Romney: Perry Has to Be Careful With His 'Problematic' Words

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 22, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS: Now it's not the first time that Mitt's been wrong on some issues before. And the bottom line is, is we never said that we were going this move this back to the states. What we said was we ought to have, as one of the options, the state employees and the state retirees, they being able to go off of the current system on to one that the states would operate, themselves.

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: So, Rick Perry, out there, is saying that almost to quote it, says that the federal government shouldn't be in the pension business, that it's unconstitutional. Unconstitutional? And should be returned to the states. So, you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.



SEAN HANNITY, HOST: All right, we're live tonight in Orlando, Florida. This is the site of the evening's presidential debate. Now early in the night things got very heated between two of the candidates as they went head to head on everything from pensions to health care plans. And joining me now, right there in the "Spin Room" is one of the men you just heard from, that's former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Governor, how are you? Good to see you.

ROMNEY: I'm terrific, Sean. Thanks.

HANNITY: I know you were making your way over, I think Frank Luntz's focus group showed in a big way that they felt overwhelmingly you won the debate, tonight. Did you feel, while you up there you were having a good night?

ROMNEY: I felt like this is a good night, tonight. We got a chance to talk about some real issues, the distinctions between candidates came out, it was fun hearing some of the great lines that came from people, like Gary Johnson. I thought it was an entertaining debate. But I was pleased tonight, I thought that people comported themselves pretty well.

HANNITY: All right, the -- it seems you and Perry, you're the two frontrunners, kind of go at each other, there were four main issues that you seem to have different views on: -- Social Security, immigration, health care and this issue with the HPV vaccine in Texas. You really went on it on Social Security. Let's start there. What are the differences?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I'm not sure where Governor Perry is going to land because what he said in his book and what he said in the interviews as he was promoting his book was that Social Security is unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states.

What he said on the stage tonight was different than that, so we'll see whether he wants to abandon or retreat from the position he had before, and so time will tell exactly where he is. But my view is pretty straightforward, which is Social Security does not work financially for coming generations, it's worked great in the last 75 years, it's helped our seniors, it will continue to do so, but for people who are young today, we got change the program, make it sustainable. I think I can fix Social Security, I know how to fix things, that is what I've done throughout my private sector career, and Governor Perry, if he continues to say it should go back to the states, I think that's a very problematic course.

HANNITY: There's an article in the paper this morning, you don't think Rick Perry is electable. Do you stand by that?

ROMNEY: You know, that was a headline in USA Today.

HANNITY: I woke up this morning in the hotel that's what I saw.

ROMNEY: The interviewer kept on trying to get me to say that. She said, "You think he's unelectable?" and I said, "Look, I think he has some challenges with some of his issues, they're very problematic." I didn't use the word "unelectable," because frankly, that's a little presumptuous of me to say who's electable and who's not electable. But, what I do believe is that in a Republican contest, in a national contest, you can't be attacking Social Security, it's part of the bedrock of the social fabric of our country and it's an amazing era, I think.

HANNITY: Well, one of the things, though -- and I read his book in its entirety, and you were quoting from it tonight, so it was pretty interesting. In many ways I think you can make the argument that it is a Ponzi scheme in as much as the money has been misappropriated, it's been spent, it was put into the general fund, there is no Social Security lockbox.

Both of you seem to agree that it is going bankrupt. So it's really -- what do you see is a major differences? Solving it? Fixing it? Did you get the impression from reading his book, do you think he wants to -- because I interviewed him last night and he talked about means testing and raising the eligibility age requirements and some other things. He didn't say he wanted to eliminate it, he said it's broke, it needs to be fixed. What did you take out of his book that makes you think otherwise?

ROMNEY: Well, words are stubborn things, to paraphrase John Adams, and written words are even more stubborn. And he says in the book that by any measure Social Security is a failure. You tell that to the millions of people who are on Social Security. He says in his book it's been forced on us for the past 75 years.

I don't think Ronald Reagan would agree with that. And he also says that federal Social Security is unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states. Those words are going to be extraordinarily difficult for him, even if he tries to distance himself from them. If he were in a general election, I can tell you, Barack Obama and his million dollars are going to be pretty tough with those words.

HANNITY: I assume whoever gets the nomination is going to be pushing a wheelchair with granny over the cliff, sort of what they did to Paul Ryan.

ROMNEY: Look, we have to be, try to be -- and I know it's hard, and you know it's hard, in these debates for us to be very careful in our choice of words -- that's why when you write a book you're pretty careful with what you write. Be very careful because if you're running for president those things will come back and haunt you.

HANNITY: True. What about the issue that came up tonight on immigration and your differences on immigration, his support of the children of illegal immigrants having the right to get in state tuition, it sort of became a battle between Senator Santorum and Governor Perry. What was your reaction to that exchange?

ROMNEY: Well, Senator Santorum was right. Look, Governor Perry made an enormous error and that error was putting in place a tuition break for illegals of the state. And that tuition break does not apply to U.S. citizens from other states that want to come to Texas. No, it applies to illegals in Texas and it's worth about $100,000. We're not talking about some little discount; we're talking about a massive benefit. And there's no question that draws people into the state of Texas who are illegals from across the border. It's a terrible policy, and enormous mistake. I think he knows that.

He also says he opposes a fence. Look, you got to have a fence for our border patrol agents to be able to slow down the people that want to get in here illegally. These things are pretty straightforward and I think, I frankly think that had the governor been thinking about these things before he decided to run for president, he would have taken a different posture.

HANNITY: The one area where your opponents seem to keep attacking you no matter how many times you've given the answer, I've asked you many times in interviews is on the issue of health care. And your answer is there is a great distinction between a state like Massachusetts making a choice, and the federal government. As you look back on the health care plan, one question I wanted to ask is, would you do it differently?

ROMNEY: Oh, sure.

HANNITY: You would?

ROMNEY: Oh, yeah, you learn from experience. As a matter of fact there were a series of things in the bill that I vetoed that got overridden by the legislature and I said to them, I said look, you're going to have to change this over time. And the truth is some of the things I thought were problematic, I think still are and need to be changed.

But the idea of states solving state problems is something which I think most of us on the stage agree with. And you know, I'm proud of the fact that, for instance, in our state, 99 percent-plus of our children have health insurance.

You know, I care about kids and I care about them being well. I'm not going to back off of that. Is our plan perfect? No. Is it a step forward? Yes. And the people of Massachusetts, if they don't like it, they can change it, that's the great thing about state solutions to state problems.

HANNITY: Once we institute Obamacare -- and you would immediately eliminate Obamacare?

ROMNEY: I'd get rid of Obamacare, day one. I would give a waiver from Obamacare to all the states. We've got to get out of Obamacare. And then I would put in place a bill that allows individuals to own their own health insurance and to make sure that existing condition problem is eliminated, for instance, by saying to insurers you can't deny coverage to someone who's been continuously covered in the past.

HANNITY: All right, Governor, well, when you see the Frank Luntz focus group, I think you're going to be pretty happy. It's always good to see you. Thank you. Appreciate it.

ROMNEY: Thanks so much, Sean.

HANNITY: Thank you, Governor.

ROMNEY: Good to be with you.

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