Mitt Romney on Homeland Security
Former Republican Governor (MA); presidential nominee-apparent
ROMNEY: No, we haven't entered that level of, if you will, cold conflict. But we certainly recognize that Russia has very different interests than ours. That Russia is going to push against us in every possible way. They have been doing it. Look, they blocked for many years the toughest sanctions against Iran. They stand with Assad and Syria. They stand with Kim Jong-un in North Korea. They link with some of the world's worst actors. They've sent a battleship into the Caribbean and to Cuba. They harbor Edward Snowden. All these things are designed to say, "hey look, we're pushing against the US." They are our geo-political adversary. And this is a playing field where we're going to determine whether the world is going to see freedom and economic opportunity or whether the world is going to see authoritarianism and Russia and Putin wants to be an authoritarian and that's not something that the world needs or wants.
ROMNEY: Well, my strategy's pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to kill them, to take them out of the picture. But my strategy is broader than that. That's important, of course, but the key is to pursue a pathway to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own. We don't want another Iraq. We don't want another Afghanistan. The right course for us is to make sure that we go after the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and these jihadists, but also help the Muslim world.
OBAMA: I'm glad that you recognize that al-Qaida's a threat because a few months ago when you were asked, what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia--not al-Qaida, you said Russia.
OBAMA: The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That's its most basic function.
ROMNEY: The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America's military. Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can't care for themselves are cared by one another.
That America, that united America, can unleash an economy that will put Americans back to work, that will once again lead the world with innovation and productivity.
That America, that united America, will preserve a military that is so strong, no nation would ever dare to test it.
That America, that united America, will uphold the constellation of rights that were endowed by our Creator, and codified in our Constitution.
That united America will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly, and will give a helping hand to those in need.
That America is the best within each of us. That America we want for our children.
From that time comes this extract: "Romney's threat to wiretap mosques and monitor Muslims won support from his party's right wing." He said, "how about people who are in settings--mosques, for instance--that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror? Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping?""
He later flatly refused to modify his call to wiretap Muslim mosques and keep tabs on some Muslims in the US. Why? In part, because it appealed to the red states.
When conflict broke out between Hezbollah and Israel, many observers were surprised to see Hezbollah garner so much support among the Lebanese people. Hezbollah was launching rockets from Lebanese neighborhoods, making them the open targets of Israeli retaliation, but nonetheless, the Lebanese people cheered Hezbollah.
A good deal of the support for Hezbollah stemmed from deep-seated anti-Israel resentment. But it was also the result of Hezbollah's long effort to help the Shia community by building village schools and other social services. Israeli officials explained that Hezbollah contributed only a few million dollars a year to this effort, but it was money very effectively spent. In this instance, soft power meant real power for the Hezbollah.
Russia insists that nuclear reduction talks encompass only strategic nuclear weapons, not theater nuclear weapons, which are currently configured for short-range deployment. Their position is understandable, as they have many times the number of theater nuclear weapons as does the US; they'd like to cement that superiority into place
We must develop and install a robust missile defense system. Progress achieved in the Bush years in building a shield to protect the US from the missiles of rogue states and in preparing for a missile shield in Europe was a good start.
Ideally, we would rid the planet of nuclear weapons. But we are unlikely to be successful in doing so, at least within the coming decades.
When added together, the troop-strength and armament figures of our allies appear quite competitive. But they do not fool our potential adversaries: our allies [are not] a coherent collective military power.
MCCAIN: Because I don’t think that’s the time to call in the lawyers, when we’re in a national security crisis. Those are the last people I’d call in. I’d call in my wisdom, my knowledge, my background, my experience, and my ability to lead this nation.
ROMNEY: I want to make one thing very, very clear, and that is if there were ever a question of a security threat to this country, I would act immediately to protect the interests of America and our citizens. No question about that. But every president has of course met with White House counsel and they have written opinions about the involvement of Congress. The decision to take our men and women to war is the most grave decision and I would do that on a very deliberate and careful basis, not a half-cocked basis.
Romney has tried this bit before. In fact, we’ve called him on it once already: that in inflation-adjusted dollars, defense spending dropped nearly 15% between Reagan’s last budget and the final budget of George H.W. Bush four years later--compared with just under 13% between Bush’s last budget and Clinton’s, a span of eight years. Bush’s defense secretary, a guy named Dick Cheney, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1992 that “overall, since I’ve been secretary, we will have taken the five-year defense program down by well over $300 billion. That’s the peace dividend. And now we’re adding to that another $50 billion.”
A: Well, there is no comparison, of course. There’s no question but that the honor that we have for men and women who serve in our armed forces is a place of honor we will never forget and nothing compares to it. People who are willing to put their life on the line for American freedom are in a league of their own, and we owe them our respect. And the sacrifice they make is something we’ll never forget.
“In my life at that time I didn’t get drafted,” he continued. “I was eligible for the draft. I would have served in the military if drafted, but I wasn’t drafted. My course was a different course, and perhaps because of the fact that I did not serve in the military I have a strong sense of a desire to serve in the public sector today.
“There is no question,” Romney concluded. “Those that served we owe a great debt of gratitude to.” Romney had a combination of deferments--a religious deferment covered his 2-1/2 years of missionary work in France, and then college deferment applied. Then most deferments were sacked in favor of a lottery, which in 1969 awarded Romney’s March 12 birthday the number 300.
“If you have a strong enough military, no one will test you, and I think one of the reasons we face the challenges we do and we’re being tested on so many fronts is that people see we haven’t done a great job in the post-major conflict period in Iraq,“ he continued. ”We’ve been tested and have been found a little wanting. I think we need to be stronger. I don’t shrink at all from the need to protect this country and our sovereignty and our pre-eminence in the world.“
ROMNEY: Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the Middle East, and even more broadly, because our purpose is to make sure the world is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they're going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war. That's our purpose. And the mantle of leadership for promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America. We didn't ask for it, but it's an honor that we have it. But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong, and that begins with a strong economy here at home, and unfortunately, the economy is not stronger. We need a strong economy. We need to have as well a strong military, second to none in the world.
ROMNEY: Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now down to 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That's unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy. And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts that the president has as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure. I won't do it.
OBAMA: You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military's changed. It's not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities.
OBAMA: When it comes to our military and Chinese security, part of the reason that we were able to pivot to the Asia-Pacific region after having ended the war in Iraq and transitioning out of Afghanistan, is precisely because this is going to be a massive growth area in the future.
My plans protect our freedom and preserve opportunity. They reflect common-sense solutions and conservative values. Our campaign is about more than replacing a President; it is about saving the soul of America. This election is a choice between two very different destinies.
ROMNEY: Well, my choice is not to cut defense. I think it's a terrible idea to cut defense. I think it's a terrible idea to raise taxes. Particularly at a time when the economy's struggling, the idea of raising taxes, taking more money away from the American people, so government can spend it, and can spend it--right now the president has a jobs bill. How'd his last jobs bill work out for us?
Q: But what about the automatic cuts?
ROMNEY: No, I do not want the automatic cuts. I want to see that supercommittee take responsibility for getting the economy going again by reining in the scale of the federal government and saying we're going to pull back on some of the programs we have.
And what we have to do is to have the leadership in this country, like the men and women at this table, who believe in America. My experience will help us get our values strong, get our economy strong, and make sure that our military is second to none in the world.
I am absolutely devoted to making America the strongest nation on Earth. And if you don't want that as your objective, don't vote for me--we already have a president that doesn't make that his first objective.
To ensure that America remains safe and maintains its role as a defender of freedom, we also need to increase our defense spending to at least 4% of our GDP per year, including substantial and increasing support for missile defense. Under Pres. Obama, our defense spending will decline as a share of our economy and of the federal budget. And it will fall far below what is required to meet our global commitments.
China's lower troop cost is largely the result of conscription and the nation's low wage rates. If China's cost to employ a soldier and to purchase an item of military hardware were identical to those that are paid in the United States, its budget would be closer to half the size of ours, not the one-tenth that is reported.
For all these reasons, if you were to accept the argument of the activists opposed to the defense budget's size and you were to look at reported defense spending figures as a measure of the military strength of the two countries, you would get a very inaccurate impression. If China's cost to employ a soldier and to purchase an item of military hardware were identical to those that are paid in the United States, its budget would be closer to half the size of ours, not the one-tenth that is reported.
A: I’m recommending that we add 100,000 active-duty personnel to our military. We’re right now at about 1.5 million. Take that up to about 1.6 million. We found in our state that we were losing enrollees for the National Guard at about 6% per year. And the legislature and I got together and passed something called the Welcome Home Bill. We said if you’ll sign up for the National Guard, we’ll pay for your entire education for four years. We put in some other benefits as well--life insurance and other features that we decided to pay for. The result of that was, the next year enrollments went up 30%. So if we want more people to sign up for the military, we have to improve the deal. Our GI Bill has gotten a little old. We need to update our funding level for that, so that young people who go into the military get a full ride as they come home and get to go into college.
ROMNEY: I agree with what the mayor said--we need to add to our military by at least 100,000 troops. But we’re going to have to move our strategy from simply being a response to military threat with military action, to an effort that says we’re going to use our military and nonmilitary resources. The answer is to move now to a second phase, a phase of helping Muslims become so strong they can reject the extreme.
ROMNEY: I absolutely believe that America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful. But in order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong. Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947. Since FDR, we've always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we're changing to one conflict. Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the president of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people. And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is a combination of the budget cuts that the president has, as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure, and I won't do it.
ROMNEY: Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it's widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends. Let me also note that we're going to have to do more than just going after leaders and killing bad guys, important as that is. We're also going to have to have a far more effective and comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism. We haven't done that yet. We talk a lot about these things, but you look at the record of the last four years and say, is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is al-Qaida on the run, on its heels? No.
ROMNEY: Yes, I would have. And I do believe that it is appropriate to have in our nation the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country, who are members of al Qaeda. Look, you have every right in this country to protest and to express your views on a wide range of issues but you don't have a right to join a group that has killed Americans, and has declared war against America. That's treason. In this country we have a right to take those people and put them in jail. If I were president I would not abuse this power. But people who join al Qaeda are not entitled to rights of due process under our normal legal code. They are entitled instead to be treated as enemy combatants.
Even after the attacks of 9/11, some Americans cannot bring themselves to recognize the scope of reality of the jihadist threat. Others have concluded that the burden of preventing future attacks is too great.
But jihadists see the world in starkly different ways from most Americans. For example, while Western nations take care to separate church from the state, for the Islamists, religion and government are to be one. The founding fathers of Islam proclaimed that "Islam is a religion and a state." Thus, Islamists would replace secular systems of justice with sharia.
Conservatism has had from its inception vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda and thinking. That agenda should have, mind you, three pillars: strength in the economy, strength in our security and strength in our families.
We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might and standing by and strengthening our intelligence officers. Conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Not on our watch. A conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, "You have the right to remain silent."
But here's the problem. That is the very kind of thinking that left America vulnerable to the attacks of September 11th.
This is not a law enforcement problem. It is the gravest matter of national security, with thousands if not millions of lives in the balance. The jihadists are still at war with America. Our government has no greater duty than a vigilant defense, and no greater cause than victory for America and for freedom.
Gestures that communicate a lack of resolve only embolden America's adversaries. With Iran seeking nuclear weapons, with North Korea already nuclear and selling its technology to the Syrians, it is essential that we construct a missile defense, now.
A: You know, I just don’t think it’s productive for presidents to lay out a list of what is specifically referred to as torture. One of the reasons is that that term is used in the Geneva accord. And once you lay that list out, you are forever prohibiting the US from ever employing that technique, even in a circumstance where a city might be subject to a potential nuclear attack. And so we have found it wise, in the past, not to describe precisely the techniques of interrogation that are used here; also, so that people who are captured don’t know what might be used against them.
A: I do not believe that as a presidential candidate, it is wise for us to describe precisely what techniques we will use in interrogating people. I want to make sure these folks are kept at Guantanamo. I don’t want the people that are carrying out attacks on this country to be brought into our jail system and be given legal representation in this country. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed went to Guantanamo and he met G.I.s and CIA interrogators. And that’s just exactly how it ought to be.
A: No, of course not. But use the law to follow people who are teaching doctrines of terror & hate, and make sure that if they’re doing that in a mosque, in a school, in a playground, wherever it’s being done, we know what’s going on. There’s no question but that we’re under threat from people who want to attack our country in this global effort. We need to know about that, track them, follow them, and make sure that in every way we can, we know what they’re doing and where they’re doing it. And if it means we have to go into a mosque to wiretap or a church, then that’s exactly where we’re going to go. I hear from time to time people say, hey, wait a second. We have civil liberties we have to worry about. But don’t forget, the most important civil liberty I expect from my government is my right to be kept alive, & that’s what we’re going to have to do.
A: When you’re running for president, you have to think about the question and the answer, but you also have to think about the implications of what you’re saying around the world. And Pakistan is a tinderbox. And of course, America keeps its options open to do what we think is in our best interest. But in a place like Pakistan, you make sure that you don’t say things that could be misinterpreted and misused. And that was what his error was. Of course, if we receive actionable intelligence about bin Laden, we will take appropriate action, but we don’t describe exactly what that might mean. We have an ally there, Musharraf. We don’t want in any way to try & weaken him in a very difficult situation, and that was Obama’s mistake.
A: The key in electing the next president is to find somebody who will make sure that that scenario doesn’t ever happen, & the key to that is prevention. We’ve all spent a lot of time talking about what happens after the bomb goes off. The real question is, how do you prevent the bomb from going off? That means intelligence & counterterrorism.
Q: How aggressively would you interrogate those being held?
A: I’m glad they’re at Guantanamo. I don’t want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don’t get the access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil. I don’t want them in our prisons. I want them there. Some people have said, we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo. And enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used -- not torture but enhanced interrogation techniques, yes.
ROMNEY: Unfortunately, Ron, you need a thorough understanding of what radical jihad is, what the movement is, what its intent is, where it flows from. And the fact is that it’s trying to bring down not just us, but it’s trying to bring down all moderate Islamic governments, Western governments around the world, as we just saw in Pakistan.
ROMNEY: Ron, you’re reading their propaganda.
PAUL: What would you do?
ROMNEY: I’d read what they write to one another. Sayyid Qutb lays out the philosophy of radical jihadism and says, “We want to kill Anwar Sadat,” and when there’s the assassination of Anwar Sadat, it has nothing to do with us. Why did they kill Madam Bhutto? It has nothing to do with us. This has to do with a battle that is going on within the world of Islam, of radical, violent jihadists trying to bring down all moderate Islamic people and nations and replace them with a religious caliphate.
|Other candidates on Homeland Security:
|Mitt Romney on other issues:
Joe Kennedy III
Senate races 2021-22:
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