An Exclusive Mini-Interview With Senator Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is up for re-election in 2006 and he’ll be going head to head with Bob Casey. Santorum is generally considered to be the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate and he’s polling well behind Bob Casey right now. However, Santorum is an excellent campaigner with the advantages of incumbency and Casey seems to be coasting on the fond memories Pennsylvanians have of his father, rather than his own merits. So, even though he is behind at the moment, Santorum still has time to pull it out.

Yesterday, I did a short phone interview with Rick Santorum about WMDs, a leadership position in the Senate, and the Senator’s re-election campaign. Here is an edited, partial transcript of that conversation.

John Hawkins: What do you say to people who now know that we discovered 500 WMDS in Iraq, that Saddam had stockpiles of weapons, and yet they still say, “Aww, that’s not a big deal. What does it prove?” What do you say to those people, Rick?

Rick Santorum: Well, I say that it was one of the pieces of the puzzle that we believe helps put together the threat that Saddam was to this country and the world… One of the things that we asserted was that he had not destroyed his stockpiles of weapons from the previous war. We sent in weapons inspectors, as people will recall, not only to look at whether he had current weapons programs in place, but to determine whether he had destroyed the weapons he said he had destroyed. It is very clear that he did not destroy those weapons and that those weapons would have been available and unfortunately still are available to…terrorist organizations that could use them against us or other countries around the world.

John Hawkins: (I hear that you may)….be duking it out to be the next (Whip) on the Hill. Any truth to that?

Rick Santorum: I know Lamar Alexander has talked to people and has been very clear that he is interested in running for that position. If anyone were to challenge me, it would be Lamar….I feel very confident that when we win this thing, that we’ll have a race for the Whip and I have every intention of winning that race, too.

John Hawkins: Now you voted against the immigration bill in the Senate. Why did you do that and do you think it’s fair to call it an amnesty bill?

Rick Santorum: Well, I voted against it for a lot of reasons. …I think it puts the cart before the horse. It is a bill that allows everybody that is in this country to get in on a path to legalization. You can call it amnesty, you call it whatever you want to call it, but it says that if you’re here you can stay and stay with very little price associated with staying. You jump ahead of…everybody else who has been following the rules to get here. I don’t approve of that.

I think what we need to do is instead of first working on legalization, is work on border security, work on making sure we have tamper-proof ID cards, make sure that we have good employer enforcement — and make sure that we have a temporary worker program that is truly temporary — which means that people come to this country for a period of time, for certain purposes, and have to return home.

John Hawkins: If someone said to you, “Rick, I am undecided between you and Casey. Give me three differences between the two of you that would convince me to vote for you.” What would you tell them?

Rick Santorum: First, I’d say taxes are a big difference. He is against the tax reductions of 2001 and 2003. He said he would like to raise…rates up to 50% for the top bracket. He is absolutely a traditional tax and spend Democrat. So on taxes and spending, he is for spending a bunch more and taxing a bunch more….

The second issue that I think is especially important, particularly for Pennsylvanians, is medical liability reform. That’s an issue that is just killing our commonwealth. We are losing doctors hand over fist. We had 9 maternity wards close down in the city of Philadelphia, 5 in the city of Pittsburgh. We have a real crisis on our hands and Bobby Casey is a trial lawyer. That’s what he did. He sued doctors before he got into politics and there is a big difference between him and me on (that) issue.

…Those are the two big economic issues that are facing us. On the cultural side, probably the biggest difference is on the issue of marriage. I strongly believe we need to protect the traditional family in America and he does not feel that way. He is not in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment. He is not in favor of a State Marriage Amendment. He would do nothing to stop the courts from doing what they (inevitably seem to do), which is to…take this issue of what marriage is out of the hands of the people and have the courts decide it for us in a way that is against the way most Americans think it should be.

John Hawkins: Now, you’re doubling Casey in fund raising and I’m hearing that you intend to run ads all the way from now until election day. If you had one concise message that you wanted to get out to people about Rick Santorum and one concise message that you had to let people know about Bob Casey, what would it be?

Rick Santorum: The concise message is that I am someone who has the courage of his convictions, who will stand up and tell you what I think, and I will deliver on what I promise.

He’s someone who has (hardly ever) articulated a firm stance on…any issue. He’s hiding behind his father’s name in an attempt to fool the voters. That’s how he has gotten elected to every office so far — and the only race he ever lost was where he had to take positions and he lost badly. I think Pennsylvania deserves a fighter, who’s going to tell you what he’s going to do, and then has the courage, the fortitude, and the work ethic to go out and do it and Bob Casey has not shown that he has those (qualities) in his public life.

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