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Rick Santorum rejects absolute separation of church and state

February 26, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum chats with members of the audience following a speech in Troy, Mich.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum chats with members of… (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

Rick Santorum, battling to wrest a GOP presidential primary victory in Michigan, tried Sunday morning to divert attention from his controversial statement that while a senator he voted against his principles out of party loyalty.

Santorum argued that he has been a lifelong fighter for limited government even as rival Mitt Romney had fought for expanded government power while governor of Massachusetts. Romney had been inconsistent, Santorum added, notably by supporting the Wall Street bailout but not the auto industry bailout.

"Mitt Romney supported his friends on Wall Street and turned his back on Detroit," he said on "This Week" on ABC.

The former Pennsylvania senator also doubled down on comments he made the previous day that believing everyone ought to go to college is snobbish and devalues the hard work done by Americans who don't hold college degrees.

He said President Obama's call for everyone to go to college is driven by a desire to impart liberal ideology on young adults. He recalled his own time as a conservative student at Penn State.

"You are singled out. You are ridiculed. ... I was docked for my conservative views," Santorum said. "This is not a neutral setting."

Santorum also faulted the president for apologizing for the burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. personnel in Afghanistan.

"It shows weakness," he said, adding the president could have expressed understanding that the Islamic holy book was mishandled without apologizing.

Santorum also reiterated his statement that a 1960 speech by John F. Kennedy, meant to ease concerns about the then-Democratic presidential candidate's Catholic faith, made him want to "throw up."

"I don't believe in an America where separation of church and state is absolute," he said.

The interview ended on a light note, with host George Stephanopolous showing a picture of a race car carrying Santorum's name that is competing in Sunday's Daytona 500.

Santorum's advice for the driver: "Hang back there till the right time and bolt to the front when it counts. ... Let all the other folks crash and burn, and sneak up there and win this thing."

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