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On Iran, Santorum laughs away Obama’s concern about ‘bluster’

Rick Santorum, who is perhaps the most bellicose of the Republican candidates when it comes to the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon and the potential for military action by Israel, scoffed at the assertion today by President Obama that “there is too much loose talk of war” when it comes to Iran.

Obama, who made his remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, cautioned that “such talk has only benefited the Iranian government by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster.”

Speaking with reporters here Sunday afternoon outside Corky’s Ribs & BBQ after polishing off a plate of ribs, Santorum laughed when asked about Obama’s statement.

“That’s pretty funny,” said Santorum, who had attended a Catholic Mass and Sunday services at a Baptist megachurch. “President Obama -- telling him a little basic economics of supply and demand would probably help a lot. The fact that we are not doing anything to open up supply lines across this country and we have supplies from areas of the world, as he mentioned, areas of the world that are under a lot of tensions -- that causes prices to go up.

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“When you have areas of the world like Iran and others, that are causing the speculative price to go up, and you don’t have a compensatory increase in production in stable areas of the world, you are going to see oil prices continue to go up. Loose talk of Republicans? The best thing that could happen in the world markets is an Iran without a nuclear weapon and a new Iranian regime, neither of which he is doing very much about to make happen.”

Santorum is pinning his Super Tuesday hopes on victory in blue-collar Ohio, where he has emphasized his working class origins as the grandson of an Italian immigrant who worked as a coal miner in western Pennsylvania. He is trying to establish his viability in the South, where evangelical Christians are heartened by his socially conservative message and believe he is better equipped than Mitt Romney to compete in the general election.

“He’s an honest many with principles and integrity,” said Amy Craft, 41, a Memphis mother of two toddlers. “He reminds me a lot of Ronald Reagan. Ultimately, if you go up against Obama, who has incredible charisma, you have to have charisma like there’s no tomorrow. Santorum has that.”

Many evangelicals resist the idea that front-runner Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is a “true” Christian. Mormons, who are Christians, are deeply insulted by the implication that they are not. The Book of Mormon, they believe, is another gospel of Jesus Christ.

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“Here in the South, you’ll find a lot of people who have a problem with it,” said John Brewer, 33, a Santorum volunteer who is a Baptist.

Santorum has slipped slightly in polls here. He attributed that to being outspent, as he has in each state, by Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts. Restore Our Future, the “super PAC” supporting Romney, has blanketed the airwaves with a spot that accuses Santorum of voting to fund Planned Parenthood when he was in the Senate. In the ad, Santorum says he voted for bills that happened to contain such funding but personally opposed it.

“I think we’re doing fine,” Santorum told reporters. “But look, every time you get into these races, as we’ve seen, Gov. Romney goes out there and outspends you 4, 5, 6 to 1, it’s going to take a toll. This is a game of ‘Survivor.”

While Santorum waded into the latest Rush Limbaugh controversy two days earlier when he told CNN that Limbaugh was “absurd” to call law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” for telling Congress that contraception should be covered by insurance policies, he refused to comment on whether Limbaugh’s apology Saturday went far enough. “I’m not, that’s, that’s, that’s not my business,” Santorum said.

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He also refused to elaborate on his seemingly contradictory statements about his support for President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind education bill, for which he voted as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.

On Feb. 22, in a debate in Arizona, Santorum said he reluctantly “took one for the team” when he voted the measure, which many conservatives feel is an inappropriate federal intrusion into the sphere of education, a responsibility best left to states. Sunday morning, Santorum told Chris Wallace of Fox News, “That’s not true, that’s not true. I didn’t say that.”

Sunday afternoon, Santorum said, “As I said before, there were things in No Child Left Behind I liked, there were things I didn’t. That’s all.”


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