Halperin: The President says that your experience at Bain Capital will be central in this election. He says it does not qualify you to be a job creator as President. I know you think that working in the private sector in and of itself gives you insight into how the economy works, but what specific skills or policies did you learn at Bain that would help you create an environment where jobs would be created?
Romney: Well that’s a bit of a question like saying, what have you learned in life that would help you lead? My whole life has been learning to lead, from my parents, to my education, to the experience I had in the private sector, to helping run the Olympics, and then of course helping guide a state. Those experiences in totality have given me an understanding of how America works and how the economy works. Twenty five years in business, including business with other nations, competing with companies across the world, has given me an understanding of what it is that makes America a good place to grow and add jobs, and why jobs leave America – why businesses decide to locate here, and why they decide to locate somewhere else. What outsourcing causes – what it’s caused by, rather. I understand, for instance, how to read a balance sheet. I happen to believe that having been in the private sector for twenty five years gives me a perspective on how jobs are created – that someone who’s never spent a day in the private sector, like President Obama, simply doesn’t understand.
Halperin: I want to ask you to be just a little bit more specific about that, because again, he said this is like the central way he’s going to run this campaign, to focus on your business career. You said you know how to read a balance sheet. There are a lot of people in America who know how to do that. What would make you qualify to be President – again, specific things you’ve learned, things you know, policies that grow out of your experience at Bain Capital that would lead toward job creation.
Romney: Well Mark, let’s be a little more specific as to the area you’d like to suggest. Trade policies? Labor policies? Energy policies? Let’s take energy, for instance. I understand that in some industries, the input cost of energy is a major factor in whether an industry is going to locate in the United States or go elsewhere. So, when at Bain Capital, we started a new steel company called Steel Dynamics in Indiana, the cost of energy was a very important factor to the success of that enterprise. When the President is making it harder to mine coal, to use coal, to take advantage of our gas resources, to make it harder to get our oil resources – all those things combined to make our cost of energy higher than it needs to be, and it drives away enterprises from this country. It sends it to places that have lower-cost energy. I understand the impact of those kinds of factors on job creation. I will have a very different policy. My policy on energy is to take advantage of coal, oil, natural gas, as well as our renewables, and nuclear – make America the largest energy producer in the world. I think we can get there, in 10 or 15 years. That will bring back manufacturing of certain high energy intensive industries. It’ll bring back jobs. It’ll create a surprising economic revitalization of this country.
Halperin: So when the President says he wants to focus a lot of the election and debate on your career at Bain Capital, do you welcome that?
Romney: Well of course, I’d like to also focus on his record. What is it that he’s done as the President of the United States over the last four years? And the American people are interested in, not so much in the history of where I was at Bain Capital, or that I have understanding of the private sector, but instead, has the President made things better for the American people? Are they better off than they were four years ago? Has he established the revitalization he promised he would bring to us? Did he hold unemployment below 8%? It’s been what, 39 months now. That hasn’t happened. He promised it would happen by virtue of his stimulus. Gasoline prices – are people happy with those? Home prices – are they happy with the home prices, the level of foreclosures? Do they think someone can do better? I think the American people want someone who understands the economy, who has a vision for getting America working again. This is a President who spends his time blaming other people for the fact that he has been unsuccessful in turning around this economy. And I think the reason you’re seeing across the country, people saying they’d like to try someone new, is because they believe this President, while he may be a nice guy, is simply not up to the task of helping guide an economy.
Halperin: But you welcome scrutiny of your business record, is that right?
Romney: Mark, what I can tell you is this. The fact is that I spent twenty five years in the private sector. And that obviously teaches you something that you don’t learn if you haven’t spent any time in the private sector. If you were to say to me, tell me what you learned from your schooling that would help you be a President, it’s like, how do I begin going through a list like that? You learn through life’s experience. The President’s experience has been exclusively in politics and as a community organizer. Both of those are fine areas of endeavor, but right now we have an economy in trouble, and someone who spent their career in the economy is more suited to help fix the economy than someone who spent his life in politics and as a community organizer.