WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney on Sunday morning said former President Bill Clinton “embarrassed the nation” with personal indiscretions while in office, even as he said Republicans should not use the affair with Monica Lewinsky to combat a presidential bid by Hillary Clinton.
“He embarrassed the nation,” Romney said in an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “He breached his responsibility, I think, as an adult and as a leader in his relationship, and I think that’s very unfortunate.”
“But I don’t think that’s Hillary Clinton’s to explain,” Romney added. “She has her own record, her own vision on where she would take the country.”
The comments came in response to a question about some Republican leaders who are increasingly using past Clinton scandals as part of a pre-emptive attack on Hillary Clinton, who would be the Democratic front-runner if she decides to run. Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and potential 2016 presidential contender, has called Bill Clinton a “sexual predator” and says Democrats should return money raised by him.
Romney’s appearance — an 11-minute interview conducted while Romney sat in studio in Salt Lake City — was yet another instance of Romney taking on a more public profile in recent months. It was his second appearance in three months on a prominent news-making show that he appeared on only once during the entire 2012 campaign.
Romney’s public relations makeover has fueled chatter that the former Massachusetts governor could mount another presidential bid. The Globe reported on Saturday that supporters and donors are increasingly suggesting that he consider running in 2016.
But Romney has repeatedly downplayed such talk, and said on Sunday that he simply had concerns for the country that he wanted to continue to air.
“I’m not running for president,” Romney said. “I think by and large people who lose a presidential race, well, they step aside. In my case, I have the blessing of having a big family.”
Romney, who ran the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, also reiterated his support for the Olympic Games coming to Boston.
“It’s a great experience,” he said. “Boston would love it if the games came home.”
The Globe reported in November that Romney is advising a group of Boston area business leaders and developers who were quietly exploring the prospect of bringing the 2024 Summer Olympic Games to Boston.
Romney criticized the trend, however, of increased spending by countries when they host the Olympics. Russia reportedly spent $50 billion to host the games in Sochi — a cost that Romney said was “unsavory” given the amount of global poverty. He said the Games should cost less than $3 billion, and he called on the International Olympic Committee to limit spending.
“All that extra money could be used to do some very important things in terms of fighting poverty and fighting disease around the world,” he said. Most of the money now is being used not for the Games, Romney said, but “to show off a country or, I think more cynically, to show off the politicians in a country.”
Romney was also asked about gay marriage, which after becoming legal in Massachusetts has spread around the country through legal and political decisions. Romney did not budge on the issue, sticking largely to his past statements.
“Well, I think marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” he said. “And I think the ideal setting for raising a child is in a setting where there’s a father and a mother.”
“Marriage should be defined in the way it has been defined for several thousand years,” he added. “And if gay couples want to live together, why, that’s fine as well. That’s their right.”
He added that “it’s going to take a long, long time” to determine whether gay marriage has a negative impact on society.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.