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Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum Hints At Future Plans

Thursday, February 3, 2011

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HH: I begin with an old, old friend, former United States Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. Senator, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

RS: It’s been a long time, Hugh. It’s great to be with you again.

HH: It’s great to talk to you. Are you running for president?

RS: I’m seriously out there in the waters testing. I’m…the water is feeling warmer.

HH: And when are you going to decide this?

RS: Well, I mean really, the date that’s key for me is the Iowa straw poll, which has been set for August 13th. And so I sort of have to make a decision that if we’re going to do this, then we’re going to have enough time to really organize something and have a strong showing there. So my guess is no later than May/June, sometime before that.

HH: Now NBC and Politico have both demanded that would-be Republican presidential candidates show up at the Reagan library on May 2nd, leveraging the legacy of the great Gipper against their very leftwing bias in the case of NBC, and their center-left bias in the case of Politico. Do you think that Republicans ought to be summoned that way, Rick Santorum? And are you going to go?

RS: Well, I haven’t made a decision what to do on that front. I mean, I have agreed to go to some things, and do some debates. There’s a forum in Iowa that I’m going to next month. And there’s something going on in South Carolina that I think it’s some sort of debate in May that we’ve, that we’re sort of zeroing in on. But as far as the thing out in California, I haven’t made a decision on that one yet.

HH: What do you think, Rick? You run a conservative talk show when Bennett’s not around. You fill in for him, and you’re wonderful at it.

RS: Well, thank you.

HH: And you know how we know the issues better than Brian Williams or John Harris, or the guys from the mainstream media. They don’t ask the questions that conservatives and Republicans want to have asked. They often have agendas. Why would we let them run our debates?

RS: Well, I think it’s a very good question. And I think what you’re seeing, particularly early on in this whole presidential, early on in this process, is you’re seeing a lot of folks saying you know, we’re not going to participate in some of these dog and pony shows, because it’s not an audience that necessarily we want to talk to. And I can tell you that I’ve had some requests for interviews from some folks, and I don’t feel any need to go out and go to hostile territory, and folks who all they want to do is find a place or two to hammer you, and get you to say something that’s going to cause a story. And I think the gotcha media has in a sense got themselves in a position where they’re becoming more and more irrelevant to the process.

HH: It’s clear that’s NBC. I’m wondering, do you think Politico’s lurched to the left as well?

RS: You know, I would say no. I mean, I haven’t seen that in the coverage that’s been afforded me at this point. I mean, I think they’ve been by and large relatively fair to me, so I won’t put them anywhere near in the same boat as obviously MSNBC, and unfortunately, because of that relationship, NBC.

HH: Okay, well I do believe it’s there, but I do want to give people a chance to say no, Politico is still objective if they believe that. My friends at Politico think I’m being unfair to them. But I just call it like I see it. Let me ask you, Rick Santorum, about a key issue. Yesterday, or earlier this week on Laura Ingraham’s show, our friend Laura, Mitch Daniels…

RS: Yeah.

HH: …whom you worked with and I worked with, although I didn’t know him well, you might have worked very closely with him. I was just a briefcase carrier in the Reagan years. He came out and said again we’ve got to hit the mute button on social issues in this campaign. And he’s done it before. And I really respect the governor of Indiana. What do you think about that?

RS: I think he is as far off base…I don’t think he understands what conservatism is all about. I don’t think he understands that Reagan’s three-legged stool is not just that we have three legs of the stool, the social conservative, the fiscal conservative and national security conservatives, but that the material made of all three parts of the stool is the same. And it’s a moral and cultural heritage of this country, is what that stool, the material itself that the stool is made of. And if we deny that, if we don’t understand that those issues are intertwined, and that without a strong and good and moral culture, we can’t have limited government, you can’t have lower taxes, you can’t, you don’t have the freedoms that we enjoy unless we have a moral code by which can all agree to live by. And for him to say that those issues need to be put in the background, I just, I’m stunned by it. The fact that he’s repeated it and other candidates who are thinking about, other potential candidates are saying the same thing means they’re listening to the folks who raise the money in the Republican Party. I’m just going to be straight out about it. When you go to the big cities, where the big money is, the Republican donors say shut up about those issues, or we’re not going to help you. And I don’t know if you saw George Will’s piece today, but it’s pretty clear I’m not shutting up about those issues. I think they’re important issues. Obviously, the economic issues are front and center. But you have to talk about the economic issues even in the cultural and moral context.

HH: It’s like telling Lincoln not to talk about slavery.

RS: Yeah, well…

HH: And it’s remarkable.

RS: No, it is, and it really does come from, there’s an element of the party, and unfortunately, I keep coming back, it comes back to where most of the money is in the Republican Party, are folks who live in the big cities, and are more socially liberal. And they just don’t want, they don’t want the campaign to be about something that they don’t want to be able to talk to their friends at the club about.

HH: Now I want to be very fair to Governor Daniels, because I admire him so much. What he said is that the debt crisis is a “republic-threatening issue that threatens every one of us. Whatever our views on all these other issues or questions are, I would like to think that fixing it and saving our kids’ future could be a unifying moment in our country. The crisis,” Daniels added, “wouldn’t stop our disagreements or passionate beliefs. Maybe,” he said, “we could just sort of mute them for a little while, while we try to come together on a thing that menaces us all.”

RS: Well, I would argue that what menaces us all is a society that is falling apart. The reason government has gotten so big and we’re spending so much money is because the family is breaking down, because fathers aren’t involved in taking care of their children. I mean, look, people have been not responsible in the way they borrow money, and doing a ‘just do it’ type of thing, and greed. All of these things are a cultural and moral breakdown of the country. And to suggest that we can fix it just by doing some, putting your green eyeshade on and cutting some programs is misunderstanding the basis of the problem in America.

HH: Now Rick Santorum, a lot of people who know you and listen to my show know you’re running, ask me why doesn’t Rick Santorum go for a rematch with Bob Casey? He’ll clobber him this time. He only lost in ’06 because of the unique circumstances. We need him back in the Senate, he’s a national voice for consistent, compassionate conservatism. So I’ll ask you the question. Why not?

RS: Well, because I believe that the bigger problem is in the White House right now, and I served twelve years in the Senate. It was a great experience. And you know, my feeling is that I feel like I’m called to do something else. I mean, I’m going through this process. I’m trying to truly discern what God wants me to do. And I’ve prayed a lot about it, talked to my family a lot about it, and I just don’t feel any, any, any kind of sense that I should go back to Pennsylvania and do this. I feel like this is, you know, if I’m going to do anything, that taking on and removing Barack Obama from office is the highest priority and best use for my time.

HH: Now I want to ask you, Rick, kind of an out of left field question. A lot of people say the Republicans cannot win Latino votes because of the border issue, because of ethnic profiling, because of antagonism. But most of those Latino votes are also Catholic votes…

RS: Yeah.

HH: …and often very devout Catholic votes. You’re a very devout Catholic guy. Do you think you can appeal not just to the old line ethnic Catholics of the upper Midwest that you and I know so well, but also to Latino Catholics on the basis of shared values?

RS: Well, I certainly hope so, and it certainly would be my intent to do so. I’m also the son of an immigrant. I mean, my father came to this country not speaking a word of English.

HH: I didn’t know that. Where’d he come from?

RS: Yeah, he came from Italy.

HH: Santorum is Italian?

RS: It sure is.

HH: I didn’t know that.

RS: Yeah, and it hasn’t been changed. It’s Santorum in Italy, too. And you know, he came to this country and he didn’t speak English. And my father, from the very beginning when I was a little kid, told me that one of the greatest gifts he was ever given is when he came to this country, he was forced to learn the English language. And that was what helped him. And I always, my grandmother, when she came to this country when she was older, and she never learned to speak English, and when I was a kid, I’d say you know, Dad, why don’t you teach me how to speak Italian so I can speak to my grandmother and communicate better with her. And he said because you’re an American, and he said because you need to learn English better. You don’t need to learn Italian. He said to be successful in this country, you’ve got to be, you’ve got to do what is necessary to achieve, economically and socially. And the English language is the key to that. So I came from the idea that we’re doing people a favor in this country by teaching them this language, and teaching them this culture. America is a successful culture. It is a melting pot. It brings people who have this shared value that from the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal and endowed by our Creator with rights. This idea that free people, and limited government, that this government is there to protect the rights of the people, and the people can pursue their dreams, not just financial dreams. It drove me crazy at the State of the Union to hear Barack Obama just talk about America, and what America’s all about is making money. It’s not about making money. It’s about pursuing God’s will in your life. It’s pursuing truth. It’s doing what’s right for your family. It’s doing good, it’s doing virtue. That’s what America is all about. That’s why my grandfather came here. He didn’t want to be oppressed and be told what’s right and what’s wrong. He wanted to pursue what he and his inner self and his God asked him to do. And that’s the greatness of America. And I know Hispanics feel the same way.

HH: Rick, we’re out of time. We’ll come back and talk again. www.ricksantorum.com, America. He’s running. You can tell it.

End of interview.

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