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Santorum defends 'theology' remark, Hitler inference, blames media

 

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -- Facing newfound scrutiny as a frontrunner in the Republican presidential race, Rick Santorum today fired back at national media who he says have given undue attention to comments he made this weekend questioning the president's theology. He also defended comments about World War Two that some saw as linking Hitler and President Obama.

On Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, Santorum told a Tea Party crowd, "It's not about you. It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your job. It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology."


But in front of a crowd of more than 500 people here on Monday, he said the comments were not meant to question the president's religious beliefs, rather a critique of what he called the "extreme" environmental regulations of the Obama administration. 

"I referred to it the other day,” he said, “and I got criticized by some of our less than erudite members of the national press corps.”

When pressed by reporters after Saturday's comments, the former Pennsylvania senator maintained he did not mean to suggest that the president is not a Christian. But he did say the president is trumping religious freedoms. 

"You may want to call it a theology; you may want to call it secular values,” Santorum said. “Whatever you want to call it, it’s a different moral values. And the president of the United States is exercising his values and trumping the values of the church.”

Today, Santorum did not use the word "theology," instead attacking the president's "ideology."

He was also asked about comments made last night in Georgia that compared America now to Europe during World War Two.

“I’m sure some of you have ancestors who were part of the Greatest Generation,” Santorum said last night. “Why were they the Greatest Generation -- because they were better than we were? Smarter? More courageous? They were they greatest generation, because when their country needed them, at a time of great peril, they met the challenge. Your country needs you. It’s not as clear a challenge. Obviously, World War Two was pretty obvious. But at some point, they knew. Remember, the greatest generation for a year and a half, sat on the sidelines while Europe was under darkness.

“While our closest ally Britain was being bombed and leveled, while Japan was spreading its cancer all throughout Southeast Asia … America sat in 1940 when France fell, December of 1941…Because we’re a hopeful people. We think, well, you know it’ll get better. Yeah, he’s a nice guy. I mean, it won’t be near as bad as what we think. This will be okay. I mean, yeah, maybe he’s not the best guy after a while, after a while you find out some things about this guy over in Europe who’s not so good of a guy after all. You know what … we’ll just take care of our own problems. We’ll just get our families off to work and our kids off to school and we’ll be okay. So with the optimistic spirit of America, sometimes, sometimes it’s not okay. It’ll be harder for this generation to figure it out. There’s no cataclysmic event.”

Santorum defended the comments today. "It’s a World War Two metaphor,” Santorum said. “It's one I've used 100 times."

In response to whether he meant to compare the president to Hitler, Santorum said, "No, of course not."

Those comments were not the only ones from the weekend that the former Pennsylvania senator found himself explaining. In front of the Ohio Christian Alliance, he said the 2010 health-care bill signed by the president encourages aborting children with disabilities by requiring prenatal testing that can detect if a child will not be born healthy. It is an assertion he did not back down from.

"I was criticized for making the comment about prenatal testing when it came to amniocentesis,” he said. “Amniocenteses are done by and large later in pregnancy whether the child in the womb has a disability.” And he claimed, “[A]s we all know, 90 percent of Down Syndrome children in this country are aborted once the mother and father find out that that child is going to be less than what they wanted it to be.”

The candidate, now surging in the polls, has focused almost all his attention on the White House and not so much as mentioning chief rival Mitt Romney. Stumping in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Ohio, Santorum has focused his message on manufacturing and environmental issues like hydrofracking and the Keystone pipeline. Both are issues in which Santorum argues the president has ceded to environmentalists, costing the country jobs.

Just 40 miles outside his hometown of Pittsburgh today, Santorum played up his blue-collar roots growing up as the grandson of a coal miner.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we need someone who understands, who comes from the coal fields, who comes from the steel mills, who understands what average working people in America need to be able to provide for themselves and their families,” he said.