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Mitt Romney answers journalists’ questions

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Mitt Romney speaks to reporters

“Radio Row” event in Manchester, NH

QUESTION: Yesterday, three of Iranian swift boats challenged our naval ships in the Straits of Hormuz. What is your policy in dealing with Iran going forward?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, I laid out a policy on Iran when I was at the Herzliya conference in Israel in January. It is a much tougher policy with regards to diplomatic and economic sanctions. Tighten the economic sanctions to put a lot of pressure on Iranian businesspeople and on their entire economy. Tighten diplomatic sanctions so that the people in the country understand that they are a pariah around the world. And then market through all of our resources to the people of Iran that their course towards nuclear ambition is a course of folly and that would lead to devastation to them. They have to recognize that they would be responsible as a nation if fissile material they developed ever was used anywhere in the world. This is an effort we’re just beginning to undertake. We have to do it aggressively, and we should begin as soon as we can.

QUESTION: According to The New York Times and The Washington Post, there are US special ops that are planned for northern Pakistan. Would you support that?

ROMNEY: You know, I’m not going to talk about special ops plans without having been briefed, and I have not yet received top-secret briefings, so I don’t want to describe a particular plan that we might have. But certainly the willingness of our military to follow al-Qaeda into places in Pakistan is something, which we certainly have to consider. I would support, I would want to do that in conjunction with the leadership, the democratically elected leadership of Pakistan. Right now, we’re seeing, of course, with Musharraf a leader who’s position is somewhat threatened—or challenged, rather, by the lack of democratization generally. But I believe that you’re going to see a democratically elected government there ultimately. I think we work together with our friends in Pakistan and take action as necessary to combat al-Qaeda.

QUESTION: When we talk about supporting democracy, our closest allies in the region are the Egyptians on one side, the Saudis, and even the Pakistanis. None of them are democratic.

ROMNEY: Oh, I’m saying in the case of Pakistan that we want to work with the leadership that’s in place. We anticipate seeing a democratically established leadership. Musharraf, for that matter, was elected democratically. There’s questions about how fair and effective the election was. But we wouldn’t go rushing into Pakistan, except in the most unusual circumstances, without having collaborated with the legitimate government in power to make sure that we’re going to combine our efforts to go after the al-Qaeda operatives. You saw in the last several weeks and months, actually, that the military in Pakistan has been working with us to go after al-Qaeda. Recognize that we have a general in General Kayani who is a friend, who we have confidence in. We wouldn’t want to surprise him by showing up in his country without having cooperated and collaborated. But nonetheless I think we very much have to be open to the idea that we can participate, along with Pakistani military, to go after al-Qaeda on a collaborative basis.

QUESTION: “Change” is the key word lately in this campaign. What would be the major difference between the Romney administration and the current Bush administration?

ROMNEY: Well, the change I think I’m referring to is not so much one administration to another, although there are certainly differences there as well, as much as a recognition that Washington itself is broken, that the political process has ground to a complete standstill. It’s not Republican, it’s not Democrat, it’s not White House versus Congress; it’s the entire process. People are tired of a group of people who are incapable of solving the most simple issues, such as illegal immigration. That one is truly simple to deal with, and yet Democrats and Republicans are so logged in to cloakroom deals and lobbyist requirements that they can’t get the job done. And it’s going to take somebody from outside the Beltway to step in, write new rules, and finally deal with the problems we have. So with the Bush administration, I know they’ve tried very hard. They tried to make progress, for instance, on entitlement reform, social security, and the Democrats sat back and said, “There’s no problem. What? Me worry?” And that’s just unacceptable. And we’re going to have to use the power of the veto, and the power of leadership, and going to the American people to finally get Washington off the dime. I would say that there’s no way you can ever expect that sending the same old people back to Washington just to sit in different chairs is going to change Washington. People who have been there twenty years or longer are people who are connected with all sorts of lobbyists, who have many friends they have to take care of, who have enemies they want to pay back. That’s not the way to get the job done.

QUESTION: And you feel that your history in Massachusetts shows that you can work with Democrats.

ROMNEY: I have worked with Democrats well in Massachusetts, in part because we sat down and said we’re not going to worry who gets the credit. We’re not going to be attacking each other personally. We’re going to try to get the job done for the American people. And by the way, that was something I also was able to do with the Olympics before that. It’s something I was able to do in business. You see, in business you don’t care who gets the credit; you just want to see your enterprise succeed. Thank you.

QUESTION: Is it your vision to bring the plan that you brought out to allow people to be able to buy insurance in Massachusetts to the national stage, so that Americans who don’t have insurance will be able to acquire it somehow?

ROMNEY: The answer is yes. I would like to see every American have access to and actually have free-market insurance, so that they’re able to have the kind of health insurance that people in Massachusetts now have. I like the plan we put in place in Massachusetts. I’d like to see other states adopt it. I would mandate that every state adopt it in exactly the same form we did it. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for instance, in California has a different approach to it. Every state may want to craft their approach to the particular needs of their population. But I would insist that federal funding that I would make available is only going to come to those states that actually make plans and make progress towards reforming their health insurance markets, bringing down premiums, and getting everybody insured.

QUESTION: So the key is to create the market as you did in Massachusetts.

ROMNEY: The key is to create a far more open market, a less regulated market, and then insist that states take action to get everybody insured.

QUESTION: A lot has been made about Barack being able to energize the youth vote. With this campaign, what are your plans to reach out to the youth, and particularly I’m interested because, you being the governor of Massachusetts, that with so many colleges, they have a youth population. What are your plans to energize them going into the federal election?

ROMNEY: Well, one of the great things that you get is, once you become the nominee of the party or you begin becoming clear as one of the one or two top contenders, you get a lot of interest on campus. People want to see who you are. I’ve been able to do that in New Hampshire, get around the campuses, and a good deal in Iowa as well, and build a good deal of youth support. And I believe that my platform and policies are going to connect with the young people of America. I was actually pleased to hear that there was a poll taken last night in the high schools here in New Hampshire. It’s known as the kids’ poll. It’s been taken many years. It was correct in predicting what would happen in the last three elections. And I won by a wide margin in the youth poll in high school. So I’m hopeful that’s going to hold true for the rest of this day. But I’m also confident that my vision and my ability to communicate to the people of the country the truth, to lay out the issues we have, to show how we can really make progress rather than just talk about rhetoric, that’s going to connect with the youth of America.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.