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GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum one last time before Iowa caucuses

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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HH: I begin with presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum. Senator, a Happy New Year to you, I know you’re working hard in Iowa today.

RS: We sure are. We just left Dubuque on our way to Cedar Rapids, and continue to go out here and deliver a strong message of reforming the tax code and cutting taxes, and growing the economy, and taking on and confronting our enemies like Iran around the world, and focusing on promoting faith and freedom and family. The message is resonating out here in Iowa.

HH: Now Senator, you’re making me look pretty smart, because all of a sudden, people have woken up to something I’ve been saying for a long time, which is one of the three tickets out of Iowa is going to have Rick Santorum’s name on it. Yesterday, you picked up the Harris Twins. Tell people why that matters.

RS: Well, I mean, that’s the Huckabee folks. I mean, that’s the Huck army, and these are guys who are just really remarkable, and who have been able to put together an online presence, really, second to none. And having those guys involved and working across the country in building that army in support of us is just a huge, huge asset for us.

HH: If you do in fact come out ahead of expectations and do well as, like, Politico and I have now been saying for a little bit, do you have enough time to capitalize on that before New Hampshire, Rick Santorum?

RS: Oh, I think so. I mean, we have the CNN poll today that has us at 16% in 3rd place, and moving up 11 points in a couple of weeks time. I mean, I think that’s the strong, steady…I mean, we didn’t go up 30 points in two weeks. We’re building it. We’re building it the old-fashioned way. We’re out here earning it, we’re working hard with strong issues and a strong plan, and the experience to back it up. And we just think that we go to New Hampshire after finishing strongly here in Iowa, and we’ll have the wind at our back. And in New Hampshire, they’re looking for someone who can, you know, if you remember, George Bush, George H.W. Bush, won Iowa, and the real conservative came forward and against all odds, and won New Hampshire – Ronald Reagan. And I think people are going to be looking for someone with that clear contrast with Barack Obama, the real conviction conservative. And I think we bring that to the table versus everybody else in the race.

HH: Oh, that’s a pretty interesting narrative, Senator. What you’re saying is as in 1980 when George Bush won Iowa, you’re kind of saying maybe Mitt Romney wins Iowa. Then along comes New Hampshire where Reagan overtakes his surprise finisher in Iowa. That’s an interesting narrative.

RS: Well, I think the folks in New Hampshire are good, strong conservatives, but they want someone, I’m convinced, that is in clear contrast with Obama. And we provide that. I mean, they’re going to go after whoever the Republican nominee is for being out of touch and way to the right and all that kind of stuff. And when they say well you know, you have a strong, you have too conservative a position, I say that’s right, I do have that conservative position, because this is what I believe is in our founders’ vision for the country, this is what works for America, and be unapologetic about it, and go right back at them and say we have a real choice in this election, and I’m going to make it a clear choice.

HH: Now the money bomb that you ran last week was very successful at www.ricksantorum.com. Has momentum…

RS: And thanks in large part to Hugh Hewitt. You guys, I’m serious, we got a ton of people that came through your website, and we’ve got another money bomb we’re going to be working on this week. And we appreciate all the help you gave us the last time around. It was terrific.

HH: Well, I want to know, do you have what you need to compete beyond Iowa? And obviously, people can go to www.ricksantorum.com and help you. But then it starts to get exponentially more expensive.

RS: Well, look, I understand that. And we have, we’re up on TV. We’re up almost as much as anybody else here in Iowa right now. And we feel very good. This late surge for us has also meant a late surge in resources. And Hugh, we have a very lean machine. I mean, we’ve run our campaign like I want to run the government. We don’t spend what we don’t have, and we go out and do this with as few people as necessary to effectively do it. And just like any small business, if you aren’t making enough money, you just work harder. And that’s what I’ve done, and that’s what the team has done. We’ve just worked harder. And we think we can do the same…we have a staff in New Hampshire right now, we’ve had one there. We have a great team of folks who’ve endorsed us in the state legislature. They’re out there working for us right now. We’re feeling very good that as we take off here, and people start to pay more attention as a result of that, our numbers will go in New Hampshire, and we’ll be hitting the airwaves up there right away.

HH: You know, if this becomes a Romney-Santorum race, and an extended one, that means foreign policy will get deservedly a centerpiece, and we will be talking about Egypt.

RS: Yeah.

HH What are your thoughts, let’s go to policy now, Senator Santorum. The Islamists are winning. They’re winning the key Arab nation.

RS: Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. I mean, this is exactly the problem that we got into when we supported those who wanted to throw out Hosni Mubarak, who clearly was a dictator and a tyrant, but he was someone that we could work with, and someone who we should have been, instead of disengaging, as Obama did, should have continued to engage and move in some more political and economic freedom. We chose not to do that. We chose to give the signals to the Muslim world that it was okay for them to step forward and take their position in the Middle East. And Obama did that, and signaled in his speech in Cairo, and he continued to signal and support it, the radicals in the streets. And now we’ve got what President Obama maybe intended all along.

HH: So what…maybe intended all along, do you think he actually intended for a sort of populist Islamist front to emerge?

RS: You know, look, this is a president who doesn’t believe the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist front. This is a president who’s people just, you know, and Dan Lungren, I think it was Lungren, who asked the question, are we at war with Islam? And of course, the answer was no. Islam is not, there’s not problem here. I mean, Islam isn’t a problem. You know, radical Islam isn’t the issue. This is a president who doesn’t see it that way. He sees the world differently. He sees these as people who have been oppressed, who are taking their rightful role. That is the president’s viewpoint. He does not understand what radical Islam is and its threat to the West.

HH: And so what does President Santorum do to recalibrate, to recapture, to somehow realign the Middle East away from the direction…it’s clearly on a disastrous course right now. So what do you do?

RS: Sure. Well, I think you have to start with the source, and that source is Iran. And you’ve got to lay the law down in Iran, and say that Iran is not going to get a nuclear weapon, and do whatever is necessary. I hope by January 20th, that that still is an open question. And if it is, I can guarantee you that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon. We will do whatever is necessary to take out and degrade that capability, if that’s ultimately what’s necessary to do.

HH: Now in terms of the, of course they are Shia and not Sunni, and the Sunni Islamists are triumphing in Egypt.

RS: Right.

HH: How does that situation get turned around?

RS: Well, Shia not Sunni, that’s correct. But as you know, I mean, the Iranians are supporting Hamas.

HH: True.

RS: And with other Sunni organizations, not just Hezbollah. And they are the, if you will, the template that is being used in Egypt is the template that was used in Iran. And so taking our aim at Iran is an important thing to show that we are not going to allow radicals to gain power and to use that power for purposes of spreading their radical jihadist ideology. And I think that’s right now, Egypt is in the position to do so. But we need to send a message to the Islamists of all stripes that this is an unacceptable, will not be accepted as a governmental course for any country.

HH: Rick Santorum, I want to switch now to DOD spending. I know you’re against the sequestration, but I want to speak specifically about the Navy. At the Citadel, Mitt Romney, who will be your principal competitor if this unfolds the way I think, said we’ve got to go from 9 to 15 ships built every single year until we get to a reasonable goal of 232 ships, or 312 ships, excuse me. Are you in agreement with him on the basic need to ramp up our naval forces immediately?

MR: Yes, and this is why I’ve said this is the one area of the budget that I won’t cut. And no one else on the dais that I’m aware of has said that. I have, because I understand the principal role of the federal government is national security. And when you’ve gone from, in 1960, 60% of the federal budget being involved in defense down to 20%, the problem is not defense when it comes to spending in Washington. The problem is the rest of government. And so we need to keep defense as the priority of the federal government. I won’t cut it. In fact, I’ll let it grow at the rate of inflation for wages and salaries, and benefits of our men and women in uniform, and then freeze the rest of it and hope to reallocate resources so we can focus more on things like rebuilding our Navy and frankly, expanding our troop complement. I think particularly in the Army, we have had much too high of an operational tempo, and we’re taking too much of a toll on our troops right now.

HH: Any intent on your part to mess with the retirement or health benefits of career military people?

RS: The answer is prospectively, maybe, but not, and when I say prospectively, for new entrants, that may be something that has to be on the table. But then you’re signing up and you know the deal. But as far as affecting any benefits that have been promised to anybody in the military or retirees, the answer is no.

HH: All right, 30 seconds, again, Rick Santorum, what’s the plan? And www.ricksantorum.com, does $10 dollars matter to you?

RS: $10 dollars, $5 dollars, everything you can, anything you can send. I always say that Hugh, this is the season of giving. You can give no greater gift than freedom for your children.

HH: www.ricksantorum.com. Thank you, Senator, we’ll check in with you next week after Iowa.

End of interview.

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