Former Sen. Rick Santorum
Iowa Freedom Summit
Hoyt-Sherman Place
Des Moines, Iowa
January 24, 2015

Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  It's great to be back in Iowa.  It's great to be back here at this theater where believe it or not the sweater vest was born.  I don't know if you know that or not.  The first time I wore a sweater vest was when Citizens United hosted an event here with Mike Huckabee, and I guess I gave a good speech.  So they really thought it was the sweater vest, not me.  Typical.  The press would never give me credit; they gave it to the vest.  But It's great to be back and see so many friends and meet some new friends. 

I have been asked over and over and over one question since I have been here.  I get it almost every person, same question over and over again.  And I'm going to end the suspense, and I'm going to announce that Bella is doing great.  Karen and I want to thank each and every one of you, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, for all of your prayers through the election when we were dealing with Bella and her health issues and all of them since. 

We felt them, and as you'll find out soon, Karen and I are publishing a book about raising Bella.  It's called "Bella's Gift," because she is.  And we are publishing that; it's coming out in a couple of weeks.  And you will find out how, how your prayers were answered so many times through that time and what it's like raising a child who has a severe disability and the challenges and the blessings it is.  So I just want to let you know that Karen and I wrote the book jointly.  We divided it evenly.  We were going to write it together, and after an hour or so we figured that isn't probably going to work out too well.  I have a very strong--as you know, you know Karen.  She's a very strong and principled woman.  She has very strong opinions on things.  And look, we dealt with this issue differently.  And so we decided to divide the book evenly.  She has 11 chapters.  I have seven, and--.  Right.  So look forward to that.

I am obviously nostalgic here.  Three years ago, after you got to know me and Karen and the kids, you heard me tell a story over at the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston on Caucus Night (+), on a very wild and crazy Caucus Night I might add.  And I shared a story about a young teenage boy; as a young teenage boy I knelt at the side of my grandfather's casket.  He was a coal miner.  I remember being at eye level and seeing just his hands, these strong, thick meaty hands, that dug coal until he was 72 years of age.  And I remember sharing with you that as I sat there and I reflected on it, that those were the hands of an immigrant who came to this country after the first World War and brought his children later.  That dug freedom for me.  And it's a story that each of you, all Americans have, of somebody, your ancestor, who created the opportunity for you to be an American, to be a person who could pursue the American Dream, because you're standing on someone's shoulders. 

You know that wasn't what the campaign was always about.  It became that, by going to, oh a few dozen Pizza Ranches in Iowa and several Meat and Threes.  Now some of you don't know what Meat and Threes are, but if you're in South Carolina, you know what a Meat and Three is.  And having town hall meetings and talking to the decent, hard-working people of this country, the patriots who care deeply and are deeply concerned about this country and its direction right now.  They're concerned about whether that American Dream, and that Dream was what?  To work hard, sacrifice, to leave America and your family better than you found it, right? That is what the American Dream is.  And a lot of people believe in America today that that Dream has slipped away. 

Now I can spend the rest of this speech easily detailing why President Obama and his middle-class economics have failed, failed miserably.  I can be haranguing on Obamacare and his tax increases and his government excess, all of those things.  But what does that get us?  How many people do we convince that they should vote for us by simply criticizing what the president does?  That's their game.  They won elections that way, they won the last election that way in 2012.  It was divide, criticize, blame, not take responsibility for anything.  That's their shtick.  And what a horrible price they paid to win. 

This country, now we look at it, the 1% versus the 99%, black versus white, Anglo versus Hispanic, business versus labor.  Americans feel the division and we're sick of it.  We need to do better.  We need to do better because America deserves better.  They deserve a group, a party, a movement that is for policies that provide opportunity for every one to reach that American Dream and a message that unifies us.

You're going to hear a lot of folks come in here today and you'll be privileged to a lot of people coming through Iowa.  That's the blessing of Iowa.  You will.  But look for that message.  Mike Lee is right.  Look for that message that could bring us together.  Because as good as it feels to hear the bad stuff, as good as it feels to beat up on the other side for the damage they've done to this country, and it's been substantial--  I know through my own personal relationships that pointing the finger and condemning somebody doesn't win you a whole lot of arguments, and more importantly it doesn't bring us together.  So today I want to share with you.  I want to share with you a vision forward, a vision forward that can unite us, that I deeply believe in.

It's a vision that says that we can restore the American Dream and it's not a different thing from what Republicans have stood for before.  In fact it's additive.  Because have been and we must be the party of growth and opportunity.  We must be the party that says we want lower taxes, limited and responsible government, less regulation.  We need to be the party that goes out and says that we're for fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets.  All those things are right, but they're not enough.  They're not enough.  We need to be pro-growth, but we also need to be pro-worker.  We need to be on the side of the American worker.

Why?  One of our favorite sayings I know that you hear Republicans say all the time, is a rising tide lifts all boats.  And that is true unless your boat has a hole in it.  Ladies and gentlemen, look at America today.  Look at those who of the 70-percent of Americans don't have a college degree and many of them don't have a high school degree.  Substance abuse, family breakdown, there's a lot of Americans who are out there who are seeking employment who want the American Dream, but they have holes in their boats.  And so when you go out and talk about how we're going to raise the tide, how we're going to grow this economy and they see stagnant wages, declining median income and the lack of a ladder of advancement, they don't feel better; they feel like they're sinking deeper underneath the water. 

We have to be the party that says we understand what you're feeling.  We understand what you're thinking.  We understand the problems, and put forth a message that targets specifically not how we can help the economy but how we can help you and you and you.  And we do it in a way that isn't divisive but it's unifying.  How do we do it?

It's actually pretty easy.  It's actually pretty easy.  First it starts with education.  If you look at the 70-percent of Americans who don't have a college education, have limited skills, we need to make sure that we have opportunities for people to get those skills.  We also need to look at why people are failing in schools and not getting those basic skills to be able to survive.  Why?  Because we have a top-down government run education system that is failing our children.

We need less Common Core and more common sense if we're going to make America a great and educated country   We--  What's the common sense?  Talk to any teacher, and administrator and they'll tell you the same thing.  The biggest key in determining the success of a child in school is the parents' involvement with that child in the school.  So what does Common Core say?  Stay out parents, we got this.  The federal, the state, whatever it is, the folks, the elites, we're going to determine what's best for your child.  When the schools and the elites should be saying we're failing and we need you parents to come in because we know by having you here your child's going to do better.  The elites are doing just the opposite. 

We can fix--  Look, I'm the, Karen and I home schooled our children.  Is it hard?  Thank you, thank her, not me; thank her.  Was it harder?  Sure, it's harder.  Oh but what a blessing to be intimately involved in your children's education.  That's the challenge.  The path that we're going to lead forward here is not going to be easy.  But it's going to be one that makes sense.  It makes sense.  That we need to restore and rebuild the American family. 

I don't know if you saw the statistic.  Just this past week, America hit a milestone.  For the first time in the history of our country more children are growing up without two parents than are growing up with two parents in the home.  First time.  Now 54-percent, and the number keeps dropping and keeps dropping and keeps dropping.   And if you look at all the studies, what do all the studies say?  It's about income inequality and the reason people are suffering.  The Obama Administration wanted to make this a really big deal.  The 1-percent and 99-percent.  This was going to be the mantra for the last campaign in 2014.  But it turned out that the biggest reason for income inequality is the breakdown of the family.

What are we doing?  Where do you hear us?  You say you want to appeal to minorities and Hispanics.  Where do you ever hear us talking about the family and the importance of strengthening the family, of doing things to stop government from getting in the way of people to get married and encouraging and supporting parents who have children, stay together and raise those children.  That's not to be critical of anybody else, but it's to say that government shouldn't be an obstacle.  When I was in Wisconsin during the campaign in 2012 I was told that if you were unmarried and had two children and you were making $15,000 a year as a single mom, you got $38,000 in welfare benefits.  If you got married, you'd lose them all.  Government is a barrier.  We need to get government out of the way and help families be restored in America so children and they can have a better life and a better future. 

And if we're going to reform welfare then we need to reform all welfare and that means corporate welfare.  We can't be the ones who are for bailouts, we can't be the ones who are for sweet deals for corporations if we're going to ask people to sacrifice and struggle and rise in our society.  We've got to be for reducing both and eliminating both of those types of welfare.  That's fair.  You want to show that you're relating to the folks who are working in America, then we have to go out and prove it.

We have to go out and show that we are for manufacturing jobs coming back to this country.  In July of 2011 I went down to Winegard in Burlington and I launched my manufacturing initiative (+).  That's what we talked about.  All over this country.  President Obama waved the red flag saying manufacturing jobs are gone.  No, they're not.  They're gone only because Washington makes manufacturers uncompetitive in the world market.  If we can restore the manufacturing center of this country, if we can create the opportunity to make things so people with skills can learn the skills to work, to make things and to have quality jobs that pay good benefits, we've now created hope again.  We've created a path forward for those who feel there is no path.  We need to do that through energy, reducing energy prices and keeping them stable as well as construction. 

We need to be the party of the worker.  Why?  Well, it's good politics.  You know, what percentage of American workers own their own business?  Less than ten.  So when we go out, as we have for many years and talk about entrepreneurs and businesses, we're talking about 10-percent of the public, and then we wonder why we don't win.  We don't win because too many people don't think we care about them.  We got to show them not just by saying we do, by having policies and a message where at they can see it and they can feel it in us. 

There's another issue, and this is one that Steve King has been I think impaled upon many times, but it's so important for American workers. 

I have a little quiz for you.  Since 2000 there have been six million net new jobs created in America; six million net new jobs since 2000.  How many of those net new jobs are held by people who were not born in this country?  All of them.  All of them.  There are fewer Americans working today who were born in this country than there were in the year 2000 in spite of 17 million more in the workforce.

And so when people say well we have to do something about the border and we have to do something about illegal immigration, they are right.  We do.  We have to secure the border.  I was just down in Arizona talking to folks and it's horrendous the things that are going on on the border from national security perspective as well as what the president is doing.  But we also have a problem with legal immigration.  Legal immigration is at an all time high.  There have been more people legally coming into this country in the last 20 years than any 20-year period in American history.  We are approaching percentagewise the highest level of immigrants that we've ever had in America.  Almost 14-percent now.  It was 14.2 at the end of the great wave in 1920. 

There are more people not born in this country than have ever been in the history of this country, and it's affecting American workers.  Why?  Because the vast majority of the people coming into this country come in under chain immigration and they are unskilled.  We all know there's not a huge growing number of jobs for unskilled laborers and as a result wages stagnate, median income comes down.  We need to stand for an immigration policy that puts Americans first and American workers first.

And this isn't an anti-immigrant; I am for legal immigration.  But in 1920 after 40 years of a great wave the Congress passed a bill because they were up to 14-percent of the workforce and it was having an effect on their labor markets.  And so what the Congress did is pass the Immigration Act of 1921 and three years later 1924.  And you know what they passed by?  Unanimous in the House.  One vote against the Senate on the first one and nine on the second.  It was a bipartisan issue because even during the progressive era, which this was the tail end of, Republicans and Democrats put you first.  Because for America to be a great country, a country that people want to come to, we have to be a strong country, and that means for everybody, skilled and unskilled worker alike.  And so Steve is right, we need to step forward with an immigration policy, but we need to do so in the context of standing strong with American workers.

Finally, there's an issue that in the 22 or 23 debates that were held in the last election cycle, I think there was one debate on this subject and maybe one or two questions at most during the debates and that was national security.  Remember the war was over, Bin Laden was dead, al-Qaeda was defeated, terrorism was gone.  No well excuse me, extremism; can't say terrorism, extremism was gone. 

And what's happened since?  We have seen the impact of isolationism.  We have seen the impact of weakness on the part, and indecision on the part of an American president, an  inexperienced, raw American president who had ideologies that didn't face reality.  Ladies and gentlemen in this election cycle, we need to be looking for someone who has that experience, who has been tested and understands.  I spent 16 years in the House and Senate, eight of those on the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

I heard Mike Lee said to be able to have someone who can stand up to their party when they're wrong.  Twice I authored bills, once on Syria, to put sanctions on Syria.  And President Bush opposed me for a year and a half, fought me for bringing the bill up, but eventually not only did he not fight me, he signed the bill.  Because he saw eventually what I saw, which was Assad was a rogue regime that had to be constrained. 

Iran was next.  We had an Iranian nuclear sanctions bill back in 2005 when most people thought Iran didn't even have a nuclear weapon and wasn't even trying.  And the president, not this president but the last one, wanted to negotiate with Iran.  I said don't negotiate.  You can't negotiate with people who don't keep their promises.  You can't negotiate with folks who have a theological end to their public policy.  Again the administration opposed me.  In fact there was a vote on the floor of the United States Senate and Condi Rice sent a letter, saying vote against Iranian sanctions on their nuclear program.  I went forward with the vote of which Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all voted no, against me, and six months later it passed unanimously.  Leadership matters.  Understanding the threat and being willing to have the courage to identify the threat.

There's a lot of talk now about radical Islam and whether its extremism or terrorism.  Let me tell you what it is.  And I'll quote from a speech I gave in 2006 which I handed to President Bush saying he had to stop using the term terrorism because terrorism is a tactic; it is not an ideology.  And if we're going to be honest with the American public and honest with the world and have the ability to confront this evil of radical Islam, then we have to name it what it is.  That was 2006 and I laid that speech and I said, Mr. President, we're not going to win this war, no matter how many guns we have and how much we fight if Islam does not confront the cancer within and we don't identify that cancer and fight against it.  Experience, knowledge, courage, on national security, the area where the president has the most purview, those are the things that are necessary. 

How do I know that?  Well I was in Israel just a few months ago.  In fact I took some Iowans.  Bob vander Plaats came along.  Simon Conway from WHO.  Cary Gordon from Sioux City.  And we met with senior Israeli officials.  I had one of them pull me aside and say this to me.  Senator, he said, please, please understand.  You need to elect a president that is ready for war.  That means a president who understands, understands all of the capabilities we have and understands the most important capability is the strength of America, in our military, in our diplomacy and yes, in the president of the United States. 

Ladies and gentlemen I don't envy your charge.  I've been here many times as you know, and you had a tough time last time around.  You made a very good decision by the way.  Albeit somewhat delayed.  You made a good decision and you're going to have to do that again.  And I just want to encourage you.  You do a great job.  Iowans, as you see here from this crowd, the media notices.  You take your job seriously and you should.  The last time around everyone told you no, no, don't pick this person; this person has no chance.  And you said well I think we're going to just vote for the best person that we believe has the best chance, not who Washington and New York thinks will have the best chance.

You are serious people when this comes to this and this is a serious time.  I just would say I agree with Chuck Grassley and Terry Branstad and all the others who say that it is well worth the mileage and the sleep to go to all 99 counties in Iowa.  And if any one of these other guys wants a travelogue, I'll be happy to share it with them.  Thank you very much and God Bless you.


Transcript © 2015 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.