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Rick Santorum on Iran’s nuclear path, economics of immigration

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now the next in our series of interviews with the candidates running for president in 2016.

    Tonight, we sit down with former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who made a run for the Republican nomination in 2012, and he is trying again.

    Welcome, Senator Santorum.

  • RICK SANTORUM Republican Presidential Candidate:

    Thank you, Judy. Good to be with you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, we were just listening to that report about Americans joining the fight against ISIS.

    To you, what’s the greater threat to this country, ISIS or Iran?

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    I think ISIS is the more near-term threat, obviously the jihadis that they encourage to attack here in the United States and obviously the hot war that’s going on in the Middle East.

    But, clearly, the long-term threat is Iran, and I have been saying that really for the better part of 12 years. When I was in the Senate, I authored bills on sanctioning Iran. I was talking about their nuclear program and how an Iranian nuclear program is really the worst possible thing that can happen to this country. There really isn’t any threat that’s more dangerous, that’s more existential than Iran with the ability to use a nuclear weapon, maybe use it as an EMP, use it as a dirty bomb, use it through terrorists, whatever the case may be.

    I have no doubt that, unlike other nuclear powers, Iran is a country that is driven by a theocracy that will use that nuclear weapon against America.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And all your Republican opponents agree with you on that. They don’t like that deal either.

    However, Senator Scott — or Governor Scott Walker is saying that, on the first day he became president, he would be willing to go to war against Iran if necessary. Do you agree with him on that?

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    I have been very, very clear from the very beginning of looking at Iran, and looking at their theology, looking at what their objective is, looking at what they say.

    One of the things we should have learned from history, is actually pay attention to what leaders say they’re going to do, because sometimes and many times, when they’re given the capability, they actually do it.

    And if you listen to what Iran is saying — and even just the other day — where they talk about we’re going to rule America, we’re going to wipe out America, we’re going to destroy America, now we’re giving them the capability. I mean, there is no doubt, with this plan, we are putting them on a path to have the capability to do just that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And so what about going to war?

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    The answer is, if I — when I become president, from the day after I get — I’m elected president, I will be working with our allies.

    I have no doubt, no doubt that Iran will be in violation of this agreement multiple times by the time I’m elected president.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, in the last presidential election — let’s talk about that — you ran a strong campaign. You came in second to Mitt Romney, a distant second, but you came in second.

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    Won 11 states. That’s pretty respectable.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    This year, you not only are running against more candidates. You’re running against more people who are committed conservatives, people like Mike Huckabee, like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Scott Walker.

    What does Rick Santorum bring that they don’t?

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    Well, I would say several things, number one, experience on national security, which is a huge deal.

    This is an issue I have been wrestling with now with eight years on the Armed Services Committee, a lot of experience in this area, someone who has got a track record and is prepared to lead.

    And, you know, three months ago, I was in ISIS magazine, on the American version, under the title, “In the Words of Our Enemy,” and had a picture of me and a quote from me. The enemy knows who I am. I know who they are. And I think at a time when our country is facing this kind of severe threat, having someone with experience in this area is important.

    Second, I announced from a factory floor in Western Pennsylvania. And I think our message of bringing manufacturing back to this country, helping blue-collar Americans and lower- and middle-income Americans have good-paying jobs and be able to rise, it’s going to be — and our platform of how we’re going to do that is different than everybody else in the field.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, Senator, at this point, you know all of these people I have named and others are running ahead of you in the polls. If you don’t make that cut to be the 10 candidates on the stage for that first debate that FOX News is sponsoring in a couple of weeks, what are you going to do?

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    I will keep going back to Iowa and keep hustling and campaigning.

    What I found out — four years ago, we had a straw poll in Iowa. I finished fourth, almost fifth, and it didn’t have very much impact. The person who won didn’t win a delegate. The person who came in with tens of millions of dollars and was at the top of the polls this time four years ago didn’t win a delegate.

    The guy that win a bunch of delegates, I was the person who really focused on what the goal is. And the goal is not polls in February — in — excuse me — in July, but results in February.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Let’s talk some issues.

    John Kasich, as you know, announced today. He became the 16th Republican to jump in the race. He’s putting a lot of emphasis on income inequality. There’s a new report out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that says 22 percent of American children today are living in poverty.

    First of all, do you accept that number, and, second, what would you do about it?

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    I would suspect that the vast majority of those 22 million kids living in poverty are living in…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Twenty-two percent.

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    Twenty-two percent — excuse me — living in poverty are living in broken homes.

    If you — I’m actually one of the few politicians who walks around holding up two books at my town hall meetings, one, Robert Putnam, a liberal sociologist from Harvard, and Charles Murray, a libertarian with the American Enterprise Institute, and talk about those two books from the far left and the far right.

    I think both come down to the same conclusion, that the reason the middle is hollowing out, the reason people aren’t able to rise is fundamentally a breakdown in the family structure in America and the consequence of that.

    And, as you know, I’m someone who has really focused long and hard for a lot of years. I wrote a book 10 years ago called “It Takes a Family.” And what we need to do as a society, and to some degree even as a government, to try to help reknit the American family.

    And so I agree with John Kasich. That’s a big issue. I agree that there’s — that children’s ability to rise in America today is not what it should be and not what we should expect in America. And we have got some really solid ideas to create a stronger economy, as well as to try to help stabilize and support stronger families.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Immigration. After Donald Trump made his announcement that he was running for president and he spoke about Mexican immigrants bringing drugs and crime and being rapists, you did say later that you didn’t agree with him, but it took you two weeks to come out and make a statement.

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    No, I made a statement, actually, whenever I was asked about it.

    I did disagree with what he said, but I agree that the issue is an important issue to be discussed. And, in fact, I was — I’m the only person in this race who’s actually put out a comprehensive plan on immigration control that deals with both illegal and legal immigration.

    And there’s — there are a lot of — again, to me, it goes with, how are we going to create a better opportunity for lower-skilled workers in America, many of those poor children you’re talking about, who are not going to be able to go to college? How are we going to create the opportunity for them to rise in society?

    And so we have put together not just an economic plan that deals with a whole host of things, including, by the way, increasing the minimum wage, which I’m one of the few Republicans that is in favor of, but also an immigration plan that says let’s quit bringing over a million legal immigrants a year, as well as hundreds of thousands, if not millions illegal immigrants, almost all of whom are unskilled, into this country to compete against the workers right now who see their wages flatlining and the opportunity for them to rise decreasing in America.

    And so you can look at the immigration issue, and we have, according to the number, 35 million legal and illegal immigrants have come into this country in the last 20 years. That can be a good thing or a bad thing.

    But the idea that you can’t have a discussion about whether this — whether we should limit immigration because that makes you xenophobic or jingoistic is wrong. We need to look at it from the standpoint of what’s best for the economy and what’s best for the American worker.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We don’t have time to discuss it now, but we know more Mexicans are leaving the country now to go back to Mexico than are coming.

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    Yes.

    In fact, the majority of — the majority of people that are coming into this country illegally now are visa overstays. They’re not Mexicans coming across the border. You’re right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Former Senator Rick Santorum, thank you for talking with us.

  • RICK SANTORUM:

    My pleasure, Judy. Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Appreciate it.

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