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Mitt Romney: Mubarak 'Needs To Move On'

In the clash between Egypt's long-time strongman leader and those in the street, Mitt Romney appears to be siding with the protesters, saying that while President Hosni Mubarak has been a friend of the U.S., "he needs to move on."

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and once and likely future candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, told George Stephanopoulus on ABC's Good Morning America:

ROMNEY: But I don't know that I would say to the president you shouldcall for Mubarak's resignation. That, I think, flies in the face of along list of friendship between he and our country and our friends.But it's very clear that he needs to move on and to transition to the voices of democracy...

Some have noted that Romney appears to be taking a somewhat different position than conservatives who have warned against the U.S. being too hasty in trying to ease Mubarak out of power since it's uncertain what would follow him.

Romney also said that while the Obama Administration got off to a shaky start in his view in its Egypt response, he agrees with how its approach has evolved:

... Well, I think they got off to a rocky start. I think some of the statements early on were misguided, but I think they've corrected and they've said they want to see transition. I think that's right. And I think that you're going to find Mr. (Frank) Wisner (former U.S. ambassador to Egypt who's going there as President Obama's special envoy) and others are going to say, look, there ought to be a transition that you, Mr. Mubarak, or someone else leads to the voices of democracy inthe street.

On the completely different subject of the new health care law, Romney agreed, in his interview with host George Stephanapoulous, with a federal judge's ruling Monday that struck down the new health care law as unconstitutional because of the individual mandate.

Of the federal health care legislation, Romney said:

ROMNEY: ... I think it is a very bad piece oflegislation. I think the president should have been more attuned towhat we did in our own state which is that we allowed each state to create a solution to the issue of the uninsured in the way the states thought best. That was the way the Constitution intended it. We are a federalist system. We don't need the federal government imposing a one-size-fits-all plan on the entire nation.

But what about the individual mandate issue, Stephanopoulus asked, noting that there was an individual mandate in the Massachusetts health care legislation Romney signed into law when he was governor.

Romney had a ready answer. States can impose behavior on citizens in a way the federal government can't, he said. And in attempt to inoculate himself against critics of the Massachusetts approach, he rehearsed a line that we'll be hearing a lot — that if he were doing it all over, he'd make changes:

MR. ROMNEY: Well, states have rights that the federal government doesn't have. Under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, the powers of the federal government are specifically limited. The states have the rights to, for instance, mandate kids going to school, mandate auto insurance. States have certain rights that they can exercise. We can try different things in different states, find out what works and what doesn't.

But the last thing you want to see is the federal government usurping the power of states. This is a federalist nation. It's unconstitutional. By the way, it's also bad policy. What works in one state is not going to work somewhere else, and I'll be the first to tell you as well, you know, our plan isn't working perfectly.There are a number of things I'd do differently the second time around.

Asked if the individual mandate was one of those things he'd do differently, with Stephanopoulus saying it sounded like he wasn't going to apologize for it (Romney is on a book tour for his tome "No Apology:The Case for American Greatness"), he said:

MR. ROMNEY: I'm not going to apologize for the rights of statesto craft plans on a bipartisan basis that they think will help their people...

... I'm not apologizing for it. I'm indicating that we went in one direction, and there are other possible directions. I'd like to see states pursue their own ideas, see which ideas work best...

His answers on the health care law, full of the language of states rights and references to the Constitution was tailor-made for Tea Party activists, which was the point.

Romney is clearly positioning himself to appeal to the activists who will likely play an outsized role in determining who the party's next presidential nominee will be.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.