Feb. 16, 2007 — -- Republican former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann Romney, sat down with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos today for their first Sunday interview since jumping into the presidential race. Following is an excerpt from their conversation which will air this Sunday on "This Week."
George Stephanopoulos: Sen. 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?
Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.: I don't know about the constitutional definition that Sen. Clinton is referring to. I think the president has whatever authority is necessary to protect this country and protect our troops.
I think [the] 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 Sen. 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?
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?
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.