CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


By:  Rick Santorum
Date: March 2, 2012
Location: Unknown


BLITZER: Senator Santorum, thanks very much for joining us. I appreciate it. I know you got a lot going on right now. I want to go through some substantive national security issues with you, first, beginning with Israel and Iran. And I want you to react to what the president of the United States, President Obama, told Jeffrey Goldberg in "The Atlantic" magazine, and he's just moving.

I'll read a quote from the interview. This is President Obama. "I think that the Israeli government recognizes that as president of the United States, I don't bluff. I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."

I guess, I want to get your reaction. What do you think about what the president is saying about this threat of Israel and Iran?

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's welcome -- welcome to where I think most Americans are, which is that we don't believe that the Iranians should have a nuclear weapon. It would be nice if we actually saw policies from this administration that would follow on with his stated goals, and we're not. I mean, the president opposed to the very end any kind of real tough sanctions on Iran.

He eventually capitulated to his own party, who is pushing him hard to do so. But again, we see him outing (ph) Israel. I mean, the secretary of defense basically saying, oh, you know, Israel is going to attack and then condemning them for doing so. You're seeing all sorts of signs that the president, frankly, doesn't mean what he says. I'd like to see some signs that he isn't bluffing.

BLITZER: If you were president of the United States and meeting next week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, knowing how concern the Israelis are about Iran's nuclear intentions, what would you say to the prime minister?

SANTORUM: I would say to the prime minister, there is no distance between the two of us, that we are committed together to making sure that Iran does not become a nuclear power, and that we will work in concert if necessary, depending on what we believe is the best course of action, unilaterally or in concert, but we will consult and work with each other to make sure that we're both on the same page and we are doing -- and effectuating policies that will keep Iran from going nuclear.

BLITZER: Would you discourage Israel from going ahead with a preemptive military strike to give sanctions more time?

SANTORUM: I would work with Israel to make sure that we're on the same page and if Israel is moving forward because they believe that -- and a nuclear Iran is imminent and we can be convinced of that fact then I would cooperate with the Israelis in making sure that that doesn't happen.

BLITZER: Let's move on in the neighborhood to Syria right now. The government of President Bashar Al-Assad is slaughtering thousands of peaceful protesters in his own country. The world is basically doing nothing except condemning it, imposing sanctions, if you will, but unlike in Libya, there's no military, no fly-zone, no blockade. What would you do to stop the slaughter in Syria?

SANTORUM: Well here's another example where if he's not bluffing, I don't know what he's doing. The president said his stated policy is to remove Assad, (INAUDIBLE) go out and say that we believe our policy is to remove Assad then you have to do something about it. You can't just -- it's not like picking a team for the final four. You've got -- you have to have a role to play if you say this is our stated policy and the president has done nothing to move forward and help the insurgents in Syria. And again, if you look at it in context with Iran, Syria is a puppet state of Iran.

I am sure that -- and of course the administration knows this. And one of my concerns is, is the reason the president has been hesitant to get involved with this particular insurgent group was the same reason he was hesitant to get involved in the only other one he didn't get involved, which was Iran and -- because of the nexus between the two and it shows again the president's -- you know tendency to be appeasing of Iran and its allies as opposed to confronting them.

BLITZER: In Afghanistan right now we see a very disturbing development in the aftermath of the mistaken, the accidental burning of those Korans, as you well know. Afghan soldiers that the United States has trained and paid for, they're going out in government ministries and they're shooting American military officers in the back of their heads. What's going on in Afghanistan right now? Is it time to get out of there?

SANTORUM: I think it's certainly a situation we have to reevaluate and we have to put the government on the line here as governor -- excuse me -- President Karzai on the line for this behavior, and have public apologies, public, you know, recriminations with respect to trials and actions on the part of the Afghan government to make sure that the people in this country know that this is something that will not be tolerated by them or by our government. And we have -- I think we -- this is a time we also have to reassess.

Here's the problem, Wolf, is that we have a president who's already said we're leaving and so what's the reassessment in the case of this administration? We're already leaving. And so we're going to leave sooner or we're going to leave a little later? That's been the fundamental problem with Afghanistan from the very beginning. We didn't make the commitment to success, and as a result, everybody's hedging their bets in the region (INAUDIBLE) leading to a much more difficult situation for us to be successful.

BLITZER: That's part one of the interview. We've got part two coming up. We go through a lot of other issues, including his comments calling the president of the United States a snob. Also he's reacting to that Georgetown University law student who's been condemned as a prostitute, a slut by Rush Limbaugh. You're going to hear what Rick Santorum has to say on that. Part two of the interview coming up.


Let's talk about some domestic issues. You know you got a lot of grief by suggesting the president was a snob, a snob for wanting kids to go beyond high school, get some college education, or technical school, get a certificate, get some post-high school education --

SANTORUM: No, no, whoa, whoa, whoa. No, no --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

SANTORUM: No, no, I didn't say that. I was given a long riff about the president mandating things on people. I was talking about the government, the president mandating healthcare. And you know what kind of loans we're going to get and then I went in and talked about the -- you know the issue of him now coming forward with the statement that every child should go to college. And it was this attitude that government knows best. And so I was commenting on the general attitude of as I do in all my speeches of top down government knows best and so I used the term "snob." You know it was a strong term, probably not the smartest thing. But you know what? I don't give prepared talking point speeches written by other people. I got a little passionate there and I used a harsher word than I normally would. But the point was government shouldn't be dictating to people what they do.

People should have opportunities and we should be -- government should be in a position to encourage people of course to do things and upgrade their skills on a variety of levels. But to sort of say people should do this when it comes to four-year college education, I just think was a little over the top.

BLITZER: All right, well, let's talk about this other education issue. You know about this Georgetown University law student, this Sandra Fluke. Today the president actually called her and supported her.

She's getting criticized as you know by Rush Limbaugh who has used some outrageous terms, even a spokesman for the speaker, John Boehner, is saying what Rush Limbaugh is saying is totally inappropriate right now. But let me play this little clip because he's -- Rush Limbaugh is suggesting that by supporting government insurance, paid insurance for contraceptives, birth control pills or whatever, Rush Limbaugh is suggesting she's a slut or a prostitute and then he even goes further. Listen to this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO HOST: So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you femi-nazis (ph) here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.


BLITZER: All right. Go ahead. I want you to respond to Rush Limbaugh.

SANTORUM: Well, he's taking -- you know he's being absurd. But that's, you know an entertainer can be absurd. And he's taken the absurd, you know the absurd, you know sort of point of view here as to how far do you go. And look, he's in a very different business than I am. I'm concerned about the public policy of this president imposing his values on people -- on people of faith who morally object to the government telling them they have to do something which they believe is a grave moral wrong.

And government should not be in the business of telling -- when you talk about separation of church and state, you hear it all the time. Well, the real separation of church and state that our founders believed in was that the state cannot tell people of faith what to do and run over their rights. And that's what this president is doing right now. BLITZER: You know, a lot of your fellow Catholics were not happy with your criticism of President Kennedy for calling for separation of church and state. You said when you heard that speech you wanted to throw up. I want you to address your fellow Catholics and tell us how you feel about the former president of the United States.

SANTORUM: Well, when I grew up in a home, I remember you know having a picture of JFK in the house. I was very proud as a Catholic to finally have you know someone who was the first Catholic president. And it was a point of pride for me and continues to be, the fact that this country at that time could elect a Catholic and he was legitimately.

He had a legitimate reason to go and give that speech. And certainly I -- you know I wasn't -- I was two years old at the time. But looking back I -- he absolutely needed to give that speech. The problem is he went farther than he should have. And he did a lot of good things. There were a lot of -- I mean the vast majority of that speech I can agree with.

But there were some very key lines in there that I think has led to a degradation of religious liberty in this country. When a president of the United States says that he believes in an absolute separation of church and state, that's France. That's not America. America believes in a vibrant public square with people of faith and no faith being able to participate lively in the discussion.

And if you go on and read President Kennedy's remark, he talks about he won't -- he won't take any advice from anybody who has any faith. And that's not -- I mean you take advice from everybody, people of faith and no faith. I mean this is -- this is a very, very cold and naked public square is what he was describing. And it was very disturbing to me that he would take -- he would take a legitimate issue and then just take that --


BLITZER: All right. So there you hear Senator Santorum responding to all of the criticism. We'll have more on this coming up later.


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