Senator's book puts blame on liberalism

Posted: July 07, 2005

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum confronts liberalism as the primary source of America's troubles in his first book, It Takes a Family, an account of his conservative philosophy that has already become a campaign football.

Santorum takes on two-working-parent families, divorce, living together before marriage, public education and decades of "failed" liberal policies that he says have weakened the country's social and moral fiber. Conservatism and support for the traditional family would go a long way in curing society's ills, he wrote.

The book has prompted speculation as being the first chapter in a possible 2008 presidential run. After all, the title invites direct comparisons to another potential candidate, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.), who wrote It Takes a Village, a 1996 book described by Santorum as "feel-good rhetoric masking a radical left agenda."

But the book is likely to put a more immediate stamp on his 2006 Senate reelection bid. National and state Democrats see the book as a treasure trove of opposition research that they say illustrates how far he sits outside the mainstream.

Santorum yesterday declined to discuss his book until its official release July 24. The book began circulating in Washington late last week when some stores put it out early.

"Rick Santorum laid out all his beliefs," said John Brabender, Santorum's longtime media consultant. "Talking about issues in detail is not what one generally wants a political candidate to do, but that is more reflective of the problem we have with candidates than with Rick Santorum."

Generating perhaps the most criticism are his comments on two-working-parent households.

"In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might confess that both of them don't really need to, or at least may not need to work as much as they do," he wrote.

He went on to question why women find a career more gratifying and socially affirming than staying home with their children. "Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism," he wrote.

Brabender said the context must be considered: Santorum was arguing that government policies should make it easier to raise a family and that stay-at-home mothers should be valued.

Response to the book highlights America's cultural divide.

Santorum's ideas have been rebuked by left-leaning bloggers ("toxic sewage"), the campaign of his leading Democratic opponent, Robert P. Casey Jr. ("Rick Santorum is out of step with reality"), and the state Democratic Party ("every Pennsylvania woman should be offended").

Others praise him for speaking bluntly, as talk show host Laura Schlessinger did on his book jacket.

"In this era of adult self-centered behavior, minimally concerned with the well-being of children, this book is a welcomed response," she wrote.

The book spotlights his "compassionate conservatism," a policy approach that centers on family, community and church. For too long, he says, liberalism has fostered policy hostile to all three. He also jabs conservatives for not working hard enough to fight poverty.

Santorum identifies five areas that need strengthening: America's social, moral, economic, cultural and intellectual "capital." He targets the "Bigs" - a category that includes news media, entertainment, universities, some labor unions and the federal government - and the "village elders," or liberal elite, who sit atop each institution.

"No, I am not talking about your liberal next-door neighbors: I am talking about the Bigs," Santorum writes. "These village elders have pushed American society for 40 years toward a no-fault view of freedom, and we are all suffering the consequences."

He advocated the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Such landmark cases can be reversed, he said, citing the 60 years it took to abolish segregation policies upheld by the Supreme Court in the late 1800s.

"It can be done," he wrote. "All we need is leadership that understands the gravity of the problem and is determined to do something about it. And that is why disputes over nominations for federal judgeships will continue to be among the most bitterly contested matters in the U.S. Senate."

He criticized living together before marriage as "wrong" and described divorce as "simply far too easy to get in this country, especially when children are involved."

He promoted home-schooling, which he provides for his children, and cyberschools as better learning environments than public education.

Santorum highlighted his marriage and the 1996 death of a son as defining moments.

After marrying Karen Garver in 1990, moral and social issues became more important, he said. "Never underestimate the influence of a spouse in politics."

And he said his son, Gabriel, who died after two hours outside the womb from a fatal birth defect, changed him. "Being a husband and father was different," he said, "being a legislator was different." Santorum would later emerge as one of the Senate's most vocal abortion opponents.

Santorum signed a $20,000 deal in 2003 with the publisher, ISI Books, a division of Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative education foundation in Wilmington.

He originally hoped to finish the book by 2004 to keep it "outside of his own election cycle," said Mark Henrie, an ISI senior editor. But as the book's scope grew, so did the time it took to write it, he said.

Santorum wrote most of it early this year from his home office in Leesburg, Va., usually between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., Brabender said.

The book tour - scheduled to begin after the official release, but maybe now to be moved up - will take Santorum to signings in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington.

How about Iowa or New Hampshire?

"I don't see anything on the schedule indicating that at this time," said Kevin McVicker, an ISI Books publicist.

Contact staff writer Carrie Budoff at 610-313-8211 or cbudoff@phillynews.com.

Sen. Rick Santorum's Views

On unmarried couples living together: "Despite all the evidence, as a society today we will go to almost any length to avoid telling ourselves, and others, the truth: marriage is better than living together. Too few of us dare say living together without the benefit of marriage is wrong."

On working mothers: "Many women have told me, and surveys have shown, that they find it easier, more 'professionally' gratifying, and certainly more socially affirming, to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children. Think about that for a moment. What happened in America so that mothers and fathers who leave their children in the care of someone else - or worse yet, home alone after school between three and six in the afternoon - find themselves more affirmed by society. Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism, one of the core philosophies of the village elders."

On home-schooling his children: "We liked the idea so much that we have some of our children enrolled in some of these public cyberschools - until the increasingly uncivil world of partisan politics extended its venom into our home and into our children's education."

On "powerful forces" shaping our society: "They are what I call the 'Bigs' - big news media, big entertainment, big universities and public schools, some big businesses and some big national unions, and of course, the biggest Big of all, federal government. When I hear that catchphrase of the liberals, 'It takes a village to raise a child,' I hear Big. . . . Top-down, elitist prescriptions imposed by those who believe they are the postmodern kings of the masses - particularly of the supposedly ill-informed 'peasants' of red-state America."

On abortion: Abortion puts the liberty and happiness rights of the mother before the life rights of her child. ... This was tried once before in America, when the liberty and happiness rights of the slaveholder were put over the life and liberty rights of the slave. But unlike abortion today, in most states even the slaveholder did not have the unlimited right to kill his slave.

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