Oprah Talks to the Romneys
Mitt Romney: Not any time during my youth. I never imagined that. As a little boy, I wanted to be a policeman. And then as I got older and I saw my dad in the car business, an automobile executive. I love cars, I like the idea of manufacturing something, having a product, a hard product to sell and promote, but as time went on I recognized that car companies are so bureaucratic and so ossified that it would take forever to work your way up. And so I went into consulting.
Oprah: Kudos to your dad for being able to move up in a car company.
Mitt Romney: My dad was phenomenal. Born in Mexico, lived poor, didn't graduate from college, and becomes head of a car company and then governor of a state. I can't imagine I would have ever thought about running for office had I not seen my dad do it.
Oprah: So this calling to be president—do you feel you're called, or is it something else? Is it a yearning? What is it?
Mitt Romney: It's not that. It is that I feel I have an obligation, given the experience I've had, to help get the country back on track. And Ann was the one who really pushed it.
Oprah: [To Ann] I was going to ask you that, because in 2008, didn't you say, "Never again"?
Ann Romney: Never again. Never again. Emphatically, never again.
Oprah: Yes, and then what changed?
Ann Romney: It's this women's thing, like intuition—I felt like he was the person that had the right answers for the right time. That there was an economic crisis, there was a jobs crisis, and there were millions of Americans in need of someone who knew how to turn things around.
Oprah: But at the end of 2008, you'd had enough?
Ann Romney: Absolutely.
Oprah: Why, because it was so grueling?
Ann Romney: It's hard on families. It's hard. You know, I've known this guy since we were kids. I was 15 when I met him and he was 18, and I know his heart. I know how good he is. And I know how committed he is, I know how hard he works, I know how conscientious he is. And I think that the most amazing thing he did in his life was literally walk away from Bain Capital and say, "All right, I'm gonna take no pay and go for three years and just do something totally different" [run the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City]. I think we would never have done anything like that if it had not been for his dad, showing that making money is all good and well, but as soon as you sort of feel like you've got enough, then it's time to give back. And it just seemed like a natural progression, even though most people thought we were crazy to do that.
Mitt Romney: By the way, this is also her. She called me at the office, at my work, enjoying myself at Bain Capital, and she said, "Now, don't say no. I think you should consider going and running the Olympics in Salt Lake." I said, "That's the craziest idea I've ever heard." They had called her—
Ann Romney: Knowing that he would say no.
Oprah: Because they were having all these problems.
Mitt Romney: They were having problems. And I had no experience in running a sporting event. I wasn't a particularly gifted athlete. My oldest son called when it all came out in the newspaper and said, "Dad, I called the brothers. We want you to know there's not a circumstance we could have conceived of that would put you on the front page of the sports section." [All laugh.] But Ann recognizes those things before I do and said, "This is something you're really going to want to do." Ultimately, the Olympics was probably the best professional experience of my life. I think it had a huge impact on Ann as well.
Oprah: How so?
Mitt Romney: It changed her life.
Ann Romney: Well, having just been diagnosed with MS maybe three months before, I was going downhill fast. Really, really sick.
Oprah: What does MS do to you?
Ann Romney: For me, my whole right side was numb. I was having difficulty walking. But beyond that it was the fatigue. No one understands, unless they have MS, what fatigue is.
Oprah: It's a weariness in your spirit, your bones, everything.
Ann Romney: In your bones, deep to your bones. Your brain doesn't work, your mouth doesn't work, your tongue doesn't work. Everything is an effort. I mean, to stand up is an effort, to talk is an effort.
Oprah: It's like your body is physically depressed.
Ann Romney: I think a lot of women have autoimmune diseases. I think what happens is, women have five balls up in the air all the time, and they can do it for a while. And then all of a sudden the body just says, Sorry.
Oprah: That's it.
Ann Romney: Done. It gives you a few warnings, and then your body goes, I'm gonna make you crash to the ground where you can't even pick your head up. Women try to push through so many things, and our bodies physically can't do that.
Oprah: So how are you managing it now, and are there things that you can't do?
Ann Romney: Well, there's some. I can't stay on the trail with him, for sure.
Oprah: Wears you out?
Ann Romney: Absolutely, yeah. I can go three days, maybe.
Oprah: That's enough. See ya!
Ann Romney: But yeah, I've learned. I went all the way, crashed, and then in the three years Mitt was with the Olympics, I slowly, slowly, slowly built my strength to the point where I could function again.
Oprah: It seems like a presidential campaign would be the last thing you'd want to say yes to.
Ann Romney: The prescription for MS is no stress, have a normal life, eat well, and exercise. So yes, it was a huge consideration.
Oprah: A huge consideration, whether to do it a second time around.
Ann Romney: We would not be doing this if I were not doing well.
Oprah: [To Mitt] We know your résumé, and we know your pedigree; what do you want us to know about you that we've likely not heard?
Mitt Romney: I think there's a character one has if you're a chief executive officer. Movies would suggest you're a bad person—if you're wealthy, if you've done well, oh, you must be bad. And frankly, winning the lottery doesn't change who you are; you're the same person inside. And I'm the same person I was as an 18-year-old who fell in love with Ann.
Oprah: How frustrating is it to you that people don't seem to get you?
Mitt Romney: You know, that's just part of the political process. I'm not worried about it.
Oprah: Do you feel like you have been mischaracterized?
Mitt Romney: I just think people have an immediate perception, which is, this guy is well-off financially, so he must not care about people. But the truth is, I care very deeply about people; my life has shown that. As people see me in debates, as we talk about what needs to be done to make the country stronger, they'll get a better sense of that. I hope I'll be able to communicate that.
Oprah: As we sit here today, do you believe inside yourself you're going to win?
Mitt Romney: I do believe I'm going to win. But I don't define myself by whether I win or lose. I'm disappointed that so far the campaign from the other side has been all diversions from issues and policy and direction for the country. But ultimately, I think in the debates we'll be able to get down to what do you believe and how can you help the country? And I think when we do that, we'll end up winning.
Oprah: When you were asked a while back what grade you would give President Obama, I recall you said you'd give him an F.
Mitt Romney: Absolutely.
Oprah: And I remember thinking at the time, I wonder if you've ever had an F. Did you ever get an F in anything? [All laugh.]
Mitt Romney: I got an F on a paper once. Political science, actually.
Mitt Romney: I'm not a political scientist. I'm a leader and a business guy.
Oprah: The reason I ask is that, to get an F, it means...
Mitt Romney: You've failed.
Oprah: Well, not just failed—it's like you didn't show up, you didn't try, you did nothing. So I'm just wondering if you want to reconsider the F.
Mitt Romney: Well, let's say there's pass and there's fail. And the idea is, the president did not get the economy turned around. Here we are now, 41 months of unemployment above 8 percent. We were supposed to be at 5.6 percent by now. He set the standard, and he didn't achieve it. And the reason he didn't achieve it, in my opinion, is that instead of focusing on the economy and jobs from day one, he did all these other things. Cap and trade, card check for union members, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare...the list goes on. And, interestingly, almost every single one of these things made it harder for entrepreneurs to start a business, or for a bigger business to decide to expand. The things he did were counter-job-creating. And so we're struggling. I see businesses every day that say to me, Can't you get the government out of the way?