Rick Santorum has gone from junior senator to senior fellow: As of today, the Pennsylvania Republican is an employee of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank. “I want to contribute to the world of ideas,” he says.
After 16 years in Congress — four in the House, 12 in the Senate — Santorum lost his bid for reelection in November.
Yet he hopes to remain in the public spotlight as director of the EPPC’s brand-new America’s Enemies program.
“It’s a stark name,” says Santorum. “But we wanted to be candid about the fact that America really does have enemies and to point out that the nature of these enemies is much more complex than what people realize. It’s not just Islamic fascism, but also Venezuela, North Korea, and, increasingly in my opinion, Russia.”
This new endeavor will expand on a theme that Santorum developed toward the end of his campaign, when he focused almost exclusively on foreign threats.
“Maybe that wasn’t the smartest political strategy, spending the last few months running purely on national security,” he says. “I was even more hawkish than the president.” In October, Santorum was delivering what became known as his “Gathering Storm” speech — a reference to how Winston Churchill described Europe in the 1930s.
At EPPC, Santorum joins a roster of established conservative thinkers, such as president M. Edward Whelan III (a contributor to NRO’s Bench Memos) and papal biographer George Weigel. Two other recent EPPC hires are Stanley Kurtz (an NRO regular) and Yuval Levin, who most recently served in the Bush administration.
“We’re delighted that he’s coming on board,” says Whelan. “This won’t be him hanging his hat somewhere, but a prime focus of his activity.”
How will a former senator adjust to life at a think tank? “This is a very impressive group of folks who share my worldview more than any other group in town,” says Santorum. “We’re going to have a lot of synergy. I know that I’m not the foremost scholar in the world, but I can offer a lot of ideas and help put together a communications strategy to describe the threats we face. Communication is a big problem, as the results of the elections in November show.”
Santorum plans to organize lectures and conferences, write articles, and work on a book. (His book agent is Kathy Lubbers, who is Newt Gingrich’s daughter.) “We expect to be very, very active,” he says. One of his focal points will be religious liberty and how people of faith might confront radical Islam.
At least two members of Santorum’s Senate staff will join him at EPPC: Mark Rodgers, his former chief of staff, will be a fellow and Melissa Anderson (a former NR employee) will be associate director of the America’s Enemies program.
Santorum will raise all the funds for the program — something he wasn’t allowed to start doing until last Thursday, when his tenure in the Senate came to an official end. “Our goal is to raise several hundred thousand dollars in 2007,” he says.
The former senator also plans to join a law firm in D.C. “I’m talking to a few firms right now, but working on the America’s Enemies program is my first priority.”
So it appears that although Santorum is gone from the Senate, he’s not about to fade away from public view.
– John J. Miller is national political reporter for National Review and the author, most recently, of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.