Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By John King, USA - December 13, 2011

SANTORUM: You want to shock John King, you walk out of here and sign up for Rick Santorum. You deliver Linn County. And let me assure you, we have got this going on in every county in the state. And you put us at the top of the list, and you will shake the political establishment of this country.



KING: Not just politics here in Iowa. That's Nearly Elvis, as he calls himself, entertaining at last night's Linn County Republican dinner right here in Cedar Rapids. He was, believe it or not, not the main event.

That billing went to longshot Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.


SANTORUM: But for Iowa, Barack Obama would not be the president of the United States. And I can honestly say that it is your obligation now to give us the antidote to Barack Obama.



KING: Senator Santorum is trying things the old-fashioned way here, visiting all 99 Iowa counties and appealing to the evangelical voters who often sway the GOP caucuses. The polls suggest Santorum is near the bottom of the pack. But over coffee this morning at the Blue Strawberry Cafe here in Cedar Rapids, he insists there's a big surprise coming.


KING: Twenty-one days out. If you look at the polling, you're up a bit from when I saw you in the first week in November.


KING: But you have still got Gingrich, Paul, Romney, Perry ahead of you.

SANTORUM: Got them just where I want them.

KING: You got them just where you want them.

SANTORUM: Just where you want them.

KING: Where do you draw the line? Let's be serious for a second.

Dow you have to be in the top three to continue? You don't have the funding other guys have.

SANTORUM: Right now, I think the expectations are pretty low for us and that's an advantage. And you have got six people in this race. And if we can finish above two or three, that's a huge deal that people who are spending millions of dollars, getting a lot more press coverage nationally than we do.

And for us to be able to do that on a shoestring, I think, shows the real strength of the message and the messenger. And that's what we're trying to get out of Iowa is to show that strength.

KING: Your contrasts were pretty sharp last night. Let's just focus on Speaker Gingrich and Governor Romney. They're the two guys at top of the pack in this state. They're the two guys at top of the pack if you move on state by state or in the national polls. You're making the point they can't win. Why can't Newt Gingrich beat Barack Obama?

SANTORUM: Well, I think that the problem with Newt and Romney is they can't draw clear contrasts with Barack Obama on some of the most important issues of the day, big government.

I mean, both of them supported the Wall Street bailout. Both of them supported government mandates for health care. Both of them supported cap and trade. Those are -- talk about three big issues in this election, those are three huge issues in this election.

KING: But let me add a fourth. Some conservatives don't like the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Senator Rick Santorum voted for that.

SANTORUM: Yes, but I wasn't an advocate for the provisions in the bill that ultimately conservatives didn't like. As you know, there are a lot of good things in the prescription drug bill.

Medicare Advantage, which was a precursor to the Ryan plan, was in the Medicare prescription drug bill, which is private sector Medicare. Health savings accounts, a dramatic expansion of health savings accounts was in the Medicare prescription drug. There are a lot of good things in that Medicare prescription drug bill that I was working on for years and made it, if you will, the medicine go down a little easier.

But I was never out there saying, hey, we need a big prescription drug plan. It's something I swallowed to get some things that I thought were more important and, in the end, probably wouldn't have done it, given the financial situation the country's in right now.

KING: How do you explain the Gingrich surge if voters are paying attention, voters have had all these debates to watch the candidates?

You say he's a big government conservative or not a true conservative. How do you explain then that not only is he rising in the national polls, if you break down the Iowa polls, he's doing well among Tea Party voters, who don't like government, he's doing very well among evangelical voters?

SANTORUM: I would just say that there's time. There's time for people to get over the romance and look at who the candidate really is.

And we have seen this in -- time and time again in this race where people have risen on the -- the thrill of the moment, if you will, and people then take a more sober look at the candidate. And we're sort of the sober candidate here.

KING: In your speech last night you said, look, Governor Romney has won only one election. He has run three times. He's won only one. And he won it, you said, as a liberal Republican in Massachusetts.

Square that with this. This is Senator Rick Santorum February 2008, when you supported Governor Romney. "Governor Romney is the candidate who will stand up for the conservative principles that we hold dear. He's the clear conservative candidate that can go into the general election with a united Republican Party."

SANTORUM: It's a different environment. Health care was not an issue in 2008. I think there was one question on health care in all of the debates in 2008.

It is now the central issue in this campaign. And we can't have someone with Governor Romney's track record on health care being the clear alternative to government-run health care on the federal level.

KING: There's a big debate in Washington today about an issue you were talking about last night, the payroll tax extension.

The House Republicans want to extend that payroll tax. They want to attach the Keystone pipeline project to it. You think the whole policy is wrong because that money comes out of Social Security. So do you believe just no and let middle-class taxes go up, or no to the payroll tax extension, but do something else to help middle-class families?

SANTORUM: Look, I believe we need to pass a robust reform of the tax code. We need to lower rates for middle-income people. We need to lower rates for everybody.

KING: What happens in January, though? If you are going to have that conversation, whether you're successful in this campaign, whether it comes up after this campaign, what about January, 20 days from now, when their taxes would go up? What would you do in the short term?

SANTORUM: Well, look, I would look for an income tax cut. That's where I would go.

Look, either there is a Social Security trust fund that we need to fund with Social Security taxes or there isn't. And if Social Security's just another government program that is not tied at all to this particular tax, then fine, let's create it that way.

But don't create this aura that the Democrats have for years that this is a trust fund program that is -- that has to remain solvent, and the Republicans undermined the solvency of the Social Security trust fund, when they are now undermining the solvency of the trust fund and using it for political purposes. It either is or is not a unified system. If it is not, then what we see here is politics.

KING: Let me ask you lastly, you just did an editorial board where you said the president's foreign policy was pathetic. In the past, you have used the term appeasement. This came up at the president's news conference last week, and he said to those critics, including you, he said, why don't you ask bin Laden if he thinks that's -- answer that.

SANTORUM: That's a pathetic answer, in my opinion.

Osama bin Laden was a continuation of President Bush's policy. It had nothing to do with a contingency or a problem that came up on his watch. He simply followed through, which we have been trying to do for 10 years.

KING: Deserves no credit for that?

SANTORUM: Any more -- no, the people who deserve credit for that were the military whose mission it was to find them. And the president doesn't deserve credit for doing -- he didn't make a decision, if you will, as to go after bin Laden. That decision had been made 10 years ago.

KING: He gave the go-ahead, though, for a sensitive military operation across Pakistan's board.

SANTORUM: I do give him credit for that.

But, again, that's not a strategic decision with respect to how we're going to deal with contingencies around the world. In fact, he's bungled every single contingency, whether it was Iran and his lack of support for the Green Revolution that emboldened the Iranians to continue to do things like plan an attack on the American soil, which, by the way, the president hasn't responded to at all, whether it's his bungling of Egypt.

Now we have the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Salafi Islamists who are going to be controlling a country that was a friendly country and was a partner in peace to Israel who will no longer be. He's bungled Syria. Syria, which is a client state of Iran, he went out and embraced them, opened up an ambassadorship, and now -- and called Assad a reformer.

And Assad has done nothing but brutalize his people even more as a result. And we continue to still have diplomatic relations and entreaties into Assad, as the rest of the world is stepping away from him for the thug that he is.

KING: Appreciate your time.

SANTORUM: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you.

SANTORUM: Appreciate it. Thank you. 

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John King, USA

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