Martin Bashir | February 27, 2012
>>> too. we are just one day out from high stakes primaries taking place in arizona and michigan. rick santorum is making his case with social conservatives delivering a robust defense of religion in public life after declaring that universities are indoctrination mills that cause students to lose their faith. santorum described why john f. kennedy 's 1960s speech calling for strict separation of church and state made him want to throw up.
>> say that people of faith have no role in the public scare, you bet that makes you throw up. what kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come in the public square and make their case. that makes me throw up.
>> there you have it. today santorum brought up that issue again saying he favors separation of church and state but only in one direction.
>> i'm for separation of kmurj and state. the state has no business telling the church what to do. the separation of church and state what our founders believe in has been turned on its head. now it's the church, people of faith, who have no right to come to the public square and express their points of view.
>> he seems to be expressing his point of view clearly there. mitt romney is making his final pitch as the fiscal conservative in this race and taking on no less than big bird .
>> i like pbs. i like big bird and bert and ernie . he's going to have to get used to corn flakes . we're going to stop some of this excessive spending.
>> romney's kids are all grown men, but you're never too old for big bird . if romney is riling up viewers of public television , santorum is taking his fight to higher education and calling the president a snob.
>> president obama once said he wants everybody in america to go to college . what a snob. i understand why he wants you to go to college , he wants to remake you in his image.
>> some pretty strong words there. when he was asked about it on sunday, he didn't back down.
>> we have some real problem on our college campuses with political correctness and on a idealology that is forced upon people that may not agree with the political left doctrine.
>> i want to bring in our panel now from washington. karen finney and clarence page . with me in new york, jonathan alter . it's nice to have you all with me. karen , i want to start with you because two of santorum 's targets, colleges and universities as well as j.f.k. explain the politics in this one. is this a smart move? is this a smart strategy?
>> isn't it hard to remember the republican kennedy gave that speech is because people thought the pope was a threat to our democracy should he become president. here is what santorum is doing. it's more of the dog whistle politics trying to incite anger and rally the religious conservatives who feel left out or those feel playing this elitism narrative, but it's such -- i won't say the word i want to say, it's so unfair.
>> go ahead.
>> it's such crap. how about the hearings that we had where pete king didn't allow any real muslim leaders to come in and talk about community, their faith in his hearings on terrorism or how about the fact that part of the tradition is all voices are supposed to be heard and everybody, as the president has said, who wants the chance to go to a four-year college or a two-year college or trade school should have that opportunity.
>> is this suppose to be the interpretation that he wants to legislate from a more religious stand point or is it supposed to be just an interpretation from catholocism?
>> i think the hypocrisy of the way he talks about this is he's talking about the christian faith as he see s it. i didn't hear him talk about any of those other faiths or areas where people have been kept out of the public like let's say women on a conversation about contraception. he's trying to appeal to a very small group of religious conservatives and those conservative, he thinks are not going to go for mitt romney .
>> jonathan, let's talk about the numbers telling the story as we talk about college . a high school graduate with no college degree faces an 8.4% unemployment rate . that's with no college what so ever. it's 7.2% for those with some college . 4.2 for those with a college degree . is it snobbery to push for an education system that puts americans to work and putting them into the higher education system. it's just part of the american dream , isn't it?
>> it's not just the american dream , in is the only way to compete internationally and maintain our standard of living and create a better life for our children is if larger and larger numbers of people get at least two years of college , at least 14 years of education. the jobs that are available require training. we have this huge skills gap in this country. i know you might go why is he talking about this in this context because what santorum is doing is extremely destructive to what everybody has to have, mainly a basic understanding of what we need to do. give you a very quick example. in chicago they have a 10% unemployment rate . they have 100,000 job vacancy, but the unemployed there don't have the training to fill the jobs. to get the training they need go to a community college to get some specialized training. that's not a pc institution that's turning them into nonreligious whatever rick santorum wants to say. it's an effort to try to prepare them for the real world . for him to go after that is so disgusting and so contrary what's in the best interest of the country and getting us prepared for the future.
>> clarence, the president responded today. listen to this.
>> when i speak about higher education , we're not just talking about a four-year degree. we're talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door handling a million dollar piece of equipment. we all want americans getting those jobs of the future.
>> clarence, the president not directly saying rick santorum 's name, but obviously, it is it a direct toss back at him and comments about the president being a snob for encouraging a four-year degree but the president making the distinction saying he is a strong proponent for education beyond high school . a minimum of having high school and going on the college and beyond that. is the conversation going to change on this point now that the president has spoken back to level the playing field ?
>> i don't think the conversation is going to change because rick santorum is playing to his base inside of base. it's the santorum base, heavily religious oriented inside the republican base. the two words i have to describe what rick santorum said is dangerous nonsense. it's nonsense because he deliberately misquoted president obama . he never said he wanted everyone to go to college . he said he wanted to open up opportunities. opportunities for everyone to go to college that wanted to go. he called for more job training the, more community college funds for people who work with their hands as rick santorum says. he knows that. he himself has two degrees already from penn state where the only indoctrination was in the school of joe paterno . there's a little effort to play to the populous by making out obama to be this aloof guy that wants to put everybody into the classrooms. upward mobility is falling behind countries.
>> karen , you wanted to jump?
>> i really resent what santorum is trying to do. the republicans have been accused democrats of playing class warfare . if you look at what they have been doing how they went after mitt romney and mitt romney who can't help tell us how rich and how many cadillacs he has but now you have santorum using this idea about college . i think the words are really important. it's not just when he talked about college and religious liberty in a divisive way to pit one group against the other. it's again thp idea that we should have multiple pathways for people to be successful, to be healthy, to be free in this country, and instead, he is really twisting it into a very divisive, anti-if you aspear for something bigger than there's something wrong with you and thst an elitist.
>> it's really politically stupid of him. in the last ten days he's against sex, college and he's against j.f.k. who remains one of our most popular presidents. what this is all doing and mitt romney beating up on big bird , as if that's going to balance the budget, what is this doing? it's driving independents back into the obama column. if you're in some degree of despair, here your best chance of winning this next presidential election, winning independents and it's going out the window because the clowns are talking about things so far outside the mainstream of american political discourse they are just committing suicide for the republican party .
>> we'll see how everything goes tomorrow when we see how the people in michigan and arizona come out. thanks so much. appreciate your time.