A rare Romney interview

Mitt Romney, despite having been a presidential candidate non-stop for over five years, is still reluctant to sit down for lengthy media interviews. So when the former governor sat down with Fox News’ Bret Baier yesterday in Miami, it seemed like a rare treat for the political world.

The two covered a fair amount of ground, but a few exchanges jumped out at me. For example, Baier asked Romney about Newt Gingrich.

“You know, Speaker Gingrich is a good man. He and I have very different backgrounds. He spent his last 30 or 40 years in Washington. I spent my career in the private sector. I think that’s what the country needs right now.”

That’s not quite true. Romney spent some of his career leading a vulture capital fund, breaking up companies and firing American workers, but he’s also been a Senate candidate, a governor, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, the head of a political action committee, and a two-time presidential candidate. He spent his career “in the private sector”? Not really.

Baier also raised the issue of Romney’s flip-flops, and asked a good question: “How can voters trust what they hear from you today is what you will believe if you win the White House?” Romney didn’t answer, choosing instead to condemn President Obama. So, Baier tried again, noting that Democrats and Republicans have raised this point. Romney didn’t appear pleased.

“[T]here’s no question, but that people are going to take snippets and take things out of context and try and show that there are differences, where in some cases, there are not. But one place I’d change my mind which regards to the government’s role relating abortion. I am pro-life.

“I did not take that position years ago. And that’s the same change that occurred with Ronald Reagan, with George W. Bush, with some of the leaders in the pro-life movement.”

First, Romney should never complain about taking people out of context. Second, Bush was consistent on his position on abortion. And third, abortion is only one of dozens of issues on which Romney has flip-flopped.

Later, when pressed on whether he’s changed his views on health care, Romney got testy and complained, “This is an unusual interview.” It’s only unusual because Romney isn’t used to facing any questions at all.

When Baier turned the focus to immigration, Romney said, “My view is pretty straightforward.” The reality is the opposite — Romney struggled badly to explain why he’s criticized Gingrich’s position that appears to be identical to his own. When Baier pressed the candidate on what he’d recommend for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States, Romney couldn’t answer.

“You know, there’s great interest on the part of some to talk about what we do with the 11 million. My interest is saying, let’s make sure that we secure the border, and we don’t do anything that talks about bringing in a new wave of those or attracting a new wave of people into the country illegally.

“The right course for us is to secure the border and say nothing about amnesty or tuition breaks to illegal aliens or anything else that draws people into the country illegally. The right course, secure the border, and then, we can determine what’s the right way to deal with the 11 million and to make it as clear as I possibly can.”

Romney’s campaign couldn’t answer the question last week, and Romney himself couldn’t answer the question this week. These guys have had plenty of time to think of something to say; there’s no excuse for coming up empty now.

I don’t imagine he’s interested in my advice, but I suspect Romney would be more comfortable, less awkward, and more proficient in these interviews if he didn’t go to great lengths to avoid them. Practice makes perfect, Mitt.