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Interview with Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney

By Fox News Sunday, Fox News Sunday - March 18, 2012

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Special Guests: Mitt Romney, George Clooney, John Prendergast

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The following is a rush transcript of the March 18, 2012 edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: I'm Bret Baier, in for Chris Wallace.adsonar_placementId=1502157;adsonar_pid=150758;adsonar_ps=-1;adsonar_zw=198;adsonar_zh=170;adsonar_jv='ads.adsonar.com';

Mitt Romney looks to lock up the nomination. But many key tests remain.

We'll talk with the GOP frontrunner about the primaries ahead and get insight to do his policy solutions for America.

Mitt Romney, a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.

Then, actor George Clooney brings awareness of a war-torn region to Washington. He opens up about what he saw along the border of Sudan and South Sudan, about how people there need help. Chris Wallace sits down with George Clooney and the Enough Project's John Prendergast.

Also, the president and vice president both hit the campaign trail hard. We'll ask our Sunday panelist if the timing is right for the White House to ramp up reelection efforts. And we'll take a look how the candidates are scrambling for delegates on the trail.

All right now on "Fox News Sunday."

(MUSIC)

BAIER: And hello, again, from Fox News in Washington.

It's another a busy campaign weekend, Missouri continues the process of selecting delegates, Puerto Rico votes today. Then, on Tuesday, all eyes will be on Illinois.

Joining us is now from Moline to talk about where the race stands now is Mitt Romney.

Governor, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Bret. Good to be with you.

BAIER: Let's start with Afghanistan. Tensions in the U.S. and Afghanistan appear to be very high at this point. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has accused the U.S. of stonewalling the investigation into the killing of 16 Afghan civilians. In fact, they even suggested there might be more than one shooter.

He angrily said Friday, quote, "This has been going on for too long. This is all by means the end of the rope here." Thursday, he demanded all NATO troops get out of the villages and stay on the major bases there.

President Obama, as you know, has publicly said to stay the course until our withdrawal at the end of 2014.

Would President Romney do anything different? And if so, how?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I would exercise leadership. And by that I mean I would speak with President Karzai. I would speak with President Karzai regularly, day-to-day. We have troops in harm's way. We have almost 1,800 men and women who have been killed in Afghanistan. We have real interest in making sure that this ends well and that our mission is successful there of having a Afghanistan that is able to maintain its sovereignty against the Taliban, against ultimately al Qaeda as well.

Look, what's happening right now is an example of failed leadership. The president put out a specific time table for withdrawal for our troops, a time table for the end of combat operations. That is leading Mr. Karzai to take action that is self preservation in nature.

The president needs to be more engaged and interacting with -- not only our commanders there but also with leadership in Afghanistan.

BAIER: But would you exercise the withdrawal?

ROMNEY: Well, the timing of withdrawal is going to be dependent about what you hear from the conditions on the ground. That you understand by speaking with commanders, as well as, of course, the people of Afghanistan and their ability to maintain their sovereignty and to have the capacity -- to have a military that can stand up to the challenges they face.

The timetable, the guidelines that continue to be in effect, unless, of course, there are changes and conditions to suggest a faster withdrawal.

But recognize that, ultimately, the independence and security of Afghanistan is going to have to be secured and maintained by the Afghans themselves. We're not going to stay there forever.

BAIER: Your Republican opponents have a different tone they have been sounding. Speaker Newt Gingrich said we're risking lives on a mission that may frankly not be doable. Rick Santorum said we either have to make a full commitment which he said this president has not done or we have to decide to get out sooner. And Ron Paul, of course, has maintained his long held position of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan immediately.

So, are you taking a stand here while much of your party is souring on Afghanistan?

ROMNEY: Well, before I take a stand at a particular course of action, I want to get the input from the people who are there. General Allen is going to be coming to Washington and testifying this week about what the conditions are. I think it's very plain to see that the conditions are not going very well.

And the -- and I lay part of the blame on that on the lack of leadership on the part of our president, both in terms of his interaction with Karzai and with leaders there, as well as his relative detachment from our military commanders there and the fact that he published a specific date for a withdrawal, published a date for withdrawal of our combat operations there, did not oversee elections in Afghanistan that would have convinced the people there that they had elected someone that they could have confidence in, did not put enough troops into the surge, as what's requested by the military. He certainly takes part of the blame for the failure there, and we're going to get our troops out soon as we possibly can.

But this does have the indications of a similarly failed withdrawal or fail would completion effort on the part of this president, just like we saw in Iraq. He likewise failed in the way we left Iraq. And this is a president simply does not have experience in tough situations -- not negotiating experience, not leadership experience -- and it's showing once again the result that one might have expected from lack of leadership.

BAIER: Let's talk about Iran. What you are seeing and hearing, where do you put the chances that Israel will strike Iran in coming months?

ROMNEY: Well, I can't begin to speak for what Israel will do. I think they recognize that Iran's nuclear weaponry presents an existential threat to them. Ahmadinejad has said that he would consider Israel a one bomb nation. So, Israel's timetable may be different than our timetable.

The clear, I think, lesson from this are that, one, the president should have put in place crippling sanctions from day one instead of waiting three and a half years. Two, he should have spoken out when the dissidents took to the streets in Tehran. Instead, he was silent. And three, he should be less worried about Israel taking military action to stop Iran from having a nuclear weapon and more worried about Iran actually having nuclear weapon and have fissile material.

And he should make it very clear that the United States of America will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, and that we will take action, including military action if necessary, to prevent that from occurring.

BAIER: The president said two weeks ago that you and Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum are speaking casually about war with Iran, saying, quote, "If some of these folks think that it's time to launch a war, they should say so. They should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk."

Your reaction?

ROMNEY: Well, it's quite clear that the president wants to avoid in any way a discussion about a military option. But, of course, we have to recognize that if all else fails -- and he's failed on so many dimensions, it's possible that all else will fail. But I hope not.

I hope that crippling sanctions will now that they're finally beginning to be employed there will have an impact. I hope that if we aggressively support dissident voices in Iran, that will have an impact. And I hope that showing a military commitment on our part, and a recognition that we have a military option, that that will change the minds of the Iranians towards their nuclear program. But there is nothing casual about Iran having a nuclear weapon. There's nothing casual about Iran having fissile material they can give to Hamas or Hezbollah. And Hezbollah is now in many parts of South America. Look, they are in our hemisphere. Fissile material in our hemisphere with Hezbollah able to potentially bring it into this country? There's nothing casual about that.

The president needs to recognize this is a very serious threat to America and to the world. And that, of course, we have to have military options. Israel has obviously developed those options. I hope our president is listening to our military and developing those options as well.  Print  Email  Share    Recommend Tweet

continued...

< 1 2 3 4 5> adsonar_placementId=1493988; adsonar_pid=1373767; adsonar_ps=-1; adsonar_zw=612; adsonar_zh=240; adsonar_jv='ads.adsonar.com'; FNS Transcripts

March 18, 2012

Mitt Romney talks Afghanistan, Iran, 2012 race; George Clooney brings attention to war-torn Sudan

March 11, 2012

Gingrich predicts victory in Alabama, Mississippi; Sen. McCain talks foreign trouble spots, 'Game Change'

March 04, 2012

Rick Santorum looks ahead to Super Tuesday; Sens. Graham, Blumenthal talk Iran, Afghanistan

February 26, 2012

Mitt Romney on defending home turf; Gov. Mitch Daniels talks presidential politics ADVERTISEMENT Follow Fox News Sunday

Follow us on Twitter to get exclusive updates and announcements from the show!

Fox News Sunday is on Facebook! Coming Up on FNS: March 18, 2012

After two tough primaries, the Romney campaign looks to rebound in delegate rich Illinois.  Bret Baier previews the electoral contest, and looks ahead to where the race goes from here, in an Exclusive interview with presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Just back from a trip to southern Sudan, George Clooney brings attention to the Sudanese government’s recent bombing of civilians.  The actor turned activist sits down with Chris Wallace along with the co-founder of the Enough Project John Prendergast.

ADVERTISEMENT Wallace Watch

March 18, 2012

Panel Plus: March 18, 2012

Watch the 'FOX News Sunday' panel, Brit Hume, AB Stoddard, Bill Kristol and Charles Lane, as they discuss the 2012 GOP

Romney Takes on Issues of the DayOn This Day: March 18, 1963This week on Fox News Sunday: (3/18/12) Connect With FNS FacebookTwitterEmailFree PodcastBlogHulu On This Day

March 18, 2012

On This Day: March 18, 1963

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Miranda decision concerning legal council for defendants.

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The following is a rush transcript of the March 18, 2012 edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: I'm Bret Baier, in for Chris Wallace.

Mitt Romney looks to lock up the nomination. But many key tests remain.

We'll talk with the GOP frontrunner about the primaries ahead and get insight to do his policy solutions for America.

Mitt Romney, a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.

Then, actor George Clooney brings awareness of a war-torn region to Washington. He opens up about what he saw along the border of Sudan and South Sudan, about how people there need help. Chris Wallace sits down with George Clooney and the Enough Project's John Prendergast.

Also, the president and vice president both hit the campaign trail hard. We'll ask our Sunday panelist if the timing is right for the White House to ramp up reelection efforts. And we'll take a look how the candidates are scrambling for delegates on the trail.

All right now on "Fox News Sunday."

(MUSIC)

BAIER: And hello, again, from Fox News in Washington.

It's another a busy campaign weekend, Missouri continues the process of selecting delegates, Puerto Rico votes today. Then, on Tuesday, all eyes will be on Illinois.

Joining us is now from Moline to talk about where the race stands now is Mitt Romney.

Governor, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Bret. Good to be with you.

BAIER: Let's start with Afghanistan. Tensions in the U.S. and Afghanistan appear to be very high at this point. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has accused the U.S. of stonewalling the investigation into the killing of 16 Afghan civilians. In fact, they even suggested there might be more than one shooter.

He angrily said Friday, quote, "This has been going on for too long. This is all by means the end of the rope here." Thursday, he demanded all NATO troops get out of the villages and stay on the major bases there.

President Obama, as you know, has publicly said to stay the course until our withdrawal at the end of 2014.

Would President Romney do anything different? And if so, how?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I would exercise leadership. And by that I mean I would speak with President Karzai. I would speak with President Karzai regularly, day-to-day. We have troops in harm's way. We have almost 1,800 men and women who have been killed in Afghanistan. We have real interest in making sure that this ends well and that our mission is successful there of having a Afghanistan that is able to maintain its sovereignty against the Taliban, against ultimately al Qaeda as well.

Look, what's happening right now is an example of failed leadership. The president put out a specific time table for withdrawal for our troops, a time table for the end of combat operations. That is leading Mr. Karzai to take action that is self preservation in nature.

The president needs to be more engaged and interacting with -- not only our commanders there but also with leadership in Afghanistan.

BAIER: But would you exercise the withdrawal?

ROMNEY: Well, the timing of withdrawal is going to be dependent about what you hear from the conditions on the ground. That you understand by speaking with commanders, as well as, of course, the people of Afghanistan and their ability to maintain their sovereignty and to have the capacity -- to have a military that can stand up to the challenges they face.

The timetable, the guidelines that continue to be in effect, unless, of course, there are changes and conditions to suggest a faster withdrawal.

But recognize that, ultimately, the independence and security of Afghanistan is going to have to be secured and maintained by the Afghans themselves. We're not going to stay there forever.

BAIER: Your Republican opponents have a different tone they have been sounding. Speaker Newt Gingrich said we're risking lives on a mission that may frankly not be doable. Rick Santorum said we either have to make a full commitment which he said this president has not done or we have to decide to get out sooner. And Ron Paul, of course, has maintained his long held position of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan immediately.

So, are you taking a stand here while much of your party is souring on Afghanistan?

ROMNEY: Well, before I take a stand at a particular course of action, I want to get the input from the people who are there. General Allen is going to be coming to Washington and testifying this week about what the conditions are. I think it's very plain to see that the conditions are not going very well.

And the -- and I lay part of the blame on that on the lack of leadership on the part of our president, both in terms of his interaction with Karzai and with leaders there, as well as his relative detachment from our military commanders there and the fact that he published a specific date for a withdrawal, published a date for withdrawal of our combat operations there, did not oversee elections in Afghanistan that would have convinced the people there that they had elected someone that they could have confidence in, did not put enough troops into the surge, as what's requested by the military. He certainly takes part of the blame for the failure there, and we're going to get our troops out soon as we possibly can.

But this does have the indications of a similarly failed withdrawal or fail would completion effort on the part of this president, just like we saw in Iraq. He likewise failed in the way we left Iraq. And this is a president simply does not have experience in tough situations -- not negotiating experience, not leadership experience -- and it's showing once again the result that one might have expected from lack of leadership.

BAIER: Let's talk about Iran. What you are seeing and hearing, where do you put the chances that Israel will strike Iran in coming months?

ROMNEY: Well, I can't begin to speak for what Israel will do. I think they recognize that Iran's nuclear weaponry presents an existential threat to them. Ahmadinejad has said that he would consider Israel a one bomb nation. So, Israel's timetable may be different than our timetable.

The clear, I think, lesson from this are that, one, the president should have put in place crippling sanctions from day one instead of waiting three and a half years. Two, he should have spoken out when the dissidents took to the streets in Tehran. Instead, he was silent. And three, he should be less worried about Israel taking military action to stop Iran from having a nuclear weapon and more worried about Iran actually having nuclear weapon and have fissile material.

And he should make it very clear that the United States of America will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, and that we will take action, including military action if necessary, to prevent that from occurring.

BAIER: The president said two weeks ago that you and Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum are speaking casually about war with Iran, saying, quote, "If some of these folks think that it's time to launch a war, they should say so. They should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk."

Your reaction?

ROMNEY: Well, it's quite clear that the president wants to avoid in any way a discussion about a military option. But, of course, we have to recognize that if all else fails -- and he's failed on so many dimensions, it's possible that all else will fail. But I hope not.

I hope that crippling sanctions will now that they're finally beginning to be employed there will have an impact. I hope that if we aggressively support dissident voices in Iran, that will have an impact. And I hope that showing a military commitment on our part, and a recognition that we have a military option, that that will change the minds of the Iranians towards their nuclear program. But there is nothing casual about Iran having a nuclear weapon. There's nothing casual about Iran having fissile material they can give to Hamas or Hezbollah. And Hezbollah is now in many parts of South America. Look, they are in our hemisphere. Fissile material in our hemisphere with Hezbollah able to potentially bring it into this country? There's nothing casual about that.

The president needs to recognize this is a very serious threat to America and to the world. And that, of course, we have to have military options. Israel has obviously developed those options. I hope our president is listening to our military and developing those options as well.  Print  Email  Share    Recommend Tweet

continued...

< 1 2 3 4 5> adsonar_placementId=1493988; adsonar_pid=1373767; adsonar_ps=-1; adsonar_zw=612; adsonar_zh=240; adsonar_jv='ads.adsonar.com'; FNS Transcripts

March 18, 2012

Mitt Romney talks Afghanistan, Iran, 2012 race; George Clooney brings attention to war-torn Sudan

March 11, 2012

Gingrich predicts victory in Alabama, Mississippi; Sen. McCain talks foreign trouble spots, 'Game Change'

March 04, 2012

Rick Santorum looks ahead to Super Tuesday; Sens. Graham, Blumenthal talk Iran, Afghanistan

February 26, 2012

Mitt Romney on defending home turf; Gov. Mitch Daniels talks presidential politics ADVERTISEMENT Follow Fox News Sunday

Follow us on Twitter to get exclusive updates and announcements from the show!

Fox News Sunday is on Facebook! Coming Up on FNS: March 18, 2012

After two tough primaries, the Romney campaign looks to rebound in delegate rich Illinois.  Bret Baier previews the electoral contest, and looks ahead to where the race goes from here, in an Exclusive interview with presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Just back from a trip to southern Sudan, George Clooney brings attention to the Sudanese government’s recent bombing of civilians.  The actor turned activist sits down with Chris Wallace along with the co-founder of the Enough Project John Prendergast.

ADVERTISEMENT Wallace Watch

March 18, 2012

Panel Plus: March 18, 2012

Watch the 'FOX News Sunday' panel, Brit Hume, AB Stoddard, Bill Kristol and Charles Lane, as they discuss the 2012 GOP

Romney Takes on Issues of the DayOn This Day: March 18, 1963This week on Fox News Sunday: (3/18/12) Connect With FNS FacebookTwitterEmailFree PodcastBlogHulu On This Day

March 18, 2012

On This Day: March 18, 1963

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Miranda decision concerning legal council for defendants.

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Mitt Romney looks to lock up the nomination. But many key tests remain.

We'll talk with the GOP frontrunner about the primaries ahead and get insight to do his policy solutions for America.

Mitt Romney, a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.

Then, actor George Clooney brings awareness of a war-torn region to Washington. He opens up about what he saw along the border of Sudan and South Sudan, about how people there need help. Chris Wallace sits down with George Clooney and the Enough Project's John Prendergast.

Also, the president and vice president both hit the campaign trail hard. We'll ask our Sunday panelist if the timing is right for the White House to ramp up reelection efforts. And we'll take a look how the candidates are scrambling for delegates on the trail.

All right now on "Fox News Sunday."

(MUSIC)

BAIER: And hello, again, from Fox News in Washington.

It's another a busy campaign weekend, Missouri continues the process of selecting delegates, Puerto Rico votes today. Then, on Tuesday, all eyes will be on Illinois.

Joining us is now from Moline to talk about where the race stands now is Mitt Romney.

Governor, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Bret. Good to be with you.

BAIER: Let's start with Afghanistan. Tensions in the U.S. and Afghanistan appear to be very high at this point. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has accused the U.S. of stonewalling the investigation into the killing of 16 Afghan civilians. In fact, they even suggested there might be more than one shooter.

He angrily said Friday, quote, "This has been going on for too long. This is all by means the end of the rope here." Thursday, he demanded all NATO troops get out of the villages and stay on the major bases there.

President Obama, as you know, has publicly said to stay the course until our withdrawal at the end of 2014.

Would President Romney do anything different? And if so, how?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I would exercise leadership. And by that I mean I would speak with President Karzai. I would speak with President Karzai regularly, day-to-day. We have troops in harm's way. We have almost 1,800 men and women who have been killed in Afghanistan. We have real interest in making sure that this ends well and that our mission is successful there of having a Afghanistan that is able to maintain its sovereignty against the Taliban, against ultimately al Qaeda as well.

Look, what's happening right now is an example of failed leadership. The president put out a specific time table for withdrawal for our troops, a time table for the end of combat operations. That is leading Mr. Karzai to take action that is self preservation in nature.

The president needs to be more engaged and interacting with -- not only our commanders there but also with leadership in Afghanistan.

BAIER: But would you exercise the withdrawal?

ROMNEY: Well, the timing of withdrawal is going to be dependent about what you hear from the conditions on the ground. That you understand by speaking with commanders, as well as, of course, the people of Afghanistan and their ability to maintain their sovereignty and to have the capacity -- to have a military that can stand up to the challenges they face.

The timetable, the guidelines that continue to be in effect, unless, of course, there are changes and conditions to suggest a faster withdrawal.

But recognize that, ultimately, the independence and security of Afghanistan is going to have to be secured and maintained by the Afghans themselves. We're not going to stay there forever.

BAIER: Your Republican opponents have a different tone they have been sounding. Speaker Newt Gingrich said we're risking lives on a mission that may frankly not be doable. Rick Santorum said we either have to make a full commitment which he said this president has not done or we have to decide to get out sooner. And Ron Paul, of course, has maintained his long held position of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan immediately.

So, are you taking a stand here while much of your party is souring on Afghanistan?

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