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Rick Santorum on Romney, Gaffes, Joe Biden and the President’s Remarks on the Death of Trayvon Martin

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I interview Rick Santorum at the start of the program today. We will cover his latest back-and-forth with Mitt Romney, the vice president weighing in on the Etch-a-Sketch flap, and the president’s remarks on Trayvon Martin. The audio and the transcript will be posted here as soon as they are available:

03-23hhs-santorum.mp3

HH: We begin today with former United States Senator Rick Santorum. Senator, it’s always a pleasure to have you back, www.ricksantorum.com. Welcome.

RS: Thank you, Dr. Hewitt, it’s good to be with you.

HH: Senator, we’re in the middle of one of these gaffe outbreaks. And I want to do this without gotcha journalism. And so I want to ask you first, what did you say yesterday, and was it correctly interpreted?

RS: It was not correctly interpreted, and it’s something I say in various forms in every one of my speeches, which is we have to have a candidate that can draw a clear contrast with Barack Obama, or we’re not going to win the election, and that if we have someone who’s just a little better on some of the issues, but doesn’t on the fundamental issues, of government control of your life, and what they’re doing to destroy this economy by micromanaging it from the top down, that a lot of voters are going to say we have a difference between Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. And that’s not going to win the election. And that’s what I said. And it was outrageously, you know, seized upon by Governor Romney’s campaign as if I was not going to vote for Governor Romney. I start every single speech talking about how this is the most important election in the history of our country, saying that we have to defeat Barack Obama. And I mean, every single speech I say that this, that freedom is at stake of Barack Obama is reelected. The lunacy of, that I would vote for anybody over Barack Obama is just, you know, I’ve been out here humping my tail off for better part, over a year, you know, because I believe Barack Obama has to be defeated, or freedom as we know it is going to be lost. And you know, the Romney campaign knows that, everybody who’s been following this campaign knows it. And you know, when Governor Romney last week said Rick Santorum is an economic lightweight, why would we replace one economic lightweight with another, I didn’t go out and say oh, Mitt Romney’s saying not to vote for Rick Santorum and to vote for Barack Obama. Why? Because I know Mitt Romney. I know he wants to defeat Barack Obama. You know what? Mitt Romney knows Rick Santorum, and he knows the same thing. This is the kind of low, gutter politics that’s really beneath a presidential campaign. Let’s keep it on the issues of what’s important for our country. Let’s keep is focused on who’s going to be the best person to go out there and win this election, and why you’re the best candidate, instead of trying to spin, you know, remarks that are clearly being taken out of context. [# More #]

HH: All right, Senator, this is a question to you, but it could actually go to everyone in the campaign on both sides. If you pick up the Etch-A-Sketch, don’t you lay down the right to complain about spinning remarks?

RS: That is not a spinning remark, Hugh. (laughing) The person was asked whether Governor Romney is moving too much to the right. And he said we’ll reset the campaign after the primary. Now I don’t know how you interpret that any other way than he’s going to change what he talks about and what his positions. And we do that, I do that, Hugh, in the context of him going to Puerto Rico after I went down there, and told the people of Puerto Rico, who are all for statehood in the Republican Party, that I would not support a Puerto Rican state if they did not teach English in the classroom, if they did not have English as the official language of the state, just like I’ve said to every other state in this country, that English should be the official language of our country. I’ve stood by that. I believe it. I believe that that’s the language that unites us. It’s the language of opportunity. And Governor Romney has the same position. At least that’s what he articulated. But when he went down to Puerto Rico, when he was asked the same question as I did, and he said oh no, Puerto Rico can come into the country with only 15% of the people of that island speaking English? That, to me, shows you this is a guy who will say what he needs to say in front of the group he wants to say it in front of to get their votes. And that, to me, is not what’s going to win this election.

HH: Now one of your supporters was on Neil Cavuto earlier today, Foster Friess, good friend of mine, friend of yours. Foster said if Romney’s the nominee, he’ll be 100% behind him, he’s a great guy. Would you say the same thing?

RS: Of course. I’ve said it, I don’t know, maybe 100 times during the course of this campaign that our objective is to beat Barack Obama. I’ll support whoever the Republican nominee is. I was asked during one of the debates whether I’d support Ron Paul. And I said you know, I’d have to take some antacid on the national security stuff, but you know, he’d still be better than Barack Obama on a majority of issues. And I think Governor Romney is just dead wrong on the central issues in this race, but he’s much better than President Obama on national security. I think he’ll be much better on the issues of, on social issues, although I don’t think he’ll be nearly as good as I would be. But he’ll be better than Obama. But on some of the core issues like health care and cap and trade and energy policy, I mean, there’s just, these are key issues in this race. He really does, you know, wipe away the huge advantage the Republican nominee would have by nominating someone who is so weak on those positions.

HH: Now I want to go back to the larger issue of gaffe and gotcha journalism. Here’s the supreme irony, Senator. The gold medalist of gaffes, the all-time world record holder, you know, retire the jersey gaffe artist supreme, Joe Biden, attacked Mitt Romney for Eric Fehrstrom’s Etch-A-Sketch thing today. And the MSM reported it with a straight face. Now you’ve known the Vice President for a lot of years, served with him for 12 years. How in the world does the media report that with a straight face as though there’s one standard for gaffology?

RS: It is one standard. Look, this is an unfortunate part of the media. You know, we went out and have given some really, you know, substantive speeches on a whole variety of different topics. I gave a speech about Ronald Reagan and conservatism, standing in front of his statue in Dixon, Illinois. We had 2,000 people out there in the square. It was an amazing event. And not a peep. They don’t want to talk about substance. They want to spin a narrative, and they want to spin a narrative of divisiveness in the Republican Party, of Republicans being incompetent, of Republicans not being ready for prime time, or the candidate’s not up to what is…this is the narrative that they spin. And what we’ve got to do is go out there, stick to our guns, and believe, as I believe we will, that the American people are smarter than what the mainstream media believes, that they’ll look at Joe Biden criticizing Mitt Romney, and laugh, because they’ll remember the hundred thousand gaffes that Joe Biden has committed, and commits on a daily basis.

HH: Now I could talk about the President’s gaffes as well, Senator, the 57 states, or saying corpsemen, or the wrong medal of honor recipient, all that stuff.

RS: Right.

HH: But I want to go to a very serious issue, something the President said today. He made a lot of remarks about the Treyvon Martin killing, and the tragedy of that. Here’s a portion of what the President said today.

BHO: I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen. And that means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident. But my main message is to the parents of Treyvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’s look like Treyvon.

HH: So Senator Santorum, what’s your reaction to this case, and to the President’s comments today?

RS: This is an unfortunate situation where the President has taken a horrible tragedy, where someone did a heinous act, and that the authorities did not, did another horrible act in not following and prosecuting that to the fullest extent of the law. And then, his, again, politicizing it, this is again not what presidents of the United States do. What the president of the United States should do is try to bring people together, not use these types of horrible and tragic individual cases to try to drive a wedge in America. And this is something that there are horrible acts of people doing outrageous things for a lot of hateful reasons. And to say that it is a societal problem because one person, or even two does a horrible thing is not something that presidents should so quickly run to, or any politician should quickly run to. We need to have a society that can elevate the debate beyond one sick person or somebody else’s response to it.

HH: Senator, you realize that when we post the transcript of those remarks, you will be blasted. You will be taken out of context for what you’ve just said. But you’re aware of that?

RS: Why would I be taken out of context? What I said was that it was a horrible incident, and the President should not try to politicize that incident.

HH: Well, they’ll grab wedge issue, and the headline will be Rick Santorum accuses President of making Treyvon Martin a wedge issue. That’s what’s going to happen.

RS: President Obama basically said that we have, he is the one that broadened the issue beyond the incident. And that is not Rick Santorum doing that. That’s Barack Obama doing that.

HH: Now Senator, 20 years ago next month, two months into my broadcast career, the Los Angeles riots occurred because of a not guilty verdict in a case about which expectations had been shaped by the media. George Zimmerman looks to me to have committed a crime. I can say that. I’m not going to be on his jury. But I also am very worried that what’s going to happen, it’s a very complicated case. I know that, and you know that as lawyers, that this could easily result in other than a conviction for murder or manslaughter. Is it right for the public to have their expectations being shaped by everyone from the President on down that Zimmerman is going to jail for murder? That’s what’s happening.

RS: Well, you know, look. The facts of the case seem to be fairly obvious. And you know, I think, I don’t criticize the President for commenting on the case. I don’t criticize him for calling it for what it was, which is a heinous crime. And I certainly compliment him for reaching out to the family and trying to provide comfort for the family, as my heart goes out to that family. And I can’t imagine that what they’re dealing with. But you know, I think that’s where it has to end, and allow this case to work it out. But no, I think you have to comment on a horrible crime when it’s committed.

HH: Senator Rick Santorum, thank you for joining us. www.ricksantorum.com, America, to get involved in the campaign.

End of interview.

.

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