Cook, David T., The Christian Science Monitor
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared at a Monitor-sponsored lunch Thursday and opened some distance between himself and the Bush administration on the war in Iraq and the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Romney announced last month that he is not running for reelection, a move widely analyzed as a preliminary step toward a bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
"There are plenty of places where I would separate from the administration," Romney told a roomful of reporters, "where I might have chosen another course ... certainly with regard to the war in Iraq or the front in Iraq - were there mistakes made there? Absolutely. Would I have done it differently? Of course. Would the president have done it differently based on what he knows today? Of course, in some measure."
For example, Romney said he would not have rested the whole case for the war in Iraq on finding weapons of mass destruction. He added, " There will certainly be occasions to recognize that no administration is omniscient and that there are places where we will disagree on policy."
Romney was also critical of the process by which the Republican- controlled Congress and President Bush produced a precription drug benefit under Medicare, the so-called Part D of the program. "The final product on Medicare Part D, that final bill was sort of sausage squared, the idea you don't want to see how sausage is made," Romney said.
The issue of Medicare Part D "is a complicated one," Romney said. He noted that President Bush "wanted to bring prescription coverage to seniors. He got that done, that's huge.... It has with it a financial burden which is very large. I don't imagine that that was what he was aiming for when he thought about this during his campaign."
Romney said, "I would have hoped to do it differently, I would have hoped to include within the additional prescription benefits certain reforms to Medicaid, Medicare, and our entire healthcare system to be able to pay for a very helpful prescription drug benefit."
Romney downplayed the impact his Mormon faith would have on evangelical Republican voters. …