Romney Responses to AJC Questionnaire

  1. As the Iranian regime continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability – defying a growing international consensus, threatening Israel and other U.S. allies, and in violation of its treaty obligations – what specific steps would you take to avert the peril of a nuclear Iran? As the U.S and its international partners act to isolate Iran, how do you suggest dealing with governments that have resisted efforts to exert economic pressure on the Iranian regime? What position should the U.S. take if Iran develops its nuclear capability to the point that diplomacy and sanctions cannot be expected to restrain its development and deployment of weapons that would jeopardize U.S. interests and global security?

    • It is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapons capability and as president I will never accept such a development. I will take every measure to keep Iran from acquiring the most terrible weapons known to man. I will press for ever tightening sanctions on the regime, acting multilaterally where we can and unilaterally where we must, and leave no doubt in the mind of the regime's leaders that the military option remains on the table. Toward that end, I will restore the regular presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region, increase military assistance to Israel, expand military coordination with our Arab allies, and conduct more naval exercises as a demonstration of strength and resolve. I will support democratic alternatives to the repressive regime in Tehran and work to improve the flow of information to the Iranian population about its own government's repressive activities. I will commit and push for the on-time completion of a fully capable missile defense system in Eastern Europe to create a protective umbrella against Iranian nuclear weapons.
Israel and the Middle East
  1. How would you characterize the U.S.-Israel relationship, and what role should that alliance play in U.S. Middle East policy? How should the U.S. continue its commitment to maintaining Israel's ability to deter and defend against foreseeable combinations of threats, and maintain its military edge? What role should the U.S. play if Israel comes under attack from Gaza and the West Bank or from the territory of one of its neighbors?

    • Israel is the U.S.'s closest ally in the Middle East and a beacon of democracy and freedom in the region. In a Romney administration, there will be no gap between our nations or between our leaders. I will make clear that America's commitment to Israel's security and survival as a Jewish state is absolute, and will demonstrate that commitment to the world by making Jerusalem the destination of my first foreign trip.

    • To ensure Israel's security, I will work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge. We will also work intensively with Turkey and Egypt to shore up the fraying relationships with Israel that have underpinned peace in the Middle East for decades. The United State must forcefully resist the emergence of anti-Israel policies in Turkey and Egypt, and work to make clear that the interests of those countries are not served by isolating Israel.
  1. In 2011, the Palestinians moved unilaterally to seek UN recognition of statehood, affirming their reluctance to negotiate directly with Israel. How should the U.S. engage with the Palestinians regarding their UN initiatives for recognition, and the stalled peace process? What should U.S. policy be regarding rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah?

    • As president, I will reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. We will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations by the Oslo Accords is unacceptable, and will leave no doubt the U.S. will react firmly if the General Assembly recognizes a Palestinian state. If such a resolution were to be passed, the U.S. would reconsider American support for UN programs, and re-evaluate its relations with any state that votes in favor of recognition. We would also reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a united government that includes Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to Israel's destruction.

    • Unlike President Obama, I understand that distancing the U.S. from Israel doesn't earn us credibility in the Arab world or bring peace closer. Instead, it encourages Palestinians to hold out and wait for Washington to deliver more Israeli concessions. I will never unilaterally create preconditions for peace talks, as President Obama has done.

    • Moreover, I do not believe that we should be issuing public warnings that create distance between the United States and Israel. Israel does not need public lectures about how to weigh decisions of war and peace. It needs our support.
  1. In light of recent political upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa, what changes, if any, would you advocate in U.S. aid to, and relations with, the newly constituted Arab governments? What assurances would you require with regard to fighting terrorism, promoting democracy and human rights, protecting minorities, assuring equal treatment of women, curbing weapons proliferation, ending anti-Israel incitement, and advancing regional peace?

    • The United States cannot be neutral about the outcome of revolution and political upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa. To protect our national interests and to promote our ideals, my administration would support groups and governments seeking to advance the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights, and oppose any extension of Iranian or jihadist influence.

    • To improve and provide greater accountability to our efforts in the greater Middle East, I will reorganize all diplomatic and assistance efforts under one regional director, who unlike recent “special envoys” or region “czars,” will possess unified budgetary and policy authority. With real authority, this official will set regional priorities, craft a unified regional strategic plan, and properly direct our soft power toward promoting American interests in the region.
Human Rights
  1. More than sixty years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism continues to be a major element in political discourse and manifest itself in criminal acts in parts of Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere. In Arab states, religious pluralism and tolerance of minority faiths are frequently under challenge – and anti-Zionism all too often is revealed as hatred of Jews. What role do you think the U.S. can and should play in fighting anti-Semitism across the globe, and in combating racism and religious persecution more generally? What sanctions and other measured should be employed by the U.S in response to systematic and egregious human rights violations by foreign nations?

    • Anti-Semitism is a poison. History has shown time and again that it is dangerous to the countries that ingest it, as it is dangerous to world peace. It's an affront to the values of our civilization that the leaders of Iran openly peddle anti-Semitic ideas. Given Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for the state of Israel to be wiped from the map, I will press for his indictment for the crime of incitement of genocide. I will lead the fight against the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel in every forum and label it the anti-Semitic poison that it is. I will convene a summit that brings together world leaders, donor organizations, and young leaders of groups that espouse the principles of representative government, religious pluralism, economic opportunity, women's and minority rights, and freedom of conscience in the Arab world. I will also speak forthrightly in defense of religious liberty, both here in the United States and abroad. The United States must be clear that to be fully trusted partners in the international system, nations must respect the human rights of their people.
U.S. Homeland Security

  1. Considering the successes and failures in the years since 9/11, how would you change U.S. policy to effectively combat the threat of global and domestic terrorism? Specifically, how would you respond to the threat of Islamist extremism without violating civil liberties and without alienating moderate Muslims in the U.S. and across the globe?

    • As president, I will ensure all relevant military, intelligence, and homeland security agencies have the appropriate legal authority and policy guidance they need to dismantle terrorist groups and prevent terrorist attacks at home and abroad.

    • To combat domestic terrorism, we will design better frameworks to share intelligence “horizontally” across agencies, as well as “vertically” with state and local authorities. We will also continue to deploy “fusion centers” and other innovative systems to collect and systematically analyze information about domestic activities and communications among terrorist networks and people within our borders. We must also bolster partnerships with Muslim-American communities, build trust in the spirit of “community policing,” work with community leaders to identify threats and suspicious activity, develop our database of knowledge about the hallmarks of radicalization and recruitment, and train local and state authorities to understand those hallmarks and act on them at the earliest appropriate moment.

    • I would work to bolster cyber security with a unified strategy and improved inter-agency coordination.

    • I will work with Congress to unify the over 108 authorizing committees and subcommittees in Congress that oversee the Department of Homeland Security. Reducing the number of authorizing committees responsible for the Department will allow its professionals to spend time focused on operational tasks instead of reporting and testifying to Congress, as well as clarify its mission by eliminating inconsistent mandates and priorities.

    • To protect our civil liberties, I will require our counterterrorism strategy to contain measures to balance the increased capabilities of our analytic technologies against legitimate concerns about the preservation of our constitutional rights.
  1. As some of the world's largest oil exporters display hostility to American interests, as oil prices rise, and as many scientists continue to warn about climate change, the need for a solution to our nation's energy crisis becomes more pressing by the day. How would you address our dependence on foreign oil? What are viable, long-term solutions? What role should alternative energy and efficiency solutions play in this plan? What about exploration and development of domestic sources of energy, and importation of those resources from friendly neighbors?

    • The United States is blessed with an abundance of energy resources. Developing them has been a pathway to prosperity for the nation in the past and offers similar promise for the future. As president, I will make every effort to promote policies that will make America an energy superpower.

    • We rightly think about energy as a national-security issue, and I believe that the imperatives of national security and economic policy work in tandem. If instead of sending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas, we reinvest them right here at home, the nation as a whole will experience the economic benefits that we currently see other countries enjoying at our expense. Lessening our dangerous dependence on unstable OPEC oil supplies by both increasing domestic production and accessing more energy from our North American neighbors would strengthen our national security and the economy in many other ways. At a time of record budget deficits, greater domestic supplies would generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues, improve America's trade balance and GDP and strengthen the dollar.

    • We need to take a rational and streamlined approach to regulation, to facilitate the rapid development of our domestic oil, natural gas and coal resources, and encourage investment in nuclear and alternative energies. This will require a 21st century regulatory framework – one that balances both our energy and environmental objectives, using the most innovative, cost-effective solutions available. I will propose measured reforms of the statutory framework to preserve our environmental gains without paralyzing industry and destroying jobs. I will ensure that the cost of new regulation is always considered and establish reasonable timelines for compliance.

    • Our ability to develop new technologies has always kept America in the lead and there is a government role to play in innovation in the energy industry. History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology, but we should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches. From the perspective of creating new jobs and strengthening our economy, the main line of policy should be directed toward technologies that will improve our nation's energy self-sufficiency.

    • The world needs energy, and the United States is in a position to produce it more cleanly and safely than any other nation. Getting our energy policy right is critical to our country's economic future. We have the natural resources to succeed, and more importantly, we have scientific and engineering talent that is unsurpassed the world over. What we've lacked is a clear recognition that tying up our resources and shackling our enterprises is costing us dearly in every important arena. The bad news is that self-defeating policies have left us less secure as a country and weakened our economy. The good news is: we can change. I intend to lead the way.
Domestic Policy

  1. How would you address the presence of roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.? What changes would you support to U.S. immigration policy on the whole? What safeguards would you take to ensure that those fleeing persecution will continue to be granted safe haven within our nation's borders? What border security and enforcement measure do you support?

    • America is a nation of immigrants. Welcoming newcomers who share our ideals and work hard to secure a better life for themselves and their families is part of our heritage. A strong legal immigration system is an integral component of what makes America exceptional. But today, our immigration system is broken. As president, I will propose a national immigration strategy that grows the U.S. economy, secures our borders and discourages illegal immigration, addresses the problem of 11 million illegal immigrants living in America in a civil and resolute manner, and carries on America's tradition as a nation of legal immigrants.

    • Our immigration system is not optimized for today's economy. The United States is currently excluding too many workers who will start businesses, create jobs, foster innovation, and help grow our economy. For example, the United States is projected to face a shortage of 230,000 science and technology workers by 2018. At the same time, we have set the caps on high-skill visas so low that, for some countries, an entire year's quota has been filled in an hour. As president, I will ask Congress to raise the caps on visas for highly skilled immigrants, including country caps that are keeping some of the best and brightest out of America. Additionally, every foreign student who obtains an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering at a U.S. university should be granted permanent residency.

    • The current system for bringing in temporary agricultural workers and other seasonal workers is dysfunctional. Employers complain that too often, the harvest passes or tourist season ends before temporary workers are approved. I will eliminate unnecessary requirements and red tape that delay issuance of visas for temporary, seasonal workers. Additionally, I will work with Congress, states, and employers to properly set the cap on non-agricultural temporary worker visas. Many tourist-oriented businesses in the United States rely on these workers and would have to cut back or cease operations if there are not enough visas.

    • America must take steps to secure our borders and discourage illegal immigration. As president, I will ensure that we have a high-tech fence along our southwest border, I will place enough officers on the ground to secure our border, and I will work to develop an efficient, effective system of exit verification to ensure people do not overstay their visas. To discourage illegal immigration, my Administration will create an effective, mandatory employment verification system. If illegal immigrants know they cannot find jobs, fewer will cross the border and many that are here illegally will leave.

    • I will ensure that our asylum laws are administered fairly and effectively, so America can continue to serve as a haven for those facing persecution.

    • An estimated 11 million illegal immigrants live in the shadows in America. I will address this problem in a civil and resolute manner. My Administration will create a system whereby illegal immigrants in America can register, so we know who they are. Those who register will receive a transition period to wind down their affairs in the U.S., and they can get into line to enter the U.S. legally, like the people who have been waiting patiently to immigrate legally. Also, those young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children should have the chance to become permanent residents, and eventually citizens, by serving honorably in the United States military.
Religious Freedom
  1. The Constitution protects religious freedom by mandating that the government shall make no law establishing religion, or abridging the free exercise thereof. How should the government protect this fundamental liberty? Is it either constitutionally permissible or socially desirable for religious institutions to seek to impel the state to implement policies that are motivated by an understanding of scriptures? Should a president's religious beliefs play a role in presidential decision-making? Should religious institutions – or individuals, generally – be exempted from laws of general application based on religious objections? In the context of the current controversy over inclusion of contraception in mandated health insurance coverage, how would you reconcile the need to safeguard women's rights and women's health with the need to protect the religious liberty of religiously affiliated hospitals?

    • Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution.

    • Too many people, it seems, misunderstand what religious liberty means. The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, and went to great lengths to make sure that we would not choose government representatives based upon their religion. As president, I would never allow authorities of my church, or of any other church, to ever exert influence on my presidential decisions. As Governor, I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution, and I would not do so as president. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.

    • The founders, however, did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation where there is a plurality of faiths, and where we not only tolerate many faiths, but respect them. After all, American values such as the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common.

    • A fundamental tenet of religious liberty is that the government should not compel any religious institution to subsidize a practice or product that violates its religious tenets. The Obama Administration, unfortunately, does not seem to understand this. Women, of course, have the right to contraception. Government does not, however, have the right to force people—who have religious objections to contraception—to pay for it. We have ample means of affording health care to poorer women, including Medicaid and private charities that do not have religious objections to contraception. There is no need to violate individuals' religious liberties to provide for these women.
  1. Do you support federal money being allocated to religious institutions for provision of social services or to parochial schools? What restrictions, if any, would you put on these funds, whether provided by grants or vouchers? Do you support legislation to strengthen the obligation of employers to provide a reasonable accommodation of an employee's religious practice?

    • Where it does not conflict with state laws, the policies that I will put forth would allow Title I and IDEA funds to follow students to parochial schools.
Copyright 2014/2015 AJC