Q&A:Rick Santorum Discusses Controlling the Debt, Entitlement Reform, Education, Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage, the War on Terror and Immigration

January 24, 2011 - 5:05 PM

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.)

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.)

(CNSNews.com) - Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who says he is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination, sat down with CNSNews.com recently for an Online With Terry Jeffrey interview.

Santorum discussed his views on a wide range of issues, including how to control the federal debt and reform entitlements, what should be done to repair the American primary-and-secondary educational system, what to do about abortion and same sex marriage, his take on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how the U.S. government ought to deal with captured terrorists and how the next president should handle the problem of illegal immigration.

You can view the full interview in video here and read the transcript below:

CNSNews.com Editor in Chief Terry Jeffrey: Welcome to this edition of Online with Terry Jeffrey. Our guest today is Sen. Rick Santorum. Santorum was born in Winchester, Virginia, and raised in Butler, Pennyslvania, which is north of Pittsburgh. He earned a bachelor's degree from Penn State University, an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and a law degree from the Dickinson School of Law. In 1990, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 18th district of Pennsylvania, which is in the western part of the state.  In 1994, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served for two terms, being re-elected in 2000. In the Senate, Santorum served on the Agricultural Committee, the Banking Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Rules Committee. From 2001 to 2007, he was Chairman of the Republican Senate Conference, the third ranking leadership position in the Republican conference in the Senate.

As a U.S. Senator, Santorum led the battles for welfare reform, Social Security reform and to ban partial-birth abortion. He is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Institute, a political contributor to FOX News, on the board of directors at Universal Health Services and he and his wife, Karen, are raising seven children. Senator Santorum, thanks for coming in.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.):  Terry, good to be with you again.

Jeffrey: Appreciate talking with you.

Santorum: I'll tell you one more. I was also on the Armed Services Committee for eight years.

Jeffrey: Oh, there you go. Sorry about that.

Santorum: It's okay.

Jeffrey: So in your time in the Senate, you were looking at the whole range of issues.

Santorum: Yeah, when I came to the Senate from the House, I got on the Armed Services Committee principally because I had not had really a military background, and I thought sort of to round out my experiences, having served on the Ways and Means Committee over in the House, getting on Foreign Relations or Armed Services--and I preferred Armed Services--I ended up being, because we took the majority, ended up being a subcommittee chairman for eight years and worked extensively on a lot of procurement issues, research and development, in the military. So I was sort of on the procurement side of the military, but it showed the dramatic technological advances that occur within the military and obviously the dual use technology that obviously DARPA--even though Al Gore says he invented the Internet, it was really the Defense Department that invented the Internet—and all of these other dual use things--that investing in defense research has huge economic benefits not just for the defense industry in this country, but for the broader country.

Jeffrey: So you were on the Armed Services Committee when 9/11 happened?

Santorum: I was.

Jeffrey: Okay. We’re going to talk about that in a minute, but let’s talk about fiscal and economic things first.

Santorum: Okay.

Jeffrey: Last month, President Obama’s national fiscal commission came back with the report that they called The Moment of Truth. And leaving aside its policy prescriptions, the description they gave for the fiscal situation the country faces was rather dramatic.

Santorum: Dire I think is a good word for it.

Jeffrey: Dire.  And, and let me give you their exact words: They said quote: “Our nation is on unsustainable fiscal path. Spending is rising and revenues are falling short, requiring the government to borrow huge sums each year to make up the difference. We face staggering deficits. In 2010, federal spending was nearly 24 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Only during WWII was federal spending a larger part of our economy.  By 2025,” says Obama’s fiscal commission, “revenue will be able to finance only interest payments and Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Every other federal government activity from national defense and homeland security to transportation and energy will have to be paid for with borrowed money.” 

Now, senator, let’s say hypothetically that you were president of the United States and you had a large majority of your own party in both houses of Congress, so you basically could write the policy prescriptions going forward for dealing with this fiscal situation. What would be your priorities?

Santorum: Well, obviously, and this alludes to it, the big problem here is entitlements. The first thing we can do—I hope this Congress will do this, this is the minimum they should do--and that is to cut back discretionary spending back to the 2008 levels, which means the pre-stimulus level, and stop emergency spending--all these special spending that “don’t count.” But of course they count, because we have to borrow money to pay for them. So, first and foremost, hopefully in the next two years, to get to your question, we'll do something to put the genie back in the bottle on discretionary spending.  If that doesn’t happen, that would be one of the things I would do first.

But the four big areas are the four big entitlement programs that exist in Washington D.C. right now. And I’d take them in this order: First, Obamacare. Barack Obama was right, that health care is a huge cost driver for our businesses and for our government, and that we needed to do something about it. And he did. He made it worse. He made it much worse. He increased the amount of money going to a portion of the economy that is increasing faster than any other section of the economy with maybe the exception of higher education, which is growing faster. Tuition increases are growing faster than even health care increases. There's a commonality between those two: They both have huge government involvement in both of those areas, and they are driving costs up. So what was Obama's prescription? More government involvement in that area. That's the wrong prescription.

I've said it once, I'll say it again: There's nothing salvageable in the Obamacare bill. Not to say that there aren't maybe one or two ideas that are good ideas, but they are intertwined with a system that doesn't work. So, we can look at some of those ideas, but they have to be done in the context of returning healthcare to individuals and to the private sector, not having government control. So that's number one.

Jeffrey: So the next President should sign legislation--

Santorum: To repeal Obamacare. Number one.

Jeffrey: Repealing Obamacare.

Santorum: Number two: Again, staying with healthcare, because those are the big drivers, is Medicaid. Back in 1996, I took to the floor of the United States Senate, and through a quirk, really a quirk, of the fact that the chairman of the Finance Committee back in 1996 had to resign, Bob Packwood. And Bob Packwood, two weeks after he resigned, was to bring a bill to reform welfare to the floor of United States Senate. Well, he resigned, and the new chairman frankly didn't know anything about the bill that I had happily worked with Bob Packwood on. And the reason I worked with him on it was because when I was on the Ways and Means Committee in the House, I actually drafted the Contract With America welfare-reform bill. So, I knew a lot about this issue. So, I ended up managing that bill.

Now why do I talk about welfare? Because welfare was the only time in the history of this country where we ended a major federal entitlement. And what we did, we said: Look, welfare is a state issue. It's something the states basically manage already. It's just a federal entitlement, and the federal government has a very prescriptive program on how the state runs it. But the state runs welfare policy. So what we said is: Look, we need to end the federal entitlement. We need to give a block of money to the states. We need to pare back some of these strings attached to this money, and let the states devise their own program.

What happened? Welfare rolls decreased by over 50%, poverty levels went down, people who weren’t working and were chronically unemployed went back to work. Family stability increased.  All positive benefits. Why do I say that? Because we need to do the exact same thing for Medicaid.

Jeffrey: Back then you actually had a Democratic President.

Santorum:We had a Democratic President--

Jeffrey: Who was ready to sign the bill.

Santorum: And he did. It took--We had to bribe him. I mean that's the best word for it. We had to put more money in the pot, primarily for daycare. But we did. It was a matter of money, not policy. And for me, I'm willing to trade money for policy, if eventually we can get the money down the road. If you can get the right policy in place you can save the money, and I think welfare reform proved that. So on Medicaid we need to do the same thing. We need to repeal the federal entitlement, which is just a perverse incentive for the states to spend more money. And turn the program back.

I can go down the list. Medicare would be the next thing we'd have to deal with. Social Security after that--

Jeffrey: Well, let’s talk about that for a second. So, the state of California is going bankrupt. Their Legislative Analyst’s Office in November put out a report that said that they face a 20 billion dollar deficit every year for the next six years, and that they spend, there going to spend about 20 billion a year on Medi-Cal, which is their state Medicaid program. So, their deficit equals the Medi-Cal program. Of their 37 million people under the 2010 census 7 million of those are on Medi-Cal, so you would say to California, your own your own?

Santorum: I would say here's the money. Here's a block of money. Right now, as you know, the Medicaid funds are split between the federal and state level. And this was, again, a perverse incentive by very smart progressives in the 1960's figured out that if we cost-share with the states--let the states run the program but we cost-share with them and we pick up a percentage of whatever the cost is--that would incentivize them to grow the program. Why? Because they could get a dollars worth of benefit to their constituents for 50 cents on the dollar. So this perverse incentive to states to grow their program and the federal government is simply on the hook for it. And California--and New York is another one--is really case in point, where they dramatically expanded these programs and the federal government is picking up 50 percent of the cost of it.

Jeffrey: So, senator, you get rid of the federal entitlement, it all goes back to the states, you’re giving them a block grant. Is the block grant frozen at the current level?

Santorum: That's what we did with welfare. What we said was: Look, we’ll pretty much leave the money as it is. We didn't cut it, because then you get into where do you cut it and who do you cut. So we didn't cut it. We grandfathered everyone in and said: Okay, were not going increase it. So now you have to manage within this amount of money. That would be at least my initial proposal.

Jeffrey: Of course, as you know, under Obamacare Medicaid is actually going to expand because they are going to take people up to 125 percent up the poverty level and stick them into Medicaid.

Santorum: It’s going to explode, not expand. In states like Pennsylvania, we cover 75 percent of poverty. In other words, if you’re at the poverty level but only at 75 percent--in other words, not even everybody who's even quote "poor" gets Medicaid in Pennsylvania. Now there going to go up to 150 percent of poverty. So there’s going to be potentially even more than double the number of people who are on it. Initially, they said, well, the federal government is going to pay for it. But of course that's unsustainable and everybody knows it and the states are going to have to end up having to pick up their portion of it. 

Jeffrey: So the second thing the next president needs to do after he repeals Obamacare is through Medicaid reform that gives it back to the states and gets rid of the federal entitlements let the states deal with block grants from the government. What the third problem?

Santorum: Well, I'd also move--one aside on sticking with the states and that is dealing with this issue of federal employees, excuse me, state employees, municipal employees. That bill is coming due. You have huge pension obligations, huge health-care obligations for retirees in municipal governments and state governments. One of the things that I would insist upon, hopefully for this Congress, is no bail out for the states, no bail outs for these municipalities. And the federal government is going to be facing the same thing. I mean we’re going to be facing the same situation where we've overpromised.

There are—I shouldn’t say none, there are some union plans left--There are very few defined benefit plans left in the private sector. Everyone has their 401K, the company says: Here's money, you can invest it for your retirement. But they’re not sticking the company with an obligation to pay you a certain amount of money in a pension for the future. The federal government needs to move in that direction. That's another reform that we need to do. It’s a longer term issue, but it’s an important one that we need to do.

Jeffrey: Do you think that there is a realistic possibility that a House of Representatives led by John Boehner would actually approve a bailout of a state?

Santorum: I certainly hope not. But, look, I've seen a lot of bad things happen in Washington, D.C. with people who say they are conservatives. So, I’m hopeful that the pressure won't come that California goes bankrupt. You will hear these. You see this all the time. Well, if California goes bankrupt, you know experts say--

Jeffrey: And they will say that in part Medicaid, a federal program, is at fault.

Santorum: Well, they will say Medicaid is at fault, but, look, there’s all sorts of reasons that California is going bankrupt. But they will come and the big argument will be if California goes bankrupt the economy will tank, it will have the ripple effect. You'll see all these, and it’s TARP all over again. You've got to bail them out. We can’t--it’s too big to fail. Have we heard this before? Well, is there any state that's too big to fail more than California? And of course even Republicans from California will say: Well, you've got to be for this, right? Republicans are going to be screaming that you can't let our state fail. So, there will be enormous pressure for California because of its huge impact. But, then, of course, if you bail out California, well, then why not New York? And why not everybody else?

Jeffrey: Well, and of course California was partially bailed out as some other states were by the stimulus.

Santorum: By the stimulus package. And that’s going to be an area where if the Senate, excuse me, if the House Republicans are serious about getting this deficit under control, the first thing they should do is pull back as many of those funds as they possibly can right now.

Jeffrey: That haven't been spent.

Santorum: Right, that haven't been spent right now.

Jeffrey: All right. So you say if California is going down, Jerry Brown and the legislature in Sacramento they can deal with it. The federal Congress and taxpayers in Pennsylvania or Ohio, they should not have to pay for the California government?

Santorum: They have their own problems Pennsylvania and Ohio have huge deficits too that they are going to have to deal with, and to bailout California and not Pennsylvania? How is that fair to the people of Pennsylvania?  It’s not fair and that's what I am saying. You can’t bailout one. If you bailout one, then Katie bar the door. Every state with a deficit is going to come for money of which we don't have.

So, I'm hopeful that even California Republicans will stand up and say this is just simply not the right thing to do and we have to take tough medicine. And the tough medicine means you have to cut back on Medicaid programs, you’re going to have to cut back on your obligations to your public employees and those two things by and large will solve a big nut of the problem.

Jeffrey: Okay, so you still have two entitlements to go.

Santorum: Okay, Medicare. Medicare is a program that again is growing faster than the rate of inflation and as a result, because of health care. The system is one where you don't have, in my opinion, good cost shares. You have the federal government--You pay taxes throughout the course of your working life and then the federal government basically provides hospitalization care for the rest of your life. Then we also have this program Medicare Part B, which is a program that you don't pay for during your life, and the federal government picks up about 75 percent of the cost of that program. Again, you didn't pay for that. Most people don't understand that. They think: Oh, Medicare, I paid for that. No, you didn't really pay for that. Then you have Medicare Part D, which is the drug benefit. Now, of the three programs the one that actually works, the most efficient, the most effectively and well, is the Medicare prescription drug program. Why? Because it’s a private-sector program that the government simply is the payer.

Now, do we have another model for this? Yes, and it’s the Federal Employees Health Benefit System. The federal government is the payer. Why? Because they are the employer in a sense the federal government sits as an employer just like every private sector employer does. They pay a certain percentage of the employees health care cost and that’s what we did for Medicare prescription drug and as a result of that, you have to go out into the private sector and you have all sorts of insurance plans that offer different prescription drug policies and you can pick and choose the plan that fits you. What happened as a result of that is that every year since that program has been in place it has come underneath what the projection was by the Congressional Budget Office. It’s actually saved money relative to that. Why? Because we have private-sector competition out there. We need to basically take the Medicare prescription drug program, the Federal Employees Health Benefit program, and apply it into the entire Medicare program. Which means that the individual is going to pay a percentage of the cost of their insurance, will have higher co-payments, have more involvement, more skin in the game when it comes to the cost of Medicare. Now a lot of seniors, future seniors in particular, are not going to like that. But it’s either do that or we are going to were going to dramatically re-trench into the benefits that are being offered.

Jeffrey: Senator, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation has done an analysis of taking Treasury Department numbers of the unfunded liabilities of the United States. They calculated that as of end of fiscal ‘09—a lot of stuff has gone down since the end fiscal ‘09--but as the end of fiscal ‘09 the total unfunded liabilities were $61.9 trillion, which equals $200,000 for every one of the 308 million people in the United States. But of that, they say $38.8 trillion is Medicare of that $38.8 trillion more than $8 trillion is for the Medicare prescription drug plan. So, they argue, and I believe the actuaries demonstrate, that going forward the Medicare prescription drug plan that you like is $8 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Santorum: I like the way that it was designed. Look, there are things in that program that I don’t like. For example, I don’t like them filling the donut hole. There are different policies within the Medicare prescription drug plan that again are not quote “paid for,” but if you’re looking at a way to get a system that is going to extract savings from the rest of Medicare that design is a better design. The fact that we have benefits that are more generous than I believe are necessary is the reason the cost of the program is high.

Jeffrey: Well, the same analysis shows $7.7 trillion in unfunded liabilities for the entire Social Security program. So that analysis has more unfunded liabilities for Medicare prescription drugs--

Santorum: That’s why I kept Social Security for last. It’s the one everybody goes to, but it’s the smallest problem.

Jeffrey: It’s easier to deal with in terms of the size.

Santorum: And, it’s easier to deal with in terms of the size.

Jeffrey: So, you voted for the Medicare prescription drug plan?

Santorum: Yes, I did.

Jeffrey: And are you still happy with that vote?

Santorum: I, well--

Jeffrey: You wouldn’t take it back?

Santorum: Look, we had a Medicare program that did not include prescription drugs. That’s like, you know--No health-care plan in America is sold that doesn’t include prescription drugs. Why? Because in 1965, when the program was designed, there were not any kind of real prescription drugs out there that were used by the public and we never changed the program to match the change in medicine. It created a lot of perverse incentives where people would stay in the hospital more so that they could get their drugs. It was just a bad system. We needed to add a prescription drug component. Having said that, I argued with President Bush, I argued with the administration, that we did not have to have a universal system, and they disagreed with me. And they said: Nope, that’s the only way were going to get this past. Secondly--

Jeffrey: You would have said for poor Medicare recipients you would have subsidized drugs?

Santorum: Yes. Almost 90 percent of seniors have prescription drug coverage. Well, let’s design a program that picks up the 10 percent. That’s what I wanted to do and I wanted to pay for it. Neither of which I was successful in getting. So I had to make the decision: Do I vote against, I think, a fairly well-designed program, that again a private-sector program and have in that bill a health-saving accounts, which I was very, very much for because I believe that is the ultimate key to reforming the health care system and having that--

Jeffrey: Let me ask you about that for a second. So, in your view, should the next president roll back the Medicare prescription drug plan so that it only goes to poor seniors rather than everybody?

Santorum: The next president should take the Medicare prescription drug plan and exact costs to bring the cost of that down. I don’t think I would at this point--I think that we need to integrate the programs and not separate them out and I think that we need to integrate them all in a model that doesn’t separate out the prescription drugs from Medicare Part B, Medicare Part A. I think we need to have a Medicare program, a Medicare benefit and we need to construct it in a way that allows for choices, so individuals can say if I don’t want a generous prescription drug benefit if I have one from my business I don’t half to have one. I think we need to create flexibility and by creating flexibility you can save money.

Jeffrey: Okay, now you’re raising seven children, so I know that you’re very critically aware of the fact that they face this burden of debt we’ve been talking about. It’s not an abstract thing: $200,000 dollars per person for every one of your even children for that $61.9 trillion in unfunded liabilities, what would you like to see happen with your children as they go forward in life? Do you want to see them on this same kind of Medicare program that we have now? What sort of program or what sort of free-market system do you want to see them participate in?

Santorum: As I said before, I think the ultimate answer for Medicare is to turn it into more of a private-sector-looking plan, where the federal government is the quote “employer” who pays a certain percentage of the cost of insurance and you give the employee, the Medicare recipient, choices as to what type of program they’d like. And depending on their own facts and circumstances--for example, if I’m a retiree who happens to have a plan for my work that covers some prescription drugs, well, then I can have a plan that has less prescription drug coverage and maybe lots of long-term care. So, you can adapt so when you say, well, can we just limit it to those who just don’t have coverage, well, you in a sense do that by allowing flexibility with the design of the plan people can buy. The federal government has a fixed commitment of dollars that they can afford and then the individual picks up the rest and designs the plan that fits their needs.

Jeffrey: So, if you’re a 22-year-old coming out of college today and you’re getting a job, what do you want that person to do? What do you want that system there in to be?

Santorum: I’m not too sure that I understand.

Jeffrey: Well, you’re saying that that they’re going to pay payroll taxes, right? They have to pay they’re Medicare payroll taxes to subsidize the people on Medicare right now. We know that even the collective payroll tax of the entire workforce in the United States still in the long run is going to fall $8.8 trillion short. Are you saying that 43-44 years from now, when the kid getting out of college this year is retiring you still want a federal Medicare system in place, you just want this additional choice, but essentially you still want a Medicare system in place?

Santorum: A Medicare system that reflects the costs that come. So, yeah, the answer is: I don’t think, if you’re--Should we abolish Medicare? No. I’m not for abolishing Medicare.

Jeffrey: Or move to a more private system. You say like health saving accounts--

Santorum: I think we do move toward a private system by having the federal government be simply the payer without having, which we have right now, which is the federal government and the Medicare system is a single payer health-care system by and large, with the exception of Medicare Advantage, which of course the administration is trying to get rid of. But right now Medicare is a government-run healthcare program.

Under a Santorum idea, it would no longer be a government-run healthcare system. It would be a system where the federal government stands in the place where an employer would stand in the place for an employee. And as a result of that you can dial up and dial down the contribution you want to make to it and allow, you know, you can do all sorts of things to be able to save money under that plan much harder to do if it’s a government-run system.

Jeffrey: Okay, Social Security, what do you do about that?

Santorum: Well, as you probably remember, Terry, when I was in the United States Senate and in fact when I was running for United States Senate, I was one of the few guys who decided to touch the third-rail of politics and talk about Social Security reform. I did it in 1994. Almost lost my election because of it because I went out and talked about, you know, we need to change the benefit structure and suggested that for younger people that we need to look at raising the retirement age. By the way, that’s another thing we need to look at, eligibility for Medicare which I didn’t talk about but clearly having Medicare eligibility at age 65 and social security at 67 for generations really doesn’t make any sense. That’s another reform, quote, that you can do with the Medicare. Those are very unpopular things by the way.

Jeffrey: Sure

Santorum: People would rather have it at 50. But the fact of the matter is Social Security was put in place in 1936 when the average life expectancy was 61. Today life expectancy is over 80 and the Social Security eligibility age has moved up two years not 15 years, excuse me, 19 years. So we need to look at that issue. I think probably the easiest issue to solve is on the consumer price index versus the wage index. We should have Social Security benefits tied to what that benefit buys, not the wages of the people who are paying taxes. That alone can go a long way in saving a huge amount of money. We may or may not do the retirement age or the eligibility age. I just think it’s a fairness issue. I think that something to has to be on the table.

Having said all that, when I went out and talked about it in 1994, 95, and 96, I talked about personal savings accounts. And I did so in a time when we had a 3-and-a-half percent cushion--in other words, we were only using 9 percent of the 12.4 percent payroll tax for paying benefits. And I said: Look, let’s take that savings, let’s take that money that’s coming into the Social Security Trust Fund--that phony trust fund that’s there--and use that to get real assets for younger workers. So I was an advocate for personal saving accounts. Here’s the problem with personal savings accounts: There’s no surplus anymore. There’s no money.  And so know we have to look at how do we transition from a system that is already going bankrupt and fund personal saving accounts. So that’s a tough transition.

Jeffrey: Leaving that question aside for a moment, I’m sure you’re familiar with this legislation that John Sununu and Paul Ryan put together which would allow people to take six points out of their 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax and put in mutual fund accounts, very conservative mutual fund accounts.

Santorum: I’ve supported and actually sponsored plans like that myself.

Jeffrey: Similar sorts of plans. The actuary of Social Security scored that one and said that over the long run, Social Security would be solvent with the Sununu-Ryan plan and that at the end of the day, people would be required in that plan buy an annuity that would pay them the equivalent of a Social Security benefit.  If they didn’t have enough money to buy that annuity the federal government would make up the difference, but Social Security would still be solvent. There was a transition cost there.  Off the top of my head, it’s not as much as the debt has increased since Nancy Pelosi was speaker of the House.

Santorum: No, I understand that, but the big problem with that plan now as opposed to before--and that’s why I talked about it--is that you could finance the transition cost back in the mid 90’s.

Jeffrey: Without debt.

Santorum: Without debt.

Jeffrey: But philosophically, do you support the Ryan-Sununu bill?

Santorum: I philosophically support it. The problem is how do you get there given the mountain of debt that were in right now and how we’d have to borrow more in the short term to make that back.

Jeffrey: Now on the margin do you think the increased debt on the transition to Ryan-Sununu type Social Security plan is a substantive problem for the country or a political problem in terms of trying to get that sort of plan through?

Santorum: I think it’s probably a little of both. I mean I think it’s certainly a political problem to go out there and call for fixing the Social Security problem by increasing the debt by potentially trillions of dollars in the short term. And as a result I mean you come forward with a plan in today’s economy and you’re calling for a trillion dollars increase in the debt it’s going to have a negative impact on the credit-worthiness of this country and some of the economic impact.

Jeffrey: So given that the insolvency of Social Security--approximately $7.7 trillion-is not as great as Medicare, you would prefer to see a more incremental approach where you look at things like changing the retirement age, changing the COLA, maybe adjusting a few things like that to bring it down into--

Santorum: Look, it’s really hard for me to say this because I’ve been a warrior on personal accounts for, well, almost 20 years, and I really believe that’s the best system and a better system. But we’re in such an economic crunch right now with our debt it’s just hard to see how you get there and this is the frustration.

I remember saying in ’94 and ’96, I went on Air Force One--the only time I ever flew with Bill Clinton on Air Force One was to Kansas City, Missouri—where he had his first townhall meeting on Social Security, bipartisan, and I spoke for the United States Senate. And I said: Look, we need to do something now.  I said the folks who are up there are saying we don’t need to do anything, you know what they want to do, they want to run the clock. They want to run the clock until, and I said, 2011. What happens in 2011? I talked more about 2011 then any other year when I was in the United States Senate. Why? Because 2011 is the first year of the baby boomers turning 65. And I said, once they run the clock until 2011 the game is over. If they can get this thing not reformed, if they can stay away from personal accounts until 2011 it’s going to make it virtually impossible for us to do it. So that was my call and now here we are. So I even find myself constrained by the amount of debt that we will encounter.

Jeffrey: But in another argument, against, in favor of the sort of Social Security reform you advocated and Paul Ryan advocated, it’s not just the fiscal problem of the debt. It’s also the question of government dependency.

Santorum: Absolutely.

Jeffrey: According to the Social Security Administration, a majority of Americans over age 65 in this country rely on the federal government for a majority of their income through Social Security, meaning they are essentially wards of the state. They’ve paid payroll taxes their entire lives rather than spending that money on other assets.

Santorum:Santorum: Terry, I’ve made this argument I don’t know how many times and that’s the frustration that I have, look…

Jeffrey: But is it worth fighting for? I mean dealing with the debt and saying let’s liberate seniors and America from government dependency.

Santorum: Given the catastrophic levels of debt we have right now, incurring trillions of dollars of additional debt in the short term, I think we need to get our house in order first, okay, before we embark on another huge debt bomb that we’re going to drop on the United States. That’s—Look, I’m more passionate on this issue than you are, but I just look at the economic realities of this debt that were facing and I just don’t think we can pull that off in the short term.

Jeffrey: Okay. Now a major issue with the Tea Party in the last election cycle was the proper role of the federal government within the legitimate constraints of Constitution.

Back in January 1788, when the states were actually debating the draft Constitution that came out of the Constitutional Convention, a big issue came up, in Pennsylvania among other places, that the General Welfare Clause, which is at the beginning of Article 1, Section 8, that says that the federal government can tax to provide for the common defense and general welfare, in combination with the Necessary and Proper Clause, which is at the bottom of Article 1, Section 8, and it essentially says Congress can pass all laws necessary and proper to carry out these powers, would give the federal government essentially unlimited power. That was a fear that was expressed in the state conventions. That led to the move for a Bill of Rights.

But this is what James Madison, in the mist of that debate, in Federalist 45, James Madison tried to combat the idea that the Constitution without the Bill of Rights created an unlimited federal government. He said quote: “The powers delegated by the proposed constitution of the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce, with which the last power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all objects which in the ordinary course of affairs concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the state.”

Now, senator, Madison made that argument, he made it repeatedly, and yet even in his own state convention in Virginia people said, well, you know, we appreciate your saying that but they, like Reagan, said trust and verify.

Santorum: Trust but verify

Jeffrey: And they put into the Constitution, Madison himself, the 10th Amendment, which says powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people. When you look at the federal government today, what are those things that conspicuously you see it doing that you believe violate Madison’s sense and the Framers’ sense that the Constitution strictly limited the government to the delegated powers of the Constitution?

Santorum: Well, there is a whole host of things that the federal government has taken on that were customarily state duties and has involved themselves more and more in it. And, candidly, it’s things that we should begin to wind ourselves down from. Everything from a lot of what I did when I was in Congress, the social welfare programs. There’s still a whole host of those types of programs that the federal government should be winding itself out of.

Jeffrey: Do you question whether they were constitutional in the first place?

Santorum: Look, I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I would say that those are things that the federal government did because, well, we just weren’t happy with what the states were doing and we decided that we could do it better, which is not a good reason to do something. Education is another area where--

Jeffrey: Does the Constitution give the federal government a delegated power over primary and secondary education?

Santorum: Obviously not. No, it doesn’t.

Jeffrey: So the Department of Education is unconstitutional?

Santorum: Well, the Department of Education is, in my opinion, unnecessary and overseeing a state bureaucracy which is already a big problem.

Jeffrey: But does the federal government--leaving aside the political realities or possibilities of actually abolishing the Department of Education--did the Constitution delegate to the federal government the powers that are now exercised by the Department of Education?

Santorum: I think not just the Department of Education, I think there are a lot of areas within the federal government, where the federal government is involved which the Constitution never contemplated. Does that mean that they are unconstitutional? Well, I mean, that’s a Supreme Court decision, that’s not Rick Santorum’s decision.

Jeffrey: Well, if you were a Supreme Court justice, what would you say?

Santorum: I’m not a Supreme Court justice, so I’m not going to answer that question because that’s a loaded and complicated answer. But what I would say is that what we need to do is look at areas that we need to divestment ourselves from that are not just extra-constitutional but are things that the federal government is just not good at, and that we shouldn’t be doing anyway that are really in the purview of the states and the purview of the private sector.

And so I would look at an opportunity across the federal government at trying to reduce the programmatic areas that we are involved in and education to me is a good as one as any. I voted for No Child Left Behind. The reason I voted for No Child Left Behind, one reason: For years and years and years, we would say our education system isn’t working, its failing. Look at the results.  And the teachers unions and others say: Well, it’s not true your looking at this, your looking at this, and you looking at apples and oranges and all this stuff. And the reason that I voted for the No Child Left Behind bill is because for the first time we would actually get a measurement that we could use across the board and we could actually find out whether what we believed was true. Now, there are a lot of other things in that bill that I deplored, but I voted for it because I thought, well, we need to get the facts and we need to have some national system to be able to determine whether we are in fact succeeding or failing. Well, guess what? We are failing. And so--

Jeffrey: But federal education spending has incredibly increased since No Child Left Behind.

Santorum: Now look, I disagree with that. I think that--

Jeffrey: But do you take back your vote, or do you still support it?

Santorum: I like the vote in the sense that now you see the left, even the left, even--I don’t know if you saw Waiting for Superman--but now everybody, it’s sort of--in some respects I have to give No Child Left Behind credit for this: Now everybody has recognized that primary, secondary education is a failure in America, and at the heart of it is the teachers unions, at the heart of it is government-run education. And that’s why the move for charter schools, the move for home schooling, private schools is even taking wing among moderates and on the left. I don’t think that would have happened, frankly, had we not had No Child Left Behind. So while I disagree with a lot of the policy in there, I certainly disagree with a lot of the money that was in there, the fact that we now have formed a consensus because we now know we have failure in that level, is a starting point now for now let’s see if we can do something about the public education system. 

Jeffrey: But hasn’t the federal government itself shown that it can do nothing to improve education?

Santorum: I’m not arguing that. Look, again, I said before that the only thing that the federal government has shown that they can do well is shown that we don’t do it well.

Jeffrey: If there is one place in the country that Congress actually has legitimate jurisdiction over the public schools is in the District of Columbia, which is a federal city. And one thing that the Department of Education does do is, it has an agency called the National Center for Educational Statistics and, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the District of Columbia spends more money per pupil in its public schools than any state and has the absolute the lowest test scores of any state. What does that tell you about federal involvement in the schools?

Santorum: Well, what it tells you about money being the answer to the problems of the schools? The federal government should not be running the D.C. schools. The federal government should not be running any schools. Look, I believe that we need to change the entire educational system to one that is not government run, but parent-centered. My ideal world is that a parent comes in to see the superintendent or somebody in the public school system and you sit down with the parents and say, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffreys, you know, you have how many children?

Jeffrey: Five.

Santorum: Five children.

Jeffrey: They don’t go to government schools. 

Santorum: They don’t, well that’s okay, because under the Santorum plan they would have to--

Jeffrey: It’s not okay when I pay my property taxes.

Santorum: No, no, no. Look, I’m doing the same thing, pal, in both Pennsylvania and in Virginia. I have two homes. So, look what a system should look like is if I’m the superintendent I say to you: Look, what can I do, what can we do as the government education system to help each one of your children achieve and succeed the way that you like them to achieve and succeed. And it wouldn’t be to say, well, you know you have to come to this school, but here’s resources that we have available to help your child. Money! Now, if you like your children to go to private school we can do that, if you like your children to go to parochial school, we can do that, if you like your children to be home schooled we can help you with that.

Jeffrey: Total school choice?

Santorum: It’s not about school choice.

Jeffrey: Well, why not?

Santorum: That’s too small term in my opinion. It is a radical idea that you, the parent, have the responsibility to educate your child and the government should be there to help you to design a program of what’s best for your children.

Jeffrey: Lets start with the District of Columbia, for example, President Obama and Arne Duncan the secretary of the Department of Education, they canceled the limited school-choice program in D.C. Congress has jurisdiction over D.C. under the Constitution. There is something like $15,000 or $16,000 dollars they spend per pupil for every student in the D.C. schools and as I said they had the lowest test scores, why not divide up that $15,000-16,000, simply give it to every single parent in the District of Columbia, and allow them to choose where they send their child to school--even if it’s in Virginia or Maryland?

Santorum: That’s a crude way of talking about what I just was suggesting, but yes.

Jeffrey: You would favor that?

Santorum: I’ve been for school choice since the very beginning. I’ve sponsored school choice bills. I believe that again we should have parent-centered, not child-centered, parent-centered education. Parents should work with the schools, and work with the government, to be able to get the resources to the children that the parent believes are best for the child.

Jeffrey: If they actually bring the check to the school, the school would be more inclined to listen to the parent.

Santorum: As I said, it’s a very crude way of getting across what I am saying.

Jeffrey: And you believe that should be done on a state-by-state basis.

Santorum: Look, again, I’m for more even a more radical idea than that. I’m for the idea of actually having the entire system designed around facilitating the parent designing the program, helping the parent design a program that’s best for their children irrespective of just you know here’s a dollar for his schools. But it may not be a dollar for his school, it may be that your child could benefit from the music-education program at the public school but wants to home school some, wants to go to a private school for some things. So just handing the check is a crude way of what really we should be doing, which is customizing. We do this for special needs kids. We have IEP’s that help design specialized programs for children with disabilities. But we don’t do it for the average kid. We need to do it for all children.

Jeffrey: So you wouldn’t put, or would you, put sort of a class-war construct over and say once someone makes over X amount of income even if they have seven children they’re not welcome in this program?

Santorum: Of course not!

Jeffrey: Everybody?

Santorum: Yeah.

Jeffrey: Okay let’s move on. This is sort of transitioning into social and cultural issues anyway.

Let’s go to another Founding Father, senator. Thomas Jefferson was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence, and about 50 years later when he was an old man he wrote a letter to a fellow Virginian, Henry Lee, explaining the Declaration of Independence, why he wrote it.

He said that one of the inspirations for the Declaration of Independence was the Roman senator Cicero. And Alexander Hamilton used Cicero’s middle name as a pseudonym at times—Tully--Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Russell Kirk, the great conservative, said that Cicero had more influence over the Founding Fathers than any other classical thinker.

Let me quote you what Cicero said about law. Cicero said: “There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be controlled by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation. Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. … It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. It is sovereign master and emperor of all things. God Himself is its author, its promulgator, its enforcer. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man.” End quote.

Now, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton agreed with Cicero. Do you agree with Cicero?

Santorum: Absolutely. I refer to it as the natural law, not the universal law, but the natural law--and it’s in the hearts of every man. But one of the things I talk about--in fact, I gave a speech in Houston in September where it was the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's speech in Houston to the Houston Ministerial Association. It was a couple months before his election in 1960. He went out and said he wasn't going to be the Pope's puppet as president--because there was a concern at the time that this Catholic would be a papist and that somehow the Catholics would have this Cabal that would run the United States of America.

But what Kennedy did there was he didn't just divorce himself from the Pope, he basically threw religion under the bus, and basically said that--this is his term--he said: I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. Well, that's not America, never has been America. It's France, it's Turkey, but it's not America.

And what Cicero is referring to is really that--which is there are two laws. There's the secular law, there's man made laws, and then there's a higher law, there's the sacred law, the universal law, the natural law, that we learn in America by and large through faith, through the moral code that faith teaches, but that is discernable through the philosophers, too, through right reason. And that law sits is one that sit over the secular law, and is one that we have to achieve. So that when we had slavery in this country, slavery did not conform to the natural law, and as a result there was agitation, always. Abortion doesn't conform to the natural law. Why? Because we don't—all life should be respected. And so this agitation of having secular laws inconsistent with the natural law is something that we've dealt with in America from its very founding. But we have to recognize that there is a place for the articulation of the sacred law, or the natural law, or the universal law, and that they need to be in the public square and they need to be involved in the political discourse because there are moral components to every single law we pass.

Jeffrey: Dr. Martin Luther King, when he was thrown in the Birmingham jail--

Santorum: I quoted it in my speech! Yeah.

Jeffrey: In 1963, on Good Friday, wrote his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” And in that he cited two Roman Catholic saints, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, saying that a just law is a law that comports with the natural law or the law of God and an unjust law is one that doesn't, and the reason that the segregation laws of the South were unjust is because they violated the natural God-given law. Do you agree with Martin Luther King?

Santorum: Absolutely. I quoted it in my speech. In fact, I read the entire quote. And I believe—in fact, the call in my speech was for what Madison referred to as the perfect remedy.  In essence what freedom of conscience is all about, what you are talking about is all about, is how do we live with our differences? If you think about it, America is unique in the sense that we have people coming from very disparate backgrounds, very different points of view, and yet we have a equanimity here in America. We always figure out a way to sort of work things out in America. Why? Why does someone from Serbia and someone from Croatia--that if they lived in the Balkans would be at each other’s throats--move next door to each other in Cleveland and are on the PTA together and get along. How does that work? Well, it works because America is different. It's Madison perfect remedy, which is a vibrant, active, inclusive public square. Everybody's allowed in. People of faith, people of non-faith, and you can make your claims, you can argue your point, and then you can let the discourse decide. You don't have the elite, the planners, the smart people saying, no, this is how we are going to do things. And if the sacred law and secular don't match up--as the Supreme Court has done now on numerous occasions, whether its marriage or abortion, or a whole host of other issues--they've sort of pulled that discussion, that perfect remedy, and pulled the plug on it, and said, no, we're going to impose our remedy, an imperfect one, based upon the elites of our culture.

Jeffrey: All right, let's talk in specific terms about how this natural God-given law that is at the foundation of our country plays into current concrete issues. We asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi--I think I mentioned it to you earlier--this past summer whether she believed Jesus had a right to life from the moment of conception. What's your--Did Jesus have a right to life from the moment of conception?

Santorum: Every person, every child conceived in the womb has a right to life from the moment of conception. Why? Because they are human, genetically human, at the moment of conception. They have the same genetic composition as you and I do from that moment on. And it's alive. So it is human, by genetic, and it is alive, so it's a human life. So the question is, not whether this is a human life. When Barack Obama is asked, you know, is a child in the womb a human life? 'Oh, well, that's above my pay grade.' Just about everything else in the world he's willing to do, to have the government do, but he can't answer that basic question, which is not a debatable issue at all. I don't think you'll find a biologist in the world who will say that that is not a human life. The question is--and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer--is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well, if that person, human life, is not a person, then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, no, we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.

Jeffrey: This is apropos, senator, of language that's been in the Republican National Platform since 1984. It was put there under President Ronald Reagan, who very much believed in it. There's been a fight over this language virtually every convention since then. It says: “Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.”

First of all, do you agree with that plank?

Santorum: I do, and we should keep it the same. And, as you know, there's probably no one who went out and fought on the judges issue in the Senate more than I did. And I fought and made it an important issue. Prior to my involvement in the Republican leadership, if you recall, the Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown and the whole bunch of others, and then eventually Supreme Court nominees, we as Republicans, basically, we were out to lunch on judges. We didn't understand how important they were, and the fact that they did not have respect for the Constitution and did not have respect for how the Declaration and how our founding rights were inculcated into that Constitution. And I fought for those things and I will continue to do so in the future.

Jeffrey: The plank calls for legislation to make clear the 14th Amendment rights apply to the unborn child. You were talking about President Obama did not want to recognize the personhood of an unborn child. That specific language says that an unborn child is a person.

Santorum: In fact, there are as you know movements now in the states, personhood movements in the states, to try to get that very language included in the states.

Jeffrey: And you support that?

Santorum: Yeah.

Jeffrey: All right. Now, some people would argue, some pragmatists would argue, that a child conceived through rape or incest, is that a person?

Santorum: Yes.

Jeffrey: So a child conceived through rape or incest has equal protection of the law?

Santorum: A child is a child. I mean, to do violence to a child because of the way that that baby was conceived--I understand, look, I--

Jeffrey: That child deserves the same protection from the state as a child conceived by a married couple?

Santorum: It's about the child. Okay. And I understand that there are obviously horrible consequences of dealing with the psychological and physical ramifications of rape and incest.  But, again, we have to--I did this for my debates on the floor of the Senate with partial birth abortion, which, as you know, I led the charge on for many years. And one of the most important aspects of that legislation was not that it was going to be a huge pro-life victory and that we were going to save millions of babies because of banning this procedure, which ultimately, we did. But that debate focused America on something that for a long time they had been lied to about. Which is: that blob of tissue in the womb is a little baby. And with a partial-birth abortion, when the baby is twenty weeks old, you can't miss the baby. I mean, the baby is being extracted from the womb alive, you know, arms, legs, toes, fingers, fingernails--as the movie Juno pointed out—and then is executed. So, that moment that we had in the late nineties changed the debate in America. For the first time since Roe vs. Wade attitudes on abortions began to change. Young people who grew up during that era have a very different view of abortion as a result of that. Why? Because we are now--through sonograms--recognizing the humanity of the child in the womb. And it's not that we don't care about mothers. We certainly--it's a tragic, horrible situation with rape and incest. But, we need to deal with the mother and all mothers, not just rape and incest, but of all mothers who are going through an unwanted pregnancy, in a compassionate and caring way and as supportive a way as possible, but we can't lose sight of the fact that there is another human being involved.

Jeffrey: So, you think we are on our way to winning the fight for life in the United States?

Santorum: I don't think that there is any question if you look at attitudes of young people. Look, Gen Y is a very visual generation. And you go to that screen, and you look, go by their own refrigerator, and they'll see the picture of them when they were six weeks old. And you can say: Well, that’s not a person. Well, that's me. Yeah, that's a person. You can't say that abortion is okay. It's not okay, because that could be me. In fact, people today--and I don't know how much, I'm not a Gen Y person--but I don't know how many people today sitting in the classroom in college look around and say, you know, there's one third of the people who should be here aren't here because of abortion.

And you want to talk about fixing Social Security and Medicare?

Jeffrey: Have more babies. Or kill fewer babies.

Santorum: The system was built on the fact that we would always have an increasing population, and if that would have been the case, we would have been fine, but we aren't.

Jeffrey: Senator, marriage between a man and a woman--is that a part of that natural, God-given law?

Santorum: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean it's very, very clear. It's nature. Men and women are coming together in a bond of marriage. Having children is at the core and basis of the survival of any civilization.

Jeffrey: So, two men or two women marrying each other, is that a violation of the natural law?

Santorum: I believe it is.

Jeffrey: Should the state sanction that? Should it allow it?

Santorum: No. The state should sanction what is in the best interest of the state, and create special privileges. Marriage is a recognition of the natural law and a recognition that there is a benefit to society for men and women uniquely to get married, to raise, to have children and raise those children in a stable environment. That is a unique benefit to society.

Jeffrey: Now, in the actual federal court decision that came down in the district court in San Francisco, the judge out there in fact said that children do not need and do not have a right to a mother and a father. Does a child have a God-given, natural right to a mother and father?

Santorum: They have--Well, children have natural mothers and fathers. Do they have a right? Should society do their best to make sure that that child has the best opportunity to be raised by that mother and father? The answer is yes.

Jeffrey: Well, if a father walks away from a child--

Santorum: I get a little nervous about God--about rights, because then you are talking about constitutional rights, look--

Jeffrey: Well, if a father walks away from child he has conceived, is he violating the natural law and avoiding a duty?

Santorum: Yes.

Jeffrey: Okay, if a mother walks away from a child she has conceived?

Santorum: Yes, absolutely.

Jeffrey: So, the parents, the mother and father have a duty--

Santorum: The parents are, look, of course you have a duty to your child. If you are going to engage in an activity that could result in fathering or mothering a child, then you have a responsibility to that child.

Jeffrey: Okay, now, if the state, takes a child, and sticks it into a same-sex couple, and allows that same-sex couple to adopt that child, is the state violating the rights of that child?

Santorum: I would say that the state is doing a disservice to that child. And violating the rights in the sense, I guess it depends. I mean, if there's no natural mother and father, you can't be violating the right to a child that hadn't a natural mother--

Jeffrey: Well, doesn't every child have a natural mother and father somewhere?

Santorum: Well, but it may be an orphan. I mean, you know there's all sorts of situations where --

Jeffrey: Right, sure, sure.

Santorum: --where they may or may not. So I can't say in every case that's the case. But what I can say is that the state is not doing a service to the child and to society by not putting that child in a home where there is a mother and a father. Mothers--Men are different than women. Mothers are different than fathers. I have--I'm raising seven children--

Jeffrey: A disservice to society or to the child?

Santorum: Both! In that, I can tell you that fathers bring something different to their daughters than mothers do. We are not just genetically different, we are different beings. Men are different than women. Men think different than women, they act different than women, as a general rule. And, so, and they bring different things. I mean, this is common sense. This is nature. And what we're trying to do is defy nature because a certain group of people want to be affirmed by society, and I just don't think that's to the benefit of society or to the child.

Jeffrey: So same sex marriage should be prohibited?

Santorum: Yeah. There should be no such thing.

Jeffrey: And the state handing over babies to same sex couples, should that be prohibited?

Santorum: Yes. I mean, I don't believe in same sex adoption, nor do I believe in same sex marriage.

Jeffrey: Now, senator, I’d like to turn to national security policy. Going back to the Constitution: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution says that Congress shall have the power to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water. Back in 1787, in the Constitutional Convention, when that issue came up, the original draft of the Constitution said that Congress shall have the power to “make” war and James Madison in his notes from the convention made the following notation. “Mr. Madison and Mr. Jerry moved to insert declare striking out make war leaving to the executive the power to repel sudden attacks. Mr. Sherman thought it stood very well. The executive should be able to repel and not to commence war.” Quote unquote.

In other words, the Framers, according to Madison’s notes, originally were looking at giving Congress the whole power of war, but then they decided that they would change it from “make” to “declare” in order to give the president the power to repel sudden attacks. When you were in Congress you voted twice to authorize the use of force overseas, once in Afghanistan and once in Iraq and there were some people who counseled President Bush that he did not did not need the authorization of Congress, that he could have put armies in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq without congressional authorization.

Where do you stand on that? Did he need your approval?

Santorum: I thought he should get the approval of the Congress. I thought it was important for the president to conduct any kind of major military conflict/action that was going to commit substantial resources and lives of our troops before the Congress and have it debated before the American public. What’s the difference? It’s a very difficult analysis as to, you know, some, a small military encounter for--that may do something like was unfortunately in Somalia versus a major commitment of resources. And I think when it comes to a major commitment of resources, the president should come to Congress and we should do, Congress should do a resolution of approval 

Jeffrey: So bottom line is there’s no way the president could have initiated a war in Iraq and Afghanistan without prior approval from Congress.

Santorum: Again, it’s a tricky situation.  I would say that if there was a need for the president to get involved in an activity around the world, anywhere around the world, not just repelling an invasion but striking into a foreign country, if there is a timeliness to it that would enhance the security of the country than I would say that the declaration part of the Constitution means the Congress states what is so, to declare something such. There’s one thing that if there’s needs to be action prior to a declaration, but I think to conduct a campaign, to conduct a war as opposed to an isolated strike or something that may be necessary because of a timely situation, then he should go to Congress. I don’t want to limit the president’s power to act if necessary quickly before Congress deliberates and decides in order to preserve the security of the country.

Jeffrey: Well, let me give you a possible real-world place to draw the line. In Grenada, there were U.S. medical students who were in imminent danger and there was a treaty organization to which the United States belonged where signatories were saying we want your help there. There were Cuban Communist forces on the ground, building an air base that could’ve launched planes that could reach to attack the United States.

Santorum: And Ronald Reagan acted. 

Jeffrey: And Ronald Reagan acted. He went in there. He protected these medical students.

Santorum: And he didn’t go to the Congress and ask for that.

Jeffrey: He did not go to the Congress, but he did not launch a protracted war.

Santorum: Right. That’s what I said. It’s a different situation. That’s a better example than Somalia frankly. That’s a situation where we went in for an isolated specific purpose, that the probability of a long-term war was actually pretty limited.

Jeffrey: So, if you were a counsel to Ronald Reagan and someone said, Mr. Reagan, James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, whose own notes in the Constitutional Convention says the president could propel a sudden an attack-- 

Santorum: Well, I would make the argument that when you are out there defending American citizens from a potential attack that’s repelling an attack, while not on American soil, it’s certainly in the interest of America.

Jeffrey: Okay, this was within the spirit of the Constitution, defending America from imminent threat?

Santorum: I think the spirit of the Constitution was to give the president the flexibility to act in the national security interest of the country if a pressing situation occurred. If it’s an isolated one that’s easy, then you never have to go to Congress. If it’s a potential for a protracted one that doesn’t mean the president still has to wait, he can act if there’s a need to act promptly but then follow up if it’s going to be a long commitment and get the Congress involved.

Jeffrey: And that line exists somewhere between Reagan’s move on Grenada, which does not--

Santorum: Which to me is a clear cut one.

Jeffrey: And on the other side of the line clearly is George Bush invading Afghanistan?

Santorum: Correct. And that’s one of those things that we will be debating, and, hopefully, in the future we won’t have to be debating, but I suspect at some point of the future of America we will be again.

Jeffrey: Well, let me give you another real historical case. Harry Truman committed the United States to war in Korea after the U.N. had approved such a war but before the United States Congress had done so. Was that legitimate?

Santorum: My feeling is he should’ve come to the United States Congress and asked for its approval to authorize the war.

Jeffrey: Okay, now earlier in this discussion, senator, we talked about Cicero’s articulation of natural law and the fact that the Founding Fathers universally shared that view and that Americans up to and including Martin Luther King, for example, understood that a just law is something that is consistent with the natural moral law that comes from God.

There’s also a moral law, it seems to me, that governs our actions in regards to other states as well as our actions in regards to ourself, and, historically, there’s been what’s known as just-war theory and how you justify whether a nation can actually use military force to defend its interests. Four prongs that have historically been put forward for that theory are: There must be a serious threat to your security. It can’t be something moderate--there has to be a serious threat to damage. It also has to be a last resort. You can’t immediately go to the use of military force. You have to exhaust other means that plausibly can solve the problem before you use military force. There has to be a reasonable prospect of success.

Santorum: Right.

Jeffrey: That is you have to do a prudential analysis and say, yes, it is reasonable that we can actually achieve the end here through the use of military force. And, finally, the use of military force, according to traditional just war theory, must avert more evil than it actually ends up causing through reasonable analysis. Do you accept this?

Santorum: I do. In fact, I’m familiar with just-war theory. I applied those tenets to the decisions that I made, particularly the one I made in Iraq because it was, some would say you know a tougher analysis than certainly the first time that I did it, which was the first Iraq war, which actually was the first vote I cast as a member of Congress back in 1991, was for the war with Iraq over Kuwait. So, yes, I did apply those. And I think you used the term with respect to item 3, which you said you used the term “prudential judgment,” each one of those is a prudential judgment. I mean there’s no clear cut—maybe some may be clearer than others--but all of them are prudential judgments as to how the facts apply to those circumstances, excuse me to those theories.

Jeffrey: In the first Iraq War with the senior President Bush, which you voted to authorize in the U.S. House of Representatives, there you had Saddam Hussein had invaded a neighbor and that neighbor was asking us to defend them and clearly Kuwait had--there was serious damage to Kuwait. They had a just reason. It was reasonable to think that it was a last resort and that there was also good reason to think that the United States would succeed, which they did in very limited war aims that in the end George Herbert Walker Bush refused to exceed. He did not want to go all the way into Iraq and remove the regime of Saddam Hussein. The second Iraq War, it’s a little bit more intense debate, is it not?

Santorum: I said it was a much tougher analysis to sort of see your way through that, but it was a very different time than what we had in 1991. In 1991 we weren’t attacked. People now looking back at 2003 think in terms of 9 years after the events of 9/11, but this was 18 months after the events of 9/11 we were having this debate. And the entire debate at the time, if you recall, was a condemnation of Bush and to some degree, Clinton, but more Bush, for not having connected the dots. That was the term of the day. That we had all of this intelligence that pointed to that we were going to be attacked, and the Intelligence Community didn’t get it, they didn’t do proper analysis, they didn’t synthesize it, and the president didn’t act upon this intelligence. And, so, of course we then create this huge new superstructure, the DNI and everything else, which of course doesn’t solve any--. I would argue makes the problem even worse, which we can get into, I know it’s a separate situation. But we have created so many levels of analysis within our Intelligence Community, to me it’s completely unworkable. But the point I’m getting at: In 2003, we were: How can we let this raw intelligence, in some cases, raw intelligence, in other cases raw analysis, and it’s been worked through by the Intel Community, and we see these dots connected, and how do we not act. We have to act before someone attacks us—before, given the gravity of the attack that can be waged.

Jeffrey: Applying this just-war theory, what was the serious threat that Saddam Hussein in your perception posed to the United States in 2003?

Santorum: Well, everything from sponsoring and supporting terrorists that would attack Israel particularly, which we knew, that was obvious he was doing that. He had a bounty out for Israeli heads, if you will, for $25,000 for any family who’s whose son or daughter would commit a suicide bomb in the state of Israel. So we knew that he was a sponsor of terrorism, the most at the time, the most prolific sponsor of terrorism, Islamic terrorism. We also knew that he had had possessed chemical and biological weapons and had used them in the past and said, did not deny that he had them and would use them again in the future. At least we were concerned about that and the impact of that in the region which was a very destabilized region, as you know, at the time. And then the fear of his influence in destabilizing the entire area as we were trying to deal with Afghanistan.  Finally the whole issue of whether he had other weapons of mass destruction that we were dealing with.

But there were a whole variety of things that would lead again to connecting the dots that that he could help project terror and other terrorist threats into not just Israel but to Europe and to the United States.

Jeffrey: Now, of course, it came out after the fact that the CIA was wrong. He had not stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. They were not found by our forces.

Santorum: I would argue that not only the CIA was wrong but the Mossad was wrong, that the British were wrong, the French were wrong, the Germans were wrong, the Chinese were wrong. I mean everybody was wrong.

Jeffrey: It was a horrendous intelligence failure.

Santorum: Right.

Jeffrey: Now, looking back retrospectively given the intelligence failure, given what we found out after we invaded, do you still think that Saddam posed a serious enough threat to the security of the United States--

Santorum: See that’s an invalid question. I mean you can’t--

Jeffrey: Why is it invalid? I mean we have to learn from history.

Santorum: Well, had I known that the Steelers were going to blitz would you have run a long pattern? It’s a Monday morning--

Jeffrey: I can stipulate that given what the CIA was telling the Senate at the time that you believed there was a significant threat sufficient enough to justify a preemptive invasion of Iraq. But what I’m asking is: Given what we know now, after the invasion, after we discovered the intelligence failure, if we knew the truth, would there have been a sufficient--

Santorum: I think we would have had more time to use other measures. So the answer is: Would I have felt that there was an urgency to act to do what we did given what we knew after the fact? I would say there probably was not the urgency to act that we did.

Jeffrey: It wouldn’t have been a last resort?

Santorum: That’s the area that would have fallen short in my mind.

Jeffrey: So, if the intelligence community had not failed the political community in the United States at that time war would not have been justified?

Santorum: I think it would not have qualified as a last resort. There would have been other options available to us. There was a concern—and, again, had we had better intelligence we would have known that Iran [sic] was not violating UN sanctions. There was also the issue of repeated UN sanctions, repeated attempts by Iraq not to follow through with what they had promised to do. Had we known that they had actually followed through with what they promised to do even though they said that they didn’t--

Jeffrey: They were bluffing.

Santorum:They were bluffing, which--

Jeffrey: They were bluffing that they were violating the sanctions.

Santorum:That’s why looking back, you know, why would they bluff of something they were not doing and say they were doing it? It was irrational conduct.

Jeffrey: But doesn’t the fact that we could make such a huge mistake, to actually initiate a war, preemptively invade another country and cause a significant amount of damage based on false intelligence, point to the need for intensified prudential analysis of this kind of thing, including the quality of the intelligence.

Santorum: It points, more importantly, I think it points to the need of better intelligence.  Again, I think the analysis was intense and you can dig and dig and dig and if the intelligence is faulty then you’re still going to come up with the same analysis, whether it’s intense or not intense. I think it was intense.

Jeffrey: Some people might have argued that Congress should have had more intense oversight over the CIA and other intelligence agencies, had a better handle on whether they were doing a good job.

Santorum: I mean, Terry, here we go again. How many layers, Terry? The problem is--I haven’t looked at this long enough to be able to say, here’s my intelligence reorganization idea. So I hesitate to say that. What I would say is we need to cut it dramatically. We need to get rid of layers and layers and layers. The more people you get, the more avenues and crosschecks and reports and everything else, the less good intelligence you get and not the more. And I think that’s true on a lot of areas in government not just intelligence.

[This transcript will be updated soon with the text of the remainder of the interview.]