Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is optimistic that the United States can be the 21st century's leader — unless “Washington messes things up."
Speaking at Washington University on Monday, Romney said the key is for the U.S. to be “not just strong and powerful, but a nation that is good. Because I’m convinced that goodness is essential to greatness.”
During his 90-minute engagement, Romney touched on everything from the current political climate to health care and climate change. He was critical of his party’s stances on immigration and science, but also faulted Democrats for being too harsh on financial institutions and corporations.
When it comes to climate change, Romney said he was concerned that some Republicans continue to deny its existence and that others may privately recognize the problem, but fear the economic consequences too much to act.
“The idea of doing nothing in my view is a recipe for disaster,” Romney said, adding that the U.S. should be taking a leadership role. He also said he believed some large countries – singling out China, India, Brazil and Indonesia – may be reluctant to make the changes needed to reduce pollution.
Faults Trump, Obama for divisive talk
Romney did not apologize for criticizing now-President Donald Trump before the businessman won the GOP's nomination, but emphasized that his concerns were less about policy and more about Trump’s “temperament and character.”
Romney, who had been in the running for secretary of state, said he thought he could help Trump in that role by forging relationships with world leaders. Romney said his own aim had been “not so much to support (Trump), but to support the country.”
Romney views some of Trump’s post-election actions as divisive, but added that he had the same criticism of former President Barack Obama, a Democrat. Both men, he said, talked about trying to bring the nation together, but too much of the time were at odds with their opponents.
“President Trump, to date, has not delivered on the unification message that he spoke about during the campaign,” Romney said. “The only way I see us coming together is through the leadership of the person on the top.’’
Romney also was critical of the "populism” movement in the Republican and Democratic parties, saying it has fueled anti-immigrant talk on the right and opposition to economic institutions on the left.
Romney emphasized that he opposed illegal immigration, but said he was concerned that some of the GOP’s base appears to be opposed to legal immigrants as well. He said that more than half of the United State’s top 25 companies were started by immigrants.
He cautioned against any talk of authoritarianism, and said that what sets the United States apart from its chief rivals – citing China, Russia and Islamic extremists – was that only the U.S. practiced economic and personal freedom.
Backs changing health care law, cutting arts funding
Some of Romney’s other notable observations included:
- He is “concerned about the anti-scientific attitude’’ of some politicians and some average people, saying that such political attacks hurt “the root of America’s innovation and greatness.”
- He agrees with GOP proposals to end spending for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.” Romney said that it’s best that private money support the arts: “I think it’s best of we devote our government resources elsewhere.
- The federal Affordable Care Act is modeled, in part, on the health insurance program that Romney set up while he was governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007. That state program included a mandate that all residents purchase insurance. Romney said he is open to a Republican proposal to instead give Americans tax credits to help cover their purchase of health insurance.
- If tax credits are used, Romney supports a proposal to do away with the current system where Americans are not taxed on the cost of their company-provided health insurance. Instead, the tax break would be capped. Taxing so-called “Cadillac plans,’’ Romney said, would provide the money to pay for the tax credits.
Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies