Mitt Romney Talks With O'Reilly

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 15, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Personal Story" segment tonight. The former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, is hoping to secure the Republican nomination for president. And he joins us now from frigid Boston.

Before we get to the national issues, you know, this case in Salem with this 9-year-old girl brutally raped. This guy stood by, allowed it to happen, he gets one year from Judge Kern. And we brought up Sal DiMasi's name, the speaker of the house who single-handedly blocked Jessica's Law. I wanted to get your reaction to that.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, FMR. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: I just found it outrageous, first of all, that a sentence could be handed down that's such a light sentence. I don't know what it is, there are a lot of guys who serve in the legislature of a lot of states, in our state as well, Sal DiMasi and others, who are criminal defense lawyers.

And their interest is in protecting the interests of their clients and their would-be clients. It makes no sense at all. There is no reason that we don't fight it every possible way to crackdown on sex offenders. We put in place an on the Internet location for people to find pictures of sex offenders. It was something we battled for and we'll keep battling for ways to keep these guys out of our neighborhoods.

O'REILLY: Yes. Because I know you would have signed Jessica's Law, and you know, you are a guy who wants to control these predators. Did you ever talk to DiMasi face-to-face and say, look, I know you're trial lawyer and I know you're in bed with those guys, but do the right thing. Did you ever do that?

ROMNEY: Well, we had battles on that and other things. Laws cracking down on repeat offending drunk drivers. Those were things that we were able to get through. And we keep battling. And we will keep battling in this state.

O'REILLY: Yes. DiMasi won't budge on this. He is the villain. He is the villain in Massachusetts. You know, 41 out of the 50 states, Governor, maybe 42 with Montana, are going to have Jessica's Law. The Commonwealth has got to step up. But anyway, you are out of there now. I don't think Deval Patrick is going to make this a priority. I hope I'm wrong.

Now the overarch of the presidential campaign is going to be Iraq. That's going to be the main issue. What is your stance on Iraq right now, very specifically?

ROMNEY: Well, as long as there's a pathway to a successful resolution in Iraq, meaning a stable central government even with some sub states that are strong, that's a pathway we have to pursue. And the president and al-Maliki from Iraq have said that they believe that there is a course of being successful which would include providing security for the citizens of Iraq and allowing the country to rebuild itself.

And that that's going to require an extra 20,000 or 25,000 personnel. My view is that's something we ought to try as long as there's a pathway that looks like it's reasonably probable of being successful. If it's not working, and we'll know within a few months, then we can take a different course.

But simply turning around and walking away could lead to the kinds of terrible outcomes that could ultimately require even more troops coming in and more casualties. Our interest here is all the same. Get our boys and our women home as soon as we possibly can. But don't do it in such a way that we cause the kind of event that would require us to have to come back.

O'REILLY: All right. Now, so you are saying that a few more months and if we don't see improvement then we have to redeploy the troops?

ROMNEY: Well, at that point we'll look at what other plans are available. But right now the right course is to provide security to the Iraqi citizens.

O'REILLY: Yes. I'm with you. I think you give them a chance. But I don't have a lot of confidence in the Iraqi people. They've not stepped up. And they certainly haven't. And they are killing each other, they seem to want to kill each other. And we can't stop them from killing each other. Would you agree?

ROMNEY: We're not going to stop the Shia from killing the Sunni and vice versa. But if we can bring some stability to Baghdad and if we can allow a central government to remain, then we have less of a risk of the Iranians grabbing part of the Shia south, or the Sunni portion of that country turning into an Al Qaeda haven, or potentially the disruption of our border with Turkey — or Iraq's border with Turkey by virtue of Kurdish tensions. There are bad things that could happen that could involve, if you will, the entire Middle East.

O'REILLY: Oh, absolutely. I mean.

ROMNEY: We don't want those things to happen.


O'REILLY: Now, I've got to ask you a hypothetical question, but it's really not, because if you are elected president, you are going to have to deal with this. Would you go to war if the Iranians say, we're going to develop a nuclear weapon, you can't stop us? Would you go to war over that? I know you are going to try diplomacy. I know and all of that. But when it comes down to crunch time, is that an issue worth going to war over?

ROMNEY: Well, no one who is thinking about running for president or being president should ever take the military option off the table. But before we get there, we're going to have very different approaches.

O'REILLY: Yes. I got that, Governor, with all due respect. I got all that. But when it comes down.

ROMNEY: Well, Hillary Clinton.

O'REILLY: When it comes down. Hillary Clinton said quite clearly, it's unacceptable. Unacceptable is different than going to war. Unacceptable could be, we'll blockade, you know, whatever. But is this an issue that is so important to this country that you do use military force against Iran?

ROMNEY: Well, when we say we're not taking the military option off the table, that's exactly what everyone is referring to. Of course you have to consider...


O'REILLY: Yes. Some people wouldn't do it.

ROMNEY: ...military action. I understand some people wouldn't do it. But I think you recognize that having an Iran, a nation which has countenanced genocide, Iran that has supported efforts to kill our troops in Iraq next door, having Iran with a nuclear weapon, a country that might just use it.

You see, with the Soviet Union, we had people who were not suicidal. In the case of Iran, we have leaders there who are suicidal. It is unacceptable for our nation to have Iran have a nuclear weapon. There is a lot we can do before we get there. But the military option has to be on the table.

O'REILLY: Governor, throughout the campaign I hope you'll come back, check in. We appreciate it.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Bill.

O'REILLY: And it will be an interesting time for you. Thanks for appearing.

ROMNEY: Thank you.

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