MANCHESTER, N.H. - What started as a quintessential example of retail glad-handing in the Granite State yesterday turned into a pointed exchange on gay rights for Mitt Romney.
The Republican candidate, seeking support from diners at the Chez Vachon, approached an older man wearing a Vietnam veteran cap and sidled up next to him.
After some friendly banter about their ages, Bob Garon asked the former Massachusetts governor whether he supports repealing New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage law.
Romney said he did, adding, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s my view.’’
Quickly, it became clear this would not be a routine campaign conversation. Garon, a 63-year-old from Epsom, N.H., was sitting at the table with his husband, Bob Lemire.
Garon challenged Romney, saying, “If two men get married, apparently a veteran’s spouse would not be entitled to any burial benefits or medical benefits or anything that the serviceman has devoted his time and effort to his country, and you just don’t support equality in terms of same-sex marriage?’’
Romney reiterated his support for the Defense of Marriage Act, and added, “And we apparently disagree.’’
“It’s good to know how you feel,’’ Garon said. “That you do not believe that everyone is entitled to their constitutional rights.’’
“No, actually, I think at the time the Constitution was written, it was pretty clear that marriage is between a man and a woman,’’ Romney replied. “And I don’t believe the Supreme Court has changed that.’’
With that, a Romney aide interrupted, saying, “Governor, we’ve got to get on with Fox News right now.’’
“Oh,’’ said Garon. “I guess the question was too hot.’’
“No, I gave you the answer,’’ Romney said.
“You did,’’ Garon said. “And I appreciate your answer. And you know, I also learned something and New Hampshire is right. You have to look a man in the eye to get a good answer, and you know what, Governor, good luck.’’
“Thank you, appreciate it,’’ Romney said. “Have a good day to you, sir.’’
“You’re going to need it,’’ Garon replied.
“You are right about that,’’ Romney said as he left the table.
Cruise to Turkey, Greece eye-opening, Gingrich says
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Newt Gingrich, whose luxury cruise to Turkey and Greece in late spring was partially blamed by some former staffers for the turbulent start to his presidential campaign, said yesterday the vacation provided him insight into the emerging European financial crisis.
After Gingrich disappeared from the campaign trail to take a cruise, many of his advisers quit, with some indicating he was not taking the campaign seriously enough.
Speaking to employees of the Internet firm Dyn, Gingrich referred to the controversy surrounding the trip and said, “It was actually a very helpful trip.’’
Gingrich said Greece was in the early stages of its monetary crisis and the trip gave him a chance “to talk to folks in Greece.’’
The former history professor used that to segue into a discussion of the euro crisis, which he said is actually a “cultural crisis,’’ between the different European nations. He said that in Germany, which is the engine of European economic activity, there is a strong focus on work and rules.
Workers in Greece, which places a higher value on quality of life, do not work at the same pace, he said.
Gingrich said a common currency works only in a single place, with a single culture.
“If you have a single common currency, if it’s weak enough for Greece, it guarantees massive inflation in Germany. If it’s strong enough for Germans, it crushes the Greek economy,’’ he said.
Gingrich, Huntsman trade praise at N.H. debate
MANCHESTER, N.H. - It was billed as a debate, but last night’s foreign policy event with Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman had a feeling of detente to it.
The two rivals for the Republican presidential nomination agreed on most issues, and the tone was cordial, a contrast to recent debates characterized by sharp attacks among all candidates.
“Based on Speaker Gingrich’s excellent performance, he’s now definitely, definitely at the top of my short list for consideration for the vice presidency,’’ Huntsman said after the event.
Gingrich opened the debate, sponsored by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, by mentioning that Huntsman had hosted him in Beijing when Huntsman was ambassador, and by praising Huntsman’s credentials.
But the friendly debate did allow for serious policy discussion. Gingrich said he believes regime change is necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Gingrich said he would take serious “economic, political, psychological, and diplomatic steps,’’ such as targeting Iran’s imported gasoline and communicating with dissidents. But unless the country agrees to unilaterally disarm its nuclear weapons system, Gingrich said, “We’re going to replace their regime, ideally non-militarily.’’
Gingrich also warned of devastating consequences to Israel should Iran get a nuclear weapon. Gingrich said if Iran fires three nuclear weapons at Israel, that would be the equivalent of another Holocaust. Gingrich said an Israeli prime minister would be thinking, “Am I going to take the risk of presiding over a second Holocaust, which would mean for all intents and purposes the end of Judaism on the planet?’’
Huntsman did not advocate regime change but said “all options need to be on the table’’ to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
He called a nuclear Iran the “transcendent threat’’ of this decade but said he did not believe sanctions would work, because the Chinese and Russians would not agree.
As he has in the past, Huntsman called for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan and focusing on counterterrorism. Gingrich did not address a troop pullout, instead focusing on the larger question of America’s military involvement in the Middle East. “We don’t have a theory today of what we’re doing,’’ Gingrich said. “We’re randomly using our forces.’’