OTR Interviews

Romney: We must have 'confidence that our cause is right'

Mitt Romney 'On the Record,' Pt. 2: GOP presidential candidate on US role in Palestinian-Israeli conflict, unrest in Syria and America as a moral authority

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 31, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY 'ON THE RECORD' IN ISRAEL, PART 2

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, Governor Mitt Romney is back in the United States. He just wrapped up an overseas trip to England, Israel and Poland. "On the Record" was with Governor Romney at every stop. And in Jerusalem, we talked to him "On the Record." Here's part two of our interview with Governor Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Would you agree that the conflict has an effect on us, whether it being sort of part of the fuel for Iran -- I mean, if you handle the -- theoretically, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, that might defuse Iran considerably. But it -- so it does have an impact on us. We spend an awful lot of money, $3 billion last year in aid to Israel. So it's not like we're just spectators and will help, if they want help. I mean, it -- you know, we're -- we're involved in it. Or it has an impact on us.

MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE/FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Well, there's -- there's no question but that developments around the world have an impact on the United States. I don't believe that the developments in the Middle East all flow from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Iran's pursuit of nuclear weaponry has overwhelmingly to do with their desire to become the dominant power in the Middle East, to have the capacity to execute their will on others and dominate others. The -- that that doesn't minimize, in my view, the importance of resolving the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. But much of what goes on in the Middle East, from Tunisia, Egypt, what's happening in Syria, and of course, Iran's nuclear program has little, if anything, to do with what's happening here in Israel, has very much to do with geopolitical designs of various leaders, with people seeking freedom in some cases, with the results of elections now free in a place like Egypt.

So yes, do we want to see peace in the Middle East, meaning between the Palestinians and Israel? Absolutely. Do we want to encourage that and facilitate that? Yes. But for that to happen, ultimately, the Palestinians are going to want to have to sit down and negotiate, and so are the Israelis. And I know the Israelis are ready, willing and able to do so without precondition.

VAN SUSTEREN: So we just wait, or is there some role for us to sort of, you know, encourage or jump start discussions?

ROMNEY: Well, the current administration has encouraged discussions and encouraged the process. Again, because I'm on foreign soil, I don't want to describe what might be a different course that I might take if I were president. But the president has said -- has sent an envoy to be responsible for pursuing negotiations here between the Israelis and Palestinians. It's a high priority for our country. It's one that I believe any future president would feel committed to.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any -- I guess I'm trying to think, it's eluded everybody. It is a problem that nobody seems to be able to jump start and solve. And I wondered if you had any sort of different thought on how we can approach it?

ROMNEY: I do, but again -- and you understand this long tradition, ever since I think it was Senator Vandenberg of Michigan said politics stops at the water's edge. And foreign policy should not be made by challengers to the office. The foreign policy is guyed by the president and his administration as long as he's in power. So I'm not going to on foreign soil lay out a posture with regards to the peace process that would be different than that of the current administration.

That doesn't mean I don't have ideas of my own. But I do have a commitment to seeing the Palestinians and the Israelis coming and negotiating amongst themselves. And America will be part of that effort, I'm sure. We will help encourage it and hopefully others will, as well. But that's something that I hope to see occur sometime in the near future.

VAN SUSTEREN: Syria -- in the event Syria, the Assad regime falls and a lot of people want to see the regime fall, maybe Russia doesn't, but if it does fall there's a fear that chemical and biological weapons will get into the hands of Hezbollah, for instance and it is a grave concern to people around the world. Any thoughts about that?

ROMNEY: Well, obviously there's a real concern as Syria goes through the turmoil it is experiencing that there is not a, if you will, a governing body among the opposition that tends to control the various elements of that opposition, but instead it is a far more disburse uprising against the government of Assad.

And so if and when he falls -- and I think it is when, by the way, I don't think you can do what he's done to his people and expect to retain power. If he falls, there may well be to its natural course a great deal of fragmentation in the leadership that steps forward. That may well mean that biological and or chemical weapons could become available to the most hostile and horrible hands.

And so our nation as well as other nations in the region need to take care to assure that those weapons do not fall into the hands of groups like Al Qaeda or Hezbollah. So this is an area of grave concern, and I presume that our administration is taking every reasonable precaution to avoid that potentiality.

VAN SUSTEREN: In your speech in Nevada last week, in going over I thought -- as I understand it, correct me if I am wrong, is that you see the vision for the United States as one of having a lot of moral authority in the world. Is that a fair description?

ROMNEY: Well, I believe that we have to have confidence that our cause is right, that we have to have clarity in our purpose and communicate to the world what our purposes are, and we have to have resolve in the application of our military might. And so I would not suggest that my approach is only to use one tool, but instead to use all the tools of soft power and hard power as necessary to protect the interests of the United States and to secure our legitimate and serious security priorities.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a way to sort of define it, and maybe not, how far do we go? Some people feel we shouldn't be involved in a lot of conflicts around the world. Where do you draw the line? When is it appropriate for us to get involved whether diplomatically or money or military? How do you draw the line, big picture?

ROMNEY: Well, the line of greatest significance is the kinetic line, the line of military involvement. And a decision to send American troops into battle is a decision which would have to pass a very high hurdle. This is not something you do lightly. That hurdle would include being very clear that there is a very significant U.S. security interest at stake, that there is a very clear mission described, that that mission would have been communicated not just to the troops but also to the American people, that we would know how to determine whether our mission had been successful or not when it was completed, that we would have a plan for what happened after our mission was complete and what would be the state of the nation or the conflict area after our mission was complete, and that we would provide all of the resources necessary to make sure that our troops and our resources were able to meet that objective and safety and to the extent humanly possible. So that's a very high hurdle, and I can't tell you as a general rule when you would apply those resources, but I can tell you all those elements would have to be in place.

VAN SUSTEREN: You met with President Peres here, Prime Minister Netanyahu. You didn't meet with President Mahmoud Abbas. Any reason, the Palestinian president?

ROMNEY: I'll be meeting with the prime minister, Mr. Fayyad, and I have met with him in the past. This will be our third meeting. I respect him and respect leaders in this region and look forward to having an exchange of ideas and a briefing from him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Europe is an economic mess, and it is contagious. Does that have an impact on us at home? Do you foresee any improvement in Europe's economic situation in the near future, and by the near future I mean the next six or eight months?

ROMNEY: Well, I expect that within the next six or eight months we will have greater clarity as to what direction Europe is going to pursue. The status quo is one that is two turbulent, and there's going to have to be greater clarity with regard to the resolution in Greece, how Spain will ultimately shake out. I know I have my own views in this regard. I don't know that I am in a position to try to tell the Europeans how to manage the European Union.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except whatever they do does have an impact on us. It is not like we can just watch them. We are interconnected, whether we like it or not.

ROMNEY: You know, I think many people who have looked at the setting feel as I do, that Europe either needs to have a more centralized series of policies with regard to their fiscal policy as one course, or instead you will see more of a disintegration of the respective directions of the various nations within the EU.

So there are too packets that can be taken, either greater unity and a central direction and the other is to go back toward more of a national sovereign-oriented policies. I think the current uncertainty as to which way Europe will go is something which will be resolved over the next six months and perhaps the earlier side of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I know you won't tell me who you are choosing as your running mate, but can you give me a tease or hint when it will be made?

ROMNEY: It will be done either at or before the convention.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, that's helpful, real helpful.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you made up your mind yet?

ROMNEY: I have not made a final decision.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you like 90, 40, 50 --

ROMNEY: Sorry, no percentages.

VAN SUSTEREN: No percentages as to how close you are to making a decision.

ROMNEY: No, I'm sorry. Nothing on the VP front.

VAN SUSTEREN: I tried.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you, sir.

ROMNEY: Thank you. Good to be with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)