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Hannity

'Hannity' Primary: Rick Santorum

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 27, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And tonight on a special edition of "Hannity." We are taking off the 2012 campaign with our very own HANNITY primaries, now throughout this campaign, we'll give each candidate a half hour right here on the show to share his or her views with you our audience. Now, first up tonight, our former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. And former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Now, we've invited the rest of the GOP pack as well. And those interviews will take place over the next few months.

HANNITY: Senator, the one and only Rick Santorum, Senator, how are you? Good to see you.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: Great. Thank you.

HANNITY: All right. You are in this race. Why do you want to be president of the United States?

SANTORUM: Well, I'm not quite of the race yet.

HANNITY: You're kind in the race.

SANTORUM: I'm kind of in the race yet.

HANNITY: All right.

SANTORUM: Because I think our country is in a very critical time. And I think they need someone who is a proven leader, who is consistent, passionate, conviction, conservative who can paint a picture for the American public as to why we have to take on the challenges, it's our duty to the next generation to take on the challenges that we have both overseas and here at home, both economically and culturally to put America back on the right road. On road that we are going to leave America better than what we found it in. And I think, a lot of folks are concerned across this country, that we're going to be the generation that is going to leave America less than what we found it. And as I say all the time, not on my watch. And I think I've shown that I have a history of being able to lead on those things, a history to be able to win tough elections, and a history of being able to articulate a vision that I can get, you know, conservatives as well as moderates to follow and win elections.

HANNITY: I was surprised, one poll I saw, your name recognition was about 25 percent. Now, I know this is my job in politics. But you were senator what, for two terms.

SANTORUM: Right.

HANNITY: Twelve years in the United States Senate. And if I was trying to look at it from your perspective, I think I would see that as a positive. Because you have an opportunity to really introduce yourself. Get your record out there, and then...

SANTORUM: Look, I see when I do travel and I've been doing it for the last year or so. A lot of folks didn't know much about my record. I mean, I would go to places where I would assume people would know. You know, groups that have, you know, for example a pro-life group, because I was very active on the pro-life issue for example. And they wouldn't have any idea what I did or, you know, what I was working on. So, it's an opportunity to introduce myself to not just the voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina where I spend a lot of time, but also to the country. And I'm looking forward to that.

HANNITY: Maybe an opportunity and an obstacle a little bit because you got to get the name recognition...

SANTORUM: It is a long process. And the fact that I love the way we do this presidential. You don't start out in California where it is just money. I mean, if we start out in California, in New York, in Florida, the first state, whoever raises the most money is going to be able to be elected. Here, when you're in Iowa, straw poll, Iowa caucus, you're in a primary in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, the people can actually get to kick the tires, get to know who the candidates are. Get to measure not just the positions they've held but the way they communicate with people. How genuine they are? How much conviction and passion they have? What their character is like? It is really is a very important process that these states do a really great job of contributing.

HANNITY: The race has changed. Huckabee got out. He had pretty good numbers, you know, early on. Donald Trump is out. Huckabee probably was the favorite in Iowa. And he's a social conservative. You are very well known for your social conservative positions. Do you think this helps you maybe fill a void?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, I like Mike Huckabee. Was very impressed with the way he did talk about those issues. I think we share a lot in common on those issues. And I feel like I can fill that void. Not just in Iowa, but across the country. And I think I can do more than that. I have a very strong, long record on national security. And I think as you saw on this FOX debate, I can answer the question. I know the issues that are confronting with this country, I've been dealing with them for quite a long time. I have experience on the Armed Services Committee and working on national security issues. I also have a very strong record on being a fiscal conservative. Someone who's never voted for a tax increase. Someone who has been a consistent believer in American freedom and the free enterprise system. I think I can fill in that void not just on the moral cultural issues but across the board.

HANNITY: All right. As we look into this, recently, you had talked at length that you said Senator McCain was wrong or doesn't understand enhancement interrogation techniques. And there was a backlash. Because obviously, he'd been a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years. He himself I believe had been tortured.

SANTORUM: Sure.

HANNITY: And --

SANTORUM: Which of course I knew. What I was talking about was the enhance interrogation program that he is opposed, and I have supported it. And so, we, there's a policy difference between Senator McCain and I. He got up and wrote an article, which I just think was wrong. And so that's why I said, he obviously doesn't understand that this program actually worked to produce, lead, that led us to Osama Bin Laden as well as other things. And so, it was not, obviously, I'm not going to comment on John McCain's heroism and his, you know, withstanding torture and all the things that John did to serve our country. I think he's just wrong on this public policy matter. And I said so. I'm going to continue to say so. I think that our enhanced interrogation program is vital. It is not torture. I don't believe it is torture. John may have a different opinion. But I don't believe it's torture. It is a gradual process, it aims up, it attempts to get people to break folks so they will cooperate with this. And these are not people who are dressed in uniforms. These are terrorists. These are people who want to use all means necessary to hurt Americans and our allies. And we should have tactics that are available to us to get that information.

HANNITY: Would we have gotten Bin Laden but for enhanced interrogations, Gitmo, rendition, black sites? Would we have gotten them without us?

SANTORUM: I don't believe we would. And I think, even if you read the letter that Leon Panetta sent to John McCain that is the basis for his article, I don't think a fair reading of that says that we wouldn't have gotten him without it. And he said, there's multiple sources. But what I, again, I've read many articles on this. From what I've seen and what I've read, I don't think we would have gotten Bin Laden.

HANNITY: It seems like the name of the courier, at least the nickname first came from KSM in Gitmo. Now, he was waterboarded, and it seems like corroboration or suspicion was up because of some of the rendition sites.

SANTORUM: Right. I mean, there was corroboration interesting enough for people telling us the truth.

HANNITY: And then lying about it.

SANTORUM: And then also people lying about it, when we knew they were lying about it. So, sometimes, you know, people telling you the truth in one situation, someone is telling you the truth, they seem broken. And then, they tell an obvious lie and you think, wait a minute.

HANNITY: This might be telling us something.

SANTORUM: Yes. This might be telling us something really important. So, the idea that well, you know, sometimes these people lie after they've been broken. Well yes, and that sometimes is actually the most important piece of information.

HANNITY: But that led to the nickname which lead to tracking down the real name which lead to eavesdropping and phone calls and e-mails which led to Bin Laden's door. I mean, this is the thing that drives me crazy, is that the administration, they want all the credit for getting Bin Laden but they opposed the very policies that got us to the door.

SANTORUM: Absolutely. And not only that, worse yet, worse yet, Sean, they are continuing the investigation into our CIA agents who should be treated as heroes. They were doing what was legal in the United States. They were doing things that were making us more secure. They were doing things now that we find out, that at least helped lead to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. And the president of the United States, still has Eric Holder, going after these people and potentially prosecuting them.

HANNITY: And coming up, the potential GOP field for 2012 is a crowded one. So, why does Rick Santorum believe he is the candidate that kind of unseat the anointed one? You'll find that out, next.

Then later, you'll hear from one of the more controversial republican contenders. I'll debate former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson on legalizing marijuana and drugs. That's more, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And welcome back to the Hannity primaries. Now, we are giving each and every candidate a half hour on this show to explain why they should be the republican nominee in 2012. And we continue now with former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. All right. As you assess your competition for the primary -- hang on, this is a fair question.

SANTORUM: OK.

HANNITY: As you assess your competition, what separates you.

SANTORUM: Oh, OK.

HANNITY: Well, no, no, no, I'm going to ask specifically. I'm not getting off the hook, please. But what do you think separates you from the people that you will be competing against to get the nomination?

SANTORUM: Well, I'd say several things. Number one, I have been a consistent conviction passionate conservative. I've led on issues. I haven't just, you know, checked the boxes. I've fought. I've fought on difficult issues whether there are the fights that I took on when Republicans weren't fighting about judges. Before I came to the United States Senate, we sort of rolled over and let liberal judges pass. And we didn't really fight for our conservative judges, that changed when I came to the United States Senate. I've been a reformer, whether it is the gang of seven when we blew up the house bank and the post office scandal when Dan Rostenkowski was put in jail.

Look, 1994, it was a great year for Republicans, if you go back and look at the record, it was really the work that I did along with Jim Nussle and John Boehner with a couple of others who really blew the lid on the corruption that's going on in Washington, D.C. I did that, and by the way, the Republicans as well as Democrats were nailed by that scandal. And I didn't back down, even though I had members of my own party threatening me at the time. Same thing when I came to the United States Senate reform, I put -- I helped along with John Calp (ph), put term limits on committee chairman. I took on the chairman of the appropriations committee, Mark Hatfield when he voted against the balance budget. Said he should be stripped of his chairmanship. I have a long history of being a reformer, standing up to my own party as well as the other side with when they are wrong. The other thing is, I've been a reformer on policy. Welfare reform, I wrote the contract with America welfare reformed bill. I managed it on the floor of the United States Senate. I fought on the moral, cultural issues with their partial birth abortions, born on their protection act, national security. I've authored two major pieces of legislation, served eight years in the Armed Services Committee. And if you look at my record, I'm someone who's been able to lead on conservative issues and win. We got 70 votes in the United States Senate on welfare reform to end the federal entitlement. And that's a hard thing to do to get, you know, to stand up against Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which I did and able to get half the democratic caucus. We are going to need that kind of leadership, we're going to need someone who can communicate to the American public, get on television and rally folks to do things that are going to be hard to do but it's our duty to do.

HANNITY: Do you think this is going to be a primary about who is the most conservative, especially with the influence of the Tea Party?

SANTORUM: People you can trust.

HANNITY: Explain that.

SANTORUM: Look, people are looking for someone who is authentic, someone who you can trust, who you know. I always go back, people say, oh you lost your last race, that's you know, that's a big mark against you. No it's not. And I hear from people all over the place. You know, you never blinked. You know, that? I mean, you were there. Did I ever blink? I went out there and.

HANNITY: You didn't change your views.

SANTORUM: I've never changed my views. I went out and said, you know, Iraq, we got to win Iraq.

HANNITY: -- that Abraham Lincoln lost his race.

SANTORUM: Yes, he did. And then by the way, he's elected president right after he lost the Senate race. So, I was willing to stand up in a tough year, in a tough state and talk about Social Security reform, which I did, with George Bush after the 2004 election, remember, he said, let's do Social Security. Jim DeMint and I went to the floor of the United States state. I was up for election two years later. And the second oldest state in the country, and I went to the floor and said, we have to reform Social Security because there's a crisis coming down the road. And by the way, we need to take on Medicare too. People saying, you are crazy. You're in the state like Pennsylvania, I said it is the right thing to do.

HANNITY: You knew by doing that, that you might lose?

SANTORUM: Of course, I mean, look, I've been very blessed.

HANNITY: It's the third rail of politics.

SANTORUM: Yes, I know, but I've been look, I've been very blessed, every race that I started to run, whether it was my first, when I ran against a 14 year incumbent in a 60 percent Democratic district, and I was outspent three to one. Had six percent name recognition, six months before the election. I was never supposed to win that race, and I won. And I always felt like, you know, what? I'm blessed to be here. Do the right thing, don't worry about the consequences. I beat another democratic incumbent, knocked out two years later, with -- and I was put in with another democrat. And then, two years later, I beat another democratic incumbent this time for the United States Senate. I wasn't supposed to win any of those races. And what I did was, I just did the right thing. Don't worry about the political consequences. And I knew in a state like Pennsylvania, being elected as a conservative, you know, 90 some percent conservative rating, I knew that at some point maybe if the winds changed, I would lose, that's OK, I can do something else.

HANNITY: How hard do you think President Obama is going to be to beat? Because I have my own theory in this. But I want to hear you, do you think he is going to be extraordinarily difficult? Easier than people think? Don't underestimate him? What are your thoughts? Have you got the nomination? How hard that you can beat be?

SANTORUM: I don't think we can know that right now. A lot of it is going to depend on the economy, a lot is going to defend on national security issues. Obviously, the media is going to have a big role to play in this. What you can do is go out there and articulate a very clear message and a clear contrast. I mean, that's the most important thing. People need to see a different vision. They need see someone who, as I talk about, in 2008, Barack Obama went out and convinced people to believe in him. He was as you call him the messiah, that someone who...

HANNITY: The anointed one.

SANTORUM: The anointed one, I'm sorry, the anointed one.

HANNITY: Yes.

SANTORUM: In 2008, people wanted someone they could believe in. And now, after Barack Obama has basically said, OK, you believe in me. I'm going to take all this power centralized in Washington, D.C. and I'm going to take care of everybody. People are now saying, you know, what? We don't need someone we can believe in. We need someone who believes in us. And I believe in the American people. I've always fought to make sure that there's more freedom and opportunity in this country. Less government control of people's lives, and that's what people are going to be looking for.

HANNITY: I think the other issue that you got to tie to this is he ran in 2008 and he didn't have a record. And there was a lot of, you know, well written speeches on Teleprompters. Now he's got a record, he's got to defend. And I think on the economy, every measure that I see, American people don't have confidence in his policies. If gas prices stay at four bucks a gallon and go higher, and you see, you know, 57 consecutive months or thereabouts where, you know, home prices keep going down, inflation now kicking in, all of these things, it becomes a mathematical.

SANTORUM: I would agree with -- the central theme of what I've been talking about when I travel around the country is the concept of freedom. That we are less free today, because of this president. He has systematically convinced people or shoved it down their throat in the case of health care, that you need more government to take of you. He doesn't believe in us.

HANNITY: He believes in -- government. He believes in that.

SANTORUM: He said, I think the most telling comment Barack Obama made in his entire time as president was just a few weeks ago when he was responding to Paul Ryan's budget, he's talking about Medicare, he's talking about Medicaid and unemployment insurance. And he said, America is a better country because of these programs. And he went on to say, I'll go one step further. America was not a great country until these programs. The president of the United States said America wasn't a great country until 1965. He doesn't understand America. He doesn't understand who we are. He doesn't understand, we were born great. We are great country because we're the first country in the history of the world that said, we're here to do one thing, and that is to establish a country that allows people to be free, so they can provide for themselves, their family, serve the community, be their brother's keeper and serve the God that they love. That's what America is about.

HANNITY: And coming up, Rick Santorum on plug. Now, the gloves come off when he discusses President Obama and how he plans to roll back the administration's most intrusive policies. And then he may be controversial but former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is one of the few candidates who has actually balanced the budget without raising taxes. How did he do it? He'll tell us, coming up, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And welcome back to the Hannity primaries. And still to come tonight, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. But first, the final installment of my interview with former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

How bad is the economy right now? How bad is it?

SANTORUM: I think it's in pretty rough shape. I mean, you've seen housing started to dip again. Obviously, you have these oil prices. You've got the financial services sector is being crushed I think by the Dodd-Frank bill, and what's going on there. Obviously, you have this huge behemoth of the health care bill that is just having a huge overlay on people thinking about hiring or moving forward with any kind of growth in their business. Then, you have the NOORB (ph) saying to manufacturers, by the way, if you want to start another business up in another state, don't do it, if it is a right to work state. You better go overseas. So, we're doing, the president is doing everything he can possibly do with taxes, regulations, beating up on businesses and overall environment that is as hostile to business as we've seen since the great depression. It's really interesting. You go back and read about Franklin Roosevelt. And Roosevelt had this group of academics just like Obama. Very few people with private sector experiences in his cabinet, had this group of academics. And they just railed on business, they just railed on the rich. And guess what happened, it dragged us further and further into a recession. Why? Because people didn't trust government enough to be able to go out and invest because they didn't think government would let them be profitable.

HANNITY: I think the economy is most akin now to what happened in Japan, the lost decade that never recovered, and they have one stimulus, one stimulus after another, more government programs.

SANTORUM: I mean, you saw where the stimulus money, it went to the states, it went to the teachers' unions.

HANNITY: You could have got them for 586,000.

SANTORUM: I saw that, yes, absolutely.

HANNITY: You know, a lot of interesting things that most chilling to me is Standard & Poor's. They got -- our AAA rating is at risk. And then I go to the IMF, and they say that in five short years by 2016, that China will surpass America as the number one economy in the world. That frightens me, and that tells me, you know, that's not the America, American exceptionalism that we are capable of.

We have a president who believes in command and control. He doesn't believe in you. He doesn't believe in freedom. He believes that they should make these decisions and pick winners and losers in the auto industry, or in the financial services industry, whatever industry that it is not fair unless he has a hand it in. That is not what made America the greatest country in the history of the world. We trusted people. We trusted the opportunities that our country created that would again, John Kennedy, lifting all boats.

HANNITY: Rising tide, left all boats.

SANTORUM: That's right.

HANNITY: What do you think, when you look at how the media is covering you.

SANTORUM: Or not covering me.

HANNITY: Oh, well, OK.

SANTORUM: Right.

HANNITY: If you look at the way the media, it seems to be scrutinizing every republican candidate and then compare it to 2008, where there are few of us that got beaten up and excoriated pretty bad for, you know, trying to find out a little bit about an unknown senator from Illinois. You know, what do you think about that process?

SANTORUM: Well, it is very clear that the media has a -- an objective to try to get, you know, Republicans to first fight with among themselves. I mean, that's the most important thing, you can get people argue among themselves. But secondly, they are going to go out and pick at everything that said. They are going to go back as you saw in "Meet the Press," you will see it everywhere. You know, you said this 20 years ago. Look, what Republicans have to understand, is that when you go on a show with members of the media, they are not here to help you. They are here to try to hurt you.

HANNITY: They're playing gotcha.

SANTORUM: And they are playing gotcha. And so, you've got to stay disciplined in understanding that, you know, I'm going to answer the question, as best I can but I'm not going to accept the premise of your question all the time because it's not necessarily a genuine...

HANNITY: It is going to Senator Santorum, let me roll this tape. Back in 1972 -- where we're you born?

SANTORUM: I was 14-years-old.

HANNITY: All right. Senator Santorum, it's great to see you. I appreciate it being here.

SANTORUM: Thanks, Sean.

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