EDITOR'S NOTE: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney met Monday morning with the editors of The Post and Courier. Here are some excerpts of that interview, compiled by reporter Robert Behre.
P&C: Can we afford to play the role of the world's cop?
Romney: "I don't think we have to be the world cop, running around the world and trying to stop all the bad things going on, but I do think we want to have a military that's so strong that no one would consider testing it. Military superiority can be achieved if we maintain approximately 4 percent of our GDP (gross domestic product) toward the military. Europe is more like 2 percent."
P&C: Is your toughest thing with conservative voters? Trying to convince them that you're not Obamacare?
Romney: "Yes. There's no question that I get that probably more than other things, and I'm happy to point out a couple of things. One is if I'm president, I will repeal Obamacare immediately and grant a waiver to South Carolina and every other state from Obamacare so we can stop it in its tracks. Obamacare does a lot of things that our plan in our state (of Massachusetts) did not do. Obamacare raises taxes by $500 billion. Obamacare cuts Medicare by $500 billion. When I talk to seniors, they're very concerned that this president cut Medicare by $500 billion."
P&C: What is your opinion of the Yucca Mountain nuclear disposal site in Nevada?
Romney: "I think the people in Nevada should be given an offer with a financial incentive to take the nuclear waste, and if they reject that offer, I think other states can propose an offer of what they would be willing to take, based upon a certain compensation level. And if no one is willing to take the waste, then certainly those states that have been required over the years to put money into this effort should have a refund provided to them. So South Carolina would get their money back, but I think we're wiser to collect the waste in one site than have it in multiple sites, if that's feasible."
P&C: Talk about environmentalism and conservatism.
Romney: "I am an environmentalist. I believe in the conservation of our resources. At the same time, I recognize that the EPA and some regulations have been used by some individuals who would seek to stop economic growth, to prevent the development of resources that are important to our nation and do not jeopardize our environment. I happen to think that the ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) development is not something that jeopardizes the environment."
P&C: You have called Iran our greatest national security threat. How would our experience in Iraq shape your approach to Iran?
Romney: "Obviously, the conflict in Iraq was massively more expensive in terms of human life and human injury, casualty than we ever imaged. And it was far more expensive and lengthy than we ever imagined. And the effort to nation-build was a far more extensive process than had been anticipated. I don't think Iraq will be the model for how we respond to threats of our national security in the future."
P&C: How do you avoid looking like you're rooting against a recovery? Because if the economy comes roaring back, that improves the chance for an incumbent to get re-elected.
Romney: "In the scheme of things, I hope the economy does come roaring back and people go back to work. We've got millions of people out of work today, and they've been out of work way too long. … Recessions always end, and the president will try to take credit for that, and we'll point out that this is the slowest recovery from a recession since (President Herbert) Hoover. Rather than taking credit for what's happened, he has been responsible for how long it has taken to recover. I look forward to debating him and saying, 'Which of your provisions encouraged people to hire?' "
P&C: There's been a lot of talk about your record at Bain Capital since the campaign moved to South Carolina. Personally, what was it like to decide a business could not make it and needed to be shut down?
Romney: "Anytime a business is in distress, anytime someone is going to lose a job, that feels awful. … We invested in over 100 different businesses. Some went through bankruptcy but continued operating and now continue to employ people and are running with other owners. But if people lose their jobs, it's a tragedy. … We tended as a firm to invest in settings which were out of favor or in trouble and hoped to turn them around. Our expertise was in turning things around and we did so successfully a number of times. But sometimes we didn't. Sometimes I look back and said, 'What were we thinking? That one was just too hard. It just never was going to make it.'"
P&C: How do you folks have the energy to run these campaigns as long as you do?
Romney: "In some respects it's a marathon to see if you could handle the job if you've got it. Because I'm sure there are occasions when you go around the clock in the White House, in the situation room. It probably separates folks out. It is intense. There's no question about that."