Mitt Romney was asked at his May 17 Florida fundraiser — the subject of a now-ubiquitous leaked video — how he could "duplicate" the 1980 hostage crisis scenario, credited with defeating Jimmy Carter.
In response, the presidential candidate said: "I mean, if something of that nature presents itself I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity."
Last week, the Romney campaign was accused of exploiting the crisis at the U.S. embassy in Cairo and the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans — and this little-noticed section of the bombshell video has already drawn attention in that connection.
A partial transcript of the remarks below.
Questioner: When Carter was president, we had hostages. Ronald Reagan was able to make a statement even before he became, he was actually sworn in, and the hostages were released…
Mitt Romney: On the day of his inauguration.
Questioner: Right. So my question is really how can you sort of duplicate that scenario?
Romney: I could ask you, I could ask you how you do I duplicate that scenario?
Questioner: I think it had to do with the fact that the Iranians perceived Reagan… That’s why I’m suggesting that something that you say over the next few months gets the Iranians to understand that their pursuit of the bomb is something that you would prevent. And I think that’s something that could possibly resonate very well with the American public.
Romney: I appreciate the idea. One of the things that’s frustrating to me is that in a typical day like this, when I do three or four events like this, the number of foreign policy questions I get are between zero and one. And the American people are not concentrated at all on China, on Russia, Iran, Iraq. This President’s failure to put in place a status of forces agreement allowing ten to twenty thousand troops to stay in Iraq- unthinkable! And yet, in that election, in the Jimmy Carter election, the fact that we had hostages in Iran, I mean, that was all we talked about. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, I mean, that was the focus, and so him solving that made all the difference in the world. I’m afraid today that if you simply got Iran to agree to stand down on nuclear weapons, they’d go, “Now hold on. It’s really a-” I mean, if something of that nature presents itself I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.
UPDATE: A campaign aide emails: "Governor Romney was talking about taking advantage of an opportunity to get Iran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon as he referenced earlier in the sentence."