Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By John King, USA - June 8, 2011

KING: If you were the president of the United States today, and you had a situation like that of Congressman Anthony Weiner unfolding in the country, whether that congressman were a Democrat or a Republican, would a President Santorum speak out or would a President Santorum say, "None of my business"?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Santorum would say none of my business. And, you know, this is an issue that's a tragic one. It's one that frankly I would have handled differently if I was in Congressman Weiner's place.

But I don't think this is for the president the United States to speak out on. This is an internal matter of the House and they should deal with it.

KING: You said you would handle it differently. How?

SANTORUM: Well, I -- if I was -- if I'd done what Congressman Weiner done, I'd be worried about my family and getting my life back together and not try to go out and be a congressman and try to profess to be a leader of this country. I think that, you know, I would have taken different steps. I would have stepped down and done what's best for the people that I love.

KING: In a Rick Santorum presidency, would you try -- if it's not done by the time you get there, to make Medicare essentially what the congressman is proposing? It's a voucher program. Not a guaranteed you get endless benefits from the federal government, but instead, elderly Americans get a contribution from the federal government that they then use to go out and find private insurance. Is that the way to go?

SANTORUM: Yes, it is the way to go. And, first off, it's not -- it will not be endless benefit. Obamacare changed that. As you know, John, the Independent Payment Advisory Board actually now has -- responsible for cutting Medicare and for doing things to, I would argue, end up rationing care to seniors.

If we don't change Medicare, this is what Medicare is headed right now. It's one of the reasons that Medicare was cut by over half a trillion dollars through Obamacare. But what Paul Ryan has talked and I have talked about in the past is changing Medicare in a system -- well, let's just say identical to how Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program, now functions. I don't hear Democrats saying we're throwing seniors off a cliff because Medicare Part D is a program that subsidizes seniors' premiums to go out and purchase private health insurance for drugs today.

That's how Medicare Part D works. It works well. Seniors like it.

And guess what else, John? It came in 41 percent under budget since it's been in effect. Why? Because seniors are engaged in choosing the insurance that fits them best.

KING: You mentioned your position on Social Security. You lost your seat in part because you supported President Bush when he said allow Americans to take a portion of what would go into the Social Security trust fund, their payroll taxes. Allow them to take a portion. Maybe it's 10 percent. Maybe it's 20 percent, and invest it in private accounts -- essentially invest it on Wall Street.

Would a candidate Santorum and a President Santorum push for that change? SANTORUM: No, I -- we can't anymore. We're not in a situation where we could do that. When we proposed that, I proposed back in the '90s, back in 1997, I actually went on Air Force One with Bill Clinton and traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, and represented the Senate Republicans in that Social Security forum and made that argument.

But we were running in the surplus in Social Security. In fact, we were scheduled to run a surplus for the next 20-plus years. And I thought that would be a nice on-ramp to allow people to take that surplus that wasn't needed to pay current benefits and use that to start personal accounts.

Well, we don't run a surplus anymore. And to finance private accounts would cost a lot of money and would put us in an even deeper deficit position. I just don't think that's possible right now.

We're back to where I said we would be if we didn't do this and that is -- we're either going to have to raise taxes or cut benefits. Some combination of that is going to be necessary and, unfortunately, that's where we're stuck at.

KING: Rick Santorum is a proud social conservative, anti- abortion, anti-gay rights. You say that you have no problem with homosexuals. But you don't like homosexual acts.

A majority in the country, 51 percent, say gay marriage should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriage. In our latest polling, 51 percent to 47 percent on that.

Would a President Santorum push for a constitutional amendment as President Bush once proposed, banning same-sex marriage?

SANTORUM: I support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. I think that marriage should be consistent thing across the country. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. It's essential for the family. It's essential for the stability of our culture, to make sure that children are given the best hope, which is a mom and a dad.

And if we lower our sights for those children, we're robbing children of -- many children -- of the potential of having a mom and a dad by changing the standard of what society believes in. And I think that's important. I also think it's important from the standpoint of religious liberty and standpoint of what our children are going to be taught in school.

You know, every time this issue has come up on the ballot, California to Maine, people have said, well, this is going to pass in places like this. Polls show people very much in favor of changing the traditional marriage definition and it's lost every time.

Why? Because once people realize the consequence to society of changing this definition -- it's not that we're against anybody. People can live the life they want to live. They can do whatever they want to do in the privacy of their home with respect to that activity. But now you're talking about changing the laws of the country and it's going to have a profound impact on society, on faith, on education. And once people realize that, they say, you know what, we respect people's rights to live the life they want to live, but don't try to fundamentally change how society functions by changing that definition.

KING: Ask you a couple of other quick questions in closing. We are about three months into the NATO operations in Libya. The president said he believes Gadhafi will be gone in time. It's just a question of when, not if.

But a President Santorum had handled Libya differently?

SANTORUM: Very differently. You know, what president -- I can't imagine handling it any worse than the president going out and saying that Gadhafi has to go, doing nothing about it. Then engaged in attacks as a result of the United Nations and the Arab League and the French saying that they want America to participate and saying, well, I don't want -- I don't want Gadhafi to leave, and now coming back and saying, well, he has to leave.

I mean, it's been all over the map. And it's committing American resources for a very unclear objective. And, you know, I think what you have to do in the case of Libya is make a very quick assessment as to whether the rebel forces were such that we could engage and be -- and work with and would be cooperative with, and it would be a group that we could have tremendous influence and take this -- take Libya in the right direction.

I don't think we made that assessment. I'm not too sure what that assessment would have been. But from my perspective, if you couldn't make that assessment, then we had no business being in Libya in the first place.

KING: Let me close with this one. As President Obama, you've been very critical, in your announcement speech, as you've explored your candidacy. Has he done anything right?

SANTORUM: Yes, I think -- I mentioned that -- I think he's done a good job in Iraq. I think he's continued the policies that were successful toward the end of the Bush administration. He's finished those out. I think Iraq now is doing well.

I think he kept Gitmo open which was -- which was something that I think he did the right thing in keeping that open.

And I think he did the wrong thing on interrogation and enhanced interrogation techniques and the like. But at least on those two things, I would say he's probably done the right thing.

KING: Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in Iowa today, we'll see you in New Hampshire Monday night.

SANTORUM: Thanks very much, John. Appreciate the time.


John King, USA

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