July 29th, 2012, 2012 -- David Muir: Governor thank you for doing this
Mitt Romney: Thank you David
Muir: As we sit here in beautiful Jerusalem 100 days to go are you going to win this thing?
Romney: You know, I'm not talking politics right here today but obviously I'm encouraged by the campaign but today being in the holy city my thoughts are on the great promises that have been made here, the people who gather here of multiple faiths and my desire to see those people see each other as being brothers and sisters and come together in peace.
Muir: Let's talk about the news that came out of Israel today on Iran, some strong words expected from you in that speech. One of your advisors said of you today that you would respect Israel's decision to strike Iran on its own. Would you support an Israeli strike on Iran?
Romney: I think I'll use my own terms in that regard and that is that I recognize the right of Israel to defend itself. At the same time we are two nations, both committed to employing every means we have to keep Iran from pursuing their nuclear folly and that means every diplomatic course, economic forces as well, sanctions are beginning to have a greater impact on Iran we want to execute all of these elements of soft power if you will but of course we maintain all options. If all of our political and economic options fail we of course retain military options as well.
Muir: What about the option of the Israeli strike, unilaterally, would you support that?
Romney: Again, I think I've said what I wanted to say on that front which is I respect the right of Israel to defend itself and America always on the side of Israel but I'm not going to be more specific than that with regards to the actions Israel might take but we have a full range of options to dissuade Iran from doing something which is unimaginable and unacceptable.
Muir: You talk about some of those options, diplomacy, tough sanctions, it sounds a lot like what we hear from the Obama administration.
Romney: You know I gave an address five years ago at the Herizleya conference in Tel Aviv and laid out 7 steps that I thought needed to be taken to dissuade Iran from becoming nuclear. It's taken a long time for some of those steps to be executed some are still not yet executed. Being on foreign soil, I simply don't want to attack the president or his policies and nor make new foreign policy but I indicated a number of things that I thought were important at that point, the fact that we have sanctions now three and a half years into the president's term is in my estimation a positive thing I would have liked to see them earlier as my speech at Herzliya indicated.
Muir: You've talked about back in the states, I know that you are on foreign soil but you have been critical before with the presidents timetable to pull US troops out of Afghanistan and in your recent speech before the VFW you said you wanted to complete the transition by 2014 is that the same time frame?
Romney: It's the same time frame the president is speaking of with regards to the transition of the afghan forces, I also indicated that I want to make sure that we have had consultation with the commanders on the ground. The place where the president and I have had a difference with regards to time table is with withdrawal of our surge troops. Commanders were looking at December 2012 withdrawal point the president moves that up to September 2012 which is still during fighting season I sided with the commanders and felt the 2012 decision, the September 2012 decision was premature.
Romney: We're talking about the search troops.
Muir: Ok, wanted to confirm for the audience. If those commanders on the ground in Afghanistan tell you that we need US troops to stay longer would you keep them there beyond that 2014?
Romney: I don't want to go into hypothetical's but we recognize the circumstances may change on the ground either for the better or for the worse. I don't think you set hard and fast deadlines without recognizing that there is the potential for conditions to change.
Muir: You are open to it depending on what the commanders might tell you?
Romney: I will consider the council if I'm president I would consider the input of the commanders on the ground as an important element in the plans for our military.
Muir: You are here on what some have termed your world audition and democrats, not surprisingly, continue to hammer you back home on taxes, you remain firm two years and two years only. So from what you have released and from what we have seen we know that there was one year when you paid about 13.9% tax rate. Can we clear this up by asking a simple yes or no question? Was there ever any year when you paid lower than 13.9%?
Romney: I haven't calculated that. I'm happy to go back and look but my view is I've paid all the taxes required by law. From time to time I've been audited as happens I think to other citizens as well and the accounting firm which prepares y taxes has done a very thorough and complete job pay taxes as legally due. I don't pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president. I'd think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.
Muir: You said you would go back and look, would you look for us?
Romney: I haven't looked at the tax rate paid year by year. I know that I pay a very substantial amount of taxes and every year since the beginning of my career so far as I can recall.
Muir: Let's talk about London for a moment, we saw the photo ops with you and Ann at the Olympics, it must have been amazing to return to the Olympics as you often do. On your barrage of negative headlines there in London I wanted to read you something that Karl Rove said, he said: "you have to shake your head, it was a great opportunity instead he got stuck making comments the Brits took as an insult". I'm curious, did you know when you sent that that the British people might be a little offended given how excited they were about their own games?
Romney: You know, I was referring to press reports before I even got to London that suggested the organizing committee was having some challenges, just like the challenges we had in salt lake city but you know what, they overcame them. I was there for two days the games were carried out without a hitch so as far as I'm able to tell, despite the challenges that any organizing committee faces, they were able to organize games that had been so far so good, picture perfect.
Muir: If you got a do over would you answer it the same way?
Romney: I tend to tell people what I actually believe and referring to the comments that were made in the media was something which I felt was an honest reflection of what was being concerned what was concerning folks and having had the experience I'm absolutely convinced the organizing committee did what people hoped which is overcome the challenges and produced a brilliant product.
Muir: Governor, strategists in both campaigns have said that you cannot underestimate how important these debates are going to be and they are quickly approaching this fall. I'm curious have you begun to prep for those debates?
Romney: Well we've had no practice debates and no you know sample answers…
Muir: No binders?
Romney: I do have policy briefings that I get regularly but we haven't really begun the detailed process in which you call debate prep. But we've had meetings where we discuss the kinds of issues that are likely to come up talk about the possible responses, talked about the format at the debates, so we discuss the debates. And I'll be prepared. Don't forget we had about 20 debates in the republican primary process
Muir: I remember -
Romney: I'll draw on that experience but there's a lot that we'll do at getting prepared for these debates with President Obama. I think as you suggest they'll be very important because the rhetoric will be met with response and if there's ever been something which is said which is untrue, then the truth will come out.
Muir: Do you think the President is going to be a formidable opponent on that debate stage?
Romney: Absolutely. The president was a very effective debater in the last round, he's a brilliant orator I would expect him to be very effective on the debate stage. I don't think it will come down to a selection of words I think it'll come down to a selection of course. What is the path that America wants to follow. And I think you'll see two very dramatic contrasts as to which is the best course for the middle income Americans and my view is my course will put people back to work with rising wages and bright prospects and I think that course will ultimately be successful.
Muir: The Wall itself, I know that you and Ann just returned from your visit to the Western Wall before sitting down here with me. I would not ask you what you wrote in your note but I am curious, did you and Ann share with each other what you were going to leave at the Western Wall?
Romney: Yes before we went to the wall we both sat down and wrote prayers, and you know I read to her what I had written and she read to me what she wrote. My thoughts were in regards to peace, my family my wife and the source of our salvation.
Muir: I wish you and Ann the best on this continued journey. Thank you for your time. Romney: Thank you.