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Santorum shares views on Bush's record, gay marriage

February 18, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Questions about his Air National Guard service in the 1970s have dogged President Bush in recent weeks, prompting Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., to speak in his defense Tuesday during an appearance at the Capitol Theatre.

"I was with the president last week and he kind of said the same thing to me," Santorum said when asked why more Republicans have not risen to Bush's defense. "The president actually watches what goes on before the House and Senate occasionally," said Santorum, who was in town to present $125,000 in federal money for the theater.

"When you're flying fighter jets, that's not a low-risk occupation," Santorum said of Bush's service. "To suggest that he didn't do his duty is ridiculous."

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Santorum said the president has provided documentation of his service. Of those who said they served in the same unit but do not recall Bush being present, Santorum said few people would be able to remember who showed up at a specific meeting or event more than 30 years ago.

He said he saw the attacks as "the politics of personal destruction."

Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who is leading the field of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, came in for criticism by Santorum.

"I can't tell you one thing he's accomplished," Santorum said.

In Kerry's campaign, "All he's done is adopt Howard Dean's lines with a little better packaging."

Santorum said Democrats felt differently in 1996 when President Clifton's actions during the war were called into question. "Back then, he said it didn't matter," Santorum said.

"I'd like to hear a more balanced view of the world than what we hear from the three Democratic presidential candidates," Santorum said.

Last year, Santorum was criticized for remarks he made about a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, that struck down all U.S. sodomy laws. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your homes, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest," he said in 2003.

With more than 2,000 homosexual couples having been granted marriage licenses in recent days in San Francisco, Santorum on Tuesday called that, and a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court calling for legalized homosexual marriages, "the logical consequence of that decision."

Santorum said courts will "have a hard time finding a legal distinction" between homosexual behavior and other sexual acts that are now illegal.

"All the laws are there now for the dismantling of the American family, including marriage," Santorum said, paraphrasing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was in the minority in voting to uphold the Texas law.

He said the Massachusetts court ruling referred to marriage "as a stain on our laws that must be eradicated."

"It's really up to the public to decide these issues, not the courts," said Santorum, the third-ranking GOP member of the Senate.

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