WORLD has frequently covered one GOP presidential candidate, Rick Santorum. (See cover profile, April 30, 2005, and interview, Oct. 23, 2010.) In a recent conversation I asked the former Pennsylvania senator to describe what his campaign is trying to convey.
Please complete this sentence: Our mission is ___________. To reclaim America's first principles and apply those to the issues we have in hand. To reclaim those principles because we are very much at risk of losing them.
What's the story on which you want to campaign? To remind Americans who we are. We've forgotten how great this country is, how unique this country is. It's a story that resonates. America is not a country that is an ethnicity. It's not like France, or Italy, or Bulgaria. It's an idea. America to hold together has to emphasize a common set of values and ideas. We haven't had anybody who is willing to go out, paint that picture, and say, "Come join us as Americans. Come reclaim our birthright."
What's the story you'd like to tell about your leadership as compared to that of all the other candidates out there? In Washington, D.C., I was not afraid to go out and lead on issues that were of great consequence and moral consequence to the country. I was able to connect with people on the partial-birth abortion bill and on marriage. I've been willing to lead on issues and find 60-some votes in the Senate.
When you appear on college campuses, what message are you trying to convey about Islam? I lay out, as controversial as it is, the roots of Islam and the roots of Christianity and how they are antithetical to each other. I explain that the jihadists don't hate America for what we do: They hate us because of who we are, because we are foundationally different than them. They believe it is their obligation to defeat us for our own good. The most common refrain from students is, "I've never heard that before."
Media liberals continue to argue that conservatives are selfish and don't care about the poor. How do you fight that image? Our obligation as free people is to serve God, country, and neighbor. It's not a selfish freedom. It's not about making money so I can have all these material things. It's making money so I have the ability to care for those I love. That's a very important message that is lost, and I think lost among Republicans. We forget what economics really is all about.
How do you assess our process for choosing a president? The beautiful thing about the way our Republican and Democratic national committees have laid out the caucuses and primaries is that they start with a little state like Iowa, a little state like New Hampshire, a slightly bigger state like South Carolina, and another little state, Nevada-two caucuses, two primaries, four different regions of the country, all manageable states to get around and, as a retail politician, get exposed to real people who want to meet you four, five or six times as they measure you. It's not just the positions you hold, but it's the character you have, the way you carry yourself-all of these things that go into who a leader should be.