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Interview: Gov. Mitt Romney Talks With Telemundo's Diaz-Balart

Related: Telemundo, News

Governor Mitt Romney sat down for an interview with Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart. Below is the transcript from their conversation:

Governor, thanks for being with us.

MITT ROMNEY:

Thanks, Jose. Good to be back with you again.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Thank you. As you know, Americans have been killed recently. Our embassies have been-- the site of violent protests throughout the Middle East and in-- Africa. Your foreign policy advisor, Rich Williamson, said that if you were president, this would not be happening. How would a President Romney be different?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, going back to the very early days of the Obama administration, the president laid out his foreign policy, which was, in some respects, to distance ourselves from Israel and also to go around the-- the Muslim world and apologize for-- America's-- misdeeds-- real or-- or imagined. And-- that's been the approach.

Iran has become closer and closer to a nuclear weapon. Israel has-- has been uncertain, in some respects, of the president's-- commitment-- to their interests-- in part by the virtue of the speech he gave to the United Nations-- and-- and his treatment of-- the prime minister of Israel. The nature of all those things is very different than my foreign policy.My foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East is to stand firmly with our allies, including Israel, to stand strong in our defense of the-- principles of America, free speech, human rights, and so forth. And that kind of strength, I believe, as opposed to apology, is the right course to pursue in our relationship with the Middle East.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Things would have been different, you think, had you been president, because of that policy?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, I hope they'd have been different. I-- I believe that the key to a policy in the Middle East is whether or not Iran is going to have a nuclear weapon. And Iran is not far away to having a nuclear weapon. The prime minister of Israel just said that he believes they will have that capability relatively soon. That's the most serious foreign policy, national security threat America faces, is a nuclear Iran. And-- unfortunately, we're four years closer to that than when the president took office.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

We'll get into Iran in-- in a few more minutes. But-- but let-- let's say on the-- how would you as president manage the continuing issues of the Arab Spring differently?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, the-- the key thing for us in my opinion with regards to the Arab Spring is to show we're not gonna let Iran become nuclear. That obviously sends a signal throughout the-- the Arab world. Number two, we should focus on Egypt. Egypt is an 80-million population country. America should be taking a lead role to help encourage the development of democratic institutions. And that should have happened some time ago--

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

How?

MITT ROMNEY:

We have organizations within our country, which help encourage the development of-- of-- of political-- entities, unions and the like, to help establish alternatives to the Mu-- Muslim Brotherhood. But-- when President Obama-- became president, he went to Egypt, gave a speech, may have been a nice speech. He-- said-- a number of-- delightful things there. But did not encourage and did not follow through on policies to-- move from-- a dictatorship under Mubarak to instead-- a more representative form of government.

And the pressure began to build and build and build. And then exploded. And Mubarak is gone. And the only political institution that really was able to fill the void was the Muslim Brotherhood. Now we have a Muslim Brotherhood president-- in-- Mr. Morsi in-- in Egypt. And that-- that's, I think-- an outcome which is not ideal for this country.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Was it a mistake for the United States to pressure Mubarak out?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, it was-- we-- we should have, from the very beginning taken action-- followed on policies in the past to encourage freedom and to encourage-- democratic institutions and-- and a more representative form of government. That should have occurred from the very beginning of the Obama administration, such that there was not the kind of last-minute-- tumult and explosion that-- that forced out Mubarak and that-- and that led to-- quickie elections that did not occur. Following the establishment of these kind of political alternatives would have been more attractive.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

A mistake, you think, to-- to pressure Mubarak out?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well-- as-- given the mistakes made early on, right? If-- if we'd have done the right things from the very beginning, we would not have been in this circumstance, where we had the choice of throwing our ally under the bus. And-- and-- and so I-- at the point where-- the explosion had occurred and there were demonstrations in the street, and Mubarak was tryin' to decide what to do. At that point, we had little choice-- but to go with the voices of democracy. But we had-- a choice earlier on, two, three years earlier to try and establish-- alternatives and-- and to move Egypt towards a more representative form of government, such that this kind of-- explosion didn't occur.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

So you may have heard that last week I asked President Obama if the current Egyptian regime was an ally or enemy of the United States. And he said it was neither an ally nor an enemy. What's your reading of that?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, he's wrong. Egypt is an ally of the United States. It has been for some time. There's a question about how we'll go forward together. And whether under the new government, Egypt will remain an ally of the United States. And I certainly expect it will and hope that it will. And we'll do everything, when I'm president, to assure that Egypt understands its relationship with the United States is beneficial to them. And I have them-- and have them understand that to remain an ally of the United States, they must honor their peace agreement with Israel. They must also protect our embassies. And they must also protect the rights of minorities within their country.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

And if they don’t?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, those-- our-- our foreign aid and our support-- our investment in their country depends upon them following-- those types of-- of guidelines.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Yesterday on NBC's Meet The Press-- the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, said that Iran was just months away from being able to build a nuclear weapon and demanded the president set a red line before that happens. Where is your red line?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, the red line is that it is not acceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. And that means, of course, it's unacceptable for them to have the capability of building it. You-- you-- you don't wait until they actually have a weapon to say, "This is no longer acceptable." You have to keep them from having a weapon. That means you have to keep them from having the final capability of assembling a bomb, putting it on a rocket, and-- and-- using it to-- potentially-- disrupt or to kill.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

So that's where you defer-- differ from President Obama? Because where-- where would you diff-- where would you differ with the president's policy on red line of Iran?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, I'll-- I'll let the president speak for himself. My view is we have to prevent Iran from developing the capability of building a nuclear weapon. Because it's unacceptable for them to have a nuclear weapon. I-- I would also note that there are other things the president should have done from the beginning of his term.

I-- I gave a speech-- five years ago, laying out seven steps to keep Iran from becoming nuclear. And those steps included, number one, putting in place crippling sanctions immediately. The president waited until they were demanded by Congress very late in his term, finally he's putting in place crippling sanctions. That should have happened some time ago.

Number two, we should have indicted Ahmadinejad under the genocide convention for incitation to genocide. We should be treating his diplomats around the world like the pariah they are, the way we treated the-- the diplomats of South Africa during apartheid. We should have stood up when demonstrators took to the streets in Tehran to say that we are fully supportive of-- of the freedom movement and-- and-- and-- they should not have been crying in the streets, "Where is America? Where is President Obama?" We should have been standing with them. And of course, finally, we should make it very clear that we are locked in arm to arm with our ally Israel, in our commitment to assure that-- that Iran does not have that capacity to build a bomb.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Domestic policy, what do you say, Governor, let's talk a little bit about that?

MITT ROMNEY:

You bet.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

The political press here in the United States has been reporting on infighting in your campaign, messaging problems. Are you satisfied with how your campaign is going?

MITT ROMNEY:

I've got a terrific campaign. My senior campaign people work extraordinarily well together. I work well with them. Our campaign is doing well. And frankly-- these process stories-- take anyway from what's really of concern to the American people, which is an unemployment rate stuck above 8%, 23 million Americans out of work-- millions of Americans now in poverty. I believe there's some two million more Hispanic Americans in poverty than when the president took office. These are the concerns people of America have. And they're the reason that we're in this campaign.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

So no changes in your campaign?

MITT ROMNEY:

No, I-- I've got a good team.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Let-- let's talk about the economy. And-- and-- and you kind of highlighted some of the major problems. 56 months running, the unemployment-- among the Hispanic community has been over 10%. What specifically do you have in mind to deal with this crisis?

MITT ROMNEY:

Yeah, and it is a crisis. And I've laid out five steps-- (and I'm happy to go into them in some depth) five steps which summarize the 59 points I've laid out to get this economy going and get jobs again. But they're very-- very briefly, let me mention what they are. Number one, take advantage of energy.

We have massive natural gas, coal, oil re-- resources in this country as well as renewables. Taking advantage of those in a very aggressive way will create about four million jobs, not just in energy sectors, but also in manufacturing. Number two, aggressively pursuing trade, particularly in Latin America, where we have some natural time zone and language advantages. We need more free-trade agreements, not fewer. And crack down on nations that cheat like China. That's killing jobs.

Number three, we've got to fix our training programs to give our people the skills they need and fix our schools. It's unacceptable. Our kids are getting an education that's not consistent with the best in the world. Number four, we've got to balance our budget. People won't invest in America if they think we're headed on a road to Greece.

And number five, we've got to be a champion of small business. Small business is where jobs come from. Don't raise taxes on small business. The president does. I cut taxes on small business. I make it easier for businesses to hire more people. I get regulators to understand their job is to help small business, not crush 'em. And finally, Obamacare is killing jobs. We've gotta replace Obamacare with true health care reform that brings down its cost.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

From Facebook, a viewer asks you, "What would or could a president do about the high price of gasoline?" Is there anything that can be done from a president?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, actually, yes. And that is developing more of our own energy resources, using natural gas as a transportation fuel, particularly in long-haul trucks and in the inner-city fleets. That will help take some of the demand out. Demand, of course, when brought down helps lower prices.

In addition, increasing supply, increasing drilling in this country. We've seen a lot more drilling, a lot more oil production over the past several years. But it's all been on private land. The government has cut in half the permitting and licensing on government lands. And there are a lot of government lands across this country. On states west of the Mississippi, there are several states where the government lands are more than half of the total land of the state. I want to use those lands so we can create more oil production, gas production in this country, more supply domestically, less demand means moderated prices.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

More than 82,000 young, undocumented people, they're-- they're called "dreamers," have already filed under the president's deferred action plan. If you were president of the United States, would you keep that plan in place until you could get some form of immigration reform?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, I-- I'm gonna make sure that we have a permanent solution to help dreamers, to help these young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, brought here by their parents. I want them to understand what their permanent status is. And from the very beginning of my administration, I will work to put in place legislation that is-- that deals with the major immigration issues that America faces, including that one.

And I've indicated that these individuals, for instance, I believe should have-- a pathway to becoming a permanent residence, by for instance, serving in the military. And-- and I will work with Congress to find-- a reasonable solution. I know-- Marco Rubio was among a number of people working on a permanent solution for this. I will work with him--

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Meanwhile, would you consider keeping that deferred action in-- place for two years until there's--

(OVERTALK)

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Because nothing happens overnight.

MITT ROMNEY:

I'm gonna-- I'm gonna get that-- I'm gonna get my legislation done. And my legislation will overtake anything done on a temporary basis.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Until that, would you consider keeping that in place?

MITT ROMNEY:

I-- I'm-- I'm gonna keep my focus on getting a permanent solution in place?

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

What about the 82,000, the maybe 1.2 million kids that could benefit under this deferred action? What specifically would happen to them until you get some immigration reform?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, I'm gonna put in place an immigration reform pro-- proposal that makes sure that-- that they have-- a solution.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Okay, so they-- would they be deported immediately upon your taking--

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, they're-- they're-- they're not deported immediately today. And-- and that's not-- that has not been the practice. My practice is to make sure these people have a permanent understanding and a solution to this issue. And that they don't have to wonder why it is that the president, who when he ran for office said in his first year he would put in place a permanent solution to immigration reform; he would put in place an immigration bill. He had a Democrat House and Democrat Senate. He didn't do so. Why not?

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

You would?

MITT ROMNEY:

He didn't-- absolutely. He didn't even file a bill. I-- I think Hispanic families across this country have to ask, "How is it President Obama promised immigration reform, in his first year he said he'd do it, filed no bill, made no (UNINTEL), and then just before the election, he puts in place a quickie executive order, which basically stops the progress that was being made by Marco Rubio and others to put in place a permanent solution?"

Look, I-- I-- I will make sure that my answer to this issue is not political, but it practical for the families of Hispanic descent in this country, and make sure that we have a permanent solution that deals not just with-- with those young people, but also with-- the other folks who come here illegally and with people who want to come here legally. I've got a whole series of reforms I want to put in place.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

You talked about in the-- in the early-- months of the campaign about self-deportation. Is that a policy that you believe should be the policy of the Romney administration, make it difficult for those that are here illegally? So difficult, their lives so impossible that they would choose to self-deport?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, self-deportation is just another way of saying that if people decide that they want to go home and don't want to live here any longer, they can do so.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

But nobody wants to leave if they're here already unless they have--

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, some-- oh, actually, a number of people-- look at the job prospects and find it difficult to find a job, and-- and-- and that think they have better opportunities, family and other things, a lot of reasons why people decide to leave this country. But I-- I don't believe in going up and rounding up 12 million people and putting them on busses and taking them outside the country.

We-- we deport, obviously, those people who committed crimes and-- and those people who are-- represent a hazard to our society. But we're not gonna have a deportation-- agenda of rounding up people and just throwing them out of the country. Instead, allowing people to make their own decision. Do they want to stay? That-- that's-- that's very different than saying-- an individual is gonna say, "I want to go home." And that's-- another way of saying "self-deportation."

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll shows nearly 40 point disparity between Latino voters supporting President Obama and you. Not a lot of time left-- before the election, till the 6th of November. What's your plan to reach those Latinos? And why are you so far below President Obama in preference?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, I understand that for a long time, a lot of-- Latino voters have been aligned with the Democratic Party. That's not entirely surprising. But I think right now people recognize the president's policies have not created the jobs that Hispanic Americans and other Americans expect. And the-- the-- the numbers you describe, how many months with-- with--

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Fifty-six.

MITT ROMNEY:

Fifty-six months with unemployment above 10%? If people want more of that, they can vote for the same guy. But I spent my life in business, began in small business. I understand how small business works. I know what it takes to get jobs. If people want more free stuff from government, they may be attracted to President Obama. If they want more jobs and good jobs, I think they'll support my campaign. And that's what I've got to communicate in the weeks we have ahead.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

And in your foreign policy paper, you say that Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba are diametrically opposed to American interest and values, and they threaten international peace and security. Should the Castro brothers or President Chavez of Venezuela worry about a Romney president?

MITT ROMNEY:

I should hope that that-- they'd understand that with a Romney presidency, I'm gonna work aggressively in Latin America to promote-- free enterprise, human rights, economic opportunity-- d-- democratic rule. The idea of a dictatorship-- whether in Cuba or in-- in Venezuela or a Bolivarian-- alliance, which-- that-- that-- that tries to spread-- a kind of-- dictatorial-- rule throughout Latin America, something I will oppose aggressively.

Look, I-- Latin America is critical not to the-- just to the people there, but to this nation here. I want to have a close and working-- series of economic opportunities across Latin America and North America. And for that to happen-- I want to make sure that the Castro/Chavez model does not spread throughout other parts of Latin America.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

And in Mexico-- you also say that it's fundamental to the United States to continue strengthening its relationship with Mexico-- dealing with issues like security and the drug-- communications or-- or transportation of drugs between Mexico and the United States. Tell me a little bit about your vision.

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, I think a big part of the drug issue is not just the enforcement, important as that is. The war on drugs, the effort for-- for our-- nation to-- help in the-- in the effort of combating drugs in-- in Mexico and throughout other parts of the world. But also in doing a better job-- marketing against drugs in this country. (BACKGROUND VOICES) Look, the drugs that are being produced throughout the world are being produced to satisfy demand here and other places. And I--

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Mostly here.

MITT ROMNEY:

Mostly here. And-- and our job is not just to keep other people from producin' the drugs, because as-- if there's demand, it's gonna get produced somewhere. Our job is to help market to our people how bad it is to use drugs. And the-- our young people. I think our young people un-- need to understand that when they use drugs, they are participating and they are-- they are in some ways empowering the terrible acts of violence, including murders, and-- and awful things.

And current young-- young people-- need to understand that the use of drugs is a very dangerous thing to their fellow human beings. And I think if they do we'll be able to have an impact on the use of drugs in this country and reduce demand. And that, I think, is part of the job of the president.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Last question. We don't have a lot of time. I'm appreciating your time. The botched federal Operation Fast and Furious. Thousands of weapons into Mexico (UNINTEL PHRASE). The Mexican Government says over 70% of all the weapons they confiscate from drug thugs come from the United States. Two part question. Are we doing enough to deal with Mexico in its war against the cartels. And number two, is there something that should be done to curtail arms shipments and sales on border areas into Mexico?

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, Fast and Furious was-- a disaster. What-- what an outrage. And we don't know exactly who know-- knew about it, why they pr-- why they promoted it, and-- and in part, because the-- the White House, the Justice Department has clamped down the information that Congress sought. We need to understand why it was that these guns were-- were provided to-- to cartels. What was the purpose of this? Was it political in nature? What-- what-- what was going on here? And it's something which both the attorney general as well as the White House has since stonewalled. If I'm president of the United States, I will do everything in my power to keep-- this kind of-- outrage from occurring.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

And in-- on the Mexican side, cooperation, (UNINTEL PHRASE)?

MITT ROMNEY:

Look-- look, I-- I hope we have a very close working relationship with Mexican leadership. Not just in-- in dealing with-- with drugs and cartels, but also dealing with an economy, energy policy. With the new president of Mexico, there seems to be some openness about maybe sharing technology, perhaps some investment in the oil sector. Maybe I'm overstating a bit his flexibility. But-- but if there's an opportunity for-- for some American technology, enterprise, and investment to make a difference in oil production to Mexico-- that could be very beneficial both to Mexico and the United States. So I-- look, our-- our relationship with Mexico, with our North American friends is-- is one of the ingredients that can help North America achieve energy independence within eight years.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

(UNINTEL) Romney, mucho gracias. (LAUGH)

(OVERTALK)

MITT ROMNEY:

Thank you so much.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Appreciate it, sir.

MITT ROMNEY:

Thank you.

JOSE DIAZ-BALART:

Thanks so much.

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