Mitt Romney on Obama's Comments

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," April 15, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And welcome to "Hannity & Colmes." We get right to our top story tonight.

We are just one week away from the all-important Pennsylvania primary, and Democrats are eating each other alive. That's really too bad. But the story that won't go away from Barack Obama.

COLMES: Let me get this chair for you.

HANNITY: It's what his opponents are calling his elitism. Joining us now with more is the man who could still have a big impact in the presidential race, former governor and presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

Governor Romney, welcome aboard.

MITT ROMNEY, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Sean. Good to be with you and Alan.

HANNITY: All right. The obvious question, what do you think of Barack Obama's comments?

Click here to watch Mitt Romney's interview with "Hannity & Colmes": Part 1 | Part 2

ROMNEY: I was frankly very surprised by it, if you know. We've had a number of occasions now where Barack Obama says one thing to the general public and then behind closed doors when he thinks he's not being heard says something else, and in this case he said something that's really quite offensive. The idea that people care about religion and Second Amendment rights only when times are tough is really a very strange and elitist kind of comment to make and one, I'm sure, he regrets.

He's doing his best to spin it as something else.


ROMNEY: But the truth is what he said is pretty plain on its face.

HANNITY: Well, what bothers me, Governor, is that his original answer when questioned about this was he said well, look, I just said something that everybody knows is true, and then that evolved into, well, if I worded something wrong and maybe some people are offended, I apologize, I deeply regret that, and now it's evolved into, well, I didn't mean what I say, it was a syntax problem.

Doesn't that indicate he is — he's becoming the politician that he wasn't?

ROMNEY: Yes, I think people have been surprised over the past several months, and it's one of the benefits of a long primary on the Democratic side. We knew Hillary Clinton, but we really didn't know Barack Obama, and somehow the image was that he was above politics, that he spoke for all people on a wide array of issues, and I think as time has gone on, it's been more clear that he's like other politicians, and in some respects given his lack of experience, he's not as strong as other politicians in terms of his capability.

And this statement, I think, is one which will haunt him because it bespeaks a lack of understanding of the American people, not just in small towns, but everywhere. People have faith in this country, and people believe in the Second Amendment and other articles of the constitution.


ROMNEY: .for reasons that are very deep seated and unrelated to whether the economy is strong or weak.

HANNITY: And by the way, they're not clinging to their guns or religion, I always thought believing in God was a good thing myself.

I want to read you — I'm a big fan of Thomas Soul, and he wrote a column about this today. What he said was it has becoming painfully apparent with each new revelation of how drastically his carefully crafted image this election year contrasts with what he is actually been saying and doing for many years. So I thought that nailed it.

But my question is this, Governor. When you add Reverend Wright, when you add Michelle Obama, when you add Bill Ayres, and all these other issues, and the comments in San Francisco, do you think he can recover?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, all things are possible in politics. And I think the Clintons have proven that themselves. I do think that as people scrutinize Barack Obama, and if he's the nominee on the Democratic side, you're going to find that the Republicans are a lot more aggressive in pointing out these foibles, if you will, than Hillary Clinton has been.

I know Barack Obama shows great concern that Hillary is being critical of him, but you know, it ain't nothing compared to what he's going to receive from John McCain and from others who care about our country and the direction of the country. They're going to say this is not — this is the man who's a fine orator, but he's not the man who ought to be commander in chief and ought to be responsible for the government of the most powerful nation on earth.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, Governor. Welcome back to our show. Thanks for coming on.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Alan. I'm getting a lot of e-mail both from Republicans and liberals, conservatives and Democrats, who say, you know what, we are concerned about the economy, we do have some other concerns Barack Obama talked about. You know, we are in some cases worried about our 401k's and the economic instability, and there are people who sometimes will, for the wrong reasons, embrace something, whatever that is, to feel some sense of security in rough times.

Isn't that what really he was saying?

ROMNEY: Yes, I think he was saying that people are bitter right now, those that are feeling tough times, and I agree with that. I don't think anyone disagrees with people being upset when gasoline prices are high and the economy is slowing, but to say that that's why people in rural America and small-town America grasp on to religion and their right to bear arms and go hunting, that's a big leap, and it happens to be the wrong leap. That's where his mistake is. I know he's trying to turn this back into a discussion about bitterness.

COLMES: Do you think there are some people that fall in that category?

ROMNEY: He's trying to turn this back into a discussion about bitterness.

COLMES: Do you think there are some people that fall in that category?

ROMNEY: You know, I'm not going to try and characterize every American person, other that, you know, 300 million we have. But I can tell you that the people in small towns and big towns, people in rural communities and urban communities believe in God and it's unrelated to whether we have good times or bad times. And to suggest that somehow our belief in God and our belief in the Second Amendment is tied to bitterness or tied to how well the economy is going, is, frankly, out of touch. And it's an elite comment, an elitist comment which I'm sure he's going to be very sorry for having made.

COLMES: The word "elite" gets tossed around a lot. Republicans and deregulated industries who have helped create monopolies. They fought against labor unions. They've campaigned against a government net for the poor. They've tried to do privatize Social Security and you call the Democrats elites.

Is it possible that some of the issues I've just mentioned might show some elitists among the Republican side of the ledger?

ROMNEY: You know, I know every policy that conservatives espouse and fight for and Republicans are overwhelmingly conservative, those policies are designed to help the American people from the very poorest to the middle class. We don't think about how do we take away from some and give to others, we say how do we lift everyone in this great nation.

And every policy you've described — for instance, Senator McCain today said he wants to lower the corporate tax rate. Why is that? Because lowering the corporate tax rate will bring more jobs here, will build more businesses here. He's not worried about, you know, chief executive pay. That's not what's the concern he's going have. It's instead how do you build more jobs and keep companies from going offshore?

So his policies, conservative policies, Republican policies, are designed to help people from the very poorest and particularly those in the middle class who feel the real squeeze right now.

COLMES: Are you satisfied that people corporation of oil companies, for example, pay enough taxes? You know, Robert Reich used to refer to that as aid to defending corporations. Are you satisfied that — there are no loopholes that corporations jump through to avoid paying taxes that would help the economy if they paid them?

ROMNEY: I'm sure there are loopholes that the corporate accountants find. When I was governor of Massachusetts I went after these loopholes that were not intended to be put there by the legislature, and we took them out, and you want to make sure the people are following the rules, and not getting special breaks. But I don't want to tax corporations that provide jobs and build new factories and are doing research and development, I don't want to tax them out of existence, I want them to grow and thrive, particularly small businesses.

Don't forget, these tax rates are applied to the very smallest businesses. The pizza shops and the new software engineer firm. That's the place we want to see growth in our economy. We don't want those jobs to go elsewhere.

COLMES: We're going to take a short break. We'll be back with Governor Mitt Romney right after the break.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Among supporters of a tax increase are Senators Obama and Clinton. Both promise big change and a trillion dollars in new taxes over the next decade would certainly fit that description. Of course, they'd like you to think that only the very wealthy will pay more in taxes, but the reality is quite different.


COLMES: That was Republican presidential nominee John McCain blasting his Democratic opponents on their plans for economic reform. The Arizona senator delivered a speech on the economy today calling on the government to eliminate gasoline taxes this summer and promising, if elected, to crack down on pork barrel spending.

The Obama campaign is already calling McCain's proposals as fiscally irresponsible.

We continue now with Mitt Romney.

Governor, you were on FOX News on "America's Newsroom" during the time you were seeking the nomination, and here's what you had to say at that time about John McCain.


ROMNEY: It was Senator McCain who voted against the Bush tax cuts and now says he is for the Bush tax cuts. It was Senator McCain who was against ethanol then for ethanol then against ethanol. And I think, you know, the last few days he came out and attacked me on a matter with regards to Iraq that was frankly totally wrong. I think every major news media that took a look at it recognized it was a desperation attack on his part, and I think Senator McCain is willing to say anything he has to say to try and get elected.


COLMES: Have you changed your view?

ROMNEY: He and I have some differences, as you know. We don't agree on every single issue. But you know, overall, he won and I lost, and he ran a good campaign, and he beat me fair and square. I can tell you that with regards to the economy and his economic proposals today, they make sense, and America's going to face a choice.

Are we going to go with the same old policies we've had in the past, which is Democrats promising new programs, spending hundreds of billions of dollars, and raising taxes? Or are we going to turn Washington on its head and instead say, you know what, we're going to freeze government spending, we're going to evaluate programs to decide which ones to get rid of, and we're also let people keep more of their income, particularly now when things are tough? And I think they're going to choose the latter.

I think John McCain's conservative approach is what America wants at this point, what America needs.

COLMES: You were critical of him, though, on his changing his position on the Bush tax cut. Is that going to hurt him among conservatives who still have some issues on that, on immigration — you certainly had differences with him on that during the campaign — and a host of issues that keep coming up? And certainly going to be back towards the general election.

ROMNEY: There's no question but that in a primary we point out areas of difference, and there were a number of places where Senator McCain and I had differing views. But on the issues of great significance that face America today, one is winning the global war against violent jihad, and the other is strengthening our economy and getting, if you will, more income back into our wage earners and into our citizens, why, on those issues, we're on the same page, and there may be different verses here or there, but we're on the same page.

And conservatives are going to say, you know what, this guy represents our values, and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do not in any way, shape or form.

HANNITY: Governor, I've interviewed him twice, and he's promised that he will extend the Bush tax cuts, that he will eliminate earmarks. He laid that out today. He talked about his gas tax holiday, which I'm all in favor of, tax cuts for small businesses and government. The only thing he said which was earlier this week that maybe you would even disagree with, too.

He said greedy Wall Street investors are partly to blame for what he said is probably an economic recession in the nation that is now — we're now suffering. Do you agree with that part?

ROMNEY: Well, I agree with overwhelmingly the policies which he's laid out. I'm not going to point out there is a great distinction or difference with Senator McCain. He's got his own views on those topics. I basically look at the current slowdown in the economy and think of things that we can do, and he's laid out a good program to get ourselves on track and to overcome the challenges we've had.

Of course, there are bad actors. And there are bad actors in government, there are bad actors in business, and bad actors, of course, contribute to the challenges we have. But this recession, if it is a recession, is caused by global forces that are going to have to be reversed in part by the policies he's outlined.

HANNITY: Let me talk strategy, because we're talking about very distinct differences on the economy, on the Iraq war, on nationalizing health care. Should the campaign be entirely fought on those issues or do you bring up issues like the comments of Barack Obama in San Francisco, Reverend Wright, Michelle Obama's comments? Or should it be both? What would you do?

ROMNEY: Well, I think it's going to be — I think it's going to be both. My guess is you're going to see Senator McCain talking about policy and issues, and pointing out policy differences between himself and Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. They're going to be talking about taxes and Iraq — excuse me, and so his campaign will be focused on those differences.

My guess is the Republican National Committee and a lot of other Republicans will be talking about some of the kind of statements Barack Obama has made and say gosh, is this the guy we really know?


ROMNEY: We want to entrust with our nation?

HANNITY: Have the chances increased any more that you may be the VP for Senator McCain?

ROMNEY: No, I don't think so. I think — I don't think that's very likely. He's got some great people to choose from, and we're all focused now on getting him elected, supporting his, well, the campaigns of senators and congressmen across the country, who have conservative values and that's what I'm up to this year.

HANNITY: All right. Governor Romney, thanks for being with us.

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