Mitt Romney: The Complete Interview

ByABC News
February 18, 2007, 11:19 AM

Feb. 18, 2007 — -- 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.