Exclusive Interview: Romney Pushes Personal Responsibility

I am very much an average American despite my modest political experience.

It is from this perspective that I intend to interview several of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. To this end, I recently spoke with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Our conversation ranged from health care to presidential aspirations.

Regarding your new health plan to insure everyone in the Massachusetts: Give me a progress report and tell me what hurdles you’re having to jump?

The plan is more expanded than Medicare Part D and we’re accomplishing it in less time. … Our HHS team is working tirelessly for an October implementation of phase one. … We know there will be things that need to be fixed, so there will be challenges. … In the end, getting everyone health insurance and getting rid of free riders who expect others to pay for their health insurance is the right way to go.

I hear a lot of people say they don’t like the aspect of your plan that makes it mandatory for people to purchase insurance. Would you say this is the primary complaint?

There are a lot of people in our state who have been getting health care for free. These aren’t necessarily the poor. We have a program for the poor: Medicaid. There are those making $30,000, $40,000 and $50,000 a year who have learned they can get health care absolutely free and that’s not fair to everybody else. There’s a lot of people who say, gosh, you shouldn’t require people to get health insurance, but the problem is they always have the option of getting free care even without health insurance, and so we’re saying “no more free ride.” We’re saying that you have to have insurance if you can afford it and if you can’t, we’ll help you buy a plan you can afford.

Will your health plan go national?

I think what we’ve crafted changes the national paradigm. It shows that you can insist on individual responsibility and market reforms to get everybody insured. Personal responsibility and market reform get the markets to work for all our citizens.

You’ve had to deal with some disasters such as flooding and now the tunnel roof panel collapsing and killing a motorist. How has this changed you?

My career has had a long string of turnarounds and there are three things to remember when dealing with a crisis. First, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Bring some transparency, let people know what’s going on and stop hiding. Second, I believe in bringing in people smarter than me to help deal with some of the situations we have to face. No. 3 is to take personal responsibility. By that I mean I don’t just delegate a job to others and hope they do a good job, I remain actively involved in directing our efforts.

What is your time frame for announcing a presidential run?

Like most people, I will wait for the November elections to be over and make a final decision early next year.

Many people are wondering who the Republicans will nominate to run. This is, of course, unknowable and largely unpredictable at this particular stage in the game. However, the tone as well as the content of this interview suggests that Romney will run.

Prudent refusal to promote his health insurance plan as a national solution and tough language regarding the willfully uninsured reveal a disciplined politician with answerers prepared for any number of questions. One could also interpret Romney’s call for transparency in his own administration as a way of distancing himself from the currently unpopular and very much untransparent administration of President Bush.

Romney was also quick to point out his executive experience, in both the public and private sector, when asked about some of the tougher issues he has faced as a governor. The ability to point to such experience when asked how an event or series of events has “changed” him, is an asset in any political campaign.