Stephanopoulos Demands of Santorum: 'Where's the Evidence' That America's Enemies Don't Fear Obama?

Offended by Rick Santorum's assertion that President Obama is not feared by America's enemies, ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos stuck up for the President Monday and pressed Santorum to give evidence to his claim. The former Pennsylvania senator was announcing his bid for the presidency on ABC's Good Morning America, and Stephanopoulos hit him early and often during the interview.

"You've also argued that our enemies don't fear President Obama, but where's the evidence of that?" Stephanopoulos asked. "The al Qaeda leadership has been decimated, Osama bin Laden is dead, no significant attack against the United States has been successful. Where is that evidence?"

[Click here for audio. Video below the break.]

Stephanopoulos, a former campaign advisor to Bill Clinton and Clinton White House communications director, put in a cheap shot at both the beginning and the end of the interview. At the outset, he aired a viewer's harsh question to Santorum in order to mask his own bias.

Stephanopoulos mentioned that Santorum "got trounced" in his 2006 senate race, before selectively picking a tough viewer question: "Please ask. Sen. Santorum why, after being rejected by the people of Pennsylvania 59-41 in his last Senate race, he thinks Americans would want him as their president?"

Then after pressing Santorum on Medicare and on his remarks about Obama, the GMA co-host provided one last jab at the end of the interview when he tried to bait Santorum into criticizing fellow conservative Sarah Palin.

Stephanopoulos asked Santorum with a slight smirk "did Sarah Palin get it right on Paul Revere, or not?" He was referring to her recent account of Paul Revere's ride and the media storm that followed. Santorum punted on the question.

A transcript of the interview, which aired on June 6 at 7:09 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And joining us now is one candidate no longer coy about his intentions. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum here for his big announcement. Good morning, Senator. You are in?

Former Sen. RICK SANTORUM (R-Penn.): Good morning, George. How are ya? Yeah, well you see behind me, we've got the state set up, and we're ready to announce that we're going to be in this race and we're in it to win, and we're very excited about what the future holds. We've got a great, great team in the early primary states, and we've got a lot of momentum, and I'm very, very excited about this opportunity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you're in it to win, and you have won some early straw polls, one over the weekend in New Hampshire, another one in South Carolina. But the latest Gallup poll has you at the back of the pack, and you got trounced in your last senate race, and it leads me to a question that came in from one of our viewers. It's Charles F. of Los Angeles, California. He asks "Please ask Sen. Santorum why, after being rejected by the people of Pennsylvania 59%-41% in his last senate race, he thinks Americans would want him as their president?"

Do you have a credible path for the nomination?

SANTORUM: Oh, I think I do. I mean, look, what people are looking for is someone who has stood by their principles in good times and in bad. And 2006, I think, by everybody's estimation, was a pretty bad time for a Republican, and particularly for a conservative in states like Pennsylvania. And I stood up, and I didn't back away. I didn't back down on trying to reform the Social Security system. President Bush, you know, went out after the 2004 election and said look, we've got to do something because Social Security is unsustainable. In an election year, I went out to the floor of the United States Senate with Jim DeMint and started arguing for reforming Social Security. Not evan Paul Ryan in his budget now, in the face of trillions of dollars of deficits currently, had the temerity to step forward and say we have to do Social Security. So yeah, I did some things that were very unpopular, but if you look back on what I did and when I did it, people can say you know what? He may have lost, but he didn't flinch, he stood by what he believed in, and he continued the fight through the end.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it is admirable to stand by what you believe in, but could it lead to the same result this time around? For example, you just mentioned Congressman Ryan's budget plan. It appears that you want to go even farther than Congressman Ryan. You say you've criticized him for not applying his changes in Medicare, which Democrats say would end Medicare as we know it, for not applying that to those at or near the retirement age. So you'd say to people 55 and older yes, your Medicare will be changed as well?

SANTORUM: Well remember George, almost 25 percent of seniors right now have what the Ryan plan is, it's called Medicare Advantage. And in fact, that number was growing up until Barack Obama slashed the program –

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's an option –

SANTORUM: – well, but the point is, seniors were able to take money and go out and purchase insurance. And by the way, the seniors who were most likely to do it were lower-income and actually less-educated seniors. Why? Because they found it was a better deal. And so I believe that, seniors – by the way, in the drug program, Medicare Part D, is exactly the Ryan plan. In other words, seniors get resources from the federal government, go out and make choices. No seniors believes they're being thrown off a cliff because they have Medicare Part D. Medicare Part D isn't a government-run, one-size-fits-all drug program, and it's working wonderfully. Seniors love it. "We forced it down their throat," quoting the Democrats. No we didn't, We gave them the choices, and seniors can in fact do this. It does save money, and it's going to be a good thing for them, and it's going to be a great thing for our country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've also argued that our enemies don't fear President Obama, but where's the evidence of that? The al Qaeda leadership has been decimated, Osama bin Laden is dead, no significant attack against the United States has been successful. Where is that evidence?

SANTORUM: Well, the evidence is if you look at the countries that we have been appeasing, the Iranians, they are moving full-scale forward with their nuclear program. They know that the president is not going to do anything to stop them, he has been a paper tiger, and they are the existential threat to the state of Israel. And the Israelis know it, and Americans know it, and this president has not stepped forward and has not done anything to stop that threat. That's one, but there are many. Look at what he's doing in Syria, slapping the back of the hand of Assad instead of going after him at least as tough as he went after Mubarak our friend.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, we're out of time. But real quickly, did Sarah Palin get it right on Paul Revere, or not?

SANTORUM: You know what, that's – to be honest with you, just – I've been sort of hunkered down. I have no idea, I haven't really been paying attention to this one, George. I'll pass on that one.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, senator, thanks very much. Congratulations on your announcement and good luck.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014