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Former Senator Rick Santorum on the President’s Iraq policy and his future plans.

Thursday, January 11, 2007
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HH: Joined now by one of our favorite people, Rick Santorum. Senator Santorum, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Great to speak to you.

RS: Ah, it’s great to be with you, Hugh. Thank you for having me on, and thank you again for all your help and support over the years.

HH: Well, that will continue many years into the future. Glad to hear you’ve landed at Ethics And Public Policy Center. That’s a fine think tank in Washington, D.C., Senator. What are you going to be doing there?

RS: I’m going to be focusing on really what I talked about the last year in office. We were really talking about the threat of Islamic facism, and the growing threat now, not just in the Middle East, but with, I call them, allies of convenience, folks like North Korea, Venezuela, and I think increasingly, Russia, in collaborating with these radical Islamists to oppose the United States and our ability to spread freedom and democracy around the world.

HH: You know, Rick Santorum, I spoke with Dennis Kucinich last hour, actually the hour before last, and I asked him if he knew what the Quds force was, and he didn’t. I asked him to name the supreme leader of Iran, and he couldn’t.

RS: Ooh.

HH: Is this level of unawareness common in Washington, D.C?

RS: It’s really scary. I mean, maybe…you know, I don’t know. I was in the minority for four years, and I have to think back, that was twelve years ago. And maybe when you’re in the minority, you just…all you do is you think about getting in the majority. You don’t really pay much attention to actually governing. And it seems to me that there are a lot of Democrats over there who aren’t prepared to govern, and really don’t know what they’re for. They just know they’re against the President of the United States, because it’s a popular thing to be against. But you have a group of people who…you know, maybe Kucinich knows. I mean, he’s a pacifist. He wants to withdraw. And I, in some respects, respect that. But the Democrats, by and large, I don’t believe are prepared to really lead this country, and propose anything that is meaningful in the way of winning this war and keeping America safe. It’s all about what is a very populist thing, which is oppose a very unpopular war, but really don’t provide any solutions.

HH: Now I know that you were friends with a lot of your opposite number across the aisle, and pretty friendly, even, with Ted Kennedy. But when Senator Kennedy gets up and gives a speech like he did yesterday and the day before, calling this Bush’s Vietnam, et cetera…

RS: Yeah.

HH: Does he mean what he says?

RS: Sure he does. You know, look. I mean, Ted is…I’m sure you’ve heard it from other Senators, he’s a nice man. I mean, he’s a hail fellow, well met. He’s great to have a drink with. But the bottom line is, he is very left, and he is someone who believes that we can withdraw from Iraq, you know, build up a security system, a defensive system here at home, and let the world go to hell around us. I just don’t believe that we can afford to do that. And not only that, I don’t think that it will just be the world that will go to hell around us, it will be the rest of us. They will come after us. And the fundamental question that Ted Kennedy can’t answer, I don’t think honestly, is that if we leave them alone, will they leave us alone? The answer is absolutely not. They will come after us faster than we can withdraw from that country. And so we are forced to fight this war over there. I’m hopeful, I’ve been reading a lot, I’ve got a copy of the President’s speech and some briefing materials on it, and I’ve been looking through it, and I can tell you, I mean, there’s some good stuff there. The President has I think recognized that this is a…we’ve had an effort over there that was trying not to lose instead of to win, and he understands that he’s got two years to really win this war. And if he doesn’t make huge progress here in the next year to eighteen months, the election’s going to go poorly, no matter who our nominee is. And that means we are going to end up probably withdrawing from the region. And I think he and I both know, and hopefully and the American public will realize this, that that strategy would be devastating to millions of Americans in the future, to our security and our freedom in the future.

HH: I’m talking with Rick Santorum, recently retired from the United States Senate, now at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, leading the American Enemies Project. Senator, one of your very good friends in the Senate, Sam Brownback, and I just know that from reports and conversations…

RS: He is.

HH: …came out against the troop surge today.

RS: Yeah.

HH: How do you explain that?

RS: I don’t know. Look, I would say that…I was asked about the troop surge before I saw it. Again, I’m just going through, and I just got this information about an hour ago, they did some briefings, and you know, I was undecided on the troop surge myself. My big concern is, does the President understand what he’s got to do tactically to change this? I don’t think it’s number of troops, although more troops certainly, you know, if we change the tactics, would be helpful. I think we have to change two things, tactically. Number one, and if the President mentions this, I’m going to be very curious how much time he spends talking about Syria, and particularly, Iran. As you know, Hugh, I’ve been on the program many times, and you heard me talk in Philadelphia about how we have to confront Iran if we’re going to be successful in Iraq.

HH: Yes, yes.

RS: And there’s all sorts of evidence come out in the last couple of months about Iranian military, dressed in uniform, who are in Iraq, working with the insurgent groups, that Iran is funding not only Shiites, who…Iran is a Shiite theocracy, but not only are they funding Shia hit squads like the Mahdi Army, and Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces, but they’re also funding Sunni insurgents. Why? Because they want to destroy democracy in Iraq. They don’t really care how it happens. In the short term, they have to defeat America, they have to drive America out of the region, and they know if they can cause Iraq to be a failure for America, it gives them the opportunity to spread tremendous influence throughout the Middle East, to gain ground in the Muslim world, and to be the leader of the opposition against the infidels, the Westerners, which is the United States. Really, I was going to say Europe, but really just the United States these days. So this is…the President has to understand that confronting Iran and Syria, not only in Iraq, but confronting them in their country is very, very important. He did that on Monday with economic sanctions against Syria and Iran, which is stepped up. That’s a good thing. But that is very important. The second thing he has to do, he has to change tactics. We just have to get much more aggressive. The only thing that people in this region of the world understand is force and victory. They do not understand negotiation. It is seen as weakness. We have to win, we have to defeat these people, and that means we have to change tactics to be much more aggressive.

HH: Talking with Senator Rick Santorum, now with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Senator, I think that makes sense, and is music to the Republican base. And I think that’s what the candidates who are now running, McCain and Giuliani and Romney are all saying. Sam Brownback is the exception.

RS: He is the exception.

HH: A couple of questions for you. Have you ruled out a run for the presidency?

RS: Yeah, I’m not running in 2008. I hope to have an impact on the debate, and I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling, doing a lot of speaking, and hopefully doing some media. But as you know, Hugh, you were in Pennsylvania. I mean, I went through a race that…and I put my family through two years of…

HH: Pretty brutal, yeah.

RS: It was…I mean, it was a presidential race in the state, if there was such a thing.

HH: Yeah.

RS: And I’ve got six young kids, and it’s time for me to run for father of the year, and that’s what I’m trying to do this year.

HH: Your colleague and friend, Jim DeMint, endorsed Mitt Romney yesterday. Have you got a favorite among these big three yet?

RS: I’m not going to weigh into this battle. I’m still…I’m still trying to get my own life together, and I’ll wait and see how things shake out. I don’t think all the candidates are in yet, and I’m waiting to see how they hold up. I mean, you know, all of these candidates, McCain is somewhat of a tested candidate, but didn’t come out on top when he was. So let’s just take a look and see how these folks wear, and how the events develop here in the next year or so, and maybe a year or so from now, I’ll weigh in. But for now, I’m going to take the sideline and watch what’s going on.

HH: And Rick Santorum’s not getting in?

RS: No, I have no plans to get in, so that’s not in the cards this time around.

HH: Okay, now let me ask you about a different thing. A lot of people would like to see you on the federal bench. Are you open to that kind of appointment, Senator?

RS: Wow, I mean, that would require, that would require Democratic Senators to vote for me. (laughing)

HH: Well, you know, you have a lot of friends on that side. I’m not saying the Supremes, I’m saying…

RS: Yeah, I’m not too sure I want to put my family through that one, either. But you know, I really think I have an opportunity to make a difference out here, and speak into the moment. I’ve got a few other things up my sleeve that I’ll be announcing here in the next few months.

HH: Oh, good.

RS: …that I think will hopefully make a positive impact on our country. And so you know, I look at this as, you know, God’s given me a great opportunity to be outside of government now, and to look at ways to contribute to my family, to my state, and to my country, and I’m going to take advantage of that.

HH: We’ve got a minute left, Senator. I think probably your loss hurt conservatives more than any other loss in 2006. You had the whole country pulling for you. What’s the message about that, about going down after a tough fight, and you’ve usually won these tough fights. What happens to you? What’s it do to you?

RS: Yeah, you know what? I was very blessed, Hugh. I mean, you know, my life in prayer was never better the last two years, and it got stronger and stronger. And my faith got stronger and stronger. You know, you’ve heard so many times that it’s through challenge and suffering that you really grow, and I really felt that, and I know Karen felt the same way. And I consider it a great blessing to have the opportunity I had in the United States Senate, and even though this was a tough campaign and we lost, I look back and it, you know, it was the hardest experience of my life, and you know what, Hugh? It was the best experience of my life. And I think I’m a better person for it, I know I’m stronger in my faith, and I’m closer to the Lord, and boy, any experience that brings you closer to the Lord’s a good thing. And so I feel very blessed, and now He’s given me an opportunity, I hope here in the next few years, to do other good things, and I’m going to try to take advantage of it.

HH: Well, we’ll stay in touch with you, Senator. I hope you want to guest host radio someday, because that would be a treat for the audience.

End of interview.

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