Senator Rick Santorum, R-Penn., recently spoke with Christianity Today senior writer Tony Carnes about his reelection campaign. His Democratic opponent, Bob Casey Jr., declined to be interviewed. This is an edited transcript.
What issues do you find working for you out there right now?
There are several. Certainly, the immigration issue on people's minds. Second, obviously, is the national security picture with the war that we are engaged in. And related to that, energy, and our understanding that we have to become more energy secure than we are today.
You gave a widely noted speech on Islamofacism in July. Has this speech had any resonance among your constituents?
We have gotten a lot of feedback on that during my travels around the state. People understand that we are in a very serious conflict here and that I am in the lead trying to make sure we are successful in defeating the enemy that is before us
How do you define Islamofacism?
It is an ideology that is shared by people who have a radical view of Islam and want to impose that radical view of Islam through a totalitarian regime. I would make an argument that it is a perversion of Islam, as a basis for totalitarian rule and a fascist-type state. It's the government's control of basically all aspects of society, which is [fusing] government and religion into one.
Islamofacism is a complex term. Do you think it would apply to states like Saudi Arabia?
No, I would not put Saudi Arabia in that category simply because they don't subscribe to the same ideology. They don't have designs on world conquest, which Islamic fascists do. They practice Islam, and different kinds of Islam are obviously practiced throughout the world, but this is not one that is intent on world domination.
Do you have a strategy for promoting democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere?
I believe this war against Islamic fascism will only be successful with the triumph of modern Islam. If Islam does not engage in this struggle for its own religion, then this will be an intractable problem for a long, long time. And so I would suggest that it's important for us to support and foster modern Islam to be successful in this struggle against radical Islam. One of the ways to do that is to create a foundation for modern Islam to flourish. I believe democracy is one such place to allow that to occur. There are others; I mean, certainly you have a situation in Morocco where they have a king who allows modern Islam.
Hasn't the way things have gone in Iraq undermined our promotion of a moderate way or a democratic way?
No, the problem we have in dealing with foreign policy in America is that we tend to look at things through Western eyes and U. S. eyes. We believe that everything, that all problems, are solved like we solve problems here. We are dealing with a different world, a different area of the world I should say, and different expectations. We have to think longer term. We tend not to do that very well here in this country.
It seems like some administration people like Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld expected that this would all be wiped up and we'd be out of Iraq in six weeks. But it didn't work out that way; do you think he should bear responsibility for that?
I don't remember anybody saying anything could be done in six weeks. All I remember is that the President from the very beginning said this was going to be a long and difficult struggle. I think he's been pretty clear about that, and I believe that it will be a very long and difficult struggle.
But I'm talking about the war in Iraq.
Well, I think if you look at the military conflict between the Iraqi government and the United States, it was over in a few weeks. This was a very different kind of conflict than what's going on right now, and the conflict is now an extension of the war on Islamic fascists. The principle instigators of the problems in Iraq right now are not Iraqis; they're Iranians. And there are other jihadists who are there who believe that they can successfully prosecute this war against the United States by trying to defeat us, to defeat what we have accomplished in Iraq.
In your book, It Takes a Family, you emphasized responsibility. Have there been mistakes that the President or at least the Secretary of Defense needs to take responsibility for?
Would you have impeached Abraham Lincoln for all the mistakes he made during the Civil War?
But Abraham Lincoln fired generals.
Sure, he fired generals. We have not seen anywhere even close to the level of incompetence of the Union generals during the Civil War. We have seen military plans executed fairly well, and the execution of the Gulf War strategy was a remarkable military accomplishment. The problems here really do not speak to the problems of the generals in executing military plans. The problems speak to the problems that multiple Presidents confronted after the Civil War, which is reconstruction. It's a very tough job. I don't demand perfection from anybody. What I do is I want to make sure they are well prepared, that they're executing the job as best as could be done and understand that in every war and in every conflict the enemy adapts and changes its tactics and can be successful on occasion, which they are.
Are you advocating any change in strategy now?
I think the biggest concern I have is not how we will fare ultimately in the Middle East. Al Qaeda is not a shred of what they were at the beginning of this war. The only solace they have is the fact that the American public is turning against this war. That's the big concern I have. It is not military tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan, as difficult as those fights may be. I am confident that we will persevere, and we will win. The question is: Will we have the support of the American public to do so?
What about your opponent Casey's perspective on the Iraq war?
I think it would be very difficult for anyone, including Al Qaeda, to figure out what my opponent has to say on virtually any issue. He's been about as cryptic on the issue of the war as he is on what he wants to do with Social Security or with solving the deficit or a whole host of other issues. He's been on both sides of almost every question with respect to the war.
Some people would say Casey is pro-life. He's Catholic. So why shouldn't people of faith support him if we are Democrats? Before we might have voted for Santorum, but this time we could vote for a guy whom we feel comfortable with and still be Democrats.
There are a lot of reasons Democrats vote for me other than the fact I'm pro-life. The biggest issue for the pro-life community, I would expect, is the issue of judges. And Mr. Casey has come out already saying that he'd be willing to filibuster judges, taking the position that Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer take on that. I do not believe in the filibuster of judges. Now, I don't understand how somebody who says he's pro-life would filibuster judges when the principal reason the Democrats are filibustering judges is because of the pro-life issue. But, nevertheless, he has been very clear and upright saying that he supported the filibustering of judges.
Secondly, he's someone who has already come out as an opponent of the morning-after pill, which is without question an abortifacient. I don't know how you can say you're pro-life and against abortion if [you support] dispensing abortifacients over the counter without a prescription to anyone above the age of 18 with no limitation on quantity. People can buy as many as they want and sell them to 14-year-olds and 13-year-olds. That would not be a pro-life position in my mind, and I don't think it is in most people's mind. I think there is a difference on the issue of life between my opponent and me, and there's also a difference on a lot of other family issues. He's for civil unions and gay adoption. He's not for a federal constitutional amendment to protect marriage or a state constitutional amendment to protect marriage.
On the campaign trail I know you face the dilemma that people know you as a strong man of faith, yet you're reaching out to a diverse public. How have you handle that in this campaign?
I don't see it as a dilemma at all. I don't know too many people who believe that people of strong faith should not be holding public office. I think most people, whether they're of strong faith or not, are comfortable with people of faith being in positions of public authority. I don't see it as a problem at all. Faith is a very important part of my life, and it certainly has an impact on how I do every aspect of my life, from being a good father and husband to being a good citizen to being a good senator.
What resources do you draw on each day for your faith?
I say to all of your readers that I appreciate their prayers. I can't tell you the number of people throughout the day that come up to me and tell me, ."You're in my prayers. You're in my prayers." It is a wonderful, sustaining gift that people give. I'm grateful and there's no question in my mind, given how hectic my schedule is, that [prayer] has had a powerful effect on my ability to keep up the faith and to be as sharp as I can be. I don't know how sharp that is, but sharp as I can be and of good spirit. So I do have that. I try to take time out every day, either to go to daily mass as a Catholic, to take time for prayer during the day, as well as to just have a little down time to do some spiritual reading of a variety of different sorts.
If the Democrats had control of the Senate, what would be the biggest changes?
I'd obviously be very concerned if the House were to go Democrat. I'd be very concerned about impeachment hearings and a whole bunch of actions that have been threatened to increase the level of partisanship, particularly going after the President.
And with the Senate, I'd obviously be concerned about judicial nominations and the President's ability to get mainstream conservative judges passed with a Democratic United States Senate. I think that would be a huge concern of minealso our ability to assess and prosecute this conflict. We'd be in jeopardy with the Democrats in control of Congress.
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See also today's article on the Pennsylvania Senate race.
The New York Times commented on the role of the abortion debate in this race, in an article titled "Senate Campaign Tests Democrats' Abortion Tack."
CBS reports on the second debate between the two candidates.
RealClearPolitics.com has data on current poll standings.
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