A Republican Grows in Massachusetts

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 4, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: He may call Massachusetts home, but he's not exactly cut from the same cloth as the Democratic presidential nominee. Joining us now is Massachusetts Republican governor, and now the author of the new book "Turn Around." Mitt Romney is with us.

Mitt, good to see you.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: Good to see you.

HANNITY: Thank you, Governor.

ROMNEY: You're very kind.

HANNITY: How does a guy, a Republican like you get elected governor in the state of Massachusetts? How did that happen?

ROMNEY: Well, the people of Massachusetts are not all cut from the same cloth. Some of them want to see some balance and want to have a give and take.

And they also care about their money.

HANNITY: That's true.

ROMNEY: And they don't like the fact that people waste money on patronage and on excess and on duplication and so forth...


ROMNEY: ... and they said, "Let's get a Republican in there to fight for the citizen."

HANNITY: Listen, Governor Weld, you proved, in a state that elects Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and earlier Michael Dukakis, Republicans can be elected in Massachusetts.

ROMNEY: Yes, and there's a conservative feeling in Massachusetts, even among some Democrats. Don't forget, Massachusetts voted twice for Ronald Reagan for president.

HANNITY: Is it wrong if I call it Taxachusetts?

ROMNEY: You know, I think that's over. This last year, we faced a huge deficit and we were able to close a deficit, over $3 billion, without raising taxes. Very few states were able to accomplish that. Our tax rate is 5.3 percent. California is over nine percent. I don't think we're Taxachusetts anymore.

HANNITY: There's a recent poll out in Massachusetts about Senator Kerry. Just the people of Massachusetts and half of them, half the respondents said that they he basically would say anything to get elected. Is that the John Kerry you know?

ROMNEY: Well, that's the John Kerry I've come to know over the years. He has been my senator two decades and during that period of time, he speaks to various groups. And people come away saying he's in sync with their own views.

He is remarkably able to change his color to the color and the mood of the room that he's in. But ultimately, that's coming home to roost now, because people are seeing he's been on both sides of all the issues

HANNITY: When you examine him on the issues and the "National Journal" took the time to examine every vote in 2003, he is far more liberal — and I know this surprises people at home — than Ted Kennedy.

ROMNEY: Well, he is in his votes. If you look at the actual record, he is a liberal through and through.

But if you look at what he says, like what he said at the conclusion of the Democratic convention in his acceptance speech, he sounds like a moderate. He sounds like somebody who could be well the Republican side or the Democratic side.

But the reality is he's voted like a Ted Kennedy.

HANNITY: One of the biggest challenges we face is, of course, homeland security, national security. Part of your new book "Turn Around: Crisis, Leadership and the Olympic games." And I was out there for the Salt Lake games. You did a good job. You really did.

ROMNEY: It was good.

HANNITY: And the biggest challenge you had was security for these games.

We had this terror alert come out this weekend for New York, Newark and Washington, D.C. We got through the Boston convention. We've got the New York convention ahead of us. We saw what happened in Spain. We've got some real security challenges facing this country.

You've been through that and had to lead the effort out there. Are we doing everything right? What improvements or suggestions would you have perhaps for Tom Ridge and the team?

ROMNEY: Well, I think most of us tend to think that homeland security is about more police on the beat. It's about more military troops carrying AK-47's at the airport or around our financial centers. And that's all-important and it shows that we're watching.

But the heart of homeland security is intelligence work. Fundamentally, the only way to protect the homeland is to find the bad guys, to get them out of our country and also to drain their swamp where they come from. That's the heart of what we have to do.

And the funding and the focus on intelligence work is something which is essential. We often forget it.

Of the $8 billion that Congress sent to the states and municipalities for homeland security, zero dollars has been spent on intelligence. Intelligence is where the key is for our protection.

HANNITY: Where Kerry is weakest.

PAT HALPIN, GUEST CO-HOST: Governor, let's talk about AK-47's. The assault weapons ban is set to expire in the middle of September. It seems that Bush is doing nothing about that. The Republican Congress is in concert with this. Tom DeLay and the others want to see that happen, and as a bone to the NRA.

Aren't you concerned that terrorists and Al Qaeda, that terrorists that are here in the United States, if this thing expires, can walk down to the corner gun store and pick up an AK-47 or some other assault weapons, if the Republican Congress doesn't extend the assault weapons ban?

ROMNEY: I don't think for a minute the terrorists were planning on bringing down the government of the United States and bringing down our financial institutions and causing disruption of our nation are worried about picking up a pea shooter. And whether it's a big peashooter like an AK-47 or a smaller one.

HALPIN: So are you in favor of that ban being extended or do you want to see it lapse?

ROMNEY: What they want to do is they want to attack our nation and bring down our government with an aircraft, with a bomb, with biological weapons and something of that nature.

I believe the people should have the right to bear arms, but I don't believe that we have to have assault weapons as part of our personal arsenal.

HALPIN: So you're...

ROMNEY: In my state I just signed a piece of legislation extending the ban on certain assault weapons in our state.

HALPIN: Governor, would you like to see that extended again on the federal level, as well?

ROMNEY: It very well may be. In our state what we did is we got both sides of this issue to come together, because we relaxed a number of things, allowing people who hadn't been able to get weapons in the past to be able to purchase those.

HALPIN: But aren't you concerned about weapons coming in from other states if we don't abolish them nationwide?

ROMNEY: Not in Massachusetts. Yes, Massachusetts has very tough laws. But it's a good balance.

HALPIN: We've got tough laws here in New York, too.

ROMNEY: There are hunters in the NRA and the gun owners' action league backed the legislation that said, "Look, let's protect our citizens from dangerous assault weapons, but let's also make — makes regular weapons more available to our citizens." And we made a compromise that works.

But homeland security is bombs. It's trucks with bombs. It's the kind of thing that, it keeps me awake at night.

HALPIN: I understand that. And you're right. It is about intelligence.

Let's talk about some of the issues that are coming up. There was a recent poll that said that 57 percent of Americans who say that domestic issues — the economy, Iraq — they're voting for John Kerry and not the incumbent president. They just don't think the economy and Iraq and the war in Iraq is going well.

ROMNEY: Well, our nation divides Republican and Democrat. Some people agree with one. Some people agree with the other.

It's ultimately going to be decided by a small number at the end that swing one way or another and I think they're going to swing for President Bush. Because they're going to see that the economy is coming back, that his tax cuts did stimulate our economy and are getting it back on track.

And they're also going to be convinced that the person who is the commander in chief for the war on terror should stay there.

HALPIN: Should stay there, even though we're diverting a lot of assets and resources for this war of choice in Iraq and not for things like intelligence, like you just brought up.

ROMNEY: Oh, part of an effective homeland security presence is draining the swamp, is going where they are, where they are training and where their homeland is and doing our very best to root them out there.

HALPIN: I want to ask you...

ROMNEY: The fact that we're doing that I think improves our safety as a nation.

HALPIN: You know, in your book "Turn Around ", which was really interesting, you ran in the first Olympics after 9/11, in Utah. And when you talk about security, you say it really came down to what needed to be done locally.

And while the federal government provided some help, it was really more of what was happening on the ground. What lessons should Greek Olympic officials who were running the games in Athens learn from your experience in Utah?

ROMNEY: Well, the Greeks have organized their games way too late to be able to have the kind of practice experiences we had. And that's important, because the government ran the construction of their games, as opposed to having it in private hands. And of course they changed governments during this process. It's been very, very difficult.

They're spending $1.5 billion to secure their games. I think they'll be successful, but it's a late process.

HALPIN: So do you have concerns about the safety there?

ROMNEY: I think we have to recognize that there's a concern any time you have games in a place which is a hot spot for terrorism.

HANNITY: Governor, keep telling the truth about John Kerry. Good to see you, sir. Thanks for being here.

ROMNEY: Thanks. Good to see you, Sean.

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