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    This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 30, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Possible presidential contender Senator Rick Santorum is blasting President Obama tonight. You don't believe us? Well, try this one for starters! Senator Santorum is calling the president disinterested, detached, ambivalent and indecisive.

    Now, what provoked this? Former senator Rick Santorum joins us live. Good evening, sir. And what provoked that description, that litany of words?

    RICK SANTORUM, R-PENN., FORMER SENATOR: Well, I was using that in the run-up to his eventual decision in going into Libya. But for weeks, the president was all of those things. He seemed to be detached. He went off to South America and didn't seem to pay a whole lot of attention and interest to what was going on in Libya. He seemed disinterested from the very beginning. He didn't comment on any of what was going on in Libya as the entire world was commenting, and in a sense, choosing sides or trying to influence events.

    The president waited five full days and just sort of made an offhand comment at a press conference. So you know, we didn't see this president really engaged. And you know, look, if the president's decision was that this was not in the national security of this country to engage in Libya, that we had no dog in this fight, that we didn't feel comfortable that the protesters and rebels were folks that we could deal with and that they wouldn't -- we wouldn't be any better off with them as opposed to Qaddafi, well, that's a -- that's a policy, and go out and state that and then make the case to the American public. But he didn't do that. He simply didn't do anything until the United Nations sort of forced his hand.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Is -- I mean, it always -- I mean, it can often be different when you look from the outside towards the inside than when you're on the inside. There are two things that caught my attention tonight in terms of whether he was detached from it or not paying attention, he's off in South America.

    A couple of things. Number one is that he apparently signed this order or this presidential whatever it is to give covert authority to the CIA to go to Egypt a couple weeks ago, so he wasn't that detached for that. Secondly, he needed to get the Americans out of Libya, especially those at the embassy, so we didn't revisit what happened in 1979 with Iran. So he did need to buy time.

    Thirdly is that we've tried to have this sort of be a multi-nation, a coalition of countries, and that took a while to gather because we couldn't be leading another war in a Muslim country. So is it possible he was very engaged and doing those things, but having the appearance of being disengaged in South America?

    SANTORUM: Well, he did a good acting job. But I would suggest a couple of things. Number one, that, you know, you shouldn't have your policy dependent upon American civilians in a country. I mean, that's obviously an important thing and you want to -- you want to make sure you do everything you can. -- you want to make sure you do everything you can. But you certainly can't delay what you believe is in the national security interests of this country for that reason alone. I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned about it, but that should not be a determining factor in engaging in something you believe is to the greater good of our country, number one.

    Number two, I don't know what this secret covert memo was about, so it's hard for me to comment as to whether that proves whether he was engaged or not. It all depends on what was trying to be accomplished. But the fact that it's been outed is not necessarily a good sign for me.

    And there's one thing to engage the international community in something that you're leading and you want done. It's another thing to follow the international community, France and Portugal and others, in something that they want done. And I think that's what happened here, not the president leading.

    VAN SUSTEREN: And now let me argue against myself, what I just said in sort of my litany, you know, and to balance -- because I look at it both ways, is that I found it very curious that the president would do two things. One is tell Qaddafi there'll be no boots on the ground, and number two to say that we're not interested -- that we're not going for regime change because it sound -- I mean, when you tell your enemy that, all the enemy has to do is find a bunker and just, you know, get a lot of food and just wait. And so that...

    SANTORUM: Well, he was both ways on that, though, Greta.

    VAN SUSTEREN: That was my thought -- what?

    SANTORUM: Yes, but he was both ways. At the beginning, he said he was for Qaddafi leaving. And then when he committed military forces, he was not for Qaddafi leaving. And that's why I say that, you know, confused, again, I -- detached, disinterested is what the perception was. But certainly, the policy was not coherent and he was not out there leading and trying to lead events to try to shape the course of what was going to go on in Libya, as opposed to reacting to what the international community wanted from us.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Well, for the life of me, I can't figure out why he would say the no boots on ground and tell them we're not going after regime change, even if it's -- I mean, you make the argument it's inconsistent with what he said first. Even ignoring that is -- I would not tip my hand to my...

    SANTORUM: You don't have -- yes...

    VAN SUSTEREN: ... opponent or my enemy. All right, but what -- what do you make of the foreign minister defecting, heading for the U.K. and essentially leaving Qaddafi?

    SANTORUM: Well, obviously, the -- you know, the regime in Tripoli is in trouble. I mean, the fact that the rebels have been able to even launch a counteroffensive -- I actually was surprised about it. It just shows me how -- how weak Qaddafi and his forces are and how -- how suspect the regime is to being able to stay in power. So there's obviously concerns that -- that, you know, we have about who these rebels are. But it looks like...

    VAN SUSTEREN: That's big, too.

    SANTORUM: ... that there's a -- yes, it's a big concern for me...

    VAN SUSTEREN: That's a big deal, who they are. I mean, we're hoping they're, you know, someone -- I mean, but it could be something -- it -- that could be most unfortunate for us when we find out who they are.

    SANTORUM: Candidly, it could be -- you know, we had Qaddafi at least -- I won't say he was in a box. Some people have suggested he was -- he was nooted. I don't -- I'm not necessarily agreeing with that, but he certainly wasn't an imminent threat to our country. And if we are replacing Qaddafi with folks backed by the Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaeda, we could end up in a far worse situation.

    Again, this is where a president would be engaged in trying to discern that, covertly or otherwise, as to who these people are and try to have a better handle before you commit to saying that Qaddafi leave or commit military forces to help these people.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'd love to be the fly on the wall to have the intelligence information as to who these people are because I assume that we're trying to gather that quite quickly. And I hope that the CIA and the White House know that one tonight. But I'm taking the last word on that, Senator. Thank you, sir.

    SANTORUM: Thank you, Greta.