Santorum swings at Newt

Rick Santorum just took a swipe at Newt Gingrich.  Santorum, during his speech at this evening’s premiere of The Gift of Life, said:

“I have some problems with some of the folks, you know, running for office these days when they say, ‘I believe life begins at conception,'” Santorum said.

Santorum was referencing the written statement Gingrich made to The Family Leader’s board of directors (in lieu of signing the group’s “Marriage Vow”), a statement in which Gingrich wrote:  “I believe that life begins at conception.”

Santorum told the crowd: “It’s like (saying), ‘I believe the sun rises.'”

The crowd started laughing.

“Why would you say you believe something that’s a fact? Santorum asked.

There was slow, rolling applause that grew, with cheers and whistles.

“It’s a scientific fact. It’s an undeniable scientific fact. Why do we hedge it?,” Santorum asked. “…Wny don’t we confront them with the truth?”

Grandy: “the only guy who can swing for the fences is Newt”

Former Iowa Congressman Fred Grandy (yes, he used to be Gopher on The Love Boat) has endorsed Newt Gingrich.  Grandy called the Radio Iowa newsroom this evening and we had a conversation.

Grandy: “I had been leaning towards Newt for some time because in my present line of work, which is kind of working on counter-intelligence issues at a place called The Center for Security Policy and concentrating on jihadist movements in the Middle East and elsewhere, Newt is clearly the only guy who fully understands how dangerous this world is right now and has, I believe, a strategic plan to do something about it, which is to essentially reverse course from the, I think, kind of pathetic accommodations that have been made by the Obama Administration but even, I have to say, by the Bush Administration prior and will reassert American dominance in that area. I really feel as though this is a time when we need somebody who understands strategically how national security is supposed to work.

“…And then two, I got more than a little upset at the number of Republicans — sitting and former members (of congress) — who felt compelled to get up and talk about how Newt was not a leader. Most of these guys followed Newt loyally in the late ’90s…He was not necessarily the easiest guy to get along with, but that’s because he was very committed to things he believed in.   

“…You’ve been covering politicians for quite some time. Have you ever met one that wasn’t to some degree self-centered, that wasn’t looking over your shoulder to see who was coming into the room?  I mean, come on, that’s endemic to the genre.

“As far as I’m concerned, all you have to do to question Newt Gingrich’s leadership is look at the four years he was speaker of the house and look at how the country changed: welfare reform, balanced budgets, telecom policy that essentially ushered in the cellular revolution and a few trade agreements that, unless I’m very much mistaken helped a lot of Iowa farmers.

“I would rather have a difficult personality as a capable leader than an accommodating, ‘hail fellow well met’ guy who didn’t know what he was doing — and Newt’s one of those guys that really knows what he’s doing.”

As for those former and current members of congress who’ve been criticizing Gingrich publicly, Grandy suggested it was because Gingrich had the “temerity” to ask — back when Republicans were in the minority in the house — this basic question:  Why?  According to Grandy, Republicans had settled into a sort of “servitude” to the Democratic majority in the house.

“I was a committed ‘squishy moderate’ and working around guys like Gingrich really reawakened a strong conservative element in myself that pretty much dictates my politics now,” Grandy told me. “…What (Gingrich) accomplished is without parallel and to me what America needs now is results, not necessarily fire side chats…Right now you need someone who can reign far and wide over domestic and national security issues and the only guy who can swing for the fences is Newt.”

“It’s like having the snot beat out of you”

Michele Bachmann was just the guest on a Conversations with the Candidates series Des Moines Register columnist Kathie Obradovich is hosting (it will air on Iowa Public Television).  Obradovich asked Bachmann what had been the most difficult thing about the campaign.

Bachmann’s answer: “It’s the fact that we work nearly every day about 18 hours a day and that’s a relentless pace to keep up, but I defend the process…Someone said it’s like having the snot beat out of you every day and honestly, I defend that. It’s good because we are vying to be the next leader of the free world. Being president of the United States is a tough job. I’m up for it.”

Group of pastors calls Bachmann a “Biblically-qualified” leader (audio)

“We come here this morning to ask Christians across Iowa to support Michele Bachmann…We have determined that Michele Bachmann is Biblically-qualified to be the president, to be a leader. She is capable. She is trustworthy. She fears God and she hates dishonest gain.” — Danny Carroll, 12.13.11

Former State Rep. Danny Carroll of Grinnell

A group of pastors, plus former State Representative Danny Carroll of Grinnell, publicly endorsed GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann this morning.

Carroll, the former Speaker Pro Tem, was the #3 Republican in the Iowa House.  He also was a leading voice in the 2010 campaign to vote three Iowa Supreme Court justices off the court.  Carroll used to be on The Family Leader’s board of directors, but he left that post about a year ago.  He’s been a private contractor, serving as the group’s lobbyist at the statehouse.  AUDIO of the news conference runs 20 minutes.

“It’s time to decide,” Carroll said to open the press conference, praising Bachmann’s “no-compromise” attitude. Carroll and the group of pastors will travel the state for three days to hold news conferences to explain their endorsement.

“Frankly, we’re looking to shake things up a little bit,” he said.

Gingrich vows no cheating, calls for more abortion restrictions

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has written his own statement rather than sign onto the lengthy “Marriage Vow” released this summer by The Family Leader and billed as a prerequisite for getting the group’s endorsement.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story, with comments from Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of The Family Leader.  Below is the news release from The Family Leader.

Pleasant Hill, IOWA. – Former Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has provided The FAMiLY LEADER his written response to The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family.  To date, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Governor Rick Perry, and former Senator Rick Santorum have all signed the marriage pledge.  The 14-point pledge can be found at:  http://www.thefamilyleader.com/the-marriage-vow.

Speaker Newt Gingrich’s response: 

To Bob Vander Plaats and the Executive Board of The FAMiLY LEADER:

I appreciate the opportunity to affirm my strong support of the mission of the FAMiLY LEADER by solemnly vowing to defend and strengthen the family through the following actions I would take as President of the United States.

Defending Marriage.  As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military.  I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts.  I will support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification.  I will also oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman.  I will support all efforts to reform promptly any uneconomic or anti-marriage aspects of welfare and tax policy.  I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others. 

Defending the Unborn.  I believe that life begins at conception.  On day one of my administration, I will sign an executive order reinstating Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions overseas.  I will also work with Congress to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood so that no taxpayer dollars are being used to fund abortions but rather transfer the money so it is used to promote adoption and other pro-family policies, and enact legislation that provides greater protections for the unborn. 

Defending Religious Liberty.  As President, I will vigorously defend the First Amendment’s rights of religious liberty and freedom of speech against anyone who would try to stifle the free expression of believers.  I will also promote legislation that protects the right to conscience for healthcare workers so they are not compelled to perform abortions and other procedures that violate their religious teachings.

Defending Against Debt.  As President, I will undertake vigorous policies to maximize capital investment and job creation, along with common sense entitlement reforms, to dramatically turn around the nation’s fiscal situation.  Building upon the same principles I championed during my four years as Speaker, when we reduced the national debt by over $400 billion and dramatically reduced the national debt as a percentage of the GDP, we will reduce the enormous burden upon American families of the public debt and unfunded liabilities.

Defending the Right of the People to Rule Themselves.  Today, as federal courts have intervened in sectors of American life never before imaginable, including the intervention in the definition of marriage as well as when unborn life can be protected under the Constitution, the public has increasingly come to view them as an usurpative device for unelected rulers.  This abuse of power and loss of public confidence amounts to a constitutional crisis.  I believe the executive and legislative branches each have an independent responsibility to interpret the Constitution, and in those rare circumstances when they believe the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have engaged in a serious constitutional error, they can choose among an array of constitutional powers to check and balance the courts.  As President, I will nominate for federal judgeships, including justices of the Supreme Court, only those individuals who are committed to an originalist understanding of the Constitution.  Judges with an originalist understanding will subordinate themselves to the meaning of the Constitution as it was intended by the framers, and not substitute their own judgments about its meaning.  The inherent judicial self-restraint that comes from an originalist approach to the Constitution offers the best long-term assurance that federal judges will not exceed their powers and trample on individual liberties.  I will also work with Congress to use the Constitutional means available to reassert the right of the elected branches of government to defend their understanding of the meaning of the Constitution, including limiting the jurisdiction of the federal courts to decide on certain issues, when they believe the federal courts have engaged in a serious constitutional error. 

Sincerely,

Newt Gingrich  

In regard to Speaker Gingrich’s response, Bob Vander Plaats, President & CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER said, “We are pleased that Speaker Gingrich has affirmed our pledge and are thankful we have on record his statements regarding DOMA, support of a federal marriage amendment, defending the unborn, pledging fidelity to his spouse, defending religious liberty and freedom, supporting sound pro-family economic issues, and defending the right of the people to rule themselves.”   

Santorum contrasts his record with Newt’s on Freddie Mac (audio)

As GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was finishing up an appearance today in Des Moines, his staff passed around a letter Santorum had signed in March, 2006 when he was a US Senator — a letter about the “enormous risk” Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac posed to the American taxpayer.

“I wasn’t someone who was saying, at the time, that we need to abolish them, but I saw the problems that were inherent in the system and now it’s clear to me, given what happened, we need to move away from that model,” Santorum told reporters this afternoon.  “It was amazing how many people would come in and lobby, from a variety of different places, on Fannie and Freddie…They had more lobbyists than you could shake a stick at. They had Democrats and Republicans, everybody trying to surround the congress and get them from to stop from acting.”

Did you consider Gingrich a lobbyist?

“I was busy…If you had asked me then whether I knew Newt was working for them or not…I don’t remember,” Santorum said.

Santorum is not joining colleagues Mitt Romney and Ron Paul who have called on Gingrich to return the $1.6 million he earned from Freddie Mac.

“Newt was a private businessman who went out and engaged in a contract and I’m sure he earned that money and if he earned the money, I don’t see any reason he should give it back,” Santorum said. “That’s just gotcha politics. I’m not going to play that game.”

A reporter asked if the contract with Freddie Mac was troubling, and Santorum said he would has turned down a contract from Freddie rather than get a “paycheck to say things that may not necessarily be where you are and where your past history has been” as Gingrich did.

“Look, the very fact that he went out and lobbied for an organization that, in my opinion, was not consistent with the conservative values that we have…I mean, I just wouldn’t do that,” Santorum said.  “…getting a paycheck for to say things that may not necessarily be where you are and where your past history has been.”

Santorum described Gingrich as a lobbyist and Gingrich has denied he was a lobbyist, so I asked Santorum if he considered Gingrich a Freddie Mac lobbyist. “I’m not going to contest whether he actually lobbied or not and if I said that, I apologize. I mean, I probably was not being as careful with my words as I should have been,” Santorum said. “He certainly worked for Freddie and he spoke on their behalf…He was someone promoting their values and promoting their cause.”

Listen to the AUDIO of the whole exchange.  At the end of the Q&A, Santorum was asked about Romney’s $10,000 bet.  “I was a little taken aback by it,” Santorum said.  “…That would not be a number that I would throw out.”

Santorum: Iowa owes the country an antidote to Obama

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is today’s guest at The Principal Financial group. About 175 people are in the auditorium.  Ron Paul last week, in the same room, had over 400 and Santorum began by stressing his foreign policy views on Iran, a sharp contrast with Paul.

His opening salvo, though, was to Iowans, urging them to make up their own minds about the candidates rather than listen to the media meme. “Were it not for Iowa, Barack Obama would not be president,” Santorum said. “…Now is your opportunity to provide the antidote.”

After that brief opening, Santorum talked about the “serious problems” the U.S. faces in the MidEast, specifically in the “radical theocracy” of Iran. Iran is a country, he said, that “has been at war with us for 32  years. That’s right — since 1979.”

According to Santorum, Iran has helped to kill more troops in the middle east than any other country because of the Iranian-made IEDs which are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Santorum said both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations have “done very little to push back” against Iran.  He raised the spectre of a nuclear Iran (a topic Santorum and Paul quarreled about famously during a FOX News debate in Ames this past August).

Santorum said the “world as we know it” would be forever changes if Iran goes nuclear.  “We have to have a president who will make sure that doesn’t happen,” Santorum said, adding he had been speaking out for a decade, warning of Iran’s nuclear intentions. “…We can lo longer afford someone who is learning on the job.”

Santorum, unlike Paul and Newt Gingrich who appeared in this venue recently, did not choose to stand on stage behind the lectern in business suit and tie.  Instead, he roamed around at the front of the auditorium, not on stage, but in the small space in front of the first row of seats.  He also was more casual, matching the attire of the Principal employees in the room, wearing a sweater vest over his button-down-shirt, teamed with khakis.  He did not wear a tie ither.  I can see only three ties in a quick look ’round the room.

Santorum offered this analysis of the nation’s economic problems: “Why is this economy suffereing? Because it’s being ruled more for the top-down….Government is controlling and dictating to you how you’re going to operate…That’s the issue in this election. It’s affecting the economy. It’s affecting the morale of this country…We have a fundamental decision: do you believe in bottom up or do you believe in top down?…Our country…is teetering on the brink.”

Being away from his family is “killing me” Santorum told the crowd, gesturing a photo of his family that’s behind him on stage.  He concluded at 12:30 p.m. and opened it up for questions.

The first questioner made a joke about Santorum’s accomplishment of visiting all 99 counties, which prompted Santorum to reminisce about the tour.  He asked for a show of hands in the room, asking who could name the smallest county in Iowa. (Pick me! Pick me!  It’s Adams County.)

Santorum told the crowd it is, indeed Adams County. He described a visit to Kay’s Kafe in Corning, the county seat.  Getting to Kay’s requires a trip through the bar.  As Santorum was speaking with the five people who met him at Kay’s to talk, reporter Joe Klein walked in.

Santorum said he had used the  “of all the gin joints” line with Klein, but then Santorum told the crowd: “That’s just Iowa…It’s where things are happening. It’s where America is making its decisions…and that’s a pretty cool thing to be involved in.”

The questioner then asked his question of Santorum, a question about how to get things done in a politically-divided D.C.  Snatorum said he would be “someone who has the courage to go out and remind us who we are,” like Reagan.  “If we could all come togeter of who we are…it’s a lot easier to build consensus,” Santorum said. “…If there is anything this president has done is he’s divided us.”

The “class struggle” strategy came from Marxists, according to Santorum, who made an off-hand remark about the 99 percent argument from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The second question came from a man who asked whether, given the status of the “income statement” of the United States, solving the problem might require raising taxes.  “It’s going to be harder to extract much more out of America,” Santorum said, detailing his tax cut proposals for the crowd. He argued that package of tax reductions would spur economic growth and result in more federal tax revenues.

Santorum joked he doesn’t speak, as other candidates do, in four-second sound bites. “I talk in four minute sound bites,” he said. “It’s why I don’t do very well at these debates.”

Top moments in tonight’s debate

I tweeted the debate, but here is a quick review of tonight’s top moments — from “Newt Romney” to the ghosts of Teddy Kennedy and Herman Cain:

  • Romney said: “The real difference, I believe, is our backgrounds. I spent my life in the private sector.” Gingrich responded: “Let’s be candid, the only reason you didn’t become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.”
  • Bachmann was the only one to channel Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 with her “win-win-win” (she said 9-9-9 three times) — plus she coined the “Newt Romney” name tonight, a way to reference her two rivals’ support for the health insurance mandate.
  • Gingrich said he’s known Bibi Netanyahu a long time; Romney replied that he worked in business with Netanyahu.
  • The candidates were asked about the issue of “marital fidelity” and Perry was the only one to really swing hard at Gingrich. 
  • Fred Thompson starred in a commercial for reverse mortgages that played twice, near the beginning and end of the debate.
  • The $10,000 bet Romney offered Perry? Perry said he’s not a gamblin’ man (there was a Mesquakie Casino commercial during a debate break).  
  • Here’s my Radio Iowa story.  Headline: Betting, cheating and nicknames come up during GOP debate

Rewind: ABC’s August 5, 2007 GOP debate

Here’s the video from ABC’s debate at Drake University one Sunday morning in August of 2007 featuring the Republican candidates of yesteryear.  Here’s the story from Adam Nagourney & Michael Cooper of The New York Times. The quick take-away from that debate: Romney dominated. aggressively inserting himself in nearly every topic raised.   Here’s the Radio Iowa story from yours truly, with this bit at the beginning about Mr. R:

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ridiculed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s recent statements about foreign policy. “I had to laugh at what I saw Barack Obama do. I mean in one week, he went from saying he’s going to sit down — you know — for tea with our enemies, but then he’s going to bomb our allies,” Romney said.

The crowd and some of the other candidates began to laugh. “He’s gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week,” Romney added. Near the beginning of the 90-minute-long debate, Texas Congressman Ron Paul drew cheers — and a few boos — from the invited crowd when he repeated his call for getting out of Iraq.

“We ought to just come home. The number one reason: it’s in our national self-interest…think of our defenses now and how run down they are,” Paul said.

Romney also sternly rebuffed a parry from Sam Brownback. (Yes, Virginia, Sam Brownback ran for president, but dropped out soon after this August, 2007 debate because of his disappointing third-place finish in the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll.) 

The stage and venue at Drake University for that 2007 event are the same one being used for tonight’s debate-fest, however the temperature tonight is a few dozen degrees cooler.

Gingrich’s daughter here to debunk “urban myth” of her parent’s divorce (audio)

As I’ve interviewed several self-proclaimed Gingrich voters over the past few months, many of them cite Jackie Cushman’s “Setting the Record Straight” editorial piece.  Jackie Gingrich Cushman is Newt Gingrich’s daughter, from his first marriage.

“His own daughter refutes the negativity in the media with her account of her parent’s divorce,” Jeremy Freeman, an Iowa State University student, told me in late November.

Competing candidates and their campaigns have been tossing a good bit of negativity at Gingrich since he’s risen to the top of the polls, some of it about spacey ideas (colonizing the moon) Gingrich has proposed, or his past support of a health insurance mandate. But the former speaker’s marital history is part of the campaign conversation, even among his own supporters. The Gingrich campaign called me yesterday and asked if I would like half an hour with Jackie Cushman to talk about what Cushman herself calls the “urban myth” about her parent’s divorce in 1980.

The rap on the twice-divorce Gingrich was that he served his first wife with divorce papers while she was on her death bed, dealing with cancer.  Cushman,was 13 when her parents told her and her sister they were divorcing.  She wrote in “Setting the Record Straight” it was her mother who requested the divorce and that her mother did not have cancer — a tumor was found to be benign.

Our conversation this afternoon, in the Starbucks at the hotel where Cushman and her family are staying, started with this question:  “Why did you write that piece?”

Cushman responded (here’s the AUDIO of her answer): “Obviously, we’ve been quiet for a very long time and that’s really out of respect for my mother. She’s obviously still very important in our lives. She helps watch the children which is fabulous. I mean, she’s the best babysitter ever and she’s been really supportive of my sister and I and has said, ‘Look, y’all, you go out and help your dad and I’m glad to be here and help. I’ll watch the children. I’ll do whatever you need.’ But she is not a public person and she’s not wanted to be a public person and has very clear about not talking to reporters and has just kind of kept quiet because it really, from our perspective, it was about our family and it really shouldn’t be public, from a public perspective.

“But I’ll tell you one of the things that changed my mind, that made me really think about it and, in the end, write this straightening out the record, how to set the record straight. I flew to Alaska in February to give a speech to a Republican group there and one of the ladies that picked me up, a lovely lady, I said, you know, ‘Great to be here. Let me just call and check on my mom because she has the kids. I’m going to see how they’re doing.’ And so I called and, of course, they’re fine. They’re with my mom.

“But when I got off the phone, she goes, ‘That was your mother?’ 

“And I said, ‘Yeah.’  

“She goes, ‘She’s still alive?’

“I said, ‘Absolutely she’s still alive because she’s watching my children,’ but that’s when I realized here I was in Alaska, I mean, far away, right? Still in the United States, but very far away and clearly this urban myth that was very, is very untrue had spread so far that people not only believed it, but actually believed that my mother — I guess, if she was on her death bed, she would have been dead, so I understand how they might make that connection — but it wasn’t true, isn’t true and I really felt that, you know, we needed to set the record straight.”

My follow-up question was about how voters, not just candidates, are bringing up the subject of her father’s marital history. “How do you feel your father has been answering that question in the public?” I asked.

“I think he’s been very honest. He’s been very open,” Cushman said. “He very publicly said, ‘Look, I’ve made mistakes in the past. I’ve sinned. I’ve asked God for forgiveness. I’ve asked God for grace.’ And I don’t know what else more people want.

“You don’t fix what happened and you don’t change the past. It is what it is and I think when people see that both Kathy, my sister, and I are involved in the campaign. We’ve always been a close family…I think voters appreciate that and I think, too, he has changed very much from when he was speaker. He’s not the same man. He’s not the same man, I mean nor an I the same woman that I was 12 years ago.”

I asked: “How so?”

“When he was speaker, he was vilified by the press for four years,” Cushman said. “I mean, we’re near Christmas, so I can see that at one point he was shown as the Grinch that Stole Christmas, right? I don’t know if you remember that cover of, I think it was Newsweek, but I can promise you, as my father, he never actually stole my Christmas.

“…He wasn’t that person then, but even since then he’s changed a lot…He has grandchildren. I think that does…change your perspective and I think it makes you think about things a little differently.  The other thing is he’s been a small businessman…and that’s been really good for him.

“…I have watched his faith deepen in the last decade. You know, he’s grown much stronger in his faith. I think you can see that when he talks about, ‘I have sinned and asked for God’s grace.’  I mean, he means that very seriously. He’s always believed in God and had that as part of his foundation, but I’ve seen it strengthen enormously in the last decade.”

Here’s the AUDIO of Cushman’s answers to those two questions.

According to Cushman, her dad “hadn’t bothered” to debunk the “urban myth” about the ‘death bed divorce’ because “he didn’t want (his first wife) to get in the middle of it.” It being the glare of media attention.

As for Cushman’s mother, Cushman put it this way: “She’s a very happy 75-year-old grandmother.”