Santorum digs into health care debate

Last modified: 11/27/2011 12:00:00 AM
At most town hall forums, the voters ask the questions and the candidates answer. But last night in Hudson, former U.S. senator Rick Santorum dished out as much as he took over his opposition to the insurance overhaul frequently called "Obamacare."

"Did the government pay for your housing? Did it pay for your food?" Santorum asked Jillian Dubois, 25, who had voiced her support for the law.

"How much is the role of government to pay for things that you should have to pay for?" he asked Dubois, who lives in Hudson. In an interview after the event, Dubois declined to identify her party affiliation. However, her publicly available LinkedIn profile says she was an organizer for the Obama re-election campaign until this month. She has also spoken in defense of the law at presidential events for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman.

The exchange between the two dominated the town hall forum and allowed Santorum to hammer home his belief that individuals, not the government or insurance companies, should govern health

care. The event was held at the American Legion hall, lasted about 90 minutes and was attended by about 30 people.

Dubois argued the Affordable Care Act was good for the country because it enabled people under the age of 26, including her brother and many of her friends, to stay on their parents' health insurance plans.

"If you want to repeal this, what are you going to do to ensure that states aren't leaving these young adults behind, in terms of not letting them have health insurance?" Dubois asked.

It's not the role of the federal government to guarantee that everyone has health care, Santorum countered.

"There's all sorts of things that government can do to make life easier for you," Santorum said. "The question is, it costs someone. In this case, it cost your parents' employer."

The town hall was one of six scheduled during his four-day, "Faith, Family and Freedom" tour in New Hampshire. Other events include cutting down a Christmas tree for the campaign headquarters in Bedford, meet-and-greets at restaurants and a hayride in Candia. His wife and two of his seven children greeted supporters at the beginning of the Hudson town hall but left once the questioning was underway.

Santorum gave no prepared remarks and, wearing jeans and cowboy boots, started answering questions from the public immediately. What did he think of the failure of the congressional supercommittee, which did not come up with $1.2 trillion to cut from the $15 trillion federal deficit?

It was likely an unconstitutional way to govern, he said, and worked in President Obama's favor because the resulting across-the-board spending cuts will take effect after the 2012 elections.

Santorum also said he would reform public education in part by leaving more money in the hands of the states and rolling back federal mandates.

"They want to get in there earlier and earlier and earlier," he said of federal programs for early childhood education.

He said a nuclear-armed Iran is "unacceptable," because of its "radical Shiite theocracy."

"These people are not like us. They have a very different worldview," he said.

Valery Mitchell, a Concord resident wearing a Santorum sticker, said she approved of Santorum's performance.

"I liked his reasoning power," she said. But Mitchell, who is retired, would have preferred if he hadn't allowed so few people to dominate the discussion.

But it didn't bother Wayne Plourde, a 62-year-old retired postal worker who lives in Hampstead.

"You can't be abrupt with people and cut them off," Plourde said. Such behavior would be unpresidential.

Santorum had one more campaign stop last night after the town hall - the annual Winter Holiday Stroll in downtown Nashua.

"My wife wants to go shopping," Santorum said. "So that's what we're going to do."

(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or mconnors@cmonitor.com.)




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