Report from Las Vegas: Romney addresses the RJC


Last week Mitt Romney announced the formation of his presidential exploratory committee for 2012. Two weeks ago, while visiting friends in Las Vegas, I stopped off at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s winter meeting in Las Vegas. While I already blogged about Romney’s remarks on international issues, in light of Romney’s recent move, this seems like a good time to file a more detailed report on Romney’s remarks to the RJC, a Jewish political organization that has steadily built membership in recent years and is viewed by some as a force in influencing selection of Republican presidential nominees.

I’ll cut here to Romney’s discussion of domestic policy, including health care and the economy, and to his answers to several audience-member questions.

President Obama, Romney told the RJC, “didn’t create the financial crisis. It was already underway [when he took office].”

However, the financial crisis “became worse” after Obama took office, Romney said.

Romney argued that the President has “caused a deepening and lengthening of the downturn” by “delegating to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.”

In particular, Romney criticized the decision to “send money to protect state workers,” cap and trade, and what he characterized as the effort to “unionize every business.”

These efforts and others, Romney said, have resulted in “massive deficits as far as the eye can see.”

Romney added, “In business, you can deal with bad news, but one thing you can’t deal with is uncertainty.” In the atmosphere created by Obama’s polices, according to Romney, “people who hire a lot don’t know what to do because they do not know what costs are going to be.”

Romney characterized Obama’s attitude toward American business as negative and implied this attitude underlies many of the President’s domestic policy decisions.

“I think [the President] sees business as a necessary evil and maybe not even necessary,” Romney said.

At the Vegas-based meeting, Romney made a point to highlight remarks President Obama has made about Las Vegas.

“Time and again this President has disparaged Las Vegas,” Romney told the crowd of mostly Jewish professionals and businesspeople from around the U.S. who had traveled to Vegas for the meeting. “Businesses were afraid to come here with conventions … afraid they would be singled out. In contrast, when New York City was having economic hard times [Rudy] Giuliani said, ‘Please come here.’ Let’s hope our President … ‘does a Giuliani’ and invites Americans back to Vegas.”

Romney characterized himself, in contrast to Obama, as a leader who loves America’s free enterprise system.

“I love entrepreneurs and creators and I think that’s what makes us special,” he said.

Regarding his own experience, he said, “I’ve spent 25 years in the private sector, and I spent four years serving my state as governor. I have not been in government so long I’ve inhaled. I’m still a business guy.”

He told a story that seemed intended to illustrate the difference between businesspeople and people who look to government to improve people’s lives. He said that, as governor of Massachusetts, he proposed allowing private companies run prisons. Many in the state opposed him, arguing that such prisons would be “more expensive to run because they will need to make a profit.”

“I told them, ‘I don’t think you understand the way the free enterprise system works,’” Romney said.

In a joking reference to Adelson (pictured at right, with Romney on left):lasvegas_006_m.jpg

Romney said, “I’m not looking for ways to make rich people richer, I’m looking for ways to help ordinary Americans get good jobs.” Glancing at Adelson, who sat in the front row, he added, “Sorry Sheldon.”

Romney added, “Some would apologize for America. I find that a strange thing. Our free enterprise system has lifted billions out of poverty. [There has been] nothing like it in the history of the earth. The blood of our sons and daughters has brought liberty around the earth. Let us remain the hope of the earth.”

After his talk, Romney introduced his wife, Ann. Her brief remarks included: “What a wonderful thing that your Jewish heritage is something you cherish … Mitt and I can appreciate coming from another heritage,” and then he then took questions from the audience.

One man who introduced himself and said he was a urologist referenced the healthcare law Romney had passed as governor of Massachusetts, and expressed concern that Romney, as President, would maintain or expand Obama’s federally mandated system of healthcare.

“I’d never impose something we did in our state on other states,” Romney said, adding, “If I were lucky enough to become President, I’d grant a waiver from Obamacare and then go to work getting it repealed.”

He prefaced this response by saying that at present, all Americans do have health care coverage (in cases of emergency or serious illness), and that the taxpayer picks up the tab. He initiated and signed into law a state system of healthcare in Massachusetts, he said, in reaction to research that showed some people in the state were deliberately choosing not to buy health insurance because they knew that if they were to get sick or hurt, they would be able to go to an emergency room. “Those who can pay, should pay for themselves,” he said.

Another attendee asked, “Recently Donald Trump has begun a brassy attack against President Obama.” He went on to ask whether, if he were to be the Republican nominee, Romney would be aggressive enough in his campaigning, and added, “There’s a perception you are too much of a gentleman.”

Romney said, “I won’t go after people on innuendo or personal attack, just policy. [But] I will take him on aggressively.”

He added, regarding healthcare, “If we get to talk about healthcare, I’d tell him, ‘Why didn’t you call me and ask what worked and what didn’t?’”

More to come in my next post about other speakers at the winter meeting such as Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon.

To my co-religionists, a good Passover – and to my Catholic family and friends, a peaceful and reflective Lent.






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