In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan on the eve of the London Olympics, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday was careful not to repeat his earlier misstep of suggesting that the city is ill-prepared to host the Games.
“It’s great; it’s absolutely fabulous,” Romney told Morgan at the Royal Naval College when asked how it felt to be in London for the Olympics.
“You know, I’d never been to an Olympics before I was given the Olympic job,” said Romney, who is widely credited with rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. “I mean, I’d done the same thing everybody else did -- I watched the games on TV. But to actually be here and to experience not just the athletes but also the volunteers who are working hard and excited, and then the whole community comes together, it’s fabulous.”
The interview aired at the end of a rocky day during which the presumptive GOP nominee was largely on defense after telling NBC News on Wednesday that he found London’s last-minute preparations “disconcerting” and suggested that the games might not turn out to be a success.
Among those publicly criticizing Romney for the remarks were British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who mocked the presumptive GOP nominee in front of an 80,000-person crowd in Hyde Park.
In Thursday night’s CNN interview, Romney – who was joined by his wife, Ann – sought to strike a most positive tone, praising London’s “great weather” and the enthusiasm surrounding this year’s Olympics.
“These games -- great weather, enthusiasm on the part of the people here in London,” he said. “I think you’re going to see terrific games that’ll be a long time in our memories.”
As he kicked off the first leg of a weeklong overseas trip, Romney deflected questions about foreign policy differences between himself and President Obama; he told Morgan that he did not plan to delve into the matter “given the fact I’m on foreign soil.”
Romney did, however, defend George W. Bush’s handling of foreign policy and the war in Iraq.
“I can tell you that I think President Bush took action which he believed — based upon the information that was available to him, both from British intelligence and intelligence in our country and around the world — that Saddam Hussein presented a very serious threat to the world, including the potential of weapons of mass destruction,” Romney said. “And he took action which he believed was necessary to protect our people and our friends.”
Romney also delivered his most extensive remarks on gun control since last week’s mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., telling Morgan that he believes it’s “misguided” to look to reduce violence by tightening restrictions on firearm ownership.
“I don’t support new gun laws in our country,” Romney said. “We have a lot of gun laws now. ... I think that the effort to continue to look for some law to somehow make violence go away is missing the point. The real point has to relate to individuals that are deranged and distressed and to find them, to help them and to keep them from carrying out terrible acts.”
The Aurora massacre has renewed the debate over gun control, although both White House hopefuls have been cautious in weighing in on the matter. At a campaign event in New Orleans on Wednesday night, Obama said that efforts to reform gun laws after previous mass shootings had been “defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.”
Romney cited the example of last year’s massacre in Norway, a country with strict gun laws. He also pointed to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and asked, “How many people did he kill – with fertilizer, with products that can be purchased legally anywhere in the world?”
“He was able to carry out vast mayhem,” Romney said of McVeigh. “Somehow thinking that laws against the instruments of violence will make violence go away, I think, is misguided.”
Throughout the campaign, the presumptive GOP nominee has pointed to his tenure at Bain Capital and his stewardship of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics as examples of his ability to rescue struggling ventures, and on Thursday he defended both aspects of his background.
“The country is in need of a turnaround,” he told Morgan. “The Olympics was a turnaround. There were businesses I’ve been associated with that needed a turnaround. That kind of experience of focusing on the most critical issue, building the most effective team possible, creating a common vision, unifying around that vision and then delivering results is something I think the American people would like to see in our economy right now.”
Asked about polls showing Romney’s likabilty among voters trailing Obama’s, Ann Romney maintained that the economy will be the one issue that matters in November.
“I think at the end of the day, that is what people are going to really feel confident about when they go in the ballot box, because this economy is just sputtering along; we’re even worried that it’s going to go into another recession right now,” she said. “They’re going to have to trust and believe that this is the guy that’s going to get the job done and get the jobs back.”
She also called it “an irony” that by attacking Romney’s tenure at Bain and leadership of the Salt Lake Olympics, Democrats are “trying to attack him in an area where he actually shines the brightest.”
At times, the interview turned personal. Both Romneys talked at length about their childhood and falling in love, about Ann Romney’s struggle with multiple sclerosis, and about their shared roots in the United Kingdom: Mitt Romney’s great-great grandfather was born in Lancashire, while Ann Romney’s father was born in Wales.
“Well, I knew that my ancestors came from here,” Mitt Romney said when asked whether he knew that he was “more English” than Morgan. “I know Miles Romney and Miles Park Romney – these are the folks that came and helped settle the West. But I didn’t realize that I was more English than you are.”
“Do you feel partly English?” Morgan asked.
“Well, I’m married to a girl from Wales, and I’m a guy from Great Britain,” Romney responded with a laugh. “So I feel like this is home, too, I guess.”