Mitt Romney photo

Remarks to the Newspaper Association of America in Washington, D.C.

April 04, 2012

Over the last ten months, I've come to know a good deal about some of the journalists who write for your newspapers.

We've aired our dirty laundry together — sometimes literally as well as figuratively. We've bathed hour upon hour in the fine diesel aroma of a campaign bus. And we've shared more birthdays and holidays with each other than with our families.

One of the reporters covering our campaign is Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times. For Maeve's birthday, I got her a cake and sang her a birthday song. For my birthday, she was kind enough to remind me that I'm now old enough to qualify for Medicare.

In just the few years since my last campaign, the changes in your industry are striking. Then, I looked to Drudge or FOX or CNN online to see what stories were developing. Hours after a speech, it was being dissected on the Internet. Now, it's Twitter, and instantaneous reaction. In 2008, the coverage was about what I said in my speech. These days, it's about what brand of jeans I am wearing and what I ate for lunch.

Most people in my position are convinced that you are biased against us. We identify with LBJ's famous quip that if he were to walk on water, your headline would read: "President Can't Swim."

Some people thus welcome the tumult in your industry, heralding the new voices and the unfiltered or supposedly unbiased sources. Frankly, in some of the new media, I find myself missing the presence of editors to exercise quality control. I miss the days of two or more sources for a story — when at least one source was actually named.

How your industry will change, I cannot predict. I subscribe to Yogi Berra's dictum: "Forecasting is very difficult, especially when it involves the future."

But I do know this: You will continue to find ways to provide the American people with reliable information that is vital to our lives and to our nation. And I am confident that the press will remain free. But further, I salute this organization and your various institutions in your effort to make it not only free, but also responsible, accurate, relevant, and integral to the functioning of our democracy.

Given the number and scale of our nation's current challenges, the November election will have particular consequence. It will be a defining event. President Obama and I have very different visions for America, both of what it means to be an American today and what it will mean in the future.

The voters will expect each of us to put our respective views on the table. We will each make our case, buttressed by our experience. The voters will hear the debates, be buffeted by advertising, and be informed by your coverage. And hopefully after all this, they will have an accurate understanding of the different directions we would take and the different choices we would make.

Of course, for that to happen, the candidates must be candid about their views and plans. And, in that regard, President Obama's comments to President Medvedev are deeply troubling. That incident calls his candor into serious question. He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press. By flexibility, he means that "what the American public doesn't know won't hurt him." He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking.

Barack Obama's exchange with the Russian President raises all kinds of serious questions: What exactly does President Obama intend to do differently once he is no longer accountable to the voters? Why does "flexibility" with foreign leaders require less accountability to the American people? And, on what other issues will he state his true position only after the election is over?

But instead of answering those vital questions, President Obama came here yesterday and railed against arguments no one is making — and criticized policies no one is proposing. It's one of his favorite strategies — setting up straw men to distract from his record.

And while I understand why the President doesn't want to run on his record, he can't run from his record either.

As I have said many times before, the President did not cause the economic crisis, but he made it worse. He delayed the recovery, and made it anemic.

When he took office, millions of Americans looked to him to turn around the economy and lead us back to full employment. He failed these Americans.

The first three rules of any turnaround are focus, focus, and focus. But instead of focusing his attention on the economy, he delegated the stimulus to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

The $787 billion stimulus included a grab bag of pet projects that had languished in Congress for good reason, for years. It was less a jobs plan and more the mother of all earmarks. The administration pledged that it would keep unemployment below 8%... it has been above 8% every month since.

The President's attention was elsewhere--like a government takeover of healthcare and apologizing for America abroad.

He handed out tens of billions of dollars to green energy companies, including his friends and campaign contributors at companies like Solyndra that are now bankrupt.

President Obama's answer to our economic crisis was more spending, more debt, and more government. By the end of his term in office, he will have added nearly as much public debt as all the prior Presidents combined. No President had ever run a trillion dollar deficit. The "New Normal" the President would have us embrace is trillion dollar deficits and eight percent unemployment.

Through it all, President Obama has failed to even pass a budget. In February, he put forward a proposal that included the largest tax increase in history, and still left our national debt spiraling out of control. The House rejected it unanimously.

Of course, no fiscal challenge is greater than the one we face with entitlements. As the President himself acknowledged three years ago, this is not a problem that we can kick down the road any further.

I'd be willing to consider the President's plan, but he doesn't have one. That's right: In over three years, he has failed to enact or even propose a serious plan to solve our entitlement crisis.

Instead, he has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it.

He is the only President to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare. And, as a result, more than half of doctors say they will cut back on treating seniors.

He is destroying the Medicare Advantage program, eliminating the coverage that millions of seniors depend on and reducing choice by two-thirds.

To control Medicare cost, he has created an unelected, unaccountable panel with the power to prevent Medicare from providing certain treatments. The result will be fewer treatments and services available to patients in need, and nowhere else to turn.

A couple of months ago, we saw a fascinating exchange on Capitol Hill that epitomized not only this administration's inaction on entitlements, but also its appalling lack of leadership. The President's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, was testifying before Congress. And Congressman Paul Ryan — who, unlike this President, has had the courage to offer serious solutions to the problems we face — was pressing Geithner on the administration's failure to lead on entitlement reform. Geithner's response was this: "We are not coming before you today to say we have a definitive solution to that long term problem. What we do know is we don't like yours."

Take a moment and think about that: We don't have a solution. All we know is we don't like yours. It almost makes one long for the days when the President simply led from behind.

And now, in the middle of the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression, the President purports to have experienced a series of election-year conversions.

As President, he has repeatedly called for tax increases on businesses. Now, as candidate Obama, he decides that a lower corporate tax rate would be better.

As President, he's added regulations at a staggering rate. Now, as candidate Obama, he says he wants to find ways to reduce them.

As President, he delayed the development of our oil and coal and natural gas. Now, as candidate Obama, he says he favors an energy policy that adopts an all-of-the-above approach.

Nancy Pelosi famously said that we would have to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it. President Obama has turned that advice into a campaign strategy: He wants us to re-elect him so we can find out what he will actually do.

With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide and seek campaign.

President Obama has said that he wants to transform America. I don't want to transform America; I want to restore the values of economic freedom, opportunity, and small government that have made this nation the leader it is.

It is opportunity that has always driven America and defined us as Americans.

My grandfather was in the construction business and he never really made it himself. But he convinced my dad that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to. My dad didn't have the chance to finish college and he apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter. Based on that excellent training, he went on to turn around a great car company and later became governor of Michigan.

My father made the most of opportunities that came before him, and by the time I came along — I was the fourth of four brothers and sisters — I had the chance to get the education my dad couldn't.

I loved cars and was tempted to stay in Michigan and go into the car business but I knew I would always wonder if any success I had was due to my dad. So when I got out of business school, I stayed in Massachusetts and got a job with the best company that would hire me. More importantly, I was married and on the way to having five sons.

Over the next 25 years, my business career had many ups and downs, great successes, definite failures, but each step of the way I learned more about the power of our great free enterprise system.

I'm not naïve enough to believe that free enterprise is the solution to all of our problems — nor am I naïve enough to doubt that it is one of the greatest forces of good this world has ever known.

Free enterprise has done more to lift people out of poverty, to help build a strong middle class, to help educate our kids, to make our lives better, than all of the government programs put together.

If we become one of those societies that attack success, one outcome is certain — there will be a lot less success.

That's not who we are. The promise of America has always been that if you worked hard, and took some risks, that there was the opportunity to build a better life for your family and for the next generation.

I'm offering a clear choice and a different path. Unlike the President, I have a record that I am proud to run on.

After my years in business, I used my experience to help save an Olympics and help turn around a state. When I became the governor of Massachusetts, the state budget was out of control and the legislature was 85% Democrat. We cut taxes 19 times and balanced the budget all four years. We erased a $3 billion budget shortfall and left office with a $2 billion rainy day fund. I cast over 800 vetoes and cut entire programs. If there was a program, an agency, or a department that needed cutting, we cut it. One commentator said that I didn't just go after the sacred cows; I went after the whole herd. And I can't wait to get my hands on Washington.

Unlike President Obama, you don't have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in — or what my plans are. I have a pro-growth agenda that will get our economy back on track — and get Americans back to work.

This administration thinks our economy is struggling because the stimulus was too small. The truth is we're struggling because our government is too big. As President, I will get the government out of the way and unleash the power of American enterprise and innovation.

Seven months ago, I presented a detailed plan for jobs and economic growth, including 59 different proposals that would help strengthen the economy. I understand some people are amused that I have so many ideas. But I think the American people will prefer it to President Obama's grand total of zero.

I will cut marginal tax rates across the board for individuals and corporations, and limit deductions and exclusions. I will repeal burdensome regulations, and prevent the bureaucracy from writing new ones. I will unleash our domestic energy resources so that we can finally get the energy we need at a price we can afford.

Instead of picking winners and losers with taxpayer dollars, I will make sure that every entrepreneur gets a fair shot and that every business plays by the same rules. I will create an environment where our businesses and workers can compete and win. I will welcome the best and the brightest to our shores, and ensure that we have labor and training policies that help American workers to be more competitive.

Instead of growing the federal government, I will shrink it. I will repeal Obamacare, and cut programs that we cannot afford. I will send to the states those programs they can implement with better results at lower cost.

I have already proposed a plan that will save and strengthen Medicare and Social Security for future generations. And, unlike President Obama, I have the courage to stand behind my plan and the leadership to enact it.

My plan preserves these programs for those at or near retirement and strengthens them for future generations — without tax increases. I will gradually raise the retirement age for Social Security, and reduce the rate of benefit growth for tomorrow's higher income seniors. I will introduce market competition and consumer choice to Medicare, while also preserving traditional Medicare coverage as an option, so that future seniors can get higher quality care at lower cost.

This November, we will face a defining decision. Our choice will not be one of party or personality. This election will be about principle. Freedom and opportunity will be on the ballot.

I am offering a real choice and a new beginning. I am running for President because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess. We know what Barack Obama's vision of America is — we've all lived it the last three years. Mine is very different.

I see an America where we know the prospects for our children will be better than our own; where the pursuit of success unites us, not divides us; where the values we pass on to our children are greater than the debts we leave them; where poverty is defeated by opportunity, not enabled by a government check.

I see an America that is humble but never humbled, that leads but is never lead.

In this campaign, I will lead us toward that America. We wage this campaign as Republicans or Democrats, but we share a destiny as Americans. Together, we will ensure that America's greatest days are yet ahead.

Thank you and God bless.

NOTE: As prepared for delivery.

Mitt Romney, Remarks to the Newspaper Association of America in Washington, D.C. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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