Karen Heller: Santorum, GOP's best death-wish pick

The ex-senator may be gone from Pa., but his exuberant opinions are not forgotten.

Posted: April 17, 2011

Five years ago, the good people of Pennsylvania soundly rejected Rick Santorum as their senator for a third term, instead opting for stolid, quiet, and somewhat dull Bob Casey, the anti-Rick.

Did this dissuade Santorum from running for bigger things? No, it did not. Santorum launched an exploratory committee and a "testing the waters" fund last week, trying to become the second U.S. president in history from Pennsylvania - a century and a half after James Buchanan, consistently ranked among our very worst.

To which I ask: Haven't we been punished enough?

Santorum's exploratory slogan is "Fighting to Make America America Again" because, presumably, we've become like Canada or France.

He's a devout Catholic, with an impressive Senate record on supporting programs for the poor, especially treating the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Santorum is also a man of exuberant and unexpurgated opinions, few of which he keeps to himself.

The source of Social Security's funding issues? "We don't have enough workers to support the retirees," he said in March. "Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion."

Santorum is not only perched to the far right, he also considers the many people who disagree with him to be opposed to all that is good, proper, and American.

He once wrote in The Inquirer of "the propensity of judges to ignore the Constitution and the will of the people." Of Democrats: "Which party has greater ideological diversity? Sorry, but the facts just don't fit the media's fantasy. I spent 12 years in the Senate. It has one doctrinaire, narrow, intolerant caucus." He described the Democrats' filibustering judicial nominees as "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942," while once remarking that a Democratic victory is "a disaster for the future of the world."

When the priest sexual-abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002, Santorum, in one of his most egregious wingtip-in-mouth moments, wrote in Catholic Online: "It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning 'private' moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."

Everywhere, Santorum sees his morals, views, and America being fundamentally challenged. Of gay marriage, he has said: "It threatens my marriage. It threatens all marriages. It threatens the traditional values of this country." He noted, "I have no problem with homosexuality; I have a problem with homosexual acts." His comments are so extreme they have taken on an Internet life of their own.

He questions the value of working couples. "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 really don't need to, or at least may not need to work as much as they do." He wrote this even though his own mother worked as a nurse.

Yet he has worked the rules to fit his needs. For three years, Rick and Karen Santorum received $72,000 in tuition reimbursements from the school district in Penn Hills, a Pittsburgh suburb where they own a home, to educate five of their children. They sought the money under a charter program designed to give local students a cyber-school option even though their children were being educated and raised in suburban Virginia.

Santorum may be gone from Pennsylvania, but he's not forgotten. You have to admire a guy who lost his Senate seat by 18 percentage points, dusted himself off, and started pontificating all over again. But if the GOP has a death wish, a fondness for moral posturing and lightning-rod proclamations, the party couldn't pick a better man.


Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or kheller@phillynews.com. Read her blog posts on Blinq and her work at www.philly.com/KarenHeller. Follow her on Twitter @kheller.

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