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2012-01-04

Santorum’s Emergence Signals Divided GOP Base While Paul Gains from Dems’ Disenchantment with Obama

Guests

Ed Fallon, host of The Fallon Forum on WOW-FM in Iowa. He served as a member of the Iowa General Assembly from 1993 to 2006.

Will Bunch, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and author of its popular blog, "Attytood." He is also the author of the book The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama.

Ryan Rhodes, co-founder of the Iowa Tea Party movement.

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Many Iowans from both sides of the political aisle say they voted largely out of protest to the available field of leading candidates in Tuesday’s caucuses rather than having a candidate they strongly support. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum secured second place in the state’s Republican caucus with a last-minute boost from Christian evangelicals opposed to Mitt Romney. "I think [Santorum] succeeded by being a stealth candidate who was under the radar screen, and basically [with] no attacks [from rivals]," says Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, who has long followed Santorum. We also speak with Ed Fallon, a former Democratic member of the Iowa General Assembly who urged fellow Dems to attend Republican caucuses and support the least extreme candidates. Fallon says he backed Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the hope that he will push Obama "to do more of what we thought he would do: push him on Afghanistan, on Iraq, on Iran; on things like the PATRIOT Act and the National Defense Authorization Act; on the corporate domination of our economy, as we’ve seen represented by the Occupy Wall Street movement." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re in the Iowa, talking about the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses, where Mitt Romney eked out an eight-vote victory over the surging Santorum. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, surged in the polls in the last week. Gingrich took fourth. Ron Paul came in a close third at around 21 percent.

We’re joined by Ryan Rhodes of the Tea Party movement in Iowa, Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News. But we’re going to Ed Fallon, host of Fallon Forum on WOW in Iowa, served as a member of the Iowa General Assembly from ’93 to 2006.

And you actually voted last night, Ed, in the Republican caucuses, though you’re a Democrat?

ED FALLON: Well, I’m a very disenchanted Democrat. The Democratic Party has left me and left lots of people. Yeah, I’m pretty much in the ranks of the independents right now. And the Republican caucus had a lot more interest going on, and I thought it would be a good place to drop in. I’ve never, you know, checked that off by bucket list. I’ve never done a Republican caucus. Now I can say I’ve done one.

AMY GOODMAN: So, who did you vote for?

ED FALLON: Well, you know, when it came down—there were candidates that I think are more reasonable than some of the extreme candidates like Rick Santorum. I mean, he’s way out there. Last night he talked about economic stuff, but his social agenda is radical. It’s extreme. It’s not going to resonate well with even mainstream Republicans around the country. But I looked at Paul. I looked at Huntsman, Fred Karger, you know, and in the end it was Paul who had the shot of performing well, so I gave him my vote. You know, and I think it’s interesting, because he—he didn’t do as well as I thought he would, because he—we didn’t see quite the surge of independents that came for Obama four years ago. Yeah, they came to the polls for Paul mostly this time around, but not in the numbers that we saw them coming to Obama four years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s turn to Texas Congress Member Ron Paul, who placed third in the Iowa caucuses. During a speech last night, he sought to fight back against the criticisms his foreign policy views are too radical by evoking Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the military-industrial complex.

REP. RON PAUL: So, the great strides that we have made has been really on the foreign policy. The fact that we can once again talk in Republican circles and make it credible, talking about what Eisenhower said, to beware of the military-industrial complex, talk about the old days when Robert Taft, Mr. Republican, said that we shouldn’t be engaged in these entangling alliance. He believed what the founders taught us. He didn’t even want to be in NATO. We certainly don’t need NATO and the U.N. to tell us when to go to war. But we have—we have seen a great difference. The majority of the American people are behind us on this whole war effort. They’re tired of the war. Costs too much money. Too many people get killed. Too many people get injured. Too many people get sick. And the majority, maybe 70 or 80 percent of the American people, now are saying it’s time to get out of Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: Ron Paul appeared—appealed to many with his antiwar stance. But, Ed Fallon, how do you deal with the newsletter issue, of what, of 20 years ago, that had his name on it, the Ron Paul Survival Report, the Ron Paul Political Report?

ED FALLON: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: He says he just robo-signed them but had comments in it, like 95 percent of Washington’s black males are criminals, describing Reverend King’s birthday as "Hate Whitey Day"?

ED FALLON: Yeah, my support for Ron Paul in yesterday’s primary is merely a primary endorsement. I have no idea what will happen in the general election. Hopefully Obama will regain some of his mojo and return to champion some of the issues that he talked about in Iowa and elsewhere four years ago. But, you know, right now it’s good to push him to do more of what we thought he would do: push him on Afghanistan, on Iraq, on Iran; on things like the PATRIOT Act and the National Defense Authorization Act; on corporate—on the corporate domination of our economy, as we’ve seen represented by the Occupy Wall Street movement. You know, I think Paul has a good chance of pushing Obama in the right direction on those issues. You know, again, he’s way out there on some other things, but at least on those issues, those key issues, he could make a difference in this debate.

AMY GOODMAN: Will Bunch—let’s bring Will Bunch into this conversation, Philadelphia Daily News, who’s been following Rick Santorum for many years. Were you surprised by his surge? Some people say, well, he wasn’t taken down, because not many were paying attention to him to get the kind of scrutiny the others got. But why don’t you talk about Rick Santorum’s record in Pennsylvania, where you live?

WILL BUNCH: Well, yeah, I mean, I think he succeeded by being a stealth candidate, you know, who was under the radar screen, and basically, other than a couple of Rick Perry ads at the end, there was no—there were no attacks on Rick Santorum. And we’ll see how that goes going forward. I mean, the other thing, obviously, that had people perhaps discounting him is the fact that in 2006, when he ran for a third term as an incumbent, he only got 41 percent of the vote. He lost by 17 or 18 percentage points to Bob Casey. And, I mean, usually that’s a death sentence. I think somebody was telling me that Blanche Lincoln is the only other incumbent in recent times to lose a race by that margin. And it wasn’t because of scandal. It’s just because a lot of moderate and middle-of-the-road voters in Pennsylvania got tired with his shtick, you know, tired with his constant harping on gay rights and marriage-related issues and whatnot. Now, obviously, his theory was that those positions that hurt him in Pennsylvania with the general electorate wouldn’t hurt him with Iowa primary voters, and I think he was right to some extent.

AMY GOODMAN: What about Ron Paul, for example, calling him actually too liberal, as well as other Republican candidates, around the issue of spending, Will? Talk about his record in Pennsylvania.

WILL BUNCH: Well, you know, one thing about Santorum is, I mean, he was first elected to the House in 1990, and then he beat Harris Wofford and became a U.S. senator in '94 in the same landslide that elected Newt Gingrich House speaker that year. And he's very much a creature of the '90s. I mean, he played—as his critics have noted, I think correctly, I mean, he played the earmark game better than anybody. You know, he supports—he supports federal programs, when it supports, you know, corporate welfare, the big business interests that back his campaign. I mean, I think there's no better example than the fact that, you know, he voted for the Medicare Part B plan, because that was a plan that was a huge financial benefit to Big Pharma. In fact, when he lost his re-election in 2006, there was a memo from the chief lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry saying, "Boy, Rick Santorum is going to leave a big hole not being here."

So, I think one thing—and I don’t know whether his Republican rivals are going to exploit this, but, you know, I mean, I think there’s a lot of inside wheeling and dealing that he did that is, you know, different from the social stuff—you know, the man-on-dog sex and the things about the Catholic Church and all the other things that you hear about with Santorum. And it will be interesting to see if that’s exploited in the weeks ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: When you say "man-on-dog sex," you mean Rick Santorum comparing homosexuality to bestiality.

WILL BUNCH: Absolutely. And, you know, I think he had a penchant, especially—especially as he got deeper into his career, and he kind of became more of a national Republican and became less focused on local issues—I mean, you remember, there was a lot of unhappiness in Pennsylvania because he had moved his family into a large house in Virginia. That’s not completely unusual, but he was actually getting Pennsylvania taxpayers to home-school his kids down in Virginia from a working-class district outside of Pittsburgh. And so, that ruffled a lot of feathers. But I think, you know, his strategy was to become a national Republican. I think—the funny thing is, I think, late in his Senate career, he was looking towards a presidential run, and the fact that he was rejected in this kind of moderately blue state here in Pennsylvania didn’t deter him. He said, "Well, I’m a national Republican. I can appeal to national primary voters." And he did. It took a—you know, the slow and steady "Tortoise and the Hare" strategy, but—

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to former Senator Rick Santorum, who repeatedly criticized President Obama’s policy on Iran. During an interview on Meet the Press, Santorum backed the use of air strikes against Iran.

RICK SANTORUM: I would say to every foreign scientist that’s going into Iran to help them with their program, "You will be treated as an enemy combatant, like an al-Qaeda member." And then, finally, I would be working openly with the state of Israel. And I would be saying to the Iranians, "You either open up those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors, or we will degrade those facilities through air strikes," and make it very public that we are doing that. The President has done none of those.

DAVID GREGORY: So, you would lay out a red line, and if they passed it, air strikes by President Santorum.

RICK SANTORUM: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under my watch.

DAVID GREGORY: Well, two previous presidents have said that. You would order air strikes if it became clear that they were going to—

RICK SANTORUM: Yes, that’s the plan.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Rick Santorum on Meet the Press. Will Bunch?

WILL BUNCH: Yeah, I mean, that’s another side of Santorum that I think is going to get a lot more focus. I mean, he, I think famously, in his 2006 re-election campaign that he lost, he kind of compared himself to Winston Churchill. And that’s how he sees himself, as this rigid force against what he sees as appeasement in the Middle East. And he’s particularly focused on Iran. You know, one thing that’s fascinating is, you know, like a lot of defeated politicians, he joined a series of think tanks and groups like that when he was defeated. And he actually joined a think tank that was created, that was called America’s Enemies. And I think that was a perfect view into his mindset. I mean, he’s—you know, he’s very focused on proving his toughness and his lack of appeasement. And I think, you know, I mean, he’s clearly the direct opposite of Ron Paul. I mean, I think a lot of his—I think a lot of his differences with Ron Paul are really more on Iran and just their stark differences on foreign policy. But—

AMY GOODMAN: Now, while campaigning in Sioux City over the weekend, Santorum made these controversial comments about cutting entitlement funds to African Americans.

RICK SANTORUM: I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.

AMY GOODMAN: Will Bunch, your response?

WILL BUNCH: Yeah, I mean, this is not the first time that I think the notion of race has tripped Santorum up. You may remember, a year ago, he wondered how an African-American president like Barack Obama could be anti-abortion—I mean, could be pro-abortion, excuse me, that—basically because, I guess, he feels that abortion is like slavery. So, you know, he has a knack for saying these things.

And again, you know, I mean, I think what we’re seeing playing out here is the real dichotomy between the mindset of the people who vote in Republican primaries—I think 64 percent of the people who voted in Iowa last night said they were fans or followers of the Tea Party and, you know, that they believe that certain people, including, some are willing to say, black people, are getting entitlements. And so, I think it plays OK with them. Now, when you switch this to a general election, I mean, not only is he, you know, going to struggle to get any black votes, but I think a lot of white moderate voters, you know, who want a more racially tolerant America, are going to look at that and say, you know, "Is this the kind of background attitude that we want in the guy who’s sitting in the Oval Office?"

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Ed Fallon in Des Moines. You have been protesting the Democrats, though you were a Democratic legislator in Iowa. Can you talk about the Occupy movement in Iowa, what you’re demanding, and what your criticisms are, if you can flesh them out, of President Obama? He gave a video address at the Iowa caucuses last night.

ED FALLON: Well, we’re equal opportunity critics. Certainly, the Republican Party has been a lot more extreme than the Democratic Party, and President Bush’s policies were more extreme than Barack Obama’s, but there is plenty of criticism to go around. What we’ve tried to do is build on the movement nationally. The movement is focused on corporate corruption on Wall Street. We’ve tried to make the connection between that and the political corruption in Washington, D.C., and that pipeline of money that runs between the two—bailouts going one way, campaign contributions going the other way. We’ve tried to make that argument. And I hope that continues, because we’ve got to get to the root problem that it is as much a political challenge as it is an economic one.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of money in politics and the amount of money spent by super PACs in defeating, for example, Gingrich in Iowa. Let me bring Ryan Rhodes back into this conversation. Are you concerned about this level of money in politics? I was surprised to hear Gingrich saying, "We’ve got to question all of this." It’s not something he would have been questioning before, the issue of money in politics, but because he was the target, he said Mitt Romney should "man up" and say he takes responsibility for these ads. Of course, they’re not his, but they’re his staffers who formed a super PAC. And he says it would be illegal to talk to them.

RYAN RHODES: Well, for one thing, this is where the failure of campaign finance reform has comes in, because they’re not—they’re just not—there was a bad legislation, and they’re creating—they’re just creating outside groups that have less regulation in that and can be more anonymous.

But I also like to take umbrage with the whole idea that, whether it was Rick or anybody else making—in the Tea Party having a racial profile [inaudible], we don’t—I don’t care. I don’t care what color, what anything. Our goal is to limit government, government at a federal level. We just do not want people dependent on the government, because we do not believe that that makes you free. And I don’t care what color you are, or across the board. It just simply is a freedom issue, and that’s it. So I just disregard the idea that the race plays into that.

AMY GOODMAN: Hours before Iowa voters took part in the Republican caucuses, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appeared on CBS and publicly accused Mitt Romney of being a liar.

NORAH O’DONNELL: You said of Mitt Romney, "Somebody who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president." I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?

NEWT GINGRICH: Yes.

NORAH O’DONNELL: You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, you seem shocked by it. I said yes. I mean, what else could you say?

NORAH O’DONNELL: Why are you saying he’s a liar?

NEWT GINGRICH: Because this is a man whose staff created the PAC. His millionaire friends fund the PAC. He pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC. It’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Newt Gingrich. Ryan Rhodes, one of the founders of the Iowa Tea Party movement, your response? Ryan? Ryan, what is your response to Gingrich calling Romney a liar? Ah, I think we just lost him.

Well, let me end then with Ed Fallon in Des Moines. The significance of money, as we turn in a minute to Lawrence Lessig, who is talking about the corruption of politics with money, how you feel people should be leaving Iowa now, as they pay attention to the primaries coming up, first to New Hampshire and then to South Carolina, what lessons should be learned?

ED FALLON: Well, I think anybody concerned about the direction of this country and the confluence of corporate corruption and political corruption should be using the primary and caucus season to make that connection. I hope that continues to happen in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

And, you know, I look at the candidates that we have kind of sent forth from Iowa. I mean, Mitt Romney, you know, I think Republicans feel like he’s the guy that they want to put up against Obama. He comes off as so distant and aloof and elite, I think it’s going to be his undoing. You know, Ron Paul made a great connection with people here. On some issues he’s very extreme, but his populism might resonate well at a time when people—again, Tea Party all the way to Occupy folks—are very dissatisfied. Rick Santorum, I really don’t think you have to worry about him. He is so extreme. He won in Iowa, not because of the economic speech he gave last night, but because he pandered to the extreme social conservatives that are very anti-gay, very anti-choice, and very much in favor of some version of theocracy. I don’t think that’s going to resonate well around the country, just like Mike Huckabee winning four years ago in Iowa did not resonate very well even among the Republican base nationally.

AMY GOODMAN: And Ed, in terms of the Occupy movement in Iowa, are you working much with the Tea Party movement? Do you find common cause on any issue?

ED FALLON: To the extent that there are Tea Party members who are, again, social conservatives and focused on those issues, we don’t have a lot in common there. But the Tea Party folks who are concerned about the debt and the deficit and the extent of government and the scope of government, I think that’s a conversation we should be having. I’ve been having some of that myself. I think it needs to be a broader conversation. And maybe we can find some common ground.

AMY GOODMAN: Ed Fallon, I want to thank you for being with us, host of Fallon Forum on WOW-FM in Iowa, was a member of the General Assembly, a state legislator, and was arrested at one of the Occupy Iowa movements. Also want to thank our other guests: Will Bunch, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and author of "Attytood," author of the book Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama; as well, want to say thanks very much to the Tea Party activist, one of the founders of the Tea Party movement, Ryan Rhodes, who was with Michele Bachmann. We’ll see what happens with Michele Bachmann, as we move now to New Hampshire.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we continue on the issue of money in politics with Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig. Stay with us.

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