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HUMAN EVENTS InterviewSen. Rick Santorum: ?¢â??¬??Conservatism Is Common Sense?¢â??¬â??¢

Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, is the author of a new book, It Takes a Family, which outlines his vision of conservatism and the common good. In November 2006, Santorum will face Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr., a Democrat who appears to share Santorum’s pro-life and pro-gun views. Human Events editors spoke to Santorum this week about the book and his re-election campaign.

You’re facing a tough re-election challenge in Pennsylvania, and yet you’ve written what seems to be a pretty controversial book about social and cultural issues that goes really at the core of liberalism. Why did you do this at this time?

Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.): I think people will read it now. And I didn’t get elected to get re-elected. I got elected because I believe in a vision for America that I want my children to live in. This is an opportunity for me to hopefully have a rather significant influence on the public policy debate in this country, and particularly within the conservative sphere of that, and provide some depth and thought as to not only what policies we should be advocating, but also the context in which we’re advocating those policies. I think that sometimes has not been effectively done. I think this is a worldview book. For people who have read this book, the most-often quoted remark is that it’s just common sense. In the book, I say conservatism is common sense and liberalism is an ideology.

In the book, you talk about the “bigs” and the “littles.” Who are the “bigs” and who are the “littles,” and which side should conservatives be on?

Santorum: The “bigs” are big government, big business, big labor, big media and big academia. The “littles” are the family, the churches, the community groups, the civic organizations and the local community. I believe that the “littles” are the place we should be starting and building. That’s how you have a strong America, by building that foundation.  Family is a huge part of it, but it’s family and community.  And the community is important, because it teaches you to be selfless not only within your family but outside of your family, and to be connected to the world around you. Churches, civic organizations, philanthropic organizations—all of which are important, and all of which, I make the case, are under attack by the left, which is trying to dismantle and deconstruct the family, and marriage as the glue to the family, trying to marginalize faith and destroying any ability for non-profit organizations, whether it’s the community hospital or organizations that help the poor. Big cities want them to pay taxes or they want them to deliver services in a certain way.

The left is after everything that I believe is good about America, and they are for the experts, the “bigs,” who want to dictate how to live our lives. They want to radically individualize America. If you destroy the family and destroy the community organization, you create radical individualism. Then you are much more likely to control that individual.

You talk about “village elders” in the book, people who run these “bigs,” and you dissect the various ways they harm or attack the institution of the family. Do you believe the federal government should have a role in promoting families?

Santorum: The federal government creates an environment for things to happen. When the federal government pays moms money when they have children out of wedlock, we promote certain things. We can’t say the federal government is a neutral organization. One of the mistakes conservatives made is that we didn’t fight the battles against the substance. We fought it on the money. My predecessors in conservatism were simply cheap liberals on social policy. We didn’t fight and say, “We have a better way of doing this.”

The country wants something to be done. They want the government to do something. The question is: Do we just fight them, and simply make them spend less? Or do we come up with better ideas such as the 1996 welfare bill, and try to restructure and create a government that is friendly toward the “littles” instead of the “bigs”?

Shifting to your Senate race next year, is Bob Casey going to be a tough opponent?

Santorum: He will be a tough opponent. He’s got the best political name in the state.

Does he take the same kind of views as you on social issues?

Santorum: He’s pro-life and he’s against gun control, and after that, you can’t tell him apart from John Kerry. In fact, he might be to the left of John Kerry, and I mean that in all sincerity. He is a trial lawyer. His brother is a big labor union guy. He is big government. There’s no tax increase he wouldn’t like.

Do you have information to document all this?

Santorum: He doesn’t say much, and he won’t say much. He’s going to try to run the stealth campaign. He’s going to try to make this campaign simply about me, and we’re going to have our work cut out for us to expose him and get him out of the fox hole.

In terms of your support for Sen. Arlen Specter last year in his primary race against Pat Toomey, is that going to hurt you?

Santorum: I think certainly it’s hurt me with some people, and I still hear it.

What is Specter doing to help you?

Santorum: Pretty much anything I ask. He’s been unabashed about traveling around and saying that I would not be here but for [Santorum] —to groups that need to hear that.

Do you think that this book and your going around and talking about your values on television is helping you?

Santorum: One of the things I calculated a long time ago is that I don’t worry about the political consequences of what I do. I wrote what I believe in.

You’re obviously a very high-profile social conservative, and you’re running against a Democrat who wants to present himself that way also. Doesn’t that defy the orthodox political analysis that the Northeast is a place that’s good for social liberals?

Santorum: I don’t think that’s true for Pennsylvania. It is, perhaps, the oddest state with respect to abortion in the country because of its heavy Catholic influence. The majority of Catholics in two regions of the state—the Northeastern and Southwestern Pennsylvania—are still traditional Catholics.

Are you ruling out a run for the presidency in 2008?

Santorum: I have said from day one that I am not doing anything to prepare for a run in 2008. I have no intention of running in 2008.

But you’re not making an absolute pledge?

Santorum: I don’t do that. Is there one circumstance out of 100 where I could potentially be a candidate? Sure. But I just don’t know. It’s three years from now. But let me assure you, I’m not off to New Hampshire in November 2006, win or lose.

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