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Former Senator Rick Santorum sees a lot of problems with John McCain’s credentials

Wednesday, January 9, 2008
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HH: I am joined now, though, by America’s favorite conservative in exile. It’s Rick Santorum. Senator, always a pleasure to talk to you.

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

HH: Now you know, I think pretty much everyone on our side of the aisle believes you know the media just about better than anyone, and you know how they can manipulate a race. They’re trying to force Mitt Romney out. Should the Governor go?

RS: No, absolutely not. I think this race is wide open. I think Mitt Romney still has a very good chance of winning. You know, I think right now, we’re looking at the media trying to make Barack Obama the president, and make John McCain the shill for him. And I don’t see, I think they know that John McCain can’t win this election, and they know…it’s probably the best chance for them to do it.

HH: Rick Santorum, you’re breaking up a little bit there.

RS: Oh, I’m on a land line. It shouldn’t be breaking up.

HH: Why can’t John McCain win this election?

RS: Well, number one, John McCain will not get the base of the Republican Party. I mean, there was a reason John McCain collapsed last year, and it’s because he was the frontrunner, and everybody in the Republican Party got a chance to look at him. And when they looked at him, they wait well, wait a minute, he’s not with us on almost all of the core issues of…on the economic side, he was against the President’s tax cuts, he was bad on immigration. On the environment, he’s absolutely terrible. He buys into the complete left wing environmentalist movement in this country. He is for bigger government on a whole laundry list of issues. He was…I mean, on medical care, I mean, he was for re-importation of drugs. I mean, you can go on down the list. I mean, this is a guy who on a lot of the core economic issues, is not even close to being a moderate, in my opinion. And then on the issue of, on social conservative issues, you point to me one time John McCain every took the floor of the United States Senate to talk about a social conservative issue. It never happened. I mean, this is a guy who says he believes in these things, but I can tell you, inside the room, when we were in these meetings, there was nobody who fought harder not to have these votes before the United States Senate on some of the most important social conservative issues, whether it’s marriage or abortion or the like. He always fought against us to even bring them up, because he was uncomfortable voting for them. So I mean, this is just not a guy I think in the end that washes with the mainstream of the Republican Party.

HH: But we are stuck with this crazy calendar. In Iowa, the Evangelicals came out for Mike Huckabee. Even though Mike is a wonderful guy, he’s not a conservative. In New Hampshire, the independents crossed over and elected John McCain. Now, we’re into Michigan where Democrats can vote in the Republican Party.

RS: Yeah, Democrats and independents can vote for McCain. It’s not very pretty. The process is one that’s stacked against a guy like Mitt Romney in this situation. But look, what’s happening here, you’re looking at Giuliani, who’s basically taking a pass on the first three or four, four or five primaries. And you don’t hear anybody calling for him to get out of the race, and he has basically been a no-show so far in this process. Romney’s going to have the money. McCain’s now going to have the money to compete. Huckabee will have enough money to compete. Giuliani will be competing…this is a four and potentially, if Fred can pull a rabbit out of the hat somewhere between now and Super Tuesday, we could have all five of these candidates viable going into Super Tuesday, which leads me to the conclusion that I think we’re going to probably end up with no nominee until September.

HH: Rick Santorum, I said before the break, and I think the same thing can be said about you in three and four and five exponents. I’ve been working for Republican conservatives since 1974. It was my first race. I don’t know, when did you first go to Congress?

RS: 1976.

HH: All right. I worked for Paul Cronin in Massachusetts, and got blown out. You came back in the year of ’76 when Ford went down.

RS: Right.

HH: And I’m not willing to turn my party over to a nationalist moderate, or a neo-populist out of Arkansas. Do you think that’s a widely shared view?

RS: Look, here’s the problem…

HH: Uh-oh. We lost him. Just when we were going to find out what the problem was.

– – – –

HH: Senator, welcome back. I was just…did you serve alongside Senator McCain for 12 years or longer?

RS: 12 years.

HH: So you know him well.

RS: I do.

HH: When you hear the media talking about him, and of course, he got Iraq right, and we’re all grateful for that, but he wasn’t the only Republican to get it right. Do you believe he’s sincerely changed on the immigration bill to where he understands the message that was delivered last summer?

RS: No.

HH: Why not?

RS: Well, I mean, because John McCain was the leader on the other side of the aisle. John McCain was the guy who was working with Ted Kennedy to drive it down our throats, and lectured us repeatedly about how xenophobic we were, lectured us, us being the Republican conference, about how wrong we were on this, how we were on the wrong side of history, and that you know, this is important for his…because having come from Arizona, knowing the strength of the Hispanic community, that we were going to be seen as racists, and he wasn’t going be part of that, that he was not a racist, and that if we were for tougher borders, it was a racist thing. Look, John McCain looks at things through the eyes, on these kind of domestic policy issues, looks at it through the eyes of the New York Times editorial board, and accepts that predisposition that if you are not, if you stand for conservative principles, there’s some genetic defect.

HH: We’ve got about 30 seconds, Senator Santorum. Have you sensed today the conservative movement waking up to its peril?

RS: I guess my answer is yes, but I also…a lot of folks are throwing up their hands, not sure in what direction to go. That’s the problem.

HH: The direction’s toward Romney, isn’t it?

RS: I don’t know. I mean, I’ve got…I mean, I could have a whole long discussion on Romney and my concerns with him, too. So it’s not an easy call. Thompson and Romney are certainly the two most conservative candidates in the race. But they both have their problems, not as severe as the others, but they both have their problems.

HH: Rick Santorum, always a pleasure. Call us if you get in the race, Senator.

End of interview.

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