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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Senator Rick Santorum On His 2016 Campaign

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Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum joined me to open today’s program and discuss his announcement this week:

Audio:

05-29hhs-santorum

Transcript:

HH: This hour, my old friend, Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania, he is back in the fray. He put his hat back in the ring this week. Senator Santorum, welcome back, it’s great to have you, and congratulations. How’s the reaction been to your announcement?

RS: It’s been great. It’s been really wonderful. The announcement, almost in Ohio, close to that Ohio line in Eastern Ohio, but we did it in Western Pennsylvania in a factory that’s not unlike a lot of them in Ohio where we focused our message on folks who really are being left behind by both political parties, who don’t see really the chance for hope and opportunity to rise in America again. And we make this campaign very squarely, clearly about those workers, and we’ve got great responsibility.

HH: now I am curious about Iowa, because you won Iowa four years ago. Many people inside the Beltway are treating your campaign derisively, even though you won Iowa four years ago. And typically, that means you do well the next time in Iowa history. Why is the Beltway so dismissive of Rick Santorum?

RS: I don’t know. I mean, why don’t you ask the media, Hugh. I’m sure, you have your share of pundits on this show. Why don’t you ask them? I don’t know. I would say they were dismissive four years ago. I wasn’t featured in any of the early primaries. In fact, the early primary polls four years ago, my name wasn’t even on the list until, most of the time, until the fall. So I just, I can’t worry about that. I have a very strong message about how to get this country going again economically. We’re going to be proposing it in a couple of weeks. We’re working on the final details with our economists, a very simple fair flat tax that’s going to be very pro-growth but can also really stimulate the manufacturing sector of this economy in particular, and create all sorts of opportunities. You know, I’ve taken a very strong position to be pro-worker on everything from, as you know, immigration, the minimum wage. This is a campaign that’s really going to aim at the heart of America and where the problems are in our economy.

HH: And I have to do full disclosure for the audience. I have been on the road with Rick Santorum. I was back at the Reagan Library last night, in fact, Senator, with former Deputy Director of the CIA…

RS: Oh, one of the neatest things I have is that jacket we got from the Reagan Library. I wear it even when it’s hot outside. I actually do wear that jacket.

HH: That was, you had a huge audience there. They loved Blue Collar Conservatives, and audience, I was last night with Mike Morell there. Your audience was probably twice as big, and he had a great sized audience. But what the pundits don’t seem to get is that you connect with people in rooms, and I don’t know that the debate rules as they are being constructed will reflect that. And there’s also the shy Tory problem, which is there might be shy Santorum voters out there who for whatever reason don’t announce that, because it certainly happened in Iowa. So how do you see these debate rules shaping up?

RS: Well, as I’ve said before, I think that when you have as many talented people as we have in the Republican Party who are seeking the nomination, and I truly mean that. I’m not just saying it. Most of these folks are friends of mine, and people I’ve known over the years. They’re really accomplished people who I think it’s terrific they want to step forward and offer themselves in this race. And to exclude them because of some arbitrary number, I just think is unfair to voters. They’re not going to get a chance to see some really interesting people, and really different perspectives than what you see from maybe, you know, most of the other folks in the race. I will say, and look, I say this hoping and believing that I’m going to be in that top ten. But it’s really not the point. The point is what’s right for the voters who have to make this decision? And media, the news media, shouldn’t be saying well, we’re going to draw the line and you’re only going to get to see, really, these folks and not others. That’s, I just think that’s not the best way to go about it.

HH: Now my proposed solution of this, and I’d like your reaction to it, is to use stadium seating, two tiers of seven or eight, whatever we need, for plausible candidates who have a path to the presidency or the vice presidency, and then go three or four hours with a five minute break at the top of the hour for people to stretch their legs and use the bathroom, and then come back. And I think America will watch that, or they will go to the YouTube segment that other people select for them to watch. And by the way, I’ve been doing a series with Larry Arnn on the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

RS: Yeah.

HH: They went three hours at a time. Why can’t we go long and keep everyone in there?

RS: There’s an expectation that Americans have short attention spans, and that unless we put things in little soundbytes, and we don’t stress Americans’ intellectual capability, that somehow or another, this is going to be bad television and people won’t watch. I agree with you. And I actually suggested that if you don’t want to put everybody up there on stage, just draw straws and divide it in half, and do an hour and a half with one, or an hour fifteen minutes with one, an hour and fifteen minutes with the other. And do them back to back, and people can watch what they want, they can come in and out. You’re right, most people don’t sit, as you know, Hugh, nobody sits and watches television continuously, unless it’s a live event. And even if it’s a live event, they, you know, they can call it up on YouTube or something else and watch it when they want to watch.

HH: And that is why as well there will be not be forced interruptions. And one of the reasons this show has prospered is that we do not interrupt people and force them to a quick conclusion. And some of the arguments that you make, especially on the tax code side, are different, and will require some explanation at length for why the tax proposal, I assume you’re saving the home mortgage interest deduction, we’ve talked about that before….

RS: We are, and the key of making a flat tax a tax that’s not going to be unduly burdensome on working families is a large standard deduction. And that’s really how we’re going to get around the problems. And let me assure you, this is going to be a pro-growth tax, very pro-growth. Some of the original numbers are really exciting about how many new jobs this will create. Secondly, it will be pro-family, and third, it will be pro-worker and will help people who are trying to climb the ladder of success to do to easier.

HH: Now the economy contracted this quarter.

RS: Yeah.

HH: The big headline of today, Rick Santorum, is that the first quarter was negative growth. So we might be in an Obama recession. You never know you’re in a recession until two quarters of negative growth come along. Do you think that voters understand and connect that to the President? Or are they blaming it on factors unrelated to the White House?

RS: I think if you go six years into a term and you haven’t had any real economic growth, at some point, it’s your responsibility. And I think that voters are going to look at it that way. They’re going to say well, we need a different plan. And that’s why I worry when I look at some of the plans or ideas of folks in the race, they’re fairly timid and they don’t really do much in showing a contrast between the vision of Hillary Clinton or whoever their nominee is and what we want to do. And one of the things, I was in Omaha today, and one of the things I said is about what I’m going to do is make sure that Warren Buffett pays the same tax rate as his secretary now, because the capital gains tax rate and the tax in income is going to be the same under our proposal. So one of the, these are simple things that connect to people and say okay, that’s fair. I’m for that. And that’s different than what this real complex code which is being run by an organization that’s rogue, and we can get rid of this, get rid of all the complexity, get rid of all the bureaucrats in this agency that threaten freedom, in my opinion, and I can go into details about that. But that’s the real difference that I think we need to have in the race going forward.

HH: Now on the pro-family side, I want to talk about after the break with you about foreign affairs.

RS: Yeah.

HH: But yesterday, Governor Christie was on the show after he gave a speech denouncing Common Core. And it seems to me, I’ve been saying this since the Western Conservative Summit last year, this is the iceberg underneath the Republican primaries. What do you say about Common Core, and how do we get out of this mess?

RS: Well, I said this in my announcement speech, which you can watch on www.ricksantorum.com, and I encourage you to do it. It’s set in a factory. It’s electric. We cover a lot of issues. But on the Common Core, it’s very, very simple. I would say you know, the old saying, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. And I got fooled once. Even though I’m a homeschooling dad, and believe so much in parental power of education, you know, I voted for No Child Left Behind. I’m not going there anymore. Anytime I see federal government or any kind of national this, the answer is no. They have, that’s not going to solve the problem. The only way I’m convinced of this, and I knew it, and I’m going to tell you that we have to get parents more involved in the education of their children, both pre-school as well as in school, and the federal government involved in itself in education is a barrier to parent access. It’s a barrier to parent participation, and we have to be all for engaging parents in local communities in nurturing and educating our children.

HH: now the avalanche, though, has come down the mountain. The new math, new, new math, the Finland math, is ruining…

RS: Oh, yeah. All of the particulars are horrendous. I mean, if you look at the math standards and the English standards that are there, I’ve had people, parents come up to me and show me these, and I start laughing. I said this can’t be true, and yet that’s what we’re teaching our children. That’s why I’m even more passionate about it, because it’s not just wrong because parents aren’t engaged and involved in it. It keeps us away from forming our children in a way that we believe is best. But it’s a ridiculous set of standards.

HH: So how does, since it’s a federal program, does the presidential campaign have to address the solution to it?

RS: Yeah, the answer is yes. I mean, there are federal incentives for states to adopt Common Core. We get rid of them. David Vitter has a bill in the Senate which I have endorsed publicly. We just get rid of all that, and in fact, we get rid of a lot of other things where the federal government tells states and localities how to run their education.

HH: I’ll be right back with Rick Santorum. During the break, go to www.ricksantorum.com.

— – – –

HH: Senator Santorum, I want to play for you three cuts about where did the Islamic State come from. The first is from Senator Rand Paul, the second from Senator Tom Cotton, the third from Congressman Mike Pompeo. First, Senator Paul on Morning Joe:

JS: Lindsey Graham would say ISIS exists because of people like Rand Paul, who said let’s not go into Syria. What do you say to Lindsey?

RP: I would say it’s exactly the opposite. ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’ job even easier. They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya, because these same hawks in my party loved, they loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. They just wanted more of it, but Libya is a failed state, and it’s a disaster. Iraq really is a failed state or a vassal state now of Iran. So everything that they have talked about in foreign policy, they’ve been wrong about for 20 years, and yet they have somehow the gall to keep saying and pointing fingers otherwise.

HH: And here is Senator Cotton:

TC: I think that ISIS exists because Barack Obama made a bad decision to withdraw all of our troops from Iraq in 2011. Those troops, as I said, are there to defend us and defend our freedoms around the world. And our military commanders on the ground requested a small stay behind force to prevent exactly this kind of return of what was then called al Qaeda in Iraq and what became the Islamic State. So the responsibility for the rise of the Islamic State, in my opinion, rests largely at the doorstep of Barack Obama and his ill-advised decision in 2011 to squander the gains that our troops had fought so hard for the previous eight years.

HH: And here is Congressman Pompeo:

MP: My judgment is different than both of them. I think ISIS was created because it’s a follow on from al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, the teachings of Sayyid Qutb, not because of, frankly, anything that either of them described there.

HH: Amen. Oh, my gosh, you may have read a book.

MP: Well, I’m not sure exactly which book you’re referring to, but in any event…

HH: The Looming Tower, which…

MP: I have actually read that. I have actually read The Looming Tower. I read it twice in my life.

HH: Yup.

MP: Yup.

HH: Yup.

HH: So Rick Santorum, which of those three explanations, and maybe two and three are not necessarily…

RS: Yeah, I don’t think two and three are mutually exclusive. I think what Congressman Pompeo said is correct, that ISIS was created because they were, there is a dissatisfaction among many of the radicals that al Qaeda was not sufficiently virulent enough in defending Islam. And the opportunity for ISIS to prosper came when President Obama withdrew our troops. So yeah, it’s a combination of those two things. If goal number one is Bernie Sanders bill, I don’t understand how anyone can argue that a state that was a stable state, and again, according to the President, President Obama, was a stable state that was a democratic stable state when we pulled out our troops, it is now the fault of the hawks that that state is no longer stable? It’s the result of folks like Rand Paul and Barack Obama who withdrew our troops precipitously and didn’t leave a force to maintain stability and order.

HH: So do you think Senator Paul and President Obama share a foreign policy perspective?

RS: Well, they clearly do on this issue.

HH: And how much of import will this be to people in Iowa and New Hampshire?

RS: I get a foreign policy question, certainly get questions on ISIS all the time. As you know, I mean, I talked about this in my speech where we a month ago, a little over a month ago, I was featured in ISIS Magazine. And a picture and a quote under the title and the words were our enemy, and the reason I was featured is because for 12 years, I had been calling out the radical jihadists, I had been talking about the gathering storm of the 21st Century, we’ve talked about it many times, Hugh. I believe this is an existential threat not just for Israel and for many, for freedom in the Middle East, but for our country over the long term. They know that, and I know them, and I really believe we have an obligation to stop ISIS. If we do not stop them, if we do not start taking land back and shrinking their footprint, they are going to continue to be able to claim that they have a legitimate caliphate and call on people all over the world to jihad, not just to come to Syria, not just to come to Iraq, but to come to places in the United States, from the United States, here in the United States, to cause terrorist activity.

HH: So is there a split in the Republican Party that is profound, deep and unbridgeable?

RS: I think there is a split, and it’s a very small fraction of the Republican Party that is split. I don’t think that Senator Paul represents a very significant part of the Republican Party, because it’s not, Republicans are pretty rational people, and they can look at things and look at history, look at what happened and realize that what Senator Paul is saying is simply not at all in concert with the facts.

HH: How then does he not draw a primary opponent, and there is no speculation at all that he’s not going to draw, no one says he’s going to draw a primary opponent in Kentucky. He’s very popular in Kentucky. How does that work?

RS: I don’t know. That’s a political question that I’m not very steeped in Kentucky politics. Maybe ask Mitch McConnell. He would know better than I would know.

HH: All right, then let me ask you about the second part of Senator Paul’s appeal, which will come up as he is very pro-civil liberties.

RS: Yes.

HH: And he has opposed the Patriot Act. I would have reauthorized the Patriot Act along with the collection of metadata. But right now, I’m afraid we’re going to be naked. What’s your position on U.S. Freedom Act?

RS: I am concerned at just what you said. I’m concerned that we’re going to be naked. I’m concerned that, I’m more concerned at not just being naked, but that the President will do something that he shouldn’t do, which is to do something extra-legal and just declare that he has the power to do these things he doesn’t have to do. So it’s another opportunity, even though I agree with the President and his policies on the Patriot Act, I don’t agree that he has the authority to do whatever he wants to do absent any Congressional authority. So I am concerned about that. But having said that, look, the bottom line is they need to act now. We need to provide some coverage. We can always go back and look at this issue, as I’m sure we will many, many times again. And I’m hopeful that the Senate will act and pass this bill.

HH: And last question, Rick Santorum, we have two minutes. What is the intensity level among the Rick Santorum base between 2012 and 2016?

RS: I’ve got tell you, I was in Davenport, Iowa yesterday afternoon at 2:00, and as I told you may times, the average attendance at most of my town hall meetings when I was running were about ten or twelve people, and we had 110 people there. I feel very, very good that the intensity level is really strong, and 110 people were there, and they were, a lot of folks signing up saying they were going to help, people who were with us last time, and frankly, some who weren’t with us last time, that liked what we had to say. And I think our message is resonating, and the fact that we have someone with experience on national security. There’s no one, I’ll challenge this, I mean, I know Lindsey, and I’ll give Lindsey his due, but outside Lindsey Graham, there’s no one with anywhere near the experience on this issue, and has been out there fighting the battles as strongly as I have on, and that’s important when you’re going up against the Secretary of State, and I think people are realizing that.

HH: You know, I also tell people, and I’m not declaring for anyone, but Rick Santorum has made a career about being underestimated, because you won Pennsylvania twice, you won Iowa, you came in second to Romney. I’m just curious if you think you’re going to win.

RS: I wouldn’t do this, Hugh, if I didn’t think I was going to win. I know how hard this is. I’ve done this. I did this for a year in 2011 and 2012. I know the sacrifice that you make, your family makes, and you make on every level. Every single level, it is grueling, it is difficult, it is nasty, it is taxing, it is financially strapping. All of those things that if you don’t believe that you can win, if you don’t believe that first, you don’t believe that you can make a difference for your country, and number two, you don’t believe you can win, then you have no business stepping into this race.

HH: Rick Santorum, always a pleasure.

End of interview.

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