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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Rick Santorum on the need to increase military capabilities

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HH: Joined now by former United States Senator, Rick Santorum, candidate for president. You can sign up with Rick’s group at www.ricksantorum.com. Senator Santorum, welcome back.

RS: Thanks, Hugh.

HH: A couple of big stories today. I played a little bit of Mitt Romney’s speech at the Citadel, calling for the Navy to expand by an increase of six ships per year. What’s your view on naval power in the United States?

RS: I think that’s actually a pretty decent suggestion. I don’t, I can’t comment on the actual number, but I have been commenting for a long time that our dominance of the sea is at stake because of simply a lack of vessels to be able to adequately patrol and have a presence. And we have to ramp up. I’ve made the argument we have to ramp up our naval fleet, and we have to ramp up our active duty military. I mean, I don’t think there’s any question that we’ve had an operational tempo that’s been very stressful on the Guard and Reserve troops, as well as active duty. And we cannot continue at this pace for much longer.

HH: And Senator, today, I’m not going to ask you the gotcha question that’s making the rounds today, about whether or not people think Mormonism is a cult. I wrote about that at length, and Archbishop Chaput wrote about it, or talked to me about it at length. It’s in my book. But I’m curious, because you are a devout Roman Catholic, and understood to be that. What do you make of this discussion of faith as it’s unfolding in this year’s presidential debate?

RS: Well, you know, I’ve gotten a lot of questions in the debates that said you’re, as a Catholic, as if that somehow is fair game to go out there and point that out. From my perspective, the role of faith in public life is an important issue, and one that I actually like to talk about, because I think we’ve seen the popular media drive faith from the public square illegitimately. And I believe it has an absolute place in the public square. The separation of church and state does not exist in the Constitution. And the whole wall of separation concept from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists was about keeping the state from getting involved in religion, not the other way around. People of faith were supposed to be active, and Madison called it the perfect remedy for people of faith and no faith to be out there explaining their, whether it’s faith or through reason, the public policy that they think is best for this country. And we should not be ashamed to have that discussion, and have people of faith making their claims in the public square as to what’s best for our country.

HH: Now what about the quizzing of candidates about what is and is not doctrinally sound, and what they think of other candidates’ faith tradition?

RS: From my perspective, this is all part of the gotcha media’s lack of understanding of faith in America, and so they, the fact that they focus on it, particularly among Republicans, is to show that somehow or other, we’re out of the mainstream, at least from their circle of friends. I believe that, I think you know the Constitution. The Constitution says there is no religious test. And there should be none. You should look at the person’s values, you should look at their career, you should look at what they’ve done, and the positions they take, and how they live their lives. And that’s enough.

HH: Now Senator, I said earlier this week that I think the current lay of the land with Governor Christie withdrawing, and Governor Palin deciding not to run, it leaves a door open to you specifically in Iowa. Iowa moved its caucuses to January 3rd. Does that help you or hinder you? And what do you make of the process question at this point, your ability to be, as Charles Krauthammer says, the guy who can make the last surge?

RS: Yeah, that’s sort of the way we look at it, that as people get closer to the election, whatever date that is, we think we stack up very, very well as a serious candidate, with serious proposals, the kind of experience in national security that people, I think, are going to start to look for, for a president. We’ve been through a trial run with a president who had no national security experience. We don’t need to go down that road again at a dangerous time in our country’s history. And I’m hopeful that the last surge will be the candidate that has substance, that has a proven track record of getting things done in Washington, and someone who can win tough elections in a swing state that if we win, the Republican nominee is going to be the president.

HH: Is Christmas going to be for the Santorum family in Des Moines?

RS: (laughing) I hate to say probably a good chunk of Christmas, and maybe Christmas Day itself. But that’s what it looks like at this point.

HH: What do you want the good burs of New Hampshire to do vis-à-vis their primary schedule at this point?

RS: Well, I’m hopeful that they keep to their tradition, which their tradition is not to really pay attention to what Iowa does, but just pay attention to what anybody else trying to get ahead of them. And if that’s the case, they can come in a couple of days after Iowa on Thursday or Friday, or something like that, and still keep their tradition of having a primary sufficiently in advance of the one after them.

HH: 30 seconds, Senator Santorum. How’s the money at www.ricksantorum.com, the small donor pool?

RS: Well, it’s actually ramped up substantially. The last two and a half weeks of the quarter, we raised more money than we did the first two and a half months. So we’re still very much in a grassroots campaign, but we’ve seen the last two debates have been very good for us in giving us a little airtime, and letting people know that there is a difference, and that we can fill that gap of being the consistent conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

HH: Rick Santorum, thank you for being here.

End of interview.

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