Mitt Romney: The Complete Interview

Following is a transcript of George Stephanopoulos' interview with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, and Romney's wife Ann on "This Week."

George Stephanopoulos: Governor and Mrs. Romney, thank you very much for joining us.

Mitt Romney: Thank you, good to be here.

Stephanopoulos: Okay, Mitt Romney, management consultant. Give us the PowerPoint presentation for your candidacy.

Mitt Romney: Well, it won't be in PowerPoint. It's instead going to come from the heart, because this is not a business deal. This is not the next, if you will, notch in my belt of career progression.

My life was in the private sector. My life is with Ann, raising our kids.

My race for the presidency has everything to do with our kids and our grandkids, making sure that America is more prosperous and more safe for my kids and grandkids and for everyone else's kids and grandkids, because I'm concerned that we face unprecedented challenges.

Unless we're willing to finally do something about these challenges, we're going to end up not being the power that we've known, with the prosperity that we've known for our kids and grandkids.

For us, it's great. America's been wonderful for our generation. Our parents made America a place that the whole world envies.

But we have now to make America a place that our kids and our grandkids can be proud of and have a future that we'd want for them.

Stephanopoulos: And what's your pitch from the heart?

Ann Romney: As the wife and the mother of these five sons that we've raised together, whenever there was a crisis, he was so terrific in it.

Whenever there was really a good judgment call that was needed, he was there for that.

So I see him as being the person that can bring perspective, good judgment, lots of experience, lots of competency, that's how I see it.

Stephanopoulos: As you know, your faith is going to be a big part, at least the beginning of this campaign.

How does your faith inform your politics?

Mitt Romney: Well, I think religion is a separate sphere in terms of a particular brand of faith, but I think the principles of all faiths have, as their foundation, the idea that there is a supreme being, that this supreme being is a heavenly father, and that all the people in our country and in all countries are sons and daughters of the same supreme being.

I think we are, if you will, one family of humanity. That informs very dramatically my sense of what our relationship should be in the world, our need to care for the very poor and the diseased and the brutalized, our need in this country to provide opportunities for all of our citizens.

That fundamental belief that we are all brothers and sisters has an enormous impact, I think, on a lot of what we do.

But the particular doctrines of a church I don't think are a major part in a political sense.

Stephanopoulos: But your Mormon faith has been a big part of your life. You were a bishop in the church. You were president of the Boston Area Parishes.

You spent more than two years in France as a missionary and described it as a watershed experience.

How so?

Mitt Romney: Oh, absolutely. It taught me that there's a great deal to life besides just what's living in my little community back in Michigan.

I was in a pampered home with great advantages. I went to France and I lived on a far more modest, humble basis. We made about a $100 a week. We drew out of our savings to live there. That was food, clothing, transportation, housing, the whole bit.

And I recognized that the opportunities we have in this country are absolutely extraordinary. But, also...

Stephanopoulos: It can't have been easy to try to convert people in the Catholic...

Mitt Romney: It's real hard being a missionary in France.

Ann Romney: I think the conversion happens from within, to tell you the truth.

I send five sons on missions, as well, and when they leave, they're 19-year-old boys. They come home 21-year-old men and they've learned to step outside of themselves.

They've learned what it means to truly care for someone else and they come back so much more compassionate and so much more caring and it changes their lives and I now see them as fathers and husbands.

And their maturity and their ability to care for other people that are in need is just wonderful to see, as a mother.

Stephanopoulos: While he was gone, you actually converted to Mormonism back here in the United States from -- you were Episcopal, I believe.

Ann Romney: I was Episcopal, but we went to church about once a year.

Stephanopoulos: So what was the biggest leap of faith for you?

Ann Romney: There was no huge leap of faith for me at all. When Mitt left, I really just studied it on my own.

It was not something I did for him or planning on some other life plan with it. It was an internal thing that motivated me just from my heart, as well.

Stephanopoulos: You told Kate Snow that you think that governor should give one of these JFK-style speeches, like the one John Kennedy gave in 1960.

Mitt Romney: No one can do what JFK did.

Stephanopoulos: Not exactly, but...

Ann Romney: I don't like all the emphasis that's being put on it, because I see it as being a little unfair.

He is a man of faith and he has amazing principles. He's a good father and husband. I'd like them to look at the measure of the man and stop focusing so much just on his faith.

Stephanopoulos: But this is part of what makes us human beings and, you know, John Kennedy, when he gave that speech, he said that he believed in the absolute separation of church and state.

And he went on to say this, he said, "Where no Catholic prelate would tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote, where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference."

Is that what you believe?

Mitt Romney: Well, we have a separation of church and state in this country, and we should and it's served us well.

I don't believe, for instance, we should take "Under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't think we should "In God we trust" off of our coins.

There's a point at which we take something which is a good principle to an extreme.

But I do recognize and support the idea that when you take the oath of office, you basically support something which Abraham Lincoln called America's political religion.

And if I'm lucky enough to be elected president of this country and I take that oath of office, there will be no higher promise than to abide by the Constitution and the rule of law.

That's Abraham Lincoln's political religion.

Stephanopoulos: How about funding faith-based institutions?

Mitt Romney: Well, we don't fund faith-based institutions, other than when they're performing a non-faith role.

So right now we have faith-based initiatives in our state. Ann happens to lead that effort. And some of the faith-based institutions, particularly in the inner city, are doing a lot better job helping the poor, helping kids, helping families get on their feet than some government social service agencies.

So helping them in their secular role is, of course, fine.

Helping them in a religious role...

Stephanopoulos: How do you draw the line in that?

Mitt Romney: ... that would be unacceptable.

Stephanopoulos: You've worked with it. How do you draw the line?

Ann Romney: Well, we draw the line on those that are just trying to make a difference in a child's life. I work with inner city at-risk youth and we find that a lot of the black churches in the inner city have been very, very helpful in being there on the ground, helping these kids, really making a difference in their lives.

It's not even a church issue at all when it comes down to what they're really doing. They're on the ground, really there, and I'm very supportive of that, of trying to find anyone that's helping, give them a hand, as well.

And it's not a proselytizing thing that's happening, the way I see it, with the inner city, the faith-based initiatives that I've been working with. They're there to help. They're there to make a difference in children's lives.

And I feel as though we need to give them a hand, as well.

Stephanopoulos: You've met with a lot of Evangelical Christians who are especially skeptical of the Mormon faith.

What do you say to them?

Mitt Romney: Well, you know, it's really quite easy, because they agree. Our theologies are different, the doctrines are different between the different faiths.

My faith has a different doctrine than do many of the Evangelical Christian faiths or the Catholic faith and so forth.

But we don't debate doctrines. We talk about values and where should America go on the values that Americans care about.

And on those issues, my faith is like theirs and like almost every other faith I've encountered in the world.

It believes in the nature of the human family. It believes that we should serve one another. It believes that we should reach out and make a difference to preserve institutions of stability and democracy, that we should have freedom of religion.

These kinds of basic values my faith shares with theirs. So the leaders of the Evangelical movement I have spoken with have, by and large, said, "Look, we're not worried about your religion. We're happy with your values. And if we can be on the same page on issues that we care about, then we can be supportive down the road."

Stephanopoulos: I just have one more question about this and it has to do with the Muslim world.

In your faith, if I understand it correctly, it teaches that Jesus will return probably to the United States and reign on earth for 1,000 years.

And I wonder how that would be viewed in the Muslim world. Have you thought about how the Muslim world will react to that and whether it would make it more difficult, if you were president, to build alliances with the Muslim world?

Mitt Romney: Well, I'm not a spokesman for my church. I'm not running for pastor in chief. I'm running for commander in chief.

So the best place to go for my church's doctrines would be my church.

Stephanopoulos: But I'm talking about how they will take it, how they will perceive it.

Mitt Romney: I understand, but that doesn't happen to be a doctrine of my church.

Our belief is just as it says in the Bible, that the messiah will come to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives and that the Mount of Olives will be the place for the great gathering and so forth.

It's the same as the other Christian tradition. But that being said, how do Muslims feel about Christian doctrines? They don't agree with them.

There are differences between doctrines of churches. But the values at the core of the Christian faith, the Jewish faith and many other religions are very, very similar and it's that common basis that we have to support and find ability to draw people to rather than to point out the differences between our faiths.

The differences are less pronounced than the common base that can lead to the peace and the acceptability and the brother and sisterhood of humankind.

Stephanopoulos: But your church does teach that Jesus will reign on earth for the millennium, right?

Mitt Romney: Yes.

Stephanopoulos: Let me talk about your political journey. You were an Independent, registered Independent in the 1980s.

You voted for Paul Tsongas, a Democrat, in the 1992 primaries. Now you describe yourself as a Reagan...

Mitt Romney: Kind of a mischaracterization. In Massachusetts, if you register as an Independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary.

When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I'd vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for Republican.

In the general election...

Stephanopoulos: Supporting President Bush, is that what you're saying?

Mitt Romney: Look, I've taken every occasion to vote against Ted Kennedy, he's a good friend, but Ted Kennedy, Tip O'Neill, they're my Congressman and Senator.

I go in their primary, just like a lot of other folks, and voted against the person who I thought was the strongest Democrat.

Now, that happens in America today, but let me tell you, in the general election, I don't recall ever once voting for anyone other than a Republican.

So, yes, as an Independent, I'll go in and play in their primary, but I'm a Republican and have been through my life. I was with Young Republicans when I was in college back at Stanford, but a registered Independent, so I could vote in either primary.

Stephanopoulos: Now you describe yourself as a Reagan Republican. Describe the journey.

Mitt Romney: Well, there is a change there, which is back in the, I guess, early '80s or so, I was really concerned about, well, what President Bush -- well, then it was Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush, called voodoo economics and I wondered if that would work.

Well, you know what? The Reagan economics did work, him cutting taxes and cutting back on spending stimulated our economies. From 1982, America has created, what, 30-40 million new jobs. Europe and Japan have created almost none.

The Reagan revolution of lower government taxation, lower spending, boosting our military strength, those things helped create a world which is very favorable today.

So I've become a believer. The older I get, the smarter Ronald Reagan gets.

And when I ran for governor, there's no question, the principles that Ronald Reagan espoused were the basis of my campaign. I said I would not raise taxes, despite a $3 billion deficit in our state.

I said I wouldn't borrow more money, I'd hold onto our borrowing cap, and, by doing that, I'm convinced we were able to turn the state around, add thousands of new jobs.

We went after our schools to improve them. We took Reagan principles, they were adopted for our state in a way that I think made a real difference.

Stephanopoulos: You've also described a change of heart on the issue of abortion. You were pro-choice then. You're pro-life now.

So do you now believe that abortion is murder?

Mitt Romney: Abortion is taking human life. There's no question but that human life begins when all the DNA is there necessary for cells to divide and become a human being.

Is it alive? Yes. Is it human? Yes. And, therefore, when we abort a fetus, we are taking a life at its infancy, at its very, very beginning roots, and a civilized society, I believe, respects the sanctity of human life.

This is something that I spent a lot of time agonizing over, because I'm personally very much pro-life in my own life, my family's life, but didn't know what the role of government should be and it's been something that I've given a lot of thought to.

But at a very critical juncture, about 2.5 years ago, we were discussing embryonic cloning, cloning and embryo farming, and I had the provost of Harvard University and the head of stem cell research from Harvard there.

And at one point, we were talking about this practice, this technique, and one of the individuals said to me, "This isn't really a moral issue."

I said, "Well, why is that?" They said, "Well, because we destroy the embryo at 14 days."

And in my mind's eye, I saw rack after rack of little embryos, of nascent humanity and then them being destroyed or killed one after the other.

And I said, "We have so cheapened the value of human life in this society, that I want to make it clear I'm pro-life."

Stephanopoulos: So if abortion is the taking of a life, should women who have abortions and doctors who perform them be jailed?

Mitt Romney: My view is that we should let each state have its own responsibility for guiding its laws relating to abortion.

My preference would be to see the Supreme Court do something which is up to them, not up to me. Even if elected president, I don't guide this. The Supreme Court does.

But I'd like to see the Supreme Court allow states to have greater leeway in defining their own laws.

Stephanopoulos: But if it's killing, why should states have leeway?

Mitt Romney: You know, that's one of the great challenges that we have. There are a lot of things that are morally very difficult and, in some cases, repugnant that we let states decide.

For instance, Nevada allows prostitution. I find that to be quite repugnant as a practice.

Stephanopoulos: But murder is illegal in every state.

Mitt Romney: And so we let states make some of these very difficult decisions. That's one of the difficulties here.

Also, I feel a great empathy for women who have difficult decisions in this regard. I don't want to impose my view on the lives of women, and yet this is one of those points where mature men and women have to come together and say, "What's the right course?" And in my particular view, I believe in life, I believe in respecting life, and I believe that we should, as a series of states, allow states to make their own choice in this regard.

Stephanopoulos: But, personally, what do you believe the punishment should be for an abortion?

Mitt Romney: Well, I'm not about punishment. That's not what I'm considering.

I'm saying that, in my view, we should let the states make that decision and I am in favor of life and in favor of choosing life.

Stephanopoulos: So you're not going to say what the punishment should be.

Mitt Romney: I don't begin to have any idea for what a particular state's decision should be. I think the...

Stephanopoulos: But you've been governor of a state. You have to have some idea.

Mitt Romney: Well, our state is overwhelmingly a pro-choice state and Massachusetts would, under the construct I suggested, remain a pro-choice state.

This is not about punishment. This is about allowing states to make a decision on an issue of great moral significance to a lot of people and I think, state by state, we should allow a federalist approach as it relates to the issue of abortion.

Stephanopoulos: Let me move to the issue of gay rights.

When you ran for Senator in 1994, you supported the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military as what you called a first step that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation's military.

Is that still the goal, that gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly and honestly in the military?

Mitt Romney: Well, "don't ask, don't tell" has worked well.

At that point, I must admit, I was somewhat uncertain as to whether that would work and I was skeptical as to whether that policy would work.

It's now been in place for well over a decade. We're in the middle of a conflict. Now is not the time for a change in that regard and I don't have a policy posture as to allowing gays in the military to serve there openly.

But I can tell you that I'm against discrimination against people who are gay and lesbian.

Stephanopoulos: What do you, I don't understand, that you don't have a policy posture? Before, you thought that there should be...

Mitt Romney: I'm not in favor of changing it. I'm in favor of leaving it as it is. Certainly, at this stage, there's no reason to change it.

The policy that we've had in place for over a decade is working. So my view is keep it in place, don't move for a change.

Stephanopoulos: That current policy labels homosexuality as a defect. Is that what you believe?

Mitt Romney: You know, I'm not going to suggest that I'm in any way a psychologist. That's a decision a psychologist would have to tell you and I'm not going to weigh in on that.

What I can tell you is I oppose discrimination on the basis of race, gender, but also sexual preference.

And so I'm not in favor of discrimination in that regard, but I do favor and have always favored traditional marriage and oppose same sex marriage.

Stephanopoulos: I was just going to get to that.

Mitt Romney: From the very beginning of my political life and well before that, I've felt marriage is between a man and a woman and not between people of the same gender.

Stephanopoulos: You have been consistent about that, but what do you think about legally recognizing domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples?

Mitt Romney: I don't know if there needs to be a legal recognition, meaning two people can enter into a partnership, whether they're people who love each other or whether they're just friends. They can enter into a contract and have contractual relationships with one another.

Stephanopoulos: But not sanctioned by the state…

But that doesn't require a sanction by the state and so that's a decision each state would have to make. I wouldn't seek to impose, at the national level, a prohibition on contractual relationships between two people.

But my view is, at the national level, we should define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. And this isn't about adult rights.

A lot of people get confused that gay marriage is about treating gay people the same as treating heterosexual people, and that's not the issue involved here.

This is about the development and nurturing of children. Marriage is primarily an institution to help develop children and children's development, I believe, is greatly enhanced by access to a mom and a dad.

I think every child deserves a mom and a dad, and that's why I'm so consistent and vehement in my view that we should have a federal amendment which defines marriage in that way.

Stephanopoulos: I was going to ask you about that, because in 2005, in South Carolina, you actually seemed to mock the idea of gays and lesbians adopting and bearing children.

Mitt Romney: No, that wasn't my intent. I know one quote said I made the point that gay couples are even having children and there's been a lot of attention.

I think it wasn't apparent immediately to me that two people of the same gender would be having children. Biologically, that doesn't work, unless, of course, there are donors, and I've made that point to the audience.

I don't mean to mock that in any way and I know we have gay adoption in Massachusetts. Other states do. It's a decision made by state-by-state…

Stephanopoulos: Are you for it?

Mitt Romney: …and there are gay couples that are having children of their own and, obviously, that's their right.

But my belief is that the idea setting for a child is where there's a mom and a dad.

Stephanopoulos: So you don't share the concern of some Evangelicals, like James Dobson, with Mary Cheney's announcement that she was going to have a child.

Mitt Romney: My view is that the right model for the nation and the right standard for the nation is marriage is between a man and a woman and a child deserves a mom and a dad.

Stephanopoulos: Let's talk about guns. You were supportive of the Brady bill, the handgun waiting period, in the past. You signed an assault weapon ban into law and you said, in the past, "I don't line up with the NRA."

Now, you...

Mitt Romney: Well, on that issue.

Stephanopoulos: Now you're a member of the NRA.

Mitt Romney: Yes, and I know the NRA does not support an assault weapon ban. So I don't line up on that particular issue with the NRA, either does President Bush. He likewise says he supported an assault weapon ban.

Today we don't have the Brady bill because we have instantaneous background checks. That's no longer a operative or needed measure.

But I'm a strong proponent of Second Amendment rights. I believe people, under our Constitution, have the right to bear arms.

We have a gun in one of our homes. It's not owned by me, it's owned by my son, but I've always considered it sort of mine…

Stephanopoulos: When did you join the NRA?

Mitt Romney: Within the last year and I signed up for a lifelong membership. I think they're doing good things and I believe in supporting the right to bear arms.

I've been a hunter all my life, not frequently, but as a boy, when I worked on a ranch in Idaho, we used to go out shooting rabbits, because they were eating all the barley, and I got pretty good with a single shot .22 rifle, and been quail hunting more recently.

So I'm a hunter and believe in Second Amendment rights, but I also believe that assault weapons are not needed in the public population.

Stephanopoulos: This gets to, I think, the core question.

You've had changes on many issues, many different kinds of issues.

Mitt Romney: Well, certainly not that one.

Stephanopoulos: Well, but joining the NRA, all going in the same direction. How do you combat the charge that these are conversions of convenience?

Mitt Romney: Actually, not all going in the same direction.

As you get older and you have experience -- I ran for office the first time, never having been in politics, 13 years ago against Ted Kennedy and since then I've learned a few more things.

I proposed, at that time, for instance, that we eliminate the Department of Education. A lot of conservatives thought that was a great idea.

I don't think that's a good idea anymore. I think we need the Department of Education. I think "No Child Left Behind" is performing a useful function in providing for testing.

It has a lot of errors in it and I'd like to change it, but I like the fact that we're testing our kids.

So some things are more conservative, some things are less conservative.

Stephanopoulos: Any issue where you are more liberal?

Mitt Romney: Well, that's certainly one of them where my view, the "No Child Left Behind," testing of our kids gives us an opportunity to see which schools are making it and which schools aren't. I think that's very, very important.

And I know a lot of conservatives who disagree with me on that. On immigration, for instance, I think everybody who's not a legal resident of this country should have a card, an identification card. Some people don't like that idea.

On the area of stem cell research...

Stephanopoulos: But on immigration, let me stop you on immigration, because just a year ago, you were saying that illegal immigrants here in the United States should have a path toward citizenship.

Mitt Romney: Well, I don't recall that particular language. I didn't say they should be rounded up.

Stephanopoulos: I know. You said, "Those who are here paying taxes and not taking government benefits should begin a process towards application for citizenship," reported in the "Lowell Sun," March 30, 2006.

Mitt Romney: Well, what I said is that those people should go to the back of the line, that those people who are here illegally should not get any benefit by being here.

Those that have committed crimes should be taken out of the country. Those that are in our jails should be taken out of the country. Those who are on welfare, require government assistance, should leave the country.

Those of the 12 million or so that are here, first, I want to find out who they are, how many are there. I want them to register.

Stephanopoulos: But they should have some path to citizenship?

Mitt Romney: Everybody in the world has a path to citizenship. Everyone in the world can go to apply to the United States and apply for citizenship.

But those that are here illegally should not have any advantage over somebody who's in Bolivia today that wants to become a citizen.

Stephanopoulos: So they have to go back home first.

Mitt Romney: Well, they don't have any advantage by being in this country illegally in terms of applying for citizenship and should not.

Stephanopoulos: Have you been on the same journey politically?

Ann Romney: Well, I don't think I've ever been as politically obviously involved as Mitt has been.

I certainly agree with my husband on most issues. I think we have disagreements, obviously.

Mitt Romney: A few disagreements.

Stephanopoulos: Name one.

Mitt Romney: Oh, don't you dare.

Ann Romney: I'm not going to.

Stephanopoulos: I was with the Edwards a couple of months ago. They actually voiced a difference on gay marriage. She seemed to be much more for it than he was.

Ann Romney: Well, I would not oppose my husband on that at all.

Stephanopoulos: And you're not going to give me any other one.

Mitt Romney: Well, we were different with regards to issues of choice and abortion over the last decade or two and I've been looking at it from the standpoint of a governmental role and she's looked at it as a mom and she's been pretty consistently pro-life over the entire period.

Stephanopoulos: You'll be his number one character witness on the campaign trail.

How do you convince voters that some of these changes are sincere, coming from conviction?

Ann Romney: Well, I've been with him for a long time. I've known him since he was 18 years old and I know his heart, I know the goodness of him and I know that he's there putting himself.

It's a sacrifice, what we're doing right now. It's not an easy thing. It was not an easy decision to come here and to make the decision to run.

It's put a strain on lots of different points in our life that would be a lot easier not to.

But in my heart of hearts, I know he's the best person.

Mitt Romney: You see, fundamentally, a number of the issues that we've spoken about, they've been battered around for decades and they're tough issues, because they fit our interest to help women and let women make their own choices in their life, and our concern about imposing views of government on other people.

I mean, these are very tough issues combined with a real sense that there's human life involved.

But at the same time, what America faces right now are some unprecedented challenges, attacked by Jihadists, the emergence of Asia as an extraordinary tough competitor, tougher than we've ever faced before.

We're using too much oil. We're spending too much money. Our schools are failing a lot of our kids. Forty-plus million people don't have health insurance.

I want to solve those problems. I know how to do it.

Stephanopoulos: National security, you're a management consultant again.

You've come into the United States looking at the commander in chief. Do you keep him or let him go?

Mitt Romney: The commander in chief, that's the president. So you change the commander in chief, of course, but if you're talking about the secretary of defense...

Stephanopoulos: As you know, if you were looking at the job President Bush has done as commander in chief, from the perspective of a management consultant.

Mitt Romney: Well, you have to look at Iraq and Iraq was superbly executed in terms of taking down Saddam Hussein's government. But I think everybody recognizes, from the president to Tony Blair to Secretary Rumsfeld that post the period of major conflict, we had major problems in the way we've managed the war in Iraq, and that has contributed to much of the difficult we have today.

It was under-planned, under-prepared, under-staffed, too low a level of troops, under-managed.

I mean, everyone has their own view. My own decision-making process is a very inclusive process. I like to get a lot of people with strong, divergent viewpoints, who will express their viewpoints openly, who will gather data, who come in not just saying what they believe, but lay out the data.

And on that basis, you find the pros and the cons, the upsides, the downsides, the risks and then you say, "What do we have to do to make sure that the risk doesn't happen?"

And in this case, the downside risk with the multiple ethnicities in Iraq suggested that bad things could happen, particularly given the borders, as well, as you needed a lot of troops there to keep those things from happening.

Stephanopoulos: But how do you explain why all that planning wasn't done? President Bush is Harvard MBA, too.

Mitt Romney: Well, everybody has their own management style and their own approach and I respect enormously the approach other people. Mine is just different.

And if you read "Cobra Two" and "Assassins Gate" and "Looming Tower" and some of the reports of the events leading up not only to 9/11, but to the conflict itself, there's a sense that we really weren't ready for the post major conflict period.

We really hadn't thought through the way we should have, in the way we thought through taking over Germany with the collapse of Hitler's government.

We had two years to plan for that. In this case, it was done on a hurried basis. Paul Bremer went in without all of the preparation he might have needed to make some of those critical decisions and, in some cases, decisions were made that I think weren't made as effectively as they should have been.

And that has resulted in a blossoming of the sectarian violence, of insurgents within the country and from without, and a setting which is a very troubled, difficult position.

Stephanopoulos: Yet, you support the president's decision to send more troops right now.

Mitt Romney: Yes.

Stephanopoulos: How much time do you give it to work?

Mitt Romney: Well, it's not years. I think you're going to know within months.

I had a very informative discussion with former Secretary Mel Laird, who was secretary of defense during the Vietnam days, and he described for me that as we were withdrawing from Vietnam, prior to Congress pulling the plug, that there had actually been a series of milestones and timetables and things we had to do, things they had to do, and they were moving according to those milestones.

I hope with the current administration and I expect that they have worked with al-Maliki's government to set a series of milestones and timetables, not for public consumption, but to say, "Let's make sure we're making progress." And if we do make progress, terrific. If we don't, then it's time to say it's not working.

Stephanopoulos: Mayor Giuliani said the other night he's not confident it's going to work. Are you?

Mitt Romney: Well, you know, I think it's hard to predict whether this troop surge will work, but I'm absolutely confident it's the right thing to do.

The idea of pulling out would leave the potential of the country or the alternative that Senator Biden and others talk about, dividing the country into multiple parts, they have new risks.

The risks are, of course, that Iran grabs the Shia south, that the Sunni portion of the country becomes dominated by Al Qaeda, that perhaps Kurdish instability destabilizes the border with Turkey.

You might have a regional conflict where we have to go back again with more troops.

Anyone looking at a decision like this has to say, "How do you minimize the casualties to Americans throughout the world, our military and other casualties?" And in my view, to minimize those casualties, to reduce the risks, it's better now to put in an additional five brigades than it is to say, "Hey, let's pull out or let's divide into multiple parts."

That's an option that's always available down the road, but right now, the only option we have that really has prospects for securing the country and maintaining a central government with power over these sub-states is by supporting it with a troop surge that can bring stability, hopefully, to the people of Baghdad.

Stephanopoulos: The president announced a nuclear deal with North Korea this week.

Is it a good deal?

Mitt Romney: Well, I'm hopeful that the key to the deal, which is additional inspectors, IAEA inspectors, will let us determine whether or not they're cheating, because I think the experience that we've had with North Korea is just like the last time that President Clinton entered into an agreed framework, that the North Koreans cheat.

They take advantage of the heavy oil they got, they take advantage of the nuclear reactors they get, they use those things for their country's benefit, but then they continue with their nuclear proliferation efforts.

And in this case, I think we have to recognize that given their history, the key to this agreement being a step forward or, instead, a step back is whether or not there will be adequate IAEA inspections.

Stephanopoulos: But because of that history, others like John Bolton, the president's own former U.N. ambassador, say it's a bad deal, we're actually rewarding North Korea for bad behavior when we know they cheated in the past.

Mitt Romney: Well, I want to see the final agreement. I want to see how the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted. I'm not going to tell you whether right now it's a good agreement, but I know what the problem is in the agreement, and that is unless the IAEA has the kind of inspections that we can be sure they're not cheating, then it would not be a step forward, and that's going to be critical.

For instance, we had agreements with Saddam Hussein and then he just didn't honor them. And we had agreements with North Korea, they decided not to honor.

Inspection is the key. Of course, we want to trust people, but we want to verify, as well.

Stephanopoulos: Would you take the risk with this deal?

Mitt Romney: Well, it depends on whether we have adequate inspections. If we have adequate inspections and if they're going to shut down their nuclear reactor, if they will do those two things, then that's a positive development.

But if they're going to not allow inspections throughout the country, then that's not something which is going to work for us.

Stephanopoulos: Senator Clinton took to the Senate floor earlier this week and said the president does not have the authority he needs to take military action against Iran.

Do you agree?

Mitt Romney: I don't know about the constitutional definition that Senator Clinton is referring to. I think then president has whatever authority is necessary to protect this country and protect our troops.

I think Iranian military has been involved in the conflict in Iraq. Iranians have supported the attack on our soldiers.

But I don't think for a minute that this president is intent on attacking Iran. That's not where we're aiming. That's not going to happen. We have no interest in going into Iran.

But we do have interest in making sure that they do not develop additional nuclear technology and, in my view, that's where Senator Clinton has gone off the right track.

She's suggesting engaging with Iran. That's a timidity that's not right. This is a time to tighten our sanctions, economic, because they're having an impact, and to increase our diplomatic isolation of Iran and communicate to the Iranian people, as well as to its religious leadership, that there is a downside to having fissile material in your country and, that is, if that material falls in the hands of terrorists who use it, that the world community is not going to just respond to the terrorists, it's going to respond to who provided that material.

So we've got some education to do and we've got some tightening to do, but negotiation and engaging with the Iranians at this point is not the way to go and neither is invading them.

Stephanopoulos: But to be clear, if you were president, would you use military action to stop the Iranians from building a nuclear weapon?

Mitt Romney: Well, not now, but, of course, the military option has to be on the table. Anyone who's considering being president hopefully will say that military options are always on the table when you consider a nation, which is a genocidal nation, a suicidal nation, in some respects, coming from Ahmadinejad, you say to yourself this is a setting where, of course, you have to consider the possibility of military action, but we're not there.

Stephanopoulos: Suicidal, what do you mean by that?

Mitt Romney: Well, it's a nation where people participate in suicide bombing and that kind of a suggestion, I think it was former President Rafsanjani who talked about Israel being a one-bomb nation, meaning they could not survive one bomb, but they, Iran, could survive one bomb.

It's like are you kidding? Are you suggesting that you'd be willing to take a bomb in order to eliminate another people? This is a nation where the genocidal inclination is really frightening and having a nation of this nature develop nuclear weaponry is unacceptable to this country and to the Middle East.

And that's why I believe we should not be sitting down having a nice chat with the Iranians, but instead communicating to the religious leadership and the people that the consequences of going nuclear are very unattractive.

That's a message we should be sending throughout the world.

Stephanopoulos: Taxes. When you were running for governor or Massachusetts, you refused to sign a pledge ruling out any tax increases. But you've done that in this campaign. Why?

Mitt Romney: Well, when I ran for governor, it was pretty clear that I was going to be an anti-tax governor. I said I wouldn't raise taxes and I was very clear about that, and I didn't raise taxes.

I did everything in my power to balance what I thought was going to be a $1 billion budget gap that turned out to be a $3 billion budget gap, but we did not raise taxes.

And when I decided to run for president and, actually, as I formed my exploratory committee, I wanted to communicate that's exactly what I'd do as president, as well.

I support the continuation of the tax cuts that were enacted under President Bush's watch and I will not raise taxes.

Stephanopoulos: But when I was speaking with Governor Huckabee last week, he said that he may sign this, but he hasn't signed it because he's concerned that it would constrain him and prevent him from fulfilling his constitutional obligations.

For example, if we were attacked, if we were at war, if we needed more funds, he wouldn't rule out the possibility of a tax increase.

Mitt Romney: Well, he raised taxes, this governor, and felt the need to do so and I understand that. People are in different circumstances.

But you can read the pledge, if you will, and you can see that it's drawn very narrowly. It's not drawn very broadly.

It talks about raising the highest marginal income tax rate. It does not talk about all forms of revenue for the government.

And so that being said, the ability to manage the nation and to protect our interest is there.

But at the same time, I think people have to indicate pretty clearly, are they in favor of a huge tax increase which would occur in 2011 if the tax cuts expire or are they in favor of keeping the burden placed on Americans the same as it is today.

I will not raise that burden. I don't want a higher tax burden, and that's something which I wanted to communicate very clearly.

Stephanopoulos: You passed the healthcare law in Massachusetts to try to cover everyone in the state.

Do you think the country should have that kind of a plan?

Mitt Romney: I think every American should have good health insurance that's affordable and portable. The last thing I think, however, is that we should have government-sponsored universal coverage.

The prior effort to put such a national plan in place I think was ill conceived.

What we found in Massachusetts, and this is by reaching across the aisle, with Democrats and Republicans, we can get private market insurance that's available and affordable for all of our citizens.

We don't need a government takeover of healthcare. I think you're going to see in this next decade, with a Republican presidency and perhaps, at least for the next two years, a Democratic lead in Congress, you're going to see a real effort to get people health insurance and I support that.

But I do not want more incursion of the government into health insurance or into the healthcare field. We've got to get government out. We've got to allow the private market to work and the best way to do that is to help people buy private policies that they can afford.

The president took a good step in that regard by saying individuals should be able to pay for their insurance policies with pre-tax dollars. Corporations do that.

Stephanopoulos: The point of the Massachusetts plan is that individuals should be required to buy health insurance.

Should that be a national requirement?

Mitt Romney: No, it shouldn't be a national requirement, not now, not the way our nation has such a patchwork of laws.

I actually think that we're best to allow individual states to experiment with their own policies for getting their citizens insured.

And I understand that well over a dozen states have gone to Department of Health and Human Services saying they'd like to get an approval, a waiver, employing some of the techniques we've used to expand coverage, free market coverage in their states.

Some are doing it in ways that I'm sure will be better than we came up with. Others are doing it in ways I don't think are as good.

I don't like the employer mandate in California, but it's a valiant attempt to get more people covered.

You're going to see different approaches. Maybe ours will come out best, I don't know. You're going to see different approaches.

But when we've settled it, when the laboratories of democracy, which is what the states are, have had a chance to try different modes, we're going to find that, indeed, the free market does work and that private free market principals are the best way to get our people all insured.

Stephanopoulos: You were joking in St. Louis the other day that what sets your husband apart in this field is he hasn't been divorced.

Both John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have been divorced. Is that something voters should take into account?

Ann Romney: I was really joking about just the Mormon thing and only having one wife.

Mitt Romney: This is a Cato Byrne joke. Cato Byrne wrote that joke and when you start a speech, you're always looking for something funny to say and she quoted that joke that she put forward.

No, I'm not going to suggest that people's marital lives should be part of a campaign and I should tell you I respect enormously both of the men you mentioned.

Both are American heroes, in different ways for different things. I've become friendly with John McCain over the years. He's helped me in my campaign.

Mayor Giuliani is an American hero. We're proud of the way that he...

Stephanopoulos: But that's not an issue.

Ann Romney: No, no.

Mitt Romney: That's not an issue. We're proud of the way that he turned around New York City.

It used to be that you felt it was a crime-ridden city. It's not anymore. And then, of course, following 9/11, he did a wonderful job in recovery.

He's a great friend. I respect him enormously. We like them both.

Stephanopoulos: Your father was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination back in 1968 and then he made that famous comment after returning from Vietnam about brainwashing.

That must have been a tough blow for your family.

Mitt Romney: It must have been, but I wasn't around. I was lucky. I was in France. I was serving my church at the time.

And so I saw from afar the statement and I must admit it didn't impact me as having such huge impact or moment.

Ann Romney: I was more involved and Mitt's father was sort of taking care of me or watching over me as Mitt was away. He was very fond of me and it was great to have that relationship with him.

And I got very close to him during that time. So I did see it up close and it was extraordinary. He was an extraordinary man, completely unaffected by stepping out of the race.

He said, and I will never forget, because years and years later, I would ask him, "Doesn't it bother you, seeing what's going on in the country now and you could have had this impact or you could have been there, you could have done that," he said, "I never look back. Isn't life wonderful? I never look back."

I said, "Don't you have any regrets?" "None."

Mitt Romney: The man was unique.

Ann Romney: Fabulous.

Mitt Romney: My dad, I mean, I am a small shadow of the real deal. My dad was extraordinary.

Ann Romney: I don't agree with that. But I think it's the same kind of attitude that you have to take when you approach something like this, because the race is going to be tough.

There's only going to be a few people left standing. You don't go in thinking -- you're ego, of course, is going to get bruised. It's going to be tortuous, it's going to be hard.

But if you have the attitude Mitt's father had, at the end, which is, "Life is good. I was there, it didn't work, off we go," that's the attitude that I hope we bring to this, as well.

We're here. The door is open, we're going through it, we'll see what happens. If it doesn't work, great.

Ann Romney: She's about the best woman in the world, she's fabulous and she has been the person who's gotten me on this track.

Never in a million years would I be doing this without her.

Ann Romney: I'm sorry.

Stephanopoulos: You said you felt politics was his destiny.

Ann Romney: You know, when I met him, when he was just, what, 18 years old, even the I sensed a greatness in him and I sensed this leadership, whatever it is, that makes a leader.

It wasn't that I necessarily saw that it was our future or anything else, I just sensed a greatness in him and an ability to be a great leader.

And I knew our life would be interesting. I didn't know it would be as interesting as it has been.

Stephanopoulos: Your sister, Jane, says you have lived a charmed life.

What's the toughest personal crisis you've ever had to face?

Mitt Romney: Well, the charm in my life is that I fell in love young and you can't imagine what a blessing it is, in my opinion, to find your soul mate so young, to raise five kids together, and to see them get married and have children of their own. It's an extraordinary blessing.

But without question, the most difficult time in our life was when Ann was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Stephanopoulos: In 1998.

Ann Romney: Yes.

Mitt Romney: And we were in the doctor's office and she was going through a series of neurological tests.

Ann Romney: I was flunking everything.

Mitt Romney: Her right side wasn't working and we were thinking it could be Lou Gehrig's disease. And we said to each other, "As long as it's not fatal, we can live with anything."

Ann Romney: Well, he thought that.

Mitt Romney: You weren't sure about that.

Ann Romney: No, I was really, really troubled by the disease. It was really tough for me.

It was, obviously, hard for Mitt emotionally to have to support me during that, but for me, I am a physical person that loves action and loves to be involved in sports and I was a tennis player at that point, and I, interestingly enough, had thought, "My gosh, I'm at the end of my 40s, almost 50 years old, I've made it through that period of live where people get diagnosed with MS."

I mean, I was thinking these thoughts and then to actually have that diagnosis was just such a stunning blow to me.

Stephanopoulos: You're healthy now.

Mitt Romney: She's healthy.

Ann Romney: I am now.

Mitt Romney: She won't brag on herself, but she's really extraordinary. Of course, she used traditional medicine and Eastern medicine, everything she could think of to get herself strong, but she also started riding horses again.

She rode horses before we really met. She used to have a horse that she'd ride. But when she got sick and was going numb on one side, she said, "I want to ride again," she could barely ride around the arena once or twice without being exhausted.

And this last year, among amateurs, she was ranked number one in New England in dressage, it's an equestrian event.

The woman's a phenomenon.

Stephanopoulos: Are you worried that the stress of the campaign may inflame the MS?

Ann Romney: Yes, I am. Yes, that's a worry. That was part of the decision process that was difficult. And my health obviously is very important to both of us, and so I've got to learn -- I've learned already what to do to keep myself healthy and to try to balance my life and try not to over-fatigue myself.

But I clearly don't have enormous reserves of energy and I really do hit empty pretty quickly and I've got to learn how to manage that.

Oh, and you know what it's like. You know how draining these are and how exhausting they are. So I will have to not be with Mitt as much as I'd like to be.

That's why we have five boys.

Stephanopoulos: You're always with him in spirit.

Ann Romney: My boys are great. They're going to step up to the plate and when I can't always be with him, they're going to be. So you'll be seeing my sons on the campaign trail and a couple of daughter-in-laws have agreed to do it, as well.

So I feel like, in many ways, I am being carried on the shoulders of a lot of people right now and my kids are going to really be there and really step forward and step in.

Stephanopoulos: You're in all the way?

Mitt Romney: Oh, yes, we're in all the way. We've given this a lot of thought.

We had a family meeting, we don't have a lot of those, but all of us got together Christmastime and every son, every daughter-in-law went around and talked about their views.

They were all concerned, they had their own drawbacks, concerned about the grandchildren, the impact on them of a presidential race, concern for me, for Ann.

Every single one was unanimous in their view that I should run and they know our heart. They know that we love this country. They know that we think it has a bright future.

They know that we've got some real problems in the country and they believe that the combination of our experience, having run a lot of enterprises in trouble, having turned them around and getting things back on track, that experience, plus our heart, would be helpful to get America on the right course again.

So they said, "Do it," and so we're doing it.

Stephanopoulos: Thank you both very much.

Mitt Romney: Thanks, George, good to be with you.

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