‘People have to see that the president is not taking elaborate vacations and spending in a way that is inconsistent with the state of the overall economy and the state of the American family,” Mitt Romney tells National Review Online.
Romney, the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, took a few moments to talk to NRO on Thursday.
NRO: Let’s begin with your process of selecting your running mate. As you’ve interacted with elected officials throughout this primary season, have you thought about any of them as potential running mates and whether you would trust that person to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?
Mitt Romney: [Laughter.] I’m not going to give you any names!
NRO: You don’t have to give names. Just . . . has anybody piqued your interest?
Romney: There are a lot of terrific people in our party, as I’m sure you know. We will begin to put together a list of folks to do a deep-dive vetting. That’s something which Beth Myers, my former chief of staff and former campaign manager, is guiding. I’ve been very impressed with a lot of folks I’ve worked with, and I’m impressed with others that have not been in battleground states, but who nonetheless are key leaders in our party. At this point, it is a wide-open process.
NRO: Is there one trait or quality that you think is particularly important for a running mate and vice president?
Romney: The vice president has to be someone who would be seen as having the capability to become president and lead the country if that were to become necessary. That is, without question, the most important quality that you consider.
NRO: Gas prices are averaging $3.90 a gallon regularly across the country, with prices much higher in many states. Obviously, a lot of factors influence gas prices, but what moves would a Romney administration be able to make quickly — let’s presume a cooperative Congress — and how quickly would your policy changes influence prices at the pump?
Romney: What we know we can do is to affect the global supply of oil to a certain degree by taking advantage of our own oil resources. That means on Day One, I would issue an executive order opening federal lands for licensing and permitting. I would also move to open ANWR, and move to drill in the outer continental shelf. All in all, my effort would be to increase our domestic supply of oil.
In addition, I would work to take advantage of our domestic natural-gas resources. The Obama administration is trying to federalize the regulation of fracking, which has the effect of making our supply of natural gas less reliable. I believe natural gas can ultimately be an extraordinary resource in our transportation sector.
I also would note that coal, and other energy resources like coal, which worked for our generation, should not be shut down, as they are under this administration, and under my plan [those resources] would be taken advantage of. Let’s use our natural resources for our own benefit. We know that will have a beneficial effect on pricing, and one thing we can be certain about is that it will keep hundreds of billions of dollars in our economy that otherwise are going to other [countries’] economies.
NRO: Would it be reasonable to think that within a year, those policy changes would have at least some impact on prices in the market?
Romney: The people who make investments looking at the future prices of oil are estimating what the future will hold. If you take action that shows we are going to develop our resources, it should have an impact on pricing. However, the ultimate time frame to bring these sources of energy on line is a good deal longer than a year. But the move to take advantage of these resources will have a very early impact on the predictions of future prices.
NRO: Are you following the GSA scandal? How pervasive is a culture of waste within the federal bureaucracy — is it endemic or a few bad apples? How would a Romney administration go about changing habits and reducing tolerance for waste and excess?
Romney: I think the example starts at the top. People have to see that the president is not taking elaborate vacations and spending in a way that is inconsistent with the state of the overall economy and the state of the American family.
I believe that any place such as the GSA, where you find leaders who failed to properly oversee their people and to properly manage resources, those managers have to be replaced. At the GSA, you have leadership taking the Fifth, and that’s a pretty clear indication that these folks have not done the job they should have in managing taxpayer dollars and providing transparency.
I can’t tell you how pervasive this is in the various agencies of government. What I can tell you is that there is too much government, too many bureaucrats, and too little willingness to send programs back to the states.
NRO: At a recent fundraiser, you mentioned the possibility of scrapping the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or dramatically rethinking its role. What should the federal government’s role in the housing market be?
Romney: That point that I made suggested that there are many agencies and departments at the federal level which may be able to be combined with other agencies in order to save overhead dollars and reduce the burden of federal regulators on the economy. The role of the Department of Housing and Urban Development has traditionally been to help people with housing vouchers to be able to afford housing, even though they’re poor or out of work. [The question] in my mind is whether that would not be better administered at the state level, with a block grant being provided from the federal government. I think there are some aspects of the Department of Housing and Urban Development which could be better run at the state level, with less fraud and abuse. There are, however, other parts of housing policy which have been designed to encourage manufactured housing to be sold across state lines and across different jurisdictions where building codes have been used to prevent innovations in manufactured housing being accessible to people across the country.
NRO: Shifting to politics, your head-to-head polling numbers look quite competitive or even pretty good against the president, but you’ve got some high unfavorable ratings in a lot of polls, at least by historical standards. Why do you think this is the case? And how do you go about changing those numbers?
Romney: Well, we’re very early in the general-election cycle. The general election is over six months from now. There’s plenty of time for the people of the country to get to know me better and to understand my vision for the country. My job is to describe what I would do to get America working again, and, hopefully, by doing so, I will earn the support of the American people.
But I don’t sit around worrying about polls, particularly at this early stage.
NRO: I saw your comment yesterday that the race is about jobs, not dogs, so I won’t ask about the endless dog debates. But in light of the president’s strange dietary selections in Indonesia, what is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
Romney: Ahhh . . . You know, I don’t recall eating anything particularly bizarre . . .
NRO: I was going to guess when you were France, maybe escargot or something.
Romney: Yeah, but escargot and snails and oysters and mussels and so forth are unusual but not exceptional features in American restaurants. I don’t know if those qualify as particularly unusual. Certainly not something you eat every day, but I can’t think of anything particularly surprising that I’ve had the occasion to eat.
NRO:You see people talking about the dog-on-the-roof story, or the cookie comment. Do you ever shake your head at the campaign environment you’re in, or marvel at what becomes a big deal on the campaign trail?
Romney: I know that in the final analysis, people will make their decisions based on who they think can strengthen the economy and provide good jobs with rising incomes. But the fact that there are many items of interest that appear along the way certainly can’t be a surprise.
— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.