Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's Plant to Get Economy Back on Track

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," June 2, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST:And the GOP field got bigger today as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney officially threw his hat into the ring and declared that he has set to challenge "The Anointed One" in 2012.

And I sat down with him for an interview about that earlier today, and we'll get to that in just a moment. But first, take a look at the governor's big announcement.


MITT ROMNEY, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: The principles that made this nation a great and powerful leader of the world, have not lost their meaning. They never will. We know we can bring this country back. I'm Mitt Romney. I believe in America. And I'm running for president of the United States.

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    HANNITY: Now, Governor Romney made his announcement in the key primary state of New Hampshire, where we sat down for our interview.


    HANNITY: Governor Romney, good to see you, thanks so much for doing this.

    ROMNEY: Thanks, Sean. Good to be with you, again.

    HANNITY: All right. Big day for you?

    ROMNEY: Yes. Absolutely. Announcing I'm running for president today.

    HANNITY: Barack Obama has failed America, you said that.

    ROMNEY: No question about it. He came into office and there was one job front and center. And that was to keep the economy from going off a cliff. To make sure that Americans got back to work, that home values came back. And look, we are into his third year of his presidency. And we're in the third year we are seeing continuing high levels of unemployment. We see home values declining, foreclosures remain at record levels. He has not turned the economy around. He has failed in the job he was elected to do. And that's why in my opinion, he's not going to be reelected.

    HANNITY: You know, it was interesting, I was reading an article yesterday. A financial adviser, he actually made this statement and it became the front page of the Drudge Report, The Coming Depression. Do you think it can get that bad?

    ROMNEY: Well, if it's terribly managed. If you have an economy where the leaders do everything wrong, anything is possible. The right course for America is to basically reverse almost every single action he's taken as president. Everything he did was what the faculty lounge members have been talking about for years, which you hear Europeans doing. And what Europeans have done has lead to stagnation, high levels of unemployment and declining competitiveness for Europe.

    In this country we have a different course. I believe in the way we do it. We belief in individual initiative, personal responsibility, opportunity, freedom, small government, Constitution. These principles, these American principles are key to getting our economy back to being successful and leading the world.

    HANNITY: You even said that we are inches away from not being a free market economy. What did you mean by that? Do you think America -- would you define America now as on the verge of socialism or how would you define where we're headed?

    ROMNEY: Well, look where we are. We are at a point where almost 40 percent of all economic activity in America is accounted for by government. Government is taking 40 percent of the GDP. And that's at the state, local and federal level. President Obama has taken government spending at the federal level from 20 percent to 25 percent. Look, at some point, you cease being a free economy, and you become a government economy. And we got to stop that. America ceases being America. We cease being able to provide to our people. High incomes, and good job opportunities and rising standard of living, if we have government running our lives.

    And so, we're going to have to shrink the steel of government. I would cap the amount of federal government can spend at 20 percent of the economy. Bring it back to 20 percent or lower. And say, we are not going to spend above that level. Democrats, they want to raise your taxes and spend more and more and turn us into an economy which is no longer driven by the private sector.

    HANNITY: You talk about this, and you talk about kicking the can down the road and passing the bill on to future generations.

    ROMNEY: Yes.

    HANNITY: And you have been discussing this a lot on the road and you talked about it today. How do you then balance the budget? You want to go from 40 percent to 20 percent GDP. And you talk about specifically balancing America's budget. We're now for three consecutive years have had at least a trillion and a half -- billion dollar -- trillion and a half dollar budget deficit. That's almost five trillion more dollars. They want to raise the debt ceiling from where it is to 14.3 trillion, how do you get that budget in balance and still provide the services that maybe America wants and maybe they don't need?

    ROMNEY: Well, some classic Democrats only think the way to balance the budget is raising taxes. But the problem with that is, not only is it unfair, but you also slow down the economy which becomes self-defeating if you are trying to balance the budget. A lot of Republicans just say, just cut our way to balancing the budget. Well, cutting helps. And we need to do a lot of cutting and reshaping programs to make sure they are sustainable. But there's a third way. Combined with reducing federal spending is growing the economy. And you need to have a president who understands how to get the economy growing so we can add jobs, more people are paying taxes. Companies are profitable, so they are paying more taxes. You balance the budget by restraining the growth of government and encouraging the growth of the private sector.

    HANNITY: You talked a lot about this. And I want to, as we move forward here, you talked about the president when he ran four years ago, or three years ago, that he ran on slogans and platitudes. And now you say this election is different. That now Barack Obama has a record. You graded him as a failure. Is it also in foreign policy, that he's a failure? What is the difference between 2008 and 2012 in terms of running against this president?

    ROMNEY: Well, you know, we did kind of an American thing in electing Barack Obama. We had a guy who was young. We didn't know much about him. He hadn't shown much of a track record at that point. But Americans said, you know, he's saying he's going to take us to a better place. Let's give him a chance.

    Well, now we've watched what happens if you select someone that doesn't have experience. And it hasn't been a pretty picture. He has failed. He's failed with the economy. The economy is still -- we're seeing shedding jobs in some parts of the economy. We have home values declining. Foreclosures continue to be at record levels. He has failed, and internationally, he's also failed. He really doesn't have a foreign policy. He reacts to events as they occur.

    So, sometime he reacts well like getting Usama bin Laden. And sometime, he reacts very poorly, the Arab spring is an opportunity we've missed. Him throwing Israel under the bus is something which has shocked our friends around the world. He announced our withdrawal date from our troops in Afghanistan, that is not something you share with the Taliban. They don't have watches, but they have calendars. And they know what the implications are of America announcing a withdrawal date. So, he's made some monumental errors internationally. And of course, his errors domestically add up to a failed presidency.

    HANNITY: You say, from the beginning, he focused on the wrong things. So, I want to get into the Arab spring.

    ROMNEY: Yes.

    HANNITY: And I want to talk to you about Egypt a little bit and foreign policy. But you said from the time he took office, he focused on the wrong things. If you were elected in 2008, got pretty close. If you had been elected, and he was saying it was the worst economy since the Great Depression, what would you have done? What would the steps have been that you would have taken?

    ROMNEY: Well, his first job had to be to get this economy going again and to stop the decline of America's productive sector. That's what his first job should have been. Instead, he just delegated his stimulus over to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. And they crafted a new spending program that protected union jobs for government workers but didn't create the kind of employment opportunities that were needed in the private sector. So, the stimulus didn't work.

    And then number two, he went out for the things he really cared about, which was Obamacare, and cap-and-trade and card check and stacking the national labor relations board with labor stooges. Just one thing after the other. The liberal agenda he had been pining for for years, he put in place and it had the impact that could have been predicted. It just put the economy on the skids.

    HANNITY: You said that this campaign is going to be different from when you ran in 2008. And I think one of your advisers was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, we are not going to be chasing tennis balls this time. I think, meaning reacting to everything.

    ROMNEY: Yes.

    HANNITY: You've been a little more low profile than perhaps you were, your name recognition obviously this time is higher. What is the difference in this campaign as you now launch today, versus the campaign that you ran in 2008?

    ROMNEY: You know, when I ran in 2008, the issue people were most concerned about, during the primaries was Iraq. And the surge in Iraq. And John McCain ran a very good campaign. He focused on his experience as a military leader, as a senator. He focused on Iraq and the surge. And that worked very well. Today, the issue people care about is the economy. And not just thinking about next week, or even next year. They are wondering whether 10 years from now, their kids will enjoy the America that is as prosperous as the America we've enjoyed? And the answer is, this president has failed to deliver on the issue people care most about. And what people care most about, which is the economy, is in my wheel house. I spent my life not in politics. I've only been in politics four years, I was governor, four years. I didn't inhale. My life has been as a private sector guy.

    HANNITY: Right.

    ROMNEY: And I understand how to compete and how America succeeds or fails in creating jobs. And I want to bring that expertise to the presidency of the United States to get America's economy on track again, so that we can pass the torch on to the next generation. Not just pass on a bill to the next generation.


    HANNITY: And coming up, more of my interview with republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the day that he announces.


    HANNITY: And former Governor Mitt Romney announced earlier today that in fact he is running for president of the United States. And we continue with part two of my interview with the GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.


    HANNITY: You have to win a Republican primary to get that opportunity to debate President Barack Obama. The one issue that you know keeps coming up is the issue of what they call Romneycare, your health care bill in Massachusetts.

    I really want to give you an opportunity today to address the conservatives, the Tea Party Movement and explain to them, because that keeps coming up again and again. What happened? What the bill was about? How you differentiate that from Obamacare? I'll give you an example. When you went to Iowa, you know, the Iowa Democratic Party lovingly welcomed you to the state of Iowa, and they said because you paved the way for health care reform in Massachusetts, we were able to pass the affordable, you know, care act, Obamacare.

    It seems to be their strategy to sort of say that's the exact same thing. But to explain to conservatives that is their big area of skepticism for you, because it is one issue that comes up. In your own words what want to tell them about it? Because it does not seem to go away.

    ROMNEY: Well, first, let me tell you what I would do if I am president. And that is, if I'm president, I would repeal Obamacare. And in the first day of my administration, I will say to the secretary of Health and Human Services, I want a waiver for all 50 states from Obama-care. So, that's number one.

    Now, what we did, we had a little bill that is 70 pages in length. He has a bill of 2,700 pages.

    HANNITY: By the way, you have to pass it to find out what is in it.

    ROMNEY: Right.


    ROMNEY: Nancy Pelosi said that.

    HANNITY: -- senators a lot of benefits too but I didn't mean to interrupt.

    ROMNEY: Yes. So, in those extra 2,630 pages, he does a lot of stuff we didn't do. What he does is take over health care. Basically had the federal government manage health care not just for the uninsured, that's who we were dealing with, but for everybody. And that's one reason why the American people are saying no way for Obamacare.

    Now, what do we do in our state? Why did we take on this issue? Well, we have lot of people worried if they changed jobs, they would lose insurance or didn't have insurance. And we also had some people who were gaming the system, who could afford to care for themselves, but instead was showing up at hospitals, expecting government to pay for him. And we said, you know, what? We are not going to let that go any longer.

    We're going to insist on personal responsibility. We worked with the Heritage Foundation, a great conservative group. We looked at great thinkers, conservative thinkers in the past and said, you know, personal responsibility in health care is the way to go.

    And we fashioned a plan which met a state need. I would never in a million years take what we did for our state and say, let's impose that on every state in the country. That's wrong. It violates the principle of federalism that's a bedrock principle of our Constitution. Each state should craft their own solutions.

    But one thing I can tell you, Obamacare is out. And if I get the chance to debate President Obama, I'm looking forward to saying, thank you Mr. President for all the compliments you send my way. I know what they are intended to do. But I have one question for you Mr. President, why didn't you call me? Why didn't you ask me whether the Massachusetts plan was working or not? What parts didn't work? What things you shouldn't do? Because I know this, Obamacare would bankrupt the nation. And Obamacare will severely impact the quality of health care for the American people. And it will be repealed.

    HANNITY: What about the mandate aspect of this? Because the constitutionality of it, government mandating health care has been a big issue. In Romney law, Romneycare bill, it was mandated. There was a state mandate. What is the distinction there considering Republicans arguing, wait a minute, there's no constitutional authority to put a mandate on people that they must have insurance?

    ROMNEY: The federal constitution does not allow for mandates to be provided by the government. State constitutions have mandates of many kinds. We mandate kids go to school. We mandate if you are going to drive a car, you've got to have insurance. States provide mandates within the rights of their constitution. In our state, we said this, we've got people who are looking at health care like welfare. They can afford to care for themselves, but they don't want to pay for it. We said we are not going to let that go on. This free riders are abusing the system. And we are going to insist they either get insurance or pay their own way. But no more showing up at the hospital and expecting government to pay for them.

    This is, in my view, a conservative point of view. Insist on personal responsibility. Say we are not going to let government grow and grow. We are spending over a billion dollars a year, giving out free care to people. Many of whom could care for themselves. And that's simply wrong.

    HANNITY: One last question on this if I may. Do you think the plan -- I remember once I was interviewing you, and asking you about this very issue, and you said to me, well, first of all, I signed the plan but it wasn't exactly the plan I wanted. Apparently, you had vetoed aspects of this. Did that have a big impact? And if you had to go back today and look at it, would you have done it exactly the same way? Would you have done it differently? Do you think it was a success? In other words, the bill that you passed in Massachusetts?

    ROMNEY: Well, there are a number of things in the bill that I would have changed at the time. And I continue to think those changes would have been better. And the things I'd change in it now. You learn from experience. And so, yes, a lot of things I would change. It is not perfect. There are a lot of things in that bill that don't work.

    But the nice thing about a state solution to a state problem, is it is relatively easy to make changes and improve it. And I can tell you, if I were governor of Massachusetts, the problems people point out, I would fix.

    But I'm not running for governor. I'm running for president of the United States. And that's why it is so important for me to make clear, I would repeal Obamacare. I will grant a waiver to all 50 states, immediately upon taking office. And I would go to work to make sure that the American people understand that it is at the state level that we care for those that don't have insurance.


    HANNITY: And coming up, the final installment of my interview with GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. He shares his views on all the fiscal reforms proposed by Paul Ryan. And whether or not he would implement them as president.


    HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney officially announced his candidacy for president earlier today. And I sat down with him in New Hampshire for this interview. And here is our final installment.


    HANNITY: You said that the president, you just mentioned, and I want to get back to this, threw Israel under the bus, when he said that Israel should go back to '67 borders. And then he sort of backed off from it. Explain what you meant when you were saying that?

    ROMNEY: Well, I think it's pretty clear that when Bibi Netanyahu got here, that something very dramatic had happened. And that is, the president by insisting on the '67 borders laid out what a bargaining position might be that perhaps the Israelis ought to take the lead on not America.

    You don't tell your ally how you would suddenly dispute between them and another people. You stand by your ally. You link arms with your ally. Israel is one of our best allies in the Middle East, the best ally in the Middle East. We don't dictate to Israel what the terms of their agreement might be. And it is also been very clear in the past that presidents have said, look, we can't have possibly have negotiations unless the result of all this will be that the Palestinians and other nations around them, agree that when a peace agreement is reached that there's peace. That Israel has the right to exist as Jewish state. And that's something which Hamas and of course the Palestinian authority continue to refuse to agree to.

    HANNITY: What amazes me is what the Palestinians and the unit agreement now with Hamas, Hamas' charter calls not only for the destruction of Israel, but also the destruction of Jews, they're really calling for a modern day Holocaust. And for the president to even suggest, he did mention that it's got to be addressed. But to suggest that they should even negotiate in any way until that one issue is resolved. Would the United States of America ever sit down with a group of people whose charter called for our destruction and the destruction of our people?

    ROMNEY: We don't negotiate with terrorists. And the president was suggesting that Israel should negotiate with terrorists. And that's why people like myself believe that he threw Israel under the bus. The right course of dealing with allies is to lock arms with them. Make sure there is not a dime's worth of distance between them in public.

    Now, if you got an issue with Bibi Netanyahu, then sit down in private and hammer it out. But then come out, hold arms together and say, we're together, because ultimately, if you don't do that, then the foes of America or of our allies around the world, they take courage from what they think is a split between us. And they try and get a better deal. They try and play one off against the other. And that is what is happening here. You are not seeing progress in Middle East peace talks, in part because the president has not made it clear to Israel that we stand firmly and squarely behind them.

    HANNITY: You're really going after the president of the issue of apologizing for America. To what extent do you think that hurts our position in the world?

    ROMNEY: Well, I think the president's posture, from that very beginning, was one of saying, look all the people in the world have the common interests that we all share. And if get to sit down together and understand each other better and meet with the president and so forth. He suggested he was going to meet with all the world's worst leaders, including Ahmadinejad.

    I disagree with that premise. I don't think everybody in the world has the same interests. I think there are some in the world who seek to oppress and pillage other people. And I think America has to show that we reject those people and that we are strong in defending our principles and liberty.

    HANNITY: I want to go back to the economy for one second. Because how many years, as you look at these deficits, and you look at the debt ceiling battle that's going on in Washington. And for example, Paul Ryan is talking about cutting $6.2 trillion over a period of time, reforming Medicare, Social Security.

    If you become president, realistically, how are you going to balance the budget? How long it's going to take? And how do you deal with entitlements, which seems, you know, we are always told that is the third rail in American politics, don't touch him. How would you deal with those?

    ROMNEY: Well, the three parts of government spending. One is the discretionary accounts, and those have to be pulled back dramatically. Number two is the military. A lot of waste in the military. But I'm not going to take that waste and use it to fund more social programs. I'm going to take that waste and rebuild a modern Navy and a modern Air Force and have more boots that we are able to put on the ground. So, we're not going to cut our military spending.

    Then comes, if you will all the entitlements. Medicaid, give it back to the states. Dramatically reduce its cost.

    HANNITY: Give it back.

    ROMNEY: Give it back to the states. A lot of what is being done in Washington can be done for less cost and with less fraud by giving it back to the states.

    HANNITY: Do you like the Ryan plan?

    ROMNEY: I do.

    HANNITY: You do?

    ROMNEY: I do like the Ryan plan.

    HANNITY: And how do you overcome that demagoguery?

    ROMNEY: It is not my plan. It's not my plan. My plan is different to the Ryan plan but he has a great start.

    HANNITY: Yes.

    ROMNEY: His objectives make sense. He wants more choice for the American people, that's good. So, I like those features but.

    HANNITY: What do you do when they've say you are going to be throwing granny over the cliff?

    ROMNEY: You know, we're going to live with demagoguery. I think the American people recognize that the time for truth is here. And the time for kicking the can down the road is gone. And I think if the president sticks to his demagoguery on this issue, that ultimately, the American people are going to say, we've had enough of that. We've got to be honest. People recognize we can't keep going like we're going. That the debt that we're putting in place is crippling for the future. And that the only way to save Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security is by reforming them and making them sustainable. Otherwise, we could go off that cliff and these programs could be in real jeopardy.

    HANNITY: Last question. As you look at all of your rivals now that you are officially in this race. How tough is it going to be? And how do you distinguish yourself in this race from all of your fellow GOP hopefuls?

    ROMNEY: I think we are far more effective and wise as people running for the Republican nomination, not to spend our time shooting at one another but to make sure that our sights are very much focused on the presidency and getting America right again and creating jobs, and keeping America strong. And we'll each describe our own vision for that and our own experience.

    And I believe I'm the guy that is in this race with 25 years of private sector experience. Also, having run an Olympics, run a state. I've demonstrated what I can do. The good and the bad. And I believe that record and my vision is what will distinguish me from the rest of the field and hopefully give me a chance to get America strong again.

    HANNITY: Governor, great to see you.

    ROMNEY: Thanks, Sean.

    HANNITY: Congratulations on your big announcement today.

    ROMNEY: Thank you.


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