the Republican governor of the state of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.
Governor Romney, thanks very much for coming in.
GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right.
Everybody assumes you want to be president of the United States some day -- nothing wrong with that. But tell our viewers why you would like to be president.
ROMNEY: Well, I'm not going to say that at this point. I think anybody, however, looking at that opportunity, would consider it an enormous honor.
This is the hope of the world, this nation is. But anyone looking at that race should certainly not look at it for personal ego gratification, but, rather, out of a sense of duty and obligation.
BLITZER: So, you have no...
ROMNEY: And I hope...
BLITZER: ... intention right now to do what Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia...
BLITZER: ... did last week, and announce he wants to spend more quality time with his family?
ROMNEY: Sorry, Wolf, won't help your ratings today. I'm keeping the option open at this point, as are probably 20 or 30 other people, Republican and Democrat.
BLITZER: So, walk us through the process. You're keeping your option open.
After the elections, presumably, November 7, it's going to be a sprint to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. At what point do you make a decision, "You know what, I want to be president"?
ROMNEY: I think you will see most people who are considering '08 giving it some consideration, probably towards the end of the year, maybe the beginning of next year -- different people choosing different times.
But you probably can't wait too long, because the primaries and the early caucuses are starting even earlier this year. So, I think those that are really serious about looking at '08 are going to have to make up their mind pretty quickly.
BLITZER: Here is a sensitive issue that you are going to have to deal with, if, in fact, you want to be president of the United States.
Merle Black, the Emory University political scientist, referred to it "The New York Times" last week: "He starts out with a deck stacked against him. Obviously, he overcame this in Massachusetts. But he is going to be dealing with a different voting group on the national level" -- the fact that you're a Mormon.
ROMNEY: Right. BLITZER: How do you deal with that, because there are people out there, presumably, who don't like that?
ROMNEY: Well, I think fundamentally, this is America. And Americans recognize a wide variety of faiths.
But they do want a person who is a person of faith. And I think, as they look at people who will be running in '08, they are going to look for folks that share their values. And their values are what is most critical, for conservative Christian voters, as well as Jewish voters, and those that come from different backgrounds.
I don't think faith will become a factor, in the final analysis. But it may become an issue people talk about early on. But, ultimately, they put aside those differences, and focus on the capabilities of the individual candidates, their vision, their aspirations, where they take America, and why they're running.
BLITZER: The -- John F. Kennedy overcame that problem, the first Catholic president of the United States. when Joe Lieberman was running for vice president, he was Jewish. As you know, he -- that was not much of a problem in that campaign.
But I will read to you what Pastor Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said the other day: "We evangelicals view Mormons as a Christian cult group. A cult group is a group that claims exclusive revelation. And, typically, it's hard to get out of these cult groups. And, so, Mormonism qualifies as that."
Is that a problem, as far as evangelicals are concerned?
ROMNEY: Well, it doesn't sound like I am going to get his vote.
ROMNEY: But I'm not going to worry about that, if I get into it.
The great majority of American people look at the character of the person, their track record, what they plan on doing, what their values are. I saw Jerry Falwell quoted the other day in a paper, saying: Look, if Mitt Romney decides to run, and if he's our nominee, I will be happy to work for him.
You are going to see most evangelicals support whoever they feel is closest to their values. And that may be me. It may be somebody else. But I don't think that people are going to ever disqualify someone and apply a religious test. The Constitution says that's prohibitive. We don't apply religious tests. And I doubt Republicans will either.
BLITZER: They will apply another test, which is, is the country moving in the right direction under President Bush or the wrong direction under President Bush? In our most recent poll, only 36 percent of the American public right now think the country is moving in the right direction. Fifty- three percent believe the country is moving in the wrong direction.
If that is, in fact, what it is, the president has to accept the fact that the buck stops with him.
ROMNEY: Of course he does.
But we also recognize, as a nation, that we're not happy with what is going on in the world. We're not happy about the fact that jihadists are intent on causing the collapse of our government and our military and our economy. But that's just the reality of what we're facing.
And the Democrats haven't pointed out any solution different than that which is provided by the president. So, they may not be happy with the fact that we're in a situation...
BLITZER: well, a lot of Democrats say, get out; you know, it's time to see civil war unfold.
ROMNEY: Very few -- I think...
BLITZER: And it's time to...
BLITZER: ... start pulling out.
I think very few responsible Democrats, including people like Hillary Clinton, say just turn around and get out. We all want to get out as soon as we can. But we recognize that Iraq is simply a front on the war on terror. Terror is going to continue. The jihadists are trying to take over modern Muslim nations.
BLITZER: Do you have any problems with the president's policy on Iraq?
ROMNEY: Oh, sure.
I mean, following the collapse of the Hussein government, we found that the planning level and the troop strength level were not adequate for the need.
But we are where we are now. And problems arise. And surprises occur in major international conflict. But now we're in a setting which is very challenging. But simply turning around and walking out now could lead to a humanitarian disaster.
BLITZER: So, you're part of the stay-the-course, as opposed...
ROMNEY: Well, I'm part...
BLITZER: ... to -- quote -- "cut and run"?
ROMNEY: Well, I'm not in favor of cut and run.
And stay the course should be amended to say, let's make sure we give al-Maliki the time he needs to establish the kind of security capability that will provide safety for his citizens, but, then, let's move out as quickly as we can, and defend our interests.
BLITZER: Do you have a time frame in mind?
ROMNEY: Well, you know, I think you do have to have, in your own mind -- whether you're a general or a secretary of defense or a president, you have to have a time frame that you're moving to.
BLITZER: What is yours?
ROMNEY: And -- well, I'm not going to -- I don't have a specific time frame today -- but a time frame and milestones along the way of what you would like to accomplish, when.
BLITZER: Here is a sensitive issue that has come up, because you raised it the other night, gay marriage.
BLITZER: Here is what you said: "Here in Massachusetts, activist judges struck a blow to the foundation of civilization, the family. They ruled that our Constitution requires same-sex marriage. Unless we adopt a federal amendment to protect marriage, what is happening here will unquestionably enter every other state."
BLITZER: This pits you at odds with a lot of people out there, including the daughter of the vice president, Dick Cheney, Mary Cheney, who was here in THE SITUATION ROOM not that long ago.
Listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Same-sex marriage is obviously an issue that we can disagree on, and that this country needs to debate. But the notion of amending the Constitution and writing -- basically, writing discrimination into the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. You want to tell our viewers why you disagree with Mary Cheney?
ROMNEY: Well, because marriage is a fundamental institution in our society. It's not primarily about adults. The challenge that people have who are staunch defenders of gay marriage focus on adult rights. But marriage is primarily not about adults, but about kids. A child and their development and nurturing is enhanced by access and by the nurturing of two parents of two different genders.
And, so, as we think about the development of children, and the future of our nation and its ability to raise a generation, we need to have homes where there are moms and dads. So, I favor traditional marriage, not out of any sense of discrimination.
ROMNEY: And I think we should show an outpouring of respect and tolerance for people of differences and people that make different choices.
BLITZER: But let me get this straight. Are you suggesting that children who have two fathers or two mothers, two gay men or two lesbian mothers, that those children are going to be growing up in some sort of weird environment? Is that what you're saying...
ROMNEY: No. I'm...
BLITZER: ... that this going to affect their ability to be normal kids?
ROMNEY: I'm saying that the ideal setting for raising a child is where there is a mother and a father.
Now, of course, we have a lot of homes where there is a single mom. And that's not ideal, but, I mean, there are some -- but there are some great families.
BLITZER: If there two loving -- two loving parents who happen to be the same sex...
ROMNEY: There's no -- Wolf, there's no question, but that having access to a mother and a father, people of both genders, is the ideal for the development of a child.
BLITZER: But what if there's -- what if there are two loving parents who are of the same sex? Can't they raise a kid...
ROMNEY: Oh, sure.
BLITZER: ... and make sure that that kid turns out to be a great kid?
ROMNEY: Sure, they can. And there will be circumstances of that happening.
But, overall, in a society, again, the right setting -- the ideal setting for raising a child is where they have access to a mom and a dad.
BLITZER: Should lesbians or gay men who are same-sex partners, should they be able -- should they be able to adopt children?
ROMNEY: Well, that's a state-by-state issue.
BLITZER: What do you...
ROMNEY: What I -- but my view is that we should have a constitutional amendment that says that marriage is defined as a relationship between a man and a woman.
And the reason it's so important to do at a federal level -- and I know some people say they are against gay marriage, but let the states decide. Well, if one state decides that they are going to have gay marriage, and they marry people from all over the country, then, every state ends up with gay marriage, because people move around this country.
And, ultimately, the Supreme Court may well say that, under the full faith and credit clause, if you're married in one state...
ROMNEY: ... you're married in the other.
BLITZER: Well, let's get back to adoption for a second.
ROMNEY: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: Should -- do you believe that gays and lesbians should be able to adopt children?
ROMNEY: Well, they are able to adopt children.
BLITZER: But do you think that's good?
ROMNEY: And I'm not going to change that.
BLITZER: Is that good?
ROMNEY: I'm not going to change that.
What I am saying is that marriage...
BLITZER: Well, what's the difference...
ROMNEY: What I mean to say is that...
BLITZER: What's the difference between children who are...
ROMNEY: Well, I will -- OK, let me...
BLITZER: ... adopted or children...
ROMNEY: I will give you an example.
BLITZER: ... who are born... ROMNEY: Once a court, as it is in Massachusetts, says that we're indifferent between same-sex marriage and traditional marriage, then, what you have on the -- in our schools is a desire to avoid what they call heterocentricity.
So, we have kids in a second-grade class in Massachusetts being taught from a book called "The King and the King," where a prince doesn't find a princess to marry, but another prince. And they become the kings.
We begin to say that we're indifferent between a marriage between a man and a woman and two men or two women. And we're not indifferent as a society. Fundamentally, as a society, overall, we want homes with moms and dads.
Now, if individuals want to do -- take a different course and enter into contracts with one another that are between same-sex individuals, they're free to do so. But marriage, as a term and as an institution, should be associated with men and women.
BLITZER: You know, Mary Cheney, when she was here -- and she is a lesbian...
BLITZER: ... she said that you -- she didn't know what your position was, but those who support what you -- you want a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage -- are on the wrong side of history, sort of like the old laws that would prevent African-Americans from marrying white people.
ROMNEY: I'm afraid that's not quite a good comparison.
It's not the wrong side of history, because, actually, in the whole history of the world, from the very beginning of recorded history, marriage has always meant a relationship between a man and a woman.
Look, if two people of the same gender want to live together and enter into a contract with each other, so be it. But don't pretend that it's marriage. And society, as a whole, will benefit by having its children, on the average, raised by moms and dads.
BLITZER: Let's talk about abortion rights, because, on this issue, you have changed your opinion.
ROMNEY: Yes. You know, I -- when I was elected governor...
BLITZER: You used to support a woman's right...
ROMNEY: Well, what...
BLITZER: ... to have an abortion.
ROMNEY: Well, when I was elected governor, I said that I didn't support abortion, but I wouldn't change the laws in Massachusetts. And people said, well, that is effectively pro-choice. I didn't argue with them. I didn't take the label pro-choice. But I did take the label pro-life, following the debate associated with stem cell research.
I sat into my office. And a provost of Harvard University and the head of stem cell research came in and said: Governor, this isn't a moral issue, because we kill the embryo after 14 days.
And that struck me as being a -- just a blow to the gut, because I recognized that we had so cheapened the value of human life, through the Roe v. Wade mentality, that I could no longer stand on the sidelines, if you will. I had to take sides.
And I call myself firmly pro-life.
BLITZER: So, you oppose embryonic stem cell research?
ROMNEY: Well, I favor using existing lines, as does the president, and using surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization. Those provide plenty of lines, as well what Dr. Hurlbut of Stanford describes as altered-state nuclear transfer, which is a type of embryonic development without actually creating a human embryo.
But I do not favor, if you will, what is known as embryo farming, taking donor sperm, donor eggs, putting them together in the laboratory, and creating new embryos.
BLITZER: And your current position on abortion rights for women is what?
ROMNEY: Well, I said I'm firmly...
BLITZER: Under what conditions should women be able....
ROMNEY: I'm firmly...
BLITZER: ... to have an abortion?
ROMNEY: I'm firmly pro-life. And my own...
BLITZER: Are there any exceptions?
ROMNEY: And the exceptions for me are with regards to rape and murder, and, of course, the risk of life, loss of life to the mother.
BLITZER: So, if the woman's life is in danger.
ROMNEY: That's right.
BLITZER: Her health is endangered?
ROMNEY: No, her life is danger, or in the case of rape or incest.
BLITZER: That's it? ROMNEY: Yes.
BLITZER: Let's briefly, because we're almost out of time, talk a little bit of politics.
You're out there campaigning for Republican gubernatorial candidates.
BLITZER: Right now, it does not look good.
ROMNEY: Tough for us.
BLITZER: ... for the gubernatorial...
BLITZER: ... candidates, the House candidates...
BLITZER: ... or the Senate candidates, for that matter.
ROMNEY: Well, I think the House and the Senate look a little better. The governor's...
BLITZER: Not much, though.
ROMNEY: The governor's races are tough, because Republican governors are -- are not running for reelection in nine different states. Only one Democrat isn't running for reelection. So, the question is, will we lose six or eight governorships, or even more? But we will probably lose quite a few.
BLITZER: Right now, there are 28 Republican governors, 22 Democratic governors. What do you think is going to happen when the dust settles November 7?
ROMNEY: Well, I hope do better -- to do better than the math would suggest. We don't want to lose as many as -- as would be indicated by just the sheer mathematics. But we will certainly lose the lead.
Fortunately, among governors, there is no vote on the majority. It's done state by state. And some great states will have Republican governors. And I think you will see a number of states where Democrats are looking for a pickup; they won't get it.
BLITZER: So, there will be a majority of Democratic governors, as...
ROMNEY: Oh, sure.
BLITZER: ... as opposed to a majority of Republican governors?
ROMNEY: Oh, sure. I think -- I don't think there is anyone who has looked at the poll numbers that doesn't think that will happen.
You have got states like New York and Arkansas that are blue states that have Republican governors who are retiring.
BLITZER: And Massachusetts.
ROMNEY: And Massachusetts -- with governors not running for reelection. And, so, the math would say that is going to be pretty hard for us to hold on to all those states.
BLITZER: And what about the House and Senate?
ROMNEY: I can't make the prediction there. I don't see those.
But I understand that the president and Karl Rove are very positive. So, I'm adopting that same positive attitude.
BLITZER: I think they have to be positive...
BLITZER: ... at this point, make sure that they get out the vote, as much as they can.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.
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