Meet the Press | January 01, 2012
>> now to a man who has been making a late surge here in iowa , former two-term senator from pennsylvania , rick santorum .
>> santorum has spent more time in iowa this cycle than any other candidate and was the first to visit all 99 counties in the state. with limited resources and moneyable staff he's been traveling from event to event in a pickup truck. earlier this week, a cnn/"time" poll showed him for the first time in the top three. now he's suddenly turning out larger crowds and drawing more media attention. so he could make a strong showing in iowa by courting conservative voters like previous winner mike huckabee did four years ago. senator santorum , welcome back to "meet the press."
>> thank you, david. good to be with you.
>> so this is the candidate i'm sitting with who's got the hot hand in iowa . here's the des moines sunday register, romney , paul lead. santorum closes in. we just talked about in that last segment how you have had this surge, particularly in the last couple of days. what does it mean? what does it say to you about what's going on here in the state?
>> well, the people of iowa , i've been saying this from the very beginning, people have asked me, whet are you going to get your surge? you're not going anywhere. your message must not be resonating. i said my surge is going to come on january 3rd after the people of iowa do what they do, which is actually analyze the candidates, figure out where their positions are, find out who's the right leader, who's got what it takes to defeat barack obama and to lead this country, and i've always relied that when that crunch time comes, in these last two weeks, that's when we were going to start to pick up and that's exactly what's happened.
>> you talked about needing a miracle here in iowa . expectations have changed now. is anything less than a win here not measuring up to expectations?
>> that's really pretty funny, actually, because ten days ago i was at 5% and every question i got was, you know, why don't you pack it up? why don't you endorse another candidate? and now ten days later you're saying oh, you've got to win. exceed expectations. but, we feel very good about the way things are going on the ground. we've got a great grassroots organization. we've got a great team of people who are out helping us and they're committed to making sure that this is an impiric victory in november. that we elect someone who is exactly what america needs to turn this country around. not someone who well just might be able to win and not really do the change that's necessary in washington .
>> one more on just flat expectations. you feel, at this point particularly, you've got to do better than a michele bachmann or a rick perry in order to fin in this race?
>> i've always said there's three primaries. you have the conservative primary and you mentioned the other two people who i think are in the conservative primary. you have the libertarian primary and then you have gingrich and romney sort of fighting for the establishment vote. and our feeling was from the very beginning, if we can pace ahead of perry, and/or bachmann, that we'd be in good shape, and you know, we're moving in that direction certainly.
>> you talk about electability. you talk about conservative credentials. but we've been checking on this, you know, it will be 20 years ago this week, actually, that you began your service in washington . and had you not lost the re-election you would still be in washington as a senator. but you spent 16 years as a member of congress . four in the house, 12 in the senate, and yet there's nobody who served with you who's endorsed you, have they?
>> it's funny. i haven't asked anybody. and the reason i haven't asked anybody, i'm sitting at 3% in the national polls. and i really haven't gone out and asked any united states senator , i haven't asked a single one to endorse me. but i felt like i had to earn it first. that i had to go out and prove to -- you know, i lost my last race. and the general consensus was, you know, we like rick, but, you know, you can't -- who goes from losing their last senate race to winning the presidential nomination ? my answer to that was, well abraham lincoln . but other than abraham lincoln , this is not a common occurrence --
>> didn't know he was going out on a limb to offer, having served with you, knowing your credentials, knowing your principles.
>> again, no one's going to call you and say, you know, gee, can i, you know, can i help your campaign? at 3%. and i would have said to them, you know what, wait. because it doesn't matter. i don't really need or want washington endorsements. that's not what i'm here to do. i'm here to change washington . so i didn't really seek out endorsements. i didn't really want their endorsements. i didn't think they would help very much.
>> would you seek them out now?
>> if people want to endorse me, i'd love their endorsements. but i'm not coming to be buddies with my -- with, you know, my friends in the senate and house, i'm coming to change the entire nature of washington , d.c. it's one -- one of the benefits, frankly, of being out and looking in, and seeing what, you know, sometimes you said i was running as a consistent conservative . there are votes that i took, not that i advocated these things but i voted for some things and look back and say, why the heck did i do that? you get involved in sort of the the -- the idea that well, you got to make things happen, and you forget sometimes, you know, sometimes making some things happen is not -- you're better off --
>> i wonder if one of those example might be pork barrel spending because you're getting hit by rick perry by supporting the notorious bridge to nowhere . other pork barrel projects where deliver cash for folks back in your home state. do you regret voting for some of those projects? you've defended pork barrel spending in the past.
>> what i've said is your role as a member of congress , if you look at the constitution, is to appropriate money. of course if you appropriate money you're going to say where that money's going to go. and historically congress has taken the role of, you know, allocating those resources, and jim demint who led the charge on pork barrel spending , earmarked things for years and years. so what happened, after i left congress , was budgets began to explode. when i was in the senate, i voted for tough budgets, i voted for restrictions on spending, and made sure that that didn't happen. and as president, i propose cutting $5 trillion over five years. i propose we're going to balance the budget in at least five years, hopefully sooner. so if you're looking for someone who's voted for tough budgets, voted for spending restraints, and --
>> but that wasn't my question. do you regret supporting earmarks when you did?
>> i don't regret going out at the time and making sure that the people of pennsylvania , who i was elected to republican, got resources back in to the state.
>> so you're saying that's okay but if a budget is tighter it's not?
>> no, what happened was abuse. there was abuse of this process. and i agreed with that, that there was an abuse, and it was leading to more spending. it was leading to bigger spending bills and it had to end. and i supported it ending.
>> but rick perry called it the fleecing of america . do you agree that's what it is?
>> that's pretty funny because rick perry was hiring lobbyists to fleece america then to represent the state of texas to get more money back and i suspect if you ask kay hutchinson or john cornyn or anything of the texas delegation whether rick perry wanted money coming back to texas, they'd say yes he did. look, there's a legitimate role for congress to allocate resources. that's what the constitution requires them to do. when there's abuse, then you curb the abuse and i supported that.
>> let's talk about iowa . your latest ad talks about conservative credentials and electability. let me play a portion of it.
>> who has the best chance to beat obama ? rick santorum . a full spectrum conservative , rick santorum is rock solid on values issues.
>> so you've been making that contrast consistently questioning governor romney . calling him a liberal massachusetts governor . arguing, in fact, that he is a moderate. yet back in 2008 , when he was running for the presidency you were singing a different tune. this was your press release back then, you said governor romney is the candidate who will stand up for the conservative principles that we hold dear. he has a deep understanding of the important issues confronting our country today, and he is the clear conservative candidate that can go into the general election with united republican party . will stand up for the conservative principles that we hold dear. you even praised his work on fighting same-sex marriage. what changed?
>> well, what changed was who he's running against. at the time, that was five days or four days before super tuesday, it was after florida. it became clear to me that there were two candidates in the race at that point. i thought mike huckabee -- i would have loved to have mike huckabee out there. but i made the political judgment, right or wrong, that the best chance to stop john mccain , which was what my concern was, i had served 12 years with john mccain , i like and respect john mccain immensely personally, and he's done a lot of great things, obviously, for this country. but i did not think he was the right person, based on my experience and deep knowledge of his record, that he was the right person to be the nominee --
>> you said romney will stand up for the conservative principles that we hold dear.
>> compared to --
>> but you didn't stay compared to.
>> of course i'm not going to say compared to. i'm trying to add voe kate for his candidacy.
>> you didn't mean that then?
>> i was saying it relative to john mccain . remember it's not like i was an early supporter of romney . i endorsed him seven days before he droned out of the race. maybe i was a little bit --
>> does he have conservative values and principles?
>> of course. everybody on that stage that is in these debates has conservative values, vis-a-vis president obama , and generally reflects the republican party . the question is, are those values the ones that you can trust when they become president of the united states ? is it someone who you know is going to fight not just for certain things, but for the entire republican platform? why? because those things integrate together, and you've heard me talk about this many times. you can't have a strong economy, and just a strong economic plan unless you have strong families and you have moral values in this country. why? because that's the underpinning of our society.
>> but you talk about -- you talk about trust as a conservative . and you have accused romney of attacking back and forth as he sought election, calling him a liberal governor from massachusetts. but we look at your own record, as well, running for re-election to the senate in 2006 . in a democratic state of pennsylvania . now, here in iowa you've taken the pledge, opposing abortion. back on this program, this summer, you said, you oppose abortion, without exception.
>> and yet when you were running for re-election in 2006 , you had a different view. and this is what you told the associated press. the question was, do you support legalized abortion if a woman has been raped or if she is the victim of incest? what about if a woman's health or life is in danger, please explain your answer. back then you said, i would support laws that include exceptions in cases of rape and incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk. so, didn't you, when you were running for re-election, do the same thing you've accused romney of, which is moderating your stance to try to win a democratic state ?
>> no, not at all. today i would support laws that would provide for those exceptions. but i'm not for them. in other words, i support the hyde amendment . the hyde amendment provides exception for rape and incest and the life of the mother. yes, i support laws that provide those exceptions because if we can get those passed, then we need to do that. but --
>> that's not a violation of your pledge?
>> no. i try -- i supported the partial birth abortion ban act . does that ban all abortions? no. but it moves the country in the right direction. so what i've said in the past consistently is i'll support laws that move the ball forward, that doesn't mean that's my position and that's where i'd like to go. but that's exactly the direction that we need to go in.
>> the issue of moderation is -- goes beyond abortion. back in 2006 , you were fighting the idea that you were seen as too conservative . you had television ads, heralding the fact that you opposed reductions in the minimum wage. that you were fighting cuts against amtrak. isn't your history to try to moderate, both when fighting for re-election, but also as a member of congress ? to try to find common ground and to compromise?
>> of course my background is to find compromise. that's what you have to do in order to get things done. but you don't compromise on your principles. i use welfare reform as an example. i -- i went out and helped author the welfare reform bill that became the contract with america bill, and then when i was in the united states senate , i managed that bill as a first-term, first-year member of the united states senate . i went up against daniel patrick moynihan and ted kennedy and battled over two vetoes of president clinton and was able to get it done. did i make compromises? you bet. but the compromises i made were not fundamental to the transformation that was important in welfare. which was to end the federal entitlement, the only bill that i'm aware of, only law that's actually ever ended a broad-based federal entitlement. i was the author and manager of the bill on. and we put time limits on welfare. and we put a work requirement in place. those were the things that i believe were transformational. was i willing to compromise on day care funding? yes, i was. was i willing to compromise on transportation to get folks from welfare to work ? yes, i was. but what we did was something that was moving the direction of a more limited government , and in order to get the necessary votes to get that done, you have to make compromise. but, we did a direction of limited government , maybe less than what we wanted to. but we weren't going in the direction of more government, and getting less of more. that's where republicans have been in error for so many years. and that is, compromising on just a little less big government , instead of saying no. no more compromises and less big government . we'll compromise on less-less government. but, not going the other way.
>> one of the things you look at as an insurgent party trying to be an incumbent president, you've said that, second term of president obama would be dangerous for the country. is that you look at the party that's making the challenge. and here's the reality. disapproval for the republican party right now in congress , i should say, approval of republicans in congress stands at 26%. that's far less than the president's approval rating . and dawn bowles writes this in "the washington post ," for gop candidates worried about the party's brand, a year ago after their win in the midterm elections republicans were full of confidence. as americans look for next november the question many will be asking is, are the republicans really ready to lead? in three political arenas, congress , the states and the presidential campaign trail plubs have left a checkered record in the past year. in congress it was the debt debacle forcing a near shutdown of the government. the payroll tax debate that looked to go in the president's favor. the fight with the unions in the states like wisconsin. do you fault republican leaders in congress for not doing more to make government work better, through more compromise for the president?
>> you have to have someone you can work with. and this president has done more to divide than any other president that i've ever witnessed in my lifetime. this president goes out and gives speech after speech after speech trying to divide america between class, between income group, between racial and ethnic groups. this is the great divider in chief. and it's very difficult when you're being led by the president on a regular basis, not just as a party but individually, to then -- and the president, who i don't believe has met with boehner or any of the republican leadership, and now six months, hard to compromise and work with someone who won't meet with you. who won't sit down and try to negotiate things and try to talk. so i'm not surprised at all that republicans are having a difficult time with someone who has no interest --
>> he met with him. even the debt fight over the summer was a constant set of meetings. so that can't be accurate.
>> if you look at it. the last time he's had meetings, i know it's been several months. i know that prn, when i was there, and president reagan , routinely met on a regular basis, with the other side. and developed relationships. you know, this is about trust. you don't build trust by going up and running around the country, beating up on your opponent. he's the president of everybody in this country. as president of the united states , i would be someone who would meet regularly, who would talk and try to build relationships of trust. and this president has not done that.
>> you don't fault republicans for intransigence on taxes or spending or other areas of potential compromise with the president?
>> again, we go back to the basic fact. federal government now is spending about 25% of gdp. that's historically the average is about 18%. we have an explosion of spending. and the problem in this country is, government oppression, spending, that's leading to huge debts and deficits. what the republicans have said is, no more. we are going to move in the direction of smaller government. and president obama has no interest in doing that. i think republicans are right to stand and fight on this. and the president seems to be absolutely disinterested in listening to what the american public said in the last election, which is we want more limited government . he did not get the message. i guess he's going to have to get this message, hopefully, in november.
>> before you go i want to ask you about foreign policy . you've been very critical of the president, particularly on the issue of iran , which has been a big issue of debate here in iowa . let me play a portion of that.
>> this president, for every thug and hooligan, for every radical islamist , he has had nothing but appeasement. we saw that during the lead up to world war ii . appeasement.
>> how can that possibly be accurate, if you take an objective look at the foreign policy of this administration? what on iran , specifically, separates the approach that president obama has taken and that of president bush .
>> number one, he didn't support the pro- democracy movement in iran in 2009 during the green revolution . almost immediately after the election -- i mean, excuse me, like within hours after the polls closed ahmadinejad announced he won with 62% of the vote. within a few days, president obama basically said that that election was a legitimate one.
>> what would that have done specifically to disarm iran .
>> i understand why the president announcing a minute after the polls close he won, he comes from chicago, so i get it. the problem was this was an illegitimate election, the people in the streets were rioting saying please support us president obama , we are the pro- democracy movement . we want to turn this theocracy that's been at war with the united states , that's developing a nuclear weapon , that's killing our troops in afghanistan and iraq with ieds and the president of the united states turned his back on them. at the same time, a year later we have the same situation where muslim brotherhood and islamists are in the streets of egypt opposing an ally of ours, not a sworn enemy like iran , but an ally of ours like mubarak and he joins the radicals instead of standing with our friends.
>> first of all that's patently contradictory. if you say you support democracy, there was a democratic movement in egypt and the muslim brotherhood got elected. so how can you be pro-democracy in some countries and not others which is inconsistent?
>> no, the muslim brotherhood is not about democracy. the muslim brotherhood are islamists. they're going to impose sharia law --
>> but i asked you about disarming iran . there is no material difference in terms of how the bush administration sought to disarm iran and what the obama administration has done.
>> there's a material difference in this respect. number one, the bush administration worked with me, in passing the iran freedom support act which i authored which imposed tough sanctions on the iranian nuclear program , and provided funding for the pro- democracy movement . when president obama came into office he cut that funding. president obama did not provide funding in to iran to help those folks who wanted to overthrow this democracy. and when the time came to support them, he chose not to. that is a substantive difference between my policy, which i was a leader on in the senate, and when president bush tried to do when he was president.
>> the reality is there is no good option to disarm iran .
>> yes, there is.
>> the bush administration knew that. this administration knows that. tell me what you'd do differently then?
>> i'd put fort a five point plan. use covert activity --
>> which is already being done. there's covert activity to set back their program by the israelis , by the united states .
>> we know by the israelis . we don't have any evidence, if you look at what's being done, most of the evidence to actually trails back to the israelis and the methodology that they use. there's no evidence the united states is at all complicit in working at that. that's what -- i would be very direct that we would, in fact, and openly talk about this. why? because i want to make sure that iran knows that when i say that iran is not getting a nuclear weapon , that we will actually affect out policies that make that happen. this president has not done that. he has opposed tough sanctions on iran , on their oil program. why? because he's concerned about the economy and his re-election instead of the long-term national security interests of this country. i would say to every foreign scientist that's going in to iran to help them with their program, you will be treated as an enemy combatant like an al qaeda member. and finally i would be working openly with the state of israel and i would be saying to the iranis you need to open up those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors or we will degrade those facilities with air strikes and make it very public.
>> you would lay out a red line and if they pass it, air strikes .
>> iran would not get a nuclear weapon under my watch.
>> two previous presidents have said that. you would order air strikes if it became clear --
>> yes, that's the plan. i mean you can't go out and say, this is -- this is the problem with this administration. you can't go out and say this is what i'm for and then do nothing. you become a paper tiger . and people don't respect our country. and our allies can't trust us . that's the problem with this administration.
>> all right. before i let you go, back to the politics. are you going to win this thing?
>> i feel good. i mean that's up to the people of iowa . i've always said that the people of iowa are the ones i put my trust in. not just iowa , new hampshire . we've got a great team up in new hampshire . we've got about two dozen state legislators who have signed on to our campaign. county attorneys, sheriffs, we've got a great team up there and we're going to have a big jump here in iowa . i don't know what it's going to be. unlike rick perry , unlike michele bachmann , we're going to new hampshire and compete in every region of this country. i come from the northeast. i've been able to get the blue collar voters, the reagan democrats , to vote for me in the past. we're going to do the same thing and that's why we're going to win this election.
>> senator santorum , thank you. we'll see new new hampshire next