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George Stephanopoulos Interviews Sen. Rick Santorum, 7/31/05

By Judd Legum on July 31, 2005 at 11:28 am

July 31, 2005

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we’re back, with Senator Rick Santorum, the number-three Republican in the Senate and the author of a new book called, It Takes a Family. He’s got it right there in front of him.
And I want to get to that in just a second, but first Senator Frist. Kind of an earthquake on the Senate floor on Friday. He broke with President Bush on the issue of stem-cell research. Here’s what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRIST: I am pro-life. I believe human life begins at conception. It’s at this moment that the organism is complete — yes, immature, but complete. An embryo is nascent human life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think you may not have been able to hear the whole thing. He said, I’m pro-life. I believe life begins at conception. But I also support embryonic stem-cell research, even though it’s nascent human life.
Can he have it both ways?

SANTORUM: Well, I disagree with Senator Frist. I think that you cannot take a utilitarian approach to human life. And this is an innocent human life. You’re destroying this life for the purpose of research which has questionable value. There’s all sorts of misinformation out there that, you know, this research may not ever end up to be helpful therapeutic…

STEPHANOPOULOS: So from your perspective, if you believe life begins at conception, you believe you must be against embryonic stem- cell research?

SANTORUM: You must be against destroying human embryos to get embryonic stem cells.
One of the things I guess was most disappointing is that we’ve seen over the last six months a whole bunch of scientific theories come forward as to how to actually get embryonic stem cells without destroying a human embryo.

And in fact, I’ve been working on a bill with Senator Frist and Senator Enzi and Senator Isakson to try to put forward a funding proposal for the NIH to look at alternative ways to get these pluripotent cells, or these embryonic stem cells, without creating a human embryo and without then killing that embryo to get the cells.
So, there are four or five different technologies that are potentially viable to get these cells, and I don’t think we need to go down this path.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about the politics of this for a second. I was talking to a prominent conservative activist on Friday who said, you know, this is game over, Bill Frist cannot get the nomination anymore.
Dr. James Dobson came out and called it the worst kind of betrayal, choosing politics over principle.
How much damage has this done to Bill Frist’s attempts to get the nomination?

SANTORUM: You know, I’ll let the political commentators deal with that. I think, you know, Bill’s a scientist, he’s a physician. You know, I know that that pulls at him a lot in his job. And I think he made the decision that science trumped in this case.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t think it’s going to help, do you?

SANTORUM: You know, it may help in some circles. Obviously, Nancy Reagan was out there saying this was a good idea. But I think certainly for the base, for the conservative base, this is going to be problematic for him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One final question on this, the legislation. This probably increases the chance that this bill’s going to get to the president’s desk for a veto. Are you convinced the president’s going to veto?

SANTORUM: Oh, without question, the president will veto this. I mean, the president understands that the federal government should not be on the side of taking innocent human life, period.
And, you know, obviously, the majority of the House, the majority of the Senate disagree with him. But I’m hopeful that the House in particular will continue to have the votes necessary…

STEPHANOPOULOS: He won’t be overridden?

SANTORUM: … to sustain his veto. No, I don’t think he will.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s turn to your book, It Takes a Family. A lot of controversy swirling around the book. You’re holding up pretty well under it. Let me start out with something you wrote about abortion.
You say, in the book, you say, in effect, talking about Roe v. Wade, you say it created a private license to kill a certain category of Americans, the unborn, and raised this license to a constitutional principle.
So I guess if you were John Roberts up for the Supreme Court, the hearings would be pretty clear: You want to overturn Roe v. Wade.

SANTORUM: Well, what I’d like to do is have these kinds of incredibly important moral issues be decided by the American public, not by nine unelected, unaccountable judges.
You know, what Judge Roberts talks about is a principle that we haven’t seen much lately, something called judicial restraint.

If you look at our checks and balances, really, the courts don’t really have any oversight over them. And so, throughout history, the courts have said, Look, we understand that we have potentially enormous power, and we’re going to restrain ourselves from exercising that power.

I heard Judge Roberts say the other day that, you know, a baseball game would be a pretty sad game if the umpire was the most important player on the field.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but you say you want…

SANTORUM: And the court is really supposed to be an umpire between the legislative branch and the executive branch. Instead, they’re trying to play the game.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you say you don’t want the courts to decide, you want the people to decide. And of course, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, each state would have the choice.
But I wonder if that’s good enough, given what you believe. If you believe that that would essentially give the states a license to kill, don’t you have to be for a constitutional amendment that would ban abortions in every state?

SANTORUM: Well, OK, let’s just say, let’s say that we did that, that would be the democratic process. Again, it…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you support that?

SANTORUM: I would support a constitutional amendment, sure.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How come you’ve never co-sponsored one or introduced one in the Senate?

SANTORUM: Well, because we’re so far away from any potential of doing a constitutional amendment. The bottom line is, what we want is the people to speak on this issue.
And I think the most logical way, given the state of play in the American mores, if you will, is having each state legislature, and the Congress potentially, although I would really try to reserve it to the state legislature, have them decide what the collective morality is.

This is an issue important enough for the people of America to make a decision, instead of having nine people take that moral judgment away from us as a people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about something else in the book, radical feminists. A second quote from the book, you say, Respect for stay-at-home mothers has been poisoned by a toxic combination of the village elders’ war on the traditional family and radical feminism’s mysogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect.

Let’s get specific here. Name one or two of these radical feminists who are on this crusade.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, you know, you have — you go back to, what’s her name, well, Gloria Steinem, but I’m trying to remember — I can’t remember the woman’s name. It’s terrible. Anyway…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it’s kind of an important point. Because you paint this broad brush: radical feminists, village elders. Name one.

SANTORUM: There’s lots of — no, there’s lot’s of — well, Gloria Steinem. There’s one. I mean, there’s lots of writings out there…

STEPHANOPOULOS: She’s been on a crusade against stay-at-home moms?

SANTORUM: There’s lots of writings out there, and there is an opinion by the elite in this country across academia, across the media, that stay-at-home motherhood is not adequately affirmed and respected by our society.

SANTORUM: And if you don’t believe that, get a panel of stay-at- home moms here on your show, and you ask them whether they feel affirmed by society, whether they feel affirmed by the culture.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Listen, I can go home. My wife Wendy both works and stays at home at various times. And sometimes, when she’s not working, you know, she gets upset, but it’s not some message that’s being driven by…

SANTORUM: Isn’t it?

STEPHANOPOULOS: … specific people.

SANTORUM: Isn’t it a message for us? I mean, where does this come from? Does this come from the ether?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I’m asking you. Where are these radical feminists?

SANTORUM: It comes from an elite culture, dictated, again, from academia, dictated, again, from the Hollywood culture and the news media, that says, the only thing that’s affirming, the only thing that really counts is what you do at work.

And that goes for men and women. And it’s wrong. It’s wrong to tell that to fathers. It’s wrong to tell that to mothers. And we need to value mothers and fathers spending time with their children much more than we do in America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hillary Clinton wrote much the same in her book, It Takes a Village. Do you believe she’s a radical feminist?

SANTORUM: Yes, I do. I mean, read her work and what she’s done on children’s rights. I mean, that’s radical. I mean, you’re talking about giving children the same — that children have rights equal to adults. I mean, that is not a nurturing atmosphere of mothers and fathers taking responsibility for shaping the moral vision of their children. She doesn’t agree with that, at least if you look at her earlier writings.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you talked to her about your book?

SANTORUM: We’ve had conversations in passing about it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tell us about them. SANTORUM: Oh, just, you know, pass in the hallway, you know, she made a comment to me about that it takes a village, and I responded, no, it really does take a family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no serious debate?

SANTORUM: No serious debate. I’d love to have a serious debate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You may have drawn her out now, calling her a radical feminist.

SANTORUM: I’d love to have a serious debate. If she’d like to have a serious debate about her view of how society should be ordered and structured — I believe her view is one that says government and top-down. I believe my view is the view that’s held by most Americans, which means we need strong families and strong communities, and we don’t need government really dissembling those institutions, which I think her view of the world does.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s move on to another controversy you stirred up, the question of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church. You made a statement in July 2002 which has drawn a lot of fire.
You said, in a publication called Catholic On-Line, When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While there’s no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

You’ve reaffirmed that just a couple of weeks ago. Ted Kennedy, John Kerry say you have to apologize. Mitt

Romney, Republican governor, says basically you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Do you still stand by that statement?

SANTORUM: Look, the statement I made was that the culture influences people’s behavior. I don’t think anyone…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn’t that what conservatives used to say about liberals, when they used to say they were trying to excuse criminals?

SANTORUM: I think what I’m saying is that the culture of liberal sexual freedom and the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s had a profound impact on everybody and their sexual mores. It had a profound impact on the church.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you singled out Boston in…

SANTORUM: I singled out Boston in 2002. In July of 2002, that was the epicenter. We did not know…

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is simply not true. I went back and looked at all of these clips. We had stories in 1994, going back all the way to 1984 in Louisiana, in just about every archdiocese in the country.
I just don’t understand why you stick by this, because we now know it was widespread. It was in every city in the country.

SANTORUM: Well, at the time, we did not know it was in every city of the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We knew a lot of that.

SANTORUM: It was — look at the press reports. It was the epicenter.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I have them right here.

SANTORUM: I think it’s taking it out of context…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1994, it cites instances of abuse in Santa Fe and Chicago, as well as Lafayette, Louisiana, and Camden, New Jersey. 1994.

SANTORUM: I understand that it was in other places. All I’m talking about, at the time, what everyone was focused on at the time was Boston.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you stand by it?

SANTORUM: Look, I will admit that Boston is — that using Boston at the time was appropriate. Now, I would not say it would be appropriate. I would say that Boston right now would — we’d say a whole lot of other cities in the country and a whole lot of problems.
But if you read the article, that was one of about four or five things that I said…

STEPHANOPOULOS: I did read it.

SANTORUM: … and I talked about the problems within the church.
I wrote the article in 2002. Ted Kennedy and John Kennedy wrote no articles in 2002 criticizing this church. I went out and talked to bishops. I went out and talked to cardinals. I was very concerned. I was offended and hurt by a church that betrayed me by not doing what they should have done, and I was angered by that, and I spoke out about it, and I spoke loudly about it.

The senators from Massachusetts did nothing. They spoke nothing. They sat by and let this happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re standing your ground.

Let’s talk…

SANTORUM: And I’m standing my ground because I tried to fight to change the church.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Final question, on 2008. You’ve been on this book tour, and you seem to be getting tangled up in questions about this. You say you have no intention to run in 2008, but you don’t want to lock the door, I think was the last thing you said. And I just — I understand what’s going on. You don’t want to turn off your voters in your Senate campaign in 2006, but you might want to run in…

SANTORUM: I’m not going to run.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re not going to run?

SANTORUM: I said I have no intention of running.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s different from — and I just want to know, can you promise to Pennsylvania voters that if they vote for you in 2006…

SANTORUM: That I’m not going to turn around and start a campaign in 2008?

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s exactly what I’m asking.

SANTORUM: I am not going to start and turn around a campaign in 2008.
But what I’m saying is that there might not — you know, there’s always things that happen in your life and things that happen in politics that I’ve made a pledge never to say never, because strange things can happen.
But what I will say is that, after the 2006 election, I’m not going to turn around and head to New Hampshire. I’ve got four — I’ve got six children, ages 4 to 14, who, you know, through this next 15 months of this campaign and already through the last four months of this campaign have had — you know, Dad’s been away from home a lot.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re not going to head to New Hampshire, but…

SANTORUM: I’m not going to Iowa, I’m not going anywhere…

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re not running?

SANTORUM: No, I’m not going to be running. That’s what I’ve said, and I’ve said it. I have no intention of running, which means I’m not going to run. And I said that…

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think they mean two different things.

SANTORUM: Well, all I’ve — you know, the only thing I always say is that I just simply don’t ever lock a door, because strange things happen.

But let me assure you that I’m running for the whip position in the United States Senate. I wouldn’t be running for the whip position in the United States Senate and asking my colleagues for their vote if I had intention of going off and running around the country campaigning for president. I don’t.
I’m not going to go running around the country campaigning for president. That much I will tell you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Senator Santorum, thanks very much.

SANTORUM: You bet.