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Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum reacts to Newt Gingrich’s slam of Paul Ryan

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
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HH: Joined now by former United States Senator Rick Santorum, a candidate for the presidency. Senator Santorum, always a pleasure, welcome back.

RS: Thank you, Hugh, it’s great to be with you again.

HH: Gotta start by saying you must have been happy when Mike Huckabee took a bow off of the stage, because that makes your candidacy much more comfortable in Iowa, doesn’t it?

RS: Well, look, I mean, one of the things I said from the very beginning, I wasn’t going to pay any attention to what everybody else was doing. I was just going to focus on trying to get a message out that I think is important for the country, and try and deliver it as passionately, and with conviction, and we’ll sort of see how the chips fall. And you know, good things have happened, bad things have happened, and we’ve just got to keep plugging away.

HH: Now but in terms of that values voter, as well as the foreign policy conservative, who else is competing with you for those people?

RS: Well, certainly, there are a lot of people out there saying we don’t need to be talking about those issues, and certainly there are folks out there saying that, you know, that they aren’t important. And I’m one who is fighting that battle on the other side. I believe that the Ronald Reagan three-legged stool applies, that these are all important issues, they are all interrelated. If I had a problem with Reagan’s analogy, it’s that it’s not really a three-legged stool, it’s really an integrated, one sort of singular foundation with three components. And they do fit together in a cohesive way. And you can’t have a limited government without strong families and respect for life, and respect for each other. And those are sort of natural things that work together in the conservative vision of the world. And we’re going to go out and talk about those things. And I think you’re right. There aren’t very many in this field that, that is looking at it, that feels comfortable talking about it, and I do.

HH: Were you surprised by Governor Huckabee’s decision? After all, you win Iowa, there’s a temptation to just go back again.

RS: Yeah, look, I think Governor Huckabee is doing a lot of good stuff out there right now. I mean, he has a morning little radio show that I listen to, that little snippet that he gives, sort of the Paul Harvey moment with his wonderful, little way of influencing the culture. And his show, he’s on Fox. I mean, he seems like very much of a natural. He seems to be enjoying his life, and you know, I suspect when you’ve done it once, and he certainly did four years ago, and went through it. And going up and getting on that fight again is probably not a very easy thing to do after you’ve been beaten up pretty hard on it.

HH: Well now, another announcement today from Donald Trump, announcing that nah, he’s not going to run.

RS: Hey, surprise, surprise.

HH: I never took this seriously to begin with.

RS: Yeah, what a…I don’t know, I just…you get the sense you’ve been taken for a ride. Nice ride. I mean, you know, it probably has Trump embossed on the car, but still, that’s really how you feel about all of this.

HH: Okay, so now that we’ve got clarity, I guess that really just leaves Mitch Daniels to decide, and maybe, I think Jon Huntsman is going to be a candidate on stage with you. Do you agree with that?

RS: He’s certainly showing every indication he’s going to be a candidate.

HH: Okay, so that’s a field of seven serious candidates – you and Bachmann, Huntsman, Pawlenty, Romney and Newt Gingrich. Those debates will be very interesting and serious ones. How many are you going to do, Rick Santorum, and how many do you want the RNC to run of those?

RS: My feeling is the more, the merrier. The more you have an opportunity to get out there in front of different groups of folks and talk about issues, and get a back and forth…I think that was one of the things I was somewhat disappointed of the debate in South Carolina, is there was really no back and forth. And I think it’s important that you have a dialogue between the candidates, you get a chance to really dig a little deeper and examine each other, and see how people react. I mean, those are all, when you’re running for president, it’s not just about the issues you hold. It’s about the character that you have, and the ability to be able to deal with difficult situations. And that’s one of the things that was missing in the Fox debate. And hopefully, as this field settles out, and I make a decision here in the next few weeks, we’ll have lots of opportunities to have discussions like that.

HH: Got a minute to the break and then we’ll come back and do other issues. But I do, I talked to Newt Gingrich earlier today about his Medicare fiasco underway here. What was your reaction to his Meet The Press appearance?

RS: I was a little stunned that Newt would say that. I mean, I actually, a couple of Sundays ago, said the opposite, that I respected Paul Ryan tremendously. My argument is he didn’t go far enough. But I mean, it was a great first step, and I’m certainly not going to be critical of it, and in particularly, in the environment he’s in with a president who doesn’t want to go anywhere. For him to put forward a bold plan like that, which is to be commended, period, end of discussion. And what I was saying is that if we had an election in 2012, we had a Republican president, we could go farther than that, and really do something now, and not wait for ten years to do some things on entitlements, but start to do not big things, but little things now that have a long term, but a big impact.

HH: In terms of the Ryan plan, do you expect any part of it will make it out of this Congress?

RS: I suspect not. I mean, you have a president who’s in denial. He doesn’t want to do anything with respect…the only thing he wants to cut is defense. I mean, it’s just…here you have the most important function of the federal government is defense, and that’s the only thing he’s willing to cut. So no, I think this president has clearly decided that it’s political season, and in political season, you don’t do anything but play politics, and set up straw men to knock them down. And that’s what he’s going.

– — – –

HH: Senator Santorum, in terms of a number of the issues that have come up recently, let me run down some of them. What do you make of the Obama administration’s attack on Boeing for attempting to open a new plant in South Carolina?

RS: It’s political season again. I mean, here’s a president who got elected because of huge support by organized labor. And unions are, public and private sector unions, are a big part of the Democratic base, and they are going to do everything they can to enrich the unions, so they can turn around and enrich the coffers of Democrats running for president. And this is a classic, political example. And it is, you want to talk about chilling from the standpoint of getting people to invest in America and to create jobs in America, and to produce goods in America, this president sent a no help wanted here, I mean, do not employ anybody in this country. That’s the message he’s sending, and that’s the reason you’re seeing the unemployment rate going up. And it’s going to continue to go up as long as these policies continue.

HH: In Israel yesterday on three different borders, Palestinians attempted to rush the border and break through. Many people think this is Syrian orchestrated in one instance to divert attention. What ought the response of the United States be before these things become endemic and repetitive?

RS: Well, one of the problems we have is we have a president who is not a supporter of Israel. I mean, they’ve basically created a moral equivalence of building a house in East Jerusalem to throwing, to lobbing Scud missiles at, in neighborhoods in Israel. There is no moral equivalence, but in the idea of this administration, it’s actually worse to build a house than it is for Hamas to attack the Israelis. And I think that what you’re seeing is a group of folks who are emboldened by the fact that the United States has been less supportive of Israel, and so they’re pushing. They’re prodding. That’s what enemies of the United States are doing all over the world. It’s in Central and South America, to the Middle East, to the Far East. You’re seeing folks who are taking liberties, because they believe that this president doesn’t have what it takes, on a strategic level, to deal with all of these problems popping up around the world.

HH: Now Rick Santorum, the President got a bump, a justifiable bump, for the killing of bin Laden. Does that in any way impact your assessment of how he’s going in Egypt, Libya and Syria?

RS: Well, no, it doesn’t, because Egypt, Libya and Syria are all contingencies that occurred on his watch, where he had to develop policies, strategic policy, to respond to the problem that has been confronted. And he’s done a horrible job. I mean, absolutely missed, and throw on top of that Iran, he’s done a horrible job in protecting America’s interests, and reassuring our allies, and at the same time, making sure our enemies know that we are to be feared and respected. What he did with Osama bin Laden was very simple. What he did was execute a tactical maneuver to, and by the way, that was recommended by everybody. I mean, it’s not like he was going against any recommendations. He was going with every recommendation that was made to him to carry out a military tactic consistent with George Bush’s policies. So this is, you know, I give him, yeah, he said yes. But he said yes on a tactical level to something that had already been strategically put in place ten years before he even came into office. So no, I think when it comes to protecting the United States, and putting together a strategic plan that does so, the President is a failure, and continues to fail.

HH: Now did the bin Laden killing cause you to hope that the enhanced interrogation debate returns center stage about whether or not, and when such techniques ought to be used?

RS: Well, not only that, but the first thing that should happen, Hugh, was that the President of the United States should have stepped forward and said we are going to stop this, well, potential prosecution of those within the intelligence community who were involved in the enhanced interrogation program. That should have been step one, going to Eric Holder and saying enough is enough, we’re not doing this anymore. We need to give these guys medals, not prosecute them. Number two, he should have stepped forward and said look, I was wrong, the enhanced interrogation program did work, it did produce my greatest foreign policy success. And I’m going to admit when I was wrong, and we’re going to look at how we’re going to redeploy this under obviously different rules and regulations, since of course the Obama administration told the enemy what we were doing in the previous enhanced interrogation programs.

HH: Now your former colleague, John McCain, said look, there’s no record, there’s no evidence here that these methods actually led to the capture or the killing of bin Laden. Do you disagree with that? Or do you think he’s got an argument?

RS: I don’t, everything I’ve read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that’s how we ended up with bin Laden. That seems to be clear from all the information I read. Maybe McCain has better information than I do, but from what I’ve seen, it seems pretty clear that but for these cooperative witnesses who were cooperative as a result of enhanced interrogations, we would not have gotten bin Laden.

HH: Rick Santorum, let’s go back to domestic politics now. www.ricksantorum.com is your blog. How is fundraising going?

RS: Well, it always can be better, Hugh. www.ricksantorum.com is the place to go. Certainly, it will take every nickel, dime, quarter, dollar, et cetera. We’re going to be a grassroots effort. We’re not the popular candidate here in Washington, D.C., and we’re not the pundits’ choice. We’re going to go out there like the tortoise, and continue to work hard by working in these early states, and getting money from small dollar donations. As I say, we’re not the favored class of Wall Street and New York and Chicago, or in Los Angeles. We’re, as you know, from the time I was in Congress, I mean, I was able to be successful in my political career because of a lot of grassroots support, and a lot of folks who care about all of the conservative issues who contribute those $5, $10, $10, $30 dollars, and that’s where we’re going to do it again this time.

HH: I was in Texas on Saturday night doing an interview in front of 800 of his closest friends, with former President Bush. He was off the record, but he did mount a very vigorous defense of his stem cell policy. Is that going to be an issue for you, Rick Santorum? Is that something you look forward to talking to about, out on the road?

RS: Well, actually, as you know, I actually disagree with the President’s stem cell policy, because I thought it went too far. I mean, I believe that we should not be using any of the embryonic stem cells for federal funding for research. If people want to use private sector dollars, that’s their own business. But to be in any way complicit with the harvesting of embryonic stem cells for purposes of research, I think, is wrong. I get, look, the President, I didn’t criticize the President because it was a tough call, and he threaded a needle, and he certainly stopped more harm from being done, so I give him credit for that. I think there was a chance that had he not done what he’d done, they could have passed something that would have even been worse than his policy. So I give him credit for doing what he did. And again, I’m not being critical of President Bush on this. But I’m saying that I spent…we need to have principled politicians who stand up and say look, that the future of medicine is in adult stem cell research. It’s not in embryonic stem cell research. And destroying human life for the purposes of saving human life is not something that we should get into morally and ethically.

HH: Rick Santorum, always a pleasure, www.ricksantorum.com.

End of interview.

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