Rick Santorum Discusses Fiscal Cliff on NBC's MEET THE PRESS

Related: MEET THE PRESS with DAVID GREGORY, NBC


In this week's "Meet the Press" PRESS Pass conversation, David Gregory sat down with former Pennsylvania Senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum to discuss the fiscal cliff and the future of the Republican party.

Santorum on the fiscal cliff negotiations: Obama is a "spending addict"

SANTORUM: I don't think this President's willing to deal … This President is addicted to spending. He's a spending addict. Problem is we have a lot of spending addictions on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats. And so we need a real radical intervention here. If you've got an addiction, you've got to do something radical to pull that person back.

Santorum: Going over the fiscal cliff gets Obama a better deal than any he would get through negotiations

SANTORUM: The greatest leverage he has is that he put together a deal with the Republicans over a year ago that gives him pretty much what he wants. Which is taxes back to the pre-Bush rates, so he gets all his tax increases, and he can blame the ones that are not popular on Republicans for not negotiating. He gets something he'll never get, he'll never get, in a negotiation. If you look at the spending cuts - half out of defense and half out of domestic - defense makes up 16% of the budget, the rest is domestic. There's no way that you are going to have any kind of budget deal that's negotiated that's going to take as much out of defense that is out of discretionary.

Santorum on Syria: We're caught with no good choices

SANTORUM: Because of the policies of this administration we have two horrible options – so which horrible option do you want to take? Do you want a dictator who is allied with Iran, who is being supported by Iran, who is a great threat to the region. Or do you want a group of radical Islamists who are going to take over if they topple Assad. … I think we're caught with no good choices.

A full transcript is below and video is available online here: http://nbcnews.to/RIbKpP

# # #

PRESS Pass: Fmr. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Mandatory Credit: NBC News

David Gregory: I'm David Gregory, this is PRESS Pass, your all-access pass to an extra Meet the Press conversation. And this week, a critical test for the Republican Party, as it does some post-election soul searching. All the while, there's a high-stakes fiscal cliff set of talks going on here in Washington. Joining me now, Rick Santorum, one of the GOP's most outspoken conservative leaders as a former Senator and of course presidential candidate, and naturally he's raising some 2016 speculation. Senator Santorum, good to have you back here.

RICK SANTORUM: Well, thank you David.

GREGORY: So let's get right to that. How do you look at 2016 right now? There's obviously the expectation that you'll be in that hunt. So, where's your head now?

SANTORUM: My head now is we've got a lot on our plate. There's so much, there's so much, as I said during the campaign, this is the most critical election I thought in our country's history and we're seeing the consequence of that now, here in Washington, around the world. And we're trying to stay engaged in that. I started an organization called Patriot Voices, and so we've sort of jumped in with that. Just last week we got involved in a treaty on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Senate was trying to pass a U.N. treaty that we felt was an overreach, something that would involve the United Nations in the rights of parents in being able to provide what's best for their disabled children and, as well as some other things that were disconcerting about the U.N. and their reach here. And we were able to rally a lot of folks. I think most people would say but for our action there and what we did, the Senate probably would've passed that. So, we're going to stay active and engaged up there on Capitol Hill because, as we're going to talk about soon, there's a lot of folks that want to - Republicans that want to move in another direction.

GREGORY: Yep.

SANTORUM: They want to sort of walk away from the founding principles and what Republicans have stood for and we're going to be there to hold their feet to the fire, and present a very different, a very different vision.

GREGORY: Would you like to go through it again? Do you think you can win if you did it again?

SANTORUM: You know, what I've said is, it's four years from now, I'm going to keep my options open and we're going to stay involved in the fray and we'll wait and see how things turn out. I mean I felt like we were well-positioned in 2012 to be the candidate that Barack Obama really didn't want to run against. And, we'll wait and see how 2016 turns out –

GREGORY: What do you take away from this race? What's the big lesson from this campaign?

SANTORUM: Well, a couple of things. You know, this idea that, 'Well we have to walk away from certain issues because, you know, they're not winning issues anymore, the more cultural issues' - My response to that is, when we play defense we lose. And Mitt Romney, John McCain if you go before that, refused to play offense. The President played offense. People were stunned. Republicans were stunned that he was going out there and playing offense on abortion, playing offense on Planned Parenthood. I mean running ads, saying you know - and what we did was simply respond, say 'Oh now we're not that bad.' The President of the United States, as a state senator in Illinois, voted for infanticide., I mean this – he voted against partial- this, this is a man who has the most radical record on these issues of any president in history and yet, we didn't bring them up at all. So, my feeling is, unless you feel comfortable in your skin, on any issue, then you're going to have a hard time playing offense on that issue. And so we had candidates that didn't feel comfortable on these issues and as a result we played defense and then, therefore we lost on those issues.

GREGORY: So this is the idea, and all throughout the campaign was this warning that if Romney loses there'll be a lot of people, including yourself, who would say, 'You just weren't conservative enough, and that basically you caved on that.'

SANTORUM: It's not that he wasn't conservative enough. Mitt Romney held the same positions that I did, but he didn't weave them into the debate and the discussion. He didn't weave them into what – 'Here's our vision for America, here's - let me talk to all voters.' Unfortunately, I would say, Mitt Romney focused - as well as he should have - on the economy, but he talked a lot about jobs and jobs and jobs. Ninety-two percent of Americans roughly, you know if you, of Americans looking for work, according to the unemployment numbers, have a job. So, who are you talking to? I mean, people of that other 92 percent - while they are concerned about their job and maybe improving their job - are concerned about a whole lot of other issues - national security issues, which again were sort of pushed to the side and that's another area that I've been very, very active on. So, I just think we need a candidate who is comfortable in their skin with the positions that Mitt Romney said he held. It's not that Mitt Romney wasn't conservative enough in the positions he articulated; he just didn't run a campaign on all those issues and bring them to the fore in a way that was convincing that he actually was going to do something on those fronts.

GREGORY: So as you think about the future of the Republican Party right now, as I talked to conservatives, one of the things they say is, 'We're not sufficiently a party of working people.' And then there's all the constituency groups that President did so well with, particularly Latinos. So –

SANTORUM: I would agree with you on the working people. Look the Romney campaign after the election, we had a meeting a couple of days later. They said 'we want to share a poll with you, because we kept finding in the last several primaries that all of these early exit polls were wrong on you, that you were trailing badly and then you would win these states and come out of nowhere. So we started asking questions we usually don't ask, which is not only who you're going to vote for, but when are you planning to vote.' And they showed me a poll from Pennsylvania that if they voted before noon, Romney won by four - excuse me I won by four. If you voted between noon and five Romney won by 5 - this was from Pennsylvania before I got out. But if you voted after five o'clock, I won by 21 points. And it was the guys coming home from work - the guys and gals coming home from work. And so we saw this in Ohio where in the counties that we won, Romney's votes were really, really depressed. And those were blue collar countries, those were working folks; these were lower and lower-middle income folks that we were able to connect with. Why? Because we talked about manufacturing, we talked about improving skills, we talked not about having programs up here on Capitol Hill that just focused on going to college, but focused on trade schools, talked about getting skills, improving skills. That was a big part of what we talked about in this campaign that people tend to ignore. But it was very much a message - focused in on Latinos, because Latinos make a large - a large segment of Latinos, probably disproportionally, are lower-middle income and lower income. And you can have a conversation, we said 'Look, we have a plan to help strengthen your opportunities to move forward, to rise in society, and we understand that the family is a very important part of that, your family and community.' So we talked about the importance of strong families and those bonds to be able to prepare people for those jobs in the future.

GREGORY: So what is the future of the Republican Party in a shorter description?

SANTORUM: The future of the Republican Party is a party that understands that limited government, just saying 'limited government and free markets' is not enough. That we have to have a message that says 'how does that work for you.' And that's why we put together specific policies that did in fact - and free market policies - that did in fact address lower and middle income Americans. And if we don't do that, if we don't go out and say 'here's how' - For example, Barack Obama kind of stepped on it when he said 'You didn't build that.' And so Mitt Romney went out and legitimately criticized him for that. But he went out there with a bunch of small business people, and not so small business people. We could have gone out there with the people who work for the small business person. The person whose job is reliant - who knows the owner of that business. Who says, 'You know, look, we built this together. Here's how this helps - here's how these policies help me.' And I don't think we did that - I know we didn't do that, we didn't even try to do that. That's what we tried to do in our race, and I think it's one of the reasons we did as well as we did. And I am certainly going to be out there, and have been out there already - I wrote an op-ed right after the election, for USA Today that I talked about - it's not so much about Latinos, it's not so much about not doing well among minorities. It's doing well among that group of voters who don't think that we care about working men and women trying rise in society. And not just care about the great achievers – I mean, one of the other things is Republicans tend to come across as 'Well we want folks to tale risk and we want them to be out there on their own.' A lot of folks in America want to volunteer after they punch the clock at five o'clock, they want to be home with their family, they want to be out with their friends. They want a good job, they want to have the opportunity to rise, but they are very happy having stability and security in their lives, and not reaching for the brass ring that Republicans seem to focus too much on. So I think we have to understand there are different elements of America who share our values but we aren't talking to them.

GREGORY: Taxes. You're hearing it this week. There seem to be a lot more conservatives on Capitol Hill saying, 'Go ahead, give on tax rates, so that we can get a better deal, that can address Medicare, that can address some of things we care about - the debt.' You don't buy that. You don't think it's the right approach.

SANTORUM: I don't think this President's willing to deal. I haven't seen anything in this President's four years or since the election that he's really interested in fundamentally - this President is addicted to spending. He's a spending addict. Problem is we have a lot of spending addictions on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats. And so we need a real radical intervention here. If you've got an addiction, you've got to do something radical to pull that person back.

GREGORY: Does he have the leverage though? He won the election –

SANTORUM: He does! The greatest leverage he has –

GREGORY: He can get the tax rate increase you think?

SANTORUM: The greatest leverage he has is that he put together a deal with the Republicans over a year ago that gives him pretty much what he wants. Which is taxes back to the pre-Bush rates, so he gets all his tax increases, and he can blame the ones that are not popular on Republicans for not negotiating. He gets something he'll never get, he'll never get, in a negotiation. If you look at the spending cuts - half out of defense and half out of domestic - defense makes up 16% of the budget, the rest is domestic. There's no way that you are going to have any kind of budget deal that's negotiated that's going to take as much out of defense that is out of discretionary.

GREGORY: So you think he's got leverage because he can say, 'Hey fine, go over the cliff, we'll be okay' –

SANTORUM; He wants those defense cuts; he's proposed them in the past. So he gets all his defense cuts, more than he would ever get in a negotiation; he gets all his tax increases, including the money from the unpopular ones which he wants anyway - he just doesn't say he wants it, but he wants the money. Because he wants more spending - he wants to be able to spend more. And he gets really a fairly small down payment on domestic discretionary cuts and entitlement cuts. Half a trillion dollars, as you know, is a drop in the bucket of what we have to do. So he really doesn't cut that much on the things he cares about and he gets two things that he wants.

GREGORY: One of the things he's going to be facing in his second term is a Middle East that's in even more turmoil than in his first term. What would you do about Syria right now?

SANTORUM; Well the big problem here is radical Islam and the President's refusal to really address that issue. Here's a President who went out and ran on women's issues. And we have Egypt imposing sharia law. And you don't hear a word out of this President. Sharia law means women have to have head coverings, have no rights and you don't hear the president say a word about sharia, you haven't heard him condemn sharia or radical Islam. You haven't heard him talk about the problems that are now coming up with Muslim Brotherhood that is now in control of Egypt, in Libya. And we see obviously elements of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Syria alliance, we now see it going on in Jordan. This neighborhood for Israel is getting very, very uncomfortable. Used to be surrounding Israel were in some cases, with the exception of Jordan, either cool pieces or hostile, in the case of Syria and Lebanon, but they were controlled by basically non-religious dictators. Now we have dictators, as you see Morsi doing in Egypt, dictating a new constitution, but now you have sharia law, radical Islamists who have a theological reason to go after the state of Israel as well as the Western world. This is a much more dangerous world and Barack Obama is responsible for it. Because he engendered this movement by throwing Mubarak under the bus, doing the same for other leaders in the region, instead of lining up–

GREGORY; Perhaps, you are overstating how much influence he had on how to keep the previous pharaoh in power in Egypt. But what specifically would you do about Syria at the point, that looks to be a regime on the brink of something and not a lot of great options.

SANTORUM; Well that's the problem. You ask me the question when, because of the policies of this administration we have two horrible options – so which horrible option do you want to take? Do you want a dictator who is allied with Iran, who is being supported by Iran, who is a great threat to the region. Or do you want a group of radical Islamists who are going to take over if they topple Assad. I'm not too sure there is a good answer right now, I'm not too sure we did a very good job - if we were going to engage ourselves in Syria - did a very good job with working with others in the region who might be friendly to a less radical rebellion, if you will, against Assad, and structuring that rebellion and influencing it. But we didn't, and now I think we're caught with no good choices.

GREGORY: Rick Santorum, we'll be following your activity here in the run up to 2016.

SANTORUM; I'll be around.

GREGORY: Alright, thank you.

SANTORUM: Thank you.




More On: David Gregory, Barack Obama,

Comment & Share

Related Links
Discovery Channel's DEADLIEST CATCH Premiere Scores Three Season HighDiscovery Channel's DEADLIEST CATCH Premiere Scores Three Season High
April 23, 2014
NBC Sports Group to Cover All USA 2014 IIHF World Hockey Championship GamesNBC Sports Group to Cover All USA 2014 IIHF World Hockey Championship Games
April 23, 2014
Scoop: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on NBC - Saturday, May 17, 2014Scoop: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on NBC - Saturday, May 17, 2014
by TV Scoop - April 23, 2014
Scoop: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on NBC - Saturday, May 10, 2014Scoop: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on NBC - Saturday, May 10, 2014
by TV Scoop - April 23, 2014
Scoop: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on NBC - Saturday, May 3, 2014Scoop: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on NBC - Saturday, May 3, 2014
by TV Scoop - April 23, 2014


About Author

Subscribe to Author Alerts

Subscribe for News & Specials