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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And joining us now Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. Lots of reaction, Senator Santorum, to what you told our own John King on your opposition to women serving in combat units in the U.S. military.

A very angry responsibilities from one veteran who writes, co- founder of, an Iraq war veteran, "It's impossible to put into words how infuriating that is to me as someone who has served twice in Iraq with women who were already serving ably in combat, even though the Pentagon didn't officially recognize that up until now."

What's wrong with women serving in combat?

SANTORUM: Well, there's lots of things wrong. There's lots of roles that women can play. In fact, roles that are, in fact, very dangerous, but it's very different than have them out there on the frontlined and into the position (ph) where there are all sorts of physical issues. I mean, that gear (ph) out there, for example, in a group where it just with two people.

And you have some people, because of women have, as you know, with respect to physical capabilities, they have -- they don't have the same requirements that men do in the military and maybe in a position where, you know, someone is injured and has to be brought back. And that's one example.

The other example is just simply the emotions of men in dealing with women in combat and not focusing potentially on the mission, instead of in protecting -- the natural instinct to protect someone who's a female. I mean, these are all reasons that armies throughout the world. I mean, look at the Israeli army, which is an army that has a lot of women in it, and a lot of women in very important positions, but not in combat.

There's a reason for that. We have to look at mission effectiveness. We can't look at, you know, other reasons why people may or may not want to be in combat. We have to look at what the effect of this and safety of those who would deploy in that mission.

BLITZER: Israeli army, by the way, doesn't allow women to serve in combat units, but they do allow gays to serve openly in the Israeli military. I know you oppose gays serving in the military as well. Is that right?

SANTORUM: Yes, I have taken that position. Yes.

BLITZER: Because, I mean, if you're using the Israeli example as far as combat, women in combat, I assume you would except the Israel sample that they don't have a problem allowing gays to serve openly in their military.

SANTORUM: Well, no, that necessarily, but I sort of laid out the rationality that the Israelis used, because they, in fact, do have a lot more utilization of different people in their military, but they have drawn the line here, because they think that undermines - potential undermine the mission that needs to be accomplished.

BLITZER: A lot of women are irritated, though, because under your line of thinking they say women shouldn't serve as firefighters or police officer, because those are jobs that require them to be on the frontlines and could be in danger to -- their lives could be on the line as well.

SANTORUM: Well, it's funny (INAUDIBLE) obviously is the same position of this administration. So, I don't know why they're upset with me. This has been the position of the military from the beginning of our country. So, I don't know why the anger is necessarily focused on me.


BLITZER: The military brass is thinking of formally changing the position right now, just as they recently changed the position allowing gays to serve up in the military. Now, the generals are saying, well, maybe, it's time to formally allow women to serve openly, even though informally they -- if you've been to Iraq and Afghanistan, you know they serve in very dangerous combat roles.

SANTORUM: Of course I do. Now, look, I understand that there may be situations in which they poise (ph) in harm's way and the danger, obviously. But it's one thing to have that happen, another thing to actually have a stated policy to put women in that role.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Mitt Romney. He spoke at CPAC today. You're there. And, he didn't mention you by name. He didn't mention Newt Gingrich by name, but it was over who he was talking about. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Leadership as a chief executive isn't about getting a bill out of conference or giving a great speech. I happen to be the only candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat, who has never worked a day in Washington.


ROMNEY: I don't have olds scores to settle or decades of cloakroom deals that I have to defend. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I want you to react to what Mitt Romney just -- because he's clearly referring to you and Newt Gingrich, basically, suggesting you guys are Washington insiders, he's not.

SANTORUM: Well, that's sort of the new tactic. I mean, I'm sure they poll tested this one and trying to figure out, you know, how can we go after Rick Santorum, because he's obviously a very strong conservative. So, we can't really attack him from the right, so we got to use some other tool to try to tear him down and maybe experience in the job that you're actually running for would be a good place to go.

I don't think that works. The fact of the matter is that, you know, experience and doing the job that you're running for is actually probably a pretty good thing. And having the ability to be able to see and learn lessons as I have from how things are -- were missing out in Washington for many years is actually pretty good experience to see how to do it the right way.

BLITZER: Because they're also saying -- you are one of the great proponents of earmarks. That you and former Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania probably got a billion dollars in earmarks for various projects in Pennsylvania. You want to respond to that accusation that they make against you?

SANTORUM: Yes, well, Senator Specter got a lot more than I did, because he was on the appropriations committee, but you know, I believe the time that Congress has a specific authority to spend money, and sometimes, the Congress and the president disagree on how that money is spent. One of the things that I did was, for example, when I was in the House, I fought for the B22 Offspring, which is now is indispensable flat form for our marines in combat right now, air flat form.

And under the Bush administration, Bush 1, they were going to eliminate that, but many of us thought an earmark to make sure that that flat form would be go forward, the predator drone program. There's a whole bunch of things that, you know, Congress and the president disagree on. And sometimes, Congress has something and says no, Mr. President, you will spend the money this way. And I don't think that's necessarily wrong. In fact, I think that's our duty to do so.

What happened was that there was an obvious of that process, and when that happened, just like Jim DeMint, who earmarked for many, many years, who is the leader of the reform, we realized that that needed to be changed, and we called for the end of earmarks.

BLITZER: The president today announced a new initiative to try to get over this issue of contraceptive, birth control pills, catholic institutions like universities, hospitals, charities. He says this new formula should be acceptable, and then, he said this. Listen to what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- you're a teacher or a small businesswoman or a nurse or a janitor, no woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes. Every woman should be in control of the decision that affects her own health, period. This basic principle is already the law in 28 states across the country.


BLITZER: Do you have any problem with that?

SANTORUM: I do, a serious problem with it. This is the federal government using his power of coercion to force an employer to pay for things that are morally objectionable to that employer. And, you know, Wolf, we're not talking about a $10,000 procedure here. We're talking about something that is an inexpensive medical, you know, drug.

And the idea that, somehow, the government even has to insure this, period, the government has to force people to even cover this for the first place is a complete -- make some mockery out of the issue of insurance. Insurance is there to prevent you from, you know, from expenses that, in fact, are -- would be threatening to your financial stability.

This is not going to threat anybody's financial stability. And for the government to force that period, plus force it upon folks who find a moral objection to it, is simply rubbing salt in an already really tough wound. This is a president trying to impose his values, rolling over religious liberty, rolling over freedom of conscience, and in the case of the archdiocese and military, rolling over the freedom of speech.

This is a clear indication that the president has war on freedom, not just the freedom of conscience, but the war on freedom, because he thinks he knows best, what people should have and shouldn't have, and that is that should outrage everybody of faith and no faith.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much.

SANTORUM: My pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.


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