Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By Piers Morgan Tonight - August 31, 2011

MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT. Joining me now is Rick Santorum, former senator Pennsylvania, one of the crowded field of Republicans who aim to challenge Barack Obama in 2012.

Senator, thank you for joining me.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Piers. Good to be on.

MORGAN: I don't want to start on a defeater's note here. But the CNN poll on Monday had you at 1 percent of the vote to be the Republican nominee. You've got work to do, if you don't mind suggesting it.

SANTORUM: Well, look, I don't really care what the national polls say. They don't really matter at all at this point. The polls that matter are in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Those are the first three states. Folks from New York and California really don't have much of a say at this point and whether we're doing well there or not doesn't really matter.

We need to do well in Iowa. The most recent poll there, we went from -- I think we were around 2 percent to 3 percent. And the most recent poll has us at 7 percent or 8 percent as a result of our finish at Ames, and we've got a good grassroots organization on the ground there, and that's where we're spending our time and that's where we're getting the attention in front of the people and telling them our vision for how we're going to create jobs, how we're going to get this country moving again, how we're going to build on the strong moral traditions of our country and how to make our people safe.

MORGAN: How are you going to make yourself sexy on the national stage?

SANTORUM: You know, I'm not about making myself sexy on the national stage. It doesn't matter. I mean, you know, I know the media loves to talk about national stage and --

MORGAN: But it will matter. It will matter.

SANTORUM: Well, it -- ultimately it will. But, you know, I'll take that opportunity when the time comes. And the time is not now. The first primary is not until five or six months away.

And that primary -- excuse me, it's a caucus. That caucus will be held in Iowa. And if you look four years ago, John McCain was carrying a suitcase from airport to airport and state to state. Mike Huckabee was by the way exactly the same place I was in the polls, 7 percent or 8 percent after the Ames straw poll, and they ended up the two people that were at the very end determining who the nominee was and nobody in the media paid any attention to them now. They weren't considered sexy.

We've got a long way to go between now and February. And again, we have the ideas that are motivating people who get to see the candidates and evaluate them, and they're not seeing a whole lot and evaluating a lot on a national level but they are in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

MORGAN: What do you make of your rivals, Mr. Perry in particular, given he's the latest frontrunner?

SANTORUM: Oh, I think -- you know, again, I go back to my child story that I analogize on my campaign, "The Little Engine That Could." There were lots of shiny engines that come out of the round house and go by and we just hitched up our wagon and just going to hitch up our train and plugging over that mountain right now. And there are candidates that are going to come and go and they're going to get the kind of treatment and inspection that candidates get.

And we've seen every one of these folks who have shot to the top of the ratings end up coming back down to earth once they have to get in front of the cameras in a debate. We haven't seen Governor Perry in a debate yet. We haven't seen him do much in the way of interviews yet.

You know, I've done this for 12 years in the United States Senate where I was under the kind of scrutiny that a national figure is on. I've done it in a state like Pennsylvania where I haven't backed away from any questions or any interviews. I don't hide myself from the public or from the press. I make myself available.

And I do something that at least I get a loss of positive comments when I go to early primary states. I answer the question. I think that's what folks are looking for -- someone authentic. Someone who is available and trustworthy and someone that says they're going to do what they say they're going to do.

MORGAN: OK. Well, if you're in the mood to answer questions, answer this one. How do --

SANTORUM: I figure I promote that, yes.

MORGAN: How do you explain the American public to back a little engine when clearly what the American economy needs is a bloody great steam train?

SANTORUM: Yes. Well, if you look at the plan that I've put forward, it is a pretty powerful locomotive. I come from a little town in western Pennsylvania, Butler, Pennsylvania, which is a little steel town.

When I was growing up as a kid, 21 percent of the people in this country were engaged in manufacturing. Right now, it's down to 9 percent -- not because we haven't created products we can make in America. We're still a great engine of innovation, but that innovative product is being made other places around the world. Why?

Well, because we aren't competitive here and what made us uncompetitive in large part has been government. One big impediment is our tax structure. Our tax structure doesn't match up well against other tax structures in trying to export products, because we have income based tax and not sales based tax. Well, what I do to solve that problem and encourage manufacturing to come back here in the United States is to cut the corporate rate, which is 35 percent for manufacturers and cut it to zero. So, if you manufacture in America, you will pay no corporate tax. That is a powerful incentive to build things and make things and process things here.

MORGAN: How much more tax would you like Warren Buffett to pay?

SANTORUM: Well, Warren Buffett, as you know, pays capital gains taxes. You know, it's great for Warren Buffett to go out and say, you know, raise the income tax. He doesn't pay income tax. He pays capital gains taxes. That's what most of his --

MORGAN: He's invited you -- wait a minute. He's invited you, though, and all presidential candidates he's invited to throw the book at him and to tax him more money. Here's your chance. If you were president, how much would you like to tax Warren Buffett? Set some perimeters because he wants you to.

SANTORUM: Well, I would say to Warren Buffett, there's a Web site. In fact, I use that Web site, actually it was a website when I was in Congress, but there was a place where you can go and you can write a check to the federal government right now to pay down the debt. If Warren Buffett is feeling guilty that he isn't paying enough tax, Warren Buffett can go on a Web site and fill out his credit card which will accept any number he puts in there and he can pay $1 billion to pay down the deficit if he wants to contribute more to the American government.

But the idea because Warren Buffett wants to pay more taxes that we are now going to create a new tax structure for people like Warren Buffett -- again, he isn't going to pay those taxes if we raise the tax on income. We'd only do it if we raise tax on capital gains and if we do that, we're going to hurt more people than Warren Buffett and hurt this economy.

MORGAN: If I'm watching this as ordinary Joe on the street, I'm thinking, well, I would say why isn't Warren Buffett paying income tax and what are you going to do about it to make sure the super rich like him do pay income tax?

SANTORUM: Yes. This is -- that's a great point, Piers, and it's a really great question. And that's sort of -- I think most Americans know the answer to that question, is that if you are rich enough, you can structure the way you receive income in the most tax preferential way. And that's what Warren Buffett has done. I mean, he's done the smart thing and he e says, oh, I'll be willing to pay more income taxes, well, then --

MORGAN: Stop him.


MORGAN: I said stop him. Close the loopholes.

SANTORUM: Well, it's not a loophole. He doesn't --

MORGAN: Why are you laughing?

SANTORUM: He doesn't collect income tax. Well, because he doesn't collect income tax. He can structure it to where he collects his money and makes his money on capital gains. You can raise the capital gains tax but when you do that, you affect ordinary citizens who are investing in the markets who are paying at 15 percent and you don't chase Warren Buffett down and penalize everyone. That's the point.

When you raise taxes going after


MORGAN: It's not the point.

SANTORUM: -- you end up hitting a larger people.

MORGAN: Yes. But it's not the point because Warren Buffett is setting his own perimeters. He's already laid out how he would structure it.

Why don't you in a case of people like him, introduce a new capital gains tax at $20 million or whatever it may be and make it pretty punitive and use the fact that Warren Buffett, America's richest man, in this time of crisis for his country, has decided to put his own money where his mouth is.

SANTORUM: Well, look, Warren Buffett invested a lot of money in Bank of America and a lot of people who own Bank of America shares are very happy about that, by the way, that he took his billions of dollars and put it in Bank of America and now the stock price is up about 30 percent or 40 percent and a lot of folks are very happy about that who are Bank of America shareholders who are a lot of ordinary folks here in America.

So, you know, I would rather see Warren Buffett take that capital instead of giving it to the federal government with what the tax rates are now, deploy it in ways that will get this American economy going again. That's the most important thing we can do with Warren Buffett, not confiscate it, but create an environment that he wants to invest in. And right now, we have a president who is punitive in his regulation and punitive in what he wants to do with increasing taxes and punitive in the way he's formulated his health care policy and that is freezing business from investing.

And the last thing we need to do is create even more punitive laws in place to make the Warren Buffetts of this world either leave the country or even further employ tax lawyers to find their way around the next tax gimmick the federal government lays against them.

MORGAN: Well, you joined a long list of Republicans who refuse to tax Warren Buffett even though he's desperate to be taxed more. So, we'll leave it there. When we come back after the break, I would like to talk to you, Senator, about your views on gay marriage -- and you're not allowed to walk out like Christine O'Donnell. I think you can't because you're actually not in the studio. So, we can pass that barrier.



SANTORUM: So the gay community said, "He's comparing gay sex to incest and polygamy. How dare he do this?" And they have gone out on, I would argue, jihad against Rick Santorum since then.


MORGAN: What's all this about a gay jihad? What do you mean by that?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, a lot has been written about this. I don't need to give a lot of air time to folks who have been rather vile in the way they have attacked me and attacked the position I have and they have distorted the positions I have held on the issue of marriage in America and they have in fact the thing I just talked about, which is that I was talking about a United States Supreme Court case on the issue of marriage and what that court decision would be with respect to how it would play out with respect to marriage.

And the quote that I have been, quote, "criticized" for was almost identical to a quote in a 1980 Supreme Court case where the majority decision basically said what I said. And, by the way, the minority, Justice Scalia in this case -- it was Justice White who was Democratic appointee under John Kennedy who said pretty much exactly what I said and Justice Scalia pretty much said exactly what I said which is that if the Supreme Court establishes a right to consensual sexual activity, then it's hard to draw the line between what sexual activity will be permitted under the Constitution and it leaves open a long list of consensual activities that most people I think would find rather unappealing.

And so, that's what I said. I stand by the comment. Just like I'm sure Justice Scalia and Justice White stood by their comments.

MORGAN: Well, let's clarify a few things. Do you think homosexuality is a sin?

SANTORUM: Well, that's a decision not for a politician. That's a decision for someone who is a cleric. I don't -- I'm not in that line of work.

The line of work I'm in is to -- there are a lot of things in society that are, quote, "sins" or moral wrongs that we don't make illegal. Just because something is immoral or something that is wrong doesn't mean that it should be illegal, and that the federal government or any level of government should involve themselves in.

In the case that I was talking about that started the controversy and the case was Lawrence versus Texas. I said if I was a state legislator in the state of Texas, dealing with the Texas sodomy law, I would have voted against it, because I didn't -- I don't think that's not something the state should involve itself in.

But the bottom line is whether the court then has the right to create new rights and in creating new rights it opens up, in my opinion, Pandora's box, which it did in the case of the Goodridge decision in Massachusetts which led to gay marriage in Massachusetts, gay marriage in Iowa and a whole host of other states.

MORGAN: Let me stop you there. I mean, you keep referring back to this quite complex case. That's fine.

Actually, there are simple arguments here. Michele Bachmann raised this as a huge hot potato. Christine O'Donnell walked of my show when I asked her about same-sex marriage. And these are perfectly justified questions.

You are, I believe, a Catholic.


MORGAN: So, you must have a view about whether homosexuality is a sin. I think if American people want to vote for you either way as president, they are entitled to know an honest answer to a straightforward question. You did invite me to ask you any question I liked.

SANTORUM: Yes, I did. And, of course, the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a sin. I'm Catholic and subscribe to the Catholic Church's teaching.

But that's not relevant from the standpoint of how I view these issues from a public policy of view and that's I answered the question the way I did. From a public policy point of view, there are a lot of things I find immorally -- morally wrong or as you would use the term "sinful" that don't necessarily rise to the level that government should be involved in regulating that activity. And so, I answered it correctly. I answered it, in fact, succinctly and directly, that while I think things are morally wrong, that doesn't rise to the level of government involvement in that activity.

MORGAN: How many sons do you have?

SANTORUM: We have four boys and three girls.

MORGAN: How would you feel if one of your sons turned around one day and said, "Dad, I'm gay"?

SANTORUM: I would embrace them, love them and try to help them through what I would see as a very difficult and troubling time in their lives. I know a lot of gay people. I know a lot of the folks that I've talked to who have gone through this, go through a lot of very difficult times in their life in coming to that decision and struggling with it even after admitting it. So, this is a difficult issue. I understand it's difficult issue. And my job as a father is to love my son unconditionally which I do and would do, and would continue what I could do to support him so he could live a good, a healthy and decent and faithful life.

MORGAN: I guess one of the reasons it's troubling and difficult for people to come out is because of the level of bigotry that's out there against them. I have to say that your views you espoused on this issue are bordering on bigotry, aren't they?

SANTORUM: No. I think just because we disagree on public policy, which is what the debate has been about which is marriage, doesn't mean that it's bigotry. Just because you follow a moral code that teaches something wrong doesn't mean that -- are you suggesting that the Bible and that the Catholic Church is bigoted? Well, if that's what you believe, fine.

I think that -- I shouldn't say fine. I don't think it's fine at all. I think that is -- that's contrary to both what we've seen in 2,000 years of human history and Western civilization and trying to redefine something that has been -- that is seen as wrong from the standpoint of the church and saying a church is bigoted because it holds that opinion that is biblically based I think is in itself an act of bigotry.

MORGAN: Well, I'm a Catholic, too. I just think, unfortunately, we're in a different era. We're in a modern world. And the fact --

SANTORUM: I don't think -- Piers, I don't think the truth changes. I don't think right and wrong change based on different eras of time. Things are -- there are some truths that are in fact eternal and are truth and based on nature and nature's law. And that's what the church teaches and that's what the Bible teaches and that's what reason dictates.

And if you look at it from all of those perspectives, I think it's a legitimate point of view. I certainly respect people who disagree with it. But I don't call them bigoted because they disagree with me.

MORGAN: You are undisputedly a good family man. I've read very moving accounts from you and your wife about the loss of your son, Gabriel.

Talk about, couple with what happened with your newest born daughter who is very disabled, you have, again, spoken movingly about that. Have either of those events if you are very, very honest had any impact on your view of the issue of abortion because you are very intransigent about it. You don't believe, like many Republicans, there should be any occasions in which abortion is permissible and yet you have been as a family in two situations where I would imagine it has been suggested to you that it was on option on both occasions.

SANTORUM: It was suggested on both occasions. I do make one exception for the life of the mother. But other than the life of a mother where you have two lives and the government shouldn't involve itself in the choice between two lives. But other than that, I do believe that life begins at conception.

It's not -- I shouldn't say I believe it. It's a biological fact that life begins at conception. That child in the womb is biologically human and completely and fully human and alive. Therefore, a human life.

It's reason that tells me that person that is now alive and human should be given the rights of any person under the Constitution where they are and where they located at that particular time in their life cycle shouldn't determine whether they have constitutional rights or not. So, that's something that I came to really as a matter of study more than anything else and it had to experience it with our son Gabriel, who we were told had a fatal defect and was going to die and we fought for his life in the womb. And we failed.

I mean, I -- you know, it's one of the things that still I think about every day, losing him and not having him as part of our family. But at the same time, he was a great gift to us. His short life had a huge impact on our family and through my wife's book, "Letters to Gabriel," has had a huge impact on thousands and tens of thousands of people across this country who have gone through similar things and it helped them heal.

It's helped save lives of mothers who were counseled for abortion and decided to soldier on and to carry that child to term and in some cases, to unfortunate ends where the child died. But other cases, miraculous things have happened.

So, you know, we feel like in some small way that our experience is an affirmation of -- you know, if we just welcome and accept what God gives us, the gift of a human life, that soul that we join with him in co-creating, that if we just honor that and honor him and accept that challenge that God gives us, that's the best way as painful as it may be, it's the best way to walk away whole and feel that your life and that life meant something and was meaningful for the future.

MORGAN: You did a controversial thing when Gabriel so sadly died. Although I feel it was a great thing you did. And I'll be honest with you. But you took his body back to the rest of your family and you spent the night with your other children cuddling his body and saying prayers and singing to him and so on.

I found that profoundly moving I have to say. I would never criticize you for that. I thought it was an extraordinary courageous thing to do.

What I'm curious about -- because you took a lot of criticism at the time for it -- is what impact it had on your children now that we're a few years on. Could you tell me?

SANTORUM: Yes. First off, the reason that we did that is my wife, Karen, was a neonatal intensive care nurse. She had worked in level 3, which is the most intense NICU unit in Pittsburgh.

And so, for nine years, she dealt with this very issue. And what she learned from that experience was accepting that child in the family and including that child in the family and having the children see their brother and sister in her experience in the NICU, is something that NICU actually encouraged to do.

So, it did create a sense of closure that you had a little brother. He was real. See? He's actually a real person. He actually lived. He actually -- you know, he's a member of our family. He is someone that we can remember and have memories of. Memories are so important for little children and important for all of us.

And so, they have a concrete memory of their little brother and they were able to hold him and know him and we were able to celebrate his life. We didn't see him as something to be ashamed of or something to be disposed of, but something to be loved and accepted for who he was and the life that he lived.

And, you know, I don't know why people who -- we have open caskets and funerals and that seems to be OK. If you do the same for a little child, I think it just shows that some people don't see that child, even as young as they are, as completely human or completely one -- part of the family. We do. And it was a beautiful thing.

I can tell you from our children's perspective, it's something that the older children do remember and it did bring closure to them. And Gabriel even to this day is still very much a part of our family and we hope that he's up there pulling for us and praying for us every day.

MORGAN: I'm sure he is. I do think that was an extraordinary thing that you did. I salute you for it.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

MORGAN: When we come back, a take on your family, your fans and your feuds.


MORGAN: Back with Senator Rick Santorum.

And, Mr. Santorum, let me turn again to your rivals in the race for White House. Talk about Michele Bachmann for a moment. What do you make of her?

SANTORUM: I think Michele is a dynamic person -- someone who can certainly get out there and rally the crowd and has taken some pretty strong stances on issues. You know, where I differ from Michele is really a matter of proven leadership. I'm someone who has taken strong conservative positions but I've been successful in working with Democrats in passing major pieces of legislation like welfare reform and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Syrian Accountability Act, and the Iran Freedom Support Act.

So, a moral, cultural, as well fiscal and foreign policy issues, I've been able to bridge the gap and get things done, provided leadership. And I think that's where the differentiation is between the two of us in our activity in Washington D.C.

MORGAN: Given the obvious splits between the Tea Party and the more moderate end of the Republicans, what kind of team tag are we going to end up with here? Is the most likely scenario that we have a moderate with a Tea Party candidate as one and running mate? And if so, could it be either way around?

In other words, is that the dream ticket for the GOP really?

SANTORUM: Well, I can't speak for anybody else. If I were to get the nomination, I would pick someone who would be able -- as vice president would carry out what I promised the American public I would do. I think that's the responsibility of a president, is to pick someone who can ably do the job that the people of the United States voted for.

That's who I would choose. I'm not into geographic or ideological balancing. I'm into being authentic to the American public, being forthright about the positions I hold and what we want to do, and trying to paint a very positive -- because I believe it, very positive and upbeat image of what we can do to get this economy going, what we can do to get our country whole again and believing in itself again and understanding the basic values that have made this country the greatest country in the history of the world.

MORGAN: You were described by a fellow senator -- and I would like to warn any viewers of an uneasy disposition here to be cautious, because he said Santorum is Latin for (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Your thoughts?

SANTORUM: That was Bob Kerrey who said it as a joke and apologized not only to me, but told the reporter that it was said in jest. And actually Bob Kerrey and I became friends. I think if you called him -- he was at the News Squad. I don't know if he's still there. While Bob and I disagree on a lot of issues and we probably still do to this day, I don't think he would stand by that, that he said it as a joke and someone overheard it in an elevator.

I'm sure that all of us have said things in jest that we didn't want to have repeated in the newspaper.

MORGAN: Is any part of it true? Have you ever had your moments?

SANTORUM: Well, gosh, of course. Have you? I mean, we've all had our moments.

MORGAN: Yes, many. But I'm not running for president, sadly.

SANTORUM: But, you know, that's part of life. If any of us have not had moments where we haven't behaved as well as we would like to behave, there's something wrong with us. We should be running for something else with a Roman collar, not an open collar.

MORGAN: Have you ever broken the law, senator?

SANTORUM: Well, yeah, I admitted back when I was running for the Senate that when I was in college that I smoked pot, and that was something that I did when I was in college. It was something that I'm not proud of, but I did. And said it was something that I wish I hadn't done. But I did and I admitted it. I would encourage people not to do so. It was not all it's made up to be.

MORGAN: But that's it? No other skeletons you want to get of your chest while you're here?

SANTORUM: I know you're a Catholic, so I'm not in the confessional. I would just say at that point, as far as illegal activity, I think that sort of covers it.

MORGAN: Mr. Santorum, it's been a pleasure talking to you. A lively and provocative exchange I think we would probably both agree.

SANTORUM: Very good, Piers. It was a pleasure being on. I look forward to coming back soon. 

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