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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Romneys Talk Issues, and Fashion, in Joint Interview


As the Republican Party prepares this week to offer a more full introduction of Mitt Romney, the candidate and his wife sat down for a rare joint television interview, covering some of the heavier topics of the day â€" Medicare, taxes and abortion â€" but also lighter fare, like Mr. Romney's preference for shirts from a certain well-known discount chain.

The interview, with Fox News Sunday, was carried out around the kitchen island in the Romney's comfortable vacation home in Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H. Adding to the relaxed warmth of the setting, family members of the oldest son, Tagg, stood around the island.

The interviewer, Chris Wallace, teased the Romneys â€" they claim their favorite maple syrup is from New Hampshire, a swing state, not Vermont â€" but pressed them on meatier questions as well.

Asked about the tax returns showing he has had accounts in places sometimes associated with tax evasion, Mr. Romney insisted not only that he had paid all taxes legally due but that those accounts had saved him nothing.

“There was no reduction, not one dollar of reduction in taxes, by virtue of having an account in Switzerland or a Cayman Islands investment,” he said. “Those â€" the dollars of taxes remained exactly the same.”

He seemed to take offense at suggestion by Democrats' to the contrary. “They're trying to make that seem like it's some unsavory action,” Mr. Romney said. To suggest that a candidate should have no foreign investments, he went on, could lead to an extreme rejection of all things foreign â€" not only no overseas investments, but, “by the way, don't buy any foreign products, don't have any Japanese TVs or foreign cars.”

But, he said, “I did live my life” and people are free to judge his choices.

In a year when both presidential candidates have had to spend huge amounts of time fund-raising, M r. Romney said that, if he runs in 2016, he would happily agree with his opponent to accept federal matching funds, which put a ceiling on a candidate's spending.

“Oh, absolutely,” he said, noting that Barack Obama, as a candidate in 2008, had rejected matching funds so he could raise unlimited amounts of money.
The result, Mr. Romney said, was that both candidates had to raise “an inordinate amount of time” fundraising. “And, frankly, it increases the potential of money having influence in politics.”

Meantime, after months of shying away from the health-care plan he helped bring to Massachusetts as governor, Mr. Romney raised it himself when asked about the divisive comments by Representative Todd Akin of Missouri about rape and abortion.

“Well, first of all,” he said, “with regards to women's health care, look, I'm the guy that was able to get health care for all of the women and men in my state.” He said he had done so without cu tting Medicare or raising taxes, adding, “I'm very proud of what we did.”

Similar comments by a Romney spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, had provoked a furious reaction from conservative commentators who said it was a huge blunder for the Romney camp to call attention to a plan that was considered something of a model for Mr. Obama's own plan.

Mr. Wallace did his best to prompt Mr. Romney to show a more personal side. He determined, among other things, that Mr. Romney does know his way around a grocery store; he quite likes the inexpensive Kirkland-brand shirts from the Costco discount chain, sometimes ironing them himself (the Romneys have no domestic help at the lake); and his grandchildren call him “Papa.”

They call Mrs. Romney “Mamie,” he said, adding that “for a blessed while, we were Ike and Mamie.”

Added Mrs. Romney, lest there be any confusion, “It's a joke.”