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Romney to Newsmax: I Won't Be Lectured to by a Failed President

By    |   Friday, 10 February 2012 06:47 PM EST

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a straightforward response to any efforts by President Obama to portray him as wealthy businessman out of touch with the average American: “He’ll attack my success. I will attack his failures.”

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, the former Massachusetts governor says he won’t be “lectured to” by a failed president, charges that the Obama administration has been “relentlessly attacking” religion, calls his GOP rivals “lifelong Washington folks,” touts his own “bona fides” as a conservative, and offers a rare glimpse into his feelings about his Mormon faith.

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Romney sat down for his Newsmax interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington on Friday, shortly after President Obama reversed course and said religiously-affiliated institutions won’t have to pay for employees’ birth control.

Discussing Obama’s previous position, Romney says: “The president and his friends have been relentlessly attacking religion.

“There was a decision where they went before the Supreme Court ultimately arguing that government should be able to determine who is a minister within the meaning of the ministerial exemption from EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) regulations. The Supreme Court voted against this administration nine to zero. When you have Ruth Bader Ginsburg thinking the president has gone too far, you have really gone too far.

“This president has revealed himself as someone who is part of an effort to try to brush aside the religious convictions of the American people.”

As to why Obama has been “attacking” religion, Romney says: “I can imagine that if you go to the fund-raisers that President Obama goes to, and the people he meets with day in day out are talking about religion, guns, God — these are the kinds of things they talk about, and in some respects they want to see our nation become more secular.

“That’s the wrong course. From our very beginnings America has been a nation under God. And we respect the right to worship God under the dictates of our conscience.”

Asked about efforts by the media and the White House to assert that Romney’s wealth puts him out of touch with mainstream America, Romney responds: “I think you’ll see the White House throughout this campaign suggest that anyone who has been successful is somehow detached.

“But I’m not going to get lectured to by a president who has presided over the worst economy we have seen in our lifetime, where you have more people who have lost their job under this president than under any other president in modern history, more people have lost their homes under this president, and he is in no position to lecture us on values or fairness.

“We’re in a position to lecture him about how we can get America working again. So he’ll attack my success. I will attack his failures.”

Addressing concerns that he isn’t sufficiently conservative to win the GOP nomination, Romney says: “I’m really happy to have a number of leading conservatives as part of my team, including Al Cardenas, who is the head of CPAC here. I am a person who is conservative not just based on readings but based on experience. I’ve lived conservatism, lived it in my home, in my business, my faith.

“And as governor of Massachusetts I was fighting the battles that conservatives are now having to fight nationally — on same-sex marriage, on matters of intrusion of state into their rights to worship according to their conscience. My bona fides as a conservative have been tested time and again.”

Asked if he is the best conservative to take on President Obama in November, Romney tells Newsmax: “Each of us who is running on the Republican side is conservative. We have different backgrounds and no one of us can be shown to be 100 percent ideal.

“I happen to consider Senator Santorum a fine person, but I wouldn’t have voted for all those earmarks he voted for. I wouldn’t have voted to raise the debt ceiling five times without getting compensating cuts in spending.

“In fact I’m opposed to earmarks. I would ban earmarks if I were president.

“But the big difference between us all is not just our commitment to conservative values, which we all share, but instead our differences are in life experience. The other people running for office have spent their life in Washington. I’d make an exception for Ron Paul, he also was a doctor. But Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum have been lifelong Washington folks. They rail against Washington but they never leave.

“My view is if we want to get America to turn around and to change Washington, you better bring someone in who has lived outside Washington and understand how the economy works.”

Regarding complaints that GOP candidates have been conducting a negative campaign, Romney asserts: “Senator Santorum has gone across the country over the past year attacking me and nobody really noticed until he got a little more visibility. He has been a relentless attacker of my positions and in many respects I take exception to his characterization of my views and my record. Now he is going to have to undergo the same scrutiny that every other candidate undergoes.

“We’ll all do pretty well if we stick to the truth because frankly, we’re going to get hit very hard by Barack Obama, with a billion dollars to spend and now he’s going after Super PAC money. So this process we’re going through really does not divide us. It’s preparing us for what’s to come.”

A recent New York Times column suggests that Romney is uncomfortable talking about his Mormon faith for fear that it could become a focal point for political attacks. Questioned about that view, Romney says: “I’m happy to talk about my faith as people ask about it.

“We’re a nation that respects differences in religion. I think we prefer someone who has a conviction that there is a God as our president.

“People want to ask me about my religion. I’m happy to tell you, although I’m not a spokesman for my church, that a lot of my experiences in understanding the challenges that many people face come not only from my own life but from my work in my church. I served as a pastor. In my church we don’t have a full-time minister, we have people who volunteer as pastors, and I was a pastor for my congregation for almost 10 years.

“I worked with people who lost their jobs, who lost a home, people who became very ill, people in divorce. I worked with Americans who were facing real challenging times and ministered to them, to try to help them through those times. Those experiences are very much a part of who I am and how I understand the kind of challenges Americans are facing right now.”

Romney has been passionate in his opposition to cuts in military spending proposed by the White House. He says: “I happen to believe that the nations around the world are much stronger and are investing a lot more in their military than we give them credit for, and I believe the threats in the world are far more dangerous than we really consider.”

He points to trouble spots including North Korea, Syria, China, nuclear-armed Pakistan, Hezbollah infiltrating certain parts of Latin America, and “the Arab Spring turning into the Arab Winter under this president.

“There’s a lot in the world that is dangerous, and the idea that at a time like this we would decide to cut our military? Our Air Force is older and smaller than when it was founded in 1947. This is not a time to retreat from our military readiness and our superiority, and I will maintain the superiority which in my view is one of the best allies peace has ever known.”

Asked what his final message to voters might be before the November election, Romney says: “I’m going to talk about what kind of America we want to have. I’m going to be talking about taking America in a direction which returns to the values that made us the most powerful nation in the world, economically, militarily, culturally. And those values include a conviction in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

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Friday, 10 February 2012 06:47 PM
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