WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The following is the full text of the speech delivered on Thursday by former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican nominee for US president Mitt Romney to the Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. I am not here to announce my candidacy for office. I am not going to endorse a candidate today. Instead, I would like to offer my perspective on the nominating process of my party.
In 1964, days before the presidential election which, incidentally, we lost, Ronald Reagan went on national television and challenged America saying that it was a "Time for Choosing." He saw two paths for America, one that embraced conservative principles dedicated to lifting people out of poverty and helping create opportunity for all, and the other, an oppressive government that would lead America down a darker, less free path.
I'm no Ronald Reagan and this is a different moment, but I believe with all my heart and soul that we face another time for choosing, one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for the country.
I say this in part because of my conviction that America is poised to lead the world for another century. Our technology engines, our innovation dynamic, and the ambition and skill of our people will propel our economy and raise our standard of living. America will remain as it is today, the envy of the world.
Warren Buffett was 100 per cent right when he said last week that "the babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history." That doesn't mean we don't have real problems and serious challenges. At home, poverty persists and wages are stagnant. The horrific massacres of Paris and San Bernardino, the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian mullahs, the aggressions of Putin, the growing assertiveness of China and the nuclear tests of North Korea confirm that we live in troubled and dangerous times.
But if we make the right choices, America's future will be even better than our past and better than our present.
On the other hand, if we make improvident choices, the bright horizon I foresee will never materialise. Let me put it plainly, if we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.
Let me explain why.
First, the economy: If Donald Trump's plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into a prolonged recession.
A few examples: His proposed 35 per cent tariff-like penalties would instigate a trade war that would raise prices for consumers, kill export jobs, and lead entrepreneurs and businesses to flee America. His tax plan, in combination with his refusal to reform entitlements and to honestly address spending would balloon the deficit and the national debt.
So, even as Donald Trump has offered very few specific economic plans, what little he has said is enough to know that he would be very bad for American workers and for American families.
But wait, you say, isn't he a huge business success that knows what he's talking about?
No he isn't. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn't create it. And whatever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there's Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.
Now not every policy Donald Trump has floated is bad. He wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He wants to bring jobs home from China and Japan.
But his prescriptions to do these things are flimsy at best. At the last debate, all he could remember about his health-care plan was to remove insurance boundaries between states. Successfully bringing jobs home requires serious policy and reforms that make America the place businesses want to plant and grow. You can't punish business into doing the things you want.
Frankly, the only serious policy proposals that deal with the broad range of national challenges we confront, come today from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. One of these men should be our nominee.
I know that some people want the race to be over. They look at history and say a trend like Mr Trump's isn't going to be stopped.
Perhaps. But the rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign. If the other candidates can find common ground, I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism. Given the current delegate selection process, this means that I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida, for John Kasich in Ohio, and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr Trump in a given state.
Let me turn to national security and the safety of our homes and loved ones. Trump's bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies. Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS. And for what purpose? Muslim terrorists would only have to lie about their religion to enter the country.
What he said on 60 Minutes about Syria and ISIS has to go down as the most ridiculous and dangerous idea of the campaign season: Let ISIS take out Assad, he said, and then we can pick up the remnants. Think about that: Let the most dangerous terror organisation the world has ever known take over a country? This is recklessness in the extreme.
Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart. I'm afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.
I am far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament to be president. After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter's questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.
Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while (he) has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.
There is dark irony in his boasts of his sexual exploits during the Vietnam War while John McCain, whom he has mocked, was imprisoned and tortured.
Dishonesty is Trump's hallmark: He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong, he spoke in favour of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong, he saw no such thing. He imagined it. His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader. His imagination must not be married to real power.
The President of the United States has long been the leader of the free world. The President and yes the nominees of the country's great parties help define America to billions of people. All of them bear the responsibility of being an example for our children and grandchildren.
Think of Donald Trump's personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics. We have long referred to him as "The Donald." He is the only person in America to whom we have added an article before his name. It wasn't because he had attributes we admired.
Now imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Will you welcome that? Haven't we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct? We have, and it always injures our families and our country.
Watch how he responds to my speech today. Will he talk about our policy differences or will he attack me with every imaginable low road insult? This may tell you what you need to know about his temperament, his stability, and his suitability to be president.
Trump relishes any poll that reflects what he thinks of himself. But polls are also saying that he will lose to Hillary Clinton.
On Hillary Clinton's watch at the State Department, America's interests were diminished in every corner of the world. She compromised our national secrets, dissembled to the families of the slain, and jettisoned her most profound beliefs to gain presidential power.
For the last three decades, the Clintons have lived at the intersection of money and politics, trading their political influence to enrich their personal finances. They embody the term "crony capitalism." It disgusts the American people and causes them to lose faith in our political process.
A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president. But a Trump nomination enables her victory. The audio and video of the infamous Tapper-Trump exchange on the Ku Klux Klan will play a hundred thousand times on cable and who knows how many million times on social media.
There are a number of people who claim that Mr Trump is a con man, a fake. There is indeed evidence of that. Mr Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.
We will only really know if he is the real deal or a phony if he releases his tax returns and the tape of his interview with the New York Times. I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns. I predict that he doesn't give much if anything to the disabled and to our veterans. I predict that he told the New York Times that his immigration talk is just that: talk. And I predict that despite his promise to do so, first made over a year ago, he will never ever release his tax returns. Never. Not the returns under audit, not even the returns that are no longer being audited. He has too much to hide. Nor will he authorise the Times to release the tapes. If I'm right, you will have all the proof you need to know that Donald Trump is a phony.
Attacking me as he surely will won't prove him any less of a phony. It's entirely in his hands to prove me wrong. All he has to do is to release his back taxes like he promised he would, and let us hear what he said behind closed doors to the New York Times.
Ronald Reagan used to quote a Scottish philosopher who predicted that democracies and civilisations couldn't last more than about 200 years. John Adams wrote this: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." I believe that America has proven these dire predictions wrong for two reasons.
First, we have been blessed with great presidents, with giants among us. Men of character, integrity and selflessness have led our nation from its very beginning. None were perfect: each surely made mistakes. But in every case, they acted out of the desire to do what was right for America and for freedom.
The second reason is, because we are blessed with a great people, people who at every critical moment of choosing have put the interests of the country above their own.
These two things are related: our presidents time and again have called on us to rise to the occasion. John F. Kennedy asked us to consider what we could do for our country. Lincoln drew upon the better angels of our nature to save the union.
I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channelled that anger, and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose, and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good.
Mr Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.
Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.
His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.
America has greatness ahead. This is a time for choosing. God bless us to choose a nominee who will make that vision a reality.