This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson and Heather Nauert," December 27, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JOHN GIBSON, "BIG STORY" CO-HOST: Now to a "Big Story" exclusive from the campaign trial. Domestic politics taking a backseat today in the wake of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. It is an opportunity for some of the candidates and it is a challenge for others as a focus on foreign policy today. The attack on Bhutto comes at a critical time in the campaign here. We're just one week away from the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, and with the spotlight on terror, some wonder if Rudy Giuliani's handling of 9/11 and veteran John McCain's war experience could push them ahead of the pack. So, how will this international crisis impact all of the candidates? With us now, from Manchester, New Hampshire, former Massachusetts governor, republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. We're using FOX's high-tech election link vehicle to bring you this exclusive interview. Governor, if you were president, what would President Romney do today?
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, of course, you call together your National Security advisors; make sure that you have information coming directly from Pakistan from firsthand sources. You want to get up-to-date information. You probably also make a direct call to Mr. Musharraf, General Musharraf to understand his perspective. You gather information from our CIA bureau chief, and Islamabad and other places in the world to make sure that we — we understand what's happening, and then you consider all the options that we have, all of the resources that might be applied to encourage greater stability to return to Pakistan in a time of great sorrow. There was progress being made towards a democratization, and that progress is now very much in question given the assassination of Madam Bhutto.
GIBSON: Should be United States support President Musharraf if he feels he needs to call for Martial Law again or impose Martial Law, or should the United States take the position that Musharraf should go?
ROMNEY: Well, Musharraf has been an ally of ours, a key ally in the fight against violent Jihadism, and has been highly effective in helping arrest al Qaeda operatives, Taliban leaders and such and so, we don't want to try and push one way or the other with regards to the politics in Pakistan. Instead, we want to se a return to stability in the country, security in the country, ultimately, have elections in the country. And we don't want to do anything that would in any way foster further instability at a time where the nation has — has the potential to become more unstable.
GIBSON: Governor, obviously, Benazir Bhutto murdered. If it is Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda has made a claim of responsibility, but if it turns out it is al Qaeda, what should the U.S. do?
ROMNEY: Well, I think what's happened in Pakistan has made more clear in the light of the American public and perhaps some of our Democratic colleagues as well, that what we're dealing with in the global war on terror, this war against the violent Jihadism is not just an effort in Iraq or even extended to Afghanistan, but this is a worldwide effort on the part of violent Jihadist who have it as the their intent the collapse of all nations Islamic as well as Western. And the attacks are not just on Americans and American leaders or even Western leaders, it does include leaders within the world of Islam. There have been death threats and death attacks against General Musharraf. There have been attacks and threats of attacks against Madam Bhutto before, and so, we're facing a world which sees a dramatic growth in violent jihad, and we're going to have to gather together, the civilized nations of the world to help strengthen the ability of moderate modern Islamic people and leaders for them to reject the extreme because, ultimately, only Muslims are going to be able to reject violent, radical Jihadism.
GIBSON: Governor, Pakistan is a nation that has nuclear arms. Should the United States be concerned that this tack indicates that those arms are not secure, that they could fall into the hands of Taliban forces or Al Qaeda or the extremists in Pakistan?
ROMNEY: Well, John, first let me just note that I think it's very important for all of us who are running for presidential office right now, not to say anything that would in any way contribute to the instability that already exists in Pakistan at such a fragile time. That being said, of course there's always a concern about a nation like Pakistan that has nuclear weapons that is unstable, at a time like this where there has been an assassination of a key political leader, we have a great deal of — a general concern, and that will be heightened at a time like this. I would also note that the military here is quite singularly supportive of General Musharraf or has been. The leadership of the military certainly has been, and I don't believe that at this stage we would forecast that the nuclear weapons are in grave danger of falling into the hands of some type of terror force, but of course, we watch with care and diligence, and listen to what's being told to us by our operatives on the ground there.
GIBSON: Governor, turning to the effect of this event on American politics and the campaign that you're involved in right now, Mrs. Bhutto killed, the candidates are reacting. Should Americans choose experience at this moment and if they were to, wouldn't they look to John McCain or Rudy Giuliani?
ROMNEY: Well, I don't think so. I think they should choose experience, and it's experience at making difficult decisions and leading in times of a crisis. My experience has been proven over a lifetime in the private sector; then at the Olympics; and then, in the position as governor of Massachusetts about how to make tough decisions, how to make them well and how to make sure these decisions are made on a deliberate thoughtful basis, weighing the pros and cons and getting information from different sides. One of the greatest foreign policy presidents we had in our history is Ronald Reagan. He was not somebody who spent his life in the State Department. Frankly, if all we want is somebody who spent a lot of time in foreign policy, we just go to the State Department and pluck someone from that — of the thousands who were there. That's not going to lead to having a great president. A president is someone who has capacity to lead and a person who also knows how to make difficult decisions on a deliberate and thoughtful basis. And I am proud of my record in that regard and think ultimately, people will make there decision not based on how many hours somebody spent on a particular topic but rather their capacity to make important decisions.
GIBSON: You know, the — you had a commanding lead in New Hampshire for a long time and it has been slipping away. A couple of newspapers, a conservative one and a liberal one have both posted sort of anti-endorsements against you. McCain said I know a tailspin when I see one, and Romney's in one in New Hampshire. What's going on with your campaign in New Hampshire?
ROMNEY: Well, I think the reality is that we used to have a whole field of people here in New Hampshire, Mayor Giuliani, Fred Thompson and others that were pretty strong here and their campaigns have actually take a bit of a tumble, and Senator McCain has always pretty much balanced to Mayor Giuliani in terms of their total vote getting, and so, Senator McCain has seen a nice boost. I'm pleased that I'm holding pretty much steady. I think it's going to come down to a tight race. I wouldn't be at all surprise if John McCain were in the lead right now. That's where he was when he ran four — eight years ago against President Bush but I'll expect that I'm going to get the nomination. I can't tell you exactly what states are going to give me the nod but I expect to do well here in New Hampshire and I expect to do very well in Iowa as well.
GIBSON: Governor, what happens if you don't win in New Hampshire? What's your — what's plan B?
ROMNEY: Oh, there are lots of people who have not won in New Hampshire or Iowa for that matter who have gone on to get the nomination of their party. Typically, it's said that you have to get one of three tickets coming out of Iowa. I'm pretty confident I'll do that. You have to get one of two tickets coming out of New Hampshire. I'm confident I'll do that. Then, we go on to Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, don't forget Wyoming, so, there are plenty of chances to keep a campaign going and to make sure that ultimately you get the nomination, so you know, I'm not predicting that I'm going to do something that I don't think has ever been done, other than by a sitting president, which is to win Iowa and New Hampshire. I would like to win one. I'd love to win both, but I sure want to come in the top three in the first and top two in the second.
GIBSON: Governor, if I just can return to Ms. Bhutto for a moment, did this event today in Pakistan changed the primary races that you're involved in, in a dramatic way?
ROMNEY: I don't believe that events of this nature changed the nature of a primary, but of course, far more important than what impact this might have on a primary race is what impact this has on the world, and so, the consequences in our election here, pale in comparison to the consequences in terms of the loss of human life, and the instability in Pakistan which may lead to the loss of even greater lives there, and the threats to global peace. So, in the overall context of things, the politics here are going to have to take a backseat to the most important developments there.
GIBSON: Governor Mitt Romney coming to us in an exclusive interview from New Hampshire. Governor, thank you very much.
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