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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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BOB SCHIEFFER: Former Senator Rick Santorum is also in Iowa this morning. Good morning, Senator.

RICK SANTORUM (Republican Presidential Candidate/Former Pennsylvania Senator): Good morning, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you first about the Republicans' reaction to the President's announcement that he was bringing the troops home from Iraq. It was scathing for the most part. Yet, I find it very difficult to believe that any American President, Republican or Democrat, would have left American troops there under the conditions that the Iraqis were demanding. In other words, they had no immunity from prosecution. If the Iraqis decided they had done something wrong they could arrest them and throw them into prison. Would you have left American troops there under those circumstances?

RICK SANTORUM: Well, I get-- you know, the reason it was scathing, Bob, is because of the just exactly that--the fact that we have a President who is not able to set conditions and to actually have the kind of influence over the Iraqi government. Now three years the President has had to-- to work with the Iraqi government to try to mold and shape that relationship. And to be in a position where really the Iranians now have more sway over the Iraqi government than the United States just shows the weakness of our-- our diplomatic effort, the weakness of this President, in being able to shape the battlefield if you will. And I think that's the reason people were so upset that, you know, we've lost-- in many respects we've lost control and lost the war in-- in Iraq, because we have Iran having broadened its sphere of influence. And we see what's-- what's going on.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But the conditions that they laid down, the Iraqis seem to be saying we don't want you there anymore. Why would we keep troops--

RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): That's because-- that's--

BOB SCHIEFFER: --there when they say we don't want you?

RICK SANTORUM: I understand. But that's-- that's because we've lost the battle in Iraq with the Iraqi government. We've lost this sphere of influence that-- that we had. Iran-- we have allowed the Iranians by ignoring them, by supporting them. If you look at-- go-- go back two years ago. This was the turning point. Two years ago when we had the opportunity during the Green Revolution where there was a serious revolution, a real threat to the-- to the government of Iran, and the President of the United States unlike what he's done in all the other, quote, "Arab Spring events," subsequent to the Iranian revolution, he sat on the sidelines and did nothing. In fact, tacitly supported the-- the mullahs and Ahmadinejad, and didn't rally behind the people in the street, didn't do anything to try to help them. And so when the time came it was clear he was not going to support that movement.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well--

RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): He supported the mullahs. And as a result they now have this huge sphere of influence because they know the United States is simply not going to do anything to stop them--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask you this about--

RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): --from going and spreading their venom.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --talking about not doing anything to stop them. Osama bin Laden is dead. Anwar al-Awlaki is dead. Now Moammar Qaddafi is dead. It seems to me like the President's marking up a couple of pretty good things that he can put on the positive side in foreign policy.

RICK SANTORUM: He-- he can. I-- I certainly give him credit for-- for certainly Awlaki and-- and bin Laden. The-- the idea, though, is not looking-- you're looking at one other element. You're not looking at the central core problem which is Iran. And look at what's going on in Syria, another classic example, Bob. Syria is a satellite puppet state of Iran. And here we have Assad brutalizing his people and what did we do? We recognized Assad for the first time with an ambassador. We have not come down and done anything to try to displace Assad--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Would--

RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): --which has been-- he has been--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Would--

RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): --more brutal than anybody else.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Would you-- would you send American troops into Syria then?

RICK SANTORUM: I'm not suggesting we send American troops. But what we should be doing is we should be working very-- very vehemently and vigilantly with the people in Syria. We should be going after Assad in every other way, covertly or otherwise, to show the Iranians that we are-- we are going to stand up to them. There's all sorts of things we can be doing to show an active role in the region. And we're not. And Iran, as a result grows in influence.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you a little bit about Republican politics. You've been out to Iowa, to seventy counties out there. You spent a lot of time out there. And yet, Herman Cain continues to score very high in the polls. Do you think Herman Cain is for real? And do you think he is really a conservative, especially on issues like right to life?

RICK SANTORUM: Well, I-- certainly Herman Cain is for real. I mean, Herman has done a-- done a good job in communicating a message. But that message now is-- is being looked at carefully. And I think Herman's being looked at carefully. And if you look at-- at his record as a conservative, as I-- I said to-- this week, I mean, he supported the Wall Street bailout. You know if you want look at the Tea Party, the Tea Party is one of its origins was opposing the Wall Street bailout. And-- and Herman supported the Wall Street bailout; I mean, someone who wants to impose a national sales tax. I don't think conservative-- I haven't met-- talked to one conservative or seen one conservative come out and say, gee, this is a great idea to impose a national sales tax. Even those who supported his plan originally say, you know, it's probably not a good idea. And then you go-- you look at his comments on-- on the issue of life. The issue of the Second Amendment, he gave an interview recently saying this he's for the Second Amendment, but states should be able to-- to put-- to pass whatever laws to control guns. You can't be for-- be pro-life and then say people have a choice to do whatever they want. And this is the kind of seemingly trying to have, you know, be all things to all people. That-- I think conservatives aft-- after they look at his record and look at what he believes in are going to question whether he really is a conviction conservative on particularly some of these moral-cultural issues and-- and Second Amendment issues.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Final question here. You've also been quite critical of the other front-runner, Mister Romney. If Mitt Romney or Herman Cain got the Republican nomination, could you support them?

RICK SANTORUM: Oh, absolutely. I'd support, you know, anybody in the Republican field. I-- I mean, Ron Paul would give me a little indigestion. I'd have to take some antacids on the issue-- on the-- on-- on-- on foreign policy. But other than that, no. I mean, look, they-- they're far superior in many other ways than this President. I would have no problem supporting them. But there is a better candidate out in field, Bob, and you're talking to him this morning.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much, Senator. Thank you so much.

RICK SANTORUM: Thank you, Bob.

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