I didn’t hear Rick Santorum speak at the Press Club last week but I did hear him earlier in the day. The Pennsylvania senator was talking to a group of Republican women, with a few accompanying husbands or boyfriends in the crowd as well. He seemed a very different Rick Santorum to the one we have been seeing for years, the energetic defender of family values who entered Congress at 32 and became a senator on the fast track at 36.
This year Santorum is facing a tough, tough reelection race. In the latest polls he is still double-digits behind his opponent. And even though the event I was at was intended to stir up support for senatorial candidates, Santorum didn’t even talk about his race or how he, against the odds, was going to win. There was no buoyant “campaign speak” that the group might have expected to hear. Instead, he was sober and very intense as he talked about what he said was “the biggest issue facing our children’s future, the world war we are now fighting, which, at its heart, is just like the previous three global struggles.”
Unlike the president, he said, he does not call our current conflict the War on Terror. That, he maintained, would be like saying the Second World War was just “a war against blitzkrieg.” Rather, he said we should name the enemy we are fighting, not the tactics they employ. “Our world-wide enemy is Islamic Fascism.” But, he also said, “we are unable to come to terms with this terrible reality.”
“It is an old, sad story, isn’t it?” he went on. “Over and over again, our enemies announce their intention to attack us and we refuse to believe them…. If we have learned anything from the twentieth century, it should be this lesson: When leaders say they are prepared to kill millions of people to achieve their goals, we must take them at their word–particularly in this case, when the enemy sees dying for their cause as a desired objective as opposed to a tragic consequence.”
He also suggested that we are too politically correct to name our enemies for who they really are. “It is unfashionable in some quarters to speak about the Islamofascists because of the misguided cultural reflex that condemns anyone who speaks critically about others’ practices or beliefs.” And he put the struggle into a historic context. “Remember, Islamic extremists fought the West over the course of a thousand years to their high-water mark outside the gates of Vienna. The siege of Vienna lasted until September 1683 — September 11, 1683 — the next day the West triumphed” in a battle that turned back the armies of the Ottoman Turks. I had never before heard that chilling little historic factoid and think it should be better known.
Santorum said that our enemy is waiting for us to say “Enough” and is being assisted in this goal by our media. “They know that they cannot win on the battlefield against our armed men and women, and so their strategy is aimed at you. With every op-ed and every suicide bomber they seek to break our will to fight.” And he said, “if we do not have the right moral calculus” and recognize “the paralyzing effect of misguided moral equivalencies… If we do not recognize that it is right and proper for us to defend our freedom against Islamic fascism, we may lose this war.”
Santorum isn’t best known for talking about foreign policy and does not serve on any related committees, and this was not a speech to warm hearts and win votes. Even in Pennsylvania the speech was mostly ignored with the press focused instead on the president’s stem-cell veto and how it would negatively affect Santorum’s campaign.
I thought it was brave for him at a fragile time to wade in and say what ought to be said and in such an unvarnished way, even if won’t help his campaign, even if most of the voters really don’t want to hear his grim message.
And it also struck me that no one has to remind those tough-minded, obdurate Israelis that there are leaders who are prepared to kill millions of people. They never forget. And they are proving right now that you don’t throw down your arms after you are made to say “Enough!” Instead, you pick them up and fight. – Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness – and Liberalism – to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.