OTR Interviews

Santorum: Obama's hypocrisy on display with potential use of drones on American citizens

Imagine if past presidents had tried to employ drones like Obama. Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum sounds off

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 6, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, "drone-gate" is heating up in Washington, but Rush Limbaugh is already on fire!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is from NBC News. "A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the United States government, i.e., President Obama, can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be senior operational leaders of al Qaeda or an associated force, even if there isn't any intelligence indicating that they're engaged in an active plot to attack the United States."

That is casting a really wide net because it almost sounds like you don't even have to be a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or an associated -- well, actually, an associated force is interesting.

If this -- if this provision had been in place back in the '70s, does this mean that Nixon could have assassinated the Weathermen? Does this mean that Richard Nixon could have taken out the New Black Panther Party? Does it mean Nixon could have killed Bill Ayers? It does mean that! Bill Ayers or the Weathermen, he had an active plot against the U.S., bombed the Pentagon. That means if this -- if Nixon had assumed the kind of power that Obama's assuming, he could have sent a commando team out to wipe out Bill Ayers.

You can't kill rogue leaders. No, you cannot by -- by law, we cannot assassinate foreign leaders. We can now kill Americans as long as we say they are related to al Qaeda somehow. And that link isn't too tough. Al Qaeda hates America. All you have to do is hate America. It could be said that you are an associated force.

Remember all of the anger that the left had over waterboarding? I think I have this right. Constitutional scholar Barack Obama is demanding the right to kill American citizens without making his case to a judge, as long as he thinks the American in question is in an upper tier of operations of al Qaeda or a related group.

But you can't waterboard the guy. You can kill him, but we can't waterboard him. We can kill the son of a -- but we can't torture him. Have I got this right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Former senator Rick Santorum joins us. Nice to see you, sir.

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER SENATOR/FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's great to be back, Greta. And Rush, you had it right, and that's the hypocrisy of all this, that you have an administration that wanted to have civilian trials for terrorists, and not even American citizens but have civilian trials for everyone. And I just think that the hypocrisy of now saying we're going to be able to kill them if we suspect that they are a senior- level operative is -- is -- is -- hypocrisy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Killing Americans.

SANTORUM: Kill Americans.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's the distinction.

SANTORUM: Yes, the distinction. So -- so I agree -- Rush is absolutely right on. Now let's get to the policy. The policy itself -- so he is a hypocrite, OK? Let's -- let's put that in place. But...

VAN SUSTEREN: He meaning?

SANTORUM: The president is.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK.

SANTORUM: For the positions he's taken, and so -- and by the way, so is everybody on the left who complained about Bush and his tactics and comparing that with Obama's as -- again, they -- they -- you don't hear them complaining about the president doing what he's doing.

But let's look at the policy. And I -- my concern is that if that American citizen is in theater, is in Afghanistan or was in Iraq or in a theater of operation where there is active hostility going against the United States, and there's American citizen, you know, in the mountains of Afghanistan, then I think that policy makes sense.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me...

SANTORUM: If that citizen -- if that person's here in the United States, obviously, we shouldn't be able -- shouldn't be able to kill an American citizen here in the United States, you know, because of that suspicion. And I would have -- I would have a much higher threshold of doing so in countries outside of the theater of operation.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me give you some examples. A 16-year- old American, whose father was a terrorist, but he was not in Yemen -- now, that's not -- that's not Afghanistan, that's not Iraq.

SANTORUM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: There have been protests against the United States there, but there have been protests against the United States in Europe and -- I mean, in Paris, in London over time. I mean, there are protests against America in lots of places. Yemen is not a war zone...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, not like Afghanistan or...

SANTORUM: No, I would agree with that. And to me, that would come down to, OK, what alternatives do you have? If that 16-year-old -- first off, how good is your intelligence and how reliable is it? And again, depending where this terrorist is, or suspected terrorist...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, this was apparently wrong intelligence. I mean...

SANTORUM: This was wrong intelligence...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, this was wrong intelligence.

SANTORUM: But again, you have to base it upon how -- how strong your intelligence is, how reliable. And I -- again, if they're outside a theater, you have to have better intelligence. Number two, you have to look at the country that you're in. Do we have a government in Yemen that we can work with to be able to do something to capture this person or to -- take action against this person short of a drone attack?

VAN SUSTEREN: But this was actually against somebody who turns out not to be a terrorist. I mean...

SANTORUM: I understand that. But -- but my point is there is always the occasion of bad intelligence. So the question is, I'd rather -- if the bad intelligence about an American with an al Qaeda group in Afghanistan, I'll live with that intelligence. What's that person doing there? Obviously, they're doing some things that they shouldn't be if they're sitting in a terrorist camp in Afghanistan.

If they're sitting with potential terrorists in Yemen, that's a different story, and they're obviously not directly attacking...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well...

SANTORUM: ... so you need more intelligence. And the second thing is if you have a relationship -- if that person was in France, we would obviously work cooperatively with France and be able to address that issue because we have that relationship there. We may not have that relationship in Yemen, and therefore, you may have -- you may have to take alternative measures.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, John Brennan, who is the nominee for director of CIA has described it, I think, as self-defense, OK, I mean, that a drone at -- you know, a drone against, you know, an American.

SANTORUM: Again, I...

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have a problem -- you have any problem with that one?

SANTORUM: Let's go back to the two parts. First, the hypocrisy argument. I mean, John Brennan and all of his ilk were folks who were, you know, criticizing -- the left -- criticizing President Bush for going into Iraq on preemption, on self-defense before we were attacked. And the left has been going for eight years, you know, Bush lied, people died, all based on the issue of preemption.

And here we have now this administration...

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. All right...

SANTORUM: ... who was against all of this now saying...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

SANTORUM: ... the same rationale...

VAN SUSTEREN: That...

SANTORUM: ... that President Bush used.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. That's one issue. Hypocrisy is one issue, and you know -- and I'll -- and I'll give that one to you.

But are you not troubled by the fact that -- and this is also sort of looped into hypocrisy, is that there was the big discussion within the Obama administration wanting to bring the Gitmo -- who are foreigners, not Americans, to New York and give them trials where they have lawyers, rights to appeal, cross-examination, decided by a jury. And yet here under this government program, a high government official -- I don't know who that government official is -- is judge, jury and executioner of Americans, who don't have those rights.

SANTORUM: I -- again, I have concern about the hypocrisy of -- of...

VAN SUSTEREN: Forget the hypocrisy.

SANTORUM: OK.

VAN SUSTEREN: But do you have any trouble with that?

SANTORUM: I -- I -- again, I would say it has to be depending on the circumstances. And you know, my feeling is that in certain circumstances, that option should be available to a president. But it should be very good intelligence as -- as -- you know, high threshold in (ph) standard, and it has to be in a country where -- where -- where there's...

VAN SUSTEREN: So Yemen's out?

SANTORUM: Pardon?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yemen would be out to you?

SANTORUM: I would -- again, based on the circumstances, it would be a higher threshold. I'm not -- I'm not -- I think I said earlier it would not necessarily be out. But other countries where we have relationships where we do work with the government, I would say we should not be doing drones attacks, obviously.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, quick question. Decided on 2016 yet? Are you going to run for president?

SANTORUM: I am open to that. We have the chairman of the party here, so he'll -- he'll -- I don't want to announce in front of him, but we've -- we've been talking and I'll be talking to a lot of other folks, and we're certainly open to looking at 2016.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's definitely not a no.

SANTORUM: Definitely not a no.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Greta.