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Blogger Conference call with Rick Santorum

February 9, 2012

I got an e-mail this morning from the Rick Santorum for President Campaign inviting me to attend “an Invitation-Only Question and Answer Session with Conservative Blogs.” I’ve never before had the chance to interview a major Presidential candidate. Cool.

This all happened because the internet noticed my publication of Rick Santorum — The Servant last week. A number of bloggers re-posted my post. Even the Santorum campaign noticed my article and added me to its media e-mail list.

The session was done by conference call at noon (Eastern Time). I’m not a professional reporter, and I didn’t have a tape recorder, so I’ll just have to do my best to recap some of the questions and answers of the session. I’ve limited my post to the questions and answers that I feel comfortable reproducing.

After a brief introduction by a moderator, Senator Santorum gave a short recap of his campaign position and then opened “the floor” for questions.


Question: Senator Santorum, what is your response to the charge made in the blogosphere and on Twitter that you are anti-Tea Party?

Answer from Santorum: Of course I’m not anti-Tea Party. The charge stems from those, mostly libertarians, who have a certain view of the Constitution whereas I believe in both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In short that we both rights AND responsibilities.

Question: Where does your campaign stand on the national debt?

Answer: I’ve signed up with the plan offered by Representative Paul Ryan but my critique of it is that it needs to happen sooner. We need to cut the debt now and not wait ten years from now to do it. We need to start now to spend less money, cut a trillion dollars from our spending — not just in inflation-adjusted terms nor as a relation to the current spending baseline.

Follow-up question: What about earmarks?

Answer: Earmarks are specific allocations within existing appropriations. They are not monies spent ON TOP OF appropriations and I’ve always voted to cap those total appropriations so I’ve never been in favor of increasing the debt to spend money on earmarks.

Question: With the Arizona Primary coming up, what is Obama’s biggest failure in the issue of immigration?

Answer: Obama’s biggest failure is that the border is not secure. No immigration policy of any sort can be effective unless we can control the border.

Question from me: Senator Santorum, have you seen the article published today by Henry Olsen on National Review Online entitled “Two Decades Too Late” (link here) and if so do you have a comment on it?

Answer: No, I haven’t seen that. Why don’t you recap it for me?

Follow-up question from me: Henry Olsen is a demographics expert from the American Enterprise Institute. His basic premise is that your campaign’s attempt to reconstitute the Reagan Coalition of 1980 cannot succeed because of demographic changes which have occurred since then.

Follow-up answer: Of course there have been demographic changes since 1980 but I believe my basic message of personal and economic freedom has a universal appeal to voters. So while demographics change the political landscape I’ve found that my message appeals to growing demographic groups such, especially Hispanics.

Question: What is your position on the single-rate flat tax?

Answer: Well I like the tax simplification aspect of the flat tax. Where I disagree with the single-rate people is they themselves don’t really like everyone, both rich and poor, to actually pay at one single-rate so they add all sorts of exemptions and deductions to make up for that. When you do that you end up back where you started with a complex tax code. I’d rather lower tax rates for everyone while removing all the complexity that people hate in the tax code.

End of session recap.

I’m very new to this. I had little notice beforehand and although I was pretty nervous I think the session went well. Usually our information gets filtered by what major media outlets tell us. I think it’s fantastic that Senator Santorum would take some time from his schedule to speak to a group of amateur bloggers like me.

I chose my question from a friend’s Facebook post I had seen that very morning. It seems to me that you get the best from people when you challenge them and the article referenced in my question challenged Santorum’s campaign strategy.

The author of “Two Decades Too Late” is Henry Olsen, whom I know from my days as a Ph.D. student at Claremont Graduate School in California. Back then Henry knew California politics so well that he could point out legislative district lines on the ground while flying at 30,000 feet from Los Angeles to Sacramento. He now works in a Washington think-tank and has published some excellent articles on American politics. My favorite is his highly accurate prognostication of the 2010 election results (“Day of the Democratic Dead“) published a few days before Election Day 2010. Be warned — it is 8 pages of detailed explanations of different American voting groups and their concerns, but if you have an interest in American politics it is well worth your time.

In my opinion, any time Henry Olsen offers a candidate advice it would be wise for that candidate to consider his words carefully. So in the end even a challenging question can be a favor in disguise.

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