Romney: Obama should have seen Ukraine crisis coming

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 25, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: There are growing fears tonight that Russia may be preparing to launch an attack beyond Crimea in Ukraine, raising serious questions about President Obama's leadership and what he's doing to contain this crisis.

Now, in light of the recent Russian aggression, one can't help but remember the 2012 presidential debate in which President Obama practically made fun of my next guest, Governor Mitt Romney, for labeling Russia one of America's -- well, its number one geopolitical foe. Take a look.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A few months ago, when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not Al Qaeda, you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years.


HANNITY: Now, earlier, during a press conference in the Netherlands, ABC's Jonathan Karl -- he asked the president if governor Romney was actually right. Watch this.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC: In light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America's biggest geopolitical foe?

OBAMA: With respect to Mr. Romney's assertion that Russia is our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that, you know, America's got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors.

OBAMA: Russia's actions are a problem. They don't pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.


HANNITY: Regional power? Here to respond, the man himself, former presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney. Governor, good to see you. How are you?

MITT ROMNEY, FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: Great, Sean. Good to see you.

HANNITY: You look healthy, you look rested.

ROMNEY: Thank you. I feel good.

HANNITY: What was -- what's your reaction to that answer, a regional power?

ROMNEY: Well, Russia obviously plays in some very important regions of the world, not only eastern Europe and Europe generally, but also in the Middle East now in a very significant way, in Syria, playing a role, apparently, in Egypt, and the Caribbean. They've got a destroyer in Cuba.

So I'm not sure where the president's going, but I think the American people understand the facts, which is Russia is the nation in the world that has opposed us at the U.N. when we wanted to put tougher sanctions on North Korea, opposed us as the U.N. when we wanted to put tougher sanctions on Iran, sides with Assad, in fact, sides with some of the world's worst actors. And let's not forget, they have probably twice as many nuclear warheads as we have. So this -- thousands of nuclear warheads, by the way.

So this is a nation which I don't see as a threat to us. I indicated at the time the greatest threat to us is a nuclear Iran. But in terms of who's playing politically against America, of course it's Russia, and of course, the president recognizes that. He may not want to say it, but of course, he recognizes that...

HANNITY: I don't think he does!


ROMNEY: On the playing field of the U.N. and geopolitics, it's Russia that's always on the other side, pushing against us. And now they've done something very dangerous, very damaging to the whole world, frankly, and it's something which I hope the president recognizes. This is not just some little regional move, this is a nation invading another country, going across sovereign borders and annexing, effectively, another country, another part of another country. This is very -- this a game changer.

HANNITY: Do you think that he gets it? Because when he's asked the question about America's influence having declined under his leadership, what would your answer be to that question?

ROMNEY: Oh, there's no question but that over the four years where he and Secretary Clinton were working together, and now the year since then, it's hard to name a single country that holds America in more esteem and respect than when the president took office five years ago.

It has not been a time of building America's respect and admiration and esteem, and frankly, our soft power or hard power around the world. And the president has to account for that. I think, ultimately, the historians will, but I'm less concerned about the historians and more concerned about what's happening in the world today.

And we need a president that understands that not everybody around the world has the same interests. Some people around the world want to oppress other people and expand territory and take from the resources of other people. That's what's happening. The jihadists want to do that. Clearly, Russia is intent on doing that, and there are others as well.

HANNITY: You know, the president -- it's interesting. He did find a foreign dictator that he's willing to stand up to, the warlord in Uganda. He's not taking on Kim Jong Un and he's not taking on the mullahs in Iran and he's not taking on Putin, obviously, or Syria. What was your reaction to the president's severe sanctions that he gave to Russia? Because I was not very impressed. I don't think it's going to have much of an impact.

ROMNEY: Well, the real reason that we choose someone to be a leader is because we believe they have the capacity to see down the road further than we might, or they have the capacity to actually get something done that we might not be able to do, a doer, if you will. And part of being the leader of the free world is the capacity to see what might happen in the future and to take action to shape the future.

So with regards to Ukraine, the president should have been able to see this coming. I'm sure many advisers told him that Russia might try and grab a piece of Ukraine. And then to say, OK, if that might happen, how can I try and prevent that? What kind of action can I take? Sanctions and communicating sanctions beforehand, not putting them in place, but saying, Russia, don't jump or these bad things will happen to you, don't jump because you don't need to protect Sevastopol, we'll let you keep Sevastopol -- perhaps there's some other things we talk about, our missile defense system and Poland and the Czech Republic. He communicates those things beforehand, he might have had the capacity to prevent what actually occurred.

HANNITY: If you were president, would you have brought back the issue -- well, you probably wouldn't have taken it off the table from the beginning, missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic. And then of course, does energy factor into this equation?

ROMNEY: Well, of course, energy is part of the Putin strategy to have...

HANNITY: Part of their economy.

ROMNEY: Sure, it's part of their geopolitical plan, if you will, to be able to have, if you will, Europe in a very delicate position because they rely on Russia for natural gas and other sources of energy.

But yes, the reality is, I would not have given Russia the gifts that Secretary Clinton and President Obama gave Russia. This whole reset, with the smiling pictures of them pressing the button, it's like, are you kidding me? Don't you understand that Russia has different -- Putin has different interests than America? And they will pursue those interests. And the best way to keep them from pursuing those interests is by being a strong and powerful nation that can stand up to them.

When you say in Syria, there's a red line here in Syria, you go across that line, there are going to be serious consequences -- well, they go across the line, and what do you do? You let Putin do a sleight of hand and you do nothing!

It's -- it's -- that only -- weakness only leads to other people taking advantage of you and being aggressive. And in part, that's what leads to situations like Ukraine.

HANNITY: Governor, your thoughts on the American economy -- you have an incredible background. You were governor, Bain Capital -- we heard a lot about that during the campaign. Do you think the economy is recovered as we're being told? We have 50 million Americans in poverty, 50 million on food stamps, 92 million in the labor participation rate, the lowest labor participation rate in American history since 1978 -- 92 million Americans can't get work. How would you characterize our economy?

ROMNEY: There are two parts to that. One, it's nowhere near as robust and active and job creating and payroll increasing as it could be. There's virtually nothing that I can think of that the president's done to make it more likely for entrepreneurs to start businesses in America, for a business to decide to expand, for a foreign company to come here and invest money in the United States. So he's made it more difficult.

We have the highest tax rate for companies in the world. That doesn't bring people here. Our regulatory burden gets worse and worse. We tilt the playing field in favor of organized labor. These things don't encourage job development. And by the way, we slow walked for a long time our energy resources. So people are suffering because we haven't done all we could do to get this economy going.

Now, that being said, the private sector is extraordinarily resilient and innovative, and our private sector is, in my view, the most extraordinary in the world and has the potential and is already now...

HANNITY: So you really feel this is a good recovery?

ROMNEY: Well, I don't feel it's a good recovery. It's slow. It's slow. It's painful. It's far more delayed than it should have been. But the private sector is slowly crawling its way back. And by the way, recessions don't last forever. This guy's been in office for five years, and he hasn't helped get this thing going again, but we'll ultimately come out of it.

HANNITY: Do you think energy is the answer? Because I really am convinced that North Dakota and Texas, with their unemployment rate two, three percent, that we could duplicate that success all across the country with new technologies of horizontal drilling and shale, oil that we have available, hydrofracking. All these things seem to me to be the answer to an American economic renaissance.

ROMNEY: Well, I see it as kind of an ace in the hole, all right? It's something which could stimulate the economy and help erase some of the disadvantages we otherwise might have. Having cheap, plentiful natural gas means that manufacturing can come back to America and be competitive again. That's, you know, a terrific piece of news. It's an extraordinary gift that our land has given to us.

At the same time, we have to be the innovative leader of the world not just in energy, but in high technology and entertainment, in agriculture, and America is the -- excuse me, the innovation leader of the world. That has to continue, and so energy's a part of the picture but not the whole picture.

HANNITY: All right. So what's life like post running a very -- what was a close election?

ROMNEY: Well, it was the experience of a lifetime to run for president.

HANNITY: Would you do it again?

ROMNEY: Look, if I were the right guy to do it again, I wouldn't shy away from it. But in my view, this is time for someone else to get the chance. They have a better chance of actually replacing a Democratic administration than I do. And because of that, I'm going to be arguing and fighting for whoever our nominee will be. We've got some very good men and a couple of women, as well, looking at the race, and I expect to be supporting that nominee.

HANNITY: All right, Governor, great to see you.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Sean.

HANNITY: It's been awhile. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ROMNEY: Good to be with you.

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