An indignant George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday demanded that Rick Santorum explain his harsh attacks on Barack Obama. After reading off a quote from the Republican presidential candidate and then listing the President's foreign policy accomplishments, Stephanopoulos defended, "How can you say he sided with our enemies on almost every foreign conflict?"
Santorum responded by insisting that, in the example of killing Osama bin Laden, Obama simply followed a course set by George W. Bush. Stephanopoulos sputtered, "How can you say he sided with our enemies on almost every foreign conflict?"
Repeating what will surely be Obama 2012 talking points, the former Democratic operative added, "But, Senator is that true?...Osama bin Laden was alive when President Obama took office. He's dead now."
When Stephanopoulos interviewed Santorum on June 06, 2011, he made the same complaint: "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?"
On Tuesday, Stephanopoulos also offered typical horse race questions, wondering if Santorum could possibly compete, post-Iowa: "And there are real questions about on whether you have the reach, the kind of organization, the kind of resources to really run a national campaign against Mitt Romney. Last time I checked, he had raised $32 million to your $1 million."
A transcript of the January 3 segment, which aired at 7:08am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And happening right now, let the voting begin. It's down to the wire in Iowa, as the race tightens overnight. Will Mitt Romney seal the deal today or will a surging Rick Santorum score a last-minute victory? The man who could shake up the race is here live only on GMA.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by Rick Santorum, from Johnston, Iowa. Good morning, Senator. Good to have you this morning. And you heard all kinds of predictions in David's piece. Why don't you weigh in right now? Are you going to win tonight?
RICK SANTORUM: We're going to do well tonight. Ten days ago, we were in last place in the polls. And everyone was asking me, why don't I get out? And what's happened is the people of Iowa examined all of the candidates. That's what they do in the last two weeks. They make their decisions and they've looked at all the candidates and they're looking for the candidate they can trust. And that's why we're moving up in the polls.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Senator, you've done it the old-fashioned way. You camped out in Iowa. Visited all 99 counties. I think at last count, you've had something like 377 town hall meetings in Iowa. But the big question going forward, whether you win or come in second, is where do you go next? And there are real questions about on whether you have the reach, the kind of organization, the kind of resources to really run a national campaign against Mitt Romney. Last time I checked, he had raised $32 million to your $1 million.
SANTORUM: Right. No, look, we've done this- I would say, we've done this on shoe strings. But that would be insulting shoe strings. We've really done- We did it the old-fashioned way. But we've also done it in New Hampshire. I mean, I've spent more time in New Hampshire and done more events than anybody than Jon Huntsman. And the same thing in South Carolina. We've done more events in South Carolina than anybody else and we've got great teams on the ground in both those places. We're prepared to go to all three states. We're going to New Hampshire right after this, this caucus tonight. And we're going to campaign hard there. We're going to make a day trip to South Carolina. And then, we're going to forward on in South Carolina. We feel very, very good that we have the organization. And our money is coming in better than it's ever come in. And when we do well tonight, we suspect we'll have the resources to be able, not just to compete in New Hampshire. But to compete all the way through.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're also starting to get the scrutiny that comes with doing better in the race right now. You have got Rick Perry calling you the king of earmarks. Mitt Romney, says you're a typical Washington politician from your time in the Senate. And when you look at it, you have defended earmarks, even that famous bridge to nowhere. How can you do that?
SANTORUM: Well, look at the Constitution, George. You know that. I mean, Congress appropriates money. That's what Congress is supposed to do. That's our constitutional requirement. What happened over the past three or four years, there was a huge explosion of spending, driven in large part by members of Congress being given earmarks to vote for that increased spending. When that happened, when we saw that explosion, I said, along with Jim DeMint, who, by the way, who led this charge, and was, in fact, an ear-marker himself, that there was abuse going on. It was leading to higher spending. And we have to put an end to it. You know, Rick Perry hired people to get money from the state of Texas. When you're a representative of the Congress, Ron Paul voted for earmarks. When you're a representative of Congress and in the Senate, your responsibility is to fight for your state. What happened was abuse that led to higher spending. And then, we put an end to it. And we rightfully did so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You've been the most aggressive candidates on national security. I want to ask you about a comment you made yesterday in Iowa. You were talking about President Obama. And you said in foreign conflicts he's, quote, "sided with our enemies, on almost every single one." And I just wonder how you can defend that statement, given the fact that President Obama ordered the taking out of Osama bin Laden, all of the al Qaeda leadership. Has ramped up our presence in Afghanistan. How can you say he sided with our enemies on almost every foreign conflict?
SANTORUM: George, on every single contingency that has come up under his administration, the two things you mentioned, and are always mentioned by Obama defenders, are things that were in place when he was in office, when he came into office. They were missions that were defined. He's simply gone ahead and continued to execute those missions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator is that true? When Osama bin Laden was alive when President Obama took office. He's dead now.
SANTORUM: Yeah. Well, that's right. But that was a mission that was already decided. policy to kill Osama bin Laden and to kill al Qaeda and to treat them as enemy combatants. The President did not change that policy. But that was not a policy or problem that came up under his watch. The ones that did come up under his watch, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Honduras, you can go down the list. Poland. The U.K., the Czechs. Ask all of them whether- Israel, whether we've been a good ally, one you could stand by. And look at the ones who have been enemies to the United States. And we have appeased and pandered. This is a President that has gotten it wrong whenever time there's been a decision to be made, whether it's in the interest of the United States, when a contingency came up under his watch, he's blown it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you have quite a list there. We're going to have to follow up another time. One final question about Mitt Romney. What's the number one argument against him? He's your top opponent right now.
SANTORUM: The issue in this campaign will be the size and scale of government. And the biggest issue is health care. I endorsed Mitt Romney four years ago and there was one question on the debate about health care. This has been a debate about health care. The behemoth of government. The signature is Obamacare. We cannot put up a presidential candidate who is, basically, in the same place as Barack Obama on government-run health care.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Santorum, thanks for your time this morning.