Lest you doubt that we’re headed for the most vicious election year in memory, consider the determined effort, within ten minutes of his triumph in Iowa, to weirdify Rick Santorum. Discussing the surging senator on Fox News, Alan Colmes mused on some of the “crazy things” he’s said and done.
Santorum has certainly said and done many crazy things, as have most members of America’s political class, but the “crazy thing” Colmes chose to focus on was Santorum’s “taking his two-hour-old baby when it died right after childbirth home,” whereupon he “played with it.” My National Review colleague Rich Lowry rightly slapped down Alan on air, and Colmes subsequently apologized, though not before Mrs. Santorum had been reduced to tears by his remarks. Undeterred, Eugene Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post columnist, doubled down on stupid and insisted that Deadbabygate demonstrated how Santorum is “not a little weird, he’s really weird.”
The short life of Gabriel Santorum would seem a curious priority for political discourse at a time when the Brokest Nation in History is hurtling toward its rendezvous with destiny. But needs must, and victory by any means necessary. In 2008, the Left gleefully mocked Sarah Palin’s live baby. It was only a matter of time before they moved on to a dead one.
Not many of us will ever know what it’s like to have a child who lives only a few hours. That alone should occasion a certain modesty about presuming to know what are “weird” and unweird reactions to such an event.
In 1996, the Santorums were told during the pregnancy that their baby had a fatal birth defect and would not survive more than a few hours outside the womb. So Gabriel was born, his parents bundled him, and held him, and baptized him. And two hours later he died. They decided to take his body back to the home he would never know. Weirdly enough, this crazy weird behavior is in line with the advice of the American Pregnancy Association, which says that “it is important for your family members to spend time with the baby” and “help them come to terms with their loss.”
Would I do it? Dunno. Hope I never have to find out. Many years ago, a friend of mine discovered in the final hours of labor that her child was dead but that she would still have to deliver him. I went round to visit her shortly after, not relishing the prospect but feeling that it was one of those things one was bound to do. I ditched the baby gift I’d bought a few days earlier but kept the flowers and chocolate. My friend had photographs of the dead newborn. What do you say? Oh, he’s got your face?
I was a callow pup in my early twenties, with no paternal instincts and no great empathetic capacity. But I understood that I was in the presence of someone who had undergone a profound and harrowing experience, one which it would be insanely arrogant for those of us not so ill-starred to judge.
There but for the grace of God go I, as we used to say.
There is something telling about what Peter Wehner at Commentary rightly called the “casual cruelty” of Eugene Robinson. The Left endlessly trumpets its “empathy.” President Obama, for example, has said that what he looks for in his judges is “the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.” As he told his pro-abortion pals at Planned Parenthood, “we need somebody who’s got the heart — the empathy — to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom.” Empathy, empathy, empathy: You barely heard the word outside clinical circles until the liberals decided it was one of those accessories no self-proclaimed caring progressive should be without.