Santorum: Friess Controversy ‘Crap,’ Focuses on Issues

by Robert Costa

As the furor over Foster Friess’s comments about contraception escalates, and the press obsesses over Rick Santorum’s wealthy backer, the former Pennsylvania senator tells National Review Online that he is “not going to put up with it.”

“You know, [reporters] sit there and they say nothing, while for 20 years [President Obama] sits in a church with a guy who is a racist,” Santorum says. “And somehow or another Foster Friess is now who I am? This is just crap.”

“I went at Charlie Rose this morning a little bit for bringing this stuff up,” he says. “They want to talk about contraception. This is how the media wants to frame me. We have to go out there and keep pounding away.”

Indeed, as the Michigan primary approaches, Santorum plans to tout his pro-manufacturing economic plan. But he cautions observers not to interpret his blue-collar message as anti–Wall Street. “I’m anti-bailout; I’m pro-Wall Street,” he says.

As he hits the trail, even in the Detroit area, look for Santorum to openly criticize federal bailouts of private companies. “Everyone here is focused on the bailouts, at least that’s what the media wants to talk about,” he says. “They say because [General Motors] made money that means Obama is right and Santorum and Romney are wrong. I’ll just remind people that I’m from western Pennsylvania, [with] one of the biggest industries in our country, the steel industry, no one bailed them out. And you know what? It’s still around. Is it as big as it was before? No. But neither is the auto industry.”

“Markets work,” Santorum says. “I have no time for the idea that I’m anti–Wall Street. I’m a supply-side guy.”

Santorum also hopes to outflank Romney on entitlements — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. “The core message I gave yesterday [in a speech at the Detroit Economic Club] is that we need to tackle entitlements and we don’t need to wait,” he says. “We need to tackle them now.”

On Social Security, specifically, Santorum tells NRO that he will argue for broad, systemic reforms. He pledges to sound a bold refrain on the campaign trail, proposing ideas beyond the budget passed by House Republicans last year. “[House Budget Committee Chairman Paul] Ryan, in my opinion, he doesn’t talk about Social Security [in the budget]; he doesn’t mention Social Security,” he says. On that front, “I’m not a Ryan ally. I love Paul Ryan — I’m sure he would — but he’s been told by everybody to stay away from it. Well, I’m not staying away from it. I’ll ride that rail.”

“If you go out there and you tell the American public that there were 60,000 people in America last year who earned over a million dollars and received Social Security benefits,” then reform is possible, Santorum says. “If you look at the specifics of what we want to do, on Medicare, on Social Security, on means testing entitlement programs, on what we want to do with federal programs, we have better ideas and more specific ideas than anybody to get this problem under control.”

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