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Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By John King, USA - January 4, 2012

KING: And you can see with Jim Acosta right there the energy has moved from Iowa to New Hampshire as well. Jim Acosta, thanks, live at a Mitt Romney event in New Hampshire tonight. And Jim just mentioned Rick Santorum. He lost by eight votes in Iowa, but you have to declare that a huge moral victory for a candidate who had little money, was written off in the polls for months, written off as a long shot who wouldn't last past Iowa.

Well, Rick Santorum, fresh from that strong performance in Iowa, joins us tonight from Manchester, New Hampshire for his first New Hampshire interview.

Senator, it's good to see you.

First, congratulations.

Welcome to the fray in New Hampshire.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much.

It's -- it's good to be here, in fact, back here. This is trip number 31 for me to New Hampshire. I've done over 100 town hall meetings here and we're excited to get back on the ground here and surprise a few people, just like we did the last time around.

KING: Well, let's go through that. You now emerge. You are, at least for this week, the conservative alternative, the leading conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. We've spoken many times over the course of this campaign, when you were way down in the polls, as you started to surge in Iowa.

You say you can make the case you are the best, the most consistent conservative in this race.

I want you to listen here. The Texas Governor Rick Perry, who says he'll see you in South Carolina, disagrees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rick is going to have a real problem when he leaves and people start vetting his background, from a fiscal conservative standpoint. This guy is the king of earmarks and pork barrel spending. He was the liaison between Washington and K Street. And I mean he's got some real bags that he's going to have to explain to people. And that's going to be a problem for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's go through that, Senator, with this -- with the rising in the polls there's going to come some tougher scrutiny.

Now, earmarks, you say they were a good thing when you were in the Senate.

Do you stand by that, a good thing?

SANTORUM: Well, all I said is that what the constitution provides is that Congress appropriates funds. And that's what we do. We appropriate funds. And as Ron Paul did, as Jim DeMint did, as just about, I think, every single member of Congress did, when you go to Congress, you make sure that re--- that -- that when taxes go from your state to Washington, D.C., you fight to make sure you get your fair share back.

There are a lot of earmarks...

KING: OK. It's not quite...

SANTORUM: -- that were put in place...

KING: -- it's -- it's...

SANTORUM: -- for example...

KING: -- it's not quite...

SANTORUM: -- earmarks...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- every single -- forgive me for interrupting, Senator. But it's not quite every single senator. John McCain, who we just heard from, endorse your opponent today, he has long opposed earmarks. A lot of the people, for a long time, were looking for help in that fight.

SANTORUM: Yes, well, John McCain...

KING: The...

SANTORUM: -- the reason...

KING: -- the vice president of Taxpayers for Common...

SANTORUM: Well, hold...

KING: -- Sense...

SANTORUM: -- head on, John...

KING: -- says in Pennsylvania...

SANTORUM: -- John...

KING: -- in 2005...

SANTORUM: Yes, John, hold...

KING: -- $483 million.

SANTORUM: Yes, hold -- what I would say about John McCain is the reason John McCain made earmarks a big deal is because he wasn't for entitlement reform. That's where the big money is. That's where the real resources.

I've come out and said I'm going to cut $5 trillion over the next five years. You won't have any room for earmarks.

But what we need to do is -- is to do reform of -- of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps and housing programs and SSI. I was the -- I was the author of the Welfare Reform Act. That was serious dollars. Earmarks are -- are -- are something that's focused in by people who simply aren't willing to take on the tough problems.

I took on the tough problems. And I also said that when earmarks got abusive, that we should end them. And I agree with that.

But the idea that earmarks are the problem in Washington, D.C. is just ridiculous. The problem are -- are -- are the entitlement programs and this desire to spend more money. And that's what I've taken on in my career. I for -- I've been for the balanced budget amendment of the constitution. It will be one of the major planks of my -- of my campaign. And -- and you'll see someone who is as tough on spending as anybody.

KING: As you make that case in New Hampshire, you know you'll run into some Tea Party people who disagree with you on earmarks. But we can have that debate as we go forward.

You mentioned entitlements. And, again, we've had this conversation in the past. You voted for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. You say essentially you were holding your nose, that you didn't lead the charge for that legislation, but when it came to the floor, you decided it was worth voting for.

I want you to listen. This is your own voice last June, where you sound a lot more optimistic about the program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JULY 6, 2011)

SANTORUM: Did anybody ever look at the Medicare prescription drug plan?

The Medicare prescription drug plan is exactly the model Paul Ryan is asking. We, quote, "shoved that down the throats of the American public."

No, we didn't. We gave them a choice. Seniors love the Medicare prescription drug plan. And it's exactly what we're proposing for Medicare, which is give people the resources to go out and choose for themselves as to what's best for themselves.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, a lot of Tea Party voters -- and this may come up in the new debates now, as well -- think Medicare prescription drugs was a disaster, it was Washington expanding its reach.

A good vote? SANTORUM: Yes, well, what I said was, at that -- at that town hall meeting, and what I'll say again is the same thing, that the model we used was a private sector model. One of the reasons I held my nose and voted for it was because we did have a private sector model for -- for -- for Medicare prescription drugs, which was, in fact, a model that Paul Ryan used. We also had a Medicare Advantage program which took the one size fits all Medicare program in the same way that Ryan is trying to do and give people a -- an option for the private sector.

And finally, we had a provision in there for a health savings account, something I had been fighting for, for almost 15 years.

So there was a lot of good things in there. And, in fact, the model we used for the Medicare prescription drugs bill, which I was not for a universal benefit, once it was expansive. But once that was settled upon, I said let's see if we can make this as good a program as we possibly can to save money.

Well, we did. It -- the Medicare prescription drug program has come in over 40 percent under budget.

So while I was not for and did not advocate for the comprehensive benefit, nor did I advocate for it not being paid for, there were a lot of things in that bill that set the template for Medicare reform, which would save far more money than what the expansion of the Medicare benefit.

Those are the kinds of things, as you know, John, when you're in the United States Senate or when you're a congressman, you have to make those kind of -- of checks. You have to make those kind of, you know, decisions that sometimes, as I said in this case, was 51-49.

As president, you can make a little tougher decisions. You can veto bills if they aren't what -- exactly what you want. And those are the kinds of things that I would do.

But if you look at what I -- what I accomplished, as a lot of conservatives accomplished who voted for that, was to set a template for a major change in Medicare, which, if it wasn't for President Obama, would be implemented.

KING: And you are trying to be the chief executive now and it is an important distinction. So let's follow this out.

In that Medicare prescription drug comment we just heard, you were praising the Paul Ryan plan on Medicare. It fundamentally changes Medicare. It's essentially a voucher program. Seniors would get so much money from the government to buy their health care.

And if the cost of that health care then, in years down the road, exceeded the voucher, they would have to make up the difference on their own.

Would a President Santorum be comfortable with that? SANTORUM: Yes, that's exactly how the Medicare prescription drug plan works, John. It works that way right now. We -- we make that available to seniors. It's very similar to -- to what Paul Ryan is proposing. As you know, Ron Wyden has signed onto it.

The voucher does go up. The voucher does go up based on the -- on the competitive -- the increases driven by competition in the -- in the insurance plans, which is exactly what you want. You want the private sector out there competing, driving down costs, improving efficiency. You want to get rid of this -- of CMS, where government basically micromanages all health care through Medicare and Medicaid. That's the advantage of a Ryan plan.

We have, right now, in -- in essence, either a government run or a government regulated private sector -- private sector insurance system. What we need is a deregulated, not unregulated, but deregulated private sector insurance plans as -- to -- to reduce costs.

KING: And if some seniors have to dig into their own pockets to pay for it, that's OK?

SANTORUM: Well, seniors dig into their pocket right now to pay for Medicare. They pay -- they pay for their Medicare -- their Medicare Part B Subsidy, number one. Number two, they all -- almost every senior has a Medigap insurance policy.

Why? Because the Medicare policy doesn't cover the things that they want, so they have to buy additional coverage.

What this does, instead of buying your Medigap policy, you go out and buy a policy that may have things that your Medigap coverage has, but you have choices to take the kind of policies and the kind of choices as to the providers who your going to use, whether you want a limited set of providers and, therefore, more benefits, whether you want a broader set of providers and fewer benefits.

All of those things are choices for seniors, which, right now, they don't have, that they can apply that money to. and so right now, they have a one size fits all system and if they don't have what they want, they have to go out and buy Medigap insurance, which is out of their pocket right now.

KING: A lot of Democrats were celebrating, if you will, Senator Santorum, last night, saying, in their view, you're on the extreme right on many of these social issues and they think, for them, it's a good thing that these issues will be front and center.

One of the remarks you have made in the past, and you know this, that comes up from time to time because a lot of people think it's quite controversial, you were talking about same-sex marriage. You were talking about a Texas case making its way through the courts, sodomy laws, back in early 2003.

You said this to the Associated Press: "Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing -- that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships, in every society, the definition of marriage has not ever, to my knowledge, included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know. Man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be, it is one thing."

There are a lot of people who are saying, whoa, how do you connect that, homosexual behavior, to bestiality?

And you went on in that interview to talk about bigamy.

How do you connect those dots?

SANTORUM: Head on one sec. Hold on a second, John. Read the quote. I said it's not. It is not. I didn't say it is. I said it's not. I -- I -- you know, I don't -- I'm trying to understand what -- what -- what you're trying to make the point.

I said it's not those things. I didn't connect them. I specifically excluded them.

KING: You specifically exclude them. You have said that you have no problem with homosexuality, you have...

SANTORUM: I said it's not.

KING: -- you have problems with...

SANTORUM: Right.

KING: -- homosexual acts. So if a man loves a man or a woman loves a woman, you're fine with that as long as what?

SANTORUM: Well, my -- my -- as you know, my Catholic faith teaches that to -- that it's actions that are -- that -- that are the problems, not -- not necessarily someone's feelings. And that's -- I was reflecting Catholic teaching on the subject, and, I think, basically Christian teaching on the subject, that -- that one can have desires to do things which we believe are wrong, but it's when you act out those things that that is a problem.

And -- and I was simply reflecting that -- that opinion and that -- that belief structure that I happen to hold as a Catholic.

KING: And as a president, should you reflect that?

In this case, you have said that contraception is dangerous?

SANTORUM: Yes, I -- I think both in the case of the "Lawrence v. Texas" case, which was the sodomy case, as well as the contraceptive case, what I've said is both of those laws I would not have voted for. I don't believe that everything that is immoral should be illegal. The government doesn't have a role to play in everything that, you know, that either people of faith or no faith think are wrong or immoral. That was one. And I said it at the time, that I wouldn't have voted for the Texas sodomy law that was in place nor would I vote to -- to ban contraception, even though I think that, as a -- as a Catholic who the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is wrong, I would not do it myself.

KING: And so help me understand this, as a member of the House and a member of the Senate you're voting -- and your constituents reflect it. And this is the president. You're president of the entire nation.

How would you be different, as a president, than you were as a senator, on these issues, if at all?

SANTORUM: Again, I didn't vote for -- for any kind of ban on contraception nor did I vote for any ban on sodomies and -- and -- and nor would I as president. So if that's -- if that's the question you're asking, what I've -- what I said was that -- that in this whole case, that I thought the Supreme Court was wrong in making a constitutional right. And that was the discussion. It wasn't about my -- my belief on the -- on the underlying law, which I said I wouldn't have supported.

KING: Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, said something the other day and I want to give you a chance to respond to it. He was talking about a comment you made at a rally out in Iowa this past Sunday. And you told an audience there that you don't want to, quote, "make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money."

Marc Morial said this: "Senator Santorum is perpetuating a thoroughly false and destructive racial stereotype in a desperate attempt to score political points. His appeasing -- appealing to the lowest common denominator within the electorate and, quite frankly, should be ashamed of yourself."

How do you respond to that, Senator?

SANTORUM: I would respond a couple of ways.

First off, Marc Morial and I have worked together on a number of issues and he knows quite well how much work I've done in the African- American community. I've worked with him at the Urban League. I worked with him when he was mayor of -- of New Orleans.

And the other thing is, I've looked at that quote. In fact, I looked at the video. And I don't -- in fact, I'm pretty confident I didn't say black. What I think -- I started to say a word and sort of -- sort of mumbled it and changed my thought.

But I don't -- I -- I don't recall saying black. No one in that audience, no one listening, no reporter there heard me say that.

I think it was -- and -- and from everything I see -- and I've looked at it several times, I was starting to say one word and I sort of came up with a different word and moved on. And it -- and it sounded like black.

But I can assure you, if you look at my record, there's no one that's worked more in -- when I was a senator from Pennsylvania, in the urban communities, both black, Hispanics as well -- as well as whites. There's no one who's worked more with African-Americans, whether it was historically black colleges. I actually set up a program to help historically black colleges be able to bet -- get better access to educational funds in the -- in the Congress, in fact, had a summit every year for historically black colleges, not just in Pennsylvania, of which we have three, but also all across this country.

So I'll match my record against any Democrat or Republican in working in -- in African-American communities. And I would specifically point to the city of Chester, which is an overwhelmingly African-American community. And we were able to work with them and bring almost a billion dollars worth of investment into that community by helping them bring private sector resources and private sector jobs with some minor transportation improvements to improve access off I- 95, to increase that.

So match my record up. Go look at it. And -- and then look at what was probably just a tongue-tied moment, as opposed to something that was deliberate.

And I think Marc Morial knows better of me to make those kinds of statements.

KING: Let's close with a couple of questions about the moment. You were nowhere in the polls just a few weeks ago. Now you've come to New Hampshire having essentially tied Mitt Romney. You've got a big challenge in New Hampshire this week.

But when we talked in Iowa several months back, when I think you were at 4 percent in the polls at the time, after the on camera interview, we were talking, you said, you know, your wife was getting a little bit frustrated from time to time because you're out there day after day after day after day and away from your wife...

SANTORUM: Yes.

KING: -- and away from the family and she's saying, hey, Rick, 4 percent in the polls.

We got to see her on stage with you last night. We're showing a big hug right now to our viewers.

Assess this moment and, you know, the country is looking at you and looking at your family, in some ways, for the first time, because you're at the top of the race right now.

How important is she in terms of your political career, advice and the like?

SANTORUM: Well, I said, if you -- if you had played back my introduction, which I won't repeat, because I get sort of emotional when I think about how much my wife has sacrificed during this time, but, frankly, through the 16 years of being in the House and the Senate and -- and the enormous amount of time and effort I put into -- into that work in -- in trying to serve the people of Pennsylvania.

She's made a tremendous sacrifice and she's done so because she shares the same vision I have. And, you know, this was something that we prayed a lot about before we decided to make this decision.

And -- and, frankly, the easier course would have been to -- to stay home and to -- to continue to work and do the things to provide my -- for my family and -- and to spend more time with her. but she both -- we both felt that this was something that our country needed someone to step forward who had a little different perspective on what this country needs than the other Republican candidates that were going to be in the race.

And it was a -- a gratifying moment that the people of Iowa recognized that. And it was an affirmation to her that the -- that the sacrifice that she has been making, and not just her, but to all of my children that have been making that, you know, it was worthwhile and we've been able to make a statement and go out there and talk about issues, you know, about people getting jobs and particularly everybody -- blue collar workers, folks from where Karen and I grew up, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, who are being left behind by this economy. We feel very good that we're talking about them and we're talking about life and we're talking about family, we're talking about being stronger overseas, with an American that can be respected.

Those are things that are important to her and they are to me, too.

KING: When you got back to the hotel last night, did you say, "Honey, I told you so?"

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: No, actually, we -- I'll admit, we watched CNN until you guys -- I -- I was -- I was listening to the -- to the -- the little, what you've got, your package you had before, Jeanne Moos' package. And I was reliving it, because I was...

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: -- I was watching that late at night and enjoying the coverage. So, yes, we were just sitting there watching it and she eventually just fell asleep watching it. And that was -- that was sort of the end of our evening.

KING: Smart lady.

Senator Rick Santorum, a lot of questions in the week ahead, a big week for you in the next week in New Hampshire.

We appreciate your time tonight, as you just arrived in the state, sir. We'll talk more in the days ahead. Appreciate it.

SANTORUM: Thanks so much, John.

KING: Thank you, Senator. 

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