Santorum: ‘A tree is a tree. Marriage is marriage.’

Santorum: ‘A tree is a tree. Marriage is marriage.’

Republican 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum sat down with Douglas Burns, co-publisher of The Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times Herald and an alum and frequent contributor to The Iowa Independent, to discuss Catholicism in relation to the GOP, rival Michele Bachmann and, of course, some of the social conservative issues well known to those who have seen Santorum on the Iowa stump.

Santorum, 53, was elected to the U.S. House in 1990 at age 32, and from 1995 to 2007, served in the Senate. In 2000, he was elected by his peers to the position of Senate Republican Conference chairman. In 2006, he was defeated by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., son of a former Pennsylvania governor.

Burns: You’re in an historically Catholic community. It’s named after Charles Carroll, the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence. Why have we only had one Catholic president? You’re seeking to be the second. Is there still prejudice?

Santorum: That’s a good question. The Republican Party has never nominated a Catholic.

Burns: Why is that? And why should Catholics stand for that?

 

Rick Santorum (File Photo: Lynda Waddington/The Iowa Independent)

Santorum: Well, I’m doing my part to try to change that. I guess I would say that if you look back, the Republican Party, its roots were definitely within a region of the country where the people who were supporting Republicanism were Protestants, and if you go back to sort of the Know Nothings and things like that, anti-Catholics tended to migrate toward the Republican Party. The Blaine Amendment*, for example, was Republican. So there was some hostility certainly 100-plus years ago toward Catholics and that’s when the big Catholic immigration happened so they tended to migrate toward the Democrats.

So I think that’s probably the roots of it. But you’re asking me an historical question, and it’s not really an opinion. I’m sure there’s a factual basis for it.

But at least today I think what you’d see is that Catholics are pretty much all over the board. I mean, when I was growing up as a kid, pretty much everybody I knew that was Catholic was Democrat. That’s not the case anymore.

The question is whether you’re church-going or not.

If you’re a church-going Catholic by and large you’re a Republican, just like if you’re a church-going Protestant by and large you’re a Republican. And if you’re not church-going by and large you’re not.

So it breaks down more on orthodoxy than it does on anything else.

Burns: If your position on abortion prevails and abortion is prohibited, Senator, what should the penalty be for a woman who obtains an abortion or a doctor who performs one.

Santorum: I don’t think there should be criminal penalties for a woman who obtains an abortion. I see women in this case as a victim. I see the person who is performing the abortion as doing the illegal act, and as a result, I would support some penalties for the doctor, both professional and criminal.

Burns: Traditionally in Iowa, in the Iowa Republican caucuses and at the straw poll, abortion has been a prominent issue. In covering it myself, and of course following what my colleagues statewide and nationally have done, there really hasn’t been a lot of focus on that. Is that a hidden issue that could leapfrog you into a higher finish?

Santorum: I talk about all the issues, because I think people are concerned about all the issues. To get out there and just focus on the economy, you know, that’s part of it. Certainly you can see with Obamacare and the jobs program, I talk about that.

But we’re also a country that as I mentioned before is a moral enterprise. We’re concerned about the health of the family. We’re concerned about the health of a society that doesn’t respect all life. I mean, those are things in my mind that continue to be important and we’ll continue to talk about.

Burns: You talked about some of the other candidates in the Republican field. Does Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (the Minnesotan who won the Ames Republican straw poll this month) clear a basic competency threshold for commander in chief?

Santorum: Look with respect to judgments as to whether the candidates are qualified or not, I’ll leave that to the people of the caucuses to decide.

But I think you do need to look at experience.

You need to look at whether they’ve had the kind of experience that you would feel comfortable giving them this kind of authority.

We saw what happened when someone of limited experience like Barack Obama was elected president. He served four years in the United States Senate. Michele Bachmann served four years in the House.

I think it’s a legitimate question as to whether that is sufficient experience to be President of the United States.

But some might suggest that that’s good, that she hasn’t been involved in Washington politics for long, and that’s a good thing.

Some people say Herman Cain who has no experience and that’s a good thing.

It’s a judgment call on the part of people as to what they believe are the qualifications necessary to be a good leader, and whether they have the qualifications and experience is a judgment call.

I certainly put up the experience I have, and I think that’s an advantage for me.

But some might not think so. There are some who at least in this environment think having no experience turns out to be a positive.

Burns: You’ve been pretty strong in your opposition to gay marriage. Iowa, of course, does have legalized gay marriage. How does the fact that there are a handful of gay couples married in Carroll affect my heterosexual life and your heterosexual life? How does it hurt other people in Carroll, Iowa, that there are folks among us we may not even know who happen to be gay and happen to be married? How does that hurt my life?

Santorum: Because it changes the definition of an intrinsic element of society in a way that minimizes what that bond means to society.

Marriage is what marriage is. Marriage was around before government said what it was.

It’s like going out and saying, ‘That tree is a car.’ Well, the tree’s not a car. A tree’s a tree. Marriage is marriage.

You can say that tree is something other than it is. It can redefine it. But it doesn’t change the essential nature of what marriage is.

Marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of the benefit of both the man and the woman, a natural unitive according to nature, unitive, that is for the purposes of having and rearing children and for the benefit of both the man and the woman involved in that relationship.

And for the benefit of society because we need to have stable families of men and woman bonded together to raise children. That’s what marriage is.

You can say two people who love each other is marriage. But then why limit it to just two people? Why not three people? Why not 10 people?

If it’s just about love and everybody needs to be treated equally, then why not 10? Why not allowing nieces and aunts to marry? Why not? If marriage means anyone who is in love, well, then, let everybody who is in love get married. But it’s not what marriage is.

Marriage has an intrinsic value to society, and when you cheapen it by saying anybody in any relationship is the same, it’s not. So you undermine the institution No. 1. No. 2, you’re gonna undermine religious liberty in this country. We’re seeing it already.

Anybody who does not recognize what the state says is good and right is a bigot. We don’t give licenses for adoptions to organizations that won’t do gay adoptions because they’re bigots. And a lot of those are faith-based organizations.

Will we go into pulpits and tell preachers they can’t preach that gay marriage is wrong? Well maybe not right away but maybe tax-exempt status is next.

There’s a conflict here because we’ve created something that is not what it is.

As a result of that it will have a huge impact on people’s religious freedom. You see it in every country that has adopted it already.

It will also have the impact of changing our educational structure. You’re seeing that already, too, where young children are being indoctrinated as to what normal is.

Now normal is what the law is.

So now we’re going to see all sorts of information provided to children against their parents’ will because the state says it’s so. It’s coercion as opposed to the collective morality of what the American public wants, and that’s what I’ve been fighting for.

(* = The Blaine Amendement is a failed Constitutional Amendment proposed in 1875 by Republican U.S. House Speaker James Blaine during the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant that would have prohibited public money from flowing to private schools in any form.)

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Douglas Burns

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