Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's junior U.S. senator, was first elected to the Senate in 1994. It has been widely reported that the Catholic Republican and outspoken pro-life advocate will face challenge from another pro-life Catholic, Democrat Bob Casey Jr.
Senior associate news editor Stan Guthrie spoke with Santorum.
President Kennedy tried to draw a bright line between his Catholic faith and his decisions as a public official. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, another Catholic, said much the same thing recently during an interview with George Stephanopoulos. What role does your faith play for you as a senator?
I draw no line, much less a bright one. I think your faith molds and influences tremendously your worldviewjust like, by the way, a whole lot of other things that are in your life. But to me, faith is source of morality; it's a source of virtue; it's a source of reason. It's a tremendous influence on my worldview. And while obviously there are other things that influence my decision-making and how I look at the world, it's certainly an important part of it.
The idea that we cast aside our faith and don't replace it with something else to influence your worldview is ridiculous. If you don't have faith, you replace it, I assume, with some secular concepts, or with some other belief system, which goes unidentified. I think that really isI won't say dishonest, but I think it certainly lacks intellectual honesty to say that by removing your faith as a component of how you conduct yourself that you somehow can do so neutrally. You don't. You just do so with another worldview or another set of values that come from another source.
How do you respond to those who might accuse you of attempting to legislate your morality on others?
I would say that everyone does. The idea that when you make decisions that have moral implications, you're not legislating morality! When you're going to allocate funds for contraceptive services, are you legislating morality? Of course you are. Now the question is, what moral code are you applying, or what values or virtues are you applying to the situation? What worldview do you see?
It's important to understand proper civil discourse, where people are invited to bring all their ideas, irrespective of their origin, to the public square to be debated and hashed out and for compromises and agreements to be made and the majority to proceed forward. That's how democracy and civil affairs are to work.
The idea that only ideas without religious overtones, or religious perceptions, are allowed in the public squarethe founders would not only turn in their graves, they'd be spinning.
As the No. 3 Republican in the Senate right now, the Democrats seem to have you in their sights, even to the point of tapping Bob Casey Jr., who's another pro-lifer, to run against you. As someone with a strong pro-life voting record, how do you view his candidacy?
You know, every candidate you run against has strengths and weaknesses. I don't know if he will ultimately be the person who runs against me, but if he is, I'm sure he'll have some positive attributes and negative ones from the standpoint of the voters of Pennsylvania, just as I will. It's a matter, from my perspective, of looking at, more importantly, what I've done [as senator] over the last 10 yearsat that point, 12 yearsto serve the people of Pennsylvania, and what my plans are in continuing to serve them over the next 6. That really is the more relevant issue. People end up voting in these kinds of elections, high-profile elections like Senate races, based on: 1) does the incumbent deserve to be re-elected, and then 2) if that's not the case, is there a reasonable alternative? My first obligation is just to let the public know what I've been doing and how effective I've been for the commonwealth, and what my plans are for the future.
Do you think Mr. Casey's candidacy would take abortion off the table in your campaign?
I don't think you can run a campaign without having those issues addressed. Our positions may be similar, [but] my understanding is he's never really taken much of a position on the issue beyond a questionnaire or two. But when you're running for a state auditor and state treasurer, those are not necessarily positions where this becomes an important issue.
There may be nuance differences between the two of us; I don't know. But in either case, I think I have a record. He does not. Certainly [my] record has been one of leadership and a variety of different important issues that have actually been issues that have brought people together on the issue of abortion. That's an important thing. I'm known as a pro-life leader on issues where we've gotten people from the other side of this issue to join us.
What are a couple of for instances?
The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, the Born Alive Infants Protection Act are just three that I can think of off the top of my head. We've gotten strong bipartisan support on all of those.
You've heard the recent comments of Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton about the need for Democrats to reach out to pro-life voters. What areas of compromise, if any, do you see with Democrats on life issues?
One of the bills that I'm circulating now and trying to get some sponsorship for is the Women and Children's Resources Act, which is to give funding for alternatives to abortion. In other words, [it would] provide money for centers that would help mothers through unplanned pregnancies to carry the child to termeverything from maternity clothes, diapers, and food to prenatal and postpartum health care. Those are the kinds of things that if you're not pro-abortion, and you have concerns about abortion and its impact on women and you want to provide a real choice to someone who discovers she has an unplanned pregnancy and feels in a panic because she can't possibly figure out how to raise and nurture that child through pregnancy because she may not have health care, and how she's going to be able to afford the cost of delivering the baby, or what she's going to do after the baby is born.
In many cases, poor women are not left with a lot of choices[and not just] poor women, but a lot of middle to lower middle income people who may not qualify for Medicaid, but this could be a tremendous financial burden for them that they weren't anticipating. What we need to do is offer compassionate alternatives. Again, if you're really about giving women choices, this is something you should be supporting.
What do you think of the approach used by some Catholic bishops during the presidential campaign saying that Catholics really shouldn't be voting for John Kerry because of his position on abortion?
There were some that were very clear about what the moral imperatives are from the standpoint of applying our faith to the political arena. I think the church has always said that faith is not an abstract; it's to be lived out. I think all Christians would agree that this is not simply a theoretical concept, but one that affects every aspect of your life. They're just following through in describing what they believe the consequences of the faith would dictate. And candidly, I think that's certainly a proper role for the church to take.
In 2003, you spoke out against the Supreme Court's Lawrence decision [overturning state anti-sodomy laws].
Yes, I did. And I also turned out to be right.
Do you feel vindicated?
Well, I was right. The bottom line in what I said was, this is going to lead to a whole lot of consequences. I had to assume the justices understood what they were doing. And of course, the decision was cited in the Goodrich decision in Massachusetts [in which the state Supreme Court overturned the state's ban on homosexual marriage]. I knew that's what courts would say. So this is, again, the problem with courts usurping democratic powers, powers that were clearly given to the legislatures and to the Congress. This judicial activism is a very, very scary thing for the future of this country.
What hope do you see for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which failed to pass in Congress last year?
My guess is, at this point, that it's certainly going to be introduced and we're going to try and get as many sponsors as we can. I don't know whether we're going to have the votes to be able to pass it or not. But one of the things I found out a long time ago is, just because you don't have the votes to win, doesn't mean that you don't accomplish a lot by having the debate. I would use the example of partial-birth abortion as an example of that. Look at the fact that we brought the marriage amendment forward, had a debate as a result of that, we highlighted the issue, and several states ended up putting it on referenda that passed with on average over 60 percent of the vote in the states, and some as high as almost 80 percent.
You are rolling out the Senate Republican Poverty Alleviation Agenda. Many people don't see the Republicans as serious about this issue.
That's because the press likes to pretend that somehow or another Republicans only care about rich people, which is just ridiculous. Republicans care about a growing economy, which employs people from all ends of the economic spectrum. In fact, the faster the economy grows and the stronger it is, the more people are employed at better and higher quality jobs. The best welfare program is a job. I believe that, and everybody else in our party believes that. You do that by being competitive in a global economy and being in a position to employ people at high-quality, good-paying jobs. So that, to me, is the fundamental precept of how we view the economy.
Having said that, I will acknowledge that Republicans have not done, in the past, any kind of a job as a party articulating how we help [poor people] by the policies of growth and development and increasing standards of living. That's what these programs are designed for.
For a long time, Republicans have said that rising tides will lift all boats. That's a Kennedy phrase, but I think Republicans embraced it. That's fine, unless the boat has a hole in it. If the boat has a hole in it, then it's not going to be lifted.
The question is, what's government's role? A lot of Republicans have said it's really the role of local institutions and the family to do it. The problem is that the Democrats decided that wasn't the case, and so they instituted a bunch of government programs that provided individual entitlements and direct, dependent relationships of individuals upon government. Republicans believe in a different philosophy, one that says that the role of government is not to empower individuals, but to strengthen families and community organizations and faith-based organizations so they can help nurture those individuals through the difficult times of their lives.
What are the key features of your new plan?
Welfare reauthorization is going to be a very, very important part of it. We have two major initiatives: One is the fatherhood initiative, which is to try to reunite fathers with their children and with the mothers of their children, and second, the marriage initiative. We need to encourage and promote marriage within communities where there are high rates of out-of-wedlock births, talk about the benefits of marriage, educate women as well as men on the benefits of marriage, not just to themselves but to their children, and actively work in counseling and support for men and women who have children out of wedlock to make sure that they have the nurturing and support and counseling to be able to stay together and potentially marry for the benefit of themselves and their children.
In earlier decades, probably right up through the New Deal, many Christians historically were economic populists who were suspicious of big business. William Jennings Bryan was an example.
That was during the days when people thought communism was actually something that could work. I don't think anybody now looks at society here in America [that way]. I mean, the Left does, and there are probably some Christian activists who certainly believe that, but I think capitalism has won. It's won around the world. It's winning in places that no one ever thought it would win. The idea of markets, properly governed and refereed, is really the way for growth and prosperity that's been beyond anything that anyone could have envisioned. The battle has been won with respect to the West, that capitalism is in fact the fairest, kindest, and most equal treatment that we can provide for the average citizen.
The book by Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas?, says that many people vote against their own economic interests when they vote for Republicans on the basis of social issues.
That's just the kind derogatory, elitist pablum that you get when people don't realize that there's a lot of people who don't put their treasure in this world and look for something more than just "how much more money I can make." They understand that life is more than a bank account. That's the postmodern view of the world, which is it's all about me; it's all about how much I can get now for me. There are a lot of people who worry about, not just their economic well being, but they worry about their kids, they worry about the culture their children are going to be raised in, they worry about the pervasive incivility that we see in this country. They worry about national security issues. They worry about a lot more things than just me and how much money I'm making. It's certainly important, and I would say that's one of the factors people should consider. But there are a lot of folks who have not bought into the Greenwich Village view of the world.
Thank God for Kansas.
There's a perception among religious conservatives and in the dominant media that Republicans run on social issues and govern on economic issues. How true is that?
Well, all I can say is that I try to do both. The problem with social issues is that in many cases we're increasingly limited as to what we can do by the courts. The biggest social issue I thought in this [last] election was judges. Unless we get the courts back within the four walls of the Constitution again, we're going to have an increasingly difficult time having democracy work to determine what the moral consensus is with respect to our society and our social values.
What is the right balance between social and economic issues? Or would you even divide it that way?
I think it depends on the time. Obviously, in times of great prosperity, economic issues tend to be [subordinated]. If you're in the middle of a war, obviously, that happens to trump everything else. But there is, and will continue to be, a constant undercurrent in society about the concerns about the long-term cultural impact of a society that treats marriage the way [our society] treats it; that treats families the way [our society] treats it; treats pornography the way it treats it; treats abortion and children the way it treats them; and treats the disabled and the helpless the way it treats them.
You are the Senate sponsor of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. Why is it necessary?
If passed, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act will require employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee's religious practice or observance, such as time off and attire. While most employers recognize the value of respecting religion in the workplace, sometimes employees are forced to choose between dedication to the principles of their faith and losing their job because their employers refuse to reasonably accommodate certain needs. This legislation creates a balance for people who want to have their religious convictions respected at work and an employer who is trying to run a business.
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Sen. Rick Santorum's website has more information about the official and his legislative efforts.