Yesterday we published a small, newsworthy excerpt from my interview with Gov. Mitt Romney. The political story of the day involved a quickly-scuttled plan by a conservative Super PAC to tie President Obama to his controversial pastor of 20 years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in a televised ad campaign. In a serendipitous bit of timing, I was the first person who had the opportunity to ask the presumptive Republican presidential nominee what he thought of the report, and whether his campaign viewed Rev. Wright as "fair game" in the 2012 election. Romney promptly repudiated a potential idea that a group over which he has no control might have been contemplating. (Is this the new repudiation standard? If so, when will Obama repudiate his own Super PAC for accepting $1 million from serial misogynist Bill Maher?) But beyond the Wright news hook, my longer conversation with Romney was wide-ranging and worth a listen. The full interview first aired on Hugh Hewitt's national radio show, which I guest hosted with Townhall alum Mary Katharine Ham last night. In a web exclusive, here's the audio and transcript of our full exchange. Topics include Wright, the president's failed budget, Europe and debt, attacks on Romney's private sector experience, and the Vice Presidential vetting process -- about which Romney was tight-lipped:
I was interested in this answer from Romney, which hit on a key campaign theme that I hope Republicans continue to exploit:
GB: I’d like to revisit the point you just made on entitlements, because I’m not sure if you saw this report, Governor, a few days ago in the Washington Post. Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican of Oklahoma, says that President Obama has appealed to him, and promised that in his second term, he would be prepared to really make serious progress on entitlement reform. Do you attach any credibility to that hypothetical?
MR: Well, it is interesting that the president has a lot of things to say to people behind the screen, that he’s not willing to say out in the open. And whether that’s President Medvedev of Russia, or whether it’s at his fundraisers, where apparently they take away cell phones from people who attend them so that there’s no recording of what he’s actually saying, or even to Senators. Look, I think it’s very hard to tell exactly what the president would do, other than by looking at his record in his first three and a half or four years. And we can see where he took the nation in these years. It’s a massive expansion of federal spending, an expansion of the reach of the federal government, and there’s no question in my mind but that his Supreme Court nominees and his policies would be designed toward expanding the role of government in our lives. And frankly, America’s economy runs on freedom. And he has been attacking economic freedom from the first day he came into office.
I think this is an excellent argument to present to the American people. If President Obama has been willing to defy public opinion on big ticket items like Obamacare, even knowing that he still has to face voters again, what will be feel "flexible" to do in an unaccountable second term? As Romney points out, Obama's been doing quite a lot of private whispering on this front. What are his genuine intentions, and do voters want to give him the chance to act on them? Important questions. (Also note Romney's cagey reference to Supreme Court vacancies, of which there will likely be several over the next four years. That should be reason enough for hesitant conservatives to move heaven and earth to help elect Romney). The former Massachusetts Governor's focus on the shroud of mystery surrounding a potential Obama second term also synthesizes nicely with his campaign's first television ad of the cycle. Dan wrote it up earlier, but it's worth re-posting here. The spot is upbeat and positive, offering a preview of day one of a Romney administration. More jobs, increased energy independence, flatter taxes, and replacing Obamacare? Yes, please:
This ad is slated to air in four battleground states: Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography