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Mitt Romney Makes No Apologies

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 4, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Former governor Mitt Romney is author of the new book, "No Apology." Earlier, he went "On the Record."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, sir. Congratulations on the new book, "No Apology."

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER MASS. GOVERNOR: Thanks so much, Greta. Good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, in reading the book, I see it as sort of a -- well, I mean, I guess this is a good description -- it's an advocacy for the greatness of America. Is that a fair description?

ROMNEY: It sure is. No question right now but that a lot of people in this country, including our president, who spent a lot of time apologizing for America, and this is not a time to apologize for who we are -- this is a time to shore up our sources of strength and make sure that we can continue to lead the world throughout this century.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, as every nation has its challenges, one of the challenges we face today is health care. In terms of sort of the -- your path or your -- your -- the greatness description, if you were to sort of step into the breach right now, what would you do about health care to maintain that greatness of America?

ROMNEY: Well, the first issue on health care is, of course, to get everybody insured, and that is best done at the state level. This is a federalist system, meaning states have rights here. Let states create their own plans. We created one in Massachusetts. There are good things about it. There are some that are not so good. We can learn from each other, but that we do not need the federal government telling all of us to follow a federal plan.

The other part of health care that's very important, perhaps more important to most Americans, is getting the cost of health care down. And that means getting the health care to work more like a market, like a consumer market, rather than a government-mandated and moderated utility. And in my view, that's the right course for us, not a federal takeover, which is what you're seeing out of Washington.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in terms of the Massachusetts experience, when were you governor in 2006, a rather innovative idea in terms of health care -- how would you tinker with it? Because one of the complaints is, is that it's been enormously expensive to people in Massachusetts. And of course, with the economy hitting the skids, we've had problems with people being able to afford things. So how would you tinker with now to improve it?

ROMNEY: Well, it's actually working pretty much as anticipated at the time it was passed. The legislature wanted to make the policies a little more gold-plated than I preferred. And so it's about -- it costs about 1.5 percent of the state budget, which was what was expected.

In my view, we could make the plan much more effective by doing something I proposed in the original legislation, which was to say that everybody had to pay something for their insurance, that there were no free rides, that people had to at least put some portion of the cost down for their premiums. I would do that. Otherwise, I think you create a bit of an attractive nuisance.

And secondly, the state mandates to all the insurance companies who participate here a very full load of coverages that are required to be in each policy. That I think is a mistake. We should let the policies be crafted by the companies in a way that the consumers want and let them make the choices, not government.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, one of the things that's concerning Americans -- and let me ask you this because I don't -- frankly, I don't have the answer to that. In the Massachusetts health care program, does it -- if you have a preexisting problem or if you switch jobs, is there someplace you can go, immunity, that's not completely punitive or beyond your means?

ROMNEY: Actually, in our plan in Massachusetts, everybody is insured, so there's no issue about preexisting conditions or changing jobs because you're always able to have insurance. And the insurance companies don't have a problem with that because we have everybody in the pool. They don't have to worry about adverse selection where only the sick or only those with preexisting conditions go out and buy insurance. So because the entire state is insured, the system can work. But we have to make sure that we make some adjustments to it to assure that in no way do we increase the costs of health care in our state.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your view on gays in the military being able to serve openly? Because that is an issue now that Secretary of Defense Gates says that we're moving towards, that there'll be a study for it. Are you in favor of it or opposed to it, or are you going to wait to see what the military says?

ROMNEY: Well, I said during my campaign and since that I don't think wartime is the right time for changing major social policies. I think we should keep the current program in place until our conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq is complete. I'd rather just not be making that kind of an experiment at this point.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I couldn't help but see this morning that there was some place where it talks about you said you're going to make a decision by the end of the year whether or not you'll run for president. Obviously, a book coming out, laying out, you know, your sort of ideas of greatness for America, you know, suggests that you're leaning towards it. I know you won't say yes or no at this point, but tell me what's -- what is the timeline, and what are the markers? What will -- what will get to you do it, and what will prevent you from seeking it?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, the reason I've written a book, "No Apology," is that I want to make sure that people in this country understand that this nation is in a very perilous position, that the politicians in Washington on both sides of the aisle have put us on a road to decline, that we're going to have to change course in order to remain the powerful nation we've always been. That's what I'm going to be fighting for this year, and I'm going to campaign for people of like mind in the Republican Party, real conservatives, and try and get them elected.

But after that's over in November, when the elections have occurred, my guess is sometime after that, my family and I will sit down and decide whether we have a political future in store or not. And -- but I'm not going to make that decision until I have to make that decision, and it'll be after November.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's sort of the driving thing (INAUDIBLE) in terms of, like, you know, what will be the thing that will really say, Look, you know, I have no choice, but I am going to run? What's the big factor for you?

ROMNEY: Well, the question is whether I would believe that I'm the person that would be most qualified to help get the country on the right track. But there are a lot of good people who I'm sure will be looking at the race, that will get a good sense of where the country is headed. And of course, there are always the personal considerations, as well, what's happening in my life, my wife's life, our kids' lives. And all those things we'll probably weigh.

But frankly, at this stage, we haven't really thought of the process because we don't have to make that decision. As they say, a week is a lifetime in politics. That means I got a lot of lifetimes left before we're going to think about the advantages or disadvantages of a race.

But one thing I know, and that is we got to be working real hard to make sure people in this country understand what kind of challenges we face and how we need to take action, not just to talk about health care all the time, but to get our economy right, to make our entitlements sustainable, to fix our schools, to get us energy-independent, to preserve the spirit of entrepreneurialism and pioneering that I'm afraid is being smothered by Washington today. We got a lot of work to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Governor, you certainly have laid out in a very long book -- or at least a lot of -- a lot of issues you've hit in "No Apology." And for those of you who -- for those viewers who haven't read it, if they want to know your position, they can it get right here. Thank you, Governor.

ROMNEY: Thanks so much, Greta. Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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