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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Presidential candidate Rick Santorum talks with Telegraph reporters and editors during his editorial board interview at the television studio at Nashua High School South Monday, November 28, 2011.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Presidential candidate Rick Santorum chats with Telegraph reporters, editors and students after his editorial board interview at the television studio at Nashua High School South Monday, November 28, 2011.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Santorum claims conservative mantle

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is neither the establishment choice or best-financed contender but presents himself as the one with the most consistent record as a fiscal and social conservative.

Whether it’s tax cuts; fights against illegal immigration, legal abortions and same-sex marriage; and advocacy for a federal balanced budget, Santorum, 53, said he fought more than anyone else in the trenches for those causes.

“People ask me why I always talk about my record. Why don’t I only talk about what I’m going to do which is what my opponents do?” Santorum asked. “My answer is, if I had their records, I wouldn’t talk about them either. I’m sure proud of mine and would point voters to it.”

The former Pennsylvania senator and congressman believes a trusted, bedrock conservative is whom GOP primary voters want most to defeat President Barack Obama and help score other partisan pickups on Capitol Hill in 2012.

“What I think I bring to the table is experience, accomplishments, vision, courage and the character to get this job done in Washington, D.C.,” Santorum said in an interview with The Telegraph editorial board at Nashua High School South on Monday.

Santorum is willing to admit mistakes he made such as in the Senate voting at the urging of then-President George W. Bush for the national No Child Left Behind law.

“At the time, there was a siren’s call to have some – short of national testing – to have a better evaluation of our students across the country. I was lured by that,” Santorum said. “I made a bad deal in signing up on that.”

If elected, he said he’d lead a move to reduce the federal role on education that he said led to “factory schools” that don’t celebrate the individual needs of students.

“We need an education system focused on providing the customer of the education system what they need and that customer is the parent that is paying the bill,” Santorum said.

Santorum once led the effort in the Senate to require the teaching in science class of intelligent design that would include examining creationism.

On Monday, Santorum said teachers should be allowed to “teach the controversy” between the theory of evolution and any gaps in the study that would allow for dialogue on a divine beginning.

“What I was advocating was teaching the intellectual debate in a classroom that most children would love to have,” Santorum said. “Where do we come from? How did we get here?”

Santorum blames Obama for failing to bring about a deficit reduction deal from the supercommittee while conceding politically the White House will end up with a victory that’s bad for the American people.

“He is the big winner here in getting what he actually wanted; no cuts until after the election and no debt ceiling vote again until after the election,” Santorum said. “He has accomplished what he wanted by being an absentee leader.”

Santorum claims the default budgets cuts in the Pentagon that result from this impasse will threaten national security, and he would oppose cutting spending on veterans healthcare and other benefits.

On the economy, Santorum first proposed cutting the federal corporate tax on manufacturing to zero and allowing all manufacturing investment to return tax-free if the money is plowed back into domestic job creation, plant and equipment.

Santorum has proposed a twin federal tax rate of 10 percent for the lower and middle class and 28 percent for the wealthy with federal deductions only retained for charity, child care, home mortgage interest, pensions and health care.

Resulting job growth would overwhelm the static conclusion that such a sweeping plan in the short term could increase the federal deficit, Santorum argued.

“If you had a flat analysis of it, it would certainly cost some money, but job growth would overcome that,” Santorum said. “Frankly, compared to the other plans that are out there, this is by far the most fiscally responsible one.”

Santorum said more power plant production and drilling for oil domestically and off-shore would lower costs and said he saw it in his home state, where a major shale find helped cut natural gas prices.

He would eliminate all federal subsidies for oil, gas, solar and wind.

“We should have a free market of energy,” Santorum said.

Santorum would repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act with a national healthcare mandate and would press for insurance only on coverage for catastrophic illness and a tax-free savings account for other medical expenses.

“You have insulated the consumer from the price,” Santorum said. “What the government has done is pervert the marketplace, and businesses have perverted the marketplace.”

He supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but not the U.S. role in replacing Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

“I can honestly say as president I will do a lot better understanding the situation before we make any commitments,” Santorum said.

But he’s bellicose on Iran’s nuclear threat and supports putting on the table a military strike in tandem with Israel to disable a weapons program there.

“If I’m president, there will be no nuclear Iran, and we will take whatever steps necessary to keep that from happening,” Santorum said. “It is a terrorist organization that is running the country of Iran, and it is worse in many respects than having al-Qaeda.”

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.