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Public Statements

CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: It's not just the students and faculty at Penn State University who are devastated by charges of child sex abuse scandal against a former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky. The school's alumni are also stunned and outraged by the scandal.

Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, is one of those alums.

He's joining us now live.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Wolf.

Good to be with you. BLITZER: I want to get to politics and your race for the White House in just a moment. But when you first heard about all these accusations -- and they date back more than a decade, covering up alleged pedophilia at Penn State University, of all places, what did you think?

SANTORUM: I just felt like I was punched in the gut. I -- I couldn't believe it. I mean I -- you just don't want to believe it. You just -- you just can't think that, obviously, an institution that is your alma mater, you love and that you -- you support, could do something like that.

But it was a systemic failure. I mean from the -- from the -- from the graduate assistant who just inexplicably could witness something like this and do nothing, I mean do nothing at the moment, much less do nothing afterwards. To me, it's just -- I don't know -- I don't know what's being taught up there anymore. It's just...

BLITZER: I mean...

SANTORUM: -- it's a little frightening.

BLITZER: -- allegedly, the graduate assistant told Coach Paterno, who coached -- who told the athletic director...

SANTORUM: Yes.

BLITZER: -- who told the university president, Graham Spanier. But nothing really happened. I assume you know most, if not all of these people.

SANTORUM: I -- I don't -- I don't know the -- the two people who were supposedly -- who were indicted, Curley and Schultz. I don't know them. I know everybody else in the -- in that. I know Paterno. I know the -- the president.

But, you know, what -- what you have here is the situation where there is an investigation, Wolf. I mean this is just not just telling people, they actual looked into this and decided not to do anything. That's -- this is what is just confounding that it -- that's why I'm saying it's a systemic failure. This -- there's -- and heads have rolled, but I -- we're not done yet. And -- and we shouldn't be done yet, until we get this thing completely cleaned out and -- and do it out of respect for the -- for the damage -- the horrific damage we did to these children and their families and -- and, obvious, to the university, secondarily.

BLITZER: You've seen all these comparisons saying Penn State University, the hierarchy, they were so afraid of what could happen, they were told to protect the football...

SANTORUM: Image.

BLITZER: -- the football team and the -- the whole football operation at Penn State University. It was almost, they say, like the Vatican covering up pedophilia among priests. When you hear that kind of comparison, what goes through your mind?

SANTORUM: It's sickening on both levels. And, you know, one of the things I learned in -- in my life is that, you know, gosh, just tell the truth and -- and, you know, everybody, you know, bad things happen. And -- and, you know, it's not the fault of Penn State if -- if a bad thing happened on their campus. The bad -- the -- the worse thing is to allow it to continue to happen. I mean they're -- you know, obviously, he wasn't working for the university at that time and he did something horrific.

You know, admit that that's the problem and -- and even if it was a problem with the university, admit the problem. Find out, open it up, air, freshen it out and -- and protect these kids, which is -- seemed to be not anybody's -- on anybody's mind while this was going on.

BLITZER: Were you familiar with that charity -- that -- that effort the coach, Jerry Sandusky, he had a charity to help troubled youth...

SANTORUM: Yes.

BLITZER: -- in Pennsylvania. I assume you -- you're familiar with that group, the Second Mile.

SANTORUM: It's -- it was well known throughout the state. It was -- it was one that I had -- i had friends and -- and political supporters and -- who were -- who are on that -- on that committee, who've raised money for them, who just, you know, lifted up this guy as -- as this great humanitarian. And -- and, again, I talked to a few of the donors and a few of the folks on the board. You want to talk about people who are disillusioned. You want to talk about people who feel like, you know, they were saying, you know, Rick, it's like saying -- it was like someone coming up to me and saying, Rick, your an ax murderer. That's how -- that's how stunned they were that -- that this man did this.

It -- he -- he did an, obviously, an amazing job hiding the sickness from a lot of people.

BLITZER: Apparently more people knew about it, but they didn't say anything...

SANTORUM: They didn't say anything...

BLITZER: -- and, worse, they didn't even...

SANTORUM: -- yes.

BLITZER: -- do anything about it. But we'll stay on top of this story.

Let's get to your race, the presidential contest right now. I want to put up on the screen our latest CNN poll, our CNN/ORC poll numbers, and -- and the headlines, Romney's con -- you can see, since October 26th now, 24. But look at Newt Gingrich. He's gone from 8 percent to 22 percent among Republicans nationally. Herman Cain has dropped big time, 25 to 14 percent. Perry staying at about 12 percent. You've gone from 2 percent to 3 percent, a little silver lining, but not a whole lot more.

What's going on here? is it just someone that Republicans are looking for to challenge Mitt Romney, because a lot -- a lot of Republicans apparently aren't ready to endorse, support Mitt Romney?

SANTORUM: I increased my support by 50 percent, Wolf. That's pretty good.

BLITZER: Yes, 50 percent is good. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: No. Look, my feeling is those national polls don't mean a whole lot. If you asked those folks how many of those are committed to voting for the people they said they're for, you'd find about what we find. When we call people in Iowa and New Hampshire, about 70, 75 percent of the folks are still very much undecided. And they're going to -- they're going to start paying a lot more attention to this race as we get down to it.

What we feel good about is that we're -- we're focused on -- like a laser beam -- on the state that matters right now, which is Iowa, and the state after that, New Hampshire. Those are the two states we're spending the bulk of our time in. We believe we can do exceptionally well there. We're going to be, you know, breaking out of that pack and slowly but surely climbing the ladder and have the organizational strength there.

I've been to all 99 counties and -- in -- in Iowa. Next week, I'm going to be in all 10 counties of New Hampshire. We're working the grassroots. They're the folks that turn out. They're the people that -- that make a difference in this race. And we're going to surprise a lot of people.

BLITZER: You know, the debate Saturday night, a -- most of the Republican candidates, and I believe you, too -- and I watched it -- support waterboarding as opposed to the current president, who says that's torture.

But John McCain, who was the Republican nominee last time around, as you will remember, who himself was tortured when he was a POW in Vietnam, he said this. He put out a Tweet: "Very disappointment by statements at S.C. South Carolina GOP debate supporting waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture."

Now, he knows something about torture.

You support waterboarding, is that right?

SANTORUM: Well, I do. And certainly I -- I support John McCain and his, you know, his great sacrifice that he made for this country. And when I was in the United States Senate, John and I disagreed on this when I was in the Senate. And, you know, I -- I respect him. We just have a public policy disagreement on what constitutes torture. And -- and, by the way, what -- how effective this -- this program has been.

We -- we certainly have gotten very, very critical leads that -- that led to the -- to the -- to the capture and killing of -- of several terrorists, high level terrorist suspects. And this is -- this is something we should not use cavalierly, by any stretch of the imagination. But if it's absolutely necessary for, you know, for the security of our country, we have to have methods available to extract from people who are not protected by the Geneva Convention.

And I think this is really important to point out, Wolf, that we have a Geneva Convention to make sure that -- that wars are fought as humanely as possible and that -- that civilians are protected and that people are -- that -- that -- that -- that things are -- are conducted in a way that, if you can, through war civilly.

And this is -- these are folks who are outside, who are -- who are doing things that -- that do not give them that protection. And therefore, they should not be treated with the same kind of -- kind of rights.

BLITZER: Let me ask a quick question about the frontrunner, Mitt Romney. A lot of Republicans say they don't trust him because he's so -- supposedly flip-flopped on a lot of key issues, social issues, economic issues, other issues over the years in order to gain support, did one thing when he was running for governor of Massachusetts, another thing when he's running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Do you trust Mitt Romney?

SANTORUM: I trust me. That's one of the reasons I'm running, because I -- I look at the field and I'm someone who's been that consistent conservative, someone who has not flipped. I mean you're absolutely right, Mitt Romney has taken a variety of different positions on a variety of different issues. And people have to look at that as to whether they want someone to go into that cauldron of Washington, that very difficult place to -- to do business, with a lot of pressure from the media and from the -- from the culture to -- to back off your conservative principles.

I've been there. I did it and I stood -- stood my ground. I had a bold plan to get this economy going, that's based on conservative principles of lower taxes, less regulation, you know, reforming the litigation environment in this country. I've got a strong plan on moral/cultural issues that I announced last week in Iowa. And, of course, you heard last night, there's no one who's more Reagan conservative when it comes to foreign policy than I am.

So we're -- we're -- we're right across the board, the Reagan conservative and I've proven it, unlike, really, everybody else in the field.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but can I assume you don't trust Mitt Romney then?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, I -- when I say trust him, I'm -- I'm not going to go to the issue of trust. I'll go to the issues that -- that, you know, you have to look at what he's done in the past when he was in difficult situations and he didn't stick by conservative principles. I think we want someone who -- who has a track record of standing up and -- and fighting because he believes it in here. He believes it in here and it comes from his soul. And I think most folks who know me, that's where it comes from.

BLITZER: Rick Santorum, thanks very much.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck out there.

SANTORUM: Thanks.

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