ABC "This Week" - Transcript


By:  Rick Santorum
Date: Feb. 26, 2012
Location: Unknown

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, THIS WEEK: Good morning, everyone. It has been a rough and tumble week on the campaign trail. All eyes now on the Midwest battleground, Michigan. The big question, will it be a decisive tipping point in this tumultuous race? Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum neck and neck right now, and Senator Santorum is our headliner this morning from Marquette, Michigan. Good morning, Senator.


STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm OK, thank you. It looks like this tough week has taken a toll on you. The latest Gallup poll, I want to show what happened this week. You started out the week plus 10 in the Gallup poll. Yesterday, it was a dead heat. We are seeing the same kind of trends in Michigan. What's happening out there?

SANTORUM: Oh, you know, look, this is going to be a long race, and there's going to be some ups, there's going to be some downs, and you know what happens when you -- when you get that position to be that in front. We've just stayed focused, though. We stayed focused on here in Michigan in particular talking about manufacturing jobs, particularly about energy and trying to get energy prices lower, and you know, the response we've gotten has been absolutely great. We've had great crowds. We've focused on building this economy and particularly focused on making sure that lower-income people, folks who don't have the skill set that has been rewarded a lot in this knowledge economy, have the opportunity to get those basic skills, get those good manufacturing jobs, rise up the ladder and have the opportunity to succeed for themselves and their family, and we're going to continue that message here in Michigan and across this country.
PHOTO: Rick Santorum
ABC News
Republican presidential candidate Rick... View Full Size
PHOTO: Rick Santorum
ABC News
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is interviewed on "This Week."

STEPHANOPOULOS: Seems thought that that debate performance earlier this week was a setback for you. I noticed that your wife thought you should have prepared more. That was in the New York Times. And Governor Romney has zeroed in on this moment, where you discussed your vote for No Child Left Behind.


SANTORUM: I have to admit I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. You know, politics is a team sport, folks.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, the crowd didn't like it. Romney says it suggests that you're playing for the wrong team, and that you'd like to take that answer back. Is he right?

SANTORUM: Well, the team I was playing for is making sure that we stick to the American principles that made this country the greatest country in the history of the world. And if you look at my record, in particular on education, what I've been proposing and fighting for is to get the federal government out of the education system, actually get the state less in the education business and bring it back to families and communities. And here in, you know, where education should be. It should be in the responsibility of the people in the community, and particularly the parents. They should be involved in making sure that we have customized education for every child in America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you did say that that goes against your principles. .

SANTORUM: Well, looking back on it, that was the case. But here's the amazing thing, is that Governor Romney supports No Child Left Behind. I looked at No Child Left Behind after it was enacted and saw what happened and saw the expansion of the federal government and the role of education.

And I said, you know, that was -- that's not what I believe in. And Governor Romney still believes in that. Governor Romney defends No Child Left Behind and supports it today. I don't, because it's against the principles I believe in. It's obviously not against the principles that Governor Romney -- I have principles. I have principles that support the basic foundational principles of our country.

Governor Romney is not only wrong on the issue of education with the federal government and the state government having, you know, basically micromanaged it from the top down, but he's also wrong on a whole host of other principles of government involvement in the health care system, government involvement in energy and manufacturing with cap-and-trade and as he proudly proclaimed that he was going to put the first carbon cap in the country.

And when he was governor of Massachusetts or when he proudly passed -- and still defends government-run health care in Massachusetts. I've never been for any of those things. I believe in free people and free markets and capitalism. I didn't defend the Wall Street bailouts. He does. He still today does.

These are the differences and that's the team I'm on, the team that supports free markets, free people and bottom up, not the team that Governor Romney supports, which is big government and the top down.

STEPHANOPOULOS: On that question of bailouts, you also ran an ad in Michigan where you suggested Governor Romney turned his back on the workers of Michigan, of course referring to the auto bailout there. But you also are opposed to the auto bailout. So isn't it disingenuous to charge that Romney is turning his back on Michigan when you have the same position?

SANTORUM: Well, we have the same position on that, but we don't have the same position on bailouts. When I was in southwestern Pennsylvania as a young man, I saw the steel industry just decimated, and no government bailout came for the steel industry. We went through the very tough, difficult time in western Pennsylvania, of seeing most of the mills close there, big companies.

You would have never thought Bethlehem Steel would not be around any more, but it's not. What happened? What happened was that the marketplace worked. And look at southwestern Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, it's growing, it's prosperous, it's diversified. Steel is still there, it's just different. It's now all over the country and it's in a different way.

I believe from that experience that, you know what, markets actually do work. And I didn't support the Wall Street bailout. I didn't support Detroit. Mitt Romney supported his friends on Wall Street and then turned his back on the people of Detroit. Now I say turned his back because he supports the concept of bailouts. I don't. And that's the difference between the two approaches.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say he talked about his friends on Wall Street there, but you also said yesterday something I found a little bit odd I hadn't heard before. You said that Mitt Romney sounds like a member of Occupy Wall Street. What did you mean by that?

SANTORUM: Right. Well, because in his tax plan, when he laid out what he was going to do and cutting rates, which I'm glad he came to the party, because he wasn't cutting rates up until just this week. He actually said, well, he'll reduce the tax rates and actually put the highest rate in his tax code at 28 percent, which is the top rate that I put in my plan. So I welcome that.

But what he did was say that I'm going to pay for this by taxing the top 1 percent. That's Occupy Wall Street terminology.

We don't -- you know this idea that, well, we're going to make the rich pay for this -- and the way he does it is really very damaging to communities because he tells those who are higher income individuals that they're going to be limited on the amount of money they can deduct for purposes of charitable giving.

I mean, charitable giving is so important to make sure that we have vibrant, mediating (ph) institutions in our country, you know, schools and non-profit organizations that really do help to build the fabric of our community and not just rely upon the government.

So you would think the one area that you would not focus on making cuts are those very community organizations that make government less important in people's lives.

But, again, Governor Romney's on the team of government doing more things. That's his record in Massachusetts and he can't run away from it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you about Afghanistan. Four Americans were killed this week by Afghans in uniform. Does it make you think that it's time to rethink the mission?

SANTORUM: You know what, I continually am rethinking this mission. There -- look, there are no question that things have been positively accomplished in this -- in this latest (ph) movement. I congratulate the president for committing the troops that -- not as many as was requested but committing the troops to -- in the counterinsurgency that's been going on in Afghanistan.

But, obviously, there are still huge problems there. There are huge problems with the Haqqani network. There are huge problems still being able to track down and deal with the Taliban, and there are serious problems with the Karzai government and clearly the reaction that what happened here.

This is unacceptable. The idea that a mistake was made, clearly a mistake, which we should not have apologized for --



SANTORUM: -- it was a mistake. There was nothing deliberate.

Well, because there was nothing deliberately done wrong here. This was something that happened as a mistake. Killing Americans in uniform is not a mistake. It was something that deliberate.

That that you -- when that is occurring, you should not be apologizing for something that was a -- an unfortunate -- say it's unfortunate, say that this is something that should have been done. We were not (ph) better procedures. But to apologize for something that was not an intentional act is something that the President of the United States, in my opinion, should not have done.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if it was a mistake, isn't apologizing the right, important (ph) thing to do?

SANTORUM: Well, again, it suggests that there is somehow blame, this is somehow that we did something wrong in the sense of doing a deliberate act wrong. I think it shows that we are -- that I think it shows weakness.

I think what we say is, look, what happened here was wrong. But it was -- it was not something that was deliberate, and we are -- we -- you know, we take responsibility for it. It's unfortunate. But to apologize, I think, lends credibility that somehow or another that it was more than that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me get back to education. We were talking about that at the top of this interview. You had -- you talked about President Obama and education yesterday. I want to show what you said.


SANTORUM: President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.


SANTORUM: You're good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to tests that aren't taught by some liberal college professor.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Now getting to college has been part of the American dream for generations, Senator. Why does articulating an aspiration make the president a snob?

SANTORUM: I think because there are lot of people in this country that have no desire or no aspiration to go to college, because they have a different set of skills and desires and dreams that don't include college.

And to sort of lay out there that somehow this is -- this is -- should be everybody's goal, I think, devalues the tremendous work that people who, frankly, don't go to college and don't want to go to college because they have a lot of other talents and skills that, frankly, college, you know, four-year colleges may not be able to assist them.

And there are other -- there's technical schools, there's additional training, vocational training. There's skills and apprenticeships. There's all sorts of things that people can do to upgrade their skills to be very productive and --


SANTORUM: -- and build their community.

STEPHANOPOULOS: All he said was he wants, quote, "every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training." In your interview with Glenn Beck this week, you seemed to go further. You said I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because they are indoctrination mills. What did that mean?

SANTORUM: Well, of course. I mean, you look at the colleges and universities, George. This is not -- this is not something that's new for most Americans, is how liberal our colleges and universities are and how many children in fact are -- look, I've gone through it. I went through it at Penn State. You talk to most kids who go to college who are conservatives, and you are singled out, you are ridiculed, you are -- I can tell you personally, I know that, you know, we -- I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views. This is sort of a regular routine (ph). You know the statistic that at least I was familiar with from a few years ago -- I don't know if it still holds true but I suspect it may even be worse -- that 62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator, when you put all this together--

SANTORUM: This is not a neutral setting.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- it makes it sound like you think there is something wrong with encouraging college education.

SANTORUM: No, not at all, but understand that we have some real problems at our college campuses with political correctness, with an ideology that is forced upon people who, you know, who may not agree with the politically correct left doctrine. And one of the things that I've spoken out on and will continue to speak out is to make sure that conservative and more mainstream, common-sense conservative and principles that have made this country great are reflected in our college courses and with college professors. And at many, many, and I would argue most institutions in this country, that simply isn't the case.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have also spoken out about the issue of religion in politics, and early in the campaign, you talked about John F. Kennedy's famous speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston back in 1960. Here is what you had to say.


SANTORUM: Earlier (ph) in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That speech has been read, as you know, by millions of Americans. Its themes were echoed in part by Mitt Romney in the last campaign. Why did it make you throw up?

SANTORUM: Because the first line, first substantive line in the speech says, "I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute." I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.

This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate. Go on and read the speech. I will have nothing to do with faith. I won't consult with people of faith. It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent (ph) at the time of 1960. And I went down to Houston, Texas 50 years almost to the day, and gave a speech and talked about how important it is for everybody to feel welcome in the public square. People of faith, people of no faith, and be able to bring their ideas, to bring their passions into the public square and have it out. James Madison--

STEPHANOPOULOS: You think you wanted to throw up?


SANTORUM: -- the perfect remedy. Well, yes, absolutely, to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can't come to the public square and argue against it, but now we're going to turn around and say we're going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We got a lot of questions on this on Facebook and Twitter, and I want to play one of them to you from Doc Seuss (ph), Chris Doc Seuss (ph). What should we do with all the non-Christians in this country? If I do not hold this belief, which I do not, how does he plan on representing me?

SANTORUM: Yes, I just said. I mean, that's the whole point that upset me about Kennedy's speech. Come into the public square. I want, you know, there are people I disagree with. Come to my town hall meetings, as people have done, and disagree with me and let's have a discussion. Let's air your ideas, let's bring them in, let's explain why you believe what you believe and what you think is best for the country. People of faith, people of no faith, people of different faith, that's what America is all about, it's bringing that diversity into and challenge of the different ideas that motivate people in our country. That's what makes America work. And what we're seeing, what we saw in Kennedy's speech is just the opposite, and that's what was upsetting about it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're just about out of time. You are eloquent on that point--


STEPHANOPOULOS: But you also have a car in the Daytona 500 today. You're going to win?

SANTORUM: Hey, I will -- he started on road 21 (ph) out of 22. But with -- I mean, it was great, he was one of the final qualifiers, and I'm so excited. Tony Raines is our driver. It's the 26th car. It's a Ford, which I'm very excited about, and you know, we'll be watching, you know, this afternoon. And I talked to him about a strategy. I recommended he stay back in the pack, you know, hang back there until the right time, and then bolt to the front when it really counts. So let's watch. I'm hoping that for the first, you know, maybe 300, 400 miles, he's sitting way, way back, letting all the other folks crash and burn, and then sneak up at the end and win this thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I sense a metaphor there. We will be watching today. Senator, thanks very much.

SANTORUM: Oh, really? I didn't --


SANTORUM: OK, thanks, George.


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