25 Jul 2012 6:08 PM
EMBARGOED: NBC/ROMNEY EXTENDED TRANSCRIPT
 
 


* * * ALL CONTENT EMBARGOED UNTIL 6:30 P.M. ET * * *


TRANSCRIPT OF BRIAN WILLIAMS’ INTERVIEW WITH GOV. MITT ROMNEY
Mandatory Credit: NBC News


LONDON -- July 25, 2012 -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney sat down with NBC’s Brian Williams at the Tower of London today for an exclusive, wide-ranging interview to air on “NBC Nightly News.”

Below is the extended transcript, EMBARGOED until air. Video will be available online at www.nbcnightlynews.com after 6:30pm ET.

A photo is available online here, credit NBC News: http://on.fb.me/MmCmFM

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MANDATORY CREDIT: NBC NEWS


BRIAN WILLIAMS:
It seems to me this completes your Olympic experience. You get to run the games and now you actually have a horse in the race. What's (LAUGH) that gonna be like?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, it's-- a big-- exciting experience for my wife and-- and for the person that she's worked with, the trainer of the horse who’s riding the horse. And-- obviously, it's fun to be part of the Olympics in any way you can be part of them.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
When is the event, and for those of us who don't follow the sport, what happens? Are there rounds that-- of competition? Is there just one chance? What happens?

MITT ROMNEY:
I have to tell you. This is Ann's sport. I'm not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not-- be-- watching-- the event. I hope-- her horse does well. But just the honor of being here and representing our country and-- seeing the other Olympians is-- is something which I'm sure the people-- that are associated with this are looking forward to.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
And in the short time you've been here in London, do they look ready to your experienced eye?

MITT ROMNEY:
You know, it's hard to know just how well it were turn out-- will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the-- private security firm not having enough people-- the sup-- supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging. Because in the games, there-- there are three parts that makes games successful.

Number one, of course, are the athletes. That's what overwhelmingly the games are about. Number two are the volunteers. And they'll have great volunteers here. But number three are the people of the-- of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the games actually begin.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
I wanna ask you about the-- compelling-- news back home, and that's from Aurora, Colorado, where we were on Friday. And this is about your own record vis-à-vis what happened here. As governor, you signed an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts. And you said at the time, quote, "These guns are not made for recreation or self defense, they are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people." Do you still believe that?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, I actually signed a piece of legislation, as you described, that banned assault weapons in our state. It was a continuation of prior-- legislation. And it was backed both by the Second Amendment advocates like myself, and those that wanted to restrict-- gun rights. Because it was a compromise. Both sides got some things improved in the laws as they existed.

And I happen to think that with regards to the Aurora, Colorado disaster, we're wise to-- continue the time of memorial and-- and think of the comforting the people affected. And-- and political implications, legal implications are something which will be sorted out down the road. But I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws. A lot of what this-- young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
As a practical matter, do you have a problem with being able to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition off the internet?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, I don't know that I'm gonna be able to find a way to prevent people who want to pro-- provide harm, from being able to purchase things that could carry out that harm. What I wanna do is find the people who represent a danger to America and find them and keep them from having the capacity to use or buy things that could har-- harm-- hurt other people.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
You said a few years back, quote, "I don't line up with the N.R.A." Is that still true?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, on every single issue-- there are differences between myself and the N.R.A. On many issues, we-- we share a common commitment to the Second Amendment and the right of people to bear arms. But I'm sure from time to time there'll be issues where-- where they and I might part. I-- I don't have one for you right now. But-- but their agenda is not entirely identical with my own. I-- I don't know that I line up 100% with the-- with almost anybody.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
In the time you and I were both in the air flying here, The Daily Telegraph has run a story quoting-- a Romney advisor, and I wanna get your reaction to this: "We are part of an Anglo Saxon heritage. And he feels that the special relationship is special," the advisor said of Mr. Romney, adding, "the White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have." What's your reaction to this quote from an advisor of yours in The Daily Telegraph here in London?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, first of all, I-- I'm-- I'm generally not enthusiastic about-- adopting the comments made by people who are unnamed. I have a lot of advisors. Actually we've gone from calling the rope line where I shake hands every day to the advice line. Because you have a lot of people that offer advice. So I'm not sure who this person is. But I can tell you that we have a very special relationship between the United States and Great Britain.

It goes back to our very beginnings-- cultural and-- and-- historical. But I also believe the president understands that. So I-- I don't agree with whoever that advisor might be. But do agree that we have a very common bond between ourselves and Great Britain.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
On to another topic-- and that is your taxes. Can you say that your decision is firm that you'll not do a walk-back between now and the convention, now and the fall election? That there will be no returns-- more returns released by Mitt Romney?

MITT ROMNEY:
I'm following the same precedent that was put in place by John McCain. Two years, and by the way, hundreds of pages (LAUGH) of returns for the Democrat operatives to go through and twist and distort and to turn in different directions and try and make a big deal out of. But, you know, the American people are not real concerned about tax returns. They're concerned about who can get this economy going and create good jobs again. And I can. The president hasn't been able to do the job as he had expected to do. And I know how to get it done.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
But you know-- also know what happens in the real world, governor. People hear, "He's not gonna release the rest of his returns," and they wonder why. They wonder, "Is there a year there where he paid no taxes?" They wonder about expensive horses and houses and what have you. So I'll ask another way. What is it that is preventing you from releasing the rest of your returns?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well one, I’ve released all the information about my financial holdings. That's required by law. And then in addition beyond the law, have released, or will finally release act-- when the last year is complete, two years of full returns. And what we've noted is our Democrat friends, take what's there, twist it, distort it-- dishonestly use it in-- in attack ads. I just don't wanna give 'em more material than is required.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
I haven't had the chance to sit down and have-- a conversation with you except for the presidential debates. I wanna read this for the-- this happened on-- Meet the Press on NBC. This is David Brooks, op-ed columnist, New York Times. And I wanna get your reaction to this quote: "What's relevant is who the guy is," speaking of Governor Romney.

"He has an amazing personal story. His family was really an exodus story going across the West, poverty, building an empire. He can't talk about it because it involves Mormonism. He is personally a decent guy. For some reason, he's not willing to talk about it. He's a hidden man." Are you a hidden man?

MITT ROMNEY:
(LAUGH) Well no, and as-- as a matter of fact, I'm happy to talk about my heritage. I-- I speak actually quite regularly about the fact that my dad was born in Mexico, that-- with revolution in Mexico, my dad, then I think aged five or six, came back to the U.S. with his family. That they went broke multiple times. His dad was a contractor. My dad didn't complete college, but went on to be head of a car company and then a governor.

I think it's a remarkable story. And-- I'm very proud of my heritage. I'm-- without question, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I'm proud of that. Some call that the Mormon Church, that's fine with me. I'll talk about my experiences in the church. There's no question they've helped shape my perspective.

I have, like my wife-- we try and give about 10% of our time, not just 10% of our money, but also of our time, to service in the community. And-- and those things have enriched our life, have given us perspectives that go beyond the group of friends we might have otherwise had, and instead bring us into homes where pe-- people face very different challenges than we faced.

It's given me-- a sense of what other people are experiencing and a great desire to make a difference in other people's lives. And that's why, by the way, given the experience I've had, I want so badly to help people with better jobs and better incomes. Pe-- people in America need that help.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
Does it frustrate you when you hear people say, "We don't know him," or, "He seems unknowable to us"?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well-- (LAUGH) you know, I realize this is still early for a lot of people in the political process. Labor Day is usually the time when people focus more attention on candidates. You know, I've been on the-- The Tonight Show and Letterman and The View and I do some of those things to get better known.

But at the same time, most folks won't really get to see me until the debates and will get a better sense of the-- of the character that I have. And-- I guess also-- my wife and my sons and daughters-in-law, they're doin' the best job they can (LAUGH) to get the real story about who I am-- in the public's view.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
I know how much you love quoting unnamed Romney advisors, so here's a Republican official familiar with your campaign selection process, told the folks at Politico, you are looking for a quote, "Incredibly boring white guy for your vice presidential nominee." Can you confirm or deny?

MITT ROMNEY:
You told me you were not available. But you're not-- (LAUGH) I-- I can't give you anything on that front whatsoever.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
And if you're over here and if the Olympic Games are going on and the nation and the world's attention is focused here, are we left to assume that you're gonna maybe go back to what was political d-- tradition, maybe announce your choice on the eve of the convention or certainly as we get closer to Tampa?

MITT ROMNEY:
Again, I can tell you I'm not gonna announce it this week. While I'm overseas, I'm not gonna announce my vice presidential running mate. But when the decision is made, I'll make that announcement. It's not made yet. But I can't tell you when it's gonna be. That's-- that's something which we'll decide down the road.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
You're going over to Israel on this trip. What can you do for Israel? What assurances can you deliver to Jewish Americans that you feel have been unfulfilled by this administration? You used the word "shabby" in the V.F.W. speech to describe the state of affairs.

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, we're on foreign soil right now. And I don't want to be in any way critical of the president or to be fashioning foreign policy-- departure-- from the president, while I'm on foreign soil. So I made those comments there. So I'm not gonna make them here. But I can tell you that-- that with regards to any nation that-- that feels its security is at risk that they should have a firm conviction that America is securely behind them. And-- I hope the people of Israel feel that. I would certainly won't to communicate that I as a citizen and a candidate-- stand with Israel and want to see them have-- a prosperous and-- and peaceful future.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
And let's talk about domestic-- the economy before we wrap things up. The major planks of your job plan, lower taxes, both corporate and marginal rates, and reduce regulation. Explain how that would be different from what George W. Bush tried to push through?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, let me describe-- actually, there are five things that I believe are necessary to get this economy going. One, take advantage of our energy resources, particularly natural gas, but also coal, oil, nuclear, renewables. That's number one. A huge opportunity for us, and doing so is gonna bring manufacturing back, because low-cost, plentiful energy is key to manufacturing, in many industries.

Number two, trade. I want tre-- to dramatically increase trade and particularly with-- with Latin America. Number three, take action to get America on track to have a balanced budget. Now those three things, by the way, are things which we have not been doing over the last few years, which I think are essential to getting this economy going again.

Number four, we've got to show better training and education opportunities for our current re-- workers and for coming workers. And then finally what I call restoring economic freedom. That means keep our taxes as low as possible, have regulations modern and up to date, get health care costs down. These things will restore economic freedom.

So my policies are very different than anything you've seen in the past. They're really designed for an America which has some new resources, energy being one of them, trade with Latin America being another, and the need for a balanced budget now more urgent than ever before.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
And when Mitt Romney arrives in Washington, how will Washington be any different from the Washington we've seen these past few years, which any American will tell you is hopelessly broken, busted?

MITT ROMNEY:
You know, all I can say is that I got elected governor of a state that was 87% Democrat. And it was not lost on me that if I went around attacking the Democrat leadership, I was gonna get nothing done and none of my vetoes would be upheld. And I began a relationship with the speaker of the House and the Senate president that was personal. We respected each other. We often disagreed. But we found common ground from time to time.

That has to happen. There has to be a president that buries the hatchet and says, "We're gonna go to work to try and get America on track." We-- we're at a critical time in this country. If we keep going down the path we're on, we're gonna end up like Europe or worse. It's time to have leadership that will put aside Republican and par-- and-- and Democrat, and instead focus on what's necessary for the nation. I'm willing to do that. I think others in Washington have recognized the need to do that. I see hopeful signs we're gonna finally get America on track again.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
On things, however, like Aurora, Colorado, do you see why Americans get frustrated at politics? They c-- they can see and hear your words from earlier in-- in their career. People are hurting out there. Perhaps they want to start a national conversation about whether an AR-15 belongs in the hands of-- of a citizen, whether a citizen should be able to buy 6,000 rounds off the internet. You see the-- the argument?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and-- and-- and other devices. And-- and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And-- and so we can-- we can sometimes hope that just changing a law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential to improve the lots of the American people.

I recognize that there's some things Washington and the law can do. And there's some things the law can't do. What we can do is remove the impediments for free people wanting to build enterprises from having the capacity to do so and going to work to hire people and putting people back in good jobs. For me, this campaign is overwhelmingly about getting more good jobs for middle-income Americans, getting them rising incomes.

When that happens, they'll have more money to buy the things they want to buy. That helps the economy. They can pay more taxes with higher incomes. That gets us to a balanced budget. We're-- we're at-- a point here where we have two different roads we can go down. One leads to Europe. The other leads to the kind of dynamism and prosperity, which has always characterized America.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
Europeans would argue we were Europe before there was Europe, back in '08, that we went first, of course.

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, there's no question but that the-- the collapse of-- of our housing and our-- and our financial system-- was what precipitated the trauma that you're seeing throughout the world. What has made it last so long is the improper decisions made over the prior decades, where nations abroad and nations in the United States borrowed far too much money and put themselves, if you will, at the brink of a precipice.

And when something came along that caused them to slip, why, it's hard to-- to stop the fall. I understand what it takes to get America back on track. We've dealt with some of the tough things that needed to be dealt with. We're-- we're up-- but we're-- unfortunately, not headed in the right direction. Trillion dollar deficits, massive increases in regulation, proposals to raise taxes on job creators, small businesses in particular. These things will make it very difficult for America's economy to create the jobs we so badly need.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
And-- and just-- to back up one more question. So-- to distill your views, you're saying there w-- there is no legislative remedy-- to have prevented in advance what we've just seen in Aurora? This is the argument that people determined, who are emotionally disturbed, are going to get what they want?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, we'll all hear what kinds of ideas come forward. And-- and I'll hear the ideas, as well. There have been-- in the past, there has been an effort to say, "Let's do background checks on people who seek to obtain-- weapons." And those kinds of background checks are often times able to find people who are disturbed or people who committed crimes in the past.

And I've indicated that those kinds of background checks-- consistent with the law-- can help prevent a crime. But I don't see a new piece of legislation, which is gonna keep someone, for instance, who was building bombs from building bombs, given the fact we already have that legislation. He's not allowed to do what he was doing. Just-- just having a law saying someone can't do a bad thing doesn't always keep a person from doing a bad thing.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
And what does it tell you that-- applications for guns since the shooting are up for 41% in the State of Colorado and that our cameras found about 50 people in line at one gun shop yesterday outside Denver?


MITT ROMNEY:
Well, I think it says to people that-- that in order to feel secure from those who might prevent-- or b-- might-- present a danger that-- that some feel they need to have their own protection. That-- that is, after all, the nature of the Second Amendment in our nation, which is that people have a right to defend themselves. And-- I-- I continue to believe that that's the right course for the nation, that the Second Amendment, like the other amendments, should be respected and supported.


* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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