Mitt Romney Speaks At Duke: ‘If I Had A Mulligan’

A Conversation with Mitt Romney

April 10, 2015 | By Alex Pfadt


Mitt Romney recently spoke at Duke University in a talk sponsored by the Ambassador Dave and Kay Phillips Family International Lecture hosted by the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. Romney was most recently the Republican candidate for president of the United States. Before that, he served as governor of Massachusetts and president/CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Romney has had a distinguished career in business as well.

The evening began on an unusual note. Romney has agreed to fight former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield in May in Salt Lake City. It’s for charity, but still. Real gloves and real fists.

Moderator Peter Feaver, professor of poitical science and public policy, then asked Romney about the 2012 presidential campaign.

“If you get a chance to run for president, do it. It’s a great experience; you’ll love it,” Romney joked. Romney said he learned a lot about the country during the election; before each campaign event he met privately with four or five couples.

“I came away having more confidence in America, and more optimism about our future,” he said.

Romney even brought along a surprise guest: Jenny Craig. (Yes, that Jenny Craig.)

Feaver then asked Romney an interesting question: “If you could do a mulligan, if you could have a do-over and re-run the campaign” what would you do differently? Here’s what he said:

Most of the conversation was about foreign policy. Feaver brought up the 2012 raid on the American Diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Feaver noted that campaign politics erupted in response to the event.

“That’s one that still echoes today,” Romney said. “Secretary Clinton is still being asked questions about that.”

“What happened … in the interplay of that event and the campaign dynamics?” asked Feaver.

“Benghazi was an enormous issue, particularly among conservative voters,” Romney said. “And when I would speak with Republican crowds, Benghazi was extraordinarily important to them. There was a feeling that somehow Secretary Clinton had not just made a mistake, but maybe there was something more sinister than that. I didn’t happen to agree that there had been a sinister purpose on her part. But of course she acknowledged that she was the person in charge, and she didn’t get the job done and she made a terrible mistake.”

The conversation roamed around the world, touching on Russia, Iraq, Iran and a number of other countries.

Romney was quite critical of President Obama during the foreign policy portion of the discussion. The News & Observer reported this:

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney voiced strong criticism of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record on Wednesday during an appearance at Duke University.

Romney took questions from a professor and students during an event at the Fuqua School of Business. He said he disagrees with how Obama has handled Russia, Syria and the Iran nuclear negotiations.

“I think the president’s foreign policy has been disastrous for America and for the world,” Romney said.

Moderator Feaver asked Romney what Obama’s greatest foreign policy success has been, other than the death of Osama bin Laden. After saying (amidst laughter), “You’re going to have to give me some examples,” Romney did come up with something:

For the 2016 campaign, Romney said Hillary Clinton is the obvious Democratic candidate, as she had been in 2008, when Obama “caught lightning in a jar” and won the nomination. The Republican field “has lots of good people, maybe as many as 15.”

Feaver also asked “Is there a Republican candidate you would not support?”