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On 'Tonight Show,' Santorum holds firm on conservative stances

May 09, 2012|By Robin Abcarian
  • Rick Santorum presents Jay Leno with a sweater vest Tuesday on "The Tonight Show."
Rick Santorum presents Jay Leno with a sweater vest Tuesday on "The… (NBC )

Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who dropped out of the race after presenting an energetic challenge to Mitt Romney from the party's right flank, jousted over gay marriage and contemporary culture with Jay Leno on Tuesday, the day after he endorsed his former rival (see videos below).

Before they ever so gently crossed political swords, though, Santorum presented Leno with a gift, the sartorial symbol of his unexpectedly long-lived campaign: an American-made sweater vest from Bemidji Woolen Mills, a Minnesota company. (He was wearing one himself, naturally, with his name embroidered on the breast.)

"That's your uniform," said Leno. "I will wear that."

Santorum seemed relaxed and confident, even when Leno tweaked him on the issues on which they disagreed deeply, and prodded him about past criticism of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Romney.

"At one point, you said he was the worst Republican we could ever put against him [President Obama]," said Leno. "Do you regret saying that?"

"No," Santorum replied without hesitation. "I think unfortunately with Romneycare that he was the author of that, and that was clearly a predecessor to Obamacare… Certainly, I would have been a better person to make that case."

But, Santorum added, if Romney becomes president, he has vowed to work with Congress to repeal the president's signature legislation, "and I hope he does."

As for gay marriage, Leno said, "I'm not going to change your mind on that even though I think you are wrong."

"Well, I mean, I think  Barack Obama and Mitt Romney – I think most of the people in the political life oppose gay marriage," said Santorum, who is Catholic and does not believe in contraception. "At least they say they do."

"They just say they do," said Leno. "I think you really do."

"OK," replied Santorum. "That's legit."

"If a gay couple wants to adopt a child, are you OK with that?" Leno asked.

"I'm not," answered Santorum, who not only never ducks questions that show him in the most socially conservative light, but seems to bask in them.

"Why?" Leno asked.

"Children need moms and dads," Santorum said. "Look, Karen and I are blessed. We have seven children. And I can tell you that what I bring to the equation as a father is different from what Karen brings to the equation as a mother..."

"Yeah," said Leno, ignoring Santorum's attempted pivot and setting a mild-mannered trap, "but is an orphanage better?"

"No," Santorum conceded.

Santorum's visit with Leno ended on a note about American culture, with Leno joking that Santorum not only "lost the women vote," but "you want to get rid of porn, and you just lost the male vote."

"I know. I know," Santorum said. "That's everybody."

Leno professed to wonder why the Republican party, always known for "strong defense, strong fiscal policy," has gotten sidetracked by social issues.

"Why pornography?" asked Leno. "These all seem like minor things that are really diversions."

"I've always felt this way," said Santorum. "It's the culture. It's not the economy. Look at every great civilization. They don't fail because a foreign power overtakes them.... They were failing as a culture.... If we change who we are, then we lose what makes us special."

Their next exchange limned, in a nutshell, the different world views of American liberals and conservatives: "I think in some ways the culture is getting better," Leno said. "When I was a kid, bullying was common. They'd beat up the gay kid, beat up the kid who couldn't throw the football. And now ... the people at the bottom seem to be coming up a bit. Maybe the people at the top are brought down a peg."

"But when you see the kind of violence that we see," replied Santorum, "over a million and a half children in this country who are aborted, when you see an out-of-wedlock birthrate of 40%, you see poverty rates, you see a lack of mobility of people at the bottom being able to rise, I disagree with you."

"Well," said Leno, ever the genial host, "we can agree to disagree on a lot of things."

"That," said Santorum, "is a deal."

Original source: On 'Tonight Show,' Santorum holds firm on conservative stances

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