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Q&A (full text): The Press & People of Faith in Politics — Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum, former Senator, now with the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.

What follows is a transcript of the Question-and-Answer session following his speech to the OCRPL Course on Religion & Politics.
Transcribed by Rich Potts, OCRPL staff

(1) QUESTION: Name for us the five or six words you heard attached to religion and politics in your years in the Senate…For example, the New York Times editor, Bill Keller, admits that his paper uses the word “moderate” to describe people they like and it tends to use the word “fundamentalist” in a way that isn’t historically accurate.

ANSWER:
Any time you would ever see my name in any mainstream, Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times, it was always “staunch,” it was always very, very absolute, very nasty, hard kinds of language. “Extremist” was used. “Theocrat” was used. It was always – and here’s the point – every time my name was mentioned in a story, there would always be an adjective. That in itself is very important because if Ted Kennedy was listed, it was always just “Ted Kennedy.” It was never “the liberal”. It was always “the conservative”, “the religious conservative”, “the fundamentalist” or it was always an adjective to try to drive the point home over and over again. “Zealous” was used many times, and a lot worse.

But I’m saying that in news articles, there was always an attempt to form public opinion just by my name. Just by associating words with my name. It’s never done on the Left. And you will have a Democrat who is as hard left as you could be, and they use the term “moderate.” Or if the person is like Paul Wellstone, who unfortunately died in a plane crash a few years back, who was a college professor and was just way out there. He was just proud of the fact that he was just an extreme liberal. They (the media) would use term “Paul Wellstone”, or occasionally they would say “liberal”. But they would never, ever ever use something pejorative to frame who this guy was. Whereas, if you have anybody who is on the conservative side of the spectrum, they get nailed every time.

And it’s just insidious. And it’s most of the time focused on the sexual issues. If you’re a hard-core free-market guy, they’re not going to call you “zealous”. They’re not going to call you “ultra-conservative”. They’re not going to do that to you.

It comes down to sex. That’s what it’s all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you’re dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that’s the most central to me. And that’s the way it’s looked at.

Comment: The great Catholic theologian Maureen Dowd, when she went from attacking Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal to defending him, said that the Republican Party is trying to repeal Woodstock. Woodstock being the great American rock concert.

Santorum:
Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. The prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom.

All of the things are about sexual freedom, and they hate to be called on them. They try to somehow or other tie this to the Founding Father’s vision of liberty, which is bizarre. It’s ridiculous.

That’s at the core of why you are attacked. When I was at the House of Representatives, I was a conservative. I voted pro-life. But I never ever, ever, spoke on those issues. Didn’t talk about them. I never spoke on the floor of the House about those issues. And when I ran in 1994, they painted me as a conservative. It was very interesting.

I remember one of the editorials that came out against me. It was the Philadelphia Daily News. “It’s not what he says. It’s what he doesn’t say.” “We know what he really thinks. We know what he’ll really be like. He’s very dangerous. We know the beliefs he has, even though he hasn’t articulated them. We know this to be a very very dangerous guy.” Their article was “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid”. That was their headline on their article.

So, they saw someone who sort of foot the bill of this, even though I had never spoken on it, but I was a Catholic, conservative believer. I was open to talking about those things and the influence of faith in my life. And that scared the living daylights out of them.

They said, “Ah, this is a guy who could cause problems for us down the road. This is a guy that, given the chance, could be very dangerous.” Turned out to be true. They were right.

(2) QUESTION: Do you see any possibility for a party of Christian reform, or an influx of Christian ideas into this (Democratic) party?

ANSWER:
It wasn’t always like that. I would argue that the movement that is in place right now to reach out to Christians is a phony one. I think it’s absolutely disingenuous. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people within the party who are genuine about the concern of the Democratic party. The problem with the Democratic party in America is that they are so tied financially to groups, special-interest groups, that fund who they are that is impossible for them at this point – at this point – to move in that direction. They just can’t go there. The gay and lesbian groups won’t let them. The abortion groups won’t let them go there. The mainstream media won’t let them go there. Academia won’t let them go there.

If you look at labor, labor would love for them, even though the heads of labor are sort of the socialist left. That’s sort of why they get into labor. Rank and file labor folks don’t like what their national organizations do because these are basic, good, traditional-values Americans. Labor would be the only one.

The Democratic party in America, for a long time, was the party of labor, and as a result, (it) had the groundings of traditional Americans because most of the people in labor were blue-collar working-class folks with traditional values. That has changed. Labor is now just a small component of their overall thing. What changed was the 60s. What changed was sex. What changed was the social and cultural issues that have huge amounts of money because if you look – I haven’t seen numbers on this, but I’m sure it’s true – if you go socio-economic scale, the higher the income, the more socially liberal you are.

The more you know you can buy your way out of the problems that sexual libertinism causes you. You have an abortion, well, I have the money to take care of it. If I want to live an extravagant life and get diseases, I can (unintelligible; 32:12) You can always take care of everything. If you have money, you can get away with things that if you’re poor you can’t.

We’ve seen this throughout history. The actions of the elite class, if normalized, have a wrenching effect, horrible effect. You’re gonna see attempts by the Democrats to try to bring back faith. I think some of them will be honest. I don’t think the one now is. But they can’t get there. They can’t get there.

If you look at Democratic politicians over the last 30 years, Ted Kennedy was pro-life when he came to the United States Senate. Jesse Jackson was pro-life. Dick Durban was pro-life. Dick Gephart was pro-life. You look at all – Harry Reid says he’s still pro-life, although you wouldn’t know it – if you look at any older Democrat, almost all of them came there as pro-life, and they’ve changed. And they’ve changed because it’s where the funding comes from, where the movement is going. And it’s not going in that direction. And it’s not turning back any time soon.

(3) QUESTION: What is your assessment of Barack Obama’s faith?

ANSWER:
He joined the most popular church in an area of the city where he was going to make his political stand. It had the most reach. It had the most juice. It gave him a platform to be able to go out and use their reach, their power, to help build a base of support for him in that community so he could go and run for office.

He didn’t really much care, in my opinion, what the belief structure was. It was a vehicle. Now, am I saying that he believes everything that Rev. Wright believes? No. But he was willing to tolerate those beliefs for 20 years to achieve a political objective, which was to get him elected.

Could he through that time have become a person of faith and take that faith seriously? I never judge someone’s faith personally. I have no idea whether that he has a personal faith or what that personal faith is. That’s between him and God. I can’t judge any of you on that.

What I can tell you is, objectively, that faith was an avenue for power. It may have ended up in other manifestations, persona or otherwise, but to suggest that his journey was anything other than that, was primarily focused on something other than that, I think is just wrong.

Questioner: What about his expressions of faith now?

Santorum: I don’t know. How do you know? That’s between him and God.

All I can do is look at his actions. He can say whatever he wants to say. If you look at his actions about what he believes from a public-policy point of view, and how that squares with the faith he says he subscribes to, I see a lot of disconnections. And it’s a conscious disconnection.

It’s a conscious disconnection to go in and say “I’m a believer in the Word of God as expressed in the Old and New Testament” and then hold the public policy position that he does. Because they’re inconsistent.

I think it’s just better to stand up and tell the truth about what role faith plays in your life. What’s happened in America, a lot of people point to John Kennedy’s speech in 1960 and subsequent speeches after that by a number of politicians, is the privatization of religion. That, yes, Barack Obama can say “I believe in all this stuff. I believe in Christianity and the form of Christianity that I have, but it has no application to public policy. It has no application to public life. It is separate. It is my private religion. It is what I do on Sundays. It’s what I do in my own personal life.”

If that is your understanding of the role of faith and what the New Testament is all about, fine. It’s not mine. I don’t think it’s a fair reading of what Christ came to earth to do. I don’t think he came to earth just to say “Well, I want you to privately be really good, and then go out and do publicly horrible things. And that’s okay.” I don’t see it that way.

(4) QUESTION: What would your opinion be of this stance: Obama has been very honest in the past about his faith. He said he was attracted to the church because of its non-literal approach to the Bible. Now that’s coming through Wright. His speech before the United Church of Christ, he very much embraced the basic theological approach of the United Church of Christ. So you could say that he is a very sincere, liberal Christian, with a non-literal approach to Scripture, who would argue that, voicing Niebuhr, that the primary application of the Gospel is in issues of economic, social justice. And that he accepts his church’s teaching on sexuality, in the same way that you accept your church’s teachings on sexuality. So in that case he is a sincere liberal Christian. Would you buy that?

ANSWER:
I could buy that. Again, yes, it goes to the larger question of whether I could buy that overall from that point of view. But is there such thing as a sincere liberal Christian, which says that we basically take this document and re-write it ourselves? Is that really Christian? That’s a bigger question for me. And the answer is, no, it’s not. I don’t think there is such a thing. To take what is plainly written and say that I don’t agree with that, therefore, I don’t have to pay attention to it, means you’re not what you say you are. You’re a liberal something, but you’re not a Christian. That’s sort of how I look at it.

When you go so far afield of that and take what is a salvation story and turn it into a liberation theology story, which is done in the Catholic world as well as in the evangelical world, you have abandoned Christendom, in my opinion. And you don’t have a right to claim it.

(5) QUESTION: What did your family think or feel when they read those reports about you?

ANSWER:
Well, we stopped them from reading them after a while. And the reports were, many of them were in the blogosphere. I hope you didn’t google my name. Don’t do that.

It’s ugly. Don’t do it. It’ll affront you. It’s gross.

I’m controversial because I’m a believer. I stand up and say what I think is dictated by faith and reason and the traditions of America and the Judeo-Christian worldview that I hold – traditional Judeo-Christian worldview. And that is very dangerous in this world. It’s seen by the media as dangerous. It’s backward.

So the answer is that my family, it was hard enough that they learned to tune it out. I go so much press when I was here. I remember going on Tim Russert’s show and Meet the Press in September of ’06, and Russert came into the Green Room and told me, “I’ve been reading,” he does his homework, “I’ve been reading up on your races, and I’ve never seen the volume of press. It feels like I’m reading up on a presidential campaign.” That’s how much press coverage my race got. It was just over the top. It was overwhelming, just overwhelming.

And it was a reporter for the New York Times who wrote a magazine cover story in May of 2006. They assigned this guy, I think his name was Michael Sokolove, and he followed me around for a month, interviewed me extensively. We gave him complete and full access. Answered every question in the book. I’ll never forget this. They came in to do a picture because they have to have this special camera to do the cover of the New York Times magazine.

And they came into my office. I said, “What do you want me to do? Sit at my desk?” He said, “No. Just stand there.” And he takes a couple pictures. Then he said, “Do something with your hands.” So I do this (gestures), and then he said, “Well, try folding your hands.” Front cover of the New York Times Magazine is Rick Santorum standing here like this (hands folded, looking upward).

The inside picture, which was two pages spread out, they took some other pictures of me in my office. And I was standing other places. And here I am standing, and the camera is over there. And what I didn’t notice was, I have a big-screen TV in my office, and they took these pictures around Easter time.

And I was standing there, and they were taking pictures. What I didn’t notice was behind me on television, I had Fox on, and they were running a story about the Vatican’s Easter mass or something. And so the next picture as you open up the story is Rick Santorum standing there and a picture of Christ hanging on the cross being spread out on Fox News.

Just so you understand this, the title of the article was “A Senator from a Place Called Faith”, and the inside article was “The Believer.” Having said that, they guy wrote a very fair article. He came up to me after the election and said, “I would have voted for you. I came in here expecting this horrible thing, and you know, all positive things.”

I remember the writer from the Philadelphia Enquirer, a non-religious Jew, who came to cover me. And she told me how she went in there with the attitude that I was the worst, that I was Satan. And on election night when I lost, she cried. So you can reach people.

But it’s harder than it used to be. And with this New York Times article, he wrote, I would argue, a very fair article. The Philadelphia Enquirer the very next day, in the Monday edition, dedicated their entire editorial page to excoriating the writer for not exposing the real Rick Santorum. Just ripped him. “The New York Times blew it. That they didn’t portray the radical, fundamentalist, theocrat that Rick Santorum is.” It’s bad. It’s bad.

(6) QUESTION: Is that sex thing an aim or mean?

ANSWER:
That’s a very good question. One of the issues that I always got hammered for was the issue of evolution. I was the guy who actually put words in the No Child Left Behind Act, which was our big education bill that passed back in 2001 or 2002 that reformed the education system. Well, I had an amendment, it’s a great story, I had this language, because what’s taught in our school system as a result of liberal academia, is evolution is an incontrovertible fact. There is no suspicion of it. It is decided science that cannot be questioned. There cannot be any doubts about it. If you have any questions or doubts, it’s trying to inject religion into the science classroom. So it is above reproach.

I obviously don’t feel that way. I think there are a lot of problems with the theory of evolution, and do believe that it is used to promote to a worldview that is anti-theist, that is atheist.

So one of the things that I did was that I had an amendment to the No Child Left Behind bill. Now in the Senate, these bills tend to take weeks to work themselves out. In the House, they pass things in hours on the floor. In the Senate it can take weeks and even months to get a bill passed. Well, the No Child bill was one of these big bills that took a long time, and they way they work through them is that eventually you get people to limit the amendments that they’re going to offer and then you put a time-limit on them. And then you cull them down. It just takes forever, but that’s how we do it.

We’re going through that process. We’re right toward the end of it. Limits have been closed off. There’s only so many left. It’s coming down to me and a handful of others. And I have an amendment that I’ve never showed anybody. You didn’t have to show your amendment. You just had to have one.

And all I told them was it was about life. With my background, reading the partial-birth abortion cause and the other pro-life causes, everyone says when I have an amendment about life, they’re saying “Santorum is trying to inject life into the classroom.” So I have this amendment that I have just titled “Life.” And Ted Kennedy calls me. He’s managing the bill on the Democratic side. He calls me and says, “Look, we want you to bring your amendment to the floor.” And I said okay, I could do that today. And this was the day before the bill passes, last minute, because I had waited till the end.

And when I got down to the floor of the Senate, here was every one of the pro-choice activists on the other side of the aisle standing there waiting for me. Barbara Boxer, Debbie Stabina, Maria Cantwell, Diane Feinstein, Hilary Clinton. They’re all standing down there waiting for me to come down with this pro-life amendment, that they are just gonna hammer me.

So I come down, and as Terry knows, it’s a two-sentence or three-sentence amendment that talks about…that we should teach about the controversy, the academic freedom. Basically, it was an academic-freedom amendment, that people should be allowed to teach the controversy.

So I hand this amendment to them. They go huddle back in the corner of the chamber, gathered around trying to figure out. And you see staff members coming in and out, in and out, running around, 10-15 minutes. I’m standing there, just hanging out on the floor. They’re looking over at me.

Finally, Kennedy comes over to me and lays the amendment there and says, “Okay. WE can’t figure it out.” I said, “What do you mean?” “We can’t figure out where abortion is in here.” I said, “What do you mean abortion?” He said, “You said your amendment is about abortion.”

“No.” I said. “I said my amendment is about life. It’s about teaching the origins of life, and that you should have academic freedom in the classroom when you’re teaching about life.” Pause.

“There’s nothing about abortion in here?” I said, “Ted, you have my word. This is absolutely not trying to use clever language.” Cause he does this all the time. He is the best at hiding what he really wants to get in language on amendments.

I said, “Ted, you have my word. There is nothing about abortion in this amendment.”

“Nothing?”

I said, “Nothing.”

So he goes back. Huddles again. Comes back to me about 5 minutes later and says, “Okay. We’ll vote the amendment, and you can put me down as a co-sponsor of it.”

Barbara Boxer gets up and questions me on this abortion thing, and I said, “Look. It has nothing to do with abortion. Barbara, you’re for academic freedom, aren’t you? You don’t want people to have teach one thing. You want people to teach the controversies?”

“Absolutely. Oh, academic freedom!”

So the amendment comes down, and it gets passed 91-6. Something like that. And the six who voted against it were all Republicans who didn’t want us to be messing around with curriculum in the classroom. They were against any kind of amendment having to do with curriculum.

And so it passes. The next day the Washington Post prints this story talking to the biology teachers of America, and they just go ballistic. Kennedy says, “I was tricked. I was fooled. I’m against this. I can assure you that this will never come out of conference. This is terrible that he did this.”

And to his credit, the guy that held the conference, he was chairman of the education committee, he made sure that the conference would not come out without this language was John Boehner (Senator from Ohio). Jon Boehner is the one who held it, and we have it in. As a result, all across the country people had to redo their education standards, and this issue has caused firestorm everywhere. So, little things.

I guess the reason I mention that is that I think that the mean is a greater thing. Sex is a means, evolution is a means. And the aim is a secular world. It’s a, my opinion, a hedonistic, self-focused world, that is in my opinion anti-American.

You’re a liberal or a conservative in America if you think the 60s were a good thing or not. If the 60s was a good thing, you’re Left. If you think it was a bad thing, you’re Right.

And the confusing thing for a lot of people that gets a lot of Americans is, when they think of the 60s, they don’t think of just the sexual revolution. But somehow or other — and they’ve been very, very, clever at doing this — they’ve been able to link, I think absolutely incorrectly, the sexual revolution with civil rights.

As if somehow or another, they came together. When of course, the civil rights movement was a religious-based movement that had nothing to do with the sexual revolution. But they happened at the same time, when you say the 60s was a bad thing, they say “You’re a bigot. You’re against civil rights.” So you have to be very careful. And the Left has used that coterminous revolution, if you will, as a way to protect themselves.


(7) QUESTION: What can, or what should, the United States do for religious freedom in Muslim countries and other places where there is no religious freedom?

ANSWER:
Well, that’s the million-dollar question of the age. Can Islam tolerate religious diversity? I think what we’ve seen is that in overwhelmingly Islamic countries, the answer is, no, they can’t. Now that’s certainly in the Middle East the answer is, no, they can’t. Over the past 45-50 years, since the ascendency of oil has given resources to those who want to be more “orthodox” in their Muslim belief, we’ve seen that play out.

Now we’ve seen in other areas of the world, there may be more opportunities. Indonesia or southeast Asia potentially. But even there, the argument can be made that that element is growing and becoming more powerful within the Muslim world. And it’s very intolerant. And it’s intolerant because it’s endemic to the Islamic faith to be intolerant of other religions. That’s the history of Islam. That’s the teachings of the Prophet, to convert by force if necessary. And to treat people who differ from you and your faith, if you are in control, as second-class citizens.

That is unlike the modern Judeo-Christian world, or Christendom, or the West. I’ve spent a lot of time on this. I think it’s going to be very hard to get Islam to embrace modernity for many reasons. But one, and I think as big as any, are the issues we’ve just talked about. I think a lot of Muslims legitimately look at Christendom and say, “They are hedonistic and secular. This tolerance has resulted in an abandonment of faith.”

And they aren’t willing to sacrifice what they think, and I think, is a much more important thing – which is your eternal soul — for modern political reforms.

When I talk about that I’m not talking about the jihadis. I’m not talking about the folks who are leading this assault. I’m talking about your average, faithful Muslim who wants to be a faithful good Muslim who doesn’t want to kill people, but sees the West as corrupting. And sees the West as dangerous for them. And sees Hollywood and sees liberal academia, and sees what’s going on here, as something they don’t want as part of their culture.

And so when you say, “You’ve got to be more like us. You’ve got to be religiously tolerant.” That means introducing an element into society, which I would argue is not what Christendom is all about, is not what Christianity is all about. But it has become the Western culture, the dominant strand of Western culture, at least as purveyed by the elites of our culture, which is Hollywood or the mainstream media.

I’m sure you folks watch CNN, and you watch the mainstream media, and you watch what Hollywood comes out with, and that is the view that many of you will have of America. And it isn’t pretty from the standpoint of a person of faith, that this is what we want to expose ourselves to.

The jihadis have a very different point of view, and they use the culture as a way to motivate believers. But I think they have a much more fundamentalist view that irrespective of whether American culture is good or bad or whether Christendom is good or bad, it’s bad because it’s not what we believe.

I think the rest of the Islamic world, the “moderates” – that’s always a very tricky term in the Islamic world – can see the pluses and minuses of becoming Western, and the slippery slope that Europe has been on. Europe is dead. Western Europe is dead. There’s no faith. It’s gone, and I don’t see how it comes back. And I can’t imagine that a faithful Muslim would see that as a positive for their country. It would be anathema to them, that faith would disappear as it has in Europe.

The very people who don’t see this as a problem, who are just “Why don’t these folks just be like us?”, don’t understand that they’re the problem that makes it hard for them to be like us.

(8) QUESTION:
We’ve been debating this week the various vice-presidential candidates for the different parties, and what’s it’s going to take to be successful in November. And we’ve talked about the need for McCain to identify more with the evangelicals because a lot of them are still unsure. Do you think that he needs to get an evangelical as a running mate, or at least someone conservative? And have you, Senator Santorum, been approached as a possible running mate for Senator John McCain?

ANSWER:
I would suggest that the people in this room would be approached before me. John and I have a long history, and it’s not pleasant.

I’m supporting John because of who he’s running against, because I think that would be a much worse alternative. What I think John McCain needs to do is pick someone who’s safe.

The issue in this campaign is not John McCain. The issue in this campaign, because of the national environment, because of the anti-Republican, anti-war sentiment, the issue is, Does Barack Obama pass the test? Is he someone can vote for and envision as a leader? It has nothing to do with John McCain. John McCain has to be the alternative that, if you disqualify Obama, that you don’t just disqualify him. Given that, you don’t want to take a vice-presidential candidate who could disqualify voters who disqualify Obama.

At the same time, you can’t pick a liberal because you alienate your base and that’s really stupid. So you have to pick someone that the base is happy with, but that isn’t Rick Santorum. Who isn’t out there and that everybody knows and that people can say, “He’s a crazy,” “He’s a bad guy.” “And you as a moderate can’t vote for McCain because of Santorum.”

You gotta pick someone like Richard Burr or Tim Pawlenty (Governor of Minnesota). I don’t know that much about Tim Pawlenty. You can’t pick anybody from the Bush administration. People have talked about Tom Ridge. You can’t pick Tom Ridge, who is former Secretary for Homeland Security, because he worked for Bush. You gotta separate yourself from Bush. You can’t pick anybody with any affiliation with Bush.

You gotta pick someone who’s quiet, conservative, and who hasn’t said controversial things.


(9) QUESTION: You haven’t spoken so much about McCain’s religious condition. Could you shed some light on McCain’s religious views?


ANSWER:

Yeah. I don’t think he has any – I think, historically, he’s been hostile to it. He’s been hostile to me on many occasions because he sees me – saw me – as injecting faith into the debate. He’s very uncomfortable with that. This is not a guy, in my opinion, who is a spiritual guy, is deeply connected to – again – what’s between him and God is between him and God. It’s not me. I’m just telling you from my experience, this is not a man who is comfortable in his own skin with faith.

And I’ve seen him answer questions about it, and he gives sort of wrote answers that have nothing to do anything really internal. Now, part of that could be generational. A lot of generations of those folks weren’t comfortable about sharing their own personal faith. So I could sort of sign off on that, and say, well, look, my dad, if he was asked that question, would not sit down and have – because that’s just not what you did in his generation. And, now, my dad is even a few years older than McCain.

So I can pass that off and say, okay, he’s just not comfortable in his own skin. That’s fine. But what I look at is his behavior toward me and others who were people of faith, who were obviously motivated by faith to do things, and his antipathy toward me and groups who were faith-motivated groups. He would often rail against Christian-conservative groups when he was in the Senate, particularly in the last – not the last two years, but the four years prior to that.

So I don’t think he’s gonna have a whole lot of appeal. And he did very poorly among Christian conservatives. The real question is whether Obama will motivate those people to come out and vote against him. Not whether McCain – McCain cannot and will not – McCain will not personally. He may have surrogates go out and drum up the evangelical vote. He will not do that. He cannot do that. That’s just not who he is. And he won’t do it.

And if he did, he’d be bad at it. So it’s probably best that he doesn’t do it because I think he would expose himself for being sort of shallow.

So it’s very interesting. You have someone who is reticent to talk about faith, who has a general antipathy toward people who are motivated by faith and someone who is intentionally – and Obama to his credit – he’s got a good team on the ground. He’s got, he’s working very hard to try and draw the evangelical vote. To try to talk in terms – and this is his normal cadence, but he has that black-pastor kind of cadence that he gets into very easily. He’s very comfortable with that, which can resonate with white and black evangelicals.

So he’s doing a lot of things, a lot of sophistry. Question is whether people see through that. The problem in America is — I don’t know if you’ve John McCain’s most recent add where he puts up Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Barack Obama and talks about, you know, these are celebrities, but can they lead. The problem is that the undecideds in America are more interested in celebrities than they are in leaders. They’re not people who are particularly interested in politics. They’re casual observers. If you asked the 10% in America who the current Vice President is, most of them couldn’t tell you. Probably. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if most of them couldn’t tell you. They just don’t pay attention.

And so celebrity is actually a good thing from their perspective. And Obama getting wowed crowds and doing his acceptance speech at a football stadium will have, I think, a very positive impact on those voters, that they’re with the popular guy. They’re with the celebrity.

(10) QUESTION: You mentioned Western Europe as being “dead”. And during the last 8 years, the relationship between Western Europe and the U.S. have soured. What could be done to heal these relationships because these alliances are important?

ANSWER:
I look at Western Europe, when I go over there and when I read and see, as a place that has rejected Christendom, who sees that the culture that has risen throughout Europe over the last two millennium as flawed and defective and as something that they need to reject.

Multi-culturalism is now an adopted point of view that Western culture is no better than any other culture. It’s not superior. In fact, it’s inferior, in many respects, to other cultures.

And so we have a group of people in leadership over there who will not fight because there’s nothing to fight for. You can’t fight to defend what you reject. If we can get Western Europe to do things that are in the interest of the survival of Western civilization, for one reason or another – I don’t know why – but if they can sign up, I’ll take them. I don’t expect them to.

I mean, I expect Poland to be there. I expect the Czech Republic to be there, Romania to be there. But I don’t expect France, or Germany, or Belgium, or Holland. I mean, I don’t expect any of those countries.

They have no interest in us. They hate us because we stand by this old, antiquated idea of Christendom as a good thing, as a culture worth fighting for and worth saving. They don’t. They don’t believe that.

Questioner: What about the U.K.?

Santorum: That channel has helped a lot. That separation from the Continent has helped a lot. But it’s moving in that direction. We’re losing that battle in the U.K. They’re probably the last outpost.

But the rest, they’ve given up. They have no hope for the future. They’re not having kids. Their birth rates are down. Nobody goes to church. They’ve abandoned ship. And so, okay, is it important to have an alliance with an empty ship? Folks, nobody’s gonna stand by the guns and fire anything. Why?

What I think we need to do – and this is obviously not the government – but we need to re-evangelize Europe. I think the Pope’s Rechtenburg speech will go down as the seminal document of the time. It’s really the clarion call, that if Europe doesn’t quickly – Western Europe – doesn’t quickly begin to right itself by planting the seeds of faith. I think what may happen, potentially, with the rise of Islam in some of these countries, is you’re gonna begin to see, even more than you do today, is the persecution of Christians.

And of course, Christianity always flowers when it’s persecuted. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And so, we will reach a point – I think it’s gonna be unfortunate – but I think we will reach a point with the blood of the martyrs in Europe, it will start to happen. And it will be the fertile ground in which the Church will regrow.

And who knows, it may happen in places like the Netherlands, and probably the places that are the worst, obviously, because they’re the worst, are gonna be the first to turn around. It may not be in your lifetime. We may go through a long time of a desert in Western Europe from the standpoint of all involved.

I mean, when you don’t have any kids, all you do is focus on you. It’s all about you. There’s no future to really be concerned about. You don’t have any children. You don’t have any faith; it’s all about this world.

I wrote an article the other day about Iran, and a nuclear Iran, and the threat of a nuclear Iran. A lot of folks here on the secular Left had said, “Look, we can contain Iran if they get a nuclear weapon. We contained Russia, and they were much more of a threat than the Iranians.” My retort to that is, the one thing you could always trust about the Russians was they were atheists. And this world was it. And so they were never going to do anything that meant their destruction because that was it. They game was over. If they died, there’s tomorrow.

Whereas the Iranians, this world today is horrible, a mess, and something only to be used to get to what’s important, which is the next life. And so the idea of mutually assured destruction as a policy worked for Russia because they were predictable. They were never going to do anything to risk their lives because their lives were it. Because they were atheists.

Whereas, Iran is just the opposite. These people don’t care if they die. In fact, if they die in pursuit of something that is blessed by the Koran, 72 virgins, the whole nine yards. This is a good thing for them. So the idea of containment makes no sense.

The Europeans don’t understand that because they look at the Iranian government, and they say, “Well, this is all faith. They’re just using it to gain power.” Because that’s how they would do it. It’s not sincere.

We have that here in America. Everyone looks at Ahmedinejad and looks at the mullahs and says, “They’re just corrupt politicians who are using it to maintain power.” Is that true with some of them? Sure. I’m sure that there are people in the mullah-cracy and in the government of Iran who pretend to be holy and pretend to believe this stuff, who are secularists and who just want power and want a good life. Is that the case? Sure. But I’m confident that’s not the whole situation. I’m confident that there are really true believers there, and those true believers actually have the levers of power.

But the secularists in this country and in Europe don’t believe that because that’s not how they function. It’s not their worldview. They can’t get their arms around that someone would actually believe that because it’s just so unbelievable to them. It’s like believing in the Tooth Fairy. Faith, to the modern secularist, is fantasy. It’s a fairy tale. And they can’t convince themselves that people are motivated by that in a way that would risk their lives because that’s not them.

(11) QUESTION: I’m interested in your current project. Can you give us more details about it?

ANSWER: You mean at the Ethics & Public Policy Center?

Questioner: Yes, and you are writing a new book Protect America’s Freedom?

Santorum:
It’s a think tank, Ethics. I’ve got a program there: Protect America’s Freedom. And really the objective is to educate the American public as to the threats, not just of the radical Islamists but of the array of allies that the Islamists are tying to, from the North Koreans to the Venezuelans.

And I know there was a conference in Iran where they had some of the socialists from South America and Central America go to Tehran. But they tried to do a little joint conference of the radical Islamists, Ahmadinejad’s group and Chavez’s group. And it fell apart. It was supposed to be three days, and it disintegrated after two. Cause what they found is that they have absolutely nothing in common, except one thing: they hate America.

And what they, I’m sure, figured out is, “We need to keep our people apart, except for the fact we need to focus on who the enemy is. And I can get my people, the Iranians, to work with the Venezuelans if it’s against the U.S. Let’s defeat the United States, and then we’ll fight it out for who wins after that. But first, we gotta get rid of the Great Satan; we got to get rid of the superpower that’s oppressing us.”

And so we’ve put together a lot. I gave a speech over two years ago called “The Gathering Storm,” when I talked a lot about what’s going in Central and South America that this administration has ignored. The advance of anti-Americanism and socialism and the linkages between our other enemies around the world to them, and that we are going to pay a price for that.

And we have Democrats who go down to Venezuela and try to partner with Chavez who try to do oil for the poor. Joe Kennedy, former congressman, nephew of Ted Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy, doing deals with Chavez. And Democratic Congressmen from Massachusetts are bringing money just like the former mayor of London, bringing money from Chavez for free oil. As Chavez’s people are starving, we’re getting low-cost oil in Boston.

It’s the blind spot of the Democratic Party. It’s a blind spot of the socialists. And they are; they’re socialists. We don’t call them that because it’s an improper word to use, but that’s what they are.

They love Chavez, and they love the fact that he hates America because they don’t like America. They don’t like traditional America. They don’t like it. They see it as evil. They want to change it. When Barack Obama says “change,” it’s because he thinks America is sick. He does. He thinks traditional America is sick and that he needs to change it. And whether America figures that out in time, I don’t know.

(12) QUESTION: Are you planning for a political comeback, and will you stand by your faith come what may?

ANSWER:
The answer to the second question is, through the grace of God, I certainly hope so. That’s the most important thing in my life.

Having said that, that’s what will determine whether I’m back in, is whether that’s something I feel called to do.

I could go through my history. When I won my first election, it was a miracle that I won the first election. I say that, not that God spoke to me, or anything like that. But the race that I won, and the year that I won, and the way that I won, it just doesn’t happen that way in American politics. I was out-spent three to one. It was a bad district. It was a horrible year for Republicans, 1990. It was a mid-term election of the first President Bush. There was a race for governor in my state. It was the only other race. There was no Senate race that year. And the Democratic governor got almost 65% of the vote. I had no name recognition – none. I had only lived in the district five years. The guy that I defeated had never gotten less than 63% of the vote. He had no scandal.

It was one of those races where you just look at it, and it was the most improbable of races. And that was the blessing for me. The great blessing for me is that, when I won my first race, it was obvious that I was a very small part of that. And I felt that, in all likelihood I was only gonna be there for two years because what of happened after I got elected. In the U.S. every ten years, we have a census. And then, we reapportion congressional districts. So as population shifts to states, Pennsylvania is not growing as a state in the Northeast. We don’t grow very much.

And so we lost two congressional seats in Pennsylvania. They went to California and Florida. And one of the seats that we lost in 1992, which was when they did the redistricting, was mine. They eliminated my seat; spread my district into three other districts. And so I was gonna be a two-year guy and out. And they were gonna put me in a district that was gonna be overwhelmingly Democrat because the area that I represent is a very Democratic area of the state.

And so I just felt, okay, Lord, you put me here. I wasn’t supposed to win. And in fact on election night, the Wall Street Journal called the Republican congressional committee, which is the committee that runs all the congressional races, monitors the congressional races. And they got a report that this incumbent lost out in Pittsburgh, and so they called the Congressional Committee and said, “Can you give us the name of the guy?” And they didn’t have my name. They didn’t even know my name. I mean, I was just completely off the radar.

And so I came to Washington, Gang of Seven, and just felt this freedom to just do what I thought was right. I did get redistricted, in a horrible district. And George Bush was running for re-election and got 29% of the vote in my district, and I got 61% of the vote.

And so I decided, I could stay there and run again and again, but there was a Senate seat where a Democrat had just gotten elected. And so I decided to run against him. I ran a horrible campaign – I mean I ran a good campaign, but I said a lot of stupid things. You can probably see why. I’m just very up front and just say what I think.

I got nailed a couple times when these cameras were there. I said stuff. You just don’t win elections saying the stuff I said in a state like Pennsylvania, which is a Democrat-leaning state. And I won. Why? Because it was 1994, and everyone won. Every Republican won. I won by the smallest margin of anyone, and I was one of two guys to defeat an incumbent.

I say that — you asked that question about my faith. I’ve been led blindly, in some cases, by the conviction that I’m here to do something. Whether it’s in politics or somewhere else, I don’t know the answer. I have no plans. I have no plans not to; I have no plans to. I just turned 50 years old, and I have a couple good years left.

(13 QUESTION: One short comment on having been a Senator for these years. You’ve been a part of the conservative and the evangelical (groups). How do you think the world and the U.S. later on will view the current president’s outgoing legacy?

ANSWER:
I was having this discussion with someone yesterday. George Bush has as good a chance as any President in recent history of having happen to him what happened to Harry Truman. I think he will be – he’s obviously wildly unpopular. I think historical events will prove that, while certainly as did Truman, he made his share of mistakes, that on the big issues, he stood by his principles and he fought for things where the interests of America were long term.

And he is to be faulted, again as Truman, but in an era where it matters more; he is to be faulted for being a poor communicator. As Truman was, he was a very poor communicator. But in 1948, it didn’t matter because you weren’t on television every day. You could be a poor communicator and get away with it. That’s not the case now. He’s a very poor communicator. I think he’s been ill-served by his communications staff. And he took on some issues that he needed to do a better job in convincing the American public.

And I would argue, and one of the things I talk about in my program, is that he needs to be more honest with the American public about who the enemy is in this. And he hasn’t been. If anything, he will be faulted for buying in to the State Department’s unwillingness to identify the enemy for who they are — and that is people motivated by faith. And that Islam is part of the deal here. They are in a holy war, and we choose to say we’re not when we are, with these folks. And Islam and religion is a big part of this. Any war that we are engaged in has a physical front and an ideological front. And we refuse to engage the ideological front because we refuse to acknowledge what their ideology is. We refuse to engage it.

And that’s why I think the American public has abandoned ship on this war. It’s because if you don’t know why we’re fighting, if it’s just a bunch of folks living in caves who randomly attack us if they get the chance, what’s the great threat? They’re not attacking us anymore. We’ve debilitated them. It has to be explained to Americans. Americans have no idea.

You come from countries, some of you, where Muslims are very prevalent and everybody understands. Americans have no concept of what Islam is. None whatsoever. And no idea what Muslims believe. None. None. I give speeches all over, and I ask questions, basic questions. No idea. No idea. No idea of the history. So we’re this ignorant group of folks who understand, yeah, they’re Muslims, but, okay, they might as well be Siberians. It’s just a term. It doesn’t mean anything to them.

And so we have an uneducated public who is asked to endure pain: high oil prices, deaths of our soldiers, vilification by the world. For what? Because a bunch of terrorists want to hurt us. Well, so what? Let’s leave. If there’s no consequences to leaving – if there’s no consequences to losing – why win? Why go through the price of winning, if there’s no consequence to losing?

They don’t understand the consequences. And this President refuses, and will refuse, to tell them the consequences because he’s been told that you can’t offend our allies in the region. You can’t offend Muslims in this country. You can’t talk about it. You can’t talk about Islam. It’s counter to what American interest is. I disagree with that, and I have done so. And I got creamed in my election for doing it, but I’ll continue to talk about it.

4 Responses to “Q&A (full text): The Press & People of Faith in Politics — Rick Santorum”

  1. Santorum says I’m not a Christian | Spirit of a Liberal Says:

    [...] unrepentant, practicing liberal.  What is more, I’m all about sex, because I’m a Democrat.  From the 2008 interview in which he suggested that liberals could not be Christian: Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become [...]

  2. Blow and Nocera « Marion in Savannah Says:

    [...] speech was interesting, but the answers he gave to the questions that followed were truly [...]

  3. Op-Ed Columnist: Santorum and the Sexual Revolution | Money Blog Says:

    [...] at the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life in Washington. The speech was interesting, but the answers he gave to the questions that followed were truly illuminating. In response to a question about the kinds [...]

  4. Santorum and the Sexual Revolution | The Road Says:

    [...] speech was interesting, but the answers he gave to the questions that followed were truly [...]

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