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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Rick Santorum on the state of the GOP race for president, and calling for the end of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

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HH: Senator Santorum, welcome, it’s great to have you back.

RS: Well, it’s great to be back. Thanks so much for having me on, Hugh.

HH: Yesterday, the GOP Senate filibustered a nominee to the D.C. Circuit. You’re a veteran of these judicial confirmation wars, and they haven’t gotten much attention in the presidential campaign, Senator. And I hope they do in the debates on the 10th and the 15th. Do you think if there’s another vacancy this summer on the Supreme Court, that your former colleagues in the United States Senate ought to refuse to take up that nomination?

RS: Absolutely. I mean, let’s just put it this way. There’d be no way a Republican president in the middle of a campaign would have any opportunity to nominate and confirm. And that would just be completely off the table, and it should be off the table for this president. We’ve…the whole game has changed since about ten years ago. The Senate Democrats decided to really politicize the judiciary by blocking five nominations of President Bush’s. And now they’re getting a little bit of it back. I mean, this is now the second nomination of the President that’s been blocked. They’ve been for legitimate reasons. Obviously, you look at the fact that a vast majority of his nominees have been approved. But when you are so far out of the mainstream that you can get Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to filibuster a nominee, it tells you how bad things are.

HH: Senator Santorum, you’re probably, of all of the nominees, the one with the most experience in judging judicial candidates, even though I’m sure Mitt Romney appointed some, and Rick Perry have appointed many in Texas. Federal judges is something you did for twelve years. Has this issue gotten enough attention in this campaign? And what, how do you prevent yourself from being Soutered if you’re the president of the United States?

RS: Well, you do good work. I mean, you get good people around you, and you do a lot of good homework on these nominees. And it’s not just Supreme Court nominees. You’ve got to do your homework on every level, because a district court judge can cause you a lot of problems, too. And the bottom line is that we need a judiciary that understands it is a co-equal, not a superior, branch of government. We need a president who’s going to make sure that we put Constitutionalists, originalists, on every level of court, and you want to put good people on so you can have them get the experience and then move up the ladder to the appellate court, and then eventually the Supreme Court. So it’s good for a lot of reasons. And I agree that it should be a big issue. It’s one that if you go back and look at my history, I was one of the guys that really started the fight. Republicans, as you know, we rolled over, before I came to the Senate, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer were approved almost unanimously, and Breyer was approved in record time right before a presidential reelection. That should have never happened, and Republicans again didn’t take this responsibility of standing up for our principles when it comes to judges seriously. I changed that when I got into the leadership of the United States Senate. We went to war on judges, on President Bush’s judges that were being blocked. We held all night filibusters against the Democrats, and I believe this is a very important issue for the president, and I’ve got a great track record on it.

HH: Let me ask you then, because almost all the nominees say I want to put originalists on there, and I like Roberts, and I like Alito, and I like Scalia, and I like Thomas. How is a voter, for whom this is an important issue, and I think they are legion, from this show, I know, people care about this stuff a lot more than the Manhattan-Beltway media elites believe. How do they judge which of you would-be nominees know how to do this judiciary thing best?

RS: Well, I would first look at the track record of the governors who appointed judges. And Governor Romney’s track record isn’t very strong. I can tell you that right off the top. Secondly, you need to look at what the candidates are saying beyond the appointment of judges. I’ve been very straightforward in saying that we need to be challenging the Supreme Court when we believe the Supreme Court gets it wrong on a case. And I did it. Again, look at the track record. We had other members, we had members of Congress here, a member of the Senate, and when the Supreme Court said that the ban on partial birth abortion was unconstitutional, as soon as President Bush got elected, I worked with Henry Hyde, and we put together a bill that said you’re wrong, that this is Constitutional. We repassed a bill almost identical to the one they found unconstitutional. We put provisions in that bill saying, explaining why the Court was wrong. We passed it, the President signed it, and we basically shoved it right back at the Supreme Court and said we have a right to say what’s Constitutional, too, and when we think you’re wrong, we’re going to challenge you on it. And that’s exactly what we did, and the Supreme Court flipped, and we won. So challenging the Court when the Court gets it wrong is something a president and a Congress must do in order to do their Constitutional duty. And I know others may talk about that now, but I did it before anybody started talking about it. And secondly, you need someone who is willing to take on the courts directly. I’ve said the 9th Circuit, which you know very, very well out there, is a rogue court. It is an embarrassment. It is a court that just case after case, extends the realm of what a judge should possibly do. And I’ve called for the abolishment of the 9th Circuit, getting rid of all the judges on the 9th Circuit, reconstituting two new circuits out there, one that would be basically the mountain states in the northeast, and then one with California and Hawaii. And those would be two new circuits with new judges, and we can send a very clear message that if you are a circuit that goes rogue and is overturned routinely at the United States Supreme Court, then we can do what the Constitution allows us to do, which is we can create courts, and we can also eliminate courts.

HH: Well, that is, you’d leave us here to stew in our own 9th Circuit judges, huh, Rick Santorum? I’m not sure I like that, but I understand it.

RS: Well no, I’m saying get rid of all the judges, and replace them with all new judges.

HH: Well, that would be an act of judicial oversight not seen since Roosevelt’s court-packing plan, and that didn’t work. That’s interesting, but radical. Let me ask you now about politics. Newt is surging. The CNN polls are out. Is he peaking too soon? Or is he blocking your surge? What’s your sense of on the ground in Iowa, Rick Santorum?

RS: We feel very good about how things are going out in Iowa right now. We’re picking up endorsements right and left. We’re…a lot of folks who were with Herman Cain, we’re getting people who were undecideds, and starting to break our way. I think that we’ve seen these surges in the past, and they usually peak about three or four weeks in, and then things start to drift back down a little bit. And I think Newt has hit his peak. We’ll wait and see whether he can maintain it or not. No one else has been able to do it who has come from nowhere. You know, it’s sort of like zero to sixty, and how long can you keep going at that pace. It’s different than if you’re building that speed or you’re building that over time. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. We’ve been building it a point or two at a time. We’ve been doing that in Iowa, and we feel very good that when the polls, or when the caucuses are formed on January 3rd that we are going to hit our peak just at that right time.

HH: Now Senator Santorum, this is a delicate question. Pete Wehner was just on, and he said opinion about Newt divides into those who believe his conversion is real and those who don’t…his conversion to Catholicism. And I asked how do you judge that? And he said you’ve just got to look and consider actions, past and present, and all that sort of thing. You’re a very devout Catholic. As you look at this, and you look at the old Newt versus the new Newt, with all that Nixonian overhang there, how do you judge that? And what do you tell people?

RS: No, I mean, there is a judge, and it’s not Rick Santorum with respect to that. And all I can do is pray for him, pray for the other candidates, pray that they’re doing what they say they’re going to do, and they’re living their lives the way that we would all like to have people live their lives. So I can’t make that call. All I can do is, as I said before, I said when the Herman Cain situation came up. I do. I pray for every one of my opponents, if you will, or my colleagues running for president, as I do for the president of the United States. It’s a tough job, and it’s a tough battle out there, and we can all use the help.

HH: Let me phrase it this way. Do you think the new Newt is significantly different than the one you served alongside of in the House?

RS: Well, I mean, what I will say is that the Newt Gingrich that I knew when he was Speaker of the House was someone who was full of ideas, full of energy, and was constantly going and trying to solve every problem that was out there. And I think what people like about Newt is that he’s glib and he’s full of energy and he’s got lots of solutions. The question is, does he have the ability to be able to channel that and effectively lead? And that’s where he ran into some problems in the House. And you know, I’m not too sure we can see that in a campaign. I mean, there’s one thing about positing ideas and talking about solutions to problems. It’s another thing about prioritizing those and executing them, and surrounding yourself with people and disciplining yourself to be able to execute that mission. And you know, we’ll wait and see how that turns out in the coming weeks.

HH: www.ricksantorum.com. 30 seconds, Senator, how’s the money? Have you got enough?

RS: Well, www.ricksantorum.com. We’ve actually seen an uptick in the last week. That’s part of the reason we’re feeling very good about things. And Sarah Palin’s comments the other day about us helped us a lot. We’re going to be picking up some other endorsements here this week in Iowa, and we feel that that’ll get us cruising, but we could use the help if people want to sign up and help us.

HH: Rick Santorum, look forward to talking to you again next week. He’s the underdog. There are two frontrunners. There’s really only one plausible upset candidate. It’s Rick Santorum.

End of interview.

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