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Romney on Meet the Press: Gun rights/immigration positions under fire

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By Michelle Malkin  •  December 16, 2007 03:37 PM

Update: Romney wrongly claims NRA endorsement.

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Mitt Romney was on NBC’s Meet the Press this morning. While his tears (big Drudge headline and photo) seem to be garnering the biggest headlines, there were more worrisome moments during the interview. Philip Klein at the American Spectator blog writes:

–On guns, he may have gotten himself in trouble, in an attempt to diffuse the flip-flop label, by standing by his support for the Brady Bill and the 1994 assault weapons ban. He even said he would have signed an extension of the assault weapons ban when it expired in 2004. He also employed the odd phrase “weapons of unusual lethality” to describe the type of guns he would ban.

–On immigration, Romney was utterly Clintonian. He said that when in November 2005 he described the Bush/McCain approach to immigration as “reasonable” and “quite different” from amnesty, he wasn’t endorsing the proposal, but just describing it. He hadn’t formulated his own position on immigration at the time. That’s right up there with Hillary Clinton saying in the debate that she didn’t say she supported driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, but she just said that a proposal to do so “makes sense.” Even if we were to get into the Christmas spirit and be extraordinarily generous by granting Romney that an elected official saying pending legislation is “reasonable” doesn’t constitute support for the legislation, it still doesn’t get him off the hook. His description of the proposal was that it was “quite different” from amnesty, and yet during this year he has ceaselessly leveled attacks on McCain by accusing him of supporting “amnesty.” So even being generous to Romney, this constitutes a major change in position, not just from some long ago Senate race in 1994, but from late 2005.

Here are the relevant transcript excerpts. First on guns (Update - Vid here):

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to gun control. Here’s the headline: “Romney retreats on gun control. Romney, who once described himself as a supporter of strong gun laws, is distancing himself from that rhetoric now as he attempts to court the gun owners who make up a significant force in Republican primary politics. In his ’94” Senate race, Romney backed two gun-control measures strongly opposed by the National Rife Association and other” guns rights “groups: the Brady Bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period on gun sales, and a ban on certain assault weapons. `That’s not going to make me the hero of the NRA,’ Romney told the Boston Herald.'” “At another campaign stop” “he told reporters, `I don’t line up with the NRA.'” Suddenly Romney decides to run for president and signs up for a lifetime membership in the NRA.

GOV. ROMNEY: You know, it’s, it’s wonderful, and you’ll appreciate this. There is a great effort on the part of, in some cases, my opposition, in some cases, just folks that are interested in writing an interesting article to, to try and find any change at all. And my position on guns is the same position I’ve had for a long, long time. And, and that position is that I don’t line up 100 percent with the NRA. I don’t see eye to eye with the NRA on every issue. I…

MR. RUSSERT: You’re still for the Brady Bill?

GOV. ROMNEY: I supported the assault weapon ban. I…

MR. RUSSERT: You’re for it?

GOV. ROMNEY: I assigned–and I–let me, let me describe it.

MR. RUSSERT: But you’re still for it.

GOV. ROMNEY: Let’s describe what it is. I signed–I would have supported the original assault weapon ban. I signed an assault weapon ban in Massachusetts governor because it provided for a relaxation of licensing requirements for gun owners in Massachusetts, which was a big plus. And so both the pro-gun and the anti-gun lobby came together with a bill, and I signed that. And if there is determined to be, from time to time, a weapon of such lethality that it poses a grave risk to our law enforcement personnel, that’s something I would consider signing. There’s nothing of that nature that’s being proposed today in Washington. But, but I would, I would look at weapons that pose extraordinary lethality…

MR. RUSSERT: So the assault ban that expired here because Congress didn’t act on it, you would support?
GOV. ROMNEY: Just as the president said, he would have, he would have signed that bill if it came to his desk, and so would have I. And, and, and yet I also was pleased to have the support of the NRA when I ran for governor. I sought it, I seek it now. I’d love to have their support. I believe in the right of Americans to bear arms…

MR. RUSSERT: How about the Brady Bill?

GOV. ROMNEY: The Brady Bill has changed over time, and, of course, technology has changed over time.
MR. RUSSERT: But the idea of a waiting period.

GOV. ROMNEY: Well, we have, we have a background check. That’s the key thing. I support background checks to, to–for people who are going into a store or whatever and buying a weapon, I want them to have a background check to make sure…

MR. RUSSERT: But you stand by your support of the Brady Bill.

GOV. ROMNEY: …to make sure, to make sure that the, that the crazies don’t buy guns.

The, the current Brady Bill is, is a different measure than the original. The original had a waiting period because it took a long time to check on people’s backgrounds. Today we can check instantly on backgrounds. I don’t want to cause a waiting period that’s not necessary based upon today’s technology. But my position is we should check on the backgrounds of people who are trying to purchase guns. We also should keep weapons of unusual lethality from being on the street. And finally, we should go after people who use guns in the commission of crimes or illegally, but we should not interfere with the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns either for their own personal protection or hunting or any other lawful purpose. I support the work of the NRA. I’m a member of the NRA. But do we line up on every issue? No, we don’t.

Second on immigration:

MR. RUSSERT: Immigration, an issue that is very important in this country and to the Republican primary voters. The Boston Globe interviewed you two years ago, and there’s a tape of that conversation where you expressed support for the policies of George Bush and John McCain on immigration. Let’s watch and listen.

(Audiotape)

GOV. ROMNEY: I think an amnesty program is what, which is all the illegal immigrants who are here are now citizens,

Unidentified Man: Mm-hmm.

GOV. ROMNEY: …and a walk up and get your citizenship. What the president has proposed,

Man: Mm-hmm.

GOV. ROMNEY: …and, and what Senator McCain and Cornyn have proposed, are, are quite different than that.

Man: Mm-hmm.

GOV. ROMNEY: They require people signing up for a, a, well, registering and receiving, if you will, a number, a registration number, then working here for six years and paying taxes…

Man: Mm-hmm.

GOV. ROMNEY: …not taking benefits–health, Medicaid, food stamps, and so forth–not taking benefits, and then at the end of that period, registering to become a citizen or applying to become a citizen and paying a fee. And, and those are things that are being, being considered, and I, I think that that’s–that those are reasonable proposals.

(End audiotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Reasonable proposals.

GOV. ROMNEY: Hm.

MR. RUSSERT: The Lowell Sun, your home–one of your hometown, state home papers, said this. “Governor Mitt Romney expressed support for an immigration program that places large numbers of illegal residents on the path toward citizenship.

“`I don’t believe in rounding up 11 million people and forcing them at gunpoint from our country. With these 11 million people, let’s have them registered, know who they are. Those who’ve been arrested or convicted of crimes shouldn’t be here; those that are paying taxes and not taking government benefits should begin a process towards application for citizenship, as they would from their home country.'”

This is George Bush and John McCain.

GOV. ROMNEY: Now let’s, now let’s look at those very carefully, OK, and you’re, you’re a careful reader. In the interview with The Boston Globe, I described all three programs that were out there, described what they were, acknowledged that they were not technically an amnesty program, but I indicated in that same interview that I had not formulated my own proposal and that I was endorsing none of those three programs. I did not support any of them. I called them reasonable. They are reasonable efforts to, to look at the problem. But I said I did not support–and I said specifically in that interview I have not formulated my own policy and have not determined which I would support. And, of course, the Cornyn proposal required all of the immigrants to go home. The McCain proposal required most of them to go home, but let some stay. And the Bush proposal I, frankly, don’t recall in that much detail. But they had very different proposals. My own view is consistent with what you saw in the Lowell Sun, that those people who had come here illegally and are in this country–the 12 million or so that are here illegally–should be able to stay sign up for permanent residency or citizenship, but they should not be given a special pathway, a special guarantee that all of them get to say here for the rest of their lives merely by virtue of having come here illegally. And that, I think, is the great flaw in the final bill that came forward from the Senate.

MR. RUSSERT: But they shouldn’t have to go home?

GOV. ROMNEY: Well, whether they go home–they should go home eventually. There’s a set per–in my view they should be–they should have a set period during which period they, they sign up for application for permanent residency or, or for citizenship. But there’s a set period where upon they should return home. And if they’ve been approved for citizenship or for a permanent residency, well, thy would be a different matter. But for the great majority, they’ll be going home.

MR. RUSSERT: The children they had born here are U.S. citizens, so do the children stay here and the parents go home?

GOV. ROMNEY: Well, that’s a choice, of course, the parents would, would make. But my view is that those 12 million who’ve come here illegally should be given the opportunity to sign up to stay here, but they should not be given any advantage in becoming a permanent resident or citizen by virtue of simply coming here illegally. And likewise, if they’ve brought a child to this country or they’ve had a child in this country, that’s, that’s wonderful that they’re growing their families, but that doesn’t mean that they all get to stay here indefinitely. We’re fundamentally a nation of laws. And let me underscore something here that I think’s awfully important, because this immigration debate can sound anti-immigrant to a lot of people. It’s not intended to be that by myself or, I believe, by the vast majority of others that talk about it. We value legal immigration. We welcome people coming here with different cultures and skill and education, but we are a nation of laws. And our freedoms and our liberty are associated with following the law. We have to secure our border, we have to make sure there’s an employment verification system to identify who’s here legally and who’s not. And then for the 12 million who’ve come here, welcome them to get in line with everybody else, but no special pathway.

Freepers react here. Background on Romney’s gun rights conversion here and via Romney’s interview on the Glenn and Helen podcast in January.

Like I said: Worrisome.

And as I’ve said with other candidates:

Caveat emptor, people. Caveat emptor.

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