Mary Katharine Ham

It’s been billed as the top race of 2006.

The Senate race in Pennsylvania features a rising Republican star-- an outspoken, staunch conservative Democrats would love to claim as an electoral prize. Facing him is a legacy politician whose father was governor of the state, and who’s been embraced by the Left as the key to ridding the U.S. Senate of a powerful advocate of traditional values and a muscular stance on national security and the war on Islamic fascism.

Sen. Rick Santorum vs. Bob Casey, Jr. Liberal blogs have called the race a “clash of the Titans,” and Santorum has found himself unexpectedly vulnerable at times, according to polls, which have shown him down as much as 20 points.

A little less than three months from Election Day, the Santorum campaign is catching a bit of momentum. A recent poll showed Santorum down only six points, and late-summer ads on his tough immigration position seem to be paying off.

The Senator took a few minutes, while on the campaign trail this week, to talk to Townhall about his race, and what conservatives can do to make sure this “very solid, very committed vote for victory in the war and clarity about our enemies” stays in the Senate this fall.

Q: Let’s start with the big news of the day. In light of the foiled terrorist plot in Great Britain this week, tell me a little bit about your vision for how we should fight the war on Islamic extremism, and how it differs from your opponent’s.

A: The difference between where the Democratic Party is and where my opponent is on this issue and me, is that my opponent runs around and talks about the 9/11 Commission and talks about how we have to spend more money on homeland security. And, he criticizes me for not spending money on homeland security on a variety of different fronts.

That approach to me is basically the approach of “garrison America” or “fortress America.” that the way to fight this war against Islamic fascism is to defend against it. I think that is a fundamentally flawed strategy. It’s flawed because, while we have to take prudent measures to defend ourselves, the idea that focusing our attention on a defensive struggle against Islamic fascism is a failed strategy.

An example of that is what happened in Great Britain. What happened in Great Britain was not the equivalent of the Transportation Security Agency finding an explosive in an airport screener. I would make the suggestion that had it gotten to that point, they probably wouldn’t have.

When you’re defending yourself, you’re defending yourself against the last thing, or the tactics you’re aware of. And, what the enemy is all about, particularly when we’re talking about terror, is trying to come up with something new that you’re not prepared for. So, you’re constantly reacting to the last event. We, the allies, in this case Britain principally, used an offensive strategy.

And, I say it’s a two-pronged offensive strategy. One is better intelligence and aggressive intelligence, which is obviously what was successful in thwarting this plan. The second is an aggressive offensive into their own backyard, which is what we and the Brits have been doing now for five years, since Afghanistan.

It’s offensive as opposed to defensive. It’s aggressive in going after them through intelligence and through military conflict as opposed to the idea that if we leave them alone and we garrison America and we create some fortress here that they’ll leave us alone and we can protect against them.

Q: Speaking of aggressive, you had some pretty aggressive words about the leakers who released information on NSA wire-tapping to the New York Times. Tell me how folks in Pennsylvania react to that story and how we should handle such leaks in the future.

A: The fact of the matter is that, in a time of war, when someone leaks sensitive information to the enemy, and when you’re releasing it to the NYT, you’re releasing it to the enemy indirectly.

You’re leaking it to the press, which will of course publish it and our enemies will know it. And, to me that’s traitorous activity. And, I don’t know how much the intelligence agencies are pursuing the potential leakers, but I would hope that we would have a very vigilant effort on pursuing anyone who could be leaking this kind of sensitive surveillance information or surveillance tactics to the media.

Q: As a guy who’s been on the receiving end of some of the nastier attacks from the Left side of Internet activism, I wonder what you think of Ned Lamont’s win over Joe Lieberman, propelled by the Netroots, and what it portends for the Democratic Party.

A: It’s reflective of where the Democratic Party and where the national leadership is.

I’m not surprised they all lined up behind Ned Lamont. There’s not much difference between Lamont and Lieberman except on one issue. As far as I can tell, that’s the only place these two disagree.

To see the entire Democratic Party line up behind this man tells me where the Democratic Party is headed. It’s very sad that you have a party that has put anti-war against fighting an enemy that has attacked us, that is trying to continue to attack us, that is at war with our men and women in uniform, and their principal strategy is to argue for withdrawal and argue for spending more money at home to protect ourselves.

That is fundamentally flawed. Why would we want to bring them back here? We want to keep them away from the United States. We want to use our intelligence and our military to pin them down other places instead of invite them here by withdrawing that activity.

Q: So, tell me about Mr. Casey. Is he the one Democrat who has an alternative plan for waging the War on Terror?

A: He says nothing. I always say that he potentially could be our secret weapon against Osama bin Laden because he’s so used to hiding in caves and only communicating in sound bites to the people of Pennsylvania. He offers no solutions.

He gave a major address on foreign policy and talked about the problem with Rick Santorum is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions. And, that’s the difference between us is that he would ask the tough questions and I don’t.

My answer to that is not only do I ask the tough questions, I put forward answers to problems and this guy hasn’t even identified what the problems are.

Q: Now, you do have some obstacles in front of you. The latest poll shows you six points down, and others have shown more. Your approval ratings hover at about 40 percent. We’re three months out. What are you emphasizing that will make the difference?

I’m going out and talking about what my accomplishments were in the United States Senate. First and foremost, I have to tell the people of Pennsylvania what I’ve been doing for Pennsylvania. I know the national media doesn’t like to talk about that, but I am the Senator from Pennsylvania and I work very hard for the state, and I’ve been going around the state for the last couple months trying to make sure people know what we’re up to.

That’s why we put out the pamphlet, 50 Things You Don’t Know About Rick Santorum.

We’ve been painted by the national media in a very narrow way. I stand up for the things that I believe in, and I’m not backing down from those, but I don’t think it tells the whole picture and our campaign is about telling the whole picture.

Q: On immigration, many conservatives are upset about the Republican Congress’ conduct, particularly the Senate bill. Is that going to be obstacle for you in pumping up the base and what are you doing about it?

A: It’s not an obstacle for me because I probably share their opinion on immigration. I voted against the Senate bill. I’ve been making that one of the major planks of our campaign. I talk about it all the time

I talk about how my opponent is for amnesty amnesty and how my opponent is for raiding the Social Security trust fund to pay illegals for having worked here illegally. That doesn’t go over particularly well in Pennsylvania.

We’re gonna continue to differentiate us because it blends in with the national security theme. Here’s a guy who talks about the 9/11 Commission and the principal thing the 9/11 Commission suggested was that we need to stop these people from coming here in the first place. And, he wants to give everybody amnesty. He wants to invite more people to come here.

We’re gonna focus on that.

Q: On run-away spending.

A: My opponent has attacked me non-stop that I don’t spend enough on a whole variety of different programs.

I think your going to find that there’s a big difference between us on economics. He’s for a big increase in taxes. He’s for repealing the Bush tax cuts and he’s also for a lot more spending.

Q: As a blogger, I have to ask what blogs you read, and how you stay on top of things online.

A: I read Little Green Footballs, I read Red State. I read Townhall. I read Drudge. Going through the columnists, seeing what they’re reading and what they’re up to is something I probably enjoy more than anything.

Q: How do you see the right side of the blogosphere, and the Townhall audience in particular, being active in this campaign?

A: One of the reasons I like to do all the types of alternative media is because we can drive people to our website and get folks to either volunteer or contribute to our campaign.

And, we need those dollars coming in, I’ve got to tell you. We’re up against, not just my opponent, but the Democratic National Committee, that has twice as much money as the Republican National Committee.


Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of HotAir.com, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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