ABC "This Week" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Rick Santorum
Date: March 18, 2012
Location: Unknown

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But our headliner this morning has been on a roll. Former Senator Rick Santorum joins us now. Good morning, Senator.

SANTORUM: Good morning, Jonathan. Good to be with you.

KARL: So, Senator, front page of the New York Times today has a big headline saying Republicans are girding for a fight on the convention floor. You have been saying this for days, saying that basically nobody can really get a majority of the delegates before the convention. Are you saying essentially that your best chance of winning this nomination is a fight on the convention floor?

SANTORUM: Well, we still believe that there are plenty of delegates out there for us to do what we have been doing, which is actually going out there and winning states and winning the tough battles, and doing so over pretty overwhelming odds. If you consider the fact that we're, you know, to deal with Congressman Gingrich, Speaker Gingrich, who is in this race and certainly pulling more votes from us than he is from Governor Romney, and being outspent. You know, here in Illinois, when I was just there yesterday, you know, by 10 to 1, yet we're hanging in there, we're fighting, we're climbing, because we have got the best message, the best contrast with President Obama and the best vision for our country. And I think that's what people are responding to, and I think they're getting tired of the negative ads. They're getting tired of just tearing down the other side, which is what Romney has been doing now for two elections in a row, and really providing no real vision for the country.

KARL: But how likely do you think it is that this is going to come to a battle on the convention floor? As you know, this is something that Romney has said would doom the party's chances against Barack Obama?

SANTORUM: I don't it dooms anybody's chances. Look, this is a primary process where somebody had a huge advantage, huge money advantage, huge advantage of establishment support, and he hasn't been able to close the deal and even come close to closing the deal. That tells you that there's a real flaw there. And the fact that we're able to do this, just by having a, as I said before, a great message, and the American people, Republicans and conservatives, lining up behind us -- enthusiastically doing so -- fighting the establishment, you know, clawing our way, you know, into contention here. It just tells you that people are looking for something different, they are looking for something that they can, you know, go after President Obama and make the contrast.

You know, as I was saying yesterday out on the road in Illinois, I mean, there's just -- there is increasingly -- the more I look at the record of Governor Romney and match it up against Barack Obama, I feel like I'm doing a training run for the general election. The same issues I'm out there campaigning on against Governor Romney are the same issues I'm going to campaign against Barack Obama on, which is, you know, the government overreach in health care, and cap-and-trade, trying to control the manufacturing and energy sector of the economy. And of course, you know, the bailouts. All of these things are -- you know, unfortunately Governor Romney and Barack Obama are in the same place. So that's one of the reasons you are not seeing him close the deal is mandates.

KARL: Are you saying that there's not much difference between Romney and Obama?

SANTORUM: On those issues, there clearly isn't. And as you know, Jonathan, those were the issues that really spurred our victory in 2010 was this idea of government mandates and control of the economy, and you know, the bailouts, and the attempt to try to take over the energy use in our country through cap-and-trade, and of course the successful takeover of the economy, Obamacare. Governor Romney is on the same page as Barack Obama on all of these issues. And that's what, again, you see conservatives all across this country rejecting someone who they don't see a difference between this president. We can't be out there nominating someone who gives away the most important issues that conservatives care about in this election when it comes to the economy.

KARL: You know, Gingrich has suggested, Newt Gingrich has suggested that he's actually helping you out here, that by staying in the race he's making it harder for Romney to get a majority of the delegates. I imaging you don't see it that way, but if this -- you believe this is a two-man race. Is it time for a head-to-head debate, you against Mitt Romney?

SANTORUM: I would love to have a head-to-head debate with Governor Romney. The idea, for example, you know, he pushes back and says Romneycare is nothing like Obamacare and he never advocated for it, which of course he did, in op-eds as well as on television programs. And even in the 2008 election, when he got up and was questioned by Fred Thompson in the 2008 election, Governor Romney said mandates, I love mandates. Mandates work, this is what we need to do, we need to force people to buy insurance, and he defended his record in Massachusetts, and in fact argued for exactly what President Obama put in place, was a government-mandated health care program at the federal level.

I would love to be able to get one-on-one with Governor Romney and expose the record that would be the weakest record we could possibly put up against Barack Obama. And that is again, why I believe ultimately, you know, we did very well yesterday in Missouri. I think we're going to do really, really well in Illinois, even though we're, again, you know, we're being outspent, and of course Congressman Gingrich is on the ballot, and certainly the speaker is taking a lot more votes from us than he is from Governor Romney. But still, we're hanging in there because people are seeing, they're coming around to the fact that we can't nominate such a weak candidate in the general election.

KARL: OK, well, I just heard from you a challenge for a head-to-head debate against Mitt Romney, and I will in turn give you an invitation. We can do it right here on This Week. Are you in?

SANTORUM: I accept. I'd love to do it. I -- see if Governor Romney is willing to come out. He's been turning down every single debate. He's hiding behind the billionaires who funding his super PAC and spending outrageous amounts of money, all running negative ads, tearing down the opponent on specious issues, not talking about the issues that people are talking about at their kitchen table. And in fact, a lot of the criticisms that he's leveling against me are things that he himself has done, and in fact far worse, like giving money to Planned Parenthood personally and funding abortion clinics while he was governor of Massachusetts with taxpayer dollars. I mean, this is someone who will say anything to get elected, and I think, again, people are recognizing they want the genuine article.

KARL: OK. So, now, Puerto Rico primary today, you obviously spent some time down there, took some heat for suggesting that if Puerto Rico were to become a state, they would need to have English as the official language. And I want to play something else you said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: They would have to speak English. That would be a requirement. It's a requirement that we put on other states. It is a condition for entering the Union.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So, what did you mean by that? Because as far as I can tell, there's no requirement for official English right now.

SANTORUM: There were requirements -- yes, there were requirements put on other states when they came into the union that English be the principal language and that it be taught and spoken universally in those states. There's several states where, as you know, there were other languages spoken in the Southwest, Oklahoma, Hawaii. And so it was a condition of admission to statehood, and that's simply what I've said. There's only 15 percent, according to the census, are fluent in English in Puerto Rico. And what I have said is that obviously Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking country -- excuse me, a Spanish-speaking island, not a country but a Spanish-speaking island -- and they'll continue to speak Spanish, and of course that's their culture, and they have every right to do so.

But what I have said is that, you know, there should be fluency in English as well as Spanish. And if they want to -- and I think it just makes sense, just like here in this country. I mean, Governor Romney and I have both said that we would like English as the official language of this country. Yet when Governor Romney went to Puerto Rico, he said, oh no, you don't have to speak English if you come -- as a requirement to be a state, yet he wants English to be the official language of this country. This is the hypocrisy of Mitt Romney to go and pander for votes, knowing full well that there's no way he would stand for that if -- as Puerto Rico coming into statehood without having proficiency in English. Yet to get 20 delegates, he's willing to say whatever he needs to say in order to get those votes. And I'm hopeful the people of Puerto Rico will see through the charade of what Governor Romney will do to get votes.

KARL: All right, let's turn to foreign policy. Obviously it's been a rough, rough week in Afghanistan, I mean really a rough couple of months. You have heard Newt Gingrich suggest it's time to get out. What is your sense? Is it time to pull the plug on the war in Afghanistan?

SANTORUM: You know, this is a terrible tragedy. Things that have been occurring, and obviously some of them are just simply that, just simply tragedies of people doing irrational things.

The bigger issue here is the policy of this administration. The policy of this administration does something you simply can't do if you want to win a war, particularly against a guerrilla insurgence force, and that is give them hope that they can survive. And that's what the president has done from day one that he came into office, where he put a timeline for us to leave Afghanistan. Once you give a timeline, you give the enemy an objective to hold on, to bunker down, if you will, and survive whatever onslaught the United States is going to put forth.

And the other problem is, you have all those actors in the region, from Pakistan to the Afghans, who are opposing the Taliban, who realize that the United States isn't going to be there to finish the job, and that they are going to have to deal with the Taliban afterwards. And so you have created an untenable situation.

And so I, you know, in some respects I agree with Congressman Gingrich. If this is the game plan, if the game plan is we're leaving irrespective of whether we're going to succeed or not, then why are we still there? Let's either commit to winning, or let's get out.

KARL: OK, so what does President Santorum do? Do you commit to winning, and what does that take? Or do you say it's time to get out?

SANTORUM: Well, I think if you commit to winning and you change the entire dynamic in the region. You change the dynamic with respect to the Taliban, and you recognize that we're going to stay there and we're going to finish the job.

And by the way, that may not mean the heavy footprint that we have in Afghanistan right now. There may be, as we did when we initially threw the Taliban out, we did so with a few handfuls of troops, I mean, several hundred troops. There's a lot of ways in which we can play and be an effective actor in that country. And certainly I would work with our experts in that area to see what troop op complement we would need, and work with the Afghan government to make sure that we commit to them to be successful, whatever that -- whatever that means, whatever that's necessary to accomplish.

KARL: OK. I want to turn to the economy, give you a chance to respond to something we heard, a pretty extraordinary statement from Mitt Romney about you and about your credentials on the economy. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We're not going to be successful in replacing an economic lightweight if we nominate an economic lightweight. And I'm an economic heavyweight. I know how this economy works. I am going to get it working for the American people because I care about the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: OK, so are you an economic lightweight?

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: When a candidate has to tell you he cares about the American people, that tells you something, number one. You can either demonstrate that or you can try to convince them by telling them that.

I think we -- I don't go around telling people I care about them. I show that I care about them, number one, number two -- by the policies and by what I've done in my political career.

Number two, if Mitt Romney's an economic heavyweight, we're in trouble, because we was 47th out of 50 in job creation in the state of Massachusetts when he was governor. He may have had some success at making money for himself and his partners at Bain Capital, and I give him a lot of credit for doing so, but that's a very different thing than going out and creating an atmosphere for people to create -- that create jobs.

And again, for Mitt Romney to say he's the economic heavyweight -- this is a man who doesn't understand conservative principles. Conservatives don't go out there and say, I'm going to create jobs and I'm going to change the economy, I'm going to manage the economy. Just the opposite. What we believe in is getting government out of the way, creating opportunity, and let the private sector do these things.

This is Mitt Romney again, you know, the CEO trying to go in and manage something. We don't need a manager. We need someone who can go in there and transform Washington and get it out of the hair of people in the private sector, reduce regulation, and cut taxes dramatically. We do. He doesn't. His program is, according to the Wall Street Journal, is weak and timid. Ours is bold. They called our plan supply-side economics for the working man, because we talk about getting jobs for everybody in our economy, getting manufacturing jobs back here, growing the energy sector. I was for growing the energy sector and for harvesting the resources in this ground when Mitt Romney was putting caps on CO2 as governor of Massachusetts, and talking about cap-and-trade and imposing all sorts of government regulations on the energy industry.

KARL: Your stance on pornography has also gotten a lot of attention this week. I want to read something -- this is from your website. You say, "America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography. It causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences." What did you mean by that?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, we do something rather unusual in our campaign. When people write into our campaign and ask for our opinions on issues, we actually respond to them and post them up on the website, and that's what happened here. And someone was asking about the fact that President Obama and his attorney general don't enforce the existing pornography laws. And we wrote back and put it up on our web site saying that we would, of course, as president enforce those laws, because obviously Congress in its wisdom understood that hard-core pornography is very damaging, particularly to young people, and that exposure on the Internet can be very damaging, and of course it's very damaging to a lot of folks who--

KARL: So what do you do about it, though?

SANTORUM: -- are in all sorts of settings (ph). You enforce the law. There are laws against purveying hard-core pornography. And that -- we have attorney generals in the country, at least under the Bush administration, who did prosecute that. And this administration isn't. And I simply said I would follow the law, which I know in the case of Barack Obama can be somewhat of a hefty challenge for him, but we're going to do it as president.

KARL: OK, and finally, I have got to ask you, you've mentioned how liberal you say Mitt Romney is. You, back in 1996, supported Arlen Specter for president. This was a one-issue candidacy. He was a pro-choice candidate. Take a listen to what he said when he announced his campaign for president. You were on the stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, R-PA.: I want to take abortion out of politics, and leave moral issues, such as abortion, to the conscience of the individual. That is a matter to be decided by women, not by big government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And take a look. I think we have a screen graph from that. You were there on the stage with him. You were -- you were probably his most -- maybe his most prominent supporter. Why did you support Arlen Specter for president?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, when your colleague is running for office, and you know, I was his colleague in the United States Senate. He asked me to stand with him. That certainly was not one of my prouder moments I look back on. But look, you know, you work together as a team for the state of Pennsylvania. And I felt that Senator Specter had stood up and supported me when I was running in 1994, and I did likewise. I certainly knew that Arlen Specter was going nowhere. I certainly disagreed with a lot of things that he said, and it was something I look back on and wish I hadn't done.

KARL: OK, all right. Two quick ones. One, your top aide, one of your top aides, John Brabender, raised the issue of Seamus the dog, of course the dog that famously rode on the top of Mitt Romney's car. Do you think this is an issue for the campaign?

SANTORUM: By the way, I just want to add that when I was standing up behind Arlen Specter, Mitt Romney was pro-choice. Mitt Romney was giving money to Planned Parenthood and was out there talking, being -- echoing the same themes, by the way, that Arlen Specter was echoing. So if we want to compare folks on issues, Governor Romney was -- I was standing up by the way during that time fighting the partial birth abortion ban act, which by the way Senator Specter supported. And one of the things that to me was a key was for his support for that issue.

As far as Seamus the dog, look, all I would say is, you know, the issues of character are important in this election, and we need to look at all those issues and make a determination as to whether that's the kind of person you want to be president of the United States.

KARL: All right, well, Seamus the dog. I think we'll be hearing more about him going forward. But thank you, Senator Santorum, we appreciate your time.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much, Jonathan.

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