Sen. Mitt Romney may not be running for president now, but the former GOP nominee on Monday tore into what he calls the “socialist” agenda of the Democrats who are — and threw some lesser jabs at fellow Republican President Donald Trump.
“I guess I should consider myself a renegade Republican,” he said after criticizing stands of virtually all of the major presidential candidates, including Trump, during a speech at the conservative Sutherland Institute think tank in Salt Lake City.
With his hands spaced closely together, Romney said, “My slice of the Republican Party these days is about that big.” But he added that he hopes speaking out will attract more support.
After saying he’s not “100% sold on everything my current party’s establishment is doing,” he criticized Trump without directly naming him.
“The likes of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery,” he said. “I think demonstrating personal character is one of the most important responsibilities of a leader of the land.”
Still, he added that when it comes to issues, “I am aligned with the Republican conservative philosophy and believe that our Democratic friends are taking us in a very different direction, which would be most unfortunate to our future” by removing free-market incentives and replacing them with government mandates.
While Romney agreed with Democratic candidates that separating children from families at the border “was a very dark chapter in our history,” he said he was stunned during Democratic debates that major candidates supported giving Medicare to all undocumented immigrants.
“Just think of the incentives that would create,” he said. “Right now, a lot of people want to come here anyway for a job, a better job.” But if free health care were added for them, “Can you imagine the kind of magnet that would provide for people to come into our country?”
Romney said Democrats are right to push to allow “Dreamers” — brought as children illegally into the county — to remain. And he said the GOP is right to want to secure the border and base immigration on merit.
He said that should create opportunity for a deal between the sides, but too many use the issue mostly to fire up supporters rather than solve problems.
“A number of us are trying to see if we can reach a meeting of the minds. It will really take the leadership of the White House to get that done,” he said, adding he expects campaign politics will prevent that until after the presidential election.
He said Medicare for All would hurt the 90% of Americans who have private health insurance. “We would not have a chance to shop around” for benefits desired but be given what the government decides is best.
Some say it would give Americans care similar to Canada or Great Britain. “Have you looked in Canada and Great Britain?” Romney asked. “In Britain, it takes three months to get an MRI. … In Canada, it’s reported that for elective surgery, it takes four months.”
He gave “kudos to Bernie Sanders for admitting that taxes will go up” with Medicare for All. “But they will go up a lot more than he thinks they will.”
But he said he’s not too worried. Sanders, I-Vt., has “been in Congress for about 28 years. And you know how much of the socialist legislation that he’s written has actually become law? None, nothing. One thing you can be sure if Bernie Sanders became president of the United States, we would not have Medicare for All … because he’s proven over a long period of time that he can’t get stuff done in Washington.”
He criticized Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for saying that Medicare for All would save money because it would take away the profit for insurance companies. Romney said a profit motive is needed as an incentive to find ways to provide better service at lower cost.
“Now I might have said that to Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders but they would probably look at me like I was speaking Greek in part because they haven’t had the experience of working in the private sector and seeing the power of that profit motive,” said Romney, who became wealthy as a venture capitalist.
Romney also said that free enterprise can help fuel innovation to provide cleaner energy worldwide better than the proposed New Green Deal.
Democratic candidates have been virtually silent about growing deficit spending, Romney complained, but noted that many Republicans also continue to vote for it.
He said America now takes in about $3 trillion a year, but spends $4 trillion. “At some point it catches up to you.”
Legislation passed under Trump will add an estimated $4.1 trillion to the national debt, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Romney noted that Trump campaigned with promises to balance the budget.
Also, as “we attempt to be a leader of the world, we’re sending billions of dollars [in interest on the debt] to China and Russia and other countries. Well, they’re using that money, our interest, to build a military that would confront us.”
Romney urged politicians to take a look at what helps the country in the long term, and not at what helps them politically today. He said true conservatives do that.
“The perspective of conservatives,” he said, “is based on keeping America strong — providing for a bright and prosperous future for all of our people — not just now, but long term.”