Santorum gets testy as students raise social issues
December 6th, 2011
03:41 PM ET
3 years ago

Santorum gets testy as students raise social issues

Sioux Center, Iowa (CNN) - At times Rick Santorum came across as testy and some might say condescending at an event with students Monday night at a conservative Christian college in rural northwest Iowa.

During a question and answer session, a couple of Dordt College students –one former and one current– within the span of about 20 minutes of each other gave the Republican hopeful an earful about his positions on social issues.

It started with a freshman who said he's been studying certain books of the Bible recently, which prompted him to ask about healthcare.

"God is very angry toward societies that don't care for the poor," student Ryan Walters began. "If not for our social programs, how can we as a society care for our poor?"

Santorum was quick on the draw.

"You go to Dordt College and ask me that question?" he replied with a shocked expression.

"Yes sir," Walters said.

The candidate turned to the audience and immediately asked who they think should be responsible for helping the poor. After he got the answer he was looking for –that it's up to each individual (which was second to the audience's first answer, "the church")– the student spoke up again.

"With all due respect Sen. Santorum, I don't think God appreciates the fact that we have 50-100 thousand uninsured Americans dying due to a lack of healthcare every year."

"Dying?" Santorum shot back, seeming genuinely taken aback.

"I believe that is a statistic," Walters said.

"So 50 to 100 thousand Americans are dying due to lack of healthcare?"

"And preventable diseases, yes sir."

"Healthcare and preventable diseases? Where did you get that number?"

The student said he believed it was from "statistical evidence."

Santorum said people "don't get statistical evidence from thin air" and said, "I reject that number completely, that people die in America because of lack of health insurance. People die in America because people die in America. And people make poor decisions with respect to their health and their healthcare. And they don't go to the emergency room or they don't go to the doctor when they need to. And it's not the fault of the government for not providing some sort of universal benefit."

The student later told CNN he couldn't find the stats when put on the spot, but he was referring to a 2009 Harvard study that said 45,000 people die each year because of lack of health insurance.

Santorum added that people should be free to make their own choice on a decision like the purchase of healthcare, not be under a federal mandate.

Soon after the healthcare debate, recent Dordt graduate Jason Kornelis asked about a social issue of a different color.

"You talked about how this would be a hit to faith family and in America. What are some concrete things that you would say would happen if gay marriage was legalized?"

Santorum turned the question on him. And did so repeatedly.

"Can you contemplate any?"

"I beg your pardon?" Kornelis replied.

"Can you contemplate any?"

"I can't think of–"

"You can't think of a single thing?"

"A consequence..?"

"You can't think of any consequence?"

"No."

"Really? Wow," Santorum said, sounding bewildered. "Um okay, well let's see if we can have a discussion ... Let's look at what's going to be taught in our schools because now we have same sex couples being the same and their sexual activity being seen as equal and affirmed by society as heterosexual couples and their activity. So what's going to be taught to our people in health class in our schools? What is going to be taught to our children about who in our stories, even to little children, what are married couples? What our families look like in America? So, you are going to have in our curriculum ... a worldview that is fundamentally different than what is taught in schools today. Is that not a consequence of gay marriage?"

Kornelis responded, saying, "Whether gay marriage is legalized or not, there is still going to be gay couples. That is not going to change."

"I'm not talking about–" Santorum started. "Well, what is going to be taught in our schools? In our public schools in our institutions?"

"I don't think it is going to be that much different than what is being taught now," said Kornelis.

"Really? I think you're wrong. Okay, in fact you have to know you're wrong because if we say legally is this type of relationship is licit and identical to other types of relationships than of course more of it will be taught because it is what the law says. Right now the law doesn't recognize this type of activity."

"Of course you will have to agree with me," Santorum continued. "Right? I mean let's be honest. You're going to have to agree with me that that's going to be a consequence."

"I respectfully disagree,"Kornelis said, at which point Santorum thanked him for his question and for "engaging in an honest debate."

While both Walters and Kornelis either attended or currently attend the Christian school, they each lean Democratic. But in Kornelis's case, he said he voted for Obama in 2008 and is not completely sold on voting for him again. He is pro gay marriage but strays from the pack when it comes to abortion. He said he generally backs the conservative standpoint and leans more pro-life.

Santorum –the only 2012 candidate who can boast of being to all 99 counties in Iowa– was on a campaign swing that included several rural towns in the northwest part of the Hawkeye State. It wrapped up Tuesday in Spencer with a stop at a local restaurant.

Also see:

Axelrod: Gingrich to blame for Washington gridlock

Romney's stand on payroll tax has Dems crying 'flip-flop'

Gingrich ready for 'early Christmas gift' from Pelosi

Cain says no endorsement soon


Filed under: Gay rights • Healthcare • Iowa • Rick Santorum
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Santorum is an ideogical, unelectable and out-of-touch buffoon.

    December 6, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    And the GOP wonders why they lose people on social issues.

    December 6, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. Jim in San Mateo

    The man is truly clueless. The students are absolutely right in their questions and positions. We as a society need to take care of the poor and if Gay Marriage is passed, as it will be eventually, there will be no fundamental change in our society. As far as I can tell the sky has not fallen in Iowa, Massachusetts, and the other states were it has passed. It has largely been a non-event.

    December 6, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    If this was the good ole days of the Dubbya administration and either he or Darth Cheney were the speakers, those who posed questions like that would have been taken out of the auditorium by Blackwater contractors working for the Secret Service and brought to an undisclosed location by Extraordinary Rendition.

    December 6, 2011 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. TinMT

    Love it when the talking heads turn the question back to the asker. The answer should be "I am not running for office sir/madam, and I asked you the question".

    December 6, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. cali girl

    I can tell you Santor will not spend ANY TIME in California. We out here want Gays to get married, to legalize pot and have no guns. Happy to know he has not chance in hatties to win this. My hats off to the Freshman kid, good for you buddy!!! Cought him with his pants down. Love it.

    December 6, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. timz

    One reason Santorum has been able to visit all 99 counties in Iowa because he doesn't have a job . . . not that Bachmann, et al, have bothered doing much work lately.

    December 6, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  8. Mah

    Last time I checked, marriage and relationships arent taught in school (aside from maybe a side psychology course) so maybe that's why they all fail so utterly frequently.

    December 6, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  9. Jim

    Santorum doesn't have a chance, THANK GOD! But he's not the worst of the lot. It has been obvious to me for decades as a religious man who serves my God, church and community. That most politicians who claim to be religious and use religion as a platform to avoid criticism are simply hypocrites. I don't doubt they intend to be sincere in some cases but their political philosophy just won't let them. A political philosophy that basically claims being free means everyone for themselves with no guidelines, rules, controls or sharing is extremely difficult to defend as a Christian as well as most other religions.

    December 6, 2011 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  10. RINO Bil

    Visiting all 99 counties in Iowa is not something of which to boast if you have been neglecting your job.

    December 6, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. jhall

    As someone who was actually at this event, it's amazing at the bias in this article.... Santorum wasn't testy, he was shocked... Here in our community at a Christian college these students failed to understand basic tenants of the Bible...

    As for his comment, which CNN misquoted, he didn't say you go to dordt college and ask me that question... He said "you go to Dordt College and don't know who is responsible for helping the poor?"

    Santorum 2012....

    December 6, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. jhall

    cali girl - if Californians want to legalize sodomy marriages, then why didn't they in 2008??? why did they vote it down in 2008?

    December 6, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  13. GaryB

    Let's be honest, Rick and his family have been wards of the state (with government provided wages, health care and pensions) for some time now. If anyone expect Santorum to have a clue as to what issues and solutions are really important to middleclass family, they're fooling themselves.

    December 6, 2011 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  14. Mark

    So Rick. Even though the bible says that those who have should help those who do not have, you believe it's every man for himself? Wow, you should look into rewriting the bible while you're at it.

    December 6, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. jhall

    Here's who bares the responsibility - the INDIVIDUAL... And then the church... The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT does not have that responsibility and cannot... The federal government cannot manage welfare for every poor person in this country responsibly... I talked with some of these students for 2 hours after the event... It's too bad CNN didn't care enough to interview a Santorum supporter - since there were 100 there - to get their opinion... I'd have loved to have been offered the chance to talk about the issues...

    December 6, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. jhall

    Mark – EXACTLY... The bible says those who have SHOULD help those who don't have... IT doesn't say the government should take from those who have and redistribute it how they see fit....

    Besides, lets pretend that's the case, aren't you folks the same ones shouting separation of church & state when we discuss baby murder and sodomy marriage?

    December 6, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. jhall

    Galatians 2:10 says, "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor."

    However, this verse says that helping the poor is the Church's role, not the role of the government. Perhaps our churches would be more responsible in this role if its members weren't overtaxed in order to fund our increased federal government spending programs. How can we expect a family to afford to donate 10% of its income to a church when the government is already taking 43% of it?

    December 6, 2011 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. jhall

    2 Thessalonians 3:20, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

    December 6, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  19. Jason Kornelis

    jhall, that's a pretty bold statement to say that we "failed to understand basic tenets of the Bible" because our opinion on the role of government is different than yours. I'd appreciate it if you didn't make assumptions or accusations about the faith of me and my colleague.

    December 6, 2011 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
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