• With: Rick Santorum

    This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 1, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    DANA PERINO, "ON THE RECORD" GUEST HOST: All right, let's get started. Good evening. I'm Dana Perino, in for Greta van Susteren. So it's official, the sequester is here, $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will start taking effect.

    Former senator Rick Santorum accusing the president of, quote, "manipulating the process in a ruthless way to scare the American people." Senator Santorum, you are coming to us from Charleston, South Carolina, one of my favorite cities in all the world! Thank you for joining us tonight.

    RICK SANTORUM, FORMER SENATOR/FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Dana.

    PERINO: You don't disagree with the amount of cuts. You disagree with how they've gone about it, is that right?

    SANTORUM: Well, I disagree with several things. Number one, I don't agree with the amount of cuts. It's -- it's -- it's a pittance compared to what we're going to have to do to get this fiscal house in order in Washington, D.C.

    But I disagree with the fact that they're taking half the cuts out of 16 percent of the budget, which is the Defense Department, which has already had a half a trillion dollars in cuts taken from it just a couple of years ago through this president and the Democratic Congress.

    And so for that piece of the budget, which I think in most Americans's mind is the most important thing that the federal government does -- it's the indispensable thing. Nobody else can do national security except the federal government. And it leaves two thirds of the budget, entitlements alone.

    And for the president to go out and to, as I said, manipulate the American public by, you know, conjuring up all of these horrific images -- I'm -- you know, given the president's rhetoric, I'm surprised the lights are still on in this studio compared to what the president was suggesting was going to happen.

    PERINO: Yes, it does seem that if this were a game of poker that the White House overplayed its hand. Do you think that they are feeling that way tonight at the White House?

    SANTORUM: Well, all I can tell you is that I saw the president's press conference today, and he did not look like a very confident guy. He was back-pedaling from his statements. I think he did overstate the case. And the American public is simply not going to see the kind of cataclysmic things that he was predicting as he stood in front of our troops.

    He also could avoid it. And this is the other thing that's so -- so disheartening about this president's leadership. He could avoid really all of the painful things by working with Congress and simply allocating resources and agree to allocate resources in places where we don't need to spend this money.

    That's just -- you know, that's just common sense leadership. That's working together with people. This president has shown no indication of doing so. He seems to be fixated on an agenda to demonize Republicans so he can get a stronger political hand and force through more of his policies that are destroying our economy.

    PERINO: I've always felt that you had a really good pulse on the American people and how they were looking at things, you know, from an outside the Beltway perspective, or even here, from outside of New York. Both parties are trying to blame one another. But out there in the real world, what are you hearing from people? Who do they blame?

    SANTORUM: A pox on everybody's house. That's really what I'm hearing more than anything else, is that, you know, they're -- they're beginning to see President Obama for the demagogue that he has turned into. I mean, he simply did not act -- I mean, he was partisan in the last four years, but he's taken it to a whole new level that I've never seen from a president.

    And I think, you know, the average American is seeing it and seeing him over the top and really beginning to discount him a little bit in his rhetoric.

    But let's be honest, they do see the Congress as incompetent and not able to get their act together and put forth anything that looks like a plan. And they blame both parties. Whether both parties should be blamed or not is really not the point. They are blaming both parties. And right now, it's just -- they're washing their hands on what's going in Washington, D.C.

    PERINO: One of the -- certainly, there were scare tactics that were used by the White House to say that this parade of horribles was going to happen when the sequester was signed. It's not immediate, but it's not as if there won't be any effects. And I sort of hear tonight in particular from people that work in the Defense Department or for the military.

    What do you think that both parties should do to try to reassure them that they were going to get things back in order? What do you think could be done in the next 30 days before we have the government -- the possible government shutdown when the budget runs out?

    SANTORUM: Well, I mean, the simple thing to do is just to give the president the authority and work with the president to try to allocate resources into areas where there is need. And part of that has to be a restructuring of the absolute amount of money that's coming out of the Defense Department. I mean, we're already -- as I mentioned, we're already exacting pain out of that department. We're already in a downward trend. And to, you know, squeeze more of that in a very quick fashion is not going to be a good thing for the Defense Department, for our security.

    So, I would lessen the amount of number in defense and move it over, maybe do some, God forbid, entitlement reform, maybe look at "Obama care." One of the things that's being talked about I know across this country is potentially delaying the implementation of "Obama care" because they're simply not ready to implement. There could be money saved in doing some delayed of implementation.

    There are things that -- there are (ph) plenty of money around Washington, D.C., to do the things that are the absolute essential things, and there's lots of ways, and we need to get to it.

    PERINO: Senator, there has been a lot of criticism from -- about Republicans, especially from the right, saying that you caved on all of these issues leading up to this particular financial crisis. But in this particular case, with the sequester, do you think that the Republicans had a better strategy? I mean, they did put forward legislation to try to get it done. They did hang together. Do you think this was a turning point for them?

    SANTORUM: Well, I think they have to feel better about themselves in two ways. Number one, they did put forth an alternative. They did pass things that would have averted any kind of, you know, horrible cuts in areas that -- of essential services. They were willing to work on the Senate side. Mitch McConnell is very clear. He's willing to work with the president to, you know, reshift priorities. So the message was pretty clear coming out of there.

    Again, I'm not too sure it got through very well, but the message was clear. And the president -- you know, one of the things that sometimes you have to do is to sort of take a step back and let the president go out and do what he did, it was to overplay his hand and just let him do it. And they did. They were smart. They stuck on their message that we're sticking to our guns. We need these cuts. We need more than these cuts. We need to do them smartly, and that's what we're going to stick with. And give them credit for doing that.

    PERINO: Senator, great to see you. Thanks for being with us.

    SANTORUM: My pleasure. Thanks, Dana.

    PERINO: All right.