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Obama's New 'Moral' Argument for Health Care Reform: Will It Work?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: OK, for some, that public option has gone over like a lead balloon. So how about plan B, morality? Is that the secret weapon strategy to get health care reform? President Obama went on a conference call today with thousands of religious people, arguing health care reform is a moral issue. The president also argued against what he calls "ludicrous lies" made up about his health plan.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation. That is that we look out for one other, that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper. And in the wealthiest nation on earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Former senator Rick Santorum joins us live. Senator Santorum, it's now framed as a moral issue, which is sort of a -- which is a little bit of a different strategy.

RICK SANTORUM, R - FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: Yes. Well, they're trying to -- they're trying to -- they're throwing everything at this problem. And I would agree, I think it is a moral issue. I think that he -- he quoted, you know, scripture during his talk, And I think there is an obligation for all of us to provide for our brothers. And the question is, is that --

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know (INAUDIBLE)

SANTORUM: Don't get me in trouble (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Just teasing you!

SANTORUM: No, I understand. But the question is, is it's our obligation to provide. I mean, the reason the Catholic church, for example, has hospitals all over the country is because the Catholic church felt it was an obligation for them and for the community to provide. It isn't the obligation for the government to do it. Then you're really taking the obligation from you and from the family and from the community and from -- from each of us individually and -- and to do -- and giving it to some, you know, rather feckless organization, the federal government, to provide care for us. And that -- that's not, I would argue, a moral -- a moral...

VAN SUSTEREN: See, I looked at it a little differently in terms of, like, I think most people agree that we have to do something about our health care system.

SANTORUM: I agree with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe everybody. But if you disagree and have a different plan, if you disagree with this -- this administration, are they saying you're immoral because you have a different solution to the plan? That's what worries me.

SANTORUM: I think they are trying to say that. I think they're trying raise this, the moral high ground, and if you don't support the president's plan, if you don't support the government takeover of health care, contrary to what he said -- I mean, he's out there saying, Oh, you know, all these lies out there -- and one of the things he said, for example, was that, you know, the abortion coverage is not in there. He had a little girl -- it was -- I listened to the whole conversation. It was very scripted. They had one girl ask about abortion coverage, and they had president's policy adviser say, Oh, abortion is absolutely not covered.

That's just simply not true. There is nothing in that legislation that says that abortion is not covered. So you say, Well, that means it -- that means it's -- it may or it may not be. No. The courts have been very clear. They did it with Medicaid. They've done it with other state health bills, that unless you say abortion is not covered, which is what the Hyde amendment does for Medicaid, then it will be covered.

They know that! And so when the president says it's not going to be covered, it's just not true! One of the reasons you're seeing this anger out here is because people are -- people are looking at the reality of what's in these bills, they're listening to what the president says, which is not what's in these bills, and they get angry because he's not telling the truth!

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, why does he care or anyone on the flip side of the Republican -- if there were a Republican driving this whole thing, is that -- it's that if -- if a -- if it -- if he's so committed to it, if he gets it passed because he's got the numbers in the House and in the Senate -- he himself is of the same party, why does he care so much that it's bipartisan, if he's so committed to the fact that this is the right direction for the country?

SANTORUM: Well, first off, he -- remember how he campaigned. He was going to be this transformational figure here Washington, D.C. He was going to bring people together. He was -- you know, there wasn't red America...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that the point?

SANTORUM: Yes, well, he's not living up to what -- to his own image of himself, you know? Remember, there wasn't a red America...

VAN SUSTEREN: But -- but...

SANTORUM: ... the blue America, there's just a United States of America. He's not governed that way!

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) doesn't (INAUDIBLE) sort of -- I mean, your -- your sort of commitment -- if you are so driven to think something is so right, doesn't it sort of supersede that? If you think this is so important and this is such a moral question and this is the only solution, aren't you willing to sort of take your legacy and say, OK, you weren't -- you know, you didn't -- you weren't able to achieve those things?

SANTORUM: Yes, except he can't get it done. I mean, I don't think...

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't think the Democrats...

SANTORUM: No, I don't think there's any way they pass a purely partisan bill. There's just no way that's going to get through the United States Senate in particular. I think they're going to have a hard -- after this August, I think they have a much shorter time...

VAN SUSTEREN: Who are the -- who aren't they going to get of the Democrats in the Senate? Who's not going to go along?

SANTORUM: Oh, I think the North Dakota senators are going to have a hard time voting for this. The Virginia senators are going to have a hard time voting for this. The Arkansas senators are going to have a hard time voting for this. I mean, you can go through -- you know, remember, once you get to 60, you're including Democrats from states that are not liberal states, and those folks are going to have a hard time. Even Max Baucus is going to have a hard time voting for anything that -- that the House would want. This is going to be a hard thing for their -- for them accomplish. I think he knows that if he's going to get this done in any form that is real reform, in his mind, he's going to have at least a few Republicans to get that done, to give Democrats cover.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there one single thing that he could do for the Republicans that would make -- that would -- at least -- not satisfy completely but convince the Republicans that this is something to vote for? Is there one single thing?

SANTORUM: I don't think -- you know, people say, Well, the public -- you heard Chuck Grassley saying, We got to get rid of the public option. That's certainly a huge thing, but there is -- look, I mean, there is so much in these bills! It is so complex, and there are so many ways to skin this cat to get it to be more government...

VAN SUSTEREN: So you don't even think -- you don't even think that -- it's not -- I mean, all our -- all our obsession with the -- with the public option...

SANTORUM: That's a huge...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: And I realize it's huge, but that's just sort of -- that's just one thing and it's certainly...

SANTORUM: That's one.

VAN SUSTEREN: If that were resolved, we'd then be on to 50 million other problems.

SANTORUM: I don't know if there'd be 50 million others, but I think there'd be a lot of other things in there. Abortion would be certainly another thing that they'd have to deal with. But if they pass it -- I'm telling you, if they put in this legislation that abortions were not covered under this, you'd lose enough Democrats in the House, you couldn't pass it!

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, so that no matter -- if he does one thing, he loses...

SANTORUM: That's exactly right!

VAN SUSTEREN: If he says that about -- he loses -- no matter which way, he loses!

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: The Democrats feel...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's a horrible position to be in!

SANTORUM: ... that this is their chance. The left has been waiting for this moment of a supermajority in the House, 60 votes in the Senate, a liberal Democratic president. They are not going to let this pass without getting what they want!

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

SANTORUM: My pleasure.


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